National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

child abuse trauma prevention, intervention & recovery


NAASCA Highlights

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 ...
why we started this site
together we can heal
help stop child abuse
a little about us
join us, get involved
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 3
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.


Protectors must heed parental rights in child-abuse cases, too

by Holly Zachariah

Within two minutes of a call from a teacher who said a young girl had sent a virtual school an online message asking for help, a Scioto County deputy sheriff and a Children Services worker were sent to investigate, records show.

Investigators now say, however, that one of the worst child-abuse cases they've ever seen wasn't obvious that day.

Capt. David Hall of the Scioto County sheriff's office said that when authorities arrived at the house in Wheelersburg about noon on Jan. 30, there were no visible wounds or injuries on the four children, ages 2 to 11.

But even in cases of what can turn out to be extreme abuse, there are rules that agencies must follow. The case underscores the complexities of a child-welfare system that tries to balance the safety of kids with the rights of parents.

In this Scioto County case, authorities were met by uncooperative parents and children who denied being harmed, Hall said.

And although the deputy and caseworker could see padlocks on the food cupboards in the one-story house, there was no visible evidence of what detectives would uncover more than a week later when they returned with a search warrant, Hall said. They decided against removing the children immediately, though they had the power to do so.

“Nothing physically stood out to us at that moment,” Hall said.

So the deputy and caseworker left.

But the visit triggered an investigation that escalated a few days later after Children Services workers arranged to have the children undergo medical exams.

Once that was done, caseworkers got an emergency court order and took the children from the home on Feb. 5. Several days later, on Feb. 10, detectives interviewed the children for the first time and got their stories firsthand, Hall said.

Then they went to the house with a search warrant on Feb. 11 and arrested Edwina Louis, the grandmother; Bobbi Sue Pack, the mother; and Juan Carlos Sanchez, Pack's boyfriend and the father of the 2-year-old. All have been jailed on child-endangerment charges; Sanchez also faces two counts of rape.

Anne O'Leary, chief legal counsel for Franklin County Children Services, could not talk about the Scioto County case because she is not involved. But, she said, in general everyone tries to strike a balance.

A few years ago, two northern Ohio parents successfully sued a caseworker in federal court for violating their rights on an initial visit, and the decision reinforced that the Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure applies in child-welfare cases, too, O'Leary said.

“There is a fine line between child safety and protecting the constitutional rights of parents,” she said.

Ohio law requires that, in the case of a call or referral that indicates that a child might be in immediate danger, a caseworker must attempt to see that child within an hour. But in general, without a parent's consent, caseworkers on the initial visit are limited in terms of speaking to children alone, checking for basic needs or examining them for injury.

They really can only make certain that there is no urgent threat, said Lara LaRoche, the director of intake for Franklin County Children Services. “As parents, you have the right to shut the door in our face.”

LaRoche said that only extreme circumstances would allow a caseworker to interview a child or do anything without parental consent; those cases are rare.

Generally, an investigation follows the law as to what must happen in specified time frames of 24 and 72 hours. A safety assessment is begun. That includes, among other things, attempts to see the child and the caregivers in the home again and a review of school and medical records and the family's history with Children Services or the criminal-justice system.

Though law enforcement has broader removal powers, caseworkers can never remove a child immediately without a court order. Most cases never reach that level in Franklin County, LaRoche said, because families are almost always willing to work with child welfare and follow a plan to keep children safe.

Statistics weren't available, but LaRoche estimates that maybe 7 percent of the average 1,100 families that are assessed by Franklin County Children Services each month warrant removal of the children by court order.

Lorra Fuller, the director of Scioto County Children Services, did not return a call last week for more specifics about her local case or statistics. But she has said previously that all timelines were met for the kids that have since been called “the Hope children.”

She said that once the agency had more concrete information, it sought the court order and removed the children from the home. They are now in foster care.

The case began at 11:50 a.m. on Jan. 30 when a teacher with Ohio Virtual Academy, based near Toledo, called the Scioto County sheriff's office to say that one of the children in the home had sent a message to the school asking that someone call 911, that she and her siblings were being tied up and beaten.

Hall, with the sheriff's office, has said investigators needed some time after that initial visit “to figure out what and who we were dealing with” and to build the case for the court order.

Attorneys for the three adults charged in Scioto County either have refused to comment or not returned phone calls. Sanchez, Louis and Pack all declined interviews from jail.

Scioto County Children Services is accepting money that will be passed on to the children's foster parents to pay for things such as clothes, toys and fun activities. Designate contributions to “the Hope children” and send to Scioto County Children Services, 3940 Gallia St., New Boston, Ohio 45662.


New Zealand

No escape from abuse

by Steve Kilgallon

Robbie's is a life in ruins. He lives in a hostel. He owns nothing, earns nothing. He has to hand over his benefit to his providers, and he is $80 overdrawn, because he owes money to Work and Income New Zealand.

His thin, sallow body and patchwork of tattoos records a life of drugs, alcohol and petty crime. Five months clean of all that, he's depressed. He says he can't even afford a razor or a packet of tobacco and he's sick of the noise of the hostel.

All Robbie really wants is a place of his own; somewhere quiet, perhaps with a dog, maybe a garage where he can tinker with old bikes. He wouldn't mind a few shifts of kitchen work. These are modest aspirations, but seem far from his grasp.

To explain Robbie, you have to reach back 34 years to Douglas Richard Peters.

Peters, who was then aged 34, lived in West Auckland, worked as a car valet and was heavily involved in amateur sport. He was an old schoolfriend of Robbie's father. He would offer Robbie rides on the speedway bike he owned. And for five years, Peters sexually abused Robbie.

Robbie never told anyone. "What you going to do, man?" he asks. What are you going to do?" If he had told his father, "he woulda beaten the f... out of me - well, he did anyway".

Robbie's abuse ended when he was turning 15, around the time he left home, chiefly to get away from the father he loathed but also to escape Peters. He had been a good student and a reasonable rugby player, he says. But he moved into a caravan behind a friend's house and began to party, having been given an early introduction to drink and drugs by Peters.

Now he added petty crime to the mix - housebreaking, stealing benefit cheques. He returned home at 21 to confront his father. He says he stabbed him and "kicked the shit out of him". And still, through a shattered life of frequent prison time, deep personal tragedies, including the death of his 10-year-old son, and uncertain employment as a carpet fitter, house painter, factory worker and chef, he never told anyone of the abuse. Not until nine years ago, when he told a drug counsellor, and made his first, fruitless police complaint.

Stories like Robbie's are sadly familiar to Grainne Scott, a cheerful, English-raised detective with the Waitemata police who specialises in these historic sexual abuse claims.

One man, she says, told her of abuse that had happened to him over 40 years earlier; it was the first time he'd ever talked of it to anybody.

She first heard about Doug Peters last April, from another of the five victims who eventually laid complaints against Peters. "People come forward whenever they are ready," she says.

Often the police interview is the first time they've really told their stories. "A lot of people haven't told anyone as much detail as they tell us, so it is quite cathartic. Everyone I speak to after the interview feels like a weight has lifted off their shoulders, regardless of whether they go to court or not."

And even if the offender has died, Scott says the police want to hear victims' stories. The focus has changed from securing prison time to doing what is best for the victims, which isn't always going to trial, and she says police can connect them to support services and counselling.

"A sentence can't give them back what they have lost but, in our experience, [talking to us] helps them deal with it all."

Scott is about to conclude a two-year spell on her specialist nine-strong team, leaving to give birth to her second child. Despite the harrowing nature of her work, she will be sad to leave. She has to become close to the victims to gain their trust and unveil their stories; they are, she says, "fantastic guys".

She's been trying to get hold of Robbie. When I tell her where he's staying, she resolves to speak to him the same day. Robbie, who has had his share of unhappy interactions with the police, lights up when Scott is mentioned.

"She is," he says, "a beautiful woman."

I BLAME DOUG for what he turned me into," says Robbie, "and I couldn't get out of it because of all the shit that happened to me on the way - I lost a son, I lost friends to ODs and car crashes, and it kept me there all those years. The only person I blame is that rock-bottom"

How can he describe the impact on his life? "It's f...ed it up, mate."

After a silence: "I would go out always and drink to not think about it."

Shane Harvey, director of the psychology department at Massey University's Palmerston North campus, has extensively studied adult male sexual abuse survivors and says the lasting impact on people's lives cannot be underestimated.

These effects, says Harvey, "are lifelong unless they are dealt with. It is a continuum - some guys do move on and some don't, but it has to be dealt with."

They include the obvious - drink and drugs, deep feelings of shame, finding it difficult to form intimate relationships - but they can also lead men to question their sexuality, their sense of identity and masculinity, to become aggressive towards other men, to reject entire societal groups (if their abuser was a priest, they hate religion), and to fail as parents, often because they cannot cope with intimate parental duties like bathing, like one man who vomited when he had to bathe his child.

For Robbie, one of his deepest pains is his inability to care for his son before he died. "I couldn't even be a father to him. I didn't know what to do," he says. Later, he adds: "I was raised to be angry and nasty, I suppose, to hate the world."

Harvey found few had really explored their abuse: "It's not a thing you talk about."

Counsellors, he says, have to disentangle the later effects of the abuse, like depression, alcoholism, drug abuse and failed relationships before they can even confront what happened.

Robbie, for his part, has never had counselling for his sexual abuse. He's vaguely aware he might be entitled to some compensation, but doesn't know how much or how to get it. Beyond his conversations with Scott, he's never really talked about Doug Peters. But, he says, "it is kinda always there".

The Accident Compensation Corporation says there are no time limits to claiming for historic sexual abuse. Counsellors or GPs can lodge the claims and ACC will offer 16 support sessions, and further coverage can include psychiatric or psychological treatment or possible lump sum financial compensation. ACC says it can offer transport to appointments, which would help Robbie, who can't afford a bus ticket but has been lined up with a counsellor several suburbs away.

But Robbie did talk to police about Peters, and he's glad he did. He's happy to talk to the Sunday Star-Times in the hope other victims of such abuse read his story and come forward.

That's often the case, says Scott - previous media coverage of Peters produced a sixth victim, who assumed he had always been the only one to suffer Peters' attentions. Scott says some of Peters' victims have also volunteered to help others.

Interviews with offenders, says Scott, are difficult: "You are carrying a lot of what the guys [have told you] into the interview . . . but you need to be able to talk to the offender. All I want them to do is tell the truth about what happened."

Peters was very ill when police finally brought him to account for his actions of three decades ago and Scott says Peters probably deserves some credit for owning up early.

"It was a relief for those involved that he put his hand up and said he did it. I can only imagine that sometimes if you carry a secret like that, I think it must be a [relief] to be able to talk about it. For him, because he was sick, it may have been on his conscience."

Robbie went to Peters' first court appearance at the Waitakere District Court last June, at which he pleaded guilty to 10 sample charges. He says Peters wouldn't look at him. "I wanted to look him in the face," he says. "Then walk over and smack him in the mouth before they took him down. I don't care what they did to me, as long as he knew that."

There's a fair amount of bluster with Robbie about how tough he is. But when he talks about Peters it's believable. "If I looked him in the eye, I would probably have killed him," he says. Then he repeats it, slowly.

Who knows what Robbie might have done to Peters, if anything, but Peters cheated justice, both formal and Robbie's rougher version.

The night before he would be sentenced on 10 charges, carrying maximum sentences of 10 years each of "indecency between man and boy", he died of cancer in a Waikato Hospital bed.

It fell to Grainne Scott to phone his five victims and tell them. She considers it one of the most difficult days of her 10-year police career.

"I remember making the phone call to one of the survivors and was almost in tears, because I knew how hard it would be for him," she says. "There was a real mixed response from my guys, it was devastating. The day before . . ."

She smiles tightly: "Couldn't it be the day after? For a lot of them it was their opportunity to go to court and see him. Some of these guys have lived in fear of their offender for years. Finally, they get the strength to go and see them and the day before . . ."

At least, she says, they knew Peters had pleaded guilty, accepted his offending, and would never re-offend.

"I know for some of the guys it has changed their life for the better, it has helped them to deal with it. And we could say at least this guy can never hurt another child again, and we got to do something about it."

Robbie, meanwhile, is dealing with his other pre-occupations. He's despondent, questioning why he bothered to get sober, and irritated by the noise of fellow residents at his hostel. He might buy a tent, a pack and go bush, he reckons.

"What's the point in trying?" he asks.

"There's only me by myself - I have had to do it all by myself. I've got absolutely no money, I am broke. It makes me hate the world. Why am I clean? Why does it put me more and more in the hole?"

* Robbie was willing to be named but has permanent name suppression, which the Sunday Star-Times chose not to challenge to protect both Robbie and Peters' other victims. Police urge any victims of historic sexual abuse to contact them.



Child abuse: The story of Billy Travis

by Becky Metrick

Sitting in his wheelchair beside his parents Tuesday night, Billy Travis flails his arm and lets out a small squeak. Mother Kim Travis immediately responds, checking him and making sure his head is positioned OK, saying something like "Oh I know," with a cheerful tone.

The 7-year-old is likely having a seizure — one of five larger ones he has in an hour and a half — and isn't registering a word of what Kim has said due to a traumatic brain injury suffered nearly three years ago. Kim and her husband Bob know the outlook for Billy is grim and that he will never respond the way their other children do, but they're still doing everything they can to keep him comfortable.

How did Billy get this way? Just over a week prior to that evening, Billy's stepmother was convicted of aggravated assault and three other charges for shoving him when he was 4-years-old. The then-underweight boy hit the ground with his head, which left him in what his neurosurgeon Dr. Mark Dias described in court as "a traumatic coma." Over the next 36 hours, Michele Hunter and her husband, Billy's biological father, talked about the odd symptoms he was showing but did not call police or take him to the hospital.

Instead, on March 15, 2011, Billy went into cardiac arrest, which Dias believes caused the severe trauma that has left Billy unable to function normally.

Franklin County Children and Youth Services had been monitoring Billy and his family for 18 months before the incident that changed his life.

Kim and Bob Travis know that the system is complicated, having worked with the agency since 1999. The long-time foster parents have adopted five of the children who had come to them as foster children, including Billy.

Although the kids are technically foster children, each one is theirs and their family is just 'well-blended," Bob said.

The couple is passionate about helping children, which is why when it came to Billy, they were confused and saddened by his condition.

During Michele Hunter's trial, at least three separate incidents of child abuse were brought up, with witness testimonies for both the defense and prosecution. The Travis' could not be specific, but they were aware of even more incidents through medical documentation they received after adopting Billy.

Having worked with Children and Youth for years, they don't like questioning the agency, but they simply do not understand.

"They have amazing caseworkers, but I guess there's areas where their hands are tied," Kim said, "Where they aren't able to do things."

Doug Amsley, the direction of Franklin County's Children and Youth Services and Brian Bornman, the agency's attorney, could not speak specifically about Billy, due to legal restrictions. However, they explained in-depth the definitions the agency has to go by when it comes to child abuse.

Based on the multiple reports of child abuse brought up in the Michele Hunter trial, it was clear that Billy had visible bruises that made people uncomfortable. Speaking generally, Bornman said bruises by themselves don't constitute child abuse.

"The general perception in the general public is that if a child gets bruises, that's child abuse," Bornman said. "And maybe under criminal definition it is, but under the child protective services law it's not. It really requires like fractures or some severe pain or impairment."

The definition of physical abuse is: "Needs to result in a serious physical injury, which is defined as an injury caused by the acts or omissions of a perpetrator," according to a document provided by Children and Youth. That injury has to have also either caused the child "severe pain," significantly impaired the child either temporarily or permanently, or is a part of an evidenced pattern of "separate, unexplained injuries to the child."

Looking at Billy now, he matches many of the descriptors well. He has nurses assisting him 18 hours a day, as he can no longer see, hear, speak or move. However, until Michele Hunter's assault on him, he did not.

But it's not just one definition that explains every movement of the agency. Bornman and Amsley talked about some of the other difficulties they face when investigating and working with families.

"We kind of get it from both sides here. You don't do enough and then you do too much," Amsley said. "You have parents that think that no child should have any type of physical punishment and then you have parents that think that you should, you know, that's just a catch-22, back and forth."

The agency works with families through a variety of resources and does both scheduled and unscheduled visits in order to keep track of them.

"Most of the services we do at C and Y are voluntary," Amsley said. "Folks see the need and accept services, but unless it is something that we can prove, we can't force any services on anybody."

They also have to have a majority of their actions approved by the courts, and if they can't support their claims, they will be denied, just like any other criminal case.

"We can't even take a child into protective custody without contacting a judge and getting an order and authorizing that," Bornman said. "And our courts are very reticent about giving out orders unless we can definitely make a case for it, that this is an immediate safety risk for the child."

The agency also notifies the appropriate law enforcement agency every time they have a referral that falls under the physical, sexual, serious mental injury, neglect or imminent risk umbrella of abuse. They work with law enforcement as much as they can to hold concurrent investigations.

But even on the criminal end, if someone is accused of child abuse, fully prosecuting the case can be a challenge.

"Oftentimes, the victim can't appear in court to testify about what happened to him/her," said First Assistant District Attorney Lauren Sulcove, who prosecuted Michele Hunter. "In some cases, like Billy's, this is because they are too injured to speak. In other cases, the child may be too young to testify, or may be too scared to talk about what happened in front of their abusers."

In Billy's case, they were able to use medical records, photographs of his injuries and Michele's statements to convince the jury of what happened, Sulcove said, but added that in other cases they'll file special motions to protect the child during a trial.

Still, in rare cases even that is not enough.

"In child abuse cases, the paramount concern is the child's welfare," Sulcove said. "If there is no way to try a case without the child's participation in the process, and if that particular child simply cannot do that without suffering further emotional distress, our office will not move forward with the prosecution."

Sulcove said that ultimately the child has to be willing to stand up to the abuser, if possible, but the district attorney's office would never force a child to do so " because that is what their abusers have done, and we refuse to repeat that abusive process."

So through the maze of systems working together to protect the children, it's difficult to see what exactly went wrong for Billy.

As for the definition of what constitutes physical abuse, that's likely going to change by the end of this year.

"'Causes a child severe pain,' well what's severe? That is now going to be "Substantial" pain," Amsley said, talking about new child protection laws that are being worked on in Congress. "In my mind, I think that substantial might be a little bit less than severe... so we'll have to see what the case law says. So these definitions are kind of complex."

And they understand that it will have a significant impact on how they view cases.

"It's going to be more difficult in terms of volume because there's going to be more people that meet those definitions," Bornman said. "but it's going to increase the safety of the children."

The safety of the children is all the Travis' care about as well.

"The prayer is that another little boy or girl won't have to go through all Billy went through," Kim said.

They'll continue to watch over Billy, with intensive home care that includes seven pieces of equipment and medications to help him with everything from getting sick, stopping breathing at random and keeping his muscles from contracting.

In the almost three years since the incident, Kim said that twice she's felt that he might not make it through the night due to severe seizures.

""I thought to myself, he's not going to make it through this, he's not going to make it through it tonight," Kim said. "and then a couple hours later he pulls it back together."

Kim and Bob are fully aware of how fragile Billy is now, and that he will never lead a normal life. Still, they will work as hard as they can to keep him comfortable. The couple are working on gaining funding to build a new wing to their home, "Billy's wing" as they call it, so he has more space and they can have a whole space dedicated to his care. Between the nurses, the machinery and four other children in the home, it can get cramped, so they're hoping that the addition to the house will allow Billy the space he needs to thrive as he grows.

Michele Hunter's attorney called the Travis family "angels" in court, but they don't see themselves that way.

"Just someone that cares about kids," Bob said. "I mean I don't know, it's just, sometimes I think people think we're crazy but there's a lot of kids out there that just need love."

If you wish to contribute to the Travis' mission, you can visit their fundraising page:, or call Kim at (717) 217-9525.



Letter to the Editor

More caution locally would help prevent child abuse

by Buzz Avery

All of Napa, and much of the nation, is stricken by the unfortunate death of 3-year-old Kayleigh Slusher. The mother and her boyfriend have been charged. The specific details surrounding the events that led to her death will only come out once the trial or trials begin. All this will take its own time, in order to protect the rights of the accused.

Unfortunately, Kayleigh could not enjoy the same protection of the law now guaranteed those who are accused. National and state laws, historically shaped, defer to and preserve the rights of parents to maintain and protect their children.

Such is the legal dilemma faced in determining a means to assure protection for an abused child victimized by poor parenting. It is a story repeated countless times throughout the U.S. and the world on a daily basis, but with death rarely being the result. However, physical and psychological scars do occur with horrible regularity.

The draft petition covered by the Napa Valley Register and now being circulated in Napa seeks to remedy this, at least to some degree (“Napa mom petitions for ‘Kayleigh law,'” Feb. 17). It has the best of intentions, of course, but, in the U.S., we have a legal obligation called “due process.”

That keeps any “authority” from removing a child unless a formal charge is made. It can be made by either parent, which rarely happens, since the mother wants to keep both the child and boyfriend (or husband).

The burden really falls upon the police responding to the call. If you want to identify the weak link in the protection of Kayleigh's life, it must fall upon the failure of the police department to recognize the hazardous environment and file a report.

The police are reluctant to file a domestic charge unless they actually see injury, property damage or a witness comes forth. The reprisal they face if they make a mistake discourages them from acting without evidence.

I hope and trust that, for whatever reason, they saw no evidence the child's life or safety was in danger. If they did and did not act, it may come out in the trial, and the department is certainly dealing with it internally since they share some of the guilt.

If two officers respond to a call, they typically need to agree a report should be filed, since the second officer becomes a witness to the first. Then, one or both may have to testify before a judge. An EMT responding to a call can also make a report to police who can take further action.

But it can get complicated. Most such reports end up going nowhere, since the family works things out. There is also a lot of “he said, she said,” and minors are often too intimidated to speak for themselves. A death is extremely rare and completely unexpected by law enforcement.

Several opponents of the petition have refused to sign it because they believe that several false reports of child abuse by a vindictive or vengeful individual could bring unwarranted police responses to an otherwise healthy family.

It is important to remember that any person making false reports to the police is in violation of the law. It is unlikely that a person will make more than one false report once they understand there are consequences for repeatedly misinforming the police of a domestic situation.

The petition alleges the police made 14 responses to calls at the address where Kayleigh lived since June 2013. Statistically, this far exceeds the probability that all the reports were false or in error. Something was obviously wrong, no matter what the adults told the police.

I do think this is the right opportunity and time to revise state law. Such a revision should require a legal review of living conditions where a child's safety is involved, after the authorities have responded a specific number of times. The law need not be Draconian, but merely a vehicle to empower authorities to act before it is too late.

We owe this to Kayleigh, and all the many other young children of California who have no voice for themselves, who never have the chance to grow up in the home they needed, and who will never have the opportunity for the full life that we all deserve.



Letter to the Editor

Victims of child sexual abuse need to be given help, respect (column)

by Kristen Pfautz Woolley

On Feb. 1, Dylan Farrow courageously told her story of allegedly being sexually violated by her adopted father, Woody Allen, at the age of 7. If you have not read her words, I encourage you to do so at

Dylan's message was brilliantly delivered. She linked the reader in a clever way to what it feels like as a survivor to endure triggers from one's sexual abuse experience.

This is difficult because we do not like to embrace the reality that children are harmed by those who "appear" to be good people, especially people who entertain us. We do not want to think that icons, legends, celebrities and sports heroes actually harm children. We do not want to embrace the truth, so denial becomes the reality.

You may ask why can't an abused person just get over it? It has been decades, it happened when the person was a child, just let it go and move on.

Questions and statements like these keep us in the safe zone, allowing us to deny the unthinkable.

Who wants to associate one of the most famous filmmakers with such disgusting atrocities? To do so would ruin our image of him, taint our love for his work and jeopardize our love to be entertained by him.

I ask, would you look at one of our country's veterans who is enduring flashbacks and debilitating PTSD from his war experience that ended decades ago and tell him to just get over it? No! To do so would be cruel, disrespectful and down-right deplorable.

The same respect needs to be given to survivors of child sexual abuse. They each endured a war, a silent war on their bodies and minds, and it takes decades to begin to talk about the details and twisted and confusing feelings of conflict that accompany the abuse. It takes time to work through the devastation and grief and move forward in healing. No one wants the reality of sexual abuse as part of his or her truth to hold and integrate — just like many now do not want to think that Woody Allen might be a pedophile.

The reality is that our children are not immune to sexual abuse. It has been happening for many, many years, and it continues to happen, and that reality is deplorable.

It must stop, and it begins with each of us taking a stand.

Educate yourself on the reality of sexual abuse. Break the silence, talk to your children, teach them about their bodies and who is allowed to touch their body and why. Teach them to trust their intuition — if something does not feel right, then it isn't right — and to talk to you, their protector.

If you need help on how to start this conversation, contact your doctor or York County Children's Advocacy Center at (717) 718-4253. If you are an employer and work with children, please train yourself and your staff on the signs and symptoms of child sexual abuse. Look at low cost and sometimes free trainings such as Darkness 2 Light,

If you suspect abuse, you can report it anonymously by calling ChildLine at 1-800- 932-0313. If you are not sure if the abuse is happening and you feel stuck, still pick up the phone anyway and call, listen to your gut, it is better to err on the side of caution. Let the experts decide if the child is safe.

If you are being abused, there are amazing resources in our community to help you. Contact Victims Assistance Center at 1-800-422-3204, contact your doctor, ask for a referral, research the many skilled individual counselors in our community. Or if this is too scary to do in person, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656- HOPE (4673). They will help; you no longer have to endure it alone. You do not have to remain silent one second longer. You matter, and your story matters.

Kristen Pfautz Woolley is founder and clinical director of Turning Point Women's Counseling & Advocacy Center, York.



Areawide, new vigilance against sex abuse by youth coaches

by Ben Finley

What a coach , Mike Zolk thought.

It was nearly midnight on a Friday in 2011. Zolk and his son were swatting balls at a batting cage in Northeast Philadelphia when Lou Spadaccini walked up.

Spadaccini had coached Neumann-Goretti High School to its first baseball championships in decades. Zolk's son, nicknamed Zoom, played second base.

The coach knew where to find Zoom that night after seeing a Facebook post by the teen. For an hour, he just watched the father and son swing.

Must be a baseball junkie like me , the elder Zolk thought. What a coach .

Spadaccini's success gave him access and credibility. It also made his crimes all the more scarring.

That same year, Spadaccini, 37, plied two boys, both baseball prospects, with alcohol and drugs. He sexually assaulted one, then 13. He took the other, 14, to a hotel, but rushed him home intoxicated, although unharmed, when the boy's parents kept calling.

The Philadelphia region has experienced a spate of such betrayals. In the last three years, 11 area youth coaches - from the Main Line to North Philadelphia to upper Bucks County - have been charged with attempting or having sexual contact with a player.

Spadaccini is among eight who have admitted such crimes. Two others are awaiting trial. The range of affected sports and schools is broad:

Eric Romig, 36, a softball coach at Bucks County's Pennridge High School, had sex with a 16-year-old player.

Kenneth Fuller, 47, slept with a 17-year-old girl on his swim team at Bayard Rustin High School in Chester County.

Lana Trotter, 27, had a two-year affair with a 16-year-old on her softball team at Delaware County Christian School in Newtown Square.

Ivan Pravilov, 48, a renowned hockey coach who ran a youth program, allegedly sexually assaulted two 14-year-old boys at an apartment in Mount Airy. He killed himself while awaiting trial.

James Civello, 50, a squash coach at the Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, had sex with a 16-year-old player.

Fran Murphy, 39, the athletic director and a former coach at Archbishop Carroll in Radnor, sexually propositioned a 16-year-old football player.

New Jersey has had similar cases. In 2009, David Durling, who coached club soccer in Vineland, was convicted of molesting three players, ages 7 and 8 when the crimes began.

Experts agree the number of arrests has increased. But the rate of assaults has likely remained the same. The difference, they say, is a heightened awareness, driven in part by the prosecution of Jerry Sandusky, the former Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach, for sexually assaulting boys.

The coaches who have been arrested almost certainly represent fewer than 1 percent of the adults active in youth sports. But the wave of cases in the region has helped spawn legislation in Harrisburg and Trenton, training in schools, discussions across the country, and a new attention on the field.

"I see people hanging around our practices, and I ask, 'Who is that?' " said Mike Matta, a guidance counselor and head football coach at Downingtown East. "Ten years, ago I wouldn't have asked."

Matta is one of the few coaches, school officials, or parents who agreed to talk publicly about the topic for this article. But interviews and a review of hundreds of court records offer a glimpse into how and why such assaults occur.

Abuse often starts with special attention and extra one-on-one practices before the coach and the player start spending time off the field. Most offenders have known their victims for months, if not years, employing a kind of long con on players, parents, and communities.

"The good news is that we seem to be waking up to it," said Kate Staley, associate director of the Penn State Justice Center for Research. "What I hope is a sea change in looking at the issue honestly and saying, 'It happens, and it happens a lot more than we ever thought it did.' "

But, as Zolk discovered, such revelations come at a price.

"My son was at a school where me and 35 other parents were completely fooled by their head coach," he said. "I don't trust anymore."

'Not a coincidence'

Spadaccini grew up in South Philadelphia. He was an all-Catholic outfielder at St. John Neumann High School in the 1990s and played for Temple University. After college, he worked as a court crier in the city's Criminal Justice Center.

As a favor to a friend, he said, he agreed to coach a travel team of 10- to 12-year-olds.

"I didn't even know if I wanted to coach," he told The Inquirer in 2010, before his arrest. "I didn't think I had the patience. But I fell in love with the kids."

Even in his first season with Neumann Goretti's Saints in 2007, Spadaccini kept an eye on the younger clubs, ostensibly looking for prospects for his high school team.

One was a fifth-grade boy whom Spadaccini would assault years later.

"The coach would say how good our son was and how he wanted him to go to Neumann one day and play for him," the boy's mother testified last year at Spadaccini's sentencing.

Advocates say child sex abusers often take their time to build trust with their victims, a process called grooming.

"It's not a coincidence that predators choose activities or professions where they have access to children," said Steve Doerner, an education coordinator at the nonprofit Network of Victim Assistance of Bucks County. "That's why an overwhelming number of children who are victimized know and trust their attacker."

Kenneth Fuller, the Chester County swim coach, met his victim when she joined his team at age 14.

Over the years, Fuller gave the girl the "star treatment," said Tom Hogan, Chester County's district attorney. When she was 17, after the swim season ended, the coach met her outside of school to discuss her "swimming future," police said.

The two eventually had sex in hotel rooms.

Fuller left roses on her car and sent text messages that said he was "falling in love," according to court records. He was arrested after the girl confided in friends who told police. Fuller was sentenced to seven to 23 months in prison after pleading guilty to charges including corruption of minors.

His attorney disputed that the coach groomed the girl, saying the incident unfolded only in a few weeks. "Somehow he became enamored with this young girl and made a huge mistake," attorney Vincent DiFabio said.

'Like a teenager'

During his third season, Spadaccini took the once-downtrodden Saints to their first Catholic League championship in nearly 50 years. The team won again in 2011, months before his arrest.

Looking back, however, Zolk said Spadaccini wasn't an "X's and O's" kind of coach. Despite having a young son of his own, he acted more like a teenager.

Spadaccini let players talk trash to opposing teams. He had practices year round - even in a factory - and hung out with his team off the field, playing video games and having "heart-to-heart" talks.

The younger Zolk played for Spadaccini for two seasons and neither he nor his father saw clues that the coach was grooming sexual targets. Rather, the elder Zolk thought, baseball was Spadaccini's outlet "because he didn't have a life."

A coach spending more time with players than with peers is one of many red flags, said Christopher Gavagan, a New York-based filmmaker whose documentary on sexual abuse in youth sports, Coached Into Silence , will be released this fall.

"The grooming process is so subtle, there's not one thing a parent can look for," Gavagan said. "But when there are too many [warning signs], questions have to be asked."

Spadaccini's all-encompassing style extended to the younger boys he tried to recruit, inviting them to workouts and offering rides to practice.

"It was just a great feeling to be practicing with one of the best teams around, especially with Lou as the coach," the 13-year-old victim wrote in a statement read aloud at Spadaccini's sentencing.

Special attention is one of the key danger signs, said Tammy Lerner, vice president of the Bryn Mawr-based Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse and a victim of sexual abuse by a relative. "It always starts with an overt interest in a child singled out from the rest of the group," she said.

Lana Trotter, the former softball coach at Delaware Christian Day School, offered an extra hour of practice to her player before their sexual relationship developed, said Newtown Township Detective John Newell.

Trotter was arrested in August after the 16-year-old's parents found inappropriate text messages on her phone. She pleaded guilty this month to institutional sexual assault and faces up to 23 months of house arrest.

Scott Godshall, her attorney, said Trotter did not intend for the help she extended to the victim to lead to a sexual relationship.

Matta, the Downingtown East coach, said staffers there are constantly warned against individual training sessions.

Besides, he said, it's not good coaching.

"We want every kid to feel that they're treated the same," he said.

Baseball dreams

Spadaccini lured the younger boys into his orbit because of his team's success. Some of his former players made college teams. One plays in a major-league team's farm system.

Branwen McNabb, who prosecuted Spadaccini, said Spadaccini took advantage of his victims' baseball dreams, talking to them about college scholarships and turning pro.

Experts said abusers often find something to exploit within their victims, whether athletic aspirations or someone having trouble at home.

Francis Murphy, a coach turned athletic director of Archbishop John Carroll High School in Radnor Township, admitted propositioning a former football player who left the school for financial reasons.

In an online message, Murphy, then 39, offered to be the teen's "Sugar Daddy" and promised sports gear in exchange for a sex act.

"We should try it out," Murphy wrote in 2011. "See how you like. I will hook you up. Must stay between us."

The boy's mother contacted police, who in turn posed as the teen online and ultimately arrested Murphy at an ice cream parlor where he thought he was meeting the boy.

Murphy was sentenced to five to 23 months in prison for felonies including unlawful contact with a minor. At that proceeding, the teenager testified that even at his new school he feared Murphy was in the stands during football games - "thinking about what he can do to me if I weren't around people."

The response

The wave of arrests, especially Sandusky's, has stirred action.

In late 2011, Pennsylvania legislators changed the law to allow authorities to charge school employees, including coaches, with a felony for having sex with any student or player. A bill pending in Harrisburg would expand the statute to include sports officials unaffiliated with a school.

A state law took effect last year that requires school employees, including coaches, to receive training to recognize signs of abuse. Another pending bill would require coaches, among others, to report suspected abuse.

In Trenton, legislators are weighing a bill that would require New Jersey school districts to adopt policies governing electronic communications, such as text messages and e-mails, between staff and students.

State Sen. Diane Allen (R., Burlington), one of the bill's two cosponsors, said the proposal reacts to the growing number of teachers and coaches nationwide accused of inappropriate behavior.

"There's no question that social media has made it easier for adults to prey on children," she said.

Pennsylvania lacks a similar proposal, although districts develop their own policies, said Steve Robinson, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association. A policy in Bucks County's Council Rock School District, for instance, "strongly" discourages employees from communicating with students via any personal social-media page or a personal cellphone.

The issue is also getting wider attention across the country.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children hosted a meeting on sexual abuse in sports last year. The subject will be the focus of the U.S. Olympic Committee's Safe Sport Summit this spring. The Government Accountability Office, a watchdog agency for Congress, is investigating youth athletic clubs' handling of abuse claims.

Policies among local club leagues also have evolved. Some, mirroring public schools, require criminal background checks and training for potential coaches. Philadelphia's Catholic Youth Organization holds a coaches' orientation that warns against one-on-one practices as well as friending players on Facebook, said Bill Morris, a CYO commissioner and former football coach.

Coaches in the North Philly Aztecs youth football program no longer invite players to sleep at their houses the night before a game to ensure everyone makes it on time, said president and cofounder Wayne Allen.

'Just really bad'

By the summer of 2011, Spadaccini had known his 13-year-old victim and his family for years. He had known the 14-year-old boy for months, having recruited him to play for the Saints. He took both boys, on separate occasions, to a Holiday Inn in South Philadelphia, serving them drinks laced with vodka and Xanax.

"It was just really bad," the younger boy wrote to the sentencing judge. "Why would he want anything sexually to do with me, especially when he has a kid of his own?"

Spadaccini was caught after giving the 14-year-old the drug- and alcohol-laced drinks and failing to return him home on time. His arrest prompted the 13-year-old to tell his parents about the sexual assaults.

At his sentencing, Spadaccini told the boys that he was "truly, truly sorry" and that he wished he could change what happened.

"I tried my whole life to help people, and I obviously failed in a big way," he said.

He is serving a 12- to 24-year prison term. Neither Spadaccini nor his attorney, Tariq El-Shabazz, responded to requests for interviews.

A new coach

Zolk took over the Neumann-Goretti team. He said that applying for Spadaccini's job was not a huge leap; he had already informally trained some of the players along with his son, who had since graduated.

After Zolk got the job, he said he briefly mentioned the former coach during his first meetings with parents and players.

"I said: Look, fellas, here's the deal. If you need to talk, we'll talk, but this is full steam ahead with the baseball program," Zolk recalled. "I told the parents that whatever happens on the field, I'm not letting the kids take the fall for any of it. Whoever wants to make fun of them will have to go through me."

Under Zolk, the Saints won the Catholic League championship and the citywide title and made the final four in the state championship.

Zolk resigned after the 2013 season because he said the commute from his day job in Northeast Philadelphia was too draining. He manages Sluggersville, an indoor baseball and softball training facility near Grant Avenue and the Boulevard.

The place is filled with children and adults, many hitting in batting cages. Zolk can't help but wonder if some of the adults want to prey on children.

"Because of what he did, I don't trust anybody that I come across with kids anymore," Zolk said. "It made me wonder how many are out there, which I still do."

Betrayal of Trust

In the last three years, 11 area coaches have been charged with attempting or having sexual contact with a player. Eight have pleaded guilty. Two await possible trial, and one killed himself while awaiting trial.

Leon Watson, 24

A neighborhood football coach in North Philadelphia, he is accused of molesting five boys on or associated with his team. He was initially arrested in November but formally charged by a grand jury this month. His formal arraignment is scheduled for Monday. A trial date has not been set.

Charles Meredith, 52

A tennis coach at Country Day School of the Sacred Heart in Bryn Mawr, a Catholic girls' school, he allegedly kissed a 15-year-old and sent her inappropriate text messages. He was arrested in December. After a preliminary hearing this month, a Montgomery County district judge sent his case to county court for a possible trial. His formal arraignment is scheduled for March 26.

Eric Romig, 36

A softball coach at Bucks County's Pennridge High School, he had sex with a 16-year-old player. He was arrested in October and pleaded guilty in January to charges including institutional sexual assault, a third-degree felony. A sentencing date has not been scheduled pending an evaluation to determine whether he is a sexually violent predator. He is expected to face up to 20 months in jail.

Lana Trotter, 27

She had a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl on her softball team at Delaware County Christian School in Newtown Square. She was arrested in July and pleaded guilty this month to charges including institutional sexual assault. Her sentencing is scheduled for May. She is expected to serve 23 months of house arrest and three years' probation.

Kevin Jones, 34

He had sex with a 14-year-old player on his club softball team in Levittown, Bucks County. He was arrested in January 2013 and pleaded guilty to charges including involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, a first-degree felony. He got five to 10 years in prison.



30 arrested in All-Star weekend sex trafficking

The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS -- Louisiana state police say an investigation involving local authorities and the FBI resulted in 30 arrests in connection with sex trafficking during the NBA All-Star weekend in New Orleans.

The arrests included 22 women and four men arrested on prostitution-related charges. Four other men were booked for allegedly using computers to solicit minors for sex. The operation also resulted in the rescue of a juvenile believed to have been exploited since she was 14.

"While the FBI and its partners never rest in pursuit of those engaged in sex trafficking and online sexual exploitation, we will continue to further heighten our efforts during the many special events held in New Orleans that, unfortunately, trigger spikes in this type of criminal activity," Michael Anderson, head of the FBI's New Orleans office, said in a joint statement with state police issued Friday.

The women are believed to have traveled to New Orleans from across the country including California, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas to engage in sex-related crimes during the NBA All-Star weekend.

"Louisiana State Police remains committed to protecting our citizens and visitors from those individuals choosing to promote, solicit, and engage in sex crimes especially involving juvenile victims," said Colonel Mike Edmonson, superintendent of state police.

The release said the FBI's Violent Crimes against Children Unit and agents from FBI field offices in New Orleans and Houston worked with state police, the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children throughout the All-Star event.

The arrests were the latest related to law enforcement efforts to stop human trafficking during major sporting events that draw large numbers of tourists to major cities.

Ahead of the 2014 Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium, New Jersey officials set up training for legions of law enforcement personnel, hospitality workers, high school students, airport employees and others on identifying the signs of sex trafficking. Later, authorities reported that 16 juveniles forced into prostitution were rescued by the FBI in a two-week operation leading up to the Super Bowl.




Protecting foster kids from sex trafficking

The state must do more to track down runaway foster kids who are more susceptible to being coerced by sex traffickers into prostitution, writes columnist Thanh Tan

by Thanh Tan

Every month, more than 100 kids run away from foster homes throughout Washington.

Some end up in the arms of pimps posing as boyfriends.

The state — acting as their legal guardian — must find them before the wrong guys do.

At least 500 minors work in King County's commercial sex trade every day, according to conservative estimates. Advocates believe more than half of those children are in the foster-care system, making it a pipeline to prostitution.

“They have low self-esteem and are looking to replace love they never had,” says King County Sheriffs Office Detective Brian Taylor, an expert witness on sex trafficking and member of the Street Crimes Unit.

Taylor says it's common to meet foster kids devoted to pimps, who purport to care for the children while posting their photos to and selling their bodies to strangers.

“The underlying cause is the abuse and neglect that led them to foster care and the abuse and neglect they've experienced in foster care,” says Melinda Giovengo, executive director of YouthCare in Seattle.

With one in six foster kids moved between three or more homes within the first year, escape is common.

Something is wrong.

Though Washington is legally responsible for foster kids coerced into prostitution, Child Protective Services has not stepped up to address their plight. Sex trafficking remains outside the agency's purview — it responds to cases where children are abused by family members and caregivers, but not to cases of pimps or strangers who pay them to perform sexual acts.

No matter how overloaded the system gets, CPS should identify victims and move beyond simply placing these kids in homes where foster parents may lack training.

Under the terms of the 2004 Braam settlement, the state Department of Social and Health Services was supposed to reduce the number of runaways statewide, says Columbia Legal Services attorney Casey Trupin.

The agency failed.

DSHS has six people on staff trained to find missing kids. That's not enough. The agency needs more of these “locators.”

Once the children are found, it's also critical they get treatment.

Last year, the Center for Children & Youth Justice worked with 200 stakeholders to develop a statewide model that identifies sexually exploited children, offers them immediate safe haven and access to services and counseling. The new protocol is being implemented in six counties and shows early promise of breaking down silos between agencies.

In Olympia, lawmakers can help these kids by passing Senate Bill 6126. The proposal would provide each child with an attorney to help them navigate the legal system. This could improve a child's chances of finding a permanent home and staying out of the reach of pimps who would exploit them.

A separate bill to extend foster care to children until the age of 21 also deserves another look.

Mandy Urwiler was just 13 when three classmates approached her about “turning tricks” for them. She refused and was beat up. Once a chronic runaway, Urwiler says many others she met on the streets worked in the sex trade.

“These pimps are some of the most amazing people at reading body language,” Urwiler remembers. “The girls with their head held high are fine. The girls who are slouched are easy targets.”

Now 19, Urwiler has found stability and safe housing thanks to the state's Extended Foster Care program.

Too many other kids who run away from foster care are not as lucky as Urwiler.

When parents fail their children and give them up to the state, they are exposing them to a foster-care bureaucracy that is not equipped to protect each and every child from predators.

Sexual exploitation of kids becomes a problem the rest of us cannot ignore.


South Dakota

Panel OKs one of three human trafficking bills

Committee endorses proposal allowing victims to sue pimps

by John Hult

Members of a state House committee rejected two human trafficking bills Friday, saying state law already provides protection for victims. But the panel endorsed a bill that would allow victims to sue pimps for damages.

Supporters of the three bills spoke at length in the House Judiciary Committee about the damage done to women and girls who are forced into lives of prostitution and cited several recent South Dakota cases involving trafficking rings.

House Bill 1250 would have required the Department of Social Services to develop an education program for human trafficking. The committee voted 10-2 to kill the bill after the deputy secretary of the Department of Social Services told lawmakers it was duplicative.

The bill asked the department to create an awareness campaign, collect statistics on human trafficking and coordinate training for victim services. Lynne Valenti, deputy secretary of Social Services, said the department already is doing each of those things as part of its regular work.

“I see the language as being redundant,” said Rep. Peggy Gibson, D-Huron. “Everything that is being asked for in the bill is already happening.”

Another proposal, House Bill 1155, would have allowed for victims of sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion to ask for an expungement of criminal records for convictions directly related to being trafficked. The bill would give victims up to two years to ask for a clean record.

Victims regularly pick up drug or theft charges once they get involved in trafficking rings. Trying to find jobs and safe housing after leaving the life can be difficult.

A trafficking victim from Sioux Falls told lawmakers that she was lucky to land an interview with an employer who gave her a chance to explain her record.

“This one's really important to me,” she said. “If you look at my record, it's not pretty, and a lot of people won't give you the opportunity to explain yourself.”

Lawmakers voted down the bill, saying that prosecutors and judges already have tools to clear records for trafficking victims and that pardons from the governor are available as well.

“Let's not complicate our laws any more than they already are,” said Rep. Timothy Johns, R-Lead.

Even in voting down the bills, the committee members lauded the efforts of the proposals' supporters, saying that the state does need to do what it can to help victims.

A third proposal, House Bill 1161, easily cleared the way for victims to sue traffickers for financial damages.

“There should be no financial advantage to a trafficker to come to South Dakota and victimize women and girls,” said Rep. Jenna Haggar, R-Sioux Falls, who was the prime sponsor of all three proposals.

The third measure was approved unanimously and was placed on the consent calendar for the full House to consider, meaning there probably will be no debate before a vote.



DHS cuts backlog of child abuse cases by 82 percent


OKLAHOMA CITY —- Child welfare workers put in overtime and other staff members pitched in to reduce the backlog of child abuse and neglect cases by 82 percent.

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services released information Friday explaining how the agency tackled the more than 3,700 cases in August that had been pending for at least 60 days.

DHS implemented a backlog-reduction plan in early September that included overtime for front-line workers, reassignment of staff, assistance from other divisions, weekly monitoring, and outside help from a contracted vendor.

The number of backlogged cases now stands at 670.

The backlog was caused by a sharp increase in the number of children taken into state's custody due to abuse and neglect, and staff turnover.

The backlog involved cases where an investigation had been started, children interviewed, and an initial safety decision made, but which had not been documented and closed according to policy.

Deborah Smith, director of the DHS child welfare services division, called the reduction an "example of exceptional teamwork," in a press release.

"They focused their efforts on ensuring the safety of children and completing these cases in backlog status," Smith stated. "They devoted many hours of overtime and worked tirelessly to accomplish this reduction. Many staff — including those working in other areas of child welfare such as adoptions and permanency planning — saw themselves as part of the solution and helped complete investigations and assessments."

Part of the effort includes a contract with Eckerd Inc. to update case paperwork. DHS staff completed about 2,900 cases while Eckerd workers finished 130.

The contract began in November to include about 600 cases in counties with the highest backlog. Eckerd will receive $500 per completed case and $250 for a partially completed case, plus training fees for staff.

The contract has been extended to April 30 with a focus on Oklahoma County, where about 166 cases are still backlogged.

Eckerd is a national nonprofit youth and family service organization. Its staff was trained by DHS about state laws regarding child abuse investigations, policy and procedures.

DHS caseloads and staffing were identified in October as a concern by outside monitors of a court-mandated plan to improve the state's child-welfare system.

The Pinnacle Plan is a 2012 negotiated settlement of a federal class-action lawsuit to strengthen foster care, and it is overseen by an independent three-person panel.

The child protective services unit, which is the DHS division handling these cases, was not part of the lawsuit because the suit centered on the foster-care divisions.

However, the backlog was affecting all worker case loads — including foster care — because staff members were helping with the child protective services cases, said DHS spokeswoman Sheree Powell.

"One of the initiatives in the Pinnacle Plan is lowering caseloads for foster-care workers," Powell said. "The backlog was putting additional pressure on an already overwhelmed system at a time when we were seeing more children come into state custody. That is why child welfare moved to a temporary contract to assist with eliminating backlog."

An October report found that despite efforts to reduce caseloads, the "high staff turnover rate creates a constant stream of vacant positions and adds to additional pressure on an unstable and new workforce that is trying to manage" the backlog.

The monitors stated this is "fast forging a new crisis on the front lines of the organization" and expressed concern the final state fiscal year 2014 budget did not fully fund the Pinnacle Plan elements.

The lack of funding is "apparently undercutting at least one of the core strategies DHS committed to implement in order to attract and retain staff to protect vulnerable children: an annual compensation increase," the report states.

The monitors warned state officials that not providing the raises — particularly to staff already working under difficult conditions — will make it harder to attract and retain qualified workers.

"We expect the state to determine whether the department can find the necessary resources within its existing appropriation to fund the salary raises, or to use other options available — at this time — to fully fund the plan," the report states.

About 70,000 allegations of possible child abuse and neglect are reported each year to the DHS Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 800-522-3511. About 20 percent of those are substantiated as abuse or neglect.



From care to where? Aging out of the foster system

The Vancouver Sun begins a six-part series on B.C.'s policy of cutting off care for foster children when they reach age 19

by Tracy Sherlock and Lori Culbert

Imagine telling your children on their 19th birthdays that they must leave the family home, will receive no more financial or emotional support, and are on their own to figure out how to make money or go to school.

That is the reality for 700 youths every year in B.C. — foster children raised by the Ministry for Children and Families who, on their 19th birthdays, lose all the supports on which they had come to rely.

For some youths that means being forced out of a foster home or group home, where a family or non-profit agency provided them with shelter, food, clothing and guidance.

For many, it means losing the $1,000 a month provided by the ministry to pay their own rent and support themselves. In both scenarios, the youths also abruptly lose contact with any government social workers or transition workers who give advice and free food vouchers and bus tickets until age 19.

Foster children are often among the most vulnerable kids in our society. They either have no parents or have been taken from their parents by the child welfare system or the courts. They have not been adopted, so are being raised by the state.

Advocates say the majority of kids in care are resilient and determined to survive on their own. But while some find varying degrees of success, others fall down.

B.C. children's advocate Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond says she has seen “case upon case” of social workers taking a new 19-year-old to a homeless shelter after government support ends.

“The last contact they have with their guardianship social worker is driving in the car to a shelter,” Turpel-Lafond said.

Multiple studies show these vulnerable youth, once cast adrift, face dire outcomes compared to children raised in traditional families.

They are more likely to end up on welfare and live in precarious housing, abuse alcohol and drugs, get arrested and jailed, drop out of high school, and have fragile social support networks.

But there is a solution that appears to give hope to some of society's most damaged children — a solution, experts argue, that won't cost taxpayers more money in the long run.

Nineteen U.S. states have extended foster care support to age 21. Ontario recently adopted the same policy, and its youth advocate has penned a cost-benefit study that argues it would be economical for that province to boost the age of support even higher, to 25.

“If (foster care) and other supports are extended for four additional years, fewer youth will likely become involved with the criminal justice system. Fewer youth will likely access social assistance. More youth will likely finish high school and post-secondary education, thereby increasing their earnings and the taxes they will pay,” says the 2012 Ontario study titled “25 Is The New 21.”

“For every $1 the province of Ontario spends supporting its youth by extending (foster care) and supports to age 25, Ontario and Canada will save or earn an estimated $1.36 over the working lifetime of that person.”

American, British and Australian studies suggest similar results.

The cost-benefit analysis of supporting foster children beyond age 19 has not been done in B.C. The Sun plugged B.C. numbers into the formulas used by Ontario and found there would also be a benefit to local taxpayers — a return of $1.11 for every dollar spent on extending care to age 24.

Outside the foster care system, fully half of young people from traditional families now live at home with their parents from age 20 to 29 as they pursue higher education and careers, a 2011 StatsCan report found.

So, shouldn't the B.C. government offer a longer and more seamless support system to the 7,000 foster kids in its care?

Minister for Children and Families Stephanie Cadieux said she is aware of what is happening in other jurisdictions, but believes the B.C. government provides sufficient services for youth who have aged out of care.

She acknowledges, however, that the poor outcomes for these youth are proof that government must do a better job of connecting them to existing programs, which are run by various ministries and are often difficult to find.

“We don't need to extend foster care to do that. What we need to do is work collectively across government to ensure that kids aging out of foster care are accessing all of the services in the adult system that they need,” Cadieux said in a recent interview.

“We are always looking at how to improve the outcomes, because I don't think anyone is satisfied with the high school completion rates or the (other) outcomes for kids who come out of care.”

Her ministry provides some transition help for youths over 19, such as Agreements with Young Adults, which pay about $1,000 a month for living expenses for up to 24 months while youths are in school. But the Agreements with Young Adults and other education-assistance programs have limited time frames, restrictive rules and are only helpful to the highest-functioning youth.

For the majority who, at age 19, are still struggling, they must turn to the bare-bones adult welfare system and a variety of other disconnected programs, such as social housing, mental health support, and skills training.

That patchwork-quilt system simply isn't working, say advocates, who argue services for these youth should be under the same roof — Cadieux's ministry — to better help them transition to adult life, at least until the age of 21.

The list of proponents includes Turpel-Lafond, several academics, the Vancouver Foundation, and many non-profit groups that work with these youths. And, of course, former foster children who remember how the stress built as they neared the end of their time in care.

Jasmine Eddy dreaded the month she would turn 19, knowing she would have to leave the stable, caring foster home she had enjoyed from age nine.

She was forced to quickly learn how to care for herself. It was difficult, even for a tenacious survivor like Eddy, who is now studying to become a youth counsellor.

“You wonder if you will have enough money, if you can find a place, if it will be long term, if you will have a job, if it will all work out,” Eddy, now 20, recalled.

“You're on your own for the first time.”

The government stops paying foster parents once a child turns 19. Even in cases where foster parents are willing to keep a foster child beyond that age, the rules often prohibit the young person from staying.

Turpel-Lafond said foster children, despite their best efforts, are floundering under the current system.

“The government says we have this service and that service, we have this pot (of money) and that pot, but they are not working. So I would like to see this change fundamentally. You can't abandon people at 19,” Turpel-Lafond said.

“We need to up the game and we really need to change that. And we can't have the laissez-faire attitude we've had over the last couple of years.”

Rather than a simple extension of the existing foster care system, she would like to see a children's ministry-led transition program that offers continued support to youth up to age 24 — much like a parent guiding a young adult through the early years of employment, education or training.

“I think B.C. is behind. Not just in the development of effective youth services, but I think we're a bit behind in failing to calculate the cost of not doing it,” she said.

“The cost of sending the person to a homeless shelter and watching them fall apart and paying for all of the harm that happens is a pretty expensive trajectory.”

In 2008, the U.S. government made it easier for states to support foster youth until they are 21 years old, as long as they are in school, working, in a program to remove barriers to employment, or incapable of doing these activities due to a medical condition.

So far, 19 states have raised the age of foster care, and three more have passed legislation to do so.

“For every young person who ages out of foster care (at age 18), taxpayers and communities pay an average of $300,000 in social costs like public assistance, incarceration, and lost wages to a community over that person's lifetime,” says the U.S.-based Jim Casey Foundation, which does research to support smoother transitions from foster care to adulthood south of the border.

Local not-for-profit organizations that work with youth aging out of government care, such as Aunt Leah's Place and Covenant House, would like B.C. to follow the lead of Washington and Ontario.

Jocelyn Helland, manager of Broadway Youth Resource Centre, said most foster children are strong “warriors” who survive very difficult childhoods, and should be offered the option of continued support up to the age of 24.

“For so many people at 19, it feels like the bottom has been pulled out from under them,” she said. “Because of all the crap in their childhood, they are not graduating from high school. So how are they expected to find a job in Vancouver to allow them to survive?

“They rely on food banks, centres like ours, odd jobs. Some of our young people (experience) the sadness, the loneliness, wanting to have a family of their own. It's a real struggle.”

The Vancouver Foundation, one of the city's largest granting agencies, is also lobbying for an elongation of public support to at least age 21.

A recent survey done by the foundation found 70 per cent of British Columbians agree. The survey also found just 28 per cent of British Columbians realize foster kids are on their own as soon as they turn 19.

Vancouver Foundation CEO Kevin McCort said improving the transition for “aging out” of government care requires not just more provincial funding, but also a public discussion about how other sectors can step up to assist these youth.

“If everybody does their little bit, we can gradually whittle away at the problem,” McCort said.

If government care was extended to the age of 21, Eddy said, it would have helped her, both in terms of her home life and her education.

“It makes it more stable. You have more support. When you're on your own, you have to figure out things on your own,” Eddy said.

Today, Eddy lives with a friend and takes a psychology course at Kwantlen University in Surrey, which she paid for with money she made working in a sports store. She wants to become a child and youth care counsellor.

The Sun spoke to a dozen former foster children for this series, ranging from Eddy, who is likely one day to achieve her goals, to others who are struggling with precarious housing, poverty and loneliness. They all have hopes and dreams, but it will take incredible determination and resilience to overcome the hurdles ahead now that they have lost the support of their “parent.”



Oregon Teens Accused of Swastika Attack on Fellow Student

Four Oregon teenagers accused of carving a swastika into a fellow high school student's forehead and shooting him with a BB gun spent an evening plotting how to torture him, according to authorities.

According to an affidavit filed Tuesday, the attack on Feb. 10 ended after the teens demanded that the 16-year-old victim fetch cash from an ATM. Instead, he fled to an automotive shop and asked employees to call police.

The teen said a schoolmate, 15-year-old Jenna Montgomery, asked him to hang out after school and when he got there, she led him to a shed. Blue Kalmbach, 15, was waiting there and shot him with a BB gun before carving a swastika into his head with a box cutter.

Jess Taylor, 17, and a 14-year-old boy were also involved in the attack, and Taylor admitted she assisted by penning ideas for the attack beforehand, Multnomah County assistant district attorney Chris Ramras wrote in an affidavit.

The victim told investigators Kalmbach made him take off his shirt and then shot him in the chest, the groin and one of his hands.

Authorities tracked the suspects down in a house a half-mile from the shed.

The three who are 15 and older were charged as adults with about 20 counts each, including kidnapping, robbery and assault. The 14-year-old boy will be prosecuted in juvenile court.

John Bier, principal of David Douglas High School in southeast Portland, said Friday the alleged attackers and their victim were "only vaguely involved" with the school.

Bier said investigators told him that the five teenagers were all friends at one point, but had a falling out.


New York

Hackley sex-abuse case: Psychologists reflect on decades-old revelations

by Randi Weiner

It's no surprise that public reports of adult sexual abuse of children draw out victims who may have hidden the assaults for decades, experts say.

“Despite the fact this is so widespread in our society, no one talks about this,” said Julia Hochstadt, a therapist and licensed clinical social worker with a private practice in Manhattan who specializes in working with child sex-abuse victims. “Acknowledg(ing) that something did, in fact, happen to them ... sets the stage for people to come forward and talk about something that did happen to them, even 50 years ago.”

Recent reports that trusted adults had sexually abused their charges at Green Meadow Waldorf School in Chestnut Ridge and the Hackley School in Tarrytown back in the 1960s and 1970s are the latest revelations in what is becoming an avalanche of sex-abuse exposure.

Sexual victims of religious leaders, teachers and club leaders are coming forward long after the statutes of limitations have run out on legal remedies to demand that institutions at least acknowledge that they were preyed upon.

What drives any victim to denounce their attacker is personal, but the sudden onslaught of accusations could be driven by the change in people's attitudes about sexual abuse itself, psychologists said. Research over the past half century has looked at the long-term consequences of child sexual abuse and there are now legal consequences for ignoring any type of abuse, from domestic violence to child rape.

“I think that (views) about sexuality in general have changed in the past 50 to 60 years,” Hochstadt said. “When I read the (Hackley) story, I was particularly impressed by the language the school was using ... validating what had happened.”

On Thursday, Hackley sent a letter to parents and alumni revealing that several students had been abused by a school employee, now dead, back in the 1960s.

Hackley is a different school now than it was in the 1960s and '70s. Author Alec Wilkinson, who graduated in 1970, remembers it as a haven from the confusion and unhappiness of his adolescence. He was a day student, he said, and removed from whatever was going on with the boarding school side of things. The revelations of abuse surprised him, he said.

“It was a haven for a number of delightfully odd and eccentric people, students and faculty,” he recalled. “It was a refuge when I was there. It was ... the four best years of my life.”

At the Waldorf school, a former student revealed in a memoir last year that she'd been abused by a teacher there years ago, prompting another former student to come forward with a similar experience involving the same teacher. Hackley's letter followed an investigation begun after former students came forward, the school said.

Radio talk show hostess Alexa Servodidio, a clinical social worker and therapist with offices in Mamaroneck, said the type of abuse, the duration, the relationship between abuser and abused and what support victims get if they come forward all determine how well they react long term to the abuse, but that certain things generally ring true in child sex-abuse victims over time.

Many have trust issues and difficulties setting boundaries. Many have relationship problems, either because they are too trusting or too suspicious, too emotional or too closed off, she said.

“The rawness of the emotion in dealing with how toxic and painful these can be doesn't diminish with time,” Hochstadt said. “If someone finds themselves able to deal with what happened to them, and you have the proper support, it's possible to mitigate those feelings and actions. The goal of this kind of work is giving people a safe space to process the awful things that have happened to them and give validation that it was an awful thing that happened and they did nothing to deserve this.”



‘It Happens to Boys' conference aims to educate public about childhood sexual abuse

by Zen Vuong

Respected experts in the fields of sexual abuse, addiction and recovery will come together for a two-day conference next Friday at the Pasadena Hilton.

The sixth annual “It Happens to Boys” symposium has traditionally been held in Palm Springs, but founder Carol Teitelbaum said she chose to host the educational event in Pasadena because she said it's a great city, is full of life and has plenty of younger people.

“When people think about (sexual) abuse, they immediately think about women,” said Teitelbaum, a licensed therapist. “When men are abused at an early age, they are taught to ‘don't be a sissy.' They are made to feel that boys are strong, and they should protect their siblings. … So they hold all of (their feelings) inside, and it turns into rage, domestic violence, drugs and alcohol. It's a huge cost to all of us.”

Nonprofit Creative Change Conferences will host the two-day gathering, which will focus on the psychological impact of sexual abuse on both boys and girls. The $250-conference hopes to become a catalyst for the long healing process that results once people admit and talk about the sexual abuse they endured, Teitelbaum said.

Guest speakers include Dave Pelzer, child abuse survivor and author of bestseller “A Child Called It”; Patrick Carnes, expert in the subject of sexual addiction and author of “Out of the Shadows”; and Jerry Moe, the director of children's programs at the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage.

“While (“It Happens to Boys”) explores the trauma associated with childhood sexual abuse, it offers real, tangible hope in the form of courageous healers who bravely tell their personal stories and paths to health and wellness,” Moe said in a press release. “Professionals not only learn about early warning signs indicative of such abuse but are also empowered with effective tools and intervention strategies to gently guide individuals and their families to recovery.”

One in three girls and one in four boys are sexually abused by the time they're 18, Teitelbaum said. The grooming process that precedes sexual molestation can take years, so early recognition is the key to preventing sexual predators from harming children, Teitelbaum said.

“If you haven't been abused, you know somebody who has,” she said. “You know somebody who might be (on the track to getting abused). So why not educate yourself so you can help?”

Lifelong depression and downward spiralling behaviors that may end in shattered relationships, substance addictions, despondency and suicide are the unfortunate side effects of sexual abuse, a press release said.

Some 250 people attended the “It Happens to Boys” conference last year. These people included victims of abuse, therapists, social workers, physicians, nurses and recovery counselors.

“If we don't heal the men, they're going to continue to hit the women,” Teitelbaum said. “So we have to go to the core so that we are able to help the people who are not able to help themselves.”

Tickets can be purchased online or by calling 760-346-4606.



Did state agency neglect child abuse case?

by Wesley Goheen

SAGINAW, MI -- A local doctor is taking aim at Michigan's Department of Human Services, specifically, Child Protective Services. He says the agency simply failed his young patient.

"The ball was dropped here and it probably isn't the only case," says Dr. Jack Pfenninger.

This tragic tale starts 10 weeks ago on December 11 when the doctor examined a 3-year-old boy. His parents knew something wasn't right.

"When I examined him you could see right away that they were anal warts," says the doctor.

That's a virus that can be sexually transmitted. So as required by law, the doctor filed a report of suspected abuse with the Department of Human Services.

Just one week later he received a letter in the mail dated the same day he made the complaint. It says: "…the allegation does not meet the child protection law definition of child abuse or neglect."

"They received my complaint and took care of it the same day. Now that wouldn't even be time for an interview or for an investigation," says Dr. Pfenninger.

In shock, he asked his staff to call the child's mother to check in. And he says she was equally floored.

"The mother said ‘investigation - what investigation? Nobody's called, nobody's come here, what about my child? Who's going to take care of my child? How do I know something hasn't happened?' "

So on December 18, Dr. Pfenninger fired off another letter to DHS as well as to the state Attorney General - Bill Schuette.

In it he wrote, "I find this action by your department to be unacceptable. I am asking you to investigate this case. If it is my obligation to report suspected child abuse, you at least have the obligation to investigate it."

And then he waited.

With no response, phone call, or visit in two weeks, he called TV5 so we could ask the tough questions. And then he called the attorney general personally.

"That day there were four or five calls, two or three people, state police, everybody came in -- hand your team a credit because dropping your name made things happen."

Indeed this case got attention. Investigators with the attorney general's office, Child Protective Services, Michigan State Police and the Midland prosecutor's office were all of a sudden on the job -- trying to figure out if this child was sexually abused and if so, who did it.

Dr. Pfenninger is pleased an investigation is now underway, but says a decision to investigate from the start should have been a no-brainer.

"You have to investigate. You have to look. You have to go after the obvious."

The attorney general's office and the Department of Human Services have declined to comment on this case citing the ongoing investigation.

TV5 is committed to finding answers and will continue to stay on this story and bring you more information as it becomes available.



More caution locally would help prevent child abuse

by Buzz Avery

All of Napa, and much of the nation, is stricken by the unfortunate death of 3-year-old Kayleigh Slusher. The mother and her boyfriend have been charged. The specific details surrounding the events that led to her death will only come out once the trial or trials begin. All this will take its own time, in order to protect the rights of the accused.

Unfortunately, Kayleigh could not enjoy the same protection of the law now guaranteed those who are accused. National and state laws, historically shaped, defer to and preserve the rights of parents to maintain and protect their children.

Such is the legal dilemma faced in determining a means to assure protection for an abused child victimized by poor parenting. It is a story repeated countless times throughout the U.S. and the world on a daily basis, but with death rarely being the result. However, physical and psychological scars do occur with horrible regularity.

The draft petition covered by the Napa Valley Register and now being circulated in Napa seeks to remedy this, at least to some degree (“Napa mom petitions for ‘Kayleigh law,'” Feb. 17). It has the best of intentions, of course, but, in the U.S., we have a legal obligation called “due process.”

That keeps any “authority” from removing a child unless a formal charge is made. It can be made by either parent, which rarely happens, since the mother wants to keep both the child and boyfriend (or husband).

The burden really falls upon the police responding to the call. If you want to identify the weak link in the protection of Kayleigh's life, it must fall upon the failure of the police department to recognize the hazardous environment and file a report.

The police are reluctant to file a domestic charge unless they actually see injury, property damage or a witness comes forth. The reprisal they face if they make a mistake discourages them from acting without evidence.

I hope and trust that, for whatever reason, they saw no evidence the child's life or safety was in danger. If they did and did not act, it may come out in the trial, and the department is certainly dealing with it internally since they share some of the guilt.

If two officers respond to a call, they typically need to agree a report should be filed, since the second officer becomes a witness to the first. Then, one or both may have to testify before a judge. An EMT responding to a call can also make a report to police who can take further action.

But it can get complicated. Most such reports end up going nowhere, since the family works things out. There is also a lot of “he said, she said,” and minors are often too intimidated to speak for themselves. A death is extremely rare and completely unexpected by law enforcement.

Several opponents of the petition have refused to sign it because they believe that several false reports of child abuse by a vindictive or vengeful individual could bring unwarranted police responses to an otherwise healthy family.

It is important to remember that any person making false reports to the police is in violation of the law. It is unlikely that a person will make more than one false report once they understand there are consequences for repeatedly misinforming the police of a domestic situation.

The petition alleges the police made 14 responses to calls at the address where Kayleigh lived since June 2013. Statistically, this far exceeds the probability that all the reports were false or in error. Something was obviously wrong, no matter what the adults told the police.

I do think this is the right opportunity and time to revise state law. Such a revision should require a legal review of living conditions where a child's safety is involved, after the authorities have responded a specific number of times. The law need not be Draconian, but merely a vehicle to empower authorities to act before it is too late.

We owe this to Kayleigh, and all the many other young children of California who have no voice for themselves, who never have the chance to grow up in the home they needed, and who will never have the opportunity for the full life that we all deserve.

Avery lives in Napa.



False Reports of Child Abuse Now Illegal

As of January 1, 2014, intentionally or knowingly making a false report of child abuse is now a misdemeanor of the second degree in Pennsylvania. Approved by Governor Tom Corbett on December 18, 2013, Senate Bill 28 included this provision as part of other revisions to the law prohibiting intimidation, retaliation, and obstruction in child abuse cases. A person convicted of a misdemeanor of the second degree is subject to a fine not to exceed $5,000 and imprisonment of not more than two years.

Prohibiting false reports of child abuse and neglect is one of three legislative proposals Home School Legal Defense Association recommends to decrease the number of unwarranted investigations of homeschooling families. HSLDA also believes that in the case of an anonymous tip, the law should provide that there be corroborating evidence of the alleged abuse or neglect before a full investigation is conducted. No court order for an investigation should be issued on the basis of an anonymous tip. Finally, in order to comply with federal law, each state should adopt the provisions of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), which requires social workers to inform the person being investigated of the allegations made against him at the initial time of contact and requires social workers to be trained in protecting the constitutional rights of families during an investigation.

The Pennsylvania Legislature's action to criminalize false reports of child abuse is a much welcomed step in the right direction, but enactment of additional family protections is needed.



Child-porn suspect admitted molesting Scouts, cops say

by Desiree Stennett

A former Casselberry Boy Scout and Cub Scout leader arrested on child-pornography charges has admitted to police that he molested possibly a dozen young boys in his care during camping trips, new court documents say.

Inside Fleetwood Peeples' storage unit, Orlando police found two photo albums filled with more than 100 Polaroid pictures of the nude children "posed in a lewd and lascivious manner" during camp-outs, according to a police affidavit.

In a tear-filled confession, Peeples told police that he molested the campers, some of them from his neighborhood, and forced them to perform sex acts.

An official with Boy Scouts of America said the group is assisting the investigation into Peeples, a Scouting leader from 1980 to 1982.

"The behavior included in these allegations runs counter to everything for which the Boy Scouts of America stands," said Bill Gosselin, director of operations of the BSA Central Florida Council. "Nothing is more important to us than providing the safest environment possible for our youth members."

Gosselin added that Peeples is no longer associated with Scouting and has been banned from future participation as a result of his arrest.

Authorities first encountered Peeples after he slipped and fell inside a unit Jan. 26 at Uncle Bob's Self Storage in Orlando. He had a gash on the back of his head and was lying in a pool of blood when paramedics arrived.

Paramedics became suspicious when Peeples, unconcerned about his injuries while being transported to Orlando Regional Medical Center, kept asking about a camera he thought had been left behind at the storage unit, court documents said. He was unaware the paramedics had, at his behest, brought the camera along.

He also wanted to make sure the keys to the unit and his car were kept away from his wife, who later told police she had no idea he had a storage unit so far from their Casselberry home.

When questioned by Orlando police in the hospital, Peeples admitted he had been taking digital pictures of the child pornography in his magazines when he fell in the storage unit.

In addition to the pictures of the Scouts, police also found multiple 8-millimeter films, newspaper clippings and more than 100 magazines containing thousands of lewd pictures of children.

"Peeples became nervous and stated he was going to jail for what he has done and started to cry uncontrollably," the report said. He told police that viewing child pornography was "a bad habit he wanted to get rid of."

Police say Peeples gave them written permission to search the storage unit. He was arrested Feb. 14 when he was released from the hospital.

Police think his victims, who were 5 to 12 years old at the time of the abuse, could be 30 to 50 years old now. No victims have come forward since Peeples was arrested, Orlando police said.

Orlando defense attorney Richard Hornsby said criminal charges related to the molestation admissions are unlikely because the abuse appears to have happened so long ago.

"Most likely, the statute of limitations has run out in the child-molestation charges," Hornsby said. "He wouldn't be able to be prosecuted."

But the 76-year-old man still faces a possible conviction on child-pornography charges for the thousands of pictures found in the storage unit.

"A conviction will [essentially] result in a life sentence for him," Hornsby said.

Even if he isn't charged in the molestations, prosecutors may still present his taped confession to a judge to get a more rigid sentence for the child pornography, Hornsby added.

Hornsby said Peeples' attorney will likely attempt to have evidence thrown out and try to convince a judge that Orlando detectives did not have a right to search the unit despite a consent form Peeples signed while he was in the hospital.

"But that's a long shot," Hornsby said. If Peeples is convicted, "he'll never see the outside of a prison again in his life."

The suspect is the son of the once well-known swimming instructor Fleetwood Peeples Sr., who worked for Rollins College and Winter Park High School.

Fleet Peeples Park in Winter Park was named in honor of his father, who died in 1993 at age 95.

Peeples Jr. remained in the Orange County Jail on $12,500 bail Thursday.,0,4001248.story



Immigrant women survive domestic abuse thanks to protection from a federal law

by Marilyn Aleman

SOCORRO, TX — Nestled on a dusty road in a small town of roughly 33,000 residents, sits a brightly colored hair salon tucked to the right side of a 7-Eleven. Bright red and royal blue stripes decorate the hair salon building, conveying a sense of patriotic awareness.

Inside the shop, 40-year-old Lizdemar Najera greets customers with a smile and a hug, offering a variety of hairstyles at low costs. Taped on one wall is a sign with her mantra:

“I am Lizdemar: I am brave, compassionate, humble, easy to teach, optimistic, conscious, I feel a genuine pride in my appearance and in my work.”

Najera's sweet personality and attitude of tender loving care hide her once dark past. The mother of four was a victim of domestic abuse, not once but twice in both of her marriages. She refuses to see herself as a victim but as a strong-willed survivor that overcame adversity.

Najera was once one out of every four women in the U.S. who are in a relationship characterized by physical and emotional abuse. According to officials who work with domestic abuse victims, the sad reality is that the abuse happens every day and more than likely goes unreported.

“Right now we live in a period of domestic violence,” said Najera. “It doesn't stop.”

Immigrant advocates say undocumented women are less likely than legal residents or citizens to report domestic abuse. The problem has become so prevalent that Congress in 1994 passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), in part to protect undocumented women who refuse to report abuse for fear of deportation.

A Pew Hispanic Research 2012 poll shows that 11.7 million undocumented immigrants live in the U.S., 47 percent of them women. Although it is difficult to quantify the prevalence of domestic violence among this vulnerable population, in 2011 some 9,209 immigrants petitioned for legal residency through VAWA. Some advocates say the number would be higher if there were more public knowledge about the law and greater enforcement by the government.

“It is a law that was really pushed by law enforcement officials,” said Katie Anita Hudak, executive director of Las Americas: Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso. “They saw that within the immigrant community people were afraid to report issues of domestic violence and crime because they were afraid to go to the police thinking that they would report them to immigration.”

According to a 1998 study by the National Institute of Justice, 67 percent of law enforcement officials who participated in a national survey said that only 12 percent of recent immigrants are likely to report crimes for fear of immigration enforcement.

Undocumented immigrant women, with limited knowledge of English and U.S. laws and resources, often are at a higher risk of finding themselves in abusive relationships and unlikely to seek help if they are under the control of an abusive partner.

Heryca Serna, a part-time lecturer of anthropology at the University of Texas at El Paso, interviewed 31 immigrant women and two immigrant men in the El Paso/Juarez region for a 2012 study that was part of her thesis, Domestic Violence, Border Control Measures & Its Effects on the Immigrant Population .

“They don't know the laws, they don't know the language, and so whatever they hear from la comadre or the neighbor, or whoever, they are going to believe it. You know they are not going to risk going out,” Serna said.

According to immigrant advocates, abusive husbands or boyfriends often threaten their partner with turning them over to immigration authorities because of their undocumented status. Sometimes the abuser will have legal status but refuses to apply for legal status for their undocumented partner to keep them dependent and in the relationship.

A research project in 1990 by a group of immigration researchers titled Dreams Lost, Dreams Found: Undocumented Women in the Land of Opportunity showed that out of 345 Latina women surveyed, 29 percent of them never sought any help from social services.

“By all rights that resident or citizen should have petitioned for that person to be here legally,” said Hudak. “But what often will happen is that the person who has status here kind of dangles that over the head of the person with undocumented status, or they keep [them] undocumented because it is part of the control.”

While outsiders often believe that victims of domestic violence should be able to identify signs of abuse and leave the relationship, immigrant women admit it is not that simple. Many rely on inconsistent or sporadic employment because of their undocumented status and are tied to their husbands or partners for economic support for them and their children

Social workers and researchers who work with battered women often rely on a model created by battered women in Minnesota called the “Power and Control Wheel.” Serna, who uses the wheel for her research, said domestic abuse is inconsistent and can begin or end anytime yet it does follow a pattern. The wheel shows how abusers often begin with emotional control, which can escalate to physical or sexual abuse.

Najera said she experienced this cycle of power and control when she arrived in the United States in 2001 from Nueva Casas Grandes, Chihuahua.

“Imagine coming into a country that is not yours with not knowing the language and not having papers,” she said. “And people discriminate against you for being who you are.”

Before immigrating here Najera married and became pregnant at age 14. At age 25, she divorced the abusive father of her two children. Three years later, after entering the U.S. illegally with her two children, she met and married another man who promised her a good life but began to abuse her.

She said he demanded that she keep to herself and work cleaning neighbors' homes. The husband's family also refused to allow her to enroll her children, Carlos, 14, and Luis-Angel, 10, in public school. After one year of marriage, she learned about the protections available to abused women under VAWA and petitioned for legal residency. A neighbor also encouraged her to send her children to school assuring her they would not be sent back to Mexico. Najera said she left her husband for good in 2002.

“I came into this country with grand illusions,” said Najera. “But in reality what I got was not really welcoming. Imagine coming into a country with two children that aren't your husband's and having my husband's sister say I couldn't put my kids in school because they didn't have papers. I was like ‘what am I gonna do? What am I gonna do if I can't put my kids into school?'”

Najera said women often stay in abusive relationships because of deeply ingrained cultural attitudes about marriage. “When you're little they tell you that if you're married, you're married, and you have to stay with that person.”

Serna said abusers often “instill some kind of fear using several tactics… A lot of the information is not even true but the victim doesn't know and so he uses it against her.”

According to experts, abusers also exercise constant control over the thoughts of their victims. As a result, the victim begins to see the abuse as “not that bad,” something this is known as cognitive distortion by psychologists.

Jennifer Eno-Louden, assistant professor of psychology at UTEP, says that because humans are social animals, the need for communication is essential and victims of abuse may compromise their beliefs for the sake of human interaction.

“The whole gist of this is that we need to have social interaction, that's a real basic need for most people,” said Eno-Louden. “So above food, water and safety we need to be around other people and will often put up with a lot of dysfunction to maintain these relationships if the (only) option is to cut off the relationship and then not have the people in our lives.”

Cognitive distortion is often linked to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder but can be helped by psychotherapy that can break a domestic violence victim's negative thinking habit, experts say. Deciding to enter counseling is the hardest part of breaking the abuse cycle, Serna said.

“It's about empowering them again and making them feel like they are of worth and they can do something in this world,” said Serna who has spent almost a decade working with victims of domestic abuse at the Center Against Family Violence, an El Paso shelter for abuse victims. “They don't need anybody to make them feel bad or incomplete.”

Usually, abused women finally decide to seek outside help because they want to protect their children.

“You tend to hear a lot of (women) saying things such as ‘he can touch me but as soon as he touches my children he passed the line' or ‘he can do whatever he wants to me, but with my children it's a no,'” said Serna. “It takes seven to 10 (incidents of abuse) for a domestic violence victim to finally leave the relationship.”

Experts also say that children raised in an environment of domestic abuse are likely to continue the behavior as adults.

“That's where we learn most of what we know – it's by observing others,” said Eno-Louden. “For young boys they might be looking at the father to show them that this is how you treat women… young girls might see that the mother is putting up with abuse and that's what you're supposed to be like when you're in an relationship.”

Najera said she finally realized she could no longer stay with her husband during a visit to a clinic to get her children vaccinated. She remembers seeing a pregnant young woman crying on the steps because she had nowhere to go and a flyer on the clinic doors with information about the VAWA program. She followed up.

“The process took six months,” said Najera.

Hudak, who has headed Las Americas since 2012, says the center has a steady caseload of about 160 persons in their Battered Women Immigrant Program. Their clients are prominently from Latin America.

Under the VAWA Texas provisions, if the victim is undocumented and married or in a long-term relationship they can petition for legal residency status. If the undocumented victim is not married, he or she can apply for a U-Visa that allows them to live and work in the U.S, according to Hudak. The victim can petition for legal status without the abuser knowing.

Not all victims of abuse are eligible however. For example, Hudak said, several of her clients were not given protection under VAWA because they had been deported in the past.

Victims who apply under VAWA must not have a criminal record and prove to the government that they married in good faith.

As for Najera, she said she intends to give back to the adopted country that offered her safety and protection. In 2005 she became a citizen. In addition to operating three beauty salons in El Paso, she helps the homeless sometimes offering them a spare bedroom in her beauty salon, volunteers at the El Paso County Sheriff's department, advocates for the VAWA program, and works sometimes as a security guard

One day, she says, she aspires to be the mayor of her small town.

“A lot of people say to me ‘how do you do it?'” said Najera, whose four children range in age from 8 to 26. “And I say because I can, because God is big and puts us in certain situations.”

For more information of VAWA eligibility and information seek the website below:


The Power and Control Wheel

The Power and Control Wheel shows how an abuser uses eight tactics of emotional control before he can advance to physical or sexual abuse. The abuser may use more than one tactic at once, and all tactics do not involve physical touch to the victim.

“So of course in the first couple of months everything is perfect, everything is normal,” said Serna about the beginning of an abusive relationship. “It's a dynamic that works in a cycle but it gets worse and worse, by the time a woman gets help, most of the time she has already experienced several episodes of physical and sexual abuse.”

If the cycle of abuse continues to escalate, the victim or even the abuser may die. A study by the New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene from 1995 to 2002 found that 51 percent of homicide victims in abusive relationships were foreign born while 45 percent were U.S. citizens.


New York

Cell Phones New Tool For Domestic Abusers

by Erica Bryant

Rochester, NY -- A young lady in one of Monroe County's suburbs used to start her high school classes with a disturbing ritual. She would take out her cell phone and snap three pictures of the kids around her. Then she would text them to her boyfriend's phone so he could see which students she was sitting with, and see that none of them were boys.

When (Rochester, NY's) Alternatives for Battered Women CEO Jamie Saunders first told me that story, I thought back to a friend I had in college.

Back then, cell phones were for rich people. The university stationed little free phones around campus so we could call each other's dorm rooms when we were out and about. My friend would stop at one of these phones to "check in" with her boyfriend as she went from class to her work study job, from the gym to the cafeteria, from the computer lab to a friend's place. If she wasn't home to get one of his calls when she was supposed to be, there was trouble. What a nightmare it would be for her today, I thought.

In many ways, things have gotten better for survivors of domestic violence. When Alternatives for Battered Women started 35 years ago, "domestic violence" wasn't even an accepted term and the criminal justice system offered little protection to women abused by their husbands. In 2014, victims have better tools at their disposal. So, unfortunately, do abusers. And so ABW is adjusting its efforts to protect victims in the 21st century, while still pushing the age-old mantra that love is a behavior and that no one deserves abuse.

These days, that means teaching young people that no one deserves a partner who demands embarrassing digital photos or videos to "prove" trust. Or a partner who makes you feel that you can't be separated from your phone because you might not immediately respond to a text. No one deserves a partner who demands access to all your emails and phone messages. Or expects you to answer multiple texts between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m. Or places an app on your phone that lets him monitor your whereabouts. Such "electronic leashing," is becoming more and more common in teenage and adult relationships, according Saunders.

"It's 24/7," she said. "There is no place to hide."

Because February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, she would like to spread the word that domestic abuse is a problem that starts early. Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence, almost triple the national average. Harmful patterns established in the teenage years — for the abusers and the abused — can be very hard to break.

The teenage dating years have always been a time of insecurity and vulnerability. It's a new phenomenon for teens to find themselves faced with demands from dating partners around the clock.

Editors Note: Additional information provided below for SC residents.

The South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault is a statewide organization of 23 domestic violence and sexual assault advocacy programs throughout South Carolina.

If you or someone you know has experienced domestic abuse or sexual assault, help is always available around the clock.

Visit the SCCADVASA list of member organization programs available around the state. (


Psychotherapist Examines Links Between Child Abuse and Alcoholism

Shares Tips for Those Who Suspect They May Have a Drinking Problem

by Rayne E. Golay

College students with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) drink more alcohol than their peers, according to a new study published earlier this year in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

In addition to the problems normally associated with alcohol abuse, the students' heavier drinking also exacerbates their PTSD symptoms, the study found.

“The study doesn't identify what traumas led to the students' stress disorder, but it's safe to assume a good portion of them are survivors of child abuse and/or neglect,” says Rayne E. Golay, psychotherapist, child advocate and award-winning author of The Wooden Chair, (, a novel that illustrates the post-traumatic stress in the wake of child abuse and neglect.

Parental alcoholism is often a factor in child abuse and neglect. It's compounded by the risk that as adults, these children model their behavior on their parent – including drinking alcoholically.

Golay, who specializes in addictions counseling, says that in her many years in practice, she saw one common misconception among her alcoholic patients: They all believed that their drinking didn't affect anybody but themselves.

“That's simply not true. In a home with an alcoholic parent, everyone suffers, the most vulnerable being the children,” Golay says. “They live in an insecure and unstable home, and because the alcoholic parent's behavior is unpredictable and terrifying, the children learn to be constantly on guard.”

Not everyone who drinks alcohol is an alcoholic, Golay is quick to note. And she's not anti-alcohol. However, she urges parents and young adults to seriously evaluate whether alcohol is a problem in their lives, because there are solutions.

Golay offers these suggestions for people who suspect alcohol may play too important a part in their lives:

• Ask yourself the following questions; if you answer “yes” to one, alcohol may be a problem in your life.

Have you had the morning after drink? Do you envy people who can drink without getting into trouble? Does your drinking cause problems at home? Do you tell yourself you can stop any time you want although you keep getting drink? Have you neglected your duties because of drinking? Has anybody suggested you should stop drinking?

• Try having one drink every day for a month.

“One drink -- that is, 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor -- one drink, no more, no less,” Golay says. “If you can do that, you're probably not an alcoholic.” She suggests this test because most alcoholics can remain completely abstinent for a length of time, but they're unable to stop after one drink. To an alcoholic, one drink is too much and a million isn't enough.

• If you think alcohol is a problem, a 28-day Minnesota Model treatment program gives good results.

Golay mentions Faith Based Treatment (, and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration ( among other options.

The residential Minnesota Model combines detox and counseling built around the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous ( Individualized, it includes the patient's family.

“It's effective because it starts with detox from all mood-altering chemicals, which is imperative for lasting sobriety,” Golay says. “It also aims to break down denial. It forces the patient to take a serious look at the consequences of alcohol in his or her life.”

No matter which treatment the individual chooses, aftercare and continued attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are of vital importance for lifelong sobriety.

“When the protagonist, Leini, in my book The Wooden Chair , is a young woman, she realizes that she's relying more and more on alcohol to cope with daily life,” Golay says.

“Leini also recognizes that the abuse she suffered as a child and her parent's drinking are family patterns passed down to her from her maternal grandmother through her own mother. In my book The Wooden Chair , Leini determines to end this cycle by getting professional help.”

About Rayne E. Golay
Rayne E. Golay, (, is a certified drug and alcohol counselor whose work with addicts informs her understanding and insights into the consequences of child abuse. She has a Master's in Psychology and is a lifelong reader and writer. The Wooden Chair , published in 2013 by Untreed Reads, won the Royal Palm Literary Award for mainstream literature in the 2005 Florida Writers Association's competition. She hopes that this story inspires witnesses to speak up for children whom they suspect are suffering from any form of abuse and/or neglect.



How our abuser got away with it

Our legal system helped give Bill Conlin a pass

by Kelley Hasson Blanchet, Karen Healey-lange, Christine Giusti AND Dale Elsa Norley

Bill Conlin — Philadelphia Daily News columnist for nearly a half-century, who passed away last month — was known to sports fans throughout the Northeast as a gifted writer and a consummate baseball fan.

We knew him as a serial pedophile predator who abused both boys and girls over the course of at least three decades. He sought out his innocent, trust-filled victims on and around the beaches of Margate City, N.J., where his nickname was “Slick Willie,” and in his close-knit neighborhood of Whitman Square, N.J.

His targets were not strangers. They were family members, his friends' children and his children's friends.

We were among them. At the time Conlin abused us, we were between 7 and 11 years old. His crimes ranged from aggravated sexual assault through digital genital penetration to criminal sexual contact via inappropriate sexual touching.

How this man got away with his disgusting crimes over the course of so many years is a cautionary tale for families and communities seeking to root out the scourge of sexual predators in their midst.

The first lesson is in personal and group psychology.

Countless adults knew that Conlin was a pedophile. Yet, for more than 40 years, no one went to the police.

Why? Conlin was a sadistic and vengeful man. He was a master at using his large stature, his prestige, his access to sports stars and sporting events and his wealth to prevent his victims (and his victims' families) from reporting his crimes.

Obviously, most predators don't wield this type of influence — but many find other ways to quietly intimidate those who might report crimes against children in real time.

As we grew from children to adults, the abuse we had endured remained seared in our memories. We were no longer victims, we were survivors.

We promised ourselves that we would do everything possible to protect our own children. We warned them about evil, sick predators like Conlin. We also taught them about accountability, that there were consequences for their actions. But in the back of our minds, each of us wondered if Conlin would ever be held accountable.

Which brings us to the second lesson: how the law perversely gives pedophiles a pass to commit their heinous crimes.

In late 2009, thanks to another survivor of Conlin's crimes, three of us were brought together for the first time.

The rules of the game had changed completely. We were no longer vulnerable kids. We were now well-educated, successful, determined adults, and we had numbers.

Justice demanded that Conlin rot in jail for the rest of his life. So, in 2010, we took a leap of faith: We reported our abuse to law enforcement officials.

We were devastated when the Gloucester County prosecutor's office investigation confessed to us via email: “We would love to find justice in this case. So many people have been victimized by this man, but our hands are tied by the law, which does not allow us to prosecute. ”

The statute of limitations had expired. We had waited too long to report Conlin's crimes.

We didn't want money. We wanted him exposed for what he was. We wanted his facade of fame and fortune to crumble in the face of what he had done to the young and most innocent of our society.

Then came the allegations against Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. The ensuing media firestorm was the perfect time to finally expose Conlin.

We could have taken our story to any newspaper in the country — but we chose to go to The Philadelphia Inquirer, which just happened to be owned by the same company that had employed Conlin for decades.

True to form, Conlin made a last-ditch effort to prevent our accounts of the abuse from being published.

He failed. And it came as no surprise to us that, after our accounts were published, several other survivors came forward. Conlin's lawyer immediately went to the airwaves, saying that Conlin “had engaged him to do everything possible to bring the true facts forward and to vindicate his name.”

Of course, that never happened. Our tormentor slinked off to Florida, where he lived out the rest of his life alone as a recluse, never to be heard from again.

We strongly urge every state legislature to remove the statutes of limitations for survivor of sexual abuse. Pedophiles like Conlin must not be permitted to use arbitrary time limitations to shield themselves from being held accountable for their crimes.

And we sincerely hope that by speaking out, we will embolden other survivors to find the courage to break their silence. It's never too late to do the right thing.

Blanchet, Healey-Lange, Giusti and Norley say they were victims and are now survivors of Conlin's abuse in the 1960s, '70s and '80s. Giusti and Norley were previously anonymous.



Don't revictimize sexually abused children

by Madeline McClure and April Wilson

Dylan Farrow's open letter alleging abuse by her adoptive father and Woody Allen's denial offer the opportunity for a frank discussion regarding what we've learned about sexual abuse allegations in general.

Here's what our professional experience tells us: Children lie to get out of trouble; they do not lie to get into trouble. Children are reluctant to cry out about abuse that will inevitably affect someone they know. Sexually abused children typically feel misplaced responsibility for the abuse and concomitant shame. That fear is so intense that many do not disclose their abuse until adulthood.

To make that first outcry takes enormous courage, partly because it can result in a parent going to jail and siblings becoming angry with the victim. Disclosure is rarely a one-shot statement but rather a process that involves stages of denial, partial disclosure, minimizing, disclosing more detail and recanting. A child may test the response of a caregiver by disclosing a small detail: “Uncle X made me feel funny last week.” Depending on the response, a child may reveal nothing more or may elaborate upon questioning. When the response is outrage or disbelief, children frequently recant.

Some argue that children often make false claims, but facts do not match that sentiment. Research shows that 90 percent or more of all claims of childhood sexual abuse are true. Moreover, childhood sexual abuse is both common and under-reported. In 2012, child welfare agencies confirmed that 62,936 children were sexually abused in the United States; the real number is much higher.

Researchers comparing results from 22 American studies suggest that 30 percent to 40 percent of girls and 13 percent of boys are sexually abused during childhood. While study findings vary, it appears that anywhere from 10 percent to 50 percent of sexually abused children report their abuse. In addition to shame, children may fear the abuser or other loved ones. In some cases, the victim is silenced by the fear that no one will believe that someone of the perpetrator's status would commit such an atrocious act.

To accuse these children of lying revictimizes them and can be more damaging than the initial abuse. It is revolting enough that children are sexually violated, but when another caregiver or authorities disbelieve the child, that child's sense of trust and faith in adults is seriously impaired, sometimes for life.

Even without revictimization, the consequences on survivors of sexual abuse persist a lifetime. Sexually abused children are more likely to suffer from low self-esteem, self-hatred, depression and sleep disorders. They often have difficulty trusting others and forming intimate relationships.

Unfortunately, many turn to self-anesthetizing behaviors to reduce the body's stress response — alcohol and drug abuse, eating disorders and even self-injury. These behaviors, of course, have a host of long-term detrimental effects, including almost every poor physical and psychological health outcome plaguing our country.

Victims need to feel empowered to express the lifelong harm caused by their attackers, and we need to open our eyes to the true epidemic of sexual abuse and the consequent trauma caused to our children. Victims must overcome so much from their childhood trauma; what can we do to make the process of disclosure more supportive?

Madeline McClure, founding executive director of the Texas Association for the Protection of Children (TexProtects), may be contacted at Dr. April Wilson, director of research at TexProtects, may be contacted at


New York

Talk to your teens to prevent dating violence

by Donna Kahm

Any parent of a teenager can tell you about the stress of worrying over their child's safety.

A child's teenage years are filled with firsts including their first job, maybe a first car and a first date.

While it's a parent's job to worry about their child's safety, many parents are unaware of the threat of teenage dating violence.

Studies have shown that in the U.S., one in three adolescent girls (up to 35 percent) are victims of dating and/or interpersonal violence.

February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. To raise awareness, Southern Tier Health Care System and the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence would like to urge parents and caregivers to talk to their teenagers to prevent dating violence.

In a 2011 national study of more than 15,000 high school students, 9.4 percent reported they had been injured by a boyfriend or girlfriend and 8 percent reported they had been forced to have sex during the previous year. However, only 3 percent of teens said they reported the abuse to an adult or an authority figure.

Protecting teens from dating violence is the responsibility of every caring adult. Preventing teen dating violence and helping teens who are victims with talking. Talk to your children as early as you can about what healthy and unhealthy relationships look like.

Talking to your son or daughter about dating violence isn't easy. The Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence has some tips for parents:

• Be patient and talk with teens at a time they're comfortable with and in an environment that feels safe for them.

• Use different modes of communication to begin a conversation — email, texting — however they prefer to communicate.

• Serve as a judgmental resource. Let the teen know the abuse is not their fault and that you'll support the choices they make.

• Encourage them to call the police if necessary, obtain an order of protection or talk to a domestic violence specialist and offer to accompany them during the process.

To locate a domestic violence specialist in your area, please contact Accord Corp. in Allegany County at (585) 268-7605; Cattaraugus Community Action in Cattaraugus County at (716) 945-1041; and the Salvation Army of Jamestown in Chautauqua County at (716) 661-3894. You can also call the New York State Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotline at 1-800-942-6906, TTY: 1-800-818-0656 for the hearing impaired.

Both Olean General Hospital in Olean and Jones Memorial Hospital in Wellsville have specially trained Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (SAFE) providers available in the Emergency Department who treat sexual assault survivors and victims of dating violence. At both hospitals, SAFE providers treat victims in a private room and all services are confidential.

Parents and caregivers can also help teens create a safety plan so they know what to do in case of future incidents of dating violence. Please search for or visit online to access “The Teen's Guide to Safety Planning.”

More tips on protecting teens from dating violence are available on the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence's Advice for Parents page at

For more information about child safety or any of Southern Tier Health Care System's programs, please call (716) 372-0614 or visit

(Mrs. Kahm is the president and CEO of Southern Tier Health Care System and the coordinator of the Southern Tier Child Health and Safety Team.)



Motion urging State Legislative action on human trafficking unanimously passes County Council

The Metropolitan King County Council unanimously adopted at its February 18 meeting a motion urging the Washington state Legislature to enact and support efforts to combat human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation that would better support and protect victims.

“Our state has been on the forefront of the battle against human trafficking and King County has been there every step of the way.” said Councilmember Reagan Dunn, the prime sponsor of the motion. “This motion simply formalizes King County's support of further measures to fight Human Trafficking and allows County officials and staff to proactively support legislative efforts to fight these heinous crimes.”

The motion calls on the Legislature to continue its support of efforts to combat human trafficking and to adopt legislation that will protect the survivors of trafficking and exploitation.

Several bills are currently before the State Legislature that would aid in the fight against human trafficking such as HB 1292, which would allow victims of human trafficking to petition a judge to clear their criminal records of prostitution-related convictions. HB 1292 recently passed out of the State House of Representatives 94 to 1 and currently awaits a hearing in the State Senate.

Human trafficking is considered to be one of the fastest growing criminal industries in the world, and between three hundred and five hundred children will be bought and sold in King County this year. As defined under federal law, victims of human trafficking include children involved in commercial sex trade, adults age eighteen or over who are coerced or deceived into commercial sex acts and anyone forced into different forms of "labor or services," such as domestic workers held in a home or farm workers forced to labor against their will.

In 2003, Washington was the first state to criminalize human trafficking ., Washington state has some of the most comprehensive laws critical to the fight against human trafficking, punishing traffickers and supporting survivors, and is rated most outstanding by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center's Polaris Project.

Read more about this legislation on the King County Council's LEGISEARCH system at and type in “2014-0087”



Program seeks volunteers to help child abuse victims

by Vanessa Paz

EUGENE, Ore. - Lane County's volunteer-based Kids' FIRST Program provides support to children who are victims of abuse.

The services have expanded since the program started back in 1994, now helping around 700 children each year.

Volunteer coordinator Sarah Weber said the program's Forensics Intervention Response and Support Team is supposed to have five trainees for its program next week. Right now they only have two.

“Our training starts next Wednesday and we just have a lot of space left in it,” said Weber. “Without Kids' FIRST, a child have to go up to 6 different places to talk about what happened to them".

The program might cancel the volunteer training initially planned for Wednesday, Feb. 26 because they have only had two new members sign up for their program.

"We're looking for people who are compassionate, who are responsible. It's also really important to understand child abuse assessment is not just about liking kids,” said volunteer Leah Hyland. “It's also about understanding… resources for counseling and education to help them rebound for the future is very vital.”

Volunteers must be 18 years old and pass a criminal background check.



Kansas pushing to make child abuse legal

Spanking with bruises “OK” if bill passes

by Monica Beyer

In a move aimed to increase parental authority, Kansas has introduced a bill that would give parents — and anyone they give permission to, such as babysitters or teachers — the legal right to spank their children hard enough to leave bruises and red marks. While it also outlines physical punishment that would be against the law, reactions are massively divided amongst parents.

Defining discipline

Corporal punishment in the public school setting has been banned in 31 states (and interestingly enough, many European countries have banned it at home as well as at school), but Kansas is not one of them. Fresh on the heels of a highly controversial proposed law that would allow legal discrimination based on religious views (that is now floundering with no hope to see the light of day), Kansas is again in the spotlight with another questionable proposed law.

Current laws in Kansas allow spanking that doesn't leave marks or bruises, but a bill authored by Kansas House member Gail Finney, D-Wichita will lighten those laws — and will also move to define non-legal physical punishment as well. While spanking that does leave red marks and bruises will be allowed, other forms of physical punishment will not be, such as hitting a child with fists or hitting a child in the head or body. Using a belt or a switch would also be deemed illegal and could result in abuse or battery charges — so in a way, it does give kids a measure of protection. But is it completely off the mark?

A necessary step

Backers of the bill say that this will help increase parental authority, as well as the authority of those who are also charged with caring for or looking after your child. Parents in favor of the bill cite the days when they were children and were strapped or spanked, whether it be by a teacher or a parent, and how that experience straightened them out. “Most of the people saying no to spanking their children are going to wind up with bratty, no manner having, disrespectful kids who will become part of the ongoing problem of our youth today,” writes a user on KCTV5's Facebook page. “Don't abuse them, but a good whack will sure straighten your mouth and attitude up real quick.”

Not acceptable

Others question the need to expand a bill that already allows spanking. “I do not agree that allowing parents to spank harder is going to teach children respect for authority,” says Jenn, mom of one. “There are many ways to teach a child respect, and making children fear their parents or trusted caregivers is not the way to do it. If you can't beat an adult to the point of bruising, then you shouldn't be able to do the same to a child.”

There seems to be a large gap between the two schools of thought, with some tending to have a “kids these days” mentality and others who often choose to discipline in a gentler manner who feel this move is akin to legalizing child abuse. Age and generation often have a lot to do with it, but the divide is definitely deep and wide, and Kansas again waits in the public eye as the debate rages on.



Lawmakers discuss child sex abuse bill

by Tamara Vaifanua

SALT LAKE CITY — Lawmakers are discussing a bill that would provide child sexual abuse prevention training and instruction in elementary schools.

Utahns for and against HB 286 met at the State Capitol Wednesday.

The House Committee approved the bill, and it will now head to the House Floor for more debate.



Football coach charged in Missouri girl's death

ST. LOUIS – A middle-school football coach was charged Wednesday with first-degree murder in the death of a 10-year-old girl who was snatched off a street just blocks from her southwest Missouri home as several residents watched in horror.

Craig Michael Wood also faces kidnapping and armed criminal action charges, according to Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson, who filed the charges late Wednesday afternoon. Wood is accused of kidnapping fourth-grader Hailey Owens in Springfield as she walked home from a friend's house Tuesday evening.

Patterson said the girl had been shot in the head.

Wood was inside a truck parked outside his small, single-story home in Springfield when police arrested him Tuesday night. A probable cause statement released Wednesday said the 45-year-old Wood was holding a roll of duct tape in his hands when officers arrived, and that the girl's body was found stuffed inside two garbage bags in a basement where the floor was still damp from bleach.

Authorities won't officially confirm that the body is Hailey's until after an autopsy, but Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams said "we have a high degree of confidence" in the preliminary identification, which indicates that it is the girl.

Witnesses told investigators that a man in a gold 2008 Ford Ranger pickup truck drove down the street several times before abducting Hailey. Williams said the witnesses called 911 to report the truck's license number.

Resident Ricky Riggins told the Springfield News-Leader he chased the fleeing pickup in his car after a neighbor tried to pull the girl away.

"I couldn't keep up," Riggins told the newspaper. "He was probably five to six cars ahead of me. ... It was so fast."

Hailey did not attend Pleasant View School, where Wood worked. She was a student at Westport Elementary School this year, and attended Bowerman Elementary School last year.

Williams said the girl and Wood apparently didn't know each other.

"There's no connection that we've been able to determine at this time between the victim and the suspect," the chief said.

Springfield school officials said Wood is a seventh-grade football coach and teacher's aide who supervises in-school suspensions at Pleasant View School, which has students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Norm Ridder, the Springfield district's superintendent, said in a statement Wednesday that Wood began working for the district in August 1998. He said Wood has been suspended since his arrest.

Wood was initially hired as a temporary employee who worked as a substitute teacher before he was hired full time in 2006, school district spokeswoman Teresa Bledsoe said later Wednesday. He has coached football at Pleasant View since 1998 and was also an assistant boys' basketball coach.

"He met all of our qualifications for employment," Bledsoe said, noting that the Springfield district has a more rigorous background check requirement than state law, with an additional screening designed to detect substantiated allegations of child abuse or neglect as well as any past criminal violations.

A records search shows Wood had little criminal history. He pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance in 1990 in Greene County and was fined $100. Wood also was convicted in 2001 for illegal taking of wildlife, the News-Leader reported.

Williams said police have no idea of a motive for the killing. He said Wood has not talked to investigators since his arrest.


American Child Welfare Ruins Lives, Here's Your Receipt

by Tomas Rios

There's one way to enter the child-welfare system and make it out in one piece: luck.

The choice was obvious, at least to 18-year-old me. Either stay inside the New York City child-welfare system for some extra college money I didn't trust would be there, or get the hell out and claim a terrifying bit of freedom.

I first landed in the system a few days after my fifth birthday and my mother's second overdose—she didn't survive that one. As for my father, he never made the trip with us over the border and, even then, I knew damn well I'd never see or hear from him again. So I entered foster care a five-year-old undocumented immigrant who could speak all of a few words of English. The next 13 years were spent going through about a dozen placements of variant misery and a couple of uniformly neo-Dickensian institution stays, so trusting the system to back up its promised college stipends and scholarships required an optimism that I'd long since beaten out of myself.

And so I went through some motions with a disinterested child-welfare drone that made the dream of teenaged liberation mine. Liberation that came with all the attendant realities of being a dumb kid supporting himself with no support system. A private scholarship to my first-choice college was waiting for me, but that mostly meant I was one bad semester away from losing the support that made not just college a possibility, but basic survival. Without it, my only housing option would have been a homeless shelter—it's an easy tumble down society's ladder when you don't have anyone or anything. Still, compared to most anyone who ages out of America's myriad child-welfare systems, my exit is exceptional only because of how obscenely lucky I was to have somewhere to go.

NOT THAT AMERICA'S NETWORK of child-welfare systems deserves much fairness, but any broad statement on the outcomes of youth who age out, it needs to be said, does rely on some conjecture. That's because when a youth, typically one between the ages of 18 and 21, ceases to be the child-welfare system's concern, no one bothers keeping track of what happens.

Every year about 25,000 young people age out of federally-mandated child-welfare systems responsible for their care and then disappear into the general population to fend for themselves at an unfairly young age. The concept of “aging out” is best understood as a system failing to find a real solution for a problem it is responsible for. A child is removed from their family and it's on the system to either resolve the issue that led to their removal or find them a new home. The children who end up aging out are the remainder of a busted equation.

The Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago (more commonly known as the Midwest Study) is as close as anyone has come to a comprehensive, longitudinal, and methodologically-sound statement on the outcomes of youth who age out. The study focused on a sample of 732 youth who aged out of Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa foster care and tracks their outcomes across a broad range of measures. Even a cursory glance at the data makes it clear that our “go figure it out” solution for youth who go unadopted and without family reunification is plainly inhumane.

At the age of 26, 31 percent of responding participants had either couch surfed or been homeless since their last interview (which are typically every two years), while 46.8 percent were currently unemployed. By comparison, the general population rate for unemployment stands at 6.7 percent. As for homelessness, while different methodological measures abound, the general sense is that the homeless make up less than one percent of the population at any given time. The study also includes data on four-year college graduation rates (2.5 percent), annual income (79.4 percent report a total income of less than $25,000) and, perhaps most depressing of all, social support networks.

More than 17 percent report having no one to loan them money, and 9.1 percent report having no one to help them meet their goals. This isn't just sad, it's a bulletproof indictment of a system we are all obligated to help pay for. While those who age out represent a small minority of the some 400,000 youth being served by child-welfare systems at any given time, broadening the scope only sheds light on the traumas that make the adult lives of this subset a near-impossible challenge.

THE MOST OBVIOUS GOAL of a child-welfare system with regard to the children it serves is to secure them a safe, stable, permanent home whether it be via family reunification efforts or foster care. Experts generally agree that family reunification via child-welfare services is the ideal as it circumvents the trauma of childhood separation from the birth family, but the theory often does not align with the practice. The easy, institutionalized demonization of birth families in these systems is where it all starts to go wrong.

At 78.3 percent, neglect is by far the most common reason why children enter care, but the category of neglect is broad and most often symptomatic of economic hardships ranging from food insecurity to homelessness. Addressing those hardships via government services such as job training, housing assistance, and parenting classes could offer a suitable framework for keeping families together, minimizing trauma to the child, and avoiding the significantly more expensive solutions of ongoing foster care and pursuing adoption. But that's not the system in place.

The average time in foster care for children is 22.7 months, and 30 percent of the current foster-care population has been in care for more than two years. This long-term exposure to foster care also exposes kids to the worst trends of the system. A report covering five state foster-care systems by the Government Accountability Office, for example, found that 35 percent of children in care are prescribed psychotropic medications, compared to just 10 percent of other children. Children in care were also more likely to be prescribed multiple medications, as well as medications with potential health risks. The report also found greater incidence of controversial practices such as prescribing five or more concomitant medications and prescribing medication to children below the age of one. Long-term separation from the birth family, exposure to powerful psychotropic medications, and the inherent instability of foster care is perhaps not the best route to helping children in need.

THE MEDIA PORTRAYAL OF child welfare often focuses on just two kinds of stories: one-note tales of horrific abuse and soft-focus adoption homilies. By concentrating on a small minority of child-welfare stories, the media is complicit in the public's misunderstanding of the broader issues at play.

Take the infamous murder of New York City seven-year-old Nixzmary Brown by her stepfather after years of sexual and physical abuse as well as extreme neglect. The city's Administration for Child Services came under heavy fire over its failure to properly investigate initial reports against the Brown family, which predictably led to calls for reform legislation. However, the legislation passed by city politicians focused mostly on stricter sentencing for child abuse and neglect, while failing to pursue comprehensive systemic reform.

Recent cases such as the murder of four-year-old Myls Dobson make clear that the city's system remains in disarray and will likely go through the same cycle of misguided legislation. This mobius strip of reactionary politics plays out in every state and further entrenches a collective ignorance of what's truly wrong with these systems. When all the public hears about is extreme individual cases, both good and bad, there's little chance of any public push for useful system-wide reform or even a greater understanding of the everyday issues of child welfare.

But here's the truth about American child welfare: It's about luck. Enter the system and maybe you'll land in a decent home or back with your birth family, but you might end up cycling through placements and institutions for years on end. Maybe you won't be recklessly prescribed mind-altering drugs, but no promises. And maybe, when it's all said and done, a promising, healthy adulthood awaits, but who are we kidding? Like the 97.5 percent of youth aging out who will never make it through college, you're probably screwed. Society has rigged the game against you.

Sharing even the basics of my story is embarrassing in light of that. My time in care was hardly unique after all; it's only my outcome that's uncommon. The thriving survivor's guilt that comes with it is still there, making everything hard to make any real sense of. Whenever someone comes to learn about my background, they always feel compelled to praise me and make assumptions about my character—as if the rest of those kids who aged out were made of the wrong stuff, as if I am some ideal to be held up at the expense of others.

All I really know is that for as well as my life has turned out, it's still not a fair life. I can't imagine how all those versions of me without the same streak of luck would feel.


The New Unholy Alliance of Kids and Reality TV

Now well over ten years old as a major television genre (I chart as its origin the debut of Survivor on CBS in 2000), the fact that “reality TV” is now concentrating more and more on kids should not come as any great surprise.

We have already had a decade of adults humiliating and demeaning themselves on reality TV for any number of things—for jobs, for love, for “glory”, even for food ( Survivor , Big Brother ). So, after all that, where else was there to go?

The recent debut of the Esquire Channel's controversial Friday Night Tykes and Lifetime's unfortunately enduring Dance Moms series are answering the question above.

Granted, kids, or more specifically the use of kids, on reality TV has been encroaching into the genre for some time. I lamented the trend—citing CBS's Kid Nation and, of all things, PBS's Frontier House —in 2002. Since then the pace has only picked up thanks to Toddlers & Tiaras and, additionally, via the young people seen (if not as unwilling then certainly unwitting participants) on their parents's various “lifestyle” reality shows, consider the kids to be found on Jon + Kate, Bravo's many Housewives series, VH1's Mob Wives, and, of course, the younger generation of Kardashians-Jenners over on E!

Still, it's only via Dance Moms and, now, Friday Night Tykes, that kids and reality TV have achieved a full on mash-up. And the results are not only not pretty, they can be downright disturbing.

Dance Moms , now in its fourth season, has long been the home of on-air catfights and verbal abuse played out (mostly) between dance “instructor” Abby Miller and the parents of her young students. The students, a group of young pre-teen girls, have found themselves, week in and week out, trapped within this mess, either as witnesses to or pawns in the middle of the adult-led pettiness, back-stabbing and carnage. And if that's not disturbing enough, the pre-pubescent girls under “Miss Abby's” tutelage are, for performances, often dressed quite provocatively, far removed from age-appropriate attire; more than one online commentator has called the show “a feast for pedophiles”.

Inevitably, everything has recently escalated from merely contentious to now being physical and, now, litigious. One of the show's “moms”, Kelly, was arrested in early January and charged with physically attacking Miller as well as harassing her, both in person and via social media. The two women recently squared off in a New York courtroom. For the time being, Kelly has been slapped with a restraining order. True to form, rather than be embarrassed by the fisticuffs, the Lifetime channel is currently hyping the on-camera fight; the episode containing aired 11 February. (Actually, Kelly being banned from the dysfunction that is this dance studio, and this series, might be the best thing that has ever happened to her and her daughter.)

Meanwhile, Esquire (a brand new channel that took over for the demised Style Network) has managed to get its first major publicity thanks to the airing of Friday Night Tykes. This eight part program follows the real-life Texas Youth Football Association and its mix of players all ten years old or younger and their frequently overzealous adult male coaches. Yes, they play tackle football and the coaches show no sympathy or mercy or, truth to told, much sportsmanship either. Pain, and how to inflict it, seems to be the main point of the show, along with the rage-fueled diatribes delivered by grown-ups to kids at volume-busting levels.

Though only a few episodes old, Friday Night Tykes has already drawn the wrath of the NFL, Fox Sports, and assorted national sportscasters and former football stars. The NFL, on just seeing the show's preview trailer, labeled the program “disturbing” and then worked to distance this kid's league from its own youth endeavors. Fox Sports, on its website, called Friday Night Tykes the “most depressing show on television.” And ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit and former professional cornerback Dustin Fox have all registered their anger and disbelief via Twitter.

The mind reels over so many issues related to these series: the gender stereotypes supported by each (little girls made to look seductive, little boys implored to be violent); the hypocrisy and dichotomy of them both (if a show treating animals this way were being aired every week, would it be allowed to endure?). And, of course, the morality of the whole enterprise. Did these kids know what they were getting into? Can they get out or does mom and/or dad too badly want to be on camera?

In discussing both shows, the term “child abuse” gets thrown around amply. But is it accurate? Though neither show has (yet) shown an adult striking a child, we all know that physical assault is only part of the definition of abuse. Almost every week, these kids—especially those on Dance Moms —are witnesses to shouting matches between adults. If this was going on on a weekly basis between their parents almost any social worker would question the stability of their home environment. Apparently, the presence of TV cameras nullifies the issue.

Unfortunately, as the two shows in question— Dance Moms and Friday Night Tykes —each air on cable, they are beyond the reach of the Federal Communications Commission. (However, it should be noted, that the ownership of both these channels have ties back to the broadcast networks; Lifetime, which airs Dance Moms, is owned, ultimately, by Disney which also owns ABC and Friday Night Tykes's Esquire channel is a subsidiary of NBC/Universal.)

Not only that, but while professional child actors have their hours, treatment and work conditions governed by California state laws (which includes provisions for setting aside a portion of their earnings) and by the Screen Actors Guild, the kids of reality TV have no such recourse. Child participants are governed only by national child labor laws which may dictate how much they can work and prohibit them from working under “hazardous” conditions but do little else to mitigate their treatment “on the job”.

With these options closed, are there other recourses available to concerned viewers?

At one time, Lifetime's own website hosted a discussion forum devoted to Dance Moms. In the now since deleted (hmmm?) online chatroom, there was constant debate between the show's fans and the show's detractors with some of the latter inquiring about reporting the show's producers and participants to the child services department of the State of Pennsylvania. (The show takes place in Pittsburgh.) Some posters went so far as to post the agency's 800 number.

Which got me wondering: So, did they? Did anyone actually report Dance Moms ? Does a TV reality show actually, legally, constitute “child abuse” and therefore necessitate an investigation? Curious, I phoned. Not surprisingly, confidentially laws prevented me from obtaining either a confirmation or a denial about the local agency's relationship with Pittsburgh's most famous/infamous dance studio and the slice of reality TV muck that it birthed.

As Dance Moms is still on the air and in production, the answer, as far as Pittsburgh is concerned, seems to be “no”. If an investigation was conducted, nothing of note was done, or at least nothing to change the show's basic premise or affect its production schedule.

This is not to say, however, that public outcry doesn't do any good. A season two episode of Dance Moms, which had Miller outfitting her pre-teen female students in body stockings to simulate nudity, was pulled from the channel after its initial airing drew a torrent of viewer complaints. (Interestingly, contacting the actual network directly these days is not so easy. Its website's “Contact Us” option seems specifically related to web- and digital-download issues, not comments about the channel's content.)

With the success, or at least the notoriety, of shows like Dance Moms and Friday Night Tykes, further programs of this ilk seem destined to proliferate with both the government and the industry largely unable (or unwilling) to do anything about it. As we've learned time and again, you just can't legislate good parenting. That means the only options are viewers themselves, those willing to complain or, at the very least, to turn the channel. But, sadly, there doesn't seem to be enough of them around or at least not enough to do any good.



Bill gives abuse victims more time


WOODBINE - Extending the time in which a victim of childhood sexual abuse can file a civil lawsuit against an alleged abuser will send a message, State Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, says.

"Their actions will come back to haunt them," he said. "Very few abuse cases are reported."

Legislation in the state House of Representatives to extend the statute of limitations on civil actions for childhood sexual abuse has been approved by the Non-Civil Subcommittee, but must clear one more committee to get to the House floor.

Spencer says House Bill 771 is necessary, because under current law, a child sex abuse victim may only bring action against his or her abuser up to five years after reaching the age of 18.

The bill, if approved, would allow victims to take legal action against his or her abuser until they reach the age of 30.

"I believe the statute of limitations should be extended significantly," Spencer said. "When a child is sexually abused, it is like the soul of the child has been murdered. The child is changed forever," he said.

"A child who is a victim of these silent crimes should have the opportunity to confront their perpetrator when they are empowered and ready," Spencer said. "Adult perpetrators will now be put on notice and held accountable for their actions."

Spencer said it's an "injustice" the law sets a time limit for childhood sexual abuse victims to file a complaint against an abuser.

"It can take up to 20 years for someone to undergo counseling before they have the courage to confront their perpetrator," he said. "It could be an influential person in their community."

During a House committee meeting Feb. 10, Angela Williams, author of "From Sorrows to Sapphires" and founder of Voice Today, a support and advocacy group, testified in support of the bill.

"Once a child has been sexually abused, they are given a life sentence," she said. "The question becomes, 'how does a victim get justice in a civil action when the existing statute of limitations is only five years?' Most survivors don't speak up until they are older and by then, according to the current law, it is too late to prosecute their abusers."

Williams said the bill can bring reform necessary for victims to obtain justice in a civil action.

"In 2012, Georgia removed the statute of limitations on criminal prosecution of child sexual abuse cases," she said. "Criminal prosecution of child sexual abuse cases is challenging at best, and this bill will bring greater justice by reforming the civil statute of limitation."

* Reporter Gordon Jackson writes about Camden County and other local topics. Contact him at gjackson@thebrunswick, on Facebook or at 464-7655.


Department Of Justice Reveals Shocking Treatment Of Rape Victims In Montana County

Prosecutors in Missoula County allegedly told one woman whose 5-year-old daughter was sexually assaulted, “Boys will be boys.”

by Jessica Testa

The Department of Justice said Friday it has “substantial evidence” that county prosecutors in Missoula, Mont., a city under investigation since May 2012 and known to many as America's “rape capital”, discriminated against sexual assault victims on the basis of gender.

According to the DOJ, between January 2008 and May 2012, the Missoula Police Department recommended the Missoula County Attorney's Office prosecute 85 reports of sexual assault of adult women. But prosecutors only took action in 14 of the 85 cases.

“[Female] sexual assault victims in Missoula are deprived of fundamental legal protections and often re-victimized by MCAO's response to their reports of abuse,” U.S. attorneys wrote in a findings letter to County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg.

In the letter, Missoula prosecutors are accused of giving low priority to sexual assault cases — an “institutionalized indifference” that “perpetuates a culture that tolerates sexual assault, dissuades victims from reporting crimes, leaves violent criminal activity unaddressed, and compromises the safety of all women in Missoula.”

In a statement to Mother Jones, Van Valkenburg said, “Everything the DOJ is saying about our office is false. These people are as unethical as any I have ever seen. They obviously have a political agenda they want to push and the truth does not matter to them.”

Here are details of the Justice Department's allegations against the county attorney:

Prosecutors failed to communicate with victims about progress in their cases — even declining to even return victims' phone calls. The women were consistently treated with “indifference or disrespect.”

Women consistently told us that Deputy County Attorneys treated them with indifference or disrespect … We learned that prosecutors did not communicate with female victims about the cases, did not inform them of the charges to be filed and did not seek their input about the type of relief to seek against the accused if convicted. In many cases, prosecutors failed even to return victims' phone calls.

One woman told us, for exampled, that she had no contact with the County Attorney's Office during the year after her first and only meeting with the prosecuting attorney handling her case. She only learned that the prosecutor had offered her assailant a plea agreement from an advocate with the Missoula Crime Victim Advocate Office, despite the fact that she and her mother had left numerous phone messages for the prosecuting attorney throughout the year … Her advice to other women reporting sexual assault in Missoula, she said, would be “if at all possible, not to go” to the County Attorney's Office.

Prosecutors “lack sufficient training” and are encouraged to pursue sexual assault cases only in their “spare time.”

MCAO attorneys lack sufficient training in the bodies of legal and scientific knowledge necessary to prosecute assaults against adult women, including non-stranger sexual assault. While Deputy County Attorneys have attended trainings concerning domestic violence and the sexual abuse of children, our investigation indicates that until recently, they received no training on sexual assault.

[In] responding to questions about delays in charging decisions, you reportedly said that your attorneys review charging decisions in sexual assault cases “when they have spare time.”

Victims described the prosecutors as having “no compassion” and working with them “traumatic.” Some women were read religious passages. Others were told “boys will be boys.”

In one instance, for example, a Deputy County Attorney quoted religious passages to a woman who had reported a sexual assault, in a way that the victim interpreted to mean that the Deputy County Attorney was judging her negatively for having made the report.

We also spoke to a woman whose daughter was sexually assaulted, at the age of five, by an adolescent boy. In response to a question about why the perpetrator had been sentenced to only two years of community service, the prosecutor handling the case reportedly told the woman that “boys will be boys.” Advocates told us that Deputy County Attorneys “said terrible things to victims,” including saying to one woman, in the course of discussion the decision not to prosecute her sexual assault, “All you want is revenge.”

One woman described her interaction with a Deputy County Attorney as “traumatic.” Another woman stated that, by the time the prosecution was over, she was so frustrated by the Deputy County Attorney's treatment and the MCAO's failure to keep her informed about key developments in the case that she “would never suggest” that another woman pursue a sexual assault prosecution in Missoula. She said further that it “broke her heart” that other women had to go through a similar process to have their cases prosecuted. Other women repaired that prosecutors treated them with “no compassion,” and acted like the prosecutors were “forced to speak” with them. Several women informed us that they left meetings with prosecutors feeling like they were being “judged” for their prior sexual history, or that the prosecutors did not believe them.

One woman said prosecutors dropped her case “because of her sexual history.”

[Under] Montana law, the sexual history of a woman is legally protected from introduction at trial in sexual assault cases in all but the most limited circumstances. Yet one woman informed us that the County Attorney's Office stated that MCAO had declined to prosecute her case because of her sexual history. Basic prosecutorial decisions on women's sexual histories not only demoralizes and stigmatizes victims, it disregards laws and national prosecutorial standards designed to sexual assault prosecution and protect women who report assaults.

Despite Missoula's “significant” population of transients and people with mental health issues, prosecutors threw out nearly every case involving a disabled woman.

[The] County Attorney's Office declined to prosecute nearly every case of non-stranger sexual assault involving a woman who had a mental or physical disability, even in cases where there was evidence such as a confession or incriminating statements by the perpetrator … Local advocates report that Missoula is one of Montana's principal locations for services for persons with mental health issues, including a significant transient population.

In another case, the Missoula Police obtained incriminating statements from a suspect who admitted to having intercourse with a mentally ill woman, including statements that he couldn't “determine” how soon he stopped having sex with the woman after she asked him to stop and told him he was causing her “vagina” to “hurt.” The Missoula Police referred the case to the County Attorney's Office, recommending that the prosecutor charge the suspect with sexual intercourse without consent. Despite the incriminating statements, the County Attorney's Office declined to bring any charges.

They also declined to prosecute “nearly every case” involving an inebriated victim, including one case in which police had actual video footage of a woman being drugged before her rape. Prosecutors cited “insufficient evidence.”

[We] found that the County Attorney's Office declined to prosecute nearly every case of non-stranger assault involving an adult woman victim who was, at the time of the assault, subject to some type of heightened vulnerability — for example, in cases where the assault was facilitated by drugs or alcohol.”

[A] woman reported that she had been drugged and raped by an acquaintance the previous day. Missoula Police officers developed evidence that included video footage of the alleged assailant slipping something into the woman's drink. The Missoula Police also obtained admissions by the assailant that although he did not remember putting something in the woman's drink, it was possible he had and, as he stated, “If I were trying to make her relax it would be Xanax” When confronted with the video footage, the assailant also stated, “My memory tells me no, but I can't argue with surveillance.” The Missoula Police obtained a search warrant for the suspect's home and learned that the suspect had recently refilled prescriptions for two drugs common in drug-facilitated sexual assaults, including Xanax. Nonetheless, MCAO declined to charge the case, citing insufficient evidence, but with no documented further explanation.

Case after case was given the “insufficient evidence” treatment — even when the assailant had confessed.

In one case, for example, the Missoula Police obtained a confession from a man who admitted raping a woman while she was unconscious. The Missoula Police referred the case to the County Attorney's Office with a recommendation that the prosecutor charge the suspect with sexual intercourse without consent, as well as car theft. The County Attorney's Office declined to bring any charges, citing “insufficient evidence.”

The prosecutors' attitude has taught Missoula Police detectives that a case “must involve physical force of overwhelming and irrefutable evidence to be considered a crime worthy of prosecution.”

The work of Missoula Police detectives is compromised by that fact that, even if they expend the resources to conduct a comprehensive investigation, the County Attorney's Office often will not charge the case. One woman reported that the Missoula Police detective in her case informed her that because “no one had a limb cut off and there was no video of the incident,” prosecutors “wouldn't see this [the rape] as anything more than a girl getting drunk at a party.”

Whether or not the detective's characterization was accurate, the County Attorney's actions over time left this detective — and many others like him — with the understanding that non-stranger sexual assault of women, and especially drug-facilitated sexual assault, must involve physical force of overwhelming and irrefutable evidence to be considered a crime worthy of prosecution.

And victims have been taught that reporting their assaults is “at best, a waste of time, or at worst, a re-victimization.”

For victims of sexual assault, MCAO's response indicated that a decision to report and participate in an assault investigation will be, at best, a waste of time, or, at worst, a re-victimization. Indeed, in one case from early 2013, a detective told both the victim and the offender that the detective's role was limited to collecting physical evidence of sexual assault at that the County Attorney's Office would never file charges in the case — despite the fact that the detective acknowledged to the victim that she had been raped by the offender.

For instance, we interviewed a young woman who had suffered a gang rape as a student at the University of Montana and described feeling re-traumatized by the experience of seeking to have the assault prosecuted by the County Attorney's Office. As a result of hearing about that experience, a friend of the woman declined to report her own rape to either the police or to prosecutors.

In another example, a clinical psychologist told us that she had counseled numerous sexual assault survivors in Missoula who had pursued criminal charges against their assailants and described their experience with the County Attorney's Office as being so horrendous that, when the psychologist herself was sexually assaulted, she was reluctant to have her case prosecuted by the County Attorney's Office.



Bill would boost reports of child abuse in schools

Mike Gatto's proposal receives support from State Supt. Tom Torlakson.

by Kelly Corrigan

On the heels of criminal cases involving California teachers and district employees who failed to report alleged child abuse on campus, Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake) has proposed a law that would require public schools to adopt uniform procedures for detecting and reporting such crimes.

In one of the cases cited by Gatto, however, prosecutors dropped the charges against the teacher.

Assembly Bill 1432 would also require that school employees receive training on an annual basis, either online or in person.

Though a 1963 law requires those working in schools to report neglect or sexual, emotional or physical child abuse, it does not mandate districts regularly train employees on how to do that.

“The fact that it's not a mandate means there's no teeth in it,” Gatto said. “There are over one thousand schools in California. We have no idea who is getting trained and who isn't.”

His bill was drafted following cases of student abuse that initially went unreported to law enforcement, even though at least one school employee had been aware of the alleged conduct.

He pointed to an incident in the Redwood City School District in Northern California, where eight staff members failed to report a teacher's alleged abuse of two 5-year-old special-education students. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, prosecutors dropped the case against the teacher after witnesses changed their story about what had actually occurred.

In another incident in the Brentwood Union School District, also up north, 11 employees failed to tell authorities about a special-education teacher who kicked an autistic student. After that case came to light, families of eight other students emerged with similar claims against the same teacher. In January, according to the Contra Costa Times, the district settled a lawsuit with the parents of those children for $8 million.

The teacher, Dina Holder, pleaded no contest to child cruelty, also according to the Contra Costa paper, and resigned as part of a December 2012 settlement of a separate lawsuit that contained similar allegations.

“The more you delve into them, the more they break your heart. You also get angry,” Gatto said of cases of unreported abuse. “These were cases of abuse that could have been prevented.”

In the Glendale Unified School District, employees review child-abuse reporting guidelines each year, said Maria Gandera, assistant superintendent of human resources, in order to reassure employees of their role as “mandated reporters” of abuse.

“If it comes to our knowledge that a student may be in danger of any kind, we report it immediately,” Gandera said.

Depending on the case, the district will alert child protection services or the police.

“Our job is simply to report it and let the authorities determine whether it is child abuse or not,” she said.

Burbank Unified School District officials were not available to comment on current child abuse reporting procedures.

State Supt. Tom Torlakson announced his support of the bill last week in a statement, saying that the current lack of required training for those working in schools “does a disservice to both school employees and to the children these laws are meant to protect.”


South Carolina

Child abuse, neglect a leading public health crisis


Spartanburg County is making great strides in improving health and well-being in the community.

We have successful initiatives such as The Road to Better Health with five priority areas (improve access to care, reduce childhood obesity, improve birth outcomes, reduce tobacco use, improve behavioral health access), the Childhood Obesity Taskforce, the S.C. Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and the Spartanburg Academic Movement.

Recently, we have focused on the neglected area of behavioral health with the Behavioral Health Taskforce as outlined in an op-ed published on Feb. 6 ("An upstream strategy for mental health," by Tom Barnet). Our jails and emergency rooms are filled with individuals who would be better served with appropriate mental health services, and this taskforce has taken action to address this concern.

These programs are important with good outcomes, but we also need to bring the issue of child abuse and neglect to the table and focus on awareness and prevention of this epidemic problem. The abuse and neglect of children is a leading public health problem in Spartanburg and in the nation.

This includes physical, sexual and psychological abuse and neglect of basic needs, including educational neglect. In most cases, children are victims of multiple forms of abuse. These children who experience such traumatic childhood environments are at greater risk for lifelong behavioral, emotional and physical problems.

Surprisingly few people who assume the responsibility of taking care of our children ever receive any formal training in recognizing the signs and symptoms of child abuse and neglect, let alone learn the process to follow once abuse or neglect is suspected. These professionals include educators, day care providers and health care professionals, among others, who are legally mandated to report suspicions of child maltreatment to law enforcement and social services.

A staggering correlation exists between traumatic childhood experiences and poor physical health, behavioral health, obesity, substance abuse, juvenile delinquency and teen pregnancy. The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study ( is a large and ongoing study linking childhood abuse and neglect to long-term health problems.

The study, conducted by Dr. Robert F. Anda with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Dr. Vincent J. Felitti with Kaiser Permanente, analyzed health data from more than 17,000 patients, and the results were overwhelming in regard to the health, social and economic risks that result from childhood trauma.

Adverse childhood experiences not only harm the individual but also have a crippling effect on the economy with greater health care expenses and loss of human potential. For example, in Spartanburg County, the immediate and long-term costs of child sexual abuse alone exceed $26 million annually. Prevent Child Abuse America has estimated the total annual cost of child abuse and neglect in the U.S. to be as high as $94 billion.

Prolonged traumatic experiences in childhood are linked to disrupted neurodevelopment with lifelong consequences. These traumatic experiences cause a physiological reaction that leads to increased production of cortisol and other hormones.

This chemical response to stress is designed to mobilize us during a crisis (fight or flight), but excessive amounts of these chemicals circulating in the body damage the architecture of the developing brain.

This repeated exposure to trauma impairs learning, memory, impulse control and self-regulation. The threshold for responding to stress becomes lowered, and these children are at higher risk of developing poor patterns of behavior. When stress hormones remain elevated over long periods of time, they produce "wear and tear" on the brain and certain biological systems. This effect, called allostatic load, is associated with vulnerability to all types of major health problems later in life.

If we focus on education and prevention of early childhood trauma, we effectively eliminate many of the costly problems associated with chronic health issues. Additionally, if we facilitate healthier, supportive family relationships, we can repair damage and mediate the effects of toxic stress.

Let's make child abuse prevention a priority area in our public health initiatives. The University of South Carolina Upstate is hosting the fifth annual A Brighter Future: Ending Child Abuse through Advocacy and Education conference on March 21. National experts will address childhood trauma from multiple perspectives and discuss the ACE Study, parent-child relationships and other related issues.

The conference is designed to target attorneys, counselors, educators, the faith community, judges, law enforcement, nurses, physicians, psychologists, social workers, therapists, victim service professionals and all other concerned community members.

Conference and registration information can be accessed at the following link:

Imagine a community where all children are wanted and nurtured in safe environments with their physical, emotional and educational needs met. It can happen in Spartanburg. We can create a brighter future for our children! Child abuse is preventable.

Jennifer S. Parker is director of the Center for Child Advocacy Studies, professor of psychology and associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of South Carolina Upstate.


New York

CPS is making vital reforms to prevent more child abuse deaths


For the first time in years, good news is coming out of Erie County Child Protective Services. A state review of procedures has found that workers there are doing a notably better job of conducting child abuse and neglect investigations.

Those efforts will be bolstered with the county's announcement that CPS investigators have been assigned to two hospitals to be available for immediate consultation in cases where there is suspicion of abuse or neglect.

It was a long time coming. At least two children have been killed in the past two years after Child Protective Services discounted reports of child abuse. In 2012, 10-year-old Abdifatah Mohamud was beaten to death by his stepfather. Abdifatah had called 911 seeking protection from Ali-Mohamed Mohamud, who is now serving 25 years to life in prison.

Just five months ago, 5-year-old Eain Clayton Brooks was also killed, allegedly by his mother's live-in boyfriend in their Buffalo apartment. The boy's family had repeatedly notified CPS about the child's peril, but nothing was done. Matthew W. Kuzdzal has been charged with second-degree murder and sexual assault of the boy.

Against that grim backdrop, the state and the county acted. Following Eain's death, the state examined approximately 1,000 open cases in Erie County and found disturbing lapses, among them that workers were performing only the minimum amount of work to investigate reports of abuse and neglect.

That appears to have changed. The state's new report finds that the county is more thorough in its investigations, with workers going beyond the minimum and performing additional interviews and better documenting investigations.

The county has also stationed workers at Women & Children's and Sisters hospitals, where, officials say, more suspicious cases appear than the other hospitals in the county, accounting for about 1,000 allegations of abuse and neglect each year. Kaleida and Catholic Health, operators of the two hospitals, will provide office space and equipment for the workers, who will work full time every weekday.

The expectation is that the proximity of CPS workers to health professionals will foster a collaborative relationship, and also allow for faster intervention when necessary.

In addition, the county has hired more child protection workers, improved its training and instituted greater oversight on the outcomes of cases.

Significant challenges remain. Even with the additional workers, greater oversight has led to individual caseloads more than triple the state recommended level of 15. That's a prescription for tragic error.

The county is working to relieve that burden, by requiring managers to perform more direct work and by continuing to hire new staff, as the state has recommended. Eventually, the caseload is expected to shrink, but in the meantime, vigilance will be especially important.

As the state observed, the county will have to pay attention to ensure that recent improvements are not allowed to dissipate, but instead, become part of the agency's culture. That kind of change doesn't normally happen quickly.

Nevertheless, the turnaround at CPS is as gratifying as it is surprising. These improvements have been made in fewer than six months. That's lightning fast for a bureaucracy, but given that, it makes you wonder why these problems couldn't have been ironed out before two young boys died. At least others may be saved.


How Bones Can Reveal Child Abuse

by Wynne Parry

By the time relatives found 19-month-old DeVarion Gross concealed inside an 18-gallon storage container in his mother's closet, his body was too decomposed for investigators to determine how he had died.

They did, however, find other damning evidence that contributed to his mother's 2010 conviction in North Carolina: DeVarion had three rib fractures at different stages of healing — evidence of a history of abuse.

"If he hadn't been decomposed, we probably would not have seen any of them," said Ann Ross, an anthropologist at North Carolina State University who examined DeVarion's remains. "Most likely they would not have shown up on regular X-ray."

Rib fractures indicate abuse, since children DeVarion's age rarely suffer this injury in any other way, Ross said.

With fellow anthropologist Chelsey Juarez, Ross has published an overview of forensic research on child abuse and starvation with a focus on skeletal injuries. The goal: justice for victims and protection for others, whose abuse can be identified and stopped before the child arrives on an autopsy table. [The 7 Biggest Mysteries of the Human Body]

About 9.2 children per 1,000 in the United States were victims of child abuse in 2012, while 2.1 per 100,000 lost their lives to it in 2011, according to annual data. But some researchers think these numbers don't tell the whole story.

Child abuse and neglect can be difficult for doctors and forensic investigators to catch. For instance, bone injuries like DeVarion's are difficult to diagnose, particularly in young children, because these injuries heal quickly. What's more, abused children usually don't get medical attention until they are seriously injured, and, if they do get treatment, a doctor must determine if a caretaker's explanation is plausible given the injuries, Ross said.

DeVarion's rib fractures fit into one of the common abuse patterns — thoracic, or upper torso, injuries — described by Ross and Juarez. Rib fractures in children under 3 years old are rare, partly because a young child's thoracic region is extremely flexible. As a result, rib fractures in young children are a strong sign of abuse.

For DeVarion, two rib fractures had nearly healed and one was in a very early state of healing. These injuries would likely have escaped X-ray detection while he was still alive, and an X-ray scan done after the discovery of his body, while it was still covered in plastic bags, did not reveal any acute injury. But the advanced state of decomposition of his body allowed Ross to examine his bones directly, where she found the three healing fractures.

Another common pattern, called shaken baby syndrome, is associated with bleeding and swelling of the brain as well as hemorrhages in the retina at the back of the eye. However, there is a controversy over shaken baby syndrome; some argue that shaking alone cannot produce these injuries and that some other form of impact must also be a factor, according to Ross.

In addition to violence, the researchers address another form of abuse: neglect, specifically starvation. This kind of abuse typically accompanies so-called medical neglect. As a result, children suffering these abuses almost never show up in doctors' offices.

Ross and Juarez recommend using bone mineral-density scans, in which X-rays measure how much calcium and other minerals a section of bone contains, to determine if a child experienced starvation before dying. Bone mineral density normally increases with age, but malnourishment reduces bone density.

As a forensic anthropologist and a mother, Ross finds children's cases completely consuming. "These are little, innocent children that didn't have a choice. They didn't have a choice on who their mother was. They didn't have a choice on their circumstances," she said. An investigator's job is to present the facts, "so you are speaking for that innocent" child.

Ross and Juarez's work was published online Jan. 28 in the journal Forensic Science, Medicine and Pathology.



Law requires suspected child abuse be reported

SACRAMENTO — Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, amended an assembly bill, AB 1432, Feb. 12 to strengthen training requirements and prevent child abuse in schools.

The amendments requires all school employees to be trained according to standards developed by the Department of Education, in the proper identification and reporting of child abuse and neglect, so that abuse can be stopped in its tracks.

Gatto has been working closely with child advocates and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson on the legislation, after recent reports showed that several cases of abuse were prolonged because many school personnel were unaware of the processes and/or their responsibilities for reporting abuse.

Enacted in 1963, the California Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act requires certain professionals, known as mandated reporters, to report to law enforcement or protective services known or suspected instances of neglect, or physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.

Mandated reporters include educational professionals — teachers, instructional aides, teachers' aides, school administrators, and counselors.

Despite the reporting act's requirements, current law does not require school districts to train personnel on detecting and reporting child abuse.

Gatto's legislation would specifically address the problem by requiring school employees to complete mandated-reporting training, either online or in-person, within the first six weeks of each year or the first six weeks after being hired.

Unlike other proposals that allow for thousands of different training programs, a different one in each district, the standards in the Gatto bill would be uniform — developed by the Department of Education — and would also remind employees that failure to report known or suspected abuse is a crime.

“By training school personnel to recognize the signs of abuse, it is my hope we will help stop it,” said Gatto. “And by training school personnel on their reporting duties, we give them the tools to make the proper authorities aware of potential abuse in a timely manner.”

The last few years have produced several incidents of unreported child abuse, where one or more school employees were aware of an incident but failed to report it to law enforcement.

In the Redwood City School District, five staff members knew of abuse, but failed to tell authorities, about a teacher's abuse of two five-year-old special-needs students.

In the Brentwood Union School District, eleven employees did not alert authorities of a case in which a special-education teacher, who had already been convicted of child abuse, pulled an autistic student from his chair and kicked him.

The incident resulted in a $950,000 settlement paid by the district. Eight additional students' families then came forward with similar claims against the same teacher, and in late January, the district settled that lawsuit for an additional $8 million.

“Our current system fails if it prolongs a child's pain,” Gatto stated. “AB 1432 is a simple, straight-forward means of making sure school personnel know the techniques and their responsibilities for protecting our children from predators.”


National Child Welfare Fatalities Convenes Feb. 24

by Christie Renick

The Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities, a committee established by the Protect Our Kids Act, will hold its first public hearing on February 24.

The Protect Our Kids Act, passed in late 2012 on the heels of the molestation scandal involving former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, established a two-year commission consisting of six members appointed by President Obama and six by congressional leaders.

The commission will evaluate current prevention efforts and is expected to issue a comprehensive strategy to prevent and lessen child abuse and neglect fatalities.It will also develop, per the act's language, guidelines “for the type of information that should be tracked to improve interventions to prevent fatalities from child abuse and neglect.”

The commission's work will be paid for by a reallocation of $2 million from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) contingency funds.

Presidential appointees to the commission include:

•  Dr. David Sanders, exec VP of system improvement at Casey Family Programs - former child welfare chief in Los Angeles & Minneapolis

•  Theresa Covington, director of Michigan Public Health Institute's National Center for the Review and Prevention of Child Deaths

•  Patricia Martin, presiding judge of the child protection division, Circuit Court of Cook County (Chicago)

•  Michael R. Petit, founder of the Every Child Matters Education Fund .

•  Jennifer Rodriguez, executive director of Youth Law Center (YLC) and a former foster youth .

•  Dr. David Rubin, associate professor of pediatrics, the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

The six congressionally-appointed members:

•  Wade Horn, consultant for Deloitte - former commissioner of the Administration for Children & Families under President George W. Bush

•  Former U.S. Rep. and current FTI consultant Bud Cramer (D-Ala.)

•  Amy Ayoub, Nevada public speaking and presentation skills coach

•  Marilyn Zimmerman, director of the National Native Children's Trauma Center at the University of Montana

•  Susan Dreyfus, CEO of the Alliance for Children and Families and former leader of child welfare in Wisconsin and Washington

•  Cassie Statuto Bevan, lecturer at the Graduate School of Social Policy and Practice at the University of Pennsylvania.

Obama has the power to extend the tenure of the commission by one year. The Commission is mandated to make its final report available on the Department of Health and Human Services web site.


South Carolina

Law enforcement, community organizations sign child abuse protocols at Hope Haven opening


Officials from law enforcement and other community organizations reiterated their commitment to working together to handle child abuse cases Sunday afternoon in Beaufort.

Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner, 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone and several others signed a memorandum containing the protocols of the 14th Judicial Circuit Multidisciplinary Child Abuse Response Team at a ribbon-cutting ceremony that celebrated the opening of Hope Haven's new facility.

The Multidisciplinary Team, composed of nearly 30 agencies from around the 14th Circuit's five-county area -- police departments, sheriff's offices, hospitals, school districts and others -- streamlines the process of child abuse investigations in the circuit, said Shauw Chin Capps, executive director for Hope Haven, a children's advocacy and rape-crisis center.

Through the team, everything in a child abuse investigation is coordinated on site through Hope Haven, including mental health treatment, thereby minimizing the number of times the victim has to tell his or her story -- and the amount of trauma the child could suffer by reliving the experience, Capps said.

On Sunday, Stone told an audience of about 100 people how, as an assistant solicitor in Columbia, he worked with a sexual assault victim who had to recount a story to investigators almost half a dozen times -- all before the events would be revisited in court and in trial.

"It increases efficiency, but it eases the trauma the victim faces by limiting the amount (of times) they have to relive the events," Stone said. "It makes it a team understanding. I'm proud to be a part of this team."

Capps and Hope Haven staff cut a ceremonial ribbon outside their new Charles Street office, where it moved after 12 years in an office on Robert Smalls Parkway. Capps said the move was needed to accomodate new staff brought on with funding from two grants obtained by Hope Haven. The new offices took six months to renovate, she said.

Last year, Hope Haven served 521 direct victims of child abuse and sexual assault, according to a news release. Of those, 82 percent were children younger than 16, and 57 percent were younger than 11. Stone said Hope Haven also helps with witnesses in cases, offering treatment for the psychological effects of abuse.



L.A. County District Attorney launches treatment program offering help to child prostitutes

by Kelly Goff

Two Los Angeles County Juvenile Court branches will soon offer an alternative to jail for minors arrested for prostitution, District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced Wednesday.

The diversion program, called First Step, is aimed at reducing the number of sex trafficking victims, who often end up in a jail-to-street recidivism cycle after being lured into prostitution at a young age. It will roll out in the San Fernando Valley and South Los Angeles,

“We believe that minors who engage in sex for pay are victims, not criminals,” Lacey told reporters. “We believe that we should help these children, not detain them.”

Between 2000 and 2010, the juvenile division of the District Attorney's Office filed 2,188 petitions against minors caught soliciting or loitering with the intent to solicit prostitution.

The new program will provide a year of crisis intervention, sexual-assault and mental-health counseling, substance-abuse treatment, education and other social services for girls who agree to participate. Lacey's office will work with the Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and a number of nonprofits.

At the end of that year, the youths who have completed the program will have the arrest that led to their participation cleared from their criminal record.

Lacey noted that pimps target the vulnerable — runaway and homeless children, youths with drug problems or those that have been abused at home — and the program offers an alternative to criminalizing kids. Most of those involved are girls, with a smaller number of boys.

“These are the victims who have been robbed of hope at a very young age,” Lacey said. “We want to stand beside these young victims and show them there is a way out if they just take the first step.”

The program will roll out in Sylmar and Compton first, two areas with a high number of arrests in the 12-to-17-year-old age group.

City Councilwoman Nury Martinez, who represents much of the area served by the Sylmar Juvenile Court, has spoken publicly of the need to focus resources on the large number of youths being pushed into the sex trade.

In Martinez's district, two corridors — one along Sepulveda Boulevard in Van Nuys, the other along Lankershim Boulevard and San Fernando Road in Sun Valley — routinely attract girls plying the sex trade and the pimps who control them.

“Part of what we need to remember is that a lot of these (kids) come from a place where there isn't a family structure for them, which makes them more vulnerable to this sort of abuse,” she said.

Martinez said combating the issue is a matter of attacking the problem from a number of sides: increased prosecution for the johns who pay for sex, increased enforcement of penalties for the pimps who control the prostitutes and continued contact with the youths affected to show them possibilities for a life off the streets.

“It's an important part of the puzzle,” she said of efforts like First Step. “It's part of continuing to reach out. I'm glad to see that it's happening, and I'm glad to see that it's happening in the Valley.”



Woodland Hills woman determined to bring down revenge porn

by Kelly Goff

In January 2012, Charlotte Laws got a call from her daughter. “Mom, something horrible happened,” she said.

Laws' mind raced through all the awful things that could have happened: a car accident, something with work, her girl was sick ...

But it was something she didn't expect. Her daughter Kayla, then a 24-year-old aspiring actress, discovered that a partially topless photo she had taken of herself and shared with no one was now posted on a website for all to see.

The now defunct site,, was run by a Northern California man named Hunter Moore, who touted it as the most successful of the hundreds of such shadowy sites, boasting that on a good day, he had more than 350,000 page views. Moore marketed the site as a hub for revenge porn — so called because the postings were alleged to be sexually explicit images voluntarily given to the site from scorned exes of the person in the pictures. He posted names, addresses and work information about the victims and urged followers — strangers to the person posing — to taunt them.

“It was not about pornography,” Laws said. “It was about hurting people, humiliating people. His followers would try to get the person fired from their job, they would send the photos out to the school board if the person was a teacher ... clients if the person was in business — the family, the grandmother, anybody they could send it to to humiliate the victim, who was usually female. That was the goal.”

Last month, in a victory for Woodland Hills resident Laws, who waged a two-year campaign to bring down the operation, Moore and an accomplice, Charlie Evens of Studio City, were indicted in federal court for allegedly hacking into emails and stealing sexually explicit pictures for use on the site.

According to federal prosecutors, many of the thousands of images were not voluntarily posted after all but rather obtained through email and social-media hacking. Others, victims allege, were not even of the person the site captioned. Instead, they were shown to be images Photoshopped to include their faces.

At first, Laws tried using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to get the site to remove her daughter's photo, because Kayla owned the copyright.

But Moore ignored her, so Laws tracked down dozens of mostly women across the country whose photos were on the site, including teachers who had been fired from their jobs after Moore and his followers sent the shots to school officials.

Laws finally called the FBI to detail her storage box filled with leads into what appeared to be a massive hacking scam targeting victims through Facebook and their Gmail and Yahoo email accounts.

After contacting Moore's manager (he is also a semiprofessional DJ) and lawyer and even the company hosting his website, eventually she got Kayla's photo taken down.

But Laws was not finished. She confronted Moore via video link during an episode of Dr. Drew Pinsky's HLN show, opening herself to online attacks from site supporters. She was hounded on Twitter, her computer was hacked and viruses sent to her computer.

In 2013, Moore opted out of his site, aware he was under investigation by the FBI. Then came the arrests.

Surprisingly, agents told Laws she herself had spoken to Evens two years earlier, when a photo of him appeared on the site — she had thought he was a possible victim who was not bothered by his posting.

Laws feels fundamentally changed by the experience. Last summer, she waded into the movement for a federal law criminalizing revenge-porn sites, of which there are hundreds. “That's why the criminal laws are so important — if you're really going to have a chance to deter these sites,” she said.

Kayla, too, has changed. She politely declined to be interviewed for this article and others, steers clear of all social media and no longer sees acting on the horizon.

California's law, authored by state Sen. Anthony Cannella, makes it a misdemeanor to take and post pictures of a sexual nature on the Internet with intent to harass the subject.

But Moore is not being prosecuted under the California statute. Instead, prosecutors have opted for felony charges for their roles in hacking into email accounts.

Another high-profile revenge-porn case in San Diego County also sidestepped the misdemeanor law. Kevin Christopher Bollaert, 27, is charged with conspiracy, identity theft and extortion for allegedly operating the revenge-porn site, as well as a companion site that offered to get the photos taken down — for a fee.

Cannella, R-Ceres, is already working on an expansion of his bill.

“I was proud to have authored this year's legislation criminalizing revenge porn,” he said in a written statement. ”I recognized that more could be done to protect a larger number of victims so I will present new legislation this upcoming session so the law will apply to anyone who distributes revenge porn regardless of who took the photo.”

Moore is slated to appear in a federal court in Los Angeles Feb. 7, and the trial of Moore and Evens is slated for spring.



Lemont woman shares story of sex abuse survival with new book


LEMONT – Lemont resident Judy Ferraro is known to family, friends and colleagues as a successful businesswoman with an energetic personality.

She has worked for years in the recycling industry, consulted as a business trainer and even performed as a comedian with Second City and Improv Olympic.

But until recently, few people knew she was a sexual abuse survivor.

Ferraro has written a book titled “If I Catch You, I Will Kill You,” recounting her sexual abuse by a neighbor that started at age five and how it has affected her life and relationships.

Ferraro said it was not until she was an adult that she told anyone about the abuse and that it was years after that until she went to therapy to help with the healing process.

She said even now it can be hard to talk about.

“It makes people feel uncomfortable, and people who are abused don't like anyone to feel uncomfortable,” she said.

Ferraro said she was driven to write the book after watching an episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” where actress Mackenzie Phillips talked about her own childhood abuse.

“When I talked to other people, they were saying things like, ‘Oh she was doing that for monetary gain' or that ‘she was screwed up,' ” she said. “Nobody really understood why she was doing that, but I totally understood why she was doing that.”

Ferraro said that when a follow up episode featured people saying Phillips was lying, she became angry.

“To be abused is betrayal itself,” she said. “But to tell somebody and them not validating or saying ‘I understand you, I'm sorry' and talk to you a little about it is another betrayal – sometimes worse than the abuse itself.”

As a columnist for an industry magazine, she used her emotions as a catalyst to write about her experience.

“Immediately, it was a book,” she said. “When I started writing, I titled the chapters.”

Ferraro said she has found strength in telling her story and has given strength to others as well.

“I said when I started writing this ‘If I could help 10 people, I'd be happy,'” she said. “I have already touched at least 100 that I know of.”

Ferraro recently spoke at an event for the Northern Region Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Coalition.

Jennifer Samartano, a prevention specialist with Prevent Child Abuse Illinois, said those in the audience were moved by her story.

“I personally am inspired by Judy just by her telling her story, which is so helpful,” she said.

Ferraro said speaking to crowds about her sexual abuse in a way that is not uncomfortable is difficult.

“I can get up and do improv in front of a hundred people,” she said. “But Wednesday (at the meeting) I was a little nervous.”

Ferraro lives with her husband of 20 years and 19-year-old son. She attends Christ Community Church.

She said her book is not something a lot of people in Lemont know about. But those she has told – such as Lemont Police Sgt. Therese Thompson, who she mentions in the book – have responded positively.

“I've had a lot of support from people in the community as I was writing the book and discussing it,” she said.


Buy the book

Judy Ferraro's book, "If I Catch You, I Will Kill You" is available at Anderson's Book Shop in Naperville and at, as both a book and a Kindle download.



Royal commission into child abuse hears that serial child abuser Gerard Byrnes was kept on teaching staff at Toowoomba school

by Michael Madigan

A QUEENSLAND Catholic school kept a serial child abuser on staff, disciplining him only with a letter and rehiring him a month after he retired.

The national child abuse inquiry was yesterday told the abuse escalated after the principal was first made aware of the behaviour and elected to handle the matter internally.

Thirteen girls were raped and molested by Gerard Vincent Byrnes before he was arrested.

Sitting in Brisbane for the first time yesterday, the inquiry heard how complaints were not investigated despite approved protocols in place for dealing with sexual abuse claims.

The events occurred within the last decade.

Royal commission chief executive Janette Dines labelled the case “confronting” because it was so recent and protocols did not protect the children from the attack.

“And in this case, the abuse not just continued, but escalated after the first complaints were made,” she said.

The school's “student protection officer” and principal were told of the claims, but the abuse continued, the inquiry heard.

Even after Byrnes retired, the school, which cannot be named, rehired him as a relief teacher a month later, during which time Byrnes went on to commit a further three offences.

Byrnes was jailed for 10 years after pleading guilty to 33 counts of indecent dealing with children under 12, 10 counts of rape and one count of maintaining a sexual relationship with a child under 12.

The commission heard how the principal was made aware of the accusations when a victim's dad spoke up.

The school disciplined Byrnes with a letter, the inquiry was told, to which Byrnes responded in writing, admitting he handed out sweets and hugged children, but had done no wrong.

The abuse continued until he retired.

Just one month later, the school re-employed Byrnes as a relief teacher.

The hearing was told a father blew the whistle after his daughter complained Byrnes was touching children inappropriately.

The father told the principal of the accusations and believed the matter would be dealt with.

It was a year later that a mother was approached by her molested daughter.

She went to the police the next day.

The commission yesterday heard from the parents of victims, who told how their lives had been affected.

A mother told the inquiry that after police swooped on the teacher, the Catholic Education Office and the school denied any prior knowledge of the abuse.

“I found out later, through media reports and court processes, that this was not even true – (the principal) was aware of complaints about Mr Byrnes for over a year but did not report them,'' the mother told the inquiry by videolink. “A report should have been made to the police straight after the first complaint was made.

“If this had happened, (my daughter) and the other girls would not have been abused.''

Another mother told the hearing how she saw her child began to change rapidly at the time of the offence, with a dull complexion, sunken eyes and loss of appetite.

The primary school girl would also often take off her clothes and shower when she arrived home from school.

“When I tried to talk to her or question her she would only reply, I am OK'' the mother told the inquiry.

When the mother noticed her child had bruising and bleeding around the genitals she became concerned.

The girl said she had fallen over, but her mother did not believe her.

Her daughter told her the parents of another child had made a complaint children were being molested, but nothing was done.

The child asked: “What can the police do?''

The child also told her mother she did not want to talk to the police because she was scared of the Catholic Church.

The hearing continues today.


ONE of the staff who was told of abuse complaints against Gerard Vincent Byrnes told the inquiry she did not understand why the victims “did not have the courage to come forward”.

Catherine Long, the student protection officer at the Toowoomba school, spent several hours in the dock yesterday, explaining why more was not done to investigate Byrnes when questions were raised about his behaviour years ago.

Ms Long suggested the victims could have done more to bring Byrnes to the notice of authorities.

“I don't get that our children, with all of the student protection and everything else we have, didn't have the courage to come forward,'' she told the inquiry.

“They didn't speak to us, the people they knew and trusted supposedly, they couldn't talk to their parents, and you heard their mums today, they still haven't spoken up.”

Ms Long said she took notes when the school principal was first told of Byrnes' habit of putting his hand under girls' shirts, and followed protocols set out in the school's “Student Protection Risk Management Kit.”

But she admitted that when hearing the allegations against Byrnes she did not think of him as a pedophile, but as a teaching colleague.

“My mind went to the person in front of me and said: ‘I just don't get that (the allegations)','' she told the inquiry.

While the school and the Catholic Church had introduced far stricter protocols for dealing with sexual abuse since the 1990s, it was clear those protocols had failed in the Toowoomba matter, she said.

“Sadly – human nature – we fell down here perhaps, but we really did try and get the best advice we could,'' Ms Long said.