County officials defend child abuse hotline policies criticized by arbitrator
by BEN BOTKIN and YESENIA AMARO -- LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL
An arbitrator's ruling reinstating a fired Clark County Department of Family Services hotline worker found fault with the county's policy for handling calls about possible child abuse.
However, county officials called the finding “incorrect,” saying the arbitrator's Oct. 15 decision isn't based on an understanding of child welfare practices. They maintain that Jadon Davis, whose termination sprang from a hotline call involving an abused child who later died, did not follow policy. They also say county policies adequately protect children, if followed properly.
Davis sees it differently.
“They know the kind of employee I was,” he said last week.
Davis had no history of formal discipline as a county employee prior to his firing. “I definitely feel like I was being made a scapegoat.”
Arbitrator Kathy Eisenmenger of Colorado found that Davis abided by county policies when handling a call on Nov. 28, 2012, from a Roundy Elementary School employee concerned about 7-year-old Roderick “RJ” Arrington Jr.
Less than 24 hours after that hotline call, which drew no immediate response from Child Protective Services because of the way it was prioritized, RJ was in a coma at University Medical Center. He died covered in bruises and with massive brain swelling. His stepfather and mother now face child abuse and murder charges.
At the heart of the case are questions about whether Davis acted appropriately when he deemed the call about RJ a Priority 2 case instead of assigning it the highest priority, which would have meant an almost immediate response.
The three-tiered system used by the Department of Family Services requires a caseworker to investigate calls based on the perceived danger to the child. Those with top priority get an investigator's response within three hours. Priority 2 calls get a response within 24 hours. At the bottom are Priority 3 calls that require a response within 72 hours.
“The Hotline Policy's guidance leaves a chasm between what conditions of child abuse or neglect present a Priority 1 situation and what constitutes a Priority 2 situation,” Eisenmenger wrote in her decision. “The Hotline Policy sets forth a yawning gap — either the situation is of such a severely dangerous nature that requires immediate intervention by CPS or law enforcement or the situation meets the guidelines for a Priority 3, 72-hour response. Every condition that does not fall within those two extremes is to be coded as Priority 2.”
County officials maintain that policy is not to blame and that the employee erred by failing to ask the caller enough questions and omitting crucial details in his report. The county says Davis should have discussed the call with a supervisor before classifying it as Priority 2.
Davis contended the policy doesn't require that additional step.
Lisa Ruiz-Lee, director of the Clark County Department of Family Services, said officials believe their policies are sound. Their rules governing the hotline were developed and written by John Goad, the same expert who conducted an independent review of the agency in 2006 as it struggled with many systemic issues. The policies were implemented in 2008 and revised in 2011.
“I think that part of the struggle that any arbitrator would have, who does not have any child welfare expertise, is an understanding of the work that we do and understanding the training,” Ruiz-Lee said Friday. “I think one of the biggest mistakes that she makes in her interpretation of policy ... is the fact that she uses the words ‘life-threatening.' They are her words, not the policies' words. She has inserted her own interpretation and her own assumption about a policy that she's never had training on.”
The hotline policy is now up for routine review, but not as a result of the incident, Ruiz-Lee said.
The county's child abuse hotline, 702-399-0081, is staffed 24 hours a day.
ONE HOTLINE, TWO CALLS
Twice on Nov. 28, 2012, the county's hotline was called by an unidentified elementary school worker with concerns about Roderick's well-being. The first call came in at 9:47 a.m. The second call came less than an hour later, records show.
The next day, at 8:03 a.m., Roderick's mother, Dina Palmer, called 911 more than an hour after finding Roderick unresponsive in his bed.
At University Medical Center, doctors rushed Roderick to surgery to reduce his brain swelling. He also had fresh wounds on his buttocks and bruises on his arms, abdomen, back, legs and thighs, according to a Las Vegas police report.
Roderick's mother and stepfather, Markiece Palmer, face child abuse and murder charges in connection with the case. Both refused to comment from the Clark County Detention Center.
The first call on Nov. 28, 2012, from the Roundy employee was taken by a different county hotline worker. The school worker relayed information from a neighbor of RJ's family, according to the arbitration. Among the neighbor's concerns were the sounds of crying, praying and “violence” at 4 a.m.
About 10:27 a.m. the same day, the hotline got a second call from the same school worker about RJ. Davis took it.
The school employee had talked to RJ, who walked as if he were in physical pain and had extensive scarring on his back, arbitration documents said.
RJ told the school worker he was beaten on the back and the butt with television cords, broom handles, spatulas and a belt when he got into trouble with his mother and stepfather. When beaten, his skin breaks and bleeds, he told the school employee.
The hotline caller didn't want to look at the boy's buttocks for signs of abuse, and asked for an investigator to respond, records show.
But after the school day ended at the elementary school, near Sahara Avenue and Lindell Road, RJ returned home and was beaten with a belt on his buttocks by his stepfather and mother, according to police reports.
The mother put cocoa butter on the open wounds. The boy went to bed after telling his mother he felt like he needed to throw up, according to the arrest report.
He never woke up.
Ruiz-Lee said Davis should have made the call Priority 1 because he had enough information to do so. Ruiz-Lee also said Davis failed to ask the right clarifying questions. Arbitration records show he omitted from his report the school worker's statement that RJ said his skin falls off and bleeds when he is hit.
“The recommendation for the termination of this employee was made for many different reasons,” Ruiz-Lee said. “But at the core of all of those reasons for the termination, it was the fact that he did not follow policies.”
In an interview with the Review-Journal last week, Davis said he was relieved that the arbitrator saw the hotline policy as he did, that it is subjective.
There is a chance the same crisis will get three different responses, Davis said, depending on a hotline worker's interpretation of the policy.
“You have different situations with each (call), and in some cases, like the case here, you're dealing with limited information being reported to you,” he said.
Davis did ask for clarifying details from the school worker, and she wasn't able to provide any, he said.
There also were no signs of current injuries, only scarring, Davis said. He used that as the basis to upgrade the call to Priority 2, he said.
Also, the child told the school employee he felt safe in going home.
Davis stressed that he had to make a decision based on the information that was available, not what came out afterward.
Davis also questioned whether the school employee pursued all avenues for helping RJ.
Melinda Malone, a spokeswoman for the Clark County School District, would not comment on the Roundy employee's handling of the situation, citing pending litigation. The boy's biological father, Roderick Arrington Sr., who lives in Illinois, is suing Clark County and the school district in his son's death, based on the handling of the situation.
Malone said School District officials reviewed policies this year and created a training video for staff about their role as mandatory reporters.
Davis, who started working for the county in 2008, sold his Las Vegas home and now lives in the Portland, Ore., area, where he is looking for work and a fresh start.
Though officially cleared of violating policies, Davis still worries about finding work. When he applies for jobs, he includes a copy of the arbitrator's finding. The ruling also requires the county to provide back pay, although the amount has not been released.
“At this point, I've got to cross my fingers,” Davis said.
Victor Vieth, executive director of the National Child Protection Training Center who has expertise in hotline policies, said most policies follow the same structure of priority levels as those in Clark County. Unfortunately, he said, most calls will fall somewhere in between the two extremes.
That is why hotline workers need to undergo rigorous training to be able to make the best assessment when faced with limited information,Vieth said.
“As a result, there will always be errors, a child will die,” he said. “We don't really know the risk of the case until we investigate the case.”
Pentagon launches major child abuse study
by Richard Sandza
The Defense Department's newly organized child abuse working group will conduct a rapid review of child and domestic abuse and will issue its first report in February.
The group project, which will last a year, was ordered in light of revelations of widespread child abuse in the services.
Two “rapid improvement events” are planned. An initial study to begin this month will focus on child abuse and neglect. A second will look at domestic and intimate partner abuse starting in January.
The organization is officially designated as the Department of Defense Prevention and Coordinated Community Response to Child Abuse and Neglect and Domestic Violence Working Group. It reports to Jessica Wright, acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.
“This multidisciplinary, multiservice, multicomponent group of subject-matter experts will address the complex issues of child abuse and neglect and domestic violence,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Joy Crabaugh.
The group is sponsored by the Office of Military Community and Family Policy. Its members include representatives of all four services as well as commanders and experts from the Family Advocacy Program; the medical, legal, law enforcement and chaplain communities; family programs; child and youth programs; and the Department of Defense Education Activity, Crabaugh said.
In 2011 and 2012, there were 12,881 cases of child abuse and neglect in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. Of those, 67children died, and more than 753 of the cases were sexual assaults.
A recent Army Times special report revealed that cases of child abuse and neglect soared by 40 percent from 2010 through 2012. From 2003 to 2012, Army officials investigated 30,000 cases, including 118 in which children were killed.
Air Force child abuse and neglect cases jumped 25 percent from 2008 through 2012, from 1,035 cases to 1,288 cases. Sixteen Air Force children died.
The Marine Corps reported 1,591 confirmed cases of child abuse in 2011 and 2012; six children were killed.
The Navy reported 3,336 cases from 2009 to 2012; the number of cases declined in 2012 but climbed through the first half of 2013. Forty-two Navy children were killed as a result of abuse and neglect from 2008 to 2012.
The Army Times special report prompted Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., to demand that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel provide more information about child abuse across the services and develop a plan to deal with a problem that has festered for more than a decade.
Responding to allegations of child abuse at a Fort Meade youth center, Army Secretary John McHugh ordered an Army-wide review of procedures at government-run and private-sector facilities attended by military children.
Illinois child deaths linked to neglect, abuse at 30-year high
Too soon to call sharp increase a trend, some experts say
by Christy Gutowski
Emonie "Star" Beasley-Brown lived just three weeks before she was suffocated. Her grandmother was accused of placing her hands over the infant's mouth to hush her crying as the 14-year-old mother stood by.
Clayton Condiff, four months old, died after being dropped, shaken and suffocated. And three days later — during a year of record child deaths from abuse and neglect in Illinois — two-month-old Julia Duda drowned in a bathtub. Police said the mother left her baby alone while she made coffee, records show.
The three infants as well as a fourth battered child died in Chicago during one five-week span in summer 2012. They are among the 111 children who lost their lives from abuse or neglect in Illinois in the fiscal year that ended June 30, a figure that doesn't include 10 deaths still under investigation, according to records. The majority died before they were 1 year old.
The Tribune reported last Tuesday that more children died of abuse and neglect in Illinois in fiscal 2013 than at any time in the past 30 years. The increase represents a 23 percent spike over the two previous years and is the highest since the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services began keeping such data in 1981, records show.
DCFS Director Richard Calica attributed the recent rise in abuse and neglect findings in part to improved investigations and data collection as well as to continued stresses found in many of the homes that child welfare officials investigate.
"There's a direct correlation between the economy and child abuse," he said.
On Friday, the 67-year-old Calica said he was resigning because of a terminal cancer diagnosis. In late 2011, he took charge of an agency with a long, troubled history of trying to protect the state's most vulnerable citizens.
His administration reduced investigator caseloads and backlogged cases, trimmed middle management and helped update the state's child abuse hotline — shortcomings reported in a series of stories by the Tribune — during a time of budget cuts and threats of mass layoffs.
Nearly 70 percent of the 111 child fatalities involved credible evidence of neglect, with accidental suffocation — infants who died while sleeping with a parent, with a blanket or on their stomachs — apparently the leading cause. The remainder include homicides caused by beatings or other intentional injuries, as well as deaths resulting from inadequate adult supervision, such as drowning, DCFS reports.
Officials declined to break down the causes of these deaths or say specifically how many were classified as homicides. The numbers are still being analyzed, said Karen Hawkins, DCFS spokeswoman.
A more detailed explanation for the double-digit increase after decades of relative stability remained elusive.
"It could just be a random blip rather than a meaningful trend," said Tamara Fuller, director of the Children and Family Research Center at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.
"Researchers don't really like to make declarations based on only (a change from one year to the next). Now, if there was consistent change over several years in a row, then we would have a pattern."
Nationally, the number of child deaths from abuse and neglect has remained steady. The most recent national estimate is 1,545 such deaths. But some experts warn that the data collection is flawed and say national death totals could be much higher.
For example, some states only share information about deaths where the local child welfare agency had prior contact; others, such as Illinois, report every "indicated" fatality related to abuse or neglect.
The national fatality rate in that category is 2.10 per 100,000 children, according to 2011 federal statistics, the most recent available. An updated report is expected next month.
Though Illinois typically ranks about average or slightly above, at 2.30 per 100,000 children, the recent jump would place the state toward the top at 3.62, based on preliminary 2012 census data.
"You really can't make sense of these numbers," said Theresa Covington, executive director of the National Center for the Review and Prevention of Child Deaths, a Michigan-based, federally-funded research center.
"It's dangerous to say Illinois is killing more kids based on comparisons with the national average because that's a moving target. It may be Illinois is doing a better job of investigating and reporting."
Covington said efforts are underway nationally to improve data collection and coordination among states, as well as to seek uniform definitions of abuse and neglect. Still, she said, detailing the circumstances behind such deaths and whether systemic failings contributed is crucial.
Child Sex Abuse Steps Out Of The Shadows In Pakistan
by Ahmad Shah Azami
Out of the shadows and into the public eye; activists say the number of reported sex-abuse cases involving children rose by more than 20 percent in Pakistan last year, but that doesn't necessarily mean the problem is increasing.
Rather, the 3,861 cases of child sex abuse recorded in 2012 can be seen as a sign of greater public awareness and willingness to report such cases.
Sahil, a nongovernmental organization that fights child exploitation in Pakistan, has issued yearly reports on child sex abuse since the organization was founded in 1996.
Executive Director Maniza Bano tells RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal that the latest statistics are part of a growing trend. "We will just say that the reporting [of sex-abuse cases] has increased," she says. "This has been a voiceless or silent issue but now the people have the courage to report it."
With nearly 10 children subjected to sexual abuse in Pakistan every day, activists are calling on the government to do much more to deal with the issue. But awareness campaigns, media attention, and court actions are showing that the topic is no longer taboo.
In one highly publicized case, the reported rape of a 4-year-old boy in September prompted the highest court in Pakistan's Punjab Province to order a police investigation.
The court action came after the boy's father went public with allegations that his son was raped by the principal and janitor at a private school in Lahore. The father told local media that his son was found unconscious in a locked room after the alleged rape.
On November 8, Lahore High Court Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial ordered a lower court to see to it that police investigate the claims and submit a full report.
Noting that courts have handed down sentences of life in prison or even death in child sex-abuse cases, Sahil's Bano sees some positive developments in how child sexual-abuse cases are tried. "The courts and judges are mostly aware [of such cases] and they strictly look into them. They try to allow very little chance of the acquittal of the culprit," she notes. "This is definitely a positive change and the cases are also decided sooner."
Such developments help show people that, if they seek help, they will be heard.
Samar Minallah, a prominent human rights activist and documentary filmmaker, explains how greater exposure of the issue has changed public attitudes. "The biggest reason is that, when we see discussions on TV and everywhere else, [child sex abuse] is considered a very great cruelty and a very bad act," he says. "People have become more aware and now they know that it is not just a private issue -- it is a crime, and we can ask others for help."
According to Sahil's 2012 report, girls were listed as victims in 71 percent of the incidents of child sex abuse recorded in 2012, while 29 percent involved boys. Nearly 52 percent of the reported crimes took place in rural areas, compared to 48 percent in urban areas. The majority -- about 68 percent -- took place in the eastern Punjab Province, Pakistan's second-largest and most populous province.
Rights groups have called on the authorities to do more to crack down on sex crimes in general. Law enforcement agencies have been accused by rights group of failing to provide protection and support for victims' families.
And the Islamic Ideology Council, the state body that determines whether legislation is in compliance with Shari'a law, has come under criticism for maintaining a legal provision that victims must present four witnesses for a rape case to be heard in court.
Hanif Panizai, regional director of the Balochistan Province branch of Pakistan's Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC), says legal obstacles are not high enough to deter potential sex offenders. "Women and children are a vulnerable group, and they can be easily targeted. It is their [law enforcement] duty to protect them," he says.
"We appeal to the government to establish a legal framework, as there is no comprehensive law at the moment that makes culprits accountable."
Alabama Man Convicted Of Rape Won't Be Going To Prison
by Amanda Scherker
An Alabama man convicted of raping his former neighbor and friend found out Wednesday that he won't be going to prison for the crime, according to AL.com, an Alabama Media Group blog.
Austin Smith Clem, 25, was found guilty of three counts of rape (one count of first-degree rape and two counts of second-degree rape) in September. However, on Nov. 13, Judge James Woodroof ordered Clem to spend two years in a reform program aimed at nonviolent criminals and three years on probation, according to the official court order from the Limestone County Circuit Court. Clem will also have to register as a sex offender.
Woodroff's decision reportedly stunned Chief Deputy District Attorney Jim Ayers, who apparently leapt to his feet exclaiming, "This isn't legal. It's not a legal sentence," as described to AL.com. The report notes that according to the Code of Alabama, first-degree rape sentences range from 10 to 99 years in prison, while second-degree rape ranges from two to 10 years.
The victim told Al.com that she is "livid" about the decision. She was raped by Clem twice when she was 14, and once when she was 18. The woman urged the judge to reconsider, particularly because Clem has three young daughters, the report notes.
Despite the victim's protests, the defense maintains the decision is appropriate, in light of the case. Dan Totten, Clem's defense attorney, told Mother Jones the sentence is "not a slap on the wrist" and noted that Clem's life will be very restricted for the next six years, two of which he'll spend in the Limestone County Community Corrections Plan. The reform program is intended to provide the "diversion of non-violent offenders from the penitentiary," according to its website.
Clem isn't the only rape convict to be given a relatively light sentence in recent days. As the Los Angeles Times reported this week, 45-year-old California soccer coach Timothy Lyman was sentenced to just one year of jail time after pleading no contest to raping one of his players while she was drunk and unconscious. Under California law, the minimum sentence for raping a minor is seven years . The light sentence was the result of a plea deal.
Fort Carson soldier linked to sex assaults can blame twin, judge rules
by Lance Benzel
COLORADO SPRINGS — A Fort Carson officer linked by DNA to a string of sexual assaults on young girls will be allowed to blame his twin brother at trial, a judge ruled Friday.
Fourth Judicial District Judge David Shakes ruled it would be "inappropriate" to bar 1st Lt. Aaron Lucas' attorneys from presenting his identical twin, Brian Frederick Lucas, as an alternate suspect in the crimes given their shared DNA.
In criminal prosecutions, DNA is widely considered a smoking gun — but only "in the absence of an identical twin." The judge cited evidence that besides sharing genetic markers linked to the assaults, Brian Lucas also owns a black Acura sedan like one described by a young girl who was sexually assaulted in Madison, Ala., in 2007 — a crime for which Aaron Lucas is suspected.
"Whether it's persuasive or not — that's not my role," Shakes said in clearing the way for the defense at a Friday hearing.
Lucas, 32, is scheduled to be tried Jan. 4 in 4th Judicial District Court in the case of lewd encounters with 11 adolescent girls who were approached by a stranger in the Pikes Peak region. Three were sexually assaulted, authorities say.
The decorated artillery officer became a suspect when he was spotted at a Fountain playground by an officer investigating reports of a stranger targeting young girls.
A DNA test linked him to an 8-year-old girl's abduction in Colorado Springs and matched biological material recovered from the unsolved Alabama case and another attack on a young girl in Texarkana, Texas, in 2009, authorities say. The twin brother denied involvement.
North Carolina foster parents arrested after child found handcuffed with dead chicken around his neck
A social services worker and a hospital nurse were arrested Friday after a North Carolina sheriff's deputy spotted their 11-year-old foster child allegedly chained to their porch with a dead chicken draped around his neck.
The Union County Sheriff's Office told WCNC-TV that the boy was chained to the porch by his ankle and appeared to be shivering when he was discovered Friday morning by an animal control deputy, who was responding to a complaint about a loose pig.
Dorian Lee Harper and Wanda Sue Larson, both 57, have each been charged with intentional child abuse inflicting serious injury, false imprisonment, and animal cruelty. Larson, a supervisor for the county's Department of Social Services, faces an additional charge of failing to discharge her duty as a public official. A statement issued by the sheriff's office claimed that Larson was "complicit" in the boy's mistreatment.
The couple had four other foster children, with an age range between 8 and 14. All five were removed from the home and placed in the custody of social services in another county.
"Makes you wonder what our county officials do in their spare time," neighbor Gene Wallace told WCNC. Wallace also described the family as reclusive and said they kept a variety of animals. "Pigs, donkeys, llamas.. the whole gamut ... If we complain about their animals being on our property they get mad or they won't come to the door when you go over there."
Harper's bond has been set at $500,000, with Larson's set at $525,000. They are due in court Monday.
Mice Inherit the Fears of Their Fathers
by Virginia Hughes
There's no question that trauma gets handed down from one generation to the next.
In one highly publicized example, researchers in New York studied several dozen women who were pregnant on September 11, 2001, and had been in the vicinity of the terrorist attacks. Some of these women developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and this group shows lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their saliva than do those who did not develop PTSD. But here's the rub: At 9 months old, the babies of the women with PTSD have significantly lower cortisol levels than babies of healthy mothers.
In earlier work, the same researchers had reported low cortisol levels in adult children of Holocaust survivors with PTSD. And in yet another study, Kerry Ressler's group at Emory University showed that the so-called “startle response” to a sudden stimulus — a marker of anxiety — is more pronounced in kids whose mothers were physically abused as children then in those whose mothers were not abused. I could go on.
But how, exactly, does a parent's stress leave such a deep impression on its progeny?
Part of it is nurture. A parent's sadness and stress naturally affects how they interact with other people, including their children. The Holocaust study, in fact, found that the survivors with PTSD tended to emotionally abuse or neglect their children. And we know from some remarkable experiments in rats that parental care affects the offspring's genes: Rat pups that get a lot of licking and grooming from their mothers show distinct changes in their epigenome, the chemical markers that attach to DNA and can turn genes on and off. Neglected pups, in contrast, don't show these epigenetic tweaks.
Now a fascinating new study reveals how traumatic experiences can work themselves into the germ line. When a male mouse becomes afraid of a specific smell, this fear is somehow transmitted into his sperm, the study found. His pups will also be afraid of the odor, and will pass that fear down to their pups.
“Parents transfer information to their offspring, and they do so even before the offspring are conceived,” said Brian Dias, a postdoctoral fellow in Ressler's lab, at an engaging talk about this unpublished data on Tuesday at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego.
And why, evolutionarily, would a parent pass down such specific information? “So that when the offspring, or descending generations, encounter that environment later in life, they'll know how to behave appropriately,” Dias said.
The researchers made the mice afraid of certain odors by pairing them with a mild shock to the foot. In a study published a few years ago, Ressler had shown that this type of fear learning is specific: Mice trained to fear one particular smell show an increased startle to that odor but not others. What's more, this fear learning changes the organization of neurons in the animal's nose, leading to more cells that are sensitive to that particular smell.
Dias trained mice to fear acetophenone — which, according to this chemist, smells “like orange blossom with a bit of artificial cherry” — over three days, then waited 10 days and allowed the animals to mate. The offspring (known as the F1 generation) show an increased startle to acetophenone (with no shock) even though they have never encountered the smell before. And their reaction is specific: They do not startle to a different odor, propanol (which smells like alcohol). What's more, the researchers found the same thing in the F1 generation's offspring (known as F2).
The scientists also looked at the F1 and F2 animals' brains. When the grandparent generation is trained to fear acetophenone, the F1 and F2 generations have more “M71 neurons” in their noses, Dias said. These cells contain a receptor that detects acetophenone. Their brains also have larger “M71 glomeruli,” a region of the olfactory bulb that responds to this smell. “Like father like son, we're getting some ancestral information,” Dias said. “But how is that occurring?”
His team performed an in vitro fertilization (IVF) experiment in which they trained animals to fear acetophenone and then 10 days later harvested their sperm. They sent the sperm to another lab across campus where it was used to artificially inseminate female mice. Then the researchers looked at the brains of the offspring. ”What is striking is that the neuroanatomical results still persist after IVF,” Dias said. “There's something in the sperm.”
I've been to a lot of scientific talks. The excitement around this one was notable, with many scientists whispering about it in the room and more loudly buzzing in the hallways outside.
But I know what you're wondering. It was the first question that Dias received from the audience after the talk: “Do you have any idea of how this information being stored in the brain is being transmitted to the gonads?” the questioner asked.
The short answer is that the researchers don't have any idea, though they've thought about several possible explanations. Apparently a study in cats and pigeons showed that after smelling an odor, the odorant receptor molecules can get into the blood stream, and other studies have reported odorant receptors on sperm. So maybe the odor molecules get into the bloodstream and make their way to sperm. Another possibility is that microRNAs — tiny RNA molecules involved in gene expression — get into the bloodstream and deliver odor information to sperm.
For now, though, Dias said, “those are two science-fiction hypotheses.”
Nonprofits in the Nation's Capital Combat Domestic Violence Against Youth and Adults, With Funding From the Verizon Foundation
D.C. Councilmember Anita Bonds and Verizon Join in Special Ceremony for Groups as Survivors Share Their Stories, Tell How Nonprofits Change Lives
WASHINGTON, Nov. 15, 2013 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- In an effort to raise awareness, Verizon and D.C. Councilmember Anita Bonds have honored several Washington-area nonprofits working to prevent abuse against youth and adults and announced Verizon Foundation grants to aid in the effort.
"Domestic violence is a serious but preventable crime that affects millions of Americans in every segment of society," said Anthony A. Lewis, Verizon's mid-Atlantic region vice president of government affairs. "While the problem is universal, the solutions are not. Domestic violence survivors face many challenges. We're grateful that our funding will help break this vicious cycle and make a meaningful impact in these survivors' lives forever."
Domestic violence and emotional abuse affect people who are married, unmarried, heterosexual, gay or lesbian, living together, separated or dating. The violence takes many forms and can happen constantly or once in a while.
"We must do everything we can to prevent domestic violence and hold abusers accountable for their actions," said Councilmember Bonds. "This tragedy often spreads from generation to generation, and we must work together to end the tragic cycle of violence through ongoing coordination and collaboration among all segments of the community."
During a recognition ceremony on Wednesday (Nov. 13), Verizon announced nearly $150,000 in foundation grants to the following recipients:
-- Ayuda, for its Domestic Violence Survivor Empowerment Program, designed to offer specialized financial literacy workshops enabling survivors of domestic violence to reach their full potential, make healthy financial choices and receive job-readiness training.
-- Asian-Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Resource Project, to implement the Survivors Services Program, which provides critical lifesaving, direct services for DV survivors, including individual and group mental health counseling, DV education, DV screening, case management and referrals to health and community services. The program also provides peer support, makes referrals for shelter and social service assistance, and links survivors' children with necessary services.
-- Becky Lee's Women Support Fund, to expand its Men of Code program, which teaches young men to become allies and leaders to end violence against women and girls. Through workshops, young men will learn to create positive environments that promote healthy relationships; identify the signs of domestic violence; explore masculinity and the basics of systematic oppression, sexual assault, intimate partner violence, consent, power and control; and learn to help a person in need.
-- Dance Institute of Washington, to continue its DV education and prevention program focused on building healthy relationships among diverse teens and young adults. Through weekly workshops, DV expert presenters and trainers will teach teens how to recognize dating violence, access community resources and use strategies for preventing dating violence among peers - at school and in the community. The program also will focus on the impact of technology on dating violence and how participants can use mobile technology to increase awareness about dating violence and become advocates and role models.
-- District Alliance for Safe Housing, to implement a domestic violence prevention and services program that will improve the mental health and well-being of DV victims and survivors. The program provides workshops, support groups and one-on-one therapy to assist participants with issues like trauma recovery, addiction and parenting support - all to help survivors recover from abuse and establish safe, stable homes for themselves and their families.
-- Latin American Youth Center, to implement a Healthy Relationships program to educate young adults about preventing dating violence, building healthy relationships and serving as peer advocates. Through a series of two-hour workshops, participants will learn about and recognize the warning signs of abusive dating relationships, develop leadership skills, and self-identify or refer their peers to program staff for support services (including survivor accompaniment and safety planning, counseling, support groups, or other services as needed).
-- Mary's Center for Maternal & Child Care, to provide needed mental health and support services to DV survivors, including individual and group mental health counseling and health services referrals, and help them increase their understanding of healthy relationships, know how to identify when one is in danger, assess the impact of domestic violence on children and their families, and learn how to access resources.
-- Neighborhood Legal Services Program, to implement a domestic violence prevention and safety education program for young adults living in Wards 7 and 8. The program will address strategies to prevent domestic and dating violence among teens and provide education, discussion and access to resources and workshops. Participants will learn how to become advocates in their communities.
-- Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders, for its Women Leadership Institute, which helps young women develop skills and knowledge on domestic/dating violence prevention; learn how to build and promote healthy relationships; and build skills and confidence to help others faced with similar circumstances. Through training, workshops, skill-building exercises, community service and education, and collaboration with community partners, the program raises awareness about DV, helps the young women to become advocates and implement strategies to prevent DV in their communities, and facilitates opportunities to share their knowledge with the broader community.
-- Vida Senior Centers, to implement a Domestic Violence/Elder Abuse prevention, information, training and counseling program at the organization's senior day centers. The organization will focus its efforts on domestic violence education and prevention with four key objectives: increase awareness of DV/EA and teach seniors to keep themselves and others from becoming victims; teach staff, caregivers and center participants to identify the signs of DV/EA; provide screening and mental health counseling for victims, accompanied by referrals to additional health services; and serve as a resource for local funders and policy-makers on the cultural differences that can impact successful intervention efforts.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on average, 24 people per minute are victims of physical violence, rape or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States. This is more than 12 million women and men over the course of a year.
Domestic violence prevention is a priority focus for Verizon. By using its technology, financial resources and partnerships, Verizon is addressing critical social issues. And, through its HopeLine® Phone Recycling Program, the company provides wireless phones and airtime to survivors of domestic violence and cash grants to local shelters and nonprofit organizations that focus on domestic violence prevention, awareness and advocacy.
The Verizon Foundation helps people to live healthy, safe and independent lives by addressing disparities in education, healthcare and sustainability. Since 2000, the Verizon Foundation has invested more than half a billion dollars to improve the communities where Verizon employees work and live. Verizon's employees are generous with their donations and their time, having logged more than 6.8 million hours of service to make a positive difference in their communities. For more information, visit www.verizonfoundation.org
Liberty Township couple gives adopted son back to children's services after raising him for 9 years
by Alyssa Dailey and Casey Weldon
Can you give back a child?
That question has Liberty Township buzzing after it was reported that Cleveland Cox, 49, and his wife Lisa, 52, gave their adopted 9-year-old son back to Butler County Children's Services. They couple had the boy since he was 3 months old.
The Journal-News reported the couple was indicted Thursday on one count of nonsupport of dependents after “recklessly” abandoning him on Oct. 24.
Sources told 9 On Your Side reporter Tom McKee that law enforcement officials went to the couple's house on Windsor Trail to serve the arrest warrant. They learned the parents had taken their other two children out of school and left the area, according to WHIO in Dayton.
As of Friday morning, there has been no contact with the family.
Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said he's angered by the allegations against these parents.
"It shook my sensibilities and I believe it shook the conscience of most people that have heard about this story," he said.
The case first came to light in Butler County Juvenile Court when the couple petitioned to give their son back.
"I said return a child? What are you talking about? Return a child? Is there a return to sender stamp on these children?” Gmoser recalled asking Cleveland Cox. “(Cleveland Cox) remarked, ‘no,' but in the past that's the way it has been done. I said not anymore. We're not doing that."
That's why Gmoser took the case to a grand jury, which returned the misdemeanor charge. The couple could spend six months in jail and receive a $1,000 fine if they are brought to trial and found guilty.
“My position is children in general, not speaking to this specific case, they do not have a return to sender label on their forehead,” Gmoser was quoted as saying in the Journal-News report. “They are their children for always and they have that duty to support and they cannot abandon without consequences.”
Neighbors of the Cox family didn't want to go on camera, but told McKee they're stunned by the indictment. They described them as good parents, good people who were just trying to work through some family issues right now.
One of the neighbors labeled the adopted son a "bad seed."
The child's guardian ad litem, Adolfo Olivas, said the boy's parents cite aggressive behavior as their reasoning for returning him to children's services. Olivas said the parents were frustrated that the boy would not agree to get help for his behavioral issues.
“The parents were willing to get help but the child wasn't. That just is nonsense to me,” said Olivas who added that the child is “hurt and confused and traumatized.”
“A parent is a parent and a 9-year-old is a 9-year-old. If your 9-year-old needs help, you get him help. It is not a question of a 9-year-old wanting it or not,” he said.
"I don't look at 9-year-old children in general as being bad seeds," he said.
Instead, the prosecutor adopted a line from the movie “Forrest Gump” to describe the situation.
"Children are like that box of chocolates. When they are born into your life, whether by adoption or by natural means, you really never know what you're going to get. But, you have the responsibility -- especially if you have the means to care for them certainly up until adulthood," he said.
The Coxes live in a $300,000-plus home, according to Journal-News. The family was not available to comment on the situation.
Gmoser also pointed to the recent court appearance of a 16-year-old from Liberty Township who is accused of trying to kill his parents by setting a fire to their house.
He said the teen's mother and father both expressed their unconditional love for the child.
"Being a parent requires unconditional love," Gmoser said.
The Coxes have a hearing scheduled in Butler County Juvenile Court on Nov. 27. A hearing has not been set in the criminal case.
Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Who protects the children?
The communities of East Hanover, Morris Township, Madison, Chatham Borough, Chatham Township, Florham Park, Harding Township and Long Hill Township can take pride in the leadership of Diane Mann, president and CEO of the Madison Area YMCA, in chairing a statewide task force that is bringing education for adults on the issue of child sexual abuse to the community level. All eight towns are in the service area of the YMCA, where training is now available to adults on how to reduce the risks of child sexual abuse, recognize its signs, and react responsibly to this crime against children.
Mann has headed a partnership between the New Jersey YMCA State Alliance, which includes the Madison Area YMCA, with the nationally respected Darkness to Light organization and its acclaimed “Stewards of Children” child sexual abuse prevention program. Founded in 2000, Darkness to Light now has affiliates in all 50 states and 17 countries, providing individuals, organizations, and communities with the knowledge they need to help protect children from sexual abuse. Darkness to Light's 6,000 authorized facilitators have trained more than 500,000 parents, professionals and volunteers who serve young people.
Now that training and education are available to adults in our community.
There is no country, no state, and no community where children are “safe” from sexual abuse. The fact is child sexual abuse is “a silent epidemic that crosses every socioeconomic boundary, and does not discriminate,” Mann said earlier this month.
“We, as adults, need to take responsibility and protect children in our community,” Mann concluded. “By offering ‘Stewards of Children' training, the YMCA hopes to empower and mobilize adults to take action to prevent child sexual abuse.”
Why does Mann call child sexual abuse an “epidemic?” According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. That's 400,000 children each year.
Why does Mann call this epidemic “silent?” The CDC reports that 73 percent of children tell no one about sexual abuse for at least one year – and many of them never tell anyone. One reason: More than 90 percent of child victims have been abused by someone they knew, and trusted.
Meanwhile, this horrible crime heightens the vulnerability of its young victims to teen pregnancy, depression, anxiety, and suicide. They are three times more susceptible than their peers to turn to drug and alcohol abuse, two times more likely to drop out of school, and are at greater risk for serious medical conditions.
It is up to adults to end “the silent epidemic,” and now through the YMCA and Darkness to Light, training is available in sessions led by facilitators and open to the public. Groups considered particularly important in this initiative include parents, youth sports organizations, school districts, congregations, nonprofits, businesses, and anyone who works with children, both volunteers and professionals. Participants will learn how to minimize opportunities for sexual abuse, talk openly with children, and recognize the warning signs and take appropriate action.
The first step toward becoming an “agent of change” is as simple as contacting a YMCA facilitator:
In Madison, contact Diane Mann, president and CEO, at (973) 822-9622, ext. 2249, or firstname.lastname@example.org -- In Morristown, contact Carol Armour, president, YMCA of the Greater Morristown Area, at (973) 267-0704, ext 23.
Armor is also on the Board of Directors of Deidra's House in Morristown, the center in Morris County for child victims of abuse or neglect and for children that have witnessed domestic violence.
Established in 1994, Deirdre's House is the only site in Morris County where a child victim can be interviewed and digitally recorded by law enforcement, medically examined and treated by a pediatric abuse specialist, prepared for trial, and clinically counseled in English or Spanish, all under one roof.
The executive director of Deirdre's House is Maria Vinci-Savettiere who can be reached at (973)-631-5000 or email@example.com
Please take that first step. Help keep a young person from becoming one of the estimated 42 million adult survivors of child sexual abuse in America. It can be done, if individuals, and especially a community, step up to the commitment.
Toronto police arrest hundreds in child abuse raids
Arrests made in Canada, US, Australia and elsewhere as police seize videos showing sexual acts against young children
Nearly 350 people, including schoolteachers, doctors and actors, have been arrested in what Toronto police say was one of the biggest ever child abuse raids.
Police said 386 children were rescued as a result of the sweeping investigation. More than 100 people were arrested in Canada and 76 in the US in an investigation dubbed Project Spade. More were arrested in other countries.
"It is alleged that officers seized hundreds of thousands of videos detailing horrific sexual acts against very young children, some of the worst that they have ever viewed," Inspector Joanna Beaven-Desjardins said.
Sixty-five men had been arrested in Australia as a result of the Canadian investigation, the federal police commander, Glen McEwen, said on Friday, and six children removed from harm. Police said the children were "rescued from child exploitation" but did not give further details.
Beaven-Desjardins said the investigation began with a Toronto man accused of running a company since 2005 that distributed child pornography videos.
Police allege Brian Way, 42, instructed people around the world to create the videos of children aged from five to 12, then distributed the videos via his company, Azov Films, to international customers. The videos included naked boys from Germany, Romania and Ukraine, which it marketed as naturist movies and claimed were legal in Canada and the US.
Police said they executed a search warrant at Way's company and home, seizing about 1,000 pieces of evidence: computers, servers, DVD burners, a video-editing suite and hundreds of movies.
Way was charged with 24 offences, including child pornography. He is in jail. Police also designated Azov Films as a criminal organisation, charging Way with giving directions on behalf of a gang.
Beaven-Desjardins said this was the first time in Canada that anyone had been charged with being a part of a criminal organisation in regards to child pornography.
Police said they began their investigation in 2010 and worked with Interpol in more than 50 countries, including Australia, Spain, Mexico, Norway and Greece. "This operation shows that international police co-operation works. Despite large amounts of material, and that this is time-consuming work, this shows that the internet is not a safe haven for crimes against children," Norwegian police spokesman Bjoern-Erik Ludvigsen said.
The US Postal Inspection Service said it began its investigation by accessing the company website and making undercover purchases.
Beaven-Desjardins said the investigation was continuing and believed more arrests would be made.
Governor wants child abuse laws changed
by Dean Staley
SANTA FE (KRQE) - Gov. Susana Martinez is calling on the legislature to make changes to loopholes in the state's child abuse laws.
In October, the court of appeals ruled that only 10 categories of people listed in the law, including physicians and teachers, must report suspected child abuse to authorities.
Martinez disagrees with that and is asking legislature to make it clear that every person must report suspected child abuse to authorities.
The legislature will meet in January for a 30-day session.
Panel on child abuse hears horror stories
by Lou Michel
In the wake of the horrific deaths of two children, a number of witnesses Thursday told a State Assembly panel about other children they said were beaten and abused and how Erie County Child Protective Services failed to take action.
• A mother telling of how her ex-husband made home movies of their son and another boy play-acting scenes in which the son was shot in the head with a toy gun and the father then posted the videos on YouTube.
The grandmother of the same boy testified that on several occasions, when her grandson returned home from visits with his movie-making father, the child had black eyes, a swollen lip and black-and-blue marks on his leg. CPS, the grandmother said, called the injuries accidents.
• An adoptive mother of a developmentally disabled 10-year-old said the county is punishing her by attempting to terminate her parental rights because she contradicted a decision that her son was stable enough to leave a residential treatment facility.
• Robin Hart, the maternal grandmother of one of the two slain boys, testified that there are strong protections for adult couples when one is accused of assaulting the other. Police, she said, are required by law to remove the offending spouse. But the same automatic protection is not in place for a child who is “marked up” in an alleged assault by a parent or caretaker.
Following the slayings of two children — Hart's 5-year-old grandson and a 10-year-old boy — in the last year and a half, Assembly members came to Buffalo City Hall to find the holes in the CPS system and develop laws to try to prevent other children from dying at the hands of abusers. Other counties across the state, they said, are likely to have some of the same problems as Erie County.
Eain Clayton Brooks, Hart's grandson, was beaten to death Sept. 15, allegedly by his mother's boyfriend, Matthew W. Kuzdzal, 26. Kuzdzal also is accused of sexually assaulting the boy.
Abdifatah Mohamud died at the hands of his stepfather in April 2012, when Ali-Mohamed Mohamud struck the child more than 70 times on the head with a baker's rolling pin in the family's East Side home.
In both cases, CPS had prior involvement.
Laura Velez, the deputy commissioner of child welfare and community services for the state Office of Children and Family Services, started Thursday's testimony by saying reviews by the state conducted after each boy was killed revealed systemic problems in how CPS workers handled child abuse investigations.
Of 110 cases randomly reviewed by her office after Abdifatah was murdered, the state found that county caseworkers frequently closed cases in less than half the 60 days allowed by law to complete an investigation.
The state office also determined many families ended up being repeatedly “re-reported” to the state's child abuse hotline.
After Eain's death, Velez said the Office of Children and Family Services conducted an “unprecedented” investigation, reviewing more than 900 open child abuse and neglect cases in the county. It found insufficient documentation of whether a proper safety assessment had been conducted in about 200 of the cases.
The county was given 48 hours to produce additional documentation or provide services to ensure the child's safety, Velez said, adding that the state will be issuing two separate reports on findings from its review of the 900 cases.
“The deaths of these two young children have raised troubling questions about Erie County's case practice,” Velez said. “Certainly, there are strengths in Erie County Child Protective Services. However, there are systemic issues that must be addressed. Necessary system improvements must be both short-term and visible, and long-term and sustainable. They require leadership, accountability and support for Erie County Department of Social Services and its workforce. OCFS is prepared to both support Erie County and hold them accountable in these efforts.”
What became clear early on at the hearing was the high numbers of cases statewide and locally that child protective workers handle.
About 320,000 telephone calls are made annually to the state's central hotline for child abuse and about 160,000 are determined to have enough merit to be forwarded to local CPS workers for investigation. Erie County last year received about 12,000 child abuse and neglect complaints.
After questions regarding staffing and caseloads posed by Assemblyman Sean D. Ryan, D-Buffalo, Velez said the recommended number of open cases a caseworker should have under best practices is 12.
But Erie County Social Services Commissioner Carol Dankert-Maurer testified that 60 percent of her 102 caseworkers have between 16 and 25 open cases. Forty-three other counties, she added, have caseworkers who have more than 15 open cases.
Close scrutiny by OCFS, Dankert-Maurer said, has caused local caseworkers to take additional time investigating their cases to make sure all aspects of the allegations are reviewed. In the past, she said, caseworkers acted quickly to close cases as a means of managing the size of their caseload. Many cases can be closed in 30 days, she said.
But now, she said, “they are second-guessing themselves.”
The commissioner also said a state computer system, “Connections,” is cumbersome when it comes to retrieving information on a family's case history.
“The labor-intensive process recently required a seasoned CPS supervisor to spend eight hours piecing together across many records and many screens all the history… for a typical, complex Erie County family,” Dankert-Maurer said.
Lawmakers, though, had their own questions about long delays when it came to filling six newly created CPS caseworker positions after the commissioner testified that last March, months before Eain was killed, she had decided the new positions were needed.
State Sen. Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo, repeatedly asked Dankert-Maurer why it took several months to make the hires.
Dankert-Maurer explained that she asked her staff to put together a hiring proposal despite the fact that staff members told her they felt caseloads were manageable. Once the proposal was formalized, she said, she went to the county executive's staff, which reviewed and supported it.
But Kennedy asked why an emergency session of the Erie County Legislature was not requested last summer to approve the hires, which were not made until September.
“Do you believe having a special session would have helped?” Kennedy asked. “Would there have been a different outcome with Eain Brooks?”
Dankert-Maurer said, “I'm not answering that.”
Kennedy continued to press her on the slow hiring process.
“Would the department have functioned better?” Kennedy asked.
She conceded that the department would have been better off with “six additional folks.”
Assemblyman Michael P. Kearns, D-Buffalo, said someone needed to held responsible for the deaths of the two young boys. “Who is responsible?” he asked.
Dankert-Maurer said, “Ultimately, it is my responsibility.”
She pointed out that while most CPS staff is professional and dedicated, some caseworkers are not suited for the work and that efforts are under way to transfer or fire some workers. Two caseworkers were fired after Eain was killed.Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo, urged more of a role for Erie County Family Court to help determine if children are safe in a home. She said she realized Family Court already is overloaded with cases, but that there could be a benefit in having an outside entity take a look at the cases to decide earlier if a child should be removed.
Peoples-Stokes also recommended increased training of caseworkers to spot mental health issues, explaining that people who harm children are likely to be mentally troubled. Velez agreed with the assemblywoman.
Robin Hart and Carolyn Spring-Baker, the paternal great-grandmother of Eain, urged lawmakers to require caseworkers to make collective decisions on whether a child should be removed from the home. Dankert-Maurer testified that the standard practice for caseworkers is to review their findings with their supervisors.
Peoples-Stokes latched onto that point and said it made it even more disturbing that if that occurred, two children still ended up dead.
Some of the most compelling testimony came from parents sharing their experiences with CPS.
Karen Healy, the adoptive mother of 10-year-old Kavant, said that when she disagreed with a decision that her son, who is diagnosed with mental disorders, was well enough to leave a treatment facility, the county sought retribution and began a petition to remove her parental rights.
Her son has since been placed in five different foster homes and is now hospitalized for psychological treatment. The county's heavy-handed approach, Healy said, has caused more problems for her son. “He called me on the phone recently, crying, ‘Mom, help me,' ” Healy said.
Dr. Lori Ullman, a dermatologist, testified that her 9-year-old son Jack is in two internet YouTube videos that depict extreme violence. In each of them, the boy is shot in the head with a toy gun by another child. She said her ex-husband made the videos. Lynn Ullman, the doctor's mother, testified that on several occasions after Jack returned home from visits with his father, he had bruises.
“The caseworker told me there was an investigation in progress and then said it was an accident, case closed. I said ‘an accident? It would be an accident if it had happened once,' ” Lynn Ullman said.
Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, D-Binghamton, chair of the Children and Families Committee; and Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, D-Forest Hills, chair of the Oversight, Analysis and Investigation Committee, who conducted the hearing, assured parents their comments would be thoroughly considered as steps are taken to improve laws protecting children.
Campus efforts aim to boost awareness of need to report child abuse and neglect
If you see something, say something.
That's the bottom line of a range of efforts Stanford is undertaking to continue building awareness of the importance of reporting any cases of known or suspected child abuse or neglect that university community members may become aware of.
Stanford has strict requirements for the reporting of child abuse and neglect. The importance of reporting has gained heightened national visibility in recent years. In addition, the definition of who must report child abuse and neglect has been expanded.
"Protecting the safety of children in our community is an obligation of the entire Stanford community," said Vice President for Human Resources David A. Jones. "We want to make sure everyone in the Stanford community understands their responsibilities in reporting suspected child abuse and neglect, and that they have the information they need to fulfill those responsibilities with confidence if the need arises."
Members of the Stanford community fall into two categories for purposes of reporting incidents of child abuse and neglect.
First, all members of the university community are encouraged and expected to report any instance of known or reasonably suspected child abuse or neglect. A report can be made by calling:
911 in an emergency (9-911 from campus phones)
Santa Clara County Child Abuse and Neglect Center, (650) 493-1186
Stanford University Department of Public Safety, (650) 723-9633 during business hours or (650) 329-2413 after hours
Second, state law has broadened the definition of "mandated reporters" who are obligated under the law to report child abuse occurring on campus or in connection with university activities.
Mandated reporters now include any person paid by the university who has regular contact with minors – including undergraduates under the age of 18 – in connection with university activities, or anyone who supervises such an individual, even if the supervisor does not have direct contact with minors. People who were mandated reporters before the change in the law remain mandated reporters, like some medical professionals. Mandated reporters may include faculty, staff, graduate students, medical personnel, athletic coaches, police officers and anyone else working in programs with activities involving minors.
A full list of mandated reporter categories is provided for in state law, and a Stanford checklist for determining reporting status is available on the web.
Mandated reporters are required to report reasonable suspicion of child abuse or neglect to one of the authorities listed above – and can face criminal prosecution for failure to do so. In addition, mandated reporters are required by law to follow up with a written report within 36 hours of suspecting abuse or neglect. Forms for filing such a written report are available on the Stanford website. After reporting to the authorities, all Stanford affiliates are encouraged to also report to their supervisor or the Stanford Compliance Helpline.
California requires that Stanford collect an acknowledgement form from each mandated reporter signifying their understanding of their responsibilities under the law. The form and instructions for filling it out are available at http://uhr.stanford.edu/form-instructions.
The campus currently is conducting a new round of outreach to leaders across the university, continuing to ensure that each organization identifies its mandated reporters and obtains the required acknowledgements from them.
In addition, the university has made a range of information, training resources, web links and answers to frequently asked questions available on its website. These resources, providing a broad overview of the issues involved in the reporting of child abuse and neglect, can be accessed at http://uhr.stanford.edu/mandatory-reporting-child-abuse-and-neglect. The Office of the General Counsel also has resources available at https://ogc.stanford.edu/child-abuse-and-neglect-reporting.
Illinois is losing more children to child abuse and neglect than any time in the last 30 years
by Tony Arnold
About a month before 3-year-old Gina Presley died, her grandfather says he began calling the state's child-abuse hotline, worried about her safety.
Days passed, and nothing happened.
So Gerald Presley went to the Oak Forest police on March 11, telling them there might be “drug use” in the home where Gina lived with his sister — her legal guardian — and his sister's new boyfriend, records show. Presley says the police told him to call the hotline again, and he did.
Eight days later, Illinois child-welfare officials asked police to make a “well-being check” on Gina, based on “reports of her having bruises,” according to a police report.
When officers got there that evening, no one was home.
A week later, Gina was found dead, allegedly killed by the boyfriend who had caused Gerald Presley's concern, prompting him to call the child-abuse hotline “at least” three times.
“I started calling at the end of February or in early March, but they didn't take me seriously,” Presley says. “You see what happened.”
What happened is part of an alarming trend in Illinois: More kids are dying from child abuse and neglect, and a growing number of those deaths are occurring despite the child-welfare system's involvement in investigating or monitoring their care, a WBEZ and Chicago Sun-Times examination of 10 years of neglect and abuse cases has found.
For the 12 months ending June 30, 2013, child deaths statewide caused by abuse or neglect hit a 30-year high, according to data from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, with the number of cases topping 100 for the first time since 1989.
Agency officials say most of the abuse and neglect deaths — about three out of four — did not involve households the department had prior contact with, though it isn't clear how they determined that. DCFS doesn't release year-by-year statistics on the number of children dying as a result of abuse or neglect while the agency is investigating or monitoring them.
What WBEZ and the Sun-Times found, though, was that abuse and neglect deaths in which the department had prior involvement more than doubled between 2010 and 2011 — from 15 deaths to 34. There were 34 deaths again in 2012, 15 of them caused by abuse and 19 by neglect.
To determine how many abuse and neglect deaths there were in cases involving families with whom the agency was involved, WBEZ and the Sun-Times reviewed the annual reports produced by DCFS Inspector General Denise Kane. Those reports list the cause of death for children whose families had contact with the agency within one year of the death and for children who were wards of the state when they died.
Of the 19 DCFS-involved neglect deaths, 11 involved infants being smothered or falling after being placed in dangerous sleeping conditions. Such deaths often weren't classified as neglect until late 2011, when DCFS began pressing its investigators to discipline parents who had been educated about sleep safety or who had placed their children in unsafe sleep conditions because of alcohol or drug use.
Because Kane's analysis is limited to “the deaths of Illinois children whose families were involved in the child-welfare system within the preceding 12 months,” the number of deaths in families with whom DCFS had been involved could be higher.
Elijah Mims, a 4-year-old South Holland boy, was one of those her analysis did not count. He died while being treated for lymphangiomatosis, a rare disease in which non-malignant tumors attack the body.
Elijah's 13-year-old brother found him “face-down on his bed with white foam around his mouth” on Feb. 12, 2012, according to a Cook County medical examiner's report. Elijah died two days later from what authorities concluded was an accidental overdose of morphine. South Holland police reported the case to DCFS “as suspected child abuse” and continue to investigate, records show.
DCFS had investigated Elijah's home five times, including twice in 2008, when child-protection officials found the accusations to be credible, the Sun-Times reported after his death.
Elijah's case isn't among those Kane includes in her 2012 report, though. That's because his family's most recent contact with DCFS had been more than a year earlier, the cutoff point for her analysis.
Attempts to reach Elijah's parents were unsuccessful.
Even when deaths occur within the one-year window, some cases still might not be counted because DCFS officials rely on “coroners, hospitals and law enforcement in Illinois to report child deaths,” Kane writes. “The deaths are not always reported. Therefore, true statistical analysis of child deaths in Illinois is difficult because the total number of children that die in Illinois each year is unknown.”
The overall increase in the number of abuse and neglect deaths — regardless of whether DCFS was involved — is “troubling, and we need to figure it out,” says Benjamin S. Wolf, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois who monitors DCFS under a federal court order.
DCFS director Richard Calica says he has eliminated management positions and converted them to investigator jobs in an effort to improve child safety. Calica says that has reduced caseloads that were as high as 25 per investigator when he took over the agency nearly two years ago. His investigators now typically handle nine cases each.
Wolf says the higher number of DCFS-involved abuse and neglect deaths in 2011 and 2012 could reflect the high past caseloads.
“If you investigate late and you investigate sloppily, it's more likely that something bad will happen to that child,” Wolf says. “Hopefully, the improvements we've made in the caseloads of investigators in the last year will cause some improvements in the coming years.”
Gina Presley appeared to be in a safe environment until her guardian, Kim DeBartolo, 45, filed for divorce late last year, and her new boyfriend, Jessie Rodriguez, moved in to her Oak Forest home. DeBartolo began caring for Gina — whose parents were teens when she was born — when she was 6 months old.
Rodriguez, who'd been convicted of gun and drug crimes in the early 1990s and sentenced to probation, is now being held at the Cook County Jail, where he awaits trial for murder in Gina's death. The little girl died from “blunt force trauma due to child abuse,” authorities concluded.
Gerald Presley says he wishes his warnings to DCFS and the police could have gotten Gina out of harm's way. “I know a lot of stuff falls through the cracks with them,” he says of DCFS.
Calica calls every child death “a horror” but says that, given the number of cases DCFS handles each year, “I think it's real important to understand from a demographics standpoint that while any death is a horror, one out of 39,000 isn't a bad error rate. I think it's unfair to judge a system by a tragedy and have tragedies drive public policy and the entire system, when certain tragedies, I'm sorry, are not preventable."
CASES IN POINT
Gizzell Ford, 8 Found dead July 12 after being beaten, allegedly by her grandmother, Helen Ford, and father, Andre Ford, both now charged with murder. A DCFS worker was with her two months earlier when a social worker interviewed her about allegations she was sexually abused by her mother's boyfriend, records show. A doctor who examined her weeks before she died noted possible bruising on her buttocks.
Destiny Myles, 3Died Jan. 24, 2012, after their 6-year-old brother, heating a pizza on the stove at their Chicago apartment at 3 a.m., started a fire. Their mother — raising the kids by herself despite “neurological impairment from huffing mothballs” — had been involved with DCFS on and off since 2006, including a “pending child investigation” at the time of the deaths, records show.
Joshua Summeries, 5 monthsZion infant died Aug. 21 when, Lake County prosecutors say, his mother's boyfriend, Demetries Thorpe, suffocated him, then dumped his body in the trash. DCFS had investigated the family eight times, most recently in January. Joshua's body has not been found.
Christopher Valdez and mother CrystalDied on his birthday, Nov. 25, 2011, after his mother's boyfriend, Cesar Ruiz, beat him. Earlier that year, Christopher's mother admitted beating the boy and was convicted of domestic battery, prompting DCFS to investigate. After her release from jail, Christopher was allowed to resume living with her. The DCFS investigator who handled the case was fired for falsifying documents. Ruiz is to be sentenced next week in Christopher's murder. His mother is in jail awaiting trial.
Social media help agents ID child-sex suspects
by Amy Pavuk
The FBI released a picture this week of "John Doe 27," a man with a Southern accent whose face was captured in child-pornography images, and made a plea to the public to help identify him.
Tips poured in, and within one day, agents identified their suspect.
The case is the latest example of the power of social media in helping authorities find suspects, particularly in child-sex cases that could otherwise take years to solve.
Photographs and videos of the man known as "John Doe 27" were first documented by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in April, the FBI said.
Agents released several pictures of him Tuesday, as well as a photo of a distinct plaid chair inside a home.
By Wednesday, the FBI said agents identified the man. The agency didn't publicly name him because he has not yet been arrested but said he lives in the Midwest.
The same tactic has also been used by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations several times in the past year, also with success.
"When it comes to stopping the rape of children for perverse pleasure and profit, HSI special agents will use any tool lawfully available to them," said Shane Folden, deputy special agent in charge of HSI's Tampa division.
In December, HSI released pictures of a woman wanted for producing child pornography; those photos were taken directly from the illegal images.
Within hours, tipsters identified her as Corine Danielle Motley from Okaloosa County in Florida's Panhandle.
Motley was arrested and subsequently pleaded guilty to engaging in sex acts with a child. She was sentenced in June to about 29 years in federal prison.
Though the FBI and HSI have released several images of child-exploitation suspects in the past year, the process — and the decision to do so — isn't simple.
"ICE gives the highest priority to John Doe cases in which special agents believe there is a high likelihood of the ongoing sexual abuse of a child," Folden said.
Inquiry into child sex abuse slams Catholics, recommends sweeping change
by Barney Zwartz and Jane Lee with Richard Willingham
The state government's eagerly awaited report on clergy child sex abuse recommends sweeping changes to laws behind which the Catholic Church has sheltered, and accused its leaders of trivialising the problem as a ‘‘short-term embarrassment''.
Launching the report in State Parliament, inquiry chairwoman Georgie Crozier spoke of ‘‘a betrayal beyond comprehension'' and children suffering ‘‘unimaginable harm''.
She said the inquiry had referred 135 previously unreported claims of child sex abuse to the police.
The report into how the churches handled clergy sexual abuse wants to establish a new crime for people in authority knowingly to put a child a risk, and to make it a crime not to report suspected child abuse or to leave a child at risk. The recommendation does not extend to what priests hear in the confessional.
Grooming a child or parents should be a crime, child abuse should be excluded from the statute of limitations, and the present church systems of dealing with victims in-house should be replaced by an independent government-monitored authority, suggests the report, Betrayal of Trust.
Committee member Andrea Coote said the Catholic Church had minimised and trivialised the problem, kept the community in ignorance, and ensured that perpetrators were not held accountable, so that children continued to be abused.
‘‘With the notable exception of Father Kevin Dillon [the Geelong priest who gave evidence], we found that today's church leaders view the current question of abuse of children as a ‘short-term embarrassment' which should be handled as quickly as possible to cause the least damage to the church's standing. They do not see the problems as raising questions about the church's own culture,'' she said.
The betrayal of trust at a number of levels of the church hierarchy was in such contrast to the religion's stated values that many Catholics found the betrayal almost impossible to acknowledge, Ms Coote said.
The church had developed a ‘‘sliding morality'', compartmentalising the issues to avoid the ‘‘obvious moral conflicts''. The church's own submission barely mentioned past church policies, and was expressed mainly in the present tense, she said.
Ms Crozier said the inquiry had been significant and historic, begun last year at a time when no other government within Australia was prepared to take on these confronting issues.
Besides recommending new criminal laws, the report suggests way to make it easier for victims to seek justice. These include ensuring organisations are held accountable and vicariously liable, and that any organisation receiving government funding or tax exemptions are incorporated and insured. This would eliminate the so-called Ellis defence, by which the church successfully argued it was not an entity that could be sued.
It recommends strengthening prevention systems such as the working with children checks, and increasing scrutiny and monitoring of organisations.
Ms Crozier said children were betrayed by trusted figures in organisations of high standing, and suffered unimaginable harm. ‘‘Parents experienced a betrayal beyond comprehension, and the community was betrayed by the failure of organisations to protect children in their care.''
Premier Denis Napthine said the abuse detailed in the report was “absolutely appalling” and said religious involved should hang their heads in shame.
Dr Napthine said the government would immediately begin drafting legislation that reflected the committee's recommendations including:
|- a new criminal offence for “grooming” a child
- a new child endangerment offence
- removing statute of limitations on offences
- making it a crime to conceal child abuse offences
Dr Napthine was raised in a Catholic household and attended a Catholic school.
“I can't claim to be a practising Catholic at the moment, but let me say I'm ashamed and embarrassed by the actions of the Catholic Church,'' Dr Napthine said,
“The leaders of the Catholic Church who were involved some of these actions ought to absolutely hang their heads in shame, and that's the least of what they should do.''
He called on all institutions and organisations to accept the recommendations and urged them to “read every word of this report.”
On establishing a victim's of crime fund for abuse victims, Dr Napthine said the government would thoroughly investigate all recommendations.
Dr Napthine praised the man he replaced, Ted Baillieu, for putting systemic child abuse on the national agenda, saying the Victorian inquiry helped set up the Royal Commission.
Catholic Archbishop Denis Hart said child abuse was not a short-term embarrassment, and although it could still do better the church had made good progress.
He supported the key recommendations, but declined to endorse any in particular, saying they were complex legal matters. He said the report gave an opportunity for the church and other groups to ‘‘move forward together''.
Archbishop Hart said the church had cooperated with the inquiry, with more than 20 Catholic representatives giving evidence. Next would come a time of exploration as the government considered its response, and the church would contribute constructively.
Committee members were greeted warmly when they left the chamber.
Chrissie and Anthony Foster, whose daughters were serially abused at primary school by paedophile priest Kevin O'Donnell, hugged Ms Crozier and David O'Brien simultaneously.
Stephen Woods, who was sexually assaulted by convicted paedophile Christian Brother Robert Best said: ‘‘It's just the start, another step in the change in society... so that parliamentarians and victims will now be able to potentially change one corner of society.''
Mr Woods, who was abused when he was a student at a Christian Brothers school, said that the report gave victims and the community ‘‘power and impetus to change''.
He said he was not surprised by the strong recommendations Ms Crozier had earlier flagged, saying that there was a ‘‘palpable change in the mood and tone'' of the committee members during the inquiry when victims began to give evidence.
Mr Woods gave Andrea Coote a kiss on the cheek when she entered the lobby area and smiled: "Thank you, darling Andrea."
Many of the victims and victim advocates who gave evidence and sat in Parliament throughout the state inquiry stayed till the end, including Good Faith & Associates' Helen Last, lawyers Judy Courtin and Angela Sdrinis and Care Leavers Australia Network executive director Leonie Sheedy.
In Parliament's lower house MPs from all sides showed raw emotion when discussing the inquiry, with sympathetic handshakes and hugs crossing party lines.
Inquiry members, including Liberal Nick Wakeling and Labor's Bronwyn Halfpenny, choked back tears as they detailed the work of the committee and the harrowing stories they heard.
Mr Wakeling said hearing the evidence had taken its toll on some and paid tribute to all those who participated.
MPs wiped back tears as the listened to their colleagues talk about the inquiry.
Nationals MP Tim Bull said the greatest betrayal of trust was the rape of children.
Labor's Sharon Knight said the inquiry was “beyond politics” and praised the bipartisan work of the committee.
York students to hold candlelight vigil in support of child abuse prevention
For the third straight year, Penn State York's Human Development and Family Studies (HD FS) Club is holding a candlelight vigil to show their support for victims of child abuse. The vigil is set for 5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14, on campus in front of the Edward M. Elias Science Building, 1031 Edgecomb Ave., York, Pa. The event is open to the public.
The vigil will be a stationary one, unlike previous years when the group walked around the campus. Peg Chown, a child advocate, will give a brief talk about the challenges of handling abuse cases, particularly in family court. Chown served as assistant attorney general for the State of Minnesota during the mid-to-late 1980s and handled cases that were part of what was known as the Scott County Sex Abuse Cases. These cases received national media attention because of the size of the investigation and the number of children involved. Chown is the wife of David W. Chown, who became the chancellor at Penn State York in February.
Following Chown's talk, there will be candle lighting and reciting of the child abuse protection pledge. Those who wish to remain can do so in silence.
“This year, in addition to reciting the pledge to do our part to end sexual violence against children, the HD FS Club will be placing a trifold board in the lobby of our main classroom building which highlights news articles about child sexual violence,” said Michelle Cooper HDFS Club president and Rick Gross, vice president of the club, in a statement. “We encourage everyone to contribute an article throughout spring semester as a way to raise awareness about the need for intervention on behalf of survivors, both in our community and the world at large.”
*** Participants in the vigil will be asked to say the following pledge:
|“I believe that every child has a right to grow up free from the shadow of abuse. I believe that the responsibility to protect children rests solely in adult hands. I believe that, as adults, we must remain ever vigilant and dedicate no less than the best of ourselves to that purpose. To all the victims of abuse, male and female, adult and children, known and unknown: I pledge to educate myself about the realities of child abuse; I pledge to give a voice and report any and all suspicions; I pledge to cast a light in the darkness by doing the right thing the first time, every time.”
The program is slated to end by 6 p.m. in order for students and faculty to attend evening classes.
FBI Seeking Identity, Location Of Child Sex Abuse Suspect
(Picture on site)
The FBI needs the public's help in identifying and locating a man suspected of sexually exploiting a child.
Known only as John Doe 27, the man seen in the photos here on our page is accused of taking photos of himself engaging in sexual activity with a child and then posting those photos on the Internet. The FBI says those photos are still being passed around child pornography forums.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children got a hold of the photos in April of this year, and have been looking for clues to the man's identity within the photos ever since.
Investigators believe they have picked out the following potential identifiers in the photos:
|- The suspect and victim are inside a residence with a distinct plaid chair
- Bald spot can be seen on the back of the suspect's head
- Suspect is wearing a ring on his right ring finger
- Audio from the video suggests the suspect's name or an alias may be "Jimmy"
There is nothing in the video or photos that gives away a state or region in the United States. The FBI says the suspect could be anywhere.
The suspect is believed to be in his 40s or 50s. He appears to be a white male with dark hair and dark eyes.
If you have any information that can help authorities find this man, you are asked to submit a tip to https://tips.fbi.gov/ or call 1-800-CALL-FBI/
Oakland struggles to protect children from sex trafficking
by Meghan Logue
Trina describes herself as the kind of young woman who has always attracted older men.
“Anywhere I would go,” she said, “I was just a magnet for creeps.”
She was diagnosed with precocious puberty at 5 and said her body's accelerated development accounts for the older men in her life: “Always, older men were trying to talk to me because I looked older.”
Born the middle child of five to a mother who struggled to make ends meet with a government wage, Trina was never going to have an easy time growing up in Sacramento, Calif. She was raped repeatedly between the ages of 4 and 7 by a relative. When the fights with her mother started, Trina started running away.
It was just the beginning of a too-common tale of childhood abuse leading young girls into a forced life of prostitution, particularly in Oakland, which is recognized as the West Coast hub of human trafficking, including sexual exploitation. Experts estimate that 50 to 100 girls, many of them underage, line the city's International Boulevard each night.
Children who, like Trina, suffer from abusive relationships early in life are often unable to recognize or engage in healthy relationship behaviors and are at higher risk of entering violent or exploitative relationships, according to a report by the WestCoast Children's Clinic.
But what could be an effective tool to save more children in Oakland from exploitation is on hold for lack of funds.
Vanessa Scott — a survivor of abuse and the head of Love Never Fails, a nonprofit aimed at ending sex trafficking of children — hopes to reach kids before an abusive childhood leads to exploitation. With the Love Don't Hurt program, Scott aims to teach all 2,360 seventh graders in the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) how to recognize and cope with abuse and make them less vulnerable to exploitative relationships.
The district is working to “get this information through our girls' groups that are in middle schools and high schools,” said Annette Oropeza, a regional mental health program manager for OUSD, who believes prevention may be the solution. “Just kind of build that into girls' self-esteem … so that we're working on prevention from the inside out.”
The school district needs around $40,000 to bring the program to all Oakland Unified schools. In a state notorious for its budget crises and in a chronically underfunded city, the district has raised about $10,000 through private donations, but has been unable to identify a government grant that would cover the full cost of the program. With a quarter of the needed funding in hand, OUSD's behavioral studies coordinator, Barbara McClung, has hopes for a staggered rollout in January.
While administrators are “very optimistic,” funding the program will be a delicate procedure. The $10,000 in hand is about half of what is needed for the first phase: orientation for all students and enacting workshops in about half of Oakland's 15 middle schools. McClung hopes to secure a matching donor for the remainder of the first round.
From there, she hopes that a proven track record and a groundswell of interest will help secure enough funding to launch the program in the remainder of the city's schools.
Once enacted, Love Don't Hurt will “complete our continuum of services to be able to do the prevention work” in Oakland schools, McClung said.
Kidnapped at 13
Trina (who, because of the stigma associated with her history and fears for her safety, agreed to share her story under the condition that her name be changed) never had access to a program like Love Don't Hurt. If she had?
“I would have been able to look at what was happening, and I would have been able to get around it,” she said. “I would have been able to recognize what was happening and walk away.”
At 13 she was kidnapped and raped for three days by a group of men. At 14 she was abducted by a man who terrorized her and forced her into prostitution for three weeks.
On her return from a stint at a treatment camp for at-risk youth, Trina “wanted to do better.” She completed her community service in record time and started a nonprofit job. Things with her mom improved.
Weeks later, while goofing around with a friend on a phone chat line for local singles, she met him.
“He told me everything I wanted to hear, and I was just playing with him,” she recalled. Older men had gotten her into trouble before, so she was wary, but she held onto his number just in case.
A few weeks later Trina's eldest brother beat her so hard that a neighbor called the cops. Her mom blamed her for the argument. Feeling freshly betrayed by her family and craving escape, she called her phone-chat suitor. He picked her up days later and brought her to Oakland.
At first, things were OK.
“I was happy … The man was older, and I thought he was interested in me,” she said.
He bought her a cell phone and took her shopping. She suspected he might be a pimp, but pushed her fears aside.
Trina's exploitation started soon after she arrived in Oakland. At first she went out only on online calls worth $300 and up. Shifts on International Boulevard were rare. After a month in jail on a prostitution charge, she was sent back to Sacramento with an ankle monitor for two months.
“My pimp started getting restless,” she recalled. “He told me, ‘I need you back. You're skipping your second month of ankle monitor and coming back here.'”
A few days later he was in Sacramento to cut off the ankle monitor and drive her back to Oakland, where things worsened for Trina. The previous life of online-only, $300-or-more calls looked relatively cushy as her pimp forced her to start working long shifts on International. Monday through Sunday, work started at 4 or 5 a.m., “when all the big spenders are out. The doctors and lawyers.” Three shifts a day spent hopping in and out of men's cars, with breaks between shifts, made for a grueling work schedule that ran from the predawn hours to midnight.
Then there was the violence.
“When I got back, that's when he first started hitting me,” Trina said.
She suffered multiple broken bones, dislocated shoulders and black eyes at the hands of her pimp. He often tried to choke her and once beat her so hard that she passed out on the street. The day before her 16th birthday, he dropped off the map with $1,200 — all of Trina's savings. She thought he might be dead. When he came back a day and a half later, he was high on crack cocaine and had spent all of her money.
Johns had been generous when Trina told them it was her birthday. When she handed over the $900 she had earned since his disappearance, “his eyes lit up like I had never seen before.”
He left for another day to smoke more crack.
One night he tied her to a couch, gagged her and paced around the living room furiously, asking her why he shouldn't kill her, while holding a butcher knife to her wrist. Trina thanks God for getting her through that night — during which neither she nor her exploiter slept.
Still, she stayed.
“I always said, ‘Yes, Daddy, no, Daddy'” whenever asking for something as simple as a break or to use the restroom, she recalled. Hesitating, she added, “I would tell him I loved him, but I didn't love him. I tried to make the best of what I had.”
Crime vs. exploitation
Trina was arrested at least four times while working in Oakland. She recalled arresting officers treating her with condescension and contempt. Even when well under the legal age of sexual consent, victims of commercial sexual exploitation were often treated and charged as adults, and their exploitative situations were often ignored. Victims of commercial sexual exploitation are regarded not as victims but as perpetrators, said OUSD's Oropeza. She said that shifting this awareness is crucial to solving the problem of forced childhood prostitution.
It is starting to happen.
Oropeza said community members and organizations have realized, “Wait a minute, these young women are not the criminals. They are the victims.”
The most successful ballot initiative in California history, Proposition 35, was voted into law in 2012. The law requires stricter sentences for sex traffickers and mandates that law enforcement receive training about sex trafficking victims. Alameda County District Attorney Nancy E. O'Malley noted that over the past year or two, the perception of young prostitutes is turning around. Now when she hears from the community, she said, “It's not ‘Get these kids off my street' like it used to be. Now it's ‘We have a sexually exploited youth out here, please send someone who can do something about it.'”
Still, getting victims off the street is difficult. Even when they're acknowledged as victims, children picked up off International Boulevard face serious obstacles before they can leave the streets and move on with their lives. Scott of Love Never Fails also spends weekends doing outreach missions up and down the boulevard.
“There's so much red tape” when getting these young women off the streets, she said. “You have to prove that the person is a minor. The minor has to be willing to say they are a minor, and they have to be willing to trust you enough to say they want to leave. Then they have to be able to stand with you while we wait for police to arrive. And then we need a place to send them. And, oftentimes, where kids end up being sent to is an abusive home.”
Victims are usually sent back through the legal system, sometimes to jail, before they can start rehabilitation.
And victims of sexual exploitation constitute a difficult population to serve. O'Malley said it's a problem that often gets ignored.
“When we try to shove it in the corner or put it under the rug, or people don't want to admit that kids are being sexually exploited, then they don't have to do anything about it,” O'Malley said. “They don't have to get involved or change it.”
Perhaps this is why none of Trina's neighbors responded to the missing-person fliers with her face on them. She still doesn't know who reported her missing.
“The families where I lived, maybe they were scared of him, but nobody ever dropped anonymous tips like ‘Oh, this little girl is here,'” she said.
And on the streets, would anyone report a young prostitute missing, on the chance that they recognized her from the posters?
“When it's a girl that's prostituting, they don't care,” she said. “They figure, ‘Oh, she's just a prostitute.'”
The pimp's grip on Trina was strong.
“He owned me,” she said.
Around this time, he started talking about moving her to the country to, in Trina's words, “keep it all to himself.” When he thought she might leave him for another pimp, he would beat her viciously.
“He wouldn't let me leave him,” she said. “He would tell me he ‘raised me up from a pup,'” so she belonged to him. “I was what they (call) his ‘bottom bitch.'”
When he was arrested for an outstanding warrant, Trina knew she had to get out or she might not live to her 18th birthday. Around this time, she met a john with whom she immediately hit it off. He listened raptly while she told him her life story and seemed to take pity on her.
“He would always tell me, ‘I want to get you away from here, and I don't want you to be here anymore,'” Trina recalled, adding that she persuaded him to let her move in with him.
While she would still work for her exploiter occasionally, his spell over her had broken.
“He knew something was wrong because I stopped calling him Daddy,” she recalled.
In desperation, he would threaten Trina's life. He once waited outside her new home for nearly three hours with a gun. Another time, he faked his own suicide and prompted their mutual friends to notify Trina of his death. He still calls her cell phone every few months, begging her to come back.
These days, life is different for Trina.
At 19, she is engaged. She holds down a food service job and has two new Maltese poodle mixes. Looking back, she isn't sure how she survived. Prostitution has led her to more brushes with death than she can count.
“It's hard,” she said. “Harder than working a 9-to-5 job … Every day you go out there, you don't know what's going to happen. It amazes me that I'm alive.”
She now often volunteers, sharing her experience with young women in hopes that they'll avoid the terror and desperation in her recent past. Is it hard to talk about her past?
“It's not difficult for me anymore,” she said. “My life is so different than it was before. It's just kind of like a nightmare that I had, that I woke up from.”
Can police prevent domestic violence simply by telling offenders to stop?
by John H. Tucker
Late one evening in 2006, a patrol officer in High Point, N.C., was dispatched to a domestic disturbance at a small yellow house. Darin Jackson, an unemployed 40-year-old, was attempting to reclaim a set of hair clippers from his ex-girlfriend, Annjanette Lloyd. Jackson told the officer he had recently been locked up but did not explain why. He cursed at the officer, got in his car and sped away.
Six hours later, police received a call from a nearby house, where an 8-year-old boy in boxer shorts had awakened owners by ringing the doorbell. Responding patrolmen found the boy on the porch with wounds to his head and body. Before emergency workers took him to the hospital, he told police, "Darin broke into our house and stabbed Momma."
Inside Lloyd's house, investigators discovered her lifeless body in bed, with 63 stab wounds and blunt trauma to the head. A piece of her neck was missing, and her jawbone protruded from her cheek. Police located Jackson at his mother's house. They took him to the station, where he met with Detective Jerry Thompson and confessed to the killing. He showed no remorse, flexing his chest muscles during his booking photo, Thompson noted in a report.
After running a background check, Thompson was frustrated by what he learned. Five days earlier Jackson had been arrested after punching Lloyd. The assault apparently stemmed from a fight over the television. After one night in jail, Jackson was issued a court date and released.
Thompson also learned that a social services caseworker had filed several domestic violence reports on Jackson and Lloyd during their four-month relationship. Neighbors, too, said the couple had a history of fighting. Jackson had a prior conviction for trespassing on a woman's property and an assault conviction for attacking a man with a pocketknife.
After going through surgery, Lloyd's son told Detective Thompson that Jackson entered the house through a window and hit his sleeping mother with a stick. "Stop, Darin, please stop," she yelled. The boy tried to help but could not save her.
Two years later, Jim Fealy, High Point's police chief, walked into the office of Maj. Marty Sumner, his chief of staff. A 24-year High Point veteran with a penchant for data, Sumner was Fealy's most trusted aide. Fealy, who was brought in from Austin, where he ran the security detail for then-Gov. George W. Bush, was nearing retirement age and itching for a final project. "What's next, Marty?" he asked.
Once known for its furniture factories, High Point — a city of approximately 100,000, abutting Greensboro — had become one of the most dangerous cities in North Carolina during the early 1990s. Since then, there had been a remarkable drop in violent crime thanks to community police initiatives, which attracted national attention. But a more enigmatic crime continued to befuddle the police: domestic violence. By 2008 it had become the leading call for service, with more than 5,000 disturbances reported annually. The Annjanette Lloyd murder had weighed heavily on the police department, but it was hardly unique. Between 2004 and 2008, one in every three murders in the city was domestic, making it the leading cause of homicide. Nationwide, there were at least 10,600 domestic homicides between 2000 and 2006, according to FBI data.
In May 2008, two domestic murder-suicides occurred two weeks apart in High Point, generating front-page headlines. Fealy was flummoxed. "Family violence is unfortunately something that's always going on below the surface in any community," he told the High Point Enterprise .
So when Fealy walked into his chief of staff's office several weeks later, looking for a final project, Sumner gave the only suggestion he could think of.
"It looks like DV would be the next logical step," he said. "But I'm not sure if anything can work."
Fealy dismissed the idea. "I don't want to set this department up for failure."
For decades, domestic violence was considered a private matter. In the 1960s, scholars began calling it a moral and social problem. Women's shelters emerged, and laws were enacted to allow wives to file pre-divorce protective orders. Family counselors offered mediation sessions for couples in violent relationships. Advocates cautioned that the problem threatened women of all social classes, often perpetrated by publicly innocuous men.
The law enforcement response lagged. In the 1980s, many police jurisdictions launched mandatory arrest policies. But patrol officers often had difficulty determining primary aggressors and arrested both parties in a dispute. Prosecutors regularly lacked evidence to levy charges. Long lapses between court hearings allowed couples to reconcile before hearings. Many scholars interpreted mandatory arrests as ineffective.
In 1994, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act, providing $1.6 billion to investigate and prosecute offenders. By then, "batterer intervention therapies" had become popular. But after that early promise, many studies have since suggested that the effectiveness of such programs is low.
Around the same time, an innovative policing method was developing in Boston, where gang and gun violence had spiraled out of control. In 1996, police launched Operation Ceasefire, which featured a strategy called "focused deterrence," based on two presuppositions: A small number of criminals are responsible for a majority of violent crimes in any given city, and offenders react rationally when presented with options.
Rather than arresting each teenager who fired a gun, Boston police identified gang members and brought them into the station for a message: "We know who you are, and we are watching you. But we also care about you, so we are cutting you a break. Starting now, if you kill someone, we will go after your entire gang. The community is on our side." In two years the youth homicide rate dropped 63 percent.
In 1998, High Point became the second of several U.S. cities to replicate Ceasefire to combat its gang and gun violence. Now the city is using the same system—focused deterrence—to fight domestic violence. And although focused deterrence has its critics, early data indicates it's working in High Point.
"What's happening in High Point is the most exciting and effective approach in responding to domestic violence I've ever seen," said Susan Herman, former director for the National Center for Victims of Crime, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit.
The lead architect of Ceasefire was David M. Kennedy, a long-haired, self-taught criminologist writing case studies at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. Under Kennedy's guidance, in 1998 High Point police established a task force with prosecutors and federal agents, supported by community members. In the case of gangs, a small number of violent leaders were detained with high bonds; midlevel offenders were summoned to the station for a deterrent message, called a "call-in." In this public, face-to-face meeting, task force members issue stern warnings and community leaders offer social-service referrals.
The following year the violent crime rate in High Point dropped 47 percent. In 2003, Chief Fealy applied the model to drug markets. Five years later, violent crime dropped another 20 percent.
Sumner, who was appointed police chief when Fealy retired in 2012, still keeps a binder of notes from an early meeting with Kennedy, which he flipped through during a recent interview in his office. The 50-year-old lawman is soft-spoken and bespectacled, with lightning-blond hair and a bachelor's degree in management and ethics. "I've got two boys, and sometimes their mother calls and says you've got to spank them when you get home," he said, using an analogy to explain focused deterrence. "Most kids would rather you whup them right now instead of waiting six hours. It's the same with the offender who knows a police officer can pick him up whenever he wants."
Following Ceasefire's success, Kennedy was commissioned by the Hewlett Foundation Family Violence Prevention Fund to write a paper addressing domestic violence in 2002. He told his patrons he had no expertise in that subject but that he would lay out an approach based on familiar logic.
Despite the common notion that domestic violence was often perpetrated by otherwise-average men, the literature Kennedy read suggested a significant majority of offenders were poor minorities with criminal histories spanning a variety of violent offenses. It was the same pattern he had seen with his gang work.
He recalled an interview with a gang member during Ceasefire.
"What starts the gang beefs?"
"What do you mean, bitches?"
"Well, some girl comes over to hang with you, and she goes home, and her brother sees the bruises, and he comes after you."
It irked Kennedy that victims bore the burdens of the attack: moving out, filing restraining orders, leaving work for court hearings, calling police. "Even a simple 911 call is not so simple when someone is pointing a gun at you," Kennedy, who is now director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, told me. The police reports he read were bereft of information. Offenders were released from jail in days. Most worrisome, there appeared to be obvious opportunities for officers to intervene before violent men killed their girlfriends. "It was as if the criminal justice response to domestic violence was trapped in 1965." (In North Carolina, in 2002, more than half of the 73 domestic homicide victims had previously filed restraining orders, according to a News & Observer report.)
Kennedy wondered if focused deterrence could be applied. He presented a paper on his ideas at a 2002 domestic violence conference at the Urban Institute in Washington. He was unprepared for the response. "I walked into an absolute buzz saw," he recalled. "I was eaten alive. The near-absolute conviction of people in the advocacy and scholarly communities was that the ideas were naïve, that victims never called the police and that domestic violence was this invisible issue in well-off, white communities. But if they were right, we ought to have been seeing dead, well-off white women. And empirically, that wasn't true."
For several years he raised his idea on lecture tours, "but not only did people say no, they were just as often passionately opposed to it," he said. Eventually he shelved the idea.
Six years later, however, he received a call from Sumner. "Domestic violence is our most pressing violent crime. We want to try your methodologies. You want in?"
"Let me pull that paper out of the filing cabinet," said Kennedy.
On Oct. 30, 2010, Steve, an 18-year-old high school graduate, attended a Halloween party in High Point with his 15-year-old girlfriend, Kate. (The names of Steve and those associated with him have been changed.) Steve grew up in New York and was a top-ranked wrestler and honor student in high school. He felt smart enough for college, but drugs and alcohol held him back, he would later tell a court-appointed psychologist. He had not tried to find a job since graduation.
As the party dispersed, Kate, seated on couch, accidentally called Steve by the wrong name. He responded by punching her repeatedly in the face and biting her. She ran outside. He chased and tackled her, then punched and bit her again. The attacks left a black eye, bruised nose, chipped tooth and bite marks. Kate applied for a protective order. In a police affidavit, she wrote, "This isn't the first time it has happened, and he claims to love hurting me. He has bitten me before and pulled my hair out."
Police arrested Steve, and a judge issued a 75-day jail sentence. It was not his first crime. A year before, his mother called police after he pinned her against the wall and squeezed her arms, neck and cheeks. He served 30 days in jail. Several months later he was arrested for hitting a 48-year-old man in the head with a power drill. (The case was dismissed.) Not long afterward, he broke into a residence and stole three TVs and a PlayStation. He accepted a plea deal and was put on probation.
When Kate received the protective order, Steve violated it by speaking to her outside a courtroom, and then violated it again by phoning her. After spending 75 days in jail, he drove by Kate's home, raised his middle finger and yelled "Steve's back, bitch"—an act that sent him to jail for another 75 days. Through mid-2011, he seemed to be traveling through a revolving courtroom door.
And yet despite continued physical abuse, Kate stayed with him, sneaking out of the house, eluding the disapproving eye of her mother. "I was in love with him," Kate told me. "He has this way with words—sweet talk— that makes you think he's sorry, that he'll never do that again, that he loves you."
Across the country in more recent years, law enforcement has made strides to curb domestic violence after decades of trial and error. Many police departments have created domestic units and collaborate with victim organizations, shelters, courts and community response teams. The New York Police Department requires its 450 domestic officers to make 70,000 annual visits to households with abuse histories, and each precinct maintains a list of homes with heightened risk. This year, 12 U.S. law enforcement agencies received grants of up to $200,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women in order to curtail domestic homicide. One recipient, the Pitt County, N.C., Sheriff's Department, where more than half of recent homicides have been domestic, has experimented with GPS bracelets for high-risk offenders.
In a Maryland program, police agencies in every county use an 11-question screening tool evaluating individual risk for victims. The "Lethality Assessment Program," which has been adopted in 31 additional states, is based on decades of research conducted by Jacquelyn Campbell, a Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing professor and leading expert on domestic homicide.
Responding to Kennedy's suggestion that domestic violence is largely confined to low-income urban areas, Campbell cautioned that police data does not capture the totality of the problem, because affluent men don't accumulate criminal records. "If police are called to this nice suburban home and arrest this nice white guy with a job, the judge will send him to an anger management program for a month or two," said Campbell, whose research considers health data along with crime statistics. "Who's most likely to be charged? African-American men. The criminal justice system is getting better, but it still skews that way. We tend to arrest those with arrest records already, so it's self-perpetuating."
Campbell suggests that unemployment is the leading driver of domestic homicide, but other factors, including gun ownership and estrangement, transcend social class and criminal history. "For our [domestic homicide] perpetrators, 56 percent had some sort of prior arrest," she said. "So yes, it's disproportionate, but not overwhelmingly." (The prior-arrest rate varies, with some studies citing a figure closer to 80 percent.)
Attorney Barbara J. Hart, director of strategic justice initiatives at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service and a national leader in implementing the Violence Against Women Act, questioned Kennedy's rationale. "He's looking at piece of a pie, but he has no idea how big the piece is," she said, contending that most battered women do not report attacks. "In low-income metropolitan neighborhoods, you call the police for everything. You call them for loud noises. They're free helpers. But not everybody lives in a metro area. I live in a rural part of Maine. It would take a half hour for police to come to my house."
Hart conceded that unlike low-income victims, middle-class victims often have resources to leave the relationship. A domestic violence survivor herself, Hart cited her own plight, which occurred in the 1960s. "I did not want to subject him to the legal system," she said. "I wanted him to get away from me."
On Feb. 21, 2012, a dozen former domestic violence offenders sauntered into High Point City Hall for the first "call-in" under the police department's newest project, the "Offender-Focused Domestic Violence Initiative." Once dismissive of the idea, Chief Fealy had switched his thinking partly due to the rise in domestic homicides and partly through his observation that the city's domestic offenders resembled the chronic criminals he had been deterring since his arrival as chief. "They were the same violent people — violent inside the relationship, violent outside of it," Fealy told me.
Inside City Hall, community members filled the seats behind the offenders. Each man received a flyer displaying mug shots of other offenders recently convicted for domestic assault. One was sentenced to eight years in federal prison. Another was scheduled for deportation.
At the front of the room, more than two dozen members of the High Point Community Against Violence stood behind a microphone. They included ministers, volunteers and seven members of the motorcycle club Street Dreamz, clad in leather jackets. For 16 years, the group has convened monthly meetings with police officers, sharing information on midlevel criminals who were deterrence candidates: gang members, drug dealers and, most recently, domestic violence offenders.
The group's leader is the Rev. Jim Summey, the pastor of a Baptist church in a depressed neighborhood, who referred to the call-ins as "Come to Jesus meetings." Police commanders keep his cell number on speed dial. During the peak period of violence in High Point, he launched what he called "Summey's war" against crime. In his car, he offered rides for prostitutes and drug addicts in search of shelter. On the streets, he approached drug dealers and told them he did not approve.
Several residents believed it was risky for a middle-aged minister to be confronting young criminals. One day, he arrived at his church to discover 58 broken windows. Livid, he drafted a letter and knocked on 480 doors looking for the perpetrators. Three weeks later, he received a call from a woman who knew the vandals but would not reveal their identities. One was her family member. She told the pastor not to worry; she had summoned the perpetrators into her living room for a message: do it again, and I'll report you to police myself. The church was never touched afterward. It was "quintessential" High Point focused deterrence, Summey recalled.
Inside City Hall, the members addressed the crowd. Most stated their names and that they were "against domestic violence." Summey offered a message of friendship and transparency. "We're letting you know that this is not a secret anymore. We know what's going on." Then he said, "The victims didn't ask us to do this."
Next, a phalanx of task force members including FBI, Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, the Drug Enforcement Agency and Crimestoppers officials took seats at the rostrum. Their message was stern. "As of tonight, our A-game is on," Fealy said.
One of the task force members was Walt Jones, a Guilford County assistant district attorney who has supervised the High Point Office for five years. Since the domestic initiative launched, Jones has sought to lengthen sentences using the felony charge of habitual misdemeanor assault. "Ten years ago if you punch a woman in the face you get zero to 150 days," Jones told me. "Now a bleeding lip can be like an armed robbery." He contended that victim testimony is no longer necessary. "If she recants and says she got the black eye from tripping over the sofa, offenders now know they can be prosecuted."
Inside City Hall, Jones glared at the men in front of him. "The status quo no longer exists," he said. "We are waiting on you to reoffend. We have the paperwork filed out; we only have to put in the name of the victim and the date."
Seated next to Jones was Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Lang. He told the men that if the DA's office lacked evidence for probable cause, he was prepared to use undercover agents to buy drugs from them or sell guns to them, just to stop them from hitting their girlfriends. (Under federal law, offenders convicted for domestic assaults, along with individuals under protective orders, cannot possess firearms.) "You gotta keep your hands off her," Lang exclaimed. "You put your hands on her again, we're going to turn your life upside down."
In early 2012, Kate, a 17-year-old resident of High Point, received a call from her boyfriend, Steve, who had been in and out of courts and jails for violating a domestic violence protective order against her. During the course of their on-again, off-again year-and-a-half relationship, Steve, 19, repeatedly punched and bit Kate and pulled her hair. Yet on other occasions he flashed his charm, sending Kate love letters and asking his own mother to shuttle her to jail for visits.
On the phone, Steve berated Kate for gossiping about another couple. “You're a stupid bitch,” Steve told her. “If I ever see you again, I swear to God I'm slapping you with my dick so hard in the face, you'll be knocked out again.”
Still, Kate told herself the relationship could work. “I was devastated,” she recalled. “I couldn't understand why he would do these things. I'm like, ‘I've never done anything wrong.' ” She could not pinpoint her reason for staying. “Was it the thrill, or the excitement?” she wondered aloud. “Maybe I thought I could help him. I don't really know, to be honest. There was nothing appealing about the relationship. I just thought, Oh I love this boy. He was my first love. I was just dumb.”
During that time, Kate's parents kept baseball bats near the front and back door. On multiple occasions Kate's father went out looking for him at night. “There was a time, if I had a gun, I would have killed him and not thought twice about it,” Kate's mother told me. “He had her brainwashed.” Once, a judge took Kate into his chambers and told her he was personally concerned for her.
After Steve's threatening phone call, Kate and her mother traveled to the police station and met with Detective Jerry Thompson, the lead investigator for the 2006 murder of Annjanette Lloyd, who was stabbed 63 times by an ex-boyfriend with a history of abuse. The murder prompted police to more closely scrutinize domestic violence, which had escalated in High Point. Thompson explained to Kate that Steve was on his personal watch list. Afterward, Thompson filed an arrest warrant, this time for a felony charge.
Police arrested Steve at his mother's mobile home, and a judge detained him on a $50,000 bond. But the case was dismissed. Steve had not been served with his one-year protective-order renewal, so the state decided not to prosecute the case. Kate's mother was furious. After his release from jail, Steve threw eggs at Kate's house one night, hitting the window of her sleeping 7-year-old sister, who began expressing fear that Steve would break into the house and come after her. Two weeks later Steve was arrested while attempting to steal beer from a convenience store. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge and served 30 days in jail.
Steve was one of several hundred suspects placed under close monitoring in a new initiative rolled out by the High Point Police Department between 2009 and 2012. The program, co-run by community members, was designed to levy severe punishments on a small number of the most violent domestic violence offenders, while offering stern warnings to the rest.
For years, the High Point police had used similar “focused deterrence” theories to lower gun and drug crimes. The approach was conceived by David M. Kennedy, a criminologist renowned for developing Boston's Operation Ceasefire in 1996. In 2002 Kennedy published a paper applying similar logic to domestic violence, but it was criticized as short-sighted at the national domestic violence conference. Six years later, his proposal would be tested in High Point.
As Kennedy was getting panned at a domestic violence conference, at least one attendee believed his ideas had merit. Susan Herman, who for several years managed services for battered women and children at a New York victim-assistance agency, had become the director for the National Center for Victims of Crime, a Washington-based nonprofit. “Every law enforcement method had been tried, but nothing seemed to move the numbers,” recalled Herman, now a Pace University professor. “Advocates wanted funding for the same-old, same-old approaches—prevention and victims' assistance. Nobody, except David, talked about how to stop it. It was a radical idea.
The High Point police convened a domestic violence work group, which included social workers who knew many local offenders by name. Herman attended a few meetings to offer victims' perspective. The group met weekly for more than a year.
Police created four categories. The most violent offenders, “A-listers,” would be arrested and used as deterrent examples. “B-listers” would get a face-to-face “call-in” in front of the community. First-time offenders—“C-listers” —would receive immediate jail visits by a detective. “D-listers” —suspects not arrested—would receive hand-delivered letters. The department borrowed the tiered approach from a 1999 study in Yorkshire, England, where researchers discovered that immediately notifying offenders after domestic assaults prevented recidivism.
The B-list response, in particular, worried work group members, who knew it was risky to reveal the identities of woman-batterers to the community. Kennedy cautioned that chronic offenders react differently to police accusations than first-time offenders. “If you have a stake in conformity and you're arrested, you care,” he told the group. “But if you're already detached from mainstream society and you're unemployed, getting arrested makes you mad.”
Police asked University of North Carolina-Greensboro researchers to conduct a survey to gather victim feedback. It was an intense waiting period, recalled the Rev. Jim Summey, executive director of the High Point Community Against Violence, who wondered what might happen after offenders were called out publicly. “The question became, ‘Is some chick gonna get killed the next day?' ”
Detective Jerry Thompson is a folksy-voiced 49-year-old marathon runner who joined the High Point Police Department at age 22, recruited from his job as a park ranger. Each morning he scours the Guilford County Jail's intake list for new domestic charges and flags them in the database accessed by patrol officers. Most days he travels to the jail to meet with newly arrested “C-Listers.” Some are defensive. Many cry. “But they never show anger, which is something I never expected,” he said. Colleagues tease him for putting C-listers through “Jerry's School of Charm.”
“I always viewed the DV offender as the redneck drinking beer in the recliner after work, beating on his wife because his food is cold,” Thompson said. “But it's not like that. These guys are street offenders.”
For years, he said, police viewed domestic violence as an issue for the Department of Family Services. Many officers, including him, prefer to focus on offenders, not victims. Some cop friends still laugh at his deterrence strategy. “Human beings don't like change,” he explained. “Especially law enforcement.”
On his hard drive Thompson keeps an MP3 of a 911 call capturing a murder-suicide—a reminder of the stakes in play. Across the room, a second domestic violence detective reviews each call for service that does not result in arrest and then prepares letters to go out the next day, after a captain's review. Since the initiative launched, police reports have adopted checkboxes for intimate partner violence. Police now take more photos, talk to more neighbors, audio-record victims' statements and consult with the friends of victims too frightened to talk—a method called “cocooning.”
On a recent morning I accompanied Thompson on his jail assignment. Once past security, he entered a tiny cinderblock room with a metal table and wall-mounted seats. Earlier he had studied the report for a suspect arrested the previous evening. She was a 26-year-old woman with a handful of misdemeanor drug convictions on her record. Her boyfriend had made three 911 calls. During the last call she could be heard throwing a set of keys that left a cut on his face.
A woman with green nail polish and gray prison garb entered the room and sat down. She was from a neighborhood not far from where Thompson grew up.
“Hey there,” said Thompson, hiking a foot on a stool. “Are you on probation?
“No, sir, said the woman, nervously running her hands through her hair.
“So who's the guy?”
“Well as of now he's my ex-boyfriend. When I leave here I'm going to my mama's.”
Thompson eased into his visit's purpose. “We recently started something called the Offender-Focused Domestic Violence Initiative. Too many guys were beatin' on women. There'd been a lot of homicides, and girls kept moving out. So we started goin' after the guys, and now some of 'em are doing eight years in prison instead of a couple months in jail.”
The woman nodded.
“Now it's pretty clear what happened last night, but I'm not here to talk about that. You've been flagged in our system. Starting now, you're on our C-list. If you get arrested again you'll go to the B-list. If you go to the A-list, you'll go bye-bye.”
“I didn't mean to hit him in the face.”
Thompson pointed to her previous drug charges. “Are you still doing this?”
“No, sir. Heroin was my drug of choice, but I've been on methadone for a month.”
“Well I hope it's workin', because I saw this picture, and then this picture.” He referenced a pair of mug shots taken months apart, the more recent of which depicted her strung out and looking like a 40-year-old. “Come on, girl,” said Thompson. “You're 26.”
Thompson gave the woman a leaflet outlining the initiative and a number to call for help. “If y'all get in another argument and you're under a no-contact order from a judge, you'll be arrested, and your bond will be high. Stay the heck away from him. You're too old for this drama.”
Thompson left the jail and threw on a pair of sunglasses. “I go a little easier on the women,” he said. “She lost her temper, but we got to nip in the bud early. We'll probably never see her again.”
Earlier this fall, 18 people convened at the High Point station house for a biweekly domestic violence meeting. The group included Thompson, Summey, two assistant district attorneys, court officials and representatives from the departments of family services and social services. The meeting was led by Cpt. Tim Ellenberger, who oversees domestic violence operations.
Magistrate Judge Michael L. Kimel launched into an anecdote, explaining that one offender recently cycled through court twice, bonding out each time. After assaulting a woman a few weeks later, the judge recognized him, presented the prosecutor with a fact sheet and increased his bond to $100,000.
“Hear hear!” said Ellenberger clapping.
High Point court officials have been briefed about the domestic initiative, and magistrate judges are encouraged to increase bonds and fast-track cases. Community members attend bond hearings. Clerks have played roles, taking mental notes of black eyes, bruises and courtroom staredowns. Inside the clerk's office, several case file envelopes are flagged with a pen: “DOMESTIC.”
Two University of North Carolina-Greensboro researchers also attended the meeting. Four years ago, the police commissioned UNC to analyze thousands of police reports dating to 2000. The researchers have recoded several hundred reports and provided ongoing assessments of the domestic initiative, including survey results suggesting—surprisingly, to some—that victims supported it.
In a report last year the researchers praised the project but cited barriers to its success. Many victims felt confused and treated poorly in courtrooms. Some had dropped contact with prosecutors. Several protective orders had gone missing. Few offenders had approached community leaders for social services. And despite prosecutors' contentions that victim testimony is no longer necessary to prosecute domestic offenders, few prosecutions had occurred without victim compliance. (Most state courts give defendants the right to confront witnesses against them or otherwise bar their out-of-court testimony.)
There are differences between the domestic initiative and former gang and drug focused-deterrence programs in High Point. During domestic call-ins, offenders maintain disgusted looks on their faces, even when task force officials use humor. “They don't mind being called gangbangers, but no one wants to be called a woman-batterer,” Chief Sumner reasoned.
Asked whether call-ins constituted public shaming, Kennedy told me it was “nearly the opposite.” He explained that “even bad guys are governed by informal norms, and this type of police response treats them as rational, responsible adults.”
But not everyone appreciates the domestic initiative. John Nieman, an assistant public defender who leads the High Point office, is a former prosecutor who helped create the Guilford County District Attorney's Domestic Violence Unit. “The vast majority of reported domestic violence offenses are true,” he said. “But if you use pure statistics and [A-through-C] categorizations to target suspects, you sweep up the people who aren't always the problem.”
Nieman, who supported the previous focused-deterrence initiatives in High Point, said several of his clients have been falsely accused of domestic violence by girlfriends seeking to drain their bank accounts. (Many of his clients are mentally ill and rely on their girlfriends for basic needs.)
Prosecutors, in turn, praise the initiative. A longtime fan of Kennedy's methodology, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Lang called it “the future of policing” and said it curtails the felonization of youth and “made me a better person.” Asked if his office has actually used controlled drug buys just to bust domestic offenders, Lang said he has done it a “limited” number of times. “We have to make good on the promise.”
Back at the stationhouse meeting, the Rev. Summey was explaining that a B-lister had recently sought help since getting a fast-food job. “He's a good guy, but the job isn't quite bringing in the funds.” Then the mood turned somber.
“We all heard about what happened last weekend,” said Cpt. Ellenberger. “I hesitate to pass judgment, but this is an indication of why we do what we do.”
Five days earlier there was a homicide in neighboring Greensboro, a city nearly three times the size of High Point. A man shot and killed his estranged 62-year-old wife before turning the gun on himself. The victim had recently applied for a protective order, but two judges denied it. She was the eighth domestic homicide of 19 Greensboro murders reported through mid-September.
The Greensboro News & Record quoted a police detective following the murder-suicide. “If no one comes forward, we'll never know,” he said. “We don't know what goes on behind closed doors.”
This past May, one year after breaking up with Kate for good, Steve received an invitation to stay at a friend's empty house while the friend and her parents were on vacation. Steve brought along his new girlfriend, Molly. One afternoon, a housesitter entered the residence, heard noises and called police. Steve and Molly fled, leaving their IDs inside. When police searched the house, they discovered missing an AK-47 rifle and $1,200 worth of clothes and jewelry.
Molly was apprehended a short time later. Inside the police station, investigators noticed bruises on her body and then learned that she recently had filed a complaint in Greensboro indicating that Steve had bitten her and stolen her wallet.
A month later, Molly was arrested for breaking and entering. She showed investigators more injuries: scars, bruises and bite marks on her arm, hands and fingers, one of which had been bitten to the bone. She named Steve as her attacker.
On July 2, Steve was arrested by U.S. marshals at the home of another girlfriend. He was charged with larceny and assault on a female. During a jail phone call to a friend, Steve demanded favorable testimony. When the friend declined, Steve went “ballistic,” according to a police report, telling his friend, “I'll put you in the dirt, nigger.”
Steve accepted a plea deal for one felony count of habitual misdemeanor assault. On Aug. 1 , one month after his arrest, a judge sentenced him to three months in State prison and a five-to-16 month probationary period with a no-contact order. “It shows the speed with which someone can be sent bye-bye under this initiative,” said Thompson. “Usually it takes at least a year to go from jail to prison.”
Through October, 948 domestic violence offenders in High Point have been given a deterrence message through call-ins, jail visits and hand-delivered letters. Of that group, 73 have reoffended— a 7.7 recidivism rate, which Sumner called “staggering” and “much lower” than previous gang and gun offenders. (Research suggests between 24 and 60 percent of first-time domestic offenders recidivate within two years.) The results have occurred despite only 15 arrests of A-listers, among a group of 27.
Sumner likes to cite another statistic. Between 2004 and 2008, 17 domestic homicides occurred in High Point; since then there has been one. This past February, five weeks after moving to High Point, an immigrant strangled his wife to death. “He wasn't on our radar yet,” Sumner acknowledged.
Sumner cites Darin Jackson's killing of Annjanette Lloyd for provoking the department to look more closely at the issue. “If this program were in place, he never would've gotten out of jail five days beforehand.”
Others caution that multiple rounds of victim-survey testing are still needed in order to claim scientific success. “It could still be that the men who receive the deterrence message go back to the women and say ‘Do this again and I'll kill you,' ” said Walter S. DeKeseredy, a criminologist at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and author of several books on the abuse of women. (This past September, High Point police received a $50,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice's Community Oriented Policing Services office to implement a two-year study of the domestic initiative and replicate it within another policing jurisdiction.)
During a recent conversation, Kennedy backtracked slightly from his contention that domestic violence is largely confined to disadvantaged neighborhoods, conceding that it happens under the radar in affluent neighborhoods. “But there is a class of victimization that is especially serious, concentrated among poor minority woman, which we do know about, because we get bodies and major assault charges,” he said. “And because we know about it, we can make the decision to do something about it.”
Earlier this month I met Kate and her mother for dinner at a High Point restaurant. Now 18, Kate behaves like a typical teenager, bragging about her new diet, rattling off potential college majors, sneaking texts under the table and stealing sips of her mother's soda.
A week beforehand, Steve had been released from prison. Kate and her mother were discussing if he would start harassing her again. “I'm over the whole thing now,” Kate said. “I know that at the dial of a phone number he could be arrested. I don't think he'll come after me.”
“We don't completely know that,” said her mother. “He's not the type who gets over things easily,” Turning to me, she said, “If she runs into him at a gas station, he won't not say something. Or it might just be a look. But it will be something.”
“He'll be lingering,” Kate agreed, “But the police'll be waiting to catch him for stupidity.”
Kate does not reflect much on the past abuse, she said. Sometimes she visits her dentist to refit her front tooth, which was chipped after the Halloween party punch to the face. “It'll come loose biting into an apple.”
More recently, Kate found another boyfriend, but she broke it off after what she called his emotional abuse. “You can always find someone better, but right now I'm taking a break,” she said. In a playful gesture, she swirled her wrist to the side, as if catching a wave on a surf board, and exclaimed, “I'm living the single life now!” Then she sneaked another text under the table.
Lafayette adopts child abuse reporting policy
by Jennifer Modenessi
LAFAYETTE -- Officials have adopted a policy to ensure city employees are aware of their duty to report child abuse in the wake of a mandated reporting investigation that rocked the city of Walnut Creek this year.
The policy approved by the City Council on Tuesday requires that designated city employees who have regular contact with children fulfill their duties as outlined by state mandated reporting laws.
The council approved the guidelines as part of its consent calendar, one of a number of such approvals approved in one motion unless a council member or member of the public requests a separate discussion. No such request was made Tuesday.
The administrative regulation lays out procedures mandated reporters -- who include all police and recreation department employees and volunteers -- must follow to comply with state laws requiring they report observed or suspected child abuse to local law enforcement.
It also directs mandated reporters to report abuse or neglect to their supervisor, manager or the administrative services director. Employees, officials and volunteers who aren't designated mandated reporters and required to make external reports must still make an internal report. Mandated reporters are required to sign an acknowledgment of their obligations, and must also complete training upon hire or rehire.
Administrative Services Director Tracy Robinson said last week that the city has always complied with state mandated reporting laws, but felt that a formal policy was necessary "for informing people about what their duties are."
Robinson acknowledged that a mandated reporting investigation involving Walnut Creek city employees played a part in the city's decision to propose the formal policy. That investigation probed actions of employees, including the city's human resources director and its arts, recreation and community services director, after learning a Lesher Center for the Arts employee was suspected of inappropriate sexual contact with minors. Walnut Creek has not yet adopted a mandated reporting policy.
"I can say that what happened in Walnut Creek provided a really good reminder to us that we should probably have a written policy," Robinson said.
Lafayette's new guidelines went into effect immediately.
3 Children in Texas Sex Ring Allege New Abuse
by JUAN A. LOZANO
Three children who were victims of a swinger's club in a small East Texas town have been removed from the custody of their foster parents after accusing their caretakers of physical and emotional abuse, a child welfare official said Wednesday.
A judge in Wood County on Tuesday ordered that the three siblings — a 13-year-old girl, 14-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl — plus a 17-year-old boy be placed in the temporary custody of Child Protective Services, said Shari Pulliam, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
The siblings had been living with John and Margaret Cantrell, who is the person who had first alerted authorities about the swinger's club in Mineola, located about 80 miles east of Dallas. The couple had been taking care of the children since 2005. The 17-year-old boy was adopted by the Cantrells.
Sarah King, an attorney for the Cantrells, declined to comment Wednesday. No charges have been filed against the couple.
Officials say the three siblings had been some of the victims of a "kindergarten" where young children learned to dance provocatively at the so-called Mineola Swinger's Club in 2004. To help them perform, prosecutors said the children were given Vicodin-like drugs the adults passed off as "silly pills." Seven people were convicted in the case.
Pulliam said CPS was alerted on Oct. 31 when the 16-year-old girl ran away from the Cantrells home in Mineola after a "physical altercation between her and Mrs. Cantrell."
"We were called by the Cantrells to pick up that 16 year old," Pulliam said. "They were refusing to parent that child any longer."
CPS workers interviewed the girl as well as the other three children, all of whom made allegations of abuse, Pulliam said.
According to court documents, the 16-year-old girl alleged she had been "slapped across the face" and "popped in the mouth" by Margaret Cantrell. Another child was allegedly beaten with a wooden back scratcher until it broke.
CPS had previously investigated similar allegations made against the Cantrells but they were not substantiated, Pulliam said.
The agency had also known that John Cantrell had faced charges in 2008 of a lewd act with a child related to a case from California. But nothing from that case could be used because the charges were later dropped, she said.
A judge had ordered that the three siblings be placed with the Cantrells, though CPS was not in favor of it, Pulliam said. The agency also didn't approve of the Cantrells' adoptions of the 17-year-old boy or another child who is now an adult.
"We felt there were problems with the home and we did not want the children to stay there," she said.
Pulliam said CPS is still investigating the abuse allegations and will work with the Cantrells, offering them counseling and other services.
A status update on the case is scheduled for Dec. 6.
Child abuse happens every day
by GWEN TRUMAN -- Teen correspondent
It seems like there is a new story either on the local news, the World Wide Web or the local paper every day about some parent involved in some form of child abuse on their own children.
This week a local news channel had a story about a "Charlotte mother arrested in death of infant son." The sad part is that it is happening all over the place. A story on the web from Missouri stated, "A Missouri man accused of planning for his daughter to be beaten and raped was swiftly arrested by police last Friday." In West Virginia, the headline for a story published by the local Fox station on Oct. 30 was "Wallback father accused of abusing twin infant daughters."
What has the world come to when children are no longer safe from their own parent or parents — the one person or people by whom a child should always feel safe and protected?
On the website www.joyfulheartfoundation.org, "Child abuse is defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as any recent act or failure to act on that results in a child's serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse, exploitation or death. An act or failure to act that presents a risk of serious harm to a child is also considered to be child abuse." Unfortunately, most child abusers are known by the children they abuse whether it is a parent, caregiver or family friend. According to the website www.everychildmatters.org, "Nearly five children die every day in America from abuse and neglect". A story from Fox8 on June 12, Family Services of the Piedmont warns that both sexual and physical abuse increases during the summer months when children are not in school where they can be protected by teachers and other authority figures.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services offers more information about abuse and neglect at its website, www.ncdhhs.gov/dss/cps/about.htm, including information about reporting abuse, recognizing abuse and neglect in both the child and the caregiver, and information for parents who need help.
Most importantly the site offers:
Twelve Alternatives to Lashing out at Your Child
The next time everyday pressures build up to the point where you feel like lashing out — STOP! Try any of these simple alternatives. You'll feel better … and so will your child.
• Take a deep breath … and another. Then remember you are the adult.
• Close your eyes and imagine you're hearing what your child is about to hear.
• Press your lips together and count to 10 … or better yet, to 20.
• Put your child in a time-out chair (remember this rule: one time-out minute for each year of age.)
• Put yourself in a time-out chair. Think about why you are angry: is it your child, or is your child simply a convenient target for your anger?
• Phone a friend.
• If someone can watch the children, go outside and take a walk.
• Take a hot bath or splash cold water on your face.
• Hug a pillow.
• Turn on some music. Maybe even sing along.
• Pick up a pencil and write down as many helpful words as you can think of. Save the list.
• Call (800) 4-A-CHILD
The old saying is that "it takes a village to raise a child," and with all the drugs available and the lack of employment for many folks, we all need to be more careful about how we raise our children and how we help others by our words and actions in raising theirs.
Two million children at risk after surviving typhoon horror
by David Eimer
Up to two million children affected by Typhoon Haiyan are at risk of abuse or trafficking in the aftermath of the devastating storm, aid agencies have said.
The warning came as the government of the Philippines defended its response to what it described as the largest logistical operation in the country's history.
The Philippines Red Cross and the UN believe that the official death toll from the storm is about 10,000, far higher than the 2,275 currently being quoted by the government.
Most of the dead are expected to be adults, as children were sent away before the typhoon's arrival.
Compounding the problem is the fact that families in the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic Philippines are large, with the average rural family having 3.8 children. In the flattened city of Tacloban alone, some 12,000 women are due to give birth in the coming week, according to Save the Children.
"Lone children in disasters are very vulnerable to abuse, exploitation and trafficking," said Krista Armstrong, Save the Children's global media manager. "The first few weeks of any disaster are really critical in terms of putting children at risk. We know this from previous experiences."
After the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, unknown numbers of orphaned children were kidnapped in Indonesia and Sri Lanka, both by child trafficking gangs and couples unable to have children themselves. Similar cases occurred after the Haiti earthquake of 2010.
Haiti and Sri Lanka, though, are small island nations, making it easier for children at risk to be monitored. In contrast, the Philippines is a country of more than 7,000 islands and it is impossible to check on all the children displaced by the typhoon.
"The difficulty with this disaster is that it has affected such a huge region and identifying who is most vulnerable is very hard," said Ms Armstrong. "There are still remote areas that haven't been reached, so we don't know how many orphans there are, or how many children are unaccompanied."
Judging by the numbers standing with their arms outstretched begging by the side of the roads, or simply hunched alone under the debris that was once their homes, those figures are likely to be high.
"There are children scavenging for food all over the city," said Edwin Horcas, a Save the Children worker who has just returned from Tacloban. "It is horrifying to see children huddling over the few remaining possessions they managed to salvage. I saw so many just staring blankly ahead. The situation appears overwhelming for them and they are traumatised by what they have been through."
Save the Children is in the process of setting up what it calls "child-friendly spaces", as well as flying in a child protection specialist.
Nearly a week after Haiyan reduced the homes of some 700,000 people to piles of broken timber, people left starving and sleeping in the open are increasingly angry. So dire is the situation in Tacloban and surrounding Leyte province, as well as parts of neighbouring Samar province, that a night-time curfew has been imposed to prevent looting.
Eight people were crushed to death on Tuesday after thousands of desperate survivors stormed a government rice warehouse west of Tacloban. Aid convoys attempting to take relief to the victims have come under regular attack from both suspected communist rebels and starving survivors of the storm.
The almost complete breakdown of law and order in the areas hardest hit by Haiyan is only further hampering a relief operation that the UN's World Food Programme has described as a "logistical nightmare".
One column was forced to turn back yesterday after being attacked as it tried to travel across the San Juanico Bridge that links Tacloban with Samar province.
The Philippines government appears to be in denial about what has become a massive humanitarian crisis.
Reuben Sindac, a police spokesman, insisted that Tacloban and towns such as Guiuan, where Haiyan first made landfall, were not witnessing a near-complete breakdown in law and order.
He claimed that reports of gunshots ringing out daily were misinformation spread by people "in a state of shock".
Rene Almendras, the cabinet secretary, said he believed the government was "doing quite well", even as bloated corpses still littered the streets in some areas.
"This is the largest logistic operation in the history of the Philippines, we have never done anything like this before," he said. "The Filipino resiliency will be proven by this crisis. Maybe somebody from the outside cannot understand the true nature of this country and the realities that can be found on the ground."
Aid agencies are increasingly anxious about the risk of typhoid, hepatitis and cholera outbreaks, as survivors are forced to drink contaminated water.
"Vaccines and medical supplies are desperately needed and there are real sanitation concerns," said Kendra Clegg, part of a UN disaster and assessment team that had just returned from Capiz in the isolated north-east of Panay Island.
"The local officials are expecting a high number of casualties," she said.
"The death toll is definitely going to rise."
The Past's Price
A sexual abuse advocacy group calls attention to past indiscretions of a local music minister, but some congregants go to his defense
by Mari Herreras
When Dove of Peace Lutheran Church parishioners walked out of last Sunday's service, they were greeted by two television news crews and a newspaper reporter asking about a woman from a California-based sex abuse survivors' organization passing out flyers about their music minister when they arrived for church that morning.
On Thursday, Nov. 7, Joelle Casteix, volunteer western regional director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, sent out a press release that she and other SNAP volunteers would be outside the 665 W. Roller Coaster Road church holding signs and childhood photos, and handing out flyers to warn church members that their music minister Eric Holtan was convicted in 2000 of first-degree and third-degree criminal sexual conduct; and that they should demand his removal and talk to their kids.
Dove of Peace member Brad Schwab told the Tucson Weekly that it's been 13 years since Holtan pled guilty and he only has two years left on his 15-year probation. Another church member Nancy Day chimed in that many in the congregation knew about Holtan's past and it was understood that Holtan's probation officer checked in with the church pastor regularly.
Day added that Holtan does not work with children in the church in his duties as music minister. "He directs the adult choir," she said, addressing the terms of Holtan's probation in which he is not allowed to have unsupervised contact with underage females.
Schwab added that some of the information released by SNAP is wrong, specifically that Holtan served time in prison for his crimes. "That's not true. He was only put on probation." Although a court document provided to the Weekly does show Holtan was sentenced to 28 months confinement at the Northwest Regional Corrections Center.
Holtan has paid the price for what happened, and "while we feel for the victims, the case was brought to trial," Schwab said.
Last week, the Weekly talked to Casteix about the press release just as she was getting ready to drive to Tucson from Orange County. Casteix said SNAP was contacted by one of Holtan's victims, one of two female students at Duluth East High School where he worked as choir director.
Casteix said she contacted the church pastor by email before sending out the press release in an effort to "reach out," as well as police in Duluth and the Pima County Sheriff's Department. She said she wonders if the church knows about Holtan's past, that he remains on probation, as well as Evangelical Lutheran Church of America guidelines that discourage employment of anyone convicted of child sexual abuse.
Casteix stood outside the church wearing a large picture of herself when she was 15 years old, the age she said she was abused by her own choir teacher at the Catholic high school she attended in California. The reception she received at Dove of Peace was mixed, she said—one mother with young daughters came up to her and thanked her for the information, and others defended Holtan and told her to get off the church property. In the SNAP press release, Casteix said other volunteers would be there to talk with church members, but she was on her own, and said it is difficult to get survivors of sexual abuse to come to things like this because it is painful.
Calls made to Holtan and the Dove of Peace church pastor seeking comment about SNAP and allegations in the press release were not returned. An email sent to the church pastor was also not returned.
According to a Tucson Citizen story published in November 1999, Holtan was a 28-year-old UA doctoral student when the accusations were made, and that he had sexual contact up to 50 times with two female students from 1994 to 1998 outlined in the complaint filed then in St. Louis County District Court in Minnesota.
Casteix, standing across the street from the church, said SNAP isn't saying that Holtan can't go to church at Dove of Peace or sing in the choir, but she contends that being music minister of a church is a different situation that could put him in contact with underage members.
FBI, Interpol help in international hunt for missing children, 4 and 10, of two L.A. fathers
by Brenda Gazzar
An international manhunt is underway for a woman who authorities say took her two American sons on a trip to Central Europe in June of last year and never returned, in violation of custody orders involving the boys' fathers.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office filed felony criminal charges against Maria Pfeifer, 32, of Hollywood, in August for two counts of “child detention with right to custody” of Sasha Hummel, 4, and Robert Gerald “Jerry” Pfeifer, 10, according to court documents and police.
At the request of the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office, a federal judge has issued a warrant for Pfeifer's arrest under the Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution law and the D.A.'s Office has also filed a warrant that allows her to be extradited should she be found outside of California.
The FBI is also working with local law enforcement agencies in the European Union to locate Pfeifer and her children, who could be in her native Slovakia, said LAPD Officer Michael Morris, an investigator with the Hollywood Division's Major Assault Crimes Unit.
“We have a mom who has fled the United States and is not allowing the two fathers to see their children,” Morris said. “It's been over a year that these guys have been able to see their children. She's depriving not only the children but the fathers of this contact, which is absolutely necessary for these little boys to grow up and to become men.”
FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller confirmed her agency is assisting the DA and local law enforcement “in returning the subject to the United States to face prosecution for the state charges.”
Pfeifer's ex-husbands, voiceover agent Larry Hummel of Beverly Hills and entrepreneur and former music executive Robert Joseph Pfeifer of Laurel Canyon, say they have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on private investigators and attorneys to help with the search for their children and have recently taken to social media sites to propel their case forward. Since the alleged abductions, each of them has been awarded sole legal and physical custody of their child.
Notices have already been issued by Interpol — a network of police forces from 190 countries — for Maria Pfeifer, who is a legal permanent resident of the U.S., and her two children. Prosecutors are in the process of securing a red Interpol notice for the mother, which requests to seek the location and arrest of a wanted person with a view to extradition, according to a U.S. State Department record.
“All parties involved are following all leads to return these children safely to their fathers,” L.A. County Deputy District Attorney Deanne Castorena of the Child Abduction Section said Tuesday.
If arrested, Maria Pfeifer's bail could be set at $500,000 and she could face up to six years in county jail if convicted on both felony charges, according to court documents.
For Hummel, the hardest part is waking up every day and not knowing where his son Sasha is.
“It would be one thing if we knew he was safe,” said Hummel, 42. “If there was some communication, anything — a photo or an email from her saying ‘I'm in Slovakia. You're never seeing your kids again.' At least I'd know she's on the planet Earth and the kids are safe but we've had zero communication since July of 2012.”
Maria Pfeifer, who shared custody of the boys with the fathers at the time, was given permission by a court to travel with her children to the Czech Republic and Slovakia from June 1 to July 1, 2012, but eventually made excuses about her return date, Morris of the LAPD, said. The fathers filed child concealment charges with police in July when they realized they were not coming home, he said.
Prosecutors have tried to retrieve the children through the Hague Convention, which spells out the procedures to return children abducted across international boundaries, but that requires the location of the abductor be known, Morris said. Maria Pfeifer's mother, Anna Misejova, traveled with her daughter and her two grandsons to Europe last year but she has not been charged in the alleged abduction, Morris said.
A few months before Maria Pfeifer left on her trip to Europe, Hummel was awarded joint custody of their son, Sasha. “She saw things going not her way. It was a bloody custody battle,” he said. “She didn't believe that the kids needed fathers in their lives.”
Robert Pfeifer, a former Hollywood Records president who last saw his son Jerry on Father's Day 2012, said he worries about his son. “I wake at night worrying for my son, if he's scared, has he lost hope, is he being hurt?” Pfeifer said. “When the seasons change, I feel he knows more time has passed. Hopefully, he hasn't lost hope... I know he's waiting for me to get him.”
Robert Pfeifer, 58, made headlines after he was linked to the case of Hollywood private eye Anthony Pellicano and sentenced in 2009 to time served and four months home confinement for hiring Pellicano, who is serving a 15-year prison sentence for racketeering and other charges, to wiretap an ex-girlfriend. Robert Pfeifer had already served two months in federal prison.
When his son Jerry was in Los Angeles, the boy had a stable life and had been attending elementary school, Robert Pfeifer said.
Both Hummel and Robert Pfeifer say the mother, who may be going by the name Maya Misejova, has previously worked as an escort. She was charged in 2010 with two misdemeanor counts of being an escort without a permit but she was acquitted on one of those counts and was not prosecuted in the other, according to court records.
On average, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children receives around 1,800 to 2,000 reports of family abductions each year of children missing from the U.S., of which about a quarter involve children believed to have been taken outside the U.S., said Maureen Heads, a supervisor with the nonprofit organization's missing children division.
“Unfortunately, these cases can take a little bit longer to get resolved,” she said. “It depends on the country they are taken to and whether they are a partner with the U.S. when it comes to family abduction cases and what resources that country has in locating and returning children.”
The U.S. is a partner with about 72 out of the nearly 90 nations that are part of the Hague Convention, she said.
For more information about Jerry Pfeifer and Sasha Hummel, go to www.bringjerryhome.com and www.bringsashahome.com
If you have information about this case, police ask that you call the watch commander on LAPD's 24-hour line at 213-485-4328.
Former Miramonte teacher, Mark Berndt, expected to plead no contest to molestation charges
by Barbara Jones
Mark Berndt, the former Miramonte Elementary School teacher accused of playing bizarre sex games with kids, is expected to plead no contest on Friday to charges that he molested 24 of his students, an attorney with knowledge of the case said late Wednesday.
Berndt, 62, had previously pleaded not guilty to accusations that he blindfolded boys and girls, and led them in a “tasting game,” in which he fed them his semen by the spoonful and on cookies. He has been held on $23 million bail since his arrest in late January 2012.
He will change his plea to no contest – the equivalent of a guilty plea in a criminal case – and be sentenced to at least 25 years in prison, according to the attorney, who spoke on the condition on anonymity.
Berndt's attorney, Manny Medrano, refused to confirm that a plea agreement had been reached. “Friday morning, there's a significant hearing in this court matter,” he said in an email sent late Wednesday.
Officials with the District Attorney's Office did not respond to requests for comment.
The allegations against Berndt shook Los Angeles after authorities announced his arrest, capping an investigation that spanned more than a year. Parents were outraged that they hadn't been told of the allegations against Berndt, although Los Angeles Unified officials had pulled Berndt from the classroom and paid him $40,000 to drop an appeal when the school board took steps to fire him.
The Miramonte case sparked the district to implement a new policy so that parents are advised within 72 hours when a teacher is pulled from the classroom because of alleged misconduct.
The district also implemented a “zero-tolerance” policy for teacher misconduct of any kind – verbal, physical or sexual – which resulted in hundreds of teachers being pulled from the classroom and a flood of resignations and terminations. The Legislature has also tried to make it easier for school districts to fire teachers suspected of misconduct, but lawmakers have been unsuccessful so far in changing the process.
Among those accused of misconduct in the wake of Berndt's arrest was Martin Springer, another teacher at Miramonte. Jury selection has begun in his trial, in which he's charged of molesting one student. He has pleaded not guilty.
Berndt's alleged victims also have filed suit against Los Angeles Unified, claiming that administrators failed to protect them from Berndt. District spokesman Sean Rossall said late Wednesday that 63 cases have been settled for a total of $29.5 million, and 71 additonal claims or suits are pending.
Rossall was unaware of any plea agreement being reached with Berndt and said the district remains focused on settling the remaining cases in a manner that is fair to the children and their families.
John Walsh Says More Focus Needed On Sex Trafficking
by Jared Ransom
SIOUX FALLS, SD - The mood at the yearly South Dakota Law Enforcement Banquet is cheerful, but for "America's Most Wanted" host and event guest speaker John Walsh, it's a week that brings both joy and pain. Walsh's son, Adam, was kidnapped and killed in 1981.
"Adam would be 38 tomorrow, it would be his birthday, so this is an honor for me to be here and to speak to these people in South Dakota who represent and love and respect law enforcement and love children," Walsh said.
Walsh turned his sadness into action, helping push for national laws and programs that helped bring hundreds of criminals to justice across the country.
"When Adam was kidnapped 32 years ago, nobody helped us. There was no Amber Alert, no National Center for Missing or Exploited Children, no laws to protect children, and so much has changed in those years," Walsh said.
As those changes occur, Walsh says that the focus of law enforcement should change as well. He feels there is a major problem that some people are choosing to ignore.
"If we are the richest and most powerful country, we shouldn't put up with this level of violence, particularly against children. We shouldn't be the number one sex trafficking offender in the world," Walsh said.
Walsh feels the most effective way to deal with this problem is to follow South Dakota's example and open people's eyes.
"It is a big, ugly sore and problem that Americans don't want to deal with. So, I think awareness is the way to get people focused in on what happens to many children," Walsh said.
John Walsh says one of his greatest joys is knowing how many families they have helped through the 25 years of "America's Most Wanted," and he says he has no plans on stopping anytime soon.
Surviving Abuse is Only the Beginning: Double Victimization
“Get over it.” “It wasn't that bad.” “It was worse for me.” “You just want pity.” “You're a liar.”
After surviving a childhood filled with abandonment, neglect and abuse at the hands of my family members and their partners, I thought I'd seen it all. I mean really, after you're forced to live with a convicted sex felon whom your mom met on the locked psych ward, a place she ended up in after you found two empty pill bottles by her bed, not much surprises you.
The experiences I had and the relationships that formed during my childhood still influence me, from the way my brain functions, to how I cope with stress, to how I feel about myself each and every day. As survivors, we don't cast off our painful pasts once we become adults. All of those moments, for better or worse, become inextricably woven into who we are.
As I got older and established a life very different from the one I knew as a child and young adult, I found myself faced with some difficult decisions: Do I stay in touch with my family and accept the way they treat me? Can I change how they interact with me? Or do I leave and begin anew? The right answer for me came after my daughter was born. I realized that my version of history would never overlap with my family's in any significant way. They would never express sincere remorse or treat me in a way I'd feel proud for my daughter to see. And I knew I deserved better.
Unlike many, I'm not afraid to say that I was a victim. Perhaps it's because I've reached a level of success, at least outwardly, where no one can assert I use the word “victim” as an excuse. I'm highly educated with an Ivy League Master's degree. I'm happily married and have a full, rich life. I share my past but usually I try to put a triumphant spin on it so as not to evoke pity. Why has our culture determined that the words "victim" and "pity" are so abhorrent? If I were a thrice-divorced drug addict who'd been in and out of prison six times due to being stalked, abandoned, abused and manipulated by the adults around me, I'd still deserve compassion.
What I wasn't aware of until I started talking about my experience publicly is that a whole new level of dysfunction awaits those of us who finally speak up about abuse and bad parenting. It's called double victimization and it essentially means that yes, while you may have dealt with some unpleasant times way back then, you now need to move on and get over it. Oh boy. I thought abuse was the hardest thing I'd have to endure. Little did I know that someday I'd be told told by those directly and indirectly related to the abuse that I need to shut the f*ck up.
Some of my favorites in recent years…
You're a liar, you're a fake, didn't you have food on the table, you're living in the past, you just want pity, it's all in your head, you just want people to kiss your ass and feel sorry for you, I suffered way more than you did, and the list goes on and on.
For those of you still holding on to your secrets of abuse, I want you to know the truth. Your life will not be perfect once you break away. That's why it's critical to build a network of people who love, support and respect you. Those relationships will help when the people who caused your deepest pain and those who enable them call you a liar and a fake. When they go on the offensive and tell you that you're being selfish or saying half truths, remember that they are wrong. Your family members are attacking you and denying what you suffered because to acknowledge your pain means to admit their own failings. And that will probably never happen.
Sadly, extended family members, friends and even perfect strangers will also resent you and criticize you for speaking up. Why can't you just let it go? Why must you live in the past? Look at how much better your life is than theirs, what do you have to complain about? Or they will simply sit quietly and say they don't want to take sides. The biggest shocker out of all of this? How family members I know have been abused themselves are my most vociferous critics.
Since you are likely to never hear it from those who hurt you, allow me to say it. I am sorry. I am sorry for your pain. And I am sorry that in addition to the initial abuse you endured, you now have to go through a second round where you defend yourself against people who just want you to shut the f*ck up. Please, don't shut up. You deserve to be heard, no matter how much it enrages or inconveniences those around you. You no longer need to hide their secrets or carry their burdens. Yes, freedom comes with a price, but it's infinitely better than the alternative.
Men are also abused
Jack Bloom says men much less likely than women to report sexual violations
by Jack Bloom
A Free State mother was recently convicted of raping her teenage son.
It's a shocking crime that highlights that males can also be victims of rape.
More commonly though, it is men who rape or sexually assault other men or boys.
According to police figures, about one in five adult males are the victims in reported sexual offences.
The real figure could be much higher as a man is much less likely than a woman to report a sexual violation.
Victims suffer alone and in silence mostly because of shame and the fear they will not be believed and their sexuality will be questioned.
Support services are largely unavailable, which is why the South African Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse (SAMSOSA) organization was formed recently.
Its founder is Rees Mann, a dynamic Johannesburg businessman who was himself a victim of sexual abuse.
He hopes to bust various myths about male sexual abuse and stresses that it is never the fault of the victim.
No one should ever blame himself as the only way it occurs is if there is a sexual criminal present who is solely the guilty party.
The headline cases usually feature priests or teachers abusing their positions of authority. But it is much wider than this and the reality needs to be exposed.
People from all walks of life can be victims of sexual assault. It is an act of violence, not sexual gratification or orientation.
The motivation is to hurt, humiliate, destroy and cause pain, insecurity and hopelessness in the victim.
Most convicted rapists and abusers of males describe themselves as heterosexual, not gay. They also say that it never mattered whether their victims were male or female.
More males than females are raped by strangers - 48% in one survey compared to 28% of females.
Rees Mann aims to break the terrible silence on this issue and to help victims on their journey to healing.
The first step is disclosure, which is best done to a trusted friend or a trained therapist.
Rees told me of a man in his 60s who wrote to him disclosing for the first time the abuse he had suffered as a child.
Speaking to other victims also helps, which is best arranged through an organisation like SAMSOSA.
They can be contacted at www.samsosa.org or Tel: 071 280 9918.
A small minority of those who have been abused can become abusers themselves, harming both male and female.
This is one more reason why we need to confront this problem with urgency.
We are approaching the 16 days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children.
There should also be at least one day that focuses attention on male victims of sexual abuse.
They need to know that they are not alone, and that they can become survivors and thrivors.
The New Weapon Against Campus Rape
College women are using Title IX to force schools to combat sexual assault.
by Alissa Quart
Alexandra Brodsky walked across the Yale University campus to Sheffield Hall, a towering white stone building. She had been summoned there to meet with two members of the university's Sexual Harassment Grievance Board, after Brodsky had told her resident adviser of something that had happened to her five days earlier, on Saturday night: Brodsky said she was sexually assaulted by a fellow student. Until that moment, she had thought of her assailant as a friend. In the days since, the young man, a fellow first-year student at the university, was calling and texting her constantly. He had even texted one of Brodsky's roommates trying to find her. Brodsky says that he was apologizing and trying to get her to meet with him, but she felt harassed and wanted him to stop.
That cold February afternoon in 2009, Brodsky wasn't seeking justice for the assault. She wanted to meet with the grievance board because she was afraid to encounter the young man in her classes. She also wanted to see what the board could do to restrain his attempts to locate her.
She climbed down the stairs to a basement room, not sure what to expect. Sheffield Hall held a huge, beautiful lecture hall and administrative offices, but downstairs was a little more bleak. Seated on a hard chair, Brodsky told two middle-aged female professors the story of her assault. While she spoke, Brodsky says, she felt a sense of shame, worried that news of the incident would reach others on campus, or that her mom would find out about the one orange-juice-and-vodka she'd had hours before the assault. She had only told one of her roommates and didn't want to report the incident to the police, though attorneys she would consult later told her she had enough evidence to at least get a restraining order against the young man, Brodsky tells me.
When she stopped speaking, the two professors offered their thoughts. Brodsky recalls their telling her that the young man's many attempts to contact her were “evidence that he loved me.” They advised her to keep quiet, she says, and discouraged her from pursuing a formal hearing. They explicitly told her not to tell her friends. “They said people would gossip, that I shouldn't tell my closest friend at the school,” she says now. “They said, ‘You think you can trust her, but if you do, the whole school will know—do you really want that to happen?' As if that would reflect more poorly on me” than her attacker, Brodsky says. In the basement room, she was hoping there was something the board representatives could do to help her; it didn't even occur to her to be skeptical of the process.
(Asked about Brodsky's account of her meeting with the grievance board representatives, Pamela Schirmeister, associate dean of the graduate school and senior deputy Title IX coordinator at Yale, said that she couldn't speak in specifics about Brodsky's case as she wasn't a Title IX rep at the time, but she noted that the system through which Brodsky's grievance was heard has since been revamped. She also noted that the names of the board members Brodsky met with, or any minutes from the meeting, would have been confidential.)
Brodsky was no shrinking violet. She came to Yale as a straight-A student. She'd been captain of her high school's cross-country and track teams and on the senior class council. When she heard in high school some shocking statistics of sexual assault on women in college, her response was to try to organize a self-defense workshop. Her mother volunteered at a shelter for domestic abuse victims, so Brodsky had an idea—albeit an abstract one—of what violence against women meant.
“Sexual violence was something that happened to other people,” she says now. Indeed, she couldn't imagine it happening at one of the world's elite universities, where families pay up to $58,000 a year to educate their children. Brodsky had dreamed of attending Yale since she was nine. The day she received her acceptance letter as an early applicant, her family drove her up to the campus so she could walk around and soak up the atmosphere. “Yale gave me a dorm room, fed me every day, threw me ice cream parties at night, and was teaching me really exciting things,” Brodsky says. She'd never thought of it as anything less than a formidable place, full of wonder, and she believed it would keep her safe.
Scholars who have studied sexual assault have written for two decades that the response to a trauma by any system, from a family to a university, defines the meaning of an assault. The scholar Sarah Ullman and others have cited the “secondary victimization” that can happen to victims: “Several studies have shown that negative social reactions are related to more psychological symptoms and poorer self-rated recovery in sexual assault victims,” Ullman wrote. It's sometimes called “secondary victimization,” and Brodsky was living it.
All of Brodsky's enthusiasm for the school made the walk back to her dorm that cold afternoon a melancholy one. “It was the loneliest I had ever felt,” she says. “The school trivialized my experience, and that trivialization didn't make the impact of the assault any smaller. It just made me feel crazy.”
When [Yale] told me the assault would hurt my reputation, or I'd face retaliation, I knew that something was ethically fishy. But I didn't realize what they were doing was illegal.
She thought about a moment sitting before the grievance board members when she saw herself through their eyes. “I shifted from being a student to being a liability,” Brodsky recalls. “We started out as students who take English classes and run clubs and go to parties, and at some point, in the eyes of the administration, we became lawsuit risks,” she says now. She was 18 years old.
It was about two years later, in a class she took at Yale Law School while a junior, that Brodsky learned about Title IX. More than 30 years earlier, the legislation, a portion of the Education Amendments of 1972 requiring equal treatment for both sexes at schools that receive federal funds, was used to fight campus sex offenses, construing them as a form of educational discrimination.
“I didn't know at the time of the meeting that they were legally required to help me,” says Brodsky. “When they told me the assault would hurt my reputation, or I'd face retaliation, I knew that something was ethically fishy. But I didn't realize what they were doing was illegal.” In March 2011, several months after learning about Title IX's history and connecting with campus feminists who'd been discussing the possibility of a Title IX complaint, Brodsky and 15 other Yale students accused their school of failing to ensure their equal right to education. The level of sexual harassment and sexual violence on campus and the university's inadequate responses to reports of assault, they maintained, were forms of discrimination as surely as if they'd been denied admission because they were female. Yale University, the women maintained in a press release that they distributed after they filed their complaint, was “a hostile sexual environment.”
When most people hear the phrase “Title IX,” they think of gender equity in college sports. It's hockey pucks for the girls' teams as well as the boys' teams and an equal number of softball scholarships for female players as baseball scholarships for male players. Women who attended college in and after the 1970s may have a personal recollection—after Title IX, their school had to spend proportional scholarship money on men's and women's sports teams based on player opportunities, among other requirements. The law led to much-increased participation in women's sports and also enforced equal schooling opportunities for teenage mothers, among other things.
Feminist legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon would later develop the legal theory that sexual harassment or sexual assault could limit a woman's access to educational opportunity. Plaintiffs in Alexander v. Yale took up this argument in 1977, when they argued that the environment at the school led to a "pattern of sexual harassment"; one student said a professor had given her a worse grade than she deserved after she refused his overtures. Back then, Yale didn't even have a procedure for lodging official complaints against students for sexual misconduct; the grievance board Brodsky first approached was formed in the wake of that case.
Since then, there have been Title IX complaints concerning sexual harassment or assault, with renewed interest in the legal strategy, and a flurry of filings at a greatly increased rate over the last few years: In 2009, the Office of Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education received 11 Title IX sexual misconduct complaints against colleges and universities. In 2013, there were 29. Brodsky has argued that the system Yale set up after Alexander v. Yale for resolving sexual harassment and abuse is still severely flawed, noting in 2011 that none of the three students the school had recently found to have committed sexual assault was expelled. Title IX complainants have included students from Yale, University of Connecticut, University of Southern California, Swarthmore College, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Tufts University, Occidental College, and other schools.
Young women across the country are now using the weapon in the fight against alarming statistics like the one Brodsky discovered back in high school: Almost one in five women faced at least an attempted sexual assault during her four years in college. Nearly one in five American women will be raped in her lifetime, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; of those raped or sexually assaulted, 44 percent are under 18. Among the general population, fewer rapes were reported in the last 10 years. FBI crime stats say that overall, forcible rape is down 10.1 percent since 2003. On campuses, these improved numbers could be read as a result of 30 years of “Take Back the Night” vigils, awareness raising, volunteer campus escorts, and stepped-up security measures. But rape is still an underreported crime. Young women I interviewed said they feared that going to the police after their assaults wouldn't achieve much for them, and the numbers bear this out: only 31 percent of the rape or sexual assault victimizations from 2005 to 2010 reported to the police concluded in arrest. Perhaps partly as a result, the percentage of rape or sexual assault victimizations reported to the police declined to 35 percent in 2010, a level last seen in 1995. Some of the experts I spoke with said that a student's legal case could easily be compromised by the fact that she was drinking or had dated or even known her assailant prior to an assault.
Young women feared that going to the police wouldn't achieve much for them and the numbers bear this out: only 31 percent of the rape or sexual assault victimizations from 2005 to 2010 reported to the police concluded in arrest.
Thanks to the efforts of women like Brodsky, feminist legal scholars, and advocates, women bringing Title IX complaints have obtained financial settlements and have also demanded systemic change. This includes increased reporting of misconduct (as required by the Clery Act), harsher punishments for assailants, complaint processes that are more user-friendly, and ultimately more awareness on the part of students and faculty about sexual assault and sexual harassment.
“As someone working in the field from the 1990s to 2006, there was a little bit of a disconnect between the people doing legal work on Title IX and advocates on campus,” says Susan Marine, the founder of Harvard's Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (OSAPR) and currently a professor at Merrimack College.
In the last two years, though, efforts like Brodsky's have had a real impact, forcing schools to change how they handle claims or assault as well as their policies or structures for responding to such accusations. A month after Brodsky's complaint was filed, the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights sent out to colleges and universities a “Dear Colleague” letter providing interpretive guidance on federal policy and hammering home Title IX regulations around sexual misconduct. This was seen as the watershed event that kicked off a larger Title IX movement.
“This activism is unprecedented and very organized,” says Harvard Law School professor Diane Rosenfeld of the efforts of Brodsky and others. Rosenfeld says she's been working for 10 years on how to leverage Title IX against sexual assault.
“Title IX activism is bringing the world of law and activism together,” says Marine.
“I speak at 10 'Take Back the Night's a year, and it is like homecoming,” says Jennifer Baumgardner, publisher of The Feminist Press and director of the documentary It Was Rape . “There's new energy around it. It's a moment of institutional shifts.”
One big force behind creating these shifts, of course, is the Web. Recent events have shown that social media can have both positive and negative effects on movements, as both a key organizing tool and a means for authorities to track down organizers. The Internet has been the same way when it comes to campus sexual assault and the movement that combats it.
The Web has enabled some of what is amorphously dubbed “rape culture.” One of the more notorious examples is the Steubenville, Ohio, rape of a 16-year-old girl by two boys. Thanks to social media, on the evening of the rape, students tweeted about it and posted explicit photos and a video mocking the victim.
For some young women, it has been personally vindicating to use the Web to take control of their experiences of assault and, in their view, their colleges' inaction. Others have experienced further harassment or humiliation online. Many experience both.
“I think the Internet facilitates these things rather than creates them,” says Brodsky. “People receive rape threats for coming forward talking about rape. You are sharing this intimate story online, and people are posting about whether I am pretty. Going public as a survivor means something very different now: If someone Googles me, they know a scary thing that happened freshman year. It's a strange way to exist.”
Disconcerting as these stories are, victims have used the Web and social media to share experiences, spread information, and organize their complaints. After Amherst College student Angie Epifano wrote of her rape in her school newspaper, the Web enabled thousands of students around the country to read the story. “On May 25, 2011, I was raped by an acquaintance in Crossett Dormitory on Amherst College campus,” Epifano wrote. “Some nights I can still hear the sounds of his roommates on the other side of the door, unknowingly talking and joking as I was held down. I am sickened by the Administration's attempts to cover up survivors' stories, cook their books to discount rapes, pretend that withdrawals never occur, quell attempts at change, and sweep sexual assaults under a rug,” she wrote. Epifano's coda of institutional critique quickly went viral and was picked up by sites such as Inside Higher Ed and The Huffington Post , garnering thousands more readers. Survivors on the West Coast were emboldened to come forward because of her narrative.
After she made her complaint, Brodsky was able to tap into an informal online network of survivors, activists, professors, and organizers who were sharing their experiences of being assaulted and their feelings of being neglected or victimized a second time by campus administrators. They also shared information about the law and what they were going to do about their situations.
“The Internet is a really important piece of [Title IX organizing],” says Brodsky. “We were all able to connect interschool: [Amherst activist] Dana Bolger and I were put in touch via email. The UNC students got in touch by Facebook. We all communicated via Skype.”
One Swarthmore student who joined the Title IX complaint at that school after she was allegedly harassed on campus property told me she located online and read “a lengthy legal document,” she says, “and I discovered that I have these rights.” (The woman asked that TakePart not publish her name, given the nature of her experience.) Victims of assault now can join a closed Facebook group, Know Your IX. (There's a Know Your IX open website as well.)
“Ten years ago, you'd think [the assault] was an isolated case, that I just crossed paths with this crazy person,” she says. “But if you are comparing your stories with other people, you see it as a system.”
This student and others like her could read things like Brodsky's analysis, memoirs in Slate and The Huffington Post , and Epifano's essay. Or the writings of rape survivor Andrea Pino, of the University of North Carolina, about her rage at her college: “[They'd say], ‘We are in compliance,' ” wrote Pino. “I've realized that the deepest scars of sexual assault are not the bruises or the blood, but the torture of not being believed.”
Wendy Wyler, who was allegedly sexually harassed by her music professor, told me her college's representatives encouraged her to rethink her assertion, but she discovered a community of other complainants online. She then filed a civil law suit against her school, Southern Connecticut University, the professor, and a couple of administrators. (She has since settled with the professor for an undisclosed amount, but her suit against the school continues.)
In 2013, Brodsky and others created an online petition addressed to Secretary Arne Duncan at the Department of Education: “To create safe, fair campuses across the country, we call on ED to join us in the fight against campus sexual violence by enforcing Title IX law.” They have attained nearly 175,000 signatures.
The Title IX cause has already had its triumphs. In 2013, thirty-seven Occidental College students, alumni, and faculty filed a Title IX civil rights complaint against the university. High-flying attorney Gloria Allred swooped in to represent them. In September, at least 10 of the complainants reached a monetary settlement from the liberal arts school for its inadequate handling of sexual assault accusations. Like many other schools, Occidental also hired an advocate for abuse victims and created a hotline.
At Yale, change has been real if modest. In 2013 it received a $155,000 Clery Act fine from the Department of Education for underreporting sex offences from the early 2000s. (Susan Marine thinks the fine was less than inspiring, given Yale's endowment of $20.8 billion. “For Yale, [the fine] is chump change,” she says.)
But prior to and during the Yale Title IX investigation, which was resolved in June 2012, some major structural changes were implemented.
When I called Yale to find out what it was doing as a result of the complaints and fines, I spoke to Pamela Schirmeister. She said that the college was now using “student advisory boards to advise the Title IX steering committee,” among other things.
“I think this is a very long-term issue,” said Schirmeister. “There is more awareness on campus about assault and more resources for students. The Title IX coordinators are much, much more visible. There is more programming around prevention of sexual misconduct and raising awareness of our definition of consent. We are spending a lot of money creating communication and consent educators—peer educators—to explain definitions and behaviors.”
There is another side to the Title IX complaints. These young women were sometimes more likely to get a fair hearing and even justice from their colleges than from the police or the courts, experts and university sexual harassment response representatives told me. Sexual assault cases are notoriously hard to prove, in any context. And some of the colleges now trying hard to follow proper procedures may nonetheless fall short. While crime victims deserve the best-possible legal or disciplinary procedures, Title IX complaints may not bring about the outcomes survivors strive for.
Still, perhaps the main success of the complaints is that more women are bringing them. Young women are becoming well-versed in education law and have found their own power to organize. The movement has given rise to a generation of college applicants aware enough of Title IX that they may partly decide which university to attend on the basis of how compliant the school is and how well it protects students and reports misconduct. Sarah Rankin, former director of Harvard's OSAPR and now a Title IX investigator at MIT, noted at a recent conference that college administrators “can no longer say [they] are unaware of it.”
Rankin advised the young women at the “Stop Slut” conference, held at New York City's The New School in October, to find out what steps universities specifically take to protect them. “Ask on campus tours if colleges know what Title IX is,” she said. “Ask if there is a place for survivors to go at the college and also what's the party scene like,” she told the mostly female college- and high school–age audience from the stage. “Ask yourself, ‘Does it feel comfortable for me here?'”
These young women are also changing the broader conversation about campus rape. The assault statistics, and the students' success at publicizing them, has reached such proportions that it is starting to preoccupy publications from Slate to New York . Last month, Slate kicked off a media battle about how much female students' binge drinking is really “to blame” for the wave of campus assaults, an idea that has offended many.
All the increased attention has some college administrators concerned about negative media attention, Marine says. “But there are also people at every institution who deeply care about doing this right. It is mortifying to people who feel deeply responsible about not putting students in harm's way.”
In addition to the increased reporting the complaints may bring about, The Feminist Press publisher Baumgardner adds, “There's been an uptick in the effort to make complaints more uniform, and for there to be more expulsions of those accused of rape,” she says. “These universities now have these new Title IX specialists. Students are doing protests, tweeting the name of their attackers.”
Rankin and others also point to a movement toward increased “bystander intervention” training and awareness. Witnesses to sexual assault—other students, especially members of fraternities and sororities—need to know how to interrupt or defuse sexual harassment or assault.
Even the bystander intervention move tends to put the onus of preventing assault on students and not colleges. And critics note that universities still have a long way to go. As the site Jezebel recently pointed out, Yale's July 2013 report on sexual misconduct refers to rape throughout as "nonconsensual sex”—the word “rape” appears only once in its 16 pages.
Some of the women's lives have been altered by their participation in Title IX and Clery complaints, for good and ill. Not all campus survivors have fared well: Some young women have dropped out of school, taken a leave, or failed to continue their schooling because of the stresses of the assaults themselves and the toll the complaints or legal cases that followed have taken.
Five years after her assault, Brodsky is still in New Haven and now attending Yale Law School. The Title IX complaint process influenced her decision to go to law school. “I decided the Department of Education has to step up its game about enforcing the law,” she says. The women turn to their colleges for justice first, and when their colleges don't handle their cases adeptly or to their satisfaction, these smart young people take matters into their own hands. They are leveraging the law, with the possible result of a change in universities' policies, so that future victims won't be cast aside. Many of Brodsky's fellow survivors have gone to law school or worked at rape crisis centers, partly in response to what they went through. One former campus activist created a project called Surviving in Numbers, in which young-adult assault survivors create startling handwritten posters about their experiences.
“While none of this would have happened without students protesting and "Take Back the Night," Title IX is more effective,” says Marine. “Any time you bring the federal government or legal system to bear on a social problem, you are going to see more change. There's a whole different momentum now.”
Brodsky and other survivors are refusing to be victimized. “It was remarkable as a 20-year-old to feel that there was a real tool for justice at my disposal,” Brodsky says. “I want to get better at wielding that tool."
How Long Is Too Long to Report Rape?
Advocates want to end the statute of limitations on civil and criminal litigation against rapists and child molesters.
by Matthew Fleischer
New York's Rape is Rape bill—which would include forced oral and anal penetration in the legal definition of rape—suffered a huge setback last week when a major Republican backer of the bill, New York State Senator Catharine Young, retracted her support, arguing that juries will reject the idea that forced anal or oral penetration constitutes rape and refuse to convict .
That notion is a slap in the face to people like Andrew Willis.
“I may not have a vagina, but I was raped as a child,” Willis tells TakePart.
It took Willis decades and a 2008 suicide attempt before he finally came to terms with his abuse.
Then, he became an advocate.
Willis is the cofounder of Stop Abuse Campaign. His organization is at the forefront of attempting to bring New York's (and the rest of America's) rape laws into the 21st century. Not only is Stop Abuse Campaign one of the primary backers of New York's Rape is Rape bill, it is making a nationwide push to end civil and criminal statutes of limitations on reporting crimes of sexual violence—particularly sexual crimes against children.
In Minnesota, Stop Abuse Campaign is backing the Child Victims Act, which would end the statute of limitations on civil litigation against perpetrators of child sexual abuse. Minnesota law currently states that child victims have until six years after they turn 18 to bring legal action against their attacker.
Willis argues that allowing civil litigation isn't just about compensating victims—it can be a means of preventing further abuse:
|“When an insurance company pays out a massive claim, you better believe they are trying to work out how to never pay it again. They become agents of reform, pressuring organizations like the Catholic Church to change—to put in better safeguards. Civil litigation turns economics to our advantage. We can use economics to stop abuse. And it works.”
If pushing for rape prevention and allowing children the time they need to confront their attackers sounds like a political no-brainer, it's not. Similar, more-modest legislative efforts to raise the statute of limitations to ten years in New York—where victims of child sexual abuse have only five years from the time they turn 18 to bring both criminal and civil charges—have failed every year since 2005.
Dr. Robert Geffner, President of the Institute on Violence, Abuse and Trauma, at Alliant University, says that statute of limitations laws on sexual abuse are completely arbitrary from a scientific perspective. His 30 years of experience in treating victims of sexual abuse has shown him that survivors often need decades to steel themselves for a legal battle against their attacker. Sexual abuse in childhood is particularly complicated. Geffner says the reasons for taking years into adulthood to come forward are numerous.
“When sexual abuse occurs during childhood, it's often associated with shame, guilt and self-blame,” Geffner tells TakePart. “If the abuse came from within the family unit, or someone trusted by the family, who do you come forward to? Or there may have been threats. There are often incredible barriers from a psychological or intimidation standpoint, as to why they don't come forward.”
Geffner says that taking legal action against their rapist isn't any easier for adults—which is why so many rapes go unreported.
“The majority of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. So guilt and self-blame are very high again. Additionally, the stigma is still very strong. If you look at what happens when someone comes forward to talk about sexual assault, people immediately begin questioning: What did he or she do to allow this to happen? Was it something she was wearing? What kind of position did she put herself in?”
The result is that years or decades can go by before survivors of rape are ready to report their abuse.
“By the time my patients have come to terms with their abuse,” says Geffner, “not only have civil statute of limitations expired, but in many areas, even criminal statutes have expired.”
Geffner says that having no legal recourse to confront their attacker often results in major setbacks for the treatment of abuse victims.
“Rape is a serious crime. Putting an arbitrary time limit minimizes its traumatic nature. They view it as the offender getting away with it, or being free to do it to others. It's difficult enough for someone to come forward as a child or even an adult. If you come forward, and it doesn't do any good, it's really a re-victimization.”
Like Rape is Rape, political movement on statutes of limitations faces an uphill climb. But Willis says he won't stop until all civil and criminal statute of limitations have been removed for rape.
“People who have suffered trauma are not public property,” says Willis. “They have the right to come to terms with it in their own time and express it in their own way, when they are ready. Being ready can simply be a collision of circumstances. Often, it's as straightforward as realizing you are not the only one.”
Diamonds or Not, Is the Rape Ring a Girl's Best Friend?
Troubled by India's increase in rape cases, a pharmacist develops a unique self-defense weapon
For the woman who won't carry anything as conspicuous as pepper spray on a keychain, an Indian pharmacist has an idea for how to incorporate self-defense into your daily wardrobe.
Imran Khan was shocked and inspired by news of India's most brutal rape case in years—where four men attacked a woman on the bus (almost equally shocking: death sentences all around).
Khan set out to create a unique ring women can wear that also serves as a weapon.
The ring has an injection needle that will stab an attacker with capsaicin, a.k.a. the hottest pepper ever. As in, there has been no spicier pepper in the history of mankind.
Inject that sucker into sensitive tissue—or better yet, on or near a mucous membrane—and the attacker in question will be felled fast.
Bonus: inflicting some serious burning pain, James Bond-style.
The ring is made with itty-bitty micro-parts. The pepper solution is released from a hidden tank by a micro-pump that injects the capsaicin through a micro needle. Khan says the ring is tamper proof, break proof, and can be used on up to five attackers at a time.
And while it's not the be all end all in terms of safety—something Kahn himself openly admits—at least someone is trying to do something. Plus, Kahn is also behind the “Save My Sister” campaign, designed to help provide free legal service and help campaign against attacks on women.
All of this is well and good, but it doesn't address the core issue, which is that we're still looking at rape as a women's problem to deal with rather than putting the focus and attention where it belongs: on the men who rape.
How troubling is it that apparently, some men need to be taught not to rape? Maybe it's time to address that instead of finding yet another way women have to safeguard themselves and carry the burden of that alone.
Eight Facts You Didn't Know About Child Sex Trafficking
by Nathan Harden -- Author, Singer
Human trafficking. Sex slavery. Child exploitation. We know these problems are out there. In recent years, the public has become much better informed about the existence of the child sex trade. But how much do you really know about this urgent human rights issue?
LOVE146 -- an international charity that provides aftercare and rehabilitation for children rescued from sexual slavery -- has collaborated with Nashville-based rock group Band of Love on a new video to increase public awareness on this issue. The video reveals a number of surprising facts about the child sex trade, including the following:
- In some cases, children as young as eight years old are forced to work as prostitutes.
- An enslaved child may be raped between five and ten times per night.
- The transaction may be for as little as $5 each time. However, the first time a child is sold, the price may rise as high as $200.
- When a child is forced into a brothel, her name is typically replaced with a number -- further stripping her of her humanity. LOVE146 -- the charity I mentioned before -- was named in honor of just such a girl. Her designated number was 146.
- Child brothels will sometimes print up a menu for men to look at, complete with pictures and prices -- as if each child were a piece of meat.
- On average, two children are sold every minute.
- By some estimates, as many as 27 million people are currently enslaved around the world. This "hidden" problem is larger than many of us can imagine.
Watch the video and allow yourself to put a human "face" on this unthinkable abuse. Also, allow yourself to be inspired by what some people are doing to bring hope and healing to these beautiful children.
Band of Love is honored to collaborate with LOVE146 to raise awareness about this issue. (Yes, that's me singing in the video.) And this brings me to my final point:
|- There is something you can do about this. Yes, I know -- it seems like such an overwhelming problem. Often, we see an evil like child trafficking and it seems just too big for us to make an impact. But you're wrong if you think you can't make a difference. Organizations who work in this area like LOVE146 and the International Justice Mission are run by regular people -- just like you. One child at a time, they are transforming the lives of trafficking victims around the world.
For our part, my band mates and I were deeply touched by this issue. We decided to give away free downloads of our new album, and donate 100 percent of the tips to LOVE146.
There are other charities doing great work in this area. LOVE146 is simply the one we know best and have chosen to work with.
There's something uniquely troubling about adults who violate the innocence of children for profit. If you feel inspired to act on this issue, maybe you'd like to give financially to support a survivor rehabilitation house, or donate some of your time to post, share, Tweet and help raise awareness in others about this issue. I know this -- if you want to do help, checking out LOVE146.org is a good place to start.
There is hope for survivors. Each one of these children deserves to be loved in a safe environment. Each one deserves to be given a second chance at life.
By supporting the work of a group such as LOVE146, anyone reading this can become a modern day abolitionist. We can promote social justice for the most vulnerable among us. We're all horrified by child trafficking. But the good news is, we don't have to stop there. We can do something for these kids.
Believe the victim: a recipe for injustice
The innocent suffer when we're encouraged to believe all claimants.
by Barbara Hewson
The outraged reactions to newspaper reports of a recent debate at the London School of Economics entitled ‘Is Rape Different?', at which I spoke, proved the point of my talk there about the prevailing ideology of victimisation. This ideology dominates official thinking about rape and sexual abuse to a point where the police actively solicit allegations with the promise, ‘You will be believed'. This militates against the idea that allegations need to be investigated.
The ‘you will be believed' mantra also fosters an unreal expectation on the part of complainants, and the victim lobby, that their accounts should not be challenged or questioned robustly. The government is now piloting a scheme of ‘pre-trial' cross-examination, in an attempt to shield complainants from the rigours of a criminal trial, ostensibly so as not to ‘re-traumatise victims'.
This is dangerous, for two reasons. First, it creates an ideal climate in which those who have not been abused can claim that they have been. Second, it ignores the ease with which false memories of abuse can be created, whether by self-persuasion, interaction with victim/survivor groups, or influence by third parties with axes to grind. Those third parties may include therapists, policemen, injury lawyers, campaign groups, and journalists avid for scandal. All these players espouse the ideology of victimisation.
In 1997, the US sociologist Joel Best identified seven widely accepted propositions which, taken together, create this powerful ideology:
|1) Victimisation is widespread;
2) Its consequences are fundamentally psychological, and long-lasting;
3) Victims are innocent, victimisers are exploitative, and there is no room for moral ambiguity;
4) Both society and victims themselves fail to appreciate the extent of victimisation;
5) People must be taught to recognise their own, and others' victimisation;
6) Claims of victimisation must not be challenged, as this is ‘victim-blaming';
7) The word ‘victim' connotes powerlessness: the term ‘survivor' is preferable. (1)
Victims/survivors are praised for their courage, and enjoined to recover. The language of recovery is permeated by the doctrinaire religiosity of the 12-step movement, pioneered by the founders of AA in the US. This may explain why some victim-advocacy groups can sound cult-like, with their own jargon (‘grooming', ‘trafficking', ‘mind control') and their disdain for non-believers.
But, like any religion, the victim/survivor movement needs new recruits and new spheres of influence. Not satisfied with sensitising society to victims' needs, they then demand integration within institutional structures, and then wholesale institutional change. The contemporary victim industry, according to Best, mass-produces victims.
Even those who deny prior experience of victimisation are seen as candidates for conversion. Best quotes the comedienne Roseanne Barr from the early Nineties: ‘When someone asks you, “Were you sexually abused as a child?”, there's only two answers. One of them is, “Yes”, and one of them is “I don't know”. You can't say no.'
What Barr alludes to is the concept of ‘gradual disclosure'. Hugely influential with therapists and social workers, this posits that people who have been abused will initially deny it, and need help to overcome their denial. This is a deeply flawed approach, because it assumes that there is always something to disclose. It refuses to countenance the possibility that a denial means there is nothing to disclose. According to researchers, there is no clinical evidence to support the theory of gradual disclosure (2).
Back in 1991, Barr had accused her parents of incest, a claim they strenuously denied. She also joined an incest recovery group. But in 2011, Barr told The Oprah Winfrey Show : ‘Incest was the wrong word to use… I had some mental illness… I totally lost touch with reality… I didn't know what the truth was… I just wanted to drop a bomb on my family.'
It's worth pondering why some people want to join the ranks of the abused. Another American sociologist, Joseph E Davis, argues that the adult survivor account ‘has great explanatory potential: it economically orders a wide range of confusing and troublesome experience, settles the question of self-blame, and is set within a discourse of hope for the future.' (3) In short, the idea of being a survivor meets the desire to make sense of life, through a culturally sanctioned narrative.
We know that some people strenuously maintain things that are untrue: such as those claiming to be victims of alien abduction. Such people can be quite intelligent, articulate individuals, holding down jobs and not obviously mentally ill. Alien abduction is not, theoretically, impossible: but the problem is a complete absence of any objective evidence to support the existence of such a phenomenon. By contrast, we know that sexual abuse unquestionably does exist, though its true extent remains strongly contested.
We also know that it is very easy to implant false memories, which may be quite vivid and detailed. A study published by members of the Department of Psychology in Utrecht University, in May this year, found that subtle misinformation conveyed to normal people could create false memories (4). This follows the same findings in earlier research by US psychologists such as Elizabeth Loftus in the 1970s.
The 2013 Dutch study also references an earlier Dutch study in 1996, after an aircraft crashed into an apartment block. The media reported that videos of the crash were made, though no such footage actually existed. Yet a survey found that over half of those interviewed later on claimed to have seen the non-existent video material, and some proceeded to give details of what happened when the plane hit the building.
In the 2013 study, 249 soldiers deployed in Afghanistan were interviewed about stressors in deployment. After the interview, 213 were given subtle misinformation about an imaginary but plausible event, namely, a harmless missile attack on their base on New Year's Eve. They were asked if they recalled such an event, but denied it. Seven months later, they were retested. Twenty-six per cent of participants (55) were now recalling this fictional event, which previously they had denied experiencing.
What this shows is that memory is malleable, and that memory for a potentially traumatic event is not immutable. As the 2013 study authors wrote: ‘New information, from whatever source, can be incorporated into existing memories and can change the way people remember events .' (My italics.)
Given the contemporary fascination with abuse in the mainstream media, the vast array of self-help books and ‘misery memoirs', and numerous websites and workshops devoted to survivors, the continual eruptions of historic allegations of sex crimes are perhaps understandable. The power of this cultural script of victimisation is compelling, even hypnotic, in the present climate.
And for those hunting alleged abusers, finding a suspect can become a psychological necessity. What may also happen is that investigators encourage witnesses to provide more and more allegations of abuse, to justify their own preconceived notions. As Jean La Fontaine commented in her study of alleged Satanic abuse: ‘Sympathetic acceptance of a story slides easily into a curiosity to hear more. When the listener is eager to hear more, gratitude for support may impel the young person to… find ever more dramatic memories to recount.' (5)
We also cannot ignore the lure of compensation. In Ireland and Canada, when allegations of historic abuse in institutions surfaced, and compensation was mooted, claims multiplied to an astonishing extent. Similarly with the Welsh care homes scandal that began in 1991, and the recent Savile scandal.
So how believable are historic allegations of sexual abuse? The latest Dutch research suggests that there is room for serious doubt. If soldiers, who are a pretty down-to-earth bunch, can be so easily persuaded that something happened in the recent past when it didn't, it is plausible that people are susceptible to misremembering events that took place, or are believed to have taken place, decades ago. This is particularly so if they are suggestible, manipulative, or have a history of emotional disturbance.
The civil courts, which try actions for damages, are used to the spectacle of those insisting that something has happened to them, when in reality it has not, or has not happened in the way they say it did. In 1968, Lord Pearce observed:
‘ Witnesses, especially those who are emotional, who think that they are morally in the right, tend very easily and unconsciously to conjure up a legal right that did not exist. It is a truism, often used in accident cases, that with every day that passes the memory becomes fainter and the imagination becomes more active. For that reason a witness, however honest, rarely persuades a judge that his present recollection is preferable to that which was taken down in writing immediately after the accident occurred. Therefore, contemporary documents are always of the utmost importance .'(6)
Exhortations to ‘believe the victim' miss the point. A legal system that shrinks from testing witness credibility robustly is not an authentic system of justice. And as one Chief Justice said in 1825, long dormant claims have more of cruelty than justice in them (7).
Barbara Hewson is a barrister in London.
Fresno clinic set for mandated child abuse reporters
by Brianna Vaccari
Mandated child abuse reporters can attend a training workshop Nov. 22 hosted by the Fresno Council on Child Abuse Prevention.
The workshop, called Train-the-Trainer, will be facilitated by a forensic interviewer, Lisa McCullough, from the Chadwick Center at Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego. The workshop will provide updated and in-depth information on child abuse and reporting laws.
The workshop will be from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 550 E. Shaw Ave. in Fresno and is open to the public.
Contact Angie Abraham for more information or to register at 559-268-1118 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Archbishop pledges to release names of priests who sexually abused children
by Madeleine Baran
ST. PAUL, Minn. — In a reversal of decades-old policy, Archbishop John Nienstedt said he plans to release the names of some priests who have sexually abused children.
The list will be limited to living priests who still reside in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and who have been determined by the archdiocese to be guilty of abuse. Nienstedt did not say how many names would be released, and it's unclear if the list would include any priests not already known to the public through lawsuits and media reports.
Nienstedt's decision comes in response to an MPR News investigation, which found that the archdiocese continues to protect a 74-year-old priest who admitted to sexually abusing children on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota in the mid-1970s. The Rev. Clarence Vavra admitted to the abuse as part of a psychological evaluation in 1995, but Archbishops John Roach and Harry Flynn kept Vavra in ministry and did not contact police. Flynn asked Vavra to retire in 2003 - and gave him $650 a month in extra retirement payments. Vavra lives half a block from a middle school in New Prague, Minn. Prior to MPR News' report, he was not a known abuser.
In a statement announcing his decision to release the priests' names, Nienstedt said, "Serious mistakes have been made in the archdiocese's handling of abuse cases. Offering expressions of regret and sorrow seems so inadequate in the context of the crimes of the offenders and our failures to deal with them properly. And yet, I must say how sorry I am. My heart is heavy for the victims of this repugnant abuse."
The archdiocese will release some of the names this month. More names could be released after a private firm hired by the archdiocese reviews all clergy files. The archdiocese has not selected the firm, according to a spokeswoman.
The watchdog website Bishop-Accountability.org, which tracks offending priests, lists eight Twin Cities priests who might fit the archdiocese's criteria: John Brown, Gilbert Gustafson, Dennis Kampa, Jerome Kern, Michael Stevens, Robert Thurner, Joseph Wajda and Curtis Wehmeyer.
Several archdioceses, including those in Philadelphia and Boston, have released the names of accused priests in response to earlier scandals.
Terence McKiernan, founder of Bishop-Accountability.org, has said the lists often contain few surprises, since so many names have already been made public.
In June of 2002, U.S. bishops adopted a policy that said any priest found to have committed "even a single act of sexual abuse" against a minor should be permanently removed from ministry or dismissed from the priesthood entirely. The policy, known as the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, was created in response to the national clergy sexual abuse scandal. The priests who met the Charter's criteria for removal from ministry became known as Charter priests.
Nienstedt said that all of the Charter priests in the Twin Cities archdiocese "have been removed from ministry."
The archdiocese will release the location and status of each named priest, Nienstedt said.
However, the list will not include the names of every priest accused of child sexual abuse.
In some cases, the archdiocese has investigated priests for alleged sexual abuse and deemed the claims against them not credible or unsubstantiated. Those priests are not considered Charter priests and would not be named by the archdiocese.
They include the Rev. Michael Keating, who was sued last month for alleged sexual abuse of a teenage girl in the late 1990s. An archdiocese board in 2007 found "insufficient evidence to support a finding of sexual abuse of a minor in violation of the Charter."
St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson, who's represented thousands of victims of clergy sexual abuse across the country, has asked the archdiocese for years to release the names of offending priests.
Anderson often refers in news conferences to the list of 33 priests that he received from the archdiocese as part of a lawsuit in 2009. The list, which named priests against whom there were credible allegations of sexual abuse of minors, was sealed by a judge and cannot be released without a court order.
"Serious mistakes have been made in the archdiocese's handling of abuse cases." - Archbishop John Nienstedt
At a hearing in Ramsey County on Oct. 3, Anderson asked Judge John Van de North to unseal the list. "Until we know who the credibly accused offenders are and where they are ... the peril exists," he said.
The list of 33 priests is likely much longer than the one the archdiocese plans to release.
The earlier list includes the names of priests who are deceased or falsely accused, according to church attorneys who've aggressively fought to keep those names private.
Nienstedt and other church leaders have argued that releasing the list of 33 priests wouldn't be fair to priests who have been falsely accused.
"It would be wrong to publicize their names as offenders when they have not been proven to be offenders," Nienstedt said in a statement last month. "Clergy members should be given the same rights as other citizens."
Other church leaders have previously sought to downplay the importance of any list of abusive priests. Former top church official Rev. Kevin McDonough told MPR News last year that releasing a list wouldn't appease critics because some would question whether it was accurate. "The list-making and publication that's happened in some places has not resolved the trustworthiness questions," McDonough said.
"If it becomes an issue of trust with people whom we don't think are just running a marketing campaign, I think you'd see us change in a heartbeat."
Royal Commission into child abuse swamped by submissions
by Barney Zwartz
How child sex abuse happens and how judges sentence offenders will be an important focus of the royal commission into child abuse, its chairman said on Tuesday.
Speaking in Melbourne, Justice Peter McClellan said the commission, having returned to Melbourne, would also look at the practical impact of the statute of limitations in preventing victims from suing perpetrators, which many people see as a "significant injustice", and whether there should be a general compensation scheme.
Justice McClellan, chairman of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, said that up to last Friday the commission had received 6362 phone calls, 2775 written inquiries and 627 personal submissions.
It had conducted 742 private sessions with victims, with 524 approved but awaiting appointments, and another 1300 seeking a private session, of whom probably half would get one, he said.
He said the private sessions, which were set up by act of parliament, had worked well. Although traumatic for many, the sessions had allowed victims to talk to someone with authority about the deeply traumatic and life-defining experiences they suffered as children.
"It is not uncommon for men of my age to break down and weep when describing the trauma of childhood," he said.
He spoke of one victim, "Robert", a gifted boy whose life went off the rails after being abused by a teacher in a Christian school.
"He has been unable to work, now has no friends, and wants little contact with family. His mother describes the experience as a living bereavement. The suffering for all involved is beyond adequate description."
Justice McClellan said the commission's first issues-paper, on working with children checks, produced 80 submissions. Common views included the need for national consistency, the need for more research, and to see the checks as just one element in a broader framework for protecting children.
Other issues-papers have covered the Catholic Church abuse protocol Towards Healing, child-safe institutions, and abuse in out-of-home care. Future topics would include mandatory reporting, offender programs and the support needs for survivors and their families.
Justice McClellan said child sexual abuse was still poorly understood. "It is plain that many in the community do not understand the potential for abuse to occur, the frequency with which it does occur, and the consequences for victims and their families."
Over the past three decades more than 300 inquiries in Australia had touched on the sexual abuse of children, at least 80 of them directly relevant to the commission's work.
One child abused every half hour in Taiwan
by Hsu Chi-wei and Y.L. Kao
Taipei, Nov. 11 (CNA) One child abuse case is reported nearly every half hour on average, and one child dies of abuse or parental murder-suicide every two weeks, according to a local non-profit group.
The Child Welfare League Foundation revealed the numbers Monday, based on statistics that trace abuse records from 2008 to the present.
A total 424 children have suffered injuries as a result of abuse or attempts on the part of a parent to commit murder-suicide over that timeframe, the foundation said. Of the victims, 159 died, including 35 over last year alone.
Children younger than six years old are the most vulnerable, the organization said, with the vast majority of victims falling in that age group.
Of the 91 deaths caused by suicidal parents, nearly 60 percent of the victims were children aged five and under.
Nearly all of the children who died from abuse -- 63 out of a total 68 -- were under age six; 46 of those were just three or younger.
The Child Welfare League said it has partnered with celebrities and businesses, including TransAsia Airways, in a campaign to raise public awareness of the preventable tragedy.
TransAsia will send out employees to distribute information leaflets and cards to promote the campaign, the foundation said.
Helping the Children of the Philippines
by Debbie Wolfe -- World Vision
As Typhoon Haiyan carved a ruthless path across the Philippines Friday, World Vision staff watched in horror. They imagined what might be happening to the children, especially in remote regions.
"We are waiting for early reports from some of the hardest-hit provinces, said Minnie Portales, Director for Public Engagement with World Vision in the Philippines. "We fear the worst, especially for children. This could be very bad."
Here are five reasons why children are particularly vulnerable against a typhoon like this one:
1) Children, particularly those who are malnourished, are small and light. World Vision staff reported seeing billboards flying around like kites. A child running for shelter would have a difficult time keeping safely grounded, and making his or her way to safety.
2) Children are not as tall as adults. In situations where flash floods can turn entire streets into rivers, sewage mixes with rainwater. For a grownup traversing flooded streets, deadly bacteria may cover the legs or waist. A small child could be completely immersed, perhaps even gulping the dangerous water.
3) Children are more vulnerable emotionally. A child whose home has caved in around her, has watched a family member die, or seen multiple dead bodies in the streets, will be traumatized to a far greater degree than an adult.
4) Children are more likely to be the victims of physical and sexual abuse. When a community is in chaos, the power is out and people are crammed into small spaces for long periods of time, children are especially vulnerable.
5) Children need structure, stability and safe places to play. In the days, weeks and months ahead, children won't have schools to attend. Dangerous debris and huge potholes will be everywhere. Even the most attentive parents will be preoccupied trying to provide the necessities of life.
World Vision has decades of experience protecting and providing for children and their families in emergency situations like this. Currently, our emergency teams are based throughout the Philippines, and are working closely with national and local government disaster response teams to assess the damage and begin a response as soon as possible. As always, children will be the main focus.
In the days and months ahead, children and their families will need potable water, and nutritious food to eat. They'll need help rebuilding their homes and villages. And children will need safe places to play and learn, and receive counselling.
What is the current situation on the ground?
Due to cut-off communications, it is currently impossible to know the full extent of casualties and damage, but WV is undertaking assessment in order to determine. World Vision is deeply concerned that this storm has left a path of vast destruction in its wake.
So far, World Vision has been unable to reach staff in Tacloban City, Leyte Province, Philippines. In eastern Visayas, there has been no contact with staff for the last 24 hours and it has been described as a communications black hole. The storm cut a deep path through the province, and emergency officials are working to determine the extent of the damage. According to local reports, storm surges of nearly 16 feet were reported, power is out, and the area is flooded. Landslides are a concern in the mountainous areas near the city as well.
The number of people affected in the Philippines is now projected to be approximately 4 million. Casualty numbers are not yet available, but reports from the media cite up to 10,000 dead and numbers are expected to increase once there is greater access to all areas.
How is World Vision responding to this typhoon?
World Vision's first relief flight loaded with critical emergency supplies will arrive in Manila Monday. The Lufthansa flight includes 5,000 blankets and 3,000 tarpaulins (plastic sheets) that will be used to help survivors build temporary shelters.
Right now World Vision is working on a seven-day immediate response which will include distribution of food items such as rice, cooking oil and sugar, as well as hygiene kits and emergency shelter. Once a better assessment is made, a more full response plan will follow in the days ahead. World Vision emergency staff are based throughout the country and are working closely with national and local government disaster response teams to assess the damage and begin a response as soon as possible. WV will use its experience and the needs identified by the people, government and other to determine what the actual response will be.
Initially, we will look at the immediate needs in Eastern Visayas. This will be done in close coordination with other humanitarian groups and the United Nations. Another World Vision team will be on standby to head up relief operations in the identified hard-hit, affected areas. Experts from our Global Rapid Response Team are also on their way to the region to assist.
World Vision also works with children and communities in our existing development work to make sure they are prepared for natural disasters. We provide water and sanitation, food, shelter, child protection and education, health and nutrition and psychosocial support.
How can I help?
Canadians can help World Vision provide essential relief supplies such as assistance of food, non-food items, hygiene kits, emergency shelter, and protection especially for children and women.
Donate online at worldvision.ca or call: 1 866 595 5550
Learn how to detect and deal with child sexual abuse
Age 9: A good time to bond
by ALTHEA PETERSON
Nancy L. Guard , executive director of Empowering Adults Protecting Children, a nonprofit organization committed to eradicating child sexual abuse, held a recent event to talk about ways to prevent child abuse and what parents, educators and other adults need to know. Here's a Q&A for those unable to attend.
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's clear that children are at risk at any age.
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 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 OK 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 Jerry 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 discomfort 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 take 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 crossing 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.
Child abuse reports on the rise in Broome
by Steve Rei
Reports of child abuse and maltreatment have been on the rise in Broome County, even as they remain relatively stable across New York state.
Broome's 2014 budget adds a new child protective services, or CPS, unit to the county's Department of Social Services following a 27 percent increase in reports between 2008 and 2012.
“Right now, we're at the edge of being overwhelmed again with cases,” Art Johnson, commissioner of the county's Department of Social Services, said during a recent meeting with legislators.
In 2008, the county received 3,196 reports that caused follow-up investigations by CPS workers. In 2012, that number was 4,046, according to data obtained through the state Freedom of Information Law. Figures show the amount increased every year in between except 2011, when it dropped less than one percent.
For 2013, the figure is projected to reach 4,212.
Meanwhile, for the time period between 2008 and 2012, reports across the state increased by less than once percent, data from the state Office of Children and Family Services show.
Deputy Broome County Executive Bijoy Datta said as the administration put together its 2014 budget, funding for child protective services was a priority.
“There's some investments you have to make because it's just the right thing to do and you figure out the finances later,” Datta said. “When it comes to protecting kids, you have to make the investment.”
Two new caseworkers and a supervisor added under the county's budget — which was approved by the legislature last week — will create a seventh CPS unit.
The employees will be fully funded by the state for the first quarter of 2014, after which the state will pay 62 percent of their costs and the county will pay the remaining 38 percent. The caseworkers will receive $51,803 in annual pay and benefits, and the supervisor will earn $66,843.
Investigations of child neglect and abuse at the county level are conducted after Broome officials receive reports from the state Office of Children and Family Services, Johnson said.
New regulations implemented at the state level in 2008 and 2009 require any person who works at a school, in a child welfare contract agency or at the county Department of Social Services to make a report if they suspect child abuse, Johnson said.
The result was an increase in the number of reports received by local CPS units, each requiring an investigation.
“They have widened the net, and that has found more cases where kids have been abused or neglected,” Johnson said.
As a result of increasing number of reports, the caseload for Broome's average CPS worker is now about 12.5 cases per month — above the state-recommended caseload of 12 cases per month. There are currently 35 caseworkers between Broome County's six existing CPS units.
The county last added CPS workers in 2008, when state grant funding helped fund six new positions after a series of high-profile fatalities drew attention to child abuse and neglect issues and maltreatment.
After two Broome County mothers were charged with murder in the deaths of their toddlers in late 2007, the county DSS experienced a 40 percent increase in reports:
• Tricia A. McGarity pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter and was sentenced to 10 years in prison after after Binghamton police said she beat her 3-year-old son to death in October 2007, according to Press & Sun-Bulletin archives.
• Also in October 2007, Melissa McLain, a 23-year-old Endicott woman, was charged with second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter in the death of her 2-year-old son. McLain was later convicted of second-degree murder and is serving a sentence of 22 years to life in state prison.
Johnson said about 30 percent of all reports result in findings of abuse or neglect that give rise to a case for CPS workers.
“Now that we have more cases, the number is up,” he said.
When investigations find abuse and neglect, CPS finds, arranges, and monitors the provision of services necessary to protect the child's welfare, with an emphasis on preserving and stabilizing the family whenever possible.
CPS initiates action in Family Court only when families are unable or unwilling to accept or use supportive and rehabilitative services.
Abused women must come out of their closets ‘Domestic violence a universal scourge'
ACCORDING to a recent WHO report one in three women experiences some sort of physical or sexual violence by their husbands or intimate partners in their lives. It is perplexing and disturbing, that despite the progress and development in the world, half its population continues to be treated with contempt. Violence against woman is regarded by the WHO as a “global health problem of epidemic proportions”. A wall of silence aided by fear of stigma and underreporting has allowed domestic abuse and violence to be treated as a ‘private matter'. Domestic violence and abuse is not a private issue. In fact, it is a social issue, a moral issue, a crime society needs to confront and tackle. Reports show that abuse and violence against women is a universal scourge not limited only to lower socioeconomic communities. In Insight, Arab Times speaks to Dr. Siddiqa Hussain, PhD and MSc in Clinical Psychology, who works as a Counselor and a Clinical psychologist. According to Dr Siddiqa, violence against women takes many forms — physical, psychological, sexual and economic, and the roots of this violence lie in persistent discrimination against women and girls. Those who experience violence suffer a range of health problems and their ability to participate in public life is reduced. Abuse destroys their self-esteem and trust for a lifetime. Domestic violence is mostly interpreted as physical, emotional and sexual abuse of servant especially female (maids, nanny, cooks), but in this Insight we focus on the violent and abusive treatment of wives, female partners and children.
Question: To what extent is domestic violence prevalent in Kuwait?
Answer: It is very common. It will be difficult to quote a percentage.
Q: In your experience is there any relation between domestic abuse and ethnicity?
A: Domestic violence is not limited to any race or ethnicity, but the recorded percentage is higher in the East. An article on domestic violence in Saudi Arabia, notes “Women are the main victims of domestic violence in the Middle East with “98 percent of physical violence committed by men against women.”
Q: According to a recent WHO report one in three women experience physical or sexual violence — that is a very high percentage. How is it that when the world at large has developed, yet it continues to treat half its population with such contempt? Why is there such a culture of violence against women?
A: Deep rooted cultural beliefs, issues of control and a sense of superiority in males is responsible for this despite the development and modernization.
Q: What is the psychological makeup of the offenders? As you said, is it a belief in the superiority of the male sex?
A: It is all about learned behavior, male domination, control issues and a need for power. Many men want to mask their underlying sense of being weaker and less effective than women. They find it difficult to accept their weaknesses. Once a client, who is also a doctor said that he did not want another thinking person in the house. Such men believe that it is the man's role to think and decide, and the woman's role is to feel.
Q: Domestic violence was thought to be a private issue to be dealt with behind closed doors; does it continue to be so?
A: Yes, it is still hidden behind closed doors. There is the problem of dual personality. Very few people identify themselves as abusers or victims. They may remain silent about the issue because of the havoc that domestic violence has created in their workplace and family lives. Victims may be silent about the abuse because of embarrassment or shame, or for fear that their batterers will hurt them if they tell other people about the violence. Abusers may minimize their actions or blame the victims for provoking the violence. Both victims and abusers may dismiss their experiences as family quarrels which “went out of control.”
Q: Is the issue ‘closed door' here in Kuwait?
A: Yes, very much so.
A: First, everybody is linked with everyone as it is a small community. They are all so interconnected that it is a shame or an embarrassment to come out and talk about this.
Not only that, speaking out reveals their helplessness and they do not want to sound so helpless. These women do not want to sound as if they cannot stand for themselves.
Q: Is it a matter of ego?
A: No, it is not ego. For a woman to say, ‘my husband abuses me' is a matter of shame. Once a woman came to meet me when I was working with the SDO at the Amiri. Diwan. She was completely veiled. When she came in, she closed the door and removed her abaya. She continued to keep her face covered and turned her back, which was totally bruised towards me. She had been mercilessly beaten. When I asked her about the person responsible for this abuse, she said it was her husband. She said that every night her husband drank, and made sure she sat in front of him. He verbally abused her, beat her, and when he was satisfied, he went off to sleep. She said, “It really pains, and I cannot go on living like this.” The lady was not allowed any contact with her family, who left her alone thinking her to be happy. I asked her if she had complained to anyone. She said she had to her mother in law who said, “hada naseeb,” which meant, “this is your destiny. We, women have to undergo such pains, and we all have to live through these tortures.” The reason she sought help after so many years of abuse was that her son started copying his father's inappropriate behaviour. As a mother, she could not stand it. She spoke to the child's counselor in school, who in turn urged her to seek help. She was reluctant to see someone from her native place thus she approached a therapist of a different nationality to assure confidentiality. She gave me no family name, and I was requested to keep her identity secret. One thing I remember telling her was “If you want to help yourself, please stand for yourself, if not as a wife, at least as a mother.” It's hard to say that she managed or chose to come only once, but I hope that one step of her coming out and sharing her pains and concerns for her own and her children's security brought some positive results in her life.
Q: Is abuse limited to adults?
A: Domestic abuse is not limited to adults. Physical punishment is considered a very common parenting style. Parents feel that it is easy to control their children by hitting them. They do not realize that it destroys their self-esteem, confidence and leads to depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder. I worked as a school Counselor in Gulf English School where I came across many parents, rather a very high percentage, who punished their children physically on a regular basis. They not only used sticks, canes, shoes, electrical wires, belts, candles to burn but kept these near the children to create and maintain the fear of punishment. Once a father commented that the stick and cane in his son's room worked as a reminder that if he did not behave or accept what he was told he would be punished. That meant the child lived in constant fear of punishment. Another parent commented that instead of getting frustrated and wasting time, parents should use their hands and get the child to perform. Please parents, remember is it you who run out of ways to handle your child and thus frustrated you release your frustration on your child. Is it fair? Does he/ she deserves punishment because you lack in something? Children are like soft wax, it depends on you if you make it or break it. You can either give them a beautiful shape with love and care or hammer them and destroy their emotional well being.
Q: How can one help these people?
A: They have to come out. They have to seek help. Individual Counseling, awareness workshops, self-help books, support groups are some of the resources available.
Q: But if the man is abusive, how can counseling help? Why will he come for counseling in the first place?
A: Some do come for counseling. I once had a British couple who approached me for help. Both were working professionals who shared a history of failed marriages. Both lived together in Kuwait. The man was a control freak in the relationship. He drank regularly and physically abused the woman occasionally, and each time the woman gave in and went back to him. The day she came to me she was totally bruised. She had marks all over her face and body. She had been beaten, and this time she refused to go back. But in this case the man knew that he was in the wrong, and thus was willing to seek help. He did not want the relationship to end.
Q: But do you think counseling could help such a person?
A: This man changed. They got married. He had realized that if he did not control himself, he would lose out on this relationship, as well.
Q: So counseling worked?
A: Yes it worked with both of them.
Q: You have been practicing here for many years. Do you find any improvement in the situation?
A: There has been a significant change in Kuwait in the last twenty years. Women are well educated, they are financially independent. Single parenting has gone up. Divorce rates have increased. On the other hand, I have noticed changes in the attitudes of men who have received education abroad. They are far more broad-minded and liberal. There is a major change in society, but the issue of male dominance is still here.
Q: How do women from different racial/ethnic backgrounds experience intimate partner violence (IPV) or sexual assault? Does race and ethnicity matter?
A: “This is our destiny”, said a client who was physically abused on a daily basis. I found out her mother had gone through similar tortures in her life. Abuse was common in the family where decisions were imposed rather than discussed or mutually taken.
Q: I have read that behavior is determined by one's genetic makeup and people in some parts of the world behave in a certain way because of genetic makeup. Can this explain the prevalence of domestic and sexual violence in places like Africa, Middle East and South Asia?
A: Such behavior is not genetically inherited, but of course they are learned. Physical punishment is a very common way to condemn. It allows one control. Beside, a boy is always considered better in every aspect than a girl. In some parts of the world, female fetus is destroyed, and girls are deprived of all the privileges showered on boys. This biased treatment since childhood inculcates a sense of insecurity in females, and they grow up believing they are inferior to men. They are unable to break the chains of submission throughout their life.
Q: People often tend to think that physical and sexual abuse only takes place in poor families, but the truth is educated and well placed can be as abusive as laborers and the unemployed. What do you say?
A: Physical abuse in poor families can be an expression of frustration of meeting the burden of daily living. But, yes, even the most educated class can be abusive. One of my patients was a woman who was married to a doctor. Every evening, her husband would drug her tea, put her to sleep and abuse his five year old daughter. When she found out, the woman was devastated.
Q: How do you deal with these cases?
A: I have counseled cases of severe physical, sexual and verbal abuse. The worst part is that even the most educated, financially independent woman accepts physical punishment from their fathers, brothers and spouses. Their underlying fear of men is so strong they do not stand up for their rights.
Q: Is it true that sometimes the victim blames herself or is blamed for the abuse?
A: Yes, it does happen many times.
Q: Sometimes domestic abuse is hidden; it is perpetrated in ways that an outsider cannot see. Men who are perfectly suave and sophisticated may hit their wives or partners on parts of bodies that do not show. Is it correct?
A: Yes it is very true and very common. At times, abuse can be emotional and verbal, which is as bad as physical abuse. It hampers a woman's self-esteem and self confidence.
Q: To what extent are women sexually abused within a relationship here in Kuwait?
A: A very high percentage. Marital rape is very common, but it is not reported. People still do not talk about sexual abuse. A very small percentage report abuse, and seek counseling. During counseling they do not reveal their trauma in the first few sessions; it takes sometime before they are ready to talk about it.
Some of my patients, for example, were abused on the very first night. They were expected to commit acts, they could not even imagine. Lashing, burning with cigarettes, hitting, sharing sexual acts between friends, use of porn films are common practices. Such inappropriate expectations from females are so traumatic that they leave lifelong imprints on their psychological well being.
Q: What do these victims generally do?
A: Unable to prevent their husband, they start to stay apart from them. Extra marital relationship is a common outcome of such relationships.
Q: What does domestic and sexual abuse lead to?
A: PTSD, Depression, anxiety, impulse control behaviors and Personality disorders, sexual disorders and drug addiction.
Q: Do survivors of domestic abuse experience chronic nightmares and they have trouble trusting people?
A: Yes because such abuse reinforces the sense of insecurity, helplessness, hopelessness and low self-esteem, the five major symptoms of depression.
Q: How can one recognize signs of abuse and help these women to seek help?
A: Women have to stand for themselves and report the abuse to immediate family members and then to the legal system.
Q: Where can victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse seek help in Kuwait?
A: To a great extent the legal system of the country is helping abused females. Besides that, there are various counseling centers and women groups, which can be approached for support.
Q: Are women ensured of support in case of abuse in Kuwait?
A: Not always. But many victims do not report cases because of the stigma.
Q: What kind of treatment do you recommend for these victims?
A: Cognitive -behavior psychotherapy. They should learn some assertive skills to stand for themselves. Focus on self first then on the world.
Q: Do they have to go for long term therapy?
A: Yes they do need long term therapy. Abuse leaves scars not only their physical body, but also on their mental and emotional health which takes long to heal.
Q: Do you have any patients who have reported cases of abuse to the police? How do the police react to them?
A: Yes, people have made reports to the police who were quite helpful. Exceptions are always there.
Q: Any last words?
A: When spouses, intimate partners, or dates use physical violence, threats, emotional abuse, harassment, or stalking to control the behavior of their partners, they are committing domestic violence. Physical violence includes putting your hands on a person against their will. It also includes shoving, pushing, grabbing, pulling, or forcing someone to stay somewhere. Regardless of the relationship between two people, using physical violence against someone is a crime. I have a message for all perpetrators: When you hit a woman, your imprints on her body remains for a few hours or a few days, but it destroys her self-esteem and trust for a life-time. Women are not your punching bags to exercise your control or release frustration. Respect your women and love them unconditionally.
Hitting Your Kids Increases Their Risk of Mental Illness
Children who are pushed, grabbed, shoved, slapped or hit are more likely to be diagnosed with mental illness. Just one more reason to embrace alternative forms of discipline
by Bonnie Rochman
What if we, as a society, could cut down on the incidence of mental illness by backing away from hitting, grabbing or pushing our children?
That's a prospect raised by a new study in Pediatrics , which finds that harsh physical punishment increases the risk of mental disorders — even when the punishment doesn't stoop to the level of actual abuse.
What qualifies as appropriate punishment is a hot-button topic among parents. The American Academy of Pediatrics opposes corporal punishment, but studies have shown that up to 80% of parents report that they rely on it to some extent. What constitutes physical punishment is also wide-ranging: everything from a light slap on the hand to an all-out whipping with a belt or a paddle.
“In the general population, there is a belief that physical punishment is O.K. as long as you're not doing it in anger and you're a warm and loving parent,” says Tracie Afifi, the study's author and an assistant professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba in Canada. “But there's no data supporting that.”
(MORE: Why Spanking Doesn't Work)
Afifi and colleagues decided to examine five forms of physical punishment — pushing, grabbing, shoving, slapping and hitting — that took place in the absence of even more severe acts of abuse or neglect such as punching, burning, physical neglect or sexual abuse. Other related research has not specifically included or excluded more severe types of abuse, meaning that the abuse — and not the grabbing or slapping — may be driving the relationship between physical punishment and mental disorders.
She did not examine spanking because it's not easy to define: what's considered spanking varies from parent to parent. But, she says, “a push is a push, and a grab is a grab.”
In the study, researchers analyzed more than 20,000 people in the U.S. who were age 20 or older: 1,258 who had experienced pushing, grabbing, shoving, slapping and hitting sometimes or very often, and 19,349 who reported they had experienced it rarely or never. They adjusted results for gender, race, marital status, education and a history of family dysfunction; if the person's parents had drug problems or were hospitalized for mental illness, that could have affected their use of physical punishment.
Across the board, people who'd experienced physical punishment were more likely to experience nearly every type of mental illness examined. Their risk of mood disorders, including depression and mania, was 1.5 times greater than people who hadn't been slapped or grabbed. The risk of depression alone was 1.4 times greater, which was the same rate for anxiety. People who'd been physically punished were 1.6 times more likely to abuse alcohol, and 1.5 times more likely to abuse drugs.
(MORE: How Child Maltreatment May Scar the Brain)
“There's going to be lot of people that think that a parent absolutely needs to use physical force to raise a compliant child,” says Afifi. “It's pretty well established that physical abuse has a negative impact on mental health, but this is showing the same effect even when you look at milder forms of physical force. This is saying that physical punishment should not be used on children of any age.”
George Holden, a professor of psychology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas who published research last year on the first real-time study of parents physically disciplining their kids, says Afifi's findings fit into a “large constellation” of studies that show children whose parents use physical force are at greater risk for depression and anxiety. “This is yet another study documenting that this practice can result in unintended negative consequences,” says Holden. “Other studies have shown corporal punishment in childhood carries over to adulthood in terms of aggression, so there's no reason why it wouldn't in the area of mental health.”
Afifi hopes that “reasonable” parents will read about her research and decide to swear off physical punishment. Pediatricians can be part of the solution, talking to parents about alternative methods. “It's never too late to stop,” she says, though she acknowledges a “cultural shift” needs to happen in order to turn the tide.