Reader's Viewpoint: Sexual assault is not the same as sex
by Katie Hanna
As the director of the state sexual assault coalition, the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence, I subscribe to news alerts about sexual assault in Ohio. I was particularly concerned with the Dec. 18 article entitled “Facebook sex case goes to grand jury.” And earlier this week the Village Voice reported on R. Kelly and the numerous past sexual assault reports involving children. One article from the Chicago Sun-Times in 2000 was called “Kelly accused of sex with teenage girls.” There are a couple points that are important to consider:
Engaging in unlawful activity with minors is not “sex;” it's a crime. In Ohio, a 14 year-old is legally unable to consent to sex with an adult.
By referring to this case as a “sex case,” it avoids naming the behavior as a crime and naming potentially predatory behavior against children.
One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old. To prevent these crimes from occurring, we have to name them and we have to talk about healthy, age-appropriate relationships between adults and minors. In your community, COMPASS is a great resource for providing prevention education and support services and as the state sexual assault coalition, OAESV is here to advocate for comprehensive responses and rape crisis services for survivors and to empower communities to prevent sexual violence.
Katie Hanna, Executive Director, Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence
Sex trafficking's desert victims
by Reza Gostar
Beaten, bleeding and holding her toddler in her arms, Cody Foute opened the normally latched door of the house where she was kept and ran away from a life of abuse and sexual slavery.
“He beat me real bad in front of my daughter,” Foute said about her pimp, a man she called “Hollywood.”
“I remember her screaming, and I remembered when I was a kid I used to scream, and I just couldn't do it anymore. … I picked her up, and I ran out the front door. I ran, and I never looked back.”
That was July 19, 2011, after years of traveling with Hollywood across Riverside County, often visiting Palm Springs, where she would meet men who paid for sex in motels.
Today, the 27-year-old lives in a battered women's shelter in Moreno Valley with her 4-year-old, working as a waitress in a Thai restaurant.
The words “human trafficking” often evoke images of victims in wooden containers, furtively moved around in trucks.
But the most common and overlooked victims of human slavery are those used in the commercial sex trade, according to Jennifer O'Farrell, the Anti-Human Trafficking Director at Operation SafeHouse, an emergency program for people in crisis situations that has shelters in Riverside and Thousand Palms.
“For us, every year is different. But right now, most of our survivors are victims of sex trafficking,” said O'Farrell. “We have victims from about 15 to 16 years old, and our youngest is 11.”
In just the first six months of this year, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center received 14,898 hotline calls. Of those, 1,457 were from California, with a high concentration in Riverside County.
More than 80 victims of human trafficking, both adults and children, have been found in Riverside County, according to Sgt. John Sawyer of the Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force.
The task force also has identified more than 80 human trafficking offenders, and numerous federal and state cases have been filed or are pending.
One case involved a child in Cathedral City who was forced to sell ice cream by his mother and her boyfriend.
“The victim was also forced to sleep on the cold tile floor by the front door like a dog and was often beaten for not meeting his quota,” Sawyer wrote in an email.
But specific cases in the Coachella Valley are mostly similar to Foute's, in which pimps manipulate, coerce and beat their victims to force them into the commercial sex trade.
The predators recruit their victims online and face-to-face. They usually start as boyfriends and manipulate their targets into prostitution, pimping them out on websites such as “backpages” or “humaniplex.” Some predators are seasoned, tactical and strategic. Others are just starting out in the business.
They often use emotional coercion and lies to manipulate. For example, some might claim to have careers in music, but “before they know it, he is requesting them to have sex,” O'Farrell said.
Others, particularly in cases involving undocumented immigrants, sell the idea of the “American dream,” but once the migrant arrives in the U.S., they are exploited, according to Riverside County Sheriff's Sgt. Lisa McConnell.
“They may not recognize their exploitation in some situations, because it could still be an improvement over the impoverished conditions in their source country,” McConnell wrote in an email.
Predators often threaten the victim's family members to maintain control or use debt — such as the cost for getting them into the country — to keep them in indentured servitude.
Undocumented victims are the most difficult to find because there is a “fear of being here illegally, and they don't realize that there are actually protections for them,” O'Farrell said.
The common thread between most human trafficking victims seems to be that they are trapped, or at least feel that way. They don't want to believe that someone from their own community would want to hurt them.
“We have actually had survivors from the deaf community, and they are trapped because the controller is deaf themselves,” O'Farrell said.
While the majority of victims come from homes where there is sexual abuse, violence and neglect, there are “stories of kids coming from wonderful homes,” O'Farrell noted.
The traffickers “make them feel like they are part of a family,” she said.
Some red flags that she teaches parents to look for are teens carrying hotel keys or two phones, sudden changes in appearance and dress, and routinely getting “hair and nails done.”
“Pay attention to the computers,” she said. “Recognize that they are talking with tons of people.”
The victimization began at age 10, when Foute alleges she was sexually abused by a family member. Even her mom's boyfriends “would hit on me,” she said.
She moved into a group home in her early teens. Soon after, she was recruited by one of the other girls and the pair started doing drugs. She said she was manipulated into trading sex for money to pay for her habits. Her pimps were abusive, but not as much as Hollywood.
When she met him, she was living with her aunt and daughter.
“He would come into where I was working in a medical marijuana clinic and would compliment me,” she said. “He asked me to the Cheesecake Factory and would buy things for my daughter.”
“He seemed very nice at first,” she said. “I actually thought he cared about me.”
At home, the situation was hectic and her aunt was on the verge of being evicted. Before long, Hollywood invited her to move in with him in Hemet.
“There were already two other girls living there,” Foute said. “One was with him since she was 17 years old — at the time she was 21 — and another girl was 18.”
Enamored by the nice home and material possessions, Foute was soon manipulated to start prostituting.
“I would work a week, and then I would take a week off when I had my daughter,” Foute said. She shared custody with her daughter's father.
The other girls began complaining that Foute worked less than they did, and the abuse started.
“He would say things like ‘Bitch, know your place.' ”
Soon, Hollywood was dropping her off at motels while he kept her daughter, part for leverage and part to play the role of caring protector.
On a typical night, she would have sex with a minimum of 10 men. She would earn $1,500 or more, all of which would go to Hollywood.
She remembers one night when she had a bad case of food poisoning “and couldn't stop going to the bathroom.”
“It didn't matter if we were sick. It didn't matter if we were tired,” she said. “We had to keep working.”
Riverside County focus
Many believe that human trafficking is not prevalent in Riverside County “since there are no direct ports of entry into the U.S.,” said McConnell, the sheriff's department spokeswoman.
But in September 2010, the Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Taskforce was formed with the help of a grant through the California Emergency Management Agency. Since then, it has grown to include FBI agents, two deputy sheriffs, one full-time detective, one full-time supervisor, a program manager and Operation Safehouse.
Its mission is to combat all human trafficking, which includes the exploitation of any “person through force, fraud, fear and/or coercion.”
Catching human smugglers is much more difficult than, for example, narcotics smugglers, said Gerald Fineman, Riverside County Supervising Deputy District Attorney.
Unlike narcotics, the commodity of human flesh is something that can be sold over and over again. There is no factory. There is no lab. There's nothing for drug dogs to find.
“Many of our trafficking victims will often call them a boyfriend, or friend,” Fineman said. “Chances are they are not going to say ‘this is our pimp' when they get pulled over.”
Also, traffickers are highly mobile.
“They will move their victims throughout the Coachella Valley and out to the coast and back into the Temecula area, he said.
The trafficker's mobility, and lack of contraband, is part of the reason that federal laws are sometimes better equipped to deal with enforcement.
On the state level, human trafficking as a crime is a relatively new offense. The first human trafficking laws came into effect in 2005 and were updated by Proposition 35, passed by California voters in 2012.
Proposition 35 (Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act) made several amendments to the state's human trafficking laws, such as increasing prison terms, requiring convicted human traffickers to register as sex offenders, and removing the need to prove force or coercion in cases involving juveniles.
Service organizations, such as Operation SafeHouse, are critical to the prosecution of traffickers, especially in cases where the victim's testimony is needed. However, “we try to make the case as independent from the victim as possible,” Fineman said.
For O'Farrell, prosecutions are crucial to the victim's recovery. Some victims take six months to recover. Others take years.
“Until the victims see that they were victimized, they don't understand that they have been brainwashed,” O'Farrell said. “They just want to move on, and testifying is a huge part of the healing process.”
O'Farrell said her goal is to give victims independence and make them believe in themselves and their futures. The hardest victims to cope with emotionally are the children.
“There are not a lot of opportunities for them. You have this child that has become an adult too soon, but still wants to play with teddy, to laugh and be a kid at the end of the day.”
Clearing the brainwashing
The illusion of the life of glamour began to fade away as the abuse intensified. In addition to beatings, Hollywood began locking Foute's daughter in a room to keep them separated.
But even at this lowest point, he still had not hit her in front of her little girl. That changed on July 19, 2011, the day she left the “life.”
Hollywood was never arrested or charged, Foute said. The night she escaped, she called police, but by the time they arrived and took her back to the home, Hollywood and the two other women were gone.
It has taken time to get through the brainwashing. During her metamorphosis, Operation Safehouse helped Foute, a high school dropout, get her GED, a place to live and regain her sense of worth.
She now speaks about her experience to law enforcement agencies, churches and nonprofits, such as the National Women's Coalition Against Violence and Exploitation and the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training.
“They tell you that you're beautiful. They tell you that they love you, but then they make you feel worthless,” Foute said. “I just thought this was all I was ever going to be good at — that's what they keep telling you. I thought I was always going to be a prostitute.”
“I used to feel like this little creature that just gets stepped on,” she said. “But now I feel like a butterfly.”
To anonymously report suspected human trafficking or for victims to find help:
|• Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Taskforce: email@example.com or (855) 758-3733
• National Human Trafficking Hotline: (888) 373-7888
• Operation Safehouse: (951) 351-4418
Bridal resale boutique to benefit victims of sex trafficking
by Angela Pittenger
Reading newsletters put out by Sold No More, a Tucson organization that helps victims of sex trafficking, combined with her own, personal experience put Cynthia Magallanes in fight mode.
The stay-at-home mother of two young children, a former sex-abuse victim herself, knew she had to do something. “You can't unread those stories,” she said. “I would read the stories and cry ... what if that was my baby?”
For her one-income family, there was not much extra money to donate. But she knew there must be something she could do to help, and she wanted it to be bigger than the $10 she could afford to give.
She prayed and thought about it every day, searching for a way to make a difference.
Magallanes always loved weddings, and wanted to have a wedding business of some sort. And then it hit her. A beloved, used dress hanging in the closet isn't any less valuable or beautiful, she said. “It just needs somebody to redeem it. ... Same thing with these girls.”
The idea of Free Ever After, a nonprofit bridal resale boutique, was born, along with its slogan: “A used dress for a new bride. A new life for a renewed girl.”
The Tucson store would sell used dresses to budget-minded women and donate the money to organizations that help victims, starting with Sold No More.
Magallanes approached Jerry Peyton , executive director of Sold No More (formerly called Streetlight Tucson) and told him her idea. Peyton loved it. “It's certainly a creative way to raise funds and awareness,” he said.
The two created a partnership, and Free Ever After launched its online campaign seeking dress donations on Aug. 12.
“She has such a great heart,” Peyton said of Magallanes.
When she asked if there was a way for her business to be a program of Sold No More, so it could fall under its corporate umbrella, the board of directors wholeheartedly agreed.
“They will operate under us until they are able to establish themselves as an independent ?501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation,” Peyton said. “Or unless we agree that it is to all of our advantage for them to stay on as a program of Sold No More.”
Peyton allows Magallanes to use the Sold No More office as a dress-donation site.
So far, ?donors have ?provided 55 formal dresses and 20 wedding dresses, which are stored in Magallanes' home.
Free Ever After doesn't have a storefront yet, due to lack of money, but plans to launch its online store in mid- to late January.
Each board member of Free Ever After contributes out-of-pocket to pay for printing promotional materials, the website and Internet fees.
Magallanes' husband handles the behind-the-scenes work such as posting on Facebook and maintaining the website. “He's so passionate about it, too,” she said.
Sandy Skaja , a Tucson mom, had bought a brand new wedding dress for her daughter. But her daughter decided to elope.
Originally, Skaja was trying to sell the dress through a Facebook resale group. When nobody bought it, she tasked her daughter with finding a good organization to donate to.
Then her daughter told her about Free Ever After, and Skaja knew it was where she wanted ?the dress to be.
Skaja said she was “surprised and dismayed” to find out the sex trafficking industry is still so widespread.
“When I found out this organization uses the dresses to donate to young girls who have been victimized and rescued, I could not think of a better way for the dress to be used,” Skaja said. “It truly made me incredibly happy to be able to pass it along for such a great cause.”
Each dress will be named after a survivor and have that person's story attached, to give ?the boutique's customers an idea of what their money is doing to help ?the exploited women. “Buying a dress from us is gonna give another girl a chance to be a survivor and to be free,” Magallanes said. “And to have a wedding of her own one day.”
Proceeds from the dresses ?will go to Delia's Fund, which was set up by Sold No More to provide services such as therapy, medical care ?and housing to victims.
Delia's Fund was named after Delia Gonzalez , who wanted to help after hearing Peyton speak. She was sick with aplastic anemia and was in the hospital. Peyton said she made a huge poster about sex trafficking that asked for donations. It was displayed at an equestrian event and helped bring $10,000 to Sold No More.
“God put it in her heart to help these girls,” said Marta Gonzalez , Delia's mother.
Peyton couldn't think of a better name for the victims' services fund.
“This young woman wanted her life to have impact,” Peyton said. “It has. And is continuing to.”
Gonzalez died on Jan. 9 at the age of 19, weeks after the fundraising event.
Magallanes also wants to create mentoring programs and workshops to prevent at-risk girls from becoming victims.
She said the workshops will focus on self-esteem and cultivating the girls' natural gifts and talents. She wants to partner with successful local women to mentor the girls.
“I'm tired of celebrities mentoring our girls,” Magallanes said. “We need to change our culture of 12-year-olds thinking they need to be sexy.”
Magallanes' plans fit right in with Sold No More's programs. Part of Peyton's mission is to create awareness. In the last two and a half years, he has spoken to more than 10,000 people at schools, churches, women's groups and professional organizations.
He also teaches education presentations at schools, teaching youths how they might be targeted. Peyton believes awareness creates prevention.
“We live in a culture where a woman's value is on their body,” Magallanes said. “And that's not all we are. We have amazing capacities to lead and to think. I don't want my daughter to grow up that way. She's 3?.
“I have a lot of work to do.”
Labor and sex traffickers practice modern slavery in Colorado
by Tom McGhee
The FBI's Rocky Mountain Innocence Lost Task Force rescued 59 teen prostitutes from flesh peddlers in the state this year, up from 49 in 2012.
In July, Operation Cross Country, a nationwide sweep that targeted victims of underage prostitution and their pimps, recovered 105 juveniles and bagged 150 pimps in 76 cities.
Denver ranked fourth in the number of teens rescued, with nine juveniles, fewer than only San Francisco, Milwaukee and Detroit.
These are chilling statistics that indicate modern-day slavers continue to ply their trade in Colorado.
"It's not that this is a brand-new problem," FBI spokesman Dave Joly said. "However, because we are focusing resources, we are addressing the problem directly and are finding more of it."
The market for forced labor isn't confined to the sex trade, and the
Internet has made it easier to ensnare unwary workers anywhere in the world. Trafficked workers, many of them immigrants with little command of English, can be found laboring even in health care and other legitimate jobs.
Human trafficking — for sex or labor — involves servitude, force, coercion or fear, and it is difficult to prove, said FBI Special Agent Stephanie Benitez, who investigates labor-trafficking cases.
"People think whips, chains, but they don't need that," Benitez said. "They can say, 'We know where your family is, and if you leave, they are going to get hurt.' "
Runaways get snared
Under U.S. and international law, anyone under age 18 found in the sex trade is considered a victim of trafficking, whether or not coercion is present, according to the Polaris Project, which advocates for victims and lobbies for legislation to fight the problem.
Kids snared by traffickers often are runaways spotted soon after they hit the street, said Kendall Rames, deputy director of Urban Peak, a Denver nonprofit that provides services to homeless kids.
"These folks are experts at focusing on young people who are vulnerable," Rames said. "They will find a vulnerable young person who has just arrived in Denver. Within 48 hours they are contacted by someone for the sex trade."
One 17-year-old girl who spoke to The Post was 14 when an older girl turned her over to a 41-year-old pimp as payment for crack cocaine. She is not being named because she is the victim of a sex crime.
"I had ran away from home that night because my grandma said I can't go to this party, and I said, 'Whatever.' I got completely drunk, and I guess I ended up in their hands. When they asked me where I lived, I said 'I'm on the run,' " she said.
The pimp, who had three other girls turning tricks for him, offered her a place to stay. He bought her clothes and kept her intoxicated with sedatives commonly used in date rape, marijuana and other drugs, the girl said.
Young people trapped in prostitution see little, or no cash, for their participation, and a combination of fear and the brainwashing they are subject to, leaves them loath to turn in their abusers, Rames said.
The girl said her pimp was selling drugs and they moved from motel to motel, leaving after a few days to avoid the attention a string of men coming was sure to bring.
It was the drug sales that brought the operation to a close.
An undercover FBI agent came to buy drugs at a room where she was staying. "They were like, there is a really young girl in there, she is with all these men, and all they see around me is drugs," the girl said.
The man and several women who helped run the operation had planned to take the prostitutes on a road trip to Mississippi.
The girl told a cousin she was leaving the state. "She ended up calling my Nanna."
After talking to police, the girl's grandmother contacted her. She told the girl her mom — who was awaiting release from prison for theft — was at a halfway house and wanted to see her.
The girl grabbed her packed bags and ran down the street.
Cops were waiting. They arrested her and then busted the other members of the ring.
After the arrest, the girl spent time in juvenile detention and then a rehab facility before moving back with her grandmother.
She was back on the street again last year after she and some friends went partying with men they met at a liquor store.
At the end of the night, the friends told her to go with the older men, and the strangers took her home to her grandmother's. Before she got out of the car, they said, "It was fun, let's kick it again."
When she met them the next day, she said, they told her that she was going to help make money.
The Crips-affiliated ring knew where her grandmother lived and told her if she didn't sell her body, they would harm her family.
Eight people involved in that ring were busted in December 2012, along with four johns.
Angela Jeanine Ryan, 43, a minor player, on Dec. 5 received a four-year suspended prison sentence with four years of intensive supervised probation, followed by three years of parole. Other prosecutions are still underway, Colorado Attorney General spokeswoman Carolyn Tyler said.
Trafficking in children for the sex trade is increasingly the domain of street gangs, said Sgt. Daniel Steele, a Denver police officer who heads the FBI task force for the Front Range.
Sixty-three percent of those arrested for trafficking and pimping offenses by the task force since January 2012 are documented gang members or associates.
"We are starting to see a larger influx of gang members," Steele said. "A lot of guys are getting out of jail saying there is a lot less risk in trafficking than slinging drugs."
The girl has since earned her general equivalency diploma and plans to go to college and study criminology.
"I want to help get nasty, perverted, not only men, but women," she said. "I want to help young girls out of that."
Highlands Ranch tie
In its 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report, the U.S. State Department labeled human trafficking a massive worldwide problem, that is "ever-increasing, ever-changing."
In July, a U.S. District Court jury in Denver convicted Highlands Ranch businessman, Kizzy Kalu on 89 counts of human trafficking for luring Filipino nurses here with promises of high-paying jobs.
Kalu's Internet ads said Adam University — a school in name only — needed nursing instructor/supervisors. Unlike visas for other businesses, which are limited in number, there is no cap on the number granted to institutes of higher education.
The ads included pictures of Teikyo Loretto Heights University — which has a large foreign-student population — and claimed they were photos of the fictional Adam University.
He arranged for 25 foreign nationals to receive H-1B visas, charging them $6,500 each for obtaining them.
Kalu promised the women jobs as nurse instructors/supervisors, then sent them to work for much less, as nurses in long-term care facilities.
The facilities paid the nurses, but Kalu took $1,200 per month from each of them, threatening to send a letter to the Department of Homeland Security that would cause them to lose their visas.
The metro area is both a destination and a jumping-off point for traffickers, said Emily Lafferrandre, director of education and advocacy for Praxus, a Denver-based nonprofit that works to end domestic human trafficking.
Some of the traffickers head traveling crews made up of young, generally not underage, people who sell magazines and products.
"They are told that they get paid to travel the country and earn money and meet people," Lafferrandre said. "They are not told they have to pay food and rent and that they will have to pay off either real or inflated debt to their boss."
Some of the sales-crew bosses are legitimate operators who treat their employees well. And those who head magazine sales crews that operate at the edge of the law are difficult to identify as human traffickers, Benitez said.
The crews crowd into one or two hotel rooms, Lafferandre said. "Sometimes they have them sign a contract that says they will front you the cost of a bus ticket to get you to a starting point."
The sales people receive a pittance for the long hours they spend pounding the pavement, said Earlene Williams, director of Parent Watch, nonprofit clearinghouse for information on child and youth labor abuse.
"A lot of them don't question this," Williams said. "If they get $150 for a seven-day period and work 60, 70 hours a week, you would think some of them would walk away. But they don't, because they are scared or have a boyfriend or girlfriend on the crew."
Sex trafficking: Victims' reluctance to testify can mean lesser charges for traffickers
by Molly M. Fleming
To make a federal trafficking case, there has to be interstate commerce, which can mean setting up a meeting between a pimp and a customer at a truck stop or making a connection over a cellphone; travel is not required.
“The Department of Justice has seen 30 percent more cases than in the past,” said Sanford Coats, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma.
By state and federal definition, trafficking requires that the trafficker use force, fraud or coercion, although those elements are not necessary when the victim is a minor.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Don Gifford II said even when his office can make a human trafficking case, the victim rarely cooperates.
“My witness will have credibility issues,” he said. “But the jury wants to hear from the person that was exploited.”
Victims are trained by their traffickers to avoid cooperating with police, so getting them to admit they've been forced to have sex for money is often the most difficult part of the investigation.
When police are able to make an arrest in a suspected sex trafficking case, the suspect is often charged with pandering.
“If we can arrest someone for pandering, that's a win for us, because then they're at least off the street,” said Craig Williams, senior agent in the human trafficking division at the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics.
A person is guilty of pandering if he or she procures another for prostitution, brings anyone into the state for the purpose of prostitution, encourages someone to become or remain a prostitute, or earns or pays money to procure a person for prostitution.
The charge does not require force, threat, or coercion, as required in human trafficking, so a pandering case can be made without the victim having to testify.
There is no federal charge of pandering, only at the state level.
At the state level, being found guilty of pandering can bring a sentence of two to 20 years.
However, being found guilty of sex trafficking of a minor can bring a sentence of at least 10 years with a $20,000 fine, with a maximum of a life sentence. Sex trafficking of an adult can bring a sentence of at least five years with a maximum of life sentence and a $10,000 fine.
Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris said getting a case to trial is a challenge.
“The largest hurdle in those prosecutions in the long run is figuring out what you're going to do with your victim,” he said. “You don't have a place to put them. The criminal justice system isn't set up to baby-sit them long enough to get them in front of a jury.”
He said it's the challenge of dealing with the victim that can make the pandering charge a good route for prosecution of the suspect.
“In the real world, would we like to get the trafficking charge? Yes,” he said. “But there are so many real-life hurdles we have to cross to be successful. The system is created in a way that's not victim-friendly.”
Ohio Proposes Homeschool Law Aimed at Preventing Child Abuse, Critics Call It 'Worst Ever'
by Lauren Leigh Noske
Ohio Senator Capri Cafaro is promoting Senate Bill 248, or "Teddy's Law," in light of fourteen-year-old Teddy Foltz-Tedesco's death in January who was beaten to death after his mother pulled him from public school.
The law would require that those who wish to homeschool in the state go through extensive interviews and background checks and be approved by a local child services organization.
Teddy Foltz-Tedesco died shortly after his fourteenth birthday from injuries sustained by the hands of his mother's boyfriend, Zaryl G. Bush, who ran a "boot camp like environment, abusing the boy physically and emotionally," reports the Tribune Chronicle.
Teddy's mother, Shain Widdersheim, reportedly pulled him and his two siblings out of school when teachers reported signs of child abuse to the local authorities. Widdersheim's neighbors had also filed reports of suspected child abuse, but no refuge was sought for the children.
Teddy and his two brothers were reportedly abused for years, and his autopsy showed that his feet were frostbitten from shoveling snow barefoot and that the boy had been forced to walk on hot coals.
"This ongoing abuse and torture was enabled by a family being isolated from everyone and every source of help. Isolation is one of the highest indicators abuse is going on, however many are unaware of that," says the Teddy's Law website.
Bush was sentenced to life in prison, and Widdersheim is serving 15 years for obstruction of justice and endangering her children.
Under Senate Bill 248, parents would be required to have background checks and interviews conducted prior to being allowed to homeschool their children. Both the parents and the children would be interviewed separately, in an attempt to protect the children from fear.
LifeSiteNews reports that Teddy's teachers, neighbors, and child services agencies had known of his abuse for years, yet did nothing about it.
They say that reform should start with the agencies who did not intervene to stop Teddy's abuse, and that the restrictions of Senate Bill 248 should not be placed on homeschoolers.
Senator Cafaro says she is not trying to keep parents from homeschooling their children, but rather to keep those who are suspected of child abuse from isolating their children at home.
If passed, the law would provide parents with opportunities to remedy negative reports from social workers.
‘Teddy's law' would battle child abuse
by RAYMOND L. SMITH
WARREN - Parents wanting to home-school or have their children to be involved with online school programs would be required to seek approval from local children service organizations and the new schools under a proposal being championed by state Sen. Capri Cafaro, D-Niles.
Cafaro is pushing Senate Bill 248, dubbed ''Teddy's Law,'' which would require parents or legal guardians seeking to remove children from public schools to go through background checks, have interviews conducted in their homes, and to allow their children to be interviewed separately in an effort to make sure the children are being protected from abuse.
''Teachers and other school officials are required to report signs of abuse," Cafaro said.
The effort is a result of the Jan. 26 death of 14-year-old Theodore "Teddy" Foltz Tedesco at the hands of Zaryl G. Bush, 533 Creed St., Struthers, who was dating his mother, Shain Widdersheim, 28 Creed St. Bush was accused of running a boot camp like environment, abusing the boy physically and emotionally, and beating him to death.
Bush was sentenced to life in prison on counts of murder, child endangering, intimidation of witnesses and tampering with evidence. Widdersheim was sentenced 15 years in prison on four counts of child endangerment and obstructing justice.
Teddy's father, Shawn Tedesco of Sharon, Pa., on Monday said that Widdersheim and Bush isolated the teenager by taking him out of the school system, where teachers, social workers and others potentially may have seen signs of abuse happening.
He also said he would like to see the proposal go further than it does.
"We would like to see life without parole for anyone protecting an abuser convicted of murdering a child," Tedesco said. "We're also looking at a national registry for anyone convicted of child abuse. We also would like to see unannounced visits by agencies on those known for repeated child abuse.
"Child abuse is the lowest example of human and motherly behavior," he said.
Paul Foltz, Teddy's grandfather, said their goal is to stop any other kids from falling trough the cracks and experiencing long-term abuse.
The legislation Cafaro is pushing, if passed, would require the background checks and interviews before the children are allowed to become a part of a home school or online program.
School and children service officials would be able to access a statewide data base to determine whether there are past or current abuse investigations against anyone in the child's household. In addition, the guardian must submit to an in person with the child's parents or guardians, and they must allow the children to have age appropriate interviews.
If there are records of child abuse by anyone in the household or if the interviews elicit negative information, it must be passed on to the local superintendent or educational leader.
"This is a joint effort to improve the system to assure there is not new victims like Teddy," Cafaro said. "This is aimed to address the weaknesses in both the child protective service system and the home and the Internet-based system in Ohio."
Under the current system, a school district may have no idea that there is a children services record or complaint for a home or Internet-based school applicant. This bill creates protocol for those applying to educate a child at home by creating a link between a local public children's agency and an education system.
Cafaro emphasizes that she is not trying to create a barrier for those who want to choose an alternative method of educating their children other than public school settings.
If there is no record of the parents or guardians having legal or child custody issues for four years prior to the application to move the child, there will be no need for future in home visits.
"It is very important for children to understand what their rights are," Cafaro said. "It is important for the department of jobs and family services along with the state board of education to develop age-appropriate curriculum on matters of personal safety and self-protection."
"We want children to know there are options and hope," she said.
"Once a complaint is acknowledged and a negative recommendation is given, the new school would have to delay or deny the admission to the home or Internet-based school program.
"There will be classes offered to parents," Cafaro said. "These are checks and balances. There will be an opportunity to remedy the problem by going through intervention programs.
Cafaro said there would be very little administrative costs to implement this program.
The legislation has not been referred to a specific committee, she said.
Best of 2013: GoodTherapy.org's Top 10 Websites for Abuse Survivors
For those who experience abuse— physical, sexual, or emotional —the consequences can be devastating, and the road to recovery may be a long and challenging one. Some survivors of childhood abuse may repress memories until later in life; others may carry the memories with them their entire lives.
Abuse affects several facets of a person's well-being, from the ability to cope with stress to the ability to hold down a job, maintain intimacy in relationships, and handle the many emotional ups and downs of life. Depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress, sleep disturbances, panic, sexual dysfunction, and issues with self-esteem are just a few of the challenges someone who has survived abuse may experience on a regular basis. Support and guidance during the healing and recovery process is essential to move forward and find peace amid the inner chaos.
We've compiled a list of the 10 best websites for survivors of abuse in 2013—GoodTherapy.org excluded. As with our previous top 10 lists, our selections are based on quality and depth of content, presentation, and functionality.
Joyful Heart Foundation: The mission of the Joyful Heart Foundation is “to heal, educate, and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse, and to shed light into the darkness that surrounds these issues.” The site focuses its resources and information on healing and wellness, education and awareness, and policy and advocacy. Its approach centers on mind-body-spirit healing, and it offers an assortment of day and multiday retreat programs for survivors as well as a “Heal the Healers” program and training workshops for health professionals who work closely with survivors.
ASCA: Adult Survivors of Child Abuse: Created by the Norma J. Morris Center for healing from child abuse, the ASCA program was designed to offer self-help support and resources for adult survivors of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or neglect as a child. The site encourages victims to make the shift “from survivor to thriver” with the help of workbooks and support groups.
MaleSurvivor: This not-for-profit organization caters to boys and men who have been sexually abused or victimized. It emphasizes that although the male experience of abuse does not receive a great deal of attention, statistics indicate that one in six men endures sexual abuse before the age of 16. To facilitate hope and healing for male survivors of various ages, the organization provides resources and information, support group links, weekend recovery programs, discussion forums, personal stories of recovery, and a national program called Dare to Dream. Educational materials also are available for parents and professionals working with survivors.
Violence Unsilenced: When visitors land on this site, they are met with powerful stories of surviving abuse in the form of domestic violence and sexual trauma. Women who have experienced both share their stories in full, and the site encourages others to share, too. The concept behind Violence Unsilenced is to give victims and survivors a voice, so telling stories of abuse and survival is the primary focus. Links to hotlines and other resources are also provided.
SafeHorizon: The goal of this site is to help “victims of violence” transition from “crisis to confidence.” As the largest victims' services agency in the United States, SafeHorizon works with those who have experienced domestic violence, child abuse, human trafficking, rape and sexual assault, and homelessness in youth to offer resources for support, hope, and recovery. It primarily serves the New York City area, but also helps those outside of NYC to find the support and resources they need.
isurvive: Created by survivors for survivors, this site offers resources and online support for people primarily in the United States, Australia, and Europe. Becoming a member of isurvive provides access to an array of forums on a variety of abuse-related topics. Addictions, self-harm, and unhealthy coping strategies; childhood abuse survivors; incest and sexual abuse survivors; male survivors; and issues surrounding intimacy and relationships are just a few of the forums available. Members also have the opportunity to share their artwork, collages, pet pictures, and “photographic thoughts” on the site once they join.
The Northwest Network: For survivors of abuse who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, The Northwest Network offers connection and community support. The hope of this organization, founded by lesbian survivors in 1987, is to “build loving and equitable relationships” with others who have had similar experiences. The goal in doing this is to empower victims of abuse to strengthen their sense of social connectedness and eliminate abuse from their lives.
RISE: Roots for Individual & Social Empowerment: Featuring a blog with personal stories shared by survivors of childhood sexual abuse as well as information on the legal aspects of dealing with the perpetrators of abuse, this site empowers abused individuals to rise above their experiences and find the strength to recover. The general message is for survivors to find their voices and speak out in the hopes it will inspire others to do the same.
Overcoming Sexual Abuse: Created by Christine Enevoldsen and Bethany Ruck, a mother and daughter who survived sexual abuse at the hands of their fathers, this site aims to help women embrace “a new life.” The founders share their personal stories and continue to write about recovery via blog articles, and they encourage other survivors not to let the abuse define them or determine their futures. They offer a discussion forum where victims of abuse can share their stories, post poetry and other “heart musings,” discuss the physical, mental, and emotional effects of abuse, and talk about the “healing tools” they find helpful.
Survivor Manual: The founder of the Survivor Manual, Angela Shelton, is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. She strives to bring other survivors together to heal and “lead joyful lives.” She welcomes visitors with a charismatic video explaining her vision and desire surrounding the issue of sexual abuse. She also is the director of a documentary called Searching for Angela Shelton , which chronicles her journey of discovery and healing, as well as her search for other women survivors who share her wounding and longing to be well. She sees herself as having made the shift “from victim to victor” and inspires others to do the same with her website, videos, and workbooks, and offers useful resources and information regarding various healing techniques, mental health issues, and crisis centers.
Now's the time for every Pennsylvanian to make preventing child abuse job one:
by Patricia Sprague
The child-protection bills that Gov. Tom Corbett signed into law this week overhaul the way child abuse is defined, investigated and punished in Pennsylvania. This is a vital step that will make Pennsylvania a safer place for children.
The Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection, the General Assembly, and Gov. Corbett are to be commended for their work in reforming child protection. It is now time for all citizens of the Commonwealth to take the next step and make the prevention of abuse a top priority.
I believe the actions suggested below will improve health outcomes and reduce medical, educational, and crime related costs in Pennsylvania. Moreover, they are a moral imperative.
First some background: Decades of efforts to prevent child abuse and neglect in the United States have failed. Between four and seven children die every day as a result of child abuse. Those figures may be low. It is estimated that between 50 to 60 percent of child fatalities due to maltreatment are not recorded as such on death certificates.
Approximately 80 percent of children who die from abuse and neglect are aged four or younger. Yet, the majority of our child abuse “prevention” programs are delivered in school settings -- too late and to the wrong audience. Effective child abuse prevention engages parents and guardians early, ideally before parenthood or as soon as they become parents.
While child maltreatment occurs across all socio-economic strata, poor families and their children are disproportionately affected, underscoring the social justice imperative in child abuse and neglect prevention.
The total lifetime economic burden resulting from new cases of fatal and nonfatal child maltreatment in 2008 was approximately $124 billion. The cumulative cost to society of child abuse is many hundreds of billions of dollars.
Prevention of abuse and neglect is intimately connected to life-long health and to academic and economic success.
Toxic stress alters brain architecture and creates chemical imbalances, both of which can impede a child's ability to learn. The effects can last a lifetime. Toxic stress and academic failure are closely linked and the most common form of childhood toxic stress is child abuse and neglect.
Recent and ground breaking biological evidence demonstrates the damaging effects on brain development associated with early toxic stress and the need for the earliest possible prevention of abuse and neglect. How do we connect this new knowledge about the developing brain with what we do? How do we create prevention programs that really work?
We know the protective factors that can reduce abuse, but we have not successfully implemented them.
To close the gap between what we know and what we do, we need the successful implementation of a prevention program, delivered via a universal platform by trusted professionals, to all parents and guardians.
Examples of successful innovation for other public health issues abound. We have achieved great gains in addressing breast cancer, tobacco use, HIV and AIDS. Why not in child abuse prevention?
We must address child abuse and neglect on three tiers: 1) at the primary level, intending to prevent maltreatment before it occurs by universally educating all parents and guardians 2) the secondary level where maltreatment is deemed more likely, thus in “high risk” populations and 3) the tertiary level for children and families in which abuse has already occurred. Preventing child abuse and neglect is more effective than treating children after it has occurred, yet primary prevention is the least utilized of the three tiers, and it is crucial.
Focusing our resources on evidence-based or evidence-informed primary prevention practices is essential.
I suggest we deliver these practices on a regular, continuous basis to all parents and guardians, through their interactions with trusted partners in their child's care such as pediatricians, family medicine physicians, obstetricians, and other primary care providers.
This approach would utilize mutual respect between the professional-as-expert and the parent-as-expert and would incorporate technological innovation as well.
Communities are important stakeholders in primary prevention. If a community determines this primary prevention approach to be important and helpful, the community can be a critical support in its effectiveness.
Prevention messages could be shared and reinforced through child care programs, pre-schools, child serving organizations, faith-based groups, schools and others.
Our children's health, academic achievement and their very lives depend on our success in stemming the hidden epidemic of child abuse and neglect in America.
Robust primary and universal prevention which supports parents and guardians in protecting their children from neglect and abuse, is achievable. Every child deserves this work to move forward and to prevail.
If this paradigm of primary and universal prevention yields initial success in Pennsylvania communities, it could be replicated in other communities across America.
It would mean significant improvement in the health and well-being of many more of our children. Pennsylvania has the unique momentum and opportunity to take these next vital steps in putting children first.
Patricia Sprague, of Pittsburgh, is a research and program consultant for Prevent Child Abuse Pennsylvania, a program of the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Congressman Mike Honda Looking For More Child Abuse Protection, USA Swimming Responds
COLORADO SPRINGS -- Yesterday, Congressman Mike Honda weighed in supporting recent calls to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) by Congressman George Miller to look into mandatory reporting laws when it comes to child abuse at athletic clubs in the United States.
Honda specifically pointed out the Mitch Ivey case in his statement. Ivey has been banned by USA Swimming for life but is currently in the middle of an appeal window before the ban becomes public around Christmas.
Child abuse of any measure is simply wrong. That is why I am appalled by the reports of child sexual abuse of student athletes by their coaches during these students' participation in public and private swim clubs. I understand the case of the former coach, Mitch Ivey, who taught at the Santa Clara Swim Club, was a two-time Olympic medalist, and who recently received a lifetime coaching ban -- is pending an appeal period. Therefore, I would simply add that sexual misconduct has no place anywhere. I support and stand by my colleague, Congressman George Miller -- Ranking Member of the House Education and Workforce Committee -- in his inquiry to the U.S. Government Accountability Office to investigate youth athletic clubs' handling of child abuse allegations, specifically regarding the reporting and investigating laws and policies. According to the African proverb, it takes a village to raise to child; and so, it must take a village, or an entire community, to protect that child. As a father and a grandfather, I will continue to fight to protect the sacred innocence of our children everywhere.
While critics of USA Swimming have continued to attempt to mark this congressional interest regarding all athletics clubs as congress specifically targeting the sport of swimming with an investigation, USA Swimming has actually come out in support of many of Miller's thoughts regarding mandatory reporting and child abuse protection.
According to ChildWelfare.gov, there are "approximately 48 States, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands designate professions whose members are mandated by law to report child maltreatment."
These mandatory reporters include social workers; teachers, principals, and other school personnel; physicians, nurses, and other health-care workers; counselors, therapists, and other mental health professionals; child care providers; medical examiners or coroners as well as law enforcement officers.
Also, as of the August 2012 printing of the Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect white sheet published by ChildWelfare.gov, only "four states now have designated as mandatory reporters ... athletics staff ... at institutions of higher learning, including public and private colleges and universities and vocational and technical schools."
Additionally, 11 states require that "directors, employees, and volunteers at entities that provide organized activities for children, such as camps, day camps, youth centers, and recreation centers, are required to report."
In June, Miller's requested for the GAO to look into changing up these mandatory report laws to include club coaches across all sports as well as high school coaches across all sports.
While USA Swimming will not speak directly to any statement involving Ivey, since the case is still not yet public, USA Swimming's Karen Linhart did release the following statement requesting comment regarding Honda's post.
USA Swimming has no tolerance for inappropriate behavior by our members and we actively work to expel members who have violated our Code of Conduct. We are committed to raising awareness and eradicating abuse in sport.
The bonds that bind them: Getting sex-trafficking victims out of the game requires complex care
by Molly M. Fleming
OKLAHOMA CITY – The sun on the dark, dirty pavement should have been foreboding, but Kiera and her friend were enticed by the promise of comfort. They had run away from a teen treatment center and thought the house near NW 10th Street and McKinley Avenue in Oklahoma City would be a haven.
Kiera Samantha, 16, could see the bars on windows covered by blankets; it was a dark place. She was greeted by Freeze, a blue-eyed black man. Kiera's friend left, never to be seen again, and Kiera began to realize she had been recruited into the game.
She would have sex, or she would be killed.
That day, she became one of many sex trafficking victims in Oklahoma and one of the estimated 2.5 million victims worldwide. She would have to deal with the emotional trauma of being trafficked for sex the rest of her life.
“From the investigators I've talked to, Oklahoma isn't any worse off than any other state,” said Craig Williams, an investigator with the human trafficking division of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics. “But it's definitely a problem worth addressing.”
Selling women for sex is profitable – more profitable than selling drugs, because there's no capital investment and victims can be sold repeatedly.
A study by nonprofit agency A Heart for Justice found that a human trafficker can make $200,000 per victim per year, 10 times the $20,000 profit in one kilogram of a street drug.
Kiera was vulnerable, looking for the loving family she never had.
A young, abused runaway, she had the typical victim's background. Her family's sexual abuse traced back four generations, she said. Kiera was a victim by age 12, and beginning at age 14 suffered a series of rapes by strangers and acquaintances as she moved from living on the streets to foster care and back to the streets.
The day she met Freeze, she had to choose life or forced sex. She was taken to the Classen Motel, where her first customer was in his mid-40s.
“Why are you doing this?” he asked her. “You're so young.”
For months, Kiera was turned out on street corners. She received no payment – her traffickers kept all the money and had sex with her themselves. She was allowed to sleep on a dirty mattress on the floor.
A Department of Human Services worker stopped at the house once. Kiera, the only white girl in the house, never said anything to the woman.
But the day one of the guys at that house in a blue car touched her leg and said, “We're going to have some fun,” Kiera sensed that he intended to kill her. When the car slowed at an intersection, she jumped out and ran.
A lack of numbers
Human trafficking has two sides, sex and labor. Victims of each share psychological abuse that keeps them responding the way most would expect; they believe they have no choice, that there is no way out. Even when they get out, there are few places to go for help, which is especially problematic for juvenile sex trafficking victims. The problems persist in large part because victims rarely turn to the police, and law enforcement officials say victims are unlikely to take the stand against their trafficker in court.
That disguises the depth of the problem by skewing the statistics kept by law enforcement agencies, who often settle for charging sex traffickers with the lesser offenses.
By state and federal definition, trafficking requires that the trafficker use force, fraud or coercion, although those elements are not necessary when the victim is a minor. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, there were 2,515 suspected incidents of sex and labor trafficking in the U.S. between January 2008 and June 2010. Among those, only 218 were confirmed sex trafficking cases, with 459 people confirmed as sex trafficking victims.
Based on data from the Polaris Project, a nonprofit organization that works to prevent human trafficking, Oklahoma ranked 18th in number of calls per capita to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Since Dec. 7, 2007, the hotline has had 807 calls from Oklahoma, which included reports of more than 118 potential human trafficking cases.
In 2009, the hotline had 39 calls from Oklahoma, with nine referencing potential trafficking situations. The number of calls increased in 2010 to 63, but only three were assessed as being potential trafficking situations. By 2011, the number of potential cases had increased to 11, though the number of calls decreased to 29 people.
In Oklahoma, the FBI reported only nine human trafficking arrests of any kind in the last six years. The agency has made 27 arrests for the lesser offense of sexual exploitation of a minor in just the past two years.
Even if the number of sex trafficking victims in Oklahoma was available, the numbers are just empty talking points. Even after victims have been rescued, they have to deal with the demons in their heads.
“Human trafficking victims are victimized multiple times as a routine part of their day,” Williams, the Oklahoma investigator, said. “But they've also got intermittent reinforcement, where they're doing something or being made to do something that they don't want to do, or is bad, but they get rewarded for doing that bad thing. And then also, they're completely dependent, oftentimes, on that trafficker. The trafficker is the source of shelter, the source of food, the source of clothing – the source of basically all the essentials of life.”
Victims form a bond with someone who takes care of them, and that bond keeps them running back, not turning in their oppressors and not testifying.
“The bonds that bind human trafficking victims are oftentimes not physical,” Williams said. “If we devote too much energy into that imagery of there being a physical chain, then we misunderstand human trafficking.”
Williams said that in some cases, the victim is sent out on the streets, given until 10 p.m. to make a certain amount of money. All the while, she could be worried about the safety of a child the trafficker has kept, or the threat to her own life.
“We don't often encounter the trafficker physically with the trafficking victim,” Williams said. “That's one of the concerns I have with the specific imagery of the chains. It's not a scene out of Taken . That's not the way that human trafficking works in the United States.”
It works through meetings arranged over the Internet, sometimes on a website called backpage.com, or through the network of pimps who know each other and each other's girls. Some of them are even friends on Facebook.
That's how Tarran Arnel Brinson of Tulsa recruited victims. Brinson was recently sentenced to 17 years in prison for conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of children, sex trafficking of children, attempted sex trafficking of children, interstate travel, transportation in aid of racketeering, coercion and enticement, and obstruction of justice.
R. Trent Shores, assistant U.S. attorney in the Northern District of Oklahoma, called Brinson a finesse pimp, meaning he uses his charm to get the girls into his business. Conversely, a guerilla pimp uses force.
Shores said Brinson developed a relationship with one 17-year-old girl, whom he used to recruit others through Facebook. He had her send messages to her friends offering them a job as an escort, describing it as fun and pressure-free.
One 14-year-old victim responded and became a commodity, but her face never made it to the website where many traffickers advertise. Instead, Brinson used the pictures of 19- and 20-year-old girls from California he copied from Facebook.
“None of the pictures we obtained in the advertisement were of the teenage girl,” Shores said.
In Brinson's case, the victim testified in her trafficker's defense. To counter, prosecutors called on an expert in victimology, the study of the psychological effects experienced by the victims of crime. They explained why a victim would help the accused.
“I think it's a fair statement that the victim's testimony was consistent with things he had talked about in victimology,” Shores said. “The facts then fit what he would have expected.”
Help is scarce
Although many law enforcement agencies employ an advocate for domestic violence victims, few have one for trafficking cases. The Oklahoma City Police Department does not have one.
OKCPD Lt. Doug Kimberlin said he would like to see more advocates who would work through a third-party organization, because most trafficking victims do not want to cooperate with police, fearing they will also be put in jail.
“It's a trust relationship you're trying to build with an institution that you think wants to put you in jail,” he said. “If a victim's advocate trusts us, and we can get the victim to trust the victim's advocate, then that information (about the victim's experience) will get to us.”
Kiera said if victims know there is help at the police department through a victim's advocate, they would be more likely to step forward.
Sarah Rahhal, a licensed clinical social worker and the chief operating officer at Oklahoma City's Northcare, oversees clinicians who work with traumatized adults, including sex trafficking victims.
She said the victims have complex mental health needs, often from post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse disorders. Like cattle, many victims are tattooed or branded by their pimps as a symbol of ownership.
“Oftentimes, addiction is a way to cope with trauma,” Rahhal said. “For this population, or those that are survivors, they have complex trauma because it's a trauma that's occurred repeatedly.”
Victims sometimes seek Northcare's services after a recommendation from a police department or because the facility works with trauma care. The clinic has an open-access policy, so patients are not required to have an appointment. They can just walk in the doors and ask for help.
“They don't always identify themselves a victim or survivor of human trafficking,” she said. “We find it's important for us to ask, ‘What's happened to you?' not, ‘What's wrong with you?' That is very much a trauma-informed approach. They might not talk about what's happened to them for quite a while.”
But they can't be forced into treatment.
“They're not a prisoner,” Williams said. “They're treated as a victim. So ultimately they have to make the choice to engage in the services that are available to them. We will make sure they have the opportunity.”
Help for juveniles
For victims under 18 years of age, DHS steps in to determine whether the child's circumstance is a result of parental neglect or some other cultural dynamic. Some of the children are reunited with their parents; others go into state custody.
Within 48 hours of going into custody of DHS, there is a show-cause hearing, where parents and the caseworker appear before a judge to decide the child's fate. During that same 48 hours, the child is placed in a safe setting to be interviewed, and the parents are interviewed as well.
The child could be sent out of state for treatment, because there are no treatment facilities in Oklahoma that specialize in juvenile sex trafficking victims. Whether or not a child is sent out of state depends on how long the child is in DHS custody; most are released to relatives.
If a child needs treatment, he or she can be sent to Missouri, which has a facility that can treat a child for six months or longer. However, DHS has not sent any children to Missouri to seek treatment.
“Most of them need substance abuse therapy, and of course they're going to need intensive mental health therapy,” said Jennifer Postlewait, program field representative for DHS in Oklahoma County.
Postlewait said that for many young victims, the trafficker was a boyfriend or girlfriend the victim wanted to please. In return for earning money with sex, the trafficker provides clothes or an expensive purse; it's often the only remuneration the victim receives.
It's that connection that requires them to need psychological care. Their care continues beyond their treatment for drug addiction, Postlewait said.
“On average, they're going to receive psychological treatment through the duration, even after reunification occurs,” she said. “Even after that intensive inpatient setting, they're still going to get that outpatient therapy. Their treatment – long term – is still over a year. Their therapists might say that a year is enough, but then as they hit a new developmental age in their life, their trauma will resurface and they will re-enter back into some type of therapy program. Honestly, the therapy and the healing process for that type of trauma is ongoing for the rest of their life.”
Help for adults
Oklahoma has two certified shelters for adult victims, the Beautiful Dream Society, or BDS, in Oklahoma City, and Dayspring Villa in Sand Springs.
Combined, the two shelters have room to help approximately 22 victims, with five beds at BDS and room for up to 17 victims at Dayspring.
“Getting training for personnel is extremely important,” said Margaret Goldman, program manager with the Oklahoma attorney general's victim services unit, which sets the certification standards. “Especially with the population of human trafficking victims, because they have suffered so much trauma and they are so fragile.”
Goldman and department director Lesley Smith March visit the shelters every three years to complete a certification review.
Victims are encouraged to stay in shelters, which are equipped to deal with the effects of the victim's trauma; a friend or relative taking in a victim may not know what to expect.
“With human trafficking victims, you could have cartels out there looking for them,” Goldman said.
For the cartel or the trafficker, losing that victim means losing a source of income.
“We feel (housing victims in a private home) poses a danger to the public,” Goldman said. “Anyone dealing with victims must be certified. They've just been through so much. They don't think they need help right away. Then after a while, they feel like they need some help. It's not intimate partner violence; it's very complicated.”
Dayspring Villa has served 38 sex trafficking victims since June 2012, nine of whom came with children. They are only certified to take adults, but have temporarily housed some juvenile victims who were close to age 18.
“When the police call, we don't turn anyone away,” said Wilma Lively, Dayspring executive director. “We felt like if we didn't help these victims, then who would? Who was going to?”
They helped Goldman and Smith March develop the certification standards.
“We're learning together,” Lively said. “When we run up against something, we call (Goldman) and tell her what's going on.”
Lively and her staff have seen firsthand the trauma the women have suffered while being a part of the sex trafficking industry.
“They're so traumatized,” she said. “They're nervous. They're afraid of their own shadow. They're afraid to tell you anything because they think you're going to tell the police. They truly believe if they tell you anything about their sex trafficker, then they'll come find them.”
Despite Dayspring's work, Lively said getting care afterward is too late.
“We have to identify what is causing young children to get in this situation,” she said. “We have to start asking. Instead of just putting the children in DHS custody, we have to find something to help them emotionally.”
Dr. Elizabeth Hopper, director of Project REACH, a program at the Justice Resource Institute in Boston, said it is vital to have shelters that specialize in sex trafficking victims.
“We see depression, a lot of post-traumatic stress disorder,” she said. “There's also something (they often have) called complex PTSD, which is when you've experienced trauma from a very early age. If affects the way you see yourself and the world around you.”
Each victim must be treated individually; there is no formula.
“If a person gets bounced from place to place, they might go back to the trafficker,” she said. “The more a provider can follow a person and continue to serve them, despite funding issues, the better.”
Northcare is trying to get involved with caring for adult sex trafficking victims by partnering with the newest sex trafficking shelter, BDS. Through the partnership, clinicians from Northcare would go to the BDS to meet with the victims.
“(The victim's experience) has been that most relationships are not safe,” she said. “Why would a treatment provider be safe? ‘Nobody has ever helped me before.' It has to be wraparound care. It's hard to walk into a mental health center for anyone. For those that have had a lot of trauma it is 10 times harder.”
The Oklahoma Bar Association has taken up human trafficking legal issues as a cause, inspired by the American Bar Association. It held a continuing legal education course in May to educate lawyers about human trafficking and how they can help. It has since created a network of attorneys who want to make their services available free to both labor and sex trafficking victims.
It has also scheduled training for district court judges to help them identify human trafficking victims and suggest alternatives to requiring victim testimony. At its annual conference in August, the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association hosted a panel discussion on the signs of human trafficking.
Love's Travel Stops will sponsor a group called Truckers Against Trafficking later this year. Love's Communication Manager Kyla Turner said several travel stops were already hanging up posters from the organization and distributing wallet-size brochures with information about trafficking.
She said the company has not heard any stories internally of trafficking occurring in a Love's parking lot.
“Love's has a different business model,” she said. “We have smaller parking lots. Truckers get what they need and move on. I haven't had any stories from general managers that need to make that call about trafficking. We're doing it because we know it exists and we want to be a help, both with our employees and our truck drivers.”
Love's will use a training video from Truckers Against Trafficking to educate employees about signs of human trafficking at their travel stops.
Kendra Paris, Truckers Against Trafficking executive director, said Love's will also be a part of a coalition of law enforcement officers, members of the trucking industry, and representatives from truck stop companies.
“Everything we do is from an empowerment angle,” she said. “It really speaks to what we're trying to do out there, which is to empower members of the trucking industry to really take back the road and recognize that it's the traffickers that are exploiting a legitimate business.”
Empowerment is the key to helping catch traffickers and to ending the process of human trafficking. That is what Kiera, now 40, is trying to do. She speaks frequently at engagements to tell people about the realities of sex trafficking. She never uses her last name to protect her identity.
“Trying to be a productive person after going through this stuff – it's difficult,” she said. “Innocence is taken away. You never get a chance to be innocent again.”
She said now spends her time surrounded by love from friends and family.
But she keeps track of her years of what she calls mental normalness. She's on her second year.
“You never get a chance to know what a normal life would be like,” she said. “I used to never wear mascara that wasn't waterproof because I would cry all the time.”
She emphasized that sex trafficking victims do not have a choice about having sex. They are surviving.
“Compliance is not consent,” she said. “Compliance is survival. Survival is what you will do.”
Ireland and Australia
The slaves of Magdalene
For decades, "bad" Irish girls were sent away to convent-run laundries, where they worked for no pay in awful conditions for years on end. Now, writes Jane Wheatley, survivors are finally getting compensation.
by Chris Johnson
Martina Keogh was 16, selling newspapers outside a Dublin cinema, when a fight broke out on the street beside her. She was arrested along with the girls involved, sent to court and convicted of disorderly conduct. Her punishment would be two years' incarceration and unpaid labour in a convent laundry run by nuns.
It was 1964, the year the Beatles released A Hard Day's Night, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton married for the first time and 5000 more American troops were sent to fight in Vietnam, but Martina would know nothing of all this. Instead, she would spend her days washing and ironing and her nights in a locked dormitory with bars on the windows.
On a hot, sunny day earlier this northern summer, Keogh takes me back to the convent in Dublin's Sean McDermott Street, an imposing four-storey brick building now silent and empty of life. Set into a panel of the big, wooden, double-entrance doors is a small, eye-level grille. Keogh recalls being escorted there by a garda (policeman): "The shutter across the grille slid back and I could just see eyes looking out," she says. "The garda said, 'Got another one for you here, Sister.' "
At the far end of the building is a set of gates - "That's where the laundry vans came in and out" - topped by an iron arch inset with the words, "Monastery of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge". Some letters are missing. A woman walking along the street towards us stops, curious to know why we are taking photographs. She has lived in the block of flats next to the convent all her life, she says, and remembers as a child standing on a balcony and throwing sweets and cigarettes over the high wall to the inmates walking in the exercise yard below. "They wore uniforms and aprons," she says. "We were told they had been bad girls."
Four religious orders ran the 11 Magdalene laundries for 70 years; the last one closed in 1996. Some 10,000 girls passed through these institutions; they worked for no pay and were known as the Magdalenes - fallen women. A few had been sent after police raids on brothels but most came by different routes: some, like Martina Keogh, sent by the courts, some from orphanages and so-called industrial schools. Still more came from Mother and Baby Homes and had their babies given away for adoption, as in the film Philomena , starring Judi Dench, which opens on Boxing Day. Some were consigned by their own families, others referred by social or psychiatric services, the prettier ones considered a risk to morality.
Martina Keogh's story is a common one. Her unmarried mother was living in Dublin with one son and was pregnant with Martina when she went home to Kerry to ask for support from her family. But in 1950s Ireland, her hopes were doomed. "My grandfather was a schoolteacher," Keogh tells me. "Two of Mam's brothers were garda; they ran her out of town for bringing shame to them. My grandmother kept my brother and Mam came back to Dublin." After Martina was born, her mother went out to work, leaving her with a child-minder, but it was hard to manage and at age two the child was put into an orphanage. "A place in Kilkenny," she says. "Lovely it was. But when I was four, Mam married the oufla [the old fellow, as Keogh called her stepfather] so she could get us kids back. Once you were married, you were an honest woman."
Martina was soon being sexually abused by her stepfather: "I was in and out of orphanages and always running away." By the time she was sent to the laundry she'd been earning for several years: "We needed it - the oufla wouldn't give Mam any. 'I'm not feeding your bastards,' he said.
"From the moment I arrived [in the laundry] we worked [very hard]. Feeding the sheets into the dryer, that was brutal, and ironing - vestments, shirts, nuns' habits - I f...ing hate ironing. I won't have an iron in the house. Once a friend of mine was told off for being slow on the compressor and the nun brought it down on her hand. Oh, it was awful; when it lifted off it brought the skin with it. I ran away, I couldn't look. We were locked in the dormitories from 7.30pm till the nuns came to wake us for Mass at 6am. If there'd been a fire we'd have burnt in our beds."
Keogh got out when her two years were up but many women never left. Institutionalised, uneducated and with no support or contacts in the outside world, some of them didn't even know their real names or where they came from.
Mary Josephine O'Neill spent 17 years with the nuns and had her name changed twice. She was five when she was put in a residential convent school because her mother was considered incapable of looking after her. There was already a little girl with the same name, so Mary became Molly. "After two years my sister arrived. I didn't even know I had a sister but I ran down to get her."
Now 65, Mary Currington (her married name) has vivid memories of her convent years: some have haunted her to this day and caused terrible distress in her marriage. "School was very severe; we were sexually abused by the older girls. We little ones were in a dormitory that was supposed to be supervised by one of the sisters, but it wasn't and the big girls would come in. Oh, the dreadful, disgusting things they made you do, and did to you."
At 16, Mary was sent to work on a farm in west Cork with a relative of one of the nuns. As she left the convent, she was given one piece of advice, "Don't let a man get near you or touch you." She couldn't settle on the farm and was eventually taken away to work in the laundry of another convent run by the same order. "I had my name changed again, this time to Geraldine, even though I cried and said my name was Mary. I was taken upstairs, my clothes taken off me and all my long, black hair cut off. I was 18. We washed everything from sheets to businessmen's shirts. You had to scrub stained things by hand, there was bleach in the soap and your knuckles were raw."
Later she worked in the sewing room. "We made banners for processions, vestments for the clergy and the choir, altar linen, smocked dresses in lovely material and Holy Communion dresses.
"I didn't know it but all the time my sister was living up the road; she came knocking to see me but they never, never told me she'd come. Then she got a letter to me by the priest who heard confessions and that's how we communicated. He was a good man, that priest, he knew I wanted my freedom. He often spoke to [head nun] Mother Mount Carmel for me - 'Geraldine is mature enough to leave us' - but she always refused. It was a shameful thing to be in the Magdalene Asylum, as it was called; the arch over the door said 'Penitentiary' in big, iron letters. At least criminals know their release date. We had no idea and no voice."
But still, says Currington now, for all her longing, getting out of the laundry was the worst day of her life. "It was cold, January 1969, the year the Troubles started in the North. One of the sisters called me and said, 'Quick now, you're leaving.' I asked about saying goodbye, but she said there was no time. I was to go and work as a domestic at Saint John of God Hospital [in Dublin]. I grieved mightily for my friend I'd left behind."
Could she have written letters? "No point, they would have been confiscated. They didn't ever want you to have communication from outside."
Mary saved up her wages from the hospital and eventually joined her sister in England. "I had no worldly knowledge; I was too shy to go out. One day I saw an advert in the paper from soldiers overseas who wanted pen friends. I wrote a bit about myself and got 18 replies! The first one I opened was from the man I married. I was 32 and had never been with a bloke."
Mary and her husband, Norman, have been married for 36 years and have one son. "But I'm afraid I was a failure in the bedroom department. It was all tied up with the abuse as a child. I tried to be a good wife, but every time it felt like rape."
Of her 17 years with the Good Shepherd nuns, Mary says now, "It was a humiliating, degrading, shaming life and it doesn't leave you. I hate shut doors; I always sleep with mine open."
Twenty years ago, in 1993, the Dublin convent that had housed the largest of Ireland's laundries sold some of its grounds to a property developer. When work started, a mass grave was uncovered containing the remains of 155 women - many of whom could not be accounted for in the convent's records.
Until then, those women who, like Martina and Mary, had managed to get out never spoke of their years in the laundries, not even to husbands and families, crippled as they were by shame, insecurity and low self-esteem. They had been fodder for a humiliating system of slavery - the religious orders could rely on income from the laundries free of labour costs - which, astonishingly, still continued into the final years of the 20th century, condoned or at least ignored by government and a supposedly newly enlightened society.
Many, like Mary, had left Ireland for England; some went further afield, to the US, Canada and Australia. But now the scandal prompted a few to raise their heads, cautiously, above the parapet.
A campaign began and networks were formed encouraging women to come forward with their testimonies. But it would prove to be a very long battle. Already under pressure from allegations of physical and sexual abuse of children in its care, the Catholic Church battened down the hatches under this fresh assault. Meanwhile, the Irish government of the time denied any responsibility, claiming that the laundries were entirely the preserve of the religious orders that ran them. This is despite the fact that many girls were delivered to the laundries by government authority, via police, courts, health and social services, and that government institutions sent their dirty linen to be washed by the Magdalenes.
In 2002, as the campaign to win justice for survivors struggled to make headway, the government set up a Redress Board to compensate those who, as children, had been abused in residential institutions such as industrial schools and reformatories that were subject to state regulation. Millions of euros were eventually paid out - much of it to lawyers, who had a field day. Some of it went to women like Mary Currington, who had been in those institutions before they entered the laundries, but their years as Magdalenes went unacknowledged. The majority of laundry survivors did not qualify for compensation under the scheme.
Finally, in 2011, Ireland's government bowed to pressure from the United Nations Committee against Torture and established an inquiry into the laundries headed by a senator, Martin McAleese. His team took evidence from survivors in Ireland and the UK and reported in February this year. Two weeks later, the prime minister, Enda Kenny, met 15 survivors at the Dáil (parliament) in Dublin to listen to their stories and to apologise.
Sally Mulready chairs the UK-based Irish Women Survivors Network and was with the women. "They had never spoken in public before," she tells me in her London office. "The pain and stigma had muzzled them. The apology was so moving and strong; the feeling in the room after Enda Kenny left was palpable. This has liberated them, they can hold up their heads now. One woman said, 'I won't need to hide any more. Ireland is my country and I'm going to show my face there.' " Mary Currington had met Kenny at the Irish Embassy in London - "We'd been treated as individuals and listened to carefully" - and was at the Dáil to hear his apology. "It was fantastic."
After their private meeting, Kenny went on to deliver the public apology to the women in front of members in the Dáil chamber. Kenny then ordered a judicial commission to come up with a compensation package for Magdalene survivors.
Four months later, on that hot june afternoon in Dublin, I leave Martina Keogh at her home and hurry to a press conference to hear what Justice Minister Alan Shatter proposes to do for the Magdalene women. He says that because many of them are elderly - the average age of survivors is 68 - there will not be a statutory inquiry involving lawyers and lengthy procedures that could take years to resolve. Instead, the government will make ex-gratia payments to all the women to express the "sincere nature of the State's reconciliatory intent". Payments will be made on a sliding scale depending on how long a woman worked in a laundry: €11,500 ($17,300) for three months or less, up to a maximum of €100,000 for a period of 10 years or more.
In the bar of Buswells Hotel that evening, I find Sally Mulready and other Magdalene advocates enjoying a quiet celebratory meal. "It's a very fair package," says Mulready. "We've been pushing for this for 15 years, so today is a good day."
Some 17,000 kilometres away in Western Australia, 82-year-old Betty White agrees. She spent more than six years in a Magdalene laundry in Limerick, and on the phone from Perth, where she lives with her son, Teddy, she tells Good Weekend her story. "I was adopted as a baby by a lady from Dublin, but when I was about six the nuns came and took me away. The courts had ordered it, I never knew why. I went to an industrial school, which was a terrible place, then I came to the laundry in Limerick when I was 19.
"At first I was put to making the Limerick lace for wedding dresses and the like; it was very delicate, there was a lot of work. The nuns must have got good money for it. Then I got bad headaches, so they put me to ironing the big, heavy habits.
"We never had a bit of music in there, just prayers. One nun, Sister K, was so good to me. She was in charge of the laundry and sometimes she'd ask me to come and help with a dirty shirt or something so I could listen to the radio for a bit.
"The dormitory was big, maybe 30 or 40 girls. There was a lot of crying at night and we'd get up to one another, but if the nun came in we'd all rush back to our beds. I was there for six or seven years. I thought I'd never get out.
"Then one day, without any warning, I was let go. I asked to see Sister K, she came down and gave me biscuits and sweets to take with me. 'I'll always pray for you,' she said. I cried and cried.
"I went to England to work and met my husband. I did tell him about the dreadful time in the school and laundry and he said, 'Don't worry, forget about it.' We were happy together for 40 years."
Along with other survivors living overseas, Betty White has now received compensation from the Irish government. "I do feel I earned it," she says. "All those years working for nothing."
In July, the four religious orders who ran the laundries announced they would not make any contribution to the compensation fund. Justice Minister Alan Shatter thought the nuns' decision "very disappointing"; Magdalene survivor Phyllis Morgan said, "This is dreadful. I thought they would have done the decent thing."
The nuns have agreed to provide records of the women's time in the laundries and to meet survivors in a spirit of reconciliation. Neither Mary Currington nor Martina Keogh will be taking up the offer. "I wouldn't want to set eyes on any of them," says Keogh.
Australia's child laundries
Australia had eight Magdalene laundries – all at Sisters of the Good Shepherd convents – from the 1940s until the '70s. There is no firm data on how many girls they held but it's estimated to be several thousand.
The convent laundries were in all states. There were three in Melbourne alone, at Abbotsford, Oakleigh and Albert Park, with another in regional Victoria at St Aidan's in Bendigo. Hobart had the Mount Saint Canice Good Shepherd convent in Sandy Bay. Sydney had one in Ashfield, Perth in Leederville, Brisbane in Mitchelton and Adelaide's was the notorious The Pines at North Plympton.
As in Ireland, the convent dormitories and commercial laundries were for girls who were wards of the state or deemed delinquents but often were victims themselves who had committed no crimes. The 2004 Senate report Forgotten Australians – which led to a national apology from then PM Kevin Rudd and opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull in 2009 – described the laundries as prisons for girls forced into labour with poor living conditions and scant education.
“These were lost childhoods,” says Leonie Sheedy, executive officer of Care Leavers Australia Network, an advocacy group for former wards of the state. “Churches got wealthy on our labour. It's extremely hard to get this history visible.”
Stenna Keys is 57 and lives in Portarlington, near Melbourne. Born Stenna Nemec in Slovenia, she came to Australia with her parents, who were assisted migrants and ended up working long hours in factories in Melbourne's west. Her father was a violent drinker and she was sexually abused from the age of five by neighbours and relatives of neighbours. “We were like the latchkey kids but without a key,” she says. “We were left alone a lot.”
In one abusive episode, her young adult neighbours used a knitting needle on her – which meant Stenna could never have children. She started running away from home and school at age 11. This was in the late 1960s around Footscray and Sunshine, which even now can be dangerous places. She sometimes slept in bus shelters. “I was starving. No money, no nothing, no one's looking after me and I'm just a kid, maybe 12 or 13?…”
She was made a state ward and put in Winlaton, a juvenile prison in Melbourne. After escaping, she was then sent to the Good Shepherd convent in Abbotsford, which she describes as “a horror place”. She worked in the laundry all day – after church – on the steam press, pressing sheets for hospitals. She says she was sexually abused by other, older girls, but that the nuns turned a blind eye. “You'd pretend everything was okay.”
Stenna was released after only a few months but the effects are still with her. She has worked in menial jobs (although is now trained as a Bowen therapist), has self-medicated for post-traumatic stress disorder with drugs and alcohol, has health problems and has been through two failed marriages. Only now is she beginning to learn how to trust. “I don't feel like a victim any more. I'm a survivor, not a victim.”
She lived in Tasmania in the mid-2000s. After an intervention by her psychologist, two senior Good Shepherd nuns came to hear her story, then sent a letter admitting “the sisters were not able to provide you with the sense of nurture and security which you so desperately needed”. Good Shepherd now officially acknowledges past instances of “injustice and harm” and has committed to “healing and reconciliation”.
Maureen Cuskelly, 58, of Wodonga, had an entirely different experience. She came from a poor and uneducated Catholic family. Her mother and father had seven kids in quick succession and couldn't look after them properly. Maureen, a middle sibling, went into Abbotsford at the age of seven. A year later she got out because her mother – with her father now vanished – was living in a house in Echuca, on the Murray River, and had convinced the Victorian government to give her children back, which they did. But when Maureen was 12 her mother's health deteriorated and the children were taken once more; Maureen and one of her sisters ended up in St Aidan's Good Shepherd Convent in Bendigo. She was briefly released to a chaotic household, then readmitted for five years, until she was 17. She worked in the laundry folding sheets and on the “mangle” steam press, and also had to polish the floor of the convent concert hall every day. She did school by correspondence.
“Most people there hadn't done anything wrong. I hadn't. My sister hadn't. One girl wagged school for two days to see a boyfriend; she got one year in. Another girl from Benalla was raped by her uncle. Us girls became victims. The nuns thought they were helping the community.”
Maureen says the worst cruelty at St Aidan's came from the nuns, particularly the head nun, Mother Rita. During her reign, solitary confinement was in a toilet that was locked from the outside. “Girls came out broken-spirited,” Maureen says. “One girl wrote ‘I Love Elvis' on her arm and went in for three days. When the girls came out, they were gone. They were cold, isolated, scared, threatened. Mother Rita was an awful woman. A very harsh, very small and very cruel woman.”
When Maureen finally got out in the early 1970s, she found she was institutionalised. After trying to live in a hostel and work as a clerk, she readmitted herself to St Aidan's as it was all she knew.
Eventually she left and did year 12 at a school in Bendigo, became a mental health nurse and, after one destructive marriage, got a bachelor's degree, then a master's, in health science. She now works in a senior role in community mental health in Wodonga. She has also recently found and been reunited with her father, Colin, in Ballina, NSW.
Her hands are crippled with arthritis from relentless work on the steam press and from using the electric polisher. She's had surgery but, for a long time, and during her studies, she couldn't hold a pen.
Police make arrest for not reporting sex abuse of a child
The board president of Viva Performing Arts school in Dixon was arrested Friday afternoon for failing to report a possible case of sexual abuse against a minor.
Curtis Schmitt, 70, is accused of not telling anyone after he allegedly learned that a child might be being abused.
The case began after a 16 year old boy told Tim Boles, the drama director at Viva, that he was being abused by Robert Campbell, a vocal instructor at Viva. The boy asked Boles not to say anything, but police say Boles and Schmitt had a duty to report the allegations.
A warrant has been issued for Tim Boles. Campbell was arrested November 4th on 3 counts of aggravated criminal sex abuse.
Curtis Schmitt was processed by Dixon Police, posted bond, and has been released.
The mythology of stranger danger
by Malinda Williams
This past week's news coverage of the anniversary of the Newtown school shooting can have a tendency to encourage the mistaken belief that children's greatest dangers are outside the home and away from family.
Parents spend a lot of time worrying and trying to protect children from the invisible “monsters” in life. Ironically, even abusive parents caution their children against strangers who may be dangerous.
The alarming fact remains that most child victims of abuse and homicide are harmed by their own family members or someone known to them.
As an NBC news analysis of FBI statistics over the 25 years leading up to 2011 shows, in our nation only 7 out of 100 child homicides were committed by strangers. In the New Mexico the number is lower, closer to 6 out of 100.
You may be surprised to know 60 percent of New Mexico's child murder victims age 12 and younger have died at the hands of a family member and another 30 percent were killed by someone they knew.
And although gun violence is certainly concerning, few realize the number one weapon used in these child homicide crimes is not guns. More than a third of the time the weapons used to murder a child are an adult's hands or feet.
Most parents really do try to do what they believe will help keep children safe. But according to the UK training group “Protective Behaviours” we often miss a basic first step: teaching our children what it feels like to be safe so that they can identify with and experience the right to be safe at all times. Children know not to talk to strangers, but the important “feeling safe” is a harder concept for them to grasp unless someone takes the time to really talk with them about it.
In homes where interpersonal violence (verbal, emotional, sexual or physical) is common, the adults do not feel safe and can't model this for their children.
In many homes where a parent is abused, the children are also abused.
Then it falls to the community — trusted extended family or neighbors, teachers, religious/spiritual leaders, and health care professionals or other service organizations like CAV — to show what safety is and educate children by starting early and talking often about what it means to “feel safe.”
If your child knows what it is like to feel safe, s/he can understand what unsafe may feel like — the way anxiety, worry, or fear causes them to feel in their own bodies, such as butterflies in their stomachs, fast heartbeat, stomachache, etc. With these understandings children can identify someone who is willing to listen and talk to them about all their concerns no matter how small or big — from butterflies before a school performance, or seeing name — calling at recess, to things like feeling afraid of the dark, or feeling unsure or “weird” about someone.
Without knowing what ‘safe' is or feels like, children won't talk to anyone, not even when it is really important or scary. Ideally we want it to be someone at home who models safety and kindness for children. But because that isn't reality, we invite you to engage children in these important basic understandings and not perpetuate the stranger-danger myth.
Children don't hold the responsibility for protecting themselves. That falls upon the adults, these understanding will help them grow into adults who know and trust their safe/not-safe feelings.
Malinda Williams is the executive director of Community Against Violence, Inc. (CAV) which offers free confidential support and assistance for adult and child survivors of sexual and domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. To talk with someone or get information on services available, call CAV's 24-hour crisis line at (575) 758-9888. www.taoscav.org
An Adult Child Abuse Survivor's Guide to the Holidays
by Grace Davis
This is a post from 'State of Grace', a blog I maintained from 2004 to 2009. I wrote frequently and candidly about my perspectives and experiences as a survivor of child sexual, physical and psychological abuse and neglect. This was a piece with a list of how I manage the profound difficulties of celebrating holidays with abusive members of my family. For Christmas, 2013, I humbly present this to the BlogHer readership, most espcially for my sister and brother abuse survivors and their allies.
(Edited from original post, November 26, 2009)
This blog post is for adult abuse survivors who are looking for strategies in dealing with their abusive families during the holidays. Family gatherings are meant to be lovely and fortifying, but for those of us who have been abused by family and/or adults close to us when we were young, holidays are a nightmare. We need to remember that we made it this far and we can go further. The way to do that is to get some help. I'd like to think this list of my own coping mechanisms will be helpful.
First, and most importantly, this is the primary principle to follow when you're in the presence of perpetrators and their allies:
Remember this always -
DO NOT ABANDON YOURSELF.
I can't say this enough - do not abandon yourself.
You were abandoned as a child. You did not deserve this. No child deserves this. So, as adults, we take care of ourselves as if we are our own precious child. Imagine taking your child-self gently but firmly by their lovely, grubby little hand and getting them out of harm's way. There are many ways to do this whether you are in the presence of perpetrators and their allies (like your own dismissive and scornful siblings who get angry whenever you mention the legacy and source of your pain) or if you're in a place where you may be triggered.
The following suggestions are listed in no particular order of importance because it's all important. Some of these ideas may work for you, some may not. As long as you keep that one, all-encompassing guidance "Do not abandon yourself" in mind, you can take it from there.
Here we go:
Remember who you are TODAY. You are no longer a child. Indeed, there is a hurt child within you. But, now you're an adult who can make your own choices and have power over your life.
One of the choices you can make is not go to your abusive family's house. You don't have to go! Say you're sick rather than telling them the actual reason for your absence. It's okay to "lie" in this situation if fear and anxiety prevents you from telling the truth. It's not really a lie, though. The abuse is responsible for the illnesses that you may be suffering - depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders.
If you do "call in sick", don't answer the phone if you know your abusive family members are trying to call you. Thank you, technology, for caller ID! They may call incessantly or not at all. Take a break - don't answer the calls from your abusive family members for a week. Then, if you must, call and say you're feeling better. And, when I say "better", I mean that you're probably doing better because you didn't spend time with people who were not good to you and continue to be bad to you.
If you have to be with abusive family members, do whatever you need to do to stay centered as you cannot abandon yourself and you need to remember who you are today.
Here are some tips and tools:
Go to your abuser's house with your real family - your husband, your kids, your chosen family of dear friends. If you need support and active reminders of who you are now, take your supportive people with you. They are your true family members who love you, won't abandon you and remind you of who you are today.
This is a big one - STAY SOBER. I cannot emphasize that enough. If you get drunk or high, you will lose that centered spot. You will relax, that's true, but it's a false sense of ease leaving you vulnerable. Do take Xanax if prescribed by your doctor, but stick to your prescribed dose. Try not to drink at all. Be aware and alert.
Help in the kitchen. Be involved with the preparation. Participate in the cooking and cleaning only if such activities are not triggering. This is how I deal - I put my head down and set the table, do the dishes, cook, chop wood, carry water. I put my head down and work it like a mindful Zen monk in silent meditation.
Sit by a window for a view of the outdoors. When you look to the outside world as you sit in the presence of your dysfunctional family, gazing out to the outdoors know there's light out there, beyond the dark cave of the abuser's house.
Go beyond looking out the window and get out there in that bigger world. Expand your universe. The abuser's house or the house with the abusers in it is not the core of the world. The world is beyond that house. In this world there are people who believe in you and love you unconditionally. That world contains your working life where you are valued or perhaps your university studies where you excel. So, go outside for a few minutes and take a walk in the bigger world.
Put your therapist's number on fast dial. Call anytime. Even if you reach their voice mail, leave a message. Don't fret if they don't call back right away. Instead, revel in the knowledge that you were wise enough to reach out. You pursued help and that action alone is therapeutic.
Keeping your therapist in mind, remember techniques they have suggested to help you through these tough times. For example, I like to use what all of my therapists have taught me - the classic self-hypnosis exercise of sitting comfortably and mentally going to my inner place of refuge. FYI - it's a beach on the Big Island of Hawaii where I snorkel to my heart's delight.
Minimize conversation with the perpetrator and anyone who has been abusive to you. Say you're not feeling well, you have a headache, thus you need to be quiet. Again, you are not lying here. That person makes you feel unwell and your head probably hurts when you're around them.
If you cannot avoid conversations with those people, keep something in your pocket to hold and remind yourself of the strong adult you are today. I use a little plastic monkey from the Barrel of Monkeys toy game. Small and with a defined shape, the monkey reminds me of the humor and light heartedness of my life away from the abusers. Also, a monkey is not to be messed with and you can pretend the monkey is throwing feces all around the abuser's home.
Keep your cell phone on to Twitter, Facebook or whatever you use for social media interactions . Set it to buzz everytime you get an update. Another reminder of the bigger world out there and that you're part of it.
Okay, get ready for this big one, survivors:
Remembering you are an adult of legal age, Walk out the door the second things get gnarly. Just go.
Everyone, no matter how badaas and brave they seem to be, is scared shitless to do this. I was scared to do this. But, I've done it and I'll do it again.
If you find yourself in an escalating conflict or charged moment, and you've been fighting and yelling, leave. Get out. But don't drive away. Take a walk, cry, yell some more or laugh maniacally at the absurdity of it all in order to release what is an emotional atomic bomb. Do not drive home in an intense emotional state as you are not centered. Respect your anger and anguish and give it time to release and subside.
Once you're back home, take a long, hot shower or bath. Put on clean sweats or pajamas, pour yourself a glass of juice, rev up the laptop and watch the best new thing on Netflix. You are treating your inner abandoned child like royality. She/he richly deserves the coziest, safest place on the planet
Spare a thought for children affected by domestic abuse over festive period
It is not only those who are directly affected by domestic abuse who will suffer this Christmas. Children and young people living in homes where domestic abuse occurs are victims too.
by Hampshire Constabulary
Below, a female survivor tells of her experience of being a child victim of domestic abuse, including rape/sexual abuse, by a member of her family.
“I hate Christmas, even now as an adult. All around me individuals are talking about family events, while for me it is a reminder of Christmas past, of when I was a child.
“As a child it meant that the house became more of a pressure cooker, and substance misuse issues plus domestic violence made home particularly unsafe. My parents were at war (emotional, verbal and physical) with each other and would include us within their battles.
“Another reason I hated Christmas as a child is that I had to pay for every single present I ever received from ‘father' Christmas, in ways that no child should ever be expected to. The result was that I hated receiving gifts; and can still struggle with those emotions today.”
In March 2010 the Department of Health (DH) highlighted an estimated two million child victims of sexual abuse. Based on statistics used within the DH reports (published in March 2010) it has been estimated by CIS'ters that within Hampshire and the Isle of Wight approximately 16 per cent of children aged 14 or under are at a higher risk of all forms of abuse (emotional, physical, sexual abuse/exploitation) over the holiday period.
Detective Superintendent Ben Snuggs said:
“Unfortunately we do see a rise in the number of domestic abuse incidents over Christmas and New Year and we are concerned about the effects it can have on children living with abusive parents and carers.
“As part of the Speak Out Today campaign we are urging any family members and friends who think someone is suffering from domestic abuse to report it.”
Gillian Finch, Manager at CIS'ters: surviving rape and sexual abuse, said:
“Sometimes children living in a domestic abuse setting can be overlooked or invisible. All of the adult females we provide emotional support for were victims of rape/sexual abuse/exploitation as children within a familial setting. Of these, 62 per cent were living within a home environment that also contained domestic violence and/or abuse.
“The co-existence of domestic abuse/violence means that children and teens are not only vulnerable to all forms of abuse within the home, but externally as well. We urge anyone who thinks that a child is being abused NOT to ignore it; and if a child or young person is the victim of any type of abuse we encourage them to contact Childline.”
Help for children?
Any child who is living within a home that contains domestic abuse is a victim. They have the right to speak out and to seek help and we encourage them to do so.
Children who need help should contact Childline on 0800 1111 or through their website: www.childline.org.uk
Help for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse?
Contact CIS'ters on 023 8033 8080 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Hampshire Constabulary and the Police and Crime Commissioner are running the Speak Out Today campaign across the Christmas and New Year period to encourage victims, perpetrators, friends and family to report any incidents of abuse.
Domestic incidents are the only identified incident type that shows a significantly higher level of reporting in the run-up to Christmas compared with a period earlier in December. On average over the past six years, 20 per cent more domestic incidents have been reported at this time of year than in a similar period earlier in the month.
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse Speak Out Today, call 101 to report it. In an emergency always call 999.
Craigslist ad gives child abuse victims courage to speak out
by Nick Monacelli
ROCKLIN, Calif. - Jackie Turner wanted to rent a family for Christmas. She posted an ad on Craigslist offering $8 an hour for a mom and a dad.
"Just to sit, just to listen. just to cry with me, no strings beyond that," Turner said.
Turner is a 4.0 student on scholarship at William Jessup University. She seems like she has great life and everything is put together.
"On the outside, it looks like I'm the American dream kid," Turner said. "But I have a back story that most people wouldn't believe if they looked at me today."
Jackie has been through a lot. Her past is riddled with physical, sexual and emotional abuse. She even spent time in jail for grand theft. Turner finally got the help she needed and is now thriving at William Jessup, but that doesn't mean her past doesn't hurt.
That's where her ad comes into play. But instead of renting a family, her story helped create one.
Recently a handful of people got together to share similar stories of child abuse - stories they were afraid to tell until they saw Turner's post and realized they weren't alone.
"Shortly after I turned 2, I began to get molested by my biological grandfather and various other family members," Emily Sherwood told the crowd.
When Sherwood turned 5 years old, her grandfather began raping her.
"Shortly after I turned 6, they turned it into a gambling game," Sherwood explained. "Whoever won the gambling game won an hour with me."
Sherwood's life got progressively worse. She told the crowd that she was eventually forced into child prostitution. She talked about how she was raped in bathrooms during parties. By the time Sherwood became a teenager, she didn't know there was a better life.
"I thought it was normal. I thought that's what life was, I thought this is what love meant," Sherwood explained. "I felt like I wasn't worthy enough to get anything besides this."
Sherwood's story was only the beginning. One, after another, after another, young women opened up with extreme candor. But that painful candor is the beginning of their healing process.
"Yes I was nervous, and I totally wanted to puke when I was up there, but it was worth it," Sherwood said.
When the crowd thought things couldn't get more candid, a pastor, who is a professor at Williams Jessup and Turner's favorite teacher, shared his story
"My father was a bible teacher and an engineer. He taught the scriptures on Sunday and did despicable things on Monday through Saturday," Pastor Dennis Nichols told the crowd.
"He called me into a room where he was naked; he covered his groin area with a towel," Nichols explained.
While it was difficult for Nichols to open up to the crowd, this story gave Turner and the others hope. If a pastor can work through his past, if he can flourish, so can they.
"It makes me happy because now they know they're not by themselves," Turner said. "And I too, I'm not by myself."
A lonely Craigslist ad with a plea for help became something Turner didn't foresee. Even though the turn out wasn't what she was hoping for, what it turned into, is exactly what Turner wanted.
"Mentors were found, mentees were found, people were talking, people were crying," Turner said. "This is just the beginning phase of people getting the help they need."
Child Abuse and Neglect Collaborative Launches New Website
The Child Abuse and Neglect Collaborative, also known as the CAN collaborative, officially launched their new website, howitends.org, addressing education and prevention of child abuse in the Ozarks.
by Shannon Bowers
The Child Abuse and Neglect Collaborative, also known as the CAN collaborative, officially launched their new website today addressing education and prevention of child abuse in the Ozarks. Howitends.org aims to be a user-friendly resource for parents, children, and professionals, as KSMU's Shannon Bowers reports.
The website highlights six priorities all focused on educating the public to identify, prevent, and educate others in hopes of stopping the cycle of abuse. Green County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson said the website is just one tool in the collaborative's tool box.
“We know that child abuse is cyclical from generations. It is learned behavior what we have to do is relearn and break those cycles that exist… the best part about this website is many time people have questions. What do I do? What resources are available, and it is a place you can come and go and get those recourses,” said Patterson.
Priorities for the CAN Collaborative were determined following the issuance of a survey asking the faith-based community of the actions they take to prevent and educate their congregation on child abuse.
Christina Ryder is with Missouri State University's Sociology Department, which conducted the study.
“There is a tremendous amount of interest in the faith community for additional resources, additional information and ways to participate and assist in this effort,” said Ryder.
The study found that out of the 46 large to medium sized congregations who responded to the survey, 30% wished to have some sort of an education fair where trained child abuse and neglect professionals come in and speak with the congregation.
Howitends.org includes a list of all the community partners working with the CAN Collaborative to allow for easier connection with the local groups. It also includes ways to get involved and provides what chair of the CAN Collaborative, Darrel Moore, thinks will eventually bring legislative advocacy to the issue.
“Our children should be our priority because those children are going to be the workforce, the backbone of the state. So what we are going to try to do as a group is grab the consciousness of the legislature and the Governor and say… You need to make sure the children's division is adequately staffed, trained, and paid,” said Moore.
Last year in Greene County 5,795 children were reported to the Abuse and Neglect Hotline, according to the Missouri Children's Division's Annual Report. Howitends.org is just the beginning on a long road to prevention.
Military sex assault critics want justice overhaul
by Matthew Hay Brown
WASHINGTON —— Congress was poised late Thursday to pass new legal protections for victims of sexual assault in the military, but victims and their advocates already were looking ahead to a larger battle: the contentious campaign to overhaul the military justice system.
That debate, which is expected to resume when lawmakers return to Washington in January, comes amid rising concern over rape in the ranks. The Pentagon estimates that 26,000 service members, both male and female, were subjected to unwanted sexual contact last year. But only 3,374 reported an assault, and only 594 suspects were sent to court-martial.
Critics say the way to improve those numbers is to take prosecutions out of the chain of command — wresting the authority to send suspects to court-martial from military commanders and giving it to trained lawyers.
That proposal, which is opposed by military leaders and their allies in Congress, was left out of the compromise defense authorization bill that passed the House this week and was expected to clear the Senate on Thursday.
The result, Rep. Jackie Speier said, is legislation that "addresses the symptoms of the crisis but doesn't cure the cancer."
Speier, a California Democrat, authored several amendments to the defense authorization bill that address sexual assault. They include provisions that would require every brigade to have a certified sexual assault nurse examiner, preclude commanders from using a suspect's good military character as a reason for not filing charges, and prevent them from dismissing the findings of a court-martial.
But for Speier and others — including Reps. Elijah Cummings, Donna Edwards, John Sarbanes and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, who have cosponsored her Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention Act, and Sen. Ben Cardin, who has signed on to similar legislation in the Senate — the goal remains restructuring the process by which suspects are sent to court-martial.
Military leaders say the commander's authority to refer troops to court-martial is an essential tool for maintaining order and discipline — and for holding officers accountable for their units.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the chairmen of the House and Senate armed services committees all oppose taking that authority away.
"We are all very motivated to keep commanders more involved, not less involved in this," Nate Galbreath, the top civilian adviser to the Pentagon's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Officer, told The Baltimore Sun this month.
Galbreath says efforts already underway — including assigning attorneys to guide victims through the justice system — and the heightened attention now focused on sexual assaults should improve the system.
Female service members are far more likely than males to be sexually assaulted, according to Defense Department data. But because male service members outnumber females, the Pentagon believes the majority of victims are men.
Those men are less likely than women to report an assault. And when they do, The Baltimore Sun reported this week, military authorities are less likely to identify a suspect, refer charges to a court-martial or discharge a perpetrator.
Critics say real improvement will come only if prosecutions are taken out of the chain of command.
They say commanders face conflicts of interest when the accuser and the accused are both under their command. Pentagon statistics show that perpetrators of sexual assault are typically older, have more years in the service and hold a higher rank than their victims — which can make them appear more valuable to commanders whose primary responsibility is the military mission.
Congressional leaders, working to pass the National Defense Authorization Act before breaking for the holidays, chose not to tackle that divisive issue in the legislation.
Speier, who has called her campaign "a marathon, not a sprint," plans to pursue it in 2014.
Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who tried to insert the issue into the authorization legislation, has introduced it as a stand-alone bill under a rule that will allow her to bypass the Senate Armed Services Committee — the same route through which Congress repealed the ban on openly serving gay members known as Don't Ask Don't Tell in 2011.
Cardin says taking prosecutions of sexual assault out of the chain of command would boost victims' confidence that they will get justice — and should encourage more victims to report assaults.
Soldiers "look at their immediate command structure, and it is very intimidating to try to seek a remedy," the Maryland Democrat said. "Getting it out of the chain of command gives, I think, confidence that the matter will be handled objectively, and it has much less likelihood to have the impact on the person's career within the military."
Rep. Andy Harris, the only member of the Maryland delegation to have served in the military, urged caution.
"Those in the military who commit sexual assaults disgrace the uniform and must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," said the Baltimore County Republican, who served 17 years as an officer in the Navy Reserve.
But "one of the unintended consequences of some of the legislative proposals is that changes in evidentiary requirements could protect the perpetrators of sexual assault instead of holding more of them accountable for their actions," he said.
Cardin said "there should be one standard" for evidence, whether prosecutions remain in the chain of command or are taken out.
Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, a former prosecutor who tried sexual assault cases in state court, is undecided on the issue — but said "there's no question that more needs to be done."
"The current system in place is failing," the Baltimore County Democrat said. "I think everything has to be on the table."
Cardin called sexual assault "a significant problem in the military."
"This is both male and female," he said. "And historically the military has had a difficult time dealing with it."
The defense bill, which authorizes spending across the military, includes six amendments aimed at combating sexual assault.
In addition to the language on sexual assault nurse examiners, the good military character rationale and the commander's ability to dismiss the findings of a court-martial, it includes provisions that would bar commanders from reducing sentences ordered by military judges or juries, grant victims "reasonable" protection from the accused, and increase protections for whistle-blowers.
Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski urged colleagues to vote for the bill.
"Victims of sexual assault have long been redlined and sidelined at the hands of a justice system that fails to be objective or effective," the Maryland Democrat said. "It's time to put a stop to this now."
The Senate was expected to vote on the bill late Thursday or early Friday, and President Barack Obama was expected to sign it.
In a statement Thursday before the Senate vote, the White House commended lawmakers for their "work to expand efforts to prevent sexual assault and significantly strengthen protections for victims."
Burglar steals video tapes of child abuse, hands them into police
by Tomas Jivanda
A burglar turned part of his haul over to police after discovering the video tapes he had taken depicted graphic scenes of child abuse.
A 64-year-old suspected paedophile has now been arrested in Southern Spain following the tip off from the thief “with a conscience”, police in the city of Jean said.
The burglar had taken the tapes and an old Super 8 camera which the footage was apparently filmed on, along with a number of other electrical items from the man's home.
But after watching the footage, the thief called police from a public pay phone and directing them to the three tapes which he had put in a brown envelope and hid under a parked car.
Inside the envelope, he included a note with the address of the home that had been robbed, along with a short message:
“I've had the misfortune that these tapes have fallen into my hands and I feel obligated to turn them in so that you can do your job and put that... in prison for life.”
Confirming the arrest of a suspect, police said the man is as a local youth football coach who lived alone.
He had lured some members of the young players into watching pornography with him, then sexually abused them, police said.
Four minors have been identified as victims of the the alleged abuse, including a 16-year-old boy who may have been a victim since the age of 10.
When police searched the suspect's home, further tapes showing sexual abuse of young boys were found.
He had reported the robbery and listed a number of stolen items, but had not mentioned the camera or tapes, police said.
In a similar case, a British man was jailed for three and half years in 2009 after the thieves who stole his laptop found child pornography on the device and turned it over to police.
Corbett signs post-Sandusky child-abuse bills
by MARC LEVY
MECHANICSBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania enacted its first new laws Wednesday in the Pennsylvania Legislature's wide-ranging response to the Jerry Sandusky and Roman Catholic clergy child sexual abuse scandals.
Gov. Tom Corbett made two of the bills official during a morning signing ceremony at the Pennsylvania Child Resource Center in the Harrisburg suburb of Mechanicsburg, saying they give communities more tools to protect children.
Lawmakers acted to update nearly 20-year-old state laws on how cases of suspected child abuse are defined, investigated and punished.
One of the new laws expands the definition of who investigators can consider a potential perpetrator of child abuse.
Another addresses a longstanding complaint of child welfare advocates by lowering the threshold for the kind of injury or pain that is considered child abuse.
Various other bills deal with false reports and intimidation, foster joint investigations between police and child welfare agencies, order the state sentencing commission to issue guidelines for child pornography cases and prevent the names of child victims from becoming public.
About 20 bills are part of the legislative package. Corbett planned to sign eight other measures later in the day.
Mass. ranked poorly in child abuse report
Massachusetts is ranked 4th from the bottom
by Laura Hutchinson
CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) - Massachusetts didn't fare well in a report involving child abuse in foster homes. Compared to other states, data ranks Massachusetts at the bottom of the list in keeping foster homes safe.
You'd like to think our state's children are well protected, but a recent report rates us "fourth worst" compared to other states.
"I'm shocked given the amount of money that seems to be appropriated in this state against child abuse so it's kind of shocking to me," said Chicopee's Denise Lopardo.
Data analyzed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services puts Massachusetts 4th from the bottom when it comes to protecting children in foster homes.
Experts at Baystate Medical Center say it's important to note that foster homes in Massachusetts are 99% maltreatment free and there are still improvements being made.
Baystate Medical's Family Advocacy Center director Stephen Boos says it's a complex issue where the state has made improvements.
"I would neither say that Massachusetts has it perfect, there's things that I encounter that I wish were different, but in the end I think Massachusetts is serious about getting it right and making positive movement year after year," Stephen Boos, Family Advocacy Director at Baystate Medical Center.
According to a Boston Herald report DCF has argued Massachusetts has less time to investigate reports than other states have which can result in more negative reports but some say no matter how you analyze the numbers, it's an issue that needs to be addressed.
"We need to come together and fully address this issue. We can't stand on the sidelines any longer," said West Springfield's Omar Saada.
We asked the state Department of Children and Families for comment, below is what they sent us:
The level of evidence required to support an allegation of “abuse or neglect” of a child varies from state to state. Massachusetts is one of six states to use the lowest standard of evidence to support an allegation of abuse or neglect of a child, we use the ‘reason to believe' standard in determining whether or not we support an allegation of abuse or neglect. Additionally, the threshold for screening abuse reports varies from state to state. Massachusetts accepts a low tolerance for risk. As a result we have a low threshold for what gets screened in for investigation (or an assessment response). The investigation timeframe in Massachusetts is 15 business days, in most other states, the timeframe ranges from 30 – 60 days. A shorter timeframe can result in a higher number of reports being supported due to the more limited time available to fully assess the child and family's circumstances, as well as those surrounding the allegation. "Opening" a case with a family, following the 15 day investigation phase, allows DCF the opportunity to conduct a more comprehensive evaluation and work with the family on a plan to promote safety and stability, if needed.
Check off to prevent child abuse
by Resmiye Oral
It has become clearer over the last decades that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) have a significant impact on adult health, including physical, emotional, social and behavioral well-being.
After the ground-breaking study of the 1990s (www.cdc.gov/ace), Iowa ACEs Steering Committee secured funds to screen the Iowa adult population for the same in 2012. The results of this study were released in October 2013 at the annual ACEs summit held in Des Moines.
The results are astounding:
• 55 percent of Iowans have experienced at least one type of ACEs, including physical, sexual or emotional child abuse, family dysfunction including substance abuse, mental illness, criminal activity, parental separation and domestic violence.
• In addition, 15 percent of the surveyed population reported four or more ACEs, which tend to coexist in clusters in families.
• When four or more ACEs were present in a family, criminality, substance abuse and domestic violence tended to skyrocket to 60-80 percent rates.
As a community, we can do something to ensure families have the support and resources to avoid and eliminate some of the psychosocial issues they deal with to prevent ACEs and child abuse. One of the things we as individuals can do is to give a portion of our tax return or an additional amount on top of what we owe to Child Abuse Prevention when we file our state income taxes.
Your donation will support programs like The Nest through Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County, United Action for Youth's Teen Mom Groups and Parent Support Group through the Children's Center for Therapy that provide parent education and family support services .
Investing in child abuse and ACEs prevention is far less expensive and more effective than treating the effects of child abuse after it occurs. Yet for every $50 spent to treat abuse, only $1 is spent to prevent it from happening.
Your contribution to the Child Abuse Prevention Check Off will make Iowa's families stronger and, as a result, make our communities stronger.
Resmiye Oral is director of the Child Protection Program at the University of Iowa Children's Hospital.
Those living in private agencies' homes are a third more likely to endure physical, emotional or sexual abuse, a Times analysis found.
by Garrett Therolf
They were found barefoot in January, huddled under a blanket against the biting High Desert winter cold, two kids on the run from a former foster mother, who had bound their hands with zip-ties and beat them.
Investigators substantiated in October that a Lancaster foster father sexually abused two young sisters in his care.
Such cases of abuse are scattered through the files of California's privatized foster care system — children whipped with belts, burned with a car cigarette lighter and traumatized by beatings and threats.
California began a modest experiment 27 years ago, privatizing a portion of foster care in the belief that it would better serve children and be less expensive. Lawmakers decided to enlist local charities to help recruit and supervise foster parents.
Today, the state's private foster family system — the largest in the nation — has become more expensive and more dangerous than the government-run homes it has largely replaced.
Those living in homes run by private agencies were about a third more likely to be the victims of serious physical, emotional or sexual abuse than children in state-supervised foster family homes, according to a Times analysis of more than 1 million hotline investigations over a recent three-year period.
In Los Angeles County, at least four children died as a result of abuse or neglect over the last five years in homes overseen by private agencies, according to county officials. No children died in government-run homes during that period.
The flow of money to private foster care — now about $400 million a year — introduced a powerful incentive for some to spend as little as possible and pack homes with as many children as they could.
Those agencies are so short of homes that they accept convicted criminals as foster parents. The state has granted waivers to at least 5,300 people convicted of crimes. In the most egregious cases, people with waivers later maimed or killed children.
The system is so poorly monitored that foster care agencies with a history of abuse can continue caring for children for years. Substantiated cases of wrongdoing can bring little punishment from regulators.
Private agencies now care for 15,000 children statewide. The care comes at greater cost — an additional $327 million between 2001 and 2010, the state auditor found.
Los Angeles County has come to heavily rely on this system; five out of six foster children who are not placed with relatives go to private homes.
It is “as bottom of the barrel as you can imagine,” said Jill Duerr Berrick, co-director of the Center for Child and Youth Policy at UC Berkeley. “They are clearly not keeping track of quality issues. It's really quite surprising we don't have more tragedies.”
Into this system came 2-year-old Aiden, who in 2010 was removed from his family's San Bernardino County home because of neglect.
Social workers placed Aiden, his 3-year-old brother and 4-year-old sister with an unemployed Apple Valley couple who were recruited and supervised by the Joshua Foster Family Agency.
Their allegations are contained in an ongoing lawsuit filed by Aiden and his siblings against the agency.
Aiden's foster mother, Thursday Young, was approved even though county social workers had received complaints that she was abusing children. Social workers certified her partner, Devon Kirk, despite his illegal drug use and, according to police, acknowledged gang connections.
Young and Kirk converted their garage into an indoor marijuana farm, police later discovered. “A shame I smoke 2 quarter pounds a month,” Kirk wrote on his Facebook page.
A 13-year-old foster child living in the home complained that the couple were using drugs and hitting Aiden and his siblings, according to police. Social workers from the county and the private agency dismissed the girl's concerns, according to the lawsuit.
In June 2010, Aiden was taken to the hospital in a coma. He suffered severe abdominal damage, a skull fracture and brain injuries.
Young and Kirk pleaded guilty to child abuse. Young was placed on probation; Kirk is serving an eight-year sentence at La Palma Correctional Center in Arizona.
Aiden's father, Brian Fassett, regained custody of the children and moved the family to West Virginia. Aiden, he said, is blind in one eye and was left mentally disabled.
“My daughter is just old enough so that she'll never forget, but she walks around with it locked inside,” Fassett said.
The former board president of Joshua Foster Family Agency and county officials declined to comment.
More than 59,000 children end up in California's foster care system because of abuse, neglect or abandonment.
Most are placed with relatives. The rest are sent to group homes or individual foster homes, which are either privately operated or run by the state and county.
Demand for these homes far outstrips availability, and it's not uncommon for social workers to make more than 100 calls before a vacant bed is secured, according to Los Angeles County officials.
The money that foster parents receive — about $748 a month in California, or $25 a day — is for the children's living expenses. The homes are not meant to be profit-making enterprises, but it is the sole income for some parents.
In the 1980s, California relied heavily on group homes, some of which cost taxpayers up to $25,800 a year per child.
Legislators reasoned that charities, churches and community groups would be more efficient and nimble than the government bureaucracy. They gave them the power to recruit foster parents and hire their own social workers.
The law provides about $1,870 a month to care for each child and to cover administrative costs. The foster family receives about 40% of that amount, and the rest goes to the agency to pay for social workers, office rent and other expenses.
The legislation, in some ways, worked as planned, attracting community groups to join the foster system.
Gays and lesbians helped form the highly regarded Southern California Foster Family and Adoption Agency. Casey Family Programs, a respected philanthropy for disadvantaged children, created another.
It didn't take long, however, for some entrepreneurs to figure out the money-making potential of foster care.
Craig Woods, a former carpet and hair products salesman, started United Care in 1989 in a storefront on Crenshaw Boulevard.
Business was good. Nationwide, the crack epidemic had left tens of thousands of children without safe homes.
Woods filled United Care's board of directors with friends and relatives. Mitchell Preston, the board president, was caught selling stolen televisions at swap meets and was sent to prison for the crime.
United Care grew into one of the largest agencies in Los Angeles County, recently caring for nearly 800 children each year. It received $5.5 million in taxpayer money in 2009, according to the agency's tax return. Woods, who declined to comment for this article, received a salary that year of $175,000.
The currency of the system is children; the key to getting more children — and earning more money — is finding willing foster parents.
Woods pursued the goal with entrepreneurial zeal. He held contests for foster parents who were offered the chance to win a cruise to Ensenada if they recommended new applicants, according to the agency's newsletter.
Amid criticism that his selection process was too lax, Woods told county officials in 2010 that as many as half the foster parents he recruited had committed crimes. He told them other agencies had similar problems.
Foster parents are barred from having convictions for felonies or certain misdemeanors. But state regulators can waive that rule — and often do.
One of the people recruited by Woods' agency was Kiana Barker, a convicted thief. Her live-in boyfriend was a convicted robber. They shared a run-down bungalow on Gage Avenue in South Los Angeles.
Barker, who had lived in the neighborhood all her life, had at least three complaints lodged against her on the county's child abuse hotline, including a case of severe neglect.
Among the children sent into her care was an almond-eyed girl named Viola Vanclief, whose mother was a crack addict and prostitute living in a board and care facility for the mentally ill.
One day in 2010, after hours of heavy drinking, Barker burst into Viola's room and beat her, according to a witness' court testimony. When Barker was pulled away, the little girl was on the floor, struggling to breathe, the witness said.
Viola died a day later at the age of 2, her body covered in red and purple bruises.
State officials slapped Woods' agency with what they said was the maximum penalty — a $150 fine. Barker was convicted of second-degree murder and is awaiting sentencing.
“Who does this to a child?” asked Viola's mother, Olivia.
The case provides an example of how poorly monitored and passive California's private foster care system has become. The system generates reams of documents and data, but often fails to capture the true condition of children. Action or punishment is rare.
Each week, a social worker from United Care, Elizabeth Valencia, was scheduled to visit Barker's house.
State rules prohibit social workers from monitoring more than 15 foster children at a time. Valencia oversaw more than that number, having three jobs at different foster family agencies, according to state records and interviews with co-workers. Valencia did not respond to requests for comment.
Half of the social workers at United Care, who made about $40,000 a year, also worked at another agency, according to state records.
The Times collected all available work records and found that at least 14 foster agencies in Los Angeles County had workers with multiple full-time jobs. The accounting is incomplete because many of the approximately 45 private agencies in the county failed to file the required staffing reports.
Viola's file contains hundreds of pages. Included are numerous reports from Valencia, who notes that she went to Barker's home every week. Her reports repeatedly state that Viola appeared “to be in overall good health and happy.”
Even as Valencia was praising Barker, complaints to the child abuse hotline mounted.
County social workers substantiated one complaint out of six logged against Barker and her boyfriend. The details have not been released because of confidentiality laws.
County social workers were also scheduled to visit the home once a month. They too recommended that Barker adopt Viola, according to the file.
Completing the adoption would have resulted in a $10,000 payment to United Care and extra money each month for Barker.
In the push to find homes for children, county social workers say problems are often overlooked.
Pamela Payton said her 14 years as a case worker with the county Department of Children and Family Services taught her that “workers would just skim the surface while assessing the home. If they came to know something of concern, they wouldn't make the report or act on it. ”
"It was clear that DCFS didn't want to lose the inventory of foster and group homes," Payton said.
By two key measures used by national child welfare groups, California's privatized system is worse than its government-run counterpart, according to a Times analysis of three years of data ending in 2011. Youths in privately operated homes remained in the foster system 11% longer than those in other types of homes — 378 days compared to 341 days.
Those children were 15% more likely to move from one home to another. The most egregious cases — youths who shuttled through five homes or more — occurred three times more often under the care of the private agencies.
Every call to a child abuse hotline, and the subsequent investigative report, is logged into a $1-billion computer system — one of the largest in the state. The federal government requires complete information on abuse complaints for the state to receive billions of dollars in funding.
Each year, California must show that 99.68% of its foster children are free of abuse — and it always meets that benchmark.
But to hit their end-of-the-year deadline, state officials report investigative results for only three-quarters of the year. State and federal officials acknowledge that the results are incomplete, but have not acted to correct the problem.
Data for a full year is eventually published on a website run by UC Berkeley. That tally shows the state has failed since 2007 to meet the federal benchmark for abuse.
To simplify report writing, the state does not require that all the questions be answered — including one asking whether a foster parent was responsible for the abuse or neglect. Without that detail, state regulators have no way to identify agencies with patterns of abuse.
From 1998 to 2000, there were widely publicized cases of foster children who were killed or severely injured, but the Berkeley website shows no reports of children being harmed anywhere in the state.
In the terabytes of information on foster care abuses is the investigative report on Viola Vanclief.
Olivia learned of her daughter's death in a phone call from a county social worker.
"I promised [Viola] that it was going to be me and her against the world," Olivia said. "The world won."
Viola was buried beneath the low hum of high-voltage lines skirting a cemetery along Central Avenue in Carson where Jazz pianist Hampton Hawes is buried.
Viola's grave, located near a drainage ditch, remains unmarked.
How we did the data analysis:
The Times analysis looked at 1,147,133 reports of abuse from Oct. 1, 2008, through Sept. 30, 2011. The data were taken from the state's electronic Child Welfare Services/Case Management System, which contains abuse complaints entered by county case workers.
Because the data contained significant omissions and inaccuracies in identifying perpetrators, The Times used three methods to calculate abuse rates.
Abuses committed by foster parents are identified in the system by two data fields. One is used to report abuse to the federal government; the other is used by UC Berkeley researchers to tabulate abuse for a public report.
The Times used both fields to compare abuse rates in the traditional state-run foster homes and those in the privatized system.
The two fields, however, often contained conflicting, ambiguous or erroneous information.
Both calculations showed that rate of abuse committed by foster parents was higher in privately run homes than in government-run homes, but the margins differed considerably from 29% to 54%.
The Times then tried to calculate abuse rates by determining the number of substantiated abuse cases that occurred while a child was in foster care.
But in 90% of all cases, county case workers neglected to record the start and end dates of the alleged abuse, making it impossible to determine if the child was living in the foster home, their family's home or some other location at the time the abuse occurred.
Due to that lack of information, The Times decided to ascribe substantiated abuse cases to whatever was the child's home when the complaint was made.
There were more than 22,300 abuse cases reported while a child was living in a foster home.
Most of those cases occurred within the first two days of a child's placement. The Times eliminated all of those based on the assumption that they represented delayed reports of abuse that occurred in a previous location.
The resulting 2,596 cases were further reduced to 992 involving the most serious allegations — physical, emotional or sexual abuse.
Private agencies accounted for 416 of those, compared to 113 in state run homes. Because private agencies had about three times as many client days, The Times calculated that children in private homes were about a third more likely to be victims of abuse.
Vatican's representative seeks immunity over sex abuse inquiry
Stand-off after Archbishop Paul Gallagher resists request for documents from NSW special commission
by Stephen Crittenden
The Vatican's representative in Australia is claiming diplomatic immunity in response to repeated requests for documents that might assist the NSW inquiry into child sex abuse.
Copies of correspondence released by the commission this week reveal the diplomatic stand-off between the papal nuncio, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, and the chair of the special commission of inquiry, Margaret Cunneen SC.
The Cunneen inquiry was established last November to investigate sexual abuse by two priests of the Maitland-Newcastle diocese, Father Denis McAlinden and Father James Fletcher (both deceased), following allegations made by a NSW police whistleblower, chief inspector Peter Fox.
The NSW crown solicitor's office made the request on Cunneen's behalf on 30 August and again on 22 October, asking for copies of any relevant documents held in the archives of the Apostolic Nunciature in Canberra or the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in Rome.
Similar requests have been sent to directly Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the CDF, but there has been no reply.
The documents sought relate to "any allegations, complaints, suspicions or reports" about child sexual abuse by McAlinden or Fletcher.
Information has also been requested on an incident in 1995, when Australian church officials asked then papal nuncio Archbishop Franco Brambilla to intervene on their behalf with the papal nuncio of the Philippines.
At the time, it had been discovered that McAlinden was operating as a priest in a remote diocese in the Philippines, despite having had his priestly faculties suspended by his bishop in Australia.
McAlinden, one of Australia's most notorious paedophile priests, was an Irishman who arrived in Australia in 1949. His diocese of Maitland-Newcastle became aware he was a serious risk to children as early as 1953 but he was moved from parish to parish for more than four decades.
He was also posted to Papua New Guinea for extended periods and briefly to New Zealand.
McAlinden was charged in Western Australia in 1992 but acquitted and died in 2005 without ever being convicted.
The Crown Solicitor's Office says relevant documents from dioceses in PNG, New Zealand and the Philippines have been made available voluntarily.
The correspondence with Gallagher was released by the commission – which is due to report by February – on Monday as part of a bundle of exhibits.
It shows that on 2 September the nuncio sent an interim response, stating that he was submitting Cunneen's request to his superiors in Rome and would write again soon when he had a reply.
On 13 November he replied again, this time directly to Cunneen.
Gallagher reminded the commissioner that his office was "the high diplomatic representative of the Holy See to the Commonwealth" and cited "the protections afforded by international agreements, including the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations".
Article 24 of the 1961 Vienna Convention states that the archives and documents of a diplomatic mission "shall be inviolable at any time and wherever they may be".
The nuncio's response said article 24 "thus states a high principle of international relations without which diplomatic missions would no longer be able freely to carry out their domestic and international responsibilities".
He said his office would be pleased to consider "specific requests" for information, "bearing in mind the expectation that it would not be appropriate to seek internal communications".
On 14 November the NSW crown solicitor, Ian Knight, wrote to Gallagher for a third time.
Knight said his earlier requests for information had been specific and asked Gallagher to clarify his statement about "internal communications".
"As you may appreciate, if this is intended to refer to communications within the Holy See, or within the Church generally [that is, between the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle or the Holy See] or as between the Apostolic Nunciature of Australia and the Holy See, it is respectfully suggested that such restriction may significantly impair the utility of the request for the documentation," he wrote.
Giving evidence to Victoria's state parliamentary inquiry into child sexual abuse on 27 May, Cardinal George Pell gave a personal guarantee that "every document the Vatican had" would be made available to the commission.
The cardinal said he had been assured of this by a senior Vatican official.
"We have said that we will co-operate fully with the royal commission and we mean to," he said.
In his letter Knight reminded the nuncio of Pell's guarantee and enclosed an extract from the transcript of his evidence to the Victorian inquiry.
"Of course, this commission is separate and distinct from both the royal commission and the Victorian parliamentary inquiry," Knight wrote, "but I trust that the sentiment of co-operation would similarly extend to this Commission's processes."
Gallagher, an Englishman, was appointed to Canberra last December, just weeks after former prime minister Julia Gillard announced the national royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse.
The former nuncio, Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, had previously been papal ambassador to Ireland. A report into child sex abuse within the archdiocese of Dublin found he had failed to reply to letters requesting documents relevant to that inquiry.
His replacement by Gallagher was widely seen as a sign of Rome's intention to pursue a more positive approach.
Mother arrested after note uncovers child abuse
by Philip Weiss
JOHNS ISLAND -- Charleston police say a mother has been arrested after a note written by her child sparked an investigation into possible child abuse.
Hilda Ramirez, 32, was arrested Tuesday morning and charged with cruelty to children.
According to an incident report, Ramirez's child wrote a note to an elementary school teacher on November 26 which began, "the things that bother me is everybody hits me."
A social service worker at the school was then called to speak with the student, whose age was not identified.
The report states the child told officials his mother hit him on the back with a belt, struck him in the leg with a coat hanger, and strangled him with both hands around his neck while he was watching television.
Police say a 3-inch red, swollen abrasion could be seen on the child's leg.
After noticing a small abrasion on the child's neck, the child was asked to pull down his turtle neck sweater revealing "red swollen marks on the left and right side of his neck," the report states.
Police say it appeared an attempt was made to conceal the injuries with cosmetics, and the child told police he was told to wear the turtle neck sweater.
The report state DSS interviewed the mother, and then transferred the victim and his two siblings to the custody of a family member.
At Nashville Sexual Assault Center, survivors find healing
Survivor says 'world was dim and now it's bright'
by Tony Gonzalez
After decades of sexual abuse, the woman knew she needed help to cope with the anxiety she carried in the daytime and the bad dreams that woke her up at night.
She had talked with counselors before. She just hadn't healed. It was always “just talk” with them, she said.
But she hadn't heard of the Nashville Sexual Assault Center, where a team of therapists specializes in minimizing the lasting effects of sexual abuse. Now, after almost a decade of off-and-on counseling at the center, Susan, a Nashville-based government employee who asked not to be identified by her full name, sees life in a new way.
The Tennessean typically doesn't identify victims of sexual assault, but Susan agreed to give her first name to share the story of how the center helped her.
“So many trauma survivors live with this wall up, to everyone, even people that they love,” she said. “You're not fully experiencing the world or yourself. Joys are that much less joyful. Pain is that much more painful.”
Her healing — as difficult as it was to open up about abuse — has allowed her to experience intimacy again.
“It's sort of like the world was dim and now it's bright,” she said.
Susan's story of abuse, and the years she carried her burden without help, is one that clinical social worker Lisa Lyons hears all too frequently at the Sexual Assault Center, where she often counsels adults who were abused as children.
“It can be hard, at first, to know what all needs to be addressed,” Lyons said.
Yet her work with Susan and others has shown Lyons how the emotionally draining work of therapy can make life fulfilling again.
“It is tremendously rewarding and important work that we get to do,” she said.
Lyons is one of 17 therapists at the Sexual Assault Center, the Nashville area's only center focused on sexual assault. Much of its impact has been delivered through therapy — now to more than 17,000 assault survivors since 1978. The center also seeks to reduce sexual assault through prevention and education, a mission carried out through classes for teachers and organizations that serve youth.
A troubled history
For Susan, sexual abuse began when she was a child. Later, she was targeted through date rape and raped by a homeless stranger.
The repeated traumas left her with symptoms similar to PTSD, said Lyons, who has counseled Susan for a decade. She lived her days anxious and paranoid, struggled to walk from the parking lot to her office through an area frequented by the homeless, and endured flashbacks.
In turn, she said, she made bad choices and became involved in abusive relationships, leaving her “basically afraid all the time,” she said.
At the center, Lyons helped Susan with simple exercises to control her breathing and to help her focus on living in the current moment instead of thinking back to the times of her abuse.
Susan could literally feel the difference — learning to slow her heart rate when a memory would seize her.
By first regaining control, she could then pursue her ambitions. She finished graduate school, rose at work through promotions and found good friends and relationships.
“I don't know if you're ever really done, if you want to continue to improve your quality of life,” she said. “But I have so many things that are good in my life now, that make me happy, that I didn't have 10 or 15 years ago.”
Daughter Who Falsely Accused Dad of Rape Is Now Fighting to Free Him
by Jeanne Sager
It's safe to say that if you're a convicted child molester, most people want you behind bars. But then there's Daryl Kelly. When his daughter was 8 years old, the New York father was convicted of raping the little girl. Only now that daughter is 25, and Chenaya Kelly wants her father released from prison. She's even willing to let the world know that she lied about her father raping her.
Only the courts don't care what 25-year-old Chenaya has to say about the 17-year-old conviction. They're keeping the convicted molester in prison .
The case has opened up a discussion about who should have the final say in what happens to the perpetrator of a crime. Should it be the courts or the victim?
If victims are the reason we put criminal in prison, it would seem like it should be the latter, but unfortunately once you get the justice system involved in your problems, you have to look at a much larger picture. Punishment becomes not just about the victim, but about the threat to society as a whole.
Chenaya has come out to say she only lied all those years ago because her drug-addicted mother threatened to beat her if she didn't accuse her Navy veteran dad of molesting her. This isn't even her first recanting of the allegations -- the 8-year-old changed her tune way back in 1998, six months after Daryl was convicted.
But now that she's an adult, Chenaya has been able to put pressure on the courts to make a change in her father's case in a way she couldn't before. Her complaints prompted a review of her case by the Committee on the Fair and Ethical Administration of Justice of the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York. Unfortunately for Chenaya -- or fortunately, depending on how you look at the case -- the prosecutors on the committee disagree with her. They say her father's conviction was fair and just.
Not surprisingly, the prosecutor's office in Orange County, New York, where Daryl was convicted, agrees. That puts the victim -- Chenaya -- and the prosecutor's office at odds with one another, but ultimately the victim has no say.
The fact that Chenaya was just 8 at the time of the conviction certainly makes this a more difficult case -- child who are victims of sexual molestation are often confused and scared of their abusers. They aren't always truthful about what happened because of that fear and confusion. Then, when they grow up, adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse are known to "disassociate" with the past trauma or allow their minds to distance themselves from the abuse. It's hard to say whether she's more credible as an adult or LESS so simply because of the crime alleged here.
If the abuse did happen, Chenaya's forgiveness of Daryl isn't enough of a reason for the courts to let him out of his 40-year sentence as he could still represent a danger to OTHER kids.
If it didn't, well, who's to know?
Victims of notorious residential school in court to access police documents
by Joel Eastwood
Former students of the notorious St. Anne's residential school will be in a Toronto court this morning fighting for access to police and court documents which could support their abuse claims.
Hundreds of children were boarded at the former Catholic residential school in northern Ontario between 1904 and 1976.
The aging survivors, who allege physical and sexual abuse, want access to the documents, which were produced during a five-year OPP investigation into former workers and supervisors at the school. That investigation concluded in 1999 with several criminal trials and convictions.
Edmund Metatawabin, 66, who was at St. Anne's for eight years, remembers staff putting children in a homemade electric chair for entertainment.
“They used to come to the boys room and put us little ones in the electric chair and turn the current on,” he said outside court Tuesday.
“That was a cause for laughter.”
He said the chair was also used to punish children.
NDP MP Charlie Angus called it a historic day in the search for justice.
“The children and adults who lived through St. Anne's have waited too long for this moment of justice,” he said.
“We are here in Ontario court to demand the federal government stop undermining the rights of survivors, to work with the survivors, and to finally bring a close to this terrible chapter in Canadian history.”
'Affluenza' DUI Case: Prosecutors Try Again to Put Teen Behind Bars
by FELICIA PATINKIN
The Texas teenager who was spared a prison sentence after a psychologist called him a product of "affluenza" could still serve time in jail if prosecutors have their way.
The Tarrant County District Attorney's office has asked a juvenile judge to incarcerate Ethan Couch, 16, on two counts of intoxication assault for which there has been no verdict.
"The 16-year-old admitted his guilt in four cases of intoxication manslaughter and two cases of intoxication assault. There has been no verdict formally entered. Every case deserves a verdict," District Attorney Joe Shannon said in a statement.
Couch was sentenced last week to 10 years probation after he caused a fatal accident that left four people dead and two others severely injured. Couch was driving 70 mph in a 40 mph zone when the accident occurred. Prosecutors had asked for the maximum sentence of 20 years in juvenile hall with parole available after two years.
Afterwards police found he had a blood alcohol level of 0.24, three times the legal adult limit, and had valium in his system.
Psychologist G. Dick Miller argued during Couch's trial that the teen was a product of too much privilege and had never been reprimanded for his actions and therefore was not responsible for his actions, calling him a product of "affluenza."
In an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper after the sentencing, Miller said he regrets that assessment.
"I wish I hadn't used that term," Miller told Cooper. "Everyone seems to have hooked onto it.
ABC News has learned from county court records that both of Couch's parents had a number of previous charges from alleged misdemeanors, most of them traffic-related.
Couch's mother, Tonya, had five charges while his father, Fred, had 22 incidents, dating as far back as 1989. The charges against the couple were sometimes dismissed or paid with fines.
The parents face civil lawsuits from the families of the victims -- Brian Jennings, 43, Breanna Mitchell, 24, Shelby Boyles, 21, and her mother, Hollie Boyles, 52.
Authorities said Couch and friends were seen on surveillance video June 15 stealing two cases of beer from a store. While driving his Ford F-350, Couch slammed into Mitchell, whose car had broken down, and Jennings, and the two Boyles, who had all come to Mitchell's aid.
Eric Boyles, the wife of Hollie Boyles and father to Shelby Boyles, told ABCNews.com on Saturday that he never believed that Couch could receive just probation for his sentence.
"At some point there should be some level of accountability for their actions," Boyles said. "I'm not sure how our justice system has gotten to this."
Before the final sentencing, Boyles and other families of the victims were able to directly address Couch and the judge but Couch never spoke to the families.
"Nowhere in this process did Ethan ever say to the families, to the court, 'I'm so sorry for what happened,'" said Boyles. "Nowhere did Ethan express any remorse or anything."
No release for sexually violent predator Sid Landau, 74, who molested 10 boys
by Paul Anderson
SANTA ANA — A Santa Ana jury today rejected a 74-year-old sexually violent predator's bid for release, determining that he continues to pose a threat and should remain in state custody.
Sid Nathaniel Landau has been housed at the state hospital in Coalinga, but he contended his disorder was under control. Jurors found, however, that he is still a sexually violent predator.
Deputy District Attorney Dan Wagner insisted during the trial that Landau should remain in the mental institution because he was receiving regular testosterone injections and has refused any psychological counseling for pedophilia.
But defense attorney Sara Ross said a doctor who had previously diagnosed Landau as a sexually violent predator believes he is suitable for release.
She conceded that Landau's past crimes were “awful,” but claimed he no longer presented a risk to the public.
Landau was most recently convicted in 1988 when he pleaded guilty to molesting an 8-year-old boy, Wagner said.
The prosecutor said Landau molested 10 boys for two decades before being caught and spent only 15 months free over the next 25 years because of parole violations.
Landau moved to California in 1961 when he started molesting his first victim, Jerry, in Anaheim, Wagner said. Jerry was 8 years old and lived in the same apartment complex, and Landau lured the boy as he did many other victims over the years — with a dog, the prosecutor said.
As he did with other victims, he “courted” the boy by taking him to Disneyland, the movies, swimming, camping, boating and other activities, Wagner said.
The molestation stopped in 1963 when the boy started “hitting puberty” and was no longer attractive to Landau, Wagner said.
Landau met his second victim, another 8-year-old boy, in 1964, Wagner said. He continued molesting the boy, Scott, until 1968 “when (the victim) grows up and puberty begins,” according to the prosecutor.
Landau met his third victim — also named Sid — in 1969 while Landau was volunteering in a local youth sports program, Wagner said. Unlike the others, Landau molested the boy into his teen years until 1976, the prosecutor said.
Wagner said Landau would take nude photos of his victims and feed them alcohol and marijuana in his Huntington Avenue home in Anaheim, which had a third-story tower with a clear view of Disneyland's nightly fireworks show.
His home was stocked with stuffed animals, pinball machines and the latest video games, like Atari. He would sometimes engage in group sex with several boys, Wagner said.
Landau's ninth victim led to his arrest in 1981 when the 10-year-old boy's father caught Landau in the act of molesting the child, the prosecutor said.
For that offense, Landau was found to be a “mentally disordered sex offender” and sent to a mental hospital instead of prison. But he didn't like it there, and demanded to serve the rest of his time in prison, Wagner said.
Landau was paroled in 1984. Three years later, he was arrested for allegedly molesting a 5-year-old boy, but the case was dismissed, Wagner said.
While that case was pending, he was grooming a 10th victim, an 8-year- old boy, according to Wagner.
When the boy's uncle grew suspicious, he asked a friend in law enforcement to check Landau's record, eventually leading to his arrest, a guilty plea and a 17-year prison sentence in June 1988, Wagner said.
When he was freed in 1998, Landau moved to New York to live with his brother, but it didn't go well and after a month he was back in California, where he got in trouble again for tampering with a GPS monitor, Wagner said.
Landau was in and out of custody for other parole violations, and in 2000, prosecutors filed a petition to have Landau declared a sexually violent predator. He has been in custody ever since.
Do You Know the Signs of Child Sexual Abuse to Look Out For? You Should...
The Darkness to Light Program is something new being offered by the Child Advocacy Center of Rutherford and Cannon Counties. The program helps to teach the signs of child abuse and child sexual abuse to caregivers in our community. Sharon DeBour is the Executive Director of the Child Advocacy Center.
Last year the Child Advocacy Center saw aprox. 1,000 cases of child abuse.
Citizens should be aware that by law any reporting of Child Abuse and Neglect is done so in good faith. Therefore, person(s) making a referral has immunity from any civil or criminal liability. It should also be noted that those who know or suspect child abuse and fail to report it are guilty of breaking the Law and could be charged with Failure to Report.
Step 1: Learn the Facts
Realities, Not Trust, Should Influence Your Decisions Regarding Children
Step 2: Minimize Opportunity
If you eliminate or reduce isolated, one-on-one situations between children and adults, and children and other youth, you'll dramatically reduce the risk of sexual abuse.
Step 3: Talk About It
Children often keep abuse a secret, but barriers can be broken down by talking openly about our bodies, sex, and boundaries.
Step 4: Recognize the Signs
Don't expect obvious signs when a child is being sexually abused. Signs are often there, but you have to know what to look for.
Step 5: React Responsibly
Disclosure, discover, and suspicions of sexual abuse provide opportunities to intervene on behalf of a child.
The older, silent voices of sexual abuse
by June Shannon
A new study has shone a welcome, if disturbing, light on the experiences of sexual violence among older women.
Saying no to him was not an option. If she pleaded illness he simply ignored her pleas and had sex with her anyhow… Peggy never called it rape, believing him when he told her he had conjugal rights… After her husband passed away she joined her local Active Retirement group. One morning they brought in a speaker from Rape Crisis Midwest and it was a revelation to Peggy to discover that rape within marriage was a criminal offence.
Above is just one of the hundreds of older women in Ireland today who make up the silent voices of sexual abuse. Whether they have been abused as children and have lived in fear for decades, or are currently experiencing sexual assault, society's blind perception that women of a certain age are not subjected to this type of abuse can act as a barrier to older women seeking much needed help and support.
However, one of the first studies to examine older women's experience of sexual violence in Ireland by Dr Stacey Scriver, researcher with the School of Political Science and Sociology at NUI Galway, has shone a much needed light on this issue.
Presented at a conference organised by the National Centre for the Protection of Older People (NCPOP) at UCD last month, Dr Scriver's research revealed that older women are often overlooked as recent or long-term survivors of sexual violence.
The study, which was based on 2011 data from the Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI)'s national database, sought to improve understanding of the prevalence, experience and needs of older women survivors of sexual abuse.
The research was a collaboration between the Older Women's Network and Rape Crisis Centres (RCC) in Ireland and the RCNI, who funded the research.
According to the study, of the 2,036 clients who accessed RCC services in 2011 just eight per cent or 142 were aged 55 or older, and these women accounted for just six per cent of all RCC service users.
The study also revealed that older women who accessed RCC had a higher rate of disability and much lower level of education than their younger counterparts.
Speaking to IMN, Dr Scriver said that disabilities included hearing, mobility and learning difficulties and that this combined with a lower level of education, gave a sense of some of the barriers that may be experienced by older women in accessing support services and information.
The study also revealed that just over half or 54 per cent of older women who accessed rape crisis services in 2011 had experienced sexual violence as a child; approximately 33 per cent had been sexually assaulted as an adult, and 13 per cent had experienced sexual abuse both in adult and childhood.
Furthermore, the research found that the vast majority (76 per cent) of older women had also experienced psychological and or physical abuse in addition to sexual violence.
According to the study, 89 per cent of incidents of sexual abuse were perpetrated by a male, six per cent by a male and female together, and five per cent by a female only. It also revealed that the perpetrators of abuse were most likely to be family members at 35 per cent, with total strangers responsible for just two per cent of cases.
According to Dr Scriver, the fact that the majority of perpetrators were family members was not unusual as a high rate of the abuse took place in childhood. She also said that for those women who experienced sexual assault as an adult, it indicated intimate partner sexual violence where the perpetrator was most likely to be a spouse or partner.
She also said that older women appeared to have a much lower level of knowledge about sexual violence with many adhering to “rape myths”.
“They expect for rape to be committed by a stranger, they expect it to have a high level of violence or they expect it to happen in outdoor locations and most sexual violence doesn't happen in that way.”
Therefore, some older women may not understand or perhaps realise that they have been the victims of a crime, she added.
For example, she said that women who were raped by their husbands might not realise that rape can occur in a marriage, with one woman reporting that her husband had told her it was part of his rights as her husband to rape her.
Dr Scriver also said that some older women did not have the words to describe what was happening to them and were also unaware that there were services such as the RCC that can help them rebuild their lives.
“There is a need to talk to older women about these kinds of issues to increase their knowledge about them…they have a difficulty in actually speaking about this, about using the kinds of terminology that might be needed. They don't necessarily have the comfort or the vocabulary in order to describe their experiences and this can actually silence them. It prevents them from talking about this issue with other people or for seeking help,” she said.
“I think it is probably coming from being raised in a culture where sexuality wasn't ever discussed… they didn't have the experience of talking about any sexual issues and so then once it becomes that much more personal and intimate, when it is forced sex it is even more difficult to know how to bring that up,” she added.
Therefore, older women were less likely to talk about their experiences with friends or partners than younger women, and are also full of fear of how others may react.
Dr Scriver said one of the most important things to come from the study was that there is a real need to educate both older women, those that care for them such as health professionals, and the public at large about sexual violence and the fact that it can and does occur in older age. It is also important to understand that many older women may have been suffering in silence for decades due to historic childhood abuse.
“We shouldn't assume that because they are older that they are somehow disconnected from issues relating to sexuality, to sex and to forced sex as well,” Dr Scriver stated.
“It is important for anybody who is working with older women to recognise that they may have experienced sexual violence or they may be experiencing sexual violence…people who work with older people should be attentive to that and look for any possible signs of needing to have services provided for them or needing help in some way. It is something that education is needed for everybody across the board,” she said.
According to Dr Scriver, sexual violence has a serious impact on both physical and psychological health both in the immediate future and long-term. However she also said that adequate and appropriate care can mitigate against these impacts.
Sadly, some older women who took part in the study were forced to wait for up to five decades before they finally received help and support, with one lady stating it was only when she accessed help through the RCC and began to talk about her experiences that she felt her life had really begun.
“They feel it gave them a new lease of life, a new hope in life…so we do see regardless of what age somebody experiences [sexual violence] and regardless of how long it has been …that there is a benefit to them for seeking and receiving help…it is never too late to heal,” Dr Scriver stated.
Rape Crisis Network Ireland: 24 Hour Helpline 1800 778888 (run by Dublin Rape Crisis Centre)
HSE: 1850 24 1850
Senior Help Line: 1850 440 444
'I am a real victim of child pornography and it affects me every day and everywhere I go'
[Trigger warning: graphic description of sexual abuse]
‘Amy' was a victim of sexual abuse by her uncle as a child. He uploaded images of the abuse on to the internet, they became known as the ‘Misty Series'. These images have been globally trafficked since the late 1990s and are the most widely viewed in the child pornography world, according to the New York Times.
Amy is now 24; she gets notifications through the US Justice Department every time someone views the ‘Misty Series' video. So far she has 1800 notifications and the video has already featured in 3200 criminal cases. Next month in a landmark case, the US Supreme Court will decide how much a child porn victim can demand from the people who viewed a video of her being abused.
This is Amy's victim impact statement :
I am a 19-year-old girl and I am a victim of child sex abuse and child pornography. I am still discovering all the ways that the abuse and exploitation I suffer has hurt me, has set my life on the wrong course, and destroyed the normal childhood, teenage years, and early adulthood that everyone deserves.
My uncle started to abuse me when I was only 4 years old. He used what I now know are the common ways that abusers get their victims ready for abuse and keep them silent: he told me that I was special, that he loved me, and that we had our own ‘special secrets'. Since he lived close to our house, my mother and father didn't suspect anything when I walked over there to spend time with him. At first he showed me pornographic movies and then he started doing things to me. I remember that he put his finger in my vagina and that it hurt a lot. I remember that he tried to have sex with me and that it hurt even more. I remember telling him that it hurt. I remember that much of the time I was with him I did not have clothes on and that sometimes he made me dress up in lingerie. And I remember the pictures.
After the abuse he would take me to buy my favourite snack which was beef jerky. Even now when I eat beef jerky I get feelings of panic, guilt, and humiliation. It's like I can never get away from what happened to me. At the time I was confused and knew it was wrong and that I didn't like it, but I also thought it was wrong for me to tell anything bad about my uncle who said he loved me and bought me things I liked. He even let me ride on his motorcycle. Now I will never ride on a motorcycle again. The memories are too upsetting.
There is a lot I don't remember, but now I can't forget because the disgusting images of what he did to me are still out there on the internet. For a long time I practiced putting the terrible memories away in my mind. Thinking about it is still really painful. Sometimes I just go into staring spells when I am caught thinking about what happened and not paying any attention to my surroundings. Every day of my life I live in constant fear that someone will see my pictures and recognise me and that I will be humiliated all over again. It hurts me to know someone is looking at them – at me – when I was just a little girl being abused for the camera. I did not choose to be there, but now I am there forever in pictures that people are using to do sick things. I want it all erased. I want it all stopped. But I am powerless to stop it just like I was powerless to stop my uncle.
When they first discovered what my uncle did, I went to therapy and thought I was getting over this. I was very wrong. My full understanding of what happened to me has only gotten clearer as I have gotten older. My life and my feelings are worse now because the crime has never really stopped and will never really stop. It is hard to describe what it feels like to know that at any moment, anywhere, someone is looking at pictures of me as a little girl being abused by my uncle and is getting some kind of sick enjoyment from it. It's like I am being abused over and over and over again.
I find myself unable to do the simple things that other teenagers handle easily. I do not have a driver's license. Every time I say I am going to do it, I don't. I can't plan well. My mind skips out on me when I think about moving forward with my life. I have been trying to get a job, but I just keep avoiding things. Forgetting is the thing I do best since I was forced as a little girl to live a double life and ‘forget' what was happening to me. Before I realise it, I miss interviews or other things that will help me get a job.
Sometimes things remind me of the abuse and I don't even realise it until it is too late. For example, I failed anatomy in high school. I simply could not think about the body because of what happened to me. The same thing happened at university. I went to a psychology class where we watched a video about child abuse.
Without even realising why, I just stopped going to class. I failed my first year of university and ended up moving back home.
It's easy for me to block out my feelings and avoid things that make me uncomfortable. I don't know when I will be ready to go back to university because I have huge problems with avoiding anything that makes me uncomfortable or reminds me of my abuse.
I am always scared that people can look at me and tell that I am a victim of sex abuse because my abuse is a public fact. I am worried that when my friends are on the internet they are going to come across my pictures and it fills me with shame and embarrassment.
I am humiliated and ashamed that there are pictures of me doing horrible things with my uncle. Everywhere I go I feel judged. Am I the kind of person who does this? Is there something wrong with me? Is there something sickening and disgusting about who I am?
I am embarrassed to tell anyone what happened to me because I'm afraid they will judge me and blame me for it. I live in a small town and I think that if one person knows then everyone will know. I am just living in fear of the day someone sees those awful pictures of me and then ‘the secret' about me will be out. It's like my life is on hold for that day and I am frozen in time waiting. I know those disgusting pictures of me are stuck in time and are there forever for everyone to see.
I had terrible nightmares for a long long time. I would wake up sweating and crying and go to my parents for comfort. Now I still get flashbacks sometimes. There are thoughts in my head that are memories of the things that my uncle did to me. My heart will start racing and I will feel sweaty and then a stronger picture will pop up in my head and I have to leave the situation I am in. I have heard the voice of my uncle in my mind still talking to me saying, “don't tell, don't tell, don't tell.” Thinking and knowing that the pictures of all this are still out there just makes it worse. It's like I can't escape from the abuse, now or ever.
Because I've had so many bad dreams, I find it hard to sleep when it's dark. I like to keep the lights on thinking that will protect me from bad dreams. I hate scary movies and sometimes have nightmares for days.
Sometimes I have unreasonable fears that prevent me from doing the normal things that other kids do. My friend once asked me to go with her and her uncle to an amusement park. I could not get it out of my head that I would be abused. In the end I just couldn't go. I kept wondering if my friend's uncle had seen my pictures. Did he know me? Did he know what I did? Is that why he invited me to the amusement park?
Trust is a very hard thing for me and often people just make me uncomfortable. I had to quit a job I had as a waitress because there was a guy who I thought was always staring at me. I couldn't stop thinking, did he recognise me? Did he see my pictures somewhere? I was simply too uncomfortable to keep working there.
I have trouble saying ‘no' to people since I learned at a young age that I really don't have control over what's happening to me. I am trying to learn to get better at this because I know that not saying ‘no' makes it easier for someone to hurt me again.
Because of the way my uncle bribed me to perform sex acts on camera, I have trouble taking gifts from anyone. I always feel that people will expect something from me if they give me a present. This makes it difficult in my relationship with friends.
I want to have children someday, but it frightens me terribly to think about how I could keep them safe. Who could I possibly trust? Their teacher? Their coach? I don't know if I could ever trust anyone with my children. And what if my children and their friends see my pictures on the internet? How could I ever explain to them what happened to me?
I am very confused about what love is. My uncle said he loved me and I wanted that love. But I know now that what he did to me is not love. But how will I be able to tell in the future if it is real love or just another person trying to exploit and use me?
The truth is, I am being exploited and used every day and every night somewhere in the world by someone. How can I ever get over this when the crime that is happening to me will never end? How can I get over this when the shameful abuse I suffered is out there forever and being enjoyed by sick people? I am horrified by the thought that other children will probably be abused because of my pictures. Will someone show my pictures to other kids, like my uncle did to me, then tell them what to do? Will they see me and think it's okay for them to do the same thing? Will some sick person see my picture and then get the idea to do the same thing to another little girl? These thoughts make me sad and scared. I blame myself a lot for what happened. I know I was so little, but why didn't I know better? Why didn't I stop my uncle? Maybe if I had stopped it there wouldn't be so many pictures out there that I can never take back or erase. I feel like now I have to live with it forever and that it's all my fault. I feel like I am unworthy of anything and a failure. What have I been good for except to be used by others over and over again. That's one of the reasons I haven't been able to get a job or stay in school. I'm tired of disappointing myself. I've already had enough disappointment for a lifetime and just don't want any more failure. To me this brings back all the terrible feelings and shame of abuse and exploitation.
Sometimes I deal with my feelings by trying to forget everything by drinking too much. I know this isn't good, but my humiliation and angry feelings are there with me all the time and sometimes I just need a way to make them go away for awhile.
I feel like I have always had to live a double life. First I had to lie about what my uncle was doing to me. Then I had to act like it didn't happen because it was too embarrassing. Now I always know that there is another ‘little me' being seen on the internet by other abusers. I don't want to be there, but I am. I wish I could go back in time and stop my uncle from taking those pictures, but I can't.
Even though I am scared that I will be abused or hurt again because I am making this victim impact statement, I want the court and judge to know about me and what I have suffered and what my life is like. What happened to me hasn't gone away. It will never go away. I am a real victim of child pornography and it effects me every day and everywhere I go.
Please think about me and think about my life when you sentence this person to prison. Why should this person, who is continuing my abuse, be free when I am not free?
This statement is an excerpt from the book Big Porn Inc: Exposing the Harms of the Global Porn Industry (Spinifex Press, 2011). It is reprinted with kind permission of James Marsh, Esq. of the Marsh Law Firm PLLC, Amy's counsel.
* Support is available for anyone who may be distressed by calling Lifeline 131 114, Mensline 1300 789 978, Kids Helpline 1800 551 800.
No, It's Not OK to 'Steal Kisses' -- Here's Why
by Soraya Chemaly -- Feminist, Writer, Satirist... not always in that order
People are up in arms because a 6-year-old boy in Colorado was suspended for "planting a kiss" on a girl in his class. Here is a fairly typical smattering of what people had to say:
"The stupidity of school bureaucrats never ceases to amaze me."
"Pretty soon, just making eye contact with the opposite sex will get you suspended."
"This kind of thing has gotten to the point where it's sexual discrimination against little boys."
CNN's coverage online generated more than 8,600 comments.
The boy kissed his classmate on the hand. He'd previously been disciplined for kissing her on the cheek and "rough housing" too... roughly. After this last incident, the school suspended him. He is endearing and he's 6 and as so many are fond of pointing out "boys will be boys." But, the girl he kissed without permission is also probably endearing, also 6 and not interested in his touching her. The hard and unpleasant part, for many, is the idea that her right not to be involved in his working through learning self-control is legitimate.
What really seems to be bothering so very many people is the use of the term "sexual harassment," which is what the boy was suspended for. What if the headlines had said, instead, "Six-year-old boy suspended for bullying?" Sexual harassment is bullying. County education officials have decided that the infraction will not be classified as sexual harassment and the boy is returning to school. What news commentators, the mother of the boy and many others debating the 6-year-olds' classroom interaction seem fixated on was this: "Now someone has to explain the term sex to the boy, it's just too early." Just... really?
We're talking to kids about sex all day, every day, without ever saying the word . We do it when grandmothers insist on a kiss and parents make children comply. We do it when we tell girls to "be nice" and "good" when they don't want to. We do it when we tell boys to take what they want from life. We do it when we tell them that God wants them to be "strong." We do it when we watch football games with kids on TV and spend half the game talking about players' girl friends in the stands like they're trophies. We do it when school administrators police clothing and use girl's bodies as props to demonstrate violations of dress codes and reinforce heterosexual norms. We do it when we don't allow children to pick their own clothes and chose their own hairstyles. We do it when we think it's funny to let kids "tease" each other, even though the person being teased isn't interested. We do it when an uncle grabs a nephew and tickles him, even though he hates it and tries to get away. Never. Ever. Saying. "SEX!"
Situations like the one in Colorado arise constantly and are timeless.
When I was 6 or 7 there was a popular playground game, "Kissin' Catchers." The objective of the game was for boys to chase girls until they caught one and kissed them. Usually, the kisses happened under duress, as the girls struggled to get away. Really, that was the game. I HATED this game, but I was really fast and so I could run and hide until the game was over. I still remember hiding in bushes all over my neighborhood, perspiring and anxious, until everyone was done. People made fun of me for staying out of sight and, indeed, didn't want me to play because, by hiding, I was a spoilsport. I could have not played, of course. But, at the time, it didn't occur to me -- these were my friends and this was supposed to be fun. So , I thought, i t's my problem that I don't like it. This game probably isn't played too often any more, but I've watched my daughters having experiences in school that mirror the one in Colorado.
Like this one in which a boy in kindergarten was regularly poking a classmate and caressing her arm. She didn't like it, but when she asked him to stop, he would not. He kept on. The girls attempts to make him stop were perceived by at least one adult in the room as her being "over-sensitive." One day, the child explained to her mother that she did not want to go to school and had a stomachache because he was bothering her all the time and she wanted to avoid him. So, her mom went in to talk to the teacher, whose response was to suggest that they take the little girl out of the class and put her in another . Her mother and father had to escalate to the head of school and the little boy was moved to another room.
Whiny little girls?
Difficult, demanding mothers?
Discrimination against boys?
That's absurd. Children have to learn to respect other people's boundaries and listen to their words when they are little. The younger the better because the consequences get more serious the older we get.
According to another study released earlier this year, one in 10 people between the ages of 14-21 have already committed an act of sexual violence. The most insightful finding, however, was that children who engage in these behaviors feel no sense of responsibility for their actions. That makes sense, since one of the defining characteristics of people who abuse other people is a sense of entitlement. It just happens that our entitlements are gendered and we cultivate a deficit of empathy in boys.
Last year's American Association of University Women's study of sexual harassment in schools, "Crossing the Line" study, revealed that 'Sexual harassment is part of every day life in middle and high school. Nearly half (48%)of the students surveyed experienced some form of sexual harassment... and the majority of them (86%) said it had a negative effect on them." Girls were more likely to be targets of harassment, (56 percent versus 40 percent of boys) and their harassment is "more physical and intrusive." As a result, 22% of girls/14% of boys have trouble sleeping; 37% of girls, 25% of boys not want to go to school; and 10% of girls/6% of boys want to change the way they went to or home from school.
Not only is it problematic in the long-run to enable behavior that routinely involves disrespect for other people's bodies and words, but there are real and tangible negative effects that are ignored and minimized. It's common for kids who experience sexual harassment -- call it whatever you want -- to hear, "it's not a big deal," and to be told that they shouldn't be "so sensitive." This minimizes what they are experiencing, denies their reality and teaches them that their thoughts and words don't matter. For whatever reasons, as shown in this graph from the AAUW study, for girls, the effects of harassment last longer and are more physical.
Schools are in a hard spot. Talking to children about bodily integrity, autonomy, consent, other people's rights -- all precursors to talking about sex -- cannot happen in schools in a vacuum. And conversations like these aren't happening enough in homes, where, frankly, abuses are happening all the time.
Childhood is practice for adulthood. What happens when children don't learn to respect other people's boundaries and words?
A teenage girl in my neighborhood was expelled from school after sharing a picture of herself, topless, in a text. Boys and girls sext in equal amounts, but boys are twice as likely to forward photos. It's not because a Y chromosome directs them to.
Another girl I know woke up on a sidewalk a few months ago after going to a bar with some friends. She was bloody, dazed and in pain. The police suggested that she'd been drugged and that there was really nothing they could do.
Yet another friend's daughter recently left college after an ex-boyfriend waited for her in her room and, when she did not appear, tore it apart, leaving blood and urine everywhere.
In yet another instance, a young woman stalked online and threatened in a series of graphic, violent public online posts had to file for a restraining order, which really only work for rule followers, not a description I'd use for most perpetrators of gender-based violence.
And, at a nearby university, an angry, drunk, abusive ex-boyfriend killed Yeardley Love in the culmination of a pattern of intimate partner violence.
Anyone could, given a little time and thought, generate this list.
So, when would people like to start talking to children about these problems? All children need to understand learn what unwanted touching is, how not to do it and to trust their instincts when they are the targets of it. That starts with habits at home and is reinforced by practices in schools. The truth is, no one actually knows what the antecedents to the boy's being suspended were.
There are many ways to talk about sex in age-appropriate ways. Personally, I don't think "sexual harassment" is a very useful term for 6-year-olds, but it is for their parents. The most comprehensive list of ways in which to teach children ages 5-18 about consent that I've read is one written by Julie Gills, Jamie Utt, Alyssa Royse and Joanna Schroeder. It is a thoughtful and comprehensive catalog of age appropriate lessons. The only think I would add to it, given the reality of sexual abuse and violence, is to give children the language and permission to say "no" to people with authority.
In response to this Colorado incident, there was an awful lot of, "What's the harm? Kids steal kisses all the time." An interesting expression since, generally speaking, people steal things that they have no right to. They actually are, to use a really old-fashioned explanation, "taking liberties." I know how cute it is when little kids seem to love one another and emulate the adults around them who do the same. They hug, they kiss, they giggle. But, when it ceases to be fun for one of them, they have to stop.
Our ideas about bodies start in childhood, and that's when we have to consciously shape them. Even though 60% percent of Americans know a survivor of domestic violence and every one of us knows survivors of sexual assault, 73% of parents with children under the age of 18 have not talked with them about either. But, you can be sure of one thing: By NOT talking to children about their bodies, their boundaries, their rights and the entitlements others might feel about them, we ARE talking to them. That's the problem schools are having.
Child abuse records found near dumpster unrelated to larger CPS investigation
by Howard Fischer
Clarence Carter said it was only coincidental that the files were discovered just as the public was learning that Child Protective Services had been shunting aside complaints to its hotline. Instead, he told members of a special legislative oversight panel this can be blamed on a single former worker.
“They were from a caseworker that worked for the agency in 2008 and 2009,” he said, adding she later moved to California. “She had undoubtedly taken files home to do some work on them and didn't properly secure them.”
He said sometimes copies of records need to be removed from the office “but there's very clear guidance for how it is one has to protect those records.”
What happened here, Carter said, is the women left some documents in a desk drawer.
“When they were cleaned out they were then left in a dumpster outside the home,” he said.
The person who found them said they were outside a cardboard box near a dumpster.
The man, who was not identified, turned them over to a Phoenix TV station. It reported the files contain not only Social Security numbers, medical records and psychological exams but detailed reports of abuse and neglect going back several years.
A CPS official eventually went to the station to pick up the records.
Reporter who broke R. Kelly sex abuse allegations: “Nobody matters less to our society than young black women”
Jim DeRogatis calls the singer "a monster" and asks fans to reconsider their allegiance to him
It may only be Monday, but the Village Voice's interview with Jim DeRogatis, the pop music critic and former Chicago Sun-Times reporter who broke the R. Kelly sex tape story with the allegations of child sex abuse against the singer, is this week's must-read piece for everyone on the Internet. In an intimate Q&A, music critic Jessica Hopper asks DeRogantis the tough questions that everyone familiar with the allegations has been wondering: How does Kelly still have a successful music career?
DeRogatis' response is blunt and troubling and worth reading in full. Throughout his career, DeRogatis interviewed two dozen women, sifted through “hundreds of pages of lawsuits” with nauseating details of abuse and intimidation tactics used against them, and felt the emotional rawness of women whose lives have been ruined. “The saddest fact I've learned is: nobody matters less to our society than young black women,” he said. “Nobody. They have any complaint about the way they are treated: they are ‘bitches, hos, and gold diggers,' plain and simple. Kelly never misbehaved with a single white girl who sued him or that we know of. Mark Anthony Neal, the African-American scholar, makes this point: one white girl in Winnetka and the story would have been different.”
While at the Chicago Sun-Times in 2000, after receiving an anonymous tip of an open lawsuit against Kelly, DeRogatis found the first of many “stomach churning” accounts of rape:
He would go back in the early years of his success and go to Lina McLin's gospel choir class. She's a legend in Chicago, gospel royalty. He would go to her sophomore class and hook up with girls afterward and have sex with them. Sometimes buy them a pair of sneakers. Sometimes just letting them hang out in his presence in the recording studio. She detailed the sexual relationship that she was scarred by. It lasted about one and a half to two years, and then he dumped her and she slit her wrists, tried to kill herself. Other girls were involved. She recruited other girls. He picked up other girls and made them all have sex together. A level of specificity that was pretty disgusting.
Her lawsuit was hundreds of pages long, and Kelly countersued. The countersuit was, like, 10 pages long: “None of this is true!” We began our reporting. We knocked on a lot of doors. The lawsuits, the two that we had found initially, had been settled. Kelly had paid the women and their families money and the settlements were sealed by the court. But of course, the initial lawsuits remain part of the public record.
But Kelly is still celebrated, despite all of this, says DeRogatis, because music critics are “squeamish” about writing about the allegations or aren't digging deep enough to look into the issue; because sites like Pitchfork continue to support new R. Kelly music; because black women are not treated by society the same way white women are; because so many of the victims were intimidated or paid to stay silent.
Now, DeRogatis, who still hears from Kelly's alleged victims, urges fans and music journalists to think more critically about whether they really want to support the singer, who brags about his sexual experiences in his music:
|It is on record. Rapes in the dozen. So stop hedging your words and when you tell me what a brilliant ode to pussy Black Panties is, then realize that the next sentence should say: “This, from a man who has committed numerous rapes.” The guy was a monster! Just say it! We do have a justice system and he was acquitted. OK, fine. And these other women took the civil-lawsuit route. He was tried on very narrow grounds. He was tried on a 29-minute, 36-second videotape. He was tried on trading child pornography. He was not tried for rape. He was acquitted of making child pornography. He's never been tried in court for rape, but look at the statistics. The numbers of rapes that happened, the numbers of rapes that were reported, the numbers of rapes that make it to court and then the conviction rate. I mean, it comes down to something minuscule. He's never had his day in court as a rapist. It's 15 years in the past now, but this record exists. You have to make a choice, as a listener, if music matters to you as more than mere entertainment. And you and I have spent our entire lives with that conviction. This is not just entertainment, this is our lifeblood. This matters.
Because most of DeRogatis's original reporting isn't online, the Voice has published “the court files and all of Jim DeRogatis' Sun-Times reporting on the case against R. Kelly” to remind the public that these victims' stories are still waiting to be heard and acknowledged.
What R. Kelly Teaches Us About How Sexual Predators Choose And Silence Their Victims
by Alyssa Rosenberg
On Monday, the Village Voice published a long conversation between Jessica Hopper, the music editor for Rookie, and Jim DeRogatis, now a professor at Columbia College, who, as a critic at the Chicago Sun-Times, broke and covered the child pornography case against R. Kelly (himself a child sexual abuse survivor). The Voice also published the indictment against Kelly in the case, and a number of DeRogatis' archived stories. The combination of conversation and document is one of the most important pieces of culture writing to be published this year, because of DeRogatis' account of how Kelly has avoided conviction in both criminal and civil cases, and the discussion of the point at which we can't simply dismiss an artist's behavior on the grounds that bad people can still make great art. DeRogatis' testimony and his timeline of Kelly's life, and the testimony of women who observed Kelly's routines in Chicago, also provide a chilling taxonomy of how sexual predators select their victims, a methodology amplified by Kelly's wealth and fame.
Pick Victims With Little Power, Or Who Are Undervalued By Their Communities: The child pornography indictment against Kelly repeatedly accuses him of crimes not just against the victim, but “against the peace and dignity of the same People of the State of Illinois.” But DeRogatis suggests that one of the reasons Kelly was acquitted in that trial, and that he was able to settle other civil suits relatively quietly is because he targeted young women who believed that they were not particularly valuable to the People of the State of Illinois. “Kelly never misbehaved with a single white girl who sued him or that we know of,” he tells Hopper. “Mark Anthony Neal, the African American scholar, makes this point: one white girl in Winnetka and the story would have been different. No, it was young black girls and all of them settled. They settled because they felt they could get no justice whatsoever. They didn't have a chance.” That perception, on many levels, seems to have been correct. DeRogatis did dogged local reporting work, and the child pornography trial did make national headlines. But the stories of the civil suits, which would have established a pattern of behavior, don't appear to have consistently affected Kelly's reputation until now. And, as I'll discuss later, Kelly's settlements in civil suits typically required his accusers to remain silent as an insurance policy.
Target Victims In Settings Where A Predator Has Authority Or Cultural Capital: Kelly attended Kenwood Academy High School, where he studied with the music teacher Lena McLin, who DeRogatis credits with exposing Kelly's talents to the wider world at a talent show at the school. Later, DeRogatis suggests, McLin's classes would become one of Kelly's hunting grounds. He told Hopper “He would go back in the early years of his success and go to [Lena] McLin's gospel choir class. She's a legend in Chicago, gospel royalty. He would go to her sophomore class and hook up with girls afterward and have sex with them. Sometimes buy them a pair of sneakers. Sometimes just letting them hang out in his presence in the recording studio.”
Target Young Women At School, Period–And Leverage Financial Power: Mikki Kendall, a widely-published author on race, feminism, and culture (some of her work appears here), recounted her childhood experience seeing Kelly hanging out at Chicago-area schools, and being hit on him herself when she was just 14. (Story on site)
Make Targets Complicit In The Abuse Of Other Women, So They'll Be Less Likely To Report You: Of one victim Kelly meet at McLin's classes, DeRogatis said “She detailed the sexual relationship that she was scarred by. It lasted about one and a half to two years, and then he dumped her and she slit her wrists, tried to kill herself. Other girls were involved. She recruited other girls. He picked up other girls and made them all have sex together.” If a girl feels responsible for putting other young women in the same terrible position she herself has survived, it's a fair bet that she'll feel like she shares her attacker's guilt and doesn't deserve justice. That's a recipe for silence, or even for suicide–it's an awfully nasty way to try to make sure that victims keep themselves away from the criminal justice system, or decide on their own not to seek compensation in civil court.
Involve Whole Families In Settlements: DeRogatis tells Hopper that when he was covering one of the sex tapes he'd received, “the girl and mother and father took a six-month vacation to the south of France. We'd been to the house several times. We'd rung the doorbell. This was an aluminum-siding, lower-middle-class house on the South Side, with a station wagon which is 13 years old — you know what I mean? And now they're in the south of France. And one time the dad got a credit as a bass player on an R. Kelly album. He didn't play bass.” Given the ways in which sexual abuse and sexual assault survivors are often put on trial before their accusations will even be investigated, women of all ages need support from their families to pursue charges against their attackers. Denying a woman–especially one who is underaged–the support of her family by coopting them financially is a way a predator can appear to be generous to a survivor, while also showing her how little her parents value her safety.
Make Silence A Condition Of Any Settlement: In 1994, Kelly married Aaliyah Dana Haughton three months after the release of her solo album. She was 15, though a marriage certificate said otherwise. He was 27. Two months later, the marriage was annulled, and DeRogatis explain, as part of the settlement ending the marriage, “which provides a nominal payment of $100 from Kelly to Aaliyah, Aaliyah promises not to pursue further legal action because of ‘emotional distress caused by any aspect of her business or personal relationship with Robert' or for ‘physical injury or emotional pain and suffering arising from any assault or battery perpetrated by Robert against her person.'” If you're willing to pay enough–or if you have something that another person wants enough, like a way out of a marriage–your victims' silence can be as much of a commodity as anything else. And that's a very valuable commodity if you want to be able to keep offending.
Australian man to be sentenced Tuesday for molesting Cole Harbour girls
by STEVE BRUCE
Karyn Tannahill Blackburn is ready to make the leap from victim to survivor.
That will happen today, when Edwin Gerard Achorn, 71, of Australia is sentenced for sexually abusing Blackburn and another girl about 30 years ago in Cole Harbour.
“The moment that he is sentenced is when I become a survivor,” Blackburn said Monday outside Dartmouth provincial court.
“I read my victim impact statement today and I'm proud of that. I faced him. I just need to hear the sentence.”
Achorn pleaded guilty in October to two charges of sexual assault. He returned to court Monday for sentencing.
But Judge Frank Hoskins reserved decision on whether to accept a joint recommendation from lawyers for a 2½-year prison sentence.
Hoskins said he wanted to review the case law to satisfy himself that the proposed sentence is within the appropriate range.
Achorn committed the crimes between Jan. 1, 1979, and Dec. 31, 1987.
The court was told that he fondled the girls' breasts and vaginas and penetrated them with his fingers.
Achorn moved to Australia more than 20 years ago after police began investigating the complaints against him. He was arrested in late 2010, when he returned to Nova Scotia to visit his ailing mother, who has since passed away.
He lives in Newborough, Victoria, where his wife is a clinical psychologist.
The complainants, who were childhood best friends, read heart-wrenching impact statements to the court Monday.
Blackburn got the judge to lift a publication ban on her identity.
She said the abuse by Achorn, which started at age 11 and continued until she was 16, has filled her life with “pain, agony, destruction and fear.”
“I wish this on no child, and I wish this on no adult,” the Lower Sackville woman, 44, told the court. “I really just want this to go away.”
The other victim, who lives out of province, said Achorn told her he loved her as he violated her.
“He destroyed what love should be. He destroyed what comfort should be. He didn't keep me safe. He hurt me. He terrified me. He destroyed me.”
Achorn has haunted her dreams her whole life, the woman said.
“I wake up most nights in terror that he will find me,” she said.
“Still to this day, I can't stand to be touched on my knees. I want to throw up, because he used to grab my knees to separate my legs.”
The victim said she has tried to commit suicide three times over the years and was on life-support for three days after the last attempt.
“He took everything from me and left me broken.”
Achorn, seated on the prisoners bench, looked at the floor and showed no emotion as his victims addressed the court.
Given the opportunity to speak, he stood and said: “I'd like to apologize for my past behaviour. … I'm truly sorry for any pain I caused.”
Outside court, Blackburn told reporters that she asked to have the ban on her name removed because she has nothing to hide.
“If you keep secrets, it equals shame. Talking about it empowers you. That's what I want people to do. I want them to have empowerment and to speak and get it out and tell people their stories. The more we tell, the better it is.”
She said no one believed her when she reported the abuse as a 16-year-old.
“He was a member of the church, he was a community man. So people didn't believe me. It was horrible. You were called names, you were bullied. My family was ostracized, ridiculed. Relationships and friendships were torn apart.
“Now it feels really good, vindication, that he pled guilty. Now we're just waiting for the sentencing.”
Achorn remains free on $10,000 cash bail.
Abused by my teacher: What I learned from speaking out
When I wrote about my abuse, I learned how many women have stories like mine -- and how hard it is to tell them
by Jenny Kutner
Last Wednesday, Texas Monthly published my lengthy personal account of the illicit, abusive romance I had with a teacher when I was 14. “The Other Side of the Story” percolated for quite some time before going live: I started the piece seven years after the end of my relationship with Trace Lehrer (a pseudonym) and then sat on a finished draft for another year before submitting it. I never once expected to reach such a wide, varied audience, because despite what I'd been told by family, friends and editors for months, I still didn't feel my story was that important.
What has become clear to me in the past week, though, is that my story is exactly “that” important — not because it has been posted and reposted or because my name is in the byline, but because my story is not just mine. My story is also that of countless other women who walk around with the scars of sexual and psychological abuse; it's a story that has appeared dozens and dozens of times in my inbox, each retelling packed with slightly different details. More than once, names and ages have been the only variations from my personal experience. I've found too much twisted solidarity with women whose histories are too much like my own.
I've also been told that my parents overreacted when they filed a police report against my offender, or when they advocated tirelessly for him to be taken out of the classroom and thrown in jail. One commenter wanted to know if I felt guilty for helping a man cheat on his innocent wife. Clearly, these people missed the point. What happened to me was not my fault, because a middle school girl who has a relationship with her teacher is not a willfully consenting participant — and if the teacher is married, she's not a willfully consenting home-wrecker, either. She is a child who has been coerced, through one adult's acts of careful grooming, into believing she can make a decision when she can't.
That type of coercion is one of the key mechanisms in psychologically and sexually abusive relationships. In my situation, it feels unfair to my past and present self to erase my own decision-making ability with regard to my abuse. But to underestimate my judgment is also to underestimate the power of my offender's manipulation to overpower and influence that judgment. To say that young girls lack the agency to make their own decisions in cases like mine is not to strip females of their agency altogether. It's admitting that someone else is at fault. These girls are the survivors of criminal violence, but we can also accept that some of them feel like victims too. Would we ever neglect to call someone who's been mugged “a victim” just because he or she also survived? The victim/survivor labels are not mutually exclusive. It is not infantilizing to call a victim “a victim” when she's been taken advantage of, lied to, violated.
What is infantilizing, though, is letting perpetrators off the hook so easily, by treating sex offenders as if they are incapable of plotting acts so sinister, conniving and wrong. This is a corollary of victim blaming. When we accuse victims of complicity in their own violations, then fault them for being assaulted, then tell them to shut up, we implicitly condone continued abuse. And that is, by the way, exactly what we do: We pejoratively call girls “fast” when their bodies mature early (as Hood Feminism's #FastTailedGirls hashtag explored), or tell young women they drank too much at the parties where they're assaulted (as happens all the time), or ask people like me if they feel bad for wronging someone else's wife by being abused.
These attitudes produce a stigma attached to sex abuse that is difficult to overcome, in part because it's so very difficult to discuss. But the stigma, the shame, the secret-keeping — they are the tools of abuse on both a macro and micro level. The relationship I had with my offender happened because I felt as if there was no one else who would understand what was going on, and I knew that what was going on was wrong. But I felt that I was choosing to be a part of it — and we grow up with the understanding that we are responsible for our own decisions. We don't have sympathy for those who make bad choices.
But we also don't give much thought to how those choices are made. When Trace Lehrer, whose real name I chose to withhold for my own protection, threatened to kill me if I ever left him, was I really “making a decision”? Would anyone else — any other child — have made a different choice?
The quick answer is “no,” but the more complicated answer is “maybe.” Maybe, if I had grown up in a world where it's not so easy to take advantage, I would have been able to speak up about the manipulation I was facing. Maybe, if the media didn't sensationalize abuse stories or present them in a way that looks and sounds nothing like reality, I would have recognized the game that was being played. Or maybe, if society didn't condone the rampant, secret-swathed violation of girls and women, people like me wouldn't have stories like mine to tell.
Talking about abuse can help prevent other women from suffering similar violations. Unfortunately, not every victim is able to speak out. People said that my decision to tell my story was brave, but consider my situation: My abuser was not a member of my family, and my parents were supportive of me throughout the ordeal. Not everyone has this luxury. According to RAINN, 7 percent of women are abused by a relative; can we really expect those victims to speak up only to be accused of destroying their families, or disbelieved because ignorance is easier?
Nothing in these situations is easy, but the current level of difficulty involved in addressing sexual abuse is unacceptable. Changing the victim-blaming status quo requires attitude adjustments for everyone. Most crucially, we have to stop blaming victims and telling them they are at fault. We have to let them tell their stories.
Telling them is only possible when the audience has ears open and mouths shut, is not so quick to point fingers at women who have already been shamed and manipulated enough. Not every victim will be brave enough to say something, but no victim should have to be so brave. Instead, it should be safe for anyone to share her experience with sex abuse, because it truly can happen to anyone. Let's talk about how many anyones there are.
No, Affluenza Is Not a Real Thing
by Dr. Michelle K. London
The term is an insult to psychology—and using it to excuse a teen's actions in a terrible DUI case exposes the deep cracks in our legal and moral codes.
What do we get when being sociopathic, lacking empathy, chasing thrills, and leaving a body count in one's wake is paired with wealth, privilege and an A-list defense? The hot new term: Affluenza. This term was used as an actual defense in the case of Ethan Couch, a privileged young man who chose to drive while intoxicated, which resulted in four deaths and a friend now living with severe spinal cord and brain injuries.
This annoying new term was coined in the Couch case by questionable psychology and has begun to germinate within our collective consciousness. The term Affluenza caused a national gag reflex—and as a doctor I can assure you that, no, Affluenza is not a real affliction. It is a constructed excuse for behavior that gives a privileged teen an out because his father is a millionaire and his defense team is of the Gucci variety. Yet the judge, a seemingly intelligent and well-regarded woman, apparently bought it. We know that failure of justice is not infrequent; it just never had such a cringeworthy label. I would like to eradicate this word from our vocabularies going forward.
If there were to be a word cloud created for this last week's newsworthy topics, Affluenza would take a prominent position with gigantic letters overshadowing words like Mandela and Iran. Over and over again, we were subjected to this rather irritating term; semantically a combination of a state of affluence and apparently a viral type of affliction that has been posited to cause a sense of self-entitlement, rule breaking, haughtiness, and a lack of empathy or remorse for one's bad behavior. Affluenza is touted as a disease that seems able to remove all accountability.
To the public's amazement and disgust, this Affluenza defense actually worked. Couch was not sentenced to an iota of time in a juvenile detention center or prison. He will instead be convalescing in a five-star rehabilitation facility with his own personal therapy horse, yoga sessions and cooking classes for at least a year. Wouldn't we all be healthier with our own therapy pony? Couch's parents will be shelling out nearly half a million dollars for the privilege to “protect” their son from the harsh realities of a broken system by using their own broken system of throwing money at a problem.
If this defense seems absurd to anyone watching at home—that would be because it is completely absurd.
Affluenza is not found in our diagnostic categories of mental illness and it is not even a construct that makes sense. The psychologist on the case gave a bizarre interview to CNN's Anderson Cooper this week and doubled down on his contention that Affluenza is a real syndrome, going on to state that 80 percent of Americans actually suffer from Affluenza. Wait, what? Even if we suspend reality for a moment and assumed Affluenza was a real condition, it would by definition affect the wealthy—who, I am sorry to inform the good doctor, are not 80 percent of the population. This entire debacle insults the field of psychology, deflates public trust and the willingness to seek mental health treatment by a competent professional when needed.
In behavioral science, when we see individuals who exhibit a lack of empathy for others, haughtiness, self-entitlement, thrill-seeking behavior, impulsivity, and substance abuse, there is likely a personality disorder present. In psychological terms, these characteristics are found in sociopaths and narcissists. It is appalling to find that when the individual is of financial means, this troubling psychopathology is tritely relabeled with a junk science term such as Affluenza. And when one is poor, they are then simply regarded as criminals. Sociopathy and narcissism are not caused by having too much money or having too little money, but can be correlated with environmental factors like abuse, neglect and poor parental attachment. Either way, these personality disorders do not bid a criminal a way out of prison and are not even remotely sufficient for an insanity defense. They can explain criminal behavior but do not excuse criminal behavior.
The Affluenza defense is a mind-numbingly circular argument that goes like this: Couch never experienced discipline because he was rich and spoiled, so therefore he should not be subjected to discipline now because he is too rich and too spoiled. If this poor little rich boy is again learning the wrong lesson in life, who is at fault? The suspects include: the parents, the doctors spouting off bogus diagnoses, the judge, our justice system and Couch himself for hiding behind his money and packing his bags for Newport Beach, dodging the bullet of accountability. Perhaps Couch could have taken some lesson from the Ohio man, Matthew Cordle, whose viral YouTube video confessing his guilt in a DUI case that resulted in loss of life garnered him a six-and-a-half-year prison sentence. Cordle fessed up, manned up, and made amends as best he could. The only lesson Couch now takes from this bloody event is that he can walk free because of his family's wealth.
Let's just all step back for a moment and appreciate that the case is a microcosm of so many of the deep-seated issues that are wrong with our culture and our justice system. It plinks on the nerves of race, socioeconomic disparity, privilege, junk science, and recent pivots in our American values whereby money outweighs morals. The case brings a neon highlighter to what so many of us already unfortunately know and accept to be true about the gross inequities in our justice system: privilege still exists and money can buy special treatment. We know this is the case, but turn a blind eye because the problems are too entrenched and too massive, until a case this egregious jolts us to attention. Perhaps this can be the lesson for all of us from this case, even if Couch himself learns nothing more than how to ride a horse on the beach and the power of privilege.
Dr. Michelle K. London is the President and Founder of The Chicago NeuroRehabilitation Center.
Oregon couple arrested after nationwide child exploitation alert sentenced
PORTLAND, Ore. – A Salem couple arrested last year after a nationwide alert by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) seeking an unknown "Jane Doe" child pornographer, were sentenced this month to federal prison.
Michelle Lee Freeman, 41, was sentenced to 25 years in prison Wednesday. Her husband, Michael Serapis Freeman, 40, was sentenced to 50 years in prison last week. According to court records, both admitted abusing minor relatives when they pleaded guilty in August to multiple counts of production of child pornography. Michelle also pleaded guilty to additional charges of knowingly permitting a child to participate in the production of child pornography.
"What is most important about this case is that two victims of child sex abuse were rescued," said Brad Bench, the Seattle-based HSI special agent who oversees the agency's investigations in Oregon. "Whenever our investigations reveal the production and distribution of new child pornography, we will do everything we can to rescue the victim and prosecute the abuser."
In August 2012, ICE issued a national appeal for public assistance to locate an unknown child pornography suspect. HSI's Cyber Crime Center obtained a federal "Jane Doe" arrest warrant in the District of Columbia for the suspect. Two weeks later, tips from the Pacific Northwest led HSI to call on local and regional news media to publicize the search. The news coverage and additional sharing on Facebook and other social media eventually led to the Freemans' surrender Sept. 4, 2012.
The images of the child victims in this case were first discovered by HSI Los Angeles in June 2011 during a computer forensics examination of material in a separate child pornography probe. The material was submitted to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children's Child Victim Identification Program, the national clearinghouse for child sexual exploitation material. The center determined the child victims had not yet been identified or rescued. In June 2012, FBI special agents in Denver conducting an unrelated investigation found additional photos showing the same victims with Michelle.
The Freemans will be subject to lifetime supervision following their release.
HSI received investigative assistance from the Salem Police Department. The case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Oregon's Gang and Child Sex Trafficking Unit.
This investigation was conducted under HSI's Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 10,000 individuals for crimes against children, including producing and distributing online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking children. In fiscal year 2013, more than 2,000 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.
For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI's Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page.
HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.