Child abuse, neglect cases in Oklahoma rise for third year
DHS enlists a foundation to help find the cause of the increase
by CASEY SMITH
The number of Oklahoma children who were mistreated physically and emotionally has increased for a third consecutive year, data from the Oklahoma Department of Human Services show.
There were 11,418 children in the state who were victims of child abuse or neglect during fiscal year 2013. The most recent data show a nearly 58 percent increase in child victims since fiscal year 2010, when 7,248 Oklahoma children were harmed.
The Oklahoma Department of Human Services is working with staff at Casey Family Programs to determine what is causing the dramatic increase in child victimization, department spokeswoman Sheree Powell said.
Seattle-based Casey Family Programs is a foundation that works to provide, improve and prevent the need for foster care nationwide.
"We've had a long-standing relationship with them, but this is something special we've asked them to come help us with," Powell said.
Casey Family Programs staff are working with DHS caseworkers to drill down into the department's numerous sets of data and reports.
"We want to find out the cause of so many children coming into the foster care system," Powell said. "Are there any of those issues that we can control?"
Currently, around 11,100 children are part of Oklahoma's foster care system, Powell said. The number in state custody has increased by around 2,000 children during the past 18 months, increasing the strain on foster parents, children removed from their homes and state employees.
To help handle the increase, the department has hired 600 new workers and contracted with private firms to assist recruitment of foster parents, Powell said.
The study with Casey Family Programs is focusing on several counties throughout the state where the number of children who need to be removed from their homes has shown a dramatic increase.
The recent child abuse data in many of the counties being studied show a significant increase not being seen in neighboring counties despite the geographic areas' similar demographic and socioeconomic profiles, Powell said.
Findings of the study and the counties included will be released in January.
Some of the factors causing the increase in child abuse may be outside of the DHS Child Welfare Services' authority to address, Powell said. It will be important for communities to know the study's results and to help raise awareness of issues that need attention.
The department is not legally able to address situations where child abuse has not yet occurred, Powell said. Other agencies are charged with addressing situations such as drug abuse and domestic violence that statistics show could potentially lead to child abuse.
From fiscal years 2011 and 2012, the number of children abused in Tulsa County and several surrounding counties increased in amounts ranging from 23 percent to 92 percent. The number of children abused in Oklahoma County increased 29 percent between fiscal years 2011 and 2012.
The number of children abused or neglected in each county in Oklahoma during fiscal year 2013 is not yet available.
Nationally, the number of children abused or neglected in the United States dropped for the sixth consecutive year, according to recently released data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families.
Nationwide data represent trends through September 2012, nearly a year behind the most recent data available for Oklahoma, which includes cases that happened between July 2012 and June 2013.
Nationwide, an estimated 686,000 children were abused or neglected during federal fiscal year 2012, the most recent data available. That number represents a 17 percent decrease from the number of children mistreated during fiscal year 2006, when there were an estimated 825,000 victims.
Between fiscal years 2005 and 2006, the estimated number of children abused or neglected increased from 815,000 to 825,000, the most recent span of time that instances of abuse increased nationwide.
Casey Smith 918-732-8106
Number of child abuse, neglect victims by county
Source: Oklahoma Department of Human Services Child Welfare Services
Child sex abuse laws need reform
Note: The following editorial ran in The Journal News on Sept. 15, 2013.
She was 14 and a freshman at Green Meadow Waldorf School in Chestnut Ridge in 1980. Now 47, the woman said others seemed to accept the male teacher's behavior, so back then, she kept quiet about the too-long hugs and inappropriate contact. (See Sunday's report on lohud.com.) What made her speak out now? The aggressive response of Green Meadow when another former student, author Kate Christensen, recounted similar interactions with the same teacher. Christensen's accusations were contained in her memoir, published this summer; within weeks of the book's publication, the school banned the former teacher from campus and launched an investigation.
The approach taken by Green Meadow demonstrates a welcome shift in the way schools and organizations handle accusations of past child abuse — no longer covering up the past and adding to the stigma of secrecy, but admitting the need to help past victims heal and prevent future ones.
Now, New York needs to take the same approach in its laws, and give childhood victims of sex abuse a chance at justice, even decades later. The proposed "Child Sexual Abuse Reform Act," which has been introduced in the Assembly, is a good place to start.
The Assembly bill — there is currently no matching Senate legislation — would amend criminal procedure law, penal law, social services law and civil practice law and rules to extend certain statutes of limitations on reporting sexual offenses against children. It would also expand who meets reporting requirements.
"This is a pretty far-reaching bill. The most important part, in my opinion, is extending the statute of limitations," bill co-sponsor Assemblyman James Skoufis, D-Woodbury, told the Editorial Board. The crime is heinous no matter if someone reports it a day after or years after, and the (perpetrator) should be punished."
The legislation draws from recommendations in a 2002 Suffolk County Supreme Court Special Grand Jury Report on the investigation into the Diocese of Rockville Center. The report states that prosecution was often stymied by New York statutes. "In some cases the Grand Jury finds that the Diocese procrastinated for the sole purpose of making sure that the civil and criminal statutes of limitation were no longer applicable in the cases," the report states, later stating that "... The Grand Jury concludes that the conduct of certain Diocesan officials would have warranted criminal prosecution but for the fact that the existing statutes are inadequate (and need) significant modifications to address the many issues pertaining to child sexual assault."According to the bill's description, "This legislation will punish those who perpetrate this crime as well as those who would hinder its prosecution and provide a forum whereby survivors of these horrific crimes truly realize that the law is on their side by giving them an opportunity for justice and closure."
The bill has lingered in committee for several years. The Legislature should thoroughly discuss the proposed Child Sexual Abuse Reform Act and find ways to make it better and modernize New York's laws, rather than shunt a tough topic to die in committee.
David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, told The Journal News that many institutions are now run by people with modern attitudes about the effects of abuse and who are not afraid to confront painful issues that were once hushed up. That's the stand Green Meadow has taken.
"To heal something, you have to look at it square. You have to look at it openly and honestly," said Green Meadow co-administrator Eric Silber told staff writer Mareesa Nicosia. We can hope that other institutions will adopt a similar approach, to help victims heal and get justice. And we can craft legislation to ensure it.
Claims of child sex abuse handled more openly now
The forceful, full-body hugs from a former teacher that she didn't want and that lasted too long, Ann Hunkins said, started when she was 14 and a freshman at Green Meadow Waldorf School in Chestnut Ridge in 1980.
He'd appear as she sat at the bus stop or walked across campus and put his arm around her. Or he'd corner her in an alcove under a staircase, pinning her against his body in a long, awkward embrace as she struggled to get free, she said.
In her fear and confusion, the teen never notified authorities. She convinced her mother not to tell the school because she worried she wouldn't be believed.
At the time, other students and staff seemed to think the behavior was acceptable, Hunkins, 47, told The Journal News in an interview Tuesday.
"I wish I had heard somebody say, 'Oh, he's a real letch,' because then I would have just realized maybe this isn't something that should be happening, maybe my feeling that it's not OK is correct," she said.
Hunkins was motivated to open up about her past for the first time by Green Meadow's aggressive response when similar allegations implicating the same teacher were revealed this summer in a memoir by a former student, author Kate Christensen. Within weeks of the book's publication, the school identified the teacher, banned him from campus and launched an investigation — a sharp departure from how institutions usually handled allegations of sexual misconduct decades ago.
"To heal something, you have to look at it square. You have to look at it openly and honestly," said Green Meadow co-administrator Eric Silber. "I think we, as a school, can look at our past and learn from it and grow and make sure that this will never happen again."
Public awareness of sexual abuse — and how institutions deal with allegations — has fundamentally changed since the Catholic Church's crisis erupted in 2002. Since then, numerous religious and other groups have faced public accusations of abuse and have had to quickly decide how open to be about ugly episodes from the past.
Ongoing revelations about the abuse of minors, both from recent years and the distant past, have rocked the Boy Scouts of America, Pennsylvania State University, the Jehovah's Witnesses, several Catholic dioceses, the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in New York, the Horace Mann School in Riverdale in the Bronx, pockets of public schools and others.
The Waldorf School's decisive response to Christensen's memoir may represent changing social attitudes about sexual misconduct. Experts say that while there have been high-profile cases of organizations resisting change, many groups have revamped their thinking and policies regarding the seriousness of abuse.
"When I talk to people, the big question they ask is 'Are we responding quickly enough?'" said Patrick Boyle, the author of a book about sex abuse in the Boy Scouts. As spokesman for the Forum for Youth Investment in Washington, he talks to youth groups about their policies for investigating abuse.
Boyle said that many groups, including the Boy Scouts, generally respond to allegations much faster than a decade ago.
"The pendulum has swung on how these things are handled, largely because of the publicity and lawsuits," Boyle said. "Even though you have the Horace Mann case and the Orthodox Jewish groups, most larger groups are erring on the side of caution, to cover themselves. But you can't say that everyone within an organization responds the right way or that the problem is solved."
David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, said that many institutions are now run by people with modern attitudes about the effects of abuse who are not afraid to confront painful issues that were once hushed up.
"Having more women in leadership makes a difference, as they may be more sensitive in handling these episodes, supporting the victims and encouraging other people to come forward," he said.
Finkelhor noted that the outspoken scientist Richard Dawkins, who says he was abused by a priest when he was a boy, maintained in a recent interview that he wouldn't condemn "mild pedophilia" from earlier eras.
"Dawkins is 72 and that's an older-generation, male take on this whole thing," Finkelhor said. "We have more of an understanding today that a teacher, a mentor, needs a firm, clear-cut, rigid standard about what is permissible and that to take advantage of one's position will lead to pain and suffering for a lot of kids."
Marci Hamilton, a professor at Yeshiva University's Cardozo School of Law in Manhattan and one of the nation's foremost critics of how religious groups handle abuse, said many states are reforming their statutes of limitations to give victims new opportunities to sue abusers and the institutions that protected them. Minnesota and California passed legislation this year and New York is among several states where bills are pending.
"Change is happening, but also the pace of change is quickening," Hamilton said. "State legislators are more educated. The public is more knowledgeable."
Fresh scandals continue to revive the same issues in different communities. The Ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in New York, for instance, have received unprecedented scrutiny in recent years for covering up abuse and even harassing victims.
Many observers say that longtime Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes was defeated Tuesday, in part, because of his reluctant handling of abuse cases in Orthodox communities.
Shmarya Rosenberg, who tracks Orthodox news on his blog, Failed Messiah, said Ultra-Orthodox communities have not faced the need to confront sexual abuse.
"School administrations and Haredi community activists and leaders still cover up sexual and physical abuse — and they also persecute the victims and their families if those victims and families report the abuse to police," he said. "But as bad as this problem is, it is made far worse by district attorneys who are beholden to Haredi bloc votes."
Child sexual abuse via the Internet on the rise
Sexual abuse of children and adolescents can have serious health consequences for victims. Early studies have revealed that child sexual abuse is associated with an increased risk of later mental and physical health problems and risk-taking behavior. The Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine at the University of Zurich, the Psychosomatics and Psychiatry Department at Zurich's University Children's Hospital and the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at University Hospital Zurich discovered that sexual abuse is alarmingly widespread in a representative sample of more than 6,000 9th grade students in Switzerland.
Sexual harassment via the Internet is mentioned most frequently
Among the study participants, mainly between 15 and 17 years old, roughly 40 percent of girls and 17 percent of boys reported they had experienced at least one type of child sexual abuse. Relative to boys, sexual abuse without physical contact was reported twice as often in girls and sexual abuse with physical contact without penetration three times more often. Both genders reported “sexual harassment via the Internet” as the most frequent form of abuse. This form of sexual abuse was experienced by roughly 28 percent of girls over the course of their lifetimes and by almost 10 percent of boys. At just under 15 percent for girls versus 5 percent for boys, “molested verbally or by e-mail/text message” was the second most common form of abuse. Just under 12 percent of the surveyed girls and 4 percent of the surveyed boys reported having been kissed or touched against their will. Approximately 2.5 percent of the girls had already experienced sexual abuse with penetration (vaginal, oral, anal or other); among boys, this figure was 0.6 percent.
The results of the Zurich study are comparable to those of an earlier Swiss study which was conducted in Geneva between 1995 and 1996 in a similar age group asked similar questions. The prevalence of sexual abuse with physical contact is almost unchanged today. However, sexual abuse without physical contact occurs far more frequently. “We believe that this difference can be attributed to harassment via the Internet, e-mail, or text messaging. This type of sexual abuse was not surveyed back then”, explains Dr. Meichun Mohler-Kuo, senior research scientist at the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine at the University of Zurich.
The majority were victimized by juvenile perpetrators
Just over half of the female victims and more than 70 percent of the male victims reported that they had been abused by a juvenile perpetrator. Furthermore, most of the victims of sexual abuse with physical contact knew the perpetrator – for instance, they were partners, peers, or acquaintances. “This new trend towards the majority being juvenile perpetrators, and being peers and acquaintances, is in contrast to the Geneva study, and might indicate increased violent behavior among adolescents”, explains Dr. Ulrich Schnyder, Head of the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at University Hospital Zurich. And he adds: “Our results also differ considerably from official police reports, according to which perpetrators are usually adult, male relatives.” This would seem to indicate significant under-reporting of abuse to officials.
The majority did not disclose sexual abuse
Only about half of victimized girls and less than one-third of victimized boys disclosed their sexual abuse experiences. The disclosure rate is even lower with more severe forms of sexual abuse. Most victimswho do disclose, do so to their peers; less than 20 percent to their families. Fewer than 10 percent of victims reported the sexual abuse to police. “Compared to similar studies from other countries, the disclosure figures in the Swiss study are low. The reluctance in reporting incidents of this kind to family members or authorities makes timely intervention more difficult,” concludes Dr. Schnyder.
Pa. man's group aids sex trafficking victims
by Gary Weckselblatt
DOYLESTOWN — As Dan Emr sat in the Calvary Church listening to a young missionary couple talking about their efforts to help victims of the sex trafficking trade, he thought back to a question posed years earlier by his Upper Bucks Christian School history teacher.
“Had you been alive when slavery was legal, would you have done something to intervene?”
Emr's response back then: “Yes, I believe everyone deserves to be free.” Years later, sitting in church and hearing of the slave horrors taking place today, he chose to act “to do something bigger.”
The married father of two young children gave up his job two years ago to start Worthwhile Wear, an organization that rescues girls from forced prostitution and works to help them stop being victims.
The group targets highly trafficked areas, and offers victims the opportunity to overcome two primary factors at the root of sex trafficking: poverty and lack of education.
He said Worthwhile Wear creates vocational training centers where women rescued from the sex trade are taught to make things like jewelry, handbags and clothing, which are sold to benefit the women.
Using reverse engineering, Emr said, “we go beyond that, teaching them how to document, take pictures and do things they've never done.”
The women are offered a free education, a safe place to stay, and restorative programs geared toward encouraging personal growth and re-establishing their self-worth.
“Yes, I had a good job. I had my own office,” he said. “But when you hear about human trafficking, you either do something about it at some level or pretend you never heard about it. I couldn't shake it.”
Lauren Gozzard, a Perkasie neighbor of Dan and wife Stephanie Emr, was surprised when Dan gave up his job to start Worthwhile Wear. “We all thought, ‘Wow, you guys are crazy.' But it's been really neat to watch them grow with something very important and very meaningful.”
The United Nations crime-fighting office has said 2.4 million people are victims of human trafficking at any one time, and 80 percent of them are being exploited as sexual slaves, a $32-billion a year business.
Starting from nothing, Emr began his efforts in Asia where, he said, “this issue is the greatest and had the fewest barriers.” He travels to India twice a year, three weeks at a time,” said Stephanie Emr. “It's really hard on him, being away from the kids.”
However, Dan Emr said there's a growing need for Worthwhile Wear locally and he has obtained a 150-acre property to build a facility to help those who have been “exploited, misused and lied to.” He said Route 309 in Bucks and Montgomery counties offers “multiple locations” where women and girls are sold for sex.
Worthwhile Wear is working with the Bucks Coalition Against Trafficking, churches and other groups to help. The program is called “The Well.” It will provide long-term care and housing to women through partnerships with other local agencies.
“We have a program, the staffing and property,” Dan Emr said. “We just need the funding.”
He added that he finds it ironic that 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, slavery still exists in America.
“It's happening here in the land of the free and it happened under my nose and now what am I going to do about it,” he said. “Either you do something or make a decision you're going to move on with your life. I'm going to do something at some level to get involved. That's what our country is for.”
Labor, sex traffickers, modern slavery in Colorado
by Tom McGhee
The FBI's Rocky Mountain Innocence Lost Task Force rescued 59 teen prostitutes from flesh peddlers in Colorado 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.' "
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."
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, Lafferrandre 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."
Fighting human trafficking
It is encouraging that prosecutors, police, judges and social workers have human trafficking in Rhode Island on their radar screen. For too long, young women — and in some cases, mere girls and boys — have been exploited by pimps, used as virtual sex slaves to make money.
Some 400 people gathered this month at a conference at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet, hosted by Family Court Chief Judge Haiganush Bedrosian, to explore the problem. Clearly, the use of children for sex in Rhode Island is not merely a theoretical matter.
As Journal Staff Writer Amanda Milkovits noted, doctors, police officers and social workers see actual cases, as does the public: “Ads for escort services display naked adolescent bodies and bill them as ‘school girl,' ‘fresh,' and ‘new in town.'” The victims may be runaways from group homes, drug addicts or young people who have become too old for the child-welfare system.
We have seen the case of the hiring of a 14-year-old “dancer” by the so-called Cheaters Gentlemen's Club, in Providence — an outrageous act that earned a mere slap on the wrist from the licensing board under Chairman Andrew Annaldo. Since then, the city has begun to crack down on the rampant prostitution in Providence strip joints.
As the conference made clear, the exploitation taking place is hardly a victimless crime. Through violence and often drug addiction, children and young people are being subjected to vicious abuse that will scar them for life. Prostitution in Providence also contributes to wider criminal activity.
Fortunately, legislation courageously championed by former state Rep. Joanne Giannini (D-Providence) clamped down on human trafficking and indoor prostitution. It is crucial that this law be used to put a crimp in the activities of the worst offenders, the pimps and traffickers. To be sure, these are complicated cases, requiring cooperation between different jurisdictions, and often across state lines.
To their credit, police have been using the law in a sensitive manner, providing help for prostitute victims, including much-needed social services, and using information they provide to go after the serious predators.
We thank Judge Bedrosian for hosting this conference, and urge prosecutors to seek ways to protect children, in particular, from the ugliness that is taking place in our own communities.
Picking up the pieces after a rape
by AMY MAAS
Once justice has been served, it may still take time and years of help before rape victims can pull their lives together.
When a rapist is locked away it can open a door for a victim to move on. But when an Auckland woman's attacker was sent to spend his days in a cell, she was wrapped in guilt and had to learn how to pick up the pieces.
Jane*, 27, spent a gruelling two years reliving the horror of her rape through the justice system. After nine court dates during which she retold her story and was "ripped to pieces", her rapist was jailed for 11 years.
"I had some days where I didn't want to get out of bed because of the guilt that I had, that I had sent someone to jail for such a long period of time," Jane said.
"It's been over a year now [since he was sentenced] and I don't believe that I should feel guilty any more for sending him away. It was a matter of dealing with that and someone saying to me I shouldn't feel guilty because that is what the person deserves for what they've done to me."
Using free counselling services, Jane was able to pull her life back together because she was able to get the reassurance that her feelings weren't out of the ordinary.
"The counselling helped, but it was one of those things where I had to come to the decision [to not to feel guilty] by myself. So many people tell you what to feel but you have to process everything to get to that point yourself," she said.
Kathryn McPhillips, clinical manager and psychologist at Help, which provides support to sexual abuse survivors, said a victim's journey through counselling is an individual process.
"Most people reach for health and wellbeing. It's our internal drive, but some people get stuck and they need a bit of help so that's what we come in and provide. It's not about teaching people what to feel, it's about people wanting to have a good life and making those decisions themselves," she said.
There are three stages in counselling sexual assault victims. The first stage is to help people manage their symptoms.
"What you've got is a nervous system that's going awry because [victims] spent so much time being terrified that everything they feel is heightened. There will be a lot of fear," said McPhillips.
"So what we're doing in the first place is getting those hyper arousal levels down physiologically and helping people manage what is going on a bit better."
McPhillips said that it could take some survivors a few sessions or even a few years to gain back that control.
"You're then working through processing [the attack]; what it meant for them emotionally, what it means for them in their world and what they would like to be different," said McPhillips.
"Some people have their symptoms under control, but they're unhappy, sad and they find they can't reconnect into relationships any more or with friends."
When victims finally sees themselves as a survivor, counsellors help them reconnect with their community and family so that they can "fully reclaim their life again".
But the counselling process is not there to preach to survivors, instead it helps them come up with their own answers to the questions they have about their trauma.
"You can tell people to do stuff, but they might go and do it for the first two weeks - it doesn't stick unless it really comes from them and it's what they want," said McPhillips.
* Name changed to protect identity
HOW TO TREAT A RAPIST
by KIRSTY JOHNSTON
The hardest step in changing a rapist's behaviour can be getting them to comprehend what they have done to their victims.
"A lot of the time offenders don't understand," says the country's head prison psychologist, Nikki Reynolds. "But once they do understand the effect they have had they can go through a very difficult time."
Reynolds, the chief psychologist at the Department of Corrections, which runs three treatment programmes a year for adult sex offenders, says it is also extremely challenging for the men to reflect on themselves.
"The emphasis is on what led them to sexually offend and looking at their faulty behavioural and thinking patterns. " she says.
"One of the hardest parts is to talk about the difficult experiences that they themselves have had . . . it can be very painful."
A maximum of 30 men a year can attend the treatment programmes, which run in three centres across the country. The programmes were piloted in 2006, and, although it is too early to have an exact idea of how they have affected reoffending, Reynolds says early indications are good.
Where the general prison recidivism rate is 22 per cent, the Special Treatment Units (which combine figures for sex offenders and violent offenders) had a rate last year of 12.5 per cent.
"There are really good signs. We know we're getting results," she says.
To enter the nine-month programme, inmates must be high-risk, be aged over 20 and have offended against adults - child sex offenders are dealt with separately.
The treatment is both group and individually based. It has three stages, where offenders look at their background, their offending and then work on rehabilitation.
Psychologists also take offenders through offence mapping - which means looking at how they came to rape - to see if there is a pattern of sexual problems or deviancy, if they had a relationship breakdown or other issues such as drugs or alcohol.
Offenders are asked to examine the year prior to their offending and the 24 hours before the rape.
Lastly, the men look at what skills they need to ensure they do not offend again. This means learning empathy and communication, and developing safety skills so that they can recognise negative patterns of behaviour.
Amber Alert issued for 6-year-old Jacksonville girl
(Pictures on site)
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has issued an Amber Alert for a Duval County girl.
Six-year-old Onnika Fisher was last seen in the area of Dupont Station Court in Jacksonville.
She was wearing a pink jacket with white polka dot lining and blue jeans.
Investigators believe she may be with 39-year-old Charity Chatman.
Chatman is 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighs approximately 200 pounds.
They may be traveling in a 2000 dark green Buick Century with Ohio tag FPA 4958.
If you have any information, call the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office at (904) 630-0500 or 911.
Advocates Say Children Forced Into Prostitution 'Business As Usual'
by Phillip Martin
Of all the dimensions of human trafficking, the kidnapping of children for commercial sexual exploitation is considered the most heinous. In April, the US Attorney's Office in Boston wrapped up a five-year joint local and federal investigation into a notorious sex trafficking operation with the sentencing of the final defendant in the case. Advocates for child victims applauded investigators for breaking up the ring; however, they also insist that business as usual is going on in hotels, motels and inns throughout the region. They argue that much more must be done to curtail these operations.
Sitting in a park in Brookline as kids follow each other down a plastic slide, Audrey Porter explains how customer demand is fueling an insidious industry. She says, "Anywhere there's an adult sex industry there are always children in there. Always, always, always." Audrey Porter is a tall, light brown-skinned woman with closely cropped hair. She would like to see more arrests made of customers and pimps who target children. She is wearing sunglasses, but traces of anger can still be seen in her eyes when she talks about this dark subject. "The average age of entry is twelve to fifteen years old" She says, "No one can convince me a girl on her own said, 'I want to be a prostitute.' There's always somebody behind that child. Like anything, somebody has to teach you how to do it."
Audrey Porter knows. Now in her forties, she was a teenager when she was steered into prostitution in Boston, and stayed there for a while because of a drug habit developed on the job. "And if it were not for the drugs I probably would have lost my mind" Porter says, "I was under-age. Nobody asked for an ID. Once in a while the vice [police unit] might come in and do a little raid and ask girls for their IDs. But if we were inside and we didn't have an ID they just might say something like 'Get out and if you come back here I'm gonna lock you up!' It wasn't 'This could possibly be someone's child.'"
"Someone's child," like a young woman whom we will call Donna. As is the case for many people forced into the life, Donna was abused as a child and placed in foster care. When she returned home she often found herself on the streets, alone. In her neighborhood in New York, the streets were not the safest place to be at age sixteen. "I was kidnapped by an older guy who was on drugs, who was addicted to heroin" Donna says, "He used me as a trade-in for his addiction and that's how I was sold to a pimp. That's how I got into the life. I was sold for sex to older men."
A "pimp" is just another name for a domestic sex trafficker, says Audrey Porter. She explains how pimps have upgraded in the digital era to locate new victims, "Pimps can use the internet, they're recruiting girls from there. They're setting these girls up with websites, 'Let's put some make-up on you, some nice clothes, let's take some professional pictures.' The reason we never see our children is because they're on the internet and you have to go on Craigslist and all those places." These days, Audrey Porter is assistant director of Survivor Services for My Life, My Choice, a local organization assisting young women under 18 who have been coerced or forced into The Life. "What they do now is just place these girls in a hotel room, instead of where I come from on a street corner, and the johns will know where they are, and for the most part, they're not in sleazy hotels."
In fact, business travelers frequent some of these hotels. Police and civil rights workers say sex traffickers prefer overnight lodges off Route 1 because they easily allow guests to come and go, and are accessible to potential middle-class suburban customers. However, not everyone gets to stay in a hotel. "In Boston I either slept in the car in between dates or if I had met my quota for the night I was allowed to sleep in a hotel," Donna says, but she never knew exactly where she was. "I don't know the names because one rule is to not to look. It's called 'staying in pocket.'" Donna explains, "So we're not allowed to look at others, we're not allowed to look up at names of streets. It's strictly 'stay on this corner, go to this place to catch your date, and then come right back to this corner.'"
Bradley Myles has heard similar horror stories. He is the executive director of the Polaris Project, a Washington DC based anti-trafficking organization. He says that on-going public education is needed to explain the intricacies of domestic commercial sexual exploitation. Myles says, "There is a vast mosaic of all the different ways that types of sex trafficking really play out in the United States, ranging from residential brothels out of homes and hostess clubs to even escort services. You have whole networks of these commercial front massage parlors that are really masquerading as brothels. You have forms of domestic sex trafficking, violent US citizen pimps who are using extreme forms of control over adult women and children."
Pimps control young women through fear, intimidation, and violence. Donna was one such person who subjected to violent coercion. "I have a lot of physical scars," she says. "I have one on my arm, one on my leg. I was in and out of the hospitals a lot. Black eyes. Of course there were the johns who were abusive. My finger was almost cut off. There was a lot of abuse." Donna, now 26, has two children. She reconciled with her mother recently, and both are working to restore normalcy to a life that was shattered in the aftermath of her kidnapping ten years ago.
Donna says she can think back to moments when she had a chance to escape, including times when she was driven to the Boston area. "But," Donna explains, "the person who had actually sold me into the life knew where my family was and so there were always a lot of threats against my family and I believed those threats." For several reasons, few people whom Donna encountered during her ordeal believed her. Girls and boys forced into prostitution are instructed to lie about their ages and their names, to never tell the truth. When Donna finally did tell the truth, she says, "I felt that nobody was going to believe me, especially in the beginning because I didn't know what a pimp was. Who was going to believe that there was a pimp that has me locked in a room?"
Sunanda Nair does. Nair asserts, "Every time that people say, 'Oh, those are a bunch of prostitutes who got arrested,' you probably have to think about that a little bit more and think about it as, 'Are those women really doing that by choice?'" Nair is co-founder of a new anti-trafficking non-governmental organization called One Goal. Most recently she assisted a young victim of a notorious trafficker, Darryl Tavares. Tavares was recently convicted in Boston for trafficking of minors across state lines and physical assault of multiple girls all of whom were subpoenaed to testify by federal agents."
Tavares led a ring of men who abducted troubled black, Latino and white teenagers off Boston streets; sometimes literally stuffing them in vans and then forcing them into prostitution. To create fear, he carved the face of one young woman with a potato peeler, according to trial testimony. The trafficking ring also allegedly placed an ad in a Boston weekly newspaper targeting young women by promising jobs to those with "a desire to travel and see new places."
Nair's young client was yanked from the streets into a life not of her choosing. "She was trafficked out of Dorchester, downtown Boston, all the way to New York through a national ring. The case went on for years. This young woman was lucky enough to get an NGO behind her and an FBI agent who cared enough to really get involved and give her help, such as witness protection from the perpetrators."
Ted Merritt, an Assistant US Attorney for Massachsuetts, says the federal government is now investigating other human trafficking rings that are preying on the underaged, "because under the federal law, apart from the victimization of young people being a horrendous thing, you don't have to prove that it's done by force, fraud, or coercion. Under eighteen [years old], it's presumed those elements are there, so many of our cases, investigations, prosecutions have focused on the underage victims." And because, as Donna contends, "The police were completely unsympathetic."
Legislation is being considered in Massachusetts, which — among other objectives — would train law enforcement officials to work with child prostitution victims rather than against them. But that legislation has languished in a state Senate committee for years, even as the problem has worsened, according to the Polaris Project. This gives Massachusetts the dubious distinction of being one of five states that has failed to enact a comprehensive bill to stop human trafficking.
New NC laws aim to curb child abuse
by Molly Phipps
A missing 2-year-old that no one reported. A 27-week-old baby who died because her mother had been shot prior to the child's birth. A 4-year-old who was severely beaten by her stepfather, giving her permanent physical ailments.
With the passing of three new child abuse laws spurred on by these incidents, lawmakers hope more stories like theirs can be prevented.
Those incidents happened both out of state—in Florida—and in state—in Union County and Mebane. But other stories like theirs have happened closer to home.
Just recently in Charlotte, a pregnant 19-year-old was shot. And few in our area are strangers to the story of Erica Parsons, a Charlotte teen who has been missing for more than two years.
One of the laws that took effect this month is Caylee's Law . It makes not reporting a missing child within 24 hours a felony, whether you're a parent, guardian or not a relative at all.
“I totally agree with this new law. I think it's our duty as neighbors, as community members, as agency officials and as individuals to make sure that if we suspect that a child is missing, that we report it to the authorities, and also the possible whereabouts of children,” said Karen Ellis, Cleveland County Department of Social Services director.
Ellis said it's important for people to be willing to speak up, because it can make the difference in determining if a child remains alive or unharmed.
Another law, called Lily's Law , ensures a murder charge for anyone who knowingly and maliciously inflicts injury to an unborn child who is born alive, but later dies as a result of that action.
Ellis mentioned the 19-year-old who was shot early Wednesday morning in Charlotte. Though it is not known whether the child survived or how far along the pregnancy was, Ellis said more and more of those kinds of stories are happening.
“In actuality, they're taking the life of a child who did not have the opportunity to thrive and live, and there should be definite consequences for that,” she said.
Even if a child doesn't die as a result of abuse, Ellis said felony child abuse deserves stiff penalties.
Kilah's Law raises the maximum jail time for those charged with felony child abuse to 33 years, and creates a minimum 10-year sentence for those convicted. That law, Ellis hopes, will serve as a deterrent to more instances of child abuse.
“It's terrible for any child to lose their life or to be injured by an adult. There needs to be serious consequences for those who have chosen to abuse a child,” she said. “I would hope that it would be a deterrent to anyone who thinks about abusing a child.”
Again noting the disappearance of Parsons, Ellis stressed the importance of reporting missing children, or any concerns people might have about children, before something happens.
“I would just encourage people to always talk to law enforcement and to social services if they have a concern,” she said. “Because it can make the difference in a child being harmed or killed.”
- Came from the case of Caylee Anthony, a missing 2-year-old from Florida
- Makes it a felony for a parent or guardian (or someone unrelated to the child) to not report a missing child within 24 hours
- Increases penalties for hiding a child's death or providing misleading information to police in a missing child case
- Came from the case of Danna Fitzgerald, a woman shot by her estranged husband while 27 weeks pregnant with her daughter, Lillian
- Mandates a murder charge if an infant, who is born alive, dies as a result of injuries sustained while in the womb
- Anyone knowingly and maliciously inflicting injury to an unborn child who is born alive, but later dies as a result of that action, can be charged with first or second degree murder
- Came from the case of 4-year-old Kilah Davenport, who was beaten severely by her stepfather five years ago and left with permanent physical conditions afterward
- Raises the maximum jail time for those charged with felony child abuse to 33 years
- Creates a minimum 10-year sentence for felony child abuse convictions
Child abuse in Cleveland County
Number of accepted DSS Child Protective Service Reports:
2013: 998 *
* partial year, as of October
Source: Cleveland County Department of Social Services -- cases include neglect, abuse and homelessness
Number of children in custody in DSS:
2013: 236 *
* partial year
Source: Cleveland County Department of Social Services
Children served by the Abuse Prevention Council
* partial year
Source: Cleveland County Abuse Prevention Council
What to do when you suspect child abuse
by News Staff
The news reports are as shocking as they are relentless:
An Army sergeant in Maryland charged with 1st-degree child abuse, accused of starving, beating and burning her 4-year-old stepdaughter.
A North Carolina Child Protective Services supervisor and her husband, a nurse, arrested after their 11-year-old foster son is found handcuffed to a porch railing with a dead chicken tied around his neck.
Three malnourished sisters in Arizona, ages 12, 13 and 17, kept locked in their bedrooms for up to two years. Neighbors reported they sometimes heard children's voices at the house at night, but never saw anyone during the day.
“These are just a few of the most recent stories you'll find about child abuse around the country,” says Rayne Golay, a mental health counselor, children's advocate, and award-winning author of a newly published novel, ‘The Wooden Chair,' which she hopes will prompt witnesses to speak up about suspected abuse and neglect.
“These cases remind us that child abusers can look like upstanding members of society. They can be your very nice neighbor, a trusted professional, the guy at the grocery store.”
In the case of the Army sergeant, Golay notes that an observant schoolteacher spoke up about her concerns, which led to the arrest of the child's stepmother. The three sisters in Arizona, however, were not discovered until the two youngest girls escaped after their stepfather kicked in their bedroom door and threatened them with a knife.
“Neighbors said they'd heard children at night, but never saw them,” Golay says. “Wouldn't you call that suspicious?”
She offers these suggestions for recognizing and reporting suspected child abuse.
• Don't be afraid to be wrong. You don't need to have hard evidence or proof of child abuse or neglect to report your concerns. If you're wrong, social workers and investigators will soon discover that and close the case. It might be uncomfortable for the alleged abuser and he or she may get angry. But you can report anonymously, and it's far better to risk someone taking offense or social workers finding no evidence of abuse than for a child to suffer because no one speaks up.
• Actions often speak volumes. Does a young child cringe, raise an arm defensively or try to hide when her mother turns to her? These behaviors can be the reflexive response of a child who's frequently hit. Do you know a child who has become withdrawn, had a persistent loss of appetite, or started doing poorly in school? Changes in behavior may signal a variety of emotional problems, including abuse and neglect. What about witnessing an adult lose their patience with a child at a store or other public place in a manner that seems over-the-top? If it appears to be an emergency, call 911, Golay says. Otherwise, try to defuse the situation. “You might smile at the parent and say something like, ‘It can be so hard to bring kids shopping. I remember it well.' Scolding or criticizing will only make the situation worse, but attention and understanding words may calm the person.”
• How to report your concerns? If you want to talk to a professional crisis counselor before making a report, call Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline, 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). While counselors cannot file a report for you, they can answer your questions, provide information about resources, and discuss the situation that has drawn your concern. The hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. To report abuse, each state has a toll-free number; find the list at tinyurl.com/ReportChildAbuse. If you witness a situation that requires an immediate law enforcement response, call 911.
“Whatever you do,” says Golay, “do something.”
“We're all very aware of child abuse and neglect, but still, most people continue to hang back and say or do nothing when they have concerns,” she says. “This is not acceptable. We all have a duty to keep our children safe.”
About the Author: Rayne E. Golay is a certified drug and alcohol counselor whose work with addicts informs her understanding and insights into the consequences of child abuse. She has a Master's in Psychology and is a lifelong reader and writer. The Wooden Chair , published in 2013 by Untreed Reads, won the Royal Palm Literary Award for mainstream literature in the 2005 Florida Writers Association's competition. She hopes that this story inspires witnesses to speak up for children whom they suspect are suffering from any form of abuse and/or neglect.
Military sex assault reports jump by 50 percent
by Lolita C. Baldor
WASHINGTON — The number of reported sexual assaults across the military shot up by more than 50 percent this year, an increase that defense officials say may suggest that victims are becoming more willing to come forward after a tumultuous year of scandals that shined a spotlight on the crimes and put pressure on the military to take aggressive action.
A string of high-profile assaults and arrests triggered outrage in Congress and set off months of debate over how to change the military justice system, while military leaders launched a series of new programs intended to beef up accountability and encourage victims to come forward.
According to early data obtained by The Associated Press, there were more than 5,000 reports of sexual assault filed during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, compared to the 3,374 in 2012. Of those 2013 reports, about 10 percent involved incidents that occurred before the victim got into the military, up from just 4 percent only a year ago. That increase, officials said, suggests that confidence in the system is growing and that victims are more willing to come forward.
Asked about the preliminary data, defense officials were cautious in their conclusions. But they said surveys, focus groups and repeated meetings with service members throughout the year suggest that the number of actual incidents — from unwanted sexual contact and harassment to violent assaults — has remained largely steady.
“Given the multiple data points, we assess that this is more reporting,” said Col. Alan R. Metzler, deputy director of the Pentagon's sexual assault prevention and response office. He also noted that more victims are agreeing to make official complaints, rather than simply seeking medical care without filing formal accusations.
The military has long struggled to get victims to report sexual harassment and assault in a stern military culture that emphasizes rank, loyalty and toughness. Too often, victims have complained that they were afraid to report assaults to ranking officers, or that their initial complaints were rebuffed or ignored.
As a result, the crime has been vastly underreported —- a fact that became evident when officials announced earlier this year that an anonymous survey had revealed that about 26,000 service members reported some type of unwanted sexual contact or sexual assault.
According to the latest numbers, the increase in reports across the services ranges from a low of about 45 percent for the Air Force to a high of 86 percent for the Marines, the smallest service. The Navy had an increase of 46 percent and the Army, by far the largest military service, had a 50 percent jump.
Jill Loftus, director of the Navy's sexual assault program, which also includes the Marine Corps, said the increase in reporting also suggests that more service members are starting to understand what types of behavior constitute harassment or assault.
She said that based on Navy surveys, “we are not seeing a perception that the number of incidents are going up.”
“More likely, we have people who understand what sexual assault is,” she said. And, she said, officials are hearing that more people are comfortable coming forward.
Meanwhile, a myriad of sexual assault arrests and scandals, including an Air Force commander's decision to dismiss sex assault charges against another officer who had been convicted of multiple offenses, got the attention of Congress. And it all led to a series of often emotional public hearings in which victims described their experiences.
As Congress debated changes in the military's justice system, the Pentagon and the services instituted new training programs that targeted rank-and-file service members as well as top commanders and officers.
Several of the new programs were aimed at encouraging service members to be more vigilant, and to look out for each other and intercede if they saw a bad situation developing. There also were moves to restrict alcohol sales, since drinking has long been associated with sexual assault and harassment.
By year's end, after lengthy negotiations between Capitol Hill and the Pentagon, lawmakers passed legislation that beefs up legal rights for victims and strips military commanders of their ability to overturn jury convictions. It also requires a civilian review if a commander declines to prosecute a case and requires that any individual convicted of sexual assault face a dishonorable discharge or dismissal.
Defense officials beat back efforts to more drastically revamp the military justice system that would take authority away from commanders and allow victims of rape and sexual assault to go outside the chain of command for prosecutions.
Still, military leaders acknowledge a lot of work remains to be done.
Metzler said the goal for this year is to continue efforts to increase reporting while also working more directly to reduce the survey number of 26,000 sexual harassment and assault victims.
Already, the military services are exchanging information on prevention programs that seem to be working.
Air Force officials, for example, visited a Navy pilot program at Naval Station Great Lakes in Illinois that worked with local hotels and bars to try to crack down on drinking by sailors from the naval station there. In the program, sailors are being taught to intervene when they see mates in trouble or engaging in bad behavior.
Loftus said the goal this year will be to improve the training so that sailors will actually have to act out scenarios in order to help them figure out when it's best to intervene and to ensure they have some type of plan before jumping into a situation.
Other programs that are being used more broadly include moves to cut hours of alcohol sales and the use of roving patrols of service members looking out for troops in trouble. She also said that some commanders are making their courts martial more public, publicizing the punishments for crimes, including sexual assault, and even holding cases on their parade fields, where all can watch.
“We're still not where we want things to be,” said Metzler. “But we think all of this is having an effect.”
Healing After Abuse
by Daylle Deanna Schwartz
Sadly, there are many victims of abuse. And even if it stops, they're is still victims unless they find a way to heal, which can be hard. Many of my clients who come to me for help in learning to love themselves or to feel empowered are unable to do it because of their memories of abuse. It's hard to love yourself if the pan is still there. As Self-Love Month approaches, bringing with it a new year, it's important to heal old wounds. Amrita Maat is my guest today. She's a nurse, child abuse survivor, and author of the inspirational new book, Wearing a Mask Called Normal.
Amrita reached the turning point in life when she was injured while trying to avoid the advances of a physician who had sexually harassed her for years. For the first time, she stood up to an abuser by taking the man to court. But she had waited too long under the statutes, so she did not get her day of justice. Because of the nature of her memoir, Amrita Maat is a pseudonym. Today she explains why forgiveness is the foundation of healing.
For Victims of Abuse, Forgiveness is the Foundation of Healing
6 Steps for Releasing Pain, Forgiving Yourself and Others
by Amrita Maat
From child abuse and domestic violence to human sex trafficking and atrocities against civilians in war-torn countries, our world creates new victims daily. Broken bones and bruises heal, but for many victims, the emotional damage is lifelong and life altering. Experiencing abuse can affect how you feel about yourself and how you respond to other people. These effects might be easy to see if you're observing them in someone else, but they can be nearly impossible to recognize in yourself without help.
The emotional and physical abuse I grew up with set the stage for me to become a perpetual victim as an adult. The choices I made and my interactions with others were often unwittingly self-destructive.
Lifestyle changes that involve healthy choices include eliminating dysfunctional patterns, such as manipulation and abusive behavior – the things children of abusive parents learn from their role models. A healthy lifestyle comes first through recognizing unhealthy behaviors and then laying the groundwork for positive change.
For me, that groundwork began with forgiveness.
You have to forgive yourself and you have to forgive those who've hurt you. When you're a victim, you're often angry – because you have every right to be angry. But anger, focusing on blame and thinking of yourself as a victim only perpetuates the dysfunction and the pain it brings.
So, how does one begin to forgive oneself and others? These are the steps I put together, which helped me learn how to identify what would move me forward on a healing path. I started by creating a list of the people and circumstances I needed to forgive and systematically worked through the process:
1. Identify the people who have caused you pain and why you feel that pain. This validates your pain; it was real and deserves to be acknowledged.
2. Identify the pain you feel from others and consciously release it to the universe in a personal ritual that has meaning for you . You might write it down on a piece of paper and burn it. Or speak the words out loud and blow them away.
3. Allow yourself to forgive those who have caused you pain as a means to your physical, emotional and spiritual healing.
4. Identify the people you have caused pain and recognize why you caused them pain . It's important to acknowledge that you, too, are capable of causing pain in order to forgive yourself and those you've hurt.
5. Identify the pain you have caused others with your actions.
6. A llow yourself forgiveness for the pain you have caused others as a means to your physical, emotional and spiritual healing.
While forgiving others for hurt caused intentionally is difficult, the hardest is forgiving yourself for pain you caused. But this is vital; in order to forgive others and to open yourself to positive energy, you must forgive yourself.
From every hurtful moment, I learned something, and part of my process is to acknowledge each lesson and to be grateful for it. Forgiveness was possible when I released the hurt because it no longer served a purpose.
PTSD Therapy Helps Sexually Abused Adolescent Girls
by Jessica Berman
So-called “prolonged exposure therapy” is considered the foundation of treatment for soldiers returning from battle with post-traumatic stress disorder. But its effectiveness had never been tried in another group of patients suffering from trauma - adolescent girls who were sexually abused. Now a new study of the therapy finds it's better than supportive counseling in helping these young people.
In prolonged exposure therapy - or PET - patients repeatedly revisit and recount aloud the feelings and thoughts that are haunting them until these emotional memories no longer prompt a response. The desensitizing approach is commonly used to treat veterans who are traumatized by their wartime experiences.
Post-traumatic stress disorder, however, is not limited to soldiers. Its symptoms also are seen in adolescent girls following child sexual abuse or rape. Edna Foa, a clinical psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, said these young women usually receive supportive counseling, which only tends to help sexual abuse victims in the immediate term.
“It kind of reduces the pain in the short run; but in the long run, it actually maintains the symptoms and actually generates chronic post-traumatic stress disorder,” said Foa.
She said teenage girls receiving supportive counseling tend to avoid situations that remind them of their abuse; but Foa, who developed prolonged exposure therapy for PTSD, believes that method can offer the girls a more lasting cure, because it gives them the necessary coping skills to face memories of their assaults.
Foa and her colleagues tailored the PET program to fit the emotional maturity level of adolescents, and compared it to supportive counseling in a group of five dozen sexually abused girls, ages 13 to 18, who suffered from PTSD.
Over a six-year period, each teen received 14 sessions of either the modified PET or supportive counseling. The sessions were about 60 to 90 minutes in length.
During treatment, Foa said adolescents who received prolonged exposure therapy saw a greater decline in PTSD symptoms, depression and a greater improvement in overall functioning compared to those in the supportive care group.
“Most of the girls who received prolonged exposure actually lost the diagnosis of PTSD and really did very well even a year after, because we followed them for up to a year after the treatment.”
Foa said counselors in community mental health centers, where most young sexual abuse victims are seen, can be trained in prolonged exposure therapy in as little as four days.
An article on the therapy's benefits in female adolescents traumatized by sex abuse is published in The Journal of the American Medical Association. An editorial that accompanied the report noted that many therapists are reluctant to try the treatment with children because of concerns that it might worsen symptoms, but that the study should raise awareness of the benefits.
Philadelphia priest to be released from prison after appeals court reversal
by Steve Almasy
The first Roman Catholic priest in the United States imprisoned for covering up the crimes of offending priests was ordered to be released Thursday after an appeals court reversed his conviction.
Monsignor William Lynn has been in prison since he was convicted in July 2012. He was convicted of one count of child endangerment and sentenced to three to six years.
Attorney Thomas Bergstrom said Lynn could be released as soon as Friday, depending on paperwork.
Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said his office likely will appeal the ruling.
"I am disappointed and strongly disagree with the court's decision," he said.
Lynn's conviction was for not removing a defrocked priest, Edward Avery, from active ministry in the 1990s after learning Avery had molested a teen.
According to philly.com, Lynn's attorneys convinced the three-judge Superior Court panel that the laws at the time only applied to people who directly supervised children.
The founder of Opus Bono Sacerdotii, a Detroit organization that provides assistance to accused priests, told philly.com the ruling will make prosecutors "reflect on who is really accountable for the damage that may have been done to victims of sexual abuse."
Marci Hamilton, a lawyer for alleged victims suing Lynn and the Philadelphia archdiocese, called the decision a "very technical reading of the law," the website reported.
Lynn, now 62, made no statement Thursday, but after he was convicted 18 months ago he said: "I've tried to serve God as best I could. My best was not good enough."
The landmark trial marked the first time U.S. prosecutors had charged not just the priests who allegedly committed abuses, but also church leaders for failing to stop them.
Days before the trial began in March 2012, Avery pleaded guilty to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and conspiracy to endanger the welfare of a child after admitting that he sexually assaulted the 10-year-old altar boy during the 1998-99 school year. Avery, 71, was sentenced to 2½ to five years. He remains in prison.
Rape, Strangle, Kill, Jerrod Metsker Calls 911 to Report Missing Girl, 9
by Alex Durig
The rape, strangulation and murder happened in Smithville, Ohio on Saturday, Dec. 14. Nine-year-old Reann Murphy was reported missing from the trailer park where she lived with her mother in a 911 call. Today, Jerrod Metsker, 24, was arraigned in court and pleaded not guilty. Jerrod is accused of the rape, strangulation and killing, and then dumping Reann Murphy's body in the trash. Jerrod Metsker is also the same person who made the original 911 call.
Jerrod Metsker was the last person to be seen with Reann Murphy. They were building a snow man. Metsker is variously described as mentally challenged and mentally deficient. In fact, he was commonly seen to be playing with the children in the trailer park as if he was one of them.
That fateful Saturday afternoon, Reann's mother was at work. Reann was being watched over by her mother's boyfriend at the trailer park where they lived in Wayne County, 30 miles southwest of Akron.
Metsker was known to make tents using blankets when he was playing with the neighborhood children. He was playing with Reann that Saturday. Metsker and the neighborhood children went out to play in the snow. One by one, the children left for home. Finally, Reann was the only child left playing with Metsker.
In fact, later that same day, on the evening after she had disappeared Metsker called 911 and dutifully reported Reann as missing. The search was on late into Saturday night.
Then, in the early morning hours of Sunday, Dec. 15, around 1:35 a.m., Reann's body was retrieved from a trailer park trash dumpster.
Later that day, the afternoon of Sunday, Dec. 15, Metsker was arrested and charged. At the time of Reann's discovery, police said they had no idea whether she had been sexually assaulted. However, that changed.
The following Friday, Dec. 20, Metsker was indicted on two counts of aggravated murder, three counts of kidnapping and two counts of rape. The judge in the Wayne County Prosecutor's office ordered that Metsker be held in jail on a $1 million bond.
This morning, Thursday, Dec. 26, Metsker pleaded not guilty in a video arraignment to rape, strangulation, and murder charges. However, there is no denying that he called 911 to report the missing nine-year-old girl.
The 911 Call
The 5½-minute call to 911 had originally begun with a caller saying they were looking for a missing girl on Akron Road, at the trailer park in Smithville, Ohio.
The 911 operator probed for details.
Metsker: “Could you send a unit out?”
The dispatcher inquired for whom.
“A little girl, Reann,” answered the caller.
The 911 operator probed for more details.
When asked for his name, Metsker said: “My name is Jerrod. I had a knock at my door and … ”
“What's your last name, Jerrod?”
Reann's father, Richard Murphy, Jr., a resident of Creston, had joined the neighborhood search that Saturday. He was supposed to have had Reann for visitation that weekend. After seven hours, he watched as they pulled Reann's body out of the trash. Jerrod Metsker had previously been described as a family acquaintance.
Prosecutors say Metsker could now be facing the death penalty. Online commentary unanimously condemns Metsker for calling 911 to report the-nine-year-old girl missing after allegedly singlehandedly executing the rape, strangulation, murder and subsequent dumping in the trash, of Reann's body.
New collaborative offers hope for abused, neglected children
For some children in our community, the holidays are not a time for joy — it's a time for fear.
For those children, a new collaborative offers hope for the future.
At a news conference Dec. 19, a group of community organizations officially unveiled the Child Abuse and Neglect Collaborative, under the auspices of the Community Partnership of the Ozarks.
The group has been working quietly for the past year, laying the groundwork for a comprehensive initiative to fight the scourge of child abuse and neglect in our community.
Don't close your eyes!
In 2012, almost 5,800 children in Greene County were reported to have been abused or neglected. Of the reports, 466 cases were substantiated, or 7.98 per 1,000 — compared to a state average of 4.44 per 1,000 children.
Darrell Moore, former Greene County prosecutor and chairman of the collaborative, said the group knows it cannot end abuse overnight.
But the first step is to recognize the depth of the problem — and acknowledge that in this community “there is passive acceptance of it — maybe even active acceptance of it.”
The group hopes to seize on community awareness stemming largely from the News-Leader's Every Child project, and will partner with the Every Child Promise, which is putting together a long-term plan to address overall issues involving children in our community. The Promise will unveil its 10-year plan in January, and one of its key objectives is to “assure safe and secure environments” for children.
The collaborative set six priorities, with a set of actions outlined to address each one. Included are overall goals to:
• Prevent abuse and neglect.
• Improve the child welfare system in Greene County.
• Be certain all abused children are reported to the system.
• Improve training for child protection professionals.
• Increase public understanding.
• Involve faith-based organizations in preventing and responding to abuse and neglect.
Coupled with the broader Every Child Promise, this collaborative puts Greene County on a path to confronting this dirty secret. By bringing it into the light, we can take steps to reduce — and even prevent — child abuse and neglect.
Scottishs justice ‘failing child sex victims'
by SCOTT MACNAB
Scotland's justice system is failing to bring enough child sexual abuse cases to court, MSPs have warned, with too many prosecutions being abandoned before reaching a jury.
Doubts over the reliability of witnesses means only a “small minority” of cases are coming before a judge, according to the cross-party group on adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse at Holyrood.
It said juries should have the opportunity to determine for themselves how reliable evidence is after hearing from victims.
But the claim has been rejected by prosecution chiefs, who insist cases always go to court when there is enough evidence.
The Jimmy Savile scandal and harrowing claims of historic abuse at the Fort Augustus Abbey boarding school in the Highlands have thrust the issue into the public spotlight in the past year.
The MSPs, along with other expert members of the group, have voiced concerns over controversial Scottish Government plans to ditch the ancient principle of corroboration in Scots law, which requires evidence to come from two separate sources.
They instead call for it to be reformed and more “circumstantial” evidence to be used as a second source, allowing a more “flexible” approach to cases which are taken to trial.
“We would also like to see the Crown put far more cases of child sexual abuse before juries to let them judge the integrity of victims – adults or children – for themselves, rather than deciding that only a small minority of cases should come to court,” the cross-party group states in a submission to Holyrood's justice committee.
Child witnesses are already heard in many other cases involving serious crime, the group says, and special measures can be used to protect them in the witness box like a screen, video link or even a supporter, after recent changes in the law.
“If child witnesses are properly supported and wish to go ahead they should be allowed to,” the MSP-led group adds.
“In our view the Crown should therefore allow more cases to proceed to court allowing the judge/sheriff and jury to become more protagonist in determining the strength or weakness of particular evidential information.
“This is a risky strategy, of course, but we think that, where the basic considerations for corroboration exist, then the court should be the place to determine. This is far more in the public interest than ‘no-proving' cases where corroboration clearly exists but is not perhaps strong enough for a sure-fire conviction.”
The group is led by Conservative Margaret Mitchell and includes influential Nationalist backbencher Kenneth Gibson, Holyrood deputy presiding officer Elaine Smith and Liberal Democrat justice spokeswoman Alison McInnes.
It also includes experts from a range of bodies like Children 1st, Barnardo's, Stop It Now and the Kingdom Abuse Survivor's Project.
But a spokesman for the Crown Office, which prosecutes criminal cases in Scotland, rejected claims that it isn't doing enough.
“It is incorrect to suggest that the Crown takes only a small minority of cases to court,” he said.
“On the contrary, the Crown takes proceedings where there is sufficient admissible evidence.
“The prosecution of sexual offences can be complex and challenging, and this can be made more so by the operation of the current requirement for corroboration.”
Crimes often take place in private without any witnesses present and when cases are historic – including some committed decades earlier – it usually means there is no forensic evidence left to collect.
But specialist prosecutors already identify corroborative evidence from a “wide variety of sources” which is presented in court as evidence, the spokesman added.
“We support the Scottish Governments plans to abolish the requirement for corroboration which represents as a barrier to justice for a number of victims of sexual and domestic abuse crime.”
Students to get alert about sex trafficking
by LESLIE BRODY
The New Jersey Office of the Attorney General will sponsor assemblies statewide next month to warn students about the dangers of human trafficking during the weeks surrounding Super Bowl XLVIII.
Law enforcement officials in Indianapolis and New Orleans, the two most recent Super Bowl hosts, told New Jersey authorities to expect a rise in prostitution and the recruitment of teenage boys and girls into the sex trade due to the massive crowds visiting for the game, which will take place on Feb. 2 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford.
"Schools should be alert to this phenomenon and educate their students of this danger," a letter from the Attorney General's Office warned all school superintendents this month.
The attorney general and the state's Human Trafficking Task Force are offering the "Say Something Assembly" program on Jan. 31 for Grades 6-12 at nine sites, including Bergen Community College in Paramus.
The partners staging the 3-D, interactive assemblies say they have addressed more than 100,000 American teenagers since 2010 to help students spot signs of "modern-day slavery" and alert authorities to prevent it.
They say traffickers may target minors through social media, telephone chat lines and after-school programs, and at shopping malls and bus depots.
"Say Something Assemblies are designed to be culturally relevant and sensitive," the partners' website says, noting that no inappropriate material is involved.
"It is our hope that each student leaves the assembly feeling compelled to say something about this horrific tragedy facing America and the world."
The Bergen site can hold 300 students per hourlong assembly, with middle school events at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., and a high school version at 1 p.m.
Spain grapples with human trafficking
An estimated 12,000 victims earn criminal gangs about $6m per day, according to police.
by Ines Benitez
Malaga, Spain - María came to Spain from Paraguay to work as a housekeeper in a hotel. But it was a false job promise, and she ended up in a nightclub, where she was forced to work as a prostitute.
One night she told a client the truth. Moved by her story, he started hiring her services day after day until he managed to find her a job somewhere else - and married her in the end.
It may sound like the plot of a movie with a happy ending, but it is a real case that happened recently, and was told to IPS by Felicia Carmen Marecos, a social worker with the general consulate of Paraguay in the southern Spanish city of Málaga.
It is just one of many stories of women who were trying to flee poverty and fell prey to human trafficking networks.
Most victims of trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation in Spain come from Brazil, China, Nigeria, Paraguay and Romania, according to the police, who estimate the number of victims in the country at 12,000 and the earnings of the sex trafficking rings in Spain at 5mn euros ($6mn) a day.
María (not her real name) came to the country encouraged by her sister, who was already living in Madrid and was in on the scheme.
Women forced into prostitution tend to be drawn in with the help of family members, friends or acquaintances.
The young woman dared to speak out and file a complaint. But most victims do not do so "because they are coerced from their countries of origin," Helena Maleno, an expert in migration and human trafficking with Colectivo Caminando Fronteras, an NGO that defends migrant rights, said.
Victims under threat
Many of the victims do not speak Spanish and are under threat, in debt, and unaware that help is available. They are also undocumented immigrants, and are afraid to go to the police.
Besides, "they don't tend to recognise that they are victims," said Paula Mandillo, a social worker with Mujer Emancipada, an association in Málaga that helped over one hundred women, mainly from Nigeria and Romania, in 2012.
The first European Commission report on human trafficking in Europe, published by Eurostat in April 2013, put the number of victims between 2008 and 2010 at 23,632, with the number growing by 18 percent over the three-year period. Of that total, 15 percent were children and adolescents.
In 62 percent of the cases, the victims – mainly women – were trafficked for sexual exploitation, while 25 percent were trafficked for forced labour, and 14 percent were victims of other kinds of trafficking, such as organ removal.
In 2010, Spain had the second-highest number of victims of human trafficking in the European Union, after Italy, according to the study.
The organisations making up the Spanish Network Against Human Trafficking are calling for a comprehensive law against the crime, which would penalise trafficking in all its forms and not only sexual exploitation.
They are also demanding a human rights focus, arguing that an approach based on crime prevention, law enforcement and control of migration currently predominates.
One example of this was the case of an undocumented immigrant who was arrested and deported when she reported to the police in a coastal town in the province of Málaga that she had been raped, IPS was told by sources with the Guardia Civil immigrant support team ( EDATI) in this southern Spanish province.
And a 24-year-old Romanian woman, who was fined by the police several times for working as a prostitute on the streets of Barcelona, committed suicide on September 23. Only then was it discovered that since 2000 she had been a victim of a trafficking ring that sexually exploited some 200 women, and that the pimp was her own husband.
"To raise society's awareness about what is happening, it has to be made clear that trafficking is not prostitution or irregular immigration, but that there are undocumented immigrants and people who are sexually exploited who are victims of trafficking," Maleno said.
If the authorities in Spain find signs that an undocumented immigrant is a victim of trafficking, they must inform her that she has a 30-day grace period, when deportation procedures are suspended.
During that period, she receives advice and support from specialist organisations, and decides whether to report the crime and work with the police and judicial authorities in the investigation.
If she cooperates, she is eligible for a residency permit, under a 2009 reform of the law on aliens.
"It's a problem for the prosecution of the crime to be based on whether or not the victim files a formal complaint. Even if they don't report the crime, their human rights must be protected," and that means not deporting them to their countries of origin, where their lives may be in danger, Maleno said.
Many Nigerian women who fall prey to trafficking networks have made a hazardous journey, involving walking across part of the Sahara desert, often pregnant or with children, to Morocco, where they take 'pateras' - small, flimsy boats used to traffic immigrants from North Africa - to the Spanish coast.
"The 30-day grace period is very short compared to what they have gone through," said Maleno. In countries like Norway the period is six months, and NGOs participate in identifying victims, the Colectivo Caminando Fronteras activist pointed out.
Human trafficking was not classified as a crime in Spain's penal code until December 2010. It is now punishable by sentences of five to 10 years in prison.
In the four cases that since then have resulted in firm convictions, 10 perpetrators were found guilty, Marta González, who heads Proyecto Esperanza of the Congregación de Religiosas Adoratrices, an order of Catholic nuns, told IPS.
According to Maleno, there is "an extremely big problem" in Spain involving victims of trafficking for sexual purposes from Romania, because they are legal immigrants, since Romania is an EU member.
For that reason, "they don't enter into the circuit of protection established by the protocol against trafficking," she said, adding that another problem is how frequently they are moved around the country and Europe as a whole.
The sex trafficking rings often use babies, whether to help women from sub-Saharan Africa get into Spain or to coerce them into forced prostitution, she said.
Until this year, when pateras landed on the coast, the authorities did not identify the babies. But now they have started to take their fingerprints, and are increasingly carrying out DNA tests on women and children at border posts, to verify that they are related, Maleno said.
In September, the government granted asylum for the first time to a woman who was a victim of a sexual exploitation network - a Nigerian mother of a three-year-old girl, who arrived by patera in late 2010 and decided to report and fight against the trafficking ring.
Pilsen nonprofit helps Latina women, families
by Gregory Pratt
There were problems at home: domestic violence, emotional abuse between the mother and father. By the time the mother reached out to Mujeres Latinas en Accion, the issues had intensified, not only for her but for her 12-year-old daughter.
At Mujeres, a nonprofit that serves Latina women in the Pilsen neighborhood, it's not unusual for abused mothers seeking support to try to find solace for their children.
"A lot of times, they don't come in just thinking about themselves," said Estela Melgoza, the domestic violence program director for the organization. "They're thinking, 'How can I keep myself and my whole family safe?'"
The 12-year-old had become isolated. She kept to herself and spent a lot of time in her room, the mother recalled in an interview. She didn't want to talk with anyone. She was sad.
"I felt like it was my fault, that the reason they had problems was because of me," the daughter said. The Tribune is not naming the mother or her daughter because of safety concerns. Two years after beginning children's therapy at Mujeres, she said she has grown to value herself more and cope with problems.
"I feel more confident," she said. "I know to express myself." Now 14, the girl is in the process of applying to high schools and thinks about possible careers in architecture or medicine.
Mujeres Latinas en Accion offers numerous domestic violence services, including individual and group therapy for adult survivors of domestic violence. The children's therapy program at Mujeres is one of many projects that receive financial support from Chicago Tribune Charities, a McCormick Foundation fund.
Three years ago, the nonprofit began offering children's therapy for kids ages 5 to 12, with sessions divided between 5- to 8-year-olds and 9- to 12-year-olds. Since starting the children's program, Mujeres has helped 175 youths, according to the agency.
"The curriculum is very specific to Latino children," Melgoza said. "It has (a) cultural component, and that's integrated within all the sessions."
Witnessing or experiencing domestic violence can have a significant impact on children, Melgoza said, not least of which is the possibility that they will abuse their partner in the future.
"This is learned behavior," she said. One of the therapy program's goals is to help participants break the cycle. The group wants to intervene "early on," she added, before violent behavior becomes ingrained.
Mujeres also works to develop coping skills in the therapy sessions, teaching alternative ways of dealing with difficult situations and helping participants learn to process feelings so they don't let them out in unhealthy ways, like aggression, which is common among boys, Melgoza said.
For families enrolled in the program, success can range from leaving an abusive relationship to eliminating a child's exposure to constant fighting or developing a safety plan, said Melgoza and Maria Pesqueira, the group's CEO and president.
Mujeres was founded in 1973 by a group of community women who "saw the need for bilingual and culturally relevant services," Pesqueira said. Over the years, the organization has grown to offer services in the areas of crisis intervention, domestic violence, sexual assault, homelessness prevention and leadership training.
"Advocacy's at the core of the work that we do," Pesqueira said.
To this day, the organization maintains community ties and its leaders are members of the community.
Pesqueira said it's not possible to measure violence prevention, but "it's the awareness of what that is that helps," she said. "I really believe that we are moving toward a less violent community."
For more information about agencies supported by Chicago Tribune Charities or to make a donation, go to chicagotribune.com/giving .
TEXAN OF THE YEAR 2013
A Texan (or Texans) who has had uncommon impact – either positive or negative – over the past year.
TODAY'S FINALIST: LAUREN KAVANAUGH
Lauren Kavanaugh's life story is not for the squeamish. It's one of betrayal by those who should have loved and protected her, of serial torture and years of imprisonment. When rescued from the stinking little closet where she was locked away, Lauren looked “like one of those kids out of a horror movie,” said the first police officer to the scene.
But if there is a survivor who epitomizes courageous determination to recover, it's Lauren, known as the girl in the closet.
Despite being caged in the dark for six years, starved and abused by her mother and stepfather, she has been clawing her way into adulthood. By opening up to Dallas Morning News reporter Scott Farwell, who chronicled her saga in a riveting series of articles, Lauren offers inspiration to us all. She knew the series would explore intimate and painful details, but she agreed so she could “try to prevent it from happening to someone else.”
For that courage and spirit, Lauren is one of this newspaper's finalists for 2013 Dallas Morning News Texan of the Year.
When rescued from her abusive mother and father-in-law in 2001 at age 8, Lauren was the size of a typical 2-year-old, and her development lagged years behind her peers.
“If you had asked me then, I would have told you there was very little future and hope for this youngster,” recalled Barbara Rila, a Dallas psychologist who visited Lauren in the hospital after she was rescued. “I'd never seen a child who was so very broken physically and emotionally.”
This year, as a young woman of 20, Lauren's taking classes at Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, and for the first time in years, is off medication for depression and bipolar disorder.
Her mother, Barbara Atkinson, gave her up at birth to adoptive loving parents, then did an about-face and waged a court battle to get her back. That began years of unspeakable cruelty. And there was the sexual abuse involving Lauren's stepfather, Kenneth Atkinson, who once referred to her as “the ghost child.”
Then the system failed her. Child Protective Services workers failed to dig into signs of abuse. Some family members knew the truth but did nothing to stop it. Finally, the secret ended when Kenneth Atkinson showed a neighbor the starving little girl who lived on soiled scraps of carpet in the closet.
Lauren was freed, the Atkinsons sent to prison and Sabrina Kavanaugh, her adoptive mom, became Lauren's caregiver again. Therapists like Lindsey Jones and Sondra Mahoney selflessly threw themselves into Lauren's recovery and her struggle to fit into a world she barely understood.
Each day she beats odds that would have tagged her as a person who would never be complete psychologically, emotionally or academically.
“Today she's ready to embrace her past,” said Jones, a therapist who has treated her for six years. “She's not embarrassed about it or ashamed about it anymore.
“She's like, ‘This happened to me, but I'm still here. I survived and I'm thriving.'”
Freehold council raises voice against human trafficking
FREEHOLD — The Borough Council is asking residents to recognize Human Trafficking Awareness Day on Jan. 11.
Joan Odud and Carol Cohen, who are members of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), attended the council's Dec. 16 meeting in Freehold Borough to thank the members of the governing body for their support in raising awareness of human trafficking.
The AAUW is focusing its efforts on dealing with the issue.
A proclamation issued by the council states that Jan. 11, 2014, and every year thereafter, will be designated as Human Trafficking Awareness Day in Freehold Borough for the purpose of raising awareness about the signs and consequences of human trafficking, to promote opposition to human trafficking in all of its forms, and to encourage support for the survivors of human trafficking throughout the state and across the world to put an end to this criminal activity and restore freedom and dignity to its survivors.
According to the proclamation, “human trafficking is a borderless crime against individuals that violates the most basic human rights and deprives victims of every shred of personal freedom. It occurs when a person is recruited, harbored, obtained or exported through force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of sexual or labor exploitation, involuntary servitude and other types of mental and physical abuse.”
The proclamation states that human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world today and is tied with arms smuggling as the second largest international criminal industry, falling only behind the illicit drug trade.
The proclamation cites statistics from the United Nations International Labor Organization which has estimated that “at least 12.3 million adults and children worldwide are currently in forced labor, bonded labor, or forced prostitution; it is estimated that more people are now harmed by human trafficking worldwide than have been at any other point in history; approximately 80 percent of victims are women and girls and 50 percent are younger than 18.”
The council members acknowledged that New Jersey is a prime location for human trafficking because it is a major national and international transportation corridor and a culturally diverse state. The council members commended the work of the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking for its efforts to end human trafficking through educational advocacy and assistance to survivors.
The Manalapan Township Committee presented a similar proclamation regarding the issue of human trafficking to representatives of the AAUW at its meeting on Dec. 11. The Marlboro Township Council did the same at its meeting on Dec. 19.
Panel: Tennessee improved child abuse investigations
by Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — An expert panel tasked with reviewing the Tennessee Department of Children's Services found that the state has taken steps in the past year to improve state investigations into severe child abuse.
The Second Look Commission, which reviews cases of children abused more than once, said in its annual report that DCS has been responsive to suggestions for protecting kids.
Commission Director Craig Hargrow told the Associated Press the department is doing a good job of changing mindsets, cultures and practices.
"I'm cautiously optimistic about the changes that have been made and the outlook for children and families in Tennessee," Hargrow said.
Yet the commission has recently learned that more Tennessee children have been victims of repeat abuse than previously thought.
Hargrow now believes that about 600 children undergo a second or subsequent abuse each year. That's double the number DCS provided to Hargrow's commission some years.
The expert panel, made up of legislators, judges, doctors, lawyers, police and advocates, faced discontinuation this year but was extended by lawmakers into 2017.
DCS wants the commission's oversight and has reforms in motion that match its recommendations, said Scott Modell, DCS deputy commissioner of child safety. Some were in the works, and some were launched in response to the recommendations.
"Those (children) we have had contact with in the past, you're always questioning, 'What could we or should we have done differently?' "
Modell said DCS has a new training academy and expanded its case reviews to gather information and make changes to how abuse and neglect cases are handled. He said changing the culture among caseworkers could take time but that a push is on for improving child safety.
When DCS works with families suspected of abuse or neglect, caseworkers are writing insufficient summaries that can jeopardize child safety as officials decide whether the children should remain in their homes, the commission found again this year.
And case notes are being entered into the state's computer system too slowly, often past the state's own deadline for typing reports.
"The biggest finding of the commission, I think, is documentation, documentation, documentation," Hargrow said. "When those (records) aren't timely entered, if another DCS worker wants to check the status of the case, if the information is not there, that can have a huge impact on decisions."
Modell agreed. He said portable tablets are being given to caseworkers so they can work in the field. He said their case files must be more thorough.
"We no longer, ever, want to be the reason a case is not taken to trial," he said. "We no longer want to have parents committing crimes against their children and going unpunished."
Arizona CPS update: Latest report shows 3,104 child abuse cases assigned
by Associated Press
PHOENIX - A new team assigned to review more than 6,500 child abuse and neglect reports that weren't investigated by Arizona child welfare officials says they've now assigned more than 3,100 of those cases to investigators.
The so-called CARE team named nearly three weeks ago by Gov. Jan Brewer provided the latest update Tuesday.
It said more than 1,500 children identified in the reports now have been seen and more than 1,300 cases have had a response.
The team is led by the head of the state's Juvenile Corrections department, Charles Flanagan.
Department of Economic Security Director Clarence Carter revealed the uninvestigated reports called into a hotline Nov. 21.
He's placed five senior Child Protective Services workers on administrative leave while an investigation is underway on how the cases were illegally closed.
Lisa Deputie: Passionate about preventing child abuse
by Mary Turck
Born and raised in Chicago, Lisa Deputie moved to Minnesota in the 1990s. She works as a parent mentor in the Child Protection Clinic at William Mitchell College of Law, and with Prevent Child Abuse-Minnesota.
Lisa said she appreciated the opportunity to learn about different cultures and communities from other members of the Media Skills Fellowship cohort.
The fall cohort of Media Skills Fellows, funded by the Bush Foundation, completed ten weeks of intensive learning on November 14, with the ripple effects already spreading out into various Twin Cities communities. The fellowship program focused on improving media skills with the specific goal of using these skills for better communication in/about/on behalf of each participant's community. This article is one of several articles introducing the fall cohort of Media Skills Fellows and what they learned and accomplished.
She also learned a lot about writing. "I learned that writing is not as easy as I thought," she said. "I've gotten some tips on the correct way of putting together an article or writing. I care because it helps with communication and the work that I do working with people and building relationships, that's a skill that I really need, and this class has helped me to enhance that.."
Lisa plans to use her new social media skills to contribute to the work that she does in mentoring parents and with Prevent Child Abuse-Minnesota.
"With my organization," she said, "they were trying to find out what they can do.
PCAM is statewide, but a lot of people don't know about PCAM ouside the metro. They were trying to find social media that might help people get to know them statewide. I was telling them about the Facebook. They want to enhance their Facebook."
‘No Secrets' is part of Morris County woman's war against child abuse
by RENATA MAGALHAES
For Morris County resident Rose Morrisroe, her mission is clear – she's waging war against child abuse in America.
After years of advocacy work and hosting rallies, Morrisroe founded the non-profit organization Soldiers Against Child Abuse (SACA) to form an "army" of volunteers to tackle the task of educating and empowering children, of any age, to protect themselves against abuse.
"I came up with the name Soldiers Against Child Abuse because I wanted to reflect the kind of determination a soldier has when going into war," Morrisroe said. "That's how seriously I take waging the war against child abuse in America."
Soldiers Against Child Abuse highlights cases like that of little Nixzmary Brown, the 7-year-old Brooklyn girl who was beaten to death by her stepfather in 2006, to bring to light the fact that very often, children are abused at the hands of the people who are supposed to love and care for them.
"Ninety percent of the time that a child is abused, he or she knows the abuser," said Morrisroe.
Part Morrisroe's battle plan includes a book she has written and self-published, "No Secrets Between Us" – a sort of how-to guide for parents or guardians and children. A book signing was recently hosted at Mara's Café and Bakery in Denville.
As a teacher with a master's degree in education (K-8), Morrisroe applies the skills she uses in classroom to help someone navigate the complex issue of child abuse.
"I took great pains to make sure that my book would not frighten even the younger children," she explained. "I have personally test-piloted the book by reading it aloud to my classroom of first graders. I made sure that my book is in alignment with the Common Core Curriculum I wrote for use in elementary schools."
Morrisroe said that "between the research and writing it took me a year to create my book." Her preparation included studying evidence-based research conducted by various experts in the fields of child psychology, elementary education, and social work.
"With my book, I provide a step-by-step instruction guide on how to introduce the topic of conversation [abuse] prior to reading the book to your child. Once a child has read ‘No Secrets Between Us' he or she will understand what a private part is and that it should never be touched. And if an unfortunate situation should occur, the child will have the confidence and knowledge to tell the right person about the abuse," Morrisroe said.
"No Secrets Between Us" has also been Morrisroe's way of dealing with her own experience of abuse as a child.
"I was 4 years young when a trusted family member molested me, and it's been a burden for me to carry around," she said. "I kept it a secret for years. I tried advocacy work to lesson the burden that I was carrying around in my heart. [But] in reality, the only way I could liberate myself was by telling ‘the secret.'"
She hopes that "No Secrets Between Us" becomes an educational and child-friendly resource – something she wishes she had when she needed help.
"I feel I would have been better prepared to handle the situation, and I would have known where to turn," she said.
Morrisroe has also developed the "Rose Morrisroe Curriculum" which she said has already been adopted by several school systems in New Jersey (extended up to the fifth grade).
"I believe that both teachers and school counselors should teach child-abuse awareness. Teachers are the first line of defense for their students," she said. "We educate our children on anti-bullying, character development, proper hygiene and yet this country is in dire need of expanded child-abuse awareness education. We can no longer ignore America's silenced epidemic."
The point Morrisroe tries to make through her work is that children need to be their own advocates.
For her, services like the Department of Children and Families are more geared towards adults to report the abuse, she said. "My book … is created to help children report it themselves. What child knows the number to DCF?"
Before earning her master's, Morrisroe conducted rallies every April in New York for Child Abuse Awareness Month to educate the public about child abuse.
She still speaks at seminars throughout the U.S., to provide parents and educators the strategies to protect and empower their children and the community. The seminars, Morrisroe said, are a forum in which everyone can ask questions and share their experiences.
The one tip Morrisroe offers adults is simple: "Look around for someone who is paying too much attention to your child, more than normal. Child sexual abuse is a calculated crime where the abuser takes great lengths to earn the trust of both child and parent. Know what ‘grooming' is, and, if your child is afraid of someone that they are left with or hints about abuse, listen and believe your child," she said.
Morrisroe hopes for the future are that all school districts in all 50 states adopt and implement the Rose Morrisroe Child Safety Elementary Curriculum, along with "No Secrets Between Us."
"I am also working on a college course with the endorsement of Michael Reagan, President [Ronald] Reagan's son," she said. Reagan, himself, was sexually molested at the age of 8 by a camp counselor, as detailed in Nancy Reagan's 1989 memoirs.
And Soldiers Against Child Abuse is always looking for new soldiers, Morrisroe said. "No big-time commitment is needed." To join or to donate, visit soldiersagainstchildabuse.org.
To purchase "No Secrets Between Us," or to book a seminar with Morrisroe and learn more about her mission, visit nosecretsbetweenus.com
Flat Stanley Now Helping Kids Stay Safe Online
by Dr. Phyllis Schneck, Deputy Under Secretary for Cybersecurity, National Protection and Programs Directorate
The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Stop.Think.Connect. campaign is joining the Flat Stanley Project to help kids learn about the importance of cybersecurity. By downloading and using the Flat Stanley App, kids will be able to create their own “Flat Stanley” or “Flat Stella” character and send it on a tour of the Internet to learn about staying safe online and helping spread the word about cybersecurity.
The Flat Stanley App can be useful for kids, parents and teachers to start a discussion about online safety, particularly during the holiday break from school when many children will be using computers, tablets or smart phones.
With kids spending more time than ever before on the Internet and social media, the partnership with the Flat Stanley Project allows DHS to further its efforts to raise cybersecurity awareness among young Americans.
Here are a few simple tips for kids will find on the app to help them remember to stay safe online:
Be careful about what information you share online and always ask an adult first
Don't talk to strangers online and never agree to meet in person. Tell a parent or another adult you trust if a stranger contacts you in a chat room or through email or text message
Avoid sharing your passwords with anyone other than your parents
Don't open emails or download attachments from strangers
Keep your personal information private; if something seems too good to be true, then it probably is
Treat others online like you want to be treated
For more information about how to access the Flat Stanly App visit www.flatstanley.com. To learn about what DHS is doing to keep kids safe online and for other cybersecurity tips, please visit http://www.dhs.gov/stopthinkconnect.
Safe Nest Helps Woman Escape Abusive Relationship
by Kirsten Joyce
LAS VEGAS - A near-death experience convinced Bernadette to seek an escape from the abusive relationship she endured for 24 years.
"I needed some kind of counseling and assistance after my abuser tried to kill me twice in one night," she said.
Bernadette says that abuse came at the hands of her ex husband - a former police officer who became abusive and strangled her. He was convicted of attempted murder.
She found the help she needed at Safe Nest.
"The encouragement and the understanding and support of these people here made me realize it's okay, that I didn't need to stay in that situation, that I would prevail, and I did," she said.
Safe Nest has been helping women, teens and children in southern Nevada for more than 35 years. An estimated 50,000 individuals in domestic violence situations benefit from Safe Nest's free services each year.
Learn More About Safe Nest
The charity specializes in counseling, shelter, advocacy and prevention.
"We also offer batterers intervention for individuals who do have domestic violence issues and want to make that change," said Safe Nest spokesperson Lisa Lynn Chapman.
Chapman says domestic violence doesn't just affect adults like Bernadette.
"We are starting to see a big increase in adolescent relationship violence. We are getting into the outreach, working with kids and doing preventative work. It is something we would love to be able to do with more funds," she said.
As southern Nevada residents look to make charitable donations before the end of the year, Safe Nest representatives hope they consider donating to the shelter. That donation could help save the life of people like Bernadette.
"My life is great. I'm no longer a victim. I'm a survivor," she said.
Safe Nest representatives say a $25 donation pays for one session of counseling. A $300-$500 donation enables a family of three to stay one night at the shelter.
Sexual Assault Center of East Tennessee and Helen Ross McNabb Center merging
KNOXVILLE — Sexual Assault Center of East Tennessee (SACET) and the Helen Ross McNabb Center will be merging on Jan. 1, 2014.
SACET was founded in 1973 as the Knoxville Rape Crisis Center and remains one of two comprehensive, community sexual assault agencies in the state of Tennessee; serving 15 counties. The mission of the SACET is to provide excellent and compassionate services for victims and survivors of sexual assault and to empower communities through education and social change. SACET has four program areas, which include forensic nursing, advocacy, therapy and prevention education.
"The Sexual Assault Center of East Tennessee has a proud history serving and partnering with the East Tennessee community and is excited to bolster its quality services under the strong leadership of the Helen Ross McNabb Center,” says Nathan Goodner, Board President for SACET. This merger will provide long-term sustainability for the mission of the Sexual Assault Center of East Tennessee, consolidate costs for the community, and will help streamline services and partnerships in East Tennessee."
The Helen Ross McNabb Center provides crisis services for individuals experiencing domestic violence, substance abuse and/or psychiatric crises, and also provides emergency shelter for individuals in crisis situations. “Sexual Assault Center of East Tennessee's services align well with the Helen Ross McNabb Center's current crisis continuum of care,” says Leann Human-Hilliard, HRMC Vice President of Clinical Services. “Merging operations will enhance crisis services in our community and strengthen our response to individuals who have been sexually assaulted and affected by trauma.”
SACET will be recognized as a service of the Helen Ross McNabb Center. The ultimate goal of the merger is to increase and strengthen services for individuals and families during crisis situations and to seamlessly connect those individuals to quality support and after care services.
The Helen Ross McNabb Center is a premier not - for - profit provider of behavioral health services in East Tennessee. Since 1948, the Center has provided quality and compassionate care to children, adults and families experiencing mental illness, addiction and social challenges. As the Center begins its 65th year of providing services to communities in East Tennessee, its mission remains clear and simple; “Improving the lives of the people we serve.” For more information, visit www.mcnabbcenter.org or call 865 - 637 - 9711.
Former Prosecutor: Mo. Lawmakers Must Focus on Child Abuse
ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - A former prosecutor has a Christmas wish: for Missouri lawmakers to expedite solutions to child abuse and neglect the way they did the Boeing incentive package.
Darrell Moore was the Greene County prosecutor for 26 years. He is now the chairman of the Child Abuse and Neglect Collaborative in the Ozarks.
Moore readily admits the state needs the jobs which might come with the Boeing 777X project but he says the state won't attract any major employer if issues like child abuse aren't resolved.
“Those are all critical and they're all tied together if we're going to have a state that continues to grow over the next 50 years in terms of having healthy, productive children grow up to be responsible citizens in the state,” he says.
Moore says one problem which can be solved quickly is the turnover in the Children's Division of the Missouri Department of Social Services. He says the agency is understaffed and underpaid and lawmakers can do something about that when they meet again in January.
“We've had an ongoing problem with child abuse and neglect in particular, it's not a new issue,” Moore says. “It would be nice if the legislature would focus the same level of attention, immediate attention, to this issue as they did to Boeing because the reality is these children are our future workforce.”
Ganging up on child abuse with teddy bear hugs
by Julianne Murrah
For many people conjuring thoughts in their heads of a standard motorcycle gang, the images are most-likely not those of love, support, compassion, protection and teddy bear hugs — but Guardians of the Children is no regular gang.
In fact, they're not a gang or club at all. The 501 c3 non-profit organization devotes its time and care to victims of child abuse. Their mission: to recognize and react to child abuse, educate the public to do the same, serve as advocates, provide strength and stability to families in crisis and to be the answer to the prayer of an abused child or teen for courage, support and protection.
The organization spans across 11 states, with 12 chapters in Texas. The idea for the organization started in 2006 in San Antonio with an actual motorcycle club called Bikers Against Child Abuse. The club quickly drew in many riders, which became a problem because some of these riders weren't screened, trained or given a chance to earn a position of trust. It was then that Guardians of the Children formed as a legitimate organization that gives background checks before even considering a rider, followed by a year's probation under the watch of GOC riders.
The GOC Falls Town Chapter serves the North Texas area, including Young County.
“We can reach out to other areas that most people can't,” said GOC Falls Town Chapter member Jason Lavender of Burkburnett, whose road name is Yeti.
That road name is just about accurate, as he stands an eye-widening seven feet tall. Yeti is practically a living, breathing wall covered in a thick leather biker jacket and possessing an enormous love for children.
“Most riders have been involved either directly or indirectly with child abuse. It happens everywhere,” he said.
The GOC takes child abuse victims in as members of their own family.
They work with advocacy centers all over North Texas, including those in Wichita Falls, and even Graham's own Virginia's House.
GOC Falls Town Chapter member Jeremy Howard (whose road name is Shrek) and his wife, GOC child liaison and member Teresa Howard (Fiona), agree that GOC's whole purpose is to take care of children. In fact, Shrek and Fiona were on hand to support the victim of the Charles Edward Pair case in Young County.
Here's how it works: once a legitimate case or court trial has been opened for a victim of child abuse, the victim's parents or guardians and organizations who work with the victims may contact GOC. GOC then rallies fellow chapter riders and even those in other chapters across the state for an “adoption” of the victim at a set date. Then, parents and victims wait on GOC riders to meet them, usually at a park or an open area. At the request of the parents, GOC riders will refrain from wearing anything that may remind the victim of their perpetrator — ball caps, sunglasses and other items.
Kentucky cabinet penalized $756,000 for 'willfully circumventing' child-abuse open records ruling, judge says
by Mike Wynn
FRANKFORT, KY. — The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services must pay a $756,000 penalty after it “willfully circumvented” open-records laws by failing to fully release records on child abuse fatalities and near deaths, according to a scathing court order issued Monday.
Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd said the cabinet made a “mockery” of Kentucky's Open Records Act by maintaining that documents — including dozens already in the public domain, such as reports that contain the identities of convicted child abusers — remain confidential.
His 56-page ruling orders the cabinet to pay statutory penalties and produce information it has withheld, arguing that the cabinet has demonstrated an unwillingness to comply with the law without “significant” court sanctions. The plaintiffs — The Courier-Journal and Lexington Herald-Leader — are also allowed to seek attorney fees.
The files are subject to open records law “to ensure both the cabinet and the public do everything possible to prevent the repeat of such tragedies in the future,” Shepherd wrote. “There can be no effective prevention when there is no public examination of the underlying facts.”
For nearly three years, The Courier-Journal and Herald-Leader have battled to obtain cases files in which children who were being monitored by the state died or nearly died from abuse or neglect.
The Courier-Journal requested the records to examine how state social services workers were handling those cases in the wake of reports that showed roughly 30 Kentucky children die each year of abuse and neglect, ranking the state among the highest in the nation in its rate of deaths.
Courier-Journal lawyer Jon Fleischaker called Monday's order a “tremendous victory” and predicted that the combined attorney fees for both newspapers will exceed $200,000. He said the damages will likely be divided between the two newspapers.
“I have never seen a case that more warrants penalties,” Fleischaker said. “Hopefully this will send a message to both the cabinet and government in general ... that the open-records law means what it says.”
Gov. Steve Beshear's office deferred all comment to the cabinet, which acknowledged receipt of the order but also refused comment. The cabinet has the right to appeal after the court enters a final judgment, which is expected in January.
While cabinet officials have turned over more than 20,000 documents related to scores of child deaths in Kentucky, they redacted details such as the names of perpetrators — even those convicted in open court or identified in police news releases. The cabinet also adopted emergency rules in an attempt to evade orders to disclose child abuse information, Shepherd said.
The cabinet has argued that it was following state and federal laws by protecting confidentiality in such cases.
But Shepherd said the cabinet clearly viewed the open-records law as “an obstacle to be circumvented, rather than a law mandating compliance” and argued that the redaction policy has continued a “veil of secrecy” in abuse cases.
He cited the case of a prematurely born Louisville infant, Rafe Calvert, who was found dead on an adult-sized pillow in his bassinet in 2010.
The cabinet originally ruled his death to be a result of medical neglect by his parents, who had missed numerous medical appointments and stopped using supplemental oxygen for the baby without a doctor's authorization. But 3½ years later, the cabinet reclassified Rafe's fatality as something other than medical neglect.
The judge also cited the case of Amy Dye, a 9-year-old Western Kentucky girl fatally bludgeoned in her adoptive home after state social service officials ignored a series of abuse complaints from school officials.
Making sad sense of child abuse
When a man in Israel was accused of sexually abusing his young daughter, it was hard for many people to believe—a neighbor reported seeing the girl sitting and drinking hot chocolate with her father every morning, laughing, smiling and looking relaxed. Such cases are not exceptional, however. Children react to sexual and physical abuse in unpredictable ways, making it hard to discern the clues.
Now Dr. Carmit Katz of Tel Aviv University's Bob Shapell School of Social Work has found that when parents are physically abusive, children tend to accommodate it. But when the abuse is sexual, they tend to fight or flee it unless it is severe. The findings, published in Child Abuse & Neglect , help explain children's behavior in response to abuse and could aid in intervention and treatment.
"All the cases of alleged physical abuse in the study involved parents, while we had very few cases of alleged parental sexual abuse," said Dr. Katz. "More than the type of abuse, it may be that children feel they have no choice but to endure abuse by their parents, who they depend on for love and support."
About 3.5 million cases of child abuse are reported in the United States every year. Similarly alarming situations exist in many other countries. Abused children often suffer from emotional and behavioral problems, which can later develop into sexual dysfunction, anxiety, promiscuity, vulnerability to repeated victimization, depression, and substance abuse.
Israel is not immune. In 2011, trained Israeli authorities interviewed more than 15,000 children following complaints of abuse. Previous research showed that half of children do not disclose anything in interviews, even when there is evidence of abuse.
Dr. Katz analyzed a random sample of 224 of the interviews in which children provided allegations. Roughly half the cases in the study involved allegations of multiple incidents of physical abuse by parents, while the other half involved allegations of sexual abuse.
Dr. Katz found that the children responded to the abuse in two general ways. In physical abuse cases, the children tended to be accommodating—they accepted and tried to minimize the severity of the abuse. On the other hand, children reporting sexual abuse tended to fight back. But when the alleged sexual abuse was severe, the children tended to act like physical abuse victims, accommodating the abuser. Older children, they found, were more likely to fight than younger ones. But surprisingly, the frequency of the abuse, familiarity with the abuser, and the child's gender did not significantly affect how the children responded.
Accepting the unacceptable
Dr. Katz says the study teaches an important lesson when it comes to parental physical abuse. Just because children do not fight or flee their parents does not mean they are not being abused. Children need their parents to survive, and in some cases, parents love, care for, and support their children when they are not abusing them. Under these impossible circumstances, children often feel their best option is accommodation. In one interview in the study, a child said, "Daddy was yelling on me because I didn't do my homework, so I told him I am sorry you are right and brought him his belt." There were many similar examples.
The study may underreport children who accommodate sexual abuse by their parents, Dr. Katz says. Out of the 107 interviews in which children provided allegations of sexual abuse, only six involved a parent. Most of the cases of sexual abuse in the study were severe, and children tended to respond by accommodating their abusers. Previous research showed that children who accommodate their abusers are more likely to harbor feelings of guilt or shame, which may deter them from providing allegations. Accommodation, then, may actually be the dominant response to both types of parental abuse.
The findings help make sense of the testimonies of children in abuse cases. This could help prosecute abusers and provide better intervention and treatment to abused children. Dr. Katz would like to see future studies dealing with children's encounters with clinicians following abuse and how cultural factors affect children's responses to abuse.
Mom of toddler thrown from NYC building says she was 'nervous' about visits with father
The heartbroken mother whose husband tossed their 3-year-old son to his death from an Upper West Side high-rise said Monday that she had been “nervous” about the boy's visits with his dad — and that he killed the child just to spite her.
“At first, I opposed the visits and only wanted them to be supervised,'' said Svetlana Kanarikov, 32, whose husband, Dmitriy, 35, of Brooklyn threw their son, Kirill, off the South Park Tower before leaping to his own death on Sunday.
“But after a Dec. 5 court appearance in Brooklyn, we agreed to follow the New Jersey temporary [custody] order and do alternate visits with a handover at the police precinct. I also volunteered that the father would speak to Kirill on Skype every day.
“I was nervous about the visits, but the father never did anything violent against the child” on two previous unsupervised get-togethers Dec. 8 and Dec. 15, she said in a statement released by lawyer, Alla Roytberg.
“Both times, Kirill was happy after seeing his dad. Skype calls were also going well.”
Then, on Wednesday, “the judge granted my motion and ordered temporary custody and child support,'' the mom said.
“The father said he wanted custody and would make a motion [for it].
“When we first separated, Dmitriy told me that he would leave me alone only if I left him everything we had together,'' she recalled. “Money and assets were most important to him.
“Otherwise, he said, he would take the child away and I will ‘shoot myself from grief.' ”
A law-enforcement source said that at one point, Dmitriy said he would also hurt their son, warning her, “If I can't have him, then you can't.''
Man throws 3-year-old son, himself off 52-story Manhattan building roof
NEW YORK – A man involved in a custody dispute who was supposed to turn his 3-year-old son over to the boy's mother Sunday instead threw the child off the roof of a 52-story Manhattan apartment building before jumping to his death, police said.
Officers responding to an emergency call reporting two jumpers from the building on the Upper West Side around noon Sunday found Dmitriy Kanarikov, 35, of Brooklyn, and the boy on the lower rooftops of two separate nearby buildings.
The man was pronounced dead at the scene and his son, Kirill Kanarikov, was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital, police said.
The boy's mother had custody of the child and the father, who had visiting rights, was supposed to hand the boy over to the mother at a police precinct Sunday afternoon, authorities said.
Luis Ortiz told the New York Post that he was at the hospital when paramedics rushed the boy there and that they were pumping his chest and working on him.
"You could tell he was slipping away. They said the father was up there, but they didn't bring anyone else in. It was just heartbreaking. I have two kids of my own. They tried to do the best they could," Ortiz told the newspaper.
Authorities said the father did not live in the building listed as South Park Tower, which is a short distance away from Columbus Circle and Lincoln Center.
Police investigating the deaths left the building in the mid-afternoon to photograph a gray Lexus RX350 parked nearby.
It's the second time this year that a parent and child have been involved in a fatal plunge from a New York apartment building.
In March, a woman clutching her baby son in her arms plunged eight stories out of a Harlem apartment window to her death, but the 10-month-old survived. Authorities found a suicide note in her home.
U.S. child abuse, neglect down for sixth year
WASHINGTON (UPI) -- The number of U.S. child abuse and neglect victims dropped for the sixth consecutive year in 2012, Department of Health and Human Services officials said.
A report by the department's Administration for Children and Families estimated there were 686,000 cases of child abuse or neglect across the country in 2012, down from approximately 723,000 reported abuse in 2007.
"The overall reduction in abuse and neglect is encouraging, but there are still significant areas for improvement,"Mark Greenberg, acting assistant secretary for Children and Families, said in a statement. "The growth in reported child fatalities could be attributable to improved reporting."
Several states cited improvements to their child abuse reporting system, such as implementing or expanding alternative response programs and introducing a centralized intake system, the report said.
However, as the number of child abuse victims decreased, the number of fatalities attributable to child abuse and neglect appeared to have increased from 1,580 in 2011 to 1,640 in 2012, the report said.
Researchers are working to determine whether this is a real increase in child fatalities or result of improvements in how states investigate and report child fatalities improved, Greenberg said.
The report described the characteristics of families linked to child maltreatment:
-- 80.3 percent of the abusers were the victim's parent.
-- 6.1 percent were family members other than parents.
-- 4.2 percent were unmarried partners of the victim's parent.
-- 3.1 percent of the abusers had an "unknown" relationship with the victim.
-- 4.6 percent had an "other" relationship with the victim, including siblings, victim's boyfriend/girlfriend, stranger and babysitter.
-- 0.5 percent included the remaining categories, including foster parents, legal guardians, friends and neighbors.
‘Medical child abuse' lacks adequate standards, guidelines
One of the highest responsibilities medical professionals hold is to recognize and report child abuse. An in-depth Globe series, however, exposes how little guidance and assistance doctors and nurses receive from the state about keeping young patients safe from “medical child abuse,” an ill-defined umbrella term used when parents are suspected of acting against the best interests of their child in a medical setting.
Medical child abuse is the modern-day equivalent of what was once known as Munchausen by proxy, a mental disorder in which a parent may intentionally sicken a child in a bid for attention or sympathy. The Globe series focused on Justina Pelletier, a 15-year-old Connecticut girl who has been in state custody at Children's Hospital for 10 months, much of that time in a locked psychiatric ward, after doctors accused her parents of endangering her by seeking treatment for a rare metabolic disorder. Children's believes she needs psychiatric help instead. The hospital alerted the state's child protection agency after Justina's parents threatened to discharge her.
In this difficult case, few details add up — not the least why Justina has been kept from her doctors at Tufts Medical Center, who referred her to Children's in the first place; one of them is now on staff at Children's. A juvenile court judge ruled on Friday that the state will retain temporary custody of Pelletier, but an additional hearing is scheduled to take place on Jan. 10.
What is now evident, though, is how very few guidelines exist for the handling of such cases. Given an apparent rise in the number of children being removed from their parents' custody due to suspicions of medical child abuse, this is the rare situation in which assembling a blue-ribbon panel of medical and child-protection experts as well as attorneys could help dramatically in providing standards for ensuring a child's best interest. A good start would be establishing a clear, systematic approach for identifying medical child abuse. Such cases will always involve some subjectivity, but right now medical professionals are left to blindly use their own judgment. Parents feel powerless.
More immediately, however, the state Department of Children and Families must expand its medical expertise, which is severely lacking. Because of this deficit, the agency is forced too often to rely on recommendations of prominent hospitals like Children's without independent confirmation. DCF is currently depending on slapdash consultations on a case-by-case basis and a part-time staff of one pediatrician, one psychiatrist, and a handful of nurses to cover the entire state. Lawmakers in 2006 approved $1 million in spending to bolster DCF's Health and Medical Services team, including the hiring of a physician to serve as medical director. That position should now be fast-tracked. In the meantime, Justina Pelletier and other children like her wait in limbo.
DCF stays mum on suspect list
Registry of alleged perps news to cops, schools
by Erin Smith and Matt Stout
The embattled Department of Children and Families keeps a list of more than 40,000 alleged perpetrators that the agency's child welfare investigators have determined abused or neglected kids — a virtually secret registry that is largely unknown and unavailable to police and school officials.
In response to a Herald inquiry, DCF confirmed it keeps a Registry of Alleged Perpetrators with 40,550 names on it — people with “substantial evidence” against them for abuse or neglect after a probe by the department's investigators.
“I've never heard of it and many of my colleagues, I'm willing to bet, have never heard of it,” said Wakefield Police Chief Rick Smith — whose town has wrestled with child-abuse notification issues. “This is disturbing news that this information is out there and not being shared. I would think if we want to combat child abuse and prevent child abuse, that is a tool that should be available for law enforcement. If we're investigating a sexual assault or some sort of crime, we should have access to that list. We should know that these people are in our neighborhoods.”
Law enforcement and school administrators are not allowed to access the registry without written approval from DCF Commissioner Olga Roche or a court order, according to the agency's rules.
The registry contains an alleged abuser's name, birth date, Social Security number, gender, address, date of listing and the allegations, according to DCF regulations. DCF must notify any alleged abuser placed on the registry within 20 working days of an abuse complaint referred to a district attorney's office, and the alleged perpetrator can appeal to a DCF hearing officer to be removed from the list, according to agency regulations.
The registry is mainly used to screen DCF employees and prospective foster and adoptive parents, assist in child abuse investigations, and provide care to families with open cases and kids in state custody, according to DCF rules.
“That's news to us,” said Brockton Police Chief Emanuel Gomes, who only learned about the registry when contacted by the Herald. “If our officers are responding to a scene in the early-morning hours, any information would help in the decision-making process of not leaving kids in danger. If that information isn't available to us, it's useless.”
A DCF spokeswoman said administrators at schools and child care facilities can obtain a release form from prospective employees to check their names against the list, but many school officials had no idea of its existence.
“We are not aware of this registry,” Boston Public Schools spokesman Lee McGuire said.
The Herald, which has been investigating child abuse in the state's foster care system, has requested information about how many foster parents or workers at residential facilities serving children in state custody have been placed on the list. DCF's own regulations on the registry allow the release of “aggregate data for research purposes.”
DCF officials won't say whether convicted Wakefield sex offender John Burbine was on the registry — citing that the information is exempt from public disclosure.
“This is what is so frustrating. For those of us in law enforcement trying to keep families safe, we don't have access to information that could be of value,” Smith said. “It makes no sense to me that it's not being shared.”
Child welfare officials investigated allegations that Burbine sexually abused children in 2005 and 2009. The allegations were forwarded to prosecutors, but no criminal charges were filed.
Lant subcommittee reports on child abuse findings
by Susan Redden
JOPLIN, Mo. — State Rep. Bill Lant said a report he drafted last week barely scratches the surface in addressing what needs to be done to improve state systems to protect children from abuse and neglect.
The representative from Pineville is a member of the Joint Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect named by House and Senate leaders more than a year ago. Lant is chairman of the panel's subcommittee on child abuse reporting and investigations. He and other committee members have been holding hearings throughout the state and meeting with officials involved in the agencies that are to protect children.
Lant's report praised the operation of the state hot line center that takes calls that trigger investigations of child abuse.
But he said other parts of the system “seem to be broken at nearly every level,” and he noted that a national accrediting agency recently had reached the same conclusion.
Among other things, his report raises concerns about inconsistencies in the types of information officials act on when removing a child from a home, and it says caseworkers in the system are undertrained and overworked.
Lant said the committee wants to work especially on finding ways to address training and caseload issues that will help affected families and the caseworkers. The committee hopes to use information it gathers to improve the decision-making steps in removing a child from a home. Members also will discuss the need for additional foster care homes in the state.
“For the time being, I don think we need to look at any new legislation,” he said. “We need to look at ways of making the current system work better.”
Lant said he has met with the interim director of the Missouri Children's Division, who said she wants to work with the committee.
The panel meets year-round rather than just during the legislative session from January through May. The panel will remain in existence until 2018, and members will serve for the duration of their tenures in the House and Senate.
Lant said he believes it will take all the time allotted to the committee to address problems members have found with the system. It is his “fervent hope,” he said, that the committee can be made permanent.
Lant was named to the panel in September 2012 after he lobbied for the creation of a special committee based on meetings with schoolteachers and principals in his district who told him of instances of abuse and neglect of children and the difficulties they had getting help for those youngsters.
Kicked out of high school for 'public lewdness' after reporting rape
by Abigail Pesta
TOMBALL, Texas—When Rachel Bradshaw-Bean claimed she had been raped in the band room of her high school in Texas, school officials sprang into action—and kicked her out of school.
"I felt like a criminal," she said, describing the December 2010 incident in her first extended interview on the crisis and aftermath. Accused of "public lewdness," she was sent to a special school for students with discipline problems, along with the boy she said had assaulted her. "I saw him there all the time," she said.
It's not an isolated incident. The events at Henderson High School in East Texas demonstrate the obstacles girls sometimes face when reporting sexual violence in schools. "High schools across the country are failing to live up to their responsibility to address sexual assault and harassment," said Neena Chaudhry, an attorney with the National Women's Law Center, a nonprofit advocacy group in Washington, D.C. "There's no excuse."
Bradshaw-Bean and her family fought back, sparking a Department of Education probe into whether the school had violated Title IX, the federal law prohibiting gender discrimination in education. Under the law, schools must follow specific rules when a student reports sexual violence; those rules include launching an internal investigation separate from any police inquiry. Henderson High School relied solely on a police investigation that deemed the sex consensual.
Today, with reports of teen sexual assault making national headlines, Bradshaw-Bean, now 20, said she is speaking out so that girls know their rights and schools properly address reports of sexual violence. "I don't want anyone else to have to go through what I did," she said. Her battle to clear her name, while navigating a disciplinary school that treated her "like a prisoner," she said, changed the course of her life.
'It kills you. You die'
Curled up in an armchair in her apartment in Tomball, on the outskirts of Houston, she described her life before the crisis blew it up. She enjoyed playing the euphonium in band. She volunteered with the Key Club around Henderson, a scenic town known for its historic homes and a syrup festival. She raised chickens as a member of Future Farmers of America. She planned to study pre-med in college.
Raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, she said her mother and stepfather taught her to be modest, polite. She and her mother are close and talk often. "My mom is so polite and classy—and also a hardcore rocker," she said. "She likes Metallica." Bradshaw-Bean hadn't had much experience with boys, just one boyfriend. During her junior year, she said, a boy in band had suggested give him a "blow job" and she didn't know what that meant so she went home and asked her mother.
Midway through her senior year, on December 6, 2010, an otherwise normal day turned chaotic. She was hanging around school at day's end, she said, waiting for a Key Club meeting to start. A boy asked her to go into the band room to talk and she went; he was a year younger, she said, and she didn't know him well. In the room, she said, things took a violent turn and he raped her. She said she distinctly recalls saying no. Afterward, she said, "I was crying. I pulled my pants up and went to the bathroom to clean myself up."
She then went to an assistant band director, she said, telling him what had happened. His words stunned her: "He told me to work it out with the boy. There's no way I would do that. But I didn't know what to think. I was 17."
Henderson High School declined to comment on the case, citing student privacy laws.
Feeling "shocked and numb," said Bradshaw-Bean, she went to her Key Club meeting that evening. Then she went to a band meeting, where her mother, stepfather and seven-year-old brother joined her. The boy from the band room was there too, she said, with his mother. Bradshaw-Bean sat silently through it.
"I didn't tell my parents. I didn't want them to have to go through that," she said, looking down at a Rubik's Cube that calms her in times of stress. She stayed home from school the next day, she said, then went back a day later and told a friend what had happened. The two girls together told another assistant band director. This time, the news got to an assistant vice principal. The school called the police and her parents. When her mother arrived at the school, Bradshaw-Bean said, "she had this look in her eyes, like she had died."
Her mother, Colleen Chevallier, echoes that sentiment. "It kills you. You die. You stay dead for a while," she said. "You become another person. I'm not the same person I was before this."
Expert: Schools don't know the rules
There were some 3,800 reported incidents of sexual battery and 800 reported incidents of rape or attempted rape in public high schools in the 2007-8 school year, according to a Department of Education letter to educators in 2011. (The department sends such letters periodically to issue policy guidance.) Calling the sexual violence a "call to action for the nation," the department reminded schools of their Title IX responsibilities, including the obligation to launch an internal investigation into reports of sexual assault to ensure a safe environment for students. Another requirement: appointing a Title IX coordinator to ensure compliance with the law.
The problem, said Sandra Park, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, is that educators don't necessarily know the rules. For instance, she said, the Title IX coordinator is often a school employee with other responsibilities who "just wears that additional hat" and doesn't have a firm grasp of the law.
The Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights said it has received 59 complaints that include Title IX allegations related to sexual violence this year, up from 33 such complaints in 2012. The complaints are from all educational levels, from elementary to postsecondary.
In one case similar to Bradshaw-Bean's, the office ruled last year that Forest Hills Central High School in Michigan had failed to properly respond when a girl said she was sexually assaulted in the band room. The parents say the principal had discouraged them from filing criminal charges against the boy, an athlete. (The family did file charges and the boy pleaded guilty, according to the National Women's Law Center, which is now working with the family on a suit against the school.) Superintendent Daniel Behm said the school district "strongly disagrees" with aspects of the Department of Education findings, and that the school immediately called the police and parents when the assault was reported.
In Ohio, the Steubenville school district is under fire in a high-profile case in which two high-school football players raped a girl during a night of postgame partying. The boys were convicted this past spring. Last month, four current and former employees of Steubenville City Schools were indicted in a grand jury investigation into a possible cover-up of the crime. One is the superintendent, charged with obstructing justice and tampering with evidence, among other charges. A fifth school employee was indicted a month earlier.
Among the obstacles teenage girls face are deep-rooted misogynistic views on rape, said Park. "We've accepted a lot of victim-blaming," she said. "We're so intent on scrutinizing what the victim did, not the perpetrator's actions." She added, "In high schools, the students are so young, I think people are also loath to believe kids could be confronting this kind of violence." But they are. Forty-four percent of rape victims in America are under the age of 18, according to the nonprofit Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network.
Burden of proof
When Bradshaw-Bean got the attention of school officials, she was sent to a children's health clinic for a medical exam. NBC News obtained a copy of the medical report, which showed lacerations to the hymen and bleeding "consistent with information given per victim," the report said.
A forensic specialist who works with the police interviewed Bradshaw-Bean at the clinic, according to Michael Jimerson, the Rusk County district attorney. Bradshaw-Bean said she felt numb during the interview, not crying—which she thinks worked against her with the police. "I just felt like I couldn't cry anymore," she said. "I was just taking in so much."
The police called her parents to the station a day later, according to her mother. There, said Chevallier, she learned that no criminal charges would be filed. "They said the sex was consensual. I was so shocked," she said. "I thought, they are pushing this under the rug. She's being treated this way because she's a female. I looked at my husband and said, 'Do they know women have the right to vote?'"
Jimerson rejects those claims, saying "the case was investigated, reviewed and declined for prosecution based on the law and the evidence."
Jimerson said a security-camera video showed Bradshaw-Bean walking into the band room behind the boy; it did not show what happened inside the room. "In cases like this, you can either substantiate or not substantiate the claims," he said. "We broke it down with her version of events and his. Her claims could not be substantiated. At the end of the day, I just know that objectively, there was almost no chance of a conviction. As a prosecutor, I have to be vigilant about the cases I pursue."
He said the medical report is inconclusive, as lacerations to the hymen could occur from either consensual sex or sexual assault, and medical experts would testify to that. In addition, he said, according to his notes on the case, Bradshaw-Bean had used language that "implied consensual sex instead of forcible rape" in the interview with the forensic specialist, such as, "I am not saying I did not want to do it." Jimerson says he does not have the context—the statements made before and after that remark—in his notes.
Bradshaw-Bean said she doesn't remember exactly what she said but that the quote sounds like something taken out of context. "I was reporting a rape," she said. "It sounds like my words are getting twisted. If you have to twist someone's words to make your case, then something's not right."
The Henderson Police Department declined to comment on the case. NBC News filed an open-records request with the City of Henderson to see the police documents; the City Attorney declined the request, citing the fact that the alleged perpetrator was a juvenile.
Park said she understands the "burden of proof," noting that Bradshaw-Bean "went into the band room voluntarily—she wasn't dragged." However, she said, there was a report of rape, "and I don't think you close a case like this in basically a day. There seemed to be a rush to judge her and close the case rather than doing a full investigation."
'I hated the world'
Regardless of what the police concluded, however, Henderson High School had a legal obligation to launch its own investigation, which it did not do. Instead, it decided to discipline Bradshaw-Bean and the boy for "public lewdness," assigning them both to a disciplinary school for 45 days.
Chevallier said the high school informed her of its decision within days of the police ruling. She tried to get her daughter transferred to another high school, she said, but was denied due to the disciplinary action. "They were treating the victim like a criminal," she said. "It was really like living in hell. If it hadn't happened to me—if someone else told me this story—I'd think it wasn't true."
At the disciplinary school, part of a statewide program called the Disciplinary Alternative Education Program, Bradshaw-Bean said she sat in a room with much younger students—some from the sixth grade—at a desk facing the wall, doing textbook work. During this time, she felt increasingly angry and emotional: "I hated the world," she said. At the same time, she felt vulnerable. "I felt paranoid to even take a shower by myself," she said. "Someone would have to sit with me in the bathroom."
The family descended into chaos. "I felt like I was breaking in half," said Chevallier. Her husband drove their daughter to and from the disciplinary school, she said, to shield Chevallier from seeing the boy who upended her daughter's life. Bradshaw-Bean said she was not in the same class as the boy, but saw him regularly, for instance when arriving at school or going to the bathroom. The Henderson school district declined to comment on her claims.
Bradshaw-Bean also believes the boy trashed her to other kids. She said a student once told her she had "asked for it." Another time she received a taunt on Facebook, she said, from a male relative of the boy. Her mother remembers that note. "It said, 'You weak,'" she said. "I wrote him back—I just let him have it. I said, 'This is Rachel's mom. If you say one more word to her, I will put you in jail.'"
Chevallier, who has worked as both a substitute teacher and a prison administrator, went to the ACLU. "I thought, this cannot pass," she said. "I think everyone underestimated us."
A 'really egregious' case
The case was "really egregious," said Park, the ACLU lawyer. She filed a Title IX complaint with the Department of Education, and helped get Rachel transferred to another high school.
As the government investigation began, Bradshaw-Bean graduated and went into a funk. "My personality changed," she said. "I didn't want to do anything. I blamed myself for the longest time." She had planned to go to community college. Instead she stayed home, depressed, she said, with no job. After a few months, she enrolled in nearby Kilgore College "to get out of my parents' hair," she said. But she wasn't up for it, and left soon after.
In June 2012, a year and a half after the incident in the band room, Bradshaw-Bean finally got some news that helped her get her life back on track. The Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights wrapped up its investigation of Henderson High School, ruling that the school had violated Title IX by failing to independently investigate the case—and also had retaliated against Bradshaw-Bean, failing to provide "a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason" for banishing her to the disciplinary school.
The office laid out a 13-point plan to bring the school in line with its responsibilities under Title IX, including extensive training of the faculty. The school was also required to clear Bradshaw-Bean's record of the disciplinary-school placement, and to pay for a few counseling sessions.
"The counselor really helped," she said, adding that she felt vindicated by the ruling. "Finally, I thought, there are some smart people in the world—rational people with levelheaded thoughts. It restored my faith in humanity." She said she hopes her case will spur schools to know the rules and respond appropriately to reports of sexual violence.
In a statement, Henderson High School said it has revised its investigation procedures "to meet Title IX requirements" and provide "a safe environment for all of our students." Further, the school said, as of Dec. 4, 2013, it is in full compliance with all 13 requirements in the plan laid out by the Office for Civil Rights.
The Department of Education declined to comment on the case, saying it is still monitoring the school.
'I can help others facing injustice'
This past fall, Bradshaw-Bean went back to college, attending Lone Star College in Tomball. She is also a newlywed, recently marrying a young man named Robert Bean who she had met in the cafeteria at Kilgore College one morning just before leaving the school. "He is so good. He has so much understanding," she said, opening a little box of neatly handwritten love letters she has given him.
Riding to dinner in a cab with him since the two don't own a car, Bradshaw-Bean talked with the driver about his troubles, nodding sympathetically while he described a leg lost from diabetes. At the restaurant, her husband held her hand. She teased him about how he is shy around strangers. When talk turned to her ordeal, her husband became serious, saying, "I encouraged her to tell her story."
She describes him as her support system. One night, she said, her little brother broke her Rubik's Cube, which she calls her "lifesaver" for helping her cope in moments of anxiety about her past. "I started crying. I just lost it," she said. "Robert stayed calm. He just went out to Walmart and bought me a new one."
She said she is excited about being back in college: "I'm as happy as can be right now." As for the boy who derailed her senior year, she said, "He took away my joy, but I got it back, double-fold." Her plan now is to study criminal justice and criminal psychology. "I think about how I'll live my life—I think about what I will do with my experience," she said. Because of the injustice she endured, she said, "I can help others facing injustice of their own."