From the FBI
Agencies Cooperate in Child Sexual Exploitation Case -- Michigan Subject Gets 30 Years in Prison
According to the federal judge who heard the case, the defendant's conduct was “about as serious as it gets,” and that on a scale of one to 10, she believed the case was “way past 10.” Then she sentenced the defendant—James Alfred Beckman, Jr. of Grand Rapids, Michigan—to 30 years in prison.
What crimes moved the judge in this case to hand down such a substantial prison term? Multiple counts of attempted sexual exploitation of a child, attempted coercion of a child, and receipt and distribution of child pornography. And in addition to the lengthy prison stay, the judge also imposed a lifetime term of supervised release on the defendant once he gets out, ordering that he register as a sex offender.
The success of this case, as with many investigations involving the FBI, can be attributed to the close working relationship between Bureau investigators and our partners—in this instance, troopers from the Michigan State Police (MSP) and prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Michigan. The agencies' seamless interactions resulted in the incarceration of an individual who posed a very dangerous threat to children.
The investigation into the illicit activities of Beckman began in September 2012, when a woman came to the MSP with allegations that Beckman had sexually abused her young child. The youngster reported that during the abuse, a computer and webcam had been present. Troopers opened a case and involved the state's Child Protective Services to conduct interviews of the young victim and another child by an expert who is specially trained to interact with children who are victims of crime.
MSP investigators interviewed Beckman and performed forensic exams on his computers. The examination of Beckman's work laptop turned up not only photos of child pornography but also evidence of a network of individuals trafficking in child pornography. It was at that point—when the MSP determined that Beckman's activities had spread outside the state of Michigan—that FBI assistance was solicited, and we opened a case in October 2012.
Continuing to work together, the MSP and FBI obtained evidence of online chats that Beckman had with others in his child pornography network. During many of the chats, Beckman was soliciting individuals who were conducting sexual acts with children, usually encouraging conversations about these activities and exchanging pornographic images and videos with them. Working to identify those in the network, the Bureau sent out leads to a number of our field offices around the country and several of our legal attaché offices overseas.
A unique set of circumstances surrounded the sexual exploitation charges. Evidence presented at trial showed that Beckman sexually abused and exploited two young children, and he streamed and attempted to stream live video of this abuse and exploitation to others. Because he streamed his child pornography via webcam, we had no images or videos to enter as evidence. However, we managed to track down a number of people Beckman streamed to—and two of them testified against him in court. One of those two individuals was charged, pled guilty, and was sentenced to a 12-year prison term. Charges are pending against the second.
After a two-week trial during which one of the young victims testified against Beckman from a room outside the courtroom, a jury found the defendant guilty on 15 of the 16 charges against him.
Rotherham child abuse was raised 'at highest level'
Child abuse in Rotherham was raised "at the highest level" as far back as 2002 but officials apparently pressured a researcher to change her report.
The then chief constable Mike Hedges and the council's director of education Di Billups were among those said to have been warned by the researcher.
Documents detailing her concerns, shown to the home affairs select committee in private, have been seen by the BBC.
The researcher said it was "a tragedy" her evidence was not looked at in 2002.
In her report to the committee the researcher, initially employed by the council to investigate prostitution, said she was pressured to present her findings in a way that presented services in Rotherham in "a better light".
Scale of abuse
The researcher claimed she had "repeatedly" tried to raise concerns at senior levels "in the police force, social care and education".
The scale of child abuse in Rotherham was not revealed until this year when Professor Alexis Jay's report found at least 1400 children had been exploited.
The researcher claimed she had written to Mr Hedges and the then Rotherham District Commander Christine Burbeary, both of South Yorkshire Police, about the scale of the abuse in October 2001.
Ms Burbeary was said to have been "furious" about the letter to the chief constable according to the researcher's report and left her feeling "extremely intimidated and undermined".
After allegedly receiving the letter, the report claims the chief constable called Ged Fitzgerald, who was then chief executive of Rotherham Council, to ask why the researcher had written to him. Mr Fitzgerald was said to have then contacted Ms Billups to ask for an explanation.
Yet last month, Mr Hedges told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that the first he had known of the abuse was on the news.
He said he had "no recollection" of ever seeing the letter.
Still concerned that children were being abused on a "daily" basis, the researcher submitted some of her evidence to Home Office evaluators.
That evidence is now missing. The researcher claimed there was a "raid" on her office the weekend after she submitted the evidence.
On coming into work, she claimed she found that all of the data relating to the Home Office work had been removed from filing cabinets. Documents on the office computer had been deleted, while others were created detailing the minutes of meetings.
The researcher added in her report: "The minutes of those meetings showed that I had apparently agreed to certain conditions regarding the disclosure of the data.
"I had not attended any such meetings, in fact the date of one of the meetings that I had supposedly attended was when I was overseas on annual leave."
When she returned to the office later she had a new line manager, Christine Broadhurst-Brown. The researcher was suspended for submitting confidential data to the evaluators without permission.
'Hostility and intimidation'
She reported the break-in to Ms Broadhurst-Brown but the removal of the data was never reported to the police, the report claims.
The researcher told the committee: "During my final months at Rotherham, I was subjected to intense personal hostility and intimidation, not just from the council, but also South Yorkshire Police.
"There is no doubt in my mind that I was placed under pressure to change and present my findings in a way that presented services in Rotherham in a better light
"I think that these requests were made by those identified in this summary in the belief that the data on which I based my research was no longer available to me and that I would not be able to defend or prove my findings.
"I find it personally and professionally a tragedy that Rotherham did not avail itself of the opportunity it had to explore the information and evidence that I was providing to senior managers in key services in 2002.
"Professor Jay's report shows what the consequences of that has been for the children of Rotherham."
Mr Fitzgerald, now chief executive at Liverpool Council, has said he would "co-operate openly" in any investigation or public inquiry.
Mr Hedges, Ms Burbeary, Ms Broadhurst-Brown and Ms Billups all declined to comment.
Let's talk about child abuse imagery – we can all help to stop it
Of the 50,000 offenders out there, many need preventative help rather than prosecution
by Donald Finlater
We have heard much recent discussion about plans for NHS England that focus heavily on the imperative of prevention as opposed to simply delivering expensive services after a medical problem has arisen.
This debate also discussed the responsibility that should rightly sit on an individual's shoulders to look after themselves (and their children) in a range of ways intended to reduce obesity, problem drinking, tooth decay and much more.
Those of us old enough, remember the “Don't Drink and Drive” campaign which achieved a great deal in reducing road injury and death. It included advice to drivers, but also to passengers, publicans and the public to play their part. The problem of drink driving remains of course, but at a significantly reduced level. This reduction was not accomplished simply by deploying police officers with breathalysers.
I want to take such sensible notions and apply them to another major social problem. A problem that has also featured in our headlines this week.
Last Monday, Keith Bristow, head of the National Crime Agency, stated that some of the estimated 50,000 people accessing indecent images of children online would not be brought to justice. This provoked strong reactions, but, I have to say, I was glad to hear this refreshing candour from the police. At last, it prompts us to have a long overdue conversation about what else we can do. And there is a lot. We all have a part to play in preventing sexual abuse – whether online or offline. Such abuse is preventable, not inevitable.
In June 2013, David Cameron unveiled an initiative to “deter” those trying to access indecent images of children online. Since last autumn internet service providers and search engines have deployed “splash pages” that warn individuals apparently seeking out indecent images of children – sexual images of anyone under 18 – that they may be breaking the law, alerting them to potentially adverse consequences. An appeal to self-interest, but also a jolt, to remind the individual that there is a legal line that they should not cross. This warning was, in part, designed after research indicating that many arrested internet offenders were heavy, long-term users of legal, adult pornography. In a state of sexual excitement, recklessness, perhaps drunkenness, they had followed links that took them to illegal content. Often a small step but one from which there was no return.
These splash pages also direct people to the Stop it Now! helpline. Anonymous and confidential, it has seen more than 1,300 individuals “click through” to its website in the past 12 months – some seeking advice and help with “my addiction”; others terrified of getting arrested and wanting advice on what to do. There are self-help books available for those choosing to remain anonymous as well as an online, self-help treatment manual that is used across the globe. Of course, some don't call – maybe the warning was enough.
There are individuals who access such images out of a well-established sexual interest in children. Such individuals are likely to be the most dangerous and need police attention, but many – in fact in my experience, most – are not such men. Which is not for one second to excuse their behaviour. But it is to allow them to amend their behaviour and learn the skills and discipline not to do it again.
Given the numbers, some who have already viewed child-abuse images will be reading these words. As will others involved – wives, parents, colleagues – who have concerns about the online sexual interests of someone close to them. What should they do? Well, to do nothing is not an option. To challenge? To access self-help resources? To contact the Stop it Now! helpline? Certainly to resolve that such illegal behaviour must stop, with practical measures to ensure this.
There are alternatives to arresting law-breakers. I want the police to focus on those assessed as most dangerous; and I want politicians, civil society and the media to help discuss additional solutions in an informed, intelligent way. Talk of “online paedophiles” does not enable the different types of offender, of risk, and of sexual interest to be considered. Some teenagers seek out or post sexual images of themselves and each other. Are they then online paedophiles? And how many of the 50,000 do they comprise?
We need, desperately need, to debate what we can do to prevent child sexual abuse, which affects more than one in 10 children in the UK. But for now, can we have a sensible debate about how we best respond to, and prevent, the use of indecent images of children by so many ordinary members of our society?
Donald Findlater is director of research and development for the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, a registered child protection charity which works across the UK to prevent child sexual abuse
Tulsa Police Say Youth Volunteer Sexually Abused Kids In His Care
by Eric Conrad
TULSA, Oklahoma - A man who had custody of five children and says he is a volunteer at an Oklahoma Department of Human Services children's shelter has been arrested on eight sexual abuse complaints.
According to court documents, Timothy Shawn Cato, 50, has cared for the children for several years. He reportedly admitted to bathing the children – ages 7 to 17 – and touching their bodies while they are in the bathtub. Cato told child crisis detectives he regularly shares sleeping space with the kids in a room away from his wife and own child, an affidavit says.
Police said he used his status in the community with various youth organizations as a way to get children to trust him and, ultimately, abuse them.
"Some of the victims indicated that they had met him through a program at a church where he was a, what they referred to as a commander of their group, that would do scouting-like activities for boys of a younger age," TPD Sgt. Mike Brown said.
Cato reportedly told detectives he would have the boys wear his underwear, some with an open fly. Documents say Cato not only fondled the children, but he also orally sodomized them and forced them to have anal sex.
“This is definitely one of the most obvious and disturbing cases of a child predator being in a situation where he's entrusted with the opportunity to deal with these vulnerable children, so it's certainly very, very, difficult to see," Brown said.
Cato told police he works as a volunteer at a DHS shelter, “in which he would routinely every week check two children out of the shelter on a pass and take them to his home where he would bathe them and share a bed with them,” the affidavit says.
Police said Cato told them he has more than 20 years of history as a children's volunteer at churches, as a coach and as staff at summer camps. Cato told authorities he is a past employee of the Little Lighthouse and Town and Country School, court documents state.
Police said Cato told them he has owned and worked at Eastland Christian Academy. Witnesses told police Cato is a former youth pastor at Eastland Assembly Church. The pastor of that church told News On 6 Cato is not the owner of the school and he was not the youth pastor, but he was a volunteer at the church.
Cato reportedly was a volunteer at Falls Creek summer camp as well as a basketball coach for Liberty Upward basketball team and Wright Christian Academy, an affidavit says.
In a statement, spokesman for Falls Creek Conference Center Brian Hobbs said: "Falls Creek Conference Center denies any affiliation with the accused. Every church that attends the camp is required to perform background checks on individuals they bring to camp."
Wright Christian Academy also denied that Cato has or had any affiliation with their organization.
"Mr. Cato was never an employee nor did he ever, according to our records, coach for the academy," school superintendent Jeffrey L. Brown said. "The academy did lease space to Eastland Christian Academy for a brief period of time."
Cato's alleged involvement with children is a long history that, police said, could lead to more allegations. Brown said the case against Cato is strong, and he urges anyone with any additional information to contact the child crisis division.
“We are certainly hoping that if there are additional victims that they will come forward. We don't have any information that would indicate that there are additional victims, however, the suspect has been working in this field for so long that it certainly seems like a very real possibility," Brown said.
According to documents, Cato is paid by OKDHS to provide respite care to children who are in custody of DHS.
He is being held at the Tulsa County jail.
Sex Trafficking Of Teen Girls Subject Of New Documentary
from WCCO (Video on interviews on site)
MINNEAPOLIS – Minnesota is one of the worst states for sex-trafficking of women and underage girls in the country.
Each year here in Minnesota, more than 500 of them escape that life and make a change for the better.
This year's Twin Cities Film Festival will feature a documentary that sheds light on the problem through the eyes of survivors.
“For 22 years I was trapped in it, from escort services to stripping to street walking,” said Joy Friedman.
Joy Friedman became a victim of sex exploitation at age 15.
She was one of hundreds of young girls forced into sex trafficking.
Friedman says at first she was lured by what she thought would be a better life.
“This is glamorous, I'm my own boss, I can do this myself,” she said. “No one told me what would happen to me after that first trick violated me. Or when money was handed to me, and this is all I was worth and it's 20 dollars or a thousand dollars. What I had to go through for that money is with me permanently, for the rest of my life.”
Friedman is a survivor. She now helps get women and girls away from sex trafficking by working at Breaking Free, an organization that helped her get off the streets.
“The average age of entry is between 12 and 14 years old,” said Vednita Carter, who founded the organization in 1996. “We have to let people know this does happen right here in Minnesota–in our own backyard–and it has no respect for people. It doesn't matter who you are: it's about buying and selling a human being.”
Carter and Friedman partnered with the Twin Cities Film Festival and are a part of a documentary called “Breaking Free From the Life.”
It takes you inside the lives of women trapped in the sex trade here in Minnesota.
“It's a huge problem when you think about our runaways that we have and how many of them are out here doing survival sex,” said Friedman.
They hope the film brings about awareness of a growing problem and provides an escape for those who want to get out of the shadows.
Carter said sex trafficking has gone hi-tech, with many turning to the internet to sell sex.
Breaking Free not only helps women get away from sex trafficking.
It also has an offenders prostitution program. Johns are court ordered to attend sessions where they learn how their behavior affects the community.
The film will be shown as part of the Twin Cities Film Festival's “change-makers” series.
It begins Friday night at the West End. The film and the panel discussion are free to the public.
Congress: Find a way to de-immunize the sex trade
The News Tribuns
The people who run Backpage.com and other prostitution-heavy websites cherish abstractions and euphemisms: “Internet free speech,” “third party content” and “escort services.”
Their defenders use the word “alleged” a lot, as in “alleged sex-trafficking.” In one brief against three young women who are trying to sue Backpage in Pierce County Superior Court, the company's lawyers refer to the youths as “three minors who alleged they were prostituted by adult pimps.”
Let's cut through the fog. The “alleged” victims in the Pierce County case were three girls, two of them 13, the other 15. They ran away from home, and pimps – always on the lookout for young prey – snared them and peddled them on Backpage.com.
Two pimps tricked out the youngest in lingerie, took photos and posted them on the website. She became an “80 DOLLAR DAY SPECIAL.” Men lined up for her. She was a seventh-grader.
The three now want to hold Backpage.com accountable for its part in selling them. The case is now before the Washington Supreme Court, which must decide whether to let the lawsuit proceed in Pierce County.
In light of court precedents, it seems likely federal law will frustrate the young women's lawsuit. The U.S. Communications Decency Act – passed in 1996 when few imagined what the Internet would do for sex-trafficking – established broad legal immunity for Internet service providers. Its Section 230 was designed to protect legitimate ISPs and website operators from lawsuits over items posted by their users.
Amazon, for example, can't be held liable for defamation when a commenter says something nasty about someone else in its comments section. EBay can't be held liable when a fraudster doesn't send the goods. Lawmakers rightly recognized that the Internet couldn't reach its potential if innocent enterprises could be punished for their users' actions.
But what if a website's very business model revolves around prostitution, which is illegal in every state but Nevada? Section 230 was never meant to abet the human degradation, coercion and female enslavement that permeates the sex trade.
The U.S. House of Representatives in May approved a bill that provides penalties for knowingly advertising sex from children or coerced adults – or knowingly benefiting from that advertising. In other words, website operators who understand the nature of those $80-a-day specials could no longer hide behind Section 230. The Senate has been working on a broader version on the same bill.
Congress must be careful here. Any refinements of Section 230 must provide ample safe harbors for honest enterprises whose Web services can be abused by criminals.
But a company that effectively solicits pimping by creating sections labeled “escort services,” “body rubs” or other common euphemisms for prostitution ought to be nervous about who is infesting those markets. They might show more interest in deterring pimps and traffickers by requiring, for example, major credit cards instead of untraceable prepaid cards and Bitcoin.
Romantic libertarians sometimes conceive of prostitutes as Julia Roberts-style freelancers who are in it by choice. The industry as a whole is far more predatory.
Girls in their early teens – as in the Pierce County case – are prized in this market. Many thousands are routinely sold to johns. Even seemingly independent adult prostitutes were frequently coerced into the sex trade as minors and kept there with threats, beatings and addiction. Pimps typically lurk in the background somewhere.
Then there are the Asian and Eastern European women enslaved by international traffickers, and kept disoriented, terrified and underground.
Any website that specializes in the sale of girls and women for sex may be harboring the digital equivalent of an old-fashioned slave market. Congress and the courts can surely figure out ways to legally distinguish them from the likes of Twitter, Blogspot and CNN.
How t-shirts are helping victims of sex trafficking
by Stephanie Zaita
Local businesses are trying to get the word out about sex trafficking in the Lehigh Valley, and "t-shirts" are their tool.
Val Piacentini, Owner of Jwear T-Shirts in Easton, is teaming up with the non-profit organization "Truth for Women" to get the word about what they call a little known issue in our community, human trafficking.
It's something people know so little about yet it's going on right under our noses, said Piacentini. The project is called NOT IN MY CITY, and by getting businesses all over the lehigh valley to wear and buy the t-shirts they are hoping to raise awareness while raising money for a new shelter for sex trafficking victims.
They are also encouraging business owners to take pictures of themselves wearing the shirts which they plan to send to Harrisburg as part of a petition.
They also plan to take the campaign to college campuses this January.
Four dollars from the sale of each t-shirt is being donated to the Bethlehem shelter.
To find out more about Truth for Women you can log on to their web site at truthforwomencenter.org.
Louisiana mayor who promised never to ‘embarrass this community' arrested on child porn charges
by SCOTT KAUFMAN
The former mayor of Sorrento, Louisiana faces 40 counts of possession of child pornography after he was unable to dispose of the material while police were raiding his home, The Advocate reports.
Wilson Longanecker, Jr. entered office promising to “restore dignity,” saying that he would never do anything that would “embarrass this community.”
Less than a year after being elected, however, he stopped going to his office, citing a medical procedure — but he also stopped responding to emails, phone calls, and text messages. After five months, Randy Anny — the man Longanecker, Jr. beat in the election by a single vote — had to step in and act as mayor pro tem in order to manage the city's finances.
Dereliction of duty became the least of Longanecker, Jr.'s problem on Thursday, however, when investigators with a multiagency child pornography task force raided his home and discovered 40 videos depicting children between the ages of 3 and 14 engaged in sexual activities.
Longanecker, Jr. attempted to destroy the material while the investigators were collecting it, the Louisiana Attorney General's Office said, so he will also be charged with at least one count of obstruction of justice.
He faces between five and 20 years in prison, as well as a fine of $50,000, for each count if convicted.
“Crimes like this illustrate how important it is to actively, aggressively pursue those who exploit our children,” Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell said in a statement.
Aiding Unaccompanied Immigrant Children in Pa.
by Judith Bernstein-Baker
This past summer, the media was filled with images of children, largely from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, crossing the border without their parents and turning themselves in to immigration authorities. They are youths like HIAS Pennsylvania's client, Maria, 16 years old, who was abused by her stepfather, and whose mother told smugglers to "have their way with her" in lieu of payment. She was held hostage for five days but, eventually, with the help of an adult, reached the U.S. border. Maria is a victim of human trafficking.
The surge in the number of children seeking sanctuary in the United States can be attributed to violence mixed with poverty and the inability of their governments to offer protection. "Children on the Run," a report issued by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), found that 48 percent of recent arrivals had been personally affected by violence, including from drug cartels and gangs, and that 21 percent were survivors of abuse in their homes. The report noted that 58 percent of the youths had asylum or other claims deserving of international protection. In addition to increased volume, the children arriving are younger and there are increasing numbers of girls.
Objective evidence supports UNHCR's findings. In 2012, El Salvador's murder rate became the second highest in the world, reaching 69 deaths per 100,000. The country with the world's highest rate is Honduras, with 90 deaths per 100,000. To place these statistics in context, these rates are more than seven to nine times greater than those in Afghanistan and Iraq.
HIAS Pennsylvania's own work through its Immigrant Youth Advocacy Project (IYAP) sheds additional light on youths placed in Pennsylvania. From July 2013 to July 2014, we interviewed 676 children ranging in age from 4 to 17 who were apprehended at the border and sent to shelters in Pennsylvania. Sixty-eight percent of those we met with were girls, and 32 percent were boys; 13 percent were younger than 10, 30 percent between 11 and 14, and 57 percent between 15 and 17. Over 50 percent were eligible for some form of immigration benefit or relief.
History of Unaccompanied Central American Children
The journey of Central American unaccompanied children to the United States is not new. Beginning in the 1980s, as civil wars created displacement and hardships, children sought to escape the conflict by coming to the United States. Initially, children were detained at the border by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), which acted as both prosecutor and custodian/caretaker. Advocates challenged the conditions of detention in the class action suit Flores v. Meese , 681 F. Supp. 665 (C.D. Cal. 1988). The 1997 settlement of this case required that INS release children to approved caretakers without unnecessary delay, place children in the "least restrictive settings" and implement appropriate detention standards.
In 2003, when INS was broken up into three agencies by the Homeland Security Act, the conflict inherent in having immigration authorities act as enforcers and custodians was addressed directly when the responsibility for housing unaccompanied children was transferred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In 2008, further protections were added when Congress passed the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA of 2008) to ensure that unaccompanied children were properly screened and cared for and afforded due process so that they would not be forced to return to situations of danger, including trafficking.
While not a new phenomenon, the flow of unaccompanied children migrating to the United States has increased dramatically in recent years. By the end of 2012, 13,625 youths were apprehended at the border and classified as "unaccompanied alien minors." This grew to 24,668 in 2013 and is estimated to have reached 66,000 this federal fiscal year.
The Flow of Children Through the Immigration System
Children who are under 18 years old and arrive without documents or parents are initially detained by the Department of Homeland Security at facilities near the border and then transferred to ORR custody; ORR then sends children to shelters across the United States. There are currently four shelters in Pennsylvania: three in eastern and central Pennsylvania and one in western Pennsylvania.
Children are typically housed at the shelters from two weeks to a month. At the shelters, efforts are made to find family members who will care for the children; in fact, 95 percent of the children are released to relatives who assume financial responsibility for them. The vast majority of family members live outside of Pennsylvania, so most of the approximately 750 children in shelter care in Pennsylvania depart the state after a brief stay. At the same time, children who were housed in shelters in other states move into Pennsylvania as they are reunited with caretakers who live here. Since July 2013, more than 500 child migrants have entered Pennsylvania in this manner with the hope of remaining here permanently.
All of the children who have been apprehended by immigration officials are placed in deportation proceedings and must appear in U.S. immigration court. In Philadelphia, the volume of children facing removal has increased so significantly that the court now has a special juvenile docket twice a month. At the most recent all-day docket, 95 cases were listed for a type of status hearing known as a master calendar hearing.
Lack of Appointed Counsel to Represent Children
Children facing removal often have a claim for immigration status as a Special Immigration Juvenile (SIJ) if they have suffered abuse, neglect or abandonment and reunification with one or both parents is not in their best interests. Special Immigrant Juvenile status is a two-step process and requires first obtaining a special dependency or custody order. A child granted SIJ status can then apply for permanent immigration status. (See "Spotlight on Immigrant Youth Advocacy," published in The Legal on April 23, 2012.)
Other youths may be eligible for asylum.
It is difficult enough for an educated, English-speaking adult to navigate the immigration system, but impossible for non-English-speaking children who may be totally unfamiliar with our legal system or lack capacity to adequately represent themselves. And the stakes in a deportation proceeding are very high. As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Francis Murphy opined in Bridges v. Wixon , 326 U.S. 135, 164 (1945): "The impact of deportation upon the life of an alien is often as great, if not greater than, the imposition of a criminal sentence. A deported alien may lose his family, his friends, and his livelihood forever. Return to his native land may result in poverty, persecution, and even death."
Representation by qualified attorneys makes a huge difference in the outcome of a case. Fifty percent of children facing removal, when represented by counsel, received permission to remain in the United States, but only 10 percent of children who were unrepresented secured such permission. Yet, there is no universal appointment of counsel for children. There are new efforts to improve unaccompanied minors' access to counsel, including the creation of an AmeriCorps-sponsored Immigrant Children's Defense Corps, which seeks to recruit 100 lawyers nationwide to provide representation. However, no cities in Pennsylvania have been selected as a site for the new Defense Corps.
While these efforts are welcomed, advocates are seeking to ensure that all children have access to counsel. On July 9, the American Immigration Council, with co-counsel American Civil Liberties Union, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Public Counsel and K&L Gates, filed a nationwide class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington on behalf of children who are challenging the federal government's failure to provide them with legal representation as it carries out removal proceedings against them.
Responding to the Crisis
For nine years, HIAS Pennsylvania has sought to fill the gap of lack of representation of unaccompanied minors through the creation of IYAP to provide free legal services to children. Our caseload in the last year has increased 300 percent, and we have sought to keep pace with the influx of children through raising public awareness, providing increased representation and increasing our training and recruitment of pro bono attorneys.
On July 24, Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor William Fedullo, together with HIAS Pennsylvania and other groups, held a Chancellor's Forum in front of a packed audience. Following the forum, HIAS Pennsylvania worked with the family law section of the Philadelphia Bar Association and the American Immigration Lawyers Association to train more than 50 attorneys willing to take on pro bono representation of youths who may qualify for SIJ status. This month, HIAS Pennsylvania, in conjunction with the Nationalities Service Center, held an additional training for members of eight law firms that are part of a special pro bono effort, known as the IMPACT project, organized by the Association of Pro Bono Counsel (APBCo).
"Tomas" is a polite and quiet boy. His court hearing was the next day and although HIAS Pennsylvania's supervising youths attorney, Elizabeth Yaeger, accepted the case, she could not attend the hearing, so she gave him a letter to give the immigration judge. "Do you know why you are in our office?" Yaeger asked. "Yes," he said in Spanish, "because they [criminal gangs] are trying to kill me." As I watched 10-year-old Tomas leave the office, clutching his caretaker's hand, the need for quality legal services came into sharp relief. While HIAS Pennsylvania is representing Tomas, our waiting list for legal assistance grows every week. We welcome the assistance of pro bono attorneys to help meet this need, particularly those experienced in family law who can represent youths and their caretakers in family courts in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia, as well as APBCo-member firms interested in forming immigrant youths practice groups. If you would like to support HIAS Pennsylvania's efforts, contact Cathryn Miller-Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Judith Bernstein-Baker is executive director of HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) Pennsylvania, a nonprofit providing legal, support and resettlement services to immigrants and refugees.
See the Girl Summit in downtown Jacksonville addresses child sex trafficking
by David Crumpler
The See the Girl Summit Friday focused on child sex trafficking, which one expert described as existing “at a crisis level” in the United States.
Hosted by the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center, the conference at the Main Library in downtown Jacksonville included workshops on counseling and intervention strategies, advocacy and activism and research practices.
It brought together nearly 250 people, including at-risk girls, social workers, mental health professionals, teachers and advocates for girls, according to Blythe Duckworth, senior project manager at the policy center.
The day began with a keynote speech by Malika Saada Saar, founder and executive director of the Rights4Girls project in Washington. She also worked to shut down Craigslist ads that led to child trafficking.
“We rarely talk about girls at the margins,” Saar said in an interview later. The human rights lawyer prefers the term to “at risk,” but in either case, these girls are the ones most vulnerable to child trafficking and sexual violence, she said.
“Often the attitude is that, except for teen pregnancy, our girls are OK,” she said.
Her organization's focus is “girls and violence in the United States,” Saar said, “and it's important to be able to correctly name and frame these issues. Otherwise, we don't move forward with policy reform. It starts in the public square, and a conference like this is an excellent way to start those conversations.”
The group advocates to nullify child prostitution laws “and reframe who the girls are,” Saars said. “They are victims of child rape. They are not victims of child prostitution.”
Audrey Morrissey, associate director of My Life My Choice, a Boston-based organization, was the first survivor in Massachusetts to mentor commercially sexually exploited girls. The My Life My Choice prevention curriculum is now used in 24 states.
In their workshops, she and Lisa Goldblatt Grace, the group's co-founder and director, included strategies for supporting survivors.
“We talk about the importance of pairing survivors with young people who are being exploited,” Morrissey said.
“They get to hear about real experiences from three to four survivors in the course of the curriculum. It's very powerful. It gives them someone to identify with.”
Kate Price, a child sexual abuse and exploitation survivor, addressed risk factors associated with commercial sexual exploitation, and the complexities of recovery in her workshop “Longing to Belong.”
Studies show that exploited children often leave and return seven to 10 times before they successfully break the cycle. Breaking that cycle, she said, “is a process, not an event.”
Growing up in poverty, “I was told this was normal, what was happening to me,” said Price, who is now a project associate at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College, and a survivor advocate.
Child sexual exploitation “has been happening for a very long time and it continues to go under the radar,” she said.
But Price offered her audience these encouraging words: “It takes one caring relationship with an adult to make a difference in the child's well-being.”
And these: “I have seen tremendous change in the way we are dealing with commercial sexual exploitation, and I am grateful for the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center for furthering the conversation.”
The Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center, designed to help at-risk girls, opened in April 2013. The nonprofit center was established with funding support from Weaver, a longtime advocate for girls and young women. The center conducts research, develop programs, provide training for people who work with at-risk girls and advocate for supportive policies and practices.
Domestic violence: An aggressive extension of bullying
by Stephanie Groves
DELPHOS — This past August, when a case involving a history of domestic violence between a local couple escalated to murder, Delphos residents and surrounding communities were reminded of the harsh reality that no populace is immune to the threat of domestic violence.
Delphos Police Chief Kyle Fittro said in the case of Patrick and Gerri Collar, they had issues prior to the homicide occurring and officers were called to the residence on a number of occasions.
“It's the only domestic-based homicide I've seen in a long time,” Fittro reported. “Typically, the department responds to around 80 domestic calls for service per year.”
Fittro said of the calls this year, 16 people were arrested with 14 of them men and two women.
Partnership for Violence Free Families' Ohio Certified Prevention Specialist Donna Dickman said domestic violence is real, people die from it, and they can get help. She said its roots start at a young age, when young children are 3-5 years-old and are bullying one another to get their way.
“Domestic violence is an extension of bullying and the aggression escalates through life,” Dickman said. “As teenagers, both girls and boys are perpetrators and it becomes more of a way of life for males who become primary perpetrators.”
She said one in four kids have experienced emotional or physical abuse in a dating relationship.
“Kids see it everywhere and there are more ways in which they are bullied,”she said. “Not only is it in the home, at school and on television and in video games, technology has added a new dimension in the form of cyber stalking.”
She said kids often don't have healthy relationships or positive role models to look up to.
“Since 1990 in Allen County, there have been 26 people murdered due to domestic violence,” Dickman detailed. “Six of those were children, one was a man murdered by his brother and the remaining victims were women.”
It's a learned behavior and children take on the role as a victim, abuser or both.
“If a child grows up seeing his/her mother being beat and learns that hiding for five minutes inconspicuously, it will go away, the child might live their whole life thinking hiding will fix all their problems,” Dickman said. “There are some very dangerous routines people have adopted.”
On Sept. 17, 2013, the National Network to End Domestic Violence conducted an annual one-day census of adults and children seeking domestic violence service within a 24-hour period in the United States.
In Ohio, on that day alone, 1,040 domestic violence victims — 577 children and 463 adults — found refuge in emergency shelters or transitional housing provided by local domestic violence programs and 977 adults and children received non-residential assistance and services, including counseling, legal advocacy and children's support groups.
On a national level that very same day, 36,348 domestic violence victims - 19,431 children and 16,917 adults - found refuge in emergency shelters or transitional housing, 20,267 hotline calls were answered and 23,389 people were Educated in Prevention and Education Trainings.
Some statistics from the Ohio Domestic Violence Network:
• 94 percent of female murder victims are killed by men they knew;
• 1 in 3 teen girls in the United States is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner;
• Babies born to abused mothers are 17 percent more likely to be born underweight;
• Women who have experienced domestic violence are 80 percent more likely to have a stroke;
• 85 percent of incarcerated women are domestic violence survivors; and
• Batterers are four-six times more likely than non-batterers to sexually abuse children.
For 24-hour help, call the Crossroads Crisis Center, Inc. in Lima at 419-228-4357 or toll free at 877-228-4357.
Women's Center empowers survivors of domestic abuse
by Lucas Schnake
Women and men of all ages and races were in attendance for the annual Take Back The Night march Friday put on by The Women's Center in Carbondale.
The center is a shelter for child and adult victims of domestic abuse.
Smiles could be seen on participants as shouts of "stop the violence," were heard as the group moved up Illinois Avenue.
Advocate Director Sheila Wooten said that the theme of taking back the night is way for women to be able to take back control of their lives if they choose to.
“It is their way of saying that they will not allow the violence in their lives any longer,” Wooten said. “It is them reclaiming that and empowering themselves at the same time.”
Children could be seen making art projects with volunteers and staff members at the center before the march that began at 7 p.m. at the Gaia House Interfaith Center and would end at the Pavilion in downtown Carbondale.
Wooten said that the center helps survivors of abuse with any services that they need.
“We assist our clients with moving on to the next step in their lives,” Wooten said. “Maybe they need help with housing, maybe they need help with jobs, maybe they need help with their finances, we actually teach classes on financial management,” she added.
Wooten added that the staff at the center does not do things directly for clients but rather shows them how to accomplishing things themselves.
“We let them do it,” Wooten said. “That empowers them and that is our main objective.
Melissa, 50, said that she came to center in the late '90s and that they educated her on ways to improve her life.
“I thought at the time that the fighting was just a part of my marriage that I had to put up with, but they showed me that I deserved better,” she said. Melissa said the staff there encouraged her to go back to college and pursue her degree.
SIU law student Kyle McAllister-Grum said that he began volunteering to work with children at the center to break the monotony of his studying.
“I had been around a lot of people that had been hurt and I wanted to find a way to protect those that needed it,” McAllister said.
Sarah Settles, who is a legal advocate at the center said that she is rewarded every time someone returns to tell her how much she helped them.
The Women's Center has been in operation since 1972 and the march is held in October to coincide with Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
No Adult Should Be Sending a Sexual Message to a Child
by Claire Lilley
Earlier this year a conversation with an MP was the catalyst that led me to realise there was a major flaw in the laws designed to protect children from sexual abuse.
The teenage daughter of a constituent had been sent a series of text messages by an older man. The messages had started off innocently enough but then became more sexual in tone.
The police were called and the man sending the texts had been arrested. He'd admitted sending the messages and charged with attempting to groom the girl.
However, he pleaded 'not guilty' and was acquitted in court because the judge found he hadn't done anything that could be termed as an 'attempt' to groom the girl.
I'm sure you would agree that no adult should be sending sexual messages to a child. For example, incredibly it wouldn't always be illegal to send a message saying: ""You make me feel so hot, tell me what you'd like me to do to you when we meet".
That's why today we've launched our Flaw in the Law campaign to make it a criminal offence for an adult to intentionally send a sexual message to a child. And we need the public to show their support by signing the petition.
ChildLine, the helpline for children run by the NSPCC, has seen contacts from children about online sexual abuse more than double in the past year, averaging seven counselling sessions a day to the free, 24-hour helpline.
One girl told ChildLine: "There's this guy sending me disgusting messages online. He started off being really nice and giving me loads of compliments but now all he talks about is how he wants me to do sexual things for him."
We shouldn't have to wait for a child to suffer abuse before the law steps in. But when we started to look at the issue in more detail we found some worrying examples where the law as it stands had failed to protect children from sex offenders.
In 2012 Phillip Pirrie was convicted for arranging to meet and sexually abuse a 13 year old girl he first contacted online. During the trial it was revealed that he had previously contacted a 14 year old girl through an online game and sent the girl sexual messages. These were found by the girl's father who took his concerns to the police, but no further action was taken as a meeting had not taken place between Pirrie and the girl.
Under the law the NSPCC is calling for Pirrie could have been prosecuted and convicted in respect of the first 14 year old victim. He could then have been put on the sex offenders register, and had a civil prevention order put in place. And this could have prevented him from offending against the second 13 year old victim.
Existing laws are fragmented and sex offenders are able to, and often do, exploit the loopholes. Sex abusers can often get away with effectively 'fishing' for child victims on social networks, mobile apps, chat rooms, and in online gaming environments.
In a nutshell, current laws are being stretched to fit new sex offender behaviour in the absence of laws that are fit for purpose.
Of course, if a child is coerced into sending the adult an indecent photo, performing a sexual act over a webcam, or the adult arranges to meet the child for sex, that adult has then committed an offence. However, damage to the child has already been done.
No law will ever be a silver bullet to stopping all sex offenders from grooming children but the Serious Crime Bill now being debated in Parliament is a timely opportunity to tailor the law to better protect children from sexual abuse.
Amid recent child deaths, new grant aims to prevent abuse
by Chris Sadeghi
AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Colton Turner case and the recent death of Justice Martinez and her 19-year-month old daughter reminded Austin of a refrain Lori Seeds Martin said is becoming way too familiar.
“Both child abuse and domestic abuse across the board, there has been an increase,” said Martin, the Director of Prevention at Austin Children's Services.
With each tragic news story like Turner's or Martinez's comes the reminder to report abuse when it is suspected. But even that report will come too late because abuse will have already occurred. The way to save children from abuse, or possibly even save their lives, is to identify and educate before it happens.
That is what Strong Start, the preventative program under ACS aims to do.
“There are risk factors that we are looking at,” said Martin. Those risk factors include family stress, financial troubles, teenage parents, homelessness, substance abuse, or past experiences with physical abuse. Those risk factors may be why some families do not seek help on their own according to Martin.
“A lot of families feel a lot of shame for their inability to raise their children the way they want to.”
But a recent grant in Travis County could help those families get the help and education they need. Just this past July, the Department of Family and Protective Services awarded Travis County a $1.8 million grant for “Project Hopes” that will help Strong Start help more families. Strong Start makes programs available for families with children between 18 months and five years old. Those families who show at least two risk factors are eligible to receive the educational services offered by Strong Start. There also must be no previous history of Child Protective Services investigations as the program aims to be focused on prevention, although Martin said different programs under ACS are able to help families with a CPS history.
With the Project Hopes grant, Strong Start will be able to double their staff and increase the number of families they help from 60 to more than 200. Strong Starts services include access to specialists, counselors, and therapeutic classrooms where parents can leave their children for a few hours a week to receive educational lessons.
Martin hopes the education and help will keep difficult family situations from becoming violent.
“I always say kiddos do not come with a handbook and parenting can be really challenging,” said Martin. She believes identifying risk factors and trying to get families valuable help is not solely the responsibility of the family itself, but everyone.
“Anybody and everybody. It is a community effort.”
13-Year-Olds Say They Were Called 'Sluts' And 'Hookers' By Universal Studios Actors
A trio of 13-year-old girls and their mothers are not very happy about a Universal Halloween Horror Nights actor who referred to the girls as 'hookers' and 'sluts.'
During a press conference yesterday, two of the girls and their mothers—along with feminist lawyer Gloria Allred—said the incident occurred while they were visiting a haunt based on The Purge: Anarchy, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The Purge film franchise is about a dystopian future in which Americans have one night a year where for 12 hours, there are no emergency services and nothing is illegal. The attraction at Universal depicts this 12-hour window, and videos of the haunt show actors in masks running amuck with various weapons, including axes and baseball bats. Allred claims that while the girls were visiting the attraction, one of the actors told the girls to come over to him and called them 'hookers.' The actor asked them their names, but then said, "I'm just going to call you Slut 1, then Slut 2 and Slut 3."
He attempted to auction the girls off to the highest bidder, asking other guests how much they were worth. Allred said one guest offered a dollar, but another female actor interrupted to say that the bidding would begin at $200,000.
One of the girls' mothers, Sharla Fisher, said she was "horrified."
"She was sexualized over the microphone in front of a crowd of people and then put up for auction where an adult male from the crowd bid on her," Fisher said.
Fisher said she filed a complaint with Universal, both online and by calling the company, but was ignored. So, she contacted Allred. Allred said they are not pursuing any money just yet, but want to talk to Universal about changing policies. And she thinks they should apologize.
The teens also showed the clothes they were wearing that night, and Allred presented a mock sign she suggests Universal place at the entrance to the event. It reads: "Parents beware. Your daughter is about to enter Universal Studios for Halloween Horror Night. While on our property your daughter, who may be as young as 13 years old, may be called a 'slut,' a 'whore' or a 'hooker' by Universal employees. Proceed at your own risk."
As for the girls, they said they were embarrassed and were worried about what other people would think of them.
Video of The Purge attraction online shows a portion of the Scare Zone area where actors are auctioning victims, and insults seem par for the course. In a video from the same attraction last year, what appears to be the same actress tells someone their shoes are terrible and suggests another person use a bandana to cover up their face. It seems not so much the insulting that's the issue here, but using sexual insults on underage girls.
Universal previously decided to scrap a show based on Bill & Ted after it was deemed homophobic and racist. One Vice reporter described the entire thing, including an effeminate, gay Superman, lots of race stereotyping and a just a dash of jokes about sexual assault.
Not to be outdone, Knott's Scary Farm made fun of the 'Bill & Ted' show's cancellation being "so gay" in their annual 'The Hanging' show, which was full of unoriginal pop culture jokes about how everyone is just too dang PC today.
Contrary to apparently popular belief, it is possible to scare people without being a 13-year-old boy. Knott's has some great mazes, including their new 'Tooth Fairy' and 'Voodoo' haunts where the emphasis is on set decoration and costuming—not juvenile name-calling.
Sex Offender Accused Of Infecting Teen Girl And Baby With HIV
A registered sex offender by the name of David Wilson has been accused of raping a 14-year-old girl and 23-month-old toddler, Click 2 Houston reports.
David Wilson, 33, who is HIV positive, is believed to have infected both children with the virus. According to court documents, in November 2013 relatives of the toddler took her to see a physician at Memorial Hermann Medical Center, who discovered a growth in her genital area. After testing, it was revealed that the tot had HIV, chlamydia and herpes. Following the discovery, doctors performed reconstructive surgery on the girl to repair damage caused by one of the infections.
The physician spoke with investigators telling them that the toddler “had to have been sexually assaulted as evidenced by the presence of three sexually transmitted diseases.” After testing four of the adults who live with the child for the infections, Wilson was the only one whose tests returned with positive results.
Just last month, a 14-year-old girl told cops that Wilson, who is her mother's ex-boyfriend, had gotten her pregnant after they had sex near her high school. She, too, tested positive for herpes and HIV. Wilson has been charged with sexual assault of a child and super aggravated sexual assault of a child. He is currently being held at the Harris County Jail.
Wilson was sentenced to four years behind bars in 2005 for sexually assaulting another teen.
My mother's sex offender boyfriend abused me: Mama June's now adult daughter Anna Cardwell confirms she was victim of child molester
Honey Boo Boo star Anna Cardwell has confirmed to Radar that Mama June's sex offender ex-boyfriend Mark McDaniel molested her when she was just eight.
Anna's comments come after TMZ broke the news on Friday.
She told Radar: 'I believe she is seeing him and hanging around him. I'm hurt'.
June's alleged relationship with the convicted sex offender has led to the cancellation of popular TLC reality show Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.
McDaniel was released in March after serving a 10-year prison service for 'forcing a girl to perform oral sex on him' according to TMZ, but it is understood that this was a separate incident.
Radar report that Anna was abused by McDaniel, 53, in 2002 and 2003.
He was indicted in June 2003 for 'aggravated child molestation and aggravated sexual battery on his young victim' which Radar now reports was Anna.
The case was dismissed some time later, however, McDaniel was then convicted on aggravated child molestation charges in a different case in Spalding County.
Anna had spoken to Radar to defend her mother (who has strenuously denied dating McDaniel) but appears to have now had a change of heart.
TMZ also reported that Anna feels 'betrayed' by her mother for seeing McDaniel again, and feels that their relationship is now 'destroyed'.
The site claims that TLC - that produced the reality show - have reached out to Anna to offer counselling.
At the family home in McIntyre, Georgia, Alana 'Honey Boo Boo' Thompson and her sisters Lauryn were seen without June, following reports that child services have now been called in relation to their mother's connections with the convicted child sex offender.
Instead Alana, nine, was accompanied by sisters Lauryn ('Pumpkin'), 14, and Jessica ('Chubbs') 17,and their father Mike 'Sugar Bear' Thompson.
Despite June strenuously denying dating McDaniel, the alleged relationship led to the cancellation of her show Here Comes Honey Boo Boo on Friday.
According to TMZ; not only was June secretly dating McDaniel for several months, she also purchased gifts - including a used car - for him.
June allegedly went shopping for the car last month, visiting at least one dealership near her home in McIntyre, Georgia.
The website report that the family matriarch told the dealer the vehicle was for 'her daughter.' But sources say it was, in fact, 'secretly' intended for McDaniel.
U.S. network TLC, which airs the reality show, apparently 'got wind' of the secret shopping trips.
Taking into account other 'compelling evidence' and a photograph published by TMZ showing June and McDaniel in bed together, TLC took steps to cancel the reality show.
Despite June's denials,TMZ report that child services and the local Sheriff's Department were notified of the reports shortly after the website first broke the story.
The show's cancellation was confirmed on Friday by June in a three minute video posted on Facebook which appears to have been taken on her phone.
'I just got a phone call this morning from TLC and as of right now there will be no more production of the show,' she says, looking down and avoiding eye contact with the camera.
She went on to deny reports she is romancing McDaniel. 'The statement of me dating a sex offender is totally untrue,' she said.
'[Daughter] Pumpkin has openly said that I did not, that I've not dated him, and also his son [has].'
She continued: 'I would not ever, ever, ever put my kids in danger, I love my kids too much. That is my past. I have not seen that person in 10 years and don't want to see that person.'
With their livelihood now in jeopardy, the family matriarch took the time to thank the show's fans for their continuing support over the years.
'We just want to thank, from the bottom of our hearts, the support that we've had from our fans since May 2012,' she smiled 'The experience has been awesome to us. The girls have been able to do things that they would not normally have [been able] to do.'
Though the show may be over, with the network confirming that the already-completed fourth season will not air, Mama June insisted it wouldn't be the last fans would see of the quirky family, who will continue to be active in their community.
'We are still going to do our Christmas display, if y'all choose to come out and meet the family still, to support our community,' she said. 'We're also going to keep updating throughout what's going on in our life.'
Finally able to speak out with what she called her 'truth video', revealing that the network had 'kind of told us to hush-hush' up until now, the recently separated star also spoke of ending her relationship with partner of nine years, Mike 'Sugar Bear' Thompson.
'Me and Sugar Bear really have broke up but we are friends and we have stayed civil,' she insists of the father of her youngest child, Alana 'Honey Boo Boo' Thompson. 'We're better off friends than we were a couple.'
As yells in the background demand that she 'shut up', Mama June wraps up her confessional on the upbeat note that: 'Things happen for a reason in life and you live and learn.'
She adds to the fans: 'We do love y'all and we care about y'all. We grately appreciate ever one of y'all and from the bottom of our heart we want to let y'all know that.'
TLC confirmed to MailOnline on Friday that the hit reality series has been cancelled and the network will not air the fourth season that was already filmed.
The decision came a day after a photograph emerged that showed Mama June in bed with convicted child molester Mark McDaniel.
Rumours began circulating the previous day that the 35-year-old matriarch was romantically involved with the man who she had dated 10 years earlier.
McDaniel was recently released from prison after serving 10 years, convicted of aggravated child molestation in 2004.
In June 2003, he was indicted for aggravated child molestation, aggravated sexual battery and child molestation related to several incidents involving a member of then-girlfriend June's family, aged eight, though the case was dismissed.
Network TLC has said in a statement to the MailOnline: 'TLC has cancelled the series Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and ended all activities around the series, effective immediately.
'Supporting the health and welfare of these remarkable children is our only priority. TLC is faithfully committed to the children's ongoing comfort and well-being.'
A source tells TMZ that includes continuing to offer the children tutors, as well as counselling.
Though she continues to shoot down reports she's back dating her child sex offender ex, stating that she hasn't even seen him in 10 years, according to TMZ, Mama June has been lavishing gifts on him in recent months.
They report that she went shopping for a used car in September and while she said it was for her daughter, it was, in actual fact, for McDaniel.
She is said to have visited at least one car dealership during her outing.
Meanwhile, in the wake of the show's cancellation, Mama June's former long-time partner, Sugar Bear, was spotted arriving at the family's home in Georgia on Friday.
With his ex insisting the couple's split was amicable and that they remain close, it was a no-doubt much-appreciated show of support for the mother of his child in her time of need.
Experts recommend open communication for abuse prevention
by Ale LeFriec
SPOKANE, Wash. -- The prevalence of child sexual abuse is not easy to determine because it's often not reported, but experts agree the incidence is far greater than reported.
According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, one in five girls and one in twenty boys is a victim of child sexual abuse.
So what can parents do to protect their children?
Dr. Paul Domitor, a retired clinical psychologist at Sacred Heart Medical Center says there are important questions they should ask before leaving their children with other grown-ups.
"Are they too nice? Are they solicitous of the child's time? Are they wanting to take the child away from the home to do particular activities, that sort of thing," says Domitor.
He adds that pedophiles may be in positions of authority, such as youth leaders or teachers.
"It's important to be mindful if you trust someone with the care of your child through an activity group of some sort or even a school, it's important to make sure that person is trustworthy," he says.
Domitor says to also be weary of adults with no children who have activities that may be appealing to kids, such as toys or video games.
"They will kind of setup circumstances that attract children, and that is part of their modus operandi."
He claims one of the best things you can do is have open channels of communication. So if your child feels uncomfortable with an adult or has been a victim of abuse, they'll be more likely to tell you about it.
"It's very important you have a good connection with your child. Because if a child is molested, often times they feel very badly about it or they may not say anything about because they're afraid," he says.
We all have a role in protecting children: end the silence on abuse
by Amy Conley Wright and Lynne Keevers
The recent string of major child sexual assault scandals, in Australia and other countries, can create a feeling of disgust and an urge to look away from an ugly reality. Yet we must confront and take collective responsibility for child protection by acknowledging that it happens every day and that we have to talk about it. Societal silence on child sexual abuse protects perpetrators and enables abuse to continue.
Child sexual assault is a lot more common than we may think. The Australian Institute of Family Studies reported in 2013 that as many as one in six boys and one in three girls has experienced sexual abuse.
Most recently, the media reported sexual exploitation on a mass scale of an estimated 1,400 children in Rotherdam, UK, between 1997 and 2013, and the failure of social services and the police to intervene appropriately. The Rotherdam report is full of examples of how children were groomed for eventual abuse in public view, receiving inappropriate gifts and attention from men.
Web of deceit depends on secrecy
Research shows offenders typically plan their sexual abuse of children with care. They may “groom” children by offering presents and compliments. The offender often establishes a trusting relationship with the family and friends of the child, tricking and manipulating them to reduce the likelihood of them discovering the abuse.
The result of this web of deceit is to divide and isolate the child from siblings, friends and especially non-offending parents. In this way abusers protect themselves, ensure ongoing access to the child and secure power over the child and others in the child's life.
Secrecy is fundamental to the success of these grooming techniques and has powerful effects on the child. Because the rule against breaking the silence is reinforced in families as well as socially and culturally, children and adult survivors often report that they feel guilt, shame and fear when telling their stories. Self-blame, fear of retribution, a sense of powerlessness, mistrust of self and others, over-responsibility and protection of others are common effects of being trained to be silent and sexually available.
Once the societal silence is broken, we must change the language we use, which currently promotes secrecy and shaming. The language and concepts that come to mind around child sexual abuse are not helpful. There is an assumption that the victimiser is a sick weirdo and the victim is damaged goods.
But because it is so common, we regularly interact with both perpetrators and victims of child sexual abuse in our daily lives. Indeed, they may be people we like and admire.
The frequency of this problem suggests that sexual offenders are not all paedophiles, evil or “sick” but ordinary family members and friends. It also tells us that many victims of sexual abuse manage to deal with the effects of abuse, live productive lives and contribute to the well-being of our communities.
Antidote is casting light in dark places
Fortunately, it does not necessarily take much to stop child sexual abuse. Because this type of exploitation thrives on silence and secrecy, the antidote is bringing the issue to light.
We need to create an atmosphere that encourages people to question confusing or uncertain behaviours and practices in order to take action before children are harmed. This means being willing to take the risk of potentially looking paranoid when questioning an adult's behaviour toward a child.
We also need to reexamine our policy approach to child sexual abuse. The current dominant model prioritises individualised, one-on-one counselling services. Other responses to people who have experienced childhood sexual abuse, such as community development, preventative approaches and collective social action, are restricted to the margins of practice.
Some services, such as the West Street Centre, a government-funded, community-based organisation in Wollongong, New South Wales, offer an alternative. The centre links individual talk-based therapy and group work to collaborative and community efforts to tackle issues of abuse and violence. Survivors of child sexual abuse join with others to challenge secrecy and speak up about their experience. Listening by other community members is emphasised.
In this way, survivors of sexual abuse begin to pioneer a new way for their families and communities. When children hear adults talking openly about sexual abuse, they learn from example and follow.
Child protection cannot be a job that is relegated to an authority, be it the police, social services, or a school. Child protection is everyone's responsibility.
Children will be protected when everyday citizens take personal responsibility for child protection. This will start when people are willing to have hard conversations, change the assumptions about child sexual abuse victims and perpetrators, and have the courage to act when they have concerns about the children in their communities. We all need to look at this issue, not look away.
Robert Wood Johnson calls for halt to human trafficking
by Bob Makin
NEW BRUNSWICK – They sat beneath the projected image of a line from “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.”
But nobody on a seven-member panel of experts tasked with combating human trafficking received a standing ovation like the one given to an unnamed New Jersey sex slave turned social worker, who now helps minors make the transition from the kind of cruel life she once knew all too well. As a teen, she was recruited by her sister to follow her into a sex trade run by her “boyfriend”/pimp.
“I found myself slipping into a life of depression, sadness, fear and despair,” said the woman, whose identity was withheld for her safety. “Not only did I live in fear of the men who were purchasing sex from me, but I also lived in the fear of the backlash I would get for not following the pimp's instructions. I witnessed him beat women and girls to the point where that their screams echoed off the walls and into my very soul.
“I was too sad and ashamed to tell anyone what was going on and too scared of what the pimp would do if I tried to leave,” she continued. “I thought the worst thing that could happen would be my parents finding out. That kept me in line and obedient. I did what I was told. It wasn't until four years later that the FBI came with the Innocence Lost Initiative and arrested him. And my sister and I both became free of him. It's been a long road in my recovery, and to this day, I still struggle with the things that happened to me, but I believe I possess a strength that gives me an edge to help other girls that are still caught up in the life. I have a positive outlook on the future and look forward to accomplishing my dreams. And one of those dreams is to see the end of commercial sexual exploitation and human trafficking within my lifetime.”
Her bravery was cheered by a crowd of more than 200 health-care practitioners, social-service agents, medical students, pastoral caregivers, emergency response personnel and concerned community members gathered for the problem-solving summit “Human Trafficking: Let's Make This the End of the Road.”
They assembled Wednesday in the courtyard of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital to learn how to recognize signs of human trafficking in their trades and offer advocacy to victims, while committing to help find a solution to a problem that keynote speaker Jeffrey Chiesa dubbed slavery.
“There are more slaves today than there were during the Civil War,” said Chiesa, the former attorney general who helped bring the issue of forced commercial sexual exploitation out of the dark of prostitution and into the light of abuse.
Worldwide, human trafficking is estimated to affect 800,000 people, according to the U.S. Department of State's 2007 “Trafficking in Persons Report,” and more than 50 percent of victims are estimated to be under the age of 18.
In New Jersey, trafficking is defined by the state Trafficking Victim Protection Act of 2000. This includes forced or coerced commercial sexual exploitation of adults and minors in hotels, massage businesses, residential brothels, truck stops, escort services and on the streets. It also consists of forced labor, found largely in domestic work, agriculture, traveling sales crews, restaurants, construction, and health and beauty services.
While human trafficking is a massive international problem, New Jersey is popular among pimps and slave laborers because its dense, ethnically diverse population makes it easy to hide, said Chiesa, who also served briefly as a U.S. senator.
Moderator Patty Mojta, manager of the Human Trafficking Prevention Initiative of the city-based Prevent Child Abuse advocacy group, added that the state also is close to major cities and has an extensive highway system with many truck stops, sex tourism in Atlantic City, and several ports, waterways, airports and military bases.
New Jersey ranks 13th in the nation in call volume with more than 561 calls to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, Mojta said.
“Any person under the age of 18 is considered a victim of human trafficking regardless of the use of force or coercion,” she said. “Any time that another person is profiting off of their involvement in a commercial sex act, they're considered to be a victim of human trafficking. In New Jersey, the legal age to consent to sex is 16. However, a child 16 or 17 cannot consent to be involved in commercial sex. They cannot consent to be involved in strip clubs, prostitution, massage parlors or pornography. And unfortunately, we find their involvement in these fields all too often.
“We know of cases of children who were trafficked on the weekends,” Mojta continued, “and don't miss a day of school and sleep in their beds every night. They may not have any idea that they're being trafficked, that they're being forced to have sex by someone who may pose as a boyfriend or a loved one. A child who is caught up in trafficking might really think they're just involved with a boyfriend who they're helping make money for. Maybe they're gang-involved, and selling sex is their contribution to the gang. The idea of being forced might seem like a foreign one to them. It's especially challenging for kids trafficked by parents or caregivers who don't know that having sex with a neighbor so a parent can have free rent isn't normal.”
Mojta said sex trafficking is a $35 billion criminal industry — more than Google, Nike and Apple combined — and is tied with gun smuggling as the second-most profitable crime behind drug dealing.
Pimps who physically abuse, sexually exploit and mentally and emotionally control minors for profit day after day are devoid of conscience, said panel member Joseph D. Salavarria, a special agent with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security involved in a sex trafficking case in Plainfield a few years ago.
The most vulnerable and heartbreaking victims are the “throwaway children” whose parents don't want them, said panel members, who also included:
• Dr. Joelle Pierre, attending pediatric surgeon at RWJ's Bristol-Myers Squibb Children's Hospital and an assistant professor at Rutgers University's Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
• Suzanne Alvino of the state Department of Children and Families.
• Detective Paul Vanaman of the state Department of Human Services Police and a task force with the FBI.
• The Rev. Angelita Clifton of Fountain Baptist Church in Summit, a facilitator with the Lott Carey Convention Anti-Trafficking Initiative.
All shared their connection to the battle and described ways in which the assembled could help by recognizing signs, ranging from bruises to inexplicably expensive clothing and cellphones, and by being equipped to offer effective resources, such as the state Department of Children and Families, to minors.
“Often times when you go programs like this, you learn a whole lot, and then you walk away, and you say, ‘OK, so what am I supposed to do?' ” said Diana Starace, coordinator of RWJ's Injury Prevention Program and co-organizer of the event with Prevent Child Abuse.
“We're really hoping that we're going to be able to identify specific action steps from our speakers and audience members that we'll be able to share with the audience members,” Starace continued, “and say, ‘These are things you can do as an individual, and these are things that you can do as part of your organization.' ”
Starace said organizers will ask attendees of “Let's Make This the End of the Road” to report by year's end action steps taken against human trafficking, then continue the discussion at a follow-up event April 1, The Day of Hope of National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Rebekah Contarino, a Bridgewater resident and founder of the forthcoming Love True transitional home for girls and women coming out of commercial sexual exploitation, said she is grateful that RWJ has taken a stand against human trafficking.
“I feel like this event helps Love True fulfills its mission as far as advocacy and awareness ... and also being aware of the need for restoration portion of the solution,” Contarino said.
“I couldn't believe this was something going on in New Jersey, right at my back door,” added Natalie Hogate, a child life specialist at RWJ's Bristol-Myers Squibb Children's Hospital. “It was disturbing to me. Working at a hospital setting, I have access. I see children every day, all day. I could be someone that could be identifying someone that might be a victim that could have some symptoms or some signs, and just one person being invested, being interested, could maybe help change the course of what's about to happen for a specific person. Just because it's just one person doesn't mean you can't actually do something.
“As a woman in this setting, I just need to spread the word,” Hogate continued. “It's not an easy topic to talk about. It makes people uncomfortable, but I think having a very blunt discussion and just getting to the crux of the issue and just really talking to people about it in any forum that will listen. One person sharing the word is better than sitting silently and observing it.”
Staff Writer Bob Makin: 732-565-7319; bmakin@MyCentralJersey.com
What you can do
You can help combat human trafficking in the following ways:
• Report suspected cases to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 888-373-7888;
• Donate to the future transitional home and support programs of Love True at www.Love-True.org
• Organize a workshop at your school or church with Prevent Child Abuse, 1-800-CHILDREN, www.PreventChildAbuseNJ.org
• Attend the next “Human Trafficking: Let's Make This the End of the Road” event of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and Prevent Child Abuse in April, National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Contact Prevent Child Abuse for more information.
New survey details vast scope of teen dating abuse
NEW YORK (AP) — From violence to verbal taunts, abusive dating behavior is pervasive among America's adolescents, according to a new, federally funded survey. It says a majority of boys and girls who date describe themselves as both victims and perpetrators.
Sponsored by the National Institute of Justice, the National Survey on Teen Relationships and Intimate Violence was conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, a prominent research center which provided preliminary results to The Associated Press. Input came from a nationwide sample of 667 youths aged 12-18 who'd been dating within the past year and who completed a self-administered online questionnaire.
Nearly 20 percent of both boys and girls reported themselves as victims of physical and sexual abuse in dating relationships — but the researchers reported what they called a startling finding when they asked about psychological abuse, broadly defined as actions ranging from name-calling to excessive tracking of a victim. More than 60 percent of each gender reported being victims and perpetrators of such behavior.
The survey found no substantive differences in measures by ethnicity, family income or geographic location.
Elizabeth Mumford, one of the two lead researchers for the survey, acknowledged that some of the behaviors defined as psychological abuse — such as insults and accusations of flirting — are commonplace but said they shouldn't be viewed as harmless.
“None of these things are healthy interactions,” she said. “It's almost more of a concern that our gut reaction is to accept this as natural.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in its campaigns against teen dating violence, also stresses the potential seriousness of psychological abuse.
“Teens often think some behaviors, like teasing and name calling, are a ‘normal' part of a relationship,” says a CDC fact sheet. “However, these behaviors can become abusive and develop into more serious forms of violence.”
Bruce Taylor, the other lead researcher for the NORC survey, said the overall abuse figures were higher than previous national studies of dating abuse, revealing “the startlingly widespread nature of this problem.”
Using a definition under which adolescent relationship abuse can occur in person or through electronic means, in public or private, and between current or past dating partners , the survey estimates that 25 million U.S. adolescents are victims and nearly 23 million are perpetrators.
Taylor and Mumford said the high rates in their survey may stem in part from youths being candid due to the privacy of the online format. They also suggested that dating abuse is now so common that young people have little concern about admitting to it.
The survey found fairly similar rates of victimization and perpetration among boys and girls — even in the sub-categories of physical abuse and sexual abuse. Many previous studies have found that girls are markedly more likely to be victims of physical and sexual dating abuse than boys.
However, the researchers detected a shift as adolescents age.
“We found that girls perpetrate serious threats or physical violence more than boys at ages 12-14, but that boys become the more common perpetrators of serious threats or physical violence by ages 15-18,” they wrote.
Mumford noted that the questionnaire did not delve into such details as which party instigated a two-way confrontation, or whether injuries resulted. She said it was possible girls suffered more serious injuries than boys.
“Our work suggests that prevention programs need to address both victimization and perpetration, not one or the other,” Mumford and Taylor wrote. They recommended starting prevention programs in middle school, and noted that that teen dating violence is viewed as a possible precursor to adult intimate-partner violence.
Andra Tharp, a health scientist with the CDC's violence prevention division, said two-way teen dating violence — with both partners engaging in abuse — is widespread.
She said it's an ongoing challenge among experts in the field to find the right balance in addressing the role of gender — exploring the extent to which both boys and girls are perpetrators, while identifying situations where girls are likely to suffer more serious harm. For example, Tharp said that if a boyfriend retaliates against a girlfriend who hit him, there's a higher risk of injury to the girl if —as is likely — the boy is stronger.
Dr. Elizabeth Miller, chief of adolescent medicine at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, said it's important to make distinctions about the types of abuse. She contends that, while boys and girls may engage in psychological abuse at comparable levels, girls are more likely to be the victims in cases of sexual violence and coercion.
“When you look at the need for medical attention, females are experiencing more severe consequences,” she said. “We're doing ourselves a disservice if we pretend it's all the same.”
While many girls are capable of aggressive behavior, they generally don't share the view of some boys that sexual coercion is acceptable, Miller said.
The research by Mumford and Taylor is expected to be published soon in The Journal of Interpersonal Violence, a peer reviewed academic journal.
The Associated Press and NORC conduct joint polling under the name AP-NORC, but this study was conducted independently by NORC.
60 Percent Of Homeless Youths Have Been Raped Or Assaulted: Report
by Robbie Couch
A new study explored who is falling victim to youth homelessness and why, and the results are troubling.
The survey, conducted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and funded by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), found that 60.8 percent of homeless youths have been raped, beaten up, robbed or otherwise assaulted. It also revealed that youth homelessness disproportionately affects LGBT youths and racial minorities, as nearly 37 percent of study participants identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, and just one third identified as white-only.
The study examined 656 young people ages 14-21 in 11 cities. Results were collected between March-September 2013, and fell in line with similar studies suggesting parental or caregiver rejection is a primary cause for homelessness for teenagers and young adults.
Study results were announced at the "Ending Youth Homelessness: A Call to Action" event in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, which commits funding for homeless youth programs across the country.
"No young person deserves to experience homelessness, especially because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, which is why we must stand with them to help them live the happy and healthy lives they do deserve," Cyndi Lauper, singer and co-founder of True Colors Fund which works to end youth homelessness, said at the event, according to a press release.
Unfortunately, youth homelessness may be a worsening problem in the U.S. A report by the Department of Education released in September found a record number of students were homeless during the 2012-2013 school year. Data found the number of homeless students enrolled in public preschool and grades K-12 increased 8 percent from the previous school year to 1,258,182. The Department of Education found that the majority of homeless students lived " doubled-up " with friends or extended family members, while 16 percent lived in shelters.
Bruce Lesley, president of the First Focus Campaign for Children, said an increase in student homelessness means more kids exposed to other harmful threats.
"A record number of homeless students means a record number of our children being exposed to sexual trafficking, abuse, hunger and denial of their basic needs," Lesley said in a statement, according to KRNV News 4. "The new data means that a record number of kids in our schools and communities are spending restless nights in bed-bug infested motels and falling more behind in school by the day because they're too tired and hungry to concentrate."
To take action against youth homelessness, visit the True Colors Fund website
Red flags are key indicators of domestic violence
by Gina Joseph
A rash of incidents involving professional football players has turned the public spotlight to domestic violence.
While these events became fodder for sports radio and ESPN commentators they have also caught the eye of professional trained in dealing with these matters.
“We saw the video and we were astonished at the brutality of it,” said Sue Coats, executive director of Turning Point, which provides shelter and programs to victims/survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, of the video of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his fiancee in the face then dragging her limp body out of an elevator and into a casino hallway. “He's a very powerful man. In one punch he messed her up and then, how he treated her unconscious body, was really shocking.”
But it's not just a problem plaguing professional athletes.
An annual report by the Michigan State Police lists more than 96,000 incidents of domestic violence in 2013 across all of Michigan's 83 counties including Macomb, where the ex-boyfriend of a 22-year-old Warren woman whose body was found in a 55-gallon drum was charged recently with killing her.
Domestic violence prevention
While the public attention brought to high-profile events such as the Ray Rice incident is at an all-time high, the federal government was cutting funding for Turning Point's prevention education program by $60,000.
“What people think we need and what's a reality is ironic,” Coats said of reductions to a program that teaches middle and high school students about healthy relationships, conflict resolution and domestic violence awareness.
“It starts when they're young,” she said.
One of the NFL stars, Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings, who allegedly struck his child and is facing abuse charges said he used the same kind of discipline with his child that he experienced growing up. Coats reported that her organization has been partnering with local educators to change ingrained attitudes such as these.
“We have been doing the program in the Macomb Intermediate School District for close to 20 years. We changed attitudes. We've connected with youth,” said Coats while in the process of trying to reach state lawmakers and other public officials who may be able to help get the funding restored.
Many of the youths in the program were among the frightened callers reaching out to TP's 24-hour crisis hotline, which received 12,377 calls in 2013, or had a parent working her way through TP's CAP, a program unique to Macomb County.
Advocacy program empowers women
Developed by Dr. Chris Sullivan, professor of ecological community psychology and director of Michigan State University's research consortium on gender-based violence, TP's Community Advocacy Program is designed to help survivors regain control of their lives. Over the years, it has proven to decrease women's risk of re-abuse and increase their quality of life, level of social support and ability to obtain the community resources they need.
“It's very cutting edge. Really, nobody else is doing this in our area,” said CAP coordinator Dominica Tokarski, who began her career at Turning Point in 1999, working the midnight shift answering calls and making sure residents in the shelter were safe. During her 15 years at TP, Tokarski observed one common trend among survivors of domestic violence: the need for a confidante.
“People need someone to listen to them tell their own story of what happened,” said Tokarski, who did a lot of listening as an advocate with TP's Forensic Nurses Examiner Program.
“In 1999, TP led the effort to move the care of sexual assault survivors from crowded emergency rooms to a site specially designed for their needs. TP's Forensic Nurse Examiners Program is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to provide comprehensive medical forensic examinations to adult and child sexual assault survivors,” according to TP. “To meet the immediate physical and emotional needs of sexual assault survivors, specially trained nurses and advocates provide medical forensic exams and crisis intervention. The program links survivors of sexual assault with supportive follow up services provided by TP and is provided free of charge at a site donated by Mt. Clemens Regional Medical Center. The quality of emergency services for sexual assault survivors in Macomb County has improved dramatically since the inception of the program.”
Tokarski always felt privileged to be the one that people confided in.
The same is true of advocates in CAP, who undergo 56 hours of intensive training to be able to listen. But also to provide the support and resources women need to reach the goals they set, as a means of regaining control of their life, whether it means buying a home and going back to school or securing a job and childcare.
“I was used to living in fear and being unsure of what would happen to me but it was steady and familiar,” said “Emma,” a 42-year-old domestic violence survivor and mother of four sons whose name is not being published in order to protect her identity.
Then she left her husband and entered the CAP program.
“They helped me through the first year when I was terrified because being alone and disabled was an unfamiliar fear.”
“A lot of times I would just cry the whole time (my advocate) was with me and she let me,” Emma said. “Other times she would help me with things like a resume and getting connected with disability benefits.”
The most significant thing she remarked is TP helped her take one moment at a time and to know that this would be a journey with a good ending -- that she wasn't always going to feel the way she did but that it was OK to feel that way.
“I thought it was great that we met with them in their homes or wherever they could meet, because many of them had transportation issues,” said Alyse Johnson, a former CAP intern who has since become TP's community relations and volunteer coordinator.
Johnson remembers one woman whom she helped finish the program around Christmas. Along with a packet of information containing resources and crucial phone listings -- should she ever need help again -- she was given a car, thanks to a generous donation to TP.
“She was just phenomenal. She had such a rough time with lingering injuries from her abuse. That car meant freedom to her.”
Emma would agree.
“I have a car and it shakes like it's going to fall apart at any second, but it gets me from point A to B, and I bought it myself. I also bought my own house,” Emma said, although she admits the car probably wouldn't be running if it wasn't for the kindness of the owner of an auto repair shop in Warren. “He's like an angel in my life. He replaced the engine I needed and the transmission. I gave him $1,000 for the work and still owe him $2,500.”
Look for the red flags
Domestic Violence Awareness Month is part of an ongoing effort that began when several organizations including the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence united to tackle the problem. Throughout October, groups like Turning Point will share information and resources to make people aware of the serious issue of domestic violence.
For Emma, it has meant sharing her experience in hopes of helping others. Looking back at the relationship she had with her husband of 17 years, she can see the warning signs of an abusive relationship were there at the start.
Red flag: Acting in ways that scare her.
Emma's exhusband seemed like a nice guy. In order to get to know Emma better he joined the church she attended with her adoptive parents and 17 siblings (her mother died when she was a child and her aunt and uncle took in Emma and her brothers).
“He knew how to be a gentleman but there was always that man inside who was going to push for what he wanted,” she said. He had this thing about cracking people's necks saying he was as good as any chiropractor. Emma hated it and she would always object but he did it to her anyway, sometimes even holding her down to do it. When she thought about it afterwards, she told herself, “I'm just being silly. It's not that big of a deal. He's not trying to hurt me. He's actually trying to help me,”
Red flag: Preventing her from making decisions.
At one point she tried to return the ring he gave her.
“I was going to start nursing school. But he got angry and he put the ring back on my finger,” Emma said. “I don't remember what he said to me but he forced it and I never said another word.”
She cried afterwards and again questioned why the part of her that knew something was wrong didn't rise up and say no. Leave. You have people who love you.
“I felt it wasn't safe to leave,” Emma said. “I was afraid already of the idea of walking away from him.”
Red flag: Embarrass you or put you down
“Before the marriage his abuse was always verbal or minor (like) choking me quickly or threats to bring harm to me,” she said.
On the day of her wedding, she was sad but he was kind and good to her. She wanted a honeymoon but he decided to use their money for the house. “I knew at that point I could not voice my opinion and if I did, I knew I couldn't stand on it.”
Despite her dissapointments she imagined her life changing after they were married, and a wedding night that was wonderful, beautiful and romantic.
“He looked at me and said, ‘So, what else are you going to give me because I can get what you just gave me from a whore on the street,'” Emma said, her voice cracking with emotion.
Red flag: Intimidating with guns, knives and other weapons
Emma always feared for her own safety but it's when she heard her son's pleas that she called 911.
“Please, help me God. Help my dad to let me up,” pleaded her son, age 11 at the time as her husband was sitting on top of the boy with his hand over his mouth and nose. The police came and, after being assured by Emma's husband that everything was OK, they walked away.
Emma was left to deal with the aftermath. “He looked at me and smiled. Then he said, ‘Now you know I have to kill you. But because I love you so much I'm going to let you choose how you're going to go. We've got the gun, the knives and a baseball bat, however you want to do it.”
“There's pills in the medicine cabinet, I can take those,” was Emma's reply.
“OK, you go get them and be sure to get a nice large glass of water so you can wash them all down. What do you want your last words to be to my boys?”
Emma doesn't remember what she said but at that point her husband started to cry. He told her didn't want to kill her. He just wanted her to obey him.
She eventually mustered the courage to call 911 again and with the help of a sister found a safe haven for her and her sons.
“Turning Point allowed me to leave and keep my sons,” she said of the shelter that can provide refuge for up to 52 women and children.
“I feel empowered and free. I'm a single mom living on disability with my four boys and I started my own Mary Kay business. I chose them because the company supports women in domestic violence situations. Now I want to help others.”
Domestic violence is preventable.
“I'm glad that people are finally starting to stand up and point the finger and say, ‘No more,'” said Johnson.
For more information about Turning Point and its programs and services, call 586-463-4430 or visit turningpointmacomb.org
More red flags
Watch out for these other signs of abuse. If you experience one or more of them in your relationship, call a crisis hotline to talk about what's going on:
• Controlling who you see, where you go, or what you do;
• Keeping you or discouraging you from seeing your friends or families;
• Taking your money or refusing to give you money for expenses;
• Telling you that you are a bad parent or threatening to harm or take away your children;
• Preventing you from working or attending school;
• Blaming you for the abuse, or acting like it's not really happening;
• Destroying your property or threatening to hurt or kill your pets;
• Shoving, slapping, choking or hitting you;
• Attempting to stop you from pressing charges;
• Threatening to commit suicide because of something you've done;
• Threatening to hurt or kill you;
• Pressuring you to have sex when you don't want to or to do things sexually you're not comfortable doing;
• Pressuring you to use drugs or alcohol;
• Pressuring you to become pregnant when you're not ready.
To reach Turning Point's 24-hour crisis hotline, call 586-463-6990.
New 'Cold Justice' Spin-Off from TNT Set for 2015
by TV News Desk
TNT is expanding its real-life investigation series COLD JUSTICE into a franchise. The network has given the greenlight to an untitled spinoff from Wolf Reality and Magical Elves. Like its predecessor, the new series will follow a pair of crime experts as they travel the country to assist local law enforcement in closing long-unsolved cases. Rather than tackling homicides, however, the new series will focus on sex crimes.
TNT has ordered 10 episodes of its COLD JUSTICE spinoff, with plans to launch the series in spring 2015. Emmy(R) winners Dick Wolf (Law & Order, Chicago Fire), Dan Cutforth & Jane Lipsitz (Top Chef, Time of Death) and Tom Thayer (Hitchcock, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee) serve as executive producers on both series, with COLD JUSTICE expert Kelly Siegler also serving as an executive producer on the new show.
TNT's new COLD JUSTICE spinoff is an extremely timely series, especially in light of the sobering statistics for sex-related crimes in America*:
Each year, there are approximately 240,000 survivors of sexual assault in America, including men, women and children.
Every two minutes, someone is sexually assaulted in the United States.
Across the country, 400,000 rape kits are going unprocessed because of a lack of funding necessary to test them.
Approximately 97% of sexual assailants never spend a day in jail.
To combat these numbers and bring justice to the survivors of sexual assault, former Harris County, Texas, prosecutors Casey Garrett and Alicia O'Neill are travelling to small towns around the country to help local law enforcement close cases that have sat dormant for years.
Garrett, a protégé of Cold Justice's Kelly Siegler, has been first chair in more than a hundred criminal trials as both a prosecutor and defense attorney. She is also a recipient of the C. Chris Marshall Award for Excellence in Training by the Texas District and County Attorneys Association. O'Neill, who also worked with Kelly Siegler in Harris County, is a forensics expert with specialized training in DNA analysis. Both O'Neill and Garrett succeeded in having a pair of wrongful convictions overturned in the high-profile cases of two men who had been imprisoned for years for sexual assault.
"This new COLD JUSTICE series on sex crimes is about the healing that can come for survivors and their loved ones when an assailant is finally brought to justice," said Kelly Siegler. "But it's also about the bravery it takes for survivors of sexual assault to come forward and tell their stories, which in turn helps investigators close cases that can prevent the assailant from abusing others. As one of our detectives puts it, 'When you kill someone, you take their life. When you rape someone, you take their soul.' We hope that Casey, Alicia and their team of investigators are able to bring first-hand justice and maybe even a small sense of peace to the survivors of sexual assault."
TNT's COLD JUSTICE premiered in September 2013 and follows former prosecutor Kelly Siegler and former crime-scene investigator Yolanda McClary as they look into murder cases in which the trail to find the culprit has gone cold. Since the show's premiere, Siegler and McClary have assisted local law enforcement in securing a total of 19 arrests, 10 criminal indictments, four confessions, three guilty pleas and two convictions.
In the ratings, COLD JUSTICE averaged more than 2.2 million viewers in Live + 7 delivery this past summer, a remarkable +17% increase over the show's winter episodes. In key demos, COLD JUSTICE averaged 838,000 adults 25-54 (+3% vs. winter).
TNT's COLD JUSTICE spinoff is now seeking Law Enforcement Agencies who could benefit from additional resources for their unsolved sex crime cases and possibly be featured on the new show. Law Enforcement Agencies that would like to submit a case please send a short synopsis and your contact information to email@example.com. The series can only review cases that are submitted directly from Law Enforcement. If you are a SURVIVOR of a reported sex crime and would like the series to consider your case, please ask the local Law Enforcement Agency handling your case to submit to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, it's not your fault. You are not alone. Help is available 24/7 through the RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-HOPE and www.rainn.org.
* Sources: RAINN: Rape Abuse & Incest National Network, The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)'s National Crime Victimization Survey, The DOJ's Felony Defendents in Large Urban Counties Survey and The Joyful Heart Foundation.
Changes may ease secrecy in child abuse cases
by Neal P. Goswami
MONTPELIER — The special legislative Committee on Child Protection agreed to add several proposals for lawmakers to consider in January in an ongoing effort to boost the state's child protection laws after the deaths of two toddlers this year.
The panel received an overview Thursday from Luke Martland, director of the Office of Legislative Council, on the policies at the Department for Children and Families, statutes on sharing information, confidentiality issues and substance abuse.
Martland said statutes have created a system in which the default position is to consider all child abuse cases confidential.
“There has to be an exception for information to be shared,” he said.
Under current law, people who are mandated to report suspected abuse — including teachers, clergy and health care professionals — are entitled to receive certain information from DCF.
That includes whether the report was accepted as a valid allegation, whether an assessment was done and a need for services was found, and whether an investigation was conducted and claims substantiated.
However, the department is required to provide that information only to mandated reporters. Others who report abuse, such as family or neighbors, are not entitled to any information about whether DCF is taking action, Martland said.
He said DCF also has a policy that matches the statute. But testimony heard during the panel's months of hearings shows that in some cases mandated reporters “received little information and if they did get that information it was weeks and months later,” he said.
The issue of whether pertinent information was being shared with those who report abuse, and between DCF and police, arose after the deaths of 2-year-old Dezirae Sheldon, of Poultney, in February and 15-month-old Peighton Geraw, of Winooski, in April. Both were ruled homicides, and murder charges have been filed against family members.
The cases sparked outrage around Vermont and led lawmakers to question whether DCF was effective. It also led to the creation of the Child Protection Committee, as well as an internal review of the department.
Police reports in the Dezirae case revealed gaps in communication among those involved in her care.
Lawmakers agreed to put a “cone of confidentiality” proposal into draft legislation. The cone would include DCF workers, police, teachers, service providers and others involved in the case.
“They can fully share information if they're within that cone of confidentiality, but they cannot disseminate that information outside,” Martland said.
Sen. Richard Sears, D-Bennington, co-chairman of the special panel and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he supports changing the law to ensure better communication. But DCF will need to follow the changes, he said.
“I'm mindful that maybe it needs a nudge and law change, but the practice needs to change,” Sears said. “One of the things we've learned is there's policy, there's law and then there's practice. The practice doesn't always follow the policy.”
The committee also agreed Thursday to move forward with a recommendation from Attorney General William Sorrell to expand the definition of causing harm to a child to include exposure to substance abuse. Under the proposal, parents or caregivers could be found to harm a child from birth to the age of 14 if they abuse substances in the presence of the child.
The committee also agreed to move forward on creating an Office of Child Advocate, which would look out for the well-being of children in abuse and custody cases.
Thursday's hearing was expected to be the final meeting for the group, but it may reconvene to review draft legislation before it is finalized for the committees of jurisdiction in the House and Senate.
Psychological abuse is 'most challenging and prevalent form of child abuse'
by Rachel Velishek
A recent report from the “American Psychological Association" states that kids who are emotionally abused suffer the same mental health consequences as those who experience physical or sexual abuse.
Research was conducted from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network Core Data Set to analyze data from 5,616 youth with histories of either psychological maltreatment defined as emotional abuse or neglect, physical abuse and sexual abuse.
Psychological maltreatment is defined as caregiver inflicted bullying, terrorizing, coercive control, severe insults, debasement, threats, overwhelming demands, shunning and/or isolation.
Children who were psychologically abused suffered from anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder and suicidal ideation at a greater rate than individuals who were physically and or sexually abused.
Among the three types of abuse, psychological abuse has the strongest link to depression, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, attachment problems and substance abuse.
Psychological abuse, along with either physical or sexual abuse, was associated with more severe outcomes than when children were either physically or sexually abused and not psychologically abused.
Sexual and physical abuse had to occur at the same time to cause the same effect as psychological abuse alone on behaviors and emotional response in school, attachment problems and self-injury behaviors.
Within a year, an estimated 3 million U.S. children experience maltreatment, predominately from a parent, family member or another adult caregiver.
The American Academy of Pediatrics identified psychological maltreatment as “the most challenging and prevalent form of child abuse and neglect.”
Unfortunately, Child Protective Services has a more difficult time recognizing and substantiating emotional neglect and abuse because there are no physical wounds.
Given the prevalence of childhood psychological maltreatment, it should be a priority of mental health and social service training.
Public awareness initiatives also will help people understand just how harmful psychological maltreatment is for children and adolescents.
Rachel Velishek is a licensed professional clinical counselor with Fisher-Titus Medical Care-Psychiatry, Fisher-Titus Medical Park 3, Suite 950, 272 Benedict Ave., Norwalk. Her office can be reached at 419-668-0311.
Detroit boy, 7, dies malnourished, bruised; mother, boyfriend arrested
Mother, 27-year-old boyfriend in custody on suspicion of child abuse
DETROIT -- The mother and stepfather of a 7-year-old Detroit boy who died Thursday are in custody on suspicion of child abuse.
Emanuel Foster was brought to Henry Ford Hospital Thursday morning where he was pronounced dead. He had bruises on his body. The bruises were consistent with child abuse. Moreover, the boy was malnourished and weighed just 27 pounds.
"When I see a kid who is almost 8 and weighs 27 pounds, I have a problem with that," said Deputy Police Chief Steve Dolunt.
Police believe the boy was the victim of child abuse, but are waiting on an autopsy report to determine the exact cause of death.
The boy was being cared for by the 27-year-old boyfriend of his mother, who also was his stepfather. That man's father is Allen Rimson, who owns the house where the child was staying.
"He was up this morning sick, throwing up and messing through the house and everything. And then (my son) said that he had stopped breathing, and was trying to resuscitate him," said Rimson. "So he called EMS."
Rimson, who does not live in the house, said the boy injured himself last Sunday.
"He was running to the bathroom and tripped and fell in the bathroom and hit his head on the sink ... he had a cut on his eye," said Rimson.
He said the boy was not checked by a doctor. He also said his son would physically discipline Emanuel. Rimson said the boy had a bad habit of eating uncooked meat, such as hot dogs, and his son disciplined him for it.
"Sometimes with his hand, sometimes with a belt. That's how we were raised," said Rimson.
He said the 7-year-old was not in school and that his son has been caring for the boy because the boy's mother has been gone for two months.
"He took care of him, the best he could," said Rimson.
Kimberly Wilburn, Emanuel's aunt, said his mother left him with someone she trusted.
"That baby was tortured. Shouldn't nobody have to live like that. She really trusted him. That's somebody she trusted. She didn't just leave him with somebody she didn't know. She knew him," said Wilburn.
The mother recently moved to Saginaw. Now, she's in custody.
The boyfriend's family said he was alone caring for Emanuel and two younger children.
"She would do that often ... she would leave him for a couple weeks, sometimes a month," said Rimson.
Program to stop child abuse begins
by Gayle Perez
Pueblo County has added a new program for parents and caregivers of young children in an effort to alleviate potential child abuse and neglect issues.
SafeCare Colorado, a nationally recognized in-home prevention program, is being launched by Catholic Charities on a voluntary basis for parents and caregivers of children from birth to age 5.
Catholic Charities also will oversee SafeCare programs in Custer, Huerfano and Las Animas counties.
The program, operated under the Colorado Department of Human Services, provides in-home skills training for parents in the areas of parenting skills, child safety and child health. Services are free and the program is voluntary.
When Could Bruising Mean Child Abuse?
Additional Injuries in Young Infants With Concern for Abuse and Apparently Isolated Bruises
by William T. Basco, Jr, MD, MS -- Harper NS, Feldman KW, Sugar NF, Anderst JD, Lindberg DM
Examining Siblings to Recognize Abuse Investigators
Evidence demonstrates that infants younger than 6 months are more likely to be the victims of abuse and abusive head injury than are older children. Other investigators have also demonstrated that bruises are rare in nonambulatory infants, suggesting that bruising in these infants should prompt evaluation for injury or bleeding disorders.
Harper and colleagues sought to determine the frequency of additional injuries or bleeding disorders among infants who underwent evaluation for abuse on the basis of the presence of isolated bruising. This was a planned secondary analysis of data collected as part of a large, nationally representative cohort study. The larger study collected data on children younger than 10 years, who were evaluated by 20 child-abuse teams across the United States over a 1-year period. Because it was an observational study, the testing completed as part of the evaluation of each child was left to the discretion of the treating physicians.
The child abuse team applied a score from 1 to 7 to each child, indicating the team's assessment of how definite or likely it was that injury was inflicted. The highest scores were 7 (definite inflicted injury) and 6 (substantial evidence of inflicted injury). The investigators further restricted the study group to infants who presented for evaluation as a result of bruising alone, with no other presenting symptoms or physical examination findings suggestive of abuse. The original national research study enrolled more than 2800 children, of whom 980 were younger than 6 months.
Bruises were present in 254 children, and ultimately 146 children were determined to have isolated bruising. Of the 146 with isolated bruising, 61% were boys, and the mean age was 1.5 months.
Overall, 50% of the children were judged as having either "definite" inflicted injury or "substantial evidence of" inflicted injury. One third of the children had a single bruise, 52% had two to five bruises, and almost 14% had six or more bruises. The location of bruising was the face or head in 75% of the children; one third had a bruise on the trunk, and approximately one fourth had bruises on extremities.
At least one additional injury was uncovered by diagnostic testing in 73 children (50%). Head imaging by CT or MRI was completed for 91% of the children, and 27.4% had some type of new injury identified. Most common among these were skull fractures, subdural hematomas, and subarachnoid hemorrhages. Skeletal surveys were performed in 137 children (93.8%), and 23% showed a fracture. Among the 62 children with fractures, 58% had multiple fractures.
Hepatic aminotransferases were tested in 92 children (63%), but only 15% of these children proved to have elevated levels. The treating teams completed evaluations for bleeding disorders in 71% of the children, but no child had a bleeding disorder.
There was no relationship between the number of bruises and the frequency of any additional injuries uncovered by evaluation. Nor was the location of the bruise related to the frequency of additional injuries. The frequency of additional injuries was the same in infants with bruises on the head as those with bruising on an extremity.
The investigators concluded that infants younger than 6 months with bruising who also underwent subspecialty evaluation for abuse had a high chance of having an additional serious injury. They reiterate that bruising in infants younger than 6 months who are not mobile should serve as a "red flag" prompting further evaluation.
Data published in the past year have emphasized the need to consider expanded testing for children aged = 18 months with isolated skull fractures and the need to complete follow-up skeletal surveys after initial evaluations for abuse. These epidemiologic studies are very helpful in determining guideline recommendations for which patients should receive specific evaluations.
This was a referral population, and that affects the findings of the study in two ways. First, each child was evaluated by a child-abuse team, and I suspect that means that the children were much more likely to undergo comprehensive testing than the average infant seen in a nonpediatric emergency department or a pediatric emergency department without access to a child abuse specialist.
The other bias is that the study may not be representative of the findings that might be expected in all children younger than 6 months with isolated bruises. All of these children presented because of some concern about abuse, so we don't know how similar or dissimilar they are to the wider population of children aged less than 6 months with bruising. Nevertheless, these data should be applicable to most emergency department settings and should certainly get the attention of anyone evaluating a young infant with bruising.
Proposition might ease access to child-abuse files
by Howard Fischer
PHOENIX — Proponents of Proposition 122 insist a potentially far-reaching amendment to the Arizona Constitution is necessary to ensure the public gets to monitor how well Arizona does in protecting children.
Postcards being paid for and mailed to voters by the Arizona Republican Party declare “an unconstitutional federal law” forces the state “to hide botched investigations of abused kids.” It features a photo of a young girl with a bruise on her arm crouching in the corner with her teddy bear.
The measure on the November ballot would allow the Legislature — or voters — to declare the new Department of Child Safety will not follow the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, which includes provisions about what can and cannot be publicly released.
But it may not be necessary to amend the state constitution to do that.
“We could get out of CAPTA now if we reject the federal funds,” said Dana Naimark, president of the Children's Action Alliance. Naimark, whose organization has taken no position on Prop. 122, said she objects to proponents of the ballot measure using child-abuse issues to gain support, calling it a “distraction.”
Rep. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, who has been at the forefront of demanding more transparency at DCS, supports Proposition 122.
She acknowledged the problem may not be with the federal child-abuse provision. In fact, she said that law specifically mandates disclosure of information in cases of deaths or near-fatal cases of abuse.
The big problem, she said, is how the state attorneys assigned to the child-welfare agency have chosen to read the federal law, using it as a shield to reject requests for public records.
“They interpret CAPTA so broadly as to make it shut down the access to and flow of information, as opposed to do what CAPTA was intended, which is to facilitate the sharing of information in the case of the death or the near-death of a child,” Brophy McGee said.
As far as whether Proposition 122 will force the state to open up records, “It's another tool in the toolbox,” she said, to ensure the new state agency she helped create is open to disclosure.
In essence, Proposition 122 would permit lawmakers or voters to decide a federal law or program is not “consistent with the (federal) constitution.” If that happens, all state and local governments and school districts would be prohibited from using their workers or funds “to enforce, administer or cooperate with the designated federal action or program.”
Where child abuse comes in is with CAPTA.
On one hand, the law that provides federal dollars to states for child-abuse programs specifically allows disclosure of information in instances of abuse that result in a fatality or near fatality. But other information is considered off limits.
Officials at the now-defunct Child Protective Services for years have cited that law's restrictions in rejecting requests for public records.
Brophy McGee said recent amendments to the law on confidentiality were designed to address some of that.
For example, the statute says records have to be maintained as required by federal law. But they also have declared “all exceptions for the public release of DCS information shall be construed as openly as possible under federal law.”
“Every time we ‘fix' (the law), they go right back to where they were and they cite CAPTA,” Brophy McGee said.
And she said the new DCS is “not doing any better” than the old CPS at being transparent about its operations .
While critics say the disclosure issue could be fixed with more simple changes to state law, businessman Jack Biltis, who is financing much of the pro-122 campaign, said he doubts an amendment to state law would do much.
“CPS has really just been creating excuses not to disclose anything they didn't want to,” he said, and blaming the federal law. He said Proposition 122 would solve that issue.
Biltis acknowledged ignoring the federal law risks losing federal dollars — about $670,000, according to Jennifer Bowser Richards, spokeswoman for DCS.
But Brophy McGee said she doubts there would be a legal fight from the feds if Arizona were to say it is going to make more information public, with or without Proposition 122.
“No state has ever lost funds because of CAPTA violations,” she said.
DCS Director Charles Flanagan would not be interviewed about the issue.
Missouri General Assembly evaluates how to help sexually-abused children
by Brendan Cullerton
Anti-child abuse groups and attorneys told a special Missouri legislative joint-committee Thursday sexually abused children need better post-abuse care.
The state legislature created The Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children during the 2011 session and is now looking into how the task force performed and improvements members think can be made. Everyone giving testimony agreed the state needs to use more resources to provide evidence-based care to victims of sexual abuse.
“The things I have heard, the things I have seen, there is no human being on earth that can experience that and not have some very long-term health issues if the trauma is not addressed,” said Emily van Schenkhof, deputy director of Missouri KidsFirst. “So one of the things the task force is really trying to promote is that any child that has been sexually abused or any child that has been traumatized,they have the ability to be part of an appropriate mental health intervention, and we spend some time trying to heal that child.”
Schenkhof said the state needs to spend a higher proportion of sexual abuse money on the victims, rather than on the perpetrators of sexual abuse. She said little-to-no evidence has shown it is possible to change the behavior of a sex offender older than 30.
Several guardians ad litem, or state attorneys representing children, said a program to better treat psychological issues of the sexually abused should be a top priority in revamping state funding on the issue.
“You watch the forensic interview, you hear the child speak, and that changes you,” Missouri attorney Nicholas Mebruer said. “You know that that will permeate every aspect, every relationship that child will ever have [without adequate interventions].”
Child abuse investigator to speak
ELLENSBURG — Tacoma Police Detective Bradley R. Graham, a specialist in investigating child abuse, will give a public lecture, title “Investigating Child Murder and Abuse,” noon to 1 p.m. Monday at Central Washington University's Dean Hall.
Graham has recently published the comprehensive textbook “Effective Child Abuse Investigation for the Multidisciplinary Team,” according to a news release.
A Chicago native, he earned his master's degree in law and justice from Central Washington University's Kent Center in 2013.
Graham advocates for a multidisciplinary team approach to child abuse investigation and was instrumental in the creation of the protocols used at the Pierce County's Child Advocacy Center at Mary Bridge Hospital in Tacoma.
Graham has been a detective in the Tacoma Police Department since 1997, first in the Criminal Investigations Division, and later in the Domestic Violence Unit. In 2000, he transferred to the Special Assaults Unit.
He specializes in investigating child fatalities and child sexual/physical abuse cases.
Audit chastises Oneida County for repeat child abuse cases
Oneida County's rate of repeat child abuse cases is higher than the state average and more than three times the national average, according to a report from the state Comptroller's Office.
by Elizabeth Cooper
Oneida County's rate of repeat child abuse cases is higher than the state average and more than three times the national average, according to a report from the state Comptroller's Office.
The report measures repeat child abuse as the percentage of children who were the victims of “substantiated allegations” of abuse within six months after an earlier substantiated allegation was reported. In September 2012, the period studied, 19.5 percent of cases qualified. The state average was 12.4 percent and the national average 5.4 percent.
It's the second time Oneida County's Child Protective Services unit has been audited by the comptroller. A 2008 audit found the recurrence rate was 21.8 percent.
Director of Social Services Lucille Soldato, who oversees the Child Protective Services unit, said the department already is tracking trends and analyzing the data, but will redouble those efforts.
Asked why the county's recurrence rate is higher than the state and national average, she said it might have to do with her unit's method of determining what cases merit further investigation.
“We tend to err on the side of caution,” she said. “I would rather have them indicate ‘yes.'”
She said the more cases that are opened, the more likelihood there is for recurrence. She also said many of the cases are bad enough for monitoring but don't rise to the level where a court would remove the children from the home.
The county has enough staff in the unit, she said, and there is nothing that puts the county at a higher level of risk than other counties in the state for child abuse.
The Comptroller's Office selected seven other counties for its study: Dutchess, Livingston, Niagara, Rockland, Saratoga, Ulster and Washington. A state spokesman said the counties were chosen because of their diverse demographics, not because of any previous issues with child protective services.
Though the audit found Oneida County's Child Protective Services unit had followed recommendations given after the 2008 report, some of the problems have persisted.
“The caseworkers and supervisors often told us that there were issues in these families, including mental health concerns, domestic violence and drug or alcohol abuse conditions,” the report said. “However, in all cases the caseworker and supervisor could not think of any other actions they may have taken to prevent recurrence.”
The Comptroller's Office, however, determined that the county's Child Protective Services unit does not track or analyze its recurrence cases, and recommended that the county begin to do so.
“Doing so would help develop a better understanding of why the recurrence occurred or what historically has or has not worked to prevent recurrence,” the report said.
Among the other recommendations:
* Work with the state Office of Children and Family Services to achieve a long-term reduction in recurring cases.
* Examine each recurrence case to determine what might prevent future problems, and adjust actions accordingly.
* Track and analyze recurrence data to identify historical trends and predict future outcomes and prevent future problems.
Seriously, Buzzfeed? Defending Mothers Who Enable Child Abuse?
by Stephanie Edelman
The other week, BuzzFeed published an investigation of what it deemed “grotesque injustice”: cases in which battered women were prosecuted and incarcerated for permitting or enabling child abuse—after their abusive boyfriends or husbands had beaten and murdered their children.
The exposé was not merely sympathetic to these women. It portrayed them as helpless victims, lamenting the many who had “suffered” this fate. The piece was unabashed advocacy—and on behalf of women whom prosecutors, judges, and juries had decided to send to jail for complicity in the murder of their own children despite the anguish of each woman's story. In a sick twist, the tragedy of the real victims in these stories—the children who suffered horrible, violent deaths that their mothers did little to nothing to prevent—was somehow overshadowed by the victimhood of mothers who survived to tell the police how they really had tried to do something.
“Looking back over the past decade,” wrote Alex Campbell, “BuzzFeed News identified 28 mothers in 11 states sentenced to at least 10 years in prison for failing to prevent their partners from harming their children.” Then Campbell played his trump card: “ In every one of these cases, there was evidence the mother herself had been battered by the man. ”
No one would belittle the plight of women in abusive relationships; of course battered women deserve our sympathy and concern…until all of our sympathy is gone because there is a dead two-year-old who might be alive today if his mother has just called the police like her friend told her. To absolve these women of their responsibility is morally bankrupt, but of a piece with a modern liberalism that sees patriarchy and colonialism and racism as exculpatory factors for so many crimes and atrocities.
Doesn't Anyone Care About Abused Children?
I'm a woman and, far from sympathizing with these women, all I could think was how could anyone , much less an innocent child's mother, sit by and watch such sickening violence inflicted on that child and not be compelled to intervene, no matter what the cost? And how could we as a society be expected to condone inaction that leads to the death of a toddler?
This is not an irrational or crazy response—it seems more than a few jurors shared that view, and presumably those juries included men and women, liberals and conservatives. Moreover, in terms of legal process, it is hardly shocking. Laws often make people who are involved in a murder or other violent crime such as child-beating culpable for that violence along with the actual abuser. A mother who knowingly does nothing while her boyfriend hurts her child is legally responsible for that abdication of her duties—and a father would be, as well.
One of the cases centered on a woman who left her three-year-old son alone for hours in an apartment with her boyfriend immediately after he had brutally whipped the toddler, hurled him against a wall, and pressed his foot into the little boy's chest—all in the mother's presence, before locking her out of the apartment.
The mother's reaction? She left her child trapped with his abuser, refused to call the police despite a friend's repeated urging to do so, and spent the day shopping at grocery and beauty stores while her boyfriend continued to brutally torture her son. At her sentencing hearing, she testified that her top priority had been not to remove her child from harm or prevent further abuse, but “to calm her boyfriend down.”
To absolve this woman of any responsibility for this tragedy would mean absolving women of the maternal obligation to nurture and protect their children—children who in this case will suffer most the consequences of their mothers' inaction.
Trivializing Mothers' Responsibilities Is No Small Matter, Either
Absolving these women also trivializes the vocation of motherhood. It undermines the special bond between mothers and their children—which is not the same as the bond between fathers and their children—and overlooks entirely the transcendent aspect of motherhood (or parenthood), the beautiful and poignant idea that in having children, a parent becomes selfless.
More than just a moral imperative to care for children, the idea of an innate maternal instinct is also grounded in science. A 2008 study conducted by scientists in Tokyo determined that the maternal instinct to protect one's child is wired into the brain. Interestingly, a 2012 neurological study indicated that photos of baby's faces trigger biological responses, i.e. specific brain activity, even in childless adults, suggesting a “deeply embedded” response to care for children.
I understand, as BuzzFeed noted, that “victims of domestic violence often suffer ongoing trauma, meaning that the brain does not have time to recover the way it does from a one-off traumatic event,” but I find it hard to believe that such trauma would eradicate a mother's biological instinct to protect her child. Even if it did, do we absolve a child molester because he was molested as a child? Do we absolve a child abuser because his mother beat him? Trauma may be a mitigating factor, but that's why we have juries—and in these cases it seems clear they considered those facts and voted to convict despite them.
Campbell's apologia for mothers who permit child abuse also glosses over women's ability to make difficult choices. Putting a child's needs before her own is one of the fundamental realities all mothers face, and even battered women who fear retaliation from their abusive partners have the option to leave for the sake of their children. Campbell quoted prosecutor Carmen White as saying that “if a violent partner threatened her child” she would “‘sacrifice [her] life 10 times out of 10.'” Easier said than done? Maybe—but I doubt society is quite ready to appoint Buzzfeed as judge and jury in these cases.
All of these women had choices. The Left's continual drive to cast women as victims and prisoners of our own circumstances is demeaning and condescending, not to mention incompatible with any attempt to empower women.
Women have the incredible ability to bring life into the world. The bonds of motherhood should not be taken lightly, and certainly should not be dismissed in favor of stylish liberal activism. The capacity to give birth comes with a weighty responsibility to cherish and care for our children, whatever the cost. And if we utterly fail in that duty, we should not expect, let alone demand, society to abstain from judgment.
Stephanie Edelman is a writer who lives in Washington, DC.
Sheffield Police 'Put Hundreds of Children at Risk of Child Abuse'
by Nick Hallett
Hundreds of children who were at risk of sexual exploitation have been let down by the police, according to a whistleblower.
Ann Lucas, who ran the sexual exploitation service in the city of Sheffield, told the BBC that although she had regularly passed on details of alleged abuse cases, senior officers at South Yorkshire Police refused to act.
The force is already the subject of an investigation following revelations of mass child sex abuse in the town of Rotherham, with police accused of failing to act due the fact the perpetrators were predominantly Muslim.
Sheffield has previously been seen as a model for tackling child abuse, with the local council setting up a specialist unit to deal with young prostitutes in 1997. The unit was deemed so successful that in 2001 the council received funding from the Home Office to create the Sexual Exploitation Service.
However, Ann Lucas, who ran the service from its creation in 1997 until her retirement in 2012, is highly critical of superior officers, whom she accuses of repeatedly ignoring abuse reports.
She said that around 2003 the service started tracking alleged child abusers, the addresses where they were said to be abusing children and their car registration details. Despite the information being passed on to the police, no prosecutions followed.
"There were arrests and child abduction notices [were served], so they might move off that young person," she said, "But without the prosecuting strand being strong, we could divert the person away but with the message [to the abusers] that you could get away with this, so they would move on to other young people."
She also says that in 2006, when the service became aware of allegations of teenage girls being abused by Iraqi Kurdish men, she showed evidence to the chief superintendent of Sheffield. Despite the evidence containing accounts of rape and physical violence such as kicking, punching and burning with cigarettes, the chief superintendent refused to act.
"I was told that [the force's] priorities were burglary and car crime and we had to cope with no extra police resources. It was extraordinary. How could anyone in their right mind think that burglary and car crime is more important than young people being raped?"
South Yorkshire Police have said: "This is a question that only those involved can answer. South Yorkshire Police will look into these allegations and where there is evidence of any misconduct referrals will be made to the IPCC [Independent Police Complaints Commission]."
Couple sentenced to 2,000 years for sexual abuse of a child
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WAAY) – A federal judge sentenced Patricia Allana Ayers, 34, and her husband Matthew David Ayers, 42, to maximum sentences for sexually abusing a minor in their custody and making child pornography.
Patricia was sentenced to 1,590 years in prison. Matthew was sentenced to 750 years in prison by U.S. District Judge L. Scott Coogler.
According to officials the couple produced pornographic images of a child between 2010 and 2013, when the child was six to nine years old.
The photos showed the couple engaging in sexual acts with the child.
In June, Patricia Ayers plead guilty to 53 counts of producing child pornography, and Matthew Ayers plead guilty to 25 counts of producing child pornography.
Judge Coogler said, “I have been on the bench since 1998, and this is the worst case I have personally dealt with, including murders.”
Judge Coogler addressed the couple saying, "You robbed this child of her childhood and her soul, and a maximum sentence is the only sentence appropriate."
The Ayers entered a plea agreement in the case. In the agreement, Patricia Ayers said they took photographs of the child in lewd and lascivious poses, then photographed sexual acts with the child and sent them by email to a man in Texas. According to the plea agreement, she told the man in Texas she would fly the child out so he could have sexual relations with the child.
Joyce White Vance, U.S. Attorney said, "Children must be protected from sexual exploitation, and we remain committed to prosecuting child pornography cases. I thank the FBI for its diligent work on this disturbing case.”
After hearing Wednesday, the couple was placed back into the custody of Lauderdale County. They still face sexual abuse, rape and child pornography charges by the state.
Buckeye man, 18, accused of sexually abusing child for 5 years
by Jessee A. Millard
A Buckeye 18-year-old was arrested and stands accused of sexually abusing a child for five years, according to the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.
Authorities became aware of the allegations against Douglas Cherry, 18, after he told a camp counselor he was sexually active with the child, a Sheriff's Office statement said.
The alleged sexual abuse began when the child was 9 years old and continued through age 14.
In interviews with deputies, Cherry admitted to the ongoing sexual abuse, and the alleged victim confirmed his account, the sheriff's statement said.
Deputies said the child told them she was coerced into participating beginning when she was in third grade and felt she would be beaten if she did not comply.
Cherry is being held in a Maricopa County jail without bond and faces 11 felony charges related to molestation of a minor, sexual assault, sexual abuse and sexual conduct with a minor, the statement said.
Arrest in Case of Dead Babies
The Canadian police said Wednesday that they had charged a woman with concealing the bodies of six infants in a storage locker, but that they were not considering it a homicide.
The police in Winnipeg, Manitoba, found what officers initially thought were four babies' bodies on Monday after being alerted by a storage company.
Andrea Giesbrecht, 40, also known as Andrea Naworynski, who had rented the locker, was charged with six counts of concealing bodies and breaching probation connected to previous incidents of fraud.
Former Elementary School Teacher Arrested on Child Abuse and Drug Charges
by Vita McHale
FAYETTEVILLE- The sheriff's office said 31-year-old Stacey Kolmodin's actions sent an 11-year-old child to the hospital.
From Sept. 18-Oct. 18 Kolmodin babysat the 11 year old who had numerous medical illnesses. Sometime during that time Kolmodin took the child's Tylenol with Codeine liquid prescription, and replaced it with another liquid that looked the same.
"The child was still taking the medication as prescribed by the doctor. But it wasn't the original prescription, it was the counterfeit one,” said Debbie Tanna with the sheriff's office. “As a result of that, developed some type of allergic reaction and had to be taken to the hospital for that."
She faces several charges including child abuse and creating a counterfeit controlled substance.
Kolmodin is a former teacher at Glendale Acres Elementary School. Tanna said Kolmodin was relieved of her duties in April after she was seen snorting a powdery substance at her desk.
"We discovered it was cocaine, and fortunately there were no students in the classroom at the time. They were actually out of the classroom on a recess," said Tanna.
According to the sheriff's office, Kolmodin's illegal activity began when she started to ‘Doctor Shop' obtaining multiple Percocet prescriptions.
"It shows you that addiction can impact any class of person,” said Tanna. “It also shows us that we have greater access to those types of medications than we have ever had before."
Child advocates urge parents to do thorough background checks on all babysitters.
Roberta Humphries with the Child Advocacy Center suggested regulating the amount of medication babysitters have access to.
"You could just leave that appropriate dose that they need to give,” said Humphries. “Maybe you would just extract out what they need to give to the child for that one night."
Kolmodin told investigators that her addiction began after she was prescribed medication for a surgery.
Parents of duct-taped Highlands student don't want charges
by The Associated Press
The parents of an autistic high school soccer player who was duct-taped to a goal post in a prank earlier this month don't want charges filed against two students involved if they apologize and do community service, the parents' lawyer said Monday after he and his clients met with local officials.
Attorney Phil DiLucente said the parents of 16-year-old Austin Babinsack of Natrona Heights don't want to see police file juvenile court charges against the two upperclassmen provided they meet the specified conditions, which also would include getting autism awareness training. He said the details must still be ironed out.
“I don't think, nor do the parents think, it will be necessary to press charges,” DiLucente said.
The attorney was working with Harrison Township police Chief Michael Klein and Highlands School District Superintendent Michael Bjalobok on a resolution after the player's parents, John and Kristi Babinsack, met with the superintendent, DiLucente said.
“The Babinsacks have never been interested in suing anyone; (they) just want a fair disposition of the situation,” DiLucente said.
The district has also agreed to intervene and prevent any more social media bullying that Austin has allegedly endured since his parents went public about the Oct. 5 incident.
“The meeting is an opportunity to draw some closure to the incident, to make sure the process of mending and healing takes place, and to make sure parents of the students involved know there is an action plan for the future,” Bjalobok said.
Officials have not released the names of the other players involved, though school officials have confirmed the boys — both upperclassmen — were suspended for five days and otherwise disciplined.
The duct-taping occurred on a night when underclassmen toilet paper the houses of senior players, usually the same week as the team's final home game known as Senior Night. The Senior Night game was canceled in the wake of the duct-taping incident.
Some past players have said it was understood — by players and parents — that a younger player would be duct-taped as part of the toilet-papering tradition which dates back several years. But DiLucente disputed that Monday.
“The parents know from the boosters that there is toilet papering of senior's homes, everybody knows that happens on that night. But it is not a ritual that someone gets taped to the soccer goal post,” DiLucente said, even if it has happened on occasion in the past.
And targeting Austin was out of bounds given his disability, DiLucente said.
“He was screaming at the top of his lungs,” DiLucente said, according to witnesses who helped free the boy after about 20 minutes. “That's a little bit off the range, and that's unnecessary and that's hurtful.”
The attorney said soccer coach Jim Turner's status wasn't discussed at the meeting. School officials have said the coach was suspended pending a resolution of the matter. Turner's attorney, Julian Neiser, told the AP he wasn't aware of Monday's meeting and knows of no change in the coach's status. Neiser has said the coach was not aware of the duct-taping and didn't condone it.
Minnesota dioceses sign abuse settlements, pledge to protect children
by CNA Daily News
St. Paul, Minn., Oct 21, 2014 / 07:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Two dioceses in Minnesota have reached undisclosed financial settlements with a victim of clergy abuse, promising to implement and abide by policies intended to protect children, and to report perpetrators.
“I am deeply saddened and profoundly sorry for the pain suffered by victims, survivors and their families,” Archbishop John Nienstedt of Saint Paul and Minneapolis said Oct. 13. He added that the agreement is a “significant step closer” to help survivors heal and “to restore trust with our clergy and faithful.”
He said that the archdiocese's agreement with an abuse victim is “a historic moment in our efforts to assure the safety of children and vulnerable adults.”
Bishop John Quinn of Winona said his diocese is “ashamed of the horrific crimes” that former priest Thomas Adamson perpetuated against children.
“We are committed to ensuring the safety of the children entrusted to our care in our schools and in our parishes,” he said Oct. 13.
Bishop Quinn said that the diocese has committed to child protection protocols as part of the settlement which will “further help to ensure the safety of all of God's children.”
Both the settlements, from the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis and from the Diocese of Winona, concerned a lawsuit from a victim of Adamson. Adamson admitted to the sexual molestation of at least ten teens while working as a priest in both dioceses. He said he attempted to abuse even more, the NBC affiliate KARE11 reports.
Although the abuse of the plaintiff took place in the 1970s, the lawsuit could proceed because of a change to state law in 2013. The change expanded a three-year window in the state's statute of limitations for sex abuse lawsuits, the Associated Press says.
The lawsuits alleged that Catholic leaders created a public nuisance by failing to warn parishioners about Adamson's sexual abuse.
The legal agreement with the plaintiff and the plaintiff's attorney Jeff Anderson means the dioceses will abide by a set of child protection protocols developed by diocesan officials and by Anderson's law firm, Jeff Anderson and Associates.
Archbishop Nienstedt said the agreement will strengthen collaboration to address sex abuse.
“I pray that this local Church will continue to be inspired by the Word of God to respond to the needs of those who have been harmed and seek healing as we move forward toward a new day for this archdiocese as well as for our local community.”
Some of the archdiocese's existing policies are already more extensive than the settlement's protocols; these will remain in place.
The agreement requires “ongoing” public disclosure of substantiated allegations of sex abuse. It bars the dioceses from conducting their own internal investigations of abuse and them from interfering with law enforcement investigations.
The agreement also requires the two dioceses to work to secure a signed statement from every member of the clergy in each diocese affirming that they have not committed sexual abuse of a minor. The clergy must also affirm that they have no knowledge of abuse of a minor by another priest of the archdiocese or employee of the archdiocese that has not been reported to law enforcement and to the archdiocese. The protocol exempts knowledge of abuse learned in the confessional.
Bishop Quinn said most of the protocols were previously adopted and implemented by the Winona diocese. He said the agreement “demonstrates our resolve and conviction to take every possible step to ensure the safety of all God's children.”
The bishop said the Diocese of Winona is committed to providing support and healing for “those who have been tragically abused by clergy.”
“We encourage anyone that has been abused recently or in the past to report the abuse to civil authorities.”
Representatives of both dioceses said that they could declare bankruptcy due to future abuse-related litigation or legal settlements.
In Britain, Child Sex Abuse Defies Easy Stereotypes
by KATRIN BENNHOLD
LONDON — First there was abuse at the hands of a popular BBC host. There were scandals at private schools and in the church and talk of a pedophile ring in Parliament. Then there was Rotherham: over a thousand teenagers sexually exploited as the authorities looked away.
Over the past two years, high-profile revelations of sexual abuse of children have painted a picture of Britain as a place where such abuse is not just endemic but systematically covered up — either because the perpetrators are of the very highest status or because the victims are of the very lowest.
There are two lessons here, scholars and officials say. The first is that sexual abuse is far more common than previously believed: Currently, 2,500 children in England have child protection plans because they are deemed to be at risk of sexual abuse. But the police now speak publicly of “tens of thousands” of victims a year.
The second lesson is that the main driver of abuse is impunity: “Abuse happens in a context of permissibility,” said Helen Beckett, an expert on the subject at the University of Bedfordshire.
Whether Britain's lingering class system has made abuse more permissible is an open question, she said. But fixating on a particular stereotype — the white celebrity or the pedophile priest or the Pakistani taxi driver — may allow other perpetrators to go undetected.
In 2012, it emerged that Jimmy Savile, a former children's television host and BBC staple who died in 2011, had raped scores of children as colleagues and the police turned a blind eye. Mr. Savile, who was a friend of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, used his charity work to gain access to his victims in schools and hospitals. Since then, Rolf Harris, 84, once a popular television entertainer; Max Clifford, 71, a well-known publicist; and Stuart Hall, 84, another former BBC broadcaster, have been among those convicted for offenses involving children.
Meanwhile, in July, Britons learned of allegations that Cyril Smith, a former member of Parliament who died in 2010, abused boys in a care home in his constituency. The allegations against him and others were detailed in a file prepared three decades ago by a crusading lawmaker who described a pedophile ring of “big, big names.” But the file mysteriously disappeared.
Nothing, it seemed, could still shock this country — but in August an outside report on the northern town of Rotherham exploded in the headlines: At least 1,400 white girls had been abused, raped and trafficked by groups of men, mostly of Pakistani heritage, from 1997 to 2013.
Simon Bailey, the lead officer on child abuse for the Association of Chief Police Officers, last week warned of “many more Rotherhams to come.”
The abusers relied on powerful stereotypes, said Alexis Jay, the author of the Rotherham report, most prominently the idea of lower-class girls being problematic and promiscuous. The police routinely referred to 12-year-old victims as “prostitutes” or worse.
Now, of course, another powerful stereotype risks taking hold: that of the Asian perpetrator and the white victim. The legacy of Rotherham, Ms. Beckett warned, must not be to replace one set of blinkers with another. “If we focus too much on the race factor, we inadvertently give the message that you don't have to look at risk anywhere else,” she said.
Sue Berelowitz, the deputy children's commissioner, recounted how during a visit to a police station the top search term on the internal profiling system was “Asian male.” She asked what would happen if the perpetrator was non-Asian and was told, “We're not looking for those,” she recalled in an interview.
“The blindness is fascinating,” said Ms. Berelowitz, adding that the same was true for victims. “Ethnic minority victims are falling through the cracks.”
Her concerns were echoed by Mr. Bailey, who warned that “an unhealthy focus” on the Asian-on-white model of abuse overshadows the bigger picture. “That bigger picture is that 90 percent of child sexual abuse takes place in the home,” he told The Guardian last week.
But when it comes to child abuse, stereotypes die hard. “It's easier to report that a particular ethnic group is guilty or that victims are troubled,” Ms. Beckett said. “No one wants to believe this could happen to someone near them.”
Child abuse cases on rise
Comptroller says rate of recurrence in 6-month period increased to 21.5%
by Dennis Yusko
Saratoga County needs to do more to combat child abuse and cases of repeated neglect, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in an audit. The county's Social Services commissioner disputed the findings, saying the state review did not account for multiple variables.
The recurrence rate in Saratoga County, or percentage of abused children who were neglected more than once in a six-month period, increased to 21.5 percent in September 2012 from 14.9 percent in March 2008, according to the state Comptroller's Office in a report released last week. An annual average of 361 child mistreatment cases were recorded in the county during the four-and-a-half years, with an average recurrence rate of 18.6 percent, according to the state. That was far higher than the state's 12.4 percent rate and more than three times the national standard of 5.4 percent in 2012, the comptroller said.
"The county's actions have not been sufficient to reduce its child abuse and neglect recurrence rate," the audit stated.
The audit reviewed Child Protective Services in Saratoga, Washington, Ulster, Dutchess, Livingston, Niagara, Oneida and Rockland counties to determine if the units were working to lower their recurrence rates.
It said the Saratoga County Department of Social Services did not fully implement a program improvement plan designed to reduce recidivism, and should better track substantiated allegations of repeat child abuse so it can reduce its recurrence rate. While the county began tracking repeat cases in May 2012, it should fully analyze data from the cases to provide more proactive measures to reduce neglect, the comptroller's report said.
State auditors interviewed county workers and supervisors to learn what they might have done differently to prevent recurrences of maltreatment.
"These caseworkers and supervisors often told us that the caregiver or other individual residing in the home had mental health issues or a drug-use condition," the audit states. "However, in all cases, the caseworker and supervisor could not think of any other actions they may have taken to prevent a recurrence. The county does not require re-examination of recurrence cases and does not do so."
Tina Potter, commissioner of the Saratoga County Social Services Department, told DiNapoli's office last year the county would prepare a corrective action plan to improve its performance. But in an interview on Monday, she defended her office's work. She said state auditors had incorrectly included some non-abuse reports in the county's recurrence numbers and wrongly compared state statistics with other states that operate under different reporting standards.
"The report does have some misrepresentation of reality because recurrence is such a complex issue that is impacted by many factors," Potter said.
The county did not fully implement its program improvement plan because of significant delays in attaining required training from the state Office of Children and Family Services, Potter noted. The county applied for the training in October 2009 but did not receive it until September 2010, according to the audit. Additionally, the county's family meeting facilitator was promoted to a new position, which caused additional delays, according to the state.
County caseworkers counted 328 child abuse and neglect cases from November 2013 to September 2014, and its recurrence rate dropped to 9 percent during that time, Potter said.
"It takes time to have a result," she said.
The audit also found Washington County made "significant progress" in reducing its child abuse and neglect recurrence rate to 11.6 percent from 20.3 percent over the same four-and-a-half-year period. As with Saratoga County, the report noted Washington County's rate is nearly double the national of 5.4 percent.
The comptroller's office similarly suggested Washington County analyze its cases to better understand recurrences.
In January 2010, Washington County implemented a state-approved alternative response program but the audit said the county has not formally evaluated the program to determine if it reduced recurrences.
A spokesperson for the state comptroller's office could not be reached Monday to discuss the audits.
For more information
For information about child abuse preventive services in Saratoga County, call the Department of Social Services' Children's Services Unit at 884-4151 or 884-4152. To make a report, call the Child Abuse and Maltreatment Hotline at 1-800-342-3720.
Yolo County hosted statewide conference on helping child abuse victims
by The Woodland Daily Democrat
More than 130 child abuse professionals attended the Children's Advocacy Centers of California Annual Summit "How Ongoing Trauma Affects Children and Child Abuse Professionals" at the Woodland Community & Senior Center last week.
The workshop offered information from experts on how to avoid inflicting additional trauma on child victims of abuse and sexual assault and was attended by police officers, child welfare social workers, therapists, child forensic interviewer specialists, deputy district attorneys, and probation officers.
In addition, there was discussion on dealing with the trauma that professionals experience when working with these crimes. Participants traveled to Woodland from Southern California and there was an international five-member team from Zambia. This Global Alliance for Health-sponsored study group is spending the month visiting California courts, district attorney's offices, police departments and child interview centers to observe best practices for investigating child abuse and domestic violence crimes.
Al Killen-Harvey, clinical supervisor at the Chadwick Center for Children and Families in San Diego, spoke during the morning session of the conference.
He stated that a lack of awareness and formal training in trauma can cause additional inadvertent trauma to these very vulnerable victims. He indicated that sounds, smells, or even a simple question can trigger another traumatic event for these victims.
Killen-Harvey noted that, "It is crucial that we understand how the kids feel and avoid dehumanizing them. We are asking them to describe to us something that was not a pleasurable event and which was overwhelming," and that these children are especially vulnerable because the crime caused them to lose control over their lives and bodies and the mere asking them what happened can cause more trauma.
Killen-Harvey encouraged the participants to look for ways to give these victims some choice or control. He says it can be as simple as allowing the child to select their seat, taking a break when they want, and letting them know that it is OK to break down emotionally.
He stated, "A little piece of control can be enough when they currently feel that they cannot control anything."
He also said that trauma experienced at a young age is the most damaging. Infants who are exposed to the sounds of domestic violence are known to later show related trauma-induced behavior. He said those exposed to domestic violence can actually be worse off than those physically assaulted in a domestic violence incident.
The afternoon workshop featured Dr. Nancy Bohl-Penrod, of the Counseling Team International based in San Bernardino.
Bohl-Penrod has been providing trauma support services and training to law enforcement since 1983, including natural disasters and Sept. 11 survivors in New York She stated that "repeated exposure to suffering children" is among the four top police officer stressors.
Dr. Bohl-Penrod noted that many people do not realize the impact of stress until they are burned out with "compassion fatigue." Compassion fatigue includes having calloused indifference towards others, losing interest in life, work and love ones and having difficulty sleeping and making decisions.
This state of anhedonia — inability to experience pleasure — needs to be addressed, Dr. Bohl-Penrod said. Having terror dreams can help because it may mean that the brain is trying to make sense of the situation. She told the audience that a supportive workplace network is important.
The Children's Advocacy Centers of California is a membership organization helping local communities respond to child abuse allegations while putting the needs of the child victim first.
The Oct. 16 conference was hosted by the Yolo County Multi-Disciplinary Interview Center and Yolo County District Attorney's Office.
Victim blaming isn't the answer
by Dawn McDevitt
There has been a lot of media coverage about domestic violence since the release of the Ray Rice video in which he punched his then fiancé, Janay Palmer, in the face. It seems no matter what you turn on; from sports channels to talk shows, both local and national news to the President; our local schools, dinner tables and grocery store, people are weighing in on this issue. Some discussions have been in a positive light while others have not. What disappoints me is that this is not a new concern, but one that gets ignored, overlooked, or passed off as someone else's issue, until a video is released.
In 2012, Kansas City Chief's Linebacker Javon Belcher, shot and killed his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins, in front of his mother and 3 month old baby. He then left his residence and drove to Arrowhead Stadium where he shot and killed himself in front of his coaching staff. Why didn't we hear more about this? Simply, there was no video, people didn't actually witness this tragic event. If you look at professional sports and domestic violence you will find a very long list of athletes charged with assault; stalking; rape; and homicide, some have been homicide/suicide. Until the video of Ray Rice was released NFL players were only punished with a 2 game suspension for beating up their significant other, while marijuana possession cost them a 13 game suspension. Sadly it has taken a video for the sports arena and the world to take notice. And what about Janay Palmer Rice? She not only was a victim of domestic violence, but has been re-victimized over and over again by the media and the public. I have heard so many victim blaming statements such as; “He lost his career because of her”; “she got what she deserved”; “if it is that bad why did she marry him, or why doesn't she just leave”'. This truly saddens me, and it reminds me that there is a lack of education on the issue of domestic violence.
Domestic Violence is not an anger issue. Perpetrators of violence do not go around hitting their friends or co-workers, they don't just “lose it”, they pick a specific and safe target. They tend to suffer from low self-esteem, they are jealous, possessive and need to be “in control”. Domestic violence is all about the power and control over another person. It is a pattern of assaultive, controlling and coercive behaviors that include physical, sexual, verbal, and psychological attacks against a victim and children. Domestic Violence is not just an issue that the National Football League or other professional sports team face, it happens every day to people of any race, color, religion, economic status, ethnic background, or gender. On average, nearly 20 people per minute are victims of physical violence by an intimate partner in the United States.* One in 5 women (22%) and 1 in 7 men (14%) reported experiencing severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. 1.3 million women each year are victims of domestic violence.
To bring this closer to home almost 75% of Alaskans have experienced or know someone who has experienced domestic violence or sexual assault. Alaska has the highest rate per capita of men murdering women. According to the current Seward, Alaska Population Demographic stats for 2013 & 2014 the total female population in Seward is 1,024. Of these 1,024 females 117 of them are between the ages of 15-24 years old. Statistics show that one in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, what does that mean for our community? Out of the 117 females ages 15-24, 29 of them will be victims of domestic violence.
What about the children who grow up in domestic violence homes? Boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults. Girls who grow up in abusive homes tend to be abused as adults because that is what they are taught as children. That is what they experience, that is what they observe, and what is reinforced to them. 68-80% of children witness domestic violence and 80-90% of children that witness domestic violence can give detailed descriptions of those violent incidents. Child abuse is 15 times more likely to occur in households where domestic violence is present, and children who witness abuse often display the same emotional responses as children who have been physically and emotionally abused. Children who witness domestic violence can regress to earlier developmental stages, such as bed wetting, they have medical problems, they identify with the aggressor, worry, have difficulty concentrating and paying attention, nightmares or having trouble sleeping, temper tantrums, fighting with others, hurting other children or animals, depression, they withdraw from others, they have excessive fear and anxiety, and suicide attempts. The impact of violence is different for children depending on the type of violence, pattern of violence, and age of the child.
In honor of October being domestic violence awareness month it is my hope to give you a better understanding of what a victim of domestic violence endures; to help you understand why they stay in their abusive relationships, and how dangerous it is for them to leave. 4 survivors, myself included, will share our stories. I hope you listen with your heart to the seriousness of what domestic violence is, not only to the victim but the children as well. I want you to look at the stats above and think of the females in your life that matter to you. Would you want them to be safe and someone to help them if they were in danger instead of turning the other way and ignoring it? Domestic violence will not go away if we continue to not address the problem. We must speak up, let others know that this behavior is not acceptable and we will not tolerate it in our communities. It is time for us to talk to our children and teach them about healthy relationships and respect, and model that behavior in our own lives. It is time to say no more to domestic violence. Victims should not have to hide behind closed doors or feel shame. Instead of people asking “why doesn't she just leave” we should be asking “why does the perpetrator batter”!
If you or someone you know are in a domestic violence relationship and need help- we are here for you. SeaView Community Service's Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Program offers a variety of services which include: shelter nights, help accessing legal services, accompaniment to court proceedings, help with legal documents, emergency transportation, help with the following applications: housing, WIC, Food stamps, Denali Kid Care, etc. We can connect you with Counseling, substance abuse programs, and we work with the Child Advocacy Center and OCS. If you need help or more information please call our office today at 907-22-5257 or our 24-Hour Crisis Line at 907-224-3027. If you are in immediate danger please call 9-1-1
Ursula's story: Know the signs and accept that you are being abused
by Paula Carrasquilllo
BETHESDA, Maryland, October 21, 2014 — Ursula* is a survivor of domestic violence and pathological abuse living, raising her child and healing in The United States.
My relationship started off wonderful. I thought I had met the man of my dreams. He was nice, charming, always buying me gifts and we had this crazy chemistry.
After we started living together, things slowly changed. If I wanted to spend time with my friends, he would talk bad about them and make me feel guilty for hanging out with them. He almost ruined one of my friend's marriages, and I lost her friendship. She had been my best friend since we were 3; I was 22-23 at the time.
I also lost another lifelong friend because of him. He caused a huge fight between the two of us, and she stopped speaking to me. He convinced me that both of my two best friends were horrible friends and were not there for me like they should have been. By the end of our relationship, I only had one friend who stuck it out with me.
Other things came about during our relationship. He wanted to start doing online porn. This was something I never, ever wanted to do. I kept refusing for months. Right before we were to get married, he purchased both of us new vehicles. Shortly after buying the cars, he brought up the website again and told me that I could not have the wedding I wanted without doing the website, claiming we did not have the money since we had new vehicles. I felt as though I had no choice.
He had an extreme sexual addiction. At the time, I was so confused and did not realize what was actually happening. He used to be obsessed with increasing his penis size, always wanted his friends to join our relationship and there was no way I allowed to ever refuse him sex.
During our marriage, things got even worse. I was told what to wear and eat, when to sleep and shower and how to fold and wash clothes. Everything. I was also never allowed to go anywhere without him. I could never just have two minutes of peace.
Eventually, he sold the house we were living in because he wanted to buy a lot and build a home near his family. We had to move in with his Grandma. We had a nine-month old baby, living in his Grandma's duplex. He told me it would only be for a year. After the one-year mark, we had so many problems, and I moved out.
After leaving, I discovered he became a member of an “adult” website to look for sex. I filed for divorce two weeks later and that is when my real nightmare began. He threatened me over the phone that our daughter would go from having two parents to having zero. I would not let him see our daughter the next day, because he was too angry. I told him that once he was calm enough to speak to me, he could see her. My intentions were never to keep her from him. I just was afraid I would not get her back, as he would take advantage of the situation using my daughter to get what he wanted.
The next day, social services came to my apartment. I told my husband that our daughter was staying with my parents while I was at work. He told social services that my daughter was being sexually abused by my mom. My mom was a victim of sexual abuse in her past, and he tried to use that knowledge as the reason behind his false claim. My daughter was almost two at this point.
After he accused my mother, I filed a restraining order. After a year and half, we finally went to court for trial. He prolonged everything and ordered me to do a custody evaluation. He claimed I was an unfit mother and that I was crazy. It was a nightmare; custody evaluations are a joke.
After three days in court, which I spent a day and a half being attacked by his attorney who was just as nuts as him, I won primary care of my daughter. Currently, he is on his third appeal. This process and trying to get away from him has cost me close to $50,000 but has been worth every penny.
During the relationship, we would get along great until I wanted to do something he did not approve. He fought with me and turned things around and tried convincing me that I was the one who started the arguments. We argued in circles. I am an easygoing person and normally just go with the flow, but arguments with him ended with me giving up. It was easier. Then, after a big blow up, he would give me flowers or buy a massage for me. He would then say, “See. I am a great guy, and you just don't know how good you have it.”
I was constantly criticized about my weight, while simultaneously being told I should be proud of my body and that I needed to wear more skimpy clothes and shorts. Everything was just always so confusing.
It took me awhile to figure this out, but I loved him with everything I had. He did not love me in return. He acted the part very well; but if he really did love me, he would not have forced me to do things I did not want to do sexually or otherwise. Plus, He blamed me for everything in our relationship. His favorite line was, “You always tell me no.” Even if I said yes 199 times and on the 200th time said no , he accused of me always saying no .
He often embarrassed me in front of his friends and was always the clown of the group. He had this thing with getting naked and showing his body off to his friends or my friends; it was very embarrassing.
After our daughter was born, he made me feel like I was not good enough at being a mother to her. When I was pregnant with her, he would not let me pick colors for the bedroom. We argued so much that he threw a glass of water at me; and when I started crying he said, “Oh, come on. Water doesn't hurt. Why are you crying?” Even on the witness stand when asked if there was one thing I do better than him as a parent, he said, “Well, she could breastfeed, and I couldn't.”
I started to see a counselor on my own, because things were such a mess and at the time; I did not understand what was happening. I thought I was a terrible wife and mother. I confessed everything to the counselor, because everything was eating me up inside. She explained to me that the things I was describing were not about me.
After the counseling, things got worse. I hoped that he would eventually outgrow certain behaviors, but things kept getting worse and worse. I started to call out the things he was doing and that upset him. He used to poke me in the car just to torture me. The counselor said that was abuse, which shocked me. When confronted, he started laughing and said he was joking and that I, of course, blew it out of proportion and could not take a joke.
We went back to the counselor one more time after this, and he convinced me he was sorry and that we could work this out on our own. He suggested that we talk over coffee, because he knows that is my favorite.
To escape the pain, I turned to food and excessively cleaned.
My biggest challenge since the end of the relationship has been trying to communicate with him for the sake of my daughter. Every time I have let my guard down a little, it turns out to be a set-up to involve his lawyer. Thankfully, these set ups have not worked for him. He now claims he is a changed and Godly man. I hate to say it, but I know it is just an act. He is extreme with Church; everything about him is to the extreme.
I still do not think I have fully recovered. Some days, I feel really good; other days, I am angry and so very sad. I attend counseling and am refocusing my thinking and attitude on myself. The one wonderful thing since moving out is having my freedom. Unfortunately, at the same time, I am paranoid. There are times when I feel like he is there or watching me. It is very odd.
I used to keep everything to myself, because I thought I was the one who caused all the problems in our relationship. Now, I find that talking about what happened and constant things he is doing is helpful.
My advice to someone experiencing and struggling with a similar situation is to first believe and realize that abuse is happening to you. After the counselor said the word abuse , a light turned on in my head. I could not get that thought out of my head, so I went online and looked for books trying to see what this was about. I ordered two books and had them sent to my friend's house. I read them and kept them at work. I was stunned at some of the things I was reading, describing exactly what I was going through.
I feel I was taken advantage of and that I finally came to a breaking point. Not until you are at that breaking point can you make the next step. Once you stand up to your abuser and are firm, your abuser will become more angry. So prepare yourself. If at all possible, distance yourself quickly and keep communication minimal.
Once you are away and not living in that environment, you tend to forget the bad. It is easy to get sucked back in, but they never change.
Teacher Ashley Zehnder Faces Sex Charge After Nude Photo Emerges: Cops
by Simon McCormack
Accusations of teacher-student sexual contact emerged after nude photos of the teacher made the rounds at her high school, cops said.
Ashley Zehnder, a 24-year-old biology teacher and assistant cheerleading coach at Pasadena High School in Pasadena, Texas, faces the felony charge of having an improper relationship with a member of the cheer squad, according to Click2Houston.com.
Authorities began investigating after Zehnder came to school administrators, upset about a naked picture circulating amongst students, KTRK reports.
Under questioning by police, the 17-year-old said he and Zehnder engaged in sex between May and August of this year.
According to an affidavit obtained by the Smoking Gun, the victim told police he received the Snapchat photo of Zehnder and sent it to friends.
Zehnder initially denied the allegations, but, the affidavit said, she later admitted to having sex with the student after she was shown text messages between herself and the student.
KHOU got reaction from parents and students to Zehnder's arrest.
"I think it's wrong. You're of age. You should know better," Mary Leyha, a parent in the community, said. "I mean, there's lots of men. Why you gotta go get a kid and get in trouble for it? I think it's stupid."
Dead Infants Found In U-Haul Storage Locker In Canada
by Andy Campbell
Police in Winnipeg, Canada say that the bodies of several infants were found in a U-Haul storage locker on Monday night.
CBC News first reported the "gruesome scene," where four bodies were discovered in various states of decomposition. An employee at the facility originally called police after the remains caught his or her attention. It wasn't immediately clear how long the bodies had been in the locker, but police told reporters that a woman who was renting the locker has been interviewed.
Winnipeg police said at a press conference that the incident is "suspicious," but it wasn't immediately clear if there was foul play involved. That said, it's illegal to store human remains without authorization, police spokesman Const. Eric Hofley said.
"Obviously, you're not allowed to store or conceal human remains. That in itself would be a charge," he said. "Until the autopsies have determined what is the cause of this, we won't know what the full extent of the charges may or may not be."
The Winnipeg Free Press reached out to U-Haul:
"U-Haul team members made a disturbing discovery when taking inventory of a delinquent storage locker on Monday. They immediately contacted law enforcement who believed the locker contained human remains," said Razmin Mansoub, marketing company president for U-Haul Company of Central Canada.
"U-Haul is deeply shocked and saddened by this discovery."
The babies' ages and causes of death weren't released pending autopsies. Police wouldn't release any more details citing an ongoing investigation.
Advocates needed for victims of child abuse
ST. JOHNS — October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the Court Appointed Special Advocate Program of Apache County is encouraging the community to take action.
Research indicates a strong connection between domestic violence and child abuse, and CASA of Apache County is currently seeking new volunteers to advocate for these abused and neglected children in court.
According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, one or more children witness domestic violence in Arizona every 44 minutes. In addition, up to 60 percent of perpetrators of partner violence also abuse their children.
The effects of domestic violence on children are significant and can include feelings ranging from fear and anxiety to isolation and worthlessness.
CASA of Apache County recognizes that domestic violence is child abuse and is actively recruiting community volunteers to speak up for the best interest of abused and neglected children.
Currently in Apache County, there are about 73 children that have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect. Despite this alarming number, there are currently only five active CASA volunteers that are advocating for these children in court.
“These children who have been removed from their home due to abuse or neglect are our most vulnerable citizens,” says Stephanie Fink, program coordinator for CASA of Apache County.
“As a CASA, you can literally change the path this child's life is headed for. You can be the difference between that child languishing in foster care, or finding a permanent home where they can be healthy, happy, and safe.”
She added that CASA volunteers serve as critical figures in the lives of children who have suffered from abuse or neglect. For many children, their CASA volunteer is the only consistent adult presence they have experienced in their lifetime.
After receiving special training and being appointed by a judge, CASA volunteers gather all of the information involving a child's case and make formal recommendations to the court on the child's behalf.
For more information on CASA of Apache County, contact Stephanie Fink at 928-337-3552 or visit: www.CASA ofApacheCounty.org
More about CASA
The CASA program is administered by the Arizona Supreme Court and has offices in all 15 Arizona counties. County programs recruit and train community-based volunteers to speak up for the rights of abused and neglected children in court. CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to foster children who have the greatest need for an advocate.
Volunteers do not provide placement or a home for the child, but are strictly advocates who submit their recommendations directly to the judge hearing a child's case. CASA volunteers complete 30 hours of training to prepare them for their duties.
Child Abuse Statistics
• In the six month period of October 2013 to March 2014, the statewide Child Abuse Hotline received 22,956 calls that met the statutory criteria for a report.
• Neglect is the most common form of child abuse followed by physical abuse.
• Reports of child abuse and neglect have been consistently rising in Arizona since 2010.
• As of March 2014, there were 15,751 children in out-of-home care.
• The majority of children in out-of-home care in Arizona have a case plan goal of family reunification (54 percent).
• Volunteers must be at least 21 years old.
• Volunteers go through a rigorous screening process including interviews, reference check, a fingerprint check, and polygraph exam.
• Volunteers are asked to make a commitment to one case until its conclusion, typically involving 10-20 hours per month.
• Volunteers must complete 30 hours of pre-service training.
• CASA volunteers are advocates, not mentors. Their objective is to help the court system determine the best outcome for the child.
• CASA volunteers try to build a 360-degree view of the child and his or her surroundings. To do this, they meet with teachers, counselors, physicians, and guardians.
• CASA volunteers work to ensure that children are in safe, permanent homes where they can thrive.
NJ Senator targets unreported child abuse
by Dino Flammia
Triggered by the alleged sexual hazing scandal at Sayreville War Memorial High School, upcoming legislation in Trenton would increase the penalties for adults who fail to report instances of child abuse.
Under the measure to be sponsored by state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), adults with supervisory positions involving minors – teachers, coaches, and camp counselors among others – would be subject to a fourth-degree crime if they know about abuse and choose not to report it.
“If someone sees child abuse, and they're in a caregiver's position, they have to have a heightened responsibility to report these crimes,” Lesniak said. “They can't just turn their backs to it or close their eyes to it.”
Currently, non-reporting is treated as a disorderly persons offense in New Jersey. Jail time would be possible under the legislation, depending on the severity of the case.
It was recently reported that a number of Sayreville High teachers who also coach football have been suspended with pay as a criminal investigation continues into allegations of extreme hazing within the program. Seven teens were charged.
The bill is also in response to alleged child abuse by NFL star Adrian Peterson, who has been benched by the Minnesota Vikings and recently pleaded not guilty to a charge of felony child abuse for using a wooden switch to discipline his 4-year-old son earlier this year.
Lesniak said child abuse is “too often unreported” in New Jersey and across the country.
“This will make a statement that child abuse is a serious offense and must be dealt with seriously as well,” he said. “And we all have a responsibility, specifically those in caregiver positions, to report any case of child abuse.”
The problem with religious sex abuse reporting
by ELIYAHU FEDERMAN
In the rush to report salacious abuse stories, the media often fail to report positive developments in the religious world's fight to address child sexual abuse.
The mainstream media extensively cover clergy sexual abuse. Giving voice to victims and exposing sexual abuse cover-ups in the religious world is more than newsworthy. The appalling hypocrisy, breach of trust by “men of the cloth,” and shocking nature of clergy abuse generates high ratings and deserving outrage.
But in the rush to report salacious abuse stories, the media often fail to report positive developments in the religious world's fight to address child sexual abuse.
This one-sided coverage inadvertently maligns the religious world by perpetuating myths that nothing is being done to combat sexual abuse, and that abuse is far more prevalent in the religious world than the general population.
Recently, for example, the mainstream media ignored a hassidic community's historic sexual abuse awareness event, organized by the Brooklyn-based sexual abuse prevention organization JCW. Hundreds attended, including rabbis, teachers, professionals, parents, and even Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson. At the event, hassidic rabbi, YY Jacobson encouraged victims to speak up about abuse. One sexual abuse survivor told the crowd that shame belongs to perpetrators, not victims. The audience stood in applause.
Predictably, the event got no mainstream media coverage. Orthodox Jewish news blogs were the only ones to report the story. Why? Bad news would have made the front page. Good news is ignored. It's not as if the media aren't covering the issue. The heartrending story of a young girl sexually brutalized by self-proclaimed religious therapist Nechemya Weberman made headlines for weeks.
The zeal to report a negative, one-sided narrative can also lead to bad reporting. Last year, NBC misleadingly edited a rabbi to make it appear that he was claiming abuse should only be handled by rabbis, when in fact the rabbi advocated working with the authorities.
The one-sided media focus on horrific abuse stories affects other religious communities, too. The Pew Research Center found that during a six-week period, an astonishing 18.1 percent of religion blog posts on The Washington Post , USA Today , The Chicago Tribune and The Houston Chronicle were devoted to clergy abuse scandals.
An audit report published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops revealed that out of 40,000 active priests “there were only ten contemporaneous abuse allegations made against priests even deemed ‘credible' in all of 2013.” The USCCB maintains that independent experts conducted this study. Even one case of abuse is one too many, but this marked decline in abuse cases sounds newsworthy to explore, right? Wrong. The media were deafeningly silent on this report. The hyper focus on clergy abuse scandals overshadows positive developments.
Sexual abuse of course is not unique to any community.
Data shows that abuse rates in religious communities are the same as the general population. Abuse happens in the halls of secular institutions like Penn State, as in the Jerry Sandusky case, and in religious parishes and institutions around the world.
Studies show that approximately “20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident.”
Yet, the brunt of coverage is focused on religious communities, not the general public.
These figures serve as a wake-up call to openly and candidly address this society-wide epidemic. When insular religious communities that have historically covered up abuse begin to publicly educate their members on reporting suspected abuse, ferreting out abusers, and removing the shame, fear, and stigma of it, you have progress. That is newsworthy.
It's in the public interest for the media to persistently expose religious authority figures using their positions of power to exploit innocent children. But by largely ignoring the positive stories of religious communities publicly combating the scourge of sexual abuse, the media unwittingly portray a one-sided perspective that fails to recognize positive in-roads in the religious world.
Eliyahu Federman has written on religion, culture, and law at Reuters, USA Today , Fox News , Huffington Post and elsewhere.
Paedophiles Who Download Images of Child Abuse 'Won't All Be Charged'
by Fiona Keating
Police can only target the most dangerous abusers among the 50,000 who have viewed child abuse images.
Some paedophiles found in possession of child abuse photos will escape prosecution, says Kevin Bristow, the head of the National Crime Agency.
Due to the high volume of people looking at child abuse images, it was "not realistic" to expect all of them to face prosecution, said Bristow, the NCA director general.
"Our responsibility is to focus on the greatest risk and tackle those people," he added.
During a recent operation focusing on people who accessed child abuse images on the internet, 660 arrests were made.
According to a BBC report, up to 30,000 individuals were identified during the investigation.
Jon Brown from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop) - part of the NCA - estimated that 50,000 people in the UK are involved in downloading and sharing images of child abuse.
However, campaigners believe there is a link between accessing abuse images and "contact offending". A Ceop report conducted in 2012 found "compelling evidence" that people accessing and looking at child abuse images should be considered a risk to children.
"If there are 50,000 people involved in this particularly horrible type of criminality, I don't believe all 50,000 will end up in the criminal justice system," Bristow said at a briefing for journalists.
"It's uncomfortable but we're going to work through it in a logical way, target the most risky first."
He said there would be a "range of interventions" which for some of the offenders could fall short of them "standing in a court".
NCA deputy director general Phil Gormley said: "Not every viewer will go on to be a contact abuser.
"We need to confront some really unpleasant and horrible truths about human nature."
Bristow issued an apology last week after the NCA delayed acting on information about 2,345 potential British abusers that emerged during an operation by Canadian police.
They included information about two senior teachers who used their positions to secretly film children and a paediatrician who continued to sexually assault children due to a delay of over a year before he was arrested.
Clothesline Project shares domestic violence victims' stories of survival
by Marc Larocque
TAUNTON — Victims of domestic violence and bullying need allies to stand up for them.
That was the message delivered by members of Southeastern Massachusetts Voices Against Violence, its Domestic Violence Task Force and the nonprofit agency New Hope during an event held at the Holiday Inn on Monday night.
Group members spoke about the societal problem of domestic violence, child abuse and bullying. For the 12th year in a row, as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October, SEMA-VAV hosted a display of “The Clothesline Project,” which is an art project composed of T-shirts hanging on clotheslines, each featuring messages from abuse survivors who were helped by New Hope.
“We come together and we join forces to help stop the violence, and we let people know that it is not acceptable,” said Tracey Medeiros, chairperson of the Domestic Violence Task Force. “This event is just to keep on raising awareness that violence of any form, whether it be bullying or anything, is unacceptable. It is a huge problem facing our society right now.”
The event featured speeches by SEMA-VAV leaders, a group discussion and the screening of a film about a tragic case of domestic violence that ended in murder, called “Telling Amy's Story.” Before the speaking portion of the event got started, the approximately 25 people in attendance looked at the Clothesline Project, and the words of the abuse survivors.
“Violence here is violence everywhere,” one of the shirts read.
“Paralyzed. Denial. Despair,” another one read.
“I used to cry myself to sleep, hoping you would leave,” read another one of the 45 shirts making up the display.
Christina Gohring, an outreach assistant for the Attleboro-based Project Hope, said that the project is aimed at making viewers think and to promote awareness. Gohring, who has worked one-on-one at shelters for battered women, said that much of the general public needs to realize how violence affects people in their community.
“Each shirt has a different story and represents a different victim of domestic violence,” Gohring said. “People say, why don't these victims just leave? It's not always that clear. That is really shown in the movie (‘Telling Amy's Story'). She wants to leave, but doesn't know how to leave, and her situation made it very hard for her to just up and leave. It's unfortunate, but it's reality.”
New Hope works to help woman get out of dangerous cycles of domestic violence and sexual abuse, with offices around central and eastern Massachusetts and a 24-hour hot line at 800-323-4673.
“Anything to raise awareness on such an important subject is a great thing,” Gohring said.
A 60-year-old Taunton woman shared her story as a victim of child abuse, and then later as a repeat victim of domestic abuse, likening child and domestic abuse to enslavement. The city woman, who recently wrote and published a book called “Enslavement” under the pen name Hope Birchwood, asked not to be identified by her real name, citing embarrassment and noting that she is still in danger of at least one of her abusers. But Birchwood said she is hoping to make a difference, calling for stronger laws against domestic abuse and child abuse.
“The effects of what took place in my childhood have followed me to this day and have not stopped,” said Birchwood, who talked about how she was severely abused by her mother since she was a young child, and then by several husbands. “My main concern is that society understands that this should not continue and that we as a group can change it, and that we have the obligation to change things for the better for all of us. That's really the reason I'm writing the books.”
Birchwood said that living under constant mental, emotional and physical abuse is a form of slavery.
“First of all, I need for them to understand that I believe having had lived through this all the years I lived through this situation, I really believe abuse is an issue of slavery and we need to look at it in that respect,” she said.
The event was attended by state Rep. Shaunna O'Connell, R-Taunton, who has been outspoken about strengthening laws to protect children from abuse.
According to Childhelp, a national organization working to prevent and treat child abuse, 6 million children are reportedly abused every year in the United States, with more than four children dying every day as a result of child abuse.
According to the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, nearly 50 percent of women in Massachusetts have experienced rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in their lives. In 2013, at least 22 deaths in Massachusetts were the result of domestic violence, according to the nonprofit Jane Doe Inc, including the death of Taunton's Jennifer Martel, who was brutally murdered by her former boyfriend, Jared Remy, after a long history of abuse.
Annemarie Matulis, the founder of SEMA-VAV, spoke about the relation between bullying and suicide.
“Bullying does have lasting and serious effects on youth involved in bullying in any way, including those who aren't being bullied, but the witnesses, the bystanders,” said Matulis, “especially if they don't feel that they have adults or family that they can turn to, either in a school, home or church environment, and not have it dismissed ignored or completely avoided.”
Matulis said that she has heard from youth in the local area, who have expressed concerns that teachers aren't properly trained to deal with bullying when it comes up.
“Not all kids feel safe,” said Matulis, adding that Taunton public schools have very good protocols for bullying, but that they need to be reinforced.
Matulis also noted the difference between conflict between children and real bullying, which she defined as unwanted aggressive behaviors that result in a power imbalance.
Deborah Brown, a guidance counselor in Taunton Public Schools, said she has seen a lot of positive changes recently at the public school level when it comes to addressing bullying. In her childhood, Brown said the problem of bullying was hardly acknowledged.
Brown said that just about 15 years ago, people would see “drug-free” posters throughout school. But now there is more “bully-free” posters in the schools.
“We are in a flux time,” Brown said. “Used to be just signs about staying drug-free, now signs for schools to stay bully-free. We are changing the norms slowly. It takes time. We just have to try to keep going and stay on the same page.”
Stepping Inside a World of Private Violence
by Isis Madrid
“Why didn't she just leave?” Instead of just answering the question often asked of domestic violence victims, Lilly Hartley hopes to eradicate that line of thinking all together. On Monday, HBO will premiere the powerful documentary Private Violence , executive produced by Hartley and feminist activist Gloria Steinem. Debuting during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the film explores the societal and legal nuances that prevent many victims from making the seemingly easy choice of walking away from abuse. The viewers follow an impassioned advocate and recent survivor as they support one another and try to bring an abuser to justice while grappling with our society's insidious tendency to blame the victim.
Aside from high-profile domestic violence cases recently in the media, Private Violence 's viewpoint is as relevant as ever. Though one in four American women will experience domestic abuse in her lifetime, few will report it, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Moreover, a third of women murdered every single year in the United States are killed by their intimate partner.
“It's a terrifying subject to be talking about because it's so heart-wrenching and children are involved frequently. Family histories are involved,” says Hartley. “And there's certainly no easy answer for it except that we should certainly talk about it and help get survivors vocal about their experiences and help others.”
Private Violence shadows one such survivor, Kit Gruelle, a North Carolina victim advocate. Gruelle's multifaceted work—with survivors in women's shelters, with victims trying to press charges, and with law enforcement officers who must respond not only to the obvious cries for help, but to the subtler signs as well—demonstrates just how complex the fallout from family violence can be. Gruelle knows firsthand what these survivors are going through, and advocates for them fiercely.
“Our criminal justice system requires that [a woman] be beaten enough to satisfy the system,” Gruelle says bluntly in the film. “And by the time it gets to that point, she's already been so worn down psychologically, physically, and emotionally. That's when it's time for advocates to step up and begin to treat her like she has some value. Because she's been told now systemically that she doesn't.”
Poignantly illustrating Gruelle's assertion is one woman she advocates for, Deanna Walters, whose shy presence lends the film its moral heft. Along with her young daughter, Walters was kidnapped by her ex-husband and dragged across the country in a horrific, violent road trip of sorts. When a police officer finally pulled their tractor-trailer over, Walters was rushed to the hospital but her ex-husband was not charged with a crime and returned to North Carolina a free man. Because the abuse occurred from coast to coast—with Walters near death, unconscious, and unaware of her whereabouts on more than one occasion—prosecutors had a difficult time building a case to be tried on the state level. Private Violence follows Gruelle and Walters' legal team as they try to elevate the charges to federal status.
“[Walters] sharing her story is really powerful, and she continues to evolve,” says Hartley. “She has made such an amazing journey in her life, and to be open enough, sharing it and telling other people—I think that it is difficult for people to talk about. Part of what's unique about the film is that it's such an intimate portrait of one story... You're emotionally involved in her story but it also deals with the issue on a broad level.”
Though awareness is building, domestic violence is still a pervasive part of American culture. Boys who witness domestic abuse in their childhood home are twice as likely to abuse their partners and children when they become adults. The sexist reflex that Gruelle points out, which accommodates abuse up to a point when it's deemed bad enough to prosecute, also stigmatizes both women and men reaching out for help before anger turns into violence and arguments turn into beatings. It allows for the burden of action to be placed solely on the victim, and causes people to wonder why women like suspended NFL player Ray Rice's wife Janay “didn't just leave” rather than pondering (and addressing) the various machinations that may have kept her beholden to her abuser. Domestic violence is difficult to understand for outsiders, but Private Violence hopes to start a conversation among women and men.
“I think it's an entire family's responsibility to discuss the topic,” says Hartley. “We also need to make sure that we're educating boys about what's right and how to treat women. Men can get involved in the community and be advocates also. I hope that they can watch the film and think about how to empower women. And how to be good fathers and good husbands.”
'Changing Hurt to Hope'
by Anne E. O'Malley
LIHUE — October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. On Wednesday, the YWCA will shine a light on the issue of domestic violence with a candlelight vigil titled “Changing Hurt to Hope.” It will take place at St. Michael and All Angels Church and is open to the entire island community.
“Everyone should come,” says Kathy Freire, co-director of the YWCA of Kauai Family Violence Shelter.
“Domestic violence is not a topic most folks talk about,” Freire added. “It's an uncomfortable issue.”
Yet it needs light and air around it, thus an evening of music and refreshments starting at 5 p.m.; time for domestic violence survivors to tell their stories starting at 6 p.m.; and at 7 p.m., candles will be lit in memory of those who have not survived domestic violence. Childcare will be available from 5:45 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Freire says domestic violence is not isolated, and affects not only the couples involved, but also their children, extended families and neighbors. It's also a serious issue in the workplace, with absences due to physical or emotional abuse.
“Research shows that if a child grows up in a domestic violence situation, it changes the physiology of their brain, the way they think, and even, as they go to school and start to socialize, gives them a different view of the world, as if they don't fit right or have to strike out to be safe,” she said.
Freire should know — been there, done that.
She looks back and says, “As a young teenager, from the time I started dating, I dated men who were abusive.”
“Due to abuse in my childhood, I didn't have the self-worth to be with someone who is kind and really wanted a healthy relationship,” Freire explained. “I easily got hooked in with folks who were abusive and controlling — it was a pattern from relationship to relationship.”
Freire married, and she and her husband had four children during their 13 years together. Life was a series of explosions.
“Living with abuse for that length of time, trying to make it work, I was always thinking if I did something different, it wouldn't be this bad,” Freire said. “But I could never do enough — I could never be good enough or perfect enough.
“When he punched me in the back while I was holding our infant, that was the defining moment of walking out and never looking back. He was endangering my infant child.”
“I had been to the shelter numerous times and had begun a network,” she continued. “I called a good friend, and she took my children and me until I got a restraining order for him to leave the house. The manipulation, emotional abuse, using the children — was ongoing. The abuse never stopped. And once he left, he would call to talk to the kids, and would try to use those phone calls to continue to perpetuate the abuse.”
Domestic violence crosses every socio-economic line, according to Freire — a claim backed up by studies and literature surrounding the topic.
“We've had women at the shelter who are homeless and poverty stricken as well as successful, powerful women, all of whom have somehow been caught in this cycle,” Freire said.
On Sept. 17, 2013, a National Census of Domestic Violence Services took a “snapshot” of domestic violence counts. In the entire United States, 87 percent of identified local domestic violence programs in the U.S. and territories participated in the count.
And on that day, 36,348 victims found refuge in emergency shelters or transitional housing provided by local domestic violence programs. In addition, 30,233 adults and children received non-residential assistance and services, including counseling, legal advocacy and children's support groups.
In Hawaii on that same day, that “snapshot” showed that 70 percent of identified shelters offered a total of 217 domestic violence victims emergency shelters or transitional housing, and 358 adults and children received non-residential assistance and services, including counseling, legal advocacy and children's support groups.
So far on Kauai, in the first quarter of the fiscal year, the YWCA has received over 300 crisis calls. Fifty-six women and children have sought shelter.
“My plea to everyone is don't give up,” Freire said. “Successfully escaping domestic violence is a process and looks different for everyone — and if somebody's not ready to leave, she will just go back.
The YWCA of Kauai, founded in 1921, offers numerous programs designed to overcome problems such as sexual assault, domestic and teen violence, education and prevention.
“Our domestic violence hotline at 245-6362 takes calls from survivors, also takes questions from folks who are in domestic violence and want to know how to get help. It's OK to call, ask questions and get support and referrals,” Freire said.
For information about the candlelight vigil, call 245-8404.
For calls related to domestic violence, call the domestic violence crisis line at 245-6362. For calls related to sexual assault, call the sex assault crisis line at 245-4144. The YWCA office telephone number is 245-5959. All numbers operate 24/7.
Woman charged with child abuse for the second time in two weeks
by Kristen Quon
KINGSPORT, Tenn - A local woman returned to jail after she was arrested on child abuse and neglect charges for the second time in less that two weeks.
Kingsport police say 25-year-old Jeanne Reed, was arrested again after officers say witnesses tell them they spotted Reed's children walking in the road around 11:30 yesterday morning.
Witnesses tell police one child was not wearing shoes, and was only wearing a shirt and diaper. The other child had on clothes but only one shoe.
Police say Reed was found on the phone in a bedroom.
Reed was arrested back on Oct. 8 for the same charges, after a similar incident.
The children are now in the custody of the Department of Children's Services.
Mom accused of abusing child; fourth child abuse case in less than a week
by Jay Meisel
LAKE PLACID — Highlands County Sheriff's Office deputies stopped a mother from carrying out her apparent plans to have her 4-year-old daughter run over by a vehicle, according to a report released Monday.
Tameka Legree, 39, 108 Aaron Drive, Apt. 10, Lake Placid, was arrested by the Highlands County Sheriff's Office and charged with child abuse.
Legree's arrest comes less than a week after three other cases of child abuse/neglect came to light. In those incidents, the children died.
Highlands County Sheriff Susan Benton said in an email that what makes the case involving Legree and her child different is that family members alerted law enforcement, enabling deputies to intervene.
“The action by family and friends to report this abuse likely saved this child's life, as deputies were able to locate Legree before she was able to carry out her threats to end the child's life,” Benton said.
Family members told investigators the situation began when the mother demanded that her daughter, who was holding an item, put it down.
“The defendant (Legree) told the victim to put the item down, but since the victim did not do so fast enough, the defendant struck the victim on top of the head,” an arrest report said. “The defendant then struck the victim again because the victim did not drop the item when she was struck the first time. The defendant then took the victim into the living room and struck the victim in the same manner an additional two times as witnessed by other family members, with blows hard enough to stun the victim, per witness accounts,” the report said.
Witnesses said Legree then “grabbed the victim and left the residence, headed out to U.S. 27/State Road 2. The witnesses had advised that the defendant had intended to put the victim into the roadway so that the child would be struck by an automobile because she did (not) want the child anymore, which was stated prior to leaving the residence with the victim,” the arrest report said.
Deputies stopped Legree before she made it to U.S. 27, the report said.
“The Defendant was screaming and yelling and would not calm down, but spontaneously uttered ‘I don't want this child anymore. I can't take i because I don't have a job or no where to live,' several different times.”
Legree also yelled several times that she struck the victim in the head because “she did not want the victim anymore,” the report said.
The injuries to the child were not serious, the report said.
Last week, Charity Lynn Harriman was charged with child neglect, several months after her 9-day-old daughter died. Authorities accused Harriman of failing to properly feed or supervise the child.
Deputies also arrested Van Lee Holder after a child placed in his care died from massive head trauma injuries.
Ivan James Sanders was arrested after his girlfriend's daughter died. Mercedes A. Blair, 4, suffered internal and external injuries involving much of her body, a report said.
A Justice for Mercedes page has been created on Facebook.
Gainesville center to provide counseling for abused boys
by Kristen Oliver
Nearly one in 10 children will be sexually abused by the time they turn 18.
Betty Guilfoile said nearly as many boys are sexually abused as girls, but free counseling and therapy for abused men have not been readily available in Hall County.
The Children's Center for Hope and Healing wants to change that.
Guilfoile, executive director of the center, said the United Way of Hall County recently provided $25,000 in funding the center will use to pay for therapists for adult male survivors of child sexual abuse.
“We're an organization that's been around for 30 years and we provide counseling to children who are victims of child sexual abuse, ages 3-17, and to adult women that are survivors,” Guilfoile said. “This is a way that we can expand our program to include men, which we've not had funding for in the past.”
The new service is free and confidential and will be provided by licensed male counselors who have specialized training in trauma issues.
Guilfoile said the center previously referred men to some private practices in town and hoped they would receive the help they needed.
“At least once every couple weeks we'd get a call from men who are survivors or others asking us if we serve this population,” Guilfoile said.
Guilfoile said child sexual abuse of boys is more prevalent than people might realize and it occurs at almost the same rate as abuse of girls. The center is able to provide survivors with specialized training they might not get at other practices.
“We do a bunch of things that are sort of state-of-the-art type of evidence-based practice treatments for survivors of trauma,” she said. “We use them to provide those services for the people we serve.”
The center served 1,700 individuals last year, and Guilfoile said that number is likely to increase now that the center can serve adult men.
She said the center also hopes to help parents understand how to protect their children from child sexual abuse. One common misconception, according to Guilfoile, is that sexual abuse is “all about stranger danger.”
“Parents do a lot to protect children from that, but they need to be aware someone in their life already is more likely to be a predator to their child,” she said. “That's a scary thing, but there are things they can do to keep their children safe.”
According to a report from the Governor's Office for Children and Families, 93 percent of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker. The office also reported 42 percent of rape victims in the state are under the age of 18, and more than 22 percent of men in Georgia have experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives.
Guilfoile said anyone who's experienced or survived sexual abuse deserves help and shouldn't be afraid to ask for it.
“Everything is free,” Guilfoile said. “So this is a great opportunity for people to come forward if they've never received treatment in the past.”
'Stewards of Children' workshop set
TREVORTON - Susquehanna Community Foundations of Berwick is providing a free workshop for members of the community from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 4, at the Line Mountain Elementary School library.
"Darkness to Light, Stewards of Children" will present facts about child abuse and practical guidance for preventing and responding to abuse. Free food and refreshments will be available.
The presenters will show a video that integrates commentary from sexual abuse survivors, experts in the field and other concerned adults. The session stresses five steps to protecting our children.
Thousands to be Trained to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse in Idaho
BOISE, Idaho - Two hours in training to protect Idaho children from child sexual abuse. More than 22-thousand in the Boise area will undergo the training in the coming months. Comments from Michael Graves, national director of partnering in prevention at the Redwoods Group Foundation. The organization's goal is to train more than 22-thousand people in the Treasure Valley, in conjunction with the YMCA.
More than 22,000 people in the Treasure Valley are going to be trained to prevent child sexual abuse, thanks to a grant.
The trainings are part of a goal to train 5 percent of the nation's adult population. The money comes from the Redwoods Group Foundation, and trainings will be coordinated by local YMCAs.
Michael Graves, the foundation's national director of partnering in prevention, said that a big part of the training is understanding that one in 10 children will be sexually abused before age 18, and 90 percent will be abused by someone they or the family knows and trusts.
"Most perpetrators go through a pretty long grooming process to gain the trust of the child," Graves said, "and in many cases, the trust of the child's parents and guardians."
The "Stewards of Children" training also identifies what to look for, how to have conversations with children and what to do if you suspect something. In Idaho, Graves said, all adults are required to report suspected child sexual abuse so trained investigators can look into the situation, and do so without revictimizing the child.
Graves said the training is not just for teachers, coaches and those with regular direct contact with children. He said he wants everyone to consider it to provide a cushion of protection for all children.
"This is such an epidemic with such broad consequences to society that it's something that all adults should know about," he said.
The Stewards of Children training can be done online and takes about two hours. Interested people can contact a local YMCA to see if grant coverage of the cost is available, or contact the Idaho Children's Trust Fund. Without the grant, the program is $10. Training details and free information are online at D2L.org.
Take the right steps to stop the madness
“Domestic abuse, also called intimate partner violence, is the systematic suffocation of another person's spirit.” — Joanna Hunter, author of “But He'll Change.”
You only need to read this column if you have a mother, sister, brother, wife, father, daughter, grandmother, girlfriend, boyfriend, niece, nephew, son or significant other.
If you have ever been on the delivering side within an abusive relationship, now is the time to take the appropriate steps to stop the madness because there are almost limitless ways to seek and find the help and support you need. You just have to take the first step.
It's time to give back the spirit you have stolen from others. The spirit that promotes hope, happiness and personal confidence. It's just not right for anyone to take those aspirations and freedoms away from someone else. Ever.
Now is the time to grab a seat and focus, because you need to read the following alarming statistics, provided by Safe Horizon and Response, very carefully.
Every nine seconds in the United States, a woman is assaulted or beaten. Around the world, at least 1 in every 3 women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime. Most often, the abuser is a member of her own family.
One in every 4 women and 1 in every 7 men will experience domestic violence within their lifetime. Nearly 70 percent of female and 53 percent of male victims experience some form of intimate-partner violence for the first time before age 25.
Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women — more than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined. Combined!
Studies suggest that as many as 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually. Nearly 1 in 5 teenage girls who have been in a relationship said a boyfriend threatened violence or self-harm if presented with a breakup.
Every day in the United States, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends. Again, every day in the United States more than three women are murdered by their husbands and boyfriends. I had to read that twice to grasp its reality, so I wanted to make sure you did also. Spend a few minutes on that one. It's beyond comprehension. At least mine. And it needs to be radically addressed. Now.
Ninety-two percent of women surveyed listed reducing domestic violence and sexual assault as their top concern. Based on reports from 10 countries, between 55 and 95 percent of women who had been physically abused by their partners had never contacted nongovernmental organizations, shelters or the police for help. So you see, these alarming statistics are not even close to reality. And that's a startling reality.
Men, who as children witnessed their parents' domestic violence, were twice as likely to abuse their own wives than sons of nonviolent parents. The gift that keeps on giving, I guess.
For 30 years, Response has supported victims of domestic violence and sexual assault through its 24-hour support and crisis hotline, emergency shelter (for families and their pets), court and medical advocacy, adult and teen support groups, one-on-one peer support and often through to other partner agencies to provide a continuum of care for victims and their families.
Its mission is to support, educate and empower victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. It provides complimentary, confidential, nonjudgmental support for people who have experienced domestic violence or sexual assault. Its services, many of which are provided by its expertly trained volunteers, are vital to guaranteeing the well-being and safety of our community members in need. Did I mention that all of its services are free and completely confidential?
In 2013, Response served 209 new, unduplicated clients and a total of 561 individual survivors. Response victim advocates provided over 10,933 volunteers hours to support all 561 survivors in Pitkin and western Eagle counties.
Response programs have grown to include prevention programs within the schools, such as teen-dating violence, sexual and cyber bullying, post-traumatic stress disorder therapy, assistance with applications for victim's compensation, U-visas and immigration as well as human-trafficking support services. Response legal advocates assist their clients in obtaining restraining orders and in selecting appropriate legal counsel.
In 2013, the Response crisis helpline received 145 contacts, about 2.75 calls per week. It also provided 22 nights of emergency housing for women and managed a total of 278 contacts. Their staff advocates specifically assisted 40 women with obtaining restraining orders, and even more clients were provided with legal advocacy, such as court escorts and translations, navigating the criminal justice system and referral to appropriate legal counsel.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. What better time is there to take a serious look at how you can help make a difference in our valley and make domestic violence go away?
For more information about how you can become an advocate volunteer or other ways to give or get involved, please take a minute to visit the Response website, www.responsehelps.org or call them at 970-920-5357. Now is the time to become a force for good.
If you are in need of the services provided by Response, you can reach out 24 hours a day on its crisis hotline at 970-925-SAFE. If you are currently thinking that you may need support and guidance for the situation you find yourself in, you probably do. Make the call.
R.J. Gallagher Jr. is a three-decade resident of the Roaring Fork Valley community. He proudly serves on numerous non-profit Boards including the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, the Aspen Community Foundation and Komen Aspen. His firm, Forte International, is a supporter of local philanthropy that makes a difference on a global level. “Philantopia” is a monthly column for The Aspen Times focused on philanthropy and community involvement. R.J.'s always open for ideas. You can reach him at email@example.com.
Steilacoom woman sought answers on child abuse — from a child predator
by Larry LaRue
Sylvia Peterson wasn't thinking about a book when she began visiting the most dangerous female sex predator in the state. She was hoping to resolve her own personal horror.
“I thought it might be possible to get information that would help explain my grandfather, who abused me when I was 7 years old,” Peterson said.
So in 2003, she began visiting Laura Faye McCollum, a Tennessee woman convicted in 1990 of repeatedly raping an 18-month-old Tacoma girl and trying to suffocate her with a pillow.
McCollum is the only woman — along with 264 men — housed in the Washington Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island. She is one of only three women in the country considered a violent sexual predator.
“My husband, John, was a volunteer chaplain there and met Laura. He thought she would benefit from talking to another woman,” said Peterson, a Foursquare Church chaplain who lives in Steilacoom.
“My mother and family were upset that I was seeing Laura,” Peterson said. “A large part of society believes Laura is beyond God's grace.”
What began as a near-impossible relationship — McCollum admits she ‘tested' Peterson during their first visit by pushing her away — became an emotional friendship that helped both women.
It also became a book, the newly released “Laura and Me,” that detailed conversations both touching and chilling.
“I have genuine affection for Laura the person, not for Laura the offender,” Peterson said. “Did that surprise me? Yes.”
“She's my very best friend, and I don't think she'd do anything to harm me,” McCollum said by telephone from McNeil Island. “But if she thought I might harm someone, she'd lock my butt up in a heartbeat. She doesn't condone anything I've done.”
Though Peterson wanted to understand what made a child predator, listening to McCollum at times was unbearable.
“When she started to tell me her stories, I didn't process it very well. It was so horrifying I mentally checked out,” Peterson said. “There was no remorse, no ability to feel compassion.”
Over years of conversation, however, Peterson began to understand McCollum.
“She was the victim of a psychological perfect storm. She suffered prenatal problems because of an alcoholic mother. She was neglected from birth — the ninth of nine children — and once told me she could never remember anyone ever holding her as a child unless it was to do her harm.
“She was a victim of long-term sexual abuse.”
In time, McCollum and Peterson came to share opinions about predators.
“The staff here will never be able to ‘fix' me,” McCollum said. “They don't know why I'm the way I am, so how can they cure me?”
For Peterson, that belief was reinforced throughout her friendship with McCollum.
“With all she had been through, Laura thought affection and abuse were connected,” Peterson said. “She didn't see her victims as victims, and I don't believe she knows how many children she abused.
“As much as we spent time together, I believe if given the opportunity, Laura would be sexually inappropriate with me. She doesn't know affection without inappropriate desire.”
Seeking a way to understand her grandfather, Peterson had an emotional breakthrough talking to McCollum, and she believes McCollum had one as well. All of her life, Peterson said, she had blamed herself for her abuse, believing if she had fought harder it would not have happened.
“The breakthrough for me was when I understood there was a difference between understanding and healing,” Peterson said. “Victims have to have enough empathy to forgive. My grandfather didn't see the humanity in me, but to be free of it I had to see the humanity in him.”
Peterson wrote a letter, she said, explaining her rage at her grandfather but forgiving him.
“Then I had to forgive my parents, who could have protected me but wouldn't believe it had happened,” Peterson said. “I had to forgive myself for thinking, at age 7, I could have prevented it. And I had to forgive God, who allowed it to happen.”
McCollum wrote and shared a similar letter, and the two women wept together, crying for themselves, and for McCollum's victims.
McCollum will not be allowed to see the book, ironically, because it deals with children — and rules of her commitment forbid that. Nor can she benefit from book sales. Peterson is sending what would have been McCollum's share of royalties to a Tennessee center for abused children.
Peterson said she loves McCollum as a new Christian, but never lost perspective of who McCollum was and remains. Neither did the Pierce County Superior Court judge who last year denied a request for McCollum to be released to a halfway house.
Having seen both McCollum the woman and McCollum the predator, Peterson doesn't believe she should ever leave the Commitment Center.
“Will she ever be free?' Peterson asked, repeating a question. “I hope not.”
Report: Illinois child abuse rates hit a 30 year high
by Natalie Will
Child deaths caused by abuse and neglect hit a 30 year high last year, according to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. The report says 87 deaths are linked to abuse and neglect and some fear the numbers could be higher.
Advocacy Network for Children Director Clairice Hetzler says these numbers serve as a reminder that this is a real issue in the U.S.
She says when people accept the fact this could happen anywhere is when real progress is made. Hetzler says she often sees children who do not feel safe.
"A lot of children haven't experienced the fact that an adult is a safe person. So they're coming to us and believing, and hopefully believing, that we are there to help them. When I speak to children I tell them, my job is simply to make sure you are okay," Hetzler says.
Hetzler says when a child comes in, she feels they have one chance to protect that child. She says if they mess that up, they may never get that chance again.
Governors says child abuse deaths have gone down, reports show deaths just kept off the books
by Mary Ellen Klas
In Lake County, a disfigured 2-month-old whose mother did not want him is left alone in a motel room for 90 minutes, and is later found smothered. His family had been the subject of 38 prior investigations by the state's child welfare agency.
“It is a general consensus,” a report said, “that [the mother] was involved in the death of her child.”
In Santa Rosa County, child welfare authorities allow a “chronic and severe” drug addict to bring her newborn home, though her two older children had been removed from her care for their safety. Eighteen days later, the mother takes an unprescribed Lortab painkiller and places her baby next to her in bed. The child is found dead.
And in Polk County, a mother leaves two toddlers alone in a “kiddie pool” — and returns to find her 1-year-old daughter face-down in the water. Her 2-year-old son later discloses he pushed his sister down while she was crying. He now suffers nightmares.
The children, who all perished last year, are tragically bound by more than death: Even as the Florida Department of Children & Families has promised greater openness, the three fatalities, and dozens of others like them, have never been counted among the state's victims of fatal abuse or neglect.
No state can protect every child who is born to troubled, violent or drug-addicted parents, and even youngsters for whom child protection administrators make all the right choices can sometimes fall victim to unforeseen circumstances. To ensure that state social service agencies learn from mistakes, the federal government requires that states count and investigate all child fatalities that result from abuse or neglect.
Regulators don't, however, strenuously oversee how the counting and investigating occurs.
After the Miami Herald published a series examining the deaths of 477 children — and Florida's failure to protect some of them from abusive or neglectful parents — the state promised a new era of openness and more rigor in the way it investigates child deaths.
But except for abiding by a new state law that required DCF to create a website listing all child fatalities, Florida has continued to undercount the number of children it fails.
“Nothing has changed,” said former Broward Sheriff's Office Cmdr. James Harn, who supervised child abuse investigations before retiring when a new sheriff was elected last year. “Some day, somebody will say ‘let's just stop the political wrangling.' Here's what you've got to do: Just tell the truth.”
For several years, BSO, which has investigated child deaths under contract with DCF, has recorded significantly more fatalities due to neglect or abuse than other counties, where DCF does its own investigations. One important reason for the disparity is that the sheriff's office long has insisted that drownings and accidental suffocations — among the leading causes of child fatality — be counted, while DCF has, in recent years, declined to include the majority of those in its abuse and neglect tally.
As a result, said Harn, the statewide numbers “are cooked.”
Doctor Accused In Child Abuse Case In The U.S. Practising In Australia Untouched by Authorities
by Kalyan Kumar
A radiologist of Indian origin, who fled the U.S. before facing a court trial on charges of attempted child sex, has been practising in Australia for many years, avoiding action from the legal and medical authorities. Dr. Max Mehta was held in Dallas, Texas, in 2004 on the charge of soliciting a 15-year-old deaf girl for sex during an online chat. What trapped him was that the deaf girl in the chat room was actually a police officer in disguise.
Mehta was arrested when he reached the address believing it to be the girl's home. He was charged with soliciting a minor with sexual demands, reports The Guardian. One of his ex colleagues, Dr Rauf Yousef, came across his details and alerted several authorities on Mehta's history in the U.S. But no action has come so far. This has raised questions over the procedures and lax background checks in the case of employing foreign doctors working in Australia. Any offence related to child abuse attracts a jail term of minimum 10 years, reports FindLaw.
Flees To New Zealand
Before the trial started, Mehta fled the USA and moved to New Zealand. He jumped the bail of $100,000. Since Mehta was neither convicted or nor put on trial, he could get through the police, immigration and work history checks. In 2007, he went in for a name change and became Robert Taylor. Mehta obtained New Zealand citizenship in 2008.
In 2009, the doctor moved to Australia on a Trans-Tasman New Zealand visa and joined the Goulburn Valley Imaging Group in Shepparton, Victoria as a radiologist. In Australia, Mehta was only asked to sign a statutory declaration that he had not been convicted of any offences. No criminal background checks seemed to have taken place.
The complainant Yousaf says, he sent out information about Mehta's background to many authorities who included politicians, police, AHPRA, and medical bodies. He also alerted the FBI and police agencies in Dallas.
Yousaf grew suspicious about Mehta, after he came across information about multiple forgeries by Mehta in his signature on a range of documents in the last few years. The detailed investigation led to evidence of Mehta's name-change and the criminal charges he is facing in the U.S.
Yousaf claims that he got information that Mehta left India for the U.S after facing a spousal abuse case under Dowry Act.
But Yousaf regretted that he has been told that extradition of Mehta was unlikely, because it was not among the most serious cases. Yousaf harbours the fear a child predator like Mehta in his current role "would have many patients who may be children. He should never have been allowed to have access to kids as long as he is cleared of the charges."
However, Mehta declined to comment on the queries such as why he left the U.S. and why he concealed the charges or what were the reasons that led to his name change.
Texas man charged in MN child sex abuse case
by Chris Hrapsky
GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. -- A Texas man is in jail without bond after he was accused of engaging in a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old Minnesota boy he met online.
In 2012, 59-year-old Robert Wayne Zubl logged on to the social media site chatroulette where he was randomly paired to video chat with the Twin Cities boy, according to court documents.
The chat led to a trusting relationship, emails and skype conversations, and a year of suspected online sexual abuse.
"This could have been any of our kids," said a woman close to the case who wished not to be identified because of the deeply sensitive nature of the case.
"What I think we as parents don't see or don't know is how patient, and caring and skilled these predators are at gaining our children's trust," she said.
Zubl waited until the boy turned 16, according to court documents, then arranged multiple visits to Minnesota where the relationship became physical.
"This boy was a good student. He was home. He wasn't in trouble. He would always be where he said he would be. So when you are somebody who has a track record of being a really great kid, there isn't any reason for the parent to distrust," said the woman.
The story got out, authorities were notified and Zubl was arrested in Texas earlier this month.
It wasn't until after Zubl was charged in Minnesota that the family found out Zubl had been on bail, accused of doing the same thing to a boy in Texas.
"After two years he is still awaiting trial," said the woman. "So for two years he was free to travel and to find other children and continue these activities."
"It's like a golden opportunity for them," said David Larson, professor of law at Hamline University. "They are just waiting there to see who they get matched with. So it's extremely dangerous for kids."
State probing allegations of sex abuse at children's facility
8-year-old reported attack by 13-year-old
by Lou Michel
State investigators have begun reviewing allegations that a 13-year-old boy sexually assaulted an 8-year-old boy in a residential facility in Buffalo.
Meanwhile, the relative who brought the incident to light says he has been cut off from any contact with the younger boy, an action he feels is in retaliation for his going public with the allegations.
A spokesman for the New York State Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs confirmed that center investigators, who can make arrests and prosecute cases, began their review of the case earlier this month.
“The investigation is active and open,” Justice Center spokesman Bryan Jackson said. “It is underway at the facility.”
While the state probe continues, Peter Beyer, the great-uncle of the 8-year-old, said he still has not received an answer from Erie County social services officials on whether the alleged attacker has been removed from the Delaware Avenue campus of Child & Family Services, which takes in displaced children. Beyer said the older boy should not remain on the same grounds as his alleged victim.
Beyer also said he's been cut off from any contact with his nephew after going public with the allegations.
“They are not letting me speak to my nephew on the phone and I'm not allowed to visit him after months of visiting and speaking on the phone,” he said Friday evening.
Beyer says he believes officials in the case are acting against him because he went public with the sexual abuse allegations.
The great-uncle said he learned of the attacks on Oct. 6 from a facility caseworker when he went to visit his nephew. Later that same day, Beyer said, he received a call from a Child & Family Services nurse who had taken the boy to Women & Children's Hospital for an examination.
The nurse, he said, confirmed that his nephew had been sexually assaulted. The boy told officials that the 13-year-old had attacked him once before, but threatened to harm him if he told anyone of the assaults.
As the state investigates, Buffalo attorney Jeffrey C. Mannillo has been working with Beyer to try to have the 8-year-old and his younger sister, who is at another residential facility, reunited and placed with a Syracuse family willing to take in the children with the hopes of adopting them.
“My concern is to get the children out of their current placements and into a loving, stable home,” Mannillo said Friday. “Efforts to work with a family in Syracuse are under way.”
Beyer said he has filled out new paperwork required by Erie County to gain guardianship of the children and move the process forward. The county, he said, misplaced his original paperwork.
He said he planned to hand-deliver the new paperwork today.
His nephew and niece, he explained, had been adopted by their maternal grandmother, Beyer's sister, several years ago after the children's parents were imprisoned. Traceylee Busch, the grandmother, died unexpectedly in January 2013 at the age of 47.
Relatives tried to keep the children together but the plan fell apart and Beyer said he had sought help from the Erie County Department of Social Services.
Officials at Child & Family Services – which assists children, adults and families experiencing difficult times – have said they regard their responsibility of keeping children safe as a top priority and have been in touch with the Justice Center.
When contacted Friday, facility officials said they stand by those comments and pointed out that legally they cannot comment on the case or address the status of either boy.
Erie County officials have also cited confidentiality laws in saying they cannot comment on the case.
“They know they are in trouble because they messed up,” Beyer said, explaining why he thinks officials are refusing to speak.