Prevent Child Abuse Utah program helping new moms
by Rachel Trotter
OGDEN -- Flor Vara was only 15 when she become pregnant with her son. She admits she knew little to nothing about being a parent, so when an interventionist from Prevent Child Abuse called her and offered to give her parenting tips and some special help she didn't hesitate to accept it.
Vara is part of a growing number of new parents in the Ogden area receiving help from Prevent Child Abuse Utah's program, "Healthy Families," a pilot program in the state of Utah set up to help new and sometimes young parents to learn how to be parents.
Prevent Child Abuse Director Trina Taylor said they get referrals from hospitals, and many from Midtown Clinic, of new mothers that have certain risk factors that would be a good fit for the program.
Although the program has been going strong for about six years, a new component has been added that is making it extra successful.
Taylor said people in the community often will call her offices and want to help monetarily in some way. But, because they work closely with state programs, they are limited in what can be accepted. One day she and he staff were discussing this, when an idea for a store was proposed.
Some office space was donated and they created a store with baby items and some other household items that new moms can use. But in order to access the store, the moms have to complete certain milestones within the Healthy Families program to earn "money" for the store. The money is not real money, but the bucks are earned by meeting with their counselors every week, coming to the monthly group sessions, volunteering at the center or the store or completing other milestones with their children, significant other or family support.
Taylor loves the idea because it helps teach the new moms some self-sufficiency but also gives the community a chance to donate. In the last six months some church groups have held "baby showers" where women from the group bring in baby gifts to be donated to the store. Others call and offer to donate items. One woman that helped put the store together donates hand-made crafts for the new moms to use in their homes.
Families from the "Safe Families" program, a shorter, six-month intervention program set up for families that are in crisis can also access the store and earn bucks in the same way.
One woman, who asked to not have her name revealed, has been with "Healthy Families" for about four years now and has utilized the store much in the last few months. She recently graduated from the program and said she loves what she learned.
"They taught me how to be a good mom," the woman said with emotion.
Taylor said the program is at capacity right now and they are serving about 20 moms. There is a waiting list, she said. She said she may lose funding for the program in the next year or so, but hopes that there will be other grants available.
"It affects so many," Taylor said.
For information on the programs visit Prevent Child Abuse Utah's website at www.preventchildabuseutah.org
How text messages help zero in on human trafficking
A woman wanting out of the sex trade was recently able to use text messages to get help from a human-trafficking hotline. The nonprofit behind that hotline, the Polaris Project, has been working to employ new methods to help people and to analyze patterns in human trafficking.
by Mohana Ravindranath
WASHINGTON — A few months ago, a worker monitoring a hotline for the Polaris Project, a nonprofit group dedicated to combating human trafficking, received a text message from an 18-year-old woman in distress.
The woman, a sex-trade worker, was trapped in a motel room with her pimp and she secretly used his cellphone to send a text seeking help. The Washington-based group moved quickly to alert authorities, who ultimately arrested the suspected pimp.
For Polaris' chief executive Brad Myles, the episode demonstrated how text messaging might offer a new channel to help victims. In the process, Polaris learned those texts are data, and collectively they can be analyzed to identify patterns in human trafficking so the group might better craft policy and awareness programs.
Polaris started its text hotline in March, through a philanthropic partnership with San Francisco-based cloud company Twilio, which powers text and voice customer-service communications for clients such as Uber, Hulu, eHarmony and CocaCola.
Victims can text “HELP” or “INFO” to the number 233733 (BeFree), where they are forwarded to Polaris' hotline staff, who then respond from their computers through a messaging service called Chatter. Polaris has operated a voice hotline, at 1-888-373-7888, for a few years.
The text campaign lets a new group of victims connect with Polaris, Myles said.
“There's a population of people who are high-risk individuals, or survivors of trafficking, who would not call the phone number, and they wouldn't send us an email, and they wouldn't fill out a Web form, but for whatever reason they would send us a text. Once we get in touch with them, it's the same types of information we would probably learn from a call.”
Training hotline specialists to use texts to help victims in crisis has been a challenge, because of the kinds of information they contain, Myles said.
“The actual length and structure of the language you're using is very different — you're not speaking in full, complete sentences, you're not able to explain context. It's a very truncated, reductionist form of communication,” he said.
For instance, specialists have learned to interpret texting shorthand. If they ask if a victim is safe, the victim may respond “Y” or “N” instead of “yes” or “no.”
“We began to need to ask more directed, close-ended questions instead of open-ended questions,” Myles said, asking if someone is safe, for instance, instead of asking them to describe their situation.
Hotline specialists also had to adjust to what Myles describes as “a strobe-light feeling of communication” — texts are often sent sporadically, so the conversation may take longer than a phone call. With texts, “it's not a continuous stream of discussion,” as specialists might have to wait minutes or even hours for a response, Myles said.
Despite the challenges, the texting campaign has generated large volumes of new data Polaris is trying to analyze.
Salesforce, the company behind Chatter, collects data about the phone calls and texts, such as length, frequency and location. Combined with tips from callers — suspicious addresses, vehicles, or names of traffickers, for instance — Polaris has information on almost 200 variables per case.
Analyzing incidents in aggregate could help Polaris identify patterns in human trafficking.
For instance, Polaris recently started receiving seemingly unrelated calls and texts throughout the country about illegal labor trafficking and abusive work conditions in carnivals.
“It was something that wasn't really on our radar as much before,” Myles said.
After searching its database, Polaris' staff identified common recruitment sites and recruiters worldwide who were drawing immigrants into the United States to work at these carnivals.
Polaris is developing interventions targeting workers and recruiters in Central America and Africa, where the workers often come from.
In the future, this data could be used to predict where incidents will occur before they do.
Polaris has met with computing firms to discuss “becoming proactive and not being so reactive,” Myles said. “We could use (modeling) then to craft certain interventions that we know will target certain types of trafficking, without needing to learn about them from the calls.”
More child abuse calls investigated
DSS says effort improving safety, but some raise questions
by Tim Smith
COLUMBIA — Some calls are triggered by a bystander who believes a parent they are watching is handling a child too roughly.
Other calls to the state's child abuse hotline can come from teachers who say they are concerned about a student who seems to be malnourished or not wearing proper clothing.
Until about two years ago, most of those calls went unanswered, officials with the state's Department of Social Services say.
They didn't rise to the level of imminent harm for child abuse investigators, and so the agency did nothing.
But now most of those cases are being acted upon, with face-to-face visits, assessments and either an investigation or referral for community services that can help families avoid a crisis, according to the agency.
It has become a beacon of light for DSS officials who are being scrutinized by legislators for their handling of child cases and questioned about cases in which children are harmed or killed.
“Obviously that is an improvement for child safety because we are responding with things rather than ignoring it until it gets worse and gets called back to us,” DSS Director Lillian Koller told a panel of senators recently.
According to DSS, the number of child protective services calls in which no action is taken has dropped from 37 percent in 2011 to 17 percent for the most recent fiscal year, far below the national average.
“We believe it prevents children from being harmed because it meets the family's needs when they have the needs,” Jessica Hanak-Coulter, deputy DSS director for human services, told The Greenville News .
But some senators and others have questions about what DSS is doing with the cases.
Sen. Billy O'Dell, a Ware Shoals Republican who chairs a Senate panel looking at DSS, said he doesn't understand why DSS is asking nonprofits to handle the parents' problems instead of DSS caseworkers.
Sue Berkowitz, executive director of the Appleseed Legal Justice Center, which provides legal services to low-income families, said she shares O'Dell's concerns.
She said she wonders whether the nonprofits have the capacity to meet the families' needs, especially if they are in poverty. DSS officials say nonprofits connect families to the resources they need, just as DSS would if it was dealing directly with the families.
Berkowitz also said she is skeptical of the drop in child abuse investigations by DSS.
According to the agency, since it began referring more of the no-action calls for services, child protective services investigations went from 17,429 in 2011 to 9,339 for the fiscal year ending in July.
“My first concern is whether a lot of the cases are screened out that warrant a lot more review,” Berkowitz said.
“While I don't like to see kids taken from parents and I do like to see real services provided, I do have concerns that DSS, the way they've got it set up, does not necessarily provide everything that is needed by the families. There are times when families may be getting screened out and in fact, for the safety of the child, more should be done.”
Berkowitz said DSS figures suggest there is a lot less child abuse going on in South Carolina.
“That to me is a real red flag,” she said. “Maybe they're not investigating like they need to be investigating.”
Hanak-Coulter, however, says children are being better served under the new system because under the old way of doing things, more than 60 percent of investigated cases were unfounded and then the families couldn't receive any services.
“So of that 17,000 in which we did a 45-day investigation, more than 60 percent of the time we would do our investigation and then tell the family, ‘Oh, you're not bad enough to need our services,' and then walk away,” she said.
“Now of those 9,000, we are finding abuse and neglect more than 55 percent of the time. So more families are receiving services than ever before.”
Officials say the parents who are being reported are often on the edge of crisis because of economic, substance abuse, mental health or other issues and don't know where to turn.
“Families, particularly in these economic times, face a lot of stress,” said Rex Uberman, state director for Specialized Alternatives for Families and Youth, a nonprofit that conducts assessments of families for DSS and finds community services for parents.
“In some cases, that stress can be so overwhelming; those circumstances can seem to the parents to be out of control. And when those circumstances happen, children suffer.”
So SAFY works to arrange services for parents, Uberman said, so parents can regain control of their lives and their families.
When Uberman's group is called in, they must meet the family within 48 hours for an assessment, he said. Then officials decide if the case should be investigated for for abuse or neglect or families provided services to avert a crisis.
“Our goal is to try and empower the family,” he said. “To be able to take on whatever the responsibilities are, whatever the crisis is, in a competent manner.”
Sometimes, he said, that involves connecting them with other agencies that can help, nonprofits or churches, and coordinating services. Some may need mental health treatment, or substance abuse counseling, job or budget training.
“Many parents just simply do not know that kind of support is out there,” he said. “And they have no experience in accessing that type of help.”
There are boundaries, officials say. Any situation that raises questions of danger or harm to the child are referred for investigation.
“That's not what we are here for. But if a parent has become dependent on painkillers or some other type of substance issue and realizes those circumstances are interfering with their ability to parent, we can help those parents get back into control of their lives and become the loving parents they want to be.”
Sometimes, he said, his organization encounters families that are in such an extreme economic crisis that “they are paralyzed.”
“They just don't know what to do,” he said.
“Sometimes that situation is chronic. Frankly, for many families, it's something they have encountered that they have no experience with. They've lost their jobs. They've lost their ability to maintain stability in their home. They don't have any experience in accessing public services. And in those cases we can be vital in trying to find their equilibrium.”
Last year, more than 42,000 people were referred to the twin DSS programs used for such cases — family strengthening services and voluntary case management. Both are voluntary programs, officials say, aimed at preventing harm to children in the household.
The programs cost about $6.6 million for the last fiscal year, or about $626 per family using them, according to DSS. The federal government, which requires referrals to community or preventative services in cases not involving imminent harm, pays for most of the services, Hanak-Coulter said.
The calls that trigger the services, Uberman said, generally aren't from citizens alleging abuse. But they are important to address nonetheless.
“It's clearly an indication of a child and family that are struggling,” he said. “It's clearly an indication that without intervention, the next call to the child abuse hotline will be a call that requires a child protective investigation and court action.”
The state still gets calls it doesn't take action on, Hanuck-Coulter said, because not every parent or child that triggers a call can be identified.
“For an example, somebody calls from a Walmart parking lot and says I see someone spanking their child uncontrollably,” she said. But sometimes there is no vehicle tag number, she said, and the security video doesn't help. “Then there is nothing we could do about that particular situation.”
When SAFY gets a call, Uberman said, they approach parents not as child investigators but as a resource that can provide help for struggling families.
“When you knock on that door and have to identify yourself as a child protective investigator, that automatically sets up an adversarial situation,” Uberman said.
“The parents feel like they are accused, they are under investigation, they are bad parents, that they have done something wrong. Sometimes that's true. But sometimes the parents need help.”
On average, Uberman says, his organization works with families for about six months. Many families deep and complex problems that take a while to untangle, he said. And his staff needs at least that time to be sure the family stays on track once they are connected to services.
The needs are diverse, officials say, ranging from legal services, job placement and job training to medical services.
Uberman said those states that are using money for prevention services instead of using it for placing kids in group homes or institutions “are going to change the way child welfare is done in this country.”
“Kids need to be in loving families that focus on them, help them with their development,” he said. “And when the state is really a participant in that, it's really a great thing.”
DCF Probes Handling Of Abuse Cases By Employees
by Jon Lender
Two tragic cases of child abuse in recent months have prompted state Department of Children and Families Commissioner Joette Katz to pen an unusual memo expressing concern about "some less than stellar performances" by DCF personnel.
Asked about the Nov. 1 memo to DCF's 3,000 employees, the department said Thursday that an unspecified number of workers now are subjects of internal investigations that potentially could bring disciplinary action in the cases of:
--a 1 ½-year-old boy who died violently in Danbury on Sept. 29, allegedly at the hands of his father, who had been investigated for possible child abuse of the baby 16 months earlier. The father, Christian Williams, is charged with first-degree manslaughter.
--a 5-year-old Bridgeport boy who was found during a July 16 dental examination to have a split lip, teeth missing and loose, and scars "too numerous to count" covering his body, authorities said. Neighbors had reported concerns to DCF in June that he was being abused. The boy's father, Daquon Gomillion, was charged in September with first-degree assault and risk of injury to a minor. Authorities say the boy had been struck by an extension cord. The boy's mother, Jarelis Lugo, was charged in November with risk of injury; police said she knew of the abuse but never reported it.
"There are two human resources investigations that are ongoing related to the death of a child in Danbury and the serious physical abuse of a child in Bridgeport," DCF said in a statement. "No discipline has been imposed at this time." But it hasn't been ruled out, depending what the inquiry reveals.
DCF's statement came in response to questions about the Nov. 1 email, obtained by Government Watch, that Katz sent to her department employees who have the difficult job of helping families in distress and children who are neglected or abused.
About 1,000 of DCF's employees are front-line social workers.
Tragedies can occur even when a DCF worker does everything right. Katz has repeatedly said that although DCF workers live in fear of being thrown under the bus when things go wrong, she won't "scapegoat" them so long as they "follow the policies" and "take educated risks."
But now come tragic cases in which Katz says things weren't don't right. In a lengthy email to staff last month, Katz addressed the current situation at her department under the under the subject heading "Expectations."
"When I first became commissioner, I travelled to each office and promised every employee that if staff did what was expected pursuant to our standards, rules and protocol, and a tragedy occurred nonetheless, I would not scapegoat anyone and would proudly and publicly stand up for the agency and its dedicated workers.
"I also expressed my views that every such case would also present an educational opportunity and that we as a agency would examine our work through the lens of a learning organization to consider what changes we should make, what system barriers we should address, and which partners we could enlist to help.
"I also expressed my deepest gratitude for the work and appreciation for the many committed workers who, no doubt, experience their own sense of loss and grief each time a tragedy occurs. Together, we have made enormous progress. Our many new initiatives have changed the way we do business, and our families are the beneficiaries. Happily, these changes have moved the needle in many areas, and we have not seen the negative attendant consequences that some feared.
"Sadly, of late, we have had a few cases that, upon examination, reflect some less than stellar performances. I state unequivocally that, although I do not attribute the outcomes to the work of the agency, our work was not of the standard that I have come to expect by workers whom I have come to revere.
"Consequently, there are some HR convenings that I know have caused consternation, anxiety and fear. The intent is not merely to hold people accountable, but rather to get a better understanding and hopefully learn in the process. Some people will not be impacted, but there may also be unfortunate consequences that flow, not from the reviews or public scrutiny, but rather from the work that was or was not done.
"The intent of this memo is not to raise anxiety further, but to be clear that, although I will continue to celebrate and applaud the great work you do, and remain committed to standing in front of you when the cameras descend, I will also hold all of us accountable. I firmly believe that only by taking this position can we continue to enjoy the accomplishments when we earn them and to rejoice with our families when we are successful."
Scourge of child abuse tarnishes community this holiday season
by Samantha Perry
— — It is the season of twinkling lights and shiny ornaments. Fuzzy stockings and Santa's laughter. Brightly wrapped gifts and a kiss under a sprig of mistletoe. It's all things good and magical, recently darkened by a pallor of crimes unimaginable.
We tire of the headlines that cast a shadow of gloom on our A-1 lineups. "Child sexual abuse," "Child pornography," "Distribution and display of obscene matter to a minor." What has our society devolved to that these laws must even be on the books?
Crimes are always worse when the victims are children.
Last Thursday morning I knew a story was brewing. I bided my time playing catch-up on a variety of mundane tasks. Two days prior reporter Anne Elgin had left a stack of Christmas cards on my desk. They were awaiting my signature before being sent out in the mail.
A quarter-way through the chore, I began to take note of the glittery Santas and happy snowmen. Having been deep in thought about the upcoming story, I found the juxtaposition of good and bad to be quite creepy. A child sex abuse case was on the horizon, and I was signing my name to a sparkly green-and-red card featuring a picture-perfect snowman family.
At our job, weirdness seeps in at unexpected moments.
Last week a former church youth volunteer was charged with 38 counts of child sexual abuse related crimes. Timothy Probert, 55, was arrested at his home in Bluefield by Sgt. M.D. Clemons, of the Crimes Against Children Unit of the West Virginia State Police.
Having taken a break from the Christmas cards, I was in the newsroom listening to the police scanner when I heard a familiar voice call out "10-18."
Suspect in custody.
I quickly walked back into my office, grabbed a notepad and car keys, and headed out the door toward Princeton.
The arrest was news — big news, breaking news — but not unexpected in the Bluefield community. It was a story that had been rippling in the shallows of small talk for weeks.
In late November I wrote a story about the investigation of this case. At the time, investigators were hoping other victims would step forward. No suspect was named then because no arrest had been made.
That all changed on Thursday.
The suspect in this case had previously been a youth volunteer at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Bluefield and a mentor with the Working to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect (WE CAN) program. His alleged crimes date from 1986 to 2010 — nearly 25 years.
Some have asked how such crimes could have gone on for so long and remained undetected. It's a valid question. Why is our culture and society structured in such a way that it may be easier for victims to remain silent than to come forward and call out their abuser?
Officials note that victims may be hesitant to testify due to fear of shame and embarrassment. And one can only imagine how hard it would be to testify to such crimes on a witness stand in front of a jury and packed courtroom.
During Probert's arraignment Thursday afternoon, his flight risk became a topic of discussion.
Defense attorney William Flanigan said his client "voluntarily disclosed" his actions to his pastor and elders at the church, and was "anticipating the arrest." Although not a guilty plea, that statement certainly seemed close to an admission of guilt.
During the investigation and in the wake of Probert's arrest, I had conversations with Jonathan Rockness, pastor of Westminster Presbyterian. While he was careful to reserve judgment on Probert's guilt or innocence, I was impressed with his openness and willingness to speak on the issue of sexual abuse.
In a statement last week, Rockness thanked the "courageous survivors" who have come forward, noting, "Your voices have carried light into darkness and have empowered others to step forward. Every one of you is a hero who has brought much hope to many others. We pray for healing, comfort, renewal, hope and wholeness for each of you.
"Mr. Probert is entitled to a fair trial, and must be presumed innocent at this point in time. Therefore I want to share some personal thoughts on sexual abuse – not in regard to this particular case – but in general. I have learned quite a bit about the horrors of sexual abuse over the past several months. In particular, I have discovered the many ways perpetrators deceive and betray the trust of victims and their families. These offenders do not simply prey on the sexuality of their victims — they prey on their youth and their naiveté. Perpetrators are experts in using shame, embarrassment, intimidation and causing feelings of helplessness to keep victims silent. What I have learned has propelled me to advocate for victims of sexual abuse. I hope to see a day in which more sexual abuse victims are loved and protected, while those who offend are caught and punished. I hope to see a day when victims realize the shame is not on them, but on the offender. I hope to see a day when more churches become places of safety for children and places of refuge for abuse survivors. I am hopeful and prayerful that this will happen in our lifetime. We have much work to do. "
Samantha Perry is editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at email@example.com. Follow her @BDTPerry.
Teen Parents, Grandfather Let Toddler Smoke Marijuana
Two teenage parents have been arrested after being accused of letting their 23-month-old child smoke marijuana, authorities in upstate New York said Saturday.
George Kelsey, 18, Jessica Kelsey, 17, and her father, Don Baker, 54, all of Mayfield, were charged with second-degree reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of a child, the Chatauqua County Sheriff's Office confirmed to NBC News.
The adults “helped, observed or encouraged” the tot to smoke pot from a lighted bowl at the family's apartment on Dec. 5, The Buffalo News reported. The three were arrested and the child and a sibling were taken into state custody, NBC station WGRZ of Buffalo reported.
A spokeswoman for the Chatauqua County Jail said the three adults were still being held Saturday night in lieu of $10,000 cash or $20,000 bond each.
Racial Disparities Color Media Coverage of Child Abuse Victims
Whether they are victims of child abuse or lose a parent to murder, kids in some neighborhoods get treated differently when faced with tragedy. Readers and viewers must demand better.
by Dawn Post
A 13-year-old holds her baby brother as he dies after he was beaten by their mother's boyfriend. A 7-year-old lies in the top bunk as her father strangles her mother underneath. A 3-year-old is present in the stroller, and found covered in blood, when his mother is shot, allegedly at the hands of her husband and a female associate of his. A 16-year-old and 5-year-old discover their mother shot three times in the abdomen and three times in the head by her ex-boyfriend.
After reading the headlines of these news stories, have you ever wondered what happened to these children? Who is taking care of them? Were they placed in foster care? Do they have the emotional, familial and financial support that they need?
Some of the most complex cases that our office, the Children's Law Center New York (CLCNY), has worked on have involved the death of one parent allegedly at the hands of the other parent, frequently in front of the children. In such cases, the maternal and paternal families quickly square off, staking their claim on the child. Often, the child's relationship with the other family is minimized and the children's feelings, during a time when they should have the love and support from everyone, are lost or ignored. In such traumatic cases, children's overriding desire is generally for a stable home and to maintain relationships with all members of the maternal and paternal families. However, a decision often needs to be made quickly about whom the child should live with as the court case over their future plays out.
In the last year I have personally worked on and represented children in five such cases. In addition, I have represented children in child protective proceedings related to parent and child fatalities. I have observed that the level of attention in the media and reaction in community, including offers of financial support, are drastically different depending on the neighborhood the children lived in, their race, and how sensational or dramatic the murder was. With respect to fatalities in child protective proceedings, the media and community generally seem to focus on high-profile cases in which the Administration for Children's Services is accused of dropping the ball. Yet, many other cases are filed in family court in which the child or parent has been killed and little attention is paid. Why?
I believe that there is a racial and socio-economic imbalance in how the media and community views and reacts to such violent deaths, which in turn, results in dramatically different amounts of support for the families. Almost 20 years ago Robert Entman, then an associate professor of communications at Northwestern University, conducted a study and found that, on average, stories about white victims of violent crimes lasted 74 percent longer than stories about black victims. The total time given to white victims was 2.8 times more than the total time devoted to both black and Hispanic victims. There is no current research to show that there has been any improvement in reporting.
This dramatic difference in reporting has serious consequences for the children and other victims of these crimes. A child whose parent is murdered in a wealthy neighborhood, where such a crime is “unexpected,” is more likely to be the subject of extensive media attention. He or she is then more likely to receive an outpouring of financial and community support that can allow them to begin to recover and move forward. A child whose parent is murdered in Brownsville, a neighborhood which in 2011 had the highest murder rate in the city, is less likely to be the subject of extensive media coverage, and thus less likely to receive the necessary financial and community support.
Perhaps we are desensitized because yet another death of a black woman at the hands of a black man, or a child at the hands of a parent, in a neighborhood such as Brownsville is not considered out of the norm. It is disheartening to know that these type of deaths have become commonplace such that little to no attention is paid to the survivors – the children.
It's unlikely that the media will change, so their readers and viewers must. After reading about or watching a horrifying news story involving innocent children, follow up. Search for their names. Ask for more information. Oftentimes there are community events or funds that are set up to support the child victims of crimes in poor neighborhoods, but without media attention, such campaigns won't garner as much support as they could. Those who care must take it upon themselves to look for ways to help.
I urge you, the next time that you learn about a violent death in the City involving children who are left behind, ask yourself the questions and take the steps posed here. It is time that we pay attention. It is time that we cared.
Indiana abortionist must find new back-up physician after skirting sex abuse laws
by Lauren Enriquez
Ulrich Klopfer, an abortionist in Fort Wayne, Indiana, must find a new back-up physician (“Physician Designee,” according to Indiana law) after he abdicated the role due to Klopfer's unethical handling of 13-year-old pregnant girls. Indiana requires that abortionists have a back-up physician to assist with possible complications related to abortion and to be a source of admitting privileges at a nearby hospital in case hospital admittance is required by the victim.
Klopfer's back-up physician was actually a pro-life OB/GYN, Dr. Geoffrey Cly, who agreed to partner with Klopfer as a Physician Designee in order to assist with the care of women whose abortions Klopfer might botch. Cly says it was his pro-life conviction that motivated him to agree to be Klopfer's back-up doctor, but after he witnessed the abortionist's handling of underage girls seeking abortion, Cly knew he could no longer partner with Klopfer.
Klopfer admitted to abortion advocates at RH Reality Check that he skirts Indiana rape reporting laws by advising girls under the age of 14 to seek abortions out-of-state to avoid having to report their sexual abuse. From RH Reality Check:
Klopfer said he complied with the law, though he admitted he did not notify the child services department in addition to the health department, which goes against the statute. The doctor said he expected the departments to communicate with each other. But due to the risks inherent in the mandatory notification laws, he said he now advises minor patients and their parents that they have the option to go to Illinois or Ohio—bordering states—if they want to avoid having their abortions reported. He estimated that up to a third of patients take that option.
Yesterday, Cly wrote the following letter to Klopfer, which can be found in full here, abdicating his role (emphasis added):
Many people have wondered why a Pro-Life OB/Gyn such as myself, would provide back up emergency coverage for patients who had terminations. And, as I stated in my initial correspondence to you, I was willing to serve as your Physician Designee because “patients' well-being and safety is of utmost importance to me.” Patients well-being and safety remains my top priority. However, recent information has revealed to me that you have placed other things higher in priority than the health and safety of your patients.
A November 25 news article in the South Bend Tribune lists three abortions that you incorrectly reported per state statutes to both the Indiana State Department of Health and the Department of Child Services concerning girls under 14 years old obtaining abortions from you. According to a December 1 article in the same paper, you admitted to failing to correctly report two of those abortions. Furthermore, you told an online news publication, RH Reality Check, that you now advise girls under 14 and their parents or guardians that they can go to Illinois or Ohio to avoid the under 14 reporting requirement for child sexual abuse.
Your failure to report 13-year-old abortions properly and your subsequent admission to advising parents to avoid state laws is alarming. According to Indiana law, sex with a girl under 14 – regardless of the perpetrator's age – is child abuse. Your advice to cross state lines for abortions may help child abuse to continue and a perpetrator or abuser to walk free. This advice blatantly disregards patients well-being and safety measures that are so important to me as a practicing OB/GYN and the medical field as a whole. I am saddened to think that these young girls may still be in a situation where they are in danger of being forced into further sexual abuse and emotional trauma.
These choices have demonstrated a disregard for the health and safety of patients. I firmly believe your decisions completely undermined over coverage agreement and therefore I am terminating my status as your Physician Designee in Allen County , Indiana, and as your state-required local physician with admitting privileges. These terminations will be effective December 31, 2013.
According to Indiana Right to Life, Klopfer will no longer be in compliance with Indiana state law unless he finds a new Physician Designee by the start of business in January.
Reducing the Vulnerability Associated With Human Trafficking
by Keeli Sorensen -- Director of National Programs, Polaris Project
Awareness about human trafficking has seemingly exploded over the last several years. This is evident in both the 259 percent increase in phone calls to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline over its first five years of operation and the dozens upon dozens of anti-trafficking laws passed at the state and federal levels. It is our collective responsibility to further our understanding of how and why this crime can occur and take the next steps to truly eradicate it.
To achieve this, it's important to remember that human trafficking and modern slavery is not just a crime committed by a criminal against his or her victim. Many times, it's able to occur due to the presence of vulnerability that a trafficker can exploit in a population -- runaway and abused youths; individuals displaced by natural disasters; unemployed adults unable to find a paying job; children passed through the juvenile justice system. These vulnerabilities are often created or exacerbated by the absence of a safety net or a series of intervention failures.
Take the child welfare system for example. Polaris Project recently released an analysis of five years' worth of hotline data. We reported handling 314 potential human trafficking cases in which minors had interacted with the child welfare system in some capacity. While federal and state welfare agencies are now recognizing the role of the child welfare system in the prevention, response, and treatment of minor victims of human trafficking and are working to develop responses, many children are falling through the cracks. Minors are being thrown into the juvenile justice system for crimes related to their trafficking situation, such as prostitution. In other cases, welfare workers are unaware of human trafficking indicators or how to direct minor victims to services. If law enforcement and child welfare agencies were trained to identify and sensitively respond to trafficking, it's likely some, possibly many, of these kids could have accessed help much earlier.
There are actions we can take to move closer to eliminating human trafficking and modern slavery. Only 18 states have passed "safe harbor" laws that recognize sexually exploited minors as victims of a crime, rather than criminals. Victims of sex trafficking should not be handcuffed and thrown into juvenile justice centers or jail. Instead, they need protection and services -- and should be granted immunity from prosecution entirely. Furthermore, only 14 states have passed "vacating conviction" statutes that remove convictions for crimes committed as a result of being trafficked. Just as important, the states that have passed laws providing for law enforcement training, safe harbor, vacating convictions and other victim services, need the funding in place for implementation.
As more people understand the horror of this form of exploitation, they want to be part of the solution to eliminate what's estimated to be a $32 billion a year industry. It's time for policymakers to provide the funding to not only respond to modern slavery, but prevent it -- all while we continue to help survivors reclaim their freedom.
This blog post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the producers of the film TRICKED , a new documentary that sheds light on the reality of sex trafficking in the United States and follows the exploiters, the purchasers, the police officers, the survivors, the families and the social workers involved in the sex trade. The film opens on December 13. For more information about TRICKED , click here.
Killer driver ‘too spoilt' for prison: Case illustrates ‘double standards'
by Mark Molloy
A teenage drink-driver who caused a crash that killed four people was spared jail after a judge was told he was a victim of ‘affluenza', sparking widespread anger from critics.
Ethan Couch, 16, caused the accident which killed four people after stealing beer from a store in Texas on June 15.
He had been spoilt with cars, money and freedoms ‘that no young man would be able to handle', his defence psychologist told a Texas court.
Judge Jean Boyd gave Couch ten years' probation after he pleaded guilty to intoxication manslaughter.
But the sentence has been heavily criticised, with one commentator saying the case illustrated ‘double standards' between rich and poor kids.
Atlanta psychologist Mary Gresham told CNN: ‘I can understand how people would be angry, if 16 year olds from less affluent families are sentenced to juvenile detention and not treatment.'
Suniya Luthar, a professor of psychology at Arizona State University, added: ‘If you have a child who grew up in the inner city, and the parents abused crack, and (the child) was abused all along and grew up at the age of 16 and ran over four people, how likely is it the public or culture would say, “You must understand, what the child did was a result of his upbringing?”
‘It is hard to justify such vastly different approaches taken toward inner-city children versus those in affluence.'
Eric Boyles, whose wife and daughter Hollie and Shelby were among the victims, also criticised the sentence.
‘Money always seems to keep the boy out of trouble,' he said.
‘Ultimately today, I felt that money did prevail. If [he] had been any other youth, I feel like the circumstances would have been different.'
Couch's blood-alcohol was three times the legal limit and he was speeding in his Ford F350 truck before the crash.
He is set to be enrolled in a private $450,000-a-year (£275,200) rehabilitation centre.
Police: Time May Have Been A Factor In Baruch Student's Death
by Vivian Lee
Some students at Baruch College face potentially serious charges after a 19-year-old freshman died during what's described as a brutal hazing incident, as police say they're not only in trouble for what they allegedly did, but for what they allegedly didn't do. NY1's Vivian Lee filed the following report.
TUNKHANNOCK TOWNSHIP, PA. - Pocono Mountain Regional Police say that time may have been a critical factor in the death of 19 year old Michael Deng.
Police say Deng was blindfolded and carrying a 20-pound load on his back during hazing for a Baruch College fraternity at at a rental house in Pennsylvania.
They say he went down, hit his head and lost consciousness after fraternity brothers hit him multiple times.
Police say it took at least 90 minutes before he was taken to a hospital.
"They did not seek medical attention right away. They did not call 911," said Chief Harry Lewis of the Pocono Mountain Regional Police Department. "They just took him inside the house, put him by the fire. They Googled some information, and then, they made a decision probably an hour or so later to drive him to a hospital, which is probably still 30 minutes away."
Baruch students in Manhattan were dismayed at the news.
"In those two hours at the hospital, he could have possible been saved," said one student. "He wouldn't have to go on the life support."
"Any decent human being would try to do anything immediately," said another.
The police chief says that some, but not all, fraternity paraphernalia were removed from the house.
Police say the fraternity members initially described the hazing as mere horseplay until some broke down.
Prosecutors say charges are likely.
"You kind of want there to be repercussions, serious repercussions," said one student.
"If he was your brother, you wouldn't want to cover this ordeal that's going on. You just want to go ahead and try to get to the safest place, bring him to the same place in order to figure stuff out," said another.
Lewis used the same argument to appeal to a handful of the 30 students who were there but have not yet to come forward to talk to police.
"If you're pledging loyalty that you have someone who's lost his life pledging your group, I think you owe it to him, and I think they owe it to their family of the victim to come forward and be honest," he said.
Charges are still unknown because the degree of deliberate violence or possible cover-up is yet to be determined.
Meanwhile, the school has suspended the fraternity's privileges, and its national organization has stopped all pledging activities across the country.
Philanthropists seek business support to reduce child abuse
by The City Wire Staff
With more than 35 years of medical practice to his credit, Dr. Jerry Jones at Arkansas Children's Hospital has seen things. As one of less than 20 physicians in the country board certified in Child Maltreatment, most of what he's seen are cases no one ever wants to see.
“Child abuse cannot hide under the covers,” said Jones. “It's not just a social problem or a medical problem or a public health problem. It's a community problem and a legal problem and a business problem. No one group has a lock on this issue.”
The numbers around abuse in Arkansas are enough to turn anyone's stomach. Roughly 11,000 cases of abuse were reported in Arkansas in 2011, the most recent year statistics are available. Experts estimate for every case that is reported, there are two unreported cases. According to the National Child Protection Training Center, abuse will cost the state of Arkansas $362 million over the lifetime of the children whose cases of abuse were confirmed in 2011. The cost would be higher, but children who are abused typically die 10-20 years sooner than counterparts who were not abused.
The $362 million represents:
• $25.29 million for acute medical treatment
• 29.97 million for mental health treatment
• $219.36 million for the child welfare system
• $272,416 for law enforcement costs
• $1.22 million for special education
• $4.20 million for early intervention programs
• $6.25 million for emergency/transitional housing
• $3.15 million for mental health and health care
• $25.16 million for juvenile delinquency
• $47.19 million for lost worker productivity
“Because of the cyclical nature of abuse, it's not just one family that ends up disorganized, but many families are disorganized,” Jones explained. “But the thing is, we know how to break the cycle.”
However, knowing what to do and being able to fund it are two different things. That's where the Quinn family and Heartland Bank entered the picture. Together, they will donate $1 million over the next five years to build a new Children's House on the campus of Arkansas Children's Hospital. The facility, when complete, will house physicians, counselors, trained interviewers, crisis interventionists, law enforcement officials and child advocates. The center will also serve as a training facility for child abuse professionals across the state.
“Over the past few years, we've been getting requests to support any number of causes,” said Walter Quinn, Partner and CEO of Rock Financial Partners, the holding company for Heartland Bank. “We didn't want to give $100 here and there. We wanted to give a substantial gift to something that would make a difference in our community. This was it.”
Terry Quinn has been part of the ACH Auxiliary for many years. She's seen first hand how the hospital is run and what a difference it makes in the lives of families across the state.
“It's past time for people to stop saying, ‘Oh those poor abused children,' and moving on. We need to do something about it. Getting the business community involved in this allows companies to recognize that they have people on the payroll who are hurting and need help, so we're going to provide it,” she said.
The $6 million plan for Children's House will move all of the services currently available for abuse recovery under one roof. Currently, if a child presents in a clinic or the emergency room or is reported through the child abuse hotline, the medical and mental health services they need are in three different buildings scattered around the ACH campus. Many people don't complete recovery services, in part, because the process becomes too arduous to handle.
“Right now, it's hard to coordinate treatment because all the different departments because they're predominantly working in silos that don't integrate well,” explained Jones. “We've got to change the mindset to change the outcomes.”
When the Heartland Bank and Quinn family gift was announced, Walter Quinn said an employee who was visibly emotional told him that she had experienced abuse in her family as a child. She plans to volunteer at Children's House once it's built.
This is an example of what the Quinns call the “power of philanthropy.” When other companies and business owners heard about their gift, they began to make pledges too.
Rebecca Rice and Associates recently pledged $1.1 million for the project and the Children's Hospital Auxiliary pledged $1.5 million. The Quinns believe people in the state trust the vetting process they use for foundation gifts and want to “be a part of something good.”
“You can call it social issue, but that's not all it is,” said Richard O'Brien, president and CEO of Heartland Bank. “It's people who come to work every day, but they can't do their jobs effectively because they're worrying about their child or their sister or any number of situations. It needs to be acknowledged, and business needs to get behind a solution. Otherwise it's a recipe for disaster.”
Dr. Jones warns that short-term success may not look like it strictly by the numbers.
As more families get help and education, more families will start to report behavior they may not have previously understood to be abuse, such as hitting or slapping a child.
Mothers with PTSD from an abusive situation will learn they don't have to live with that anymore and seek help. The fear of upsetting extending family members by reporting abuse will ease enough to allow for follow-up counseling for children after their physical wounds have healed.
“Ultimately, our goal remains what it has always been,” said Jones, “for every family to leave here better than they arrived.”
Hirono Co-Sponsors Bill to Reauthorize Victims of Child Abuse Act
U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono yesterday joined colleagues to introduce legislation to reauthorize the Victims of Child Abuse Act, which provides funding for Children's Advocacy Centers that help victims of violent crimes and law enforcement.
The VOCAA Reauthorization Act of 2013 would increase authorization levels for the centers for the first time since the the act was enacted in 1990. Hawaii's five Children's Justice Centers, which serve every county, are members of the National Children's Alliance and its affiliated centers, according to Hirono's office.
“We want to give our keiki the best possible start in life, which also means protection for those who are victims of terrible crimes,” Hirono said in a statement.
Hirono introduced the bill along with U.S. Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.).
Incestuous family of 40 found sexually abusing each other in ramshackle colony
by Tariq Tahir
A family produced by four generations of inbreeding have been found living in squalor in a remote valley in Australia, it has emerged.
The colony of 40 adults and children was discovered in a convoy of two broken-down caravans, a pair of sheds and two tents, with no running water, sewerage or electricity.
The ‘Colt' family's children were found to have severe physical and mental deficiencies and were regularly sexually abusing each other.
Kimberly, 13, spoke of committing sex acts with her nine-year-old uncle Dwayne, while her aunt, Carmen, eight, looked on.
She also told a clinician that she had had sex with Dwayne, had slept with her cousin Joe and regularly performed oral sex on another of her 12-year-old uncles, Brian.
Kimberly had problems with hearing, speech and sight, could not read or write and did not know how to use toilet paper or comb her hair.
Jed, 14, and Karl, 12, told their carers that they had had sex with their sisters Ruth, seven, and nine-year-old Nadia.
Police and social workers, alerted by concerned members of the public, were stunned when they found the community living in the hills near Yass, New South Wales.
The details of their case emerged from New South Wales children's court which, in a rare move, agreed to make its findings public.
Court documents say there were five family groups, including Betty Colt, 46, who had 13 children with her brother, Charlie, father, Tim, and other family members.
Betty Colt's daughter, Tammy, 27, had three inbred offspring, one of whom had died from the rare genetic disease Zellweger syndrome.
One local resident said he saw two women with ‘about ten children' make sporadic visits to town.
‘They were never clean looking,' he told news.co.au.
‘We always used to make jokes that if you came from that area, you'd be inbred.'
In September, children's court judge Peter Johnstone ruled that the offspring be permanently removed from their mothers, one of whom is awaiting trial on charges of ‘procuring the removal of a child from care and recruiting a child for a crime'.
Some children have since been placed with foster families, while others are in treatment programmes for sexualised behaviour and psychological trauma.
However, Betty Colt has disputed the court's account of their lives.
In St. Paul, sex-trafficked teen's email alerts authorities
by Emily Gurnon
The girl sent an email to Backpage.com: Some people had taken pictures of her for the website and were making her have sex with men, it said.
"I'm only 15 years old. .... Please help."
The website forwarded the girl's plea to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and the St. Paul police began to investigate, according to a criminal complaint.
Johnathan Bernard Edwards, 24, and Kauser Mohamoud Yusuf, 21, of St. Paul were charged Wednesday in Ramsey County District Court with first-degree sex trafficking of a minor.
The complaint tells the story this way:
The Nov. 24 ad featured photos of the girl dressed in lingerie. It was titled "Make A Wish I Kno You See My Twinkle's (sic)." The girl said her name was "Star," she was 19 and she offered "incalls" for $100. In-calls refer to appointments in which customers come to a location for prostitution.
Investigators found that the ad was sent from a computer at 672 Edmund Ave. in St. Paul, and that the phone number in the ad rolled over to a number assigned to Yusuf.
Fearing for the girl's safety, officers went to the home Nov. 25. No juveniles were there, but they found Edwards and Yusuf. In the back of the house was a bedroom closed off with a black curtain. It was lit by only a neon light; the bed was an inflatable mattress. Several pairs of thong underwear lay nearby.
Yusuf "was extremely nervous" when police were looking around, the complaint said.
When investigators eventually found the 15-year-old girl, she said she met Edwards and Yusuf sometime last summer. They drove her to a Maplewood hotel, where they took cellphone pictures of her in various pieces of lingerie.
She said the two arranged for an estimated seven to 20 men each day to come to the Edmund Avenue house to have sex with her. The customers would pay one of the adults; the girl never got any money, she told police.
The girl was able to accurately describe the bedroom where she slept and where the sex acts took place.
During a Dec. 9 search of the house, investigators found cellphones, a laptop computer, a green spiral notebook with the girl's name on it and photos of her in a kitchen drawer.
Yusuf admitted to knowing the girl but denied trafficking her for sex. She was released from custody because she was nine months pregnant.
Edwards denied knowing the teen. He was being held at the Ramsey County Jail and made an initial court appearance Thursday.
Yusuf is scheduled to appear in court Feb. 25.
County Attorney John Choi said police should be commended for their quick work on the case.
"The sad fact remains, however, that our children -- like this 15-year-old girl -- continue to be bought and sold on Backpage.com on a daily basis," Choi said. "As we have in past trafficking cases, we will do everything we can to hold the defendants accountable for their crimes, while ensuring this 15 year old victim gets the support and services she needs to begin to heal from this horrible ordeal."
Edwards' criminal history includes a 2010 conviction for domestic assault by strangulation, a 2011 conviction for marijuana possession and a 2012 conviction for violation of a no-contact order.
Senate passes thorough human trafficking bill
by Mary Wilson
The state Senate is trying to beef up laws against human trafficking in Pennsylvania in an effort to end the commonwealth's reputation as a pass-through state for commercial sex and what amounts to slave labor.
The law against human trafficking in Pennsylvania is weak, especially with regard to sex trade.
"That's why we're pushing for an amendment," said Britanny Vanderhoof, with the Polaris Project, which operates the federal government's human trafficking hotline. "To better capture all the types of behavior we're talking about when we're talking about human trafficking -- so people can be appropriately charged and also victims can be identified."
The Polaris Project worked with the Senate to draft harsher laws against both kinds of trafficking. The measure passed the chamber Tuesday afternoon. Legislation with a similar intent, but far less detail, passed in the House earlier this year. The House GOP spokesman said which bill gets to the governor's desk will be worked out between legislative leaders of the two chambers.
Human trafficking is difficult to prosecute - law enforcement can easily identify victims as criminals. To charge someone for human trafficking, the victim must be traced back to the recruiter.
In the realm of sex trafficking, recruitment begins as a relationship and then later becomes exploitation. In labor trafficking, the situation often begins as a trade, and ends with indentured servitude.
"Someone is recruited for a job, but in order to obtain that job, they have to pay $10,000," Vanderhoof said. "Their recruiter will say, 'I will get you a visa, I will get you to the United States, you have to pay me $10,000 in order to do this.'"
The first state laws against human trafficking were passed in 2003, according to the Polaris Project. By 2013, Vanderhoof said every state had passed some sort of law against the practice, after a groundswell of interest from state policy makers around 2005.
Package of child-protection bills headed to Corbett
by Angela Couloumbis
HARRISBURG - More than two years in the making, a package of bills to strengthen the state's child-protection laws was approved by legislators Wednesday and sent to the governor.
One bill widens the net for adults who could be held responsible in suspected child abuse. Another seeks to improve coordination among county and law enforcement agencies that investigate such claims.
But a bill mandating that suspected abuse be reported directly to state welfare officials - a requirement some say could have snagged Jerry Sandusky years before his arrest - is on hold at least until January.
Five bills are en route to Gov. Corbett in a package that emerged in the wake of the child sex-abuse scandal that led to the former Pennsylvania State University football coach's imprisonment and the looming trials of former Penn State president Graham B. Spanier and two former administrators.
Corbett's office said he would sign the measures, plus another expected to pass next week.
"These bills will help make Pennsylvania a safer place for our children," said Sen. Lisa Baker (R., Luzerne), who sponsored a key piece of the legislation. "Yes, headline-grabbing cases are out there. But these [bills] will also work to address those day-in and day-out cases that weren't making headlines, and help to protect more children from being harmed."
Baker's bill broadens the definition of a "perpetrator" of child abuse by expanding the list of who can be considered a perpetrator and clarifying who can be held responsible for ignoring signs or failing to act against abuse.
Perpetrators defined under the bill would now include a child's parents; a parent's spouse or former spouse (or a parent's partner or former partner); and anyone over 18 who is responsible for a child or who lives in the same house with a child.
One pending proposal is a bill championed by child advocates that would strengthen the mandatory-reporting law - which covers teachers, day-care operators, and other individuals who have regular contact with children - by requiring that all reports be made to the Department of Public Welfare.
That measure grew from the Penn State scandal, where assistant football coach Mike McQueary's claim that he witnessed a sexual assault by Sandusky was reported only to McQueary's superiors at the school - in effect leaving an educational institution in charge of determining whether abuse had occurred.
The fate of that bill was not immediately known. Some advocates said it had been stalled because of disagreement over whether to include attorneys in the list of mandatory reporters. Because of the legislature's winter break, it will not be decided until next year.
The bill expected to clear the House next week would strengthen the definition of child abuse.
Now, doctors or nurses examining a child must determine whether the child has suffered "severe pain" as a result of abuse, said Cathleen Palm, who leads the Center for Children's Justice, an advocacy group. That is because the legal definition currently requires "serious bodily injury." The bill would change that to "bodily injury" of any kind.
"The definition drives everything," said Palm, "and it will put less emphasis on the level of a pain a child is experiencing, which is so subjective."
The GOP-led House is expected to send the bill to Corbett, spokesman Steve Miskin said. The governor has said he intends to sign it as well.
Another measure, sponsored by Sen. LeAnna Washington (D., Phila.) and approved Wednesday, would clarify and streamline the law to ensure better coordination in child-abuse investigations among county agencies and law enforcement.
Said Washington, a survivor of child abuse: "I don't care about whether my name is on any of these bills. I just want them to get done so that no child will ever have to go through what I went through in my younger years."
Sessions leads bipartisan effort to protect victims of child abuse
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee, issued the following statement today after joining Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) to introduce a bill to reauthorize the Victims of Child Abuse Act (VOCAA):
“As a former prosecutor and Attorney General, I have seen firsthand the dramatic impact that Children's Advocacy Centers have made in improving our nation's response to these terrible crimes. Since the Victims of Child Abuse Act was introduced more than two decades ago we have seen substantial improvements in the investigation of these heinous acts and the vital care provided to child victims. Protecting our children is the highest moral duty we have. I am proud that the first Children's Advocacy Center is in Huntsville—this amazing organization does such crucial work on behalf of our nation's children.
The Victims of Child Abuse Act plays a critical role in protecting our nation's children and we must reauthorize it. I am grateful to Senators Coons, Hirono, and Blunt for joining in this effort.”
The Victims of Child Abuse Act provides funding to local Child Advocacy Centers (CAC) across the nation, as well as the Regional Children's Advocacy Center programs, the National Children's Alliance, the National Children's Advocacy Center and other programs serving child abuse victims. The Congressional Budget Office released an informal overview stating that it would not have a budgetary impact on spending or revenue.
CACs take a multi-disciplinary approach to responding to child abuse by coordinating the efforts of medical, mental health, victim advocacy, law enforcement, and prosecutorial agencies. In the 1980s, former Congressman Robert “Bud” Cramer, Jr. of Alabama recognized the urgent need for improved responses to child abuse and Cramer (then a District Attorney) helped found the first CAC in Huntsville. Due to the enormous difference they've made, CACs have expanded to over 850 locations across the county.
More sexual assault victims seeking help in Las Cruces
by Genevieve Curtis
LAS CRUCES, N.M. - Community advocates in Las Cruces said they are seeing an increase in the number of victims of rape and sexual assault who are seeking help.
Community advocates said it's not that there are more rapes and assaults happening, but rather more survivors are coming forward.
Within the last year, La Piñon, the rape crisis center in Las Cruces, saw the overall number of people it's served increase by about 25 percent.
Most of those victims are women ages 18 to 25.
Executive Director Donna Richmond believes that because there is more education provided to the community and more resources available, victims feel more comfortable seeking help.
"We want to help people heal from this traumatic crime, this heinous experience that they've been through. Whether they come see us once, because it's their choice, or they stay with us for years and go through the healing process. It doesn't matter how rapidly or slowly you go through the process, La Piñon will be here for you," said Richmond.
She also believes there is more awareness now of what sexual assault is.
Richmond says their services are victim-driven, allowing people to decide how much help they want, whether it's through counseling services or medical attention.
But Richmond said there's still more the community can do in order to give victims a voice.
"People need to talk about sexual abuse and get the taboo stigma away from the topic. We can help not only our adults who are being sexually assaulted but our children who are being assaulted right now and don't have anybody to talk to," said Richmond.
On the New Mexico State University Campus, Wellness advocates known as WAVE work to help promote education about rape and sexual assault.
"It's more likely for a woman whose 18-24 to be sexually assaulted if she's a college student than if she isn't," said Meg Long, program specialist for WAVE.
Part of getting the word out includes dispelling myths.
"That is a misconception that the rapist is hiding in the bushes and not someone you know," said Long.
In fact, occurrences of "acquaintance rape" are much higher on a college campus.
"With acquaintance rape, the person might not realize they were sexually assaulted because it's their friend. Or they were intoxicated so they felt like it wasn't really sexual assault because they were intoxicated when in fact it was," said Long.
Long said people must be aware of their rights when it comes to consent.
"What is consensual sex versus, what is not consensual sex? If someone is intoxicated, whether they say they want to have sex or not, that's sexual assault, and that's something a lot of people don't realize," said Long.
WAVE conducts yearly, anonymous survey results and their data shows a nearly 10 percent decline since 2006 of students indicating that they have been assaulted.
The NMSU police could not provide KFOX14 with data, but Las Cruces police said they've seen a drop in reported cases from 50 in 2012 to 21 in 2013.
Through advocacy, information and classroom presentations, WAVE aims to have more people feel like they can seek help at places like La Pinon.
"Getting rid of the stigma, the more they hear about it and it's a common conversation, the more comfortable people will be in talking to someone else and not feeling like they have to hide it," said Long.
Officials form Child Abuse Prevention Task Force
by JAMESON COOK
Increasing efforts to educate new and prospective parents about available resources to help reduce potential child abuse was a consensus of the first meeting of a newly formed task force.
Thirty officials comprising the Macomb Child Abuse Prevention Task Force met for the first time Dec. 3 in the county Administration Building in Mount Clemens.
County Prosecutor Eric Smith and Sheriff Anthony Wickersham created the task force following a rash of extreme child abuse cases in Macomb County this year.
They believe preventing child abuse must involve many advocates in the community. An initial obvious need is to inform the public about resources, such as information about identifying abuse, improving parenting skills, or child care or housing.
"If me, as the prosecutor, is not aware of what is offered, how can we expect someone who is in need is going to be aware?" Smith said following the meeting.
"The main thing we realized was that we already have so many resources here in this county," said Dorie Vazquez-Nolan, executive director of Care House in Mount Clemens, which interviews victims of child abuse and provides services to them and their families. "We have to make resources readily available and accessible to people who may not be aware of ways they can have access to child care or housing."
Dr. Mary Smyth, a pediatrician, and medical director of the child advocacy and protection team at Beaumont Children's Hospital, told the group that child abuse occurs at all levels of society, Vazquez-Nolan said.
"We really should be getting the message, in whatever form that it takes, to everyone," Vazquez-Nolan said.
Care House is the officially designated child advocacy center in Macomb County, but its resources are limited in educating the public. Schools and other governmental institutions also provide information that can help stop child abuse.
But Smith said no single organization in the county is focused on preventing child abuse.
"So many organizations have different things available concerning child abuse prevention, but child abuse is not the focal point," Smith said.
Smith and Wickersham became fed up after four children died within four months in Macomb County. They are:
|* Sixteen-day-old Jamiah Stalling died from what police say was inflicted head trauma in October in Warren.
* Damian Sutton, 2, died in August from abuse police say was inflicted upon him in a Washington Township home.
* Kristina Geiger, 11, was fatally stabbed in her Clinton Township apartment in July.
* James Nelson, 2, died in August after he spent hours strapped into his car seat in a minivan outside his Shelby Township home.
In addition, two recent child deaths in Warren and Sterling Heights are under police investigation, Smith said, and a 3-week-old Mount Clemens girl suffered 18 broken bones from abuse that officials discovered Oct. 31.
Smith, who has three children aged 8, 5 and 3, said these cases and a rash of child murders a few years ago has made the situation more personal.
"I don't want to be sitting here 10 years from now and see more child abuse death cases come across my desk and know I didn't do anything about it," he said. "I've got little kids, and when I see kids the same age abused and murdered, I don't know someone could do that to a little kid."
Smith was pleased with the mood and energy of the members who represent health care systems, child care agencies, civic and religious groups, and politicians.
The group's next meeting was scheduled for Jan. 28.
Children's commission creates task forces to tackle meth abuse, agency coordination
by Marisa Kwiatkowski
While an Indiana woman lay drugged out on her couch, her young son fell into a bucket of bleach and drowned.
Another woman spent all of her money on drugs — leaving nothing for food — so she fed her baby coffee creamer and water. The baby died.
Mary Beth Bonaventura, director of the Department of Child Services, said those neglect cases demonstrate the disturbing correlation between drug addiction and Indiana's rates of child abuse and neglect. Drug use is a factor in the majority of DCS cases, she said.
Bonaventura and other members of the Commission on Improving the Status of Children in Indiana voted Wednesday to create a task force to determine whether there is a connection between methamphetamine arrests and the number of child welfare cases.
The commission, created earlier this year by the legislature, was particularly concerned by the prevalence of meth manufacturing. Last year, 372 Indiana children were found living in places with illegal meth labs, according to data provided by the Indiana State Police.
The commission, whose members include legislators and state department heads, also created a task force to work on coordinating services for "crossover" youths — kids who have child welfare cases and delinquency cases open at the same time.
Abused or neglected children have a 59 percent greater chance of being arrested as a juvenile, according to a 2003 study on understanding child maltreatment.
Maltreated children are often younger at the time of their first arrest, commit almost twice as many offenses and are arrested more frequently than children who aren't mistreated, according to a 2001 report by the National Institute of Justice.
Allen Superior Court Judge Charles Pratt said schools and other agencies that work with children often don't communicate effectively, causing officials to either duplicate services or fail to address the real problem.
Pratt said he received a call late Tuesday about a child involved in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. The case also crossed county lines. Pratt said he and his staff worked into the evening to "invent the wheel."
"The urgency of this is significant," he said. "There is no process by which to address that child's needs."
Supreme Court Justice Loretta Rush, who chairs the children's commission, said children as young as 6 were arrested for "traumatic events" and brought in front of her when she was a juvenile court judge in Tippecanoe County.
"We're putting out fires," Rush said.
Children's Advocacy Center adds medical-exam room for sexual-assault cases
by Tammy Keith
CONWAY — Framed photographs of butterflies hang on the wall, cuddly stuffed animals are piled above the cabinets, and the colors are bright and cheery — but the reason the room exists isn't.
The Central Arkansas Children's Advocacy Center in downtown Conway opened a medical-exam room just a few weeks ago for children who are suspected of having been sexually abused, said Tess Fletcher, executive director.
The room has already been used to examine two children, she said.
The center, at 707 Parkway St., serves as a neutral, child-friendly place to do interviews when a call is made to the state's child-abuse hotline about physical or sexual abuse, and now children can receive medical exams, if needed.
Fletcher, who led the push for the advocacy center, said the exam room makes it possible to provide abused children with several services in one place.
“The ultimate goal of the CAC is for the child to be able to receive all needed services in a child-friendly environment — whether that's the interview, medical, mental health,” Fletcher said. “So by being able to have medical on-site now, that's just one step closer for us to be able to have these children receive all these services in one location.”
The center is utilized by the five counties the Children Advocacy Alliance of North Central Arkansas serves: Faulkner, Conway, Pope, Van Buren and Searcy.
The alliance is a partnership between the Court Appointed Special Advocates of the 20th Judicial District and the Central Arkansas Children's Advocacy Center.
“We started a campaign to raise funds for this room,” Fletcher said, but it was clear it would take a long time.
The big holdup, Fletcher said, was a major piece of equipment called a colposcope that costs $17,000 retail.
The Conway Regional Health Foundation purchased the piece of equipment, she said.
“We went and talked to [CEO Jim Lambert] and Lori Ross [with the foundation] about the center and the needs we had,” Fletcher said.
“They were very receptive and said they would see what they could do, and here we are.”
“A lot of people think sexual exams on a child are really, really scary,” she said, but it isn't the same as a gynecological exam.
The equipment magnifies and takes pictures so that an exam isn't invasive for the child, Fletcher said.
“It's a lot less scary for the child; it's not invasive,” Fletcher said. “Another misconception is that we do sexual exams to collect evidence. A rape kit may be collected, but it's really to let that child know they're OK. This terrible, terrible thing happened to them, but they're OK.”
Dr. Karen Farst of Little Rock is the medical director, and Deanna Rogers of
Romance is the sexual-abuse nurse examiner.
Fletcher said the colposcope takes photos for documentation. The doctor or nurse also checks the child's ears and eyes.
The child is covered with a fleece blanket for the exam, then gets to take it home, Fletcher said.
“They get to pick out a stuffed animal before they leave,” she said, looking at the stack above the cabinets.
Although blankets and stuffed animals are in good supply, the center has other needs.
“Something we didn't think about, we need a constant supply of [brand-new] underwear and diapers, if we have to collect evidence or clothing,” she said.
Prior to the medical room opening, children were sent to Little Rock to be examined. It was hard for some parents in rural areas to get there, she said.
Farst said “the addition of the medical [exam] room at the CAC in Conway brings an added level of service to children and families in the Conway region who are having to walk through the difficult time of an investigation for possible child sexual abuse.”
She said it's the same level of examination that would be done if the child traveled to Little Rock and was seen in the child-abuse clinic at Arkansas Children's Hospital.
Fletcher said if someone calls the Arkansas child-abuse hotline, the proper authorities are contacted, whether the Arkansas State Police or the state Department of Human Services.
“They have the option to contact our center to be interviewed,” she said.
Sometimes children involved in court cases are interviewed at the center, too, but the child doesn't have to be involved in a court case.
The center serves children “birth through 18,” Fletcher said. So far, the youngest child interviewed was 2, she said.
“It depends on their verbal skills,” she said.
The child is interviewed by an advocacy-center staff member or a trained volunteer.
Law-enforcement officials watch on a computer screen in another room, and the interviewer wears an earpiece. If they want more information or have another question, they can prompt the interviewer.
Also, the law-enforcement investigator can zoom in to see the child's facial expressions and take pictures. The investigator takes the DVD with him when he leaves, Fletcher said.
Mindy Scales, staff interviewer, started working in the center in April.
“I like kids; I've always just had a way with kids,” she said. “Kids like to talk. You just have to get on their level, and they'll tell you everything.”
Sometimes hearing everything is hard to forget.
“It depends on the case, what the allegations are, what was disclosed and what action is being taken,” Scales said.
Although it's hard not to take the work home, Scales said, she knows she's helping the children.
“I know at the end of the day what I'm doing is a positive outcome in a negative situation,” she said.
Scales said the number of interviews vary — she might have 16 interviews one week and two or three the next.
A waiting room in the center is available for the nonoffending parent or guardian. The room includes a large fish tank with colorful fish, a couch, child-sized chairs, children's books and a few toys.
The advocacy staff finds out what the parent or guardian needs, whether it's services at the Women's Shelter of Central Arkansas or access to a protection order, mental health services, etc.
Community groups and churches helped furnish rooms in the center.
A group at First United Methodist Church furnished and decorated a second waiting room. A teen waiting room is available, too.
Sometimes an interview occurs the same day as the medical exam; other times, they are done at different times, Fletcher said.
“If contact had happened within 72 hours, [we] try to have [the interview and exam] happen within the same day,” she said.
In the reception area, a large tree mural on the wall has hundreds of paper leaves attached to its painted limbs, each leaf representing a child interviewed.
Since the first interview on Oct. 18, 2010, “we've interviewed more than 600 children” from the five counties served, Fletcher said.
“We have this here as a visual representation, to let them [the children] know they're not the only ones,” Fletcher said.
It also serves as a reminder to the employees, she said, who get busy and stressed.
“You come out here and look at this and realize there's a lot worse going on in the world than you've had a busy day,” Fletcher said. “It reminds us that we'd like to work ourselves out of a job.”
For more information, contact Fletcher at (501) 328-3347 or visit www.hopeandjustice.org
Sarah's Place opens in Plains to help victims of child abuse
by VINCE DEVLIN
PLAINS - On Sept. 11, 2006, a very frightened young woman named Sarah Rebecca Guill sneaked away from her father's home outside the remote northwest Montana town of Heron.
The then-22-year-old took her car, and $1,500 in cash she had squirreled away for this day.
The list of things Sarah Guill did not take with her, Sanders County Attorney Coleen Magera said Wednesday, was long.
"She had no credit card," Magera said, "no checkbook, no job, no high school diploma, no place to live, no place to go. She had no friends, no extended family she could reach out to for help."
Sarah Guill, an incest victim who was brought up largely uneducated and isolated from the world, "ran away" at the age of 22 to escape a near-lifetime of rape and sexual abuse at the hands of her father, Douglas Guill, the owner of a successful heating and air conditioning company.
The abuse, which began with inappropriate touching when Sarah was just 6 years old, escalated to rape by the age of 9, and eventually to her father forcing his teenage daughter to engage in sex with his girlfriend before he would join in and have sex with both of them.
On Wednesday, a very brave young woman named Sarah Rebecca Guill returned to Sanders County.
She arrived with her mother and her 8-week-old son to attend the dedication of a children's advocacy center at Clark Fork Valley Hospital here.
The result of three years of work by the Sanders County Child Abuse Response Team, the children's advocacy center is designed to reduce the further trauma that victims of child abuse can encounter once the authorities become involved in their cases.
Sarah Guill came back to Sanders County on Wednesday because they named this one after her.
This is Sarah's Place.
In the past, Magera said, investigations of alleged child abuse were designed "to meet the needs of agencies, rather than children."
Sarah's Place will help to change that, she said.
It will provide a centralized, simplified team approach to investigations that will ease the burden associated with multiple agencies that investigate the same crime.
Child advocacy centers, Magera said, have been described as "a quilt that bring the individual pieces together, and provide comfort from beginning to end."
"What's so significant," said Mike Batista, administrator of the Montana Department of Justice's Division of Criminal Investigation, "is that you're doing it here in Plains. There are places with more resources that have not made it to this point."
Indeed, while you'll now find a child advocacy center here in rural Sanders County, you won't find one yet in places like Billings, Great Falls or Bozeman.
"To say this is a real achievement," Batista said, "is an understatement."
Sarah's Place, the 10th child advocacy center to open in Montana, includes a greeting/waiting area for victims and their families, an interview room with monitoring cameras and microphones, an observation and recording equipment room, and a forensic examination room, all quite isolated from the hospital itself.
"We could not have a center without a home for it," Magera added, crediting Clark Fork Valley Hospital with providing the space. She also thanked Dana Toole, who oversees the Montana Child Sexual Abuse Response Team Program, for helping to get the necessary equipment and training to Sanders County for the center.
A multidisciplinary team approach is at the heart of a child advocacy center. The team includes child protection workers, law enforcement officers, medical providers, prosecutors, victim advocates, mental health providers and child advocacy center staff members who together conduct one coordinated interview of potential victims at the center.
That's much different than what Sarah Guill went through, Magera said.
Previously, Sanders County victims like Guill had to travel to Missoula for forensic examinations, and endured endless hours of multiple interviews by various agencies.
That's tough enough for someone who was molested by her own father for 16 years, and repeatedly raped by him for 13.
But Sarah Guill arrived in the outside world, at the age of 22, almost devoid of social skills. Testimony in Douglas Guill's 2008 incest trial in Thompson Falls painted a picture of a household that was beyond bizarre.
Sarah, her brother and mother were only allowed to leave Douglas Guill's property once or twice a year.
Her mother Candace was forced to live in an outbuilding for years; her bathroom, Candace Guill testified, was "a can."
The children were not allowed to attend school or have friends, and were used as unpaid laborers for Advanced Systems, their father's heating and air conditioning business.
Douglas Guill convinced his family he had a special relationship with God, and God would allow him to determine which of them went to heaven, and which went to hell.
Privately, he warned Sarah that if she ever told anyone about them having sex, he would kill himself and she would be responsible for his death.
Things took an even stranger turn when the sister of Douglas Guill's only paid employee moved in with the family in 1992.
Nicole Christensen and Douglas Guill became inseparable - to the point that one didn't go to the bathroom without the other in tow. They ate their meals off the same plate, using the same utensil. They spoke in tongues when they prayed together. Nicole would kneel in the driveway and cup her hands to catch the ashes Douglas flicked from his cigarettes.
And together, they would rape his daughter.
Magera told the crowd that Sarah Guill, still too shy to speak at Wednesday's dedication, told her she was honored to have the new child advocacy center named for her.
It's obvious, Magera said later, that Sarah Guill has grown a great deal in the years since she escaped life at 97 Golden Pond Road in Heron.
"You have to remember, this is someone who never had a birthday party, never had a sleep-over with friends, never went to a prom," Magera said. "She has so much catching up to do."
Sarah Guill, who originally landed in Sandpoint, Idaho, in 2006, where she found a job cleaning motel rooms, told the Missoulian she's been living in Spokane the past few months.
Her baby, Jason, was born there on Sept. 1.
Asked if she had a job, she smiled and nodded at the infant she cradled in her arms.
"This is my work right now," she said.
"Sarah has grown tremendously," Magera said, "but she has a long, long recovery road. She's still very shy, she still struggles in crowds, particularly when the attention is drawn to her, like it was today."
Sarah Guill endured not just years of abuse and rape, and multiple interviews that went over the same questions, but testified in the two resulting trials.
Douglas Guill was convicted of five felonies, including incest and rape. Nicole, who married him after Sarah moved out, was later convicted of three felonies.
They both remain imprisoned.
"It would have been so much easier if we could have brought her here," Magera said of Sarah's Place. "It took a lot of courage for her just to come here today. But her bravery has inspired all of us to do a better job."
School drops sexual harassment claim against 6-year-old who kissed girl
by Lateef Mungin
Amid a tidal wave of negative publicity, a Colorado school system has let a 6-year-old boy return to school and said it won't classify his kissing a girl on the hand as sexual harassment.
The story of first-grader Hunter Yelton made national news and spurred outrage this week after word spread that his school near Colorado Springs suspended him for the kiss and accused him of sexually harassing the girl.
On Wednesday night, CNN affiliate KRDO reported that Canon City Schools Superintendent Robin Gooldy met with Hunter's parents. The superintendent then changed Hunter's disciplinary offense from "sexual harassment" to "misconduct."
The boy has also returned to school at the Lincoln School of Science & Technology.
Boy's mom: An innocent crush
The boy's mother, Jennifer Saunders, told KRDO the whole thing stemmed from an innocent crush Hunter had on a girl in the class. He kissed her on the hand during reading group. That landed him a two-day suspension from school and an entry of sexual harassment in his school files.
Saunders admitted Hunter had problems at school before, getting suspended for rough-housing and for kissing the same girl on the cheek.
But the label of sexual harasser outraged her.
"This is taking it to an extreme that doesn't need to be met with a 6-year-old," Saunders told the station "Now my son's asking questions, 'What is sex, mommy?'"
Girl's mom: School was right
Jade Masters-Ownbey, the mother of the girl Hunter is accused of kissing, told the local newspaper that the school district was right in protecting her daughter.
The mother, who is also a teacher in the school district, said Hunter had tried to kiss her daughter "over and over" without her permission, according to Canon City Daily Record.
"I've had to coach her about what to do when you don't want someone touching you, but they won't stop," Masters-Ownbey told the newspaper.
School system: Look at both sides
Reaction online to Hunter's story was swift, with the majority of commenters expressed pure outrage.
Gooldy, the superintendent of Canon City Schools, told HLN on Tuesday that students aren't labeled sexual harassers after the first innocent grade-school kiss. But if unwelcome contact or touching continues, it will be noted in the student's file, he said.
He said the school system had to look at all sides of the story.
"Our main interest in this is having the behavior stop because the story is not just about the student that was disciplined, it is also about the student receiving the unwanted advances," he said.
No jail time for teacher who sexually abused 2 girls
by WUSA9 Web Staff
ROCKVILLE, Md. (WUSA9) -- A Montgomery County teacher who pleaded guilty Monday for sexually abusing two girls won't spend any time in jail.
Timothy Krupica pleaded guilty to four counts of Second Degree Assault (inappropriate touching), each case carrying a maximum sentence of three years, officials said.
A judge suspended all 12 years and Krupica will spend three years on supervised probation.
The abuse happened at Meadow Hall Elementary School in Rockville. The victims were 11-year-old girls.
Under the terms of the plea, he cannot teach any students younger than 16 years of age.
According to Ramon Korianoff with the Montgomery County State's Attorney Office, Kuprica's defense counsel said in court that Kuprica had moved to West Virginia.
GW Hospital sexual assault reports
Five of the 17 sexual assaults that occurred on the campus of George Washington University in the last four years happened inside GW Hospital, according to a report from The GW Hatchet.
Three of the offenses reported to metropolitan police were classified as rapes, and two of the incidents involved victims who claimed they were medicated during their assault. The ages of the victims assaulted in the hospital range from 28 to 66. Information on the assaults, which the independent campus newspaper obtained via a Freedom of Information Act, details both male and female victims.
GW Hospital staff members were identified as suspects in at least two of the cases, according to the report.
Pa. House advances child-abuse reforms
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania's House of Representatives on Tuesday advanced several pieces of a child-abuse reform package stemming from the Jerry Sandusky and Roman Catholic clergy scandals.
Lawmakers gave final approval to measures to expand the definition of "perpetrator" in child-abuse cases and toughen penalties for assaults against children under certain circumstances.
The bills now move to the Senate, which is expected to send them on to Gov. Tom Corbett.
The legislation is part of a multi-bill package that's been in the works since shortly after Sandusky, a former assistant football coach at Penn State, was arrested in late 2011.
The proposed new definition of child-abuse perpetrator as someone who has committed child abuse and includes the child's parents, a parent's current or past paramour and a person 14 or older who resides in the same home as the child. The bill also would automatically remove juvenile perpetrators from the state child-abuse database once they turn 21.
Another bill would make simple assault against a child younger than 12 a more serious offense that could be lodged against perpetrators as young as 18, instead of the current age of 21. The bill also would increase penalties for aggravated assault against children.
Statewide effort to prevent child abuse
by Gina Esposito
MESA COUNTY, Colo. -- There's a statewide effort to prevent child abuse in Colorado. Thirteen counties are getting grant money from the state to help families in need. Mesa County is on that list and is partnering with Hilltop to provide resources to families that aren't already in the child welfare system.
Tracey Garchar, Executive Director for Mesa County Department of Human Services, said, "Communities and families do a lot better job of raising children then the Department of Human Services does."
The program led by Governor John Hickenlooper is called Colorado Community Response. It's part of the Governor's "Keeping Kids Safe and Families Healthy 2.0" child welfare plan.
Coordinator for Family Connections at Hilltop, Margery Grandboche said, "The partnership that we have with Mesa County will allow families that are in need, families that are temporarily struggling to access service without having to open a case with the Department of Human Services."
Mesa County plans to start the Colorado Community Response program in January. "So there will be warm hand off that takes place, introducing families to services that are available, helping with application processes, just ensuring that families are getting the services that they need," said Grandboche.
"That's really the beauty of the program because it allows us to refer families back out into the community to receive services," said Garchar.
In total, counties will receive $728,000. Mesa County will receive $75,000 of it, enough to help an additional 25 families in our area. Garchar said, "Involvement in child welfare is not the appropriate involvement. They just need some support to help them deal with regular struggles that they're dealing with in their life and the community, now with this grant, is able to help them deal with a number of issues."
"It's fabulous to be able work in a community that we collaborate with other agencies to serve the greater good for everybody," said Grandboche.
The grant expires in June 2014. Two other counties on the Western Slope are getting money as well. Eagle County in partnership with Eagle Count School District, and Montrose County in partnership with Hilltop Community Resources.
DCF explains efforts to prevent more child abuse deaths at Senate hearing
by Rochelle Koff
A top official for the Florida Department of Children & Families told senators at a hearing Tuesday that the state was no longer relying on a “promise” from parents that they would do right by their children, a practice that left some members of the Children, Families & Elder Affairs Committee shaking their heads.
In a domestic violence case, for instance, “we would get the mom to promise that if she and her boyfriend, whoever, engaged in domestic violence that she would leave,” said Stephen Pennypacker , DCF's new assistant secretary for programs. “That's not a safety plan. That's a prescription for disaster … So we don't do that anymore.”
He said the agency is addressing several other measures to improve its efforts, many of them recommendations from a recent report by the nonprofit, Seattle-based Casey Family Programs.
Committee chairman Sen. Eleanor Sobel , D-Hollywood, said “lots needs to be done” in the aftermath of at least 40 children dying while under state care between January and July.
“We're looking for solutions,” she said, noting that legislators also need to determine “what can be done administratively and what do we need to pass by law.
"I think we're digging deep to find out why so many kid died and making improvements," she said, noting that more of a team approach, staffing and re-evaluating assessment tools would "make the system work better."
Sobel said she agreed with the findings of the Casey Family report, which pointed out many issues in Florida's child welfare system, and said those suggestions should be implemented.
Interim DCF Secretary Esther Jacobo requested Casey Families conduct a comprehensive review in order to identify "potential improvements and shortcomings" in the agency's protective investigative process after the Miami Herald catalogued the stories of children from families with DCF histories who had died over the spring and summer.
The report, Pennypacker said, provided "tangible recommendations regarding policies and practices that can potentially reduce future child maltreatment deaths."
DCF examined the Casey Family recommendations, Pennypacker said, to determine what can be done immediately and what will take more time.
Since Nov. 10, the state has made a significant change regarding its safety plan and assessment, Pennypacker said. Under the new system, if a child is at risk, a child protective investigator has to complete a safety plan template which addresses issues like “What is the risk, what is the danger to the child, what can you do for the child in the home during the investigation?” The safety plan has to be reviewed by a supervisor within 24 hours “so you have someone else addressing it.”
Another “huge change,” said Pennypacker is that an investigation cannot be closed while a safety plan is still open. In the past, he said, a case may have been closed without followup. “A case can not be closed unless it's handed to case management.” He said there were cases that were dropped “and that resulted in some deaths.”
Sen. Charles Dean asked Pennypacker “What specific factor could you point out to us that would be the criteria to remove a child immediately from the environment?” Pennypacker said the state first has to explore all options for a child staying in the home but if nothing can remedy the situation, a child can be removed.
DCF has also started a pilot project in Miami-Dade and Polk counties to send two child protective investigators to cases involving suspected abuse of particularly vulnerable children under age 3. And the agency is going to do “real-time” quality assurance while the investigation is still going on to catch mistakes.
Sobel stressed the need to address issues including training, professionalizing staff, caseloads, salaries and high turnover.
Sen. President Don Gaetz stopped by during the nearly two-hour meeting and listened to part of Pennypacker's presentation, but didn't comment. “He attended only to listen and observe,” said Gaetz's spokeswoman Katie Betta .
The panel also heard a report from the Florida Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability, which looked at child welfare systems in other states. New Jersey, for instance, had the lowest turnover of case workers in 2012. Florida's turnover of child welfare case managers, was 30.4 percent. Florida is also one of the few states that has privatized elements of its child welfare system.
In other action, the Senate committee passed a bill (SB 0498) that aims to stop illegal adoptions, known as "rehoming." People adopt a child from overseas and give the child up by finding new parents on the Internet, a practice documented in a Reuters article that described a path of hardship and abuse for these children. Sobel called it a form of "human trafficking" of children.
Pennypacker, who previously served as the deputy compact administrator for the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children in Florida has been a force behind the bill, which increases the criminal penalty for advertising or offering a child to the public from a second degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony.
The bill would require a licensed child-placing agency or an entity that conducts intercountry adoptions to meet certain requirements.
Figures reveal scale of 'sexual misconduct' in schools by children as young as five
by Rob Williams
Children as young as five have been excluded from school for sexual misconduct ranging from abuse, harassment and bullying to 'sexting' inappropriate images of themselves and watching pornography.
The range of sexual misconduct in schools also included inappropriate touching, lewd behaviour and sexual graffiti, with some children being disciplined within their first year at school - when they are aged between four and five.
Though some of the children involved were reception age pupils, 13, 14 and 15-year-olds were the most likely to be sanctioned.
Local authorities were cautious about releasing any specific details of the reported incidents to the Press Association, who carried out the investigation, but figures revealed that the number of boys involved in sexual misconduct outnumbers girls by a rate of around 10-1.
In the Merseyside borough of Knowsley, a five-year-old boy was excluded for using sexually explicit language, while another five-year-old was given a similar punishment for "inappropriate touching".
Cambridgeshire's Sexual Behaviour Service reported a range of incidents including watching pornography, sending indecent images of themselves and 'inappropriate sexual thoughts".
Brent Council reported 159 incidents, including three boys, aged between eight and nine, permanently excluded in 2011 for sexual misconduct. The same authority also disclosed one 12-year-old boy was excluded for 30 days for his sexual offending.
A small number of incidents involving members of staff were also reported. In Lincolnshire, there was a substantiated allegation that an inappropriate image of a three-year-old girl was taken by a member of staff.
The records obtained by the Press Association showed there were more than 2,000 reported incidents between January 2010 and September 2013. A number of the 153 authorities contacted did not hold the information centrally or refused to disclose it meaning the true figure could be higher.
Six children in reception classes across England were involved in a sexual act in a school, the figures showed. There were a further 15 incidents involving six and seven-year-olds, rising to 69 incidents for children in Year Six (age 11) at the time of the sexual misconduct.
There was a surge in incidents as children reached secondary school - with 175 incidents in Year 7. The figures show further increases in the next three year groups - with 248 incidents for 13-year-olds, 256 for those a year older, and 240 for those in Year 10 (age 15).
Politicians, child welfare charities and activists today reacted to the startling details of the investigation describing them as 'extremely concerning' and calling on the government to take action.
Jon Brown, head of tackling child sexual abuse at the NSPCC, said: "The extent of sexual harassment, inappropriate sexual behaviour and in the worst cases violence by children is extremely concerning.
"Exposure to extreme, sometimes sexually violent and degrading material is now only a few clicks away and this can warp young people's views of what is normal and acceptable sexual behaviour. Sexting (sending sexual text messages) is now the norm for many young people who may find once they start sending explicit pictures of themselves the situation spirals out of control.
"We need good quality, age appropriate education in schools to help young people develop healthy, positive relationships with each other, so that children understand consent, do not feel so pressurised to behave in a sexualised way, and respect themselves and others."
A Department for Education spokesman said: "We share headteachers' serious concerns over sexual misconduct by pupils. That is why we have given teachers the power to search for and delete inappropriate images from phones, while the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Agency and the Sex Education Forum have produced useful material to help schools deal with 'sexting'.
"Schools should teach pupils about respect for others and how the law applies to sexual relationships. And our statutory guidance is crystal clear - if a professional thinks a child is at risk of harm they should report it immediately to social care.
"It is encouraging that official statistics show exclusions for sexual misconduct are decreasing year on year and represent less than 0.05 per cent of exclusions across the country."
The figures on sexual misconduct in schools
The Press Association asked 153 local authorities in England for details of every incident of a child being involved in a sexual act in a school, recorded as a separate item, between January 2010 and September 2013. They show:
|Isle of Wight 15
Milton Keynes 3
NE Lincolnshire 12
N Lincolnshire 51
|N Somerset 6
N Yorkshire 124*
|S Tyneside 37
Lawmakers seek ways to combat child sex crimes
by Brock Vergakis
CHARLESTON - A legislative committee said Tuesday it will seek millions of dollars to combat sex crimes against children by hiring 50 new state troopers, which would more than double the size of this year's class of cadets.
The Select Committee on Crimes Against Children presented a package of proposals aimed at protecting children during a news conference at the Capitol. Despite an austere budget environment, the committee plans to seek $5.7 million in funding for the new troopers and also wants $250,000 in funding for child advocacy centers throughout the state.
"We know this is a difficult budget year. We have a large dollar sign on our Christmas wish list, but we think this issue is critical for our state," said Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer, D-Monongalia.
If approved, the funding would authorize West Virginia State Police to expand its overall ranks to a total of about 750. This year's class of cadets had about 20 people enrolled.
Committee chairwoman Del. Linda Phillips, D-Wyoming, said she's had conversations with House leadership about the budget proposals and that through sharing already appropriated funding, "we can do this."
Contacted by phone Tuesday, Delegate Tiffany Lawrence, D-Jefferson, a member of the women's caucus and select committee, said said there is a clear connection between child abuse and the state's budget drivers.
"Child abuse leads to adult substance abuse, mental helth issues, workforce issues, health care issues," she said. "If a child faces a pattern of abuse, they are more likely as adults to engage in sex abuse and drug abuse and crime. This one issue, if we don't curtail it at an early age, it pertains to all our other issues. And the state will pay in the long run."
West Virginia State Police said if it is able to enroll 50 new people into its cadet class, it would be able to reassign more experienced troopers to its Crimes Against Children Unit as soon as the replacement troopers are trained and equipped. Currently, 18 troopers are assigned to the unit, said First Sgt. Daniel Swiger, deputy director of the unit.
By 2018, State Police want to have 85 uniformed members of the crimes against children unit in place.
The unit was formed in 2006. Since then, the number of registered sex offenders has grown from 1,675 to 4,178 in 2012. The number of criminal offenses grew from 193 to 909 in that same period. So far this year, the unit's digital forensic section has logged 391 cases, according to state police.
The committee also wants stiffer penalties for those who repeatedly view child pornography and to prohibit child visitation by those who committed a sexual assault. The committee is also calling for the creation of a misdemeanor child abuse crime for creating a substantial risk of injury to a child.
Under current child abuse law, someone can only be charged with a crime if they seriously injure a child. Lawmakers on the committee said the proposal to add a misdemeanor crime for abuse or neglect that puts a child at risk of harm would give prosecutors better options when reviewing cases.
The Legislature's 2014 session begins in January.
Calls for more support for male survivors of child sex abuse
by Rhiannon Elston
Jay was just ten years old when it started. First, it was a stranger who abused him. Then the stranger became a family friend, and others followed.
Terrified and wracked with shame, Jay didn't breathe a word of what happened to anyone for over 25 years. Even today, after years of counselling, he hesitates to say the words.
"I was [a victim of] a paedophile network in the 80s and I was offended by at least ten offenders that I can remember," he says.
Now in his early 40s, Jay -- who asked for his last name not to be published -- believes he may never truly "get over" what happened, but he is finding ways to cope.
"I have gone to the police, and people are in jail because of me coming forward."
It wasn't until Jay had children of his own that he became determined to speak up, but he struggled to find someone to talk to that he felt truly understood what he had gone through.
After counselling and working with various psychologists and psychiatrists, he stumbled on the Survivors and Mates Support Network (SAMSN), a group that provides counselling and support services particularly for male survivors of child sexual abuse. He believes it saved his life.
"I could have possibly committed suicide by now if it wasn't for that service, and I'm sure there are other males out there who are in the same situation."
More men coming forward
The small, Sydney-based organisation SAMSN has been overwhelmed with calls for support since the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse began this year.
Co-founder Craig Hughes-Cashmore says they're now fielding more than 25 calls a week, and their 12 person eight-week workshops are in high demand.
"Every group we've run, we've had to turn people away, basically," says Hughes-Cashmore. "We put people on waiting lists."
Almost 1,000 people have already come forward for private sessions with the Royal Commission. As many as 4,000 more are expected over the course of the inquiry. (A spokesperson for the Royal Commission could not confirm how many of the people who have come forward to date were men, but studies indicate rates of sexual assault against men are higher in certain institutional settings).
The federal government, anticipating a need for increased support services, provided funding earlier this year to 28 organisations to provide community-based assistance to those who came forward to share information.
Only two of those organisations are specifically designed to support men. One of them is Queensland-based Anglicare offshoot, Living Well. Manager Dr Gary Foster says their requests have doubled since the Royal Commission began.
“The difficulty for men and their loved ones who are now reaching out and seeking support is that in Australia, we are starting from a low service access, knowledge and skills base in how best to respond,” he says.
“What I am hearing is that men are contacting services seeking specialised therapeutic support to deal with histories of sexual abuse and are being told that this is not that particular service or worker's area of expertise,” he adds.
The peak body for adult survivors of child sexual abuse, which provides a wide range of services to both genders, has also experienced a jump in demand.
Adults Surviving Child Abuse (ASCA) President Dr Cathy Kezelman says the organisation has seen an increase of “four to five times” the number of calls since the start of the Royal Commission.
"An estimated 20 – 25 per cent of those calls have been males seeking support," she says.
But Dr Kezelman says there is a "substantial need" for more specific services across a broad range of areas related to the long-term effects of child sexual abuse, such as training to cope with mental illness, relationship issues and suicide risks.
"Additionally, there is a need for services which are specific to the needs of male survivors of child sexual assault," she adds.
Mark Griffiths, a psychologist who for 20 years ran men's sexual assault support groups at Royal Prince Alfred hospital in Sydney, and now works with SAMSN, agrees.
"The survivors of child sexual abuse as a body are a huge group in our community, they are also one of the groups that find it most difficult to access a service, and that situation has not changed for decades, unfortunately," he says.
Craig Cashmore-Hughes of SAMSN says there are several distinct repercussions of child sexual assault that are particular to male survivors.
"One of those which is a really massive hurdle and really prevents a lot of men from disclosing is the victim to perpetrator myth, that is still largely out there," he says. "That if you've been abused, you are more like to abuse, which is completely unsupported by all the research."
Another issue that can arise is questioning their sexuality.
"These are two issues that most women don't face or think about," he adds.
SAMSN did not qualify for federal government funding at the time the grants were being awarded.
It runs mostly through its own fundraising, but as demand for services have increased, ironically there has been less time to fundraise, says Cashmore-Hughes.
"As we've gotten busier, we haven't been able to do fundraising," he says.
For survivor Jay, the prospect of not having that specialised support is devastating.
“I think there is a high probability that there would be one less person in this world if it wasn't for those workshops,” he says.
“When you meet other guys, you learn that you don't need to disassociate, you can talk to them.”
How to seek help
To find out more, or if you need help, please call or visit one of the following organisations:
Thousands of Ignored Child Abuse Allegations Plague Arizona Welfare Agency
by FERNANDA SANTOS
PHOENIX — A longtime homicide detective on assignment with Arizona's child welfare agency noticed an unfamiliar notation — N.I., for not investigated — as he examined a file containing allegations of sibling-on-sibling sexual abuse. When he encountered the notation again, on a file listing accusations that a father burned his son with an iron, the detective began asking questions.
In all, a review of the agency uncovered 6,554 such files, all wrongfully shelved before any type of investigation was started, out of malice or neglect by whoever handled them, officials said.
The revelations come as caseworkers at the agency, Child Protective Services, have been taking on a record number of cases regarding child neglect or abuse. Among the shelved files were 5,000 reports made in the last 20 months to a child welfare hotline that Gov. Jan Brewer had taken credit for reorganizing.
The scandal, unusual even for an agency plagued by decades of problems, threatens to deal a setback to Ms. Brewer's administration and her legacy, which her advisers have hoped would be about much more than her record on immigration. After pushing an expansion of Medicaid through the Legislature despite heavy opposition from fellow Republicans, Ms. Brewer had hoped to focus on getting more money for well-performing public schools, which have been crippled by several years of budget cuts.
Instead, she finds herself deflecting criticism of and fielding calls for the resignation of Clarence H. Carter, her handpicked director of the Department of Economic Security, whose broad portfolio encompasses dozens of safety-net programs, including child welfare. “There must be accountability in this matter, and I will insist on further reforms to make sure it cannot happen again,” she said in a statement last month.
Tackling the child welfare agency's problems could be a thorny endeavor, given that Ms. Brewer must balance a slow economic recovery against the needs of child protection and other agencies that offer essential services, all of which are contending for a piece of the financial pie.
Some say the situation could present an opportunity.
“For the governor, this isn't just a matter of policy,” said Barrett Marson, a public affairs consultant who worked for several years for the Republican majority in the Legislature. “This is a legacy-building project.”
Unlike with an earlier crisis — when 73 children died from abuse and neglect from 1997 to 2002, including many whose cases had been closed — the needs seem to go beyond money. This time, there is an almost pervasive sense that Child Protective Services requires a profound overhaul — a “wrecking ball,” as Laurie Roberts, a columnist for The Arizona Republic who has long chronicled the agency's troubles, wrote last week.
“Inevitably they'll say they need more resources, and they may, but there's something else that's needed, and that's a change in the culture of this agency,” Rick Romley, a former Maricopa County official who commissioned a report in 2003 examining the problems of Child Protective Services. “Unless you have a major change in the way they do business, we're going to continue to see these scandals come about.”
Mending the agency has ranked among Ms. Brewer's priorities, but lasting results have eluded her. In January, in her State of the State address, she took credit for reforming the hotline system that had closed thousands of neglect and abuse calls without further study. But it was the investigative unit she established last year that uncovered the ignored cases.
About 2,000 calls were assessed over three days last month. Last week, she asked a team of legislators, prosecutors, child welfare advocates and state officials to oversee the investigation of each of the calls that had not been investigated, and to identify poor practices within the agency. But on Friday, team members ordered that the cases be re-examined after learning that some of the same people who could have been involved in shelving the calls were taking part in the review.
State Senator Nancy Barto, a Republican who is co-chairwoman of the Child Protective Services Legislative Oversight Committee, said many problems stemmed from a sense that no one was accountable in an agency that is part of the largest bureaucracy in state government. Its director, Mr. Carter, who managed the federal food stamp program under President George W. Bush, oversees cash assistance and health care benefits, services for the elderly and the developmentally disabled, employment training, and refugee resettlement, among many other programs.
“They have in a lot of ways an impossible job to do perfectly, but that shouldn't explain their failure to fix what needs to be fixed,” Ms. Barto said.
Already, the child welfare agency has a backlog of 10,000 cases and an additional 12,000 whose investigations, started in the last budget year, have not been completed, according to an analysis by Children's Action Alliance, one of the largest advocacy groups in the state. The reports of neglect increased by 36 percent from October 2007 to last March, and more children died as a result of maltreatment last year (70) than in 2007 (60), the analysis said. The agency says it has roughly 600 fewer caseworkers than what it would need to meet caseload standards.
Dana Wolfe Naimark, president and chief executive of the Children's Action Alliance, said the challenges facing the agency were made worse by budget cuts during the recent recession, which ended many preventive services intended to help families before children are removed from their homes. Child care subsidies for working parents remain frozen, cuts to rates paid to child care providers have not been restored, and the money appropriated from federal grants for cash assistance programs continues to be directed to the agency's general budget.
Although much of the financing that Child Protective Services lost since 2009 has been restored, “the workload is still far larger than the agency is structured to handle, and I believe that's the root cause of the problems going on right now,” Ms. Naimark said.
She and many others are waiting to see what Ms. Brewer will propose in the coming legislative session. Though well intentioned, the changes the governor has supported so far “have clearly not been enough to fundamentally change the agency and avoid another crisis,” Ms. Naimark said.
Alleged victim of police officer rape hits brick wall in pursuit of justice
30 years on, woman, 47, waives anonymity after being told her case about incident when she was 14 cannot be reopened
by Alexandra Topping
Sitting in a solicitor's office in a smart street in Nottingham, Michelle Noble appears polite, brisk and in control. But the mask slips when she recalls the moment she says she was raped by a Nottinghamshire policeman when she was just 14.
Noble, now 47, pauses for breath. Tears come and she is back to the incident that sent her life spiralling out of control: "This is the hard bit for me. It still doesn't sit right in my head," she manages. "I didn't fight him, I just did as I was told. I just lay down and let him do what he wanted." At the time, Noble was told there was not enough evidence to prosecute her alleged abuser, but he was forced to resign after being found guilty of "discreditable conduct". And that, she thought, was that.
Three decades later, however, following a difficult road to recovery after drug addiction – provoked, she says, by the ordeal – Noble saw the victims of Jimmy Savile speak out and finally decided she wanted to pursue her own case. But she has got nowhere. Nottinghamshire police say that with no fresh evidence they cannot reopen the case. The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has told her that all records relating to her have been destroyed. Once hopeful that the Savile revelations would open the doors to justice, she has been left feeling frustrated and ignored.
Hers is not an isolated experience. Police forces have been inundated with claims of child sexual abuse in the Savile aftermath: a BBC freedom of information request has revealed that in the six months following the revelations that began in October of last year there was a 70% increase in the number of claims made to forces.
But recent figures uncovered by Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, showed that there was a 28% drop in the number of child abuse cases referred by the police to the CPS since 2010. Acknowledging there was a "concern", home secretary Theresa May suggested that hard-to-investigate historic abuse cases such as those involving Savile could be partly to blame for a fall in the proportion of rape, domestic violence and child abuse cases being referred for prosecution, and promised to look into the matter carefully.
Charities and police have also struggled to cope with the number of people coming forward in the past year, says Peter Saunders of abuse survivors' charity Napac.
"It has been overwhelming in the last 12 months – indeed there was a time it felt we might buckle under the strain," he says. "There has been a massive public shift, with people thinking that now they might just get a hearing."
The last 12 months have brought unprecedented shifts in the way child sex abuse cases are dealt with by the judicial service: in June, the then director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, introduced a national child sexual abuse panel to review historic complaints of sex abuse not pursued by police or prosecutors (stressing that he thought the number of cases reopened would be in the hundreds rather than thousands) , and issued new guidelines for dealing with victims.
But despite the new tone, victims of historic abuse – and the forces asked to help them get justice – still face an uphill struggle. The barriers to prosecution – sparse evidence, patchy records and ageing memories – have not disappeared, warns Saunders.
"The reality remains that people who want to bring their perpetrators to justice have very little chance, because these cases are extremely difficult to prove. While there has been a serious shift in the judiciary, on the ground there is still a reluctance to tackle this issue. The risk is that we are setting people up only to let them down again. And that is a tragedy." Noble feels that her case warrants a second look by police and prosecutors. As a 14-year-old she was arrested in a case of mistaken identity and taken to her home in Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, by an officer. After she had shut but not locked the door, he followed her into the house. "He opened the door to my bedroom and said to me: 'You want fucking.' And that was it."
Disturbed by the sound of her father coming into the house, the officer threatened Noble, warning that she would be put into care if she spoke out. Having found the officer in her bedroom, her father nonetheless reported the crime, and two days later, after being allowed to take a bath, Noble was taken, alone, to a medical examination. "[The doctor] looked at me with disgust. He said 'Get your clothes off, get in those stirrups and open your fucking legs' […] He looked at my vagina and said 'You've had more fucking prick than a second-hand dartboard, you're nothing but a little slag.'"
She then claims she and her father were subjected to a campaign of harassment by officers urging her to drop charges, until her parents were informed three months later, in March 1981, that there was "insufficient evidence" for criminal prosecution, but the officer would face a disciplinary hearing.
But on 10 August 1981, a month after the hearing at which Noble told her story, the family received a letter from the Police Complaints Board – a predecessor of the IPCC – saying the officer had been "forced to resign". The letter, seen by the Guardian, states: "The Chief Constable is very concerned that the officer should have behaved so irresponsibly, and some measure of his feelings can be gained by the severity of the punishment awarded. He trusts the outcome of your complaint will have reminded other police officers of the high standard of integrity required of them."
When Noble decided to take up the case again, she says she encountered bureaucratic obstacles. She was interviewed by Nottinghamshire police in January, but three solicitor's letters – in May, June and July 2013 – went unanswered. The force contacted the solicitors in September 2013 to say a woman Noble thought had been another victim of the same man had been traced but had nothing to report, and the force said it would not reopen the case. "In light of this there is no new evidence and as such Nottinghamshire Police will not re-open the investigation," said the letter.Deterred but determined, Noble took her case to her MP Gloria de Piero, shadow equalities minister, who has pushed for the evidence to be reexamined and calls Noble's bravery "humbling", adding "time doesn't diminish the horror of such as serious crime and Noble deserves justice".
Nottinghamshire police say they have no record of the disciplinary hearing, or what the "discreditable conduct" charge that the officer faced actually entailed. They confirmed the surname of the officer involved, but would not reveal if he was receiving a police pension. But no documentation of what happened remains, no new witnesses have come forward, those who disciplined the officer have long retired and the then chief constable has died.
Facing what appeared to be a brick wall, Noble has waived her anonymity to speak to the Guardian, in the hope that other potential victims might come forward. "He does need to be held accountable – people need to know what he is," she says.
Her case highlights many of the hurdles that adults abused as children face in seeking a prosecution. Jackie Alexander, head of the professional standards directorate at Nottinghamshire police, said the force had discussed Noble's case with the CPS but had been referred to its guidelines, which allow the decision not to prosecute to be overturned if "the prosecutor who originally decided not to charge or discontinued the case made an error of law or fact", if new evidence has materialised or is due to, or if an inquest sheds light on a death. The force recently supported a woman who came forward with sexual allegations against a police officer and was committed to tackling "abhorrent" abuses committed by officers regardless of when they occurred, she says.
Alexander stresses that, along with public attitudes, police treatment of child victims has completely transformed. "We are in a different place to where we were 30 years ago, both the criminal justice system and the public . I think people are much more ready to believe victims and ready to believe that some people are capable of anything," she says, adding: "I'd like to reassure [Noble] that a 14-year-old today would not be in her situation.""I am genuinely very sorry if [Noble] feels that there is any reluctance on the part of Nottinghamshire police to assist in ensuring that justice is properly served," Alexander says. "We are not reluctant, but we do have to work within the CPS guidance and take account of relevant legislation. We have to work within the law, and there is a lot of law to work within."
However, after being contacted by the Guardian, the CPS said it would meet again with Nottinghamshire police. "Each case is considered on its own facts and its own merits, and while factors such as an absence of documentation can play a part in a decision as to whether or not a case can be reopened, this is not a factor which would necessarily preclude a case from being considered. It is not the case that new evidence is required to look at a case again," a spokeswoman said. "Nottinghamshire police and CPS East Midlands will be meeting to discuss the victim's case in more detail and to consider it for referral to the child sexual abuse review panel."
While pleased at the "small lifejacket" she has been thrown, Noble says she has lost faith. "After Jimmy Savile I thought, bloody hell, you can get justice. But no you can't," she says.
"Until they tell me they are reopening the case, it's just a pipedream. I can't be hopeful – otherwise I'm just setting myself up for a fall."
A neighborhood in Cambodia is a global hotspot for the child sex trade. The people selling the children? Too often, their parents.
CNN Freedom Project and Mira Sorvino, award-winning actress and human rights activist, investigate.
by Tim Hume, Lisa Cohen and Mira Sorvino
When a poor family in Cambodia fell afoul of loan sharks, the mother asked her youngest daughter to take a job. But not just any job.
The girl, Kieu, was taken to a hospital and examined by a doctor, who issued her a "certificate of virginity." She was then delivered to a hotel, where a man raped her for two days.
Kieu was 12 years old.
"I did not know what the job was," says Kieu, now 14 and living in a safehouse. She says she returned home from the experience "very heartbroken." But her ordeal was not over.
After the sale of her virginity, her mother had Kieu taken to a brothel where, she says, "they held me like I was in prison."
She was kept there for three days, raped by three to six men a day. When she returned home, her mother sent her away for stints in two other brothels, including one 400 kilometers away on the Thai border. When she learned her mother was planning to sell her again, this time for a six-month stretch, she realized she needed to flee her home.
"Selling my daughter was heartbreaking, but what can I say?" says Kieu's mother, Neoung, in an interview with a CNN crew that travelled to Phnom Penh to hear her story.
Like other local mothers CNN spoke to, she blames poverty for her decision to sell her daughter, saying a financial crisis drove her into the clutches of the traffickers who make their livelihoods preying on Cambodian children.
"It was because of the debt, that's why I had to sell her," she says. "I don't know what to do now, because we cannot move back to the past."
It is this aspect of Cambodia's appalling child sex trade that Don Brewster, a 59-year-old American resident of the neighborhood, finds most difficult to countenance.
"I can't imagine what it feels like to have your mother sell you, to have your mother waiting in the car while she gets money for you to be raped," he says. "It's not that she was stolen from her mother -- her mother gave the keys to the people to rape her."
Brewster, a former pastor, moved from California to Cambodia with wife Bridget in 2009, after a harrowing investigative mission trip to the neighborhood where Kieu grew up -- Svay Pak, the epicenter of child trafficking in the Southeast Asian nation.
"Svay Pak is known around the world as a place where pedophiles come to get little girls," says Brewster, whose organization, Agape International Missions (AIM), has girls as young as four in its care, rescued from traffickers and undergoing rehabilitation in its safehouses.
In recent decades, he says, this impoverished fishing village – where a daughter's virginity is too often seen as a valuable asset for the family – has become a notorious child sex hotspot
"When we came here three years ago and began to live here, 100% of the kids between 8 and 12 were being trafficked," says Brewster. The local sex industry sweeps up both children from the neighborhood -- sold, like Kieu, by their parents – as well as children trafficked in from the countryside, or across the border from Vietnam. "We didn't believe it until we saw vanload after vanload of kids."
Global center for pedophiles
Weak law enforcement, corruption, grinding poverty and the fractured social institutions left by the country's turbulent recent history have helped earn Cambodia an unwelcome reputation for child trafficking, say experts.
UNICEF estimates that children account for a third of the 40,000-100,000 people in the country's sex industry.
Svay Pak, a dusty shantytown on the outskirts of the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, is at the heart of this exploitative trade.
As one of the most disadvantaged neighborhoods in one of Asia's poorest countries – nearly half the population lives on less than $2 per day -- the poverty in the settlement is overwhelming. The residents are mostly undocumented Vietnamese migrants, many of whom live in ramshackle houseboats on the murky Tonle Sap River, eking out a living farming fish in nets tethered to their homes.
It's a precarious existence. The river is fickle, the tarp-covered houseboats fragile. Most families here scrape by on less than a dollar a day, leaving no safety net for when things go wrong – such as when Kieu's father fell seriously ill with tuberculosis, too sick to maintain the nets that contained their livelihood. The family fell behind on repayments of a debt.
In desperation, Kieu's mother, Neoung, sold her virginity to a Cambodian man of "maybe more than 50," who had three children of his own, Kieu says. The transaction netted the family only $500, more than the $200 they had initially borrowed but a lot less than the thousands of dollars they now owed a loan shark.
So Neoung sent her daughter to a brothel to earn more.
"They told me when the client is there, I have to wear short shorts and a skimpy top," says Kieu. "But I didn't want to wear them and then I got blamed." Her clients were Thai and Cambodian men, who, she says, knew she was very young.
"When they sleep with me, they feel very happy," she says. "But for me, I feel very bad."
The men who abuse the children of Svay Pak fit a number of profiles. They include pedophile sex tourists, who actively seek out sex with prepubescent children, and more opportunistic "situational" offenders, who take advantage of opportunities in brothels to have sex with adolescents.
Sex tourists tend to hail from affluent countries, including the West, South Korea, Japan and China, but research suggests Cambodian men remain the main exploiters of child prostitutes in their country.
Mark Capaldi is a senior researcher for Ecpat International, an organization committed to combating the sexual exploitation of children.
"In most cases when we talk about child sexual exploitation, it's taking place within the adult sex industry," says Capaldi. "We tend to often hear reports in the media about pedophilia, exploitation of very young children. But the majority of sexual exploitation of children is of adolescents, and that's taking place in commercial sex venues."
The abusers would often be local, situational offenders, he says. Research suggests some of the Asian perpetrators are "virginity seekers," for whom health-related beliefs around the supposedly restorative or protective qualities of virgins factor into their interest in child sex.
Whatever the profile of the perpetrator, the abuse they inflict on their victims, both girls and boys, is horrific. Trafficked children in Cambodia have been subjected to rape by multiple offenders, filmed performing sex acts and left with physical injuries -- not to mention psychological trauma -- from their ordeals, according to research.
In recent years, various crackdowns in Svay Pak have dented the trade, but also pushed it underground. Today, Brewster says, there are more than a dozen karaoke bars operating as brothels along the road to the neighborhood, where two years ago there was none. Even today, he estimates a majority of girls in Svay Park are being trafficked.
Virgins for sale
Kieu's relative, Sephak, who lives nearby, is another survivor. (CNN is naming the victims in this case at the request of the girls themselves, as they want to speak out against the practice of child sex trafficking.)
Sephak was 13 when she was taken to a hospital, issued a certificate confirming her virginity, and delivered to a Chinese man in a Phnom Penh hotel room. She was returned after three nights. Sephak says her mother was paid $800.
"When I had sex with him, I felt empty inside. I hurt and I felt very weak," she says. "It was very difficult. I thought about why I was doing this and why my mom did this to me." After her return, her mother began pressuring her daughter to work in a brothel.
Not far away from Sephak's family home, connected to the shore via a haphazard walkway of planks that dip beneath the water with each footfall, is the houseboat where Toha grew up.
The second of eight children, none of whom attend school, Toha was sold for sex by her mother when she was 14. The transaction followed the same routine: medical certificate, hotel, rape.
About two weeks after she returned to Svay Pak, she says, the man who had bought her virginity began calling, requesting to see her again. Her mother urged her to go. The pressure drove her to despair.
"I went to the bathroom and cut my arms. I cut my wrists because I wanted to kill myself," Toha says. A friend broke down the door to the bathroom and came to her aid.
Mothers as sex traffickers
CNN met with the mothers of Kieu, Sephak and Toha in Svay Pak to hear their accounts of why they chose to expose their daughters to sexual exploitation.
Kieu's mother, Neoung, had come to Svay Pak from the south of the country in search of a better life when Kieu was just a baby. But life in Svay Pak, she would learn, wasn't easy.
When her husband's tuberculosis rendered him too sick to properly maintain the nets on the family's fish pond, the family took on a $200 loan at extortionate rates from a loan shark. It has now ballooned to more than $9,000. "The debt that my husband and I have is too big, we can't pay it off," she says. "What can you do in a situation like this?"
"Virginity selling" was widespread in the community, and Neoung saw it as a legitimate option to make some income. "They think it is normal," she says. "I told her, 'Kieu, your dad is sick and can't work… Do you agree to do that job to contribute to your parents?'"
"I know that I did wrong so I feel regret about it, but what can I do?" she says. "We cannot move back to the past."
But she adds she would never do it again.
Sephak's mother, Ann, has a similar story. Ann moved to Svay Pak when her father came to work as a fish farmer. She and her husband have serious health problems.
"We are very poor, so I must work hard," she says. "It's still not enough to live by and we're sick all the time."
The family fell on hard times. When a storm roared through the region, their house was badly damaged, their fish got away, and they could no longer afford to eat. In crisis, the family took out a loan that eventually spiraled to about $6000 in debt, she says.
With money-lenders coming to her home and threatening her, Ann made the decision to take up an offer from a woman who approached her promising big money for her daughter's virginity.
"I saw other people doing it and I didn't think it through," she says. "If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn't do that to my daughter."
On her houseboat, as squalls of rain lash the river, Toha's mother Ngao sits barefoot before the television taking pride of place in the main living area, and expresses similar regrets. On the wall hangs a row of digitally enhanced portraits of her husband and eight children. They are dressed in smart suits and dresses, superimposed before an array of fantasy backdrops: an expensive motorcycle, a tropical beach, an American-style McMansion.
Life with so many children is hard, she says, so she asked her daughter to go with the men.
She would not do the same again, she says, as she now has access to better support; Agape International Missions offers interest-free loan refinancing to get families out of the debt trap, and factory jobs for rescued daughters and their mothers.
The news of Ngao's betrayal of her daughter has drawn mixed responses from others in the neighborhood, she says. Some mock her for offering up her daughter, others sympathize with her plight. Some see nothing wrong with she did at all.
"Some people say 'It's OK -- just bring your daughter (to the traffickers) so you can pay off the debt and feel better,'" says Ngao.
A new future
Not long after her suicide attempt, Toha was sent to a brothel in southern Cambodia. She endured more than 20 days there, before she managed to get access to a phone, and called a friend. She told the friend to contact Brewster's group, who arranged for a raid on the establishment.
Although children can be found in many brothels across Cambodia -- a 2009 survey of 80 Cambodian commercial sex premises found three-quarters offering children for sex – raids to free them are infrequent.
The country's child protection infrastructure is weak, with government institutions riven with corruption. Cambodia's anti-trafficking law does not even permit police to conduct undercover surveillance on suspected traffickers. General Pol Phie They, the head of Cambodia's anti-trafficking taskforce set up in 2007 to address the issue, says this puts his unit at a disadvantage against traffickers.
"We are still limited in prosecuting these violations because first, we lack the expertise and second, we lack the technical equipment," he says. "Sometimes, we see a violation but we can't collect the evidence we need to prosecute the offender."
He admits that police corruption in his country, ranked 160 of 175 countries on Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index, is hampering efforts to tackle the trade in Svay Pak. "Police in that area probably do have connections with the brothel owners," he concedes.
Toha's nightmare is now over. She earns a steady income, weaving bracelets that are sold in American stores, while she studies for her future. Her dream is to become a social worker, helping other girls who have been through the same ordeal.
Brewster believes that corruption was to blame for nearly thwarting Toha's rescue. In October 2012, after Toha's call for help, AIM formulated plans with another organization to rescue the teen, and involved police.
"We get a warrant to shut the place down," recalls Brewster. "Fifteen minutes later, Toha calls and says, 'I don't know what happened, the police just came with the owner and took us to a new place. I'm locked inside and don't know where I am.'"
Fortunately the rescue team were able to establish Toha's new location, and she and other victims were freed and the brothel managers arrested – although not before the owners fled to Vietnam.
Toha's testimony against the brothel managers, however, resulted in their prosecutions.
Last month, at the Phnom Penh Municipal Courthouse, husband and wife Heng Vy and Nguyeng Thi Hong were found guilty of procuring prostitution and sentenced to three years in jail. Both were ordered to pay $1,250 to the court, $5,000 to Toha, and smaller sums to three other victims.
Brewster was in court to watch the sentencing; a small victory in the context of Cambodia's child trafficking problem, but a victory nonetheless.
"Getting a telephone when she's trapped in a brothel to call for help, to saying she would be a witness in front of the police…. She stood up and now people are going to pay the price and girls will be protected. What it will do is bring more Tohas, more girls who are willing to speak, places shut down, bad guys put away."
Like the other victims, Toha now lives in an AIM safehouse, attending school and supporting herself by weaving bracelets, which are sold in stores in the West as a way of providing a livelihood to formerly trafficked children.
In the eyes of the community, having a job has helped restore to the girls some of the dignity that was stripped from them by having been sold into trafficking, says Brewster.
It has also given them independence from their families -- and with that, the opportunity to build for themselves a better reality than the one that was thrust on them. Now Sephak has plans to become a teacher, Kieu a hairdresser.
For her part, Toha still has contact with her mother – even providing financial support to the family through her earnings – but has become self-reliant. She wants to be a social worker, she says, helping girls who have endured the same hell she has.
"(Toha)'s earning a good living and she has a dream beyond that, you know, to become a counselor and to be able to help other girls," says Brewster. "You see the transformation that's happened to her."
Grand jury indicts couple accused of child abuse
MONROE, N.C. -- A Union County Grand Jury returned 11 indictments each on the former supervisor of Union County DSS and her boyfriend, who are accused of handcuffing their 11-year-old foster child to their front porch and tying a dead chicken around his neck.
Wanda Sue Larson, 57, the former supervisor of the Union County Department of social services, was indicted Monday by a Union County Grand Jury.
Larson is charged with willful failure to discharge duties, cruelty to animals, misdemeanor child abuse, two counts of false imprisonment, maiming, felony child abuse inflicting serious physical injury, and three counts of felonious child abuse - willful act or omission showing reckless disregard and causing serious physical injury.
Larson's boyfriend, 57-year-old Dorian Lee Harper, was indicted Monday on the following charges: two counts of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, three counts of felony child abuse inflicting serious physical injury, felonious child abuse - willful act or omission showing reckless disregard and causing serious physical injury, two counts of false imprisonment, maiming, misdemeanor child abuse and cruelty to animals.
Harper, an emergency room nurse at CMC-Union in Monroe, and Larson are facing animal cruelty due to the conditions of the animals found at their home. Harper has since been placed on administrative leave.
Officials say Larson wasn't home when the deputy found the boy, but was "complicit" in mistreatment of the children, according to a sheriff's statement.
The couple has four other adopted children. The 11-year-old boy allegedly found handcuffed to the porch with the dead chicken tied around his neck was the couple's foster child.
The investigation began when Union County Deputy, working in the animal control department, responded to the couples home in the 4100 block of Austin Road in response to complaints about a loose pig. That deputy reportedly found the 11-year-old boy handcuffed to the porch rail by his ankle, and the chicken, whose feet had been tied together with string, hung around his neck. The boy appeared to be shivering, according to the sheriff's office.
Moments later, a man came out from the house and questioned the officer about why he was there, according to a statement from the sheriff's office. The deputy asked for an explanation and for the man's identification. As the man pulled out a driver's license, another child opened the front door, letting out several large dogs. The animals chased the deputy back to his patrol car off the property, said the statement.
In the time it took to secure the dogs, the sheriff's office says the man freed the boy from the ankle cuff and took off the chicken.
Backup officers responded and searched the house. Police removed five children, ages 14, 13, 11, 9 and 8, from the home, and began a criminal investigation. They took Harper into custody at the scene. The children are in the custody of Social Services in another county.
Carolina's Healthcare System confirmed Saturday that Harper is an RN in the CMC Union emergency room. He has been placed on administrative leave.
Recognize a child's trauma
Life's worst moments can be too much for young minds to comprehend, for tender hearts to bear.
Yet an alarming number of children in our communities must cope with such traumatic events. These can range from the most severe — the sudden loss of a parent or sibling, physical or sexual abuse, homelessness — to others common in today's world, including divorce of parents and bad car accidents.
A counselor with the St. Joseph School District explains the resulting trauma frequently results in “an overwhelming sense of terror, helplessness and hopelessness.”
For even some adults, these issues can be crippling. For children, they can be overwhelming.
The growing number of youth dealing with trauma has a widespread impact on our region. A veteran counselor with the school district notes the problem is much more acute that it was years ago. No surprise there. For one thing, many more children today have parents who are either addicted to substances or incarcerated.
Because of their close interaction with children, teachers often are the first to identify and to try to help students experiencing trauma. The problem is not isolated to a few mid-city schools but is prevalent in communities across the region.
The St. Joseph School District's goal is to help children who are in “survivor mode” to begin thriving. The district recently held training sessions for volunteers from the community who want to help youth and supplement the district's trained staff.
Schools cannot address this colossal task on their own. Community groups, churches, health care workers and law enforcement all play a role. The kind of love and nurturing that is required by our children is impossible to mandate or fund.
We will not diminish the magnitude of what our children are experiencing by suggesting simple answers. We will advocate for them and encourage others to do their part to let them know we care and will support them in their time of need.
Childhood trauma creates a cycle that leads to kids being removed from their homes
by Patricia Machelor
Children might end up in foster care after enduring abuse or neglect. Maybe a birth parent is an addict or has an untreated mental illness. Perhaps the children witnessed domestic violence.
Whatever the reason for the trauma, its effects are insidious and difficult to address — and they can last a lifetime, even spanning generations. Children raised in dysfunction often grow up and raise their own kids in similar households, making trauma a key reason for Arizona's recent spike in children's removal from their families. Arizona ranks first nationwide for the number of children in out-of-home care, with 15,300 removed by Child Protective Services statewide and 5,000 in Pima County.
Enduring trauma in childhood not only increases the future risk for addiction and mental-health challenges, but it also heightens a child's likelihood of developing a chronic illness.
Research on trauma has exploded in recent years, and many who work with abused and neglected children and their families say it is one of our most complex issues: How do social workers and mental-health-care providers undo what is so deeply ingrained?
Tucsonan Rosa Cueto's childhood was devoid of healthy relationships. She became so mired in dysfunction that she is now left longing to carry out the one thing she wants to do most: mother her two youngest children.
Her story illustrates the lasting impacts of trauma and the agony a parent can go through when she wants her children back, but because of her parenting history and personal struggles, might not get another chance.
Arizona worst for kids
Arizona was deemed the nation's worst place to be a child after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently completed its largest study on trauma.
Using data from the Centers' Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACE, study, the National Survey of Children's Health found last year that 44.4 percent of Arizona's children ages 12-18, and 31.1 percent of all children 18 and younger, have experienced two or more traumatic childhood events. The national average was 22.6 percent.
When these children are removed from their homes, they are often re-traumatized by losing what's familiar, even if it's unhealthy or unsafe. Pima County Juvenile Court data show that 80 percent of children who have been removed from home by CPS have a mental health issue such as anxiety or depression, disorders often brought on or exacerbated by trauma.
About 21 percent of the foster care system's alumni experience post-traumatic stress disorder, a higher rate than war veterans, says a 2012 report by the National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections.
“We have a public-health issue here in Pima County,” says Chris Swenson-Smith, head of Child and Family Services at the Juvenile Court Center and a former CPS caseworker, “and it's trauma.”
How a teacher sees it
As a second-grade teacher at Walter Douglas Elementary School, Whitney Weigold sees how some of her students and their families struggle with poverty, unemployment, low wages and stress. Some students regularly miss meals, don't receive medical care when they need it or lack adequate clothing or shoes.
Without these basic needs being met, she wonders, how can she possibly expect them to pay attention and do their homework? She wishes she could do more to help. “We have families and children going through more trauma than I will ever see in my lifetime,” she says.
Trauma results from being exposed to an inescapable and stressful event that “overwhelms a person's coping mechanisms,” University of Maryland sociology professor Carolyn Knight wrote in her book for social workers, “Working With Adult Survivors of Childhood Trauma. ”
Cueto could be Knight's poster child.
When she was a girl, Cueto and her siblings were abused and so became involved in the child-welfare system.
Cueto said she was taken from her home and returned several times until, at 14, she ran away with a boyfriend. He became her abusive partner of 15 years, deepening her childhood scars and reinforcing the dysfunction. They lived in cars and hotel rooms, sold drugs and, she says, “did what we could to survive.”
They also had four children, all of whom were taken away by CPS.
Now 35, Cueto has had two more children with other men — the first boyfriend was deported and the second one died. She said she is trying to live a better life, but she suffers from severe panic attacks and multiple health problems, including fibromyalgia and a migraine disorder she developed after being shot in the head at age 14.
One year ago, her two youngest children, both under 10, were taken away by CPS. The charges included exposure to domestic violence and substance abuse.
“I love my children more than anything in the world,” she says, through tears. “They are my life.”
But dealing with the aftermath of her own upbringing while trying to negotiate what she finds a complicated and often dispassionate child-welfare system has left her defensive, and, at times, hopeless.
“I feel intimidated by these people,” she says. “I wish someone had tried to understand my story. It's not something that gets better overnight.”
Heartbreak on the line
Cueto says trauma in her life has been “like a chain that never ends.” When CPS removed her children, she became hysterical and was prescribed several drugs to help, but she says they left her barely able to function.
Phone calls with her children in those initial months were overwhelming.
“I would talk to the them on the phone and it was so awful. They would cry and cry and cry because they wanted to come home,” she says. “This is trauma for them. I know how I feel not holding them and touching them and combing their hair. Can you imagine how they feel?”
But Cueto has also failed to carry through with some of the requirements she needs to follow to get her children back. She says being overmedicated during those initial months made it difficult, and that she still becomes overwhelmed with grief and fear.
Her case, like her life, is complex. There are no easy answers.
During a hearing scheduled this week, her attorney will ask a Juvenile Court judge to give Cueto more time to do what she needs to do to get her children back — for more time to unlearn a lifetime of trauma.
Ohio mom, ex-boyfriend guilty in girl's death
by Associated Press
TOLEDO, Ohio — An Ohio woman and her ex-boyfriend pleaded guilty Tuesday in the killing of her 18-month-old daughter, whose remains were found in a box in a garage three months after she was reported missing.
Prosecutors said the mother tossed the toddler across her bedroom in early June because she wouldn't stop crying, severely injuring the girl.
Steven King II, the 24-year-old ex-boyfriend, told a Toledo judge that he had found the girl, Elaina Steinfurth, injured in her bedroom and that he tried to resuscitate her. He said he then covered her mouth until she stopped breathing and put her in a bag.
The girl's remains were found in September in the rafters of a garage that belongs to King's family.
“I knew what I did was wrong,” King said Tuesday.
King pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, tampering with evidence, abuse of a corpse and obstructing justice. He was sentenced to life in prison with parole eligibility after 25 years.
The girl's mother, Angela Steinfurth, entered a type of guilty plea to murder and obstructing justice under which she maintains her innocence but acknowledges prosecutors had enough evidence to convict her. She was sentenced to 18 years to life in prison in accordance with her plea deal.
She did not make a statement in court Tuesday.
Steinfurth, 25, tossed the child so hard against either the wall or floor that she had severe bruises and was struggling to breathe, said Ian English, an assistant prosecutor in Lucas County. An autopsy later found the toddler had five broken bones.
Prosecutors said they didn't think they could seek the death penalty because it wasn't clear if Elaina's injuries from being thrown could have been fatal on their own.
County prosecutor Julia Bates said Elaina's family members agreed to the plea deal because it allowed them to know what happened and where the girl's body was discarded.
“There is some degree of peace for that child, the family and the community,” Bates said.
Angela Steinfurth and her two daughters stayed with King at his family's home on June 1, investigators have said. Elaina's father, Terry Steinfurth, went to the residence to pick up his two daughters the next day, but only Elaina's 4-year-old sister could be found.
Authorities searched homes, vacant buildings and the Maumee River near downtown for any sign of Elaina while volunteers looked through neighborhoods and parks.
Investigators said Tuesday that Angela Steinfurth tried to throw off the search by telling them she threw the baby in the river and planting diapers along the banks, but King eventually told them Elaina's remains had been stuffed in a box and hidden in the garage.
Terry Steinfurth, the toddler's father, told the court Tuesday that he can't understand how anyone could harm an innocent child.
“The loss of Eliana has left my entire family with a gaping hole in our heart,” he said.
Investigators spent the past six months looking into what happened to the toddler before a grand jury indicted the pair on Monday. Both have been in jail since the summer on obstruction charges.
How violent porn site operators disappear behind Internet privacy protections
by Craig Timberg
BROOKLINE, Mass. — Researcher Garth Bruen long has investigated the seamier corners of the Internet, but even he was shocked to discover Rapetube.org, a site urging users to share what it called “fantasy” videos of sexual attacks.
Bruen gradually discovered dozens of similar sites offering disturbing variations — attacks on drunken women, on lesbians, on schoolgirls — to anyone with a credit card. Some made clear that the clips were fictional, but other sites had the word “real” in their titles. At least a few touted videos that he feared might show actual crimes.
Sickened, Bruen tried to determine who operated the sites, a first step toward possibly having them shut down. But he quickly hit a wall: The contact information listed for Web sites increasingly is fictitious or intentionally masked by “privacy protection services” that offer ways around the transparency requirements built into the Internet for decades.
That is especially true for sites offering illicit or controversial content, studies have found. As a result, although governments have increasingly powerful tools for tracking individual behavior on the Internet, it's harder than ever for private citizens to learn who is responsible for online content, no matter how objectionable.
To Bruen, this is the dark side of Internet privacy.
“That's not privacy. That's secrecy,” said Bruen, 42, a security fellow at the Digital Citizens Alliance, a Washington-based advocacy group that combats online crime. “That's corporate secrecy.”
The desire for sunshine is at odds with the libertarian ethos of cyberspace, where free speech often has been understood to include the freedom to share content anonymously. Bruen seeks a finer line that, while shielding personal conversations and other private behavior, would demand those selling content to accept a measure of accountability by making their identities known.
That long has been required by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a California-based nonprofit group that, under contract with the U.S. Commerce Department, has broad authority over the issuing of Web addresses worldwide. The group, typically called by its acronym, ICANN, requires that site operators provide “accurate and reliable contact details” but has struggled to enforce compliance amid the transnational lawlessness of cyberspace.
An ICANN study released in September found massive problems with contact information throughout the Internet. Among “adult” Web sites, nearly half used services to mask the identities of site operators or listed no contact number at all. When investigators attempted to reach site operators whose numbers were listed, the effort was successful for less than 6 percent of the “adult” sites surveyed.
“In principle, the information is supposed to be accurate,” said Stephen D. Crocker, chairman of ICANN's board. Yet he acknowledged that it often is not, with the “dark corners” of the Internet most resistant to efforts at accountability.
For Rapetube.org, the official contact information listed a man with an East Asian last name, a French phone number and an e-mail address issued by a Chinese company. When Bruen sent e-mails, they bounced back as “undeliverable.” When he called the phone number, nobody answered.
Still, whoever operated the site remained active, promising in text posted amid pictures of bound, sometimes bloodied women that there would be “regular updates” to what it claimed was “the biggest rape porn site for violent sex videos.”
Transparency vs. privacy
Transparency was built into the Internet from its earliest days, when site operators needed to reach one another to resolve technical problems. That led to the creation of the “Whois” database, a consolidated source of contact information that became a popular tool for police, journalists, political activists and companies looking to combat abuse of their brand names and registered trademarks.
When activists against domestic violence in 2001 discovered a site called wifebeatersunion.com — it featured an animated image of a fist punching a woman's face — there was enough information available to lodge complaints that eventually got the site shut down.
“It felt really good to take some action,” said Cindy Southworth of the National Network to End Domestic Violence. “If there is horrible, hateful content out there, it would be useful to know who hosts it.”
More recently, pressure from activists and advertisers persuaded Facebook in May to crack down on what it called expressions of “gender-based hate.” But such tactics have little chance of success when protesters can't figure out whom to target in their protests.
The declining reliability of the Whois database is quietly embraced by many privacy advocates, who see the forced provision of contact information as contrary to free speech protections. U.S. courts recognize a right to speak anonymously as central to the First Amendment, on the grounds that voicing controversial ideas can be dangerous.
“We benefit from creating breathing room for anonymous and pseudonymous content,” said Eric Goldman, a law professor at Santa Clara University, in Silicon Valley. “Some categories of highly valuable information to society are especially susceptible to legal threats, and allowing content publication without attribution can help that content see the light of day.”
But courts also distinguish among kinds of speech, with pornography receiving less protection than, for example, political commentary or literature.
Most nude images of people younger than 18 are illegal to record, share or view. Some activists for women's rights in recent years have been pushing for legal sanctions against non-consensual pornography — often called “revenge porn” — in which pictures or videos of sexual acts are uploaded to Web sites after a relationship ends, typically to embarrass a former romantic partner.
“Here we have images of private people,” said Danielle Citron, a law professor at the University of Maryland. “The public has no legitimate right to know about that.”
In a world of more than a billion smartphones, clips of sexual encounters recorded by bystanders are also increasingly appearing online. Some of these depict consensual acts, but others are from assaults, as was the case with video last year of a 16-year-old girl in Steubenville, Ohio, who was raped while intoxicated.
But if Web sites show videos of attacks that are not real, there are few practical legal restrictions.
When asked about sites that feature “rape porn,” the FBI said in a statement: “These types of Web sites are not unknown to law enforcement. We use a variety of operational strategies to combat this problem and remain committed to identifying those people who would exploit children. In terms of other types of pornography (other than child pornography) that would draw FBI scrutiny — we make that determination on a case by case basis.”
Rapetube.org appeared to operate in this gray area, as part of an extreme niche within the multibillion-dollar online porn industry. Sites offering what they describe as “fantasy” videos of sexual assaults receive little attention from law enforcement or the kinds of activist groups that track child pornography. Determining the amount of money involved — or even who receives the profits — is made difficult by the sketchy information available in the Whois database.
Archived versions of Rapetube.org carry claims that the people depicted are professionals who are at least 18 years old. “We do not condone non-consensual sex,” it says. “This site is about ROLE PLAYING FANTASY only and performed by professional actors and models.”
Elsewhere, however, the site makes clear that any registered user can upload content. “Submit your own videos, rate the vids you watched and join the community. Enjoy your stay! Bookmark Rape Tube!
Many of the videos listed on archived versions of the site carried a simple, two-word description: “Real rape."
A deepening concern
Bruen, a father of two, has degrees in criminal justice, public policy and software engineering and is an elected user representative to an ICANN advisory board. He runs a small security-research firm called KnujOn.com — “no junk” spelled backward — out of a Tudor-style house shaded by maples in suburban Boston.
KnujOn, which grew out of work Bruen did in a previous job as an IT manager for a state agency, investigates sources of spam, those solicitations that jam e-mail inboxes worldwide with offers of easy money or discounts on drugs such as Viagra.
During one investigation, Bruen came across hundreds of sites — featuring pirated software, unlicensed pharmaceuticals and get-rich schemes — registered to a name, Henry Nguyen Gong, with an address and phone number supposedly based in France. Both the Web address and the privacy protection service came from a domain registrar, Bizcn.com, headquartered in the coastal Chinese city of Xiamen.
As Bruen searched for other sites registered to the same person, he was startled to find Rapetube.org. The images and descriptions Bruen found there only deepened his concern, prompting him to complain to ICANN and raise questions about the site in an e-mail to the organization's chief executive, Fadi Chehade. Bruen eventually would file more than 1,400 complaints against Bizcn.com about flawed information on sites registered to Henry Nguyen Gong. They were among more than 8,000 complaints Bruen filed to ICANN about faulty contact information in one four-month period last year.
Chehade replied warmly, at one point saying in an e-mail to Bruen, “I appreciate your dedication and commitment to the ICANN community.” But ICANN's compliance staff rejected 11 percent of his 8,000 complaints, mostly on the grounds that the filings “lacked sufficient detail;” for the other 89 percent, Bruen received no response at all, he said.
When Bruen requested a review of the cases from ICANN's in-house ombudsman, the ombudsman wrote in a report, “There is no substance to the complaints” and ruled the contractual requirement that sites provide “accurate and reliable contact details” did not mean that the information had to be “verifiable.”
Bruen was more angry than surprised at the outcome. ICANN has repeatedly voiced support for transparency and required domain registrars — the companies such as GoDaddy and Enom that sell Web addresses — to collect contact information on site operators. Their contracts give ICANN authority to suspend registrars that failed to do so, but enforcement has been lax for years, according to experts and studies.
Investigators from the Government Accountability Office in 2005 submitted error reports to ICANN about 45 randomly selected Web sites that had “patently false” contact information, including phone numbers listed as “(999) 999-9999” and postal codes as “XXXXX.” After 30 days, the errors remained for 33 of the sites, nearly three-quarters of those checked.
“ICANN has not enforced these rules. Enforcing these rules is hard. .?.?. It would be a lot easier to ignore the problem,” said Benjamin G. Edelman, a Harvard Business School professor and former ICANN employee, who once testified to Congress that the Whois database was “substantially fiction.”
Those seeking to falsify contact information once favored fanciful names, such as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. Now they increasingly rely on “privacy protection services” that typically are offered, for a small fee, by the same domain registrars that sell Web addresses. These services are supposed to furnish contact information upon request, but in practice, they rarely do, according to Bruen and other critics.
The ICANN report in September found that the use of such services was “very high” or “extremely high” for sites featuring pornography, financial scams and unlicensed pharmaceuticals. For legal pharmacies, law firms and executive search consultants, the use of “privacy protection services” was much less common.
Suddenly, it's not there
The FBI and other law enforcement agencies around the world have lobbied ICANN to create a more accurate, accessible Whois database to assist their investigations. Even the domain registrar's industry group, the Domain Name Association, has endorsed the idea of a more accurate database, at least in concept. The association also has argued that more rigorous record keeping would add to the costs for registrars if they have to verify identities through passports or other official documents. Buying a new Web address now typically costs less than $15 a year.
“You've got to make the process transparent. You've got to make sure it's policed. And we think it's ICANN's role to do so,” said Adrian Kinderis, chairman of the Domain Name Association.
Efforts by The Washington Post to reach the operator of Rapetube.org, based on the information on file in the Whois database, were no more successful than Bruen's. Calls were not answered. E-mails were returned as undeliverable. Efforts to mail a letter failed because the listed address in Nimes, a city in southern France, is on a street that does not appear to exist.
The domain operator, Bizcn.com, had no additional information on Gong and was not aware of having been contacted by ICANN about problems with sites registered in his name, said Wu Weiqiang, a product manager for the company. “We are just the domain registrar, and it's hard for us to tell who is behind a Web site.”
For months, Bruen continued to periodically check the Whois database to see whether the contact information for Rapetube.org had been corrected. It never was. But after Bruen expressed his frustration publicly, in a post on his personal blog in September, Rapetube.org suddenly went dark. Instead of images of naked women with gags in their mouths or shackles on their bodies, error messages appeared.
He wasn't sure why, although he guessed that some Internet providers had quietly blacklisted the site, making it impossible for users to access it.
A few days later, with Rapetube.org still offline, Bruen decided to see how many similar sites were still online by running a search for Web addresses with the word “rape” in their names. He quickly found more than 40.
“There's really a commercial interest in promoting this material,” Bruen said, “and it's much, much bigger than I thought.”
The sites carried links to one another, allowing customers to have access to several for a single payment, but they also appeared to compete. One site bragged: “This is, without a doubt, the sickest and most depraved rape fantasy content I have EVER seen. .?.?. Even if you are a seasoned fan, like me, you may STILL come away shocked.”
Again, the contact information was of little use, with most sites listing only a “privacy protection service” run by their domain registrars. Nearly a year after discovering this extreme pornographic niche, Bruen was little closer to learning who operated the sites.
Vatican's abuse commission – ten years too late but here's how to give it credibility
by Marie Collins
The news that the Vatican is to set up a commission focused on safeguarding children and caring for victims of abuse is welcome. I would have been more impressed if it had been set up ten years ago as it certainly should. It was obvious by then that the clerical child sexual abuse crisis was not just isolated to one or two countries and it was not going to go away. No amount of defensive statements or words of apology were going to tackle the problem, prevent further abuse or help those survivors who needed justice and healing.
Now that the Vatican is setting up this commission my hope is that it will not turn out to be a false dawn. That we will see real, practical measures put in place to ensure the safety of children and bring the needed peace and justice to those who have been hurt.
If there is to be lasting progress then the right people have to be chosen as members of this commission. We have had too many decisions made within the Church by those whose priority has been the protection of the institution rather than the protection of children. We have had too many speak for the Church using words which have hurt rather than healed survivors. This must be an end to that.
On my wishlist for the membership would first be the Maltese Bishop Charles Scicluna. He has experience of handling abuse cases from around the world from his time as Promoter of Justice in the Vatican. During that time he showed a strong commitment to convincing bishops that they must deal properly with cases of abuse in their diocese. I believe he would bring this commitment to the commission.
Next would be Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, who has received worldwide praise from survivor organisations for the way in which he has dealt with the issue in his diocese. He has experience of helping adult survivors in large numbers of past cases. He has also set up procedures for co-operating with the civil authorities on past and current cases. He has developed strong child protection policies and practices in his diocese. He would bring this practical experience at diocesan level to the commission.
I also feel there should be a representative of survivors of clerical sexual abuse on the commission. No matter how many experts you have, no one knows better what is needed by survivors than themselves.
Finally, if this commission is to have credibility and achieve real change then it must be in a position to make bishops accountable. What is the point of this commission enacting new safeguarding policies or healing procedures if those charged with their implementation are in a position to ignore them without sanction? To achieve credibility the Church must ensure accountability. Without it there is no guarantee the mistakes of the past will not continue into the future and more innocents suffer.
Marie Collins, abuse survivor and campaigner
Stark look at abuse and violence aimed at Native American children
by Kayla Gahagan
Experts give wrenching personal testimony at DOJ hearing while detailing how kids are more at risk and get less help
BISMARCK, N.D. — Lenny Hayes was just a kid when it started. To escape, he simply closed his eyes and pretended that the sexual abuse he was experiencing wasn't really happening.
“When I am being victimized over and over, I am looking down from the ceiling and I could see my body being taken advantage of,'' he said Monday, recalling the abuse to task members of a public hearing convened by the U.S. Department of Justice to study the impact of exposure to violence on American Indian and Alaska Native children.
In one of the more emotional pieces of testimony, Hayes recounted mental, physical and sexual abuse as a 6-year-old child on the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate reservation in the northeastern corner of South Dakota. He remembered how he would tell himself, “Poor little boy, it will soon be over.''
Hayes, who is now a mental-health therapist in Minnesota, told task force members he is an example of children's ability to overcome abuse and violence, if given the support and right resources for healing.
“I am no longer a victim; I am a survivor,” he said. “I am choosing to grow, learn and move forward.”
But Hayes' story is rare, experts say.
More at risk
According to the 2009 National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV), more than 60 percent of children are exposed to violence. Incidents on reservations are even higher, said Lonna Hunter, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and expert witness at the Bismarck hearing. She is the project coordinator of the Council on Crime and Justice.
Almost two dozen experts — including professors, legislators, tribal leaders, attorneys and representatives from organizations working to solve the issue of violence perpetrated against children on reservations – joined Hunter in the first of four hearings that will be followed next year with hearings in Phoenix, Ariz., Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and Anchorage, Alaska. The task force will make a recommendation to U.S. Attorney Eric Holder.
The disproportionate numbers of native children experiencing violence and then not receiving care and support is especially alarming when compared with children of other communities, she said.
A number of issues including the need for more research that is tribally-directed, the need for culturally-based solutions for healing, funding for tribally-centered programs, jurisdiction issues and stigma for families with children who have reported abuse have plagued reservations for years, making it next to impossible for children to heal and develop properly, she said.
One of the biggest issues to tackle is the inadequate number of law-enforcement officials to respond to domestic abuse calls or reports of violence or sexual assault, she said.
“For example, on the Rosebud reservation, there were 25,000 calls to law enforcement and at least two children a day are victims of crime,” Hunter said.
Data from the Wind River Reservation estimates that at least 66 percent of families have a history of domestic violence and at least 20 percent have been sexually abused, she added.
'We know what to do'
The task force is co-chaired by Byron Dorgan, a former North Dakota senator, and Iroquois musician Joanne Shenandoah. It was established after the Justice Department convened a panel to study the effects of violence on all children. After hearing compelling testimony in New Mexico, they realized they would need a separate panel for the effects on native children, said Bob Listenbee, from the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The work of the new task force will be considered alongside work done by a joint federal work group.
Listenbee, who served on the original task force, said last year's recommendation included a four-part process, with children identified, screened, assessed and treated.
“There is science that shows that children traumatized by violence can get back on to the developmental path,” he said.
Another part of the recommendation includes training for all adults in contact with children, Listenbee said, including doctors, attorneys and teachers, as well as a major public awareness campaign.
“Because people just don't understand,” the urgency or scope of the problem, he said.
Several of Monday's speakers asked the task force to seek solutions that are rooted in native culture and values.
“It needs to be grassroots and it needs to be run by natives,” said Barbara Bettelyoun, a psychologist from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. “Healing needs to include teaching and practices of our native ways.”
Dorgan said there's no reason they can't find and implement solutions.
“I get so angry and upset,” he said. “This is not some mysterious illness … We know what to do.”
Child abuse: Issue hitting home
by NICK MARIANO
ANNA — Dr. Kathy Swafford, medical director of the Children's Medical Resource Network in Anna, examines more than 100 children in Southern Illinois for possible abuse or neglect every year.
There's another 40 to 60 evaluations performed by other medical practitioners that she reviews annually, as well.
Swafford's network was founded
13 years ago to improve examinations of children suspected of being abused or neglected.
It is funded through a Children's Justice grant from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and is administered as part of the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine's Department of Pediatrics.
CMRN utilizes medical providers specializing in identifying cases of abuse and neglect in the 45 southern counties of Illinois in part to provide better access for care and evaluation in the region.
Such specialists are needed for examinations, but also to better collect data on cases. A new specialty among pediatricians has emerged focused on child abuse, said Swafford, herself a pediatrician.
“We are trying to strike a balance between providing education, trying to pick out the children who are at risk or who have been harmed and trying to also identify and save the families from the trauma of going through investigations unnecessarily,” Swafford said.
CMRN, as required by its grant, also provides education to practitioners and in November hosted its annual conference at John A. Logan College. It is jointly sponsored by the SIU School of Medicine and the DCFS.
This year's conference featured presentations on improving communication among professionals through social workers and working with families affected by abuse or neglect.
Bills could change way child abuse is defined in Pa.
by John Finnerty
HARRISBURG — Cumbersome legal definitions of child abuse can stymie doctors, nurses and caseworkers who might believe a child is in danger, according to advocates lobbying for changes to the state's child welfare system.
Key bills to toughen penalties for child abuse and failure to report it could be on the governor's desk before the end of the month. Those include a signature piece of legislation that advocates say will change the way child abuse is defined.
The key change involves essentially rewriting the law so almost anything that would be considered simple assault can now be described as child abuse. Under existing law, a doctor is often asked to determine if the child suffered “severe pain” as a result of the abuse, said Cathleen Palm, who leads the Protect Our Children Committee, an advocacy group that has been fighting for revamped child protection laws.
The state House has already approved the bill that would reform the definition of child abuse. A final Senate vote could take place next week.
The unwieldy definition can cripple abuse investigations before they begin as caseworkers and others in the child protection system are stymied, Palm said.
“(Child protection workers) are trained to screen based on what the law says,” Palm said.
The chilling effect is felt across the child protection system.
It matters to the nurse who calls to report that a child is covered in bruises only to see nothing happen, Palm said. It matters to the dispatcher who takes the call and determines that the injuries described by the nurse probably don't meet the state standard for abuse, so the case is put on a backburner, Palm said. It matters to doctors who treat children with suspicious injuries only to struggle to guess if the child suffered the type of “severe pain” required to call the acts abuse, she said. And, most of all, it matters to the children who listen to a caseworker tell their abusers the victims' injuries don't count as child abuse, Palm said.
Fifteen of the 31 families in which children died as a result of abuse in Pennsylvania in 2012 had been visited by child protective services in the 16 months before the victims were killed, according to Department of Public Welfare data.
“This isn't about jacking our numbers up,” Palm said. “We are concerned because kids are not being provided pathways to services or investigations.”
Coming up with a workable new definition has not been easy. Early on, Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler, who chaired the state's task force on child protection, worried that lawmakers would hedge on toughening the abuse language out of concerns about interfering with the right of parents to discipline their children. Those concerns were resolved, but physicians say there are other problems in some of the legislation.
The state is not eliminating the right of parents to claim that abuse is the result of religious beliefs, said Dr. Pat Bruno, a Northumberland County physician who specializes in recognizing and treating child abuse.
Just as badly, shaking a toddler would remain legal, Bruno said.
“First of all, the statement about ‘forcefully shaking a child if the child is under 1 year of age' should be changed to ‘forcefully shaking an infant or a child,'” Bruno said. “There is no reason to ever shake an infant or a child. Indeed, there have been many reported cases of shaking causing the same damage to a child greater than 1 year of age as it does to a child less than 1 year of age.”
The move to revamp the definition of child abuse is one of 10 bills moving in the Senate. Others stiffen penalties for abuse or failing to report abuse and aim to improve communications between law enforcement and child protective services.
Advocates fret that those efforts may translate into a flood of reports of child abuse that only strain already overworked and burned out caseworkers.
Greater public awareness about child abuse has already translated into a dramatic increase in reports of suspected abuse, according to Department of Public Welfare data. The state's ChildLine hotline received 26,664 reports of suspected abuse in 2012, a nine percent increase over 2011.
Just 13 percent of reported child abuse cases in Pennsylvania, 3,565, were substantiated by caseworkers. It's difficult to compare one state to another because not all states use the same terms. But in Nevada, for comparison, 26 percent of child abuse reports were substantiated by authorities, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
“I know the Children and Youth caseworkers we deal with are going 120 percent,” said Paula Eppley-Newman, executive director of Beginnings Inc., a nonprofit focused on early childhood development in Cambria County. Beginnings just received $120,000 from the state to offer in-home parenting classes to families in a bid to prevent child abuse. The organization also runs the court-appointed special advocate program in Cambria County, which provides independent representatives to look exclusively after the interests of children in custody or similar family law disputes.
Palm said caseworkers and advocates are concerned about the effects of a new definition of abuse, coupled with more aggressive penalties for those who neglect to report it.
“Getting the laws passed is going to be the easy part,” Palm said. “We are nervous. That's one of things we're going to have to be attentive about.”
Group seeks church backing in efforts to extend time child sex abuse victims can sue in Mass.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
BOSTON — Child welfare advocates have sent a letter to the head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston asking him to back legislation that would extend the time that victims of childhood sexual abuse could file lawsuits.
The open letter to Cardinal Sean O'Malley released Sunday came days after he announced a major effort by Pope Francis to explore ways the church can protect children from abuse and care for victims. The Vatican commission marks the Catholic church's first comprehensive effort to address a worldwide scandal that exploded in 2002 in Boston.
"Protecting the 'dignity of the human person and the sanctity of (all) human lives,' the expressed goals of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, apply to the quest for justice that victims of sexual abuse and advocates for children have been on for so long," says the letter from a group of advocates led by Massachusetts Citizens for Children.
By supporting the legislation, "you can help us help them and prevent more children from being abused," the letter reads, according to The Boston Globe.
The bills are the latest efforts by advocates to get the state Legislature to allow more time for victims of childhood sexual abuse to pursue their alleged abusers in state court. One proposal would allow abuse victims to file a lawsuit up to the age of 55. Current law generally caps the filing age at 21.
Current law applies to all abuse cases and is not limited to church-related ones.
While not addressing the letter directly, a spokesman for the archdiocese says the church is committed to protecting children and helping victims.
"We indemnify and provide services for any person impacted by the sexual abuse of minors in the church, regardless of when the abuse took place," Terrence Donilon said.
Opponents of similar legislation last year said they feared it could expose the church to additional liability.
Experts: Recent Hollywood Child Sexual Abuse Charges Just Tip of Iceberg
If a spate of recent allegations proves true, Hollywood may have a hideous epidemic on its hands. The past two weeks have brought three separate reports of alleged child sexual abuse in the entertainment industry.
Martin Weiss, a 47-year-old Hollywood manager who represented child actors, was charged in Los Angeles on Dec. 1 with sexually abusing a former client. His accuser, who was under 12 years old during the time of the alleged abuse, reported to authorities that Weiss told him “what they were doing was common practice in the entertainment industry.” Weiss has pleaded not guilty.
On Nov. 21, Fernando Rivas, 59, an award-winning composer for “Sesame Street,” was arraigned on charges of coercing a child “to engage in sexually explicit conduct” in South Carolina. The Juilliard-trained composer was also charged with production and distribution of child pornography.
Registered sex offender Jason James Murphy, 35, worked as a casting agent in Hollywood for years before his past kidnapping and sexual abuse of a boy was revealed by the Los Angeles Times on Nov. 17. Murphy's credits include placing young actors in kid-friendly fare like "Bad News Bears," "The School of Rock," "Cheaper by the Dozen 2” and the forthcoming " Three Stooges.”
Revelations of this sort come as no surprise to former child star Corey Feldman.
Feldman, 40, himself a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, unflinchingly warned of the world of pedophiles who are drawn to the entertainment industry last August. "I can tell you that the No. 1 problem in Hollywood was and is and always will be pedophilia,” Feldman told ABC's Nightline. “That's the biggest problem for children in this industry... It's the big secret.”
Another child star from an earlier era agrees that Hollywood has long had a problem with pedophilia. “When I watched that interview, a whole series of names and faces from my history went zooming through my head,” Paul Peterson, 66, star of The Donna Reed Show, a sitcom popular in the 1950s and 60s, and president of A Minor Consideration, tells F . “Some of these people, who I know very well, are still in the game.”
“This has been going on for a very long time,” concurs former “Little House on the Prairie” star Alison Arngrim. “It was the gossip back in the ‘80s. People said, ‘Oh yeah, the Coreys, everyone's had them.' People talked about it like it was not a big deal.”
Arngrim, 49, was referring to Feldman and his co-star in “The Lost Boys,” Corey Haim, who died in March 2010 after years of drug abuse.
“I literally heard that they were ‘passed around,'” Arngrim said. “The word was that they were given drugs and being used for sex. It was awful – these were kids, they weren't 18 yet. There were all sorts of stories about everyone from their, quote, ‘set guardians' on down that these two had been sexually abused and were totally being corrupted in every possible way.”
In fact it is the very nature of a TV or movie set that invites predators, experts tell Fox News.
“A set in Hollywood with children can become a place that attracts pedophiles because the children there may be vulnerable and less tended to,” explains Beverly Hills-based psychotherapist Dr. Jenn Berman. “One thing we know about actors, psychologically speaking, is that they're people who like a lot of attention. Kids naturally like a lot of attention, and when you put a kid on a set who is unsupervised and getting attention from someone who is powerful, it creates a vulnerability for a very dangerous situation.”
Feldman, who claims he was “surrounded” by pedophiles when he was 14, says the sexual abuse by an unnamed “Hollywood mogul” led to the death of his friend Haim at the age of 38. "That person needs to be exposed, but, unfortunately, I can't be the one to do it," Feldman told Nightline.
“There's more than one person to blame,” says Arngrim. “I'm sure that it was not just one person who sexually abused Corey Haim, and I'm sure it wasn't only him and Corey Feldman that knew about it. I'm sure that dozens of people were aware of the situation and chose to not report it.”
Arngrim, a board member and the national spokeswoman for protect.org, an organization that works to protect children from physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, says greed in Hollywood allows sexual predators to flourish. “Nobody wants to stop the gravy train,” says Arngrim. “If a child actor is being sexually abused by someone on the show, is the family, agents or managers – the people who are getting money out of this – going to say, ‘OK, let's press charges'? No, because it's going to bring the whole show to a grinding halt, and stop all the checks. So, the pressure is there is not to say anything.”
“It's almost a willing sacrifice that many parents are oblivious to – what kind of environment do they think that they're pushing their kid into?” said Peterson. “The casting couch is a real thing, and sometimes just getting an appointment makes people do desperate things.”
Arngrim, who revealed her own sexual abuse in her 2010 autobiography, “Confessions of a Prairie Bitch,” explains: “I've heard from victims from all over the country. Everyone tells the same kind of story, everyone is told to keep it secret, everyone is threatened with something. Corey Feldman may have opened a can of worms by speaking out, but yes, this does go on.”
Even though Feldman spoke candidly about the abuse, he hasn't named the predator. “People don't want to talk about this because they're afraid for their careers,” says Peterson. “From my perspective, what Corey did was pretty brave. It would be really wonderful if his allegations reached through all of the protective layers and identified the real people who are a part of a worldwide child pornography ring, because it's huge and it respects no borders, just as it does not respect the age of the children involved.”
Royal Commission: Survivors flee hearing in tears
by CATHERINE ARMITAGE
“Let the little children come to me; do not stop them: for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs”.
With this remark, the Catholic Church's barrister, Peter Gray SC, had the hearing room at the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse erupting in anguish and anger. They cried out “What an insult!”, “What a joke!” and “Good Lord!” Some walked out. From outside the room sobbing and wailing could be heard.
Many present were once little children, now damaged adults, thanks to their abuse at the hands of brothers and priests who were supposed to be caring for them in Catholic schools and orphanages. They had come to see for themselves what Mr Gray, representing the church, described as a watershed in church and Australian history.
In the Catholic church's first appearances at the Commission, Mr Gray acknowledged children were abused, the crimes were covered up, the wrongdoers were protected and the victims were disbelieved or treated coldly. He used words like “indefensible”, “disgraceful”, “deeply ashamed” and “terrible wrongs”. He promised the church would co-operate fully with the Commission and “ensure that nothing is concealed or covered up in respect of what church personnel did or failed to do”.
But the survivors have heard it all before – and many did not live to hear it. Trish Charter was one of those who cried out and left the room. Outside the hearing she said she was abused between the ages of 4 and 8 and had her teeth pulled out at a Goulburn orphanage run by the Sisters of Mercy. Her sister Kathleen died of heart failure aged 39 in the 1970s after a series of mental breakdowns. “I am here representing her and all the little children , some of them didn't even reach their teens because they were so damaged”, and many turned to drugs and crime. “It was not our fault,” said Ms Charter, now in her 70s.
The Royal Commission's fourth case study which commenced Monday will examine the Towards Hearing process set up by the church to deal with abuse victims' claims from 1997. At the hearing the church has acknowledged Towards Healing has operated inconsistently, been overly legalistic and “on one view” insufficiently transparent and accountable. Victims have stated outside the hearing it has added to their trauma rather than eased it.
According to incomplete church data, 1700 people had participated in Towards Healing by September 2013, and have been paid a total of $43 million by church authorities. The highest known payment made was $850,000. Three-quarters of the complaints related to alleged child sexual abuse from 1950 to 1980, with 60 per cent occurring in schools or orphanages. The Christian Brothers had the most complaints of any Catholic order, followed by the Marist Brothers and the De La Salle Brothers.
Four individual cases are to be examined. The first, Joan Isaacs, told the Commission was abused aged 14 and 15 in a "cult like group" created by Father Francis Derriman from 1967 to 1968. He played on her emotions by “pretending (to be) so sick as to be in danger or imminent expiration”, the Commission heard.
She said he told her he was dying of a lung disease and she could have sex with him when she turned 16. "I was terrified of turning 16 to the point of suicide", she said. He was convicted of two counts of indecent assault against her in 1998 and sentenced to one years jail, to be suspended after serving four months. After the conviction Mrs Isaacs wanted an apology for the church's inaction after being notified of the abuse, as well as counselling and compensation through Towards Healing.
The church told her to bring a lawyer to her “Towards Hearing” facilitation meeting, but that she could only bring one person, which meant her husband could not attend. She wanted a Bishop to attend but a vicar who had no authority to offer compensation was sent instead. In the end she got $30,000. She bought a sewing machine and some shares with what was left after her legal and health expenses.
Gail Furness senior counsel assisting the commission said this would be the first of ongoing inquiries into Towards Healing, and invited others who had experience of Towards Healing to contact the Commission.
Research addresses impact of violence against women
by Tom Mclaughlin
As Courtenay Cavanaugh explains, physical and sexual violence against women is nothing short of an epidemic.
"It is a significant public health problem that affects one in three women in the United States," says Cavanaugh, an assistant professor of psychology at Rutgers–Camden. "It can lead to numerous health problems across one's lifespan and is associated with women's risk for contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Abused women are at risk for contracting HIV because abusive partners force or coerce them into sex, and because they engage in risky behaviors that are consensual."
Underscoring this significance, Cavanaugh dedicates her research to examining the impact of violence on women and children's health and development, including risk and resilience for psychiatric disorders, substance abuse, and HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
The Philadelphia resident recently co-authored a new study that sheds light on this critical health issue: "Intimate partner sexual violence: A comparison of foreign-born versus U.S.-born physically abused Latinas," published online ahead of print in the Journal of Urban Health .
This study examined the prevalence of recent intimate partner sexual violence occurring against 555 physically abused Latinas, and compared the relationship of this sexual violence to women's nativity. The women in the study, all of whom were seeking help for intimate partner violence, were asked if their partners had physically forced them to have sex or made them have sex without a condom within the previous six months.
Thirty-eight percent of the physically abused Latinas reported recent intimate partner sexual violence and, of those, 51 percent reported that they were made to have unprotected sex six or more times in the previous six months. The study also found that physically abused Latinas who were foreign born were two times more likely to have experienced recent intimate partner sexual violence than the physically abused Latinas born in the United States.
"We think that these findings have several implications in terms of HIV risk," says Cavanaugh, a 2012 Civic Engagement Faculty Fellow at Rutgers–Camden. "However, we are still learning why Latinas who are foreign born have greater risk for intimate partner sexual violence. We need to know more about the perpetrators of sexual violence against these Latinas since they are forcing and coercing these women into sex. For example, we weren't able to determine the nativity of the perpetrators in the study that we conducted."
A clinical psychologist by training, Cavanaugh is ultimately focused on developing intervention strategies that benefit the victims as well as ensure that future generations are at a reduced risk for these same problems. "We know that a lot of these issues replicate themselves across generations," she says.
As Cavanaugh recalls, the impetus for her research was the well-timed culmination of her academic and clinical training. As an undergraduate at the University of Oregon, she had taken a course on the domestic assault of women, examining how it impacts victims' health and well-being.
Upon graduating with bachelor's degrees in psychology and Spanish in 1996, she obtained a position in a psychiatric hospital in Kirkland, Wash., where she worked on the adolescent girls unit. With a fresh lens of understanding, she became immediately aware of the violence exposure among the female patients.
"It was just blatant; I could read the chart of any girl on the unit, and could see that the majority of them had pretty significant histories of violence and abuse," she says, adding that she couldn't help but contemplate how their histories of violence contributed to their psychiatric problems and wonder what types of trauma-informed treatments may improve these young women's mental health. She also noticed that the adolescent girls were engaging in risky sexual behaviors that put them at risk for unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. So she initiated that the programming for the girls include a sexual education and risk reduction group that was led by Planned Parenthood.
Cavanaugh subsequently earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Alliant International University in 2005. During her doctoral training, she worked at Stanford University as a research interviewer and project coordinator for a randomized trial of group therapy for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse who were at risk for HIV. The project resulted in her dissertation, titled "Psychological Resilience of Adult Female Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse: A Group Psychotherapy Outcome Study." She then completed postdoctoral research fellowships in the respective departments of psychiatry and public health at Yale University and Johns Hopkins University.
Cavanaugh recently received a NIH-funded pilot grant from the Center for Prevention Implementation Methodology For Drug Abuse and Sexual Risk Behavior to adapt an evidenced-based HIV-prevention intervention for women in domestic-violence shelters.
Brazil's child sex trade soars as 2014 World Cup nears
Officials and campaigners fear explosion in child prostitution amid rising demand from football fans
by Adriana Brasileiro
A tiny figure in minuscule white shorts and a pink strapless top leans against a metal fence outside a school in Fortaleza, the capital of Ceará state, north-east Brazil.
She has gloss-coated lips, and her yellow headband, holding back long hair, glows in the lamplight along Juscelino Kubitschek Avenue, which connects the city to the Castelão arena, one of the venues for the 2014 World Cup. A car pulls up. The girl climbs in.
This is a common scene around the stadium in Fortaleza, considered Brazil's child prostitution capital and a magnet for sex tourism, according to local authorities.
Transvestites also work the dusty pavements of this newly renovated thoroughfare but young girls are in higher demand. "As soon as they hit the avenue they're picked up," says Antônia Lima Sousa, a state prosecutor who works on children's rights in Fortaleza. "It's really a matter of minutes. You'll find them around town during the day too."
Despite more than a decade of government pledges to eradicate child prostitution, the number of child sex workers in Brazil stood at about half a million in 2012, according to the National Forum for the Prevention of Child Labor, a non-governmental organisation.
That's a fivefold increase since 2001, when 100,000 children worked in the sex trade, according to estimates by Unicef, the UN children's charity.
And with the World Cup approaching in June, officials and campaigners fear an explosion in child prostitution as sex workers migrate to big cities from interior states and pimps recruit more young people to meet increased demand from local and foreign football fans.
"We're worried sexual exploitation will increase in the host cities and around them," says Joseleno Vieira dos Santos, who co-ordinates a national programme to fight the sexual exploitation of children at Brazil's Human Rights Secretariat. "We're trying to co-ordinate efforts as much as we can with state and city governments to understand the scope of the problem."
But the authorities have a battle on their hands as sex workers prepare to cash in on a bumper trade.
The Minas Gerais State Association of Prostitutes, which represents sex workers in one of Brazil's largest states, is even offering free English lessons to prostitutes in the capital Belo Horizonte, another World Cup host city.
"There'll be a lot more people circulating in this area during the games for sure and the city will be full of tourists," says Giovana, 19, a transvestite working a corner near Castelão stadium. "I know there'll be more work for everybody – women, girls, everybody."
The tournament is expected to attract 600,000 foreign visitors to Brazil who will spend an estimated 25bn reals (£6.5bn) while travelling around the country, the Brazilian tourism board, Embratur, says.
The championship could inject 113bn reals into the economy by 2014, Fifa has said, citing an Ernst & Young report.
Brazil's government will have spent 33bn reals on stadiums, transport and other infrastructure by the time the tournament kicks off, as well as £6m on advertising. In contrast, very little is being spent on fighting the sexual exploitation of minors, campaigners say.
The Human Rights Secretariat has set aside 8m reals for host cities to set up projects to fight child prostitution, but not all cities have programmes in place to absorb the funds, Santos says.
His department is finishing a review of child prostitution in key locations and will then decide what action to take. But any programmes will scratch only the surface.
"We realise we're only touching the tip of the iceberg with these actions for the World Cup, but we hope to build capacity and implement longer-lasting programmes in the future," Santos says.
Beyond the Human Rights Secretariat, the government could not provide accurate data on total spending to fight child prostitution but campaigners say some schemes have been shut down. They argue that the government is not doing enough to address the problem.
"This subject isn't really part of the government's agenda and we don't see a willingness to combine efforts or increase resources to address the sexual exploitation of children," says Denise Cesario, executive manager of Fundação Abrinq, a local partner of Save the Children International.
The lure of Fortaleza
Sex tourism occurs across Brazil but Fortaleza – one of the north-east's top tourist destinations with white sandy beaches and about 300 days of sunshine – is the industry's main hub.
A culture of machismo, combined with extreme poverty and drug use, has created the perfect environment for sexual exploitation, say social workers like Cecília dos Santos Góis, who works for Cedeca, a children's rights charity.
"Women in the north-east have traditionally been treated as second-class citizens, as objects even," she says. "Many fathers see their young daughters as a source of income and that is a cultural attitude that's hard to change."
More phone calls are made from Fortaleza to a nationwide toll-free number to report child sexual exploitation than from any other Brazilian city on a per capita basis, experts say.
Many of Fortaleza's young sex workers see prostitution as a way of escaping their circumstances. But for 16-year-old Jessica, a tall brunette, her escape plan has landed her in trouble.
She began sex work with local clients, earning about $18 (£11) a night, before graduating to bigger nightclubs and groups of foreign tourists for about $90 a night.
Police arrested her in September in a raid on a club on Iracema beach, a crowded neighbourhood packed with lively restaurants, hotels and bars.
They took her to one of four shelters for underage prostitutes, a discreet two-storey house in a lower-class neighbourhood, accessible only through a narrow iron gate watched around the clock by security guards. She is waiting for a judge to decide whether she can return home to her mother.
Waiting for a prince
Sitting in the small room she shares with three younger girls, Jessica says one of her regular clients, a Spaniard, has promised to take her to Europe. "I told him I was 18 and I was getting my passport," she says, tucking a rainbow-coloured tank top into green and yellow tropical-print trousers. "I paid 500 reals for a fake ID and was saving money to buy a fake passport. But in the end I was afraid to go."
Leonora Albuquerque, one of the shelter's co-ordinators, says Jessica's story is typical. "Like so many girls who get into this life, Jessica has fantasies that she will find her prince charming – a foreign client who will fall in love with her – and he'll take her to Europe and buy her fancy clothes, perfume, jewels," she says.
Pimps and clients are rarely punished and when prosecutors do manage to build a case against them, survivors often change their testimonies and the cases are thrown out, says Francisco Carlos Pereira de Andrade, a criminal prosecutor who specialises in child exploitation.
Of 2,000 cases before his department, which handles sexual violence against children, only about 20 involve child prostitution.
The face of sex tourism in Fortaleza is also changing, making it more difficult to catch criminals, Sousa says.
Instead of working the streets, organised rings of pimps, hotel managers and taxi drivers recruit young girls. Foreign clients order the underage prostitutes before they arrive in Fortaleza and they are delivered directly to their hotels, Sousa adds.
Girls on the menu
Friday night at Iracema beach and a small group of blond German men are drinking beer at pavement tables, watched closely by a bouncer.
Six adult sex workers stand nearby, some sitting with them, swishing their hair from side to side. But the tourists have something else on their mind.
"They're waiting for a cue to let them know the girls they ordered are ready," says social worker Góis, on one of her routine surveillance rounds of child prostitution hubs. "The bar is involved. The taxi drivers that wait on the corner are probably involved too. And some hotels nearby are part of this network."
While international sex tourism is prominent in Fortaleza, it represents only a third of all reported child prostitution cases. Prostitutes with Brazilian clients, from Ceará or surrounding states, are far more common, prosecutors say.
That was the case for Vanessa, who was 13 when police picked her up in October, not far from Castelão stadium.
She left her home in a poor neighbourhood when she was 10, after her stepfather started to beat her, she says. She has lived mostly on the streets, going to shelters now and then and spending nights with clients, some of whom she calls friends.
Her chubby cheeks, perfectly aligned white teeth and sparkling eyes make it hard to believe she is undergoing treatment for crack cocaine abuse. "I want to study; I really like maths. But sometimes I just want to disappear and go and live on Mars with the astronauts," she laughs.
Last month, Vanessa broke into the maintenance room at the shelter, took a ladder and scaled the 2.5-metre wall surrounding the building, according to Albuquerque, who works at the shelter. She convinced two other girls, aged 12 and 13, to go back with her to the Castelão stadium area. It was the fourth time she had escaped in less than six months.
"It's very hard to convince these girls to lead normal lives," Albuquerque adds. "Most of them think abuse and selling their bodies is just a fact of life."
Forgiveness is foundation of healing
by Amrita Maat
From child abuse and domestic violence to human sex trafficking and atrocities against civilians in war-torn countries, our world creates new victims daily.
Broken bones and bruises heal, but for many victims, the emotional damage is lifelong and life altering, says Amrita Maat, a nurse, child abuse survivor, and author of the inspirational new book, “Wearing a Mask Called Normal,” www.maskcallednormal.com.
“Experiencing abuse can affect how you feel about yourself and how you respond to other people,” Maat says. “These effects might be easy to see if you're observing them in someone else, but they can be nearly impossible to recognize in yourself without help.”
The emotional and physical abuse that Maat grew up with set the stage for her to become a perpetual victim as an adult, she says. The choices she made and her interactions with others were often unwittingly self-destructive.
“Lifestyle changes that involve healthy choices include eliminating dysfunctional patterns, such as manipulation and abusive behavior – the things children of abusive parents learn from their role models,” she says. “A healthy lifestyle comes first through recognizing unhealthy behaviors and then laying the groundwork for positive change.”
For Maat, that groundwork begins with forgiveness.
“You have to forgive,” she says. “You have to forgive yourself and you have to forgive those who've hurt you. When you're a victim, you're often angry – because you have every right to be angry, right? But anger, focusing on blame and thinking of yourself as a victim only perpetuates the dysfunction and the pain it brings.”
So, how does one begin to forgive oneself and others? Maat shares the steps she put together, which helped her learn how to identify what would move her forward on her healing path. She started by creating a list of the people and circumstances she needed to forgive and systematically working through the process:
|1. Identify the people who have caused you pain and why you feel that pain. This validates your pain; it was real and deserves to be acknowledged.
2. Identify the pain you feel from others and consciously release it to the universe in a personal ritual that has meaning for you. You might write it down on a piece of paper and burn it. Or speak the words out loud and blow them away.
3. Allow yourself to forgive those who have caused you pain as a means to your physical, emotional and spiritual healing.
4. Identify the people you have caused pain and recognize why you caused them pain. It's important to acknowledge that you, too, are capable of causing pain in order to forgive yourself and those you've hurt.
5. Identify the pain you have caused others with your actions.
6. Allow yourself forgiveness for the pain you have caused others as a means to your physical, emotional and spiritual healing.
While forgiving others for hurt caused intentionally is difficult, Maat says the hardest is forgiving yourself for pain you caused. But this is vital; in order to forgive others and to open yourself to positive energy, you must forgive yourself.
“From every hurtful moment, I learned something, and part of my process is to acknowledge each lesson and to be grateful for it,” Maat says. “Forgiveness was possible when I released the hurt because it no longer served a purpose.”
Amrita Maat is a nurse who reached a turning point in her life when she was injured while trying to avoid the advances of a physician who had sexually harassed her for years. For the first time, she stood up to an abuser by taking the man to court. But she had waited too long under the statutes, so she did not get her day of justice. Because of the nature of her memoir, Amrita Maat is a pseudonym.