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 4
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.


Overflow of immigrant children headed to SD

by Kelly Hessedal

SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - The Border Patrol is moving forward with plans to transfer Central American migrants from the Rio Grande Valley to San Diego and El Centro.

Hundreds of immigrant children are headed to San Diego and could arrive sometime this weekend.

An overflow of immigrant children crossing the southwest border has prompted federal officials to transfer them and some of their family members to Border Patrol facilities in Southern California.

One group that left Friday could arrive in Murietta as early as this weekend.

According to Border Patrol union representative Gabe Pacheco, every three days another group of approximately 140 people will arrive there.

But he says the facility isn't equipped to hold large numbers for an extended amount of time.

“Where do you house them? Where to do they go after they're processed? That's the bigger issue,” Pacheco said.

Earlier this week, the City of Escondido rejected a plan to house them at a facility in a residential area. The ACLU is now looking into whether that rejection is illegal.

“Where are they gonna go? Are they gonna be put on the streets? Where are they gonna go?,” Pacheco said.

According to the Associated Press, more than 52,000 children, mostly from Central America, have been detained in the US since October.

Many are fleeing their native countries because of violence and crime.

Enrique Morones of Border Angels says the US should welcome these children

"These children are turning away from a desperate situation - if we turn them away they'll die,” Morones said.

But Pacheco says the reality of what will happen is some will be released to family members in the US. He believes others could end up in juvenile detention centers.

“What we need to be doing is putting children on these planes and sending them back to their home country - that's what we need to be doing - not that its not heartless but they do have a place and they are breaking the laws and they are coming across illegally,” Pacheco said.

And a statement released by the U.S. Border Patrol says after processing, "family groups will be transferred to immigration and customs enforcement where appropriate custody determinations will be made on a case by case basis prioritizing national security and public safety."

And we've also learned Border Patrol agents from Southern California will be sent to Texas to help with processing there.


New York

Trauma Victims Get A Healthy Dose Of Drama To Relieve Symptoms, Thanks To Creative Alternatives Of New York

by Erica Robinson

The psychological, emotional, and physical effects of trauma can be life-threatening. And for some trauma victims, the healing process can take years, or sometimes, a lifetime.

According to the Centers for Disease Control And Prevention, 80 percent of young adults who have been abused meet the criteria for at least one psychiatric disorder at age 21. An alarming 15 percent of children suffer abuse. Creative Alternatives of New York (CANY) offers a unique way for victims of sexual and domestic violence, or those who have been diagnosed with HIV, among other traumatizing events, to heal, and learn to become a functional member of society again.

How does CANY help such people? It's all about getting in touch with their creative sides. “CANY group is an escape from the hardships of everyday life. I was allowed to express myself without being judged, and I also felt as if my ideas were received in a loving manner. I loved using my imagination again,” said one client, who participated in the drama therapy group for domestic violence survivors .

CANY was founded in 1969 as an imagination workshop, but it now partners with a range of New York social service agencies and special schools. All of their programs are co-led by licensed creative arts therapists and trained theatre artists. CANY's model has three key principals: metaphor as a therapeutic tool, group as a therapeutic agent, and creativity for health. The organization works with veterans battling post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental conditions, refugees, domestic violence survivors, adults with autism spectrum disorder, people living with HIV/AIDS, and children or at-risk youth who have histories of trauma.

Heidi Landis, associate executive director of clinical and training programs, worked as an actress for 15 years before she joined CANY eight years ago. She says that people who suffer from trauma can begin to lose their creativity. Landis and her colleagues bring their clients' imaginations back to life. With drama therapy, clients are able to tell stories in a way that doesn't directly address their affliction. They're open to choose who gets particular roles, as well as the role they play.

For example, one client recently took the role of a drug dealer for the majority of his sessions — a life he had been familiar with. “A few months later, a student decided he wanted to play a mayor and run for school government. We see kids doing that all the time, and [they] have a conversation with a family member they weren't able to [speak to] before,” Landis told Medical Daily . These are the transformative healing powers of drama, and employees at CANY take great pride in what they do.

Every session begins with a warm up to break the ice, as some clients may not always be in a good mood. Landis and her colleagues work around these challenges with the help of emotion in their drama. If a client complains angrily about the class and makes negative comments, for example, then anger becomes the theme for the warm up. Clients are then told to express how angry they are and make the angriest faces they can, thus engaging them. Eventually, every group produces their own drama, with some skits lasting several sessions and others lasting only one day.

Overall, the program has impacted the lives of many clients, helping them rebuild confidence and discover new leases on life. “I was nervous about letting myself go, but now I'm able to invest myself into a character. I can express myself more and people don't judge me,” said one adolescent participating in a drama therapy group at CARES high school, a therapeutic school for the teens with emotional and behavioral difficulties.



Midland car worker's plea: Tell us what happened to 222 children who died at care home

by Mike Lockley

A Midland car worker has won his 16-year fight to get the Irish government to investigate a former children's home where 222 youngsters died from 1922 to 1949.

Derek Leinster, who now lives in Rugby, was a former resident of the controversial Bethany Home in Rathgar, Dublin, which has been included in the Commission of Investigation into mother and baby homes in Ireland.

Derek, aged 72, claims he suffered neglect at the home and as a result endured gastroenteritis, diphtheria, whooping cough and pneumonia in his formative years at the home, where his unmarried mother, Hannah, was forced to spend the last four months of her pregnancy.

The Commission for Investigation has previously probed the Magdalene laundries featured in the Oscar-nominated film Philomena starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan.

The movie is based on the real-life story of how journalist Martin Sixsmith helps an Irish mother become reunited with her son after Catholic nuns, who ran the laundries, cruelly separated them, and told Philomena Lee that her son had died.

Like the Magdalene laundries, Bethany Home housed “fallen women” – including unmarried mothers.

But it was run by the Protestant Church of Ireland rather than the Catholic Church.

Derek was one of the lucky ones.

He survived.

But he claims the victims' harrowing stories have been swept under the carpet – partly because it was a Protestant-run establishment. Meanwhile, much ink has been spilled over the failings of Catholic care homes.

Derek, who worked at Coventry's Chrysler parts factory from 1969 to 1980, said: “I feel sick, I feel sad, I feel ashamed, but I have never allowed bitterness to get into my DNA. If I had, I would've been well gone by now.”

The former boxer welcomes with caution Ireland Taoiseach Enda Kenny's call for Bethany's blackened past to be included in a probe of Catholic mum-and-baby homes.

Documents reveal many of the infants who died between 1922 to 1949 were months, weeks, even days old.

They fell victim to conditions such as malnutrition, heart failure, German measles and syphilis.

The paperwork, gained by Derek in 2007, makes harrowing reading.

The oldest victim was four-and-a-half. One child died after crawling into a scalding pot of gruel. Many survivors endured abuse after being illegally adopted.

In April, Derek and fellow members of the Bethany Survivors Group saw their campaign for a memorial to those innocent victims unveiled at Dublin's Mount Jerome cemetery. It was paid for by the government.

At the ceremony, Derek said: “For too long, the short lives of these children have been unacknowledged, unnamed and their remains unmarked.

“It is highly appropriate that at last we can now rectify this situation, and that all of us have the opportunity to pay our respects, and to jointly remember a very sad occurrence in our history.”

As a result of being a Bethany resident Derek says he has no legal identity. He claims his school records do not exist.

Derek's childhood was joyless. Hope, tattered and frayed, fell from his slender shoulders like the rags he wore.

His mother, Hannah who has since died, was forced to stay at Bethany as a punishment for conceiving out of wedlock.

The horrors Derek endured at the home from 1941 to 1944 still stir in the mists of his memory. “I only have shadows,” said Derek. “I remember lying in rotten nappies and never having them changed. I was left to rot. In the Catholic society of Ireland, young, unmarried women and their children were crap – the muck at the bottom of shoes.

“I spent weeks in an isolation ward and now suffer from a form of blood cancer. That's because my bone marrow spent its young life fighting all the diseases that overwhelmed me.”

Derek's torment continued when he was dumped with foster parents clearly incapable of fending for themselves.

He and a girl, 11 months older, were swept under the threadbare, grimy carpet of the shambling County Wicklow home.

They were Ireland's guilty secret.

A previous child in the couple's care died of pneumonia.

The authorities simply handed them, like cannon fodder, two replacements.

To throw further chaos into the dysfunctional family, the wife fell pregnant with a child of her own.

“My father lived in another world,” Derek said matter-of-factly, “and he was a drinker. There were times when my shirt would be shiny with the muck. I was in rags.

“Neighbours could see no sense in the couple having another child, so they ignored us. That is how they dealt with it.

“You got food when you did and sometimes you'd have to catch a rabbit. When he did work, my father would work away. It was a terrible thing to have happened and it happened in what was, by and large, a wealthy community of protestant people.

“None of us came through it without difficulties – it was a very tough experience for all.”

At 15, Derek was handed a lifeline through a farm job and left for England.

Three years later, with a tenner in his pocket, he settled in Rugby.

Despite the emotional and physical scars, the grandfather to eight, harbours no anger towards his blood or foster parents.

He believes it is the Irish government which should carry the guilt.

Hannah has since died.

“Twice I tracked down my mother,” Derek said. “The pain and suffering, she was never able to deal with that. She pulled an iron door down.

“As for my foster parents, they were the best parents I had, they were the only parents I had. I learned to love my foster father and would have done anything for him.

“The powers-that-be knew what was happening. It was no secret.”

At last Irish politicians have heard the drum beaten by Derek and fellow Bethany survivors.

Children's Minister Charlie Flanagan declared: “I am conscious of grievance on the part of people associated with Bethany Homes and I am anxious the scope of the inquiry would be beyond Tuam and County Galway. I would include all mother and baby homes with specific reference to the Bethany.

“It is absolutely essential that the story be told, difficult and traumatic though that is, especially for the mothers and former babies, many of whom are now adults.”

And he conceded: “Questions remain unanswered about the nature of adoptions and vaccine trials.”

Derek isn't holding his breath. “I have been close to the top of that hill many times, but I've been doing this for 16 years and won't stop now.”

In an angry swipe at politicians, he added: “Now they are all going round like drunken ducks. Where were all the saints 16 years ago?

“I want justice for all survivors as a priority.”


From ICE

St. Louis man arrested after traveling to Denver to have sex with mother and two minor daughters

The mother was actually an undercover agent with Homeland Security Investigations

DENVER —A Missouri man was arrested last week at Denver International Airport (DIA) after he traveled to Colorado to have sex with two minor children.

This arrest was announced by U.S. Attorney John Walsh and Special Agent in Charge Kumar C. Kibble with by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Darwin Gilbert Gowen, 61, of St. Louis, Missouri, made his initial appearance where he was advised of his rights and the charges pending against him. He is due back in court July 2 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kristen L. Mix for a detention hearing. The Criminal Complaint was filed June 20. Gowen was arrested by HSI agents at DIA the same day.

The affidavit in support of the Criminal Complaint was written by an HSI special agent based in Greeley, Colorado, who was working in an undercover capacity. In her undercover role as a 37-year-old single mother of two minor daughters, ages 15 and 11, she communicated with an individual who expressed an interest in having sex with the mother and both daughters.

During the conversations, which took place primarily via email and text, the defendant stated that he was "a 60 year old male, widowed … wanting to experience the wild side of life." He also said he "adored chubby girls" … and was "looking for naughty daughters … who love to hook up with a kinky mom for mom daughter fun." Further investigation revealed that the individual was Darwin Gilbert Gowen of St. Louis, Missouri.

Gowen told the undercover agent that he was going to fly to Denver to see her and have sex with her and her daughters. HSI agents confirmed that the defendant had arranged to fly to Denver June 19. He was observed by HSI agents leaving the St. Louis Airport. He was then seen at DIA. Gowen met a female HSI agent at the DIA baggage check. After the two discussed that he flew to Denver for the express purpose of having sex with the two minor children, he was arrested.

"Individuals who travel to have sex with minors are dangerous, as there is always the chance that they communicate with a vulnerable woman with children as opposed to an undercover agent," said U.S. Attorney John Walsh. "Thanks to the work of HSI, another person who was planning to sexually exploit innocent children now faces criminal charges."

"Crimes against children are some of the most loathsome our agency investigates," said Special Agent in Charge Kumar Kibble of HSI Denver. "These criminal charges serve as warning to other child predators. We will find you, arrest you and make sure that you are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

If convicted of travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct, the defendant faces not more than 30 years in federal prison, and up to a $250,000 fine. If convicted of attempted coercion and enticement, Gowen faces not less than 10 years, and up to life in federal prison, and up to a $250,000 fine per count for each of the two counts charged.

This case was investigated by HSI. The Denver Police Department assisted with the arrest at DIA.

Gowen is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Alecia Riewerts Wolak, the coordinator of the Project Safe Childhood initiative for the District of Colorado.

A criminal complaint is a probable cause charging document. Anyone accused of committing a federal felony crime has a Constitutional right to be indicted by a grand jury.

The charges contained in the Criminal Complaint are allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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

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

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

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



Du Pont heir, ex-wife settle child sex abuse suit

by Chris Barrish

The du Pont family heir who raped his 3-year-old daughter has reached a tentative settlement with his former wife in a sexual abuse lawsuit she filed on behalf of their two children, according to court records.

Attorneys for Tracy Richards filed a motion Friday seeking approval of the proposed settlement with Robert H. Richards IV in Sussex County Superior Court. A hearing before Judge Richard F. Stokes, which will be closed to the public, is set for Tuesday.

The motion was filed under seal, said Thomas Neuberger, one of Tracy Richards' attorneys, who said he could not provide details.

John D. Balaguer, attorney for Robert Richards, could not be reached late Friday.

If Stokes approves the terms, the settlement would mark a swift end to a case that shocked many inside and out of Delaware's legal system.

Richards, 48, who avoided prison after pleading guilty to the rape of his daughter, is a scion not only of the family that built a worldwide chemical empire in Delaware but also one that founded the prominent Wilmington law firm Richards Layton & Finger.

Depositions had been scheduled this month for Richards and his parents, former Richards Layton & Finger partner Robert H. Richards III and his wife Wendy. But the court docket shows that both depositions were canceled.

Tracy Richards' lawsuit, filed March 11, sought unspecified compensatory and punitive damages for assault, negligence and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress on her children.

Richards IV, who was originally charged with two counts of second-degree rape with a minimum of 20 years behind bars, pleaded guilty in 2008 to fourth-degree rape of his daughter. Fourth-degree rape carries no minimum prison time and sentencing guidelines used by judges and prosecutors urge zero to 30 months in prison.

The lawsuit also accused Richards IV of sexually abusing his toddler son around the same time he assaulted his daughter, but he has never been charged with a crime involving his son. The lawsuit cites statements that Richards made while on probation as evidence that he admitted in April 2010 that he sexually abused his son, who is now 10. Those assaults began around December 2005, when the boy was 19 months old, and continued for about two years, the lawsuit said.

Police investigated a claim of abuse in 2010 without arresting Richards but authorities reopened the investigation after the lawsuit was filed.

The lawsuit's allegations came six years after Richards pleaded guilty in a criminal case that had not received media coverage. The fact that a man of great financial privilege never went to prison and that his sentencing judge, Superior Court Judge Jan R. Jurden, noted in her order that he "will not fare well in prison'' generated outrage in Delaware and beyond.

Jurden noted in her sentencing order for Richards that he "will not fare well in prison" and ordered probation. Jurden's notation incorporated an argument made by Richards' defense lawyer, Eugene J. Maurer Jr..

The judge's words led to a barrage of criticism and threats against Jurden, leading authorities to give her a security detail. Several members of Delaware's legal community rushed to her defense. Jurden, who was a candidate for a Supreme Court vacancy, did not receive the appointment.

Jurden gave Richards eight years of probation and ordered him to get treatment at an expensive mental hospital near Boston, although he never went to the out-of-state center. Richards is still on probation.



Detroit to Host Commission on Child Abuse

by David Morris

With news of missing Detroit boy, Charlie Bothuell V, dominating the media it is rather poignant that Detroit is set to host a commission on child abuse this August. The Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities (CECANF), which was created in 2012, held its first public meeting earlier this month in San Antonio, Texas. The national committee was started as part of the Protect Our Kids Act of 2012 to create recommendations to reduce fatalities resulting from the mistreatment of children.

There are 12 members of the commission, half selected by the president and the other half selected by leaders of the House and Senate. The meeting in Texas allowed the cohorts to gather for the first time to hear insights from over 20 representatives of organizations and policy makers that deal regularly with the issues of child abuse and neglect. David Sanders, Committee Chairman, indicated Texas was an important location to hold the first meeting because the state has the most deaths from the mistreatment of children even though the numbers are in decline.

When the commission is held in Detroit in August, the host city will surely provide insight into obstacles and challenges for law enforcement when dealing with child abuse. Given the fact that the Bothuell boy was found barricaded in the basement of the same home that had been searched several times before during the search, Detroit law enforcement representatives will likely have unique perspectives and highly relevant insights on steps that can be taken to remove or avoid impediments to detection and prevention of future child abuse situations that might ultimately lead to fatalities.

It should be noted that, although there are a host of suspicions, Detroit Police Chief James Craig says there are no definite indications of child abuse or neglect at this time. The child's stepmother, Monique Dillard-Bothuell, was arrested on Thursday but for a probation violation unrelated to Charlie's disappearance. Charles Bothuell IV, Charlie's father, was notified that his son had been found during a live interview with HLN's Nancy Grace. He seemed genuinely upset and indicated that he had searched his home repeatedly, as had others, and he did not understand what could have happened to allow for his son to be discovered there.

Regardless of the results of this particular case it has brought much attention to the topic of child abuse throughout the country. As Detroit and the rest of the nation evaluate various this situation it is sure that one of the many topics of concern will be how an instance of a missing child relates to the problem of child abuse. Among questions to consider may be whether all parents of missing children should be investigated for indications of child abuse, and if so, how high the bar should be set before parents are cleared of suspicion.

CECANF will have its next public meeting in Tampa, FL, this July, followed by Detroit in August and Denver, CO, in September. The general public and members of the media are welcome to participate in the public meetings and can gain additional information at the CECANF website. As for Detroit, hosting this commission in August should bring new ideas on not just the prevention of fatalities but on child abuse in general.



With Child Abuse, Neglect Deaths Rising, Early-Detection Doctors Deployed

by Josh Kovner

Children in Connecticut have been dying of abuse or neglect at an alarming rate over the last 18 months — pushing officials to look for ways to identify and act on less-serious injuries earlier in the lives of at-risk children.

One effort would make child-abuse doctors at the state's two major children's hospitals available to work around the clock with investigators at the statewide abuse hotline, and also with smaller hospitals, to better evaluate injuries that could foreshadow major abuse.

There have been six maltreatment deaths so far this year — defined as cases where at least one allegation of abuse or neglect related to the death has been substantiated against a caregiver. Those six come on the heels of 16 such fatalities in 2013, the highest single-year total since at least 2004.

The majority of the abuse victims are toddlers and infants. And it is likely at least some of them had sustained minor injuries in the past — bruises, for example — that went unrecognized as abuse.

In 10 of the 16 maltreatment deaths last year, the state Department of Children and Families had an open or recently closed case with the family of the child who died. DCF was involved with the families in all six maltreatment fatalities so far this year.

“These families exist in the community long before they get to DCF,” said State Child Advocate Sarah Eagan. “The parents intersect with doctors, child-care providers, schools, community programs. … These numbers tell us we have to rigorously evaluate prevention strategies that go beyond DCF's role.''

The maltreatment category doesn't capture all of the children who have died under suspicious or neglectful circumstances. For example, in the case of an infant who dies from unsafe sleeping conditions, the parent may or may not be cited for neglect, depending on the circumstances.

With an average of more than one child a month dying from abuse in Connecticut over the last year and a half, doctors and child-protection officials say they must improve the recognition of “sentinel” injuries — that first abusive injury, such as a scrape or a bruise — that often precedes life-threatening trauma.

Earlier identification “means DCF can plan for the safety of that child,'' said Dr. Nina Livingston, medical director of the Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect program at Connecticut Children's Medical Center in Hartford.

Livingston, her CCMC colleague, Dr. Norell Atkinson, and four doctors from Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital, are preparing an on-call consultation program. They would interact most often with workers at DCF's Careline, which receives tens of thousands of reports of suspected abuse and neglect each year from mandated reporters, such as doctors, nurses, teachers, and counselors, as well as from relatives, friends, and acquaintances of the alleged abuser.

The team of doctors already works with the DCF regional offices during the day, including examining photographs and X-rays and conducting training sessions. The cost of expanding the services has not yet been determined, said DCF.

The expanded program “would cover the rest of the clock, 24/7, with robust data collection that will tell us, ‘Did our consultation help? Did it change anything?'” said Livingston.

Dr. John Leventhal, who runs the child-abuse program at Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital, said part of the mission of the on-call team will be to help medical professionals evaluate what caregivers are telling them about a child's injury.

“The ‘sentinel injury' is a very helpful concept, but lies by caregivers can make it complicated,” said Leventhal.

He said that not all pediatricians are trained in recognizing abusive injuries, and that child-abuse identification and treatment became a pediatric sub-specialty only in 2009.

DCF Commissioner Joette Katz said the goal is to have the experts available after-hours to the Careline by late summer.

She said that when a child dies of maltreatment, particularly in a family with DCF involvement, it “causes a lot of soul searching and questions we ask ourselves about what we could have done differently and better.''

She said the circumstances of each recent death and the responses of DCF, police, schools, courts, and others, have been analyzed and the findings have been shared with 400 DCF case workers so far this year.

Katz said the department is also training DCF nurses to offer more effective consultations to pediatricians when a child comes to the doctor's office with an injury.

Most of DCF's cases involve providing services in the family home. Under Katz, DCF has worked to keep children at home unless they are in danger.

She said the challenge is to “strike the right balance between protecting children while ensuring they are not unnecessarily taken from their homes.”

Nationally, as many as 30 percent of children who have suffered traumatic abusive head injuries had previous minor abuse injuries that went unrecognized, said Livingston

She said infants under six months are most at risk for maltreatment.

“Any injury on a small baby is significant,'' Livingston said.,0,6993827.story



Child abuse prevention commission moving forward with research

Texas leads nation in child abuse

by Enrique Rangel

AUSTIN — Texas leads the nation in a few unenviable categories such as having the highest percentage of people without health insurance, alcohol-related road deaths, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted and the number of executions.

But for more than a decade, no unenviable top ranking has worried state officials more than the annual number of children who die because of abuse and neglect.

Although the number of child abuse and neglect deaths has dropped from 280 to 156 in the last five years, Texas continues to lead the nation in this type of tragedy, and state officials are not happy.

“The death of even one child due to abuse or neglect is unacceptable,” Texas House Speaker Joe Straus said after announcing the creation of a committee that will look into the issue before the Legislature is back in session in January.

“The Texas House is committed to working with Child Protective Services and local communities to prevent senseless tragedies,” Straus, R-San Antonio, said in a statement. “I am confident that this committee will provide meaningful recommendations to improve outcomes for Texas children.”

The House Select Committee on Child Protection, a 12-member panel that includes Rep. John Frullo plus three public members, holds its first public hearing Tuesday.

Frullo, R-Lubbock, who has served on the Committee on Human Trafficking and has passed major legislation to protect children, said he is ready for the challenge.

“It grieves me to know that the children of this state are suffering abuse and neglect,” Frullo said after Straus appointed him.

“Through my work on the human trafficking committee, I have seen firsthand how abuse is so devastating to a child, and I look forward to working with the committee to find ways to prevent these horrible things from happening,” he said.

Though the Select Committee on Child Protection has yet to release the list of child abuse and neglect experts and other witnesses, a report the staff of another legislative panel released last month offers a glimpse of what the committee can expect to hear.

The staff of the Sunset Advisory Commission — the joint panel that every two years evaluates the performance of about two dozen state agencies and then recommends to the Legislature whether the reviewed offices should be abolished, overhauled or remain unchanged — issued a report describing CPS as a deeply troubled agency.

Through the years, CPS has been characterized by high turnover and low morale.

“Any assessment of Child Protective Services must be made with consideration of the challenging context in which it operates,” part of a 118-page Sunset report on the Department of Family and Protective Services reads.

“This environment is uncertain and often dangerous, where bad things unfortunately happen, with tragic and heartrending results,” the report says. “CPS does not gather and evaluate sufficient data to most accurately assess the risk to children and the quality of service it provides.”

Federal officials are also paying attention to what is happening in Texas.

“Texas has the highest number of child abuse and neglect deaths in the nation, even compared to larger states such as California, and even though the number has gone down in the last two years,” noted David Sanders, chairman of the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities.

Created by an act of Congress two years ago, earlier this month the 12-member panel hosted a two-day forum in San Antonio.

In Texas, as in the rest of the nation, there is a need to create a uniform way to figure out what works and what doesn't in trying to reduce child abuse and neglect deaths, Sanders told reporters after the conference ended.

“How officials count these deaths varies from state to state and even within states,” Sanders said. “Are we only talking about homicides at the hand of caregivers, or are we including drowning related to neglect? Right now there are a lot of gray areas.”

Scott McCown, director of the Children's Rights Clinic at the University of Texas Law School and one of the three public members in the Child Protection Committee, said at the San Antonio forum part of the problem is social workers having heavy workloads.

The workloads do not allow social workers to spend the time needed to build relationships with potential victims or with their families, McCown and other speakers said. About 80 percent of all children who died because of abuse or neglect are under 3 years of age and their parents are usually very young — mostly in their teens — and unprepared for parenthood.

“We have tiny prevention,” McCown, a former state district judge, said. “We need to call for fundamental reform.”

Rep. Dawnna Dukes, chairwoman of the Child Protection Committee, welcomed the creation of the panel.

“I firmly believe that the creation of the Protect Our Kids Commission and the House Select Committee on Child Protection sends a strong signal of our commitment to addressing this critical issue,” Dukes, D-Austin, said in a statement.

The Protect Our Kids Commission is also a federal panel created in 2012.



Children at risk of abuse, neglect fall through cracks

by Adam Rodewald

Families of over 1,000 kids reported as abused or neglected each year are never investigated

A mother clutched her baby — pale and placid in her arms, lips blue and eyes bruised — and let out a wail that echoed through the neighborhood — "My baby! My baby!"

Darcy Zhuckkahosee dashed to the red sport utility vehicle in her driveway where Daniel Vega, her live-in boyfriend, already sat in the driver's seat. A neighbor watched as the mother placed a baby carrier in the backseat. Vega spun his wheels in the grass and sped down Division Street to the hospital.

Thirteen-month-old Lilly Maria Tebeau lay without a pulse inside the carrier.

Doctors would soon find a large crack in the front of her skull, hemorrhaging around her brain, two thumb-shaped bruises under her chin and six more on her tiny back, according to court records.

A witness later told police Vega choked the infant on the floor of the witness' home while yelling at her to shut up. Another witness told police Vega would frequently slap Lilly and laugh about it. He once squeezed her neck, dropped her on the floor and then left her alone in a television box with Cheetos, the witness said.

Doctors pronounced Lilly dead on Aug. 20, 2011, the day after Zhuckkahosee and Vega took her to the hospital.

Lilly was one of the thousands of Brown County children being cared for by someone previously reported to authorities for abuse or neglect.

More than 1,000 children are reported as possible victims every year, but their families are never investigated, according to Brown County child protection data. Social workers say that's because of rigid laws limiting intervention.

"Our system is judgmental and is based on failure," Catholic Charities director Ted Phernetton said during a summit on child abuse earlier this year.

"A lot of (service agencies) have criteria for people to meet before coming into our doors for help, but the only way people can meet that criteria sometimes is to fail. That is wrong."

The issue is one of the most critical for child protection workers as they grapple with a rising frequency of abuse and neglect. The number of cases investigated in Brown County has grown 59 percent in the past five years, reaching an all-time high in 2013, according to data from the state Department of Children and Families. The numbers are on pace to set another record this year.

Leaders of a task force responding to the trend say they're developing a system for closing the gaps, identifying at-risk families early and getting them help. It could be in place by the fall.

"The issue of what we do for kids on the front end with early intervention and prevention services — the primary benefit there is human cost, that children do not have to go through the crises and dire situations that cause our involvement in the first place," said Brown County Human Services Director Jeremy Kral.


Daniel Vega drove his girlfriend Darcy Zhuckkahosee and her seriously injured infant daughter to the hospital in 2011. Three years earlier, when he was 27, authorities investigated him for beating up two children at his Green Bay home.

At 6-feet and 180 pounds, he punched a 15-year-old boy in the face and threw a 12-year-old boy into the wall, according to court records. The incident was reported to social services, which dismissed the case because Vega was not the boys' guardian, according to a report from the state Department of Children and Families. He was later convicted of misdemeanor disorderly conduct.

In August 2012 , a jury convicted Vega of two counts of child abuse in Lilly's death. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison followed by six years of extended supervision. Vega has appealed the ruling.

This is not the only time in recent years that a Brown County child was hurt or killed by someone previously reported to authorities.

In October 2012, Lisa Bach tied up her boyfriend's 12-year-old daughter with blue painters tape and forced her to stand in the corner with her hands in the air for hours through the night, according to police reports. Bach cut the tape around 3 a.m. and forced the girl to sleep on the kitchen floor without a pillow or blanket.

Various members of the girl's family had been reported to social services for abuse and neglect at least 10 times in three counties dating back to 1997, according to a state incident report. Another investigation was opened six days before the incident.

Bach was ultimately convicted of child abuse and causing mental harm in May 2013. She was sentenced to two years prison followed by three years extended supervision.

Brown County's child abuse task force, formed in late 2012, estimates 1,300 to 1,500 area families are at risk of abusing or neglecting their kids but never get help. That estimate is based on the number of referrals social workers dismiss every year because they don't meet the legal standard to be formally investigated.

"Basically it means I have to be suicidal or I have to be at the very lowest of the lows before I can qualify for a service. That's something we heard over and over from people who work in the field," said Sarah Inman, vice president of community investment and strategic impact for the Brown County United Way.

Inman is a leader on the child abuse task force.

"Generally, the realm of human services in any community, whether it's ours or anybody else's, tends to focus on ... the fire instead of how do we prevent the fire from happening in the first place," she said.

"We want to change that."


At the core of the plan is the creation of a network of service providers aiming to reach families more quickly and efficiently before child protection services gets involved.

Kral described the effort as "heading off trouble at the pass."

A group of seven major organizations providing counseling, parenting support and other services has already established a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on this initiative.

They're trying to form a single in-take system. Instead of turning away someone who doesn't qualify for an organization's services, it will be able to share an individual's information to get them help.

"You're getting a broader portion of the population by identifying families in multiple agencies prior to child protection getting involved," said Nancy Fennema, Brown County director of community programs.

"The beauty of this plan is you're working with families at a point where they're easier to engage, where they're more open (to receiving help) because no report has been made against them," she said.

The National Children's Alliance, an advocacy group that reviewed the task force's entire action plan, said the initiative was on the "leading edge" of prevention efforts.

The group is on pace to begin piloting the system in the fall, Inman said.

"The golden rule has been to provide the right service in the right amount at the right time. What we're trying to do is extend the window of what is the right time and then better link people with the right services," Kral said.

Action plan

Outreach to families at risk of abuse and neglect is the first part of a community action plan aiming to prevent maltreatment of children. The Brown County Task Force on Child Abuse and Neglect unveiled 13 strategies in March.

Immediate strategies:

1. Large-scale outreach to at-risk families who were reported to social services for alleged child abuse or neglect but didn't meet legal requirements for an investigation.

2. Free or low-cost training for individuals and agencies that interact with at-risk families.

3. Parent discussion groups throughout the year on topics pertinent to raising safe, healthy children.

. Surveys seeking direct feedback on developing the action plan.

Mid-term strategies:

5. Hotline for confidential advice and assistance.

6. Training to parent mentors who can help at-risk families.

7. Resource toolkit for agencies to use when linking at-risk families to services.

8. Community service teams that can work with families needing help from multiple agencies.

Long-term strategies:

9. One-stop shops where families can get services and resources for any need.

10. Rapid-response team that can have on-call professionals able to meet with families in critical crisis.

11. Flexible funding to assist with case management and resources for families and children in need of emergency help.

12. Advocate for changes in state law to improve efficiency and effectiveness of child protection.

13. Public service announcements to raise awareness.

Who to call

To report abuse or neglect, contact your local child protective services office or police at or by calling:

County | Business hours | After hours

Brown | (920) 448-6000 | (920) 448-3200

Door | (920) 746-2300 | (920) 746-2400

Kewaunee | (920) 388-3777 | (920) 388-3100

Marinette | (715) 732-7700 | (715) 732-7600

Oconto | (920) 834-7000 | (920) 834-6900

Shawano | (715) 526-4700 | (715) 526-3111

— U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Wisconsin Department of Children and Families



Missing Boy Found in Parents' Basement Allegedly Abused

Court records show that 12-year-old Charlie Bothuell V told investigators in Detroit that he had been abused.

by Lynette Holloway

A 12-year-old Detroit boy who was found alive in his family's basement this week after going missing reportedly told investigators he had been abused, according to Click on Detroit.

A medical examination of Charlie Bothuell also showed signs of physical abuse, the report says. The child's stepmother, Monique Dillard-Bothuell, allegedly knew he was hiding in the basement throughout the intensive 11-day, citywide search and had reportedly ordered him to remain there, the report says.

No charges have been filed in the ongoing investigation of Dillard-Bothuell and the child's father, Charles Bothuell IV, the news site says. Child Protective Services removed two younger children from the Bothuell home on Thursday.

“Forensic experts are going over the family computer, as well as an iPad,” the report says. “Blood evidence found in the house is also being tested and an expert from the FBI will be interviewing the 12-year-old next week.”

Charlie was home-schooled and had to adhere to a “regimented schedule,” including doing “4,000 strides on an elliptical machine without a break,” the report says. On the day of his disappearance, the report says, he went into hiding because he was fearful of incurring his parents' wrath after hopping off the machine to go to the bathroom.

Detroit police discovered the child Wednesday at his family's townhouse where he was barricaded in a closet of his family's underneath the co-op complex. A tunnel runs underneath the building, which functions as a basement. He had access to a bathroom.

Adding another layer of complexity to the story, Dillard-Bothuell, 37, was arrested Thursday on a parole violation unrelated to the child's disappearance, Click on Detroit reports. She appeared in court Friday and defense attorneys plan to contest the charge. A hearing is scheduled for July 11.

The father was apparently stunned Wednesday during an appearance on HLN's Nancy Grace , when she told him on national television that his son had been found.

He told the AP that he was as he was surprised as anyone that his son was found in the basement. “I'm shocked,” he said. “I looked” for him.




State takes first steps to help sex trafficking victims

by Frank Mecca and Kate Walker

Nine children who were being repeatedly sold for sex and exploited by pimps were recovered last week in the Sacramento region, part of a nationwide FBI sting that recovered 168 children across the United States. Sacramento had the sixth highest number of recoveries out of the 54 FBI field offices involved.

Many people who read about the sting were probably shocked to learn child sex trafficking is happening in our community. Every day, children are being moved quickly and discreetly along Highways 80, 50, 99 and 5, and trafficked in parking lots, hotels and through various online escort services. The billion-dollar trafficking industry is nimble and ever-evolving, making identifying victims and stopping perpetrators very difficult.

California has emerged as a magnet for sex trafficking of children; three of the nation's top 13 child sex trafficking areas are here – San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. No community escapes exploitation's reach.

The victims recently recovered in Sacramento ranged in age from 15 to 17. For many of these victims, their exploitation likely began years earlier. The average age that children are first trafficked is between 12 and 14 for girls, and 11 and 13 for boys. Victims as young as age 9 have been reported. Several studies indicate that between 70 and 90 percent of exploited children have experienced child sexual abuse before they are commercially exploited. Sex traffickers are known to target foster youths because of their vulnerabilities and prior abuse.

These children are often mislabeled “prostitutes” and put into juvenile detention facilities. For years, it was widely believed punishment and locking children up was best because of misconceptions they were choosing to engage in prostitution. Extensive research shows that's far from the truth. Many child sex trafficking victims have had tumultuous home lives, punctuated by abuse and neglect. Some turn to the streets for refuge but struggle to meet their basic needs and find themselves exchanging sex for food and shelter. Others might fall victim to the promises and coercion of a seemingly caring adult who uses threats and violence to maintain control.

Due to the violence and complex trauma these children endure, they have unique emotional and mental health needs that can take years of intense intervention to address. Similarly, they need extensive treatment to remedy their physical health, often compromised by beatings, food deprivation and sexual violence.

The child welfare system – the system designed to protect and serve abused and neglected children – has been ill-equipped to meet their needs.

Fortunately, Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature recognize that protecting and serving child victims of commercial sexual exploitation are issues of critical importance for California. Thanks to their leadership, the 2014-15 state budget includes key policy and funding provisions that bring hope for these children and a path toward addressing this crisis.

The budget includes $5 million in 2014-15, and $14 million in ongoing funding, to help victims through the child welfare system. This will enable county agencies, including child welfare and law enforcement, to immediately start working together to ensure child victims receive services they need to overcome their trauma. Part of this effort will include training for social workers and foster caregivers to identify victims, to prevent foster youths from being recruited from group homes and to provide services and treatment to victims.

To ensure these children are treated as victims of abuse and not criminals, the governor and Legislature also clarified that the child welfare system will have primary responsibility for serving victims of child sex trafficking. This moves California closer to decriminalizing children, preventing victims from being punished and locked up for actions they were forced to commit by exploiters.

These are critical, first steps in acknowledging that we have much more work ahead in understanding and addressing the commercial sexual exploitation of children in California. It's imperative that county agencies, community organizations and the public work together to ensure victims gain access to the services they need to become survivors and eventually leaders in our communities.

Frank Mecca is executive director of the County Welfare Directors Association of California. Kate Walker is a staff attorney with the National Center for Youth Law.




Paterno's response to child abuse allegation not 'unusual,' Gov. Corbett

"Since that date the only thing I have said about Joe Paterno is I've quoted him. As he said, I wish he would have done more. I've not condemned, one way or the other, never have, never will. These are unusual circumstances." - Gov. Tom Corbett, in an Associated Press story on the Penn State coach's role in the case of Jerry Sandusky, a former PSU coach convicted of numerous child abuse offenses.

Unusual circumstances?

If only that were true, Gov. Corbett.

The tragic truth is that child molestation by serial abusers is all too common in our state.

Also tragically common is the failure of people who know about or suspect such abuse to do enough to stop it.

Judging from a recent report by the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance, "Childhood at Risk: An Exploration of Perceptions and Attitudes Regarding Child Abuse,” the failure to adequately intervene to stop child abuse happens every day in our state.

As the report (prepared with the help of surveys by Franklin and Marshall College's Center for Opinion Research) makes clear, many Pennsylvanians are unaware of the scope of our state's child abuse problem — and many people feel conflicted about their role in reporting and stopping such abuse.

The survey uncovered some shocking statistics:

• Just 17 percent of Pennsylvanians polled viewed child abuse and neglect as serious problems.

• 14 percent believe child abuse "is not a problem at all."

• Among "mandated reporters" -- teachers, health care workers, police officers, clergy, football coaches -- just 23 percent believe child abuse is a serious problem.

• Just 32 percent of people surveyed who had suspected child abuse in the past actually reported it. That figure climbed to 52 percent among mandated reporters — but that means nearly half of the people who are required by law to report suspected abuse have failed to do so.

Granted, Joe Paterno did report to university administrators what Mike McQueary told him he thought he'd seen in a PSU shower room: Jerry Sandusky molesting a young man.

But the coach, with his legendary reputation for integrity and decency, didn't ask the right questions of Mr. McQueary, didn't try to determine exactly what had happened, and didn't do enough to follow up and make sure the incident was properly investigated by the school and the police. He later claimed he was just a naive old guy who didn't know anything about “rape and a man.”


Many Paterno partisans have noted, of course, that he did what he was legally required to do. Maybe, maybe not -- but was that enough for someone of Coach Paterno's stature?

Even the coach agreed that he should have done more -- as the quote from Gov. Corbett above notes.

Should he be “condemned” for that failure?

That's up to each individual -- though the good Mr. Paterno did during his lifetime should not be completely overshadowed by one failure, albeit a horrible one.

Mr. Corbett, running for re-election as governor of Nittany nation, can decide for himself whether Coach Paterno should be “condemned.”

But what he shouldn't do, as a former attorney general, is suggest that the Paterno/McQueary situation was unusual.

It was not. People are confronted with evidence or suspicion of child abuse on a daily basis. And the statistics above suggest far too many are sticking their heads in the sand.

Half of the mandated reporters surveyed have failed to report child abuse, for crying out loud. They didn't even do as much as Coach Paterno did.

It's not unusual. It's epidemic. And it must stop.

The Corbett administration must redouble efforts to make what happened at Penn State truly unusual.




Curb the child migration crisis begins with combating sexual abuse

by Holly Burkhalter -- Holly Burkhalter is vice president for government relations for International Justice Mission.

It is not news to Guatemalan, Salvadoran and Honduran children that they are at high risk of violent abuse and have nowhere to turn for protection. But now that they are fleeing across our border by the tens of thousands, it is apparently news to U.S. policymakers. The drug trade that is destroying Central American societies is clearly part of the problem. But kids aren't only fleeing narco-violence and gangs; they are also trying to escape sexual abuse. The United States should commit significant foreign assistance to address this overlooked aspect of the child migration crisis.

Consider the case of Guatemala. Large numbers of children are preyed upon by adults, usually someone in the home or otherwise known to the victim. A study by Doctors Without Borders found that, among 14-to-18-year-old girls in high-crime zones, 1 in 3 had suffered sexual assault in the previous 12 months. Child victims of sexual violence are highly vulnerable to homelessness, sex trafficking, gangs or addiction. In its safehouse in Guatemala City, La Alianza (Covenant House) provides shelter and care to girls as young as 12; virtually all of them have been assaulted in their homes or trafficked for sexual exploitation.

The Guatemalan government has responded to this epidemic by adopting new child protection standards in its protocols for prosecutors and designating a special police sexual assault unit in the capital. But police, prosecutors and courts remain dramatically under-resourced and undertrained; tens of thousands of cases are backlogged and going nowhere.

International Justice Mission recently conducted a study of the 36,166 complaints of sexual assault filed in Guatemala's Public Ministry (the country's prosecution service) from 2008 to 2012 and found that the courts have successfully adjudicated a paltry 5.8?percent of these cases. Only one case in 10 even makes it to indictment, because law enforcement and prosecutors are unable to professionally question victims, gather evidence, apprehend perpetrators or secure appropriate forensic medical reports. Men who prey on impoverished children know they need not fear apprehension or prosecution.

When kids aren't protected at home, at least some of them will flee. A recent report from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees stated that 22 percent of the Central American child refugees they interviewed said they had survived abuse and violence in their homes.

Congress is expected to increase funding for the Central America Regional Security Initiative, which has received $800 million over the past five years to combat the drug trade. But stabilizing this immigration crisis should not be limited to fighting narco-trafficking. Congress should seize the occasion to fund promising initiatives that could protect vulnerable children and stabilize slum neighborhoods where sexual violence is rampant. Guatemala City's special sexual assault police unit should be replicated, funded and deployed throughout the country. Providing police with mentoring on actual, real-time child sexual assault cases and increasing their collaboration with prosecutors can raise competence and morale quickly.

U.S. aid could also scale up Guatemala's innovative first-response facilities for sexual assault victims, where prosecutors and judges receive testimony, forensic medical personnel collect evidence and defense attorneys represent the interests of suspects. There are nine of these facilities based in the offices of the Public Ministry. Additional assistance could be used to add a trauma care component to the model and take it to scale throughout the country.

Investment is desperately needed for residences and drop-in centers offering shelter and protection for abused, trafficked or homeless children. High levels of violence in slum neighborhoods and sexual abuse at home have contributed to nearly 15,000 Guatemalan kids living on the street. They are easy targets for traffickers, pedophiles and gangs. These are the conditions that are pushing a substantial percentage of child migrants across international borders. The United States could and should help the government develop a functioning child protection service that collaborates with responsible nongovernmental organizations to offer refuge and education to at-risk Guatemalan youth.

If the United States and European governments, donors and international development institutions do not prioritize taking predators off the streets and creating more safe residences and programs for vulnerable kids in the region, we can expect to see ever-growing numbers of unaccompanied children fleeing their terrifying homes and nations and seeking safety in ours.



Children sexual abuse crusader accepted to Youth Ambassadors

by Caroline Zentner

Alison Lee has set herself a big goal to fundraise $50,000 next year, enough to send two children to the Little Warriors Be Brave Ranch.

The ranch, set to open later this year, will provide treatment for children aged eight to 12 who have been sexually abused. Lee, 16 years old and a survivor of childhood sexual abuse herself, has already fundraised $22,000 for Little Warriors.

Now that she's been accepted into the Youth Ambassadors Program she hopes to glean some big ideas to help her fundraise that $50,000. The program brings high school students and adult mentors from countries across the Americas together to increase mutual understanding, develop leadership skills and prepare youth to be active citizens in their communities.

Alison said the mentors will be giving the youth information and guidance on being an active citizen and how to organize a fundraising event in their home community, one of the requirements of participating in the program.

“I've never got to listen to big entrepreneurs and how to plan fundraising events,” she said. “I'd really love to get to the point where I can do a big fundraiser and have that insight on how to do a budget and how to get sponsorships.”

As an advocate for children who have been sexually abused, Alison said she wants to bring awareness and help prevent sexual abuse.

“One in three girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before the time they're 18. When you say that statistic, not many people understand that's one in three walking past (you) in the street,” she said.

The three-week exchange program will see Lee travel first to Ottawa on July 20 where she'll join 20 other high school students from across Canada. After a couple of days in Ottawa, the students will travel to Plattsburgh, N.Y., then to New York City and Washington, D.C.

“Not many kids get to go on a three-week exchange,” she said. “I'm so excited because I've never travelled outside of Canada. It's pretty cool to be 16 and going to the White House.”

While the cost of her trip is paid for, Alison is having a hard time getting some spending money together since she depleted her savings following a car collision a month ago.

“Some lady totalled my car so I've had to use all my savings to buy a new car and I come from a low-income family and my family can't really afford to give me money,” she said.

Anyone who'd like to help Alison can call 403-345-5437 or send an email to

“I'm hoping I can get 10 people who can just help me out with $100, then I'll be good. My mom's worried about health care and stuff, like if something happened to me down there,” Alison said.


Disney princesses molested by their fathers in artist's provocative child abuse awareness campaign

Saint Hoax captured the horror of child sexual abuse in his new art campaign ‘Princest.' The Middle Eastern artist said he was motivated by a conversation with his close friend, who had been molested by her dad as a child.

by Carol Kuruvilla

There's nothing quite as cruel as stealing the innocence of a child.

Middle Eastern artist Saint Hoax attempted to capture the savage nature of child abuse in his provocative new series “Princest.”

The anonymous artist created images of some of Disney's most famous princesses—Ariel, Jasmine, and Aurora—being molested by their fathers.

In the posters, the trembling princesses' eyes open wide in shock as their pervy dads lean in for a kiss.

Saint Hoax's motivation for the series stems from a shocking conversation he had with a close friend. The friend recently admitted that she had been molested by her dad back when she was seven years old. It took the friend 14 years to share the experience, according to the Huffington Post.

The artist was shocked by his friend's confession and wanted to create the posters so that victims would be encouraged to speak out and report abusers to the authorities.

Statistics about child sexual abuse are often difficult to confirm because the abuse often goes unreported, according to the American Psychological Association. But experts agree that children are most likely to face sexual abuse from someone that they know—either family members or acquaintances. Only about 10% to 30% of offenders are complete strangers, according to research from The Future of Children. Plus, abuse from family members is more likely to go on for a longer period of time and can lead to an increased risk of depression, PTSD, and other disorders.

Saint Hoax made the posters for children. He used Disney characters because he was hoping to find a “visual language” that will speak to them.

But these Disney tales aren't as innocent as they seem.

In fact, in the original version of Sleeping Beauty, the Princess Aurora is raped in her sleep by a king who was passing by. She isn't awakened by a true love's kiss—instead she's awakened by one of her twins babies suckling on her finger.

Saint Hoax has chosen to keep his identity anonymous, since previous artwork has sparked some controversy. He claims he received threats after painting Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah in drag.



Federal child abuse

by Dinah Monahan

This past month has been ripe with stinking garbage as the administration's lies, deceit and scandals pile up. The prisoner swap, the IRS “lost” emails, Benghazi revelations, each of these leaves rational Americans speechless. But I believe the most egregious offense of all is Obama's abuse of children to further his destructive agenda.  

Abuse is a strong word. But ask yourselves what would happen if you put your minor children on a bus to Phoenix with a one-way ticket and no provision for their care.  You just wanted them dropped off in the blistering heat to fend for themselves. You would be arrested for child abuse. Yet this is exactly what Obama's ICEmen did.  Tens of thousands of children come across the Texas border with no parents. This is disturbing, but it is what happened next that is staggering.  

The federal government, under the Obama directives, packed the children onto buses and sent these vulnerable children to Phoenix. The officials in Phoenix did not know they were coming. There were no preparations for tens of thousands of children sent their way. Buses just started pulling into the station and out poured entire busloads of children. When the buses opened their doors, many of the children scattered into the scorching streets of Phoenix. Where will they go? How will they survive? What are the chances they will be sexually exploited? Already their journey has been perilous, as multiple media outlets have reported on horrific stories from border districts on youngsters, ranging from toddlers to teens, being raped and murdered on their way to the U.S. border.

Attorney Bill Montgomery could be taking legal action against Immigration and Customs Enforcement, based on the hundreds of undocumented immigrants from Texas being dropped off here in Arizona. “Violating state law is something federal officials can still be held accountable for,” says Montgomery. “Kids are being dropped off in the middle of Phoenix, in June, with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees. I sent a letter to ICE, saying that if those circumstances are occurring, or did occur, would be a violation of Arizona laws against child abuse.”

Looking at this situation leads to obvious questions. How did tens of thousands of children from Central America, some of them toddlers, travel through drug cartel-infested territory over rugged terrain and find the places where they could cross the border? And why this huge influx all at one time? There is only one explanation — it was orchestrated.  

While this sounds like the stuff of conspiracy theorists, the proof is undeniable. In April 2013, Judicial Watch Inc. obtained a leaflet in Spanish that USDA officials had been circulating at the Mexican embassy. The flier not only promoted food stamp usage to those unlawfully crossing the U.S. border, but also contained the following message in boldface type: “You need not divulge information regarding your immigration status in seeking benefits for your children.” The USDA specifically asked the Mexican embassy to distribute this document to its 50 consulates.  

Add to this the fact that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was anticipating the massive influx of unaccompanied minors across our borders in January, months before it began.

The application, dated Jan. 29, is posted on Federal Business Opportunities, a website that advertises government contract openings.

“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has a continuing and mission critical responsibility for accepting custody of Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) from U.S. Border Patrol and other Federal agencies and transporting these juveniles to Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) shelters located throughout the continental United States,” a description of the request reads.

It goes on to add specifics, including how many minors the agency is expecting:

“Transport will be required for either category of [Unaccompanied Minors] or individual juveniles, to include both male and female juveniles. There will be approximately 65,000 UAC in total”  

As disturbing as this scenario is, it has a much more frightening underbelly. Evidence shows that, along with the massive surge of children among the illegal border crossers, there are drug cartel leaders and terrorists seizing the opportunity to brazenly cross into the U.S. unchecked and unchallenged.

Chris Cabrera, vice president of the National Border Patrol Council Local 3307 in the Rio Grande Valley, said that confirmed gang members in Mexico — including those from the most violent Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) — are coming into the country to be reunited with their families, National Review reported Friday. “If he's a confirmed gang member in his own country, why are we letting him in here? … I've heard people come in and say, ‘You're going to let me go, just like you let my mother go, just like you let my sister go. You're going to let me go as well, and the government's going to take care of us,'” Mr. Cabrera told the magazine.

You would think that our president and his liberal lackeys would at least be concerned for the welfare of the citizens of this country. But instead of the government spending money beefing up our beleaguered Border Patrol, Eric Holder, head of the Department of Justice, announced that they would be putting aside $2 million to entice attorneys and paralegals to represent those young, undocumented immigrants as they navigate the complicated web of immigration courts.

That the sheer numbers of illegal immigrants with the accompanying cost of feeding, housing, medical care, legal representation, etc., will further destabilize this already financially precarious country is obvious. Why doesn't our president recognize the disaster and take action? Because he created it. It all became crystal clear when Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said: “The law requires that we act in the best interest in the child. When we turn over a child to HHS, HHS acts in the best interest of the child which very often means reuniting that child with the parent in the United States. That's what the law requires.”

Ahhhh, Obama is not returning the children to their parents. No, he is bringing the parents here. No trekking across long miles, no illegal crossing; they receive an all-expense paid trip across the border into this country. Upon arrival, food stamps, medical care, housing — are all available at the expense of the taxpayers! This is Obama's Dream Act.  

My heart aches for these children. I can't imagine the fear and emotional trauma they have experienced. My heart aches for their parents. What desperation they must feel to put their children, alone and vulnerable, on a train. These people are not the enemy — they are pawns in a scheme of a president who is bent on destroying this country. But my heart fears for our country that, like any country in the world, must have laws of immigration and defined borders to survive.

Obama has crippled our health care system. He has put us into irreparable debt. He has aided and abetted our enemies even while our soldiers die fighting them, and now he is erasing our southern border and putting the citizens of this country in grave danger. But in this latest debacle, he has stooped to an all-time low — exposing innocent children to abuse, exploitation, emotional trauma and death to further his destructive agenda. This is the stuff of despots and dictators — not the president of a civilized country!

Dinah Monahan is the founder and former executive director of Living Hope Women's Centers in the White Mountains and a national pro-life speaker and author. She is currently involved in Living Hope Maternity Home in Adama, Ethiopia, in Africa, which she and her husband founded.



Reports of child abuse rising in Stearns County

by Kirsti Marohn

Stearns County is seeing a steady increase in the number of child abuse reports and assessments, according to a report presented to the county board this week.

Reports of child maltreatment — including neglect and physical, sexual or mental abuse — have increased 55 percent since 2007 and are on pace to be even higher this year.

The reason for the increase isn't clear, said Brenda Mahoney, family and children's services director in the county's human services department. But it's likely due to demographic changes, an increasingly urban population and better public knowledge about child maltreatment and how to address it, she said.

"We really believe there's an increased awareness that is part of that," Mahoney said.

Statewide, about 75 percent of the child maltreatment reports come from mandated reporters — workers who are required by law to report suspected child abuse. They include teachers, health care workers and day care providers, among others. The remaining 25 percent of reports come from sources such as neighbors, friends or relatives.

About 60 percent of maltreatment reports are related to child neglect, which is defined as failure to supply necessary food, clothing, shelter, medical or mental health care, education or appropriate supervision, or to protect the child.

Reports made to the county must be screened within 24 hours. The most serious reports of harm and neglect result in an investigation and often involve law enforcement. They may result in the child being placed in protective custody.

For the less serious cases — about two-thirds of reports — a family assessment is done to examine the child's safety and risks for future abuse, as well as the family's strengths and needs.

Stearns County has seen a 113 percent increase in child maltreatment assessments since 2007. There were 489 reports screened in the last year, up from 408 the previous year and more than double the number in 2004. That number is projected to reach 530 this year.

One type of case county social workers are seeing more often is exposure to chemicals such as illicit drugs, Mahoney said.

The number of children placed in out-of-home care due to abuse, neglect, disabilities or juvenile delinquency also is on the rise. The estimated monthly average last year was 171, up from 146 in 2004.

The number of children placed outside the home fell in 2008 after the county adopted the Signs of Safety program to help families at risk of abuse or neglect, and focused on placing children with

relatives whenever possible.

However, it's been climbing again since 2010, Mahoney said.

"At this time, we're not yet where we were back in 2007, but we are seeing those increases," she said.



Spotlight on child abuse

by Michael Beall

A teenage boy crumpled down in his chair, put his face in his palms and took slow, deep breaths.

Each breath was like the click of a metronome, and each passing second made the room more tense, as the Great Falls police detectives waited for the boy to answer hard questions about injuries to his son.

Detectives Noah Scott and Jesse Slaughter of the Special Victims Unit told the 16-year-old father his story didn't match. He said minutes before that he squeezed his son harder than he should have once, which could explain the infant's broken ribs. The detectives pressed for more as members of a multidisciplinary team watched the proceedings on a television screen from a nearby room.

In addition to Scott and Slaughter, there were two other police detectives, two Department of Family Service agents and an advocate from Victim Witness filing in and out of the small interview-viewing room. A Tribune reporter also watched under the condition that he not identify the case by name for this story.

The infant was brought into Benefis Health System's Emergency Room the night before for a broken femur, but as medical personnel examined him, more injuries were uncovered. In only six weeks of life, the child had 10 broken bones -- the broken femur, a broken collarbone and eight broken ribs, all in different stages of healing.

When the detectives told the boy the latest update from doctors, the boy broke down and said quietly that he wanted to talk to someone -- an attorney. The interview was over, and though Slaughter and Scott didn't get everything they wanted, they had enough to arrest the young father on one count of aggravated assault on a minor.

Child abuse knows no boundaries. The Great Falls Police Department's Special Victims Unit has seen abuse in every segment of society, from teen parents neglecting children to complete strangers assaulting minors in an alley. Cascade County has been in the spotlight the past five years after five children deaths made headline news. The high-profile trials and public outcry sparked a refocused community effort by first responders on how to investigate and prosecute those who harm children as well as rehabilitate the victims of abuse.

Dana Toole, the director of the Montana Department of Justice, Children's Justice Center, said the tragedies that hit Great Falls could have happened anywhere in Montana, and they had nothing to do with the work of first responders. Cascade County had already made an effort to strengthen the multidisciplinary team of first responders and start a child advocacy center, but what the spotlight showed was that while child abuse may be a national problem, solutions come from a community.

Child abuse is by no means an anomaly in Great Falls. It's a national issue. An estimated 681,000 children were victims of abuse and neglect in the United States in 2011. More than 75 percent of the children were neglected, more than 15 percent were victims of physical abuse and 9 percent suffered sexual abuse, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, Child Welfare.

In 2011, Montana had 1,066 victims of child abuse and neglect, or about 5 percent of the child population, compared to the national average of 9.1 percent.

In short, America has the worst record of child abuse in the industrialized world, according to a 2011 BBC investigation. And though Montana constitutes a small fraction of the total number of abuse and neglect, agencies in Cascade County and Montana are soul-searching to find answers on how to turn the tides of child abuse in a community.

Rooted in tragedies

During the 2013 Montana Legislature, five child abuse bills were proposed and four passed addressing the child abuse epidemic in Montana, and Gov. Steve Bullock signed two of the bills inside the Cascade County Courthouse, where the deaths of James Many White Horses, Kaelyn Bray, October Perez and Keira Hulbert were brought to justice, and where Brooklyn Eskew's case is still pending.

The two bills were Senate Bill 160 and House Bill 76. SB 160 was sponsored by Sen. Mitch Tropila, D-Great Falls, and created the offense of felony criminal child endangerment. Since SB 160's passing, seven cases have been charged with the crime. HB 76, known as the October Perez bill, created an ombudsman for the Montana Department of Justice.

"It is a celebration of legislation that has passed, but it's also a celebration that's rooted in many tragedies," Bullock said during the signing ceremony.

Tragedy had a role in the refocused effort across Montana. It was front and center in the legislative session, but the laws are simply new tools for first-responders. The real change has to come from those who live in the communities.

The string of five homicides was unprecedented in Great Falls, and although Toole said it could happen in any community, startling statistics continue to pile up in the Cascade County Courthouse.

As of June 30, there were 1,835 open civil Youth in Need of Care cases open statewide, and 278 of those are in Cascade County, according to the Montana Supreme Court, office of court administration. Yellowstone County, with a population nearly double Cascade County, had 376 active cases. Missoula had 207, and Hill County had 72.

But in 2011, the year October Perez and Keira Hulbert died, Cascade County had 251 abuse and neglect cases and Yellowstone County had 185.

Since 2009, the number of Youth in Need of Care cases has more than doubled from 112 open cases in 2009 to 278 currently.

"I don't know why. It seems like there's a higher rate of severe child abuse cases (in Great Falls)," said Scott, the GFPD detective. "Any city with a population of 60,000 that has five child homicides in five years, obviously something is wrong. Obviously we need to change something on some level."

The Cascade County multidisciplinary team is the community effort taking place. It was resurrected out of tragedy in 2011, and it encompasses members from the Department of Family Services, County Attorney's Office, Victim Witness, Benefis Health System, Cascade County Sheriff's Office, the GFPD and more. The team meets once a week to staff and manage cases.

There are now 23 fully trained multidisciplinary teams across Montana, and Butte was the first community to have a fully functional team and a nationally accredited child advocacy center, the home of the team and where forensic interviews are conducted.

There are only five accredited child advocacy centers in the state, and Great Falls is on the path to accreditation.

Cascade County Attorney John Parker said he believes Cascade County is getting somewhere in terms of child abuse. It's seen in the new laws, but real change will come from the people who are being trained to be better at identifying suspicious injuries.

"In the wake of tragedy, people often ask themselves, 'How can I do more? How can we do more?'" Parker said. "So each tragedy is a call to action in its own right, and that goes for cases that will never become headline news."

Child deaths or headline cases are not the only way for change to occur, but all members of the multidisciplinary team agree that community awareness is a key because police officers and Department of Family Service agents are reactive by nature. It is important to get in front of the problem.

Case management

The Special Victims Unit is a three-man team within the detectives division of GFPD. Its focus is on victims, who have been perpetrated against in one form or another, whether it's an Internet crime against a child, or physical or sexual abuse of an adult or child.

At any given time, there can be as many as 80 open SVU cases distributed around the unit. It takes a team to investigate, prosecute and rehabilitate the people involved in a special victim case, which can take years to bring to justice. The lingering remnants of broken families and poisoned memories may never fully heal.

The morning the 6-week-old infant case broke, the SVU had an entirely different day scheduled. Rather than serving the search warrant for an Internet crime against children case and interviewing the suspect, Scott and Slaughter were driving to the Benefis Pediatric Care Unit to see the infant.

"I plan my days around case management and typing, knowing well that they're never going to go that way," Slaughter said. "The typical day is very much crisis initiated."

That Wednesday morning, the 6-week-old was in the most imminent danger and therefore pushed to the top priority. It was not only true for the SVU, but other GFPD detectives, patrolmen and the rest of the multidisciplinary team.

Before Scott and Slaughter left Benefis, Deputy County Attorney Kory Larson was writing up a search warrant and two Department of Family Services agents were prepared to meet the detectives at the police department.

After taking photos of the child, documenting the bruising, the facial scabs and swollen leg, Scott and Slaughter went to the parents' home, a trailer on the lower northside of Great Falls, to make contact with the family.

"Typically, we're going to start with who is the closest," Slaughter said. "Whoever is closest to that individual is obviously going to pop up on our radar."

More than 80 percent of perpetrators of child maltreatment are parents, and another 6 percent are related to the victim, according to DPHHS.

"They have the most access to the individual," Slaughter said. "So initially, that's what we have to determine."

When contact was made with the infant's parents, they were taken to the police station for interviews, where they were placed in separate rooms.

Unlike popular culture depictions of detective investigations, Slaughter and Scott aren't using fancy computers, connecting fingerprints and blood or fluid samples. Typically, there isn't a smoking gun piece of evidence.

"Most of the time, it comes down to cooperation of statements," Slaughter said. "That's the biggest thing we do."

Slaughter said if the victim is old enough or is able to make a statement, they use the allegation and witness statements, then they search for evidence or more statements that corroborate or negate that initial allegation, and they build the case from there.

It took nearly an hour before the 16-year-old father said he once squeezed the child too hard, as Slaughter and Scott took him around and around his story, but slowly the father seemed to lose track of details. The detectives knew it was time to strike, as the time of day in the father's account began to change, as well as where his girlfriend and family were at the time.

Scott stepped out of the interview room and paced up and down the hall as he dialed the pediatric doctor.

When he came back to the room, Scott told the father his stories didn't add up.

Slaughter pointed out that there's a perception that once an arrest is made, it's over and everybody waits for trial.

"The reality is completely different," Slaughter said. "The real work starts after the arrest."

The meat and potatoes of police work is done behind the scenes, writing case report after case report, finding more evidence, conducting more interviews, knowing well that much of that work will potentially be suppressed in court proceedings.

The next consequence of a breaking-imminent-danger case is old cases inevitably get pushed back.

"Now you're three or four days behind, but that happens probably three times a week, where three of my five days are interrupted with a crisis," Slaughter said. "So when it adds up, I manage case by priority and by people."

Reasonable doubt

Nora Gerrity, a Benefis pediatric doctor, suspects there is both an increase in number and an increase in severity in child abuse.

Gerrity and Dr. Anna Antonopulos, another pediatric specialist, often find themselves on the front lines of child abuse cases. If a child is admitted into the inpatient pediatric care unit for an injury, it's Gerrity's responsibility to ask the parents or caregivers the child's history, and she compares the story to the injuries.

"If the determination I make as a professional is the condition or injury is not likely to have happened the way the caregiver said, then I am immediately concerned about the possibility of nonaccidental trauma, and that's when I make the referral to law enforcement and child protective services," Gerrity said.

The call she makes, as a mandated reporter, starts the investigation process, much like what occurred in June when the 6-week-old infant was taken in by the inpatient pediatric unit.

According to DPHHS, nearly two-thirds of all reported abuse and neglect cases come from professionals such as doctors, teachers or first-responders.

Before the multidisciplinary team was formed in Cascade County, her first call would go to the Department of Family Services, who would then call law enforcement. Involving all agencies from the beginning allows the investigative teams from medical doctors to law enforcement detectives to get on the same page from the outset of the case.

"We're finding out that the sooner law enforcement, especially the detectives, can be informed that a nonaccidental injury occurred to a child, then they're going to jump on it," Gerrity said.

From the moment a case has been deemed nonaccidental, the focus is preparing the case for a potential trial. Law enforcement, the County Attorney's Office, along with DFS and additional partners have to work together to make a case that can be presented to a jury, Slaughter said.

"The devil is in the details. It really is. From the point we make the arrest to the trial, we are combing through every line on a report looking for every detail," Slaughter said. "We're looking for more evidence. Not only evidence to corroborate a statement, but a statement that will corroborate a corroborating statement, so the case is as iron-clad as possible."

The weekly multidisciplinary team meetings are a place for the agencies to talk confidentially to analyze all aspects of evidence, Parker said.

Each member of the multidisciplinary team brings a different perspective. Detectives are looking for the arrests. Attorneys need the evidence to build an argument, and the doctors and DFS agents have the child's well-being in mind.

"The end goal is the truth," he said. "There are cases we decided not to charge based on this analysis, and there have been cases that enhance and magnify our chances of a conviction."

The County Attorney's Office has a dual role in regards to child abuse and neglect cases. Its work is more visible in criminal cases and seeking convictions in District Court, but the office also represents the Department of Family Services in Youth in Need of Care hearings, Parker said.

When there's a criminal child abuse case in District Court, there's usually a Youth in Need of Care case that is proceeding as well.

Ike Jesse is one of the DFS agents scattered throughout the 37 field offices in Montana whose job it is to represent the best interest of the child.

When a case is reported, DFS is one of the agencies that responds simultaneously with the police and County Attorney's Office, although he's not directly involved with the criminal end.

Jesse said DFS's role is to assess whether there are dangers in a home, such as ongoing domestic violence or parents neglecting children over long periods of time, and then working with the parents to find solutions.

DFS provides protective and child welfare services to children and families, but much like the police, DFS agents get involved through reports. Jesse isn't patrolling the streets, proactively looking for neglect cases.

After a case breaks and an investigation takes place, DFS determines whether a child is safe or unsafe, and whether the home is unsuitable, in which case the child is taken from the home and into a temporary home.

Ideally, DFS finds a noncustodial parent or relative, but sometimes the child is placed in foster care, said Sarah Corbally, a Child and Family Service administrator.

She said the primary goal is reunification of the family, if that's in the best interest of the child. Most of the cases have a court-ordered treatment plan for parents to follow in hopes that a district judge will eventually rule the home fit for reunification.

"We work in a complicated system. On top of working with law enforcement, with doctors, schools and foster parents, we work with very different ideas on what we do and how we do it," Corbally said. "We believe that we have a duty to be leaders in that role. However, we have to partner with additional providers to do that."

Every case is different. Some are tried in court, seeking a conviction. Others are decided by the civil route, where a district judge decides when or if a parent can retain custody of their child or children. And there are the cases that remain stacked on desks and in file cabinets without the necessary evidence or witness cooperation to pursue them further.

Slaughter said results will come when more resources are put to the problem. When there are more investigators, more technology, more awareness, and when the top priority is children in a community.

"Imagine a perfect world, and all the children were taken care of and watched out for. What kind of adult would we raise?" he asked. "A more productive, better adult, because they know they were cared for."

Possible solutions

Slaughter hung up his cellphone and rubbed his eyes. He was on a call with a victim in a different case that hit a snag.

He said he tells every victim in every case that whenever they need to talk to someone, they can call him. It adds an extra layer to an already overflowing workload, but he hopes it shows the victims someone in their life cares.

"The reality of it is most adolescents and adults who have been through abuse feel that not only do their parents not care, but they feel society didn't care about them. They feel the police didn't care about them. Social workers didn't care," Slaughter said. "The problem in their mind is that nobody cared, but the people who work (these cases) care deeply."

He said there's an incredibly high burnout rate in first responder professions, and the reason is that they give their heart and soul to their professions, but the problem is huge.

"It's almost like people don't want to admit how big the problem is because they have to address it," Slaughter said.

Child abuse is bigger than one person, one socio-economic demographic. It's bigger than one agent or one agency, which is why the Children's Justice Center's Toole said that child abuse is a community problem, and no single agency, individual or discipline has all the knowledge, skills or resources to provide what's truly necessary. It takes a team.

"When we get communities to take responsibility, that's when we start to see a difference. That's when the finger-pointing stops," she said.

It's when the adults in a community reach across socio-economic lines and neighborhood borders, across religious beliefs or educational background all for one goal, one common solution, she said.

"If you get into this job to save the world, you're going to burn out, and it's not going to work," said Jesse, the Department of Family Services agent. "But if you get in it to save one kid or three kids at a time that's where (the multidisciplinary team) comes in. We're working as a team."

What keeps each member of that team fighting is different and so similar at the same time.

For Jesse, it's the smile on the kid's face when he helps that child, that family.

Slaughter said his motivation is the safety of his own children and the question, "Doesn't everyone deserve that same thing?"

Scott said he never wants to see another child autopsy. "I never want to witness another child donate their organs. I don't want to ever be in an intensive care unit holding the hand of a child who is on a ventilator again."

Gerrity said her motivation is her job, and it's her job to make sure a child doesn't suffer it again.

The tumultuous road that smacked around first responders in Cascade County over the last five years began with James Many White Horses, the victim who still sits in the back of Parker's mind when child abuse is brought up.

"After Many White Horses, myself and others became restless. We decided to never be satisfied with our current skill level in these cases," Parker said. "What's been horrible is that the tragedies have continued despite our best efforts, but non-the less we'll roll up our sleeves and keep working."

Gerrity shared a story on her thoughts on what needs to change.

It starts with someone sitting at a picnic and a child floats by and says, "Help, I'm drowning."

So that someone pulls the child out of the water.

Then another child floats by, who is also cared for. But another and another continue down the river yelling, "Help, I'm drowning."

"Pretty soon someone has to wake up and go up stream and figure out what's happening, and why these drowning kids are floating by," Gerrity said. "Somebody has to go upstream and and look harder at how they're getting in trouble anyway and preventing that. That's where we need to get to."

Child deaths

September 2008: Two-year-old James Many White Horses was found dead in the trunk of the car belonging to his mother, Summer Many White Horses. She was sentenced to 55 years for negligent homicide and tampering with evidence after failing to get help for her son.

March 2010: Kaelyn Bray died when she was 3, when Jerimie Hicks pushed her into a wall. Her favorite flower launched the Dandelion Foundation. Her mother, Jessica, has dedicated her energy to fighting child abuse so similar cases never happen again. Hicks was sentenced to 100 years in prison for deliberate homicide for Kaelyn's death.

June 2011: When October Perez died, her death rocked the Cascade County community. The case concluded when David Hyslop was sentenced to 100 years and no parole for the brutal death of the 2-year-old. She died after two days in intensive medical care from severe head trauma that caused her brain to swell.

July 2011: Keira Hulbert was pronounced brain dead from a traumatic brain injury. Her death was brought to justice when Charles Cadwell pleaded guilty to one count of deliberate homicide. Cadwell received an 80-year prison sentence.

September 2012: Brooklyn Eskew was the latest shaken baby death, when she was declared brain dead at a Spokane hospital. Her mother, Jasmine Eskew has pleaded not guilty to deliberate homicide. Her trial is set for Dec. 2.

"Any city with a population of 60,000 that has five child homicides in five years, obviously something is wrong. Obviously we need to change something on some level." Noah Scott Police detective

National abuse and neglect stats

In 2011, an estimated 3.4 million referrals were received by Child Protective Services agencies, which included about 6.2 million children.

For 2011, professionals made 3/5 (57.6 percent) of the reports of alleged child abuse and neglect. Professionals include teachers, police, lawyers and social service professionals.

Nonprofessionals -- or friends, neighbors or relatives -- submitted one-fifth or 18.2 percent.

Unclassified sources submitted the remaining 24.3 percent of reports.

In 2011, all 50 states plus the District of Columbia reported 676,569 victims of child abuse and neglect. The unique victim rate was 9.1 victims per 1,000 children in the population.

Victims in the age group of birth to a year old had the highest rate of victimization at 21.2 children per 1,000 children of the same age group in the national population.

87.5 percent percent of victims were comprised of three races or ethnicities -- African American (21.5 percent), Hispanic (22.1 percent) and white (43.9 percent).

In 2011, 50 states and D.C. reported a total of 1,545 fatalities.

The overall rate of child fatalities was 2.10 deaths per 100,000 children.

80.8 percent of perpetrators were parents.

2011 child victims

Montana had 1,066 children who were victims of abuse (4.8 percent rate).

The United States had 676,569 children who were victims of abuse (9.1 percent rate).

Worst was the District of Columbia with a 22.6 percent rate.

Best was Pennsylvania with a 1.2 percent rate.

Of the 1,066 victims in Montana, 979 were neglected, 134 were abused, five were other.

Of the abuse victims, 54 were sexually abused.



Children's Mercy seeing a rise in child abuse cases this summer

by Laura McCallister and Amy Anderson

KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) - Summertime usually means fewer reported cases of child abuse but, so far this year, the numbers are going up.

No one knows why the number are going up, but the fact is they are and experts at Children's Mercy Hospital say everyone needs to be aware of it and do their part to stop it.

Sadly stories of child abuse are not uncommon and, when they happen, people like Amy Terreros, an RN with the Child Abuse and Neglect Clinic at Children's Mercy, are often an innocent child's first line of defense.

"I heard facial bruising when I got the call and I went in with an open mind, not knowing what I was going to see, and as soon as I saw this child, it was a classic hand print mark to the face," she said.

Terreros says Children's Mercy has seen a jump in the numbers most people don't even like to think about.

"Since school has let out, we've been seeing an excessive amount of cases. We usually get a lull in the summertime and we have been busy," she said.

They are busy with cases of abuse, mainly at the hands of people who are supposed to love and protect children the most. Very often abuse is kept quiet, hidden beneath a shirt or pants. But in many of the most recent cases Terreros showed that the injuries were prominent and many times reported by someone unknown to the child.

"When we see ear bruising we get very, very concerned. It's very specific for a child with physical abuse," she said as she pointed out markings on one picture. "This is clearly a pattern mark, not something you'd expect to see accidental. This is probably an extension cord."

While no one can say for certain why the numbers of abuse cases are growing, everyone can report them. Experts say even if a person just barely suspects that a child is being abused, they shouldn't worry about butting in. They should report it.

"It's our job as a community to protect our children. These are our children and, in some cases, if a parent isn't going to advocate for that child, then we need to advocate for that child to make sure they're safe," Terreros said.

Experts say if a person gets frustrated with their kid, they should take a time out of their own because it's certainly not worth losing their patience over.

If you see or suspect abuse, make a call and you can do it anonymously. In Missouri the number is 1-800-392-3738 and in Kansas it's 1-800-922-5330.



Police not ruling out abuse of found boy; stepmom held

by Eric D. Lawrence and Gina Damron

DETROIT — The stepmother of a 12-year-old boy — who was found alive in the basement of his east-side Detroit home 11 days after he vanished — was taken into custody on a warrant issued for a probation violation, police said.

Meanwhile, police continue to investigate Charlie Bothuell V's case, focusing on whether he was abused. Police said they have not ruled out the possibility of abuse.

Police have said evidence, including a PVC pipe, has been collected.

A person familiar with the investigation said the pipe was reportedly used to discipline the child. Blood was found on the child's clothing in the house, but it is uncertain whose blood it is, the source said.

Police are working with the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office and will be in touch with the Department of Human Services and other agencies.

Charlie is now staying with his mother and other relatives in Detroit.

His father and stepmother —Charlie Bothuell IV and Monique Dillard-Bothuell — have come under increased scrutiny since 12-year-old Charlie, missing since June 14, was found Wednesday in the basement of their home while police executed a search warrant.

Maria Miller, a spokeswoman for Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, said the office has not received a warrant request in Charlie's case; Detroit police said a warrant request could be turned over within the next couple of days.

Dillard-Bothuell's two children have been taken into custody by Children's Protective Services, Detroit police spokesman Michael Woody said.

She is on probation for a weapons offense, records show.

According to Wayne County Circuit Court records, Dillard-Bothuell was charged in 2013 with carrying a concealed weapon.

According to a police report, obtained by the Detroit Free Press, Dillard-Bothuell got a flat tire on May 19, 2013. When a Michigan State Police trooper offered assistance, she provided him with her expired concealed pistol license, told him she was in possession of a pistol, and was arrested, the report says.

In January this year she pleaded guilty to obtaining a pistol without a license, the concealed weapons charge was dismissed and she was given two years of probation, records show.

On the order of probation, it says Dillard-Bothuell, "may not own use or possess a firearm."

On Monday, a bench warrant was issued for Dillard-Bothuell for violating her probation after a handgun was found in her home while police executed a search warrant.

According to court records, police recovered the gun while Dillard-Bothuell was present.

Woody said the investigation is continuing.

Police found Charlie concealed by a makeshift barricade, crouched behind a large container, Detroit Police Chief James Craig said Wednesday. He said police had searched the home several times before the one conducted Wednesday.

Woody said Thursday that Charlie had been in another location during earlier searches of the house. Police would have discovered Charlie otherwise, he said. Woody described the area in which the boy was found as a small mechanical room. Police found the boy Wednesday behind a large container with some food, including cereal and pop bottles.

"It was somewhat staged, but ... you could tell he was there for a short while," Woody said. "It wasn't any grand, elaborate setup."

Woody said that when he was found, Charlie was wearing the same clothes he'd had on when he disappeared. On Wednesday, Craig said Charlie was happy to see police.

Police said Charlie's condition is good and he has been talking to them.

"He was in a hospital this morning. He is being closely monitored by us," Woody said Thursday.

A woman leaving the mother's house Thursday afternoon said police told the family not to speak with reporters but said the boy is fine and with his family before she drove away.

The saga of a family searching for a missing child took an abrupt and bizarre turn Wednesday. Craig held a news conference to announce that police were not ruling out the possibility of homicide in the case followed hours later with news that the boy had been found alive.

As Craig was making the announcement, Charlie's father, Charlie Bothuel IV, learned the news from cable TV show host Nancy Grace on live television. He left the interview and rushed to his home, where video images showed him collapsing in the arms of WDIV-TV reporter Guy Gordon after learning the good news.

Bothuell was adamant that he did not know his son was in the basement and said "there was no abuse of my son."

Mark Magidson, Bothuell's lawyer, said it "defies logic" that the many searches failed to uncover Charlie.

"If that child was down there, they would have found him," Magidson said.

Magidson noted that there is an underground hallway that connects the basements of the various units in the complex, part of the Mies van der Rohe townhouses, a collection of modernist structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Residents call the hallway a tunnel and keep their garbage and other items in that area. There is a door on the far end from Bothuell's house that leads outside, although a neighbor noted Thursday that the door has an alarm.

Bothuell has yet to see his son and was unable to travel to the hospital while the boy was there because authorities had seized his car and his computers, Magidson said.

"He tried to see his son shortly after he was found. They said no," Magidson said. "I told him, 'You have an absolute right to see your son.' "

According to Bothuell, Charlie had been homeschooled for the last couple of years after some early struggles. However, recent discussions, apparently upsetting to Charlie, had focused on moving to the suburbs and enrolling Charlie in school there. Magidson said Charlie had been told that if he failed to do well he could be enrolled in military school.

Bothuell, who said he's a registered nurse and runs a company based in Southfield, Mich., did not return a call seeking comment Thursday. He had earlier criticized police for their initial reaction to the case and their treatment of him and his family. He offered to take a public lie-detector test.

The boy left his home about 9 p.m. ET June 14 after the boy's stepmother had a discussion with him over unfinished chores. The boy was in the middle of a workout when he left. The search began that night.


How Childhood Neglect Harms The Brain

Like any new mother, the woman we'll call Braille was full of hope and excitement the day she welcomed her son into her life seven years ago. “Peter” was 7 years old at the time of his adoption. He'd been living in foster care after being taken from his biological mother.

According to Braille, Peter and his siblings endured years of neglect and abuse living with their biological mother and her violent boyfriend. “It was physical, emotional and continual,” she says.

Peter, now 14, and his adoptive parents are very close now, but the years since the adoption have been challenging. His father recalls Peter's unpredictable anger, and the times Peter would punch him, out of the blue. His mother says her son could be very sweet and affectionate one minute, but then “he would just fall apart and start banging his head against the wall or start screaming.”

Experts have long known that neglect and abuse in early life increase the risk of psychological problems, such as depression and anxiety, but now neuroscientists are explaining why. They're showing how early maltreatment wreaks havoc on the developing brain.

Study Of Orphans Finds Smaller Brains

Dr. Charles Nelson, a Boston Children's Hospital neuroscientist, studies how children's early experiences shape the developing brain. Abuse and neglect, he says, can cause significant damage to the circuitry of the brain.

“Let's say there are 1,000 neurons supposed to wire in a certain way, maybe only half wire that way and the other half wire in an incorrect way,” Nelson explains. “By altering the wiring diagram, you are altering behavior and altering psychological states.”

But what prevents the brain from wiring the right way, and how do early experiences get biologically embedded in the brain?

Experts say that chronic neglect and abuse represent a profound threat to a child's early years, when they are totally dependent on caregivers for food, comfort and other basic needs. The lack of critical care sets off a biological stress response and a flood of hormones, which can damage key areas of the brain.

Many animal studies have documented the deleterious effects of early childhood neglect (by putting young mice in isolation, for example) but in 2000, Nelson had the opportunity to study a population of children: Romanian orphans raised in harrowing conditions in state orphanages.

This gave Nelson a unique opportunity to study the effects of profound deprivation on brain development. Using neuroimaging tools, he compared the brains of the children brought up in the orphanages to those of children raised outside.

“When the kids were 8 to 10 years old, we did magnetic resonance imaging on them, where we can actually look at detailed anatomy of the brains,” Nelson says. “We found that the kids in the institutional group had much smaller brains. We are not sure why they are small, but it is probably due to loss of connections and loss of cells.”

The smaller brains translated into potential problems with attention deficit disorder, anxiety disorders and attachment issues.

While the study's children suffered from extreme neglect in the Romanian orphanages, Nelson believes there are lessons for American children.

“Kids who grow up in families where they are maltreated and then placed in bad foster care look just like our kids in Romania,” he says. “When people say, ‘Who cares about kids in Romania?' It's because it is a model system for what happens in the United States every day.”

Lacking The Skill To Behave

At Massachusetts General Hospital, Dr. Stuart Ablon directs Think:Kids, a program for children with behavioral challenges. He says while working with these children, it's important to understand that they have brains that are not fully developed. They don't lack the will to behave, he says, but the skill.

“This thinking runs completely counter to the more common philosophy that kids do well if they want to,” he says. “Most people believe if a kid isn't doing well, it's because he or she doesn't want to. We have known forever that is not the case. Now we have the science to back it up.”

Ablon says children with behavioral challenges are not stubborn or unmotivated; just like kids with learning disabilities, children with behavioral challenges lack skills because of differences in their brain development. They don't lack reading and math and writing skills; instead, they lack problem solving skills such as frustration tolerance and emotion regulation.

Trying to motivate them with rewards and punishments is not effective, Ablon says, and punishments like restraints are likely to backfire and ratchet up the aggression.

That was true for Peter, the 14-year-old we met earlier. He is now getting help at Think:Kids and is doing well, but he says the approach he experienced in previous therapeutic settings often hurt more than it helped, like a time at school when he felt a meltdown coming on.

“Several teachers were rushing at me so I reflexively ran out of the room,” he says. “They pinned me down in the hallway. I was being crushed. Being attacked and forcibly shoved to the floor can be extremely painful. I don't understand how anyone could consider that in any way calming.”

Interaction To ‘Facilitate Brain Change'

Ablon and other experts say science is beginning to show that restorative brain change can happen with appropriate intervention and care. Ablon believes change happens when children are helped to repeatedly practice the skills they lack in trusting relationships.

Take for example a child who gets extremely upset and agitated when he is asked to turn off a video game and start doing his homework. Ablon says if the child begins to escalate emotionally, it's up to the adult to stay calm and try to empathize with the child, to understand the child's concerns in that moment. “The child will actually calm down and then be open to hearing the adult perspective and being invited to problem solve with the adult,” he says. “It's that kind of interaction again and again that is the dosing needed to facilitate brain change.”

But brain change gets harder as time passes, says Nelson of Children's Hospital. It's critical to intervene early before brain damage takes place, he says, to provide support for parents and caregivers, treatment and family therapy and, if need be, to remove children from abusive homes. Interventions done later in life will likely be less successful in rerouting the brain wiring than interventions done earlier, when the brain is more plastic, he says.

“If you have a plastic circuit then you might be able to overcome early adversity when placed in a better environment because the brain is still plastic enough to change,” he says.

The cost of delaying is huge — not only in human terms, but also financially. According to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study, “the total lifetime cost of child maltreatment is $124 billion each year.”

Dr. Jack Shonkoff, head of Harvard's Center on the Developing Child, says we must respond urgently to the scourge of childhood neglect, as we have to other public health threats.

In the past, he says, we might have dismissed childhood neglect, not understanding the significant biological damage it caused. That can no longer be the case, he says.

“The science makes it more difficult to walk away,” Shonkoff says. “Once you know the science now you have a moral responsibility to say, ‘We can't allow this to go by.' That's what the scientific understanding has done.”


New York

Child abuse victims stung by Albany inaction

by Shant Shahrigian

Horace Mann School graduate Joseph Cumming says it took him 34 years to fully realize his treatment at the hands of his music teacher Johannes Somary was sexual abuse. But by then, even if he had wanted to, it was far too late for him to take legal action. New York's criminal and civil statute of limitations for sexual abuse of minors is five years after the victim turns 18.

After revelations of decades of abuse involving more than 30 victims at Horace Mann emerged in June 2012, the Bronx District Attorney's office said the limitations prevented it from prosecuting any of the perpetrators.

The state legislature's recent failure to take up the Child Victims Act — which would eliminate the criminal and civil statues of limitations for child sexual abuse and create a one-year window for past victims to seek justice — infuriated Mr. Cumming and other survivors.

They placed the blame on state Sen. Co-Majority Leader Jeff Klein, the leader of the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), who decides which bills come to the floor of the senate in consultation with Republican Co-Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

“The main reason [the Child Victims Act] has not passed is that there is a caucus of centrist Democrats in the senate who have blocked it again and again,” Mr. Cumming said of the IDC. “I would not be sorry to see [Mr. Klein] voted out of office.”

Mr. Klein is facing a Democratic primary challenge from former Councilman Oliver Koppell.

A man who says he suffered sexual abuse at the Hackley School in Tarrytown, N.Y., which earlier this year acknowledged abuse of students in the 1960s, echoed Mr. Cumming' point of view.

“These politicians end up protecting very bad people,” said the surivor, who did not want his name published.

The New York State Catholic Conference is strongly opposed to the act, saying it would unfairly subject the church — which has seen widespread allegations of child abuse by priests in recent years — to costly litigation.,54539



Royal commission into child sexual abuse sparks rise in sex assault claims

by Michael Walsh

SEXUAL assault reports hit a four-year high last year, with victim support groups attributing the rise to awareness created by the royal commission into child sexual abuse.

Data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics today reveals almost 20,000 sexual assaults were reported to police in 2013, an increase of 8 per cent on the previous year.

While all states and territories recorded an increase, the largest change was seen in Tasmania where the number of reports rose by 48 per cent. This was followed by New South Wales with an 11 per cent increase.

NSW Rape Crisis Centre executive officer Karen Willis said it was encouraging that more victims were coming forward.

“This is great news, because what we know is that only 17 per cent of people who experience sexual assault report it to police. We know it's really difficult for victims to come forward,” she said.

Sexual violence often goes unreported as the majority of incidents are committed by somebody known to the victim, most often a family member or partner, research shows.

Almost two-thirds of people who reported sexual assault last year were aged 19 or younger, a sign highly publicised child sexual assault cases may be encouraging more victims to seek justice, experts said..

“It's highly likely that what we're actually seeing are adult survivors or survivors more broadly being inspired to speak out,” said Bravehearts criminologist Carol Ronken.

“There was certainly a lot of attention on the Royal Commission [into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse] last year when these figures were compiled, it was really active — it was on the front page of papers constantly.”

The ABS figures also revealed most police investigations into sexual assaults took longer than a month to complete, and often led to charges not being pursued.

This was most evident in NSW, where 68.5 per cent of investigations resolved within a month failed to end in criminal proceedings.

Ms Ronken said sexual assault cases are hard to prosecute and rarely lead to convictions.

“Sometimes it can be incredibly hard to take these matters forward — you've often got no evidence, a young victim, and it's usually only one person's word against another's,” she said.

Often child victims of family sexual violence will withdraw their reports before the police finish their investigation, she said.

“Going forward in the criminal justice system against someone who you loved and trusted is very difficult, and can be very re-traumatising, especially for children,” Ms Ronken said.

“We need to look at our criminal justice system, and make sure that it's supportive of victims of all ages.”



Bikers Against Child Abuse helps young local victims heal

by Chuck Nowlen

When his telephone rings at 2 a.m. and it's one of the abused kids he watches over, biker “Bull” is on it -- like that.

“It's about the children, whatever it takes, 24/7,” notes Bull, who lives “within 15 minutes” of Hudson and is vice president of the Minnesota Chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse which also covers Western Wisconsin.

Child abuse is a crime of dominance, violation and fear, and the nightmare can linger for victims long after their abusers have been arrested and charged.

Court proceedings can be particularly stressful for abused youngsters, especially when they're required to testify, Bull and three other local BACA members -- “Raja,” “Tat” and “Lugnut” -- explain in a weekend interview at a Hudson restaurant.

For the children, knowing they always have their own personal team of tough, supportive biker buddies nearby can make all the difference in the world.

“So, if one of our kids calls, we'll go over to their house and stay in the driveway all night if they're really scared,” says Bull, who has four kids of his own with his wife Raja, secretary of the Minnesota BACA chapter.

“We'll escort them to and from court. We'll sit with them in court. Many times, the child has to sit out in the hallway with the perp, waiting to testify. Our being there makes them feel safer.

“We also provide counseling and other help, and just make sure we're there for them at all times if they need us. Basically, we empower these kids not to be afraid of the world in which they live.”

As the patches on BACA members' motorcycle jackets assert: “No child deserves to live in fear.”

Recent national statistics show that one in four girls is sexually abused by age 18. So is one in five boys.

BACA members guard their young charges' identities like pit bulls, as well as their own. Members' names are not allowed in newspaper stories about them -- only their club road names. No occupations or hometowns, either. They won't allow photos with their own kids.

“Perpetrators will do anything sometimes,” Bull notes. “They're desperate.”

BACA has been part of several St. Croix County cases, most recently the prosecution of accused sex abuser Daniel Barber. Barber pleaded not guilty June 10 to eight counts of felony child sex assault and six counts of possessing child pornography.

BACA members have attended every Barber court proceeding so far. They'll continue to be there until the case ends -- and, as necessary, beyond.

“We want to help make sure these kids can grow up and lead happy lives in any way we can,” Raja says of the club's mission.

Started by social worker

Founded by John Paul “Chief” Lilly, a licensed clinical social worker and registered play therapist in Utah, BACA has since established chapters in six countries and 37 states, including Wisconsin groups based in La Crosse and Manitowoc.

Referrals come from parents and guardians, guardians ad litem, law enforcement, prosecutors and, in some cases, local victim/witness programs. In Texas, BACA has its own office in every local courthouse.

The group also maintains a therapy fund for victims -- a BACA brochure notes that many abused kids don't qualify for public-financed therapy. Reasons vary, but most often it's because their cases do not meet the basic requirements of the rules of evidence, are summarily closed or because an obviously abused victim is too scared to provide enough evidence to pursue prosecution.

The brochure also notes that “children who feel safe and protected are more capable and likely to tell the truth regarding their abuse because threats made by an abuser are offset by the presence of dedicated, protective bikers that have now become family.”

The legal and social-services system “offers much” to help victims' healing, the brochure continues. But even with protective orders, “it is physically impossible for law enforcement to provide protection 24 hours a day, indefinitely. … Perpetrators are fully aware of this and find ways to access and further harm their victims.”

That's where BACA often steps in.

Background checks, training mandatory

After an initial visit to determine whether BACA's right for a referred case, at least two members are assigned as the victim's primary contacts, working with a chapter child-psychology and/or social-work professional. For the Minnesota chapter, that person's road name is “Doc.”

All official BACA members have passed criminal background checks and completed at least a year of special training.

At initial visits, each child gets his or her own motorcycle vest, a BACA patch, a Teddy bear and a road nickname. Later, they go on rides with their new guardians, who also sometimes visit the kids at school and at parties for birthdays and holidays.

“One of our kids sleeps with the vest on because he feels like it protects him at night,” Bull says.

BACA lists the following documented benefits of the relationship: improved self-confidence, diminished regressive behavior, increased feelings of safety, empowerment to testify, better communication, reduced feelings of guilt, decreased negative behaviors, and a sense of belonging, acceptance and independence.

“One of our kids recently became a Big Brother and wanted a Teddy Bear for his sister too. She wasn't abused, but he still wanted her to feel protected,” Bull says.

“It's cool that a kid like that still thinks about his sister, not so much himself. I guess that just kind of proves that what we do works.”

Tat and Lugnut, meanwhile, offer the following poem, written by a young victim road-named “Poet” after a ride with her sister and her Minnesota-chapter buddies:

Smiling from ear to ear

Not a problem on my mind

Free from abuse

Feel like going 100 miles per hour

Even though we're going about 30

I hold on to Bull's jacket

And I know I'm safe

I wonder what the people who see me think

Looking back to my sister is awesome

Looking forward at the view is amazing

I feel free

I am free

Thanks BACA.

The Minnesota chapter can be reached at (651) 497-1618. The international group's website: BACA also has a page on Facebook.



Foster parents to get training to combat child sex trafficking

by Abby Sewell

Los Angeles County supervisors voted Tuesday to create a new training program for foster parents and group home staff to help them identify and help children who might be victims of sex trafficking.

The county created a task force in November 2012 to deal with the issue of youth in the foster care system being recruited or forced into the sex trade.

Statistics from the county probation department at that time showed that 59% of youths arrested on prostitution-related charges countywide in 2010 were in the foster care system, and county officials said in some cases, pimps recruited girls from group homes.

The supervisors voted Tuesday to ask county staff to work with local colleges and universities to develop a training program that will become mandatory for foster care providers.

"The county should move as quickly as possible to help safeguard the county's most vulnerable population from being sexually exploited," Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Don Knabe wrote in a memo to their colleagues.

County officials said state funds may be available to carry out the training. Staff will report back in 60 days on the costs to implement the training countywide.



Sobering statistics revealed on metro child sex trafficking

by Collin Kelley

We are bombarded with statistics about crime, so they are easily lost in the constant stream of news, chatter and social media. But here's a number that's hard to ignore: 7,200 people in the state of Georgia purchase a child for sex each month. Even more troubling: the same child is sold 10 to 15 times to meet the high demand.

Pine Hills resident Greg Chevalier presented those sobering numbers at this month's Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods meeting. Chevalier became enlightened about human trafficking four years ago and become a certified speaker on the subject and now travels around Georgia to educate and inform others about vulnerable children.

Chevalier works with StreetGrace, a faith-based organization leading churches, community organizations and individual volunteers to end minor sex trafficking, and the Governor's Office for Children and Families' task force on the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

Because of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the metro area has become a hub for sex trafficking. Chevalier said international businessmen and tourists make up a high number of those buying children for sex. Both men and women are buying and selling children for sex, he said.

But the issue isn't confined to urban areas. “The highest demand comes from outside the perimeter – 42 percent,” Chevalier said. “It's 23 percent in the urban core.”

The average age of the victims – boys and girls – is 12 to 14, and said children of all races and demographics are being exploited. In many cases, Chevalier said sellers prey on a child's vulnerabilities, most notably hunger.

“There are 998,000 children on reduced or free lunches in Georgia's public schools, and that's probably the only meal they receive,” he said. “Hunger is a vulnerability and children are often coerced for food.”

Chevalier said human trafficking had become a $40 billion business worldwide and was set to surpass every other type of organized crime.

He said parents and guardians should be on the lookout for signs their child might be involved in sex trafficking, since 6 to 7 percent of the children sold still live at home.

“Look for tattoos or branding, a decline in school work and withdrawal from friends and family,” Chevalier said. “Social media has made sex trafficking easier and children can easily be coerced that way.”




Heroes work to fight sex trade locally

by Keith C. Burris

Sister Geraldine Nowak, a Sister of St. Francis, invited me to meet with members of STOP! — Stop Trafficking of Persons. The group is a loose organization of religious sisters and lay people in the Catholic Diocese of Toledo trying to do something about human trafficking. They are small but mighty.

The victims of trafficking are young women who have been enticed under false pretenses, often kidnapped, and enslaved in the sex trade.

Slavery is the correct word for what is happening to vulnerable teenage women while most of our minds are elsewhere — on shopping, cable news blather, or exploding superheroes and villains of the big screen. Meanwhile this horror is occurring in plain sight.

The leadership of STOP! is: Sister Frances Marie Penwell; Sister Pat Gardner; Fatima Al-Hayani, a professor of Muslim studies; Sister Mary Kuhlman; Sister Sandy Sherman; and Sister Geraldine.

They are part of a larger, informal coalition of conscience that is building in our area. It includes the Second Chance Center; the Daughters Project; a new film called Shadow on the Heartland; one key University of Toledo professor; and a gutsy and determined state legislator.

But there is still a long way to go. Too many middle-class folks don't know about human trafficking. Too many parents know of it vaguely but don't take it seriously. I am just learning.

We all need to wake up. Fast. Class and social status do not necessarily protect anyone. It happens to girls from good families.

One of the STOP! sisters goes out into the streets on weekends and befriends prostitutes. She gives them toothbrushes and shampoo and the like. She asks if there is anything else she can do. She tells them she'll see them next week. Eventually, personal and even spiritual conversations happen. Not right away. Almost all these women started in the sex trade under age.

No one wants this life. It is romanticized in movies. In life it is brutal. Just addiction and violence.

Celia Williamson of UT, a national expert on human trafficking, makes two key points in a recent Ted Talks lecture. First, this is not just prostitution; this is selling kids as sex slaves. Just try to take that in. I can't quite.

Second, it is a system oppressing these women. An organized economic system. We have to crack down on the customers and the enslavers to break the system.

Enter, Teresa Fedor. She just got House Bill 130 — the “End Demand Act” — passed.

Among other provisions, House Bill 130:

? Increases the penalty for purchasing sex from a minor to a felony.

? Removes the legal requirement to prove a victim under 16 was compelled to engage in sex for hire. Under the age of consent, there is no consent.

? Terminates parental rights for those found trafficking their own children.

? Prohibits the advertisement of sex for hire when the materials depict a minor.

The bill also contains an “emergency” clause: As soon as the governor signs it, it is law.

This is impressive, meaningful work by a focused legislator.

The women fighting this scourge are heroes. We are in their debt. They need our help.


New York


Next month as a part of the 15th Anniversary Season of the Midtown International Theatre Festival, Michael Mack will perform the NY premiere of his acclaimed solo show Conversations with My Molester: A Journey of Faith, which will run from Monday, July 14 thru Saturday, August 2 at the Jewel Box Theater (312 West 36th St, 4th Floor). Spanning four decades after his childhood experience of clergy sexual abuse, Mack's award-winning solo play is his spiritual autobiography charting the crime, the wreckage, and his astonishing, redemptive return to the Catholic Church.

Written by and starring Michael Mack, and featuring direction from Boston stage veteran Daniel Gidron, the production premiered in Boston in 2012 at the 10-year anniversary of the clergy sexual abuse crisis. It won an Artist Grant for Dramatic Writing from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the state's most competitive and prestigious individual arts fellowship. Mack's autobiographical work goes where few have ventured on this topic - depicting one clergy survivor's odyssey full-circle from life-changing trauma to genuine reconciliation.

As a boy from a devout Roman Catholic family, Boston-based playwright Michael Mack wanted to be a priest. That dream ended at age 11 when his pastor first invited him to the rectory to help with "a project." Mack soon left the Church, haunted for decades by disturbing questions about spirituality and sexuality, but forty years later he landed on his former pastor's doorstep for the conversations of a lifetime.

Mack's play about his odyssey from clergy sexual abuse as a child to healing as an adult has received widespread acclaim for its "powerful conversations" (The Washington Post). Its complex, nuanced portrait has also netted rave reviews from Catholic parishioners, clergy, and even the Boston Archdiocese itself.

"The play is about healing," said Mack, who refers to his work as a kind of ministry. "I never became a priest, but I've always felt a spiritual calling. This play is my effort at reconciliation and social justice." To that end, Mack will present an audience talkback at NYC's 2nd-largest Catholic church, the Church of St. Paul the Apostle, joined by its pastor Father Gil Martinez, on Monday, July 21st at 7pm. Free and open to the public.

2014 marks Year 15 for the Midtown International Theatre Festival (MITF) and producer John Chatterton is celebrating in a big way. Chatterton has been a prolific fixture of the Manhattan theatre scene for two decades. For the past 15 years, his brainchild MITF has been celebrating the diversity of theatre and has become a leader in presenting powerful works from around the world - and one of the best reasons to come to New York in the summer. The once bachelor MITF now has a full family of arts programs: The Short Play Lab, which will be part of this year's festivities; Cabaret MITF - featuring Broadway and cabaret performers - will also be part of the festival; and the Commercial Division spotlighting works whose production values and subject matter are the stuff for Off- [and on] Broadway; and, of course, the founding Midtown International Theatre Festival itself. The Midwinter Madness Short Play Festival and the new MITF Children's Theatre Festival shared in the fun earlier this year.

Conversations with My Molester: A Journey of Faith will run from Monday, July 14 thru Saturday, August 2 at the Jewel Box Theatre (312 West 36th St, 4th Floor) with performances on Mon. 7/14 at 6pm, Sat. 7/19 at 8:30pm, Wed. 7/30 at 6pm, Thu. 7/31 at 8pm and Sat. 8/2 at 1pm. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online at .



Report finds fault with state's child abuse policies

by Matt Gouras

HELENA – Montana is one of 10 states given a failing grade by two advocacy groups critical of the secrecy surrounding child abuse cases.

Last week's report by First Star, a child advocacy group, and the University of San Diego School of Law's Children's Advocacy Institute calls for systematic reforms in the release of information dealing with abuse investigations.

The report, titled "State Secrecy and Child Deaths in the U.S.," ranked all 50 states and found that most did not adequately release information about fatal and life-threatening child abuse cases. They called some state policies "misguided and secretive" and said the intent of federal law requires public disclosure.

Montana scored lowest for a state law that closes abuse proceedings and withholds records dealing with investigations into child fatalities or near fatalities in abuse cases. The report also found Montana's law restricts public access to case notes, correspondence, evaluations, videotapes and interviews.

The report's authors noted the Montana law limits information for the news media to "confirmation of factual information regarding how the case was handled." Disclosure can be withheld if the state Department of Health and Human Services finds it would violate the privacy of a child, parent or guardian.

Liz Harter, who oversees the department's child and family division, said the state believes it is in compliance with federal law.

"Child and Family Services Division staff work very hard to prevent child abuse and neglect in Montana," Harter said. "And, we do share the same goals of this report, which is to prevent child abuse or neglect fatalities. We just don't believe disclosing all child abuse records is the answer."

Harter added lawmakers would have to pass new legislation allowing for open disclosure if the state wanted a favorable rating in the report.

The report's authors argued the secrecy surrounding child abuse cases prevents the release of critical information that could hold state child welfare systems accountable and prevent future abuse. They said such problems need to be publicized so they can be fixed and noted about 1,500 children die each year from child abuse and neglect.

Other states receiving a failing grade were Georgia, Maryland, New Mexico, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and Vermont. Only six states ¿ Nevada, New Hampshire, California, Indiana, Iowa and Oregon ¿ received grades of A or A minus.

The report's authors said they want Congress and state legislatures to adopt laws that demand closer examination of abuse cases, rather than focusing on confidentiality.

"The current emphasis on confidentiality only masks the problems inherent in child protection systems," said Robert C. Fellmeth, executive director of the University of San Diego School of Law's Children's Advocacy Institute.



Victim of Child Abuse turns to Poetry to Ease Pain

by Chris Stipes

HOUSTON -- Walk a mile in Kerry Roberson's shoes and feel the pain of a childhood without love. “It was very horrible, hurtful, really painful the things I've been through," he said. "I didn't have the easiest time growing up. I had a hard time in school being accepted by people. My family wasn't one of those happy families that people see on TV," said Roberson.

The 31-year-old Bay City man says he was abused emotionally, verbally, and physically. "He would stomp me, he would beat me physically, and he did it in front of people. I was bloody all the way from my face all the way down to my legs dripped in blood," he recalls.

A new study by researchers at Yale University finds 1 in 8 children will face some form of maltreatment by the time they turn 18 years old. "For a person who's been abused and neglected it leaves a scar on the inside of them," said Roberson. After living with several different family members for most of his childhood, Roberson was homeless by the age of 18. He spent 2 years on the streets but knew that wasn't the life he wanted. "The pain was there, but the desire was also there to get out of the situation," he said.

While some turn to drugs or alcohol to ease their pain, Kerry turned to writing. "It helped me deal with a lot of things and overcome a lot of things, because I got it all out."

He got it out -- all that pain – with a pen and paper. He writes poetry about the tough times. "I wanted to express myself and to tell the truth about it because I was holding onto a lot of things that happened to me," he said.

Diagnosed with schizophrenia and now living on disability, Kerry has his poetry published. “Abused and Neglected” is a collection of poetry that tells not just his story, but the stories, he says, of countless kids. "You get people that want to tell their stories in America, they want to express themselves and tell what happened to them, but they feel like if they say something about it someone is going to harm them or something like that."

There were more than 25,000 reports of child abuse last year in Harris County, according to Child Protective Services. That's the most in Texas. "It has an impact on their development and it has long term consequences that can last a lifetime," said Estella Olguin with CPS. "People have to realize that child abuse is everybody's business. Just because it's not happening to your child, it will impact your child, your community and society, get involved," she said.

Getting involved. That's what Kerry Roberson is doing by sharing his story. "If you're in a situation you need to speak about it and tell somebody about it. Keeping it to yourself and keeping it bottled up is only going to make matters worse because people need to know what's going on," said Roberson.

If you are a victim of abuse there is a Texas Abuse Hotline you can call at 1-800-252-5400 or you can visit

Roberson's book, “Abused and Neglected,” has been available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.



Discovery of missing 12-year-old alive in dad's Detroit basement puzzling

by Gus Burns

DETROIT, MI -- It's an unresolved mystery.

Detroit police, hours after saying evidence in the case of missing 12-year-old Charlie Bothuell V suggested he might be the victim of homicide, found the boy hidden behind boxes and a 50-gallon barrel in his father's basement, Detroit Police Officer Adama Madera said Wednesday evening.

Charlie's father, 45-year-old Charlie Bothuell V, reported his son missing on June 14. The boy "was working out when he stopped to go to the bathroom and never came back," the father told Detroit police.

"The police and the FBI have been through that house probably about six times since the beginning ... so we know at various points he wasn't there," said Detroit-based attorney Mark Magidson, who is representing the father and stepmother. "They brought dogs in there and they brought bloodhound dogs in there and they couldn't find him, but they found him today.

"We believe that he was in the neighborhood all along and he returned today and police apparently got wind of that ... If he had been there he couldn't have hidden that well."

Detroit police say the investigation is ongoing.

"Whether or not he was there the entire time remains to be seen," said Madera.

He said it did not appear the boy intentionally blockaded himself and when police discovered him he was "kind of cradled" lying on the ground.

The father, who arrived on scene in a suit and was seen hugging a detective, declined to speak to media as he left with another man in a silver Honda CRV, but said he planned to speak publicly Thursday morning.

Magidson said police wouldn't reveal where Charlie had been taken. Several investigators remained inside the family's town house as of 6 p.m.

The boy disappeared from his father's Mies Van Der Rohe-designed townhouse in sought after Lafayette Park to the east of downtown Detroit across Interstate 75.

A neighbor providing MLive a tour of her town house, the same layout as the Bothuell's, displayed how the units have external access through a communal hallway that runs behind the basements of each adjoining unit. There is a door at either end protected by a lock and alarm system.

The neighbor, who asked not to be named, said each basement comes with a storage closet. Some are accessed from the interior of the unit's basement, others through doors on the outside in the communal hall.

"We're not ruling this out being a homicide," Craig said at 2 p.m. Wednesday prior to the boy's discovery. But "we cannot definitively say it is a homicide ... We're treating it as a serious missing."

He said evidence, both physical and circumstantial suggested, "this is beyond or could be beyond that of a serious missing," but declined to elaborate on the evidence.

Both parents were asked to submit to polygraph tests. The father submitted to a test performed by the FBI with the results proving inconclusive; the stepmother refused, Craig said.

Bothuell IV tells MLive the FBI never requested his wife take a polygraph test.

Bouthell said he had a falling out with Detroit police after a lieutenant asked him to come to the headquarters for questioning. Bothuell said he was told the interrogation would take about an hour, but he and his wife were at the station from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. the following morning, then asked to return again at 11 a.m.

Bothuell, a registered nurse who operates an injury claims case manager business, called the treatment "terrible" and "unwarranted conduct." He refused to return for further questioning but has remained cooperative with FBI investigators, he and his attorney say.

"DPD asked both me and my wife to do a lie detector test and we told them, 'No, not a chance in the world after what you've done," Bothuell said, adding that he agreed later the same day to a test conducted by the FBI. "He literally destroyed any trust" between me an the police department.

Bothuell says his son disappeared once before about two years ago but was located by police within three hours about a block from his mother's house, where the boy sometimes resides for weekends or even weeks at a time.

A woman claimed to have seen Charlie walking along Lafayette near the crime-riddled Martin Luther King Apartments on the night of June 14 and headed in the direction of his mother's home about two miles away, said Bothuell.

Bothuell, a father of four, appeared on the nationally broadcast "Nancy Grace Show" on HLN TV Tuesday night and said he expected to make a second appearance Wednesday, this before his son was located.

There have been no arrests in the case.


Let's talk about child sexual abuse

Survivor encourages others to speak out, seek help

by Steve Bartlett

Bev Moore-Davis has lived what some might call a model adulthood.

She's raised a family, runs a high-end fashion shop on Water Street and has modelled, even winning a catwalk award during a competition in Florida a few years back.

Her childhood, on the other hand, was a model for no one.

Moore-Davis describes it as “horrific.”

As a young girl, she was a victim of sexual, emotional and physical abuse.

Her abusers have never been brought to justice.

Three years ago, she had a chance encounter with someone from her childhood who was also victimized as a youth.

Seeing how the childhood abuse was affecting him as an adult pressed Moore-Davis into action.

“I just decided right there and then that this is so wrong.”

She became an advocate.

“I feel like I'm one of the luckier ones; I survived and I'm living a decent life,” says the owner of the fashion boutique August and Lotta Stockholm.

“For all those people that are not, I'm driven to kind of help them.”

Moore-Davis established the province's first chapter of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse (ASCA) and formed the Miles for Smiles Foundation.

The latter is focused on making a difference — supporting adults who were abused as children, raising public awareness and, ultimately, preventing child abuse.

There have been some successes.

An Adult Survivors of Child Abuse peer-support group meets regularly in St. John's.

Most major towns across the province now recognize April as child abuse prevention month.

There have been two successful Miles for Smiles walks in St. John's, and it appears the event will spread to other cities.

And, last Friday, Moore-Davis and some peers were part of a group discussion with others with a shared interest about a prevention plan.

“I'm really pleased with how it went,” she says.

She's not naïve enough to think child abuse will disappear, but she firmly believes that's something worth striving for.

“We need to have something, ideally, implemented in our schools. … Something that gives children more education, more on knowing this is wrong. A lot of times, things happen and little children will keep secrets of abuse forever, for their whole lives or until they learn the difference.”

Moore-Davis knows all about keeping secrets. She became a victim at age five and didn't tell anyone until she was a grown-up.

“I often think about the Kids' Help Line (ad) that's on the milk carton, and even if that was on my kitchen table, I wouldn't have done anything. So I often think, what would it have taken to make me tell somebody?”

Moore-Davis shared what happened with a handful of people as the decades passed. She didn't realize that keeping her secret helped no one, including herself, until she ran into that person from her childhood.

Now she's determined to make a difference, to help those who have suffered, or are suffering, child abuse.

What she's trying to do is a model to which everyone should aspire. We need more people like her.



Increase training on child abuse

by Emily Boster

Kim Nelson and her staff at the Children's Center in Albert Lea watch over little ones every day. That's not their only job though. They're the voice for those who can't speak up, especially if something bad is happening.

“It is because it always goes down to that feeling you get. I tell my staff all the time if you think that you should ask me if you should call, then you should call,” said Nelson.

Nelson says they go to training once a year to learn about signs of child abuse and she says they've actually had to report cases of possible abuse. So while a renewed focus on training is good she also wants to see more follow through from agencies after a report is made.

“I think really the issue is about that once we do that mandate, what's happening with that situation. It could be that we're referring someone, making that contact to state or local authorities then we receive a notice that there was nothing that they could do,” said Nelson.

“Its definitely a concern we always have to take that into consideration when making a report but we feel if our staff could be as educated as possible and help spread the awareness to advocate for our families we can make sure to solve that problems,” said Crippen.

Sydney Crippen works with local families on a daily basis and is happy to know that her staff is trained to recognize signs of trouble. The idea that Minnesota Congressman Tim Walz is pushing for, would make even more training options available. This National Child Protection Training Act would also develop undergraduate and graduate curriculum on child maltreatment. Crippen says it will keep people accountable when it comes to reporting abuse.

“Learning more about the resources in the community, learn about the new things happening with child abuse prevention laws and regulations, and make sure they're up to date on all of the material,” said Crippen.

Crippen also tells us at Mercy Medical Center North Iowa – they have a report of child abuse at least once a month. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota pushed for this same bill last year.


Agencies to prevent child abuse take fire for failures

by Kendra Kelley

Thousands of American children are trapped in abusive homes and foster homes. State departments devoted to the protection of children in abusive situations, often stretched to the limits of their resources, attempt to see to the well-being of those children.

They also take the blame for those who slip through the cracks.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal announced on June 12 changes to the Atlanta Division of Family and Children Services after numerous child deaths occurred during DFCS' involvement. Deal hired a new head of DFCS, Bobby Cagle, and also said DFCS would no longer report to the Department of Human Services, but to him directly.

Similar problems confront state leaders across the U.S.

Arizona's Child Protective Services made headlines in November 2013 for its part in reports that more than 6,500 abuse cases had to be reinvestigated.

In April 2014, five workers were fired for closing hundreds of cases that they deemed less important. They said they did so because they were instructed by superiors to cut back on the influx of cases.

The problem was underfunding for the child welfare program in Arizona, the workers claimed.

Funding cuts, understaffing and difficulty finding appropriate foster and adoptive parents have made it hard to place children into safe homes, they said. But that is still not considered an excuse for negligent behavior.

Gov. Jan Brewer said improving CPS in Arizona is her top priority. A new Department of Child Safety will replace the old Child Protective Services Department, and the Arizona Senate gave initial approval of $63 million to fund better services, which will soon come to a vote in the state House.

Arizona leaders hope the plan will pass and become a model for other states.

Atlanta recently saw a high-profile abuse case in November 2013, where a 10-year-old girl was starved, poisoned and burned by her father and stepmother, even after repeated child abuse reports were sent to the Division of Family and Children Services. The accusations of abuse in the household were continuously reviewed and closed up until the child's death. Two other cases of child abuse led DFCS workers in Atlanta to be fired.

In Georgia's 2015 Fiscal Year Human Services Budget, officials proposed that Child Protective Services will have $7.4 million more than in 2014, and 175 additional workers will be hired. This could help improve child care in Georgia.

What should be expected from Child Protective Services agencies nationwide had been questioned by former Georgia State Sen. Nancy Schaefer, whose widely publicized dismay for the nationwide organization caused a lot of controversy.

In December 2007, Schaefer reported in The Corrupt Business of Child Protective Services, that CPS organizations nationwide were dysfunctional and she tried to warn parents and families of the dangers before she and her husband were found dead in their home on March 26, 2010. Several conspiracy theories of foul play were discussed, but investigators concluded that Bruce Schaefer, Nancy's husband, shot her once in the back, and himself in the chest.

Schaefer said in the report, "Child Protective Services has become a 'protected empire' built on taking children and separating families."

She said that parents are victimized by "the system" that makes a profit from holding children longer and receives "bonuses" for not returning their children.

The report claimed that CPS is causing children and parents to get caught up in legal kidnapping, ineffective policies. It also charged that children enduring torment and abuse were not removed from danger by the Department of Family and Children Services.

Schaefer cited the example of DFCS' failure to remove six severely abused children from their home. One child was beaten with a baseball bat and stitched up with red thread by the father who beat him before the child was removed from the home.

"The egregious acts and abhorrent behavior of officials who are supposed to protect children can no longer be tolerated," Schaefer said in the report. "Children deserve better. Families deserve better. It's time to pull back the curtain and set our children and families free."

Author Brenda Scott is among others who have criticized CPS. In her 1994 book Out of Control: Who's Watching Our Child Protection Agencies , she went so far as to say that insufficient checks and balances have caused the very system designed to protect children to become the greatest perpetrator of harm.

The National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect in 1998 also reported that six times as many children died in foster care than in the general public and that once removed to official "safety," these children were far more likely than the general population to suffer abuse, including sexual molestation.

Child Protective Services and other child service agencies nationwide have struggled with criticism from the media for decades, and in 2014, still have major setbacks as more child abuse cases continue to unravel.


"Welcome to Hell:" The Border Patrol's Repeated Abuse of Children

by James Lyall -- Staff Lawyer, ACLU Border Litigation Project

Detainees wrested from sleep every 30 minutes, the lights in their frigid cells never turned off. One detainee told by officials, don't lie or you'll be raped . Another detainee sexually abused by guards. Detainees forced to stand in stress positions. Others denied adequate food, water, and medical treatment and held in dehumanizing conditions. "Welcome to hell," one guard told a detainee, a good metaphor for what occurs across these sites of torment.

These incidents don't come from military prisons in Iraq or Afghanistan or CIA black sites. This has been happening for years along the Southwest border in U.S. government facilities run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and its Border Patrol. The victims: children, some as young as infants, as documented in a recent complaint filed by a group of immigrant rights advocates who interviewed 116 unaccompanied children previously held in CBP custody.

Just as appalling, government agencies have known about these abuses for a long time, but failed to take action. Now, more children are vulnerable to harm in Border Patrol custody than ever before. Since October, 47,000 children have left their homes in Central America, mainly in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, for the United States. They flee destabilizing violence and crime fomented by criminal syndicates and gangs, more often than not without a loved one leading the way. With their fate far from certain, they make an arduous, perilous trek, sometimes spanning thousands of miles, in search of refuge in America. They risk it all, not so much in search of a better life, but simply to live.

Once here, many of these brave and resourceful children -- who have already suffered abuse many times before throughout their lives -- encounter not compassion and empathy from U.S. immigration officials but abuse. The most vulnerable are once again taught a cruel lesson: There's nowhere safe for them to lay their heads down and just be children.

The advocates' interviews with unaccompanied children are chilling.

One in four detained children reported physical abuse at the hands of CBP, including sexual assaults and beatings. More than half reported verbal abuse, including racist and sexist insults and even death threats, as well as the denial of urgent medical care. In one instance, a 14-year-old girl's asthma medication was confiscated. She subsequently suffered multiple asthma attacks. After the first attack, CBP officials threatened her, telling her she better not be faking or else.

Seven out of ten interviewed reported detentions lasting longer than the 72-hour period mandated by law. Three out of ten children reported that their belongings were confiscated and never returned. Many others reported being shackled during transport, the metal restraints excruciatingly digging into their wrists and ankles. Eighty percent reported CBP personnel denied them adequate food and water.

Sometimes the cruelty shocks the conscience.

One 17-year-old girl, soaking wet, was placed in a frigid holding cell, which detained children commonly referred to as the hielera , or the freezer. Her only drinking water came from the toilet tank. When she had to use the toilet, she found herself exposed to other detainees and a wall-mounted security camera.

Another boy apprehended near the McAllen, Texas, border was threatened with rape by a CBP official who told him that he would "become the wife" of another male detainee. He was subsequently strip-searched and made to stand naked for 15 minutes while a different CBP official patted him down while humiliating the boy with his laughter. His crime? The officials didn't believe he was 16 years old.

Two weeks ago, CBP Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske ordered an internal investigation into the abuse allegations. That's a start, but in light of the fact that Department of Homeland Security (DHS) oversight agencies have known about and failed to respond to similar reports of child abuse for years, there is good cause to question the agency's ability to police itself.

It's also shocking that abuse of children in immigration detention has continued in spite of laws specifically designed to protect them. In 1997, following extensive litigation concerning the abuse of Central American refugee children by immigration officials, the government agreed to reforms in the Flores Settlement Agreement. It mandated that immigration officials treat any undocumented child with "dignity, respect and special concern for their particular vulnerability." Flores provided the foundation for subsequent legislation enacted specifically to protect unaccompanied immigrant children. Nearly two decades later, however, DHS has failed to issue permanent regulations to implement the Flores agreement or to shield these children from government abuse.

With so many children crossing the border now, there's been no more urgent time to protect the most vulnerable amongst us. The only way to do that is for Congress to strengthen existing protections and for the Obama Administration to finally put an end to the culture of cruelty and impunity that pervades CBP. Any immigration official found to have mistreated or abused a child should be terminated immediately. More importantly, wholesale reforms of CBP -- including the creation of meaningful oversight and accountability mechanisms and enforceable short-term detention standards -- are desperately needed to prevent further rights violations.

The tolerance of child abuse by federal authorities violates our laws and our values -- it is both inhumane and immoral. Now is the time to put an end to it.

James Lyall is a staff attorney at the ACLU of Arizona where he works in the ACLU's Border Litigation Project. Prior to joining the ACLU, Lyall worked at the Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project in Los Angeles, where he represented unaccompanied immigrant children in deportation proceedings.



Grand jury rips Florida's DCF for ‘deliberately' undercounting child deaths

by Carol Marbin Miller and Audra D.S. Burch

A Miami-Dade grand jury accused state child welfare administrators Tuesday of “intentionally and deliberately” manipulating the investigation of child deaths because of abuse and neglect — making it appear that fewer children were dying across the state.

In a 30-page report that explores whether the Department of Children & Families has improved since the shocking 2011 death of 10-year-old Nubia Barahona, grand jurors found much that pleased them. But they also scolded the agency for what they described as a systematic attempt to conceal the true number of children whose lives are cut short by abuse or neglect.

“I thank the members of the grand jury for their comprehensive look at Florida's child welfare system,” said Mike Carroll, the agency's interim secretary. “It is clear from their thoughtful recommendations that they understand the challenges in the work we do, and it's also clear they recognize our commitment to continuing to improve so we can better protect Florida's children.”

The grand jury presentment, handed up to Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Gisela Cardonne Ely Tuesday afternoon, comes on the heels of a series of stories in the Miami Herald, called Innocents Lost. Details of the series are discussed in the report. In particular, grand jurors confirmed the Herald's findings that DCF had revised its definition of “neglect,” resulting in an artificial reduction in the number of children reported to have died the past four years.

The report highlighted a several-paragraph excerpt from the series that detailed the deaths of four children in 2011and 2013 that DCF declined to verify as resulting from neglect. In one case, a 1-year-old boy drowned in a community pool during Memorial Day weekend three years ago while his mother texted friends away from the poolside. DCF said the mother wasn't negligent because other adults at the pool were likewise failing to supervise their small children.


Every person on the grand jury, the report said, “concluded that each of these preventable deaths occurred due to the neglect of each child's parent(s),” the report said. “We are at an utter loss to understand how those who labor in the field of child protection and child welfare could intentionally and deliberately find that these deaths were not verified as acts of neglect.”

Changes in the way DCF investigates and discloses child death information, grand jurors wrote, left a cloud hanging over the agency, even as administrators tout reforms. “The public does not have confidence in the accuracy of the number of child deaths reported,” the report said, adding: “Aside from being misleading, reported reductions in the total number of deaths may only be a consequence of changing the definitions of abuse and neglect.”

At the center of the unusual report — grand juries seldom issue such presentments, opting instead to indict alleged offenders without comment — is Nubia Barahona. The tow-headed twin from West Miami was found soaked in toxic chemicals on Feb. 11, 2011, stuffed in a black garbage bag in the flatbed of her adoptive father's pest control truck. In the passenger seat in front of her, Victor Barahona fought for his life after being doused in the same chemical stew. He survived.

The twins' adoptive parents, Jorge and Carmen Barahona, remain in jail, awaiting trial on murder charges that potentially carry the death penalty. On July 25, 2011, an earlier Miami-Dade grand jury released a scathing report on DCF's failure to protect Nubia. “The testimony we heard will stay with us forever, as a bad dream will sometimes stay, only this was not a dream but a reality too painful to fathom,” grand jurors wrote then.

That report criticized DCF for its “utter failure to have the full picture” of parents accused of wrongdoing, and suggested the agency was beset by “a persistent, insidious bias of trust. Here, these two factors combined to exponentially raise the risk of disaster,” the report concluded. “Murder was the result.”

In its report Tuesday, the new grand jury concluded that DCF is implementing improvements at the the agency's abuse hotline, among child abuse investigators, and in the use of a tool that helps investigators assess risk.

“There is a marked difference between the practices and procedures child protective investigators employed pre-Barahona and the manner in which they conduct [child protective services] investigations now,” the report says.

Some professionals in the child welfare system expressed skepticism that much had changed, however, and suggested prosecutors might have focused on witnesses sympathetic to DCF. Esther Jacobo, who is chief of staff for State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, had been DCF's interim secretary until two months ago. She was among the grand jury's witnesses.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Rosa Figarola, who presides over child welfare cases, chairs the county's Community Based Care Alliance and has been a persistent agency critic, was not asked to testify. “It is arrogant,” she said, “to have a grand jury investigation and not bring in people whom they are concerned might disagree with their point of view. You have to bring everyone involved to the table.”

Child abuse investigations, and the court petitions that sometimes follow, have “improved a little bit” since 2011, Figarola said. “But any attempt to portray the problems that have plagued the child welfare system as fixed should cause us all alarm and concern for the safety and welfare of our children,” she added.

Another judge, Jeri B. Cohen, who oversees the Miami Circuit's child welfare drug court, said “any self-congratulation is premature.” Though Cohen had testified before the 2011 Nubia grand jury, she was not invited back this year.

Cohen said few of the initiatives grand jurors cited as improvements have been fully implemented, many are applied inconsistently, and virtually all are long overdue. “None of this stuff is working” yet, said Cohen, who also is a member of the child welfare alliance. “The judges are complaining like hell” that the system remains broken.

Though grand jurors commended DCF on the progress made since 2011, they also declared themselves “deeply troubled” by the Herald's Innocents Lost series, which contained details on the deaths of 477 children — mostly infants, toddlers and children age 5 and below — whose parents had been the subject of at least one report to the state's abuse hotline within the previous five years. Gov. Rick Scott signed into law Monday an overhaul of DCF designed to stanch such deaths and create better agency oversight.

Grand jurors seemed particularly troubled by “discrepancies” between the number of child deaths DCF reported to the governor and Legislature, and the number identified by both the Herald and an independent consultant. “In all instances,” the report said, “the numbers given by the Herald, based on its review of DCF's own records, were higher. Reportedly, numbers tallied by an independent source were also higher than those reported by DCF.”

Indeed, Nubia's death never entered into an official DCF tally until more than three years after her killing created a firestorm statewide. Nubia's death was “verified” as resulting from abuse on April 22, 2014 — a week after the first installment of Innocents Lost was published. Her formal death review was dated six days later; it was six pages long.


As recently as last month, the Herald discovered administrators in DCF's Southeast Region — which includes Broward and Palm Beach counties, and which recorded the highest tally of child deaths in recent years — had failed to file required “critical incident reports” for 30 child deaths linked to abuse or neglect. At first, the agency attributed the withheld reports to a “misunderstanding.”

But earlier this month, DCF's deputy secretary, Pete Digre, completed an internal investigation into the missing records without generating a single record. Carroll, the agency's administrator, called the withheld reports “an attempt to address insufficiencies in data security.” He denied agency heads were seeking to conceal public records from the Herald.

On Tuesday, state Sen. Eleanor Sobel, a Hollywood Democrat who helped draft the legislation Scott signed the day before, called on the governor to launch an independent investigation into what she has repeatedly called “a cover-up.”

“It appears these were employees directing other employees to conceal child death reports, not simply a system or technical error,” Sobel wrote in a news release. “An independent investigation by a non-DCF related entity is the best way to clear the air and get an unobstructed view.”

“Sweeping child deaths under the rug will only serve to perpetuate a culture of cover-up and corruption; hiding the deaths should never be a solution.”



Texas jogger finds child abandoned in bushes after car theft

by Jethro Mullen

During her morning jog in north Houston, Hong Nguyen stumbled across an unusual sight: a baby girl partially hidden in the bushes near the side of the road.

Strapped into a car seat on the ground, the 8-month-old child was crying.

"I called 911," Nguyen said. "And I stayed there with the baby."

The chance encounter Monday in an unpopulated area near an industrial zone may have saved the little girl's life.

She had been missing for about six hours after a man stole the car she was in from outside a gas station in the early hours. Her mother had stopped to buy a soda, leaving the car keys in the ignition.

Bitten by ants

Authorities had been frantically searching for the baby, identified by CNN affiliate KTRK as Genesis Hailey.

The car was recovered a few blocks from the gas station about two hours after it was stolen. But there was no sign of the child or her car seat.

Police said Genesis appeared to be in good health when she was found, apart from being hungry and suffering what appeared to be several ant bites.

"I did spot a couple of ants on the baby and I was able to get them off," said Albert Pizana, the officer who responded to the jogger's emergency call.

'Middle of nowhere'

But police officials said they couldn't comprehend the decision to leave the baby in such an isolated place.

"I don't know what kind of an animal would do this to a child," said Lt. H. Lopez, of the Houston Police Department's homicide division. "Leaving the child in the middle of nowhere."

Police officials also faced questions from reporters about the mother's decision to leave her child in the car with the engine on.

They said she was in the gas station's store for a matter of seconds before she saw the thief jump in the car and start driving away with the door still open.

He was in such a rush that he backed the car into the railing of the gas pump before he sped off with his infant passenger in the back.

The mother ran out of the store but wasn't quick enough to catch the car.

"It's a good reminder for the public not to leave their vehicles running, especially with a baby inside," Lopez said.

Swaddled in a uniform

Police are still looking for the suspect, a man in his late teens or early 20s.

It's unclear exactly when the baby was taken from the car and put in the bushes. Police said it's possible she had been left there since the early hours of Monday.

Pizana said Genesis was crying intermittently when he and his partner got to her.

They took her inside their car, and he swaddled her in his uniform shirt to try to calm her. His partner retrieved her pacifier for her.

Pizana declined to speculate what could have happened to the baby if the jogger hadn't taken that particular route Monday morning.

"It makes you want to go home and hug your kids even tighter," he said.



60 girls, 31 boys abducted in northeast Nigeria

by The Associated Press

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria -- Islamic extremists have abducted 60 more girls and women and 31 boys from villages in northeast Nigeria, witnesses said on Tuesday.

Security forces denied the kidnappings. Nigeria's government and military have attracted widespread criticism for their slow response to the abductions of more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped April 15.

There was no way to safely and independently confirm the report from Kummabza, 150 kilometers (95 miles) from Maiduguri, capital of Borno state and headquarters of a military state of emergency that has failed to curtail near-daily attacks by Boko Haram fighters.

Kummabza resident Aji Khalil said on Tuesday the abductions took place on Saturday in an attack in which four villagers were killed. Khalil is a member of one of the vigilante groups that have had some success in repelling Boko Haram attacks with primitive weapons.

A senior local councilor from the village's Damboa local government told The Associated Press that abductions had occurred but requested anonymity because he was not authorized to give information to reporters.

He said elderly survivors of the attack had walked some 25 kilometers (15 miles) to the relative safety of other villages.

The Damboa council secretary, Modu Mustapha, said he could not confirm or deny the abductions and directed a reporter to the council chairman, Alamin Mohammed, who did not answer phone calls or respond to text messages.

Boko Haram has been demanding the release of detained members in exchange for its hostages but president Goodluck Jonathan has said he will not consider a swap.

A strategy to rescue the girls appears to have reached an impasse. Nigeria's military has said it knows where they are but fears their abductors would kill them if any military action is taken.

Politics have bedeviled the issue, with many distracted by upcoming presidential elections in February 2015. The first lady, Patience Jonathan, and some other supporters have claimed the reports of the April abductions of the schoolgirls were fabricated to discredit her husband's administration.

Last week, a presidential committee investigating the kidnappings stressed that they did in fact happen and clarified the number of students who have been kidnapped. It said there were 395 students at the school, 119 escaped during the siege of the school, another 57 escaped in the first couple of days of their abduction, leaving 219 unaccounted for.

This year, the Boko Haram insurgents have embarked on a two-pronged strategy - bombing in cities and a scorched-earth policy in rural areas where they are devastating villages. Nigeria's capital, Abuja, the central city of Jos and the northeastern state capital of Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram, all have been bombed.

On Monday, an explosion at a medical college in the northern city of Kano killed at least eight people and wounded 12, police said. It was the third bomb blast in four months in Kano, Nigeria's second city.

Also on Saturday, the same day as the latest abductions, scores of Boko Haram fighters attacked four other villages, near Chibok town from which the girls were kidnapped. Witnesses said at least 33 villagers were killed as well as six vigilantes and about two dozen Boko Haram fighters.


Jeh Johnson warns of dangers facing child immigrants


Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson made a public plea to parents of children from central America who are trying to come to the United States illegally, warning that the dangers a child can face in the journey are “far too great.”

Children from central America – particularly Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras – have tried to enter the country illegally in record numbers this year. Administration officials said Friday that about 52,000 unaccompanied children have been apprehended along the southwestern border this fiscal year as of June 15, and 39,000 adults with children have been apprehended as of late May.

Democrats and the Obama administration have argued that violence and gang activity in the three countries have caused the children to flee north toward America. But Republicans have criticized what they view as lax immigration policies under President Barack Obama as the root cause, by spreading the perception that immigrants here illegally will be allowed to stay.

The Obama administration is now trying to more aggressively spread the message that illegally traveling to the United States isn't a free ticket to legal status here.

“The majority of these children come from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, where gang and drug violence terrorize communities,” Johnson wrote in an op-ed published over the weekend in Latino media markets. “To the parents of these children I have one simple message: Sending your child to travel illegally into the United States is not the solution.”

An English translation of the op-ed, written in Spanish, was provided by DHS.

The Obama administration announced several moves on Friday that will effectively speed up deportations of immigrants now trying to enter the United States illegally. Among them are opening new detention facilities for immigrant families and sending additional immigration court judges to the border to process cases more quickly.

A 2012 initiative from the Obama administration called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals allows certain young undocumented immigrants to be shielded from deportation, but to qualify, they must have arrived in the United States before June 15, 2007. And under the Senate immigration bill, only undocumented immigrants who arrived here before Dec. 31, 2011 can get on the legalization track. None of these immigrants who have recently tried to cross the border illegally would qualify.

“So, let me be clear: There is no path to deferred action or citizenship, or one being contemplated by Congress, for a child who crosses our border illegally today,” Johnson wrote.

The issue is the subject of two congressional hearings this week in the House — one in the Homeland Security Committee and the other in Judiciary. Johnson and Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Craig Fugate — who is leading the interagency response to the border crisis — will testify before the Homeland Security Committee on Tuesday.

Separately on Monday, a group of House Democrats said they will introduce legislation meant to provide legal assistance to the unaccompanied minors who face hearings in immigration court. The measure, called the Vulnerable Immigrant Voice Act, will require that these unaccompanied children, as well as people with mental disabilities, get government-appointed counsel during immigration proceedings. There is no such current mandate.

“Some of the children who have come to this country may not have a valid legal basis to remain, but some will,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.). “Yet, it is virtually impossible for a child to assert a valid claim under immigration law in the absence of legal representation.”


From the Department of Justice

Air Force NCO Sentenced to 120 years in Prison for Sexually Exploiting Toddlers and Children to Produce Child Pornography

Drugged and Bound at Least Five Children to Produce Child Pornography, Which He Then Distributed

Earlier today, William S. Gazafi, age 44, of Lusby, Maryland, was sentenced to 120 years in prison, for six counts of sexually exploiting a minor to produce child pornography.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department's Criminal Division, United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein of the District of Maryland, Special Agent in Charge Stephen E. Vogt of the FBI and Brigadier General Kevin J. Jacobsen, Commander of Air Force Office of Special Investigations. The sentence was imposed by U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus of the District of Maryland.

According to the indictment, court documents and statements made at his plea hearing, on August 15, 2013, Gazafi engaged in a chat with an undercover officer on a website dedicated to incest discussions. During the chat, Gazafi discussed his sexual interest in children and advised that he had been drugging and molesting several children, including an infant. During the chat, Gazafi sent seven images to the undercover officer, three of which were child pornography Gazafi stated he produced after drugging the child. Gazafi was subsequently identified and arrested.

At the time of his arrest, Gazafi was carrying multiple digital media items. A forensic examination of those items, and others seized from his residence, revealed videos and images that Gazafi produced of children engaged in sexually explicit conduct, including one child as young as five months old. The images also depict children bound and handcuffed while sleeping. In addition to producing hundreds of images of five children, ranging in age from five months to seven years, Gazafi distributed the images he produced to others on the Internet. Gazafi was communicating with other child pornography producers, some of whom sent him images of children they were abusing. Thus far, three children have been identified as a result. Gazafi possessed over 15,000 images and videos of children being sexually abused, many of toddler and infant age. At the time of his arrest, Gazafi was a non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Air Force working at Andrews Air Force Base.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit For more information about internet safety education, please visit and click on the “resources” tab on the left of the page.

The case was investigated by the FBI, Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the Calvert County State's Attorney's Office. The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney LisaMarie Freitas of the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Sullivan of the District of Maryland.


From the FBI

Operation Cross Country -- Recovering Victims of Child Sex Trafficking

In many ways, Nicole was a typical teenager. In high school she tried cigarettes and alcohol, but she says, “I was pretty much a good kid. I didn't really stay out late, I always came home, I never stole anything. I did what a lot of teenagers do.”

By age 17, however, things were deteriorating at home. Her parents were divorced, her father was absent, and she and her mother had an on-again, off-again relationship. That's when Nicole met a man who took her shopping and showered her with attention. “He was gorgeous and he had charm,” she said. “I didn't really think he was going to turn out to be…” Her voice trailed off as she tried to find words to describe Juan Vianez, the pimp who forced her into prostitution and later brutally beat her.

Now 27, Nicole is one of countless young women victimized by child sex traffickers. But with the assistance of the FBI and our partners, she and other victims are turning their lives around—and helping to put hundreds of pimps behind bars.

Operation Cross Country, an annual law enforcement action that took place last week in 106 U.S. cities, highlights ongoing efforts by the Bureau—together with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners—to address the sexual exploitation of juveniles as part of our Innocence Lost National Initiative.

Since its creation in 2003, the Innocence Lost program has resulted in the identification and recovery of approximately 3,600 minors who have been sexually exploited. This year marks the eighth Operation Cross Country, the largest such enforcement action to date: 168 trafficking victims were recovered and 281 pimps were arrested.

"These are not children living in some faraway place, far from everyday life," FBI Director James Comey said at a press conference today at FBI Headquarters. "These are our children. On our streets. Our truck stops. Our motels. These are America's children."

To address violent crimes against children, the FBI has established nearly 70 Child Exploitation Task Forces around the country, said Special Agent Steve Vienneau. Noting that the task forces rely on partnerships with all levels of law enforcement, Vienneau added, “the FBI could never succeed in this mission alone.” The task forces also include FBI victim specialists from our Office for Victim Assistance—men and women who play a key role in helping victims while their cases are being investigated and up to and beyond criminal prosecutions.

“We don't enter any of our victims' lives at a good time,” said Victim Specialist Dani Geissinger-Rodarte, who works in our Seattle Division and who was instrumental in helping Nicole get away from her pimp and later testify against him (Vianez is serving a 20-year jail term).

“A lot of victims of child prostitution have difficult backgrounds,” Geissinger-Rodarte explained, so victim specialists must assess the girls' needs before they can begin to help them. “You start with the basics: Do you feel safe at home? Do you have clothing? What's your interaction with your parents? You assess everything,” she said, “and then you make referrals to community service providers to fill that void or address those issues.”

Sometimes, it's not easy to convince young victims they need to get away from those who are exploiting them. Nicole, like many trafficked juveniles, was totally dependent on her pimp. “I didn't have money, I didn't have a house, I didn't have a bank account, I didn't have my own car,” she said. “I didn't have anything. So if I left Juan, I left everything.”

In 2007, after a vicious beating that left her in the hospital with serious injuries, Nicole met Geissinger-Rodarte—and over time came to trust her. Eventually, Geissinger-Rodarte connected Nicole with community services and helped her to see there was a future beyond prostitution. “Our job is to meet the victim where they are,” said Geissinger-Rodarte. “When they are ready for help, they need to know we are there.”

Today, Nicole is an honors college student on her way to a psychology degree. She has a job, a driver's license, a good credit rating, and she just bought a new car. “I am very, very proud of myself,” she said.

Being There for Victims

When the FBI investigates crimes, federal law requires that we offer assistance and services to victims. Through our Office for Victim Assistance, the Bureau has approximately 130 victim specialists working in every FBI field office in the country, and many of them regularly deal with children who have been sexually exploited.

While investigators on our Child Exploitation Task Forces make cases against pimps and others who commit violent crimes against children, victim specialists assess the needs of the young victims and help them get assistance and services. Often these specialists represent a lifeline to minors who have nowhere else to turn.

“A lot of these girls feel like they are stuck,” said Dani Geissinger-Rodarte, a victim specialist in our Seattle Division who has been working with sexually exploited children for more than a decade. “But I know that if they keep in touch with me, that somewhere down the road they are going to be ready for services, and we can connect them.”

“We can't just make our case against the traffickers and not address the significant issues that face the victims,” said Special Agent Steve Vienneau, who works in our Violent Crimes Against Children Unit at FBI Headquarters. “If we fail to help these young people, they end up just as vulnerable or even more vulnerable to being trafficked again.”



Two-parent households can be lethal


After spending two years studying services for domestic violence survivors, I was surprised to realize that one of the most common barriers to women's safety was something I had never considered before: the high value our culture places on two-parent families.

I began my research in 2011, the year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that more than one-third of American women are assaulted by an intimate partner during their lives. I talked to women in communities that ranged from a small rural mining town to a large global city, in police stations, criminal courts, emergency shelters, job placement centers and custody proceedings. I found that almost all of the women with children I interviewed had maintained contact with their abusers. Why?

Many had internalized a public narrative that equated marriage with success. Women experiencing domestic abuse are told by our culture that being a good mother means marrying the father of her children and supporting a relationship between them. According to a 2010 Pew report, 69 percent of Americans say single mothers without male partners to help raise their children are bad for society, and 61 percent agree that a child needs a mother and a father to grow up happily.

The awareness of the stigma of single motherhood became apparent to me when I met a young woman who was seven months pregnant. She had recently left her abusive boyfriend and was living in a domestic violence shelter. Among her comments: “I don't want to be this young pregnant mom who they say never lasts with the baby's father. I don't want to be like that.”

Shame about not meeting certain standards of motherhood was prevalent in upper-middle-class families, too. Women with professional and social prominence often feared tarnishing the veneer of their perfect-looking lives. Others were afraid of being judged for putting their children at risk by choosing a dangerous partner.

The truly alarming part, however, is the extent to which the institutions that are intended to assist domestic violence survivors — protection order courts, mental health services, public benefits programs and child custody systems — reinforce this stigma with both official policies and ingrained prejudices.

Mental health professionals, law enforcement officials, judges and members of the clergy often showed greater concern for the maintenance of a two-parent family than for the safety of the mother and her children. Women who left abusive men were frequently perceived at best as mothers who had not successfully kept their children out of harm's way and at worst as liars who were alienating children from their fathers.

In court, I watched a judge order the very first woman I interviewed to drop off her son at his father's house every week for visitation. When she tried to tell the judge that she had a protection order against her child's father and that she was concerned for her safety, the judge responded: “You know what? You are just trying to keep this child from his father, aren't you?”

I saw women lose custody rights because they had moved with their children to friends' houses or even into domestic violence shelters to escape abuse, and judges considered these “unsuitable living arrangements.” The children were sent back to their abusive fathers, who could provide “more stability.”

The very system meant to punish perpetrators and protect survivors of violence bound the two more tightly together. This reality deeply affected women's choices; many calculated that they would rather live in abusive homes with their children than risk leaving them alone.

To be sure, children who enjoy the support of two adults fare better on average than those who do not, and parents with loving partners often benefit from greater emotional and economic security. However, I have seen the ways in which prioritizing two-parent families tethers victims of violence to their assailants, sacrifices safety in the name of parental rights and helps batterers maintain control.

Sweeping rhetoric about the value of marriage and father involvement is not just incomplete. For victims of domestic violence, it's dangerous.

Sara Shoener is a public health researcher who graduated with a doctorate from Columbia University this month.



While church volunteer was molesting girl, TN pastor was diverting cops, lawsuit claims

by Travis Gettys

A support group for clergy sex abuse victims has asked prosecutors in Tennessee to investigate whether a Baptist minister altered his account of sex abuse by a church volunteer to protect himself from civil liability.

The family of a girl who was molested by a member of First Baptist Church of Bemis sued the church last month for negligence after the church allowed Chad Lutrell to volunteer at Vacation Bible School five years ago, when the abuse took place.

The suit, which seeks $2 million in damages, claimed then-pastor Mark McSwain allowed Lutrell to work with children even though he knew of previous allegations of sexual misconduct.

According to the suit, Lutrell had been seen at church kissing girls between the ages of 6 and 10 on the mouth, and three adult women said he had stalked, threatened, and harassed them.

The women reported Lutrell's misconduct to McSwain, who reported their claims in 2006 to the Jackson Police Department.

An officer asked McSwain if the victims would like to file a complaint, but police said the pastor told them he was “trying to follow biblical guidelines at this point and did not know what would be done.”

SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, claims that McSwain went back three years later and attempted to “water down” his claims in the formal police report an apparent attempt to protect himself and the congregation from liability.

The victims support group said McSwain approached police in 2009, telling officers that Lutrell had kissed a child on the cheek, not the mouth, and denied the church volunteer had inappropriately touched children.

McSwain also told police that Lutrell had sent only one woman an inappropriate email and followed her home, and he denied that Lutrell had ever been an employee of the church.

Another lawsuit was filed last month against McSwain and the church alleging civil abuse and cover-up.

“It is very suspicious that the pastor changed his tune so much, especially after three years, and in such self-serving ways,” said Barbara Dorris, outreach director of SNAP.

SNAP officials have asked prosecutors to charge the former pastor with filing a false police report and to investigate whether he broke the state's mandatory reporting laws.

“The pastor clearly is trying hard to protect his reputation and his church's reputation from negative news coverage and civil lawsuits,” said David Clohessy, SNAP's director. “There's really no other possible explanation for his bizarre behavior.”

Lutrell was convicted in 2009 of sexually abusing a 10-year-old girl, and he was charged last year with three counts of stalking and one count of assault for incidents over the previous year.

The church's current pastor, Brother John Norvell, declined comment last month on the civil suit filed against the church.


New York

Legislation to better prevent child abuse passed

Press release issued by the Office of Assemblyman Thiele

New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. (I, D, WF-Sag Harbor announced passage of legislation he supported to help prevent child abuse by improving reporting as well as providing more resources for parents and school personnel.

Improving education for mandated reporters

The Assembly's legislation would require that mandated reporters receive additional training and coursework regarding identification of child abuse or maltreatment every three years (A.2887-B).

"Any abuse that children endure is unacceptable," said Assemblyman Thiele. "These bills would help provide people who are mandated to report abuse with the information they need to better identify cases of child abuse. This essential information could help save a child's life."

The Assembly also passed a bill that would add full- or part-time compensated school personnel who hold a temporary coaching license or professional coaching certificate to the list of mandated reporters of suspected child abuse (A.421-C). This legislation would require two hours of coursework or training for coaching personnel on identifying and reporting child abuse and maltreatment.

"Increasing the number of required reporters in our schools can help identify more situations of suspected child abuse," said Thiele. "Improving the training mandated reporters receive will help school teachers, assistants and coaches reduce the maltreatment and abuse our children may encounter."

Better tracking and reporting of incidents

Currently, the state Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) is required to detail the circumstances surrounding the death of a child, but is not required to provide local social services districts the opportunity to comment on specific cases. That's why the Assembly passed legislation to ensure local social services districts are included in this process, helping to shed light on the causes of these incidents and how they can be prevented (A.9702).

Additionally, the Assembly passed a bill that would require OCFS to provide previous reports of child abuse and neglect to local child protective service agencies. This would enable child protective services to conduct more thorough investigations by ensuring they have access to any previous reports of abuse upfront. This change is especially vital in cases of recurring abuse (A.1987-A).

"Every child deserves a safe, nurturing and healthy environment during childhood," said Assemblyman Thiele. "This legislation will help child protective services keep track of abuse cases, helping get children out of harm's way before it's too late."

The Assembly also passed legislation that would direct local social services districts to prepare annual reports detailing average caseload - on a per-month, per-employee basis - for child protective services employees. In following years, the report would need to include comparative data for up to five years, if available. The annual report would then be made available for the public on the OCFS website (A.9873).

"We must do more to prevent child abuse and maltreatment. These measures will help put a stop to this deplorable crime," said Thiele.

Support and guidance for new parents

To further strengthen child protective measures, the Assembly passed legislation that would require hospitals and birthing centers to provide leaflets on safe and unsafe sleeping practices. It would also require hospitals and birthing centers to recommend new parents watch a video presentation on unsafe and safe sleeping practices for newborns (A.9701). This information would help keep infants safe and could help prevent health complications or even death, added Thiele.


South Dakota

Two arrested for assaulting newborn infant

by Mark Walker

A Sioux Falls woman and a 17-year-old boy were arrested Friday for assaulting a newborn infant, police said.

Aubrey Lynn Heck, 20, and the teenage boy face felony child abuse charges for repeatedly striking the one-day-old infant.

The incident unfolded about 9 p.m. at an apartment in the 200 block of South Duluth Avenue after the teenager reportedly stepped on the infant's face while trying to move a relative off the couch, police said.

"The infant's mom yelled at him not to step on the child and he ended up slapping the infant in the face," police spokesman Sam Clemens said.

The infant's mother left the room with the baby, but Heck and the teenager followed.

Heck then stepped on the infant's feet while he was in his carrier "causing him to scream."

The act was intentional, Clemens said.

The infant's mother yelled to stop stepping on her child. The 17-year-old then "grabbed her by the head and started slamming her into the wall," Clemens said.

Heck broke up the assault, and the mother fled with the infant to a nearby home to seek shelter, police said.

The teen was later seen assaulting Heck and police were called.

The 17-year-old, who was intoxicated and fled from officer when they arrived, was arrested on charges of abuse or cruelty to a minor under 7, underage consumption, simple assault, resisting arrest, obstruction, fleeing police and false impersonation.

Heck was charged with abuse or cruelty to a minor under the age of 7 and underage consumption.

Clemens said they found bruising to the ankles of the infant.

Heck made her initial apperance in court Monday. The 17-year-old made his appearance in juvenile court.

Abby Roesler, Deputy Minnehaha County States Attorney, told the court that given the seriousness of the allegation and Heck's history of underage consumption and missing court that $2,500 cash or surety bond was appropriate. Roesler said Heck's blood alcohol level was three time the legal limit to drive when she was arrested.

Judge John Hinrichs released Heck on a personal recognizance bond. But not before explaining to her the magnitude of the crime and strict conditions of her bond.

"I'd wipe the smirk off your face," he said. "You need to get yourself in the right frame of mind right now."


United Kingdom


A betrayal of the most vulnerable children

A new report from the Centre for Policy Studies finds that local authorities use extraordinary means to avoid their obligation to care for children at risk

The interview in this paper today with Jamie, a survivor of parental abuse and social services neglect, makes sobering reading. It is the story of a young man who should, by any criterion, have been taken from his crack-addicted mother and who repeatedly pleaded for help from social services, yet was left to cope as best he could with neglect, hunger and all the dangers to which a child can be exposed if a mother is unable to care for them. Neighbours alerted social services, who knew about his situation, yet nothing was done. It was only when he was made homeless in a fire that he found help from charity Kids Company.

His is just one of 20 cases in London that the Centre for Policy Studies has investigated as part of its new report on the child protection system and the phenomenon of “lone children”. It finds that local authorities use extraordinary means to avoid their obligation to care for children at risk, including downgrading their status to “children in need”, which requires less urgent action. “Our evidence demonstrates a staggering lack of accountability by local authorities,” say the authors. They conclude that the system is “at breaking point”.

But they do not simply call for more expenditure on the existing system: it is, they feel, too flawed for that. They are calling for a Royal Commission to advise on the wholesale redesign of social care and statutory mental health services for vulnerable children to report by the end of 2017. This should be taken seriously. This report should at the very least make us acknowledge the lone children who are at the mercy of adults unfit to care for them yet are unable to take care of themselves.

Local authorities have plainly failed these children; so has Ofsted, which has responsibility for inspecting child care services. Sir Michael Wilshaw, its head, should heed this report. So should the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, who also has ministerial responsibility for children and families. Mr Gove was himself adopted; he has a keen sense of what is due to children whose natural families are unable or unwilling to care for them. He must oblige local authorities to fulfil their basic obligation to lone children: to protect them from harm. If funding is the problem, then this is something central government must deal with: the protection of the most vulnerable should take precedence over other local government priorities. These children are the responsibility of us all.


GUEST COLUMN: Sexual abuse not worse in Catholic Church

by Stephen May

Sexual abuse of minors continues to be a grave problem in the United States, as well as the rest of the world. One serious misperception perpetrated by the media is that Catholic priests are among the most serious offenders. Many of the misinformed have come to believe that Church policies such as celibacy and retaining a predominantly male authority structure are to blame for this situation. Statistically speaking, this is far from the truth. The purpose of this article is not to excuse the actions of any priest who has committed such an offence (there is no excuse), but rather to juxtapose the crisis within the priesthood to the bigger problem of sexual abuse of minors within the public as a whole.

In its 2010 report on Child Maltreatment, the United States Department of Health and Human Services stated that there were 712,506 reported cases of sexual abuse against minors. This is equivalent to 9.8 percent of the number of Americans under the age of 18. Of these cases, 578,768 involved one or both of the child's parents (81.3 percent). The majority of the other cases involved foster parents or other relatives close to the child.

According to the United States Department of Education in 2011, "nearly 9.6 percent of [pre-K through 12th grade] students are targets of educator sexual misconduct sometime during their school career."

These are chilling statistics, clearly indicating that there is a very serious problem in the United States regarding the protection of children from their most trusted adult companions.

In comparison, Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) has reported that in 2010, "there were 8 accusations of sexual abuse by a Catholic priest involving a minor" in the United States. While there can be no excuse for the behavior of these priests, it does amount to only 0.001 percent of the overall number of cases. For every abusive priest that year, there were 72,346 abusive parents.

While missing the proverbial 800-pound gorilla in the room, the media has correctly pointed out that the majority of sexual abuse cases involving priests were actually committed during the 1970s, the decade when accounts of sexual abuse by adults from all walks of life first became widely reported.

Anyone with access to minors: parents, teachers, coaches, and religious of all faiths were indicted. Yet in the modern era, priests seem to be singled out by the media, with the sweeping simplicity of blaming their actions on celibacy or its exclusion of women from ordained ministry, situations that do not pertain to the majority of sex abusers.

Since the mid-1980s, insurance companies have regularly offered sexual misconduct coverage as a rider on liability insurance offered to religious and other organizations. Industry sponsored studies indicate that the rates offered to Catholic churches are not different than those offered to any other religious denomination, indicating that the insurance industry understands that Catholic priests do not present any higher of a risk than leaders of any other congregation, most of which do not enforce celibacy of their clergy or accept only men.

Since 2002, the Catholic Church has not hesitated to re-invigorate its deep commitment to creating a safe environment within the Church for children and youth. Although Catholic religious committed only a very small number of the overall offences of sexual abuse against minors, even during the years when the majority of abuses took place, the media has autonomously chosen to place the spotlight on the Church. However, more than any other modern organization, the Church has responded by becoming a beacon of light in an otherwise dark world that continues to abuse those least able to defend themselves.

The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People is a comprehensive set of procedures established by the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops for addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy, and includes guidelines for reconciliation, healing, accountability, and prevention of future acts of abuse. The Charter directs action in all the following matters:

Creating a safe environment for children and young people; Healing and reconciliation of victims and survivors; Making prompt and effective response to allegations; Cooperating with civil authorities; Disciplining offenders; and Providing for means of accountability for the future to ensure the problem continues to be effectively dealt with throughout the Church.

Many Americans today live with the misperception that the Catholic Church is still part of the problem of sex abuse against minors, when in actuality they are taking a leadership position, and becoming a role model, in ensuring that children everywhere are safe from those who would harm them.

For more information on the plan the Catholic Church has for protecting children from sexual abuse, please go to

Stephen May is the youth minister at Holy Cross Church in Easton, where he has been a parishioner for more than 20 years. Mr. May also works as a chaplain for Overlook Hospice.


West Virginia

Strengthening law against child sex abuse

by Cody Neff

Did you know that, if you're over 18, you have to report any child sexual abuse you know of?

According to the executive director of the Just For Kids Child Advocacy Center, last year a law was put into place that changed the way child sexual abuse is reported.

“Every person over 18 years of age is a mandated reporter for child sexual abuse,” Scott Miller said. “There are a list of people who are mandated reporters for child abuse which includes clergy, teachers, coaches, and volunteers in child programs. Now, every adult is a mandated reporter for child sexual abuse.”

Miller said he hopes this will increase the number of children who can get help for abuse.

“Ideally, it means that there will be more reports of child sexual abuse,” he said. “If people take it seriously and recognize that they have the duty under the law to report something that they see or hear, then more people will do it. That is how it has played out.

“States have implemented similar laws and they have seen increases in the reports and in disclosures of sexual abuse. Only 1 in 10 children tell. It's not their responsibility to tell so even if one more person reports something they hear or see, that's one more child that will hopefully get the support they need to get help to reduce the trauma of the abuse.”

Miller also said adults need to be aware of the way abuse reporting works.

“If a child is abused in their home by someone who does not live in the home, like a boyfriend, CPS cannot move forward in that case,” he said. “Their protocol says it has to be a family member in the home.

“They can't process that case. Instead, it would be turned over to law enforcement. People have to call the DHHR and law enforcement if they think abuse is taking place.”

Another law that goes into effect July 1 is that abuse reporting is becoming more centralized and consistent.

“When a person calls the hotline, rather than that call being directed to the local DHHR, it will be screened by a team at the state level,” Miller said. “There will be centralization of the screening process. Until July 1, that screening is done by a supervisor in CPS.

“The call comes into Charleston now after they collect the information. The DHHR person calls the Raleigh County CPS and they run through their protocol to determine what to do with the case. It makes consistency in the system for the entire state.”



Moms who Leave their kids


WE often hear of absentee or deadbeat fathers, but when a mother leaves her child, the blow is more devastating.

Clinical psychologist Dr Pearnel Bell said though the issue of mothers who leave their kids is not a regular occurrence in Jamaica, a number of things could cause mothers to do such a thing.

"There are a number of psychological or psychiatric issues that impact upon the decision-making skills of mothers. The emotional state of the mother could be an issue and she may have deep hatred for the father of the child, and the psychosocial environment as well as the conditions in which conception may have occurred may result in the parent blaming the child and leaving them behind," Bell said.

There have been many reports of babies being left on buses, dumped in pits or left with persons in markets and stores when there are issues like poverty affecting the mothers.

But Antonio still can't understand why his five-year-old son's mother, an educated, highly paid professional, shows no interest, having left him to raise the boy from he was six months old.

"I got back together with my old girlfriend right after she had the baby ,so I knew that was devastating. Even more, was when my girlfriend got pregnant too. But it's been years now, and she won't even take our son for the weekend."

Antonio, whose name has been changed for privacy, said there are no phone calls, no contact, even though he constantly begs the mother to be involved.

"She claimed that my girlfriend had ruined her family, and I understood how she felt at first. But to abandon your flesh and blood? She has seen our son probably two other times since he was six months old."

Dr Bell said additionally, cases of abuse may lead to children being abandoned by their mothers.

"The mother may have been raped or the father may have been physically abusive and the child stands as a reminder of the ordeal the mother went through," she said.

Also, she stated that irresponsibility plays a major part, as well as the age of the mother.

"Some mothers will feel that children are a burden and in their self-seeking and self-gratification process the child will block their progress. Also, very young persons may think they are not prepared enough as they themselves are children," Bell said.

But according to Bell, when mothers leave, children are affected emotionally and socially, as the natural bond that mothers provide does not take place.

Antonio says his son is testament to this.

"He sticks to me like glue, crying uncontrollably when I have to leave. He's very reserved and doesn't speak of his mother at all. But times like holidays and Mother's Day, or when he sees certain advertisements on TV, he gets sad."

Said Dr Bell: "Psychological theories suggest that children need early attachment from ages 0-2 from the mother. When the attachment is not had, it could affect how the child ends up forming attachments of their own. They may develop mistrust of the world, self-esteem issues, and interpersonal relationship issues."

To top it off, she said it affects their psychological state and their confidence and etiquette become affected and they start harbouring feelings of resentment and abandonment.

She said the children may begin to doubt their self-worth and question the reason their mother left.

This is something a Mandeville mother is trying to prevent happening with the six-year-old who was left with her by her mother three years ago.

The mother, a family aquaintance, brought the child to visit for the holidays and never came back for her.

"She said her new boyfriend didn't like the child and would hit her. She said because we have the money we could better take care of her. That was three years ago, and I haven't heard from her since."

She said initially the child would use her faeces to smear the wall and lash out — classic signs of abuse — but now, with counselling, she's doing better.

"I'm sure when she's older she'll have abandonment issues, but we'll take the problems as they come."

Dr Bell said many children whose mothers leave end up pushing against the abandonment factor to succeed.

"But it does not negate the fact that they have it in the back of their heads to ask why she left in the first place. Sometimes the mother has other children that she cares for and the child, knowing this, will develop self-doubt," she said.



Florida Woman Charged with Branding Children

by The Associated Press

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. (AP) - A southwest Florida woman is facing charges after authorities say she branded her two children with a heated stick.

The Charlotte County Sheriff's Office says 23-year-old Kayla R. Oxenham of Port Charlotte was arrested and charged with child neglect earlier this week. Officials say Oxenham heated a stick with a lighter and burned her children, ages 5 and 7, in order to mark them as her own. The woman reportedly promised the children ice cream after the burning.

Allegations of abuse were first reported in March to the Florida Department of Children and Families. The case was then turned over to the sheriff's office.

Online jail records list Oxenham's occupation as a medical assistant.

She was released on $15,000 bail Wednesday. The jail records didn't list an attorney.


United Kingdom

Does California's College Rape Bill Go Too Far In Regulating Sex?

by Emma Woolf

With California's new proposal to regulate the physical intimacy between adults, are we in danger of legislating all the joy out of sex?

A bill making its way through the California Assembly is attempting to address the problem of rape on college campuses by mandating “affirmative consent”—a verbal or written yes—before engaging in sexual activity.

California's not the only one in the midst of moral panic. Here in the UK we've seen a bloodbath of historic sexual abuse claims, and endless media coverage of the allegations and trials. The most prolific paedophile was the TV presenter and philanthropist, the late Jimmy Savile, whose charity work in children's hospitals and care homes gave him unprecedented access to vulnerable youngsters. The convictions of these perpetrators—all male, and almost all elderly—is a reminder that behaviour which was permitted, or at least not talked about, in the 1960s, '70s and '80s is no longer acceptable. Obviously this is a good thing.

But are we going too far? Clearly there's no justification for sexual contact of any kind between an adult male (or female) and an underage child. But what about consenting adults: Where's the line between normal human flirtation, making a move, and sexual impropriety?

Californian bill SB 967 , which has already passed the state senate, proposes that all sexual behavior on state-run college campuses will require “an affirmative unambiguous and conscious decision by each participant to engage in mutually agreed upon sexual activity. … Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent.”

SB 967 is designed to make it clear that only “yes” means “yes.” The person who is initiating sexual behavior must receive a verbal yes from the other person before continuing, and this consent must be ongoing through the sexual encounter.

But how will this work in practice? How can verbal consent be legally proven: might this require an independent witness, even a formal contract? Is verbal consent valid if either party is intoxicated? The bill makes clear that consent for kissing does not count as consent for oral sex—well, yes, obviously—but must participants stop in the heat of passion and check before each new “move”? And how long would this process of mutual agreement continue within a relationship?

Critics have highlighted many flaws in bill 967: that putting the onus on individuals to get positive consent for every act of intimacy is both improbable and dangerous to students' rights; that strictly applying such a standard would make most ordinary couples potentially liable for sex offenses; and that resolving whether “affirmative consent” was not only present but “continuous” throughout an act will be nearly impossible.

Let's be absolutely clear: Rape or any other sexual assault is totally inexcusable, and deeply traumatic for the victim. Bill 967 promises to make the reporting and conviction process more victim-centred, “so that victims are not re-victimized again”; to make it harder for perpetrators to brush assaults off as alcohol-fueled encounters; and protect the confidentiality of victims.

But what about regular physical intimacy between regular (non-criminal) students? Are we in danger, in the rush to legislate, of ruining the moment? When I was a teenager, the stages of physical intimacy were called bases: so you might go to first base, second base, third base, or “all the way.” (I don't remember any young men checking in between bases…)

Comedians love to satirise this kind of law: “May I touch your left breast?' “You may touch my left breast'; “May I touch your right breast?' etc. Comedy aside, the conviction rate for rape and other sexual crimes is scandalously low, and this bill seems unlikely to right that wrong. The tragic fact is that rape can and does happen within marriages: once again, SB 967 does nothing to address that.

The growing “zero tolerance” attitude to sexual, domestic and child abuse is undoubtedly positive, but let's not spread the seeds of suspicion throughout all sexual encounters. The vast majority of adults know right from wrong, understand that no means no, and are able to read the signs when it comes to making advances towards a potential new partner.

All the men I asked agreed that it's clear when it's OK to kiss someone. My best (male) friend said: “I've never asked a woman outright if I can kiss her. I tend to go with my instincts: if it feels right, it probably is right. My main concern is: Is she interested—is she happy with whatever's going on?”

As he says, most men are not predatory sex pests, trying to force themselves on women, get a hand up her skirt, or cop a feel . California's plans to make sexual activity “unambiguous” are impractical and unenforceable: Mutual attraction, unlike a house purchase or a business arrangement, is never guaranteed.

Forget affirmative consent, here's a simple solution: don't lunge . If you're in a situation where the vibe seems right, take it slow. Make your move slowly (very, very slowly if you're unsure) so that the other person has time to turn their head away. And if you get a “uh, no thanks”? Well, that's where good manners come in. If it's not mutual, it's not on. Step away politely, apologise profusely, and find a taxi, pronto.