National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

child abuse trauma prevention, intervention & recovery


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EDITOR'S NOTE: Occasionally we bring you articles from local newspapers, web sites and other sources that constitute but a small percentage of the information available to those who are interested in the issues of child abuse and recovery from it.

We present articles such as this simply as a convenience to our readership ...
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Here are a few recent stories related to the kinds of issues we cover on the web site. They'll represent a small percentage of the information available to us, the public, as we fight to provide meaningful recovery services and help for those who've suffered child abuse. We'll add to and update this page regularly.

We'll also present stories about the criminals and criminal acts that impact our communities all across the nation. The few we place on this page are the tip of the iceberg, and we ask you to check your local newspapers and law enforcement sites. Stay aware. Every extra set of "eyes and ears" makes a big difference.
Recent News - News from other times

February, 2014 - Week 2
MJ Goyings
Many, many thanks to our very own "MJ" for
providing us the majority of the daily research
that appears on the LACP and NAASCA web sites.
Ms. Goyings is a Registered Nurse and lives in Ohio.

New Jersey

Acting Attorney General in New Jersey Embraces YMCA's Training Initiative to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse

by Megeen Laska

Stewards of Children® Training Mandatory for All Department of Law and Public Safety Employees

SUMMIT, NJ – Last week, the Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman embraced the New Jersey YMCA State Alliance's initiative to better protect children by offering child sexual abuse prevention training, and announced that all Department of Law and Public Safety employees will receive mandatory child sexual abuse identification and prevention training as part of a proactive approach to eradicating this crime in the state.

“As law enforcement and as parents, we owe it to our children to expose the perpetrators who commit these hideous crimes and bring them to justice,” Acting Attorney General Hoffman said. “Law enforcement will continue to crack down on this vicious crime. Yet, it is important to remember that it is everyone's responsibility, be it teachers, friends, relatives or neighbors, to recognize the signs of abuse and report it to the proper authorities. That is why our Department will participate in this mandatory training.”

The Summit Area YMCA, as part of the New Jersey YMCA State Alliance, has joined forces with Darkness to Light, a nationally recognized nonprofit organization and creator of the award-winning Stewards of Children® child sexual abuse prevention curriculum. The partnership aims to educate adults in the community on how to recognize, react responsibly to, and prevent child sexual abuse. According to experts, one in 10 children - or 400,000 each year - will experience child sexual abuse before their 18th birthday.

“This is an unprecedented state-wide investment in the prevention of child sexual abuse,” said Jolie Logan, President and CEO of Darkness to Light. “Many adults do not know how to recognize signs of sexual abuse, and most do not know what to do if sexual abuse is discovered. The New Jersey Attorney General's office is empowering adults to protect children, and there is no greater gift than providing safe communities for children to grow up healthy and whole.”

The Summit Area YMCA, including Berkeley Heights YMCA, The Learning Circle YMCA and Summit YMCA, offers Stewards of Children child sexual abuse prevention training to adults in the community. In-person, facilitator-led trainings are open to the public. Local businesses and organizations, large or small, are encouraged to participate, in particular those that work with children such as youth sports organizations, school districts, faith centers and non-profits. Free online training is available for New Jersey residents through April 23, 2014. Continuing education credits for professionals in various fields can be obtained through this training.

“Social Responsibility and Youth Development are key areas of focus for the Y. We are committed to developing community-based solutions that unite people to participate in and work for positive social change,” said Paul Kieltyka, President and CEO of the Summit Area YMCA. “By partnering with Darkness to Light, we will educate and empower adults to protect children from sexual abuse.”

The evidence-based Stewards of Children program is designed to increase knowledge, improve attitudes and change child protective behaviors. The training covers a 5-step action plan: learn the facts (1 in 10 children are sexually abused and over 90% know their abuser); minimize opportunity (eliminate or reduce isolated, one-on-one situations to decrease risk for abuse); talk about it (have open conversations with children about our bodies, sex and boundaries); recognize the signs (know the signs of abuse to protect children from further harm); and react responsibly (understand how to respond to suspicions or reports of sexual abuse).

“As adults, we need to take responsibility and protect the children in our community. Child sexual abuse is a silent epidemic that crosses every socioeconomic boundary and does not discriminate,” said Mr. Kieltyka. “Through the Stewards of Children training, we hope to mobilize adults to take action, prevent child sexual abuse, and make a difference, which will result in happier, healthier children and a stronger community.”

Research has shown that 5% is the critical point for positive change in the community; therefore, the NJ YMCA State Alliance has a goal of training 83,000 adults by 2017. The Ys will work with local community partners including schools, volunteer groups and local government to meet the goal and help facilitate change.

“The YMCA and New Jersey YMCA State Alliance continue to be incredible partners in the fight against child sexual abuse. Their commitment to protect children in YMCA programs, facilities and in the community should serve as an inspiration to all youth serving organizations across the country,” said Jolie Logan, President and CEO of Darkness to Light.

About Child Sexual Abuse

Crime and behavioral studies have long cited child sexual abuse for its devastating impact on society. Statistics are startling:

•  Experts estimate one in 10 children is sexually abused.

•  Over 90% of child victims are abused by someone they know and trust.

•  73% of children do not tell anyone for at least one year. Many never tell, making this a silent epidemic that can result in lifelong consequences.

•  Child sexual abuse is linked to a host of societal issues including teen pregnancy, depression, anxiety and suicide.

•  Victims are three times more likely to have substance abuse issues, two times more likely to drop out of school, and are at greater risk for physical illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other serious medical conditions.

•  In the U.S., alone, there are an estimated 42 million adult survivors of child sexual abuse.

•  Child sexual abuse ranks second to murder as the most expensive victim crime in the U.S., where immediate and long-term costs exceed $35 billion annually.

For more information about the free Stewards of Children online training, or to schedule in-person training for a company or organization, contact Tiffany Escott at 908.738.2141. Please join the Summit Area YMCA to help end child sexual abuse.

About the Summit Area YMCA : The Summit Area YMCA is one of the area's leading charitable 501(c)3 organizations. Our programs and services are open to all through our financial assistance programs made possible through the generosity of our members, donors and partners. To help us help others, make your tax-deductible donation today at

About Darkness to Light (D2L) : Darkness to Light (D2L) has championed the movement to end child sexual abuse (CSA) since its founding in 2000. With affiliates in all 50 U.S. states and 16 additional countries, D2L provides individuals, organizations, and communities with the tools to protect children from sexual abuse. To date, the D2L network of 6,000 authorized facilitators has trained over 500,000 parents, youth serving professionals, and organization volunteers in D2L's award-winning Stewards of Children™ child sexual abuse prevention program. For more information, please visit



'The first step in getting back what they had stolen'

ETMC-Gilmer trains nurses to aid sexual assault victims

(Video on site)

by Coshandra Dillard

Sexual assault can occur in any community, but when it happens in a rural community, there can be challenges for the survivor to get adequate and timely help.

That's why East Texas Medical Center–Gilmer implemented its Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, or SANE, program this month.

Four of their nurses were trained to ensure people who have been sexually assaulted not only get a proper medical examination, but also guidance with legal, emotional, mental and health issues following the attack.

“Our sexual assault program is extremely important in this rural community,” said Greta Parks, SANE medical director. “We have seen countless patients have to be transported to larger facilities for injuries sustained during sexual assault.”

Training for the nurses involved more than 240 hours of coursework and clinicals.

As the emergency department's director, Teri Curington is in charge of analyzing which modalities appear most often through their doors.

“The number of physical violent acts was showing up over a period of two years,” she said. “It started escalating as far as assaults were concerned. It bothered me to the point that I did not feel comfortable not being able to provide a service that I saw was becoming a desperate need in our community.”

There were 197 reports of sexual assault in 2013 in Wood, Upshur, Titus and Camp counties. That number was up from 182 the previous year, and 165 in 2011.

Those are just the reported cases. According to the U.S. Justice Department, only 26 percent of sexual assaults are reported.

“The reason why we have so little reporting of it in our nation is because of the taboos attached to it,” Ms. Curington said. “They somehow feel responsible.”

Ms. Curington spearheaded a sexual assault response team in October in advance of the SANE Program. A 27-person committee comprises law enforcement agencies, district attorneys, child protective services workers and advocates.

She said there are not enough advocates, especially in Upshur County.

“Advocates are so necessary to help the healing process once the trauma is over as far as the assault and the evidence collection,” Ms. Curington said.

Advocates are available around the clock to help patients through the initial exam and to get them counseling and reimbursement for any medical costs.

More hospitals are implementing SANE programs and others are being encouraged to develop some kind of sexual assault response program. Last year, Texas legislators passed Senate Bill 1191, which requires all hospitals to have doctors and nurses trained in forensic evidence collection.

In Texas, the SANE program is run by the Attorney General's office. There are more than 300 SANE nurses in the state, including three at ETMC in Tyler and one at UT Health Northeast. Mother Frances Hospital has four certified SANE nurses and two in training.


When a person has been sexually assaulted, the way hospital staff responds is critical, as the collection of evidence and the telling of the victim's story could affect the outcome of a criminal case.

Once the survivor alerts someone in admissions they've been a victim of a sexual assault, they are immediately escorted to a triage nurse and told to withhold information until they see a sexual assault nurse examiner.

There is no touching or physically comforting the person, as not to contaminate their clothing or body with their DNA.

From triage, they get checked for any physical trauma or wounds. All articles of clothing are kept to collect and preserve evidence.

Photos are taken and nurses look for visible tears or bruises. However, the absence of bruising or physical trauma is common with many victims.

“A lot of times, patients won't fight back because they're in fear for their lives,” said Brandy May, a SANE nurse. “They go into survival mode, so a lot of times there won't be any bruising. There won't be any scratches.”

Officials said evidence should be collected within four days.

“Once the patient is medically cleared, the actual sexual assault exam begins,” Ms. Curington said. “With a stroke, you've got that critical hour, or trauma, you've got that critical hour. It's the same for evidence collection. The longer that you wait to collect the evidence, it increases the risk of no longer being viable.”

An exam could last at least four hours. Evidence is locked away in a quad-lock system, which only five people have access to. Adult sexual abuse survivors do not have to report the crime, but evidence is still collected and stored for two years, in case the person changes their mind.

The nurses say they are natural nurturers, but for some, sexual assault hits close to home.

“I have family that have been affected by sexual assault,” Ms. May said. “I have friends that have been affected by sexual assault. It's also a big need around here, especially in the local area. There's nobody to help with this type of thing.”


Sexual assault survivors may cope with emotional, mental and physical problems long after the attack.

Ms. Curington said women who have been affected by a sexual assault are at risk for health problems, primarily because they may change their lifestyle. This includes smoking or using drugs or alcohol.

“Statistically speaking, women who have been sexually assaulted are 80 percent more likely to suffer a stroke they're 75 percent more likely to have cardiovascular disease,” Ms. Curington said. “They're 85 percent more likely to have drug and alcohol abuse problems. So, you see, by not addressing it and not identifying it and not getting treated for it is going to open up a whole host of other issues.”

With swift action and the guidance of advocates and local agencies, the nurses say the survivors of sexual assault can move forward with their lives.

“They had something stolen from them,” Ms. May said. “This is the first step in getting back what they had stolen, and that was their say-so, their rights and their independence.”


Survivors offer insight to federal anti-trafficking efforts

by Holly Smith

WASHINGTON, February 15, 2014 – Last month, the White House administration announced a five-year “Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking in the Unites States …, a collaborative effort involving more than 15 agencies across the Federal Government.”

As stated in last week's article, the Plan outlines intentions for each agency to integrate the experiences and voices of survivors into their initiatives. One anonymous survivor responded to this ambition as follows: “For a successful collaboration there must be an intentional disbursement of power between the government agencies that have traditionally held all the power of decision-making and the survivor groups that have held none.”

In response to the Plan, the Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families created a technical working group with the goal to enhance the health care system's response to human trafficking. Among those invited to attend the first session were medical and health professionals, service providers, advocates, researchers, and survivors of human trafficking.

In this article, I'd like to include some perspectives from survivors who were unable to attend the meeting. Following are the questions I posed to survivors along with their answers:

What are the needs of human trafficking victims (both short and long-term) as it relates to healthcare providers?

One very important need for both short and long-term care is quality trauma-informed psychotherapy. Victims deserve to have a legal right to these services. Receiving such services from a counselor who has the training and understanding of trauma and its complexities can make all the difference in the world to a survivor's process of healing. – Margeaux Gray

Do you have any advice for health professionals regarding the signs of human trafficking and/or how to identify potential cases of human trafficking? How do victims of human trafficking present in healthcare settings?

They can present with repeated STDs; repeated genital and oral infections; repeated, persistent bruising; signs of major depression. Also, it's normal for victims to not answer or be honest in response to questions from healthcare professionals. Many victims are coached by their trafficker on what to say if asked any questions regarding their illnesses and injuries. They are also threatened on what would happen if they answer in any way other than what they are coached to say. – Margeaux Gray

Many survivors require medical care during their exploitation. Some reasons for first engagement may include: broken or fractured bones, physical signs of abuse, dehydration and exhaustion, pregnancy resulting sometimes in abortion or miscarriage, signs of forced miscarriage (e.g. beating, “falling,” “car accident,” etc.), STDs and routine STD checks, and feminine hygiene products (e.g. a tampon) being forced in a position where the woman is unable to retrieve. The last sign is due to the fact that most [victims of sex trafficking] are forced to work during menstruation. – Rebecca Bender

Oftentimes, when a medical professional is with a patient, they may not even know it. Even if the professional is suspicious of the patient's behavior, the last thing many American medical professionals ever consider is human trafficking. This is the reason I provide trainings that provide tools on what exactly sex trafficking looks like and how to talk with victims; this assists both patients and medical staff in ensuring a positive outcome for all parties involved. For example, in my training I include red flags and indicators of sex trafficking in a medical setting, including the following: no insurance/cash pay; tattoos of traffickers name or initials and/or any tattoo referring to money or “daddy” especially in a provocative location that would only be visible during an exam; patient is not alone, often with a controlling male or another female claiming to be a friend or relative. – Rebecca Bender

Do you have advice on how health professionals should respond in the case of seeing these signs or potential cases?

Be compassionate and develop their patient's trust. Spend extra time with them. Explain why answering your questions are important. Trust your intuition. Do not be afraid to report suspected abuse and trafficking. – Margeaux Gray

Knowing what questions to ask or not ask (which requires proper training). Don't judge. if [adult victims] build a rapport with one particular doctor or nurse, but they're not ready or able to disclose everything or speak to law enforcement, [then] just [continue to] build a connection, give them a number, let them know they can come back or call and speak to that same person. It is all about trust. – Anonymous

Did you encounter a health professional before, during, and/or after being trafficked? If yes, what did the health professional do right or wrong? What signs did they catch/miss?

I am a survivor of…child sex trafficking. I had many, very grown up medical issues while I was being trafficked. I feared going to the doctor. I was coached by my trafficker on what to say if I was asked about my issues. I was also threatened on what he would do if I said anything other than what he coached me to say. I was questioned only once by a healthcare professional. I was in grade school and had a serious medical problem as a result from trafficking, I was asked if I was sexually active. I responded no. I was never questioned again. During the eighteen years I was trafficked, no doctor or healthcare professional ever reported suspected abuse or trafficking. Not once. – Margeaux Gray

I was able to visit the doctor two times while in my situation, first visit my employer escorted me and was there with me [through] the whole process [so] no privacy, then the second [time] I was able to go by myself and I thought [it might be] my breakthrough. The doctor told me that he noticed something was [wr]ong but didn't act right away because I was with my employer, so this time he asked me couple questions. After [my] response[s], he told [me] that he [was] going to help get [me] out from the situation. [But] when [I] went home, [he] call[ed] my employer [and told] what I [had] shared with him. [After that] my situation [went] from bad [to worse]…[In the end, it turned out] this doctor and my employer [knew] each other. – Anonymous

[In my experience there were always too many] doctors in the room, ask[ing] me the same questions over and over…I [got tired]…instead of them helping [me, they] just asked the same question over and over. I [was] never checked [for or questioned about] rape…I never [told] anybody because I was little and didn't know . – Anonymous

What advice would you give health professionals regarding short-term and/or long-term health options for victims?

Be compassionate, understanding, and get trained on human trafficking and the complexities of trauma. Trauma can manifest itself in a physical as well as in psychological form. – Margeaux Gray

The first thing I can think of is trauma-informed care and I personally wanted to know exactly what was going on if I was being examined, when they were going to touch me, where and why, etc. – Anonymous

When you were in an aftercare shelter/program, did you encounter any issues?

When I was in the shelter, [there were too many] people in [the] room, no privacy…[When I stayed] at the crisis center, it was better because [there] were two people in [each] room. – Anonymous

One place [for adult victims] had 4 people in one tiny room but I got out of their quick and they had zero resources/case plan to help me rebuild so I ended up back on the streets and in the strip clubs, living out of motels and with customers, and getting caught up with another pimp. – Anonymous

[I was in a domestic violence] safehouse it was pretty nice, they were not equipped for [human trafficking] victims but they had a couple programs or attempts at programs/counseling [but it was] not enough…they were going to relocate me but a trafficker found out and was my only outside contact so when I had a meeting with a social worker he did all the talking and took over. – Anonymous

Margeaux Gray is an independent anti-trafficking activist, policy advocate, public speaker, and artist. “I have transcended my horror,” Margeaux stated, “and today [I] use my voice and art to educate, inspire, and empower others, as well as to inform educators and students.” Margeaux says her main focus as a survivor leader is to address the healthcare and aftercare needs of victims. For more information about Margeaux, please visit her website at, or follow her on Twitter @geauxfreedom.

Through her ministry, Rebecca Bender offers a variety of secular trainings for medical professionals, law enforcement, child welfare providers, attorneys, and criminal justice officials. Rebecca says all trainings are specific to her professional audience and cover a variety of topics, including: human trafficking in the United States, inside the minds of victims, how to talk to victims, misidentification, challenges that victims face, poly-victimization, how to represent and defend victims, and what to do after identification. For more information, visit



Letter to the Editor

Statistics for child abuse ‘disturbing'


According to a 2009 study conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 763,000 duplicate and 702,000 unique cases of maltreatment against children were reported. Nearly two-fifths of victims were maltreated by their mothers acting alone, and one-fifth by their fathers acting alone.

One-third of first-time victims were under 4 years of age. Children younger than 1 year had the highest rate of victimization at 20.6 per 1,000 children. Victimization of boys was 48.2 percent and girls 51.1 percent.

The highest rates of victims were African-Americans (22.3 percent), Hispanics (20.7 percent), and White (44 percent). They comprised nearly 87 percent of first-time victims.

As a perspective early childhood educator, these numbers are disturbing. That children under the age of 4 are at such a high rate for victimization and that the victimization of children crosses the lines of gender and ethnicity make this a problem that needs to be addressed by society as a whole. Children of maltreatment grow into adults that are more likely to abuse their own children.

Children with just single maltreatment report are at a 20 percent to 50 percent higher rate for problems in adolescence, such as delinquency, substance abuse in teen years or getting sexually transmitted diseases, than non-maltreated children. Early child maltreatment can have a negative effect on the ability of both men and women to establish and maintain healthy, intimate relationships in adulthood.

Adult outcomes included adult substance abuse or growing up and having children whom they then maltreated. As adults, children with four or more reports were at least twice as likely to later abuse their own children and have contact with the mental health system.

There are several programs available to help stop child maltreatment. One that comes to mind is the Durham Family Initiative, which works to improve family well being and reduce child maltreatment by coordinating services for high-risk families. Children are identified through home visits after birth or through referrals from pre-schools, schools and clinics.

The program also works with community leaders and agencies to implement a shared information system. As a community, it is the best interest of everyone to be vigilant in our efforts to stop the maltreatment of children, and make this area a better place to live.

William Goterba



South Dakota

Reluctant advocate stands up to child sexual abuse


PIERRE, S.D. — As a TV reporter, Jolene Loetscher told other people's stories. Now, as an advocate for childhood sexual abuse, she's telling her story, if somewhat reluctantly.

Loetscher, who was assaulted as a teenager, has started a camp for abused kids and lobbied in support of legislation to remove the statute of limitations in some cases of child rape.

She's currently helping in an effort to create a panel that would study the issue and recommend policy changes to state lawmakers. It would be called Jolene's Law Task Force.

"It's not just 'Jolene' that's going through this," Loetscher said. "I wanted it to be for all these other voiceless victims."

An estimated 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are victims of sexual abuse.

The South Dakota Senate approved the creation of the task force last week and sent it to the House for review. As Loetscher entered the Capitol building before testifying, she hesitated, saying it happens every time she plans to relive the worst experiences of her life. Then she steels herself.

"I need to do it," Loetscher said. "I need to be able to help those women and children and adults, those men out there that can't talk about it."

She said telling her story publically allows her to be authentic with the viewers who let her into their homes during her roughly five years on KELO-TV.

"I owed it to them to be open and honest about who I was," said Loetscher, who's 4 feet 11 inches tall. "It wasn't just the image of a little petite girl chasing a tornado. She has struggles too."

The 35-year-old said those struggles started at age 15 when a respected member of her community in Wayne, Neb., sexually abused her. The experience ended her childhood abruptly and shattered her spirit, she said.

Loetscher suppressed the memory for more than a decade. She focused on her professional experiences as a journalist and entrepreneur. She and her husband started a company called Doo Gooders that collects dog droppings and donates part of the income to charity. She calls herself the Chief Doo Officer .

Loetscher said that over the years, she presented a positive face but in her late 20s was forced to confront her experience. Overwhelmed by a flood of emotions, Loetscher swallowed a bottle of pills one snowy evening. She nestled up in a white comforter between her two dogs and waited to die. When she awoke the next morning to see the sunlight coming through her blinds, she felt a new sense of purpose.

"You've got a reason that you woke up," Loetscher told herself.

As she went through therapy, her resolve grew stronger. In 2012, Loetscher started Selfspiration, a day camp for girls who have been sexually abused. This year will be the third for that camp and the first year for a boy's camp and a retreat for adult women.

The gathering shows participants they are not alone, she said.

Loetscher said she had hoped to take legal action against the man who abused her, but by the time she felt empowered to do so, the statute of limitations had expired. She could take no criminal or civil recourse, and that frustrated her.

In 2012, she worked with a former legislator to remove South Dakota's criminal statute of limitations on some child rape cases.

"I'm so excited that what I can't have — the justice that isn't going to happen for me — somebody else is going to get," Loetscher said.

Confronting the perpetrator of her abuse also provided some resolution.

In 2011, she travelled to her hometown on a two-hour trek that felt like eternity. The drive, she remembered, was eerily quiet and the white sky blended seamlessly with the snow-covered earth.

She thought her legs would give out when she faced him. But Loetscher said she stood tall and told him, "I know what you did, and I will not be quiet."



Rape law leaves Indiana woman feeling victimized again

by Bill McCleery and Tim Evans

A man walks into the Marion County Sheriff's Department and confesses to raping a young woman in 2005.

In Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky — as well as 28 other states across the U.S. — he would have been arrested and prosecuted.

But in Indiana, Bart Bareither walked out a free man.

Why? Because in this state, rape charges no longer can be filed if the incident took place more than five years ago.

Indiana is among just seven states with a statute of limitations of five years or less for filing rape charges. In 11 states, the statute of limitations is from six to 9 years. In 12 others, it ranges from 10 to 20 years. And 20 states have no limit at all.

The unique set of circumstances highlights the delicate balance between liberty and justice that plays an integral part in a criminal justice system based on the classical belief that “it is better that 10 guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.” It also comes as advances in DNA technology are prompting some states to re-examine decades-old limits on prosecuting rape and other sex crimes.

Last year, Kansas lawmakers threw out the state's five-year limit. Now, a rape charge can be filed at any time in Kansas. Similar legislation is pending in Ohio, where advocates are pushing to scrap a 20-year limit.

“The need for justice and the need for healing,” said Katie Hanna, executive director of the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence, “do not suddenly go away after some arbitrary number of years has passed.”

Limits questioned

Statutes of limitations have been around nearly as long as there have been laws, dating to ancient Roman law, and are typically set by state lawmakers.

The limits — in place for most civil claims and criminal acts other than murder — are a critical component of the U.S. legal system aimed at deterring potentially fraudulent and old claims.

But they have often been questioned.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., who five years later would become a U.S. Supreme Court justice, raised the issue in an 1897 Harvard Law Review article: “What is the justification for depriving a man of his rights, a pure evil as far as it goes, in consequence of the lapse of time? Sometimes the loss of evidence is referred to, but that is a secondary matter. Sometimes the desirability of peace, but why is peace more desirable after 20 years than before?”

Ryan W. Scott, a law professor at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law in Bloomington, said the traditional rationale for time limits is tied to the two basic concerns acknowledged by Holmes.

“One has to do with repose. At a certain point, a person should no longer have to fear they will be charged with a crime that occurred years ago,” he explained. “The other has to do with difficulty of proof. After a certain time, it becomes harder to get reliable evidence, physical evidence deteriorates and the memories of witnesses fade.”

The passing of time can be as troubling for a defendant as for a prosecutor, Scott said, citing as an example the death of a potential alibi witness.

Still, Scott said, the law places no limit on murder and some other serious crimes.

In Indiana, for instance, there is no statute of limitations on Class A felony charges, what the state deems the “worst of the worst” criminal offenses. That includes murder, as well as other charges such as dealing in more than three grams of cocaine, methamphetamine or a narcotic drug, armed robbery resulting in injury and child neglect resulting in death.

State lawmakers also saw fit to include in that category aggravated rape, which involves the use of a deadly weapon or serous injury to the victim. But if neither circumstance applies, rape is a Class B felony with a five-year limit on bringing charges.

No outcry to change law

Indiana lawmakers are in the midst of finalizing a major criminal code overhaul set to take effect later this year, but the legislation does not address statutes of limitations.

Anita Carpenter, CEO of the Indiana Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said there has been no real outcry about the five-year limit on rape charges.

“The only thing we've been having discussion on, and they have been very preliminary, is eliminating the statute of limitation for child sex abuse cases because children are often afraid to come forward,” she said.

Carpenter said she not aware of a situation like the one involving Bar­either's belated confession ever having come up in Indiana, at least not in recent years. And she said it is tragic that the victim was, in some ways, re­victimized by the confession and discovery that the rapist could not be prosecuted.

“It's probably something worth looking at in the future,” she said.

Sen. Michael Crider, R-Greenfield, said he was recently contacted by the family of Bareither's victim and was stunned by what he learned.

“This is just a horrible situation,” Crider said. “It just strikes me that when you have a person traumatized at that level it is worth discussing whether or not we might need to make a change.”

Crider said it is too late for the legislature to take up the issue during this session, so it will have to wait until 2015.

“It is something,” he said, “I am definitely going to explore next year.”

Making her case

Kansas lawmakers took up the topic in 2013 and eliminated the state's five-year statute of limitations for rape.

The change was driven by dramatic victim testimony, said Joyce Grover, executive director of the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence.

“There was this feeling that there were a lot of rapists out there that had not been apprehended and that they would never be held accountable,” she said of opposition to the five-year limit.

Grover said the widespread collection of DNA evidence also contributed to the change.

Cindy Hillenbrand, 62, Pompano Beach, Florida, was among those who testified in support of the change in Kansas.

She had been raped during a night out with friends in Topeka in 1999. Her rapist was identified more than a decade later through DNA evidence collected in connection with another crime. It matched DNA collected during the investigation of her rape.

Hillenbrand recalled being elated that the person responsible for the crime that forever changed her life was finally going to be prosecuted.

“But then,” she said, “we learned the statute of limitations had expired. So my rape, to him, is now free.”

When she found out there was a move underway to change the law in Kansas, Hillenbrand volunteered to share her story.

“The law could not stand the way it was,” Hillenbrand told The Indianapolis Star on Thursday. “It was great to get the law that was just stupid changed to make sure people like me and so many others will never again have to go through something like I did.”

Ohio roadblocks

A push to eliminate Ohio's 20-year limit on prosecuting rape cases has run into a roadblock at the statehouse in Columbus, said Hanna, who heads the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence.

The bill filed last year still has not received a committee hearing.

The primary opposition, Hanna said, comes from a surprising opponent: The Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association. She said the group wants any exception to the current 20-year limit to be tied to the existence of DNA from the victim.

The problem with that, Hanna said, is that it would deny justice to victims who did not come forward at the time — and, thus, no DNA would have been collected.

“We know a lot of survivors don't come forward for years,” she said, “but the trauma never goes away.”

Victim's story

Bareither's victim, Jenny Wendt, 35, doesn't think any time limit should prevent the prosecution of her rapist. She has to live with the pain of what happened for the rest of her life.

Like the majority of rape victims, Wendt never reported the crime. Instead, she said she has spent the past decade focused on trying to move past the nightmares, the self-doubt, the guilt and the fear that prompted her to go out and buy a handgun.

So when she learned Bareither had confessed, Wendt felt like she was getting a second chance. And this time, Wendt said, she was strong enough to move forward with a prosecution.

Then the detective who had told her about the confession dropped the bombshell. Even with the confession, she told Wendt, prosecutors could not charge Bareither.

Instead of finally receiving the justice she was denied by the humiliation and fear that kept her from reporting the rape when it happened, Wendt said she once again finds herself a victim — this time of an Indiana law that lags those in most other states.



Co-founder of nonprofit to fight sex trafficking flees after being charged with child rape

by The Associated Press

SEATTLE — Prosecutors say the co-founder of a Seattle-based nonprofit that aims to prevent sexual exploitation of women has fled the country after being charged with child rape. reports that 41-year-old Dhan Pun had been due to plead guilty in a deal to resolve allegations against him in King and Snohomish counties, but fled to Nepal in November, and prosecutors believe he's still there.

Pun is the co-founder, with his wife, of Women's Prevention and Protection Center Nepal Foundation, which, according to its website, provides support to women and girls in Nepal who are rescued or have returned from a life as a sex trafficking victim.

Pun is accused of routinely assaulting a teenage relative from 2010 to 2012 while he lived in Seattle and then Lynnwood. He was initially charged with third-degree child rape and third-degree child molestation in Snohomish County, but King County prosecutors files separate charges against him last week. If he returns from Nepal, he will face charges in both counties.



‘Michigan is one of the top five states for human trafficking'

Bills introduced to prosecute offenders, assist victims

by William Axford

Michigan legislators are hoping to curb human trafficking in the state with 23 new bills. The bills, spearheaded by Rep. Kurt Heise (R-Plymouth), are not only aimed at prosecuting solicitors of prostitutes and the sex trade, but also ensuring the needs of victims are met as well.

Last December, Lake Spa, located at 1490 Torrey Road in Fenton was suspended from business due to allegations of prostitution. The possibility of human trafficking was also a concern.

“One of the emphases of these bills is to change the mindset of how we address human trafficking, not only that it's a crime but we have compassion for the victims,” Heise said in an audio recording posted on Michigan Republicans House website. “I don't think that anything could be more important than protecting innocent children and vulnerable adults who have been dragged into this terrible crime.”

Current Michigan law prohibits any forced labor or services by use of fraud, coercion, physical restraint and use of blackmail. If approved, the proposed legislation could declare human trafficking as a public nuisance; presume all minors arrested for prostitution are victims, and to create a human trafficking commission with the Attorney General's Office.

According to the state Human Trafficking Commission Report, 150 pimps were arrested and 105 children between the ages of 12 to 17 were recovered in a 76-city crackdown. Nationwide, the FBI reports 40 percent of sex trafficking involved children. Nearly half of all human trafficking occurs in a private residence, followed by hotels, restaurants and massage parlors.

Denise Keipert, who works with Fenton's Zonta group, said human trafficking can include sex workers, laborers and domestic servitude such as cooking and cleaning. Keipert said a regional task force to combat human trafficking is being formed in Genesee County, which will help train police, first medical responders and the public to recognize signs of human trafficking.

“Michigan is one of the top five states for human trafficking. As a community we need to be aware of it and looking for signs,” said Keipert, who added that Zonta will be working with the regional task force and continuing to inform the public about sex workers.

The Department of the State lists signs of physical abuse, employers holding identity documents and answering with rehearsed responses as some indications of human trafficking.


From ICE

Feds seek possible child victims of indicted sex offender

(Picture on site)

VANCOUVER, Wash. – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is seeking the public's help to identify possible victims of a convicted sex offender indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury on multiple child exploitation charges.

According to HSI special agents, Blaine K. Nipp, 36, of Vancouver, recently served as a baby sitter for at least two Vancouver-area families. Some of the images seized from Nipp's email account are believed to be of children placed in his care. Anyone with knowledge of the man's unsupervised contact with children should contact HSI at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE.

The Clark County sex offender registry lists Nipp as a level II sex offender, with previous state convictions for communication with a minor for immoral purposes and sending/bringing child pornography into the state.

The federal charges filed against Nipp Wednesday stem from an ongoing HSI investigation into an overseas photo sharing website often used to trade child pornography. Court documents state that in August 2013, special agents at HSI's Cyber Crimes Center in Fairfax, Va., identified the user account "taste" as a possible distributor of illicit images. Further investigation tied Nipp to the "taste" username and HSI special agents obtained a search warrant for his email account. Among the emails dated between May and August 2013, investigators found images and videos of young children engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

Nipp was indicted on three child exploitation counts: production of child pornography; receipt or distribution of child pornography; and possession of child pornography. As a previous offender, he faces enhanced penalties including a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison on the production charge alone. Nipp has been in custody since Jan. 10. At the time of his arrest he was a student at Clark College.

The charges contained in the indictment are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

HSI is investigating this case with the Clark County Sheriff's Office and the Vancouver Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Washington.

This investigation was conducted under HSI's Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 10,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2013, more than 2,000 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative.

HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.

For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI's Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page.

HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.



Texas Department of Public Safety rescues 39 children in 2013

Texas Department of Public Safety

AUSTIN, TX (DPS) — The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) announced that DPS officers, with the support of the DPS Interdiction for the Protection of Children (IPC) program, rescued 39 missing or exploited children in 2013. In addition, the IPC program has now reached an incredible milestone, recovering more than 100 missing and endangered children since 2010.

“The trafficking and sexual exploitation of children is reprehensible and threatens our most vulnerable and precious resource, and we are committed to pursuing the despicable predators who seek to do them harm and rob them of their innocence,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw. “With this premier training program, DPS is proud to lead the way in ensuring officers have the multifaceted education and training necessary to detect and rescue endangered children.”

Launched in 2009, the IPC program is designed to teach troopers and other law enforcement officers how to recognize indicators of endangered children who do not exhibit obvious signs of abuse. This program offers invaluable and sophisticated training created to help law enforcement officers identify and recover missing or exploited children, and arrest suspects for sexual assault of children.

As a result of this training, DPS has made more than 30 criminal arrests, initiated numerous criminal investigations, and recovered 101 missing and exploited children since the program's inception. In 2013 alone, 39 children were recovered by DPS in Texas. Throughout the years, the IPC program has been responsible for uncovering crimes affecting children and arresting the perpetrators in instances involving:

•  Possession of child pornography

•  Sexual assault of a child

•  Human trafficking

•  Commercial sexual exploitation of children

•  Abduction

To date, DPS has provided the IPC training to its own officers as well as other law enforcement, including more than 3,030 officers in Texas and approximately 4,080 officers outside of Texas, nationally and internationally. A variety of other groups interested in the protection of children – including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the New Jersey State Police in preparation for the Super Bowl, and a variety of child advocacy organizations – have also received this training.


New Mexico

Lawmakers scramble to address child abuse

Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE — The recent death of a 9-year-old New Mexico boy, whose mother was accused of kicking him to death after being investigated on at least three prior occasions, has lawmakers and other politicians scrambling to cast blame and line up behind proposed solutions in a state that ranks among the worst for child abuse deaths.

A flurry of bills and memorials introduced this session tackle everything from staffing problems and overwhelming caseloads within the state's embattled child welfare agency to tougher penalties for abusers, more responsibility for citizens to report abuse and more power for child services workers to take immediate custody of children who show signs of abuse.

The question is whether any of the proposals go far enough to prevent more deaths and the widening of any cracks in New Mexico's already fragile safety net.

New Mexico's glaringly high poverty rate and cultural shifts to encourage more collaboration among the state's social workers, police departments and district attorneys are places to start, said Michael Petit, president of the nonprofit group Every Child Matters and a member of the new federal commission charged with recommending a national strategy for preventing deaths child abuse and neglect deaths.

“The least change that's needed is a change in law,” Petit said. “Usually the body of law that governs any state's system is adequate to protect children. Then you get into the enforcement and implementation of the law, and the resources needed to fund all of that, and that's where it starts to break down.”

Child welfare advocates say that's what happened in the case of Omaree Varela, the 9-year-old who was found unresponsive in his family's Albuquerque home Dec. 27.

Police were first called to a mobile phone store a year earlier after getting reports that the boy had been slapped. Police officers and investigators with the state Children, Youth and Families Department conducted interviews and made a home visit but couldn't find any evidence of abuse.

About six months later, two officers went to the boy's home in response to a 911 call in which a dispatcher overheard threatening, profane and abusive comments. The officers didn't file a report.

The boy also had disclosed previous abuse to school officials about a year before his death. That report was investigated by CYFD, but officials there said they didn't have any active cases involving the family at the time of the boy's death.

In a separate case six weeks after Omaree's death, a 19-year-old Albuquerque man was arrested on suspicion of sexually abusing and beating his girlfriend's 4-month-old daughter. Doctors told police they previously sent referrals to CYFD several times about the infant and her 2-year-old sister, but the agency has said none of those referrals related to physical or sexual abuse.

Democrats, including gubernatorial candidate and Attorney General Gary King, have made the latest rash of child abuse cases a campaign issue, criticizing Republican Gov. Susana Martinez over the state's response and calling for the firing of her CYFD chief. Martinez — who prosecuted the Baby Brianna case, one of the state's most horrific cases of child abuse, during her tenure as a district attorney — has defended the child welfare agency.

One measure introduced in the House — dubbed “Omaree's Bill” — would give CYFD authority to immediately take custody of a child who is found to have bruises, broken bones, burns, bites or other signs of abuse. A hearing would follow within 48 hours.

Albuquerque attorney Colin Hunter said the agency already has the ability to request a 48-hour hold through law enforcement or to seek custody through court proceedings. Hunter, who is suing the agency over alleged civil rights violations in a custody case, said many of the problems stem from incompetency within the agency.

“This is not just popping up,” he said of the problems. “It's a very, very difficult job and it's a very, very unpleasant job, too, for a lot of people. But it goes beyond them being overwhelmed.”

Jared Rounsville, head of CYFD's Protective Services Division, argued that it's a matter of having enough caseworkers and foster families to support the tens of thousands of children in the system.

If Omaree's Bill was adopted, legislative analysts estimate the agency would need five times the resources it has now, including an additional 4,000 full-time employees. The department has asked for 10 more employees in this year's budget request.

The department gets anywhere between 32,000 and 34,000 reports a year. About half of those end up being screened for investigation. The numbers have been going up, officials say, because more people are watching for signs of abuse and calling authorities.

As for child abuse deaths, New Mexico rounds out the nation's six worst states, with more than three per 100,000 children. Federal statistics show the state reported nearly 80 deaths between 2008 and 2012, but critics say the numbers for New Mexico and the rest of the nation are severely underestimated.

Each case is heartbreaking, Rounsville said.

“Our whole careers, our whole professional lives are dedicated to protecting children, so when something horrible happens to a child, we rally together and support each other, and we just try to learn everything that we can so that we can find ways to make sure we're stretching ourselves, doing more and finding better ways of engaging the community,” he said.


Not Everyone's Idea of the Good Guys But Bikers Against Child Abuse Send Powerful Message

by Monica Bielanko

(Video on site)

I have yet to witness Bikers Against Child Abuse in action and not get a giant lump in my throat.

What is it about big, burly men stepping up to protect society's most innocent that reduces so many of us to tears?

Gotta love the “bad boys,” right?

As notes, “These men and women don't look like everybody's idea of the good guys. But they totally are. And when you're a frightened child who has been abused, having these guys on your team make courage and healing a lot more possible.”

A new BACA video making the rounds shows exactly what the organization does and if you're never seen these men and women in action, you should definitely check it out. In addition to befriending victims of abuse the bikers will also show up in court to make the child feel safer when testifying against an attacker. In fact, one child testified while sitting on a biker's lap. The result? A BACA child is four times more likely to testify than a child who is not a part of the organization.

Pipes, a spokesperson for BACA tells, “When we say we'll do anything to protect the children, we mean it.” Making kids feel empowered is what BACA is good at. Whenever a child feels threatened, BACA will be there. They will ride over to the child's home and stand guard all night if necessary. If the kids are afraid to go to school bikers will escort them there and watch until they're safely inside.

Whatever needs to be done, BACA will do it.



Seminar to help faith-based groups be "on alert" for child sexual abuse

by Beth Cravey

A Jacksonville church will host a Feb. 21 seminar to show faith-based institutions how to protect members from pedophiles and child
molesters and how to counsel adult victims of child sexual violence.

The 3-hour event will be presented by Jacksonville-based ReClaim Global, a national advocacy group against sexual abuse and sexual violence.

Area religious leaders of all faiths have been invited to what will be "an in-your-face reality seminar ... that declares there is 'No Other Option' regarding sexual abuse," according to a news release. "Spiritual shepherds must face the reality that the impact of sexual abuse ever occurring inside their congregation would prove to be a nightmare."

The seminar will focus on defining "proper offensive moves to prevent sexual abuse," reporting suspicious behavior and counseling adult victims of childhood sexual violence, "all of which will help minimize liability and create an overall, healthier congregation," according to the release.

Leading the event will be ReClaim Global founder, a Kaye Smith, a counselor and spokesperson on issues related to sexual abuse and sexual
violence. She was molested herself as a child, according to her website.

"The interest I've received on this seminar proves to me something I already knew. Religious leaders don't want sexual abuse or sexual violence of any kind occurring inside their congregations any more than any
other organization or institution wants it to infiltrate theirs," she said.

Later this year, Reclaim Global will tailor the seminar model to fit other organizations, such as community children programs, medical, educational, insurance and military institutions, according to the release.

But Smith is beginning with faith-based institutions because their leaders can help educate the community.

"Everyone needs to become educated. Everyone needs to be on alert. Everyone needs to brace themselves for this evil that has beset our society," she said.

The seminar will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at The Church of Jacksonville, 8313 Baycenter Road, at the Deerwood Center off Philips Highway in Jacksonville. Smith's son, Michael and his wife Connie are senior pastors at the Baymeadows area church.

Pre-registration is required at The cost is $59 per person, $20 for each additional person registering under the same institution name.

For more information, call (904) 233-9325 or email



Prosecution claims former nurse should have disclosed sexual abuse accusation

Teddy Hickman, 42, facing jury trial for indecency with a child by sexual contact.


Teddy Hickman was dishonest working as a pediatric nurse while facing an accusation of child-sexual abuse, prosecutors claimed Friday, Feb. 14.

The 42-year-old former nurse and emergency medical technician spent all week on trial for indecency with a child by sexual contact. If convicted, the five-man, seven-woman jury could sentence him to up to 20 years in prison.

When the allegation surfaced, Hickman was employed by Covenant Medical Center.

Edith Blackburn, the hospital's interim director of human resources, testified the defendant was hired Oct. 25, 2010. He began working in a cardiac laboratory, she said, and transferred to the hospital's pediatric intensive care unit in March 2011.

Previous testimony from law enforcement indicated Hickman was informed in January 2011 that he was being investigated for an offense alleged to have occurred about two months earlier.

Assistant district attorneys Morgan Vaughan and Jaret Greaser questioned Blackburn about the hospital's policy regarding disclosure of criminal accusations.

She responded, “It is the employee's responsibility to report anything that may be a violation.”

Blackburn continued through further questioning that Hickman's last day of work was June 27, 2012, and his formal termination date about two weeks later.

According to an A-J Media inquiry from the Texas Department of State Health Services, Hickman holds certification as an emergency medical technician that was suspended Dec. 17. The reason for the nine-month suspension is that he violated a department disciplinary order and failed to report an arrest and indictment for two counts of indecency with a child by sexual contact.

In September 2011, his license was issued a 12-month suspension — nine months of which were probated — for “failure to document and provide adequate patient care.”

Records from the Texas Board of Nursing indicate he voluntarily surrendered his nursing license on July 9, 2012. Representatives of the nursing board did not return phone calls or emails from A-J Media as of press time attempting to question the circumstances of the license surrender.

Hickman's accuser claims when she was 12, he touched her inappropriately and then grabbed her hand and forced her to touch his penis. The abuse was traumatizing and gave her nightmares the past four years, she said.

Terri Sanchez, a forensic interviewer with the Children's Advocacy Center, testified the accuser appeared truthful when she shared her story.

“I had no reason to believe she was lying,” she said.

Defense Attorney Daniel Hurley presented as witnesses a series of medical professionals who said Hickman suffered a viral infection in the days before the alleged offense. They described his mental capacity as “aware and alert” when he was released from their care.

Hurley also presented a character witness, JoLynn Frankfather, who said her children were former patients of Hickman.

“The care he provided to my children was exceptional,” she said.

Testimony resumes at 8:45 a.m. Monday, Feb. 17, in 137th District Court. Judge John “Trey” McClendon is presiding over the case.

A-J Media does not release the names of victims of sexual abuse.



Criminal Defense Attorney Arrested For Child Sexual Assault

ALLEN (CBSDFW.COM) - Police arrested a criminal defense attorney at the Dallas County Courthouse on Wednesday. Michael Edward Harssema was charged with sexual assault of a child. He's a criminal defense attorney who has practiced law in the state since the early '90s.

The victim is a 16 year old female. The teenager cried to a counselor regarding sexual abuse, according to the police report. It explained that the suspect was a defense attorney who was hired by the victim's family. According to the counselor, the child disclosed that Harssema sexually assaulted her on the first day that they met.

The teenager met Harssema in the summer of 2013 after he was hired by her mother, to represent her. One afternoon, she went with her mother tomeet Harssema for lunch at Uncle Julios in Allen to discuss the case. The victim explained that during this time Harssema constantly gave her compliments about how beautiful she was. After lunch, Harssema requested that the victim meet him at a Starbucks Coffee in Dallas to continue discussing the case. The victim's mother agreed to take her daughter to meet Harssema that afternoon. Harssema requested that he and the victim speak in private during this meeting so that she would “open up” more about her case. Her mother agreed to allow her daughter to speak with Harssema alone at the Starbucks while she waited in the car. The victim stated, according to the report, that while they were at Starbucks, Harssema offered her drugs because she seemed to be “really stressed out and needed to be on something.”

After the lengthy meeting at Starbucks, Harssema requested to take the teenage girl to dinner to continue to talk about her case. Her mother agreed to allow this to happen and she went home. The victim explained that she and Harssema went to eat a nearby Italian restaurant until 10 p.m. At this time, Harssema began to drive her toward her home in McKinney.

On the way back to McKinney, Harssema stopped at a 7-11 store on Stacy Rd in Allen, according to the report. The teenage girl stated that he entered the store and purchased a 4-Loco alcoholic drink and then gave it to her. He also bought a beer for himself. The victim stated that after they left the convenience store, Harssema stopped the car in a neighborhood in Allen close by. The victim said that her mother was calling Harssema's phone a lot during this time but that they did not answer.

Harssema took the teenager into the back seat of his car, according to the report and told her to cooperate with him. Harssema then raped her, according to the report.

After the attack, Harssema drove to a CVS in McKinney where he bought some cigarettes and gathered some napkins to clean up 4-Loco that was spilled inside of his car during the rape.He then took her home that morning. He told the her mother that his car broke down and that his phone was dead. The victim's mother confirmed her story to police.

Harssema is currently in the Collin County Jail on a $50,000 bond.


When the abuser is your parent

by Karen Spears Zacharias

Comfortably Numb.  That was how I used to identify myself to my own self when people would ask how I was. My response was always the same: “Fine” or “Okay, Thanks & you?” The responses were always generic, pre-planned, and I never skipped a beat. I made sure the timing was right, on point, and never suspicious. Yet I knew I was a walking, talking suspicion.

It was 90 degrees in the burning summer sun in Southern Philadelphia, where the summers are humid and brutally warm. Yet there I was, in long sleeve shirts and pants, covering what were hidden. Under those clothes were bruises, healing wounds, scabs and healing bones that were only identified by close friends and family, all of whom knew who put them there, and all of whom looked the other way. They turned a blind eye to my sunken-in eyes, protruding bruised cheekbones, cuts above my eyes and lips, and the yellowing of the healing bruises. I grew fond of the color yellow, simply because in my case, it was a color that represented healing. I was one step closer to donning a quarter sleeved top instead of a sweat shirt, or in rare cases, a t-shirt.

I never slipped on a story or explanation. I planned them all, and made each one more convincing than the next. I was numb to the pain of it all, and comfortable with lying about my healing wounds. I was comfortably numb. I was numb to the pain, and comfortable with the lies. That was the life I lived.

I am now 24 years old. I am a journalism student, and a survivor of parental abuse. I endured that said abuse for close to 10 years. My father, an alcoholic now in recovery, remembers very little of the frequent hospital visits, the blood stained carpets that I'd spend hours scrubbing, the fussing over my morning make-up by my naïve and fragile mother, always making sure the Catholic school I attended would never know of our sickening, painful private family life.

We had a dress code at my school, golf shirts and skirts in the spring and summer, sweaters and skirts in the fall and winter. I was the only student that wore my sweater year round. I had ready-made, bulletproof answers for the teachers and staff that questioned my decisions to wear thick stockings and wool sweaters in late May, the permanent darkening beneath my eyes, the occasion black eye and busted lip, and my consistent absences which were always coincided with a hospital note instead of a simple doctor's note. It continued on for years to follow, and the marks became impossible to hide.

The final time my father touched me was in the fall of 2011. We were arguing over something trivial. He was drunk, and while I knew better than to argue back in his failed condition, I was enraged and at my limit. That day, my father strangled me in the presence of my mother and boyfriend. I remember little upon waking up aside from the cops asking for a statement and my boyfriend beside me. I began to ramble one of my ready-made stories, while still struggling to regain full consciousness and breathe normally. I looked into the eyes of my mother, who witnessed the decade of pain I endured. I then turned to my boyfriend, who would allow me to lie no more.

The numbness was gone, and the pain washed over me like a tsunami, a wave so heavy it crushed my soul and swallowed my lies. For the first time in my entire life, I told someone the truth. The truth consisted of dozens of sets of blind eyes, how I had learned to lie so well, & how my lies convinced everyone, including myself.

I remember the look on the policeman's face as he checked my arms, legs, back, and stomach. I knew it was hard to believe, but my body told the story alone. I pointed to each mark, explaining the date, time, and reason why I had received that particular bruise. In those moments, I realized that between my ready-made lies I had stored the truth somewhere deep inside me. It only emerged when the pain finally did.

My father pled no contest and served no time, which was a decision that was ultimately left to me. He was required to complete alcohol treatment courses as well as anger management classes. Despite our past, a past that I would never get back, pain that may never cease, and a life that I was forced to endure at the hands of the adults that claimed to love me, I am working to repair my relationship with my father. I am working on forgiving, and although I can never forget, and the scars will never disappear, I believe that I can learn to love him, if he learns to be a person other than the man that spent so many years attempting to end my life, even if he didn't always know it or remember it.

I often wonder why it was me. We lived in a house, my father and I, with my mother and little brother. I was his punching bag, his anger release tool for years, and the answer as to why I may never receive. I spend my days now helping various individuals with poor self image, bullying related issues, and domestic abuse victims. I have found that my painful past can bring someone a future void of any of the scars I bear.

Finding resolution with my father took forgiveness; forgiving him, forgiving my mother, and the other family and friends that turned a blind eye out of fear. I have learned to spend every day grateful and thankful that I made it out of my story alive. These days, I am no longer numb. I feel. I feel everything. And I am comfortable, both with who I am, and with where my journey brought me. I would say that this is my stories end, but I am one of the lucky ones; for the second chance God gave me, is what makes this a whole new beginning.


(Editor's Note: Rachel Held Evans recently opened up her blog to an in-depth look at abuses within the church. Her posts are all worthy reads and I hope you'll make time to read them, especially if you are in church leadership. There is also plenty of abuse taking place outside the church, and not all abuse is sexual in nature. Our guest blogger wrote to me last year after reading A Silence of Mockingbirds, to tell me how much Karly's story resonated with her. Unlike Karly, however, our guest blogger suffered at the hands of her own father. Such is the case for many children whose parents abuse them, or allow them to be abused, creating forever a complicated relationship. Toss into that mix the expectation that an abused child is thus “obligated” by their own theological leanings or social mores to  forgive their abusers and life grows even more hair-pulling complex. Please feel free to share your thoughts with our guest blogger. Thank you.)


United Kingdom

Breaking the silence on sexual abuse of men and boys

The announcement of a new fund for male rape victims marks a symbolic milestone

Today's announcement by the Ministry of Justice of a new fund for male victims of rape and sexual violence is hugely significant.

The significance is not in the sum of money. While £500,000 is more than welcome, and will make a huge difference to the funded organisations and their clients, nobody would pretend it can do more than scrape at the scale of a problem which impacts an estimated 72,000 new adult victims every year and untold numbers of children. Nor does the significance lie in acknowledgement of the problem - charities have previously been funded for limited work with male victims, and in the light of historic sex abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic church and social service care homes, no one can plead ignorance as to the extent of horrors involved.

The significance is not even in the campaigning victory of charities like Survivors Manchester, who have fought persistently against the flagrant injustice of male victims being explicitly excluded from funds set up to provide care and support to victims of rape and abuse - although that achievement should not be overlooked. The historic significance of today's announcement is that it marks the first time that a British government of any stripe has ringfenced any quantity of victim support funding specifically to help men and boys. It may only be half a million quid, but it is a priceless milestone.

Although male victims make up a significant minority of cases of child sex abuse and of adult sexual, domestic and relationship violence, their specific needs and circumstances are often pushed so far to the margins of debate and policy that they all but disappear. In mainstream political and media narratives, the terms sexual violence and relationship violence are taken to be synonymous with the phrase 'violence against women and girls.'

This has consequences for male victims which go far beyond access to funding and resources. The voices and views of male victims are often excluded from debates about the investigation and prosecution of sexual crimes, despite considerable evidence to show there are specific and complex issues around men's and boys' willingness to report and testify. Debates around cultures of victim- blaming often focus exclusively on women's supposed behaviour or appearance, almost never on men's sexuality, despite extensive evidence that male victims, just like female victims, are commonly assumed to have been 'asking for it.'

While our society still has a long way to go before it treats the sexual abuse of women with the seriousness it requires, the equivalent journey for men has barely begun. Prison rape jokes in particular are almost ubiquitous. The ugly reality of that issue is stomach-churning rather than comic. One study drew upon interviews with ex-prisoners. The evidence was that while fewer prisoners are raped in British prisons than some people might imagine, those who are victimised are typically singled out for their physical and mental vulnerability and attacked repeatedly by multiple perpetrators. Detailed data on the extent of the problem in the UK remains elusive however because, shockingly, no one has ever commissioned or authorised the research to find out.

A different issue confronts the sizeable minority of male victims whose abusers are female. Despite clinical literature demonstrating that such victims face similar risks to other abuse survivors of post-traumatic symptoms, guilt, emotional and mental health risks and sexual dysfunction, victims often report feeling entirely isolated by a cultural denial of their existence. Boys who are abused by older women are told they should consider themselves lucky or grateful. While there is a large weight of evidence demonstrating that surprisingly large numbers of adult men can be victims of coercive or violent sexual abuse by women, their needs and situations are all but entirely ignored.

Perhaps the strongest argument for reserved funding for male victims is that if government won't help victims, nobody will. Charities working specifically with male victims tend to be desperately under-funded, the sad truth is that they are not considered the most sympathetic causes. Social psychologists have found that both genders, but especially men, are more likely to give to women in need than to men, which is generally attributed to socialised notions of chivalry. If ever you wanted an example of the feminist dictum that patriarchy hurts men too, it is right here.

Perhaps things are slowly changing. Similar points were made for many years about funding for research into male-specific cancers, but in recent years initiatives like Movember and Men United have brought glimmers of light to the gloom. Alongside the new funding, the Ministry of Justice have thrown their weight behind the survivors' charities social media campaign, #BreakTheSilence. Further support has come from the cast of Hollyoaks, which is currently running a sensitively-handled storyline of male rape. It is perhaps this gradual, public unlocking of the issue which, more than anything, can bring hope to survivors.



Awareness growing for trauma's impact on the mind

by Susan Starrett

ALLISTON - In recent years, as mental health and addictions have gained ground in public awareness, there has been a growing recognition of the impact trauma has on the mind.

Trauma can cause a possible genetic predisposition for these challenges, such as depression or alcohol dependency, to take root and sadly, flourish. Repeated trauma such as chronic abuse, sexual or otherwise, can impede the emotional development of a child or youth. The end result can create an adult who is unable to thrive or who may remain trapped in abusive situations.

How is trauma defined? It is an event in a person's life that is out of the ordinary. It is very personal and subjective. Personality, experiences, and life history all have an impact on how life-altering events or situations are handled. Some of us are better equipped than others to ride out the storms. Again, upbringing and experience play a role in our adaptability and ability to go with the flow.

Every single person with an addiction, every single person with mental health challenges has experienced trauma. Research has proven it. Many of the histories I have heard are heartbreaking beyond belief. Most of them involve terrible losses. The loss of childhood, the loss of innocence, physical safety, dignity, a home, a loved one, and freedom are just a few examples I have heard. But then, those who have shared their stories are on the road to overcoming these trials because they reached out.

I am a survivor of trauma also. It hasn't been an easy road but it has been incredibly rewarding. My own journey began nine years ago in the depths of despair, surrounded by thoughts of suicide. Someone planted a seed though. I was worth helping despite what my own life lessons had taught me. We all are. But most importantly, we are worth listening to.

Please, seek help if you are facing difficulties or have experienced the impact of traumatic events. We humans were never meant to go it alone. Calling 211 for a list of available resources is a great first step or stop by the Krasman Centre at 17 Paris St., Alliston, or call 705-434-0054.



Clark County prosecutors will no longer identify child abuse, sex crime victims in court documents


Clark County prosecutors are no longer using the full names of victims of sex crimes or child abuse in court documents.

The new policy was outlined in a Jan. 27 memo from Assistant District Attorney Christopher Lalli and circulated within the office's criminal division.

Lalli said in the two-page memo that the policy became necessary after a mother discovered through a Google search court documents that gave explicit details of sex acts committed against her child.

“In the Internet age, when documents are readily available, it's a way for us to protect victims from being discovered and associated with crimes,” Lalli explained in an interview.

From now, all victims of sex crimes and child abuse will be identified by their initials only in court pleadings, Lalli's memo stated.

The full identity of the victims will be disclosed to defendants in the discovery phase of criminal cases, and the victims names will be made public at trial and in transcripts of the proceedings, Lalli said.

Prosecutors under the new policy also will seek to redact the names of victims in defense pleadings or seal the pleadings.

Lalli said in the memo that discussions are underway with local police departments to adopt a similar policy of using pseudonyms in declarations of arrests they submit to the district attorney's office.



How investigators assess child abuse cases

A closer look at how state social service workers investigate claims of child abuse

by Lauren Pozen and Chris Bryant

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- It's a business of protecting those who don't have a voice.

"We don't want to remove {a child} unless we have to. But we have to protect children. That's sometimes a decision we have to make, says Deputy Juvenile Officer, Lisa Altis.

The team effort involves the Children's Division, that's where the process starts. People can report child abuse by calling a toll-free hotline.

"They are assessing that call at that moment and they make a decision. If it's a report where they feel needs to be looked at it is immediately sent down to the offices," says Altis.

If investigators determine abuse is going on, her team steps in. She says case workers in Greene County get up to 40 calls of concern each month.

In 2012, juvenile officers looked into allegations of abuse and neglect for 382 children. Throughout the year, those officers were responsible for 65 families and 100 children.

They are not the only department taking calls. In 2013, Springfield Police took over 500 calls of child abuse and neglect in the city.

"Numbers don't say everything. It could be, say family members were aware of the same situation and they all called. That could be three open calls in itself. You have to be really careful if you just to listen to the numbers," Altis.

She says it all comes down to what's best for the child. "We try to see if we can get a parent to recognize, divert their children to somewhere safe or work with services," says Altis.

If that doesn't work, the state takes custody of the child. Altis says having more resources and staff would make all the difference for everyone.

"They could meet with the families more, have more families so they can do really good work to prevent kids having to come here," she says.

When the state takes custody of several children in a family, as they have in the case of the three-year-old girl in springfield, that doesn't mean they will be placed together.

Every effort is made for that to happen, but it comes down to how many foster parents available and how many children they are willing to take on.

For more information on reporting child abuse, click here:



Peppers Ranch Foster Care works to break the cycle of child abuse

by Jay Dillon

GUTHRIE, OKLAHOMA -- "I'm going to talk about how I love Pepper's Ranch."

6-year old Coy couldn't wait to talk about his home. He, like many of the 75 children who live at Pepper's Ranch, was born addicted to drugs. They've been verbally, physically, and sexually abused, and neglected.

"These children come here broken and to some extent- falling apart," said Tonya Ratcliff, Executive Director at Pepper's Ranch.

Ratcliff and her husband adopted Coy and four other children from DHS, and brought them to Pepper's Ranch. It's a 264 acre foster care and adoption community a few miles south of Guthrie.

It's her life mission to give children a loving family. Ratcliff says 80% of the children are blood related.

"It's an amazing gift that a child who's been ripped out of their home can be right next to their brother or sister," she said.

Because of the previous abuse therapy is a big part of life. There's art therapy, where children are encouraged to visualize and create the thoughts and emotions they can't talk about.

"They're usually very stressed when they get here, so art is a way of helping them calm down," said Mary Lou Moad, the Art Therapist at Pepper's Ranch.

"I like drawing pictures about family and being outside," said 9-year old Evan. "I like drawing pictures."

There's also a ranch animal program that's teaching children like 14-year old Heather how to handle life.

"Pretty soon we're going to start barrel racing and hopefully soon we can do competitions," she said.

Four times a week there's academic tutoring. Most of the children attend public school. Others are home schooled.

"We carry a GPA within our community of 3.5 which is fabulous," Ratcliff said.

About 10 families and a resident grandmother make up Pepper's Ranch. Each home provides what these children need most. Religion is everywhere.

Brianna is 16 years old and has been at Pepper's Ranch for 4 years. She was abused for years and stayed away from adults. She and the others are just now learning what it's like to be loved.

When asked how that makes her feel, Brianna replied "Great... and actually awesome!

The children are also learning that love can be a two-way street.

"I love my family," said Coy. "And they love me, too!"

Click here If you'd like to learn more about Pepper's Ranch.



County sees increase in child abuse and neglect in 2013

by Chris McGuinness

The number of children abused and neglected in Bell County increased in 2013 from the previous year.

According to data from Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, 1,100 children from newborns to age 17 were confirmed victims of abuse and neglect in 2013. The year before, there were 924 confirmed cases.

The same data shows the number of victims jumped from 4,757 in 2012 to just over 5,000 in 2013, resulting in 3,858 investigations by the agency. The same data showed that 454 children were removed from homes, up from 360 the previous year.

The number of fatalities caused by abuse or neglect dropped from five in 2012 to just one in 2013.



Research shows that 'stranger danger' is a rule that must apply at home, too.

by Bettina Arndt

Public attention is riveted on the tragic stories emerging from the royal commission into child sexual abuse, but this is not the main game when it comes to the risks to children. The most likely perpetrator of sexual abuse on children lurks not in public institutions, but in the family home.

The villains are sometimes fathers or other relatives, but the rapid increase in the proportion of children who do not live with their two biological parents - now more than one in every four (27 per cent) - has opened the door to dangerous strangers, to mum's new boyfriend.

We are regularly exposed to sad news stories of children battered by men passing through the lives of sole mothers. What we rarely hear about is the increased risk of sexual abuse by men who lack the constraints that protect most children from incest. That risk is spelt out in great detail in a new research report by the Centre for Independent Studies. Research fellow Jeremy Sammut cites reviews of more than 70 research reports providing overwhelming evidence that girls living in non-traditional families are sexually abused by ''stepfathers'' - partners of their single, remarried or repartnered mothers - at many times the rate of abuse by biological fathers.

One such study, the 2010 US Fourth National Incidence Study of Abuse and Neglect, found that children whose single parent had a partner in the home were 20 times more likely to be sexually abused than those in a two-biological-parent family.

Step and single-parent families accounted for only one-third of all children in the US, but more than two-thirds of all children who experienced child sexual abuse. There is research from Britain and many other countries showing similar results. Sammut is rightly critical of the fact that in Australia we are denied the statistics likely to show comparable patterns.

Data on child abuse published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare fail to distinguish between fathers and ''stepfathers''.

Sammut argues this reluctance to publish relevant statistics is because of politically correct attitudes towards family diversity - ''namely the fiction that the traditional family is just one amongst many equally worthy family forms''.

The increased risk of child sexual abuse is simply one illustration of the fact that a child's life prospects are greatly influenced by the type of family they live with. Yet that is an unpalatable truth many people are determined to deny.

A Perth researcher working on a major longitudinal study on the mental health of children once told me he shuddered when he heard I had called to inquire about their latest findings.

They had found that a key variable was family structure, with children in single-parent families most at risk, followed by step-families, and those with traditional two-biological parents least at risk. The researcher had been hoping the findings would slip under the media radar.

The silence on these issues is driven by nervousness about offending the many people in these non-traditional families who are doing a great job raising their children. But given the widespread public concern about child sexual abuse, it makes no sense to allow such sensitivities to prevent public discussion on a risk that far outweighs the chances of a child being groped by a Scout leader or molested in YMCA after-school care.

So many children now live with single mothers who regularly invite strangers into their homes. Working as a dating coach, I've been astonished to hear from male clients who report often being allowed to stay in the homes of mothers while children of all ages sleep in nearby bedrooms. The excitement of a new lover encourages reckless behaviour.

That's hardly surprising. The early ''in love'' phase of a relationship can bring with it profound emotional and physiological changes, known for impairing good judgment. The lovesick lack insight or proper evaluative assessment of the true characteristics of the object of their attention - they see only the good and ignore the bad in their lovers. It's a mighty dangerous state for someone caring for children.

Perhaps the saddest aspect of this risky state of affairs concerns the biological father - the divorced dad who fears his child might be at risk from new men in his former partner's life.

I've heard so often from men in this situation who desperately report their concerns to the government departments supposedly protecting children, only to be dismissed as jealous nutcases.

And yet fathers still are regularly accused of child sexual abuse in Family Court battles, while dangerous strangers are allowed unlimited, unmonitored access to their children.

Sammut calls for a public education campaign to end the silence on this issue. Let's bring it on.



New Program Highlights LACASA's Broad Community Impact

A local non-profit is opening its doors to the public as part of a new program so they can see firsthand how help and hope is offered to vulnerable children and adults in the community.

The LACASA Center in Howell is launching a new monthly program that invites the community to learn about the agency's work during an hour-long “Within these Walls” presentation.

It's among 25 other programs offered to help victims and survivors of child abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault and there's always a need for volunteers.

It will be four years in March that Fran Campbell will have been volunteering as part of LACASA's on-call program. She's dispatched with police and medical personnel to respond to emergency sexual assault and domestic violence situations.

Campbell, who works as WHMI's Office Manager, is on call ten days out of every month and it was her own past personal history of abuse that motivated her to volunteer with LACASA and a desire to give back.

Campbell grew up in a very violent household where she witnessed her mother being abused for years by her stepfather and where she was also sexually abused.

After that experience and years of therapy, she says it's all been part of her personal healing process. She says many times, people just want someone to listen and it's a very rewarding feeling to know that you've made a difference in someone's life in an exact moment and helped show them that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

The LACASA Center is encouraging the community come out and learn about the work that it is doing and the profound impact it has on the safety and well-being of Livingston County.

The first event will be held Thursday morning but other “Within these Walls” sessions will be held, including afternoon and evening hours.

A complete schedule can be found through the link below. (JM)

Web Link:


Belgium Weighs Extending Euthanasia Law for Kids

Lawmakers are expected to pass a bill allowing euthanasia in very rare cases of terminally ill children

by Charlotte McDonald-Gibson

Belgium is expected to become the first country in the world to remove any age restrictions on euthanasia Thursday, after an emotional debate which split the medical profession over the best way to treat a terminally ill child with a desire to end his or her life.

Despite last-minute pleas from within Belgium and as far away as Canada, lawmakers are expected to agree with the doctors who argued that in rare cases of unbearable and irreversible suffering, children should have the same right as adults to ask to die with dignity.

Under the new laws in Belgium—which passed the Senate in December and are before the Lower House on Thursday—any child under the age of 18 could be considered, but only if they are able to express the wish to die themselves and can demonstrate they fully understand their choice. Their request must then be assessed by teams of doctors, psychologists and other care-givers, before a final decision is made with the approval of the parents.

Dr. Jutte Van der Werf Ten Bosch, a pediatric oncologist from University Hospital Brussels, says such cases are very rare, but heartbreaking for families and doctors when they do come up. She recalls the frustration of treating a 16-year-old girl who was suffering severe complications from leukemia and was lying in a hospital bed connected to tubes, waiting to die.

“It was just hell for six months in the hospital,” she says. “I feel like a total failure in these cases. … You promise the child ‘I will take care of you, I will do the best I can,' and then you can't do the best you can because all these complications arise and you can't do anything about it.”

She has come across children as young as eight who have articulated an understanding of their situation, but doctors expect the most likely cases would involve adolescents.

While assisted suicide is permitted under certain conditions in Switzerland, Germany and parts of the United States, only Belgium, Luxembourg and The Netherlands allow doctors to take steps to actively end a patient's life, usually by administering an overdose of sedatives. In Luxembourg, that patient must be over 18, while in The Netherlands children can request euthanasia from the age of 12.

Belgium's existing euthanasia law dates back to 2002, and has broad public support. A recent survey found that 75 percent of people supported extending the same rights to children. But there has been opposition, both from religious groups and more than 170 Belgian pediatricians who signed an open letter to parliament this week requesting they delay the vote.

Dr. Stefaan Van Gool, a pediatrician at the University of Leuven, says the doctors are concerned that procedures for assessing a child's mental capacity to make life-and-death decisions are not sufficiently clear in the bill. They are also worried a child might be pressured into making a decision by parents, and that there are too many possibilities for misuse of the law.

“We are suffering together with these children to get through the most difficult moments of life, but at such time what we deliver to these children is care,” he says, adding that his experiences show children want to live as full a life as possible right until the very end. “We have children who do exams up to two days before they die. They are children that always dream about a future, although this future may only be a few hours.”

A plea also came from Canada earlier this month, where a four-year-old girl born with a congenital heart condition recorded a video message urging Belgium's King Philippe not to sign the law. Her mother told the monarch that she was concerned that a child like her daughter—who grew up to be a happy, active child—could be euthanized after birth.

Dr. Gerlant van Berlaer, a pediatrician who also works at the University Hospital Brussels, understands why the debate in Belgium has provoked strong feelings all over the world. “I would be rather scared if it didn't evoke emotional reactions: we're talking about children,” he tells TIME. But he says no doctor would ever take the decision to end a child's life lightly. “The first reaction I will always have and all my colleagues will have is to run away from thesequestions because we don't want to hear this,” he says.

He remains haunted by all the cases in which he was powerless to do anything. He cites the case of a child with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, where the muscles degenerate to the point where a sufferer can no longer swallow or speak. “They can see the children in the bed next to them suffocate,” he says. “They will say, ‘I know my life will end, but doctor, just don't let it end like my friend's did.'”

Until now, the law has not allowed him to even discuss such an option. “This child asked me not to let him suffocate,” he says. “Of course I did not do anything active at the time, but I'm still struggling with this, because I did not respond to the last question of the child.”



Ohio Girl's Email Cry for Help Leads to Rescue


Children rescued by a sister's email cry for help to a teacher after they allegedly were beaten and tied to their beds, sometimes for weeks at a time, were happy just to be able to pick out their own snacks at the sheriff's department once free, an investigator said.

"They knew that they weren't going back into that environment," said Capt. David Hall of the Scioto County Sheriff's Office. "That we were there to rescue them from that and not put them back in a bad situation."

The email late last month led the teacher to call 911 and after an investigation involving police and children's services authorities led to the arrests of the girl's mother, grandmother and stepfather, Hall said. The three appeared in court on Wednesday.

The children all were beaten and tied to their beds, and the 44-year-old man arrested in the case also is charged with repeatedly raping his stepdaughters, ages 9 and 11, and abusing their 8-year-old brother, police said.

Hall didn't know which of the two girls sent the email but said the children now are in foster care, attend a bricks-and-mortar public school and seem to be doing well.

"I'm sure like most kids she trusted in her teacher that she would get her help," he said. "We don't know if the opportunity was there that maybe no adults were around. Or maybe she just had enough."

The girl sent the email to her teacher at the Toledo-based Ohio Virtual Academy on Jan. 30, Hall said. She asked the teacher to call 911 because she and her siblings were being "tied to the beds and beat," authorities said.

The children later told deputies that they were restrained with ropes and chains for weeks at a time, sometimes longer, and only occasionally were untied to do schoolwork. They also described being forced to take their clothes off to be beaten with belts and paddles, and they had marks and scars to match their stories, Hall said.

Though the children said they were only sometimes allowed to eat and were "very hungry," they didn't appear overly malnourished, he said.

A school administrator said she was proud of the teacher and all the staff at the online school.

At the request of the sheriff's office, the school declined to make the teacher available, saying she was a potential witness in the investigation.

"We care deeply about the welfare and needs of all our students," senior head of school Kristin Stewart said in a statement. "Our teachers are extraordinarily dedicated, highly trained, and have special relationships with their students."

The children's stepfather, originally from the Virgin Islands, has denied the accusations and wasn't cooperating with investigators, Hall said. He's the father of one child in the home, a 2-year-old girl, who was not believed to have been harmed.

Hall said one of the other adults is cooperating and told deputies the children were tied up as punishment "because they were stealing food" at the home in Wheelersburg, a town across the Ohio River from Kentucky, about 90 miles south of Columbus in Appalachian country.

The Associated Press is not naming the suspects to protect the children's identities. All three suspects had their first court appearance on Wednesday, when pleas of not guilty were entered for them. The stepfather is being held on a $1 million bond, while the mother and grandmother are being held on $150,000 bonds.

All are being charged with child endangerment, but Hall said he expects more charges to be filed after a grand jury considers the case.

Hall said the children have been placed in "a very good home with a good family" in southern Ohio.

"They're getting to eat now. They have loving people around them," he said. "They're just little kids. They like to love and be loved, and they deserve all that."



Clark County School Board considers changes to child abuse reporting policies


Clark County public schools will be changing the way staff reports child abuse and neglect is reported if extensive policy changes are adopted Thursday by the School Board.

School officials say the new regulations are not a reaction to the death of 7-year-old student Roderick “RJ” Arrington in November 2012.

On Nov. 28, Roundy Elementary School staff noticed RJ was walking with difficulty and had extensive scarring. He told staff his mother and stepfather beat him on the buttocks and back with a TV cord, broom handle, spatula or belt when he was in trouble. School staff called Clark County's child abuse hotline to report the case but refused the hotline worker's request to check the boy's buttocks for fresh injuries, according to county records.

With scars indicating old, healed injuries and a lack of current visible injuries, the hotline worker determined RJ was not in immediate danger and labeled the case a lower priority, directing school staff to let the student go home.

His brain swollen and body covered with bruises, RJ died from injuries suffered that night. His mother and stepfather face child abuse and murder charges.

While district staff discussed RJ in making proposed changes to the regulations, he was not the reason for the effort, according to district spokeswoman Kirsten Searer.

“Certainly, the case came up. We took a look at it. It's a terrible situation,” said Searer who emphasized the policies were already under review at the request of workers wanting clarification on who they should inform of suspected abuse or neglect.

RJ's father, Roderick Arrington Sr., is no longer pointing his finger at the School District, which has been dropped from the list of parties to blame in his wrongful death lawsuit for RJ. The father agreed to a finding that the district “acted appropriately and reasonably under the circumstances.”

Nevertheless, the proposed changes to district regulations may have saved RJ's life if they had been in place on Nov. 28, 2012.

While current school policies tell staff to only call the child abuse hotline within 24 hours, the proposed changes require them to tell the school principal and a school counselor and nurse, if on site.

A nurse would check for current injuries, Andre Denson, the district's chief educational opportunity officer, said Wednesday.

If a child has current injuries showing evidence of present or impending danger, a hotline worker would label the case a top priority, not allowing the child sent home until a Child Protective Services investigator arrives, according to the policies of the Clark County Department of Family Services.

Under the School District's proposed rules, school staff would also call school police for direction when a worker suspects abuse would occur should the child return home.

“We don't want to send that child home,” said Denson, who will present the regulation changes to the School Board on Thursday.

The new regulations also make it clear that “school personnel do not have responsibility or authority for determining whether protective care is needed.” That's up to the county's Child Protective Services and school police, according to the changed rules.

The message here is to report everything to Child Protective Services, Searer said.

“It's not our job to investigate these things,” she said. “It's best to err on the side of caution.”

The rewritten rules also make it clear that parents are never to be called if abuse or neglect is suspected outside of school. That would taint the investigation and could put the child in greater danger, Denson said.

“We just informed the abuser they're being watched,” he said.

Other proposed changes include expanding the definition of child abuse to include sex trafficking and telling staff that all reporting requirements also pertain to 18-year-old students.

“They're all students in our system,” Denson said. “We treat them the same way, let the system run its course to protect the students.”

A new training video on child abuse and neglect has also been viewed by all employees of the district, the largest public employer in the state with 39,000 workers.

“It's mandatory for all employees, even part-time coaches, custodians and bus drivers,” Searer said.



City employees commended for rapid closures of child-abuse complaints

Documents detail city's effort to reduce backlog of child-abuse reports


As Richmond's Department of Social Services rushed to clear a backlog of reports of child abuse and neglect, certificates of recognition were presented to those who closed the most cases, workers were beneficiaries of an “anonymous gift card donation” to commend their efforts and employees were paid to work Saturdays to get old cases off the books, according to city documents.

A series of monthly departmental reports obtained by the Richmond Times-Dispatch through a Freedom of Information Act request reveal the measures taken last year to encourage and commend employees working to close outstanding child-abuse reports at a rapid clip.

The city auditor's office found last month that many of the 774 cases cleared between July 1 and Sept. 30 of last year were closed improperly without adequate regard for children's safety. Out of a random sample of 100 closed cases, 66 percent were found to have been closed inappropriately, according to the investigative report released in mid-January by City Auditor/Inspector General Umesh Dalal. The report said the city's clearance rate “appeared to be excessive” compared with similarly sized localities.

Responsibility for the inappropriate closings was attributed to one employee: Sheila Smith, program manager of the Child Protective Services unit, though officials did not name her publicly. Dalal's report, which recommended disciplinary action, found that Smith created a flawed set of criteria for clearing cases and that management was not informed.

The Times-Dispatch obtained monthly departmental reports submitted to Deputy Administrator Stephen W. Harms by former interim Social Services Director Tonya Vincent from May to the end of last year, as well as monthly reports produced by Smith.

The reports don't mention the precise criteria being used to close cases, but the documents show that addressing the backlog quickly was a clear goal for the department.

In an interview Wednesday, Harms, who oversees the department as interim deputy chief administrative officer for human services, said the staff recognitions were intended to thank employees for putting in extra effort to clear the backlog, not to encourage them to cut corners.

“This was not an attempt to deliberately incentivize people to short-circuit or do inadequate work in conducting these investigations,” Harms said, adding that the recognitions were a response to employees who went “above and beyond” in dealing with a major issue.

The awards and recognitions section of the July report states: “Certificates of Recognition were presented to CPS staff that closed the largest number of referrals and to those that completed their work plans for the month.”

Harms said certificates were given department-wide as “morale boosters,” but some in the CPS program were tied to closing the most cases.

The August report states that CPS and Family Preservation employees benefited from “an anonymous gift card donation in recognition of their efforts.” Gift cards went to Family Preservation staff members who assisted with completing new CPS referrals and to CPS workers who “exhibited teamwork” and “consistently performed quality work.”

“Kudos! To all for your ongoing efforts to clear up the backlog of referrals,” the section about the gift cards concludes.

Harms said a total of 20 gift cards to Padow's Hams & Deli worth $10 each were given to 12 separate employees.

The child-protection unit also began a “special initiative” at the end of August in which staff and supervisors were working Saturdays to review and close old referrals, according to the report. The initiative was planned to run through the end of September.

Harms said overtime is not available to the employees who were working on Saturdays, but they did receive “special pay,” which he had to approve as the deputy chief administrative officer. Bonuses were also granted during the same period, Harms said.

A total of $11,846 in extra pay and bonuses was given to 12 employees, Harms said.

“This was all part of a multifaceted strategy to bring more resources to bear on addressing the backlog,” Harms said.

The improperly closed cases were reviewed by social services professionals from two regions who found that three sexual-abuse referrals were not conducted with law enforcement, three referrals were closed despite a “high or “very high” risk rating and two referrals involved unexplained injuries to infants that should have been investigated, according to the auditor's report.

“Most importantly, there is consistent evidence to suggest child safety was either never assessed or assessed at a point in time far after the (the complaints were validated),” the unnamed experts noted in the auditor's report.

Though the city had hired a consultant for a provisional role helping to develop and implement the corrective plan that recommended clearing the backlog, city officials reiterated their position Wednesday that managers above Smith were not aware of the problems in how cases were being cleared. The consultant, Betty Jo Zarris, is paid $45 an hour for up to four days per week, officials said.

Last month's report was the latest episode in a turbulent period for the department, battered by several reports outlining mismanagement and dysfunction that may have put children in jeopardy. Several recent child deaths are under review to determine how the children might have been known to Social Services, but officials have said there is no evidence that any children were harmed as a direct result of the closed cases.

This week, Mayor Dwight C. Jones named David Hicks, his senior policy adviser, as the interim director of social services. Jones said he expects Hicks to evaluate the situation and help bring about a better-functioning agency within six months.

Vincent, the interim director of the agency at the time of the inappropriate closings, resigned from the position just before the report's release to take a state job as a deputy secretary of public safety. Vincent could not be reached for comment.

In a news conference last month, Harms said he was aware of the high rate of closures, but he took it as a sign of progress being made after the agency assigned extra staff to clear the backlog. Harms said he did not speak with Smith about the criteria used until he was alerted to Dalal's findings. Dalal's investigation was sparked by several complaints from social services employees.

Zarris, a veteran social services administrator who previously served as assistant director for family services at the Virginia Department of Social Services, was hired by the city in July to prepare and monitor the corrective action plan required by the state. From July through January, she was paid $27,872, Harms said.

Officials were asked Wednesday if Zarris or upper-level management should have taken proactive steps to ensure that they understood how the work to clear the backlog was being conducted.

“I believe that she should have known. I believe that (Harms) should have known,” said Tammy D. Hawley, press secretary to Mayor Dwight C. Jones. “There are several layers of management that should have known. But the auditor explained to you why they didn't know. He said the information wasn't shared.”

“Communication needs to be improved up and down the chain of command in social services,” Harms said.

The monthly reports also illuminate the circumstances that gave rise to the case-clearing blitz.

In the current fiscal year, less than a quarter of CPS investigations in Richmond have been completed within the 45- to 60-day timeframe mandated by the state, according to the December report, the latest available.

Only 22.9 percent of CPS investigations were completed in a timely manner in the current year, far below a target of 95 percent. Just 15.7 percent of CPS assessments were completed in a timely manner, also far short of a 95 percent goal.

For the calendar year, CPS received 2,468 complaints of child abuse or neglect, 1,295 of which were deemed valid for assessment or investigation.

Virginia law requires local departments to make a determination within 45 days of opening a child-welfare investigation or assessment, but the window can be extended to 60 days with written justification.

Investigations and assessments both involve inquiries to determine the safety needs of a child and the risk of future harm, but investigations also attempt to determine if abuse or neglect has occurred and, if so, who is responsible.

Officials have said the agency was short-staffed and overwhelmed by the backlog, which stood at 840 out-of-compliance referrals as of the end of May, while also trying to handle roughly 100 incoming cases per month.

As they worked to get the numbers down, employees cleared more than 300 pending cases in September alone, including 121 closed in a single week, according to one of Smith's reports. The numbers are listed on a page titled “accomplishments.”

Harms joined the city in late 2012, replacing Carolyn N. Graham, whose three-year tenure with the city was marked by stumbles in services under her supervision.

The city has asked the state to conduct its own review of how the city agency handled the closed cases, which will include bringing in state personnel to consult on a short-term basis.



Child Abuse Death Review Committee Legislature grapples with DCF errors

by Gary Pinnell

SEBRING - Both Legislative chambers took up child-welfare reform Tuesday, hearing about staff turnover and caseloads from a range of experts.

But one number stood out: 432, the number of Florida children who died of abuse and neglect in 2012.

Child neglect is a problem Highlands County knows well. Last year, two sets of Highlands County parents were arrested after their children died. In June 2013, an 18-month-old girl sweltered in a hot car while her married mother, Adriana Espinosa, 23, is alleged to have been with her boyfriend, Christopher Eiland, 22, of Fort Meade.

And in February 2013, Kyle Lee Marsh Rupert and Sandra Jackson, 25, were charged after their infant, Milo Rupert, died from malnutrition and neglect in a trashy, roach-infested house. Officers found food on the floors and doctors determined the 10-month-old was bitten by insects. The father pled guilty in July and was sentenced to 24 years in prison.

Pam Graham, Florida State University social work professor, told the House Healthy Families Subcommittee that the Department of Children and Families Services was already involved with 40 percent of 432 children before they died.

DCF employees had also investigated complaints at Rupert's home, but that was before the final six months, when conditions deteriorated. Rupert's parents controlled the cockroach problem and DCF investigators closed their investigation.

"It pains me that if the right people had been helping those families, a lot of the deaths could have been prevented," Graham, a member of the State Child Abuse Death Review Committee, told lawmakers.

"The Senate is focusing a lot of attention on the way DCF approaches abuse reports," said Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring.

"The public is crying out to us to have revolutionary reform," said Sen. Eleanor Sobel, a Hollywood Democrat and chairwoman of the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee. "We don't want to keep reading about children's deaths. . However, we're going to do it in a pragmatic way, step by step."

Her panel and the House Healthy Families Subcommittee examined requiring all new child-protective investigators to have social-work degrees and helping the current investigators get such degrees.

Not everyone who spoke to the lawmakers agreed on how to fix the workplace culture at DCF, but virtually all said it had to be done.

"The thing that we keep coming back to is a lack of fraternity," Mike Watkins, chief executive officer of Big Bend Community Based Care, told the Senate panel.

To the House panel, Mary Alice Nye, of the Legislature's Office of Program Policy and Government Accountability, said child-protective investigators report feeling pressured to close cases within a 30-day window and to get all of their work done without filing for overtime pay.

The investigators "felt that they were less and less able to use their knowledge and expertise in decision-making," Nye said.

They also reported spending 50 to 80 percent amount of their time on administrative tasks and expressed concern about going into homes where there had been violence, difficulty in getting law enforcement officers to meet them there and using their own cars for work, which could identify them in small communities.

"They generally indicated they felt support from their immediate (supervisor) but not from DCF or the lead (community-based care) agencies," Nye said.

DCF Interim Secretary Esther Jacobo said a program to pair child-protective investigators was being piloted in cases where a child is 3 years old or younger, has a prior DCF history and other family risk factors such as domestic violence, mental illness or substance abuse.

Jacobo said the pilot has been so successful that it will go statewide. Gov. Rick Scott has recommended hiring 400 additional child protective investigators, bringing their caseloads down to 10 apiece.

"More investigators will help, and I think you will see us budget in that direction. But we're also bringing stakeholders together to make sure the whole system ensures that children aren't being short changed," Grimsley said.

Sobel said it's important for state agencies to be more consistent.

"Stop the turnover and create a workforce that likes where they're working and enjoys what they do and accomplishes a lot," she said. "For the sake of the kids, we have to do this."

According to OPPAGA, the turnover for child-protective investigators in Florida is 20 percent. For the case managers who provide services at the local level, it's 30 percent.

"While these are infrequent cases, a single case is too many," said State Rep. Cary Pigman, R-Avon Park. "The Department of Children and Families, in consultation with other specialists in the field, have developed a process to identify families that are at high risk for abuse or neglect. This is based on evaluating several risk factors. When these families are so identified, the case workers can then focus greater efforts on preventing bad outcomes. We would hope to intervene long before the child presents to the ER as a victim of neglect or abuse."



Teacher Claims He Was Fired For Reporting Suspicion Of Child Sexual Abuse

by Sarah Fruchtnicht

A Pennsylvania substitute teacher claims he was wrongfully terminated after he reported suspicion of child sexual abuse to police.

Meadville Area High School teacher Christopher Harmon insists he was threatened for reporting his suspicions to authorities, instead of the principal, and was fired the day after he made the report.

Harmon filed suit in federal court against the Crawford County School District, its Superintendent Charles Heller and MASH Principal John Higgins on Feb. 3.

The lawsuit states that Higgins "attempted to intimidate and dissuade Harmon from making any additional reports of suspected child abuse outside the 'chain of command.' In other words, Harmon was only supposed to report suspected child abuse to him and no one else. These intimidation attempts culminated in Principal Higgins threatening to blackmail Harmon and to take away his licensure as a substitute teacher.”

Harmon says he overheard a student conversation in September in which a girl said her minor sister was “engaging in sexual intercourse with her mother's paramour, who is believed to be in his 40s.”

The student allegedly said the sexual relationship had been ongoing for the last two years.

"Harmon informed the student that he had overheard the conversation and was required by law to report it, as such a sexual relationship constitutes statutory rape,” the complaint says. “Instead of denying the incidents of statutory rape had occurred, the student pleaded with Harmon not to report it. This lack of denial only strengthened Harmon's suspicion of abuse."

The student also allegedly “pleaded” with Principal Higgins not to let Harmon report the incident.

Harmon reported the alleged abuse to the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare on Sept. 27.

The termination letter he received on Sept. 28 said it was "[d]ue to the reported behavior that [he] exhibited as a substitute teacher at [MASH] on September 26, 2013.”

School district labor attorney Richard Perhacs says Harmon was removed for walking out amid a conversation with Higgins about the proper way to file the report.

“Child protective services law is very clear,” Perhacs told the Meadville Tribune. “When an employee receives this information while at work, he's supposed to report it to his building supervisor. He went outside the chain of command, which is what this is all about.”

Harmon believes he "was acting as a citizen and speaking upon matters of public concern when he reported suspected child abuse and Principal Higgins' attempt to suppress its reporting to Superintendent Heller and the authorities, including the Department of Welfare and the police, and thereafter his speech is protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution."

He is seeking reinstatement, lost wages, costs and damages for constitutional violations, retaliation, and Whistleblower Law violations.


Child Sexual Abuse: Top 5 Countries With the Highest Rates

by Ludovica Iaccino

South Africa

One child is raped in South Africa every three minutes, according to a 2009 report by trade union Solidarity Helping Hand.

A 2009 survey by the country's Medical Research Council found that one in four men admits to raping someone, 62% of boys over 11 believe forcing someone to have sex is not an act of violence and a third believe girls enjoy rape, the Independent reported.

More than 67,000 cases of rape and sexual assaults against children were reported in 2000, according to the Telegraph.

Some of the victims were as young as six-months-old, a number of whom died from their injuries, while others contracted HIV.

Many people in South Africa believe that sex with a virgin can heal someone from HIV/AIDS.

"The idea that having sex with a virgin cleanses you of AIDS does exist and there have been reported cases of this as a motivating factor for child rape. But evidence suggests that this is infrequently the case," Dr Rachel Jewkes, director of the MRC's Gender and Health Research Group told humanitarian news and analysis service IRIN in 2002.


In its 2013 report India's Hell Holes: Child Sexual Assault in Juvenile Justice Homes, the Asian Centre for Human Rights said that sexual offences against children in India have reached epidemic proportion.

The report stated that more than 48,000 child rape cases were recorded from 2001 to 2011 and that India saw an increase of 336% of child rape cases from 2001 (2,113 cases) to 2011 (7,112 cases).

"Imagine 48,838 children raped in just 10 years and you have a small measure of how deep the inhuman phenomenon of child rapes runs in India," correspondents Nishita Jha and Revati Laul wrote last year on a Tehelka blog.

"Child sexual abuse is rampant, indiscriminate and cuts across class, geography, culture and religion. It happens in cities and villages, by fathers, brothers, relatives, neighbours, teachers and strangers," Jha and Laul continued.

In 2012, the Indian Parliament passed the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, which incorporates child friendly procedures for reporting, recording of evidence, investigation and trial of offences.

According to a 2007 study by the Indian Government of nearly 12,500 children from across India, 53% of children - boys and girls equally - were victims of sexual abuse.


Police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said in 2012 that rape cases against children continued to increase countrywide, according to NewsdeZimbabwe.

"The (rape) cases are on the increase and during the week ending 25 September 2012, the cases rose to 81 from 65 the previous week. Evident from our investigations is the fact that relatives commit most juvenile rape cases," said Charamba.

In 2011, there were 3,172 rape cases of juveniles recorded countrywide, an increase from 2010, when 2,883 were reported.

A clinic in Harare, capital of Zimbawe, said it had treated nearly 30,000 girls and boys who'd been abused in the previous four years, the Guardian reported in 2009.

Betty Makoni, founder of the Girl Child Network (GCN), said the real number of victims was likely to be double that recorded by the Family Support Trust Clinic.

United Kingdom

A quarter of a million Britons - more than one in every 200 adults - are paedophiles, according to figures released by Scotland Yard, the Telegraph reported in 2000.

In 2012/13, there were 18,915 sexual crimes against children under 16 recorded in England and Wales, according to the National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC). Included in that figure were 4,171 offences of sexual assault on a female child under 13 and 1,267 offences of sexual assault on under-13 male children.

In the UK, one in 20 children (4.8%) have experienced contact sexual abuse and over 90% of children who experienced sexual abuse, were abused by someone they know, NSPCC said.

A paedophile ring linked to Britain's worst abuser Robert Smith, arrested in 2005, is 'still at large', the Herald reported in 2013.

United States

"Even if the true prevalence of child sexual abuse is not known, most will agree that there will be 500,000 babies born in the US this year that will be sexually abused before they turn 18 if we do not prevent it," according to the Children Assessment Centre (CAC).

The US Department of Health and Human Services' Children's Bureau report Child Maltreatment 2010 found that 16% of young people aged 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized in that year, and over the course of their lifetime, 28% of young people in the US, aged 14 to 17, had been sexually victimized.

"Adult retrospective studies show that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men were sexually abused before the age of 18. This means there are more than 42 million adult survivors of child sexual abuse in the US," said the CAC.



Calif. man gets 22 years for keeping relative as sex slave

Prosecutors said Raul Ochoa began sexually abusing and strictly controlling the victim when she was 12, keeping her mostly locked in his home for more than a decade.

MARTINEZ, Calif. — A Northern California man who pleaded guilty to keeping a young female relative as a sex slave, repeatedly raping her over a 15-year period and forcing her to stay in a backyard shed, was sentenced on Tuesday to 22 years in state prison.

Prosecutors said Raul Ochoa, 52, of Richmond, began sexually abusing and strictly controlling the victim when she was 12, keeping her mostly locked in his home for more than a decade.

Ochoa pleaded guilty last month to one count of a lewd act on a child and two counts of forcible rape under a deal aimed at sparing the victim from testifying in court, Contra Costa County Deputy District Attorney Ryan Wagner said.

Ochoa, whose attorney Sung Ae Choi declined to comment on the case, will be eligible for parole after serving 85 percent of his sentence and will be required to register as a sex offender after his release, Wagner said.

The victim, now in her late 20s, has not been named and her exact relationship to Ochoa was not disclosed. But a prosecution spokeswoman read a letter from her to Ochoa in court, in which she said she was still haunted by memories of the abuse.

"I remember he would look at me with fearless eyes, without any compassion at all," the woman said of Ochoa. "He should have taken care of me, but he didn't."

The woman said that, since her escape, she had started a job and enjoyed socializing.

"I have friends who look out for me like you never did...I have fun," she said. "I know there's no one waiting outside of the bathroom for me."

Prosecutors said Ochoa rarely let the woman leave his side and timed her when she went to the bathroom. As a girl, she was home-schooled and she later worked from the house as a bookkeeper for Ochoa's landscaping company, they said.

Ochoa built a large shed in his backyard, where he had sex with the woman and sometimes forced her to stay, according to Wagner and the police.

Family members ultimately helped her escape from Ochoa's house in August 2012, when she was 27, said Richmond Police Sergeant Nicole Abetkov. She hid in the nearby city of Berkeley for three days until she reported the abuse to police, Abetkov said.

It was unclear how much the woman's family members, who also lived with Ochoa, knew about the abuse and why they didn't report it sooner, Wagner said.


South Dakota

SD panel approves child sex abuse task force


PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota's Senate Education Committee unanimously approved a bill Tuesday to establish a task force that would study the impact of child sexual abuse.

The group would be named Jolene's Law Task Force after Jolene Loetscher of Sioux Falls, a victim of sexual abuse as a teenager who has spoken publicly about her story.

The task force would meet to study child sexual abuse in South Dakota and suggest ways the state could improve its policies for dealing with the problem.

"We owe it to everyone to give all of those children out there the right to become survivors," Loetscher said, in support of the bill.

The Associated Press generally does not normally name the victims of sexual abuse but is naming Loetscher because she has come forward and spoken publicly.

The task force would include a victim, law enforcement, medical and mental health experts, child advocates and a tribal representative with experience on the issue. It includes a $21,000 allocation from the Legislative Research Council to fund meetings later this year.

The measure now goes to the full Senate.

The bill's main sponsor, Sen. Deb. Soholt, R-Sioux Falls, said one in four girls and one in six boys are victims of sexual assault.

"This is an adult problem," Soholt said.

Soholt initially thought she would propose a school mandate and take direct action addressing the issue. But after talking to educators, she determined more investigation needs to be done.

"What I came to understand is that we don't know what to do," Soholt said.

Hollie Strand, a forensic interviewer who talks to children in abuse cases, said she has noticed inconsistency in how organizations address this problem.

"Everybody has a different response to this. I don't think we know as a state who's getting it right and who's getting it wrong," Strand said.

Dr. Nancy Free, a pediatrician and expert in the evaluation and treatment of abused and neglected children, said child sexual abuse often goes unreported, causing later problems.

"It's expensive to take care of adults who have been victimized and not helped," Free said.

She said adults who suffered sexual abuse as children have high rates of obesity, cardiovascular disease and depression.

Other supporters of the bill included child advocacy organizations and the state Department of Social Services. No one spoke in opposition to the bill.

"These are the most vulnerable victims that there are," said Dick Tieszen of the South Dakota Sheriffs' Association. "The problem is here, next we need to understand it."


FBI Investigates Sex Crimes at 30,000 Feet

by Joel Grover and Phil Drechsler

As the Spirit Airlines redeye took off from LAX to Chicago, the cabin lights dimmed, and passenger Dana LaRue fell asleep.

Hours later, she says she woke up to find the hands of the man in the next seat groping her chest and groin area.

“It was completely dark in the plane. Totally silent,” LaRue told the NBC4 I-Team. “His hands were all over my body."

The FBI has investigated a rash of sexual assaults on airplanes in the last year. The feds don't keep statistics on how common this crime is, and say most cases go unreported.

“No one goes on a plane thinking this is going on happen,” said FBI Special Agent David Gates, who is based at LAX. “We have dozens of reports a year nationwide.”

The feds say most sexual assaults on airplanes happen on longer, nighttime flights, when the cabin is dark and many passengers are dozing off.

“A lot of times there are very few witnesses to the crimes,” says the FBI's Gates.

But there was a witness to the crime businessman Bawer Aksal committed on a flight from Phoenix to Newark last year, records show. He was convicted of criminal sexual assault and sentenced to federal prison for eight years.

According to court records obtained by the I-Team, Aksal put his hand through the clothes of the woman sleeping in the seat next to him, and groped her crotch, breasts, and other areas.

The FBI says passengers should always remain aware of a stranger in the next seat.

“If you want to take a nap, that's fine. But don't knock yourself out. Be aware of your surroundings,” Gates says.

A woman sitting next to Galen Fox on a Honolulu-to-LAX flight did knock herself out, with Dramamine, because she told authorities she had just finished final exams and wanted to sleep.

Fox, a state lawmaker from Hawaii, unzipped the woman's pants while she was sleeping, and rubbed her crotch, according to court records.

When Dana LaRue was allegedly assaulted on that Spirit Airlines redeye, she didn't report the incident until right after she got off the plane.

“I was stunned,” LaRue told NBC4. “I just felt completely sort of paralyzed and shocked.”

The FBI urges travelers who are assaulted in the air to report the incident before the plane lands.

“The best thing to do is to make sure the flight attendants know,” Gates says.

“There's a lot of shame, there's guilt, there's fear of talking about it,” says Patti Giggans, executive director of Peace Over Violence, which advocates for victims of sexual assault.

But Giggans also urges victims to report the crimes immediately.

“If this isn't exposed, then I think this will happen more frequently,” Giggans told NBC4.

The passenger assaulted by Galen Fox did tell flight attendants while the plane was still in the air, so they called airport police to meet the flight when it landed.

Court records say police took a statement from Fox, who admitted he'd sexually touched his seatmate. That helped the feds get a conviction for sexual molestation, and Fox was forced to resign from the Hawaii legislature.

The FBI says passengers should immediately report all crimes that occur on airplanes, and that they also provide victim support services. To report an assault in the air to the FBI, call 310-477-6565.

“I just know from now on, if I'm ever in that situation again, I'm going to try and scream my head off” right on the plane, LaRue says.



Harris County child abuse deaths drop by half

by Cindy George

Two dozen Harris County children died from abuse and neglect over the last fiscal year, a nearly 50 percent drop from the previous 12 months, according to data released Tuesday by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

Statewide, 156 children died from abuse and neglect in 2013.

There's no definitive reason why fewer children died, according to Child Protective Services spokeswoman Estella Olguin, but a drop in the number of reported instances of abuse statewide may be one explanation.

The numbers "fluctuate" each year, she said, and "we really can't explain why."

In 2012, Harris County had 45 deaths and hit a record 67 in 2009 - the highest since officials began keeping local records in 1989.

Now, with more than 1 million children, Harris County is the home of 1 in every 7 Texas minors and holds one of the nation's highest concentration of youngsters.

The 24 child deaths in Harris County translates to two deaths per capita - or 1 for every 100,000 minors - and tracks with the state's rate. Texas has 2.2 deaths for every 100,000 children. Other Texas counties with large child populations, including Dallas, Tarrant and Bexar, had rates ranging from 2.1 to 2.7.

Other Houston-area counties had much lower rates: 1.1 in Fort Bend and Brazoria, 1.3 in Galveston and 0.7 in Montgomery.

One metric that tends to remain steady from year to year is that most children who die from abuse or neglect are age 3 and younger. In 2013, 81 percent of the deceased minors were infants, babies or toddlers, according to agency data about the last fiscal year - Sept. 1, 2012, to Aug. 31, 2013.

"They can't talk and don't go to school. There are not a lot of extra eyes and ears to watch out for them," Olguin said. "The parents might find them difficult to parent because they cry or need to be potty trained or the parents might have inappropriate expectations."



Child abuse deaths drop in Texas but rise in Dallas County


AUSTIN — Abuse-related deaths of Texas children decreased last year, though they were up significantly in Dallas County, the Department of Family and Protective Services reported Tuesday.

There were 17 abuse- and neglect-related deaths of youngsters in Dallas County in fiscal 2013, which ended in August. That was a 55 percent increase over the 11 reported for the previous fiscal year.

In Collin and Tarrant counties, there were decreases, while other Dallas-area counties remained about the same.

Officials were puzzled by the statewide figures, which the department released in its annual databook. The number plunged to 156 in fiscal 2013, the lowest death toll since the same number was recorded in 2000.

“We really don't know why fatality numbers vary from year to year,” said department spokesman Patrick Crimmins. “It could very well increase again, up to 200.”

Since fiscal 2010, the annual figure had been between 212 and 231 youngsters.

Texas has nearly 7.2 million children, and last year's decline in child deaths from abuse and neglect came despite a steady drumbeat of recent news reports about a much different statistic: In fiscal 2013, there was a nearly fourfold increase in mistreatment deaths of foster children, a tiny subset of the overall child population.

The horrific body-slamming deaths of 2-year-old Alexandria Hill in a rural Central Texas foster home in July and of 11-month-old foster baby Orien Hamilton in an Austin suburb last October rattled the state agency.

Commissioner John Specia ordered Child Protective Services workers to make sweeps of certain foster homes. He convened “stakeholder meetings” with foster-care providers to look at possible changes in procedures and rules. He already has overhauled certain practices.

Next week, a Senate panel will hold a hearing on the safety of children in the department's care.



What can you do to prevent child abuse?

It is normal for babies and even toddlers to cry. Most children cannot stop themselves from crying until they are at least 4 years old and depending on the reason for crying.

• Remember, it is normal to feel frustrated when a baby or young child cries, but it is never OK to shake or harm a baby or young child.

• If you are feeling frustrated or angry, take a break. You can leave a baby in a crib or other safe place while you take a few moments to calm down.

• Keep a list of phone numbers on hand that you can call for support if you are feeling frustrated or angry. This can include friends, family members, neighbors, church members or health care providers. Other good support resources are Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky, Prevent Child Abuse Indiana and the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline.

Use care when deciding who can watch your child. If you don't have total and complete trust in the person, then don't trust him or her with your child. A new boyfriend/girlfriend, someone who is violent or abusive toward you or a pet, or someone who swears at you or your child should not be trusted to watch your child.

• Caring for a baby or young child is hard work! It requires patience, self-control, a basic understanding of the child's needs and some specific skills. Make sure that anyone who cares for your child is prepared to watch your child and wants to watch your child.

• The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend spanking or other physical discipline for children of any age.

Research has shown that it does not work over time, and the risk of accidentally injuring the child far outweighs any potential benefits. Children who are spanked or physically disciplined also are more likely to be aggressive toward adults and other children.

• If you have experience and skill in caring for babies or young children, you can help other families in your community by offering to provide a few hours of child care to those who could use a break.

• Many people who physically abuse children have substance abuse issues. If you know or suspect someone has a substance abuse problem, do not allow that person to watch your child.

• Many people who physically abuse children also abuse their partner/spouse. If your partner has hit, kicked, shoved or threatened you with physical violence, he/she should not be caring for your child.

• Bruising is an important warning sign of child abuse. For an infant who is not yet crawling, bruising of any kind is not normal. For a child of any age, bruising to the ears, neck, torso, buttocks or genitals is not normal. If you see this kind of bruising, take your infant or child to the doctor immediately.

• Burns, such as those caused by cigarettes or immersion in hot water, on a baby or child are warning signs of child abuse. If you see burns on a baby or child, take him/her to the doctor immediately.

• Toddlers are especially prone to abuse during toilet-training accidents. Most children are not fully potty trained until after 3 years old, and even after that accidents are common. Having unrealistic expectations for a toddler can increase frustration for the caregiver and lead to abuse.

• By law, you are required to report suspected child abuse. If a child is in immediate danger, call 911.

To make a confidential report:

In Kentucky, call the Kentucky Child Protection Hotline toll-free 24/7 at (877) KYSAFE -- 1/(877) 597-2331 - Anonymous calls are accepted

NOTE: To report nonemergency situations that do not require an immediate response, you can use a Web-based reporting system at The Web option is available from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday, except for state holidays. In Indiana, call the Indiana Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline toll-free 24/7 at (800) 800-5556.

If you need support or someone to talk to, keep these numbers on hand:

•  Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky (800) CHILDREN -- (800) 244-5373 or

•  Prevent Child Abuse Indiana (317) 775-6439 or

•  Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline (800) 4-A-CHILD -- (800) 422-4453 or



Communities that Care: ‘Stewards' training prepares adults for child abuse prevention

by Cameron Frantz

The sexual abuse of children is an overwhelming problem and its effects are devastating. Our children need us to help prevent abuse from happening in the first place. This month's “Straight Talk for Parents” session will share with community members ways to prevent child sexual abuse in our community.

Two years ago, through the partnership of the Centre County Youth Service Bureau, the YMCA and the Centre County Women's Resource Center, the “Stewards of Children” program was brought to the region with the goal of training 5,800 adults in three years. Since that time, we have trained 3,200 adults who want to protect the children in our community. The program is a two-hour, evidence-informed training program that teaches adults how to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse and is designed for parents, youth-serving organizations and other concerned community members.

Research shows that 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused by the time they turn 18. Think about 10 children in your life — your 4-year-old neighbor, the 13-year-old boy you always see riding his bike, a group of kids walking home from school or the children you see while you are out to dinner. Protecting these children starts with prevention and awareness. Everyone has the potential to make a difference in this community because the consequences of child sexual abuse don't stop with the effects on the child, or on the family; it affects the whole community.

Almost every week, we can open a newspaper and see a new report of a child being sexually abused. Until the day those reports are eliminated, our community needs to continue to talk about prevention and recognition.

Consider attending a “Stewards of Children” training. In two hours, you will have increased awareness of the prevalence, consequences and circumstances of this abuse. You will have skills to create a positive change in organization with their policies and procedures. And, just as importantly, you will be empowered to develop your own personal prevention plan.

This training is for anyone who wants to make a difference in their community by educating adults about the protection of children.


New York

Child abuse and neglect rise with income inequality

by H. Roger Segelken

In the aftermath of the Great Recession and the increased attention to the widening income gap, concern over the impact of inequality on children and families has risen. According to a nationwide study by Cornell researchers, the list of bad outcomes associated with income inequality now includes child abuse and neglect.

The income inequality-child maltreatment study, covering all 3,142 U.S. counties from 2005 to 2009, is said to be the most comprehensive of its kind and the first to link higher risk of child maltreatment to localities where the gap between rich and poor is greatest.

“More equal societies, states and communities have fewer health and social problems than less equal ones – that much was known. Our study extends the list of unfavorable child outcomes associated with income inequality to include child abuse and neglect,” said John Eckenrode, professor of human development and director of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research in the College of Human Ecology.

Results of the nationwide study were published in the Feb. 10 online edition of the journal Pediatrics as “Income Inequality and Child Maltreatment in the United States.” In addition to Eckenrode, who directs the National Data Archive of Child Abuse and Neglect, other report authors include Elliott Smith, Margaret McCarthy and Michael Dineen, researchers in Cornell's Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research.

Nearly 3 million children younger than 18 years of age are abused physically, sexually or emotionally or are physically neglected each year in the United States, the Cornell researchers noted. That is about 4 percent of the youth population.

“We have known for some time that poverty is one of the strongest precursors of child abuse and neglect,” Eckenrode said. “In this paper we were also interested in areas with wide variations in income – think of counties encompassing affluent suburbs and impoverished inner cities – and in the U.S. there is quite a lot of variation in inequality from county to county and state to state.”

The damage inflicted on children by maltreatment doesn't stop when kids graduate – if they do – from school, the Cornell researchers observed. “Child maltreatment is a toxic stressor in the lives of children that may result in childhood mortality and morbidities and have lifelong effects on leading causes of death in adults,” they wrote. “This is in addition to long-term effects on mental health, substance use, risky sexual behavior and criminal behavior ... increased rates of unemployment, poverty and Medicaid use in adulthood.” Eckenrode noted that “reducing poverty and inequality would be the single most effective way to prevent maltreatment of children, but in addition there are proven programs that work to support parents and children and help to reduce the chances of abuse and neglect – clearly a multifaceted strategy is needed.”

Support for the study came from the Children's Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.



Fayette County, Commissioner Zimmerlink accused of making public email with child abuse allegations

by Liz Zemba

A Uniontown attorney has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging Fayette County and Commissioner Angela Zimmerlink violated his unidentified clients' civil rights by forwarding to the media an email containing confidential child abuse allegations.

In the lawsuit filed on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh, Benjamin Goodwin identifies as an adult, Jane Doe 1, as well as the adult's minor child, Jane Doe 2.

Goodwin alleges the child's parent sent an email to Commissioner Vincent Zapotosky on June 29, 2012, containing allegations of child abuse involving the minor child and Fayette County Children and Youth Services' failure to “take adequate measures to protect the safety of the children involved.”

The parent wanted to set up a meeting to discuss the concerns, according to the lawsuit. To facilitate the meeting, Goodwin contends Zapotosky forwarded the email to the other commissioners, a CYS official, District Attorney Jack Heneks and a state representative.

Zimmerlink, Goodwin alleges, forwarded the email to newspaper reporters on Aug. 1, 2012, despite his clients' expectation that its contents would be kept confidential. He said his client suffered “great emotional injury, humiliation and emotional distress” as a result.

Goodwin contends his clients' rights under the Fourth, Ninth and 14th amendments were violated. He cites their right to privacy, due process and the right to be free from “unreasonable publicity concerning one's private life.”

Goodwin contends his clients' rights to privacy under state law were violated, as well as their rights under the state constitution and the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law.

Zimmerlink on Tuesday said she had limited involvement in the matter and acted within the county code.

“It is unfortunate that the plaintiffs filed suit against the county and me, given that Commissioners (Vincent) Zapotosky and (Al) Ambrosini encouraged the action by asking for a county internal investigation,” Zimmerlink said. “My limited involvement in this matter was within county code and with the knowledge and agreement of the parties concerned.”

Goodwin said he did not identify his clients because he wants to protect the minor's identity. He is seeking an unspecified amount in punitive and compensatory damages.



Crisis center formed to help families cope with child sexual abuse

by Nadia Galindo

Rosalinda Rodriguez with Mujeres Unidas in McAllen said child sexual abuse is difficult to cope with.

"It's an issue here in the Valley and it is under reported," Rodriguez said.

She believes it's prevalent in this area because of the cultures illegal immigration brings in and because many of the victims fear an outcry would cause deportation.

"Their mom is not from here but they are, so if you make an outcry they fear their mom will get deported," she said.

After discovering the abuse, the road to recovery is not an easy one.

"I think bottom line it's fear, if he doesn't get caught will he come back and hurt my children," said Rodriguez.

Fear is what a Weslaco mother lives with every day that a man accused of sexually abusing her 8 year-old girl is free roaming the streets.

For the past seven months police have had trouble making an arrest because the suspect fled the state.

It's a scenario all too common with these types of cases.

A reason counseling is highly recommended.

"In the families that seek closure, they learn to be survivors," Rodriguez said.

It is up to police and the U.S. Marshals to track the suspect down.

To stop the abuse experts say parents should pay attention to changes in their child's behavior and do something as simple as talk to them.


South Dakota

Sex Abuse Survivors Talk To Lawmakers

by Kealey Bultena

(Audio on site)

Survivors of child sex abuse and advocates for those victims want lawmakers to address the abuse. Senate Bill 154 establishes a task force to study the impact of sexual abuse of children. Not one lawmaker in committee opposes the effort.

Mary Beth Holzworth is in the state Capitol for her sons. Two of her three boys survived sexual abuse.

"On June 10, 2009, my five-year-old son sat next to me and said, ‘Mom, uncle shared his germs with me.' I had no idea what that meant and asked him to explain further. What he began to decribe was something I never thought I'd hear from one of my children. He explained how his uncle had sexually abused him, from fondling to oral sex to penetration. As a mother, nothing I'd ever heard had made me more sick," Holzworth says.

Holzworth says her boys still struggle with anger, guilt and night terrors brought on by the abuse – and they bear that burden for the rest of their lives.

National statistics estimate one in four girls and one in six boys is a victim of sexual abuse.

Beckie Francis knows that well. She moved to Sioux Falls three weeks ago. She brings with her a history of survival.

"My father sexually abused me from the age of four until 12," Francis says. "My father, after he got done abusing me, he would put his finger over his mouth and go, 'Shh, don't tell mommy. If you tell mommy, mommy will leave.'"

Francis says families often don't believe victims and instead side with abusers, because they don't want others to find out about the horrifying crimes.

An expert on child abuse says sexual abuse happens in all forms in South Dakota. Pediatrician Nancy Free says it has no boundaries – rural, urban, ethnic, economic. Free says the state should address this problem for the innocent young victims. She says, if that's still not enough, South Dakota must recognize that child sexual abuse costs the state in mental health services, the treatment of illness, and because sex abuse often prevents kids from growing into productive members of society.

Members of the Senate Education committee unanimously approve Senate Bill 154. It now moves to the Senate floor.

The bill creating the task force is through the Senate Education committee because lawmakers want to establish a starting point to develop strategies and educate people about child sexual abuse.



Florida murderer of nine-year-old Jimmy Ryce facing execution Wednesday

by Zachary Fagenson

Two decades after a Cuban immigrant kidnapped, raped and murdered a 9-year-old south Florida boy, his killer will be executed by lethal injection Wednesday evening.

Juan Carlos Chavez, who confessed to the ghoulish 1995 murder of Jimmy Ryce, was found guilty in 1998. He is due to be executed by lethal injection at 6 p.m. at Florida State Prison in Starke.

Memories of the incident, which triggered changes in U.S. laws on violent sexual predators, are still vivid in Miami.

"My daughter was just a little bit younger at the time and everybody who had a kid was glued to this," said J. Alex Villalobos, former Florida Senate majority leader who shepherded the Jimmy Ryce Act through the state legislature.

The Florida law, which has been replicated across the country, cleared the way for imprisoned sexual offenders to be held after their release if found likely to repeat their crimes.

At the time "if you knew somebody was going to commit a crime there was nothing you could do about it," Villalobos said.

Chavez, who worked as a farmhand and had no criminal history, kidnapped Ryce at gunpoint as he got off a school bus in the Redland, an agricultural area of south Miami-Dade County.

He then took the boy to his trailer and raped him. When Jimmy tried to escape, Chavez shot him in the back, dismembered him, and hid his body in concrete-filled plastic pots.

The boy's disappearance shook south Florida and garnered national attention. Hundreds of volunteers signed up for the search and his parents held a stream of press conferences.

Three months after disappearing, Jimmy's remains were found near Chavez's trailer after his landlord found the boy's school bag.

Chavez arrived in south Florida on a raft from Cuba with two others in 1991 and was working as a farmhand at the time of the murder. Little is known about his background or family, who remained in Cuba.

The Florida Supreme Court upheld Chavez's 1998 conviction and death sentence. Subsequent appeals were denied, though Chavez last week filed a final appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court.

After Jimmy's death Don Ryce and his mother Claudine, who died in 2009, became advocates for abducted and missing children. They opened a center for abduction victims in south Florida and have provided hundreds of Bloodhounds to law enforcement nationwide to help find missing children.

"They were camping out at my office just to make sure that the bill passed and at the same time going through this grief," Villalobos said.

The Ryces were also on hand as President Bill Clinton in 1996 signed an order instructing federal agencies to post missing-children posters in federal buildings.

Don Ryce, a retired lawyer now living near central Florida, told a local CBS TV affiliate he plans to attend the execution and that it will provide "a sense of relief," though he continues to grieve.

"This is the kind of loss that never gets right, that you never completely recover from," Ryce added.



Person of interest ID'd in Md. girls' disappearance

GAITHERSBURG, Md. - Police in Maryland have identified Lloyd Welch, a 57-year-old convicted child sex offender, as a person of interest in the 1975 disappearance of two sisters who never returned home from a Montgomery County shopping mall.

Authorities said Tuesday at a news conference that Welch is believed to have been at the shopping mall on the day the girls disappeared and has been in a Delaware prison since 1997, reports CBS DC.

Welch traveled extensively throughout the United States from the 1970s through the mid-90s, authorities said. He worked as a ride operator for a carnival company, which often set up at malls. He has a criminal history that includes arrests in several different states for sexual offenses against young girls, according to the station.

Police believe there may be victims who have not come forward.

Twelve-year-old Sheila Lyon and her 10-year-old sister Katherine went missing March 25, 1975 while walking home from Wheaton Plaza in Kensington.

Several witnesses, including the girls' older brother, saw the two girls inside the shopping mall before their disappearance, according to the station. An extensive search and investigation ensued, but no one has been charged in the case.

“We have all been haunted by the disappearance of the Lyon sisters. Even though so much time has passed, we have not forgotten that those young girls deserve justice, and their family deserves closure," Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger said Tuesday.

Authorities are seeking the public's help to learn more about Welch. Anyone with information is asked to call investigators at 1-800-CALL-FBI, or they can submit a tip online at



Victims can be victors

Author gives Muscatine students advice on escaping bullies' prison

by Ky Cochran

MUSCATINE, Iowa — The Central Middle School auditorium was packed with squirming elementary students Monday afternoon while Jodee Blanco, best-selling author of “Please Stop Laughing at Me ... One Woman's Inspirational Story,” gave her anti-bullying presentation.

“It is so good to see your adorable, smiling faces,” Blanco said as she opened her presentation. “I'm gonna tell you about what happened to me.”

Before she started, though, Blanco was quick to establish a "secret code" with the students. Singing a short, wordless melody meant that they needed to shift their wandering attention back to her, and raising her right arm was the signal for the kids to repeat what she had said. While Blanco's antics may seem strange to adults, her only concern was communicating effectively with the second-, third-, and fourth-graders, who were her primary audience on Monday. Blanco is in Muscatine this week to discuss bullying with Muscatine students.

Her story of being on both sides of the bullying problem as a young student herself quickly got her audience's attention. Dozens of little faces turned toward her as she paced back and forth in front of the auditorium seats, imitating the voice of her younger self and her younger self's classmates .

As her story wound down and her audience began to get fidgety, she switched tracks, focusing on instruction and audience interaction.

Compassion — which students defined as “kindness,” “love,” and “caring” — and forgiveness were key concepts in the methods she outlined for dealing with bullying. In addition to teaching students what she said was an easy four-step method of dealing with bullying, which included an opportunity for both parties to make amends, she also taught them how to be a “rescuer,” someone who saves a victim from a bullying situation.

Over the years, Blanco has kept in touch with some of the students who heard her presentation at other schools, when they were as young as the Muscatine students she spoke with Monday afternoon.

She told the story of a young boy named Kevin who, after hearing her presentation when he was 8, asked for her help as a victim of bullying. Kevin, who was suicidal then, is in the military now, doing well and with good friends.

Blanco will be giving more presentations over the next couple days throughout the Muscatine Community School District. She tailors her talks to her audiences, with varying degrees of intensity, depending on the age group she's addressing.

She will also be giving a presentation for the community tonight (Tuesday) from 6-7:30 p.m. at the Muscatine High School auditorium, 2705 Cedar St.

The community presentation will include a dramatic staging of Blanco's past as a bullying victim as well as an interactive workshop where Blanco will give specific advice about interacting with children who are victims of bullying and those who are the perpetrators. Afterwards, she will be available to talk while she signs her books.

Admission is free and the presentation, rated G for parents who are thinking about bringing their kids, is open to all members of the community. However, Blanco specifically encourages adult survivors of peer abuse to attend for “a night of awareness and healing you don't want to miss.”


New York

CPS workers to monitor child abuse cases at two hospitals

Will have presence at Children's, Sisters

Investigators from Erie County's Child Protective Services will now be assigned to Women & Children's Hospital and Sisters Hospital to be available for immediate consultation in cases in which hospital staff suspect a child is a victim of abuse or neglect.

The partnership with Kaleida Health and Catholic Health was announced Monday by Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz and County Commissioner of Social Services Carol Dankert-Maurer.

The extension of CPS availability comes in the wake of two high-profile cases in which children were beaten to death, one by his mother's boyfriend, the other by his stepfather, after their suspected abuse was reported to CPS.

Eain Clayton Brooks, 5, died in October 2013, and 10-year-old Abdifatah “Abdi” Mohamud, who had called for help himself, was killed in April 2012.

In a statement announcing the agreements, Poloncarz pointed out that medical providers often are the first to identify when a child has been deliberately injured through abuse or from neglect.

Kaleida and Catholic Health will provide office space and equipment for the CPS employees. Two full-time caseworkers will be assigned each weekday to the two hospitals, which, Dankert-Maurer said, accounted for approximately 1,000 allegations of abuse and neglect each year. The caseworkers will have immediate access to the children's medical records once the State Child Abuse Hotline has been notified.

Representatives of the hospitals welcomed the arrangement as a way to improve communication between their staff and CPS.

“Having a CPS worker dedicated to (Women & Children's) will strengthen the relationship between physicians, the health care community and CPS by providing for an intense collaborative relationship where critical information can be shared confidentially,” said Dr. Stephen Turkovich, quality and patient safety medical officer at Women & Children's Hospital. “Together we will make every investigation more robust and complete. Ultimately, this will ensure that children are placed in an environment that will maximize their potential, keep them safe and provide the necessary supports for both them and their caregivers.”

Poloncarz's office said the agreement is “the latest step on a continuum as Erie County continues to work to better protect children and families, and follows a number of ways the county has acted in recent months to proactively address the issue of child abuse in the community.”

The executive also noted that the Department of Social Services has hired more CPS workers, upgraded its training and instituted greater oversight on case outcomes.



Vermont has first certified child abuse pediatrician

ST. JOHNSBURY (AP) - Vermont has its first certified pediatrician trained in recognizing child abuse.

Dr. Karyn Patno is a pediatrician at Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital in St. Johnsbury. She has set up two ChildSafe clinics that provide specialty child abuse care in Vermont.

According to reports, as a brand new specialty, there are currently only about 400 certified child-abuse pediatricians in the nation.

Patno says since she started the ChildSafe clinic in 2008, she's gone from seeing 50 patients to over 200 a year. She also consults over the phone, does case reviews with other pediatricians, and helps the state police on child pornography cases. She also does a lot of lecturing to law enforcement, family agencies and pediatrics residents.



Million March Against Child Abuse 2014: The Beautiful Warrior is Walking to Ask for Tougher Sentencing for Violent Crimes Against Children across the U.S.

Dolores M. Miller is again taking it to the streets with the Million March Against Child Abuse. Individuals will join together in national walks to raise awareness of child abuse and crimes against children

Million March Against Child Abuse (MACA) is a non-partisan, grass roots, nationwide effort to raise awareness of the magnitude of child abuse, to educate the masses and ask lawmakers for tougher sentencing in violent crimes against the nation's children.

The walk is spearheaded by Lin Seahorn, Founder of Children Without a Voice (CWAV) out of Atlanta, Ga. (Pronounced C-WAVE). “Children are the world's greatest natural resource and should be protected more than anything else on earth”, stated Seahorn. “We have to break the silence around the magnitude of crimes against children right here in the U.S., educate the masses, hold lawmakers accountable for taking these crimes seriously and keeping violent offenders in prison where they belong. We are asking everyone to join in the streets on April 5th.” -Seahorn

For those in the Philadelphia area that would like to walk, register by sending name, phone # and email to: MACAphiladelphia (at) gmail (dot) com. To visit the MACA Philadelphia Facebook page click HERE

For those people interested in helping to Co-Lead the walk, please contact MMACA. Those outside of the Philadelphia tri-State area can visit the MACA Washington DC facebook page at: Click here and click on the “About” tab to see if there is a walk scheduled in the area. For those desiring to lead a walk, email: MACAcoordinator (at) gmail (dot) com

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month
There are nearly 3 million reported child abuse cases each year. However, experts believe the actual number is closer to 9 million as most go unreported. At a recent congressional hearing, experts testified they believe nearly 10 children die each day in the U.S. as a result of child abuse. One out of 6 boys and 1 out of 4 girls will be sexually molested by a close and trusted person before the age of 18.

About Children Without A Voice USA
CWAV is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness and preventing crimes against children, child abuse and neglect through advocacy and education. They teach classes on Shaken Baby Syndrome prevention, Good Touch/Bad Touch and Anti-Bullying as well as ships free educational materials nationwide. For more information, please visit

For more information on MACA, visit the Washington, D.C. page at:

Contact: Lin Seahorn,
National Walk Founder and Chair
Phone: 404-474-4020
Email: lseahorn (at) att (dot) net



We need better sexual abuse prevention


Nineteen years after the tragic rape and murder of 9-year-old Jimmy Ryce shook the people of our state and our nation, his killer will finally be brought to justice and executed Feb. 12. It's a fitting time to look at how Florida's efforts to protect children from predators have evolved and where more work needs to be done.

It's significant that the heartbreaking tragedy prompted the passage of the Jimmy Ryce Act, which provides a process to subject sexually violent predators to civil commitment after their prison sentences are complete if a panel of experts finds that they remain an ongoing threat to society. As significant as that law is, the recent death of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle illustrates the fact that Florida must engage in an annual self-examination of whether the protections we have in place are working and if we need to do more.

That is why this March I will be lacing up my sneakers and beginning my fifth annual 1,500-mile Walk in My Shoes journey across Florida. This walk allows me to raise awareness about the devastating problem of child sexual abuse and advocate for changes in Florida law that would better protect those who are vulnerable and punish those who offend.

Throughout the past five years, the walk has become a galvanizing movement with the unique ability to both allow victims of sexual abuse to come forward and begin the healing process and also stir up the will to stand up, speak out and change laws to make Florida a safer place for our children.

Every year, people ask me why I walk, and every year I give the same answer: I walk so that others don't have to endure the same horrifying abuse that I went through. Stories like Jimmy Ryce's break my heart and propel me to continue advocating for change.

I'm proud of the progress we've made, passing protective legislation year after year, but these stories, and others like them, mean that we can do more — that we must do more.

These heartbreaking cases riveted public attention and have helped catalyze legislative determination to ensure that those who pose an ongoing threat to our children are appropriately punished and civilly committed. It truly is the only way we can make sure that violent predators are not given the chance to offend again.

That's why I've joined with state legislators on both sides of the aisle who are championing the cause of protecting our children by embracing comprehensive and meaningful legislative changes. Members of the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee, including Reps. Matt Gaetz and Gayle Harrell and Sens. Denise Grimsley and Eleanor Sobel, are sponsoring legislation that closes loopholes in the justice system, mandates community supervision of sex offenders and requires college campuses to notify students and staff when sexual offenders and predators live nearby.

Similarly, Sens. Lizbeth Benacquisto, Rob Bradley and Greg Evers are sponsoring bills that would eliminate the statute of limitations for certain sexual crimes, increase mandatory minimum sentences for sexually violent predators and those who offend against people with developmental disabilities, and expand the identifying information sex offenders are required to register with law enforcement to include things such as email addresses, screen names and information on vehicles offenders own or have access to.

While no single law or policy can eliminate childhood sexual abuse from our state, balancing zero-tolerance offender laws with education initiatives moves us closer to a culture where the sexual exploitation of children is not tolerated.

Through our advocacy, we've made significant progress. However, we must recognize how much work is still left to be done. I urge the Legislature to consider the impact child sexual abuse has on communities and embrace the bills being sponsored this session.

So, this year, on the eve of the execution of Jimmy Ryce's murderer, if you ask me why I walk, I will tell you: I walk so that the headlines are not filled with reports of tragedy, but are instead filled with stories of hope and healing.

Lauren Book is the founder and CEO of Lauren's Kids, a nonprofit organization committed to preventing child abuse and healing survivors .



Police get break, identify sex offender, in 1975 missing girls' cold case

by Ben Brumfield

The two little girls vanished nearly 40 years ago, their disappearance long faded from the public consciousness, their names etched in a stone marker their hope-sapped parents placed in a local cemetery.

But Maryland police have been tenacious about solving this cold case. And on Tuesday they will breathe new life into it, when they announce a possible breakthrough.

A convicted sex offender, who is currently in jail, was near Sheila and Katherine Lyon on that March day in 1975, when they went missing.

Officers will release the offender's name and photo at around noon Eastern and ask the public if they know what he's done in the past and the places he's been. But Montgomery County police have stopped short of calling him a suspect.

The public eye lost sight of the case years ago. If they're alive, the women are around the age of 50.

After years of holding out hope, their parents gave up.

Sixteen years ago, they set a marker for them in a cemetery with their dates of birth and the date they went missing, the Washington Post reported.

But the police department has not forgotten Sheila, who was 12, and Katherine, who was 10, the day their older brother, Jay Lyon, saw them last.

Maybe, in part, that's because he joined the police force as a homicide detective just a few years after that.

Walk to pizza parlor

The girls must have been full of anticipation, when they decided to step out for some fun in their neighborhood not far from Washington, D.C.

Their birthday dates were just one day apart, and celebrations were coming up in just a few days. It was also the first day of Easter school vacation.

They walked half a mile to a nearby strip mall to check out the Easter decorations, the Montgomery Gazette reported.

Their mother told them to be home by 4 p.m. At 7 p.m. police received a call to report them missing, the privately run missing persons website reported.

Police swarmed out looking for them and questioned passersby.

A medley of witnesses said they'd seen the girls. One saw them walking to the shopping center.

Another -- a child -- saw them talking to a stranger, a man holding a microphone and a briefcase. Police drew a composite of him based on the witness's description.

But the girls walked away from him.

An hour later, their brother Jay, 15 at the time, spotted them at the shopping center eating pizza. And after that, someone else saw them walking in the direction of their home, according to the CharleyProject description.

Had they arrived, they would have made it home on time.

Back then, it was common for children to walk to places in the neighborhood without their parents. But when the girls disappeared, that feeling of safety was shattered, the Gazette wrote.

Celebrity case

The girls' father, John Lyon, was a well-known radio host in Bethesda at the time, so the story of his daughters' disappearance made the rounds.

Anonymous callers rang the family demanding money, claims. One of them demanded their father deposit $10,000 in a particular location.

He complied. No one picked up the cash. The man called again, but when asked for evidence that he actually had the girls, he broke off contact.

In the ensuing years, the tips faded. The case languished.

Until Tuesday.


Barbara Walters, Dylan Farrow and Woody Allen

by Lydia MN Crabtree

Adult survivors of incest and sexual molestation have a battle they fight on a daily basis. This war that is waged, in silence, beyond prying eyes, means that we spare society having to look at the shame that has been perpetrated against the victim. However, when a news story hits or a favorite book turns to sexual violence as part of the story line, survivors of these types of trauma must decide whether to stay silent or let something of our moment to moment battle show to the greater world.

Dylan Farrow recently faced this choice on a grander scale than most. Woody Allen, recipient of a life time achievement award during the Golden Globes on January 12, 2014 and Dylan Farrow's father, is her alleged perpetrator. She took her voice, which had been publicly silent on this matter, to the New York Times, where she confirmed details about her experiences at Allen's hands and body (allegedly).

This wasn't what disturbed me. I have always known that those most revered in life are often the ones with the greatest derelictions. Typically it is because they have an ability to keep the vilest of offenses at bay through threats, misdirection and outright attack against those who seek to expose the truth.

It was Barbara Walters who distressed me. Keeping in mind that Walters is no more suited to judge the veracity of Dylan Farrow's claims than anyone beyond Farrow and Allen, she took to her show The View, on February 3, 2014, defending Allen and stressing her belief in his innocence.

I don't watch The View . To be quite clear, I actually despise The View and would never, ever consider being a guest on that show. Also, to be fair, I personally think Barbara Walters is a manipulator who has her own opinions. I feel her pieces are not unbiased and she is either directly or indirectly trying to prove her opinions to those who watch her. Hence, why I do not watch The View .

However, I was in a doctor's office with my sick child where the television was turned to The View for entertainment. I watched in horror and complete and utter disgust as Walters compounded my discomfit by talking about what a great father Allen was to his new daughter. I watched as any chance Allen's new daughter might have of ever being believed was scrubbed away by Walter's surety of Allen's innocence. I cringed in sympathy with Allen's other victims, nameless actresses and children who wanted some movie part and were forced to pay for that privilege with their bodies. These victims are sure to understand that Allen is untouchable, Allen's right to harm others solidified by Walter's caustic statements.

To be fair, I have no personal knowledge of whether or not Woody Allen sexually molested Dylan Farrow. I have no personal knowledge of whether or not Woody Allen has other victims out there who are silent in the face of the adoration and admiration being heaped upon him by powerful people in the film industry. I do know about sexual molesters, though. I also know about the studies done about false allegations of sexual abuse.

Did you know that four different states (Florida, Missouri, Vermont and Virginia) reviewed records and determined that intentionally false reports comprised less than 1% of unsubstantiated reports of child abuse (0.00999634 out of 100 unsubstantiated reports)? [i]

Let's break this down. Child abuse is the misuse, neglect, sexual abuse, physical abuse and emotional abuse of a child, according to the Child Welfare System Works governmental group. It is important to understand that only substantiated claims of sexual abuse are pursued by police departments. This means that physical evidence is critical — keeping in mind that sexual abuse does not have to be rape and can include penetration by hand or object. In fact, when small children are victimized by adults, sexual abuse often does not include rape. The physical difficulties of sexual copulation should be obvious. Sexual abuse can include what Dylan Farrow describes, however: intimate touching of inappropriate places, over attention of a sexual nature. In fact, if a perpetrator is careful, his abuse will not leave any physical evidence for authorities.

How exactly is a child going to prove these types of advances? It becomes the child's word against the perpetrator's. Allen, whose money and prestige allows him lawyers and influence, coupled with a carefully developed public persona, is difficult to take on. Walters ended her tirade about Allen's innocence by saying that the matter of Dylan Farrow's molestation was “investigated and unsubstantiated,” as if this alone was proof of Woody Allen's innocence.


It just means that the police did not have enough evidence to convict. That Dylan Farrow's mother made decisions to protect an already fragile child and not expose her to harsh public scrutiny until she made that choice. Dylan Farrow is twenty-one now, and I can guarantee that the open letter in the New York Times was written with the input of a psychiatrist, counselor, her mother and other supporters that are intimate to her. Keep in mind that when reviewed by professionals who are trained to spot child abuse, they found only 1% of the allegations lacked merit. That did not mean the perpetrators were arrested or even charged. Merit and evidence are two distinctly different issues in child abuse cases.

My most vivid recollections of sexual abuse never involved penile penetration. More often my memories revolve around the build up to a sexual encounter then followed by periods of a fugue state. Meaning, I would not remember days or weeks after a memory of my mother being out of the house, my sister being at college, my brother being gone, my father naked and erect, me in my bed in my bedroom with no protection and him coming to me pleading with his eyes to accept him without a fight because there was no one to rescue me anyway. Before penetration I would black out, a coping mechanism my mind has used to protect me from the worse violations perpetrated against me.

My Technicolor recollections are not fit for posting here. As those things occurred, there was always the hot breath on the top of my head and rumbling words of encouragement and secrecy.

I recently told my counselor that most people think that sexual molestation is a violent affair, but is it not. Sexual molestation is an insidiously quiet act perpetrated in the hushed whispers, horrific words of secrecy and normalcy, shattering words meant to invoke hopelessness, fear and self-doubt.

According to Emory University, Dr. Gene Abel conducted interviews that guaranteed complete confidentiality and immunity from prosecution, and found that male offenders of girls averaged 52 victims with less than 3% of these acts being reported EVER. Male offenders who violated boys had an average of 150 victims each. [ii]

Although there is no clear profile in regards to someone who molests children, we do know a few things about those who go undetected, uncharged and free from prosecution. Logic tells us these people have a huge power of persuasion. They can convince their victim that they will die if they tell or that they will not be believed. This also means that outside of times where they are violating young children, they are likely to present a façade that is, in a word, impeccable. They utilize mental manipulation in dramatic fashion, often leaving their victims in question of their own sanity. This is done during the physical act of abuse and at other times, when the perpetrator belittles the victim in front of others or dismisses them as “over-imaginative” or “a little crazy.”

The public needs to stop obsessing over the physical acts of sexual violation perpetrated upon children and think about the broader, day to day, moment to moment violations suffered by those children. These violations are the ones that they carry with them into adulthood. These are the violations that create dysfunction that leads to a lifetime of post-traumatic stress (PTSD), major depression, bouts of suicidal tendencies and body image issues.

I know what people think when issues like this surface.

It happened years ago, what does it matter today?

We are giving him an award for his films, right? What happened in other places is irrelevant.

He and her mother, were divorcing right? So it was about money, and that girl just got used by the mother against the father. It happens all the time.

These thoughts are similar to other uncharitable thoughts people have and no one ever confronts. So let me confront these.

Dylan Farrow is still living with Woody Allen's violation. It is wildly unlikely that Farrow's mother had the psychological skill to implant such specific false accusations into a young child's brain.

Allen's films, I am sure Allen would argue, are part of him. They are no more indistinguishable then his clothes would be from his person. Given this, when we revere someone who has allegedly done things as vile as sexual molestation, aren't we telling perpetrators and victims a few things?

Perpetrators: Have enough money and prestige and everyone will look the other way when you violate children.

Victims: If your perpetrator is well funded and connected, stay silent. No one will believe you anyway.

Perpetrators: If you leave behind a body of work considered successful, the fact that you ruined others' lives with your vile predications will not be relevant.

Victims: Unless, as a small child, you can overcome the mental and emotional abuse that comes hand in hand with the physical violation you suffered, and in a time and space that is optimum, of your own free will, tell some stranger (because your mother might influence you unduly), we won't believe you. Especially if you grow up, get therapy and then seek out some type of justice for yourself, because then you are just being petty and living in the past. Get over yourself. It doesn't matter that less than 1% of children are bringing false allegations, you will always be part of that 1%.

This is a subject that is difficult to read about and infinitely difficult for me to write about. However, as a society, confronting myths around sexual abuse is important. As parents, we have an opportunity when these stories come up to have discussions with our children. If you notice a child under the age of five playing with his or herself, you should acknowledge this behavior in a healthy and proactive way. “I think it is fine that you like to pleasure yourself, however, you should do in the privacy in the bathroom or your bedroom, and no one should ever do it for you. Why don't you go to the bathroom now and come out when you are finished? Okay?”

Children ten years old and younger can be asked outright:

“No one has ever made you feel uncomfortable when they touched you, have they?”

“Is there an adult or a babysitter or anyone who makes you feel uncomfortable?”

“No one has ever told you to keep a secret because if you don't, they will hurt you or me, have they?”

“You know you can tell me anything, anytime, right?”

When children are over the age of ten years or display the appropriate amount of mental and emotional fortitude, discussion should go further. “What do you think sexual molestation means?”

“What is rape, do you think?”

“Can only boys rape girls?”

“Have you ever touched someone and felt weird about it?”

When children become teenagers and young adults, the information should be explicit and definitive. “Did you know if you are over eighteen in Georgia and have sex with someone under eighteen, you can be charged with statutory rape, even if both parties consent?”

“You know if you are drunk or high, that doesn't give anyone permission to be sexual with you, right?”

“Photos last forever, especially in the web era, and just because you agreed to have sex doesn't mean you have agreed to be photographed or videographed.”

“No means no, right? You can have the condom on and have already been having sex, if he or she says, ‘No. Stop,' then you have to stop.”

In all this conversation, the most important thing is this: If a child braves the horrors of their personal hell to come forward and tell you they were molested and/or raped, BELIEVE THEM. The number one indicator of children growing up without lasting effects after sexual molestation is the support, love, and belief of their mother and intimate family members. This support should be backed up by a disavowing of the perpetrator, whether or not they are prosecuted.

I choose to believe Dylan Farrow. I publicly call others to avoid any movie or entertainment produced by Woody Allen. I believe there are fifty-one other children out there suffering in silence and disbelief after what has been done to them.


[i] Sidran Institute: Trauma Stress Education and Advocacy. How often do children's reports of abuse turn out to be false? Brochure. Accessed on February 4, 2014.

[ii] Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement: Victim, Incident, and Offender Characteristics , by Howard N. Snyder, Ph.D.; National Center for Juvenile Justice, July 2000, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs


In child abuse cases the accuser, not the accused, is put on trial

To preserve rape culture, society at large has to believe that women systematically lie about rape.

by Laurie Penny

How should we watch Annie Hall now? After filmmaker Woody Allen was given the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Golden Globes, his former foster-daughter, Dylan Farrow, now 28, told the New York Times the story of how he sexually abused her as a child. The charges against Allen are 20 years old, and were never brought to trial. But he takes his place in a grim roll-call of famous men whose work and achievements are being called into question because of the way they are said to have treated women and children.

It seems like the whole world is a mess of rape allegations. In Britain, Operation Yewtree has marched a grim procession of beloved household names – some of them deceased, some of them merely half-deceased – through the spotlight of public approbation, on charges of child abuse. And there are others: politicians such as the late Liberal MP Cyril Smith; respected activists such as Julian Assange. It is extremely uncomfortable to watch. It might challenge us to rethink art and ideas that we hold extremely dear. I like highbrow cinema and digital rights as much as the next lefty hipster, but the allegations against Rolf Harris were even more upsetting - I'm never going to be able to watch Animal Hospital the same way again.

This week, the fightback seemed to be on. In America, Woody Allen publicly responded to Dylan Farrow's accusations by accusing Dylan's mother, Mia Farrow, of maliciously making up the whole thing. In Britain, the acquittal of Coronation Street actor Bill Roache on rape charges made the Daily Mail holler: “How Did It Ever Get To Court?”

There are people out there, not all of them men, who believe that a conspiracy is going on. When I speak to them as a reporter, they tell me that that women lie about rape, now more than ever. They lie to damage men and to “destroy their lives”. This is despite the fact that the fraud rate for rape remains as low as ever, and despite the fact that popular culture is groaning with powerful men who have been accused or even convicted of sexual abuse and whose lives remain distinctly understroyed. Men like boxer like Mike Tyson, or singer R Kelly. Men like Woody Allen.

Women and children who bring those accusations, however, risk their relationships, their reputation, their safety. Anonymity in the press is no protection against the rejection of family, friends and workmates. Dylan Farrow is living somewhere out of the public eye, under a new name. We have created a culture and a legal system which punishes those who seek justice so badly that those who do come forward are assumed to have some ulterior motive.

Rape and abuse are the only crimes where, in the words of legal scholar Lord Hale, “It is the victim, not the defendant, who is on trial.” They are crimes that are hard to prove beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law, because it's a case of “he said, she said”. Nobody can really know, and so naturally we must assume that he is innocent and she is lying – because that's what women do. The trouble is that in this society, “he said” is almost always more credible than “she said”, unless she is white and he is not.

There is a growing understanding that 'wait for the ruling' is an insufficient answer when the latest celebrity is hauled up on rape charges. The rule of law cannot be relied upon when it routinely fails victims of abuse. Rape and abuse cases have come to be tried in the court of public opinion, for better or worse, precisely because the official courts are understood to be so hopelessly unfair.

As the Allen case demonstrates, the law courts aren't the only place where the nature of sexual power, of what men may and may not do to women, children and to other men with impunity, is played out. No judge can legislate for the ethics of the Golden Globe Committee. And no magistrate can ensure that a young girl like Missouri teenager Daisy Coleman, who came forward last year to describe how she was raped by classmates at a party, is not hounded out of town, along with her family, until she makes attempts on her own life.

Rape culture means more than a culture in which rape is routine. Rape culture involves the systematic silencing of victims even as women and children are instructed to behave like potential victims at all times. In order to preserve rape culture, society at large has to believe two different things at once. Firsty, that women and children lie about rape, but that they should also act as if rape will be the result if they get into a strange car, walk down a strange street or wear a sexy outfit. Secondly, if it happens, it's their own fool fault for not respecting the unwritten rules.

This paradox involves significant mental gymnastics. But as more and more people come forward with accusations, as the pattern of historical and ongoing abuse of power becomes harder to ignore, the paradox gets harder to maintain. We are faced with two alternatives: either women and children are lying about rape on an industrial, organised scale, or rape and sexual abuse are endemic in this society, and have been for centuries. Facing up to the reality of the latter is a painful prospect.

Many of the allegations that are surfacing, like those against Woody Allen, Bill Roache and the Yewtree defendants, are not new. What is new is the attitude. We are beginning, on a cultural level, to challenge the delusion that only evil men rape, that it is impossible for a man to be a rapist or an abuser of children and also an epoch-defining filmmaker. Or a skilled politician. Or a beloved pop icon. Or a respected family man. Or a treasured friend. We are beginning to reassess the idea that if a man is any of these things, the people he hurts must stay silent, because that's how power works.

An enormous change in consciousness is taking place around consent, and it threatens to change everything. At some point between 2008 and 2014, the collective understanding of what rape and abuse are, and what they ought to be, changed forever. At some point we began to talk, not just privately, cowedly, but in numbers too big too ignore, about the reality of sexual violence and child abuse, about how victims are silenced. Survivors of rape and abuse and their loved ones had always known this toxic truth, but we were forced to hold it close to ourselves where it could fester and eat us from within. In case you're wondering, yes, I do have intimate experience of this, and so do a lot of people you know. We just didn't talk about it in quite this way before.

Something has changed. When the allegations that Woody Allen sexually abused Dylan Farrow first surfaced in the early 1990s, his defenders swamped the mainstream press and that was more or less the end of it. Now the people who have always been on Team Dylan get a say, too. Without wanting to sound like a headbanging techno-utopian, this is happening because of the internet. It is happening because a change in the way we communicate and interact has allowed people who have traditionally been isolated – say, victims of rape and child abuse – to speak out, to share their stories without mediation, to make the structures of power and violence we have always known were there suddenly visible, a thing that can be challenged. And that changes everything.

If we were to truly accept the enormity of rape culture, if we were to understand what it actually means that one in five girl children and one in ten boys are sexually abused, it will not just be painful. It will force our culture to reimagine itself in a way that is uncomfortable even to contemplate. As Jessica Valenti writes at The Nation , “It will mean rethinking institutions and families and power dynamics and the way we interact with each other every day.” It will mean looking with new eyes at our most revered icons, our social groups, our friends and relatives. It will involve hard, difficult work. It will change everything. And it is already starting to happen.

Every time an inspiring activist or esteemed artist is charged with rape, abuse or assault, I feel that awful, weary rage: not him too. But behind the rage is hope. Because rape culture hasn't changed, but the way we talk about it has. Silencing victims does not stop rape and abuse. It just stops us having to deal with the implications of a culture where rape and abuse are routine. And today I see men and boys as well as women and girls speaking up in protest, and I see a future where all of those people will understand power and violence in a new way. Today, everywhere, survivors and their allies are finding the collective courage to look rape culture in the face, call it by its name, and not back down. And that is cause for hope.


New Jersey

New Jersey aims to fight child sex abuse with free training course on prevention, intervention

by Matthew Bultman

Hoping be proactive in fighting child sex abuse, New Jersey is giving its residents access to free prevention training.

The state Attorney General's Office announced last week it has teamed up with nonprofit Darkness to Light to make an online child sexual abuse identification and training course available at no cost to New Jersey residents.

While professionals like teachers, day care providers or youth coaches are more likely to have exposure to an abused child, everyone could benefit from the free training because the indicators of abuse can vary, said William Stover, associate executive director of the Family Guidance Center of Warren County.

"There isn't one particular sign that a child is being abused," he said. "There are a lot of behavior issues and other things that happen that could be a sign of sexual abuse."

Darkness to Light, a nonprofit with the mission of reducing child sexual abuse through public awareness, offers various training sessions on its website. The two-hour training session free to New Jersey residents typically would cost $10.

In addition to eliminating that cost, acting Attorney General John Hoffman said the training will be mandatory for employees in the state's Department of Public Law and Safety. That includes agencies such as the Attorney General's Office, New Jersey State Police and the Division of Criminal Justice.

Jolie Logan, president and CEO of Darkness to Light, called it an unprecedented statewide investment in the prevention of child sexual abuse.

"Many adults do not know how to recognize signs of sexual abuse and most do not know what to do if sexual abuse is discovered," she said in a statement.

According to statistics provided by Darkness to Light, one in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. Those who are victimized are more likely to have substance abuse issues, drop out of school or develop serious medical conditions.

Stover said the consequences of abuse can be devastating and it is important for victims to receive treatment.

"The faster they get into treatment and the more support from the family, the better results we get both in terms of perpetrators and victims," he said.

Hoffman said the responsibility of recognizing sexual abuse isn't just on law enforcement.

"Law enforcement will continue to crack down on this vicious crime," he said in a statement. "Yet, it is important to remember that it is everyone's responsibility, be it teachers, friends, relatives or neighbors, to recognize the signs of abuse and report it to the proper authorities."

The training initiative is the latest in the state's efforts to combat child abuse, which includes successful attempts to strengthen the state's child exploitation law. The new law includes upgrades to penalties for possession of child pornography as well as modernizing child pornography distribution laws to directly address new technology, such as file-sharing.

Instances of such crimes hit close to home in Warren County last month when Independence Township resident Kevin Rease admitted in federal court in Newark he made images and videos of child sexual abuse available for others to download through an online peer-to-peer file-sharing network. As a previously convicted sex offender, the 33-year-old faces a mandatory minimum of 15 years with a possibility of up to 40 years in state prison when he is sentenced April 28.

"I would hate for people to think there's a pedophile around every tree," Stover said. "But I would also hate for people to think there aren't any, either. It's a matter of perspective in many ways."

He added that community vigilance should extend beyond sexual abuse to areas like bullying or dating abuse.

"I think it's problematic to look at it only in terms of sexual abuse," he said. "You have to look at the entire life cycle of a child and say, 'Let's make it safe in all areas of violence.'"

To take the online training session, visit Darkness to Light's website.



Advocates push for improvements in caring, treating sexually abused foster children

by Margie Menzel

TALLAHASSEE -- The suicide of 7-year-old Gabriel Myers in foster care shocked the child-welfare system in 2009. It led to a series of recommendations about Florida's use of psychotropic medications on foster kids and how to protect already-traumatized children from sexual abuse by other abused children.

But nearly five years after Gabriel hanged himself in the shower of his foster home in Margate, the findings that followed his death are mostly unimplemented.

Children's advocates haven't given up, though, and will try to move several measures forward during the 2014 legislative session.

In 2008, when he was 6 years old, Gabriel was found in a car with his mother, who was passed out with drugs at her side, authorities said. He was placed in foster care. Documentation in his case files showed that, while living in Ohio before moving to Florida, he had been sexually abused by an older child and shown pornography by an adult relative. Gabriel exhibited sexual behavior problems at school and had lost one foster placement due to his troubling behavior.

"One of the major things we learned was that the reason he was so disturbed was that he had been sexually abused himself," said attorney Howard Talenfeld, president of the advocacy group Florida's Children First. "As a victim of sexual abuse, he was acting out. This was a significant part of his problem that went unaddressed."

Gabriel was also taking two psychotropic medications when he died, and a Department of Children and Families investigation found that neither his parents nor a judge had approved them, nor was the medication he took reflected in his case files.

Then-DCF Secretary George Sheldon appointed two work groups in 2009 and 2010 to study and make recommendations about the use of psychotropic medications on foster children and about child-on-child sexual abuse.

One of the groups learned that in 2009, about 5 percent of all U.S. children were treated with psychotropic medications, but in Florida's foster-care system, 15.2 percent of children received at least one such medication. Of these, more than 16 percent were being medicated without the consent of a parent, guardian or judge.

Five years out, the verdict is that more progress has been made on the psychotropic medication issue than on the issue of child-on-child sexual abuse.

"I think we're a lot better. I think we're a lot better than most states," said Robin Rosenberg, deputy director of Florida's Children First, who served in the work group that studied psychotropic medications. "But I think more can be done on alternatives [to medication] and on really making sure that parents give informed consent and that courts have a true understanding of what it means."

Talenfeld charges that while extensive recommendations were offered to address both psychotropic medications and child-on-child sex abuse, they were dropped in January 2011, when Gov. Rick Scott took office and tapped David Wilkins as the new secretary.

"This report was abandoned, and nothing was done to implement any of the recommendations," Talenfeld said. "And they were very, very significant."

In July, when Esther Jacobo became DCF's interim secretary, Florida's Children First contacted her and, Talenfeld said, began drafting legislation addressing key recommendations, such as mandatory reporting to the abuse hotline of the sexual abuse of children in state care and a tracking, placement and quality assurance system.

The group is also pushing to eliminate the age distinction for children who act out sexually in the foster-care system. Currently, those 13 and over are reported to the sheriff's office as sex offenders. Talenfeld — who also hopes lawmakers will pass a claims bill for a client of his who was sexually abused by a foster child — says all child victims should be treated for the abuse they've endured, even if the symptoms involve acting out.

Another key recommendation was that the Legislature should provide funding to ensure that each child in the care of the state is assigned a guardian ad litem — an advocate for abused and neglected children in the court system.

"Nothing will get better unless the Legislature fully funds guardians ad litem for every trial," said Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman. "We are still far behind in that most important recommendation."

By the terms of both state and federal law, the program should be fully funded, said Alan Abramowitz, executive director of Florida Guardian ad Litem. Currently, there are 29,285 children under court supervision statewide, of whom 76 percent have a guardian ad litem.

This year, Scott recommended an increase that would extend coverage to all children in out-of-home care and 77 percent of those under court supervision. Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford, in a work plan for the session, said they hoped to fully fund the program over the next several years.

Abramowitz said the guardian ad litem program will need about $6.1 million in Fiscal Year 2014-15 and additional funds in the following three years to achieve 100 percent representation of all dependent children.

He also said the program "has made psychotropic medication a priority. Our standards require our program to prioritize children on psychotropic medication."

As to how DCF is handling the psychotropic medication issue five years after Gabriel's death, Rosenberg said "the state put a pretty good system in place, as far as creating a rule to be followed and attempting to ascertain whether at least a legal authority is there."

But as a foster parent, she said, she's also seen the other end of the process.

"I think we still kind of default to, ‘If a doctor prescribed it, then it must be what the kid needs' — and not enough questions about what information was provided, what did the doctor look at and what else has been tried? … I'm not convinced that everyone on the front line has an in-depth understanding to the extent that they need in order to get good decisions made for each child," Rosenberg said.



Child abuse 'horror' stuns Salvos leader

The world leader of the Salvation Army says he was not prepared for the horror of what is emerging about their children's homes in Australia.

In a letter from Andre Cox read at a hearing of the Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse in Sydney on Monday, he said he was disturbed "to the very depths of his being" by what he was reading out of Australia.

"While we knew that many of the stories would be harrowing, nothing could really prepare us for the full horror of the stories that are emerging."

He said he had written to leaders of the army in 126 countries to ensure their policies and procedures were regularly updated and implemented without exception and called on the army in Australia to ensure its procedures were robust.

The head of the army's eastern territory in Australia, General James Condon, cried in the witness box at Monday's hearing when he spoke about listening to the stories of abuse victims at boys' homes in NSW and Queensland.

He also said the army would be interested in engaging in the dialogue about a national redress scheme for victims of institutional abuse, which had been suggested by the Catholic and Anglican churches.

Simeon Beckett, counsel advising the commission, asked him if it would surprise him to hear that journals detailing inspections of boys' homes in the '70s had not been available when the commission sought them.

"I am surprised they are not available," Mr Condon said.

"They might have decided not to keep them ... our records are good."

He told Mr Beckett he knew of no instances where the Salvation Army "destroyed records relating to its boys' homes in order to conceal any wrongdoing".

He said he anticipated being able to provide more records in coming weeks.

Mr Condon became upset when he was questioned about his decision to only recently suspend Major John McIver, one of five officers against whom the commission has heard serious allegations.

In the 1970s, Mr McIver served at Bexley Home for Boys in Sydney and the Alkira Home for Boys at Indooroopilly in Queensland and evidence has been given of alleged physical and sexual assaults by him. He was suspended from the army on January 30.

Mr Condon said he suspended him primarily because he had heard survivors tell stories of abuse and had been contacted on Facebook by another victim.

He paused his evidence because of his distress: "I have been impacted greatly ... I have felt their (survivors') pain and that is the reason I took the decision to suspend ... McIver."

He outlined regulations in place at the time which included that there should be as few punishments for abusers as possible.

"A collision of failures rather than the conspiracy of cover-ups is the Salvation Army's record of this shameful chapter of our history," he said.

In a statement, he read: "Once again I want to express our unreserved apology to all who were harmed in any way at all. We are so sorry for every instance when children were sexually abused by our personnel, or while in our care."

Echoing a sentiment expressed on Friday by Major Peter Farthing of the Salvation Army, Mr Condon said the army's great failure was to allow "evil and damaged people" to get away with child sexual abuse.


United Kingdom

United approach is key to tackling male abuse


(Video on site)

A NEW bid to encourage men and boys to come forward when they have experienced sexual and physical abuse is being rolled out across areas of Burton, South Derbyshire and Northh West Leicestershire.

Police forces, councils and specialist services have seen a big rise in the number of men coming forward to report cases of abuse since the revelations emerged about Jimmy Savile.

Calls to the likes of Staffordshire Police and the NSPCC have jumped at least 20 per cent as people report current and historic allegations.

Now, several organisations have joined forces in a bid to urge victims to come forward and get help.

First Step is a charity which works with male survivors and their supporters.

Cas Beckett from the charity said: “We help survivors to make the ‘first step' towards feeling less isolated through making their own choices.

“Everyone has the right to be respected, to be believed, and to live in a safe environment, and we can help individuals to achieve that.”

Jon, from Staffordshire, was physically and sexually abused from the age of three to 16 by his older brother. He decided to get help and worked with the likes of First Step to help reveal what happened to him.

Jon said: “He controlled my whole childhood, and has stolen that part of my life away from me. I felt in constant fear. For years and years I had hidden everything I went through, I didn't tell anybody at all.

“When he got convicted of it, it gave me a lot of closure.

“Find somebody to talk to because you are not alone.”

In Staffordshire, a joint project runs called Breaking the Cycle. It aims to tackle domestic abuse in an effort to raise awareness on what domestic abuse is, how a respectful relationship is vital and how it is important to work with perpetrators at the earliest stage.

Staffordshire Police are among the organisations who form part of the project.

Detective Chief Inspector Helen Jones, of Staffordshire Police, said: “Staffordshire Police treats all reports of sexual abuse against male children or adults extremely seriously no matter how long ago the offence happened and we will carry out a thorough and sensitive investigation into such reports.”

Derbyshire Police and several partner agencies have teamed up to create a DVD highlighting how domestic violence can escalate quickly.

It is set to be distributed to councils and health services and will be shown in public areas such as GPs' surgeries and police enquiry offices.

Detective Inspector Hayley Barnett, from the force's public protection department, said: “It is really important that victims of domestic abuse realise that there is help for them and that the police and other partner agencies are supportive.

“This DVD also appeals to the friends and family of victims of this type of crime to speak out and report the abuse.”

Domestic violence accounts for 18 per cent of all violent crime in England and Wales and the level of violence used against partners and family members increases over time.

During recent years, the force has worked to improve its standard of investigation and victim care.

DI Barnett added: “Officers who are called to domestic violence incidents are trained to reduce the risk to victims.

“They will give advice and help victims seek refuge from their abuser if necessary.

“It is the officers' responsibility to act immediately.”

Sally Goodwin, chairman of the Domestic Abuse and Serious Sexual Violence Governance Board, said: “There are specialist support services available for victims of domestic abuse across all three areas , with professionals committed to helping victims to do what's right for them in order to stop the cycle of abuse and protect them from harm.”

Safe and Sound provides support to children and young people who are being, or a risk of being sexually exploited in South Derbyshire.

The charity is urging more people to ‘come forward and get help for themselves'.

A spokesman for the charity said: “Our organisation was established in 2002, so we've built up substantial experience of supporting victims of sexual exploitation and helping them to escape from this violence and abuse.

“We also work to prevent young men and from becoming victims of this crime in the first place.

“Our work to raise awareness and speak on behalf of victims nationally benefits children and young people in South Derbyshire, the Midlands and right across the UK.

“Safe and Sound Derby provides support to people who are being sexually exploited.”

Linda Slawson manages the sexual assault referral centre Juniper Lodge, which helps people in North West Leicestershire.

She said: “We offer a comprehensive service to male and female victims, and give them the opportunity to make informed choices about what is right for them. That includes whether they report the crime to the police. We can also arrange forensic examinations, screening for infections, and counselling.”

Anyone who is a victim of domestic violence can call 101.



Connecticut's ex-House Speaker Jim Amann to produce series on sex trafficking

by Rachel Chinapen

MILFORD >> The reality of a teenage girl being abducted, sexually trafficked, beaten and raped in this state is too graphic for most audiences, making Hollywood depictions of abduction a much easier pill to swallow, and keeping the reality of domestic sex trafficking at a safe distance.

One local filmmaker is setting out to change this.

Starting this summer, former Speaker of the House Jim Amann, D-Milford, will release episodes of his 13-part series “Turnpike Chronicles” in hopes of shining a light on the issue of domestic sex trafficking of minors.

The state Department of Children and Families received 195 reports of suspected child-sex survivors since January 2008. The children range in age from 11 to 17.

Love 146, an international organization dedicated to the abolition of child exploitation and trafficking, defines domestic minor sex trafficking as any commercial sex act involving a U.S. minor, including pornography, prostitution or sex tourism. More than 100,000 U.S. children are forced to engage in prostitution or pornography annually, the group says. These children often are marketed in pornography as college girls.

Amann said the reality of what these children face is so “blatantly horrible and disgusting,” that even his series is “a generic truth” compared to what happens.

“It's been a tough line to walk on,” he said. “Even as bad as the first scenes are, some of the scenes that we're going to be depicting in the series, which are going to be tough to watch, even that has been watered down from what the real reality is.”

Amann is the founder of L.A. Productions and Entertainment and the founder and president of International Government Strategies.

The “Turnpike Chronicles” is based on Raymond Bechard's book, “The Berlin Turnpike: A Story of Human Trafficking in America.” Bechard is the founder of AHAVA Kids, an agency with the mission to end human trafficking. Bechard was sued in 2009 by then-Attorney General Richard Blumenthal over allegations of charities fraud. Blumenthal has since been elected to the U.S. Senate.

The “Berlin Turnpike” chronicles the trial of U.S. v. Dennis Paris, in which Paris was charged with operating a prostitution business in Hartford. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Amann's documentary series will explore three “types” of young girls and follow how the girls get involved with a pimp. In the series, one girl will be abducted from her home, another will be a party-goer, and the last will be a homeless drug addict, Amann said.

Children can be exposed to trafficking through boyfriends, social media and other circumstances. Children who are involved in the welfare system are at a higher risk of being exposed because they often come from backgrounds where they faced trauma, abuse or neglect, and are more vulnerable, according to DCF social worker Stefania Agliano.

Love 146 has held prevention education workshops in Connecticut high schools, group homes and care facilities since 2010. The workshops focus on four key elements: training of adults who work with at-risk children; intervention for victims; mentoring for survivors; and education for at-risk children.

Amann, who championed several initiatives around public safety and children, said the issue of domestic minor sex trafficking was first brought to his attention by Heidi Voight, the former Miss Connecticut who worked for Amann in 2007 as a policy aid and in media relations.

“I was just like most people,” he said. “Most people think this is an issue related to overseas, something in Mexico, Asia… it's not an American problem.”

Amann was the architect of the state's “Megan's Law” in 1995, making Connecticut the second state with the law (New Jersey was the first). The law notifies people about convicted sex offenders living in their neighborhoods. As majority leader, Amann was involved with the task force on human trafficking, Trafficking in Persons Council. In 2012, Amann testified in support of a bill that would hold media publishers responsible for “escort” advertisements of ads that sexually exploit minors.

“As long as I've known Jim, he's always been a trailblazer in pushing for causes,” Voight said. “He really has been a champion on so many different issues. So it's not surprising at all to me that he's really following through.”

Voight said both Amann and Ray have brought survivors to Hartford to talk to legislators about their experiences.

Amann said one of the survivors, “Marie,” spoke to the actors in his series on several occasions to help them better understand what children who are trafficked experience.

“You have to have that human face on the issue,” she said. “It's such a dehumanizing issue to begin with.”

Amann said he was able to use his role as a legislator to make some changes involving domestic sex trafficking, and he hopes to use his passion for filmmaking to raise awareness in a different way.

“Hopefully on the artistic side, we'll bring it enough justice for people to see this and say, ‘Wow, I can't believe this is happening in our own state and our own nation, and maybe get some more advocates to stand up to fight for these kids,” he said.



Corbett budget addresses child abuse recommendations

by Robert Swift

HARRISBURG - The governor's proposed budget provides $2 million in state aid for the first time to help Children's Advocacy Centers do their work, a key recommendation of a special task force that called for an overhaul of the child protection system following the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

The report of the Task Force on Child Protection, issued in 2012, calls the centers the "single most important tool in the investigation of child abuse" and recommends that every child in Pennsylvania be within a two-hour drive of one.

The $2 million would go to set up advocacy centers in areas of Pennsylvania that lack them and support existing centers if lawmakers approve.

"This is something we've worked hard for," said Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler, the task force chairman, on Friday. "I'm delighted the governor has put this in."

These centers provide a place where a suspected victim of child abuse can be interviewed in a non-intimidating environment by a trained forensic interviewer while a multidisciplinary team of professionals listen in another room. The interview is videotaped so the child doesn't have to undergo numerous interviews and potentially experience further trauma.

The centers provide medical treatment, counseling, and court and mental health services based on a child's individual needs.

This is the most effective way for children to get the treatment and counseling they need because of their victimization, said Mr. Heckler.

There are 23 centers in Pennsylvania. Many of them rely on federal grants, county funding, donations and fundraising for revenue.

The state aid will be welcome, said Mary Ann LaPorta, executive director of the Scranton-based Children's Advocacy Center of Northeast Pennsylvania.

The center has handled cases referred from Lackawanna, Luzerne, Wayne, Monroe, Susquehanna, Pike, Wyoming and Carbon counties.

The proposed budget includes nearly $10 million to set up a central database to keep reports of child abuse and neglect cases and have them accessible round the clock to investigators and law enforcement personnel, another task force recommendation.

The database will help make sure that child abuse cases do not fall through the cracks, especially when the individuals involved move across county lines, said Jay Pagni, spokesman for Gov. Tom Corbett.