National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

child abuse trauma prevention, intervention & recovery


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

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

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

June, 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.

New York

Statute of Limitations
(SOL) Reform -

Bishops' lobbyist who blocks access to justice for child sex abuse victims year after year gets MJ for NY. When will Cuomo care about NY's kids and back SOL reform? - Marci Hamilton

New York to legalize medical marijuana under new deal, Kenneth Lovett, NY Daily News

ALBANY — New York is poised to become the 23rd state to legalize medical marijuana.

Under the deal Gov. Cuomo and legislative Democrats announced Thursday, patients won’t be able to smoke the drug — instead, they’ll have to ingest it as food or through vaporization, oils or pills.

Cuomo, citing the state’s efforts to combat smoking, would not sign off on a deal unless it contained the ban on puffing.

“Medical marijuana has the capacity to do a lot of good for a lot of people who are in pain and suffering,” Cuomo said.

“At the same time, medical marijuana is a difficult issue because there are risks to public health and safety that have to be averted. I believe this bill is the right balance,” he said.

The Assembly was scheduled to to pass the bill in the predawn hours Friday and the Senate is expected to vote on it later in the day.

The Senate sponsor, Diane Savino (D-Staten Island), gave in on the smoking ban.

“If that becomes the only thing that stands in the way, you can’t say no to that,” she said.

Cuomo, who pushed a more limited program in January, said he decided to support a broader bill after winning safeguards.

Among them is a provision that the governor can suspend the program at any time on the advice of the health commissioner or state police superintendent.

Critics fear the measure will lead to the legalization of recreational pot.

The bill allows medical marijuana to treat 10 serious illnesses and conditions, including cancer, HIV and AIDS, Lou Gehrig’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases, epilepsy, some spinal cord injuries and multiple sclerosis.

Only doctors will be able to prescribe the drug, and they will have to be trained and certified by the state. Patients will have to register with the state.

The bill makes it a felony for a doctor to knowingly prescribe medical marijuana to someone not eligible.

The law won’t go into effect for at least 18 months as the Department of Health develops regulations on dosage amounts, certifies doctors and licenses five organizations to grow and distribute the medical marijuana.

Assembly bill sponsor Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan), who has pushed the issue for nearly two decades, hailed the victory.

“If the patient and physician agree that a severe debilitating or life-threatening condition should be treated with medical marijuana, it is cruel for government to stand in the way,” Gottfried said.



Statute of Limitations (SOL) Reform - www.sol

Hawaii's Gov. Neil Abercrombie signs 16 bills addressing prostitution, energy and sex abuse

by Cathy Bussewitz, The Associated Press

HONOLULU — Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed 16 bills into law Friday afternoon on proposals ranging from modernizing the electric grid to stopping police officers from having sex with prostitutes in the line of duty.

Several of the proposals dealt with protecting children from harm and restoring justice to victims of Internet crimes.

"The Legislature in this package has particularly focused in on crimes against humanity, particularly for those that are the most vulnerable, and for that reason I'm pleased to be able to put this together ... and sign all the bills," Abercrombie said in a ceremony Friday afternoon.

The bills also address emergency management and energy conservation.

The deadline for the governor to sign bills is July 8. But the governor has to let the Legislature know by June 23 if he plans to veto any bills.

Here's a sampling of the bills that the governor signed into law:

— COP SEX: An unusual law allowed police officers to have sex with prostitutes in the course of investigations. But the bill (HB 1926) changes the law so that police can still solicit sex, but cannot engage in sexual penetration or sadomasochistic abuse on the job.

— CHILD SEX ABUSE: A pair of proposals lengthen the amount of time victims of child sex abuse have to file claims. One bill (SB 2687) extends the amount of time that victims of child sexual abuse have to file civil lawsuits until 2016 if the date of their claim had already passed the statute of limitations. A flurry of lawsuits had been filed before a deadline. Another bill (HB 2034) removes the statute of limitations on filing criminal child sex abuse claims for continuous abuse or abuse in the first and second degrees.

— ELECTRIC GRID: One proposal (HB 1943) will modernize Hawaii's electrical system to ensure that customers producing energy through solar panels or other means could connect to the electric grid. Hawaii residents had clamored for solutions after installing costly solar arrays that could not be connected to the state electricity system.

— REVENGE PORN: Photos have a way of lingering on the Internet, but prosecutors in Hawaii rallied to protect those who are victims of angry exes. The bill (HB 1750) makes it illegal to post a nude photo without the subject's permission. It targets those who post pictures with the intent of ruining the careers, reputations or relationships of the people depicted.

— EMERGENCY RESPONSE: A proposal (HB 849) aims to protect Hawaii residents during emergencies and natural disasters. It clears up who's responsible for what when a disaster occurs.


Cathy Bussewitz can be reached on Twitter at



Statute of Limitations (SOL) Reform
- www.sol

Massachusetts bill innovative and great for survivors

The MA bill is innovative and great for survivors of incest and any survivor up to age 53 intent on suing their perpetrator.

Once the Governor signs the bill, every survivor of sexual abuse in the state of Massachusetts will be able to file a civil lawsuit, whether or not their SOL already expired, up to age 53. It is a retroactive extension to age 53.

It is not as good for clergy sex abuse victims. Why? Because it was brokered with the Catholic bishops, who gave in some, but once again threw their own victims under the bus.

Survivors will also be able to sue institutions responsible for their abuse, but only up to discovery plus 7 years.  This is also retroactive and also a significant extension. It is still not as good as the provision for suits against perpetrators.

Cardinal O'Malley and the bishops of Massachusetts at least ceased blocking SOL reform for all victims, as they had in the past.




Resources lacking to stop sex trafficking

by Margeaux Gray

If there is a common thread between my own nearly 15-year ordeal as a trafficking victim and the state of sex trafficking and modern slavery today, it is an agonizing sense of missed opportunities.

As a young child here in Kentucky, my nightmare began when I was first auctioned off to a willing buyer and sexually abused. That scenario played out repeatedly in hotel rooms and private homes until I finally escaped at age 18 — far too late to prevent numerous mental and physical health problems.

During those years, many adults might have intervened, but didn't: doctors who failed to ask the right questions, friends and family who missed the signs, teachers who weren't informed enough to notice. But the trafficking and sexual abuse of a child is so hard to fathom that I can almost understand their inability to grasp what was happening. Almost.

But there was one inexcusable missed opportunity. At some point in my tweens or early teens, a concerned individual reported to Child Protective Services their suspicion that I was being abused. I was called to an office, interviewed by a caseworker, and that was it.

My primary memory of that experience is being coached and threatened by my trafficker, who told me I would be removed from my family and friends and locked in jail if I did not respond correctly to questions. I remember feeling terrified, guilty and nervous when I walked into the impersonal CPS office, spoke with a caseworker, and denied being abused.

In hindsight, I realize that the caseworker had inadequate training and experience with trafficking, and was incapable of picking up on any telltale cues I may have communicated. There was no follow-up from CPS. The failure of a system that exists to protect me resulted in my being sold and raped countless times in the following years. I still struggle with my personal experience.

At this stage of my recovery, however, I try to focus on the here and now, and on working to prevent human trafficking. Therefore, it is extremely frustrating — enraging, even — that the system is still failing young trafficking victims today.

In Kentucky, at least 101 victims of human trafficking have been identified, 44 of them children, according to a January 2013 fact sheet from Rescue and Restore, based in Louisville. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center's 2012 annual report documented 345 calls from Kentucky, with a majority of the cases dealing with sex trafficking.

Last August, the University of Kentucky Center on Drug and Alcohol Research Center on Trauma and Children released "Sex Trafficking of Minors in Kentucky," a survey of Kentucky professionals' awareness, knowledge and experiences working with youth victims of sex trafficking.

The report found, among other things, that no single agency is equipped to respond adequately to trafficking victims' needs, professionals who are likely to encounter at-risk youth and crime victims need specialized training, and Kentucky lacks a specialized, long-term shelter for youth exploited in commercial sex. At the national level, research shows that children in the child welfare system are actually the most vulnerable to falling prey to traffickers.

The U.S. State Department last week released its annual Trafficking in Persons Report, which ranks countries based on whether and how well they are addressing modern slavery. The United States currently has the best possible Tier 1 status, which means we must comply with the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and demonstrate "appreciable progress in combating trafficking."

What opportunities are we missing?

Certainly, we need to treat trafficking victims as victims and offer shelter and long-term support and services that will allow them to fully recover from their trauma. It is ironic that I received no support after escaping, though I eventually found assistance for post-traumatic stress disorder and then blindness — both of which were the direct result of being trafficked.

Too many trafficking victims do not receive emergency services like beds, medical care and the psychological services necessary to protect them from further vulnerability and victimization. Nationally, a Polaris Project survey found only 529 beds exclusively designated for human trafficking survivors, and 28 states don't have any at all.

All of this comes down to resources, and the U.S. government must invest more resources to ensure trafficking victims receive the emergency and long-term support they need and deserve to fully recover. President Barack Obama recently signed an omnibus budget that included a 41 percent increase in funding for Department of Health and Human Services victims services programs. While it's a positive step, it won't be enough.

I cannot abide the fact that thousands of children every year are so completely betrayed by society and a system that should be protecting, defending and uplifting them. I cannot abide anymore wrong questions or missed signs. We must learn to identify and seize upon our opportunities to recognize and support America's trafficked children.


Child abuse 'has serious consequences for brain development'

by Honor Whiteman

A new study recently published in the American Journal of Psychiatry has found an association between child abuse and the reduction of gray matter in the brain that is responsible for information processing.

Child abuse, also referred to as child maltreatment, describes all forms of physical and emotional abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, negligence and any other exploitation that harms the health, development, dignity or survival of a child under the age of 18 years.

The World Health Organization (WHO) state that worldwide, around 20% of women and 5-10% of men report being sexually abused as children, while 23% of individuals report being physically abused during childhood.

Past research has established that child abuse can lead to alterations in brain structure. But the team involved in this latest study, including Joaquim Radua, a researcher at FIDMAG Sisters Hospitallers Foundation for Research and Teaching in Spain, says neuroimaging studies investigating the extent of these alterations have been "inconsistent."

With this in mind, the researchers set out to see just how much child maltreatment influences brain structure.

Findings show 'serious consequences of child abuse on brain development'

The team analyzed the data of 12 studies that used voxel-based morphometry (VBM) - a neurorimaging method that assesses differences in brain anatomy between two groups of individuals.

The studies included 56 children or adolescents and 275 adults with a history of childhood abuse, as well as 56 children and 306 adults who had not been exposed to childhood maltreatment.

Using a 3D meta-analytical neuroimaging technique created by Radua - called "signed differential mapping" - the team was able to determine the volumes of gray matter in each individual.

They found that the individuals who had been exposed to childhood maltreatment had much smaller volumes of gray matter in certain brain areas, compared with those who had no history of child abuse.

In detail, those who had a history of child abuse had reduced gray matter in their the right orbitofrontal/superior temporal gyrus, amygdala, the parahippocampal and middle temporal gyri and the left inferior frontal and post central gyri.

The team notes that the most consistent reduction of gray matter volume among those exposed to child abuse was in the ventrolateral prefrontal and limbic-temporal regions - areas linked to cognitive control.

Since these brain regions develop relatively late - after the child abuse may have occurred - the team says this may explain why some victims of child abuse typically have compromised cognitive control.

In addition, the team found that reductions in gray matter in the right orbitofrontal-temporal-limbic and left inferior frontal regions of those with a history of child abuse remained even among those who were unmedicated, "indicating that these abnormalities were not related to medication but to maltreatment," says Radua.

Radua comments further: "These findings show the serious consequences of adverse childhood environments on brain development. We hope the results of this study will help to reduce environmental risks during childhood and to develop treatments to stabilize these morphologic alterations."

In 2012, Medical News Today reported on a position statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which states that mental abuse in young children can be just as damaging as physical abuse.



Voice of The Southern: Child abuse -- recognize and report

Child abuse is a complicated problem, one that impacts Southern Illinois at an alarming rate. Yet stopping it isn't as simple as convincing an abuser they shouldn't abuse. There's no magic wand to make it go away.

It's not an issue between one person and one child. It's not strictly a family issue. And it's more than just another crime.

A child welfare symposium last week at SIU looked at the region's incidence of child abuse. Data indicates the number of Southern Illinois children in the child welfare system has increased in recent years, even as the numbers improved for the densely populated Chicago metropolitan area.

The symposium conducted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute ended with a call to action for those in attendance -- representatives of law enforcement, education, social services and the legislature. But it's not only their job; the complicated problem of child abuse needs the attention of all caring people. Suspicions of child abuse must be reported and investigated.

Unfortunately, child abuse can be tough to detect. And there are different types of abuse.

Physical and sexual abuse are the most noticeable, but it's not always easy to recognize the differences between marks left by abuse from those left by accidents or play. Recognizing sexual abuse is more about taking note of a child's changing actions, words or general disposition. This also can be difficult.

The third major type of abuse is emotional, which is the most difficult to detect. Excessive verbal assaults, unpredictable responses, continual negative moods and constant family discord can be considered emotional abuse.

Children become targets because they are seen as weak, defenseless and unwilling to seek help. It's up to responsible adults to recognize abuse and report it.

We live in a society where some people ignore what's happening next door or in front of them. We might witness abuse or the warning signs, yet look the other way.

"It's none of my business," we might say. "I'm sure there's a good explanation," we might rationalize.

A child needs someone to speak up for them. A child needs an advocate.

Teachers, doctors, law enforcement, parents and other guardians are normally looked to as these advocates. They are the ones most closely tied to protecting children, and most take the role of advocate very seriously.

Still, protecting children is a responsibility shared by every member of society.

Southern Illinois' child abuse problem is worse than the rest of the state. It's a reason for shame. Most local counties are included in the 50 with the highest rates of child abuse.

Our top priority must be to work toward prevention and reacting in the proper manner. By increasing our awareness, we can work toward prevention. We must increase education and get that education to those who need it most.

There are a number of laws and organizations in place to protect our children. Those organizations, such as DCFS, need information before acting. Reporting issues we see and hear is the best way to give law enforcement and child advocates a way to remove a child from an abusive situation. It's also the first step in prosecuting, and hopefully rehabilitating, abusers.

Children are reliable sources of information. When they say something that makes your ears perk up, take note. They will reach out for help, and it's up to adults to take action.

Don't be afraid to file a report. It is your business. It's all of our business. Trust your instincts.

If you think a child is being abused, call your police department or the state's Child Abuse Hotline at 800-252-2873. Don't look the other way; report you suspicions. Our children are counting on you to get involved.


United Kingdom

UN warns Britain over child voodoo rituals, pedophile sex tourists

Hundreds of children are being kidnapped in Africa and bought to the UK for voodoo rituals, a UN watchdog said, also voicing alarm about the number of British pedophiles who prey on children abroad.

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) urged Britain to do more to stop this brutal form of people trafficking.

“We're concerned about reports that hundreds of children have been abducted from their families in Africa and trafficked to the UK, especially London, for religious rituals,” Kirsten Sandberg, head of the CRC and a former Norwegian Supreme Court judge, said Thursday.

She said that trafficking for rituals was part of a wider problem where thousands of minors are brought to the UK, who end up being child prostitutes or being sexually exploited.

The CRC advised that Britain should “strengthen the capacity of law-enforcement authorities and judiciary to detect and prosecute trafficking of children for labor, sexual and other forms of exploitation, including for religious rituals.”

There have been numerous cases of children who have been brought to the UK from Africa and suffered torture and abuse, often as part of witchcraft rituals, AFP reports.

Victoria Climbie from the Ivory Coast was killed by her own relatives in 2000, who thought she was a witch.

More recently, in March 2012, Eric Bikubi and Magalie Bamu, both from the Democratic Republic of Congo, who moved to London, were found guilty of murdering Magalie's teenage brother, Kirsty.

The prosecution argued that Bikubi had a “profound and disturbing” belief in witchcraft and although the defense said that Bikubi was suffering from schizophrenia, the judge sentenced both defendants to life in prison.

A year later the Metropolitan Police found the dismembered corpse of a Nigerian boy in the River Thames, who they believed was a victim of a ritual.

The CRC also warned about the number of British pedophiles who travel abroad – most notably to Southeast Asia, particularly Cambodia and Thailand, for sex with children. Orphanages were a favored destination where sex predators could pick on vulnerable kids.

“There are continued reports that United Kingdom citizens, including some convicted sex offenders, set up charities or travel abroad, where they sexually abuse children,” Sandberg said.

She called on the British government to get its act together to toughen identification, investigation and prosecution of British citizens involved in such crimes, as well making sure convicted and known pedophiles do not travel abroad.

The UK government has said that new orders can now be applied to individuals who are deemed to pose a risk of sexual harm, even if they have never been convicted.

A national group led by the Home Office will look at ways the police and other agencies can better detect and combat sex offenders.

“Our two new civil prevention orders will make it easier to restrict the movement and activities of anyone who poses a risk of causing sexual harm to children and adults – not just those who have been convicted of sexual offences,” Norman Baker, the crime prevention minister, said in a statement.

A BBC journalist posing as a children's trafficker trawled the bars and cafés of the Kampala underworld in Uganda in 2011. He found a kidnapper who boasted he could “offer as many children as required” without the police knowing for $15,600 a child.


U.S. human trafficking report drops four nations to lowest tier

by Leif Coorlim

Washington -- After several years of what it calls broken promises, the U.S. government has singled out Thailand, Malaysia, The Gambia and Venezuela for taking insufficient action against human trafficking.

In its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, released Friday, the State Department downgraded the four nations to Tier 3, the lowest possible ranking it gives for a country's response to fighting modern-day slavery.

The report says there is evidence of forced labor and sex trafficking in Malaysia and Thailand. It highlights Malaysia's problem with migrants from other Asian nations who seek work on farms, factories and construction sites only to be trapped and have their passports taken and wages withheld.

In Thailand, the report says, tens of thousands of migrants from neighboring countries are being exploited in the commercial sex industry, on fishing boats or as domestic servants.

And in Venezuela, women and girls are often lured from poor interior regions to tourist centers with the promise of false job offers. When they arrive, they are often forced into prostitution.

The report ranks governments based on their perceived efforts to acknowledge and combat human trafficking, advance reforms and target resources for prevention, protection and prosecution programs.

It divides nations into three tiers based on their compliance with 11 "minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking."

-- Tier 1 countries include governments fully compliant with the minimum standards.

-- Tier 2 countries don't fully comply, but are making significant efforts to do so. (A Tier 2 Watch List includes countries with a high number of victims, or where the numbers are significantly increasing. It also includes countries where there's insufficient evidence of acceptable efforts to improve anti-trafficking programs).

-- Tier 3 countries do not fully comply with the minimum standards and have not shown the U.S. they are making significant efforts to do so.

A Tier 3 status can also mean less money as the U.S. government may use the designation to withhold or withdraw assistance that is unrelated to trade or humanitarian aid. Those countries could also face U.S. opposition in obtaining development aid from international financial institutions like the World Bank or International Monetary Fund.

More than 20 million people worldwide are believed to be ensnared in some form of human trafficking, according to the International Labour Organization.

Luis CdeBaca, ambassador-at-large of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, cited Thailand and Malaysia's repeated noncompliance in meeting minimum anti-trafficking standards.

"Malaysia continues to have a victim care regime that basically locks up the victims," Cdebaca said.

"In Thailand, we have a lot of beginnings that will hopefully come to fruition, but the report doesn't look at promises. It looks at results."

In Venezuela, women and girls are often lured from poor interior regions to tourist centers with the promise of false job offers. When they arrive, they are often forced into prostitution.

Four other countries had faced possible downgrades to Tier 3 -- Afghanistan, Barbados, Chad and the Maldives.

Cdebaca said each of those demonstrated over the past year that their governments were serious about stopping human trafficking.

"In Afghanistan, for the first time now, we're seeing 14 traffickers were convicted. We're even seeing the conviction of soldiers," says Cdebaca.

While the United States puts itself in the Tier 1 category, the State Department acknowledges its own problems fighting trafficking, something that hadn't been done in the report until 2010.

This year's report highlights several new groups within the U.S. that may be vulnerable to traffickers, including teens living on Native American reservations and members of the LGBT community.

Other Tier 3 countries are Algeria; Central African Republic; Cuba; Democratic Republic of Congo; Equatorial Guinea; Eritrea; Guinea-Bissau; Iran; Kuwait; Libya; Mauritania; North Korea; Papua New Guinea; Russia; Saudi Arabia; Syria; Uzbekistan; Yemen; and Zimbabwe.



Kasich signs law against human trafficking

by Alan Johnson

What began eight years ago as a lonely battle against human trafficking by a single state legislator erupted into a crescendo of support yesterday as Gov. John Kasich signed a law aimed at reducing the demand for sex-for-sale.

Rep. Teresa Fedor, D-Toledo, prime sponsor of the bill and author of three previous anti-trafficking laws, called it “a great day for freedom.” She said it was as revolutionary as women winning the right to vote because it helps restore dignity to girls and women previously labeled as prostitutes.

“We blamed the women. It was their fault. They were bad people,” Fedor said. “Now, women are not objectified. They are not criminalized.”

Known as the End Demand Act, House Bill 130 boosts

penalties for paying for sex with minors to a third or fifth-degree felony from a first-degree misdemeanor. It also bans advertisement of sex for sale depicting a minor; severs parental rights for people found guilty of trafficking their children or others; and limits suggestive advertising for “massages” and related services.

Significantly, the new law means prosecutors can automatically charge someone with human trafficking who pays for sex with a minor younger than 16 or who is developmentally disabled. Before, they had to prove the minor was compelled to engage in prostitution to make the charge stick.

A state report indicated that more than 1,000 juveniles are trafficked in Ohio each year, most of them females. Thousands more youths are at risk, especially runaways. The average age when a child is first trafficked is 12 to 14.

At first, Fedor had trouble getting her legislative colleagues to pay attention, much less pass legislation, about her concerns that Ohio children were being forced into the sex-for-sale business. Many simply didn't believe that such things happened in Ohio.

But Fedor, a former schoolteacher, stuck with it, eventually gaining the support of fellow lawmakers, as well as Kasich and Attorney General Mike DeWine, both Republicans.

It was a much different scene yesterday at the “Unlocking the Chains” human-trafficking conference at the ODOT Hilltop Conference Center, 1980 W. Broad St., where Kasich, after signing the bill, received a standing ovation from an auditorium jammed with legislators, social workers, law enforcement and supporters. The annual conference is sponsored by the Central Ohio Rescue and Restore Coalition and the Salvation Army.

In the audience was Judge Gregory Singer of Dayton, who on Tuesday will inaugurate a new “women's therapeutic docket” in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court. It is modeled after Judge Paul Herbert's “Changing Actions to Change Habits” Court in Franklin County Municipal Court. Like Herbert, Singer will focus on sex-trafficking, addiction, mental-health and related issues. He said 30 to 35 women will be on the first docket.

Kasich praised a committed army of volunteers across the state for pushing the fight against human trafficking, even when elected officials weren't responding at first.

“They said ‘I'm not going to wait for the government. I'm not going to wait for a police officer. I'm going to do something to make a difference in somebody's life.'?”

Michelle Hannan of the Salvation Army said with the help of new state laws and scrutiny by law enforcement, “We are getting fairly proficient at identifying American-born female trafficking victims.” But she said there is work to be done to help “even more marginalized victims,” including males, foreign nationals and gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.

Trafficking victims can get help by calling 614 285-4357 in Ohio or the national hotline at 1-888-3737-888.

Information is available online at


Immigrant kids detained in warehouse of humanity

by Michael Kiefer

NOGALES, Ariz. — The scene looks like a warehouse of humanity.

And that's exactly what it is.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has been transporting migrant children apprehended Texas here since June 6, then shipping them on to military bases in California, Oklahoma and Texas. The agency would not say exactly how many unaccompanied minors are being housed in this large facility near the U.S.-Mexico border, but the Guatemalan consulate said in the first week more than 1,000 were there, most from Central America.

The number changes daily, and more than 47,000 migrant kids primarily from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador have entered the country and been caught since Oct. 1.

The children — all younger than 18 — sit in fenced off areas or lie on mattresses placed on up against the other with a look of intense boredom on their faces. They are divided in holding areas by age and gender.

This is the makeshift way station set up in a Border Patrol detention facility here. Officials are grappling with a surge of unaccompanied minors apprehended crossing the border illegally in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.

Border Patrol isn't the only government agency on site. The Federal Emergency Management Agency now is running the entire operation.

At 11 a.m. MST Wednesday, they briefly opened the center up to the media.

The facility itself is enormous, about the size of a football field.

It has 18-foot-high chain-link fences topped with razor wire dividing the children by age and gender, one area for kids 12 and younger, areas each for boys and girls ages 13 to 15, and still more for boys and girls ages 16 and 17. Nylon tarps tied to the fences provide a modicum of privacy between the groups.

The area for 13- to 15-year-old boys appeared to be the largest. A very pregnant teen sat rubbing her belly in the area for 16- and 17-year-old girls.

The entire facility has the feel of the livestock areas at a state fair. Inside it smells of feet, sweat and straw.

But as sad as it is, the children are clothed and fed. They are clean. and the federal Public Health Service is on site conducting medical examinations and giving vaccinations.

Pallets of water, cans of beans, bedding and clothing are available. Officials are doing their best to accommodate dietary needs; Central Americans don't eat flour, so they substituted corn tortillas.

Once every other day, the children here get to go outside for recreation in the hot summer Arizona sun where highs are expected to be 90 degrees Wednesday but 101 degrees by Saturday. A basketball hoop is available, but most just sit and talk.

After recreation, they go to the showers in the large trailers backed up by FEMA to the doors of the facility.

Then they sit, passing the hours until it's their turn to leave.


Media in Central America to migrants: Don't go to U.S.

by Bob Ortega

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador -- The news vendor threaded her way through a traffic-snarled boulevard in this humid, tropical city, hawking tabloid papers. The message she carried was clear:

"The U.S. will not give asylum to migrant children," blared Thursday's front page of La Prensa Grafica , one of the largest papers in El Salvador.

Other newspapers sported similar headlines. It has been all but impossible in this country in recent days to look at a newspaper, listen to the radio or watch a TV newscast without hearing this message. The same message that Vice President Joe Biden delivered in Guatemala City on Friday at a meeting with leaders from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico.

Much of this past week, evening newscasts either led with or prominently featured reports that minors apprehended in the United States would be deported back to El Salvador. In neighboring Honduras and Guatemala, too, recent news coverage could scarcely have stated more clearly that the U.S. government says it will deport migrant children who cross the border illegally.

Over the past eight months, the Border Patrol has apprehended more than 47,000 unaccompanied minors crossing the border from Mexico, most of them into Texas' Rio Grande Valley. Roughly three-fourths of them have come from Honduras, Guatemala or El Salvador. Their numbers have jumped tenfold from three years ago.

Some critics have blamed the surge on President Obama's support for immigration reform and other measures. They argue that extensive reporting and misreporting in Central America on his position in effect encouraged families here to think that if their children made it across the border, they would be able to stay in the United States.

On June 6, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said Obama's policies had caused a change in migrants' behavior.

"We're seeing on the border … a humanitarian crisis that is a direct consequence" he said, of what he called Obama's "lawlessness."

Deportees, would-be migrants and those who work with them here say otherwise.

"I don't see any evidence to back up that argument," said Elizabeth Kennedy, a Fulbright scholar who has conducted more than 400 interviews in El Salvador in her research on child migration.

"That's not what's causing people to go," she said. "The primary cause for children leaving is because they don't feel safe here."

Throughout El Salvador, from youths in gang-infested neighborhoods to people in official positions, there has been a lack of knowledge about the details of how the U.S. immigration system functions, Kennedy said. But she said that out of all the interviewees, only one child brought up immigration reform or the possibility of being eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows some kids brought to the U.S. illegally to delay deportation.

In San Salvador's Zacamil neighborhood, graffiti for the Calle 18 and rival Mara Salvatrucha gangs are sprayed on mildewed concrete-block walls and telephone poles. Gang lookouts, often teenagers, squat on street corners, watching who comes and goes.

Federico Rivera, a local community leader, said he has seen lots of news about the child migrants, especially recently.

"I think there was something about the possibility that they could stay," he said. "I don't remember if it was just temporary or what."

But Rivera, too, said that it isn't U.S. policies, whatever they are, that matter or that lead people to leave.

"It's the fear of violence," he said.

Every day's news is full of reports of gang murders, many of them of youths and students who refused to join a gang or otherwise crossed one. During the first two weeks in June, the Salvadoran Federal Police reported an average of 12 murders a day.

In the waiting room at a government center for returned deportees sent back from Mexico, 38 people — mothers with babies, unaccompanied teens, families with four and five children — sat waiting one recent afternoon to be processed and sent back to their towns and neighborhoods.

A few said they were hoping to find work and a better future in the U.S. Most said they were fleeing because of threats from gangs. Not one cited the prospect of gaining asylum or permission to stay legally as a reason for going to the United States.

"I was going there because I have family in Maryland," 17-year-old Luis Fernando Hueca said.

If he had family in a closer country, say Mexico or Costa Rica, he would have gone there, instead, he said.

Several people who work with migrants say Central American news coverage of the surge across the U.S. border ramped up significantly starting June 2, when Obama declared the rising flow of child migrants to be a humanitarian crisis.

That reporting may make the situation clearer for those who follow the news closely, but in the end, "coverage of U.S. policies doesn't really factor into people's decisions on whether to go or not," said Allison Ramirez, an American who works on a U.S.-funded violence-prevention project in San Salvador. "It's a secondary or tertiary consideration, if it's one at all."



Woman recalls sexual, emotional, spiritual abuse she was too helpless to stop

Sexual trauma survivor shares story at Lubbock sex trafficking workshop

by Sarah Rafique

Charla Price retreated to the dirty clothes hamper.

As she played with her imaginary friends, she knew she was safe — safe from having sex with her grandmother, sister and cousins; safe from her dad forcing her to watch porn; safe from the sexual, emotional and spiritual abuse she was too helpless to stop.

“That's when I learned I wasn't worth anything. I wasn't worth standing up for,” Price of Dallas told a Lubbock audience Friday. “I'm disposable.”

By the time Price was 4 years old, she already had two surgeries due to sexual trauma and her front teeth were rotten because her grandmother replaced the milk in her bottles with cranberry juice to self-treat urinary tract infections.

“What was the pediatrician thinking when you have to go in and remove scar tissue out of the urethra of a small, small child because of damage done? What could have done that damage?” Price asked rhetorically. “He knew something and I look back and I'm real frustrated because I know that he had to have known something. ... Who knows what he was thinking. I know he wasn't thinking ‘I need to help this little girl.' ”

Price, a national certified interventionist who works with many organizations and survivors to advocate for an end to sex trafficking of minors and adults, shared her story during a Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Workshop at the MCM Elegante Hotel & Suites. She hopes the 168 physicians, social workers, emergency medical services responders and law enforcement officers in attendance learn from her story and don't look the other way.

According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, law enforcement agencies across the state received 174 calls about possible human trafficking cases last year.

“Out of all 254 counties in Texas, Lubbock has filed 25 percent of the sex trafficking cases,” said Leslie Timmons, community educator for Voice of Hope in Lubbock. “People in the community have to recognize it when they see it. It's not like what you see in the movies, like ‘Taken' and that kind of thing.”

Capt. Brian Baxter with the Texas Department of Safety's Criminal Investigation Division in San Angelo said it's important for everyone who attended the workshop to change the way they look at those involved with sex trafficking.

“We need to stop looking at it as arresting prostitutes and start looking at it as arresting pimps and rapists,” he said. “We can't punish the victim.”

The victim

Price had sex with her father to earn his love. She had sex with a boyfriend at 14 because he told her he loved her and she was beautiful. She's been having sex in exchange for love her whole life. And, even after seeking help, that hasn't changed.

“I have been unable, to this day, to have a healthy sexual relationship with anyone in my life because I can't differentiate are we doing this because we love each other or is this what I have to do to make you love me,” she said. “After all this time, I don't know how and no amount of counseling gives that to you. I don't know how you learn it. You learn it as a child by what you see.”

As a teen, Price hit her father's liquor cabinet, looking for an escape, convincing herself that as long as her mind wasn't present, this was not her life.

And when the liquor ran out, she went to the streets to self-medicate.

“I had so much anger and I really wanted to go out there and just be high until I die,” she said. “That was my answer to everything. I had lived through so much, so many things, so many bad relationships.”

While searching for drugs, Price found a group of people all living in one home.

They told her they loved her. They told her she was pretty. And soon, she was selling her body for sex.

“I wasn't pretty at all; I needed a bath. I knew this, but still I needed to hear those things,” she said. “Because I can disassociate, (it's like) I'm never really doing it.”

She searched for ways to feel normal — drug abuse, having children because her grandmother told her to and finding a career. But, it would only last so long.

For about three years at a time, Price got her life together. As soon as she felt herself going down the dark path again, she'd plead with herself, “Don't go. Don't go.”

“You cling onto anything you can, a man or something to bring you back, a knight in shining armor to come rescue you from your situation so you don't fall all the way down into that pit,” she said. “None of that saves you and all of a sudden you go down into a pit of despair.”


Although she tried to change, Price said she felt like someone marked her forehead with invisible ink that only predators could see. She was labeled as weak and worthless.

In 2007 — seven years after she left her human trafficking life behind — Price was victimized once again.

The man told her he loved her. But, this time, he wasn't asking for sex.

“The first thing he did was say, ‘Oh you were molested by your grandmother; I was molested by my grandfather,' I was like, ‘oh my gosh,' ” Price said. “For a survivor of incest, that's the ultimate, to find someone that you can relate to. ... I don't have to explain why I don't want to have sex right now because you're not treating me like a sex object.”

At first, the man treated her with respect and made a good impression on her family. But, eventually, he took advantage of her.

He used terror to get her to submit. He planted felonies all around her house and if she turned him in, she would go to jail too. After seeing him beat and nearly murder a woman in her own home, Price believed him.

He tried to set her on fire; he told her he would chop her daughter and mother into little pieces and burn them with acid so no one would ever find them. He told her he'd do the same with her, unless she did him certain favors.

“He's recreating everything I've been through before and I didn't even see it. This man turned on me,” she said. “He took my medication away for bipolar and PTSD. He sold my car. He turned the locks around on my door so he could lock me in and I couldn't go out. I became extremely paranoid and delusional. He destroyed everything that I loved — things that I spent years working for.”

Price eventually turned him in, but still she doesn't remember everything about her past — there's memories she's blocked out, memories that are so horrific she says God doesn't allow her to remember them.

But, there's one thing she doesn't want anyone to forget.

“I work in human trafficking now because I don't ever stop doing this. I don't ever want to stop telling you that it's real because you need to know that it's real,” she said. “It happens and it starts when you're just a little girl. Nobody wants to have this as a life. Nobody woke up and said, ‘When grow up; I want to be a prostitute.' ”

Decades later, Price misses her imaginary friends. They're all dead.

She has been divorced as many times as she's been married. And while she finds comfort in facing reality and helping other survivors, she's still struggling, all alone.

“From the heart of a survivor, I miss my imaginary friends,” she said. “They kept me alive for (all those) years.”


New York

Let's Transcend Petty Politics and Pass the TVJPA

by Hon. Judy Harris Kluger -- Executive Director, Sanctuary for Families

In the late 1980s, I was a judge on the New York City Criminal Court bench. Once a day, the women accused of prostitution would file in for their arraignments. "We're bringing in the prostitutes now," the court clerks would snicker, a contemptuous conflation of identity with crime that I never heard applied to men accused of murder, theft, or other criminal acts.

The women I saw were very young, often runaways, and many shared histories of sexual abuse. During the arraignments, a trickle of men would fill the back of the courtroom -- over time I understood they were pimps, present to post bail for the women under their control and send them back out to work on the street.

While in that courtroom, I came to two realizations: For these women, prostitution was not a choice, but an act of necessity and coercion -- sex trafficking. And because sex trafficking is an often misunderstood issue driven by complex criminal networks of pimps and johns, an effective response by government and law enforcement would be necessary to curtail the crime.

In the past few years, I witnessed tremendous changes in how our community understands and responds to sex trafficking. New York State in particular has been a leader in developing policies to combat its harmful effects.

No longer are children under the age of 16 subject to prosecution for prostitution -- thanks to New York's landmark Safe Harbor Law, the first of its kind when it was passed in 2008, we now recognize that children in prostitution are not criminals, but victims. More recently, the second Safe Harbor act extended additional protections to 16- and 17-year-olds.

No longer are women who have been charged with prostitution, many of whom were brought in to the life when they were too young to consent to sex with an adult, criminalized and re-victimized by the system. In the fall of 2013, New York announced the creation of the Human Trafficking Intervention Courts, an integrated court model that provides social services and legal counsel, rather than jail time, to help survivors build lives free from abuse and exploitation.

The strides forward have been tremendous -- but policies are rarely perfect, and over the course of time gaps have appeared. That is why anti-trafficking advocates in New York have coalesced around the proposed Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act (TVPJA).

The TVPJA would allow prosecutors to strengthen cases against traffickers by using wiretaps. It would remove deeply stigmatizing language from our criminal code that identifies individuals charged with prostitution as "prostitutes." It would establish sex trafficking as an affirmative defense to prostitution, encouraging defense counsel to bring trafficking concerns to the attention of prosecutors and courts. And critically, it would align the penalties with buying sex from a minor with the penalties for statutory rape, thus recognizing that exploiting a child for sex is child abuse.

Passing the TVPJA would guarantee the safety of so many women, men and children in New York, and bring us closer to eliminating the scourge of sex trafficking from our community. And yet, Albany gridlock has, per usual, held up our New York State legislators from passing the bill.

Thinking back to my early days on the bench, I am proud of how far we have come. From law enforcement to grassroots coalitions, survivors, activists and service providers, so many have galvanized around this issue and, along the way, drawn in critical research, funds and media attention. Now our New York State legislators have a responsibility to do their part and be leaders in ending sex trafficking -- by transcending petty politics and passing the TVPJA.


Paedophile use of dark net increases for child abuse images

by Barclay Ballard

Tens of thousands of paedophiles are using the dark net to circulate images of sexual abuse, according to a report by the BBC.

The National Crime Agency said that abusers were increasingly turning to encryption software to maintain anonymity. The dark net is a hidden part of the Internet which can only be accessed by special software, one of the most popular of which is the TorBrowser.

This enables people to use Tor, an "onion-routing" system, which bounces encrypted data through several randomly selected servers on the network, making a PC's net address untraceable.

Paedophiles are using the TorBrowser to access chat rooms where they circulate illegal images. One such site received up to 500 page views a second, and information suggests that British paedophiles are heavily involved in producing and sharing obscene images.

Many of the dark net sites cannot be accessed using a standard search engine, and so Tor, which was first developed by the US military, has to be used. It has also been known to have positive applications, particularly in parts of the world where oppressive regimes attempt to curtail free speech. During the Arab Spring, for example, activists used the TorBrowser to escape detection.

During the BBC investigation, the broadcaster contacted an active paedophile who ran one of the illegal chat rooms, until it closed in May 2014.

"We had over 40,000 user accounts on the site. We used to get sometimes 500 page views per second. My own collection is 12 gigabytes", he said.

Although undercover officers try to get the paedophiles to reveal their identities online, it is often a difficult process. Last November, Prime Minister David Cameron, held a summit on online safety in which he hoped spy agencies would co-operate with the police force to apprehend the abusers.

"That expertise is going to be brought to bear, to go after these revolting people sharing these images on the dark net", he said.

While the amount of child abuse imagery on the Internet is growing, the founder of, which reports on the dark net, stressed that the majority of users are "disgusted" by the paedophile sites. He added, "The deep web is still, just an open reflection of the real world thanks to its anonymous conduct, so this problem needs to be tackled in the real world.

"The deep web is nothing more than a peep hole into this unfortunate reality."




Give People A Way Off Child Abuse And Neglect Registry

Let people on list appeal their placement

Should those on the state's Child Abuse and Neglect Registry be allowed, after time has passed, to question whether they should still be so listed?

Yes, says the state Department of Children and Families, which maintains the registry. No, say several legislators, most notably Senate Minority Leader John McKinney of Fairfield and Sen. Michael McLachlan of Danbury.

The senators have asked Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to put an end to such appeals.

It is certainly true, as the senators and others argue, that the safety of children must be a top priority. But it's hard to see why it would be wrong to allow those listed to demonstrate, if they can, that they are no longer a threat to young people.

Some who were put on the registry before 2000 were not allowed to explain or defend themselves at the time; there was no due process. The procedure has since been changed.

And the abuse registry is separate from the sex offender registry. People convicted of nonviolent sexual offenses against minors are on that registry for 10 years; those convicted of violent sex offenses are on for life.

A bill involving the Child Abuse and Neglect Registry was considered by the legislature this year. The senators claim that after the bill went nowhere, DCF did an end run around lawmakers by implementing a hearing policy on its own.

Sen. McKinney said he thinks DCF Commissioner Joette Katz "exceeded her authority in making the policy change."

DCF flatly denies that there has been a policy change, arguing that existing state law, the Uniform Administrative Procedure Act, has for years provided a process for applying to be taken off the registry. DCF's appearance before the legislature was simply an effort to refine the process by setting a time limit for appeals, the department says.

Regardless of whether there has been a policy change, allowing hearings is both fair and reasonable.

Sen. McKinney is right that "those who beat children with belts, put cigarettes out on their bodies, lock them in closets or otherwise abuse and torment children should not be appeased."

But some people are on the registry because they had been negligent in the past — a mother had left her child with siblings too young for the responsibility, for example, or she was too impaired to care for her child. The number of cases of neglect far outnumber the number of cases of abuse and torture.

Being listed on the registry is often a barrier to many types of employment. If the DCF hearing board sets the bar high, but an applicant believes she can clear it — if, for example, she drank to excess but has been sober for years — that person should have a chance to be heard.,0,477854.story



Child Sex Abuse Survivor Reacts to Extension of Statute of Limitations

Survivors of child sexual abuse are applauding a bill that recently passed the Massachusetts House and Senate.

The bill extends the statute of limitations for victims to file lawsuits against their abusers.

Kathy Picard of Ludlow is one of the prime movers behind this latest piece of legislation. For a long time, she repressed her abuse and finally feels that now she can begin the healing process.

“Mine…it was a family member that sexually abused me at a young age,” Picard explains.

Picard became a victim of sexual abuse by a family member at the age of 7 and the abuse lasted ten years.

She repressed the abuse until she came forward 21 years later.

“It's impacted my life tremendously and it will always be a part of my life. Being a survivor of sexual abuse…it's something that is always going to be part of my life.”

Under the current law, the statute of limitations had run out for her to file a lawsuit in Massachusetts against her abuser.

“It wasn't until I was older – 28 years old – and once realizing that what had happened to me shouldn't have happened, I was too late to file suit, so I had missed the statute of limitations to go forward,” Picard adds.

But the Mass. House and Senate have unanimously passed a bill to extend by more than 30 years the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse.

Existing law gives victims until age 21 to file civil actions against their abusers. The new bill raises that age to 53 and that means Picard will now be able to take legal action against her abuser.

She says the healing process can now begin for her and says there are thousands of other sexual abuse victims across the state who may also behind their healing process.

“There are still people in the process of being healed, so I'm hoping that my case that will open the door and let others know they can go forward because the sooner they go forward it makes Massachusetts less victimized.”

The bill that passed unanimously in the House and Senate is now on the Governor's desk awaiting his signature.

Picard hopes that will come soon.

Picard intends to take legal action against her accuser, now that the statute of limitations has been extended. She and her lawyer told ABC40 that as soon as the bill is signed into law by the Governor, they will file their civil suit in federal court in Springfield.

On other note, Picard will ask the Governor for the pen he uses to sign the bill which she says it so vitally important for her healing process.



Voice Of Elmo Cleared In Child Sexual Abuse Case Due To Statute Of Limitations

by Ron Matz

BALTIMORE (WJZ)– There are new developments in the child sexual abuse lawsuit against Kevin Clash, the puppeteer known for voicing the Sesame Street character Elmo.

The lawsuit against Clash, 53, was dismissed by the U.S. District judge in Pennsylvania on Thursday.

The judge ruled it had not been filed within the statute of limitations in New York.

Clash's spokesperson, Nicholas Peters of CommCore Consulting Group, released the following statement:

“Kevin is gratified that once again the courts have dismissed the claims against him. We believe we are finally at the point as a team where we can begin to turn our full attention to restoring Kevin's personal and professional reputation over the coming weeks and months so he may regain his rightful place as an accomplished and respected artist.”

The lawsuit filed last year alleges Clash engaged in a sexual relationship during visits to New York that began back in 2004 when the man who filed the complaint was 16.

A judge in New York previously dismissed three other lawsuit against Clash by men who accused him of sexually abusing them when they were underage. That judge also said the statute of limitations had run out.

After voicing Elmo for 28 years, accusations against Clash led to his resignation in 2012.

Clash is originally from Baltimore County.



WISD's Kristen Clark appointed to state board on child sexual abuse prevention

Washtenaw Intermediate School District's Kristen Clark has been named to Gov. Snyder's task force on the prevention of sexual abuse of children.

On Tuesday, June 17, Snyder announced 15 appointments to the Task Force established in accordance with “Erin's Law,” which protects against the sexual abuse of children.

The 15-member task force has one year to provide recommendations for reducing child sexual abuse. These recommendations will help in the creation of goals and guidelines for state and school policies, according to a statement.

“Protecting our children is one of the most important things we can do as a state,” Snyder stated. “I thank this group of appointees and I am confident they will do good work on behalf of Michigan's children.”

Clark, of Ann Arbor, is the executive director of human resources for WISD (hired in January 2012) where she coordinates school response to child sexual abuse and investigation, and works with community partners.

She previously served as executive director of labor relations and personnel for Howell Public Schools. Clark earned a bachelor's degree in criminal science from Eastern Michigan University and a degree from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School. She will represent individuals who have experience and expertise in the fields of intervention and prevention of child abuse.



Child sexual abuse victims locked up in psychological prisons


LINDA is about to celebrate her 21st birthday. Although everyone around her is wishing her well, a vivid memory haunts her and brings tears to her eyes even on happy occasions.

It is a secret of the day she was sexually abused as a child and could not tell anyone because her parents died when she was just five and her guardians at the time did not take her seriously.

Now, as she celebrates her “coming of age”, she is reminded that she is indeed a prisoner of her childhood nightmares.

Child abuse is a broad term that refers to all acts that infringe on the rights of a child. It constitutes all forms of physical and emotional abuse and any other careless commercial or exploitative conduct that results in actual or potential harm to child's physical and psychological health, survival, development and dignity.

The side effects of abuse against children frequently result in mental problems, social exclusion, anger, self-blame, low self-esteem, intellectual paralysis and numerous other psychological disorders. And violence and sexual abuse add their own traumatising effects on young minds, not to mention sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and early, unplanned pregnancies.

Despite numerous laws protecting children's rights, including the new Constitution, and the presence of child protection and welfare organisations established by the government and civil society, incidents of child abuse have become so prevalent that it has become a cause for serious concern in Zimbabwean society.

According to the Zimbabwe Republic Police national statistics obtained through the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development, at least 5 000 children are abused annually with most of these being cases of sexual violence.

Sharp increase in sexual abuse cases

From January to March of this year, a total 1 354 rape cases were reported with 946 of this total being girl child rape. An analysis of the 2013 statistics reveal that most offenders of child abuse are neighbours, uncles, cousins, fathers and stepfathers, and friends. Strangers figure to a much lesser extent than those who are already known to the child.

Statistical records obtained from the child welfare civic watchdog, Childline, confirm there has been a 14% increase in sexual abuse cases, a 30% increase in physical abuse, and a 31% increase in neglect cases in the first quarter of 2014 compared to the first quarter of 2013.

So what has caused this shocking set of statistics to blight our society — and what is being done to stop this alarming decline in moral values?

There are many theories, including traditional practices, unacceptable religious attitudes and economic decline, leading to situations where family values are abandoned. Maybe all have contributed in some way.

For example, it is well-known that some traditional healers prescribe having sexual intercourse with a child as a means to enhance wealth, or even curative to HIV and Aids and other STIs.

Other beliefs, such as appeasement, where a girl is given away to appease a spirit, as well as acts, such as chiramu usually practiced in Shona culture between brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law through touching, kissing and fondling increase the risk of sexual abuse.

Religious beliefs reinforced by some men of cloth are compounding these unacceptable practices exploiting the innocence of children.
For example, 26-year-old Thelma Sibanda of the Johanne Marange apostolic sect told this writer:

“Men in our church receive their brides from the Holy Spirit through dreams.

“They then inform the church elders who will formalise the marriage. The practice does not normally take age into account and even a 14-year-old can be married off to a man far older than her.

Although of late the government and other key stakeholders have engaged church elders advising them to stop the practice, it remains commonplace, especially in the more remote areas of the country.”

This observation is not typical of the apostolic sects alone; it is also a common occurrence in rural communities, and the recent case in which Robert Gumbura, founder of the RMG Independent End Time Message Church, who was convicted on several counts of rape and sentenced to 40 years in jail, bear clear testimony that some religious sects are fuelling abuse.

Trust abuse rocks society

Economically, rising poverty levels have exacerbated the situation. Many families cannot afford rentals, creating a situation whereby adults share a single room with children.

Many parents migrating to foreign countries for better job opportunities also leave young children behind in the custody of maids and relatives, further exposing minors to abuse.

Such situations are “a case of trust abuse that has rocked the society”, argues Sibilile Mpofu, the national co-ordinator for the Orphaned and Vulnerable Children at the National Aids Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ). “Society is injuring itself. Those who were traditionally the gatekeepers of our culture, like relatives and neighbours are now in the forefront of abusing children.”

He says so many orphans left behind when parents die as a result of Aids are left under the care of relatives and even with no direct supervision, and are often stigmatised as also suffering from the disease that has decimated communities. As a result, the children are treated as

second-class citizens and are forced to drop out of school to fend for themselves. Says Mpofu, “Most of the abuse goes unnoticed because they rarely benefit from awareness programmes that usually target schools.''

Medeline Dube, the NACZ communications director, notes that the breakdown in family moral values has contributed to the rising tide of child neglect and abuse.

“The nation is fast departing from the values of collectivism where in the past an individual's problems were treated as the community's. Nowadays the trend is about focussing on your own problems.

“The existence of several child-headed families against such a social trend further exposes the children to vulnerability, hence offenders take advantage of such social weaknesses and abuse children in all ways,” Dube said.

Childline officer Patience Chiyangwa observes: “Gender-based violence is a key contributor to child abuse, with abuse happening in the home, a place where children are meant to be safe. And in most cases this is being done by a person known to the child, further complicating the situation.”

‘Legal system too lenient on offenders'

Other sections of society believe the courts are to blame for imposing sentences against offenders that do not serve as a sufficient deterrent to others not to commit such crimes.

As explained by the mother of one rape victim from Chiriseri communal lands in Bindura: “I broke into a neighbour's home one day after I became suspicious and got the shock of my life to see a married man bedding my 15-year-old daughter.

“I reported the case to the police and it went for trial at Bindura Magistrates' Court in March this year. But the magistrate just sentenced the perpetrator to three months' imprisonment with the option to pay a fine of $300. In mitigation, the magistrate cited that the victim was only four months away from reaching the age of 16 (the age of consent).

“I felt hopeless after this experience, since my daughter was not protected enough by the law. Every day imagine the plight of guardians and minors out there whose cases are treated like my daughter's. Who then will represent our children if they are lured by abusers?''

Responding to accusations that the judiciary are being too lenient on child abuse offenders, the National Prosecuting Authority's Prosecutor-General Johannes Tomana explained: “The prosecution services in Zimbabwe take matters of abuse very seriously and deals with such issues effectively and efficiently in line with the parameters of the laws of the land.

However, the determination of sentences is largely dependent on the nature of evidence presented. There is a need for parents and guardians to deal with direct causes. For instance, (they should be) protecting their children from abuse perpetrators, since the law does not entirely eradicate abuse, but is simply a reactive mechanism.”

Assessing the country's child abuse problems from a traditional perspective, the Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers' Association acting president George Kandiero, said: “We distance ourselves from anti-traditional practices of prescribing harmful remedies that involve children in abusive acts. We also urge the public to report any acts of that sort to our association for punitive measures to be effected.

There is, however, need for relevant stakeholders to partner us in campaigns to eradicate child abuse effectively as this will give us the opportunity to send a clear message.

The major stakeholders in such important issues do not often involve us in their programmes; hence some of our licensed members take advantage of this influx and perpetuate child abuse.”

‘Raise awareness on child abuse'

Caroline Matizha, Offender-Based Violence director in the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development, notes that “various programmes have been established by the ministry to address gender-based violence, among them psycho-social support, legal and medical services, to increase awareness on violence and reflect the importance of the family. In terms of solutions, four key areas of intervention, including prevention, service provision, research and monitoring and evaluation through co-ordination are being implemented to curb vices such as child abuse”.

However, Chiyangwa says: “Early marriages must be stopped because a girl is never a bride.”

There is also need to review data collection methods relating to child abuse, according to the National Baseline Survey on Life Experiences of Adolescents conducted by Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency in 2011. This report suggests that figures should not be solely based on reported cases, which is the current practice.

Only 30% of children who experienced sexual violence know where to get professional help, says the report, while less than three percent actually do get help.

Such statistics provide a good indication that much more still needs to be done to save Zimbabwe's vulnerable children. As Merit Runema, the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers' Association, information officer. explains: “For a start, the government should tighten the screws on the activities of religious sects by acting against all those religious communities that permit the abuse of their children.

“But any efforts to reduce the prevalence of child abuse will be futile if stakeholders in society fail to raise awareness of this issue at the ward and district level to encourage the re-establishment of traditional cultural protective values by involving traditionalists and faith-based institutions while providing support to parents and guardians to strengthen their parenting skills and educate them about the problem of violence against children.

“Children must enjoy their time playing in the sun and listening to songs sung by their guardians and bedtime stories before going to bed. They are the future leaders who will take Zimbabwe to the next levels of development. Their safety must urgently become the nation's priority. Let us stop locking them up in psychological prisons.”


New Jersey

Child abuse is everyone's business

by Warren Reporter

Dr. Kitsy Dixon is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Centenary College

I once witnessed a father severely beat his daughter in a local supermarket. He dragged her, by her hair, out of the supermarket and continued to kick and spit on her as she screamed and fought back with all of her might. The fight ended and both the father and the daughter got into their family van and drove away. Everyone in the small supermarket went back to their routine shopping as if nothing happened. I turned to my roommate and whispered, “we should do something,” to which she replied, “it is none of our business.” Eight years later, the memory of that day still haunts me.

The common phrase of “what goes on in this family stays in this family,” creates an atmosphere of acceptability when it comes to child abuse. However, child abuse carries long term psychological effects and the more we turn away from its reality in our society, we close our minds to being educated on the horrors of child abuse.

According to Professor of Sociology, Nancy Whittier, as recently as 1970, child abuse was seen as extremely rare and unusually harmful. The fight to have various types of child abuse acknowledged on the political agenda has taken decades of work. A number of organizations and activists have come together to reiterate that the social defining and understanding of the context of various types of child abuse have been neglected in research, community discussions, and personal testimony.

There have been a number of recognitions brought to the social table about addressing child abuse, but it continues to be the most difficult subject to speak about. The month of April has been designated child abuse awareness month, but activists will argue that not enough is done to promote the awareness of how prevalent child abuse is. The rapid rise of addressing child abuse in the national media has been, in large part, due to the mobilization of activist groups, but the instance of unreported cases of child abuse continues to rise.

What is important in addressing child abuse is recognizing that it happens every day of the year, not just the month of April. Secondly, statistics estimate that a report of child abuse is made every ten seconds, and that four or more children die every day as a result of child abuse. Thirdly, child abuse is our business because when we stand by and ignore the signs of child abuse, we partake in the problem instead of the solution.

Therefore, the question becomes– how do ‘I' become part of the solution? Glad you asked:

Debunk Myths Surrounding Child Abuse
Some of the common myths surrounding child about is that it is only sexual and that it happens in specific neighborhoods of lower socio-economic status. The truth is that there are different types of child abuse but society primarily concentrates on child sexual abuse. Child abuse can happen to anyone.

Understand the Different Types of Abuse
The four types of abuse are: emotional, child neglect, physical, and child sexual abuse.

• Emotional child abuse – constant belittling of a child.
• Child neglect – failing to provide a child's basic needs.
• Physical child abuse – deliberate physical harm to a child.
• Child sexual abuse – exposing a child to sexual situations.

Research State Statutes on Child Abuse in Your State
You can find information on how New Jersey defines child abuse and statistical information on referrals, programs, prevention, and volunteer opportunities. Visit your Department of Family and Children website for current information.

Report Child Abuse
Although discussing child abuse can carry a stigma, reporting it only makes you a hero. The ChildHelp National Abuse Hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week servicing the United States, its territories, and Canada. 1-800-422-4453.

Create Dialog by Being Involved
Discover local resources in your area to help promote awareness of child abuse all year long. The following are resources in the state of New Jersey:

• New Jersey Child Assault Prevention (NJCAP)
• Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey
• The Children's Home Society of New Jersey
• National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

At the end of the day, we all want a society where the children are free to have the opportunities of becoming great leaders of this world without the fear of child abuse.

Together, we can confront child abuse through education and advocacy, every day, not just the month of April.



Assembly Public Safety Committee Postpones Vote on "Audrie's Law"

by Marianne Favro

The Assembly Public Safety Committee on Tuesday postponed the vote on a proposed cyberbullying law.

The legislation, called "Audrie's Law," would expand California's definition of rape to include the sexual assault of an unconscious or developmentally disabled person. The measure is sought by the family of Audrie Pott, a 15-year-old Saratoga High School student who was sexually assaulted while unconscious at a house party in 2012, and later committed suicide.

Audrie's Law, or SB 838, introduced by Senator Jim Beall (D-San Jose), would close a statutory loophole that fails to recognize the sexual violation of an unconscious or developmentally disabled victim as forcible rape.

The bill would also require a mandatory minimum two-year sentence for juveniles who are convicted in juvenile court of raping an unconscious or developmentally disabled person and to allow such cases to be tried in an open courtroom.

"We feel what we are asking for a two-year minimum sentence is completely reasonable and warranted," said Sheila Pott, Audrie's mother. "And the public wants this."

The Center of Juvenile and Criminal Justice opposes the bill.

"This bill would be the first mandatory minimum sentence in the juvenile justice system in our state," said Lizzie Buchen, Center of Juvenile and Criminal Justice. "It has been tried in adult court and is very ineffective, and it doesn't prevent crime."

Another group, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, sent a letter to Tom Ammiano, the chair of the Assembly Public Safety Committee. The letter claims the proposed bill is using Audrie's death to wreak havoc on the juvenile justice system.

Sheila Pott disagrees with the letter's claim and said Audrie's Law will only help victims like her daughter.



Bill extends time for sexual abuse suits

Would let alleged child victims file until age 53

by Travis Andersen

The Massachusetts Legislature is on the verge of finalizing a bill that will give alleged child sexual abuse victims an additional 32 years to file civil lawsuits, a move one specialist said will open the door to thousands of new cases.

The bill would extend the statute of limitations for filing suits against alleged perpetrators and, in future cases, the people or institution supervising them. Under the legislation, the victims would be able to file suits up to age 53, instead of the current limit of age 21.

The Senate passed the measure Thursday, after it was approved by the House Wednesday.

Lawmakers expect to send a bill to Governor Deval Patrick's desk soon, after a few more procedural votes, said Senator William N. Brownsberger, the Senate cochairman of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary.

“We're very glad we were able to get this done,” said Brownsberger. “It is going to protect children in the future. It really is.”

Carmen L. Durso, a lawyer for sexual abuse victims and a vocal supporter of the bill, also hailed its passage. “It will open the doors of the courthouse to thousands, literally thousands of people who have otherwise been excluded from being able to file suits,” Durso said by phone. “This will give them the opportunity to name their perpetrators and do what almost all of them want to do, which is make sure their perpetrators can't get to other victims.”

Rosanne Sliney, 50, of Burlington, whose suit against her uncle was dismissed on statute-of-limitations grounds, said the legislation gives her hope she may get justice.

“My lawyer can contact the judge, say that these are new laws, we need to move forward to trial,” she said. “It will definitely give me a chance at justice and a fair fight against someone who destroyed me in my life.”

The landmark bill contains some important distinctions. In cases involving past abuse, for example, the provision extending the statute of limitations from age 21 to 53 would allow alleged victims to sue only the perpetrators, but not the alleged abuser's supervisors and the institution that they worked or volunteered for.

The institutions would, however, be subject to the new rule and could be sued in cases of abuse that occur after the law passes. Institutions potentially exposed to lawsuits include churches, schools, youth centers, and other organizations.

In cases of repressed memory, the bill would give adults seven years to file claims against alleged perpetrators and their supervisors once they realize they were abused as children, an increase from the current three-year threshold.

David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, called the bill a “very big step forward” but expressed disappointment with the provision that shields institutions from some retroactive claims.

Clohessy said his group is “saddened but not surprised that Catholic officials lobbied so hard to continue evading responsibility for child-molesting clerics.”

The Catholic Church, in particular, has been rocked by a sexual abuse crisis that exploded in Boston in 2002 and has led to dioceses in Massachusetts and elsewhere paying hundreds of millions of dollars in civil claims, straining budgets and forcing school and parish closings.

Asked to comment on the legislation, a spokesman for the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston released a statement from the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, which represents the state's four Catholic bishops, that said the group supports the legislation.

“We, the bishops of the four dioceses of Massachusetts, recognize the suffering of survivors who have experienced sexual abuse and remain committed to assuring the safety of children entrusted to our care,” the statement said.

“For well over a decade, we have been utilizing comprehensive pastoral outreach programs for survivors and their families, have been vigilant in reporting claims, have worked closely with law enforcement, and continue to be dedicated to resolving cases in a just and responsible manner.”

The Catholic Conference added that the church has taken a number of steps to address the crisis, including background screening for tens of thousands of employees and volunteers, as well as the immediate removal of any cleric or other person credibly accused of abuse.

Mitchell Garabedian, an attorney for sexual abuse victims who is best known for filing a number of lawsuits against the Catholic Church, could not be reached for comment Thursday night., an advocacy group for victims, echoed the sentiments of other advocates who wanted a stronger bill, even while praising the version that was passed.

In a statement, the group said: “The bill is far from perfect. It keeps the courthouse doors slammed shut to most of the thousands of child sexual abuse victims now age 53 or older. And it will do almost nothing to expose and hold accountable those supervisors and employers who already have been negligent, careless, or deceptive in managing offenders.”

But Durso, the lawyer for abuse victims, said that a compromise was better than nothing.

“The perfect bill would be no statute of limitations at all,” he said. “And sometimes you can't let the perfect get in the way of the good and the useful.”

Jetta Bernier, executive director of Massachusetts Citizens for Children, a group that pushed for the changes, agreed with Durso's assessment.

“We are fully aware that this is not the perfect bill, but we could not let the status quo continue,” she said.

Senate and House leaders released statements of support for the measure.

“The changes in this bill are essential for protecting the victims of sexual abuse and holding the perpetrators accountable for their actions,” Senate President Therese Murray said.

“I'm proud to join my colleagues in passing this bill that protects victims of sexual violence and better holds institutions accountable,” House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo said.

Patrick's office declined to comment.



Gov. Scott Signs Legislation to Increase Prosecution of Human Trafficking Criminals and Provide Better Services to Survivors

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott was joined by Attorney General Pam Bondi, members of Florida Legislature, as well as law enforcement officials, stakeholders, advocates and victims to sign House Bills 989 and 7141 to increase prosecution of human trafficking criminals and provide better services to survivors.

Governor Scott said, “I am so proud to sign these two important bills today that increase protections to victims of human trafficking and increase criminal penalties related to human trafficking. As a father and grandfather, I understand the importance of protecting our children and those who are vulnerable. We must do our part to help restore the sense of security for those who have been victims of human trafficking so they can heal.”

House Bill 989 increases protections to victims of human trafficking. The bill prohibits minors from working in adult theaters, removes time limitations to allow a prosecution for certain human trafficking offenses to be commenced at any time, creates and increases criminal penalties relating to human trafficking.

House Bill 7141 provides definitions and makes changes to rules and guidelines to the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Juvenile Justice, and community based care lead agencies in administering safe houses and safe foster homes for children who have been sexually exploited.

Attorney General Pam Bondi said, “I thank Governor Scott for his support of Florida's anti-human trafficking efforts. The Statewide Council of Human Trafficking will coordinate and enhance efforts to fight sex trafficking and support victims.”

Niki Cross, survivor and founder of S.T.A.A.R. Ministry, said, “Survivors that have found healing, have a responsibility to mentor and guide others that may not be so fortunate. It doesn't happen overnight and it is a slow process. That is why it is so crucial to have as many resources available as possible. I cannot change my past, but I WILL be a part of changing the future. I was once a victim, now victorious. It will take all of us to make a difference in this fight, but we can do it. As I have often shared so many times before, there is no limit in what good a man can do, as long as he doesn't care who gets the credit.”

Deborah Polston, Florida's Human Trafficking Advocate, said, “Governor Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi are working hard to eliminate human trafficking in Florida and making the public aware of this heinous criminal activity and the gross injustice to our most vulnerable. Florida is taking an aggressive stance in this human trafficking battle by putting laws into place which protect and defend victims, and prosecute traffickers to the fullest extent of the law. These new laws will allow us to better care for the minor victims of trafficking, protect their rights and privacy, and continue our work at the State level through a more concentrated effort.”

Dotti Groover-Skipper, Chair, FREE Collaborative of the Community Campaign Against Human Trafficking-West Florida said, “As these important human trafficking bills are signed into law, Governor Scott is sending the message that Florida is a ‘no tolerance' state for the insidious crime of modern day slavery. We must continue to work together, as one powerful voice, to end demand, eradicate this horror, and restore value, dignity, and worth to the precious lives who have been impacted.”

Wansley Walters, Secretary of the Department of Juvenile Justice, said, “I am proud of Florida and Governor Scott for taking the steps to further protect the innocent victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. By signing this legislation into law, Florida's children exposed to the horrific crime of sexual exploitation will now receive the critical services needed to address their unique needs and the trauma they have experienced at the hands of predators.”

Mike Carroll, Interim Secretary of the Department of Children and Families, said, “We are pleased the Governor and Legislature have provided additional resources to serve children and young adults in our communities who are being sexually exploited. It's crucial for state agencies, law enforcement and community partners to continue to work together and collaborate on our approach to protecting and rehabilitating these young victims.”

Senate President Don Gaetz said, “One thing is sure: the scourge of human trafficking has come to Florida towns and cities and among its victims are Florida children. This legislation helps fulfill the Joint Work Plan commitment Speaker Weatherford and I made to protect the most vulnerable among us. Florida will now have stronger laws to go after human traffickers and more resources to comfort and care for those who have been emotionally damaged and physically abused.”

House Speaker Will Weatherford said, “Victims of human trafficking should know they are safe when receiving care from safe houses. I'm proud of our efforts this year to further crack down on human trafficking in Florida.”

Senator Oscar Braynon said, “Today marks a great change in Florida with the signing of legislation by Governor Scott that ushers in stronger penalties for those who engage in human trafficking. I took great pride in sponsoring the Senate bill and know it will make a difference in the lives of people who are negatively impacted by human trafficking.”

Senator Joe Negron said, “Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature are taking action to address the terrible issue of human trafficking and providing the Department of Children and Families resources to assess and screen children in their care.”

Senator Tom Lee said, “It is necessary for us to protect the vulnerable in our state and I commend Governor Scott for continuing to put Florida's families first with this measure.”

Senator Anitere Flores said, “Human trafficking is a terrible crime and I am proud to live in a state that staunchly supports victims and severely penalizes perpetrators. Governor Scott and the members of the Florida Legislature should be lauded for their support of these two bills.”

Senator Greg Evers said, “Governor Scott's public signing of HB 989 and HB 7141 will help to raise awareness about human trafficking and will shore up efforts to stop it in Florida.”

Representative Gayle Harrell said, “I am honored to be here with Governor Scott as he signs this significant legislation dealing with Human Trafficking. I am pleased to have sponsored HB 7141 which will provide certified safe foster homes and safe houses for victims of Human Trafficking. With this legislation Florida has become a leader in treating children who have been exploited and are victims of what is truly modern day slavery.”

Representative Carlos Trujillo said, “I am proud to have sponsored these legislative changes to allow prosecution for a violation of a human trafficking offense to be commenced at any time and that create more criminal penalties for those involved with human trafficking. I appreciate Governor Scott extending his support these changes that will allow Florida to prosecute criminals involved in this terrible activity.”

Representative Dana Young said, “The goal is to eliminate the evils of human trafficking and these bills help demonstrate it's not tolerated in Florida. I am proud to have helped pass these changes to our laws and appreciate Governor Scott signing them.”

Representative Richard Corcoran said, “I am pleased to support this important legislation that says Florida is a zero tolerance state for those who sexually exploit our children. I'm thankful Governor Scott is publicly signing this critical bill and bringing attention to this very serious issue.”

Representative Matt Hudson said, “I am appreciative of Governor Scott's support for this legislative change that will benefit Florida families. Among the effects of this legislation, this bill authorizes DCF to certify safe houses and safe foster homes that will provide safe haven for victims of trafficking.”

Representative Erik Fresen said, “It was my privilege to co-sponsor legislation to increase protections for the victims of human trafficking and I thank Governor Scott for signing it in such a public forum.”

Representative Dennis Baxley said, “Human trafficking is the modern form of slavery and a heartbreaking reality of our time. Gov. Scott and the legislature are making clear we will not sit by and allow this abuse of our most vulnerable. We thank Gov. Scott for leading to make Florida a safe place to live and work and a place where every person is valued.”

Representative Matt Gaetz said, “This legislation will help strengthen the punishment for those who engage in this terrible trade. I am proud Florida has a leader in Governor Scott who supports these necessary changes for the protection of young people.”

Representative Ross Spano said, “Victims of human trafficking will get more protections and rights because of this bill; thank you to Governor Scott and the legislative leadership for supporting it.”

Representative Larry Metz said, “Human trafficking is an evil and insidious crime that victimizes the young and vulnerable. To eliminate it will require strong leadership and an unwavering commitment over time. Governor Scott continues to lead the way and by signing this important legislation once again demonstrates his commitment to protecting the most vulnerable among us. Thank you Governor for your leadership and for signing these bills today!”

Representative Charles McBurney said, “Today is a very important day in the lives of those who are impacted by human trafficking and I appreciate Governor Scott standing in support of victims' rights and protections.”

Representative Dwight Dudley said, “I appreciate the leadership of the Florida Legislature for enacting meaningful change for those adversely impacted by human trafficking and I appreciate Governor Scott for signing both bills.”

Representative Irv Slosberg said, “As a Legislature we have made a commitment to crack down on human trafficking and begin a “fresh start” in the state of Florida. It was an honor to be a part of this team of co-sponsors and I thank Governor Scott for signing these bills today.”

Representative Daphne Campbell said, “Human Trafficking is a very serious issue and one that hold with great importance. I am honored that I was able to be co- sponsor to both HB 989 and HB 7141. I know that the lives of many will be greatly improved with the increased penalties that these bills provide. I would like to extend a sincere thank you to Governor Scott for extending his support for increasing these penalties.”


Congress must stand up for victims of child abuse and reauthorize Children's Advocacy Centers

by U.S. Senators Jeff Sessions and Chris Coons

The physical or sexual abuse of a child is an unconscionable crime. As parents, it is our worst nightmare — a fear that keeps us awake at night each time we hear the news of another predator apprehended in our communities.

For children whose innocence has been shattered by violence and families whose lives have been thrown into chaos by unthinkable tragedy, Children's Advocacy Centers are a refuge. Bringing together a coordinated team of child-focused professionals and criminal investigators, these facilities secure the evidence needed to bring abusers to justice without re-traumatizing child victims.

Stepping into a Children's Advocacy Center, it's almost possible to forget the horrors that bring children and families through the doors. The walls are brightly colored, the waiting room filled with cartoon pictures and children's toys. Forensic interviews are conducted by professional staff wearing plain clothes — not police uniforms — and are structured in a way that is both compassionate and effective.

Despite their success in communities in Delaware, Alabama, and across the country, and despite strong support on both sides of the aisle, these centers have faced an uncertain future. Congress has not reauthorized the Victims of Child Abuse Act – the law that provides federal support for Children's Advocacy Centers – for nearly a decade, and the President's recent budgets have slashed the funding that allows them to operate.

In December, we joined together – along with Senators Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) – to introduce bipartisan legislation that would reauthorize the Victims of Child Abuse Act and save our nation's Children's Advocacy Centers. Just a few days ago, the Senate Judiciary Committee, on which we both serve, voted unanimously to send this bill to the Senate floor.

Congress must pass this reauthorization because the alternative is a justice system that fails to meet the needs of our most vulnerable children. In the early 1980s, Bud Cramer – an Alabama District Attorney who would later go on to become a U.S. Congressman – observed the ordeal faced by child victims as they navigated the criminal justice system. Social services were not coordinated with the work of law enforcement and prosecutors, forcing children to endure repeated questioning – at police stations, in hospitals, and again in the courtroom – and relive horrifying traumas over and over again.

Together with members of the Huntsville community, Cramer pioneered a new model to better serve child victims. The nation's first Children's Advocacy Center brought all the resources victims and law enforcement needed together under one roof. With one interview, child victims could tell their stories and law enforcement could obtain the testimony required to carry the case forward to trial.

In 1990, Congress passed the Victims of Child Abuse Act to expand on this successful model, and today more than 800 Children's Advocacy Centers serve victims and families nationwide.

Their programs are working. In 2012, Children's Advocacy Centers helped nearly 300,000 kids get the care they needed, and put more of our society's worst criminals behind bars. By consolidating services, Children's Advocacy Centers are even saving taxpayers money.

Our bipartisan reauthorization bill would modestly increase support available for Children's Advocacy Centers, for the first time since 1990, to help centers keep up with growing demands for services and improve training programs for their remarkable staffs of caregivers. State and local governments, as well as private donors, would continue to provide their own funding support. The bill would also provide opportunities to build Children's Advocacy Centers in some of the 1,000 counties that currently lack access to these critical services.

Though we wish our communities didn't need these centers, we know all too well that the evil we have witnessed in our home states exists in big cities and small towns across the country.

No family should have to confront these horrors alone. Children's Advocacy Centers have transformed our nation's response to child abuse, giving families hope in their darkest moments and delivering justice to those who have endured the worst kind of abuse.

We cannot and should not go back to a system that fails the most vulnerable children in our society. It's time to reauthorize the Victims of Child Abuse Act.


West Virginia

The process of how you report child abuse is about to change

by Jessie Gavin

The process to report Child Abuse will soon be changing and it could make the procedure quicker and easier.

To better streamline the process, soon when you call in to report child abuse, it will be handled on a statewide level, instead of by each county.

When someone calls the Child Abuse Hotline number, county supervisors with your local Department of Health and Human Resources answer and respond to the call. But starting next month, statewide representatives with DHHR will answer and respond to every call. The Executive Director of Just For Kids Child Advocacy Center explained the reasoning behind this adjustment.

"What it will do is consolidate. The intent is for there to be a consistent method of assessing each call where as now it is done locally, then it will be done centrally," Scott Miller told us.

Miller said this modification won't have any direct affect on the caller. The new approach will be changed on a county-by-county basis.

This new process goes into effect July 1st.

To report abuse, call the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at (800) 352-6513


Fox News' “destructive” ignorance: Network gets schooled by male rape survivor

Fox News thinks the idea of men as rape victims is hilarious. A survivor has a message for Tucker Carlson and co.

by Katie McDonough

On Fox News last week, contributor Jesse Watters made some wildly ignorant and dismissive comments about men, boys and sexual assault. While discussing a statutory rape case involving a 46-year-old woman and a 16-year-old boy, Watters said, “It is a serious crime. But if you're a 16-year-old kid and you have sex with your best friend's mom, you usually get high fives.” It wasn't the first time a pundit — on Fox or elsewhere — said something to make light of the experiences of male survivors. Two weeks earlier, Tucker Carlson argued that sexually assaulting a teenage boy is a victimless crime, since according to Carlson boys think any sexual contact is “the greatest thing that's ever happened.” When his co-panelists limply pushed back on his comment, Carlson replied, “That's just real. I don't know what to say. I don't want it to be true, it just is true.”

Despite Carlson's assurances that he is speaking for all male survivors, he is not. Most people with even a modicum of compassion and common sense understand that sexual assault is a violent and deeply traumatizing thing for survivors of all genders, but hearing about the pain that sexual assault causes from the mouths of male survivors is something we could all stand to listen to more often. Michael Skinner — a musician, educator, advocate and survivor of sexual abuse — knows all too well the consequences of minimizing the sexual violence that happens to men and boys. We spoke a few weeks ago — after Carlson made his comments about boys and rape — but our conversation is just as relevant right now.

“It's ignorance. It's destructive. It's hurting so many men,” Skinner said of our cultural attitudes about men and sexual violence. “We need to break the cycle. Society reinforces this whole myth, these stereotypes, this stigma that it's not destructive for a man, for a teenage boy. That it's not hurtful. When in fact it is. It hurts like hell.”

Skinner was sexually abused as a child by members of his family, but was also victimized by a trusted adult when he was a teenager. Shame about these things kept him silent about the abuse well into his adulthood. “For the longest time I kept it to myself because I just felt horrible inside about what happened,” he said. “I felt dirty and perverted because of what I experienced — what was done to me. I felt weak because of it, always odd or weird. I blamed myself.”

While Fox News pundits may have a fine time joking about teenage boys being harassed and abused by adult women, Skinner knows there's nothing funny about it. He shared his experience of being assaulted as a teenager, and discussed the many dynamics — power, physical strength and size, gender — that he struggled to understand while it was happening and in the aftermath of the assault:

As a teen — maybe around 15 or so — I was babysitting for this couple with four young children. He was an engineer and she worked part time, and they were living the American dream, if you will. And then they separated. One night, the woman came home, and as she was about to pay me, she pinned me up against a wall. Now, keep in mind, I'm 6 foot 4 and I'm a big guy. Back then, too. I could take care of myself. I wasn't afraid of anyone. And I'm not saying that to try to sound macho, I am saying this because when this woman pinned me up against the wall and put her hand down on my crotch and stuck her tongue in my mouth, I froze. I literally froze. I was scared. I was in deep fear.

It seemed like an eternity but I know it wasn't, it was just that split second or so. It took me a while to compose myself and push her away. And I couldn't run out of that house fast enough. And it left me in fear, it left me feeling like I wanted to throw up.

She was the perpetrator. This was an adult. This was a woman in her mid-thirties to early forties. There was a power dynamic. It was wrong. If a male did this to a female, it would be called rape or sexual assault. It was sexual assault. It was a violation, period. I understand people on these shock radio shows and talking heads on television — they're saying stuff just to get ratings, but saying [teenage boys can't be sexually assaulted] is so wrong.

Watters and Carlson might want to listen to men like Skinner before making sweeping pronouncements about the things they “know” about men and sexual assault. Unfortunately, their attitudes are fairly common. We tend to diminish the trauma of sexual violence against men — it's usually played for laughs in film and television when it's addressed at all. And the parameters of heteronormative masculinity hardly leave room for expressions of emotion or pain from most men, particularly about a topic like sexual violence.

Skinner pointed to male survivor organizations like 1 in 6 and Male Survivor as a sign that there is more support than ever for male victims of sexual assault, but said there is still a long way to go to break the stigma and stereotypes around men coming out about their experiences of abuse. “I feel like there is a double whammy for male survivors,” he said of his own experience seeking help. “I was supposed to suck it up and just get over it. And that was fed to me by a doctor. ‘This will help you pull your bootstraps up' — a doctor telling me to pull up my bootstraps. There wasn't the awareness and there still isn't.”

I can't imagine anything more direct than these Skinner's honest insights into our destructive cultural norms and the harm they cause, and yet we're generally very bad at listening to people like him. We ignore survivors of all genders. And when we do hear them, we're even worse at taking them seriously.

The statistics on sexual violence should be impossible to ignore. The same goes for the voices of survivors like Skinner.

“As men, we're not supposed to express these emotions. We're supposed to be tough and all that garbage. It's wrong. We should be able to express our emotions,” he said of the shifts that need to occur to create room for more survivors — particularly men, but really survivors of all genders — to come forward. Finding the courage to speak changed Skinner's life, and he said he wants to see that happen for others:

I think for survivors, male and female, it really is worth it to come forward and share these things in order to break that silence. It's hard. It is painful in the healing process, but I tell you the rewards are great because, I survived. I definitely survived some horrible things, but I truly feel I'm thriving in life today. Once I was able to break that silence and do this work, I'm in a better place.

I think sharing the secrets, getting rid of the stigma, because it's not our shame to bear. I can't go back, I can't change what happened to me. But if I can share my experience and it can help one other person, that's worth it to me. It really is.



Aide fired after school bus incident


PANAMA CITY — A school bus aide was fired after school administrators watched bus video showing her using force on an 8-year-old special needs child last month, according to a police report.

A Bay District Schools bus video shows former substitute bus aide Elaine Edwards, 57, allegedly grabbing a St. Andrew School third-grader “by the arm to move her to a different seat” and “grabbing the child for a second time,” the Panama City Police report quotes Department of Children and Families caseworker Heather Ehle as saying.

“It doesn't show the child doing anything wrong to be made to move in the first place,” Ehle stated in the police report after viewing the video.

The child “sustained bruising to her upper left arm,” the report states.

Amanda Douglass, 28, wants to press battery charges because the child “deserves justice.”

The police investigation is not complete and no charges have been filed.

“No child deserves to be handled roughly or abused,” Douglass said in an interview last week. “Children should be safe on their way to school and coming home.”

Douglass said she feels as though Edwards “intentionally” used excessive force on her daughter and parents should be allowed to view videos of their child on school buses upon request.

“Some kids are deaf or mute on these buses; they can't communicate what's happening,” she added. “I want to know that (my daughter) is not afraid, that she feels safe when she goes to school.”

Douglass nor her live-in fiancée, 32-year-old Gerald Breen, who has been in the child's life since she was a year old, according to Douglass, have been permitted to see the video, which, for Breen, is best, he said.

“I can't take nobody hurting my babies; I just don't want to see it,” Breen said. “If it's real and DCF found it, that's good enough.”

School bus videos are viewable by law enforcement only, according to school district security chief Mike Jones.

“The general public cannot see those, parents cannot see those, only law enforcement ... without a subpoena through our office,” he said. “And if they are to be used in the court by parents and attorneys, they can subpoena those videos.”

School district officials declined to comment on the incident.Bob Downin, transportation director, said he is familiar with this case but cannot comment because the case is “in litigation.” However, the school district failed to provide documentation proving the incident has moved forward to the litigation process.

Personnel files don't show any prior complaints filed against Edwards, who has worked as a bus aide since 2009. A May 27 email from Human Resources Director Sharon Michalik to a number of Bay employees states Edwards was to be terminated immediately and could no longer work as a substitute “in any capacity in the future.”

The email was filed in Edwards' personnel file. A formal letter of termination is not given to substitutes, Michalik said.

Edwards had worked at the district as a substitute bus aide, teacher and food service worker.

In an email to The News Herald, Michalik wasn't clear about the possibility of the district hiring Edwards in another capacity outside of substituting.

“She is not eligible for rehire at this time,” she wrote.

The incident occurred about 2:30 p.m. May 22, according to the PCPD police report.

Edwards couldn't be reached for comment for this story.

Behind a pair of light-pink framed glasses, the 8-year-old child bashfully glanced up at her mom at their beach home last week. She tugged at her arm, signaling she wanted to go upstairs to play a computer game, while her 5-year-old brother, wearing a pair of his dad's painters paints, quietly whined for his mother's attention.

The 5-year-old is special needs as well.

“It's not an easy job” to raise special needs children, Douglass said. “But you learn to love and accept the children's behavior and work around their disability and help them to move forward.

“God never gives you something you can't handle,” she added. “I take it one day at a time.”



LAUSD teacher gets 12 years in sex abuse case


Victims and their relatives voiced one question toward a former Los Angeles elementary school teacher who was sentenced Thursday for sexually abusing young girls – why?

They received no answer from 58-year-old Robert Pimentel, who appeared unmoved in a blue jumpsuit as he faced a judge for his sentencing at the Gov. George Deukmejian Courthouse in Long Beach.

Superior Court Judge James B. Pierce sentenced Pimentel to 12 years in prison and lifetime registration as a sex offender. Pimentel also received a 10-year court order to stay away from his victims and George De La Torre Jr. Elementary School in Wilmington, the Los Angeles Unified school where he taught. Prosecutors said some of his victims were students at the school.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office accused Pimentel of sexually abusing 20 girls between the ages of 6 and 10 and one adult over a 10-year span beginning in 2002, and he was arrested in January 2013. On May 29, Pimentel, formerly of Newport Beach, pleaded no contest to four felonies – one count of continuous sexual abuse and three counts of committing a lewd act on a child.

The victims weren't identified in the case because of the nature of the crimes and the victims' ages.

Jane Doe No. 12 began to sob when confronting Pimentel, who is her relative, during the victim impact statements. Through an attorney, she said that she struggles with the trauma of her sexual assault daily and that she hasn't been able to enjoy her last years of high school.

“I can never trust someone with my body ever again,” she said. “I have to live with this the rest of my life.”

Her mother said Pimentel created a rift in the family and called him “an embarrassment” and “a dirty family secret.”

“Bob was family. We trusted him,” she said. “Bob stole many happy times from our family.”

Jane Doe No. 1, the first victim to come forward, called Pimentel a “horrible man I trusted” in her statement.

“I trusted you to be a good teacher,” she said. “You hurt me so much it affected my whole world.”

While some parents said they felt Pimentel received too light a sentence, Deputy District Attorney Lee Cernok said she wanted to spare victims the pain of reliving their abuse during a three- to four-week trial by negotiating a plea deal.

“Coming to court and recounting what happened would be traumatic,” Cernok said during the sentencing.

Before he handed down his sentence, Pierce addressed the young women and girls in the audience who had been sexually abused.

“If there's one thing at least the victims can remember ... it's not your fault,” Pierce said. “It's for all of us, the survivors, to turn these lemons into lemonade and move forward.”

At a news conference after the sentencing, John Manly, an attorney who is representing several victims in civil lawsuits against LAUSD, said the school district had several chances to report Pimentel's abuse, but failed to act and covered for the teacher. Years earlier, Newport Beach police investigated Pimentel for sexually abusing his niece, but charges were never brought against him in Orange County, Manly said.

However, the district's Office of the General Counsel defended LAUSD's policies toward teachers who act inappropriately with students in a statement released Thursday.

“We have and will continue to aggressively fight to remove teachers committing misconduct,” the district said. “Not only will we continue efforts to ensure they are not around students in our school district, but we are committed to swiftly ending their employment and fighting to have their credentials revoked.”



Muldrow man charged with rape, child abuse against 9-month-old girl


MULDROW — A man was charged with first-degree rape and child abuse in Sequoyah County District Court on Wednesday after being arrested earlier this month in connection with the hospitalization of a 9-month-old girl.

Just after 10 p.m. June 5, Muldrow police received information from a nurse at a Van Buren, Arkansas, hospital who said a woman there reported that Nathan Byrd, 27, raped her 9-month-old daughter. Officers went to the hospital, where a doctor said he was sending the baby and her mother to a facility in Fort Smith for further evaluation, an affidavit states.

When police asked the woman what happened, she said she picked the baby up from Byrd's home in Muldrow earlier that day and noticed bruises on the infant's legs and blood around her genitals when she gave her a bath, the document says.

A visit with a nurse at the Fort Smith facility revealed that the child had trauma to her genitals that was indicative of sexual assault, police said. Byrd was arrested and provided a DNA sample to investigators.

Court records show that Byrd posted $30,000 bond soon after his arrest. He pleaded not guilty to both charges Wednesday afternoon.



District 64 adding sexual abuse education in pre-kindergarten

by Jennifer Johnson

Alongside their lessons in reading, writing and arithmetic, Illinois school children are now required to get an education in preventing sexual abuse.

Erin's Law, adopted in 2013, requires that schools provide “age-appropriate sexual abuse and assault awareness and prevention” for children in pre-kindergarden through their senior year in high school.

Illinois is one of 12 states to have adopted Erin's Law, which is named for abuse survivor, activist and author Erin Merryn, of Schaumburg. Merryn has worked to push state legislatures to pass laws requiring early education and awareness of sexual abuse.

This year, Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 plans to meet the requirements of the law by continuing with a program it has used since 2002 and adding pre-kindergarten lessons, according to James Even, director of special education and pupil services.

The program used is called The Great Body Shop and it outlines specific lessons for children according to their grade level. Kindergarten teachers, for example, are to explain what a safe, unsafe or confusing touch feels like and teach students to “say no, go and tell” if someone touches their private areas. Fourth-graders learn about strangers that may seem “too friendly” and how to make good decisions when confronted with situations that appear unsafe.

The Great Body Shop curriculum was selected in 2002 after a district-formed committee looked over options for kindergarten through fifth-grade health programs, Even said.

“We liked the Great Body Shop because it was comprehensive, kid-friendly, and high-quality,” he said. “It was cost effective — $5.50 per year per student — and the price hasn't increased one cent in 12 years.”

For pre-kindergarten classes, Jefferson School educators will include the book “The Swimsuit Lesson” into the curriculum, Even said. The book, written by a former police officer, educates children about keeping certain parts of their bodies private and encourages children to tell a trusted adult about any inappropriate behavior.

The Park Ridge Police Department last year provided the Park Ridge Library with a copy of the book as well.

Erin's Law also calls upon teachers to be trained in awareness and prevention of sexual abuse and assault during in-service training programs.

“This training occurred during staff meetings this past school year,” Even said.

Erin's Law is an unfunded state mandate, but districts are given flexibility in how it is implemented.

“The district welcomes the intent of Erin's Law as an extension of our belief that social emotional learning and keeping kids safe are important parts of how we serve children,” Even said.

The Chicago Archdiocese has been implementing aspects of Erin's Law in Catholic school education for the last decade, according to Susan Burritt, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese. Part of that education includes teaching middle school students awareness of how predators seek out young people online, she added.

There are no plans at this time to make any changes in how sexual abuse and assault awareness is taught at the high school level, according to Maine Township High School District 207's Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Barb Dill-Varga. This topic, said Dill-Varga, is covered within the health curriculum, a course that is required for all sophomores. The high schools also have a teen dating violence policy and teachers take tutorials on how to address such matters.

“We're always pretty sensitive to that,” Dill-Varga said.


New Zealand

Put spotlight on darkness of abuse

by Jacoby Poulain

Abuse. It's not OK. Child abuse, domestic abuse, or abuse permitted to exist on an individual or societal level in whatsoever manner is never OK.

The issue of abuse has reared its ugly head once again and been brought to our attention especially by two recent events; one being the death of an innocent 8-month-old baby with a 33-year-old man remanded in custody for assault on a child and the other being the release of the long-awaited Glenn inquiry report investigating the state of child abuse and domestic violence in New Zealand.

The patron of the report, former governor-general Dame Cath Tizard, said the report documented harrowing details from abuse survivors and read like a catalogue of despair. Chief panellist Marama Davidson, who conducted most of the interviews, remembers one woman in particular who explained that in the future, should any victim of domestic abuse seek her advice, that she would advise them to stay in the abusive relationship rather than endure further unbearable burden, stress and abuse as she encountered from seeking to address her situation through official process.

Police investigate on average 87,000 cases of domestic violence cases a year in New Zealand. The number of substantiated child abuse cases sits at 23,000, but according to the report the actual number of cases occurring could be as high as five times as many. It makes sense that domestic violence and child abuse is under-reported. Often victims are shrouded with fear, shame and diminished strength, health and esteem to deal with the repercussions of reporting incidences and abusive situations.

Because of this secrecy, Tizard poignantly points out, abuse thrives.

A few years back, after the fact, I became aware of a flatting situation where one of the occupants was frequently being beaten by her boyfriend. The flat was filled with people and eventually all were well aware of what was happening yet, for the longest time, no one intervened.

As time went by, the circle of people who knew of the situation grew until one day one person stood up and said enough was enough.

What makes a house full of grown adults resistant or reluctant to intervene in such a situation? What makes not only the victims but their friends, families and much of New Zealand society slow to respond to abuse thereby permitting it to perpetuate?

Fear of repercussions on the reporter and/or victim and their families perhaps? Lack of faith in redress? Indifference even?

Whatever the reasons, the Glenn inquiry report will help air and shed light on the situation and this is exactly what is needed to help combat this negative plague on our society.

Like fungus thrives under the covers of darkness, decomposing and absorbing the material on which it feeds and grows, so alike is the conditions upon which abuse thrives.

Throw some light and air on the fungus and it's harder to grow, and so too with abuse.

It's hard to hide with the spotlight on.

The $2 million inquiry, set up in late 2012 with funding from millionaire Sir Owen Glenn, aims to address New Zealand's appalling record of child abuse and domestic violence by giving a voice to those most affected. It sets out stark facts with its advocates calling for a professional, private and public culture and attitude change adopting a zero tolerance approach to abuse in our nation.

Having been released in election year, the issue is hot topic already with certain party leaders calling for a bipartisan approach to addressing the situation.

Abuse is debilitating and unacceptable therefore I applaud the initiation of this report, courageous participants and all those that stand to tackle this problem and to protect and support the restoration of the inflicted.


Teaching Sexual Assault Prevention Through Comedy

Sex Signals' improv show focusing on bystander intervention has seen success on college campuses—and is now being adopted by the military as well.

by Emmett Rensin

Something you don't hear too often in the middle of an improv set: “Okay, and for the next scene, my opening line will be ‘I really didn't rape that girl'.”

That's the moment when Sex Signals , one of the country's fastest growing sexual assault prevention programs, stops being so funny. Employees of the company behind the show, Catharsis Productions, call it the “rape bomb.”

The first half is funnier.

A girl sits at a table. She says she's had a really bad day. “I just want to be left alone.” But a guy notices her and wants to talk. He gets nervous, doesn't know what to say. So he asks the audience for a pickup line. “The one we get most often,” say Brea Hayes, a program specialist and theatrical director with Catharsis, “is ‘How much does a polar bear weigh? Enough to break the ice.'"

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They begin a conversation, breaking off for one or the other to face the audience and share their character's feelings. The girl: “That was weird, but this guy is cute, I want to get to know him, should I be really flirty or should I be like a hard-ass?"

The guy: “She seems to really like me, should I show her my sensitive side or my tough guy side?”

“They try on these different stereotypes,” says Brea. “The takeaway is that when we put these faces on, nothing is ever going to work out.”

And sometimes it really goes wrong: They try out various scenarios, which are progressively more ridiculous until it's obvious something's not right. The audience has been holding up their “Stop” cards—big red road signs handed out before the show that they've been told to deploy when the action crosses a line. Finally, the guy says, “I have an idea for another improv. My opening line will be, 'I really didn't rape that girl.'”

“Up until this point, it's been crazy, funny,” says Brea. “The audience is laughing. They're at a sexual assault prevention show, but they've almost forgotten. And then we drop the bomb.”

The girl, a college student, invites the boy over to study. Or, in the military version of the show, to play video games. Either way: they have some beers. Eat a pizza. She kisses him first. There's some tickling and wrestling … and they end up having sex.

Great, except that she said “stop,” whispered “stop,” and he kept going.

“That's sex without consent. That's rape,” Hayes says.

Is that what the audience thinks? Who's at fault? “Almost all the time they say both. And then so we ask them, well, why? Why do you want to hold the girl accountable for this?” Hayes says.

“The audience gives us their reasons and from there we have a facilitated conversation.

We break down the reasons that they want to hold the girl responsible. All these victim-blaming things: She was drinking, she didn't do more to stop him, she was sending mixed messages. We talk about the difference between reducing your risk from a situation versus being able to prevent that actual situation from happening. We then start talking about why it's important to hold the guy accountable for what he did.”

When we talk about sexual assault in this country, we tend to tell a sad story. One in four women are assaulted in their lifetime; almost all are harassed. Assaults of men, even, are far higher than we previously believed. The picture becomes especially bleak when we consider the institutions traditionally charged with transforming children into young adults: Stories of university ineptitude in handling assault cases have grown so dire as to provoke Department of Justice intervention at dozens of schools; for years, the military has been plagued with headlines detailing a pervasive culture of abuse, intimidation, and silence. We tend to tell a frustrating story, too: Despite decades of effort to curb assaults, it's difficult to escape the impression that even if things are not getting worse, they're hardly getting better—we're left to taking “raised awareness” as a consolation prize, while the horror stories continue to flow in.

But as grim as things can seem today, they were even darker in 1998, when Christian Murphy and Dr. Gail Stern—the founders of Catharsis Productions—met during a play festival where each was performing a one-person show about social justice.

They were impressed by one another's work.

“One of the things that blew me away about Gail,” Murphy remembers, “was that at that time she was a rape crisis counselor during the day and a stand-up comedian at night. So she had this amazing ability to lure mainstream audiences into talking about feminist issues: sexism, sexual violence, at a time when people weren't used to talking about those things. I'd overhear rat guys going, ‘Shit, I think I'm a feminist, you know?' It was really cool.”

For Stern, it was simpler: Murphy was doing a show that seriously interrogated his privilege has a heterosexual white man—long before it was fashionable.

Both were looking for a new project. Murphy, recently returned from a stint in Los Angeles, was trying to rediscover his place in Chicago theater. Stern, after working for years as a rape crisis counselor, was feeling an exhaustion common to that field—burnt out by the burden of victim's advocacy, and wondering if there was another, more proactive way she could help.

They discovered a niche. “We both felt there was a dearth of decent or engaging sexual violence programs on college campuses,” Murphy explains.

It wasn't only that such programs were comparatively rare then; many that did exist were unable to win over unreceptive audiences. Others were even counter-productive, reinforcing dangerous cultural tropes like victim-blaming, or conflating risk reduction strategies (“don't walk alone at night, girls”) with real assault prevention and moral accountability.

“We thought if we can make something more engaging, a show that balanced the tension between something artistically fulfilling but also reflective of the research and the lived experience of survivors, and use humor to make the material more accessible, to bring the audience in, then we could really have a dialogue that galvanized both men and women to work on these issues,” Murphy says.

In 1999, the two began collaborating in earnest., In 2000, after several months of work, the show that would become Sex Signals —then going by “The Sensitive Swashbuckler and Other Dating Myths”—premiered as a late night comedy billing at Chicago's Stage Left Theater. Despite audiences of drunks expecting lighter fare, the show immediately struck a nerve: Based on audience reaction and the evaluations they collected afterward, Stern and Murphy knew they were on to something.

“A lot of people said, you know, at first I was a little thrown by the whole conversation about sexual assault, but I really loved the humor and I loved the way that you gave us an opportunity to have a sort of candid, frank, honest, safe conversation about it,” Stern recalls.

Encouraged, the pair continued refining the show. They brought in representatives from rape victims advocates and academia for feedback, striving to maintain the vital balance between engaging entertainment, and rigorous, effective education. They got their first college gig: a presentation at The University of Chicago. More followed, as did a collegiate programming agency, interested in representing the show. That first school year (from fall 2000 to spring 2001), Sex Signals was performed eight times on college campuses. The following school year, it shot up to fifty. For 2014 to 2015, that number is expected to top 2,500.

Clearly something is working.

Over the years, Catharsis has developed a host of complimentary programs in response to the latest research and challenges, with titles like Got Your Back, The Hook-Up, and others. Meanwhile, they continue—as they have for 15 years—to update and improve the script for Sex Signals , which still comprises nearly three-quarters of their presentations.

Many of the improvements address and combat the host of challenges familiar to any effort to combat sexual assault: victim blaming, a media culture that can encourage sexual assault, fear of retaliation for reporting, and inadequate infrastructure to address reports.

Catharsis also faces another challenge arising from the particular nature of direct engagement programs. Many Americans may be more comfortable talking about rape and assault in the abstract, but there's a tendency to recoil when the problem comes too close to home, when “a face is put to the word ‘rape' with a capital ‘R'”, as Dr. Stern explains. Often, that resistance takes the form of communities closing ranks when accusations are made toward one of their own (see: Steubenville, Ohio) but even before an assault takes place, Stern and Murphy point out, audiences can become reflexively uncomfortable at the suggestion that assault is something they could commit, or even be victim to. That's why so many programs which focus on consent and communication tend to fail: They alienate their audience before the message gets through.

“[When you focus on those issues],” Murphy says, “You end up with men and women out there in the audience going, ‘Okay, but I am not raping, so why am I here?'

“It's not an effective teaching frame,” Dr. Stern explains, “If I tell you, ‘Hey, I'm assuming you're all going to be rapists, so let's talk about consent;'—well, first, most men don't commit rape, and the ones that do don't give a crap about consent. So that's alienating and ineffective… [Conversely,] when you start talking about sexual violence with women, they immediately assume you're saying they're going to be victims. And what they hear is that you're saying they're going to be weak or stupid. And people don't want to feel preemptively accused of anything. So they shut down. And they don't listen. And you can't get through.”

The strategy to overcome that challenge underlies the entire prevention philosophy of Catharsis. Instead of placing audience members in the assumed roles of victim or perpetrator, they use and teach the theory of bystander intervention —framing the audience, the potential rapists and victims, as outsiders with the power to prevent assault.

“If I say, especially to a military audience, ‘I want you to be a hero. You signed up because you wanted to do something, to actively step up,' it makes the message resonate. You say, ‘This is about courage. This is about don't leave you battle buddy behind,'” Stern says.

Most importantly, bystander intervention gives you something to do , as opposed to a don't do . “We're asking them to take a leadership role,” Murphy says.

The increase in demand for programs like Sex Signals suggests that bystander intervention programs produce better results.

But even a successful program isn't enough on its own, as every Catharsis employee I spoke to was quick to point out. Rather, a show like Sex Signals is only one step in creating a broader culture of prevention. “[The culture we're fighting] definitely doesn't get better by a one-stop pop in, 90 minutes, ‘Hey guys, rape is wrong, don't hurt people, see you next year,'” one employee told me.

To create and help sustain that culture, Catharsis offers an expanded suite of programs beyond Sex Signals : a range of alternative, complimentary, and follow-up presentations, tailored for different audiences and different levels of progress. The idea is to foster the capacity for communities to shift their own cultures and begin improving themselves through a self-reinforcing cycle that does the day-to-day work.

One might ask if, in a world so saturated by messages that enable sexual assault, a self-policing climate in environments like college campuses and military bases, where there is a constant population turnover, can sound a little bit like wishful thinking. But Murphy compares his goals with the largely successful efforts by the U.S. Government to curb drunk driving:

“Back in the 80's, most people didn't think drunk driving was that big of a deal,” he explains. “People didn't want to feel accused, a lot of the response was: ‘What is this about? I don't know why we're making such a big deal out of drunk driving.'”

But after years of excruciatingly slow progress, “there really has been a cultural shift,” he says, “Does it mean that drunk driving has stopped? Of course not. But I think now people are much more plugged in to the notion that if they see a buddy wasted at a bar pick up their keys, they're probably going to do something to stop them. A moral obligation was placed on bystanders to say something.”

In the case of drunk driving, the effort worked: Since the 1980s, there's been a marked decline in DUI fatalities; dropping below 10,000 for the first time in 2011. As Catharsis work has expanded (they're expected to give just under 3,000 performances in 2014, up from 1,460 last year), the demand has reinforced the company's hope that their work is helping to create a similar trend in sexual assault prevention.

At Catharsis's flagship military client—the Great Lakes Naval Base, where the company has been active for two years—anonymous reports of rape have dropped between 50 and 70 percent since the program started. More detailed surveys, usually designed to detect sexual assault instances where people's willingness to report and conflicting definitions of “rape” can complicate surface statistics, confirm those statistics. In fact, the program has been so successful that the military has begun referring to the program as the “Great Lakes Model,” one they hope to emulate on other bases, according to Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Admiral John Kirby, who said the work at Great Lakes Naval Base was on the leading edge of “implanting comprehensive, evidence-based methods of sexual assault training and prevention.”

“They're really a model not just for the Navy but for the whole military,” he told reporters recently.

But, Murphy and Stern are quick to point out, these statistics—while encouraging—are complicated and sometimes even counter-intuitive. Sexual assault reports can dramatically increase after a prevention program begins working, before they begin to subside.

“That's really important to remember,” Murphy says, “In most situations, if you're really doing the right thing, you'll see that your reports go up before they go down.”

“A lot of it is old cases, people who are finally coming forward, who now feel more comfortable making those reports because they feel they're going to be supported,” Dr. Stern says.

This is a sign of a culture beginning to change. It's a slow process, but the pair shows no signs of slowing down.

“I hope to go on doing prevention work for a long, long time,” Stern says, “because whenever we get feedback, and we get someone who says, ‘I never saw it that way before,' or we'll get emails, anonymous, from people who have seen the show on bases who say, ‘I just saw Sex Signals and I now recognize that that thing was bad, and I intervened last night, and here's how I did it.'”

When we talk about sexual assault, we tend to tell a sad story. But it's one, despite the dark and still-serious headlines, that's beginning to get better.

“There's a lot of despair that comes with this kind of crime when it's perpetrated,” Murphy says, “But we're constantly looking at the hope in our culture. Even if it's slow. Because that way, I think, we're able to inspire people's better selves.”


Domestic Violence, Trauma May Leave Genetic Imprint On Children

by J Baulkman

Researchers from Tulane University School of Medicine found that children in homes affected by domestic violence, suicide or the incarceration of a family member have significantly shorter telomeres, which is a cellular marker of aging, than those in stable households.

Telomeres are the caps at the end of chromosomes that keep them from shrinking when cells replicate. Shorter telomeres are linked to higher risks for heart disease, obesity, cognitive decline, diabetes, mental illness and poor health outcomes in adulthood.

"Family-level stressors, such as witnessing a family member get hurt, created an environment that affected the DNA within the cells of the children," Dr. Stacy Drury, lead author of the study and director of the Behavioral and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Laboratory at Tulane University, said in a statement. "The greater the number of exposures these kids had in life, the shorter their telomeres were -- and this was after controlling for many other factors, including socioeconomic status, maternal education, parental age and the child's age."

For the study, researchers took genetic samples from 80 children ages 5 to 15 in New Orleans and interviewed parents about their home environments and exposures to adverse life events.

They found that gender moderated the impact of family instability. Traumatic family events were more detrimental to young girls as they were more likely to have shortened telomeres.

There was also a surprising protective effect for boys: mothers who had achieved a higher level of education had a positive association with telomere length, but only in boys under 10.

Researchers said the study suggests that the home environment is an important intervention target to reduce "the biological impacts of adversity in the lives of young children."

The findings were recently published in the journal Pediatrics .



Sex abuse legislation was slow in arriving


It wasn't for lack of effort. But proposals to help victims ran into a powerful opponent — the archdiocese.

It has been heart-wrenching to read, over many months, disclosure after disclosure of Catholic priests credibly accused of committing child sexual abuse, and of those who protected them. It is stunning to hear church official after church official declare an inability to “remember” the details.

The past year of disclosures came about because legislation was passed in Minnesota in May 2013 opening the courts to those who suffered sexual abuse. But why only then? Why weren't disclosures made years ago, so that other children could be protected from the trauma of sexual abuse?

It could have been otherwise. Sexual abuse survivors worked for years to pass similar legislation to open the courts to such disclosure. But the sobering reality is that opponents, including Catholic church leaders, vigorously and successfully resisted its passage.

As an original author of this legislation, I write to set the historical context. In 1989, after significant testimony from mental health professionals, the Legislature passed a law that gave more time to victims of child sexual abuse to bring forward legal actions. Recognizing that the impact of sexual abuse may not surface for years or even decades, the Legislature gave victims six years to initiate legal action starting after they “knew or had reason to know that the injury was caused by sexual abuse.”

Why was the law written this way? Legislative testimony made clear that abused persons, especially children, are often shamed by the abuse and believe they are responsible. They hide it. They don't understand it. But the devastating effects emerge years later in various dysfunctions, such as adult chemical dependency, mental illness and troubled relationships. Counseling years later may reveal the connection to past abuse. So they come to the courts with this new understanding, not only for their personal healing but, most important, to prevent others from suffering abuse by the same perpetrator.

In 1996, the Minnesota Supreme Court, in a limited interpretation of this legislative intent, closed the door on most sexual abuse victims in a decision that essentially limited their time to come forward to six years after age of majority — by age 24. Yet the law's authors knew that most victims still struggle at that young age with the devastating impact of abuse and are not strong enough to come forward. So we stepped forward to clarify the original intent of the law and allow more time.

In 1997, we introduced legislation to do just that. We knew that without it, many cases brought by victims would be stopped at the courthouse door, depriving victims of rightful remedies and giving perpetrators opportunity to abuse again.

By this time, stories of child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church were rising up around the country. Our bill to clarify original intent, to our surprise, created a firestorm at the State Capitol. A small group of opponents rose up to vigorously oppose its passage. Most influential among those opponents was the Catholic archdiocese, represented at the statehouse by the vicar general.

For 16 years thereafter, legislators tried multiple ways to restore access for victims to the courts, in order to disclose perpetrators, protect children and hold accountable those institutions that protected perpetrators. The issue knew no political party. Bill advocates included current DFLers Rep. Steve Simon and Sen. Ron Latz, and former Republican representatives John Tuma and Peg Larsen.

But key legislators of both parties were also influenced by the strong credibility of the Catholic Church, and year after the year, the legislation was stalled in committee or pulled back when it was clear it would not pass.

To their credit, survivors of child sexual abuse would not give up. Survivors' court claims were being turned back even when they asked only for disclosure without compensation. They returned to the Capitol year after year to open access to the courts.

How ironic that after all those years, the legislation finally passed both the House and Senate in 2013 with just three dissenting votes. Media coverage over a decade helped build public awareness that this issue was — first and foremost — about protecting children.

Regrettably, there likely will be more disclosures in coming months. That these disclosures were not revealed years ago is the greatest tragedy of all.

Ember Reichgott Junge is a former member of the Minnesota Senate. She is past chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and was the author of legislation to extend the statute of limitations to provide court access for victims of child sexual abuse.



Researcher at Dallas institute aims to make preventing child abuse a community priority


Jeff Wherry has a few questions on his mind now that he's started his job ensuring the Dallas Children's Advocacy Center fulfills its mission to protect the city's most vulnerable crime victims.

How can agencies like his be more effective? What are the long-term effects that therapy can have on abused children? And how much does it cost a community to let abused children go without help or treatment?

“They're not esoteric questions,” said Wherry, who began his job as full-time director of the agency's new research institute last month. “They're practical things that families we're working with right now will benefit from.”

Wherry's goal is not only to find answers to those practical questions for the sake of Dallas children, but also to find the best way advocacy centers across the country can help the families they serve.

“We always want to do things that put kids and families first,” he said.

The research institute, made possible by donations from the RGK Foundation and Hillcrest Foundation, is the first of its kind at an independent nonprofit center, according to the Washington-based National Children's Alliance, the membership organization for more than 750 advocacy centers.

“There are others that partner with universities to collect data, but this is the first one I know of like this,” said the alliance's executive director, Teresa Huizar. “How very forward-thinking of them to do this, and fortunate enough to get Dr. Wherry.”

Huizar said the researcher has a solid academic background and is known to many in the field for his work — on traumatic stress among children — but he is familiar with the realities of working with child abuse victims. He was also CEO of an advocacy center in St. Louis.

“He's got ideas coming out of everywhere,” said Lynn Davis, CEO of the Dallas advocacy center. “As soon as we hired him, the state organization said, ‘How did you get him?'”

The Dallas Children's Advocacy Center helps thousands of abused children and families every year heal and cope with the legal process of prosecuting abusers. National research from almost a decade ago determined that having a seamless team of therapists, Child Protective Services workers and law enforcement officials serving these victims was more efficient than a fragmented system of professionals.

And while some of the crimes in child abuse don't change, some of the nuances of serving the vulnerable crime victims do. That's where research can help — using data and experience of professionals, as well as tracking long-term progress in children — to find out what methods are most effective.

But behind all that data and analysis are the children who need help. Wherry aims to continue seeing children and families as he always has as a licensed psychologist since 1983.

“I want to remain a part of the system that I am researching,” he said.

He'll also listen to prosecutors, educators, counselors and families to find out the questions they want answered that can make their jobs easier. His goal, in line with his new employer's, is to get the community's attention to make preventing child abuse a priority in Dallas.

“The statistics that 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused by the time they're 18 and 1 in 6 boys, that makes me sad for children and families,” he said. “What also makes me sad is when I see a segment of the population gets concerned with the treatment of animals but looks the other way when it comes to child abuse.”

He said that despite the work ahead and the sadness he and his colleagues work with, there's hope to look forward to.

“It's inspirational that these kids go on to survive and thrive,” he said. “It's a privilege to be a part of an organization devoted to that. But there's still so much to do.”



Child Abuse a Growing Problem in Southern Illinois

by Matthew Searcy

CARBONDALE -- New data shows child abuse is a growing problem in downstate Illinois. On Tuesday, local experts gathered at SIU to look for solutions.

The new information comes from the Department of Children and Family Services.

"Ten years ago we were seeing about a 50-50 split between Cook County and the rest of the state," said child welfare expert Dana Weiner. "Ten years later we are seeing that 75 percent of new cases are coming in from the downstate region."

Despite that shift, most of Illinois' child welfare resources are located in Cook County, leaving other areas under-served.

"We definitely see areas where there are vacuums," explained Weiner. "They don't have the resources and capacity that we need and we need to develop that."

Experts do expect an increase in child welfare funding from the state because of budget concerns.They hope the new data will help them better understand the root of the problem and use resources more efficiently.

George Timberlake is a former judge who chairs the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission.

He says more alcohol and drug abuse in southern Illinois has contributed to the growing number of child abuse cases.

"One of the biggest impacts in Southern Illinois in the last 15 years has been meth and before that it was crack cocaine," said Timberlake.

Last year, more than 450 child abuse cases were reported in Jefferson County alone. The highest of any county in southern Illinois.

"Substance abuse, poverty and child maltreatment are all correlated and we need to respond to all of those factors," explained Timberlake.



Child abuse on the rise in Maine

by Grady Trimble

BANGOR, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Data from the Department of Health and Human Services shows cases of physical child abuse in Maine have increased 58 percent since 2011.

The number of cases spiked in 2012 and continued to rise, but not as drastically, in 2013.

In 2011 the total number of cases was 563. The next year, it went up to 807. In 2013, it increased even more to 891.

There was an even bigger increase in these types of child abuse cases for children under 5. In 2011, the total was 241, and by 2013 it had gone up to 424, a 76 percent increase.

The Department of Health and Human Services says it didn't do anything differently in 2012, and that there were no significant policy or staffing shifts. However, the Office of Child and Family Services has seen an increase in substance abusing parents, as well as mental health issues and domestic violence.

Experts say it's important to take action as soon as you notice any abuse, but especially when children are involved.

"Children are very resilient, and I think when we see numbers like this, we go, 'Oh my goodness, there are so many children now who are damaged and are going to grow up and be not beneficial to our society,'" Amanda Cost of Spruce Run-Womancare Alliance said. "That's not true, and the way it can be different is if we step in and we intervene and we make reports when we suspect child abuse is going on."



Across state, York County ranks third in reported child abuse


The number of child abuse reports in York County has increased for the fifth straight year.

There were 1,320 reported cases in 2013 — the third most in the state, behind Allegheny and Philadelphia counties, according to the state Department of Public Welfare's Annual Child Abuse Report, released last week.

Last year's report showed 1,275 cases of reported child abuse in York.

More people reporting: But an increase in reported cases doesn't necessarily mean an increase in abuse, said Deb Harrison, executive director of the York County Children's Advocacy Center.

The York County Office of Children, Youth and Families and law enforcement investigate most reported cases, but the center works with children who are sexually abused or subject to extreme physical harm, she said. Of those 1,320 cases in 2013, the center interviewed 387 children, mostly between ages 3 and 13, she said.

"I tend to think that it's more people reporting," Harrison said of the increase.

Mandated reporters, individuals whose work brings them into contact with children, are the highest reporters of suspected child abuse, the report says.

The report says that out of the 1,320 cases in York, 139 were substantiated — meaning the county found abuse through evidence or an admission by the perpetrator, and the courts became involved. That's five more than in 2012 and the fourth-highest total in the state.

Looking ahead: In April, Gov. Tom Corbett signed legislation that will expand the definition of mandated reporters, streamline the reporting process, increase penalties for mandated reporters who fail to do so and provide protections from employment discrimination for filing a report in good faith.

Harrison said she thinks York will continue to see an upward trend because of the push for mandated reporters to understand their role.

That doesn't necessarily mean child abuse rates are increasing, she said: It means more people are stepping up to report.

"We know that there's still a lot of work to do, but I really think that the trend up in number tends to demonstrate that there's a growing awareness of what people should do," she said.

Harrison said the 2014 numbers will be interesting to compare with 2013 because she anticipates the number of reported and substantiated cases will increase.

"I think they'll continue to grow, and I think that's a good thing," she said.



Study: Pedophiles' Brains ‘Abnormally Tuned' To Find Young Children Attractive

ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS Atlanta) – According to a new study, pedophiles' brains are “abnormally tuned” to find young children attractive.

Lead Researcher Jorge Ponseti from the University of Kiel in Germany says now it may be possible to diagnose pedophiles before they are able to offend.

The researchers found that pedophiles have the same neurological reaction to images of those they find attractive as those of people with ordinary sexual predilections. A pedophile's relevant cerebral areas become engaged when they see children. When an adult finds someone attractive, their occipital areas become engaged, but this is inverted for pedophiles.

The researchers believe this is proof that there is a neural pattern behind a pedophile's behavior.

“The human brain contains networks that are tuned to face processing, and these networks appear to activate different processing streams of the reproductive domain selectively: nurturing processing in the case of child faces and sexual processing in the case of sexually preferred adult faces,” they noted in the study. “This implies that the brain extracts age-related face cues of the preferred sex that inform appropriate response selection in the reproductive domains: nurturing in the case of child faces and mating in the case of adult faces.”

The researchers analyzed data obtained from MRI scans of 56 male participants. That group included 13 homosexual pedophiles and 11 heterosexual pedophiles. The men were then exposed to high arousing images of men, women, boys, and girls. The participants were then asked to rank each photo in level of attractiveness. This led the researchers to conclude that the brain networks of pedophiles are activated by sexual immaturity.

“The critical new finding is that face processing is also tuned to face cues revealing the developmental stage that is sexually preferred,” the study stated.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define child sexual abuse as any sexual activity with a child where consent is not or cannot be given. This includes sexual contact that is accomplished by force or threat of force, regardless of the age of the participants, and all sexual contact between an adult and a child, regardless of whether there is deception or the child understands the sexual nature of the activity.

Sexual contact between an older and a younger child also can be abusive if there is a significant disparity in age, development, or size, rendering the younger child incapable of giving informed consent. The sexually abusive acts may include sexual penetration, sexual touching, or non-contact sexual acts such as exposure of voyeurism. Legal definitions vary from state to state.

A nationally representative survey from 2012 showed that 42.2 percent of female rape victims were first raped before they turned 18. It also showed that 29.9 percent of female rape victims were first raped between the ages of 11 and 17, while, 12.3 percent of female rape victims and 27.8 percent of male rape victims were first raped when they were age 10 or younger.

The findings were published in the scientific journal Biology Letters .


New York

Motherless by Choice

by Katie Naum -- Writer and academic

•  It's been four years since I last spoke with my mother. I may never speak to her again.

There is no easy way to say, "I'm estranged from my mother." It's even harder to say, "I've cut my mother out of my life," clarifying that you are the one who has severed the bond. Say it to anyone, friend or stranger, and a certain light you hadn't even noticed fades from their eyes, every time. Smiles falter or grow forced. Mothers give so much to their children that a justification for estrangement must be staggering: some monstrous abuse that outweighs all the love and self-sacrifice inherent in parenting. Only someone selfish, heartless could cut off a mother who loved them -- right?


When I was in high school, I slept most nights on the living room floor. I wanted to sleep in my bed, of course, but my mother had rules for us, rules we could not disobey without consequences. One rule was that she controlled who was allowed to enter which rooms, and when. For example, over time, the right to go upstairs -- to enter our bedrooms for any reason, or to use the upstairs bathroom to bathe -- became rarer and rarer. (Years earlier, my father had first been banished to the first floor, and then to the basement, before leaving our house altogether.) The spaces in which we were allowed to move slowly shrank.

As we entered our teens, home life got worse for my sister and me. Concerned, anonymous people began to place calls to social services. Each call meant disruption to our household, punctuated by unpredictable visits from a social worker named Sam, a tall, quietly friendly man with an unusually deep dimple in his chin. Into that dimple I poured all of my hatred and fear.

I don't recall my mother ever saying that Sam, or those who had asked him to come, were wrong to worry about our welfare. Instead, her outbursts of gibbering rage focused on how hard she had it, how she worked like a n*gger every day, how the deck was stacked against her, and how we'd better not say anything to Sam that criticized her in the slightest. As flawed as she was, she said, she was our best shot for a happy life. "They'll take you away and put you with some f*cking foster family who'll leave you to rot," she'd howl. One of her favored punishments was having us stand perfectly still in the middle of the kitchen floor for hours as she went about her day, bellowing at us like a wounded beast when her outrage bubbled over at having to load the washing machine or perform some other household chore. For me, she threw in an extra threat: "And no foster family is going to pay for you to go to college, so you can kiss that goodbye."

She must have known that college was already cemented in my mind as my escape route, the best way out for a bright girl who threw herself into her schoolwork because she was literally not allowed outside the house for any other reason. When she had her anger under control, my mother devoted her deepest affection to my intellect. She flattered me by telling me how much smarter I was than my sister, my father; how unusual my gifts were; how I needed careful nurturing, only the best opportunities, which of course she was uniquely qualified to identify. It was her and me against the world, as she depicted it; it was either college and my mother, or neither.

So I got pretty good at lying, and at going numb during unpredictable outbursts, and at telling myself it wasn't so bad. She wanted the best for me -- how could that be abuse? Ignore the incoherent howling, the overturned furniture and hurled dishes, the nights spent on the floor, denied permission to leave that room. It was nothing I couldn't handle. I soon became my mother's greatest defender, seeing Sam and his ilk as genuine threats to my future. She molded me into that role; she needed a defender, because she didn't really have anyone else.


"She's your mother; you'll want to reconnect someday." The words are so universal I can't even point to a specific person who said them; it is all the world that tells me. Typically, I'm told I'll change my mind in one of two scenarios: if I have children, or when she is dying. Maybe they are right. Maybe I will deeply regret cutting those ties, when I myself bring new life into this world and realize... what? That I never want to do to my child what my mother did to me? That I never want a child of mine to suffer, and doubt herself, and learn to lie and helplessly obey the way I did? That the very moment I thought my mother might pose any threat to my child, she would be back out of my life again?

The other scenario, that hallowed image of deathbed reconciliation... that one is difficult to dismiss. I might want to see my mother again, some hypothetical, far-distant day. But the few people I've trusted with details of my past -- details I may never put in writing, at least not writing for public consumption -- they don't say "She's your mother." They say, "Are you sure? Are you sure you'd want to see her, even if you knew it was your last chance?" They hear all that daughter-love, all that yearning to do the right thing by the person who carried me for nine months, and weigh it against what I have told them of her. And for every person I've told, the scales do not balance.

So I don't know. Maybe I will never see my mother again. A vast silent nothing opens in me when I think of it.


I didn't talk about my past for a long time, not only because it was too raw, but because there was always a haunting feeling that her rage and her infinite rules weren't good enough reason to justify estrangement. Maybe if I had physical scars, I'd feel vindicated. Maybe if she hadn't reminded us so often how much easier her life would be if we'd never been born, the words sinking deep into our unconscious as we swayed in place mutely on the kitchen floor -- maybe then I wouldn't wonder whether I was the problem after all. Maybe, most importantly, if she hadn't been so loving when she had a good day -- and good days weren't that rare. Surely an abusive parent was all bad, all the time, and she wasn't. I knew my mother loved me and wanted good things for me. How does a grown child reconcile this love, twisted as it may be, with the need to escape their harmful influence?

I don't tell most people the reasons why my mother is not in my life, or anyway I don't tell them everything. To me, the past is a space that now only I have access to, a place she no longer dictates for me. I alone hold the keys, and I grant access to very few. Who else is there to share it with? I know a few people also estranged from their mothers, and to have that shared experience is validating, but it's not as though we want to dive into the topic regularly. For a time I relieved my stress and sorrow on Mother's Day by hanging out with a friend whose mother had passed away suddenly. This was the closest I had to someone who could understand my complicated feelings about that holiday -- someone whose mother was dead.

The space the past occupies remains mostly empty, save for occasional exchanges between my sister and me, brief because even today that space is haunted for us, unpleasant to dwell in. Do you ever get nightmares about Mom? Yeah, I do . End of conversation. We don't describe the nightmares. We don't mention that they never stopped.


As I learned to define my own space apart from my mother, I found it had to be absolute. I used to get calls that paralyzed me with dread; I changed my number. I used to see her during the holidays; that ended after my grandfather passed, and she initiated a bitter inheritance war with my aunt, leading to their estrangement as well. I don't know what my mother does for holidays now. Maybe she spends them with the family of her boyfriend, a man who once snuck up behind me, kissed me on the space between my shoulder and neck, and gave me a strange look when I turned, startled. I don't know if she's with him anymore . I don't know much of anything about her.

In the wake of the gradual collapse of my mother's entire side of the family, I reached out to my aunt; now I stay with her every Christmas. I reached out to the scattered members of my father's side as well, who'd fallen out of the habit of celebrating holidays together, though not for acrimonious reasons. I talked about bringing lonely, far-flung members of that side together in Indiana for the holidays: now that post-Christmas meet-up has become an annual tradition with 15+ guests.

And still I worry: it's not enough family. It's not enough to make up for what I lost.


I graduate college this May. I am 30; I went back to school as an adult, to finish my bachelor's degree at last. My father's family will share the day with me; my friends are planning celebrations as well. The first time I tried college -- still her good, obedient girl -- I cracked from the stress and dropped out. I had moved all the way across the state, but still she sought to control my space. I remember my sister calling to warn me that my mother was driving across the state, on the spur of the moment, leaving the younger daughter she cared little for in order to hunt down the older one she was still determined to control. I escaped to a space ungoverned by her, a friend's dorm room, and slept there all weekend as she roamed campus looking for me.

I did not return to her space; I carved out a space of my own. I worked hard and saved money. I moved to New York. I got into a better school, on my own merits, despite her predictions. I stayed close to my family and I made good friends. I now know it wasn't true: I didn't need her to succeed in college, in life. I can hold my head up high and say, "I did it all without you." The words reverberate, though, as though spoken aloud in a great wide room, completely empty. Without you .



Pimp Caught With Underage Girls, Condoms, Book On Pimpology: Cops

by Andy Campbell

A man suspected of forcing underage girls into prostitution at a Motel 6 was caught with condoms and a book on "pimpology," police say.

Chester Brown, 20, was collared in Stockton, California after one of his alleged underage victims escaped and contacted her father, CBS Sacramento reports.

CBS has more:

Police say that 17-year-old girl also called police and told them she recently ran away from an Antioch home after a fight with her parents. She told them Brown picked her up and took her to the Motel 6 in Stockton, where he forced her to have sex with different men.

She says Brown forced her to create an account on and threatened to kill her if she didn't do what he told her.

He's also accused of having sex with that victim, according to FOX 40.

Police say they took him in when he showed up to the motel over the weekend with three other girls between the ages of 14 and 16. He was carrying condoms and a book on "how to be a pimp," cops said. One of the victims told police that another 14-year-old girl was teaching her how to be a prostitute, and that she'd been reported as a missing person.

Brown faces a slew of charges including kidnapping, terrorist threats, sexual battery and sex with a minor. He remained in the San Joaquin County Jail on Monday in lieu of $1.4 million bail.

Stockton Police spokesman Joe Silva told that human trafficking in the area is all too common.

"Basically, these girls end up meeting someone they think they can trust; somewhat like a father figure. Then that person will use fear into making them do what he wants them to do," he said.

DO YOU NEED HELP? has a list of resources for victims of human trafficking. If you are a victim or know someone else who is, contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at (888) 373-7888 or text "info" or "help" to Be Free (233733). This line is open all day, every day of the year.



New Charges For Parents Convicted Of Starving Daughter In Cage

by David Lohr

A Virginia couple who allegedly kept their mentally disabled 6-year-old daughter in a makeshift cage, covered in her own feces, have been charged with homicide in the death of their infant son.

According to Gloucester County Commonwealth Attorney Holly Smith, a grand jury has indicted Brian and Shannon Gore with homicide in the death of their 7-month-old son, Connor.

The investigation into the case began in April 2011 when deputies from the Gloucester County Sheriff's Office executed a search warrant at the Gore's home in Hayes, a small community about 20 miles west of Williamsburg. Authorities were investigating a theft and had received information that some of the items might be in the Gore's home.

However, once inside the residence, the scope of the investigation changed when deputies found the Gore's mentally disabled 6-year-old daughter shut inside a filthy, makeshift cage.

At the time of the couple's arrest, Lt. Scott Little of the Gloucester County Sheriff's Office told The Huffington Post it was the worst case of child abuse he had ever seen.

"She was in the crib nude and covered with feces," Little said.

The child was suffering from severe starvation and, according to court documents, "was eating flakes of skin that were falling off her." The girl appeared to have been inside the crib -- which had been turned into a crude jail cell -- for a significant period of time, police said. The girl also reportedly suffers from Down Syndrome and cerebral palsy.

The child was transported to a children's hospital, where doctors told police she would have likely died within a week if she had not been rescued. She has since recovered from her injuries.

A second child, a 1-month-old male, was also found inside the Gore residence. He was found to be in good condition and was placed into protective custody.

During the same search, police discovered Connor Gore's remains in the Gore's yard, buried under a freestanding shed. Brian Gore allegedly told investigators that the child, who was born in 2007, died in infancy after experiencing breathing trouble. He said he did not call 911 because he was afraid of officials discovering the girl kept in a cage, police said.

The infant's remains were so badly decomposed that the medical examiner's office was unable to determine a cause of death, police said.

In March 2013, Shannon, 27, and Brian, 32, pleaded guilty to felony child abuse and entered an Alford plea on charges of aggravated malicious wounding. The Alford plea is not an admission of guilt, but an acknowledgement that there is enough evidence for a conviction.

Three months later, in June 2013, Judge Bruce Long sentenced Brian and Shannon Gore to 30 years in prison.

"Your daughter looks like somebody in a Nazi death camp," Long said at the sentencing hearing. "I ask myself, as do your attorneys, 'how can one human being do this to another?'"

From the beginning of the investigation into the Gores, the prosecution wanted to charge them with Connor Gore's death. However, Gloucester County Judge Isabel Atlee ruled in December 2011 that the state's case against the couple was too weak to proceed. However, all that changed this week after the grand jury finished reviewing the evidence.

"The grand jury ... was presented evidence in support of the charges," Smith said in a press release. "The charges are a result of additional information received about the remains of the child found buried under the shed."

Smith has yet to elaborate on what additional information was presented to the grand jury. A court date for the Gores has not yet been set.



Missing child turns out to be a large green parrot

A GOOD Samaritan who rushed to the rescue of what she thought was a distressed child was surprised to find it was actually a large green parrot.

Britain's Independent reports that the unnamed woman firsts suspected there might be a child in danger when she heard calls of “Daddy, Daddy” around the Holland Hill School in Fairfield, Connecticut.

The concerned woman began to search the area, but couldn't find a child or person anywhere.

It was only when she looked up that she finally discovered the source of the calls: Ralphie, a large green parrot that had been mimicking a child.

The woman called Animal Welfare, which got the bird down with the help of the fire brigade and returned it to its relieved owner.

Animal Welfare said Ralphie showed off his impressive vocabulary on his journey home, including “hello”, “what” and, of course, “daddy.”



Sexual Exploitation at the 2014 World Cup? New Campaign Links Paying Minors for Sex to Masculinity

by Nicole Froto

When you think of the World Cup, you probably think of soccer. For NGOs focused on protecting child welfare, the tournament conjures something different: the sexual exploitation of minors. As the 2014 World Cup kicks off in Brazil, one organization has launched a campaign to fight the practice of paying minors for sex, which is thought to burgeon during the World Cup every four years. The charity Promundo, which focuses on reconstructing ideas of masculinity, developed the campaign after interviewing “clients” of underage sex workers. The focus of the initiative is traditional ideas about what it means to be a man and their connection to abusive behaviour.

Promundo will be distributing leaflets and putting up posters all over the host cities and has also posted videos (scroll down to watch) on Youtube. All materials are in both Portuguese and English. The whole campaign is constructed around the idea that certain notions of masculinity are closely linked to the motivation to abuse young girls. The posters display strong statements taken directly from interviews with abusers like, “I feel more like a man when I am teaching sex,” and, “What happens here, stays here” (said by a tourist).

According to the research done by the charity, it is that sense of “adult provider” that appeals to abusers who seek sex from minors. Their search for masculinity causes them to seek someone they can protect or teach. Promundo coordinator Vanessa Fonseca says this information guided the charity to focus on men to prevent the abuse in the first place.

She told Bustle, “When we started doing research and reviews of literature in 2007, we started realizing that issues of gender, in particular masculinity, produce vulnerability to sexual exploitation of minors.

“I remember specifically in a poll done with clients [of underage sex workers] that they said they were involved with the girls because being with a younger girl made them feel more like a man, they felt better because they were teaching” her about sex and contributing financially to her family.

Fonseca said the research revealed that most people don't recognize paying for sex with underage children as abuse — in fact, most of the 607 people interviewed by the researchers blamed the minors for the abuse. Even more frighteningly, 77 percent of men interviewed said they find having sex with underage sex workers a “normal occurrence” and that every man should try it at least once in his life.

The study reads: “41% of men and 46% of women in Rio de Janeiro asserted that they consider the act as ‘adolescent prostitution' and not sexual exploitation. At this point, it's important to note that the practice of sexual exploitation of children and teenagers seems to be connected to the ‘availability' of the child for commercial sex.”

In May Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff signed off on a law that made sexual exploitation of minors a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The law also states that suspects awaiting trial have no right to bail.

This is an important step towards progress in a country where 87 complaints of sexual violence against minors are registered daily — that's three abused children every hour. With the upcoming World Cup, activists expect a huge rise in demand for sex workers. Brazil, a country known as a sex tourism paradise, is welcoming 3.7 million soccer fans in a couple of weeks. While sex workers over 18 and their clients are free to make transactions, minors are put in a vulnerable position during this period.

Ana Maria Drummond, executive-director of the Swedish NGO Childhood, told Brazilian magazine Veja , “The influx of tourists, intake of alcohol and school holidays are part of the scenery that aggravates children's exposure to such crimes.” In April the national newspaper O Globo reported that police were investigating the recruitment of minors to perform sex work for the World Cup in the host cities. In Cuiabá, for example, children and teenagers in low income areas were being offered close to $7,000 to be available at all times to tourists during the 15 days of World Cup.

In response, the federal government has developed a program of communication between federal, state and municipal governments to better police the complaints of these types of crime. At a conference I attended on May 26 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil's Minister for Human Rights, Ideli Salvatti, went so far as to say that the program will be “one of the most important legacies of the World Cup.”

The campaign and the sanction of the new law are welcome, but Brazil still has a long way to go. More often than not, minors go into sex work because they need money, food, shelter, or because they were victims of violence. To Drummond, the foundation of a program that would protect children from sexual exploitation during the World Cup should have been established years ago.

“A law that recognizes the heinous crime that is sexual exploitation is progress, but it won't generate the change we need,” she said to Veja magazine in May. “Brazil already has a legislation that approaches the issue that is well evaluated in comparison to other countries' legislations. But despite the existence of these laws that dictate children and teenagers must be protected, we know the practice of these crimes still happen. The complaints system has to advance a lot.”

But it seems that the problem runs deeper than striving for a better complaints system. The charity ViraVida conducted interviews with victims who got their education from their education programs to try and understand how they went into sex work. According to the study, 78% of victims of sexual exploitation in Brazil are female, 17% are male, and 5% are transgender.

Most of the victims have suffered abuse in the past, with 12% of them the victims of sexual violence and 66% of them physical violence.

Most victims also have a bad or no relationship with their parents.

“He does what my father doesn't do,” explained a female victim, referring to how her “boyfriend” takes care of her.

All of the victims expect reciprocity when providing sexual services — most of them seek their “partners” out of need. One of the biggest challenges of recognizing sexual exploitation is destroying the stigma that the transaction has to include money. Sometimes, sex can be exchanged for a much needed meal or clothes, which turns the groomer into a provider.

The most revealing and recurring statement of the research conducted by ViraVida is perhaps the following:

“If I had financial independence,” a survivor explains. “I would not be with [the abuser].”

While the complaints of sexual exploitation increased in 66% during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the impact of the 2014 event on young girls and boys remains to be seen.

As for the international tourists planning to have sex with minors while at the World Cup, Salvatti, the Minister for Human Rights, says anyone with a record of a sexual crime will be barred from entering the country. But since paying minors for sex isn't considered a crime in most countries, many of those who have enjoyed this type of “tourism” in the past and are likely to again won't have a record and thus won't be banned. They are the visitors the Promundo campaign hopes to reach. And if they're caught exploiting minors for sex, Salvatti can at least promise this:

“We won't ever let them in again. We don't want them here.”



Matt Sandusky Founds Charity Supporting Survivors Of Child Sex Abuse

Matt Sandusky, the adopted son of Jerry Sandusky, has founded the Peaceful Hearts Foundation, a charity that supports survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

The Peaceful Hearts Foundation's mission is to “provide survivor-informed advocacy for the elimination of childhood sexual victimization and trauma.”

Matt alleged he was abused by Jerry as a child during his father's trial in June 2012. After supporting his father at the trial's onset, Matt contacted police after hearing the testimony of Victim 4 and was to be a surprise witness during the trial if Jerry took the stand himself, which never happened. Jerry has denied the allegations, although Matt reached an undisclosed settlement agreement last summer after suing Penn State.

An excerpt from the “Our Story” page of the foundation's website reads:

In 2011 and 2012, as the world tuned into the news for updates on the “Sandusky Scandal”, our family sat in the epicenter of the storm. Matt and Kim were engaged to be married when their worlds were turned upside down. In November of 2011, Matt's adoptive father, Jerry Sandusky, was arrested for sexually assaulting at least ten young boys. Many months and incredible amounts of soul searching, strength, and courage led Matt to contact authorities about the abuse that he had suffered at the hands of his adopted father. The storm that followed would be one that Matt and his family could never have imagined or prepared for.

Donations to the charity go to the production and distribution of additional resources for survivors, families, and individuals.


New York


Assembly must pass human trafficking protections now

by Amy Paulin

The Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act will help end human trafficking in New York state. It is one of 10 bills bundled into the Women's Equality Act, passed by the Assembly. The Senate passed nine of the bills separately, but not a bill that codifies the state's abortion regulations. Now there's a standoff. Meanwhile, trafficking victims suffer.

As an elected official and a Democrat, I know how the political system works. You are expected to stand with the members of your party and oppose those of the other.

But you cannot allow this to compromise principles or integrity. We in the Assembly are being asked to do just that.

At issue is the Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act, and how we get it passed. This bill will help end human trafficking in New York state. It stiffens penalties for those who engage in this heinous practice while stopping the criminalization of victims and providing them help to rebuild their lives.

This bill is so rooted in common sense and decency that Democrats and Republicans alike (and in both houses) agree on the bill's language and objectives.

So why, as we approach the end of the legislative session, are we once again having to fight to get this bill passed?

The bill is part of the Women's Equality Act, an all-encompassing 10-point agenda put forward by the governor in 2013. The Assembly passed all 10 points but the Senate did not. The Senate passed nine parts of the bill but refused to consider the part that would codify Roe vs. Wade.

So once again we have a standoff between those in the Assembly who insist on all 10 points as a package, and those in the Senate who are willing to pass the anti-human trafficking bill separately.

I wholeheartedly support all 10 points of the Women's Equality Act. But I am not willing to allow the Senate's unfortunate failure to support the entire act to also doom this needed anti-trafficking bill. To do so is to say that we put our political needs ahead of the needs of trafficking victims who deserve our support. We cannot sacrifice the safety of countless young men and women who are being bought and sold, raped and tortured, on a daily basis.

Let's at least pass the part we all agree on. If that does not fit the political agenda of some people, then so be it.

The men and women who are victims of human trafficking don't care about political agendas. Neither should we.

The writer, a Scarsdale resident, is a Democratic member of the New York State Assembly, representing the 88th District.



KARE 11 Investigates: Sex Trafficking

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Sex trafficking is not just an issue impacting people living in a far off land.

The FBI ranks the Twin Cities as one of 13 U.S. cities with a high rate of child prostitution, according to the Women's Foundation of Minnesota.

To illustrate how big the issue is, St. Paul Police officials recently granted KARE 11 News a rare inside look at new ways of combating the problem.

Over a number of days, cameras followed members of the Gerald Vick Human Trafficking Task Force while they conducted stings. They not only arrested suspects but also rescued young women, which is new for law enforcement and part of the new Safe Harbor Law. The law states girls under 18 should be treated as victims, not as criminals.

St. Paul Police, Roseville Police, Ramsey County Sheriff's Office, and the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension were part of the sting.

While in a hotel room located in Ramsey County, undercover officers posted an ad on which carries ads for escorts.

"As soon as we place that ad and it pops up online, the undercover phones start ringing," said Commander John Bandemer with the St. Paul Police Department.

How long does it take? KARE 11 timed it and found that it took just 90 seconds after police posted the ad for someone to call the undercover officer's phone. And the phone did not stop ringing.

"I've missed probably thirty calls already," said the undercover officer, who we're not identifying to protect her safety.

Police arrested a total of five men during the sting who have since been charged, according to Roseville Police.

"There's a lot of demand for it, and there's plenty of supply unfortunately," said Bandemer.

Just look online and you'll find an endless stream of ads where people can simply buy sex as easy as buying a pizza. St. Paul Police say one out of ten women they make contact with is underage.

"I would view it as modern day human slavery," said Ramsey County Attorney John Choi. "If you got runaway kids in your community, you've got this issue."

In fact, Choi said one-third of runaway children are sexually exploited.

That's why law enforcement and advocates support the Safe Harbor Law. It officially goes into effect August 1st, but many communities have already adopted the changes, including St. Paul.

During another sting, St. Paul officers called girls listed on who appeared to be underage.

"We don't intend to arrests these girls. We want to connect them to services and get them out of the lifestyle that they are in," said an undercover officer, who we're not identifying to protect his safety.

Shortly after the girl arrived to a location in St. Paul, police identified who they were and moved her to another room where she told police something they have unfortunately heard before.

"I've been wanting out, but they wouldn't let me leave," she told police.

The girl, who turned out to be 18 years old, said she was homeless and her pimp tricked her into prostitution. With no money it was difficult to leave, she said.

She also told police she wasn't the only one who needed help. Her 18-year-old friend had also been tricked into prostitution, she said. That friend was at a nearby hotel room, possibly with a man who was armed.

Police drove to the hotel and found the girl alone. She apparently told police she was too afraid to leave without her friend.

Although police did not arrest the two girls, officers technically could have because the Safe Haven Law only protects females under 18 years of age.

"What Safe Harbor does not do is protect adult victims. And that's why we're hoping this is just a step in the right direction," said Noelle Volin with the advocacy group Breaking Free.

Volin wants all women treated as victims. After all, she said 85 percent of adult women involved in prostitution started when they were children.

"If you are being sold into prostitution you are a victim," she said.

Police arrested the pimp in the case involving the two 18 year old women and the Ramsey County Attorney's office eventually charged the man with sex trafficking. If history is any judge, he could be facing a tougher sentence than he would have just a few years ago.

In January, the Ramsey County Attorney's office got the longest sex trafficking sentence in Minnesota history where Otis Washington received 40 years in prison for trafficking several women and girls.

Choi recently told KARE 11 he believes longer sentences are happening in part because when law enforcement treat the girls as victims they are more willing to share their stories of abuse.

"Now you're seeing sentences at least in the double digits," said Choi about cases that are closed.

Advocacy groups have played a big part in the efforts to stop sex trafficking, as well. The Women's Foundation of Minnesota has provided grant money to organizations in the area, including St. Paul and Minneapolis Police, as well as the Ramsey County Attorney's Office.

The bottom line, experts believe it is going to take everyone in the community to stop sex trafficking.

"We as a community should be doing everything possible to end this," said Choi.



Truck drivers take to the road to end human trafficking

BILLINGS - The 40th Annual Truck Driving Championship brought 60 drivers here to Billings over the weekend. The event gives truck drivers a chance to show off their safe driving skills; many of them have perfect driving records.

But it's another form of safety that these drivers are beginning to show on the road, that has an even bigger international impact: Montana's roadway initiative to end human trafficking.

"Usually the only recognition a truck driver receives is when something goes bad, so this is a chance to reward them for the good things they do and the time they put into it," said Truck Championship event organizer Spook Stang.

Skilled, safe driving is reason enough for recognition at the Annual Truck Driving Competition. But a new human rights campaign is giving truck drivers an even bigger way to do good.

"The truckers and motor carriers of Montana have partnered with us to put these human trafficking awareness posters on their trucks," said Montana Attorney General Tim Fox. "The truckers move all across the country, they're in the truck stops, the rest stops and the highways. They're in a lot of places that human trafficking might take place."

Trafficking; sex work and forced labor are just two forms, and in the past five years in the U.S., 9,300 unique cases were reported. Montana Attorney General Tim Fox says Montana adds to that count.

"We've had both young people, particularly young girls, trafficked out of Montana for sex trafficking in other states. And we've had young girls trafficked into Montana. Even right here in Billings, we've had instances of sex trafficking where law enforcement has had to intervene," said Fox. "Sometimes they're international women; a lot of times from Asia. But often times they're from our own backyard. We're not immune from this."

Montana's backyard is growing, and rapid population increase is a major point of vulnerability for cities when it comes to trafficking.

"Billings is and it's getting more substantial now with what's going on in the Bakken and how much more busy it's getting here in eastern Montana," said Stang. "It's substantial because of how busy it is. We're actually in the intersection of I-90 and I-94."

Well-traveled highways are fast tracks for traffickers, getting victims out of the state, further and further away from salvation.

"A lot of modes that human traffickers operate is to move around. If they move around and they're not in one place for long periods of time, they're less apt to be caught," said Fox. "And that's why it's important for the Montana motor carriers and trucks across the country who are in the area to have those posters so people can make those calls."

Trafficking victims can be women and men of all ages. Officials encourage anyone who suspects trafficking to call the HELP LINE, that number is 1-888-3737-888.