National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

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

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

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

Special to NAASCA

Thanksgiving: Survivors of child sexual abuse of yesterday, today and tomorrow

by Vicki Polin , MA, LPCC -- NAASCA family member

PLEASE NOTE: On Thursday, Nov. 19th, Vicki Polin will be the featured special guest on NAASCA's "Stop Child Abuse Now" talk radio show - 8pm EST

For many families in the United States who celebrate Thanksgiving, it is time of year filled with wonderful memories of families getting together.

Thanksgiving (like any other holiday) often mean that families get together, routines are changed, and there is also the added stress of cleaning and preparing meals. These issues alone can be extremely stress-producing. Unfortunately the reality is that there are parents who are already inclined to use their children as an outlet for emotions and urges, and they are more likely to do so when under the pressure of increased anxiety. Needless to say, many adult survivors of childhood abuse report that their abuse became more intense around and during holidays. For that reason we are asking everyone to say a prayer for the children and their family members, so they get the help they need.

I'm personally asking that each person who reads this article promise to make a phone call, if you suspect a child is either being abused and or neglected, please give that child the gift of a lifetime by calling your local child abuse hot-line regarding your suspicions. Doing so may help prevent any further harm, and it can often lead to a whole family receiving the help and healing that are needed to end the cycle of abuse.

Thanksgiving is a time of year when adult survivors of childhood abuse (emotional, physical and sexual abuse) may be faced with the challenge of deciding if they should go home for the holidays, spend it with friends, or be alone. It is also a time of year for many to have a flood of painful memories reemerge. Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may increase. It is not uncommon for survivors to find it safer to retreat than to participate in holiday functions.

Each individual survivor needs to figure out what works best for them to stay emotionally healthy. It is critical for survivors to be kind to themselves with whatever decisions they make regarding where they choose to spend Thanksgiving: be it with family, friends, or alone. We all need to respect their decisions, especially if a survivors decide not to celebrate.

To reiterate, it is important to be aware that it is not uncommon for symptoms of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) to emerge even after times of relative remission and/or intensify in those already struggling. Survivors may experience an increase in disturbing thoughts, nightmares and flashbacks. Thoughts of self-harm, even suicide may be an issue. The important thing to remember is these feelings are about the past, that the abuse is over, and that it is of utmost importance for you to be kind to and gentle with yourself.

This is written as a reminder to all survivors: YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

If you know someone who is a survivor of childhood abuse (emotional, physical and sexual abuse), it might be a good idea to check up on them a few times over the holidays. Make sure survivors have invitation to thanksgiving dinner, and that if they say no, let them know they can always change their mind and come at the last minute.

Over the years we've spoken to many adult survivors who find it very painful to even consider going to anyone's home for the holiday. Maybe this is true for you, too. It is OK. Someday you may feel different, but if the pain is too intense, it is important that you do things that feel healing to you, it is important that you set boundaries to do what feels safe for you.

Remember that whatever works for you is OK: you are not alone in this struggle, not wrong, not bad for having second and third and forth thoughts about how to celebrate and even whether to celebrate the holiday. Look into yourself and see what you need, than do what you can to do it and be kind to yourself for needing to make these adjustments.

To those of you who are survivors . . . thank you so much for Surviving!


From the FBI

Child Pornography Case Results in Lengthy Prison Sentences

Couple Abused Child in Their Care

It was a horrific instance of child sexual exploitation that went on for approximately three years. But in the end, Patricia and Matthew Ayers—who pled guilty to crimes against a child in their custody—were recently sentenced to an astonishing 2,340 years collectively behind bars (1,590 for her, 750 for him).

The federal judge who handed down those sentences told the defendants, “I have been on the bench since 1998 and this is the worst case I have personally dealt with. ... You robbed this child of her childhood and her soul, and a maximum sentence is the only sentence appropriate.”

The case began in Alabama in December 2012, when a friend of the Ayers contacted local authorities after seeing digital pornographic pictures of a child that were provided to him by Patricia Ayers. The Lauderdale County Sheriff's Office served a search warrant at the Ayers' residence in Florence and seized computers, cell phone, cameras, and electronic storage media devices. Patricia Ayers—who admitted taking the images of the child, initially claiming they were taken for the purposes of documenting a rash—was arrested.

Found among the thousands of pornographic images on the seized devices were pictures of Matthew Ayers and the young victim engaged in sexual acts—he was then arrested by local authorities as well.

In early January 2013, Lauderdale authorities requested the Bureau's assistance, and our Florence Resident Agency (out of the FBI Birmingham Field Office) opened a federal child pornography investigation.

Another search warrant was served at the Ayers' residence to locate and document items seen in the child pornography images suspected of being produced in the home. A previous address that the Ayers occupied was also searched—with the consent of the current homeowners—and law enforcement identified wallpaper in that house as the same wallpaper visible in some of the images.

During the course of the investigation, an agent from our Dallas Field Office who was working another child pornography matter was able to connect his case—and his subject—to Patricia Ayers through an automated search of FBI records. Among other links, Patricia Ayers had e-mailed the subject of the Dallas case images of child pornography, including pictures of the child in the Ayers' custody. The Ayers were indicted on federal charges in May 2014.

Assisting Bureau agents on the Ayers case was an FBI Computer Analysis and Response Team expert who reviewed all of the digital evidence seized during the search warrants, as well as FBI analysts who carefully scrutinized every image for clues as to when and where it was taken, what was being shown, and who was pictured.

Also involved were forensic child interviewers from our Office for Victim Assistance at FBI Headquarters, who are specially trained to get young crime victims and witnesses to talk about what they experienced while not traumatizing them any further. And FBI Birmingham's local victim assistance specialist worked with the victim from the beginning of the case through sentencing and beyond, offering much-needed support, some counseling, and additional community resource referrals. The victim—who is believed to have been around 6 years old when the abuse started—is now in the care of family members.

This case and others like it demonstrate the value of—and the need for—law enforcement's lawful access to digital media.



Abuse victims finally find strength to seek support


CALLS to Australia's leading child abuse helpline have quadrupled since the start of the royal commission with research finding many survivors wait 30 years or more before seeking support.

Analysis of the Adults Surviving Child Abuse professional support line has found that almost 100 people are coming forward each week with the majority of them aged over 40.

The study of 4000 callers found the most common age for abuse to occur was between six and 10 years of age, but the majority of callers seeking help were aged between 40 and 49 years old.

President of Adults Surviving Child Abuse, Dr Cathy Kezelman, said the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse had encouraged more people to come forward.

She said many had carried the burden of abuse for decades before seeking help.

‘‘There is an incredible sense of shame and self-loathing which does hold people back from seeking support,'' she said. ‘‘People still worry about not being believed which is another deterrent.''

The Adults Surviving Child Abuse's professional support line employs 14 specialist counsellors who work seven days a week but only between 9am and 5pm.

Dr Kezelman said the organisation hoped to fund an evening support service.

Adults Surviving Child Abuse will launch a social media campaign this week to support the estimated five million adult survivors of sexual abuse in Australia.

Retired nurse Barbara, who suffered both physical and sexual abuse as a child, kept quiet for decades until she felt brave enough to speak out.

Now 68, Barbara was abused in foster care and in institutions as a child but did not speak publicly about it until about 15 years ago.

‘‘I didn't want to tell anyone because I was worried no one would believe me and I was embarrassed so I just said nothing.''

She says speaking about the abuse had helped her recover.

‘‘They are not going to make me a victim any more.

‘‘I am over being a victim.''


New York

Fighting for her soul: A sex-trafficking victim's story


YONKERS, N.Y. — She remembers being given so many drugs that she would sometimes drool on herself. The drugs kept her loose, so she wouldn't be able to fight. Or escape.

She remembers the men who came to the door, bringing cash, expecting sex. She wasn't allowed to refuse.

She remembers being locked in a room as punishment. She wasn't allowed out of the apartment alone. She couldn't eat until her captors were hungry.

She remembers being forced to watch those men tie another young woman to a chair and beat her. The beating was a warning: She'd get the same if she tried to run.

Lynda Marie Oddo sits at a picnic table in her aunt's backyard under a cloudless sky, and she loses her breath. Her eyes narrow, staring at something unseen. Her voice tightens.

“I get so sick to my stomach, I'm ready to curl up in a ball and cry, or scream and let it all out,” she says. “At the same time, it doesn't come out. It doesn't come out.”

What are you seeing?

“Everything that happened. What went on.”

She is trying to talk about the years she spent with two men who had been friends from her Yonkers neighborhood — until they decided to become pimps and sell her and two other women for sex.

The men moved them to Rhode Island in 2006 after learning about a loophole in state law that allowed indoor prostitution. They lived in an apartment on Urban Street in North Providence and then an apartment in Providence at 123 Pinehurst Ave., a block from Providence College

Lynda was 16 when the men became her pimps. She was 19 when she escaped for good. She had just turned 20 when the Providence police arrested the two men in the fall of 2010 on charges of sex-trafficking Lynda and two other women.

This was the first sex-trafficking case in Rhode Island since a law banning prostitution was passed in 2009. It was also a landmark, setting a course for how law-enforcement agencies should investigate potential sex-trafficking crimes.

The aftermath has also shown the long-lasting trauma to the survivors. One of the detectives who investigated the original case and has become a father figure to the women says they have been deeply damaged and need comprehensive treatment to recover.

Both Andrew Fakhoury and Joseph Defeis pleaded no contest to trafficking charges and were sentenced in 2011. One is still serving 10 years of a 20-year sentence at the Adult Correctional Institutions. The other was released after a year and now manages a burger restaurant in Scarsdale, N.Y., a few miles from where Lynda now lives with an aunt.

Four years later, people tell Lynda she needs to put the past behind her. She can't.

Flashbacks arise, unbidden, and consume her. She feels dirty inside her body. She struggles with sobriety, and she drinks and uses drugs to numb the memories.

She feels like she's lost her soul.

She wants to show her face. She wants people to know her name. She hopes her story will help other survivors. She believes this will help her, too.

It's rare that any sexual-assault victim is willing to speak publicly, often because of feelings of shame. Survivors of sex trafficking are a special type of victim because they've been forced into prostitution, raped multiple times, and endured psychological trauma that makes it difficult for them to rebuild their lives.

“I'm ready to deal with it, because it's destroying me inside and out, and it's only going to continue to get worse,” Lynda said. “I'm tired of having to be strong, when it's taking it all out of me.”

She hasn't told many people about what happened. The Providence police detectives. The state prosecutors. The grand jury.

Not her family, or her friends. She hasn't been able to tell them everything. She's not sure they'll understand.

But she's trying now.

“It is hard. Right now I'm like” — she suddenly exhales — “I'm holding it in. I feel my throat closing. I just want to cry and go hide.

“At the same time, that's where I don't solve anything,” she says. “It will only make it more complicated, because I keep burying it and burying it. It unburies itself and it's like, ‘Surprise!' Didn't I just bury you six feet under? ‘Surprise, I came back up.'

“It's like Halloween in the brain — ‘I've come back to haunt.'”

Troubled childhood

She has always felt like “the black sheep” of her family.

She was raised in Yonkers, N.Y., by parents who were drug addicts and alcoholics. She remembers violence and abuse. The home was filthy. She was often hungry. Relatives took Lynda and her younger brother on weekends and in the summer, to give them some stability, but when New York child welfare officials began investigating, Lynda's mother moved the children to a trailer park in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The family fell apart. Lynda remembered the day that she and her younger brother were locked out of the trailer. Someone called police, and state child welfare officials intervened. She and her brother were sent to different foster homes. They didn't see each other again for years.

She says she was molested at one of the foster homes when she was 6. She was afraid to tell anyone. “My parents were pathological liars,” she says now. “Who would believe me?”

She was moved around to different foster homes, which often meant changing schools. She struggled with her classes. She acted out. She was held back.

By the time Lynda was 10, an aunt and uncle in Yonkers got her out of foster care and eventually adopted her. Her four cousins became her adoptive brothers. She had food, clothes, security, discipline and love, says her uncle, Steve Oddo.

But Lynda didn't feel like she belonged in her new family. She was defensive and shy. She had smoked her first cigarette at age 7. She'd smoked marijuana at age 10. By age 13, she was experimenting with drugs. And now, her adoptive household was relatively affluent and strait-laced.

She was smart, but behind in school. She skipped classes. She ran away.

She was a chubby girl who tried hard to fit in. She began hanging out with a group of teens who were a few years older. They drank and smoked, sometimes played basketball.

Entry into prostitution

She had a crush on a short, skinny boy named Joseph Defeis, and when she worked on his hot-dog truck, she teased that she wanted to “toast his buns.” Defeis hung around with Andy Fakhoury, who Lynda said was more sinister and acted like a gangster, a rapper wannabe.

Fakhoury and Defeis brought her to parties and gave her drugs. One day when she was 16 and expecting to be grounded for a bad report card, Lynda ran away so she could go to a party with them.

Fakhoury and Defeis picked her up and brought her to a hotel in Atlantic City, where they partied until they passed out. She said she was drugged and unable to move when Fakhoury raped her that night. She was afraid to say anything the next day, and Fakhoury acted like nothing had happened.

He raped her again, she said. And then, she said, he and Defeis started working on her to be a prostitute. “ 'You get paid for sleeping with people — what's not to like?' " she remembered Fakhoury saying. “But I wasn't sleeping with people.”

She did it once, and told them she never wanted to do it again. It was too late. She had forsaken her aunt and uncle and was dependent on Fakhoury and Defeis. They told her she needed to make some money.

Steve Oddo said he and his four sons went out searching for Lynda. They'd heard stories about what Fakhoury and Defeis had her doing. “I was out kicking in doors,” Oddo said.

They couldn't find her. Fakhoury and Defeis had persuaded Lynda to stay. They told her she was part of their family now.

She learned later how they'd been planning this move. Another teenage girl, whom Fakhoury passed off as his girlfriend, was the first one they used for prostitution. Lynda was the second.

They kept the women drugged. Fakhoury wanted Defeis to find more. They did.

They moved to Rhode Island, where indoor prostitution was legal.

In Providence

People don't know what that life was really like, Lynda said. They believe what they see in the movies. “The way they make it out, like the girl is happy to do it and it's her lifestyle. That's not it,” Lynda said. “That's the way you can survive. At the end of the day, you're behind a door, but the people who are hurting you are also behind that door.”

Fakhoury set up advertisements for escort services on craigslist and Lynda was 16 but looked younger. She said he told her to lie about her age, to say she had a baby face.

Some men weren't fooled, Lynda said. “A lot of times, they were like, ‘You're 12, you're ugly, you're not my type.' They'd leave and Andy would be like, ‘What the [expletive], you didn't get the money?'”

The men sold marijuana from the apartment, according to police, and set up a music booth to make rap videos celebrating the thug life. Fakhoury called himself “Kash” and Defeis was “Jemz,” rapping in videos that showed them cruising around Providence in a black SUV, flashing fistfuls of $100 bills and bragging about being gangsters.

They were feeding the women drugs, mainly prescription medication, sometimes cocaine, sometimes mixing pills in the food. The women weren't allowed out of the apartment alone and never in daylight, Lynda Fsaid. The men threatened the women and told them they were worthless, pieces of garbage, whores.

Sometimes, when she was alone with Defeis, Lynda saw the old friend she used to know.

“I'd be drooling on myself and not be able to function. Joe would say, ‘We're going to get you out of this. This is not for you. We're destroying your life.'

“But we'd get back to the house and he'd be a scumbag again.”

When the “work” was done, and there were no more calls for the women, the men and women would hang out together and watch movies. It was almost like they were friends again.

Except when the women fell asleep, Lynda said. “Andy would take advantage of you. If you tried to fight it, you'd get a hand across the face,” she said. “If you did fight him, you'd be lucky to be breathing.”

She didn't fight.

Attempts to leave

She escaped a few times.

Once, she ran to a bakery in North Providence, where the owner realized she was afraid and let her use the phone to call a relative to pick her up. Another time, while the men went out, she stole money and called a taxi to take her away.

Each time, Fakhoury called her and said he would find her and kill her. Defeis used a different tactic: He apologized and said they could be a family again. Eventually, she'd believe Defeis — and realize when she returned that she'd been fooled.

The last attempt was in the summer of 2010 at the Providence apartment. She hid in a bathroom and called her mother, who called the police. Officers came to the door looking for her, but Lynda couldn't persuade one of the other young women to come with her. The young woman stood on the second-floor porch — with Fakhoury standing behind her — and insisted that she didn't know what Lynda was talking about.

“Kash was standing right next to her, holding her,” Lynda remembered. “Even if she said anything, it was like, ‘I'll punch you right in the back of the head.' It didn't matter that the cops were there.”

A few months later, the police returned. The other young woman's family had been searching for her for months. They found her — advertised as an escort named Jenna: “Pretty, petite blonde, available all day for upscale gentlemen.”

The detectives treated the young woman as a victim, not a criminal. Their kindness helped them uncover the truth about what was happening in that apartment.

New police tactic

Lynda was living with her mother in Virginia when the Providence detectives came to question her that fall. She was glad to talk, recalled Sgt. Patrick McNulty.

The police had worked on prostitution cases before, raiding spas and massage parlors, and arresting escorts and streetwalkers. Yet, over time, Day One, an agency that assists sexual-assault victims, had managed to persuade the police that they needed to view the cases differently. There was more going on than prostitution.

When this case arose, then-Lt. Michael E. Correia directed McNulty and the rest of the detectives to treat the women as victims. “We were able to look at this from a whole different light,” McNulty said. “It wasn't that the girls were prostituting on Someone was driving that.”

By treating the three women as victims, the detectives learned how Fakhoury and Defeis had offered them a twisted sense of family. All three women had been victims of sexual abuse before getting involved with the two men. All three had struggled with substance-abuse problems.

“Whether these guys tried to do what they were doing, they manipulated females who were vulnerable,” McNulty said. “There was not a lot of love in their life, no self-esteem, and these guys preyed upon that.”

This case made the veteran detective wonder what signs they'd missed in others. “If this happened in this case, it's happening every day in every state of the union. It's not unique in Rhode Island,” McNulty said. “Look at — what is the percentage of women who thought this up on their own? There's a guy driving that train.”

Confronting her past

Lynda didn't go to court with the other two women when Defeis and Fakhoury were sentenced in 2011. Her boyfriend at the time told her she wouldn't be able to handle seeing them.

Now, she wishes she'd been there. She thinks about what she'd like to say.

She never wants to see Fakhoury again, but Defeis was once her friend. She knows that he is managing a Smashburger restaurant in Scarsdale, just five miles away from where she's living.

“There are times I want to walk in that place and be like, ‘Why did you do this? Why didn't you be my friend and help me get better instead of destroying me some more?'” she says. “I think that will help me finally put it behind me.”

The abusers

On a recent afternoon, Defeis answers the phone at Smashburger. He pauses when he hears a reporter say Lynda's name.

Defeis was released from the ACI two years ago. Now 27 years old, he says he's up for a promotion to manage more restaurants. “I've come an extremely, extremely long way,” he said.

Defeis says some of the news reports about the case weren't true, but he isn't specific. “I'm not going to say I didn't participate in activities. It was stupid, a bad choice of friends,” he said. “I'm still putting things together.”

Defeis didn't speak in court at his sentencing three years ago or offer an apology to the women, as Fakhoury had. The Superior Court judge called Defeis “a coward” for his silence.

Now, Defeis tells a Journal reporter that he'd “love” to tell his side of the story. He doesn't give his home number but offers to call her after he leaves work. He later leaves a message putting off the interview to another day and asks the reporter not to call the restaurant.

Defeis promises to call. He doesn't.

At the ACI, Fakhoury declines an interview request.

A sergeant's help

Although he retired from the Providence Police Department three years ago and moved to Costa Rica, McNulty remains in contact with Lynda and the other women. For four years, he's been the voice on the phone when they needed reassurance.

Every holiday, Lynda calls him. When her life is falling apart, she calls. When she's afraid, she calls. When she believes no one is there for her, she calls.

McNulty always listens. He knows she feels alone.

“Lynda is a survivor. She is a tough kid. She can make it on her own,” McNulty says. “She's also intelligent and able to understand when somebody is talking to her about logical things. She wants to navigate away from [that life], but it's tough when she didn't have that support.”

She helped the Providence police put the men in prison. She doesn't know where find help for herself, he said. He wishes he could do more.

“Lynda was that street-smart kid I brought up to testify in grand jury. She had the guts to do it on her own,” McNulty said. “When I brought her to the airport in Boston [afterward], she broke down. She was leaving. She was alone. And I saw that little girl in her…”

The retired sergeant's voice cracks. “So, how could I not pick up the phone now?”

Lynda has turned 24. She is back in the neighborhood where she was raised. Some of the old friends are still around. Her family is worried she will fall into trouble.

But McNulty sees promise. “The light that I see is she wants to discuss this with other victims and start on the right path,” he says. “She always wants to help somebody — the boyfriend who has issues, the dog who needs a home — even when she has nothing to give, she wants to be helpful.”

'Now or never'

Lynda has spent the last four years trying to find her way. She's had jobs, but they haven't lasted. She has gone from having her own apartment to being homeless.

She lived with a boyfriend she met months after escaping the house in Elmhurst. Their on-again, off-again relationship ended this fall, soon after he got out of prison. He took away her pit-bull puppy, Ryder, in September and said he shot him; she hasn't seen Ryder since. He called her a whore and said she would never be loved. She worries that he's right.

“We just want to be loved,” Lynda said. “We just want someone to be there for us.”

The turmoil in Lynda's life has exasperated and exhausted her adoptive family, but they are still here for her. She lives with her aunt Lorraine Rossi, who babysat her when she was a quiet baby in a chaotic house. “I think she's just adorable. I love her to death,” says Rossi.

Lynda is rebuilding her relationship with her adoptive parents, Linda and Steve Oddo.

“Her attitude has changed since that time,” says Steve Oddo, who then looks at Lynda, sitting across from him on Rossi's couch. “You're a gorgeous girl. You have a lot ahead of you.”

“You're 24 years old, and it's now or never,” Lynda tells herself. “You are going to end up dead, or somewhere you may not come back from. You can have a loving family to support you, or good luck to you. I really need to figure out my past and get it behind me…”

“It'll always be there,” says her uncle, “but you don't have to dwell on it.”

She hugs a pillow to her chest, her feet curled under her. She doesn't seem as if she believes it.

'I say no'

Lynda walks through her neighborhood in Yonkers, near the woods where she used to hide away when she was in her early teens. She remembers the girl she was, the rebellious teenager who had the word “fate” tattooed on her right ankle. Before Fakhoury and Defeis made her believe she was doomed.

“I still don't know who I am. I am still trying to find my own way,” she says. “You've already done that. You've already prostituted. You've been a call girl, a ho. They say I'll always be that.

“I say no.”

Then one afternoon, she is told about another woman who was trafficked by another pimp from Rhode Island.

The man is in prison, but the young woman is struggling to regain herself. She told a reporter about what the pimp stole from her: her sense of self, her freedom, her independence, her ability to be comfortable in her own skin.

When Lynda hears the woman's story, she doesn't hesitate. “Tell her to call me. That way she won't feel alone.”

They can talk about things that only those who've been through this can really understand, she says. They can help each other.

She adds, wistfully, “I wish I had someone who would do that for me.”


North Carolina

Silence is dangerous: Experts say domestic violence is a community problem

by Anna Johnson

Kimberly remembers being thrown across her bedroom before being picked up by the throat, her voice box cracking during the process, by her then-boyfriend in front of her three young children. As her eyes rolled back into her head, she passed out thinking it was the last time she'd ever see her children.

“They were screaming ‘Get off mommy,'” said Kimberly, who lives in Alamance County. “I was grasping for air, trying to breathe, and I thought it was the last time. I wasn't going to make it. I am never going to see my kids again. I didn't think I was going to hug them or hold them, and my kids were going to witness this.”

For whatever reason, the man stopped after she'd passed out — “I don't know why he stopped,” she said. “Maybe he thought he'd already killed me” — and Kimberly was able to run into the street to call the police.

That was a year ago. The man was charged with assault by strangulation, assault on a female, communicating threats, and assault inflicting serious injury in front of a minor. He was convicted of assault by strangulation and assault on a female in a plea bargain because Kimberly didn't want her children to be put through the trial.

“I can't change what happened,” Kimberly said. “I wish I could, but I can't. At first I blamed myself. That is what we do, we blame ourselves. We feel like it is our fault, and (think) maybe we should have done this different and then it wouldn't have happened, but at the end we can't change what happened, and we have to live with what happened to us. We have to suffer what they've done to us.”

“IT TAKES TWO to tango.”

Decades ago, the phrase was all too common in courtrooms, uttered by attorneys and judges when handling domestic violence cases.

“I remember (decades) ago, walking into a courtroom where I was not the prosecutor, and seeing the D.A. in there calling cases and getting to DV (domestic violence) cases, and a witness wasn't there or a victim wasn't there, and saying, ‘There's nothing to this; the state dismisses,'” said retired senior resident Superior Court judge and former Alamance County district attorney Rob Johnson. “Over and over again. ‘There is nothing to this; the state dismisses.'”

It was the late 1990s when Alamance County applied for its first grant through the Violence Against Women Act to fund a prosecutor and witness legal assistant to focus solely on domestic violence. The county was lucky enough, Johnson said, for the grant to be renewed twice and extended through 2004. It was not approved for a third two-year term.

“At that time we no longer had money for a victim assistant and prosecutor, and what I did was I took the duties and split them between two DAs and kept one of the victim's assistants doing DV work.”

Without the possibility of adding a prosecutor through the county, Johnson went to Raleigh because Alamance County's domestic violence numbers were higher per capita than those of other districts.

“I took those statistics, and we were able to use that to obtain approval from the General Assembly to add to our budget a victims assistant and a prosecutor.”

There is still one prosecutor who handles domestic violence cases in the Alamance County's District Attorney's office.

Alamance County Assistant District Attorney Lori Wickline has handled domestic violence cases in two capacities: as a victim witness legal assistant and as the domestic violence prosecutor.

“So one prosecutor focused on domestic violence allows you to have a single point of contact,” she said. “It allowed me to be more familiar with the types of cases (and) be more familiar with the same defendants, same victims who come through the court system. It gave me a better understanding of their dynamic and a better ability to handle those cases.”

THE DYNAMICS of domestic violence cases are different because survivors could sometimes feel trapped and unable to leave the offender or later recant their testimony.

“I had a two-part approach to domestic violence,” Wickline said. “One was victim safety, and (the other was) offender accountability. Victim safety can mean lots of different things. It could mean that a woman needs a safe house right now, or it could mean, ‘Let's put some safety procedures in place so if this happens again, that victim can know what she needs to do if she chooses to stay.' Offender accountability could mean that person needs to go to jail or that person needs treatment or probation, but it was a two-pronged approach. Each domestic violence case is unique.”

Wickline is also a member of the Family Abuse Services Board of Directors and would refer victims to the Family Justice Center to help take care of their needs.

Some offenders, usually first-time offenders, are referred to an Alamance County Department of Social Services battery intervention program, program coordinator Larry Blount said.

“They are referred (from the court system) to a 26-week program to obtain a dismissal and, if they are placed on probation, they are told they have to successfully complete the program,” he said.

The sessions, which cost the offender more than $600, focus on how men treat women and attempts to change their perception of violence against women.

“They are mostly men who are referred by the court system who don't want to be there, but once they start and get into the process of the class, they start to change their behavior, attitudes and beliefs,” Blount said.

There are no statistics, he said, on how many of the course participants successfully complete the program or go on to reoffend in the future.

“THERE NEEDS TO be a community effort,” Blount said. “We have to have the resources as far as mental health and substance abuse. There are a lot of the men who have substance abuse problems.”

The man who was convicted of attacking Kimberly is scheduled to be released from jail in 2016, and Kimberly is scared for her family. She feels he won't spend enough time for attacking her in front of her children, a common concern among victims.

Sentencing for domestic violence offenders has increased since the late 1990s, including the creation of a the class A1 misdemeanor, which has a maximum sentence of 150 days in jail, and the “cooling-off period,” which required domestic offenders to remain in custody for a period of time. It's not likely, Johnson said, that the General Assembly will choose to create a higher maximum sentence.

Law enforcement and the judicial system, Johnson said, are by their very nature reacting to the crimes. The best way to prevent domestic violence is to start at home.

“We need to treat each other with respect,” Johnson said. “… It comes from bringing up people from childhood on. It comes from raising in the family. It can be reinforced by education and school, but to say that schools can correct what has been omitted by the family is a fallacy. What I am saying is it starts from the cradle.”

USING A SYSTEM that has cut violent crime rates through its city, the High Point Police Department applied its focused deterrence program against chronic, violent criminals to its efforts to reduce domestic violence in 2008. The results, per an August study, show fewer domestic violence-related injuries and deaths.

The Offender Focused Domestic Violence Initiative partners with nonprofits and the local district attorney's office to target the key offenders to “put them on notice” while offering services to the victims, High Point Police Capt. Tim Ellenberger said.

“We want to keep a domestic violence offender from becoming chronic,” he said. “If he is picked up for his first arrest, we make that the last one. We focus on him and apply some sanctions to that offender on his first time that makes it not worth offending again.”

According to the High Point police study, domestic violence survivors reported a 19 percent decrease in reported injuries and a 17 percent decrease in domestic violence-related arrests, and domestic violence-related calls are down 10 percent. Since the program's implementation in 2008, there has been one domestic violence-related homicide in High Point.

“It's not like you are taking cases that you weren't before,” Ellenberger said. “They are there, and you are going to deal with them one way or another.”

This program, he said, helps you deal with the offenders once and supports the victims in the process.

The program is currently being replicated in Lexington. High Point has provided workshops, training and insight to law enforcement agencies across the country including in Alamance County.

THE BURLINGTON POLICE Department is working to revamp its domestic violence policy and looking to implement the highly acclaimed High Point program in the coming year, said Sgt. Jeremy Coleman, supervisor of the special victim unit, which includes domestic violence.

High Point presented information about the program to Alamance County law enforcement agencies about a year ago.

“With domestic violence, you are dealing with two folks who have intimate knowledge of each other,” Coleman said. “In a beating case or assault case, you have two strangers or acquaintances. That's not the case with domestic violence. You have two folks who have a long and storied history.”

Some survivors, he said, don't see their significant others going to jail as an option.

Law enforcement agencies currently receive domestic violence training from the state, and local agencies share information with one another.

“We have cases where we've trained through the Family Justice Center, and a lot of that is hands-on training,” Coleman said. “If we have a case, we will talk to the sheriff's office, we'll talk to Graham (police) and ask if they are familiar with the person.”

The biggest part of implementing the new policy will be working with the local district attorney's office to “proceed with full prosecution.”

ALAMANCE COUNTY, like so many other areas, focuses its efforts on the survivors of domestic violence.

“I don't think we are any different from any other community,” said Lynn Rousseau, Family Abuse Services' executive director. “We tend to focus on the victim so she can get away from the violent relationship. The problem is the offender finds a new victim.”

The community, she said, must shift its mindset and, as a unit, say it will not stand for the mistreatment of women and other victims.

“I think as women, it's easy to want to blame the victim,” Rousseau said. “We think, ‘I would never let myself be in that situation. It could never happen to me.' Blaming the victim makes us feel safer because we think we will make better choices so that won't happen despite knowing that (violence) happens to smart, capable women who, starting out, had good self-esteem. These relationships don't start out abusive.”

There are no coordinated efforts within the community for adults, and there is no statewide program that is focused on the offender, she said. It's difficult to fund those programs because the outcomes are difficult to measure.

“Nationally we have to look toward beefing up prevention and starting healthy relationship programs in kindergarten,” Rousseau said. “Young kids know there is domestic violence in the home. (Child Protective Services) gets the reports, but there are very few programs that target kids who are experiencing this type of trauma.”

SARAH SULLIVAN, director of community outreach and education at Family Abuse Services, is part of that effort. She coordinates puppet shows for third-graders about bullying, child abuse, sexual abuse and domestic violence, and then discusses healthy relationships, dating violence and sexting with eighth-graders.

“We get feedback right away to see if they've learned something, and a lot of what they learn they don't realize, surprisingly, that different things are wrong.”

For example, she said, they don't understand that sending nude photos is wrong because they are underage, among other reasons.

“Children who grow up in an abusive home are statistically likely to continue to stay in an abusive home,” Sullivan said. “For boys, that means becoming an abuser, and for girls, they might end up the victim. … We start young.”

Angela Lewellyn Jones, associate dean of Elon College at Elon University, who teaches a “violence in families” course at Elon, partners with Family Abuse Services for a program called Mentoring Violence Prevention, in which Elon University students teach ninth-graders about domestic violence and expose them to good leadership skills so they do not become bystanders to violence.

“We have to ask the right questions,” Jones said. “We ask why (a victim) responds a certain way. We need to ask what gives (the offender) the impression that taking over total power of another human being is OK. That is the question we need to be asking and what we need to hold people accountable to.”

CrossRoads Sexual Assault Response and Resource Center also has educational programs for school-age children about healthy relationship boundaries and respect for each other's property and persons, Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator Julie Budd said.

“Nationwide, about half of domestic violence cases involve sexual assault, but only about 30 percent of our cases cross over” with domestic violence, she said. “So it is not the same, but it's still all about power and control. … Maybe a victim's telephones have been taken away, or they don't have access to their other support system. They may not know the numbers for family members, plus they may be in trauma.”

Once these survivors have been attacked, they need time to recuperate before fully rejoining society, Budd said.

“It's not just a woman's issue,” she said. “It's a community issue. People who have been assaulted need time to heal, and it's not fair to take that time away from them.”



Sexual-Assault Victims Lacked Confidence In Justice System: Study

by Jim Bronskill

OTTAWA - Two-thirds of female sexual-assault victims who responded to a detailed survey said they lacked confidence in the criminal justice system — pointing to a need for better support services, says a new federal study.

Many of these women cited their shaky faith in the justice system as a reason for not reporting a sexual attack to police.

The newly released study provides insight into the experiences and needs of victims amid heightened concern about whether enough is being done to encourage them to come forward.

Allegations of sexual assault against former CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi and accusations of harassment involving two Liberal MPs have sparked widespread discussion about how society handles issues of sexual impropriety — particularly violence directed at women.

The study, completed this year by government researcher Melissa Lindsay, was obtained from the Justice Department's research and statistics division under the Access to Information Act.

It involved 114 interviews in 2009 with survivors of child or adult sexual violence in three unnamed cities in different provinces. The research division worked closely with sexual assault centres in the three provinces to develop the 76-item questionnaire and recruit participants.

More than one-third of those who experienced adult sexual assault reported it to the police or had another person do so.

The most common reasons for not reporting were shame and embarrassment, fear of the offender and lack of confidence in the justice system.

"While 53 per cent of participants stated that they were not confident in the police, two-thirds stated that they were not confident in the court process and in the criminal justice system in general," the study says.

Participants cited ongoing, long-term effects of being attacked, including depression, difficulties with trust and forming relationships, and anxiety, fear and stress.

"The trauma is — I mean, it's absolutely unbearable," one victim told the researchers.

The women described a number of means of coping with effects of the trauma, both positive (such as reading, exercising, writing in a journal) and negative (drug and alcohol abuse, self-harm, suicide attempts).

The women suggested that survivors of sexual violence become informed about the criminal justice system, and know that help is available for victims and that legal proceedings can take a long time. The best way of sharing this information is through school programs and counsellors, they said.

Three broad themes emerged on making improvements — helping survivors feel safe and comfortable, providing them with information on sexual violence and justice procedures, and adjusting the overall system to ensure things like more timely processing of cases and a better balancing of how victim and suspect are treated.

The Conservatives have introduced legislation to create a federal bill of rights for victims aimed at providing them with more information and protection as well as greater opportunities to participate in trials and sentencing.

However, some victims rights advocates have said the legislation falls short because it wouldn't allow people to head to court if they felt their rights were not respected.


New Zealand

Let's talk about sex ... and love, respect and consent

Educators say biology classes are no longer enough for teenagers navigating a world where porn, explicit music videos and online hook-ups are the norm

by Joanna Mathers

The party is in full swing - teenagers are laughing, drinking and dancing. On the couch in the middle of the room sits a girl - she's wearing a short skirt and is perilously close to drunken oblivion. She's hemmed in by a young guy. He's running his hand up and down her legs, whispering, cajoling; trying to separate her from the group, to get her alone.

There are concerned onlookers - his mate, who can see what is happening but doesn't have the words to stop it. A young woman from school, whose friends think she's "a skank". Strangers who wonder if she has mates looking out for her; if the guy's her boyfriend, if she's in control of the situation.

Scenes like this are played out every weekend, in towns and cities around New Zealand. But this particular scenario is fictional; a small drama penned by Shortland Street actor Sam Bunkall (he plays Boyd Rolleston on the show).

Entitled Bystander: the Action Movie , it has been created as a resource for the work he does in secondary schools through Rape Prevention Education . It is just a short piece of fiction, but it effectively captures teen attitudes to sex, consent and gender roles.

Bunkall has been working at secondary schools around Auckland for three years as an educator for a programme called BodySafe.

Run by Rape Prevention Education (formerly known as Rape Crisis) the programme was set up to promote healthy, respectful relationships and to prevent experiences of sexual harm and violence.

Bunkall says his experience as an educator has been eye-opening. He has encountered pervasive and harmful stereotypes and attitudes.

"In the programme we give an example of a girl getting dressed up nicely and planning to meet a boy she likes at a party. When she's there, she has a few drinks and agrees to go into a room with the boy. They kiss, and he starts to remove her underwear. She says no, but he says it will be okay. They have sex.

"When we ask the students who is to 'blame' for what happened, most of the students say it's the girl's fault. She shouldn't have worn such a short skirt; she shouldn't have gone into the room. Very few students say the boy was at fault."

Bunkall's experience is common. Educators nationwide are confronted again and again by such misconceptions - attitudes that can fuel reckless and sometimes violent sexual behaviour.

Teenagers are getting their sex education through online porn, racy music videos and titillating social media sites.

"There is no real discussion or dialogue about consent in the media," says Bunkall.

And they're not just using technology to watch sexual activity; they are also hooking up online.

It has recently been revealed that although Tinder's official agreement states you need to be over 18 to use the app, up to 7 per cent of the users are between 13 and 17.

Tinder and the like are set to be an increasing flashpoint for risky teen activity.

Bunkall says there is also a lack of discussion in homes on sexuality and safety.

"Kids aren't getting information about consent from their parents."

So what information are they getting from schools?

A health select committee charged with assessing sex education in schools found it was "fragmented and uneven".

The committee urged the Government to broaden the scope of sex education, to include issues around rape, consent and self-worth.

New guidelines will be released within weeks but although the Government will take on some of the proposals, the Herald on Sunday understands it will still be up to individual schools to work out what they teach.

That, say the experts, is a missed opportunity from which our young people will emerge the victims.

When it comes to sexuality, modern teenagers are navigating perilous seas and little is being done to counter the barrage of harmful messages that saturate their culture.

The Roast Busters case brought to glaring light the underbelly of teen sexual culture in New Zealand. Fuelled by alcohol and machismo, these young men preyed on vulnerable underage girls, filmed their sex acts and shared them on the internet.

They have recently been cleared of all charges; but the investigation uncovered just how difficult it is for sexually abused teenagers to open up to adults.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush said the investigation highlighted "the barriers which young people experience in disclosing unwanted sexual activity to adults".

Detective Inspector Karyn Malthus, who headed the operation, said there was not enough evidence to prosecute. "Factors included the wishes of individual victims, the admissible evidence available; the nature of the offence and the age of the parties at the time of the offending."

The media outcry accompanying the case has opened a Pandora's box of troubling teen sexual mores.

"The Roast Busters case forced a lot of media to talk about sexual violence," says Bunkall. But he says that this is one "silver lining". "It has made people confront issues around victim blaming; hopefully, it will help to change the way media report issues around sexual violence."

Bunkall says in his experience, parents are loath to talk to their kids about sex and consent and leave sexuality education to the schools. But even here there is no coherent message.

Dr Graham Stoop, deputy secretary of student achievement at the Ministry of Education, says sex education comes under the general guidelines for health education, which is taught as a formal subject from Years 11-13.

"We are working with schools, health professionals and others to update existing sexuality education guidelines for schools, following recommendations in a health select committee report released earlier this year."

He says the health and physical education component of the New Zealand curriculum, which includes sexuality, is not changing.

"It will not recommend when or what sexuality issues are taught, either in primary or secondary schools, as schools make these decisions in consultation," says Stoop.

Lorraine Kerr, president of the School Trustees Association, says there is a general requirement to teach sex education through the health education component of the curriculum, but "the management of the school will determine what is taught in the sex education classes".

Kerr says the New Zealand curriculum is designed so teachers have flexibility and freedom around what they teach. There is no mandatory teaching around consent and sexual violence prevention.

For sexual violence prevention educators, the lack of commitment to a coherent message on consent and dangerous attitudes is concerning.

"Sex education at schools usually only deals with the biological side of things," says Dr Kim McGregor, executive director of Rape Prevention Education (RPE). "Ninety per cent of the issues surrounding sexuality are about relationships and respect - this is what needs to be taught."

In the absence of parental or teacher education on sexual matters, pornography, sexual music videos, and social media fill the gap. McGregor says women often are presented as objects in these forums, creating a warped perception of sexual relations.

Such is the confusion around gender roles, school counsellors report being asked by girls if they "have to" have anal or degrading sex with boyfriends who have been fed a steady diet of porn.

But she feels education services such as BodySafe can help to clarify what is acceptable sexual behaviour.

"We have heard of 15-year-old boys saying, 'Now I know what I did was rape' after having the concept of consent explained to them," says McGregor.

"We are teaching the teenagers that consent should be a 'mutual, enthusiastic yes'."

Anna-Kristy Munro-Charters, a community educator with Rape Crisis in Dunedin, says the issues are occurring nationwide.

"Many still believe that women ask to be raped and invite it by their drinking.

"This is clearly false and is used as a way to blame survivors and excuse perpetrators of rape and sexual abuse."

She says this type of attitude makes it easy for sexual offenders to target or exploit women who are drunk, or to use alcohol as an excuse for assaulting them.

"We know that survivors can be anybody regardless of behaviour, appearance, clothing or job occupation. Rape is about power, not sex."

She agrees that popular culture has reinforced unhealthy stereotypes on sex and gender. "Yes, popular culture has a lot to answer for; women are systematically exploited and sexualised within music videos and also in mainstream media."

McGregor says that RPE has been lobbying the Government for a national sexual violence prevention programme in schools for about a decade. ACC has recently launched a course for secondary schools, called Mates and Dates, that educates teenagers about sexual violence prevention and the establishment of healthy relationships.

ACC figures reveal that 15 to 24-year-old women are most at risk of violence from current or ex-partners; and one in five females and one in 10 males experience unwanted sexual contact or are forced into sex while they are at secondary school. We need to change the way in which we engage with teenagers about sexual issues.

McGregor says the pilot has run in eight schools in term three this year. "It is now being evaluated and, hopefully, there will be funding to extend it throughout the country."

She is also heartened by increased male attendance at anti-rape events. A Roast Busters march last year attracted between 700 and 1000 participants, a third of whom were male. "At a Reclaim the Night march not long after, about 50 per cent of marchers were male. I've been speaking at anti-rape marches for 30 years and this is the most men I've ever seen at one. It's a great sign."

Elizabeth Barrett is a 42-year-old Auckland mother of a 14-year-old girl. She says teenagers are more and less aware of sex issues than when she was a young woman.

"I was sexually active from 15 - within relationships and always consensual. My daughter is nearly 15 but I couldn't imagine her being anywhere near ready for this. Other teenagers I know are 14 and having sex. I think it's still down to individuals."

She says being at a single-sex school has taken some of the pressure off her daughter when it comes to sex.

"Her friends are not particularly interested in boys so that has a handbrake effect." She feels parents and peers are the main influences of sexual attitudes in teens, but agrees that popular culture plays its part.

"Generally I think music videos, TV and film - even books - are giving young people strange attitudes to sex and relationships. The pole dancing and twerking music videos seem to communicate to young women that their worth is as a sexually attractive object for men.

"Some novels are full of love stories that end in marriage with incredibly unrealistic ideas about what they could and should expect from relationships."

She says although her daughter isn't sexually active now, she hopes she will be able to communicate with her when this changes. "I want my daughter to eventually experience a loving sexual relationship. As she is not sexually active now I'm not sure how I will cope when it happens but I'd rather know my daughter and what she's up to than have her hide it from me."

Advice for parents

Keep a good relationship with your children. Some of the research that's been undertaken around these issues indicates that if parents tell their children not to go to a particular party, but the teenager goes and something happens to them, they will be afraid to tell. Parents need their children to know that even if they have done something against their advice, they can come to them if something has happened.

It's a good idea to form a community of parents with teenagers. Let your children know that even if they don't want to talk to you about issues, there are other adults in this extended community who are there to listen.

Use online resources to help engage with your children around sexual issues. The website is great resource that deals with issues around healthy sexual relationships and sexual violence. Go through the website with them and discuss issues that are raised.

Kim McGregor,
Rape Prevention Education



Ingleside teachers charged for failure to report child abuse

by Angelica Robinson

Three Northwest Suburban teachers are charged with failing to report suspected child abuse at the hands of a colleague.

They're accused of not reporting Michael Vucic for the alleged abuse.

Vucic taught social studies for 18 years at Gavin South Middle School in Ingleside.

The took off for Bosnia in August and is currently waiting to be extradited to the U.S.

34- year- old April Courtney, and 38-year-old Michael Lanners both surrendered to police.

The location of another former colleague 40-year- old John Keehan is unknown.

Police are trying to determine if other victims were involved.



Nonprofit aims to help overlooked sex trafficking victims

by Elizabeth Johnson

SARASOTA - As a child, Nathan Earl was physically and sexually abused.

At 11, he began sniffing gasoline.

“I started to escape that reality,” Earl said.

As he got older, he graduated to marijuana, alcohol and acid.

Then, he was living on the streets — homeless, strung out on drugs, being exploited for sex.

“I was going from drug dealer to drug dealer, being passed around like a token,” Earl said. “I became involved with one of the hustlers.”

Once, Earl woke up in a treeline on North Tamiami Trail. His pants were pulled down. His shirt was open.

Earl ended up in prison. That's the first time he heard of Victor Frankl — a Holocaust survivor — and one of the man's quotes struck a chord: “If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering.”

The moment he heard those words, his life changed.

“That was the beginning of my transition from victim to survivor,” Earl said. “I started to think maybe there is a reason, maybe I'm not just a worthless piece of crap.

“Since then, it's been slow journey, but it's been a progressive journey. I believe I experienced all of that stuff to be an advocate.”

In February, Earl founded Ark of Freedom — a local nonprofit focused on helping male, gay and transgender victims of human trafficking.

Through a grant from Miami Foundation, Earl garnered enough funding to get the organization up and running for a year.

During these first 12 months, Earl is working to identify community partners to provide a wide-range of services — educational training, substance abuse care, mental health treatment, job placement — to those survivors who seek help from Ark of Freedom.

By February, he hopes to be able to put plans in action and start a residential program.

One of his top priorities is creating awareness of human trafficking in our community.

A Herald-Tribune special report called “The Stolen Ones” and Selah Freedom — an organization that helps female sex trafficking victims — have fostered some understanding of the problem.

But Earl said it is still hard for others to understand that boys and transgender people are also victims of sex trafficking.

Some research shows that boys make up roughly 50 percent of children who are trafficked for sex.

“It's hard enough in our society to imagine a grown man raping a girl,” Earl said. “It's even less digestible that man is raping a boy. Awareness is needed to change that attitude and behavior.”

Sex exploitation, especially of males, is often under-reported because they don't want to consider themselves victims or have others think they are gay. For LGBT youth, many have already been alienated for their sexual orientation and fear it could become worse.

“We've got to educate the kids and take away the shame and the stigma attached to that,” Earl said.

Ark of Freedom already has one success story: a transgender woman who goes by Torri.

“I was living in complete darkness away from family and those I knew to be friends,” Torri's story reads on Ark of Freedom's website. “I was a prisoner of the sex trade for 15 years. I grew tired and hopeless.”

Torri found Ark of Freedom, which connected her with a residential program in Orlando.

“I have learned to be proactive, address my feelings, change my way of thinking and move forward with my life,” Torri's story goes. “I'm a brand new person physically and mentally.”

Earl said it is imperative for sexual exploitation victims to know they are not alone and that they can find a new life.

“She was just a skeleton selling her body for crack — being yanked into a crack house, beaten and controlled by pimps,” Earl said of Torri. “To see her coming out of the detox with a smile, that's amazing. The survivor stories are really important.”

For Earl, it's all about providing the hope he felt when he first heard Victor Frankl's words.

“A spark of hope, a spark of self-worth is what's needed in anyone whose gone through something like that to have them hold on instead of just let go,” Earl said. “That's when the transition takes place.”

Ark of Freedom is launching a fundraiser today that goes through Dec. 15. Shoes of Freedom is a shoe drive, in which community members are asked to donate used shoes. Ark of Freedom will be paid an amount for every pound of shoes and put the funds into its programming for local victims of human trafficking. The shoes will be sent to impoverished countries. Families will refurbish and sell the shoes for income in hopes of battling child trafficking there.



Sexual-assault victims lack confidence in justice system: study

by Jim Bronskill

OTTAWA -- Two-thirds of female sexual-assault victims who responded to a detailed survey said they lacked confidence in the criminal justice system -- pointing to a need for better support services, says a new federal study.

Many of these women cited their shaky faith in the justice system as a reason for not reporting a sexual attack to police.

The newly released study provides insight into the experiences and needs of victims amid heightened concern about whether enough is being done to encourage them to come forward.

Allegations of sexual assault against former CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi and accusations of harassment involving two Liberal MPs have sparked widespread discussion about how society handles issues of sexual impropriety -- particularly violence directed at women.

The study, completed this year by government researcher Melissa Lindsay, was obtained from the Justice Department's research and statistics division under the Access to Information Act.

It involved 114 interviews in 2009 with survivors of child or adult sexual violence in three unnamed cities in different provinces. The research division worked closely with sexual assault centres in the three provinces to develop the 76-item questionnaire and recruit participants.

More than one-third of those who experienced adult sexual assault reported it to the police or had another person do so.

The most common reasons for not reporting were shame and embarrassment, fear of the offender and lack of confidence in the justice system.

"While 53 per cent of participants stated that they were not confident in the police, two-thirds stated that they were not confident in the court process and in the criminal justice system in general," the study says.

Participants cited ongoing, long-term effects of being attacked, including depression, difficulties with trust and forming relationships, and anxiety, fear and stress.

"The trauma is -- I mean, it's absolutely unbearable," one victim told the researchers.

The women described a number of means of coping with effects of the trauma, both positive (such as reading, exercising, writing in a journal) and negative (drug and alcohol abuse, self-harm, suicide attempts).

The women suggested that survivors of sexual violence become informed about the criminal justice system, and know that help is available for victims and that legal proceedings can take a long time. The best way of sharing this information is through school programs and counsellors, they said.

Three broad themes emerged on making improvements -- helping survivors feel safe and comfortable, providing them with information on sexual violence and justice procedures, and adjusting the overall system to ensure things like more timely processing of cases and a better balancing of how victim and suspect are treated.

The Conservatives have introduced legislation to create a federal bill of rights for victims aimed at providing them with more information and protection as well as greater opportunities to participate in trials and sentencing.

However, some victims rights advocates have said the legislation falls short because it wouldn't allow people to head to court if they felt their rights were not respected.



Los Angeles schools drop lawyer who won sex case


LOS ANGELES (AP) - The Los Angeles school district on Friday removed a lawyer who successfully defended it in a sexual abuse lawsuit in which he told jurors that a 14-year-old girl who had sex with a male teacher shared responsibility despite her age.

The trial victory spared the cash-strapped district a potentially pricey verdict, but news of the trial strategy and remarks by attorney W. Keith Wyatt that it was a more dangerous decision to cross the street than to have sex with a teacher drew criticism.

"Mr. Wyatt's comments yesterday were completely inappropriate, and they undermine the spirit of the environment we strive to offer our students every day," Dave Holmquist, general counsel for the school district, said in a statement. "Our deepest apologies go out to the young woman and her family, who were hurt by the insensitive remarks of Mr. Wyatt."

Wyatt, who had worked with the district through an outside firm for 27 years and had 18 cases pending, would not comment.

The girl who lost the case is appealing because the judge allowed evidence of her sexual history to be presented and because Wyatt blamed her for consenting to the sex even though she was too young to do so.

"She lied to her mother so she could have sex with her teacher," Wyatt had told KPCC, which first reported the story. "She went to a motel in which she engaged in voluntary consensual sex with her teacher. Why shouldn't she be responsible for that?

The teacher in the case, Elkis Hermida, was sentenced in 2011 to three years in prison for lewd acts against a child.

The Los Angeles Unified School District claimed it was unaware of the relationship between the teacher and student and was cleared last year of wrongdoing by a civil jury in Los Angeles Superior Court. The girl was not awarded damages for the emotional trauma she said she suffered during a five-month relationship with the teacher.

The case exposed an apparent inconsistency in the standard for sexual consent in California criminal and civil cases.

In criminal cases, a 14-year-old girl is too young to consent to sex with an adult. Wyatt, however, cited a federal court decision that said a minor could consent to sex in some circumstances.

The federal case cited by Wyatt relies on a California Supreme Court decision about jury instructions in an incest case, said Mary Fan, a law professor at the University of Washington. The creative application of the language was probably never envisioned by the state's high court.

"Some language plucked out of the original case has grown to monstrous proportions," Fan said. "Pretty soon it looks like a viable argument. When a court accepts it, it just grows into its own beast."

Lawyers and advocates for sexual abuse victims said the legal tactic was surprising.

"I was shocked. I've done sexual abuse cases against school districts before and I've never seen the persistence of this argument," said Holly Boyer, who filed the appeal for the girl. "I've never seen this at all that the victim willingly participated in this and that they should bear some responsibility in their injuries."

While Wyatt had argued that the teacher and girl went to extreme lengths to hide their relationship, Boyer said there were enough warning signs that the school should have been aware of the teacher's conduct.

He was seen hugging other girls and began to groom the victim at age 13 through texting, phone calls and exchanging photos, Boyer said, adding the sexual abuse began when the girl was 14 and some of it occurred in the classroom.

Boyer also plans to argue that the girl's sexual past should not have been allowed into evidence. Typically, such evidence is barred in criminal cases by rape shield laws, but not always in civil actions.

"It's terrible, but not unusual that a school would try to muddy the waters" by presenting such evidence, said Fatima Goss Graves, a vice president at the National Women's Law Center. "The law on whether and when that sort of evidence is permitted is sort of murky and one of the reasons why Congress is looking at additional law ... that looks more like a criminal rape shield law."



AZ child-abuse, neglect deaths rising

by Howard Fischer

PHOENIX — More infants died in Arizona last year from unsafe sleep environments than motor vehicle accidents.

A new report released Friday about child fatalities in the state also found:

•  Fewer children younger than 18 took their own lives.

•  Drowning deaths for children were down.

•  More newborns died of complications of prematurity as the number of mothers getting prenatal care dropped.

It also shows a sharp increase in the number of children who died because of abuse and neglect, up from 71 in 2012 to 92 last year.

Dr. Mary Rimsza, who chairs the state's child-fatality review program, said the mortality rate of child- abuse victims nearly doubled in the last six years, from 3 per 100,000 children in 2008 to 5.6 in 2013.

Of particular note, Rimsza said, is nearly half of those were cases with no prior reports to Child Protective Services.

“In those cases, we often felt it was preventable on the basis there were people who knew that the child was being abused and action wasn't taken,” she said. “To report it to the ?hot line is critical.”

Rimsza said there was a drop in child fatalities from abuse in cases that were spotted by “mandatory reporters” like doctors or teachers.

“The majority of these cases aren't ones that come to the attention of medical personnel,” she said.

“They're kids too young to be in school for a teacher to report it,” Rimsza continued. “So it really is dependent on people in the family, a neighbor, to report it.”

Rimsza said the issue of infants dying in unsafe sleep environments comes down to parents knowing where to put a child down for a nap or for the night — and where not to do that.

“For example, putting them on a couch, in an adult bed, letting them sleep in the car seat, places other than a crib,” she detailed. “Chairs. We find everything.”

Car seats? Rimsza acknowledged it's not unusual for an infant to fall asleep while being driven somewhere.

“That's OK,” she said. “We don't expect you to wake your baby up.”

But she said parents and caretakers sometimes will let a child sleep all night in a car seat, even when there's a crib available.

“What happens in that environment — and it depends on the age of the child — is the positioning in the car seat,” Rimsza explained.

“Maybe they put some pillows or blankets around,” she said. “It can lead to asphyxiation. ”The bottom line, said Rimsza, is that if a parent ?is not going to be immediately around, he or she should put a child in the only safe place: a crib.mediately around, he or she should put a child in the only safe place: a crib.

That goes to the issue of “co-sleeping,” where parents bring the infant into bed with them — or even without them, putting them in to their own beds.

“The beds don't have the kind of mattress that is suitable for an infant,” Rimsza said. She said those who are too young to roll over can get “trapped” in the mattress or covers.

And with an adult in the bed — especially one who may have been drinking or using drugs and therefore less aware of his or her activities — the risks are increased that the infant could be crushed.

But there are precautions even if the infant is placed in a crib.

The report says 28 babies died because they were placed on their side or stomach. The only proper position is putting the infant on its back, with no extra bedding or toys, including pillows, blankets, comforters, sleep positioners, stuffed toys or other soft objects the crib.

The Arizona Department of Health Services also says any sheet should be fitted tightly over a firm mattress that fits tightly into the crib.



Adults Shot Kids With BB Guns, Forced Sex: Police

Five adults are in custody in a Pennsylvania child abuse case involving sexual acts performed on a 2-year-old and children being shot with BB guns.

Investigators say that children in a Darby home this spring were punched, slapped, thrown over a banister and shot repeatedly with BB guns.

The defendants include three men and two women.

The police affidavit says one of the women was forced to perform sex acts on a 2-year-old boy.

The children also witnessed sex acts between some of the defendants.

Delaware County court documents show that the investigation began in June.

The two women accused are mothers of the five children.

The charges vary from corruption of minors to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child.

It's not immediately clear if any defendants have lawyers.


New Mexico

CYFD encourages all concerned to report child abuse

Only parents or guardians will know results of calling #SAFE, however

by Regina Ruiz

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —A disturbing child sex abuse case has outraged neighbors who say they reported the boy was in trouble long before an arrest.
"My first alarm was he would be at the bus stop at 6:30 in the morning sometimes by himself, without a coat, sometimes without eating any food or having any food to take to school," says neighbor Caroline Calisto.

Calisto and a group of mothers tried to help, calling the Children, Youth and Families Department to report child neglect.

"You figure if you call CYFD they are going to get something done, because we can't get it done more than they could," said Katie Calisto.

The mothers saw CYFD check out the situation and did not see the boy outside alone as much, but they had no idea more was going on.

Recently police started investigating accusations of sexual abuse generated from a tip. That led to the arrest of 34-year-old Gwen Lindgren. She is now being charged with rape of a child.

"I was sick, I was sick to my stomach. To know that that was happening, it's sickening," said neighbor Denise Phillips.

CYFD cannot say if the boy was ever removed from the home because of the children's code.

The department said those concerned can keep calling, even if they have already called about the same child. Those who report child abuse -- unless they are a parent or guardian -- may never know the outcome of the call, however, even if that person is a grandparent.

CYFD officials urge residents, family members, neighbors and anyone concerned about potential child abuse to keep calling pound safe (#S-A-F-E) every time they are concerned. If it's a priority 1 case, CYFD will be out to check on the child within 24 hours. If it's priority 2 case, workers will be there within five days.


North Carolina

New SAFE Spot center opens; targets child abuse cases

by frances Hayes

Child abuse cases will be solved and prosecuted more successfully with a new child advocacy center in Wilkes County, said Kisa Posey, assistant district attorney for the 23rd judicial district.

A grand opening for the new center, SAFE Spot, was held Thursday afternoon. It's in a renovated 1,200-square-foot facility at 1260 College Ave., Wilkesboro, and is next to Sheltered Aid for Families in Emergency (SAFE), which sponsors the center.

SAFE Spot provides better coordination between the agencies involved in child abuse cases. It also means children do not have to go out of town for the interview process and only have to be interviewed once, said Mrs. Posey.

She said it could take as long as a year and a half to two years for child abuse cases to be prosecuted. Getting the information soon and having the story on a DVD helps in getting a conviction.


A crowd attended the 2 p.m. opening on Thursday including members of the Lowes Heroes who helped to renovate the space. SAFE Spot provides comprehensive, community-based services to children and families affected by sexual abuse or severe physical abuse.

The child friendly center has been created as a nonthreatening spot for children who have been abused, said Shellie Bowlin, coordinator for SAFE Spot.

“It a sad fact. Child sexual abuse is a big problem in Wilkes. But SAFE Spot will improve care for abused children and will aid in the investigation and prosecution of crimes against children,” said Mrs. Bowlin, during the grand opening.

She said a multidisciplinary team from the Wilkes Department of Social Services, law enforcement, mental health, Guardian ad Litem, district attorney and the public school system have been meeting for the past two years to collaborate cases.

“Communication has really opened up with the meetings and there is less duplication from the different agencies,” said Mrs. Bowlin.

A local therapist, Jodi Province, is also a member of the team. Mrs. Province and three other local therapists, Erica Walker, Amber Dillard and Michelle Sally, have completed a year-long training program in Trauma-Focused-Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

“The therapy is a proven approach to help kids heal after abuse,” said Mrs. Shellie.

Mrs. Walker, acting director for SAFE, stressed that therapy cleans out the wound for children so healing can begin.

“It used to be people thought an abused child was broken, but that is not true now,” said Mrs. Walker.

“It takes a team to put a dent in this problem and it took a team to build this beautiful center. This wonderful place is a visible example of what can happen when people work together,” said Mrs. Shellie.

The center has been the site of several child abuse interviews for the past month. Those interviews are done by one of four trained people in a comfortable, nonthreatening space.

A one-way zoom camera allows for people involved in the case, such as law enforcement, to watch the interview while the interview is in a nearby conference room.

The camera is placed near the ceiling and is covered by a small wooden replica of a doghouse to make it less threatening to a child.

The animal theme is seen throughout the center with dog paws near the entrance. The exam room is filled with hand designed and painted animals on the wall and ceiling to distract children while they are being examined.

The exam room will be used once a supervisor is hired, said SAFE officials. They expect that to occur by early 2015.


Mrs. Bowlin thanked the following contributors for their assistance with SAFE Spot.

They include The Health Foundation, Lowes Charitable and Educational Foundation, The Cannon Foundation and N.C. Communication Foundation.

Wilkes Community College (WCC) students provided extensive work on the center. They include building construction students under Dwight Hartzog who built the center; Michael Wingler, WCC associate vice president of information technology and students in that area who designed the video recording system; Erin Guffey, WCC student who created the Spot logo and Matthew Jordan, WCC graduate who assisted with the development of the building plans.

In-kind donations were made by Key City Furniture, McLean Floor Coverings, Office Furniture Concepts.

Dwaine Swink and Cubic Design Group designed the space and helped supervise construction. Lowe's Heroes Team, under Curtis Parker and Josh Brown who provided 60 volunteers working 500 hours.

Recognition level donors, Julius C. Hubbard Jr., Mr. and Mrs. Tim Murphy, Judge and Mrs. Julius Rousseau Jr.

“We appreciate all the caring folks from across the community who contributed to the center's fundraising drive. You have all played an invaluable role in bringing a brighter day to abused children in Wilkes and we appreciate you all,” said Mrs. Bowlin.

For more information call 838-9169.


Web-Based Training System to Address Child Abuse Within Military

UCLA/Duke University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress will train health specialists who work on military bases

Military families face many challenges, including frequent separations, multiple combat deployments, and all the associated risks that accompany military service, including injury to the service member. While the majority of service members and families successfully cope with these challenges through family and community support, other families face challenges that can include divorce, child abuse and even suicide.

Now the UCLA/Duke University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress (NCCTS), under a new agreement with the United States Department of Defense, will train behavioral health specialists who work on military bases to provide assistance for military families impacted by child abuse, domestic violence and other forms of child traumatic stress.

Specifically, the NCCTS will develop a web-based system to provide training to some 2,000 specialists to acquire the knowledge and experience to effectively address child abuse when it occurs.

The center is at the forefront of modernizing interventions for the children who have been exposed to family and community violence, disasters and also refugees from war-torn countries. Since 2001, the UCLA/Duke University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress has been committed to building the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN). Supported by the Substance Abuse Mental Health Administration under the Department of Health and Human Services, the network has always provided support to military and veteran families negatively affected by deployment, combat injury or family difficulties during reintegration of the military member back into society.

“The NCTSN already has in place programs to assist traumatized children and their families. Now, we are modifying these trauma-informed, evidence-based practices for behavioral health specialists to treat military children,” said Gregory Leskin, director of the Military and Veteran Families Program at the center.

The new program will use a web-based approach to train a worldwide cadre of providers. Those who participate in the program will also have opportunities to form online communities with their colleagues to enhance their abilities by sharing best practices and lessons learned from their collective experiences.

One virtual program, for example, has been developed to deliver clinical training on child traumatic stress to U.S. military behavioral health providers. From their office computers, said Leskin, these providers will be trained remotely by some of the world's leading experts in evidence-based treatments for child traumatic stress. Further, he said, “This unique configuration of learning and social networking will allow these staff to connect to each other to discuss their progress reaching their learning goals. As a result, a military behavioral staff member working in Hawaii will have access to the same on-demand training materials as their colleagues staffing clinics in Europe.”

Said Dr. Robert Pynoos, co-director for the UCLA/Duke University program: “Having a web-based training system puts the NCTSN in a unique position to assist the Department of Defense to modernize the care of children and families. We are honored to work with the military community and the family advocacy program to provide this training to military providers.”

In addition to working with the Department of Defense, the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress Military and Veterans Program currently provides training to more than 60 top clinical programs nationally, providing treatments to military and veteran families as part of a community-wide initiative to support behavioral health. The network partners with many national military and non-profit groups to address the mental health needs of military children and youth who might be affected by their parent's or family member's deployment.

The UCLA/Duke University NCCTS would like to acknowledge the UCLA Irene Fund for Mental Health, which has provided long-standing support of clinical services in mental health care for traumatized children, adolescents, and their families at UCLA. The NCCTS is part of the The Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, an interdisciplinary research and education institute devoted to the understanding of complex human behavior, including the genetic, biological, behavioral and sociocultural underpinnings of normal behavior, and the causes and consequences of neuropsychiatric disorders. In addition to conducting fundamental research, the institute faculty seeks to develop effective strategies for prevention and treatment of neurological, psychiatric and behavioral disorder, including improvement in access to mental health services and the shaping of national health policy.



Prosecutors: Utah trucker kept more sex slaves

Federal prosecutors say a Utah truck driver had four other victims in addition to the two women he is accused of keeping as sex slaves in his semi-trailer as he drove across the country.


SALT LAKE CITY — Federal prosecutors say a Utah truck driver had four other victims in addition to the two women he is accused of keeping as sex slaves in his semi-trailer as he drove across the country.

Some of the new accusations against defendant Timothy Jay Vafeades, 54, date back 20 years.

In two of the new incidents detailed in court documents filed Monday, the federal prosecutors say Vafeades lured the women to his truck, then forcibly altered their appearances and ground down their teeth while holding them prisoner for months.

Vafeades met one of the women when he was a hospice patient and married her. He began assaulting her after she agreed to go to Utah with him and continued until she escaped about six months later, the documents state.

Vafeades is accused of meeting another woman while she worked at a retail store and inviting her to join him in his truck for more than a week in 2005, then keeping her on board for about three months before she got away.

In the other two new cases, Vafeades assaulted women he met at a college and online, authorities said.

No charges have been filed involving the newly disclosed incidents because the statute of limitations has expired, but prosecutors want to introduce the details as evidence in the case filed in March, said Melodie Rydalch, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Utah.

In that case, prosecutors said the trucker kidnapped and repeatedly sexually assaulted two women who were 18 and 19.

Vafeades has pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of kidnapping, transporting for illegal sexual activity and possession of child pornography. His attorney Vanessa Ramos declined to comment Thursday.

Prosecutors say the circumstances were similar to the recently disclosed incidents and show preparation, planning and intent.

Ramos has filed a motion to suppress evidence gathered by police during a search of Vafeades's truck after he was arrested in Minnesota.

He was taken into custody after police noticed the 19-year-old woman with bruises on her face at a weigh station. Ramos argued in court documents that the stop and the search were illegal.

A hearing scheduled for Dec. 17 on her motion.


The Devastating Pattern of Sexual Abuse in Competitive Swimming

by Katy Waldman

A heartbreaking story in Outside magazine drills deep into the scourge of sexual abuse in competitive swimming . Written by Rachel Sturtz, the piece moves from the case of Anna Strzempko, who alleges that her middle-school coach raped her repeatedly in a storage room above her YMCA pool in 2008, to the USA Swimming officials who for many years went to perverse extremes to look the other way in situations like hers.

This is not a new story. In 2010, ABC's 20/20 and the ESPN documentary series Outside the Lines sparked a flare of publicity with its pieces on Brian Hindson, an Indiana coach who secretly videotaped female swimmers in the locker room shower, and Andy King, a serial rapist and coach who preyed on at least 15 girls as he drifted between California towns. Those earlier reports also revealed a bigger pattern of abuse in the sport. As of 2014, more than 100 USA Swimming coaches have received life bans—and those bans reflect only the small sliver of incidents that were reported, then adequately investigated, then justly punished.

Sturtz's deeply researched article makes clear that many sex crimes committed against young athletes never leave the locker room shadows. In the wake of allegations that prominent Washington, D.C., swim coach Rick Curl sexually abused a 13-year-old butterfly champion, the blog Cap and Goggles ran a post on how often these crimes occur and how rarely they're discussed. Allegations like the ones against Curl (who was later convicted of child sexual abuse and sentenced to seven years in prison) are “not news at all—not to the swimmers and coaches and parents who grew up swimming,” wrote author Casey Barrett. “This has been an open secret for ages.”

Sexual abuse cases in youth sports “happen with much greater frequency than people realize,” Sturtz asserts in the Outside piece, and then goes long on the institutional forces that have allowed the abuse to silently metastasize. Unlike most European countries, the United States has no government agency dedicated to protecting kids from molestation by their youth coaches. Instead, that responsibility falls to the United States Olympic Committee, which then outsources the task to national governing bodies, or NGBs, like USA Swimming, USA Football, and USA Taekwondo. This decentralized structure ensures that the people dealing with complaints of sexual abuse are those with the closest ties to the athletic community under investigation, officials who are more likely than disinterested third parties to wish to preserve appearances and reputations. With “the fox … guarding the henhouse,” Sturtz writes, “the USOC's system historically protected the institution and its coaches more than children, dragging out investigations and lawsuits until sexual-assault survivors lost what little fight they had left.”

Until 2011, USA Swimming had no formal procedure for prescreening coaches, training them, or processing accusations of abuse. When a complaint arose, it generally went to a three-person panel chaired by USA Swimming's own legal counsel —the very same defense lawyers who might later try to poke holes in the victim's case in court. Most victims were lucky to get a panel hearing at all. According to USA Swimming, individual swim clubs were not required to report sexual abuse accusations to their NGB until 2010 (although Sturtz uncovered a 1999 code of conduct mandating that all complaints be sent to the USA Swimming president). That meant the people with the authority to handle sex crime allegations were not typically aware of the allegations (though victims and their supporters, including long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad and Olympic gold medalist Deena Deardurff, allege that USA Swimming higher-ups did see the accusations and chose to ignore them; this suspicion ultimately forced executive director Chuck Wielgus to withdraw his name from induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame).

Furthermore, should a suit ever get off the ground, USA Swimming's defense lawyers stood ready to drown it in tedious, unnecessary paperwork. The “standard tactic,” according to Strzempko's lawyer, Jonathan Little, was “filing every single motion they could file, even shit that didn't't make sense,” to wear the complainant down. During the Strzempko case, Little himself was sued for taking part in a “frivolous lawsuit,” though a judge quickly dismissed the charges. (The judge couldn't dismiss Little's $10,000 legal bill, however, or his increased rates for malpractice insurance.)

There is some good news. The burst of publicity and disgust around sexual abuse scandals in youth athletics has forced the USOC to evolve. In June, it announced the creation of a new agency, the National Center for Safe Sport, to investigate accusations of molestation and assault. Even Wielgus, who once asked incredulously whether he needed to apologize to victims, has become contrite. “I'm sorry, so very sorry,” he wrote in a recent statement. And in 2013, California congressman George Miller asked the Government Accountability Office to research the sexual abuse culture in youth sports, especially USA Swimming. The results of the yearlong investigation will be released this spring, according to Sturtz.

The Outside piece is long and powerful. But one of the most affecting parts, for me, was when Sturtz spoke to an expert about “grooming,” the process by which “children are conditioned to believe that inappropriate behavior from an adult is a logical outgrowth of their relationship.” Adults groom kids by gently, imperceptibly nudging boundaries. First, a coach may take a special, friendly interest in a swimmer, then meet with her alone, then touch her hand, then remove her suit. At no point on the slippery slope does a single act register as inappropriate, yet the seemingly natural flow of events deposits the child in an alien, nightmare world.

Isn't this also how our culture of complicit silence takes root? In a horrible, unintentional way, sitting with rumors becomes minimizing their importance becomes sanctioning abuse. What feels like cautious inaction slides irrevocably into moral failing territory. For members of the swimming community—those for whom the prevalence of assault is apparently “an open secret”—maybe one act of silence simply begat another.


United Kingdom

One in three children bullied online: Number who have been victims doubles in a year

by The Daily Mail Reporter

The number of children being bullied on the internet has doubled this year, with more than one in three now victims, research suggests.

In a poll of 11 to 17-year-olds, 35 per cent reported that they have experienced cyber-bullying - compared with 16 per cent last year.

Four in 10 said they had witnessed others being picked on online - almost double the 22 per cent recorded last year.

The study also suggests that thousands of teenagers, including many aged 15 or under, are using messaging service Snapchat and dating app Tinder every day.

Some parents even helped set their children up with accounts, prompting fears that they are unwittingly putting them at risk.

Internet security firm McAfee polled 2,000 UK children and 2,000 adults with at least one child aged under 18 ahead of the start of Anti-Bullying Week on Monday, and compared the findings with a similar study carried out last year.

The research indicated that there is a more relaxed attitude among increasing numbers of parents regarding the risks posed online.

Less than a third of parents said they were worried about their child being the victim of cyber-bullying this year - almost halving from 45 per cent in the previous year, while two-thirds of children are now allowed to go online without supervision - up from 53 per cent.

However, more than three-quarters of mothers and fathers polled said they had conversations about online safety, up from 68 per cent last year.

Andy Phippen, professor of social responsibility in IT at Plymouth University, said: 'The responses from McAfee's survey shows that there is a real gap between parental concern and the reality of what children face online.

'While it is encouraging to see that these conversations are happening, there are areas in which parents may not be completely aware of their children's online behaviour.

'It's now time for parents to take the conversations to the next level and become further educated on the social platforms that exist, what ages they are suited for and what type of behaviour they encourage.

'Cyber-bullying happens across all platforms and children's use of social media is transient.'

Around one in six of the youngsters polled reported using Tinder every day, with almost half of those aged 15 and under.

The service was more popular among girls than boys, with one in five female respondents using it compared with 15 per cent of males.

Tinder users are shown other subscribers close to their location and must give a positive reaction to them in the form of a tick, and receive one back in order to start communicating.

It is open to those who are 13 or older, with under-18s only able to match with people in the same age bracket.

Prof Phippen said: 'It is very concerning to see the proportion of younger teens using apps like Tinder, whose aim is essentially hook-ups and dating, and very much for an adult audience.

'These apps also share location-based information and can be used as platforms for grooming and abuse.'

More than a third of children polled reported spending up to 10 hours on Snapchat a day.

Reports recently emerged that explicit images taken with the app were intercepted by a third party app and leaked online.

Prof Phippen said: 'Social platforms like Snapchat are becoming more and more popular with kids and children may not realise the risks of exposure they face.'

One per cent of parents admitted helping set up Tinder profiles for their children, while nearly one in 10 gave them a hand joining Snapchat.

The research did not specify the ages of the children whose parents helped set up accounts, other than that they were under 18.

Samantha Humphries-Swift, of McAfee, said: 'As a mother myself, it is worrying to see that parents are setting up social profiles for their kids and, as a consequence, unknowingly putting them at risk online.'

Last week a report from the Health Select Committee said MPs heard evidence that sexting, cyber-bullying and inappropriate online content has caused a direct increase in mental health problems in children, including stress and anxiety.



Sports and domestic violence: Furthering the dialogue, helping the victims

by Jen Neale

From a 2010 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

In the United States, 1 in 4 women have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner, while 1 in 7 men have experienced the same (NISVS, 2010).

Domestic violence is not just a sports issue. It's not just a male-female relationship issue. It impacts people from all walks of life.

As a hockey community, we have the unique opportunity to look at the issues facing players in the league and reflect on how we react as a society.

In many of the articles following Slava Voynov's arrest on allegations of domestic violence, for which he's yet to be charged, there was plenty of information on the situation, but not necessarily the insight from people who have the experience working with and advocating for those who have suffered domestic violence.

Human Options in a Southern California based organization that works with survivors of domestic violence. Just a few of the many of services they provide to clients are are: emergency shelters, legal advocacy, personal empowerment workshops, and therapy. Sara Behmerwohld and Stephanie Domurat are two employees of the organization who graciously volunteered to sit down for an interview on domestic violence, not only in the sports world, but as they see it through clients eyes.

Behmerwohld is the Legal Advocacy Program Supervisor at Human Options and an attorney. Just some of her (and her legal advocates) responsibilities range from safety planning with clients to assisting with restraining orders and immigration issues. Domurat is the Community Education Manager. She gets out into the community to lead trainings and presentations about domestic violence to increase awareness and promote prevention.

My hope for this interview is that it leaves you with more questions than answers, and inspires you to get involved by bringing this issue to the forefront not just because of the sports connection.

**If you or anyone you know is struggling with domestic violence please contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Chat is also available on their website: **

Q: What's something not out there about domestic violence that should be?

Stephanie Domurat: Well, I think one of the biggest things, as far as what we see, is that there is a lot of shame around this issue … it's not a topic people really want to talk about. It's not something easy to talk about … It's so common and it really could be happening all around us, it's really difficult … to face that. So I think that's the first issue at hand is really unveiling this kind of shame and this secret around this issue, and being able to talk about it in public.

And I think the thing that's positive about what we're seeing with all of the [professional athletes], the silver lining, you could call it, would be we're able to talk about things. And we're able to talk about this issue that we really haven't talked about this publicly in a very long time.

Sara Behmerwohld: I think the prevalence is certainly up there. I would say the other issue is that, frequently there is a misconception that, a batterer will only batter their partner, and it doesn't bleed over into the relations with the children. At a minimum, if there is abuse happening between the parents, we know that it has a really dramatic impact on the children's development. Not to mention, that it is actually prevalent for a batterer to be battering a spouse and also to be abusing the children. Even judges will say he/she can be a good parent even if he/she is an abusive husband or an abusive wife; no, that's just not true.

[Author's note: A truly impactful example of how children experience domestic violence can be heard in this 911 call by a 6-year-old girl named Lisa. WARNING: IT IS VERY RAW AND EMOTIONAL, AND POSSIBLY TRAUMATIC FOR THOSE APT TO TRIGGERING.]

What is considered domestic violence?

Behmerwohld: It's going to vary a little bit depending on who you're talking to. At Human Options, we're looking at intimate partner violence, family violence, violence that occurs between dating partners, married partners…

Domurat: Intimate partner, any time, even if they're not necessarily dating.

We're talking about physical, social, emotional, psychological violence?

Behmerwohld: Right. That's another distinction that's going to become important depending on who you're talking to; whether the emotional, verbal, psychological abuse is going to fall into that category. What we know is that in most cases, the verbal, psychological, and emotional abuse will eventually become physical abuse, if it doesn't start out that way. It's a continuum.

We also work with elders … and with those cases we're looking at financial abuse. Sometimes we are as well with younger individuals, but with seniors it's a big issue. And it's almost impossible to isolate financial abuse from emotional abuse; it's almost always happening in tandem. It's all connected.

Domurat: And it's usually multiple things involved; it's not just physical abuse. You have the psychological that comes with the physical. It's very intertwined and messy, and it's not that cut and dry.

Psychological abuse also partners with the physical abuse, in that you don't want to believe someone you love would do this to you. You really try to rationalize it as an individual … There's that big level of denial sometimes, and then that works against [victims] even more when the abuser manipulates and uses that to control a person further.

It becomes confusing for [victims]. A lot of times they say, ‘Why would this be happening to me? I don't want to accept the fact that I'm in an abusive situation here. I'm educated. I should know better. No one would believe me. I'm ashamed of this.' It's really that psychological part where you become in this survival mode where you don't even want to accept what's going on.

Now look at it from a sports wife or girlfriend perspective, “If I go public, his reputation is going to be ruined.” What do you say to those women?

Behmerwohld: It's interesting you bring that up because we see that dynamic in cultural populations, as well. If I have a Hispanic client that comes in and she doesn't want to come out as it were to her family and friends that she's a victim of domestic violence because it's going to make her Hispanic partner look bad, and it's going to make the Hispanic culture, population, look bad as a whole. Same thing with LGBT couples, they don't want to come forward. There's lots of reasons people choose not to come forward, but one of them can be, “I don't want to make my social or cultural group look bad because there are already stereotypes that we face and prejudice that we face, and this is just one more thing.”

But I think when you're protecting the reputation of a person that you love and care about, that's a tough thing. You know, it's definitely another barrier, but like Stephanie said, when a client is still coming to terms with their relationship. This is a person they fell in love with, they may care very deeply about, the relationship may have been going on for years, to just sever that with one public statement can be an incredibly difficult thing for anyone to do.

The one case active in the NHL right now is with Slava Voynov of the Los Angeles Kings. The charges have not been filed [as of when we had this interview]. His arrest came as a result of an emergency room worker calling the police. Are hospital employees even trained on seeing the signs of domestic violence, at least in California?

Domurat: Yes, we do screening trainings with healthcare providers. That is a really important role played by the healthcare provider because you're seeing [victims] in a situation where sometimes they're going to go to the hospital, but they're not going to go to the police. That person, that nurse or that physician, is really an important player as far as being a person to stop a situation of domestic violence. And so we do train them. I'm not sure if it's due to funding from the Affordable Care Act, but we are seeing more healthcare providers get training from us. I think they're starting to understand [their importance].

Behmerwohld: Medical providers have a really unique opportunity to intervene in these situations because they have a, sort of, reasonable, logical, justifiable excuse to separate the victim from their batterer. So even if they come in together, the medical care provider can say ‘I need to run some tests', or ‘I need to ask her some confidential questions'.

Actually one the first clients I saw at the shelter when I started working here was one of our first referrals from exactly that situation, where she came in with suspicious injuries. She was there for a gynecological visit. She was pregnant. In that situation, in the screening, she said she didn't feel safe to go home. They kept him out in the hallway and basically snuck her out the backdoor, and brought her to the shelter.

Domurat: When a woman is pregnant, that's one of the most vulnerable times. When you have to do those prenatal screenings and you go to the doctor a lot. That's when we ask for our medical providers to really pay attention, and use that opportunity to talk to them in a confidential manner.

In this particular case, she speaks very little English. Is it of the hospital's obligation to bring in an interpreter?

Behmerwohld: I don't know that legally there is any fault or responsibility there. When you're coming to a foreign country and you don't speak the language, you do take some of that upon yourself. But morally? Sure. The hospital is going to do the best they can to ensure that they have someone that can ask her those questions in a way that she going to comprehend and to be able to respond coherently.

It's a constant issue … Finding competent translators to work with these clients can be a really tough thing.

If you have clients coming in from other countries that aren't familiar with our legal system, and don't know they have rights and they are protected from domestic violence by a partner, even if they don't have legal status and came here illegally. It's not like a batterer in that situation is going to be like ‘here are your legal rights while I'm hitting you'; they're on their own to go find that information. If they've been isolated, which many of our clients have been, that could be a pretty big barrier for them.

What are the laws around that? If someone isn't a resident, is here legally, and like in this particular case, she's a citizen of Russia, what does it look like for her?

Behmerwohld: There's a couple different [laws]. The most common things that we're looking at is VAWA [Violence Against Women Act] and the U-Visa application.

For clients who are married, the VAWA self-petition enables a client who would have been able to petition for citizenship through her husband, or though his wife, to petition on his or her own.

With the U-Visa, it's assistance around the investigation or prosecution of a crime. So it doesn't have to be domestic violence. If you were a witness to a robbery, and you were able to assist the police in identifying or serving as a witness in a trial; it's designed to protect people who are willing to assist in the prosecution of these crimes, from the threat of deportation.

But one of the ways we've found we can really help clients is if they are a victim of domestic violence, they are the victim of a crime, they saw it. They can go file a police report and that's a great way for them to take advantage of it.

It all goes back to her being willing to prosecute, though, right?

Behmerwohld: Exactly.

She would have to testify, most likely?

Behmerwohld: Not necessarily have to testify. At least file a report. It's not impossible to do it without that, but it's difficult.

And there are a lot of clients who, there is sort of two different sides to it. On the one side, maybe she just wants to move on with her life. Maybe she's been gone for six months or a year or even a month and just wants shut the door on that part of her life. Asking her to go back and re-live all of that abuse in front of a stranger, that's a pretty traumatic thing to ask of someone who has already been through quite a lot of trauma. The other thing is the fear. A lot of clients have told us that the threat is, “If you tell anyone, I'm going to hurt you. I'm going to kill you," and that telling the police would, sort of, be the epitome of going public with everything.

One of the biggest talking points of this story is that his attorney has talked to her, and has said that when her story comes out, it's going to be vastly different. For anyone that's gone through this situation, is that normal protocol for the abuser's attorney to come to the victim and talk?

Behmerwohld: Absolutely.

I mean, it's not OK, but it happens. The vast majority of the clients we work with are not represented. So when a client isn't represented, there is noting to stop opposing counsel from talking to them. If they are represented, they aren't allowed to. They have to go through the attorney.

Now she has counsel. I'm not sure if it's paid by him, though.

Behmerwohld: If it is, that's a pretty clear conflict of interest.

In court, can a judge call that out?

Behmerwohld: No. I think that it would be unusual for a judge to bring that up.

At first it wasn't clear if they were married. It turns out they were married in Russia. Does the marriage translate over here? Is this a family court issue?

Domurat: The marriage is recognized here.

Behmerwohld: I don't know whether it is being seen in civil or criminal court. With domestic violence, there are lots of different ways it can go in terms of the legal system. If they're going to file charges against him, it will be a criminal matter. So it will be the district attorney and him. She won't really have a role in that as a party, she'll be a witness. But it's different in civil court. In civil court, it would be her against him.

[Civil court] would be where custody disputes, the dissolution for the marriage, if they are married and they're trying to get divorced here, and then if she were to try to get a restraining order on her own, as opposed to a criminal restraining order. That can get a little confusing because there are different types of restraining orders just for domestic violence situations.

Should domestic violence training extend out from the players to the coaches and executives, too?

Domurat : Something to think about is that this is a cultural shift ... it's a giant task at hand to change the culture around domestic violence and the norms that surround it and the culture of sports. How do you open that dialog up and make it comfortable for people to talk about? It's not necessarily bringing a woman in to do the training. It's going to be coming from the coaches, it's going to be coming from the fellow players, to say ‘this is unacceptable'. It's really doing a grassroots effort, at the heart of the organization, that's really how you make the change. It's not going to be a one-time training at the beginning of each season. It's going to be a big shift in culture.

Behmerwohld: I think it's like, how far do you go back in time? Are you talking about high school coaches and team captains on high school teams? Are you talking about pee-wee hockey coaches? When it gets down to it, you're talking about parents talking to their kids about ‘this is what healthy relationships are like', ‘this is what healthy dating relationships look like', 'this is how you're supposed to treat women and men', and it has to start there. By the time people get to high school, college, pro, it's engrained.

Domurat: We're also seeing recently in new research, middle school is really the prime time for us to implement violence prevention programs. Because once that norm is set in that young person's mind, it's really hard to change, just like Sara was saying. We're seeing that bringing in those trainings and having that conversation is really good to start at the middle school level.

In most youth hockey, body checking isn't allowed until the later years because of the concerns over head trauma. There are men, in the NFL especially, who batter their partners and go on to kill themselves, and their brains show evidence of CTE (chronic traumatic encephelopathy). Is that an appropriate ‘excuse' for domestic violence?

Behmerwohld: I don't think the science is there yet to really establish the extent of damage that is being done to professional football players. I mean, we know some, but I don't think the scientists have gone far enough to establish how badly these people have been hurt, and to what extent it may be impacting their intelligence and their behavior.

What do you say to the ‘old school' view that these are just aggressive guys exerting aggressive behaviors?

Behmerwohld: I think it's impossible to isolate any, any of this, that way. You can't just blame it on someone's aggressive behavior, and how much, if they are an aggressive person, was fed by coaches and teammates throughout their life.

Domurat: This isn't something that just happens in sports or just aggressive sports. It's an issue that happens with pastors to police officers. It's everyone, and that's the issue. We don't want to be demonizing the sports world, and we don't want to be saying all athletes because they're aggressive in aggressive sports, or they're trained to be aggressive are going to be doing this. Ultimately, it's about control in these situations, and in these family violence situations. They know what they're doing.

Behmerwohld: The attention around this issue, it's not just that this is prevalent in the sports world, it's prevalent everywhere. And I think there's a tendency in the public to sort of say, ‘well, it's because they're aggressive' or ‘it's because of the football, or the hockey,' but we know that's not the case. It's not a causal connection between ‘oh you're in aggressive sports, you probably beat your wife.'

Are there intervention programs out there?

Behmerwohld: Yes, there are batterer intervention programs that are out there to address battering women at the adult stage. They are, by in large, ineffective.

Is that because the want to change is not there?

Behmerwohld: Yeah, because when you're looking at these programs, a lot of people are required to attend. If you are convicted of domestic violence, whether it's a felony or a misdemeanor domestic violence charge, a lot of times the judge will ask, ‘you're going to do this year long, once a week, program', but you're being mandated by the court to do that. You may be at a place where you're ready to change, but you might not.

Domurat: One quote I heard that was really interesting is that what a lot of times we hear at batterers intervention programs or when we talk to them is ‘I know it's not right. I know I shouldn't have hit my wife. I just wanted to teach her a lesson.' That's an inside, huge behavioral issue. If you can't address what you are doing is really wrong and as a human nature, you're going to be rationalizing it. And they rationalize it for so long that they almost can't undo what has become so common in their thought process.

Some of the controversy around the handling of athletes accused of domestic violence is how they are suspended from what is, for all intents and purposes, their job, without due process. If this were a ‘normal' job like that of an accountant, is that same action allowed by law?

Behmerwohld: There are legal protections for victims of domestic violence around employment. You're in a protected class basically, where if your employer knows you're a victim of domestic violence because you've identified yourself as such, or they have reason to know, they can't fire you because of that. They can't discipline you because of that even if you need to take time off to address it.

I'm not sure about the batterer. It's a really interesting question.

There's a little bit of a disperdant patch with the NFL or the NHL because of the public relations side of it. That they have an obligation, because they're role models and whatever, to go beyond what I think would be the norm in an organization. Where there is more of an innocent until proven guilt aspect to it. Unless you've been charged with a crime, it might not be reasonable to suspend you.

I think constitutionally that's kind of a sticky situation. Just because someone has been charged with something, people are charged with crimes all the time, and are later acquitted. Doesn't necessarily mean they're innocent. It means there wasn't enough evidence to prove them guilty.

Domurat: I think the other part of their position, as that profession, is being a public figure ... That is a moral issue. They're almost more, and should be held more, accountable for that reason.

Behmerwohld: I think they've struck sort of a compromise. They're still paying him. It's not like he's out on the street. But they have said until this is resolved, this is how we're going to handle it.

Should moral codes of conduct always be a part of the collective bargaining process?

Domurat: That's up to the NHL and NHLPA to decide. We would hope it would continue to be something that they do. It's kind of a personal position, but absolutely. They're public figures; young men and young women look up to these people. They can really make a powerful change and a powerful difference if they try to incorporate for higher moral standards for people. I think it's a great opportunity for them to get involved in that issue.

Social media is a wonderful thing. It can also be a horrible thing. In situations like Janae Rice, we see a lot of victim blaming. How do you explain to people it is the wrong thing to do in situations like these?

Behmerwohld: None of us can put ourselves in her shoes or in any victim's shoes. Even when you've experienced violence or have been the victim of a crime, that's what happened to YOU. And to extrapolate that into what another person has gone through and all the things that led up to that moment is just impossible.

There's this very interesting dynamic around sex crimes, domestic violence, and sexual assault that we do blame the victim. We talk about what she was wearing, what she said to bring on the event, how she may have instigated it, these are the only types of crimes we do this with. If someone is in a car jacking, we don't say, “why were you driving that car? Why were you driving with the windows down? Why is your car that flashy color? You were asking to get car jacked.”

It's the irrationality of [victim blaming] that's frustrating to me because it really is just with these crimes that we do this. Potentially it's because they're gender crimes. Usually we're talking about a female victim.

Domurat: There can be positives to social media, too. For example the, "Why I Stayed" or the "Why She Stayed" campaigns. If you look at the OJ Simpson verdict, there was BIG public outrage, but people didn't have a voice as much as they have now. People have voices with social media. That's really powerful. I think there is a lot of support out there on social media for this issue, for victims, and for people to be able to explain this is why I stayed. That was a huge thing. And the No More Campaign that people are using to try to get involved with as well. I think that's what is different now than 20 years ago. We all have a voice, and we can make it public. We've never had that opportunity before.

If there is one thing you want to leave the readers with or get stuck in their mind, what is it? What is the one thing we should learn from what is going on in the NFL, the NHL?

Behmerwohld: I think one of the hardest things is to reach out and ask for help. I don't know what the readership is for Yahoo Sports, but the assumption is that a significant portion of them have experienced domestic violence. There is help available. Reaching out is hard, but once you do, there are resources available to you.

The other side of that is that if you're not personally a victim of domestic violence, be mindful of how you're speaking about it to those around you because chances are you and have friends and/or family members that have experienced domestic violence. So being educated and mindful about the way you're communicating about it.

Domurat: I think also sometimes it's hard for us to think, when we're reacting to something, what we really should do. If anything, maybe this is an opportunity for people to think about what they would want to do in a situation, to be a voice against domestic violence. It's hard to intervene. It's not easy to help someone in a situation that's uncomfortable. It's uncomfortable for all of us. It's uncomfortable to see another person hurting. So take time. Talk to your family, friends or other people about what you would do to help somebody in that situation or if you were in that situation yourself. Now we look at prevention.

**If you or anyone you know is struggling with domestic violence please contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Chat is also available on their website: **



Life After Stress: The Biology of Trauma and Resilience

by Karen Brown

Sophie and Jessica are fraternal twins with a soft spot for needy cats. They're sitting on a couch at their mother's Eastern Massachusetts' home, snuggling up to one of their feline adoptees.

Jessica: “All our pets were strays, so they kind had to figure out skills to survive and stuff.”

These quiet teenagers are glad to be talking about their scrappy animals…instead of what my interview is supposed to be about — how they cope with stress and trauma. Their parents have been in an acrimonious custody battle since they were preschoolers, and the girls have spent years in therapy trying to make peace with their estranged father. At the time of our interview, they were going through a court-mandated reconciliation process, which they hated and feared, and uncertain about where they would end up living.

Sophie: “I think about – I call it the dad situation – I think about it a lot. Like every single day. And if i try to push it down for too long, it comes up and I will literally burst into tears wherever i am…and feel so stressed out.”

Sophie has tried to create psychological walls, to compartmentalize the stress so she can live as normally as possible. She rarely succeeds. Her sister Jessica seems to have an easier time with this strategy.

Jessica: “I think i'm probably a little tougher and i don't really get sad. I go straight to being angry and mad at everyone and not exactly nice, so I don't really think it's a good thing, but its kind of like I put up a wall….. so I'm prob a little tougher and a little colder than I should be.”

These girls are remarkably self-aware for young teenagers. They admire each other's albeit imperfect method for weathering stress and worry. For being resilient. And that's where their lives intersect with emerging science. Sophie, in particular, is fascinated by how her brain works, and what neuroscientists can learn from it. But she's also a bit scared of what that might be.

Sophie: “Sometimes I'm afraid that like, I know this is ridiculous, but what if one day i have like really deep psychological issues, and i just, I don't know – how it's gonna affect me.”


McLaughlin: “You ready? Here we go, this first round is going to take about nine minutes, and then we'll check back in with you. Ok?”

Dr. Kate McLaughlin speaks through a microphone – past a glass wall – into Sophie's headphones.

McLaughlin: “Just remember to stay as still as possible while you're doing the task, and keep up the great work.”

Sophie looks small and nervous as she lies prone inside an MRI machine at a Harvard Laboratory. For the next hour, she watches a screen with video games and flashing colors and shapes and follows directions on how to respond.

McLaughlin: “Ok, can you show me the button you're supposed to press if the question mark is in the place you're supposed to remember… excellent.”

While the test is going on, Sophie's mother Carla sits in the waiting room. Carla has been taking Sophie to these brain tests for more than a year. They were recruited after Carla brought Sophie and Jessica to the hospital one night, on advice from their pediatrician.

Carla: “Both of them ended up in Children's Hospital at the psych ER due to suicide threats made to the guidance counselor as well as other therapists.”

The suicidal thoughts were a sign, she felt, that the girls had reached a new level of stress in their embattled relationship with their father. At the same time, researchers at Harvard, including McLaughlin, were looking for subjects for a brain study.

McLaughlin: “The kind of motivating question is understanding how early experience – stress, trauma, neglect – how they impact brain development in ways that might place kids at risk for health problems, particularly mental health problems later.”

So using the hospital records, McLaughlin's team sent Carla an email requesting her daughters' participation in the study. Jessica wasn't interested, but Sophie was enticed…especially by the $50 the researchers pay every visit. Eventually, she just wanted to come.

Sophie: “I think it really is interesting. I think, the way that, if they can figure out how my brain reacts to stuff, then yeah, i guess i could figure out how to not be stressed or how to calm myself down or something.”

That's the ultimate goal of researchers in this growing, international field of study – one that revolves around the ways early experience is embedded in the body and brain, the ways nature and nurture intersect. Charles Nelson is a researcher at Harvard's Center for the Developing Child.

Nelson: “An interest in what happens early and its impact on what happens later has been around for at least 30 or 40 years. But it didn't say how that actually occurred.”

Nelson has spent years studying the effects of neglect and abuse on orphans in Romania.

Nelson: “So the new literature deals with the biological part. How do these experiences weave — get together under the skin?”


This happens to be a field that I find personally compelling – For one, my husband experienced a number of traumas in childhood, including abuse, neglect, a parent's alcoholism, and I've always wondered how they might explain health problems he's had in adulthood, including depression and epilepsy. At the same time, my own children have had to cope with their father's illnesses and my own diagnosis with breast cancer. How can one predict who will be resilient in the face of adversity, and what can we – as parents, as a society – do to improve those odds?

As part of my research into these questions, I met up with Sir Michael Rutter, who works at the Institute of Psychiatry in a suburb of London. He's considered a pioneer of child psychiatry and the study of resilience. In a tweed cap and overcoat, Rutter greets me at the train station.

Rutter spearheaded the Isle of Wight study in the 1960s, which followed 2000 boys over several years, and monitored who became delinquent and who didn't. Early stress and deprivation seemed to play a critical role. He later studied maternal deprivation – how those without close relationships with their mothers fared later in life. He was among the first to look into the interaction between the body and experience.

Rutter: “And I speculated at that time that genetic factors may play a role in susceptibility in the environment.”

Those types of studies have multiplied in the past few decades. One of the most prominent was called the Adverse Childhood Experience – or ACE — study, a joint effort by CDC and Kaiser Permanente from 1998. It found children who've been through abuse or extreme stress have higher rates of depression, anxiety and other mental and physical problems. But like many before it, the ACE study didn't explore what was happening in the brain. Michael Rutter:

Rutter: “The role of neuroscience has certainly been something that was not really on the scene in the beginning,”

Now, a growing arsenal of brain imaging technologies has changed the focus. Harvard's Charles Nelson says the notion of early brain plasticity is particularly compelling.

Nelson: “By plasticity, we simply mean the brain's ability to be molded by experience. And we have this expression that plasticity cuts both ways, meaning that it' it's good experience, it's probably good for the brain. But if it's bad experience, it may be bad for the brain.”

There are many theories on how bad experiences rewire the brain. Some think excessive production of stress hormones – like cortisol and adrenalin – overload the brain and disrupt development. Others suggest it comes down to telomeres – the end parts of chromosomes that can become frayed with age or, it turns out, with stress. Nelson found the kids who grew up neglected in Romanian institutions had less electrical activity in the brain, and smaller brains; they'd lost brain cells as well as the connections between those cells.

Nelson: “So a lot of post-natal brain development relies heavily on experiences occurring during particular points in development. If the experiences don't occur, the brain doesn't know how to wire itself.'”

But one of the biggest mysteries that remains is – why do some people withstand profound early adversity and seem to come out just fine? Could it be their genes, their family upbringing, a fluke of anatomy?

Elliott: “We all know people, you look at what ‘s happened in their lives, you think, how are you so positive? how are you so resilient?

That's psychology researcher Rebecca Elliott of the University of Manchester in England who studies the characteristics of resilient people.

Elliott: “Is there something we can identify in their cognitive performance, in their brain function, that marks those individuals out?”


Resilience can be a slippery concept. It's sometimes defined as bouncing back to a baseline after a traumatic experience. Or being able to adapt and function well when faced with overwhelming challenges. Some consider resilience a relative term – doing better than expected, given excruciating conditions. But to understand what is expected, scientists want to learn what trauma can do to a typical brain.

McLaughlin: Hey sophie, how's it going in there? ‘good' You're doing a fantastic job. You're already a quarter through the task….”

Dr. McLaughlin recruited 60 adolescent subjects for her brain imaging study. Half of them, including Sophie, reported surviving trauma. The other half was the control group.

McLaughlin: “We're just getting ready to load up the memory task and we'll be back with you in just one second.”

McLaughlin expects to find a difference in how the two groups do on cognitive and emotional tasks – and she'll compare what their brains and nervous systems are doing at the time. Sophie, for instance, took a battery of artificially frustrating tests – while hooked up to neural sensors.

Sophie: “Like there was this video game that I had to do, and they purposely – when I pressed the right answer, they said it was wrong, and I take my video games very seriously, so I got very very upset and I was like what is going on?!”

While Sophie was getting stressed out, McLaughlin's research team noted which parts of her brain were more active and how fast or regular her heart rate was. Without divulging Sophie's particular results, McLaughlin – who is now at the University of Washington — did make some general findings. One — that the pre-frontal cortex – just behind the forehead — functions differently in children who've been traumatized – especially if a task involves both cognitive and emotional components. She has also found heightened activity in the amygdala – an emotional center of the brain — during emotional tasks.

McLaughlin: “They just have stronger emotional reactions in general. They see the same picture as kids who haven't been exposed to trauma, … and they just have a stronger emotional reaction to it. So kids who are traumatized are maybe just less able in terms of how their brains functions to sort of dampen that initial emotional reactivity.”


Suomi: “Here are our guys.”

Psychologist Stephen Suomi introduces me to the hairy subjects of his long-running study on trauma and resilience.

Suomi: “These are rhesus monkeys.”

They live on the sprawling, rural Maryland campus of the National Institute of Child and Maternal Health.

Suomi: “These are four year olds, so they're like teenagers. And they're about to get fed, which is why everyone's making so much noise.”

Suomi studies the interplay of genes and the environment. His team observes monkeys in different early experiences – some reared by their mothers, and others taken away from their mothers and reared by other in a nursery. Over time, the researchers take blood, saliva and hair samples, to determine the monkeys' genetic make-up and measure how much of the stress hormone, cortisol, builds up in their system. They line up the various environmental and biological factors and stack them up against the monkeys' personalities as adults.

Suomi: “What we have found is that, early experience is really important, and what happens to you socially in the first couple of years of life if you're human and first six months of life if you're monkey will affect just about everything, behaviorally and biologically.”

As he explains this phenomenon, we walk by a few cages of monkeys – and witness one of them become agitated and lash out at another.

Suomi: “It was the start of what could've been a fight. But the monkeys — the well socialized ones – know how to stop fights before they really get out of hand… There are some monkeys who would not back down, and then you get a fight. And those are the monkeys with low seratonin.”

Seratonin is a brain chemical connected to pleasure; the serotonin transporter gene determines how efficiently that chemical is delivered. Each gene has two alleles, and those can be some combination of long or short versions. Suomi and other researchers have suggested that monkeys and humans who have two short alleles show an interesting behavior. They appear to be more sensitive to both bad experiences and good experiences. That means some people are more likely to be psychologically harmed from a stressful environment. But when put in a nurturing environment – those same people are most likely to thrive. Suomi sees this in his monkeys – depending on if they're raised in a nursery or with their mother.

Suomi: “If you have short version of the gene and you grow up in the nursery you tend to have high levels of aggression when you get older. Monkeys getting into fights and being excessively impulsive. If you have that same short version of the gene but you grow up with a good mother, you see less aggression than normal.”

Lately, Suomi has also been excited by the notion that, while we are all born with a set group of genes, the way they are expressed can be affected by our experiences or environment. For instance, what a mother ate while pregnant. Or how children were treated – or mistreated – early in development. That's called Epigenetics, and it's one of the fastest developing areas in biology.

Suomi: “We used to think you inherited genes, you were stuck with them, and then you had to live with the consequences. And we now know you can change – not the genes – but the way they work.”

This can be both good and bad. Scientists following survivors of the Dutch famine of World War II have attributed some of their later health problems– and those of their descendants – to epigenetic changes from severe hunger. But Suomi says there's also evidence that genes can change back after trauma. He leads us to a bigger cage of small monkeys who – at first – are terrified of me, and later, move closer and seem cautiously curious. Suomi says his researchers have brought into this group an older monkey couple as sort of foster grandparents meant to give social support.

Suomi: “The old female will provide comfort to those infants who are a bit scared or need cuddling. The old male breaks up fights, keeps the peace. And that's the kind of manipulation that we've already found that changes lots of genes. Or normalizes lots of gene expression.”

Suomi says this concept could also explain why some people who've gone through trauma feel a lot better after certain activities.

Things like yoga, things like meditation, things like exercise, even if pp your age and mine, can change the way your brain is wired and can improve your health.


Like the monkey research, there's continuing science on how to build resilience in children – before and after traumatic events. Many books and papers have come out in the past decade on factors that give young people strength to cope – chief among them, healthy social connections…something that Sophie and Jessica seem to have intuited on their own.

A few times a week, they come to this neighborhood diner with their good friend Maggie – to eat Greek food, and talk about life.

Jessica: “We had to write this thing about, who's a mockingbird and what does the mockingbird represent…”

Today, they're brainstorming paper topics on the classic book, To Kill a Mockingbird. To hear them chatting, these girls seem well put together and emotionally stable, but in fact, on this day, they're anxiously waiting for a judge's order on whether they have to leave their mother's house to live in a boarding school. The uncertainty has been overwhelming, they say.

Jessica: “It's very stressful to think about it. And then on top of like schoolwork, because I have like 5 million projects.”

Sophie: “I can usually put it away during school, but then … i have these awful nightmare stress dreams… and I wake up crying….and I have to call my grandmother or like hug a cat.”

Another thing Sophie does…is lean on Maggie, whom she's known since kindergarten. Occassionally, Maggie will wake up on a weekend to find Sophie has visited early in the morning, and crawled into her bed for comfort.

Maggie: “She starts crying and I start crying and crying everywhere. And it doesn't seem fair that they have to go through all this stuff.”

What they may not realize, though, is all this stuff they're going through – may actually be making them MORE able to cope in the future. One branch of resilience studies looks at the constructive role of mild adversity. Sir Michael Rutter – the child psychiatrist– likes to think about this the same way you'd think about infectious disease.

Rutter: “How do you develop a resilience in relation to infections? should you be protected from experiencing it? Well it's obvious not. It's exposure – controlled exposure, of course — to infections that provides you with the strength of dealing with new infections, when they come along.”

Rutter says he became fascinated by this theory in the sixties, from research done in rodents by a scientist named Gig Levine.

Rutter: ‘The expectation was you'd expose them to stress and they'd be worse off. And so he did dreadful, physical things, like putting them in the centrifuge, and to his surprise & everybody else's surprise, the animals developed an increased size of the neuro endocrine system & an increased resistance to stress.”

To translate that into humans, Rutter says, it's possible that suffering some hardship and stress early may inoculate children against really crashing if a worse trauma occurs later in life, because they learn strategies to cope. Rutter himself was separated from his family in London during World War II, and raised by another family for several years in America. When I asked him if that affected his later emotional health, he shrugged it off.

Rutter: “There have been people who have seen it as the goal of removing from children all stresses, challenges, & adversity. And I think that's a totally wrong headed notion.”

Carla: “If they make it, and they will, into happy adulthood, they will have coping skills that I didn't have.”

That's Sophie and Jessica's mother, Carla. She describes her own childhood as happy and stable.

Carla: “So when i hit my first crisis, i didn't know how to cope with it. and they will.


It's hard to know where the cut-off is between constructive stress – and so much trauma that it weakens your ability to ward off mental health problems. Kate McLaughlin – the researcher who was testing Sophie's brain – used her collective data to show that victims of childhood abuse were more likely to develop PTSD after the Boston marathon bombings than those who were not abused. A 2012 Danish study of war veterans showed a higher susceptibility to PTSD among soldiers who reported childhood trauma. An ongoing study at Harvard is looking at the same question, in conjunction with the military, to help predict who will fare best in combat.

Elliott: Most people have a tipping point.

Rebecca Elliott of the University of Manchester is in the middle of a large study on resilience to depression.

Elliott: And everybody's tipping point is different & there are some people, who can fall into depression with relatively little in the way of obvious provoking factors. And there are some people who need quite a strong trigger but will then develop depression.”

The people whom Elliot is most fascinated by are a third group — those who seem to shrug off the worst kinds of stress.

Elliott: “And they have life histories that will make your hair curl. I've certainly interviewed people and thought, you know, if all that had happened to me, I think I'd be depressed. And yet they're not.”

So Elliott and her research team are looking for a biological smoking gun… some sort of physical, chemical, genetic or cognitive difference that can filter out the copers from those who fall apart.

Trotter: ‘I want you to identify the emotion you think each face is displaying…..anger, disgust, fear….'

To give me a sense of the study, Elliott's colleague, Paula Trotter, put ME through some of their cognitive tests…. starting with one that rates your ability to remember emotionally charged words or recognize facial expressions.

Elliott: “The idea is, someone who is depressed is biased towards picking up negative emotion and away from positive emotion…and we expect to see the reverse in people who are resilient.”

Next, she asked me to move around digital balls to fit into a puzzle. ‘ you tap on the ball, it's circled…' It's meant to test problem solving skills – and the ability to be flexible in your thinking – both signs of resilience.

Elliott: “To be honest, actually, you did really well. Clearly, your pre-frontal cortex is working just fine.”

An even more dastardly test – which Elliott didn't give me – directly manipulates the stress level of subjects. Her team asks people to unscramble five-letter anagrams – but in the middle of the test, they make the puzzles impossible to solve. When they re-introduce easier anagrams, Elliott found that resilient people do better than they did before.

Elliott: “So it seems like the stress in the middle, their response to it is to maybe concentrate harder, to really try harder. so that when they're back on the soluble ones, they do really well.”

Whereas the less resilient groups seemed to get demoralized and do worse. At the same time, Elliot is careful to point out that reacting to stress per se is not a disorder. If you take that to an extreme, NOT reacting to a bad experience at all could be a sign of psychopathology.

Elliott: “We did wonder whether actually the people that we found who were apparently super resilient might be people with just a relatively limited emotional range. And therefore not much affects them … and that's not actually what we've found. Most of the people that we've interviewed who've fallen into our resilient category have been absolutely lovely individuals.”


So is there a genetic profile or brain structure that makes some apt to cope well with life's challenges? Is it congenital optimism and intelligence, as some psychologists say? Social supports? Or a combination of many small factors, as research increasingly shows. Harvard professor Charles Nelson.

Nelson: “But at the end of the day you scratch your head and say, So now what do I do with this? All you've done is say these are the components of a resilient person.”

In other words, does understanding the mechanisms of resilience does more than just inform academia….and lead to actual relief? Rebecca Elliott thinks yes.

Elliott: “If we understand what makes someone resilient, potentially we could use that to help us think about better treatments for depression, potentially preventative treatments. Perhaps there's a point, much earlier, where we can get involved with people & help them develop resilience, if you like.”

Whether resilience is innate or actually can be developed is up for debate. So is the notion that neuroscience can improve upon existing therapies that help people move past extreme adversity. In fact, research out of Columbia University suggests that natural resilience, without any intervention, is much more common than previously thought. I've wondered whether any of the new brain research will help Sophie and Jessica get through their adolescence unscathed, though it's heartening to see how many resilient traits they seem to already possess. Jessica, for one, recognizes their strength in numbers:

Jessica: “We're lucky we have each other that we can lean on and we can protect each other.”

Sophie has decided she wants to be a brain-scientist when she grows up — her way of constructing meaning out of the pain she's gone through, which is another sign of resilience. But for the most part, these girls have relied on a home-grown trial and error approach to coping – one that Sophie is willing to impart on other young people going through hard experiences.

Sophie: “If they really need to just cry, they should, cuz they need to let it out. But then even if they're the type of person who likes to be alone, they should surround themselves with the things that they love and the people that they love so they can start to heal, to just try to be as strong as possible even if that's the hardest thing in the entire world to do sometimes.”

I took that as good advice for my own family – I've gone through cancer treatment and, thankfully, don't seem too worse for the wear. My husband continues to have a hard time, in large part – I believe – because of his childhood trauma. But he's got good friends and family pulling for him. My own kids don't tell me much that bothers them – they're teenagers, after all – so I may have to go on faith that they're coping with life's challenges. Without an MRI machine, I've got my fingers crossed.

The documentary “Life After Stress” was produced at New England Public Radio by Karen Brown and edited by Sam Hudzik, with production assistance from Cathleen O'Keefe. Support for this project came from the Knight Fellowship in Science Journalism and the Falcon Fund, with help from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. Original music by John Townsend.



Church agencies, nonprofits can help men, women, children in crisis


ATLANTA—There are many organizations in metro Atlanta that work to assist victims of domestic violence.

Karelis Ferrer is Latino outreach coordinator at the YWCA of Northwest Georgia in Marietta.

“We have the only shelter in Cobb for the women and children,” said Ferrer. “We have transitional housing. We have counseling as well.”

The ultimate goal of the YWCA's programs is for women to become independent emotionally and financially.

Numbers of abuse cases fluctuate, but they see more instances around holidays and during sporting events.

“Alcohol is not the cause, but contributes,” said Ferrer.

The Cobb program recently added a dozen new transitional housing apartments for victims of domestic violence and sexual assaults. The YWCA and its volunteers launched a capital campaign to complete additional renovations to its existing 32-bed shelter. Ferrer said the campaign remains $400,000 short of the goal.

The YWCA works closely with victims' advocates and Cobb County police and has a 24-hour/seven-day-a-week crisis line.

“I'm passionate for working for this community,” said Ferrer, who is Catholic.

According to Ferrer, abusers sometimes use citizenship issues or custody issues as a means of control.

Despite those threats, women who are being abused have recourses, she said.

“There are a lot of things they don't have to be afraid of,” she said.

VAWA, the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, said Ferrer, provides legal relief for immigrants who are survivors of domestic violence, even those without immigration documents.

Ferrer said, on average, women endure seven to 10 incidents of violence before leaving the home.

“We cannot judge why,” she said.

Part of Ferrer's job is to raise awareness of domestic violence as well as what the YWCA offers. She is available to make presentations to clergy, parishes and ministry groups.

Catholic Charities Atlanta program

Under VAWA, Catholic Charities Atlanta serves immigrant women and young children who have been abused by a permanent resident, U.S. citizen, spouse or parent.

Rosa de Kelly is Catholic Charities' VAWA coordinator and accredited legal representative for immigration issues.

Catholic Charities' staff helps victims to self-petition for permanent residency without relying on their abusers.

“We specifically work with vulnerable communities,” said de Kelly.

De Kelly came to the agency a little more than 10 years ago, only expecting to stay for a year.

“I came to do this job by accident. I became so involved,” she said.

Not too long ago, de Kelly had a “priceless” experience when a former client came to the Catholic Charities' office with her daughter and presented a $500 donation in gratitude for helping her escape violence.

“I meet women who have really given up hope. They come back two years later and you can see the difference,” she said.

For some of their clients, the deportation process has already started, while others are afraid to call police out of fear of being arrested themselves. The clients, with the extra barrier of limited language skills, have no knowledge of how to get a green card or work permit.

“They don't know how the system works. That's where we come into play,” said de Kelly.

Although Catholic Charities works with immigrants, de Kelly believes that domestic violence is found in all types of families.

“I think domestic violence has no race, no social status, no gender,” she said.

For 10 consecutive years, the Georgia Criminal Justice Coordinating Council has been the agency's funder for this particular branch of work.

Donations are also welcome, by visiting, specifying VAWA. Overall, Catholic Charities benefits from the second collection in the Archdiocese of Atlanta at Christmas Masses.

Catholic Charities also provides needed counseling for the women and children who have been victims of violence.

De Kelly said they are working to establish relationships with parishes and already partner well with police, shelters and immigration officials.

“We can never work alone,” she said. “We have an incredible amount of great partnerships.”

Sister requests awareness Mass

On Oct. 25, the Archdiocese of Atlanta celebrated its first awareness Mass for domestic violence at Holy Cross Church in Atlanta. Bishop Luis R. Zarama celebrated the Mass.

Prayers of the faithful included petitions for all homes to be free of violence of any type—emotional, physical and verbal—and that God would guide clergy and laity to understand that violence is never an act of love.

It was Sister Christine Truong My Hanh, executive director of Good Shepherd Services in Atlanta, who suggested such an awareness event.

Sister Christine and representatives of other agencies gathered after Mass and distributed information about their respective programs. Good Shepherd Services for families includes domestic violence intervention and anger management, as well as parenting classes.

In her 24 years in Atlanta, Sister Christine, a Sister of the Good Shepherd from Vietnam, has worked primarily with immigrants and refugees whose native cultures and governments look the other way when family violence occurs.

“This kind of violence in the family is nothing,” said Sister Christine about the cultural practices.

“I see more and more problems. It's all over,” said the sister. “Everyone in the family is shocked when they get arrested.”

The staff has also seen instances of elder abuse in families, sometimes when an adult child is not equipped to be a caregiver of an elderly parent.

“This is very sad,” said Sister Christine.

Good Shepherd tries to share resources with its clients, many of whom don't speak English. They also have programs for young people.

“We do a lot for children. I believe in prevention,” said Sister Christine.

Sometimes clients, including victims of domestic violence, simply need someone to talk to about their struggles.

“I feel very blessed to be able to listen to problems,” said Sister Christine.

Donations are always welcome to help Good Shepherd Services further its work in reaching out to others.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has pastoral resources for clergy wanting to offer homilies on the subject of domestic violence, or on speaking with parishioners about violence whether it's during the sacrament of reconciliation or during counseling.

Sister Christine believes more discussion about the victims and their spiritual needs should be taking place within in the church.

“I feel like crippled. I think if we work together we can get somewhere,” she said.


•  Georgia Domestic Violence Hotline : To talk to someone about violence in your life or in the life of someone you know, call Georgia's 24-hour statewide domestic violence hotline, 1-800-33-HAVEN (1-800-334-2836).

•  Partnership for Domestic Violence can be found at Its crisis line in Fulton County is 404-873-1766 and in Gwinnett County is 770-963-9799. If it has no room at one of its shelters, the partnership will locate shelter elsewhere.

•  YWCA of Northwest Georgia in Marietta has a 24-hour crisis line. Call 770-427-3390.

•  Catholic Charities Atlanta provides counseling for women and children who have been through domestic violence. Call 770-429-2369 to make a counseling appointment.

•  Good Shepherd Services in Atlanta works with immigrant and refugee families. To learn more about supporting with time or a donation, email Sister Christine Truong, executive director, at For help, call 770-455-9379.



Child abuse in Duval County a growing problem

by Laura Caso

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Child abuse in Duval County is a growing problem and what you may not know is that about 80 percent of the abuse is inflicted by a parent.

On Wednesday, Donald James Crystalus was charged with murder in the death of his 4-month-old son, Gabriel. According to JSO, Crystalus caused severe head injuries to his son which led to his death.

President of Wolfson Children's Hospital, Michael Aubin, says the number of suspected child abuse cases is concerning.

According to Aubin, there have been 131 cases of suspected abuse reported at the hospital so far this year and 25 of those came in the last three months.

"In the last week we have seen three cases of suspected child abuse here at Wolfson," said Aubin. "That is really hard on everyone, including the staff."

According to Aubin, all three children died.

"These cases happen usually one at a time....everyone says, 'oh, isn't that horrible?' and then it goes away and when you see three in a row and we have another one that we are realize have to do something different in this community," said Aubin.

Carmella Prescott works for the Daniel Kids Foundation. She spends her days visiting homes and speaking with parents and children in abusive relationships. She says she has sympathy for everyone involved.

"They are not monsters, they are humans and they are just like us. They have stress and they have things going on and they got lost in the moment and they didn't have the help they need at that time and it's sad," said Prescott.

According to Prescott, the numbers of child abuse cases are rising in Duval County. The trend for child abuse in Duval County mirrors the statewide trend and the trend for abuse is increasing over the past few years. For example, in 2003-2006 there were 2,711 child abuse cases reported for children ages 5-11. Then, in 2010-2012 there were 2,904 reported, per the Florida Department of Health.

In Florida, there are over four million children in in the population and there have been over 223,000 reports of abuse with over 500 cases involving child deaths. Nationally in that time period, there were over 1,500 reports of child abuse and neglect deaths.

The recent tragedy where a Duval County father is charged for killing his son for crying too much has this topic of child abuse on the forefront. First Coast News reached out to expert at Project SOS with tips on what parents should do when their anger spiral out of control.

Jacquelyn Hatcher is a certified life coach with Project SOS. She teaches parents where to turn when they get angry.

"It all starts with a Trigger," said Hatcher. "Usually triggers happen because of past relationship problem, something you've seen in your past...or as a child and you don't learn how to work through."

Hatcher says communication is key.

"What we promote is for parents to take a break...breathing activities. Maybe stepping away from the situation. I truly promote exercise," said Hatcher.

She says it is important to remove yourself from the situation and go for a 10 or 15 minute walk, breath in the fresh air and leave the situation before it gets worse.

"Or into a room and do step exercises and breath in and out and in and out," said Hatcher.

She says this allows the brain to disengage from our anger and gives the mind a chance to process what is actually happening.
Moving from realization.

"We try to teach couples to use code words in the house that means 'red Light,'" said Hatcher.

Use sticky notes or write signs around the house with words like, 'stop.'

Stress balls are also proven to relieve stress and anger. Hatcher also notes mirrors as a key tool. She says it's not silly to talk to yourself and talk yourself out of anger.

"Look in the mirror and say things like, "I'm mad, I am sad and I am angry and I must deal with this situation' and it helps," said Hatcher.

CLICK HERE for Florida Abuse Hotline

CLICK HERE to learn more about Project SOS

CLICK HERE to learn more about the Daniel Kid Foundation


Child abuse increases chance of deadly disease, impacts economy

by Daisy Barrera

The numbers are staggering.

This year alone it's estimated that $3.3 million children have experienced some kind of abuse, and of those cases, about 2,000 have ended in death.

Those are the estimated numbers by The Perryman Group, which conducted a study on the economic costs of child abuse

According to the study, over the lifetime of these 3.3 million abused children, it will cost the U.S. economy a whopping $5.87 trillion dollars, due to losses in healthcare and criminal corrections costs among others, as well as lost earnings by these victims.

Harlingen pediatrician Dr. Stan Fisch said, “there's few things that have that great an impact on the economy, overall."

Dr. Fisch has devoted years to researching child abuse.

It stems from the infamous Rubio murders in Brownsville, where three young children were beheaded by their parents who claimed the children were possessed by evil spirits.

That also prompted Dr. Fisch to assemble the Child to Adult Abuse Response Team (CAART) at Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen.

“The CAART team sees roughly 1,300 or so people a year, and half of those are children, 1,300 cases per yea, just here at Valley Baptist Harlingen."

Fisch adds despite some misconceptions, child abuse is a universal phenomenon that crosses all socio-economic and cultural boundaries.

A prime example, he said, is the JonBenet Ramsey case, in which a 6-year-old girl, from an affluent family was sexually assaulted and killed. Her body was discovered in the family's home's basement.

No one was ever charged for her death.

"It's everywhere,” Fisch said. “The Valley is no different we don't have special kinds of child abuse, we don't have more child abuse than Houston or Dallas. I think what's different, fortunately in a sense, we're better equipped and better trained."

Besides having a real, and long term economic, and psychological effect, research now shows child abuse also has a direct effect on the health of a victim, making them more prone to die younger.

“It's the effect on the brain, it's the effect on growth factors and hormones - the stress effect,” Dr. Fisch said. “They have more cases of cancer, they have more heart disease, more diabetes - there's physical impacts to their bodies."



Penn State Promoting Ethical Awareness, Child Abuse Prevention

by Michael Martin Garrett

Penn State wants its student athletes to be constantly aware of the consequences of their actions.

That's the message that Penn State Athletics Integrity Officer Julie Del Giorno delivered to members of the board of trustees Thursday. She spoke about the success of the university's ongoing ethic workshops for athletes.

“Instead of just making an ethics compliance checklist, we're trying to take a more deliberative approach to have people think about how their personal values and organizational values drive behavior when face with an ethical dilemma,” Del Giorno said.

Those workshops have included student athletes, faculty and staff along with a collaboration with other universities. Rather than give participants a series of lectures, Del Giorno says they are faced with a situation that presents a real-life, relatable moral dilemma.

Del Giorno says the athletes who have participated in the program have told her that they've encountered some of these dilemmas in their own lives, and now have a better understanding of how make decisions based on personal values.

“We try to drive the point home that we're not judging people. It's not saying, ‘here's the right answer,'” Del Giorno said. “There are multiple right answers; that's what makes it a dilemma – but they need to have awareness of the consequences of their actions.”

Penn State Director of Ethics and Compliance Regis Becker says the university has trained 80 percent of its employees how to recognize and prevent child abuse. He says the university is on track to have all staffers trained before the end of the year

“We have about 150,000 minors on our campuses every year, so we have an obligation to ensure their safety,” Becker said. “We're making sure our employees are trained to recognize child abuse and know where to go and how to report it.”

Becker says his office has also been working to make sure Penn State will remain in compliance with changes to state laws designed to protect children from abuse. Some of those changes include more frequent abuse prevention training and more stringent background checks for employees who work with kids.

He says Penn State has been coordinating its efforts with other universities to increase their understanding about how those laws impact institutions of higher education.

Becker says the university has also been working to make sure its in compliance with other state and national laws. That includes the Clery Act, which requires university to release information about crimes on campus, and federal laws concerning international vendors and exports.

The board of trustees also went into executive session to discuss legal matters.,1461698/



Report claims five New Orleans cops failed to properly investigate over 1,000 sex crimes

by The Associated Press

In the latest blow to New Orleans' troubled Police Department, a city inspector general's report claims five detectives failed to do substantial investigation of more than 1,000 cases of sex crimes and child abuse — with one detective being cited for stating a belief that simple rape should not be considered a crime.

The report, released Wednesday, examined the detectives' work between January 2011 and December 2013. It found the detectives filed follow-up reports for only 179 out of 1,290 sex crime cases. In particular, the report found that some cases of potentially abused children and rape victims went completely uninvestigated.

Police officials said the detectives have been transferred to patrol duty and are under further investigation. The police also said two supervisors who oversaw the detectives have been transferred.

Police Superintendent Michael Harrison said he was "deeply disturbed" by the allegations. Harrison, who took over the force when former chief Ronal Serpas retired earlier this year, vowed Wednesday to make widespread changes in the department to rebuild community trust.

The U.S. Justice Department previously investigated the scandal-plagued police force and in 2012 the city agreed to a host of changes in its policies. Among the federal probe's major findings were that the police force was rife with corruption and had numerous instances of excessive use of deadly force, discrimination and problems with its sex crimes unit. A federal monitor is overseeing compliance.

The latest city report charged that a detective handling child abuse failed to investigate a case involving a 3-year-old brought to an emergency room due to an alleged sexual assault, closing the case without any charges even though the child had a sexually transmitted disease. The same detective closed the book with minimal or no investigation, and again with no charges, on two cases involving children brought to the emergency room with fractured skulls, the report said.

Another detective, this one assigned to handle sex crimes, allegedly told several people that simple rape should not be considered a crime, the report charged. Simple rape happens when a person has sex with someone without their consent.

This same detective handled 11 simple rape cases and five of those cases saw no follow-up reports and one case had no initial report, inspectors found. The same detective said no DNA evidence existed for one alleged rape case, but that was contradicted by Louisiana State Police, the report said.

Two of the detectives are also accused of writing six reports — on the same day in 2013— to make it appear that they had done follow-up reports years before for the old cases, the report said. In fact, the report said, those documents were written only after inspectors asked for the missing reports.

"These revelations suggest an indifference to our citizens that shouldn't be tolerated," said Ed Quatrevaux, the city's inspector general.

Harrison said the five detectives could face criminal charges and be fired, pending an internal investigation.

In its findings, the report said the detectives classified 65 percent of the cases they received as "miscellaneous," for which no report at all was written.

Of the remaining 450 cases, the detectives followed up on only 179 cases and 105 of those were handed over to prosecutors, who in turn prosecuted 74 of those cases.

The report called on police to fully investigate the 271 cases that the detectives failed to properly check into. Officials said much has been done to correct the detectives' poor work — including follow-up on neglected cases and ensuring that 15 children left in potential danger got the help they needed to ensure their safety.


United Kingdom

Woman speaks out over childhood abuse

by CG_Mo

A FORMER St Blazey man has been jailed for two and a half years after being convicted of indecently assaulting his daughter.

Edward Whear, now 76, was sentenced to 30 months in prison, made subject to a sexual offences prevention order for seven years and ordered to remain on the Sex Offenders Register for life.

Formerly of Rose Hill, St Blazey, he appeared before Newcastle Crown Court for sentence in October.

His daughter, Lisa Lakes, has agreed to waive her right to anonymity to speak to the Cornish Guardian about the abuse she suffered at the hands of her father when she was just a young girl.

Now 46, Lisa cannot remember how young she was when the abuse started but believes it began during her time in St Blazey, before the family moved away to North Shields, Newcastle, in 1976.

“My first memory is of him pinning me down and I couldn't move,” she says. “That was the first incident. Then we moved again and that's when the night time visits started.”

Lisa was brought to the attention of Social Services in 1978 when her mother, who died several years ago, asked for her to be placed in care because she could no longer manage her 10-year-old daughter's behaviour.

At that time Lisa's mother told Social Services that her daughter had said her father had put his hand between her legs. Lisa had also been treated in hospital twice for vaginal bleeding, but the paediatrician who treated her was unable to say if this was linked to her allegations against her father.

She was seen by a child psychologist and, in 1970, was placed in a residential school for ‘maladjusted children'. She stayed at the school for three years before returning to her parents.

“No one spoke about why I had to be in boarding school,” she says. “I had told people but I was just shoved away, and I had to live with it.”

When she was in her 20s Lisa repeated her allegations but said “no one ever told me I should go to the police”. “Nobody cared,” she adds. “It wasn't an issue.”

It wasn't until last year – more than four decades after Lisa first spoke of the abuse - that she finally got the help she had wanted as a child.

She has suffered from health problems for many years, and underwent major ureteric reimplantation surgery when she was 14 after numerous kidney infections. She now suffers from chronic pain and believes her problems could be down to the abuse she suffered as a child. But doctors struggled to find a cause for the pain, and it was the suggestion that it was psychosomatic that prompted her go to the police about her abuse.

“I felt like that little girl again – not being believed,” she says. “I just broke down.” She called a helpline for adult survivors of childhood abuse and eventually decided to go to the police. “That was the first time anyone had properly asked me about it, and I cried for two weeks,” she adds.

Lisa has since been diagnosed with the inflammatory condition sacroiliitis and with post traumatic stress disorder for which she is receiving counselling.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) originally decided there wasn't enough evidence to prosecute her father, but following a review of the case, it went to court earlier this month. The CPS has since apologised to Lisa for not bringing the prosecution.

Whear, of Sheringham Avenue, North Shields was found guilty of three counts of indecent assault when he appeared at Newcastle Crown Court on October 10.

Lisa is coming to terms with her past and rebuilding her life, but the anger remains that it took so long for her voice to be heard.

“The system has let me down all my life,” she says. “I consider myself to have survived it, and I get on with things, but I told the truth all my life and no one listened. Now, I want them to listen.”



Matt Sandusky Announces New Child Sex Abuse Prevention Effort

by Laura Bassett

When Matt Sandusky was only 8 years old, his adoptive father, former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, began sexually abusing him -- a crime that he says went on for years. But because Matt had been considered a "problem child" before the Sandusky family took him in, and because Jerry Sandusky was so well-known and respected in his community, Matt says, the adults in his life completely missed or ignored the signs that he was being abused.

"People walked in on things that they thought might have been child sexual abuse, but they never reported it because of who he was," he told The Huffington Post in an interview. "Everybody in my life -- judges, probation officers, teachers, guidance counselors, doctors, therapists -- everybody kept pushing me towards the perpetrator, the person that was abusing me, saying that he was what I needed to get better. Nobody understood that he was making me worse. They wrote me off as a bad kid from a bad home that had no worth in society."

Sandusky kept quiet about the abuse for years, as his father had convinced him that the police were always waiting to take him away if he made a wrong move. But in 2012, when Jerry Sandusky was on trial for 54 counts of child sex abuse, Matt finally found the courage to come forward to police. He was among the victims with whom Penn State settled a civil suit.

Jerry Sandusky is now serving a life jail sentence for child sexual abuse, and Matt has dedicated his life to giving victims a voice. On Wednesday, he announced a new partnership between the sexual abuse awareness organization he founded, the Peaceful Hearts Foundation, and Darkness to Light, a national sexual abuse prevention nonprofit. The goal of the partnership is to raise the profile of child sexual abuse, encourage victims to come forward and train adults on how to spot abuse.

One important part of the strategy, Sandusky said, is to encourage Congress to pass a law requiring all schools to educate children from a young age about what sexual abuse is, so they can identify it and have the words to communicate it when it happens to them.

"I think it's important for schools to have mandated teaching to children, age-appropriate teachings, and I think every school in every state should have those programs in place," Sandusky said. "You have to talk to children early on and often, and teach them correct anatomy. Because these children don't have the language to understand sexuality, and then the perpetrators are teaching them what sex is and what's appropriate and what's not."

Sandusky said if someone had educated him as a child about sexual abuse and rape, it could have "drastically changed" his story.

"I never knew that what he was doing was wrong," he said. "I knew it made me very uncomfortable, and it felt so awkward. But the only thing I ever thought was that he was gay, because he was doing these things and we were both male."

Darkness to Light also trains adults -- particularly parents, teachers, and others who work with children -- on what signs to look for in victims and their perpetrators. According to the group, nearly 500,000 children born in the United States each year will be sexually abused before they turn 18, and nearly three-quarters of those children will keep their abuse a secret at least until after it has occurred.

Sandusky said reporting the abuse was difficult. "But the greatest thing I can tell a survivor is that once you have come forward, it is the single most empowering thing that you will ever do to take back control of your own life."

As he travels around the country giving speeches and talking about his own experiences as a survivor, Sandusky said other survivors, victims and their parents are constantly coming forward and telling him about their own experiences with abuse. He said he believes child molestation is far more common than people realize.

"Child sexual abuse is an epidemic," Sandusky said. "People don't get it. They think it's the old man in the van taking kids and molesting them, and that's not true. Ninety percent of the time a child is abused by someone they know, love and trust. And often that person, if not a family member, is someone the parents trust, and the perpetrator has groomed them to do that. We need to start paying attention to those people that seem too good to be true, because most of the time they are."

"We really need to open our eyes and start seeing this epidemic for what it is," he added. "It's destroying our society."



Back from the dark: Survivor shares struggles, lessons learned

by Louise Knott Ahern

There are 60 million survivors of childhood sexual abuse in the United States.

Lansing resident Tashmica Torok is one of them.

This is a story of bravery.

In the summer of 1987, the bodies of six missing girls were found in the desert outside El Paso.

Devil worshipers, some whispered in church. They were stealing girls and committing human sacrifices in the dark.

It was actually a serial killer named David Leonard Wood, but for Tashmica Torok, just 7 years old at the time, the image of Satanists and sacrifices was the scariest thing she'd ever known.

For the first time in her short life, she had found something that frightened her more than her father.

Let's go stargazing , her daddy said one day when she was 8.

Let's take that new telescope I bought you and go look at the constellations. Just you and me.

She never said no to him. She was raised to obey. To sit up straight and chew with her mouth closed, to never say "ain't" or talk back. She was raised to be a good daughter.

But this time, her father headed to the desert. This time, she tried to stand up to him.

Please, Daddy. I want to go home.

He ignored her pleas.

He drove way out into the empty blackness where the stars stretched far and wide, where the phantom bones of six dead girls reached out in her imagination, their skeleton fingers grabbing at her hair and her clothes to pull her down beneath the sand where unseen horrors awaited her, worse than anything she was already living.

Daddy, I want to leave, she cried. I'm scared.

Don't be a baby, he snapped.

Tears burned the backs of her eyelids, aware of an irony she should have been too young to understand.

But I am a baby.

A few months later, a strange red car pulled up outside her family's mobile home. Two men got out wearing Army uniforms. Not the faded green ones her dad wore every day but the fancy ones.

Her mother opened the door and one of the men said something and then her mother began pounding her fist into her hand over and over.

No no no no no, her mother cried. Tears dripped from her chin.

Tashmica ran to her mother and threw her tiny arms around her waist. Poor Mommy. She didn't know the truth about Daddy. She didn't know the things he had done. It's going to be OK, Mommy, Tashmica assured her. It's going to be OK.

And maybe for Tashmica it would be.

Her father was dead. It was over.

She would never have to go stargazing again.

"My name is Tashmica, but most people just call me Firecracker."

It's July 31, just a few days ago. She's 33 now and standing on a stage in front of 100 people at Art Alley, a renovated gallery and event space in Lansing's REO Town.

She's been planning this event for months. She'll stand before a crowd of strangers, friends and family, and fellow members of her roller derby team — the Lansing Derby Vixens — to describe what happened to her.

The event is the official launch of a new nonprofit she has created called The Firecracker Foundation — named in honor of her derby name. She wants to raise money to pay for counseling services for children who are victims of sexual abuse.

Standing here is its own kind of victory, the culmination of a long journey to understand what happened to her and its impact on her life. She's three years into her own intensive counseling and is finally able to, as she puts it, lavishly love herself.

"There are children who don't know what I know," she tells the audience, many of whom are wiping tears. "So many children who are abused don't get counseling. What if we as a community decided that children who have survived deserve to have their bravery honored?"

Projected on the white wall behind her is a slideshow.

A selfie appears of Tashmica with two of her three sons. They're scrunched in cheek to cheek, goofing for the camera.

"My life is pretty awesome," she says. "Look at those little faces. I am incredibly loved and supported. But before I was all of this awesomeness, I was this little girl."

Another photo appears. It's Tashmica at 6, catching herself mid-fall in her first pair of roller skates outside her grandparents' house in Sheridan.

"This was around the time of my first memory of being sexually abused," she says, her voice tightening.

Those who aren't already crying begin to clutch their tissues.


There are good touches and bad touches. Do you know the difference?

Tashmica was 9 when a man came to her classroom to speak. Her father had been dead a year, and she had never told anyone about the abuse.

No one is allowed to touch you down there, the man told the class.

Her heart began to race. Memories she had already worked to forget came rushing back, making her sweat.

I'm teaching you how to be a wife, her father would tell her. It's just like those National Geographic pictures. But you can't tell anyone because people will hate me for it. They won't understand.

Guilt is a powerful tool, Tashmica says. You can make a little girl do anything if she's convinced your happiness, your entire reputation as an upstanding man of God and country, depends on her. So she did do what he told her to.

She watched the weird movies with grown-ups doing gross things. She acted them out with him. She laid silently in her bed, didn't call for help like she wanted to, when her bedroom door creaked open at night.

Afterward, he would make her kneel beside him and pray. While he asked for God's forgiveness, she just asked for Him to make it stop.

When her father died, she thought she had killed him with her prayers.

The man in her class told the children to close their eyes. Anyone who has been hurt or touched in a bad way, raise your hand so we can help you.

Tashmica kept her hands firmly in her lap, afraid other kids would peek behind squinted lids and discover her secret. Still, something had changed inside her.

There was a strange relief in knowing there was a name for what her father had done to her and that she wasn't alone. Why should she have to keep this secret? Why should she feel bad? Her father was gone. She had nothing to fear anymore.

At the end of the day, she beckoned her teacher to her desk.

"Mrs. Pease, can I talk to you?"

Her teacher led her out of the classroom.

Her bravery wavered and she began to cry.

My dad used to make me do things, she said.


"Do you know what happens to a child's brain when they're abused?"

Tashmica asks the question without waiting for an answer.

"They don't develop the same way other kids do who are not abused."

She's sitting on the front porch of her home near Moores River Drive, a historic two-story that once belonged to her husband's grandparents.

There are plants everywhere — a small flower garden out front that has overgrown its boundaries, a potted cactus that her youngest son wants to water every day, and a vine that won't obey.

She bought the vine at Meijer. It grows wild against her wishes, clinging to the railing when she'd rather it climb the trellis. She dotes on it despite its stubbornness. She picks off its yellow, dead leaves, waters it, tries to redirect its energy.

Tashmica never realized until her counselor pointed it out to her just a few years ago how much she is like that vine — fighting against something that is deeply programmed.

A child's brain is an unblemished wilderness, Tashmica says. Every interaction is like a brand, making a mark that will last forever.

"I've spent a lot of time researching this," she says. "At the time I was abused, my brain should have been learning certain things, but it wasn't able to."

She's right. Numerous studies have shown that abused children can suffer long-term developmental and emotional delays because of the physical stress caused by fear.

The fight-or-flight response that allows humans to react when presented with danger is never fully honed in a victim of abuse, according to a group called Adults Surviving Child Abuse. They learn to detach themselves from pain, coping by avoiding.

And that one missing development in a survivor's brain can cause problems later in life.

Survivors are more likely to become depressed or have problems with drugs and alcohol, according to a group called Child Help.

They're 25 percent more likely to get pregnant as teens or get someone pregnant and 59 percent more likely to be arrested as juveniles. Nearly 15 percent of sexual abuse victims will attempt suicide.

Thirty percent will eventually abuse their own children.

Somehow Tashmica survived all that. She never got into drugs or alcohol. She didn't sleep around, didn't get an STD, has never thought of killing herself and has never hurt her children.

But like the vine on her porch, there are things she can't help either. And they nearly cost her everything that mattered.


There came a moment — it was brief and many years ago, but it happened — when Paul Torok felt cheated.

He's a man of deep faith who believes God has a plan for everyone and brings people into our lives for a reason. But even he went through a period where he thought, This isn't what I signed up for.

They were together just a few months when she told him she was an abuse survivor. She just blurted it out, he says, like it was no big deal. But Paul was devastated. When you love someone, it's unbearable to imagine anyone ever hurting them.

She assured him she was over it, and he believed her. Things changed, however — she changed — after they had children. He had a vision of what family life should be, and she wasn't living up to it.

She was often gone, off with whatever group she had joined to save starving children or AIDS orphans, instead of spending time with own kids at home. Even when she was home, she was gone — buried in her laptop or smartphone.

When he complained, she got defensive. When she got defensive, he retreated. When he retreated, resentment took over and grew into a hard ball in his stomach.

For a man who never imagined divorce in his life, the D word became a whisper in his mind.

They started marriage counseling when Tashmica was just 25. They did it again after the birth of their second son. A third time after their third child was born.

It wasn't until then — that third round of counseling — when they realized how much of their problems were directly related to the abuse.

For the first time in her adult life, Tashmica was forced to accept that she wasn't really over it, that she was still broken. For the first time in their marriage, Paul understood what that fact meant for him.

You learn what it truly means to be compassionate, he says. You learn to recognize your own faults, how your own expectations can be a form of control. You learn to be patient, to respect, to love purely, without judgment.

Last week, he was jittery with nerves as she took the stage. What if people didn't accept her message? What if she was too honest and people used it against her? What if she broke down?

Then she began to talk. All his worries went away.

He used to get frustrated whenever Tashmica threw herself into some new cause or another. Not this time.

Tashmica never got counseling as a child, he says. Would things have been different for her if she had?


Tashmica was born in the posterior position, facing up.

"Did you know they call those babies?" she says, smiling at the irony. "They're called stargazers."

She tilts her cellphone toward the sky, the screen lighting up with a nighttime map of stars. She has a new app on her phone that identifies all the constellations. Maybe she'll teach them to her sons.

"There's Gemini," she says. "And the Big Dipper. Everyone knows that one."

She hasn't done this since that summer when her father bought the telescope and took her to the desert. His betrayal still burns.

"The telescope was a ruse," she says, "and the stars a trap."

Maybe part of her blamed the stars. Maybe she hated them for what they saw, the secrets they knew and protected.

She has a vision of her life as one slow climb from a dark ditch. New Tashmica carries old Tashmica. Old Tashmica is bloodied and broken, muddy and heavy. New Tashmica limps and she winces sometimes, but she's stronger than before.

She sets down the old Tashmica at the top of the hill and immediately turns around.

"Where are you going," Old asks her.

"Back to the dark," New says.


"Because there are others who need help getting out."

She lays down on a blanket on the ground, holding her cellphone this way and that in search of Orion. She's planning a vacation with her family soon to the Upper Peninsula, where the skies are big and the stars spread far and wide.

That's what healing looks like, she says. It's little victories every single day that let you know you're going to be OK.

It's reclaiming things that were stolen. It's lavishly loving yourself and knowing you don't deserve to suffer.

It's gazing at the stars, knowing what they've seen, and not hating them for it.

Signs of abuse

There are physical, behavioral and emotional signs that a child may have been sexual abused, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN).


» Difficulty walking or sitting

» Bloody, torn, or stained underclothes

» Bleeding, bruises, or swelling in genital area

» Pain, itching, or burning in genital area

» Frequent urinary or yeast infections

» Sexually Transmitted Infections, especially if under 14 years old

» Pregnancy, especially if under 14 years old


» Inappropriate sexual knowledge or behavior

» Nightmares or bed-wetting

» Large weight changes/major changes in appetite

» Suicide attempts or self-harming, especially in adolescents

» Shrinks away or seems threatened by physical contact

» Runs away

» Overly protective and concerned for siblings, assumes a caretaker role


» Withdrawal

» Depression

» Sleeping & eating disorders

» Self-mutilation

» Phobias

» Psychosomatic symptoms (stomachaches, headaches)

» School problems (absences, drops in grades)

» Poor hygiene/excessive bathing

» Anxiety

» Guilt

» Regressive behaviors - thumb-sucking, etc.

Source: RAINN



Lansing woman honored by USA Network

by Louise Knott Ahern

A Lansing woman was honored by the USA Network Wednesday for her work helping children who have been sexually abused.

Tashmica Torok is one of 10 winners of the 2014 Characters Unite Award by the USA Network. She's the founder of the Firecracker Foundation, which offers counseling and other healing services for child survivors of sexual abuse.

Torok started the organization in 2013 and is already providing services to four children.

Network executives presented Torok with the award and a $5,000 grant at an event at Eagle Eye Golf Club in Bath Township.

Torok was chosen among hundreds of nominees. The award honors people whose work and volunteer efforts address social injustice and promote tolerance and respect in their communities.

"The Characters Unite award is about rallying a community to champion a common cause," Torok said "Although I am thrilled to be given this incredible honor, I believe that it speaks volumes about the compassionate people who make the Lansing area their home."

The event also featured the unveiling of the Soulfire 2015 Calendar Project.

The calendar features photographs and stories of 12 abuse survivors. It is intended to raise awareness about sexual trauma and empower survivors.

Proceeds benefit the Firecracker Foundation.

Torok created the foundation to provide children with services that she did not receive after enduring abuse by her father as a child. She shared her story with the Lansing State Journal in an article published in August last year.

"There are children who don't know what I know," she said last year at a launch event for the foundation. "So many children who are abused don't get counseling. What if we as a community decided that children who have survived deserve to have their bravery honored?"

At a glance

For more information about the Firecracker Foundation or to order a Soulfire 2015 Calendar, visit:

Calendars are $20 each and will be shipped Monday.


New bombshell documentary set to reveal names of Hollywood's child actor abusers

by Lydia Warren

An explosive documentary debuting at a New York film festival on Friday is set to name a list of men who have allegedly sexually abused minors in Hollywood.

An Open Secret, a documentary by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Amy Berg, will screen at the DOC NYC festival on November 14, the Hollywood Reporter revealed.

It features interviews with men who say they were sexually abused or exploited by Hollywood agents or movie bigwigs when they were children.

Among the men named are managers Marty Weiss, Michael Harrah and Bob Villard - Leonardo DiCaprio's former agent - and internet company owners Marc Collins-Rector and Chad Shackley.

Collins-Rector and Shackley hit headlines earlier this year after former child model Micheal Egan III sensationally accused X-Men director Bryan Singer of abusing him at pool parties held by the duo.

MailOnline revealed in April that Egan was working with Berg on the then-unnamed documentary.

Egan ultimately dropped his suits against Singer and three others, TV exec Garth Ancier, former Disney exec David Neuman and producer Gary Goddard, after it emerged that some of his statements had been inconsistent.

An attorney for Bryan Singer also hit out at Berg, questioning why Egan's allegations were included, calling the decision to use someone with 'no credibility at all' 'disappointing and pathetic'.

Despite this, Berg, who worked on the documentary for two years, said that she believes Egan is a credible, valid part of her film.

'The question is, if you are an adult at one of these parties where so much is going on out in the open, what is your responsibility?' she told Hollywood Reporter, adding that his story was not unique.

Egan's account is 'only one aspect of the story. It's a much greater issue. When you meet the victims and see how prevalent this problem is, it's difficult to ignore.'

Her film looks at, in part, internet company Digital Entertainment Network, which was led by Collins-Rector and Chad Shackley, who held the alcohol-fueled parties attended by teen boys.

Rector-Collins was jailed in 2004 after pleading guilty to transporting minors across state lines to have sex with them. He was last believed to be in the Dominican Republic and renounced his American citizenship in 2011.

The film also looks at Marty Weiss, who pleaded no contest in 2012 to two counts of committing lewd acts on a child after he was charged with molesting a young performer he represented.

His alleged victim told police in 2011 that he had sex with Weiss 30 to 40 times and the abuse ended when he turned 15 years old.

Weiss is seen in Berg's film attending family meetings with one of his victims and is heard on tape admitting to molesting the child, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The film also names Bob Villard, who represented Leonardo DiCaprio when he was a boy, who pleaded no contest to a felony charge in 2005 after he allegedly sold lewd pictures of boys on eBay.

Michael Harrah, a talent manager, is also accused in the film of having young boys stay with him in his home and of attempting to take at least one of them to bed.

In response, Harrah told The Hollywood Reporter: 'It's hard to respond to anything that is so nebulous.'

In a clip of the movie previously shared with Elle, one former child actor talks about the abuse he suffered at the hands of one of the men.

Berg explains that the clip 'depicts a former actor whose childhood dreams were destroyed by one man and covered up by the film industry... At 11 years old, he was forced to abandon his dreams and suffer the trauma of being abused.'

The alleged victim describes how the man would take him back to his house and tell him to take off his clothes so he could look at him. The man would also abuse the boy in his home movie theater.

'My memories are of me just sitting in there and being scared,' the now-adult victim recounted. 'We would sit in there and we would watch something, and then he would talk to me while he was doing it and say, "This is nothing to worry about, don't be scared, it's completely normal".

'I remember being scared, and I remember him saying, "come on think about a girl you really like".'

Berg, 44, is best known for her 2006 Oscar-nominated documentary Deliver Us From Evil, which looks ay abuse cases in the Roman Catholic Church. It focuses on Oliver O'Grady, who abused many children in California in the late 1970s and early 1990s.

After its success, she was approached by Matthew Valentinas, a Boston entertainment attorney, and hedge fund manager Alan Hoffman, about making the film about sexual abuse in Hollywood.

They pursued the project after listening to interviews where actor Corey Feldman spoke of abuse.

'We chose Amy because we didn't want it to be exploitative or tabloid,' Valentinas said. 'We wanted it to be empowering for the victims.'

And despite the criticisms from some of the men named in the documentary and their attorneys, Berg said she quickly learned that the alleged victims' stories needed to be heard and shared.

'They were all struggling with the same thing: trying to move on 10 years after the fact,' she said.

'I think this was healing for many of them. They also felt that there was a threat to other children, and that was another reason they wanted to speak.'




Recommendations on tackling sex abuse at religious, community groups must be implemented

by Frank McGuire

Middle-aged men wept with joy. Women silenced by unspeakable crimes since they were girls raised three cheers for the Victorian Parliament a year ago, when I told survivors of child sexual abuse that bipartisan support had been secured to implement all recommendations from the landmark report, Betrayal of Trust.

Findings of the parliamentary inquiry revealed a cover-up that killed in religious and other non-government organisations in Victoria. Heinous crimes were exposed, blighted lives acknowledged and remedies agreed across the political divide.

Victims abused physically, emotionally and sexually as innocent children felt vindicated after summoning the fortitude as adults to testify. Survivors waved red balloons and hugged each other during the "Rally of Hope" on the steps of Parliament, in recognition that after so much suffering at the hands of institutions, a measure of trust had finally been restored.

Goodwill expired with Victoria's 57th Parliament. Survivors have contacted me dismayed that key recommendations were not implemented despite incontrovertible evidence that the sexual and physical abuse of children has been endemic for generations in many Victorian public and private institutions.

The dark heart of sexual crimes against children has always been individuals and organisations getting away with the use and abuse of power. A recommendation not implemented required non-government organisations to become incorporated and adequately insured where the Victorian Government funds them or provides tax exemptions or other entitlements. This reform would improve scrutiny, accountability and compliance because it paves the way for organisations to be sued for offences.

Men claiming to represent God committed crimes against children, once hanging offences in Victoria, the parliamentary inquiry revealed. Whether criminal child abuse was concealed because of noble cause corruption, a misplaced sense of loyalty to a higher duty, religious organisations rationalised the most egregious conduct. The Anglican and Catholic churches and the Salvation Army regularly took steps to conceal wrongdoing through wilful blindness and codes of silence, according to their concessions and a substantial body of credible evidence.

Jewish and Islamic representative bodies testified that their communities also suffered the scourge of child abuse but experienced difficulties even mentioning that it may have occurred. A similar situation can be expected in other religious, social, sporting and cultural groups where offenders have easy access to children and where, for a range of reasons, abuse has been kept hidden, the inquiry disclosed.

Betrayal of Trust validated the rights of individuals. The failure to introduce an important principle ignores lessons from other jurisdictions. Only organisations that appeared before Victoria's parliamentary inquiry benefit from delays in implementation, anticipating that community outrage and the media spotlight will shift to fresh concerns, leaving them relatively unscathed.

Coinciding with the anniversary of the Betrayal of Trust report is the replacement of Cardinal George Pell as Catholic Archbishop of Sydney. His successor, Anthony Fisher, has told the ABC the Catholic church will not regain public trust until it provides genuine justice for sexual abuse perpetrated by clergy.

"People are going to want to see more than just bishops feeling sad about it," Archbishop Fisher said. "They are going to want to be convinced that we really are acting out of justice and compassion for the victims. We accept that this is a spiritual, moral problem in our church and not just some bad guys in the old days."

He declared there needs to be fair compensation and measures put in place so it never happens again.

Child sexual abuse is too important for politics. It is about crime not faith, as I have long argued. Church and state must implement recommendations in the public interest no matter who is in power because if accountability simply involves acceptance of temporary outbursts of anger and nothing more, it is not meaningful, least of all to victims. Worse, it does not provide any greater protection in the future for our children.

Frank McGuire was deputy chair of the Victorian parliamentary inquiry into the handling of child abuse by religious and other non-government organisations that delivered the bipartisan report Betrayal of Trust. He is the Labor MP for Broadmeadows.



Audit finds cracks in Colorado investigations of child abuse, neglect

by Jordan Steffen

The Colorado Department of Human Services failed to properly supervise county child welfare services as they decided whether allegations of child abuse and neglect merited investigation, a state audit has found.

The 239-page report was released and presented to the Legislative Audit Committee on Wednesday, more than 17 months after the committee voted 6-0 in favor of launching the performance audit. During the tense, five-hour hearing, the state auditor's office listed dozens of deficiencies it found in various areas of the child welfare system — stretching from when the department first receives an allegation of abuse to how the department reviews the deaths of children who died after entering the system. Among the findings:

• When reviewing reports of child abuse, caseworkers screened out some calls based on criteria that did not exist in state rules or failed to investigate in cases where circumstances required it — such as a 4-year-old with visible bruises, according to the audit.

• Incorrect information was included in 21 of 40 risk assessments the auditor's office reviewed, including an instance in which a caseworker closed a case without interviewing everyone who had information about the family. In the months that followed, child protection workers received a new allegation that a child was sexually assaulted by someone living in the home, the audit found.

• According to the audit, the Department of Human Services struggles to ensure county departments follow state rules in handling cases, and in 2013 instructed 15 counties on how to circumvent a state rule limiting the amount of emergency funds for families at $400. Before the conclusion of the audit, the department sought more guidance from the Colorado attorney general's office on its ability to enforce state rules at the county level.

But the common thread stringing the findings together was a lack of state oversight on the 64 county departments. The shortage of guidance provided to county departments creates inefficient standards in the way child protection workers assess and handle cases of child abuse and neglect, the audit found.

Executive Director Reggie Bicha, who arrived at the hearing armed with stacks of handouts and poster-sized charts, sharply rebuffed several findings and analysis in the audit. Forcing "one size fits all" rules on county departments can hinder caseworkers' ability to meet the individual needs of families throughout the state, he said.

"Child welfare has similarities similar to the practice of law and practice of medicine," Bicha said. "The profession also has multiple ways to determine a child's safety."

In response to three of the cases cited in the audit, Bicha provided the committee with mitigating details not provided in the report.

The audit included 47 recommendations, including changes to training materials, reporting requirements and steps to ensure county departments follow state rules.

The Department of Human Services disagreed with one-third of the recommendations.

Many of the recommendations are in line with new programs, updated rules and new training sessions that already have been put into place or are in the process of being implemented, including a statewide child abuse hotline set to launch in January, Bicha said.

Most of the cases the auditor's office reviewed were from late 2012 or early 2013, and the concerns they identified also were identified by the department, Bicha said. Several recommendations, Bicha said, were redundant of practices already in place.

"We don't need another line in a chart," Bicha said. "We need another line in the budget."

Bicha was cautious not to criticize the auditor's office but said he was surprised they did not work with child welfare experts who could have helped review the documents and write recommendations.

"We run two state hospitals at the department," Bicha said. "They would never assign an auditor to go and read a medical record and argue they gave a wrong diagnosis."

The audit was requested by 24 lawmakers in early 2013 after a Denver Post investigation. It found that more than 70 of the 175 children in Colorado who died of abuse and neglect from 2007 to 2011 had families or caregivers who were known to child protection workers.

The audit also reviewed Colorado's "differential response" program, which allows caseworkers to help at-risk families before there is proof or a legal finding of abuse or neglect. Through the program, which launched in 2010, families can receive support without child welfare services opening a formal investigation.

Ten differential response assessments were reviewed by the auditor's office. In three of those cases, a traditional investigation may have been more appropriate, according to the audit. One of the three cases involved the parents of two children who had previously failed to cooperate with caseworkers and there were allegations of methamphetamine use in the home.

Since 1990, the state auditor's office has released four audits of child welfare services. None had a scope this broad.


Oakland hosts human trafficking workshop

On Thursday, Nov. 13 and Friday, Nov. 14, the Oakland County Board of Commissioners will host a two-day event on human trafficking.

“Learn About the Impact of Human Trafficking,” is a free event in partnership with the Human Trafficking Workshop Committee and supporting community partners.

The effort is spearheaded by Oakland County Commissioners Shelley Goodman Taub, Mattie McKinney Hatchett and Janet Jackson. The two-day event will feature special guest speakers Theresa Flores, a human trafficking survivor and advocate from Birmingham, Michigan.

Flores is the author of the Slave Across the Street, a Wall Street Journal and USA Today best seller, and the Sacred Bath. She has been featured on The 700 Club, The Today Show, MSNBC's Sex Slaves: The Teen Trade, Nightline, America's Most Wanted and For the Record.

In October, she witnessed a series of Human Trafficking bills including one named in her honor that extends the statute of limitations to allow prosecution of human traffickers up to 25 years after they force a teen into the sex trade. These bills were signed into Michigan law.

Joining her to speak on the issue of human trafficking will be Russell Petty, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's Senior Outreach Diversity Coordinator. He will provide national insight and information on the issue. He has worked for seven years speaking, engaging and educating the public on the new methods human traffickers lure children and how law agencies and community can help victims of this money making crime. He will also offer valuable information and educate the public on how to access resources.

The two-day event will be held in the Oakland County Board of Commissioners Auditorium, 1200 North Telegraph Road in Pontiac. The first day is dedicated to parents, students and the public 6:30-9 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 13.

On Friday, Nov. 14, two professional trainings are scheduled for teachers, social workers, law enforcement, and professionals dealing with the issue of human trafficking. The first professional session is scheduled from 8 a.m.- noon, and the second session is scheduled from 1-5 p.m.

A special panel of professionals have been assembled to provide additional insight, in conjunction with the keynote speakers. These panelists represent the Department of Homeland Security, the University of Michigan Human Trafficking Clinic, the Attorney General's Office for Michigan, and the Oakland County Sheriff's Office. On Nov. 14, a special discussion focusing on “Successful Interventions” will also be provided.

“With missing children reports, abductions, along with stories of children being abused by adults they trust, it is imperative that we talk about the issue of Human Trafficking to help arm parents, grandparents, the community and professionals on how we can best protect our children,” aid Oakland County Board of Commissioner Shelley Goodman Taub.

The Human Trafficking Workshop Committee and community partners joining the Oakland County Board of Commissioners in this effort includes the Oakland Schools, Crossroads for Youth, Jewish Family Services, the Oakland County Sheriff's Department and Youth Assistance for Oakland County.

“In southeast Michigan, there have been unspeakable cases with tragic outcomes that have impacted the lives of families and communities, due to Human Trafficking. It is time that we work to shed light on this issue which is our goal with the two-day forum and training event,” said Oakland County Commissioner Janet Jackson.



14% of abuse survivors feel treated in 'insensitive manner'

by gardaí - RCNI

This means that 14% felt that the complaint was not taken seriously, and gardaí were dismissive, disinterested, unsympathetic and unsupportive.

A further 29% felt they were treated in an insensitive manner, meaning that gardaí were business-like, and neither sensitive nor insensitive. 57% felt they were treated in a sensitive manner.

For the first time, the National Rape Crisis Statistics report deals with the contact of people who suffered abuse reporting to gardaí.

Responding to the report, Interim Garda Commisioner Noirin O'Sullivan has said that the practices and culture of gardaí are being changed and a new approach is being implemented in relation to the investigation of domestic violence, sexual abuse and people trafficking.

Almost a quarter of survivors of sexual violence, abused while under the age of 13, were harmed by other children.

The latest report from the RCNI also reveals that more than 32,000 contacts were made to its crisis helplines last year, representing almost 4,000 hours of calls.

The 15 rape crisis centres across Ireland had 2,203 survivors of sexual violence present themselves for help last year.

Of these, 7% were children; 61% of survivors aged 13 to 17 had been subjected to serious abuse; 23% who were abused while under the age of 13 were harmed by other children.

The RCNI has said teenagers who experience sexual violence may not be receiving the best response.

The report finds that these children more commonly disclose patterns of abuse experienced by adults.

Meanwhile, the Minister for Justice and the interim Garda Commissioner have today met with Rape Crisis Network workers, who deal with the victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse daily.

Interim Commissioner Noirín O'Sullivan moved to reassure victims that they will be listened to and treated seriously and sensitively by the Gardai

She said there would be a new approach to the investigation of these crimes.

She said it would no longer be a case of the first garda to arrive at the scene, but instead there would by a new cross-functional unit dealing with domestic violence, sexual assault and people-trafficking.

She said it would be linked to new Victim Services Centres all over the country.

Ms O'Sullivan accepted there was a need for An Garda Síochána to re-focus on victims with understanding and compassion and said the culture of the force is changing.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said she has confidence in the current garda leadership to implement the necessary changes and she said the Government will provide the money for investment in technology.



It's not 'anti sex' to want to expose pornography's complicit role in child abuse and trafficking

by Laura McNally

Child sex abuse is not so far removed from the glamorised world of adult pornography – in fact, it is part of its continuum

The growing number of internet users stumbling upon images of child sex abuse indicate that child sex abuse is not so far removed from the glamorised world of adult pornography. In fact, I would argue, it is part of its continuum.

In decades gone by, particular sexist attitudes were contained by national cultures' boundaries. Today, under advanced globalisation, those boundaries are less clear. Pornography requires no translation, no explanation and no particular vernacular. It is a universal language, and it can also serve as a training ground for abuse.

An astounding amount of pornographic films include violent acts toward women. In 2010, research estimated 88% of the most popular porn videos depicted violence against women. And while the public is horrified pick up artist Julien Blanc forces women's faces into his crotch, those very same activities are defended as choice, liberation and “free speech” in pornography.

Users may see a vast difference between adult consensual sex and the illegal use of underaged actors, but buyer preference for very young women sets the scene for sexual abuse. At the age of 18, exploited children supposedly become free and willing adult workers. This is a dangerously blurred line given the “teen” genre remains the most sought after porn – how can users be sure porn actors really are willing adults?

Unfortunately, the link between porn and wider exploitation is rarely discussed. It is evident that the western “consumer choice” to watch pornography may restrict or violate the rights of others, but many prefer to look the other way.

Mexican journalist Lydia Cacho's investigations found that sex traffickers use the choice rhetoric to justify their trade: “difficult choices are still choices”, said one child sex trafficker in Asia. The “choice” available to a middle class American woman to work on the sex industry is inapplicable to those from a deeply collectivist culture, embedded in systems of poverty and familial responsibility. Yet, by focusing on the privileged few who put forward their agency and free will to engage in the industry, we marginalise the majority who have none. More worryingly, Cacho's investigations revealed that traffickers also use the idea of western sexual liberation and choice to groom girls. Just consider what Cacho explained in this interview:

In Cambodia, Cacho met a woman who runs a brothel who explained how she ‘reprograms' girls by ‘normalising sexual exploitation through systematic exposure to pornography. They have to be convinced that they were the ones who chose to do this, and they must be constantly reminded that their lives are worth nothing.'

Some UN member states estimate between 60-90% of women in the sex trade are trafficked. Thai estimates show 40% of the sex trade is child sex abuse and around 90% of trafficked girls are underage. Indigenous women are also highly overrepresented in areas of the trade. Global inequality has long encouraged sexual exploitation, but only recently has it been broadcast in pornography. How many of these women feature on porn movies watched across the world? Research suggests users do not care.

Criticism of such issues may be framed as “anti sex”, or against those working in the trade. On the contrary, the western choice rhetoric may legitimise exploitation of the economically vulnerable. Arguments for choice, agency or “feminist porn” create new opportunities to expand sales, rather than ethics. Users draw upon piecemeal evidence to argue the sex industry can actually reduce sexist attitudes and violence. This goes directly against 2010 meta-analysis, most recent experimental evidence and Nordic state legislation review showing the opposite.

The scale of the sex trade obscures its harms and makes it impossible to deal with. Developing economies have neither the resources nor the structural integrity required to indict child sex abusers. With the exception of a few Nordic states, the customer can purchase sex anywhere in the world. Entire websites are dedicated to informing “sex tourists” on how to best exploit girls and women in any country. Meanwhile, the laws against trafficking remain fragmented:Australia, for example, only implemented legislation in 2005.

Left leaning sex trade supporters commonly argue that all industries are exploitative under capitalism, so the sex industry is like any other. Those who survive the industry tell a different story. That the degradation and life long pain is incomparable, unquantifiable and unimaginable, the suffering continually recurs as their abuse may be trafficked on film around the world, over and over. The rates of PTSD experienced by survivors of the sex trade, being equal to those of war veterans, attest to this.

Consumers need to take off the porn coloured glasses and critique the industry for what it is – a global trade in human rights abuses. What use is confronting Julien Blanc if a global economy of misogyny goes on condoned?



Connecticut Father Who Left Toddler in Hot Car Charged With Homicide

by James Fenner

A Connecticut father, who left his 15-month-old son in a hot car, has been charged with criminally negligent homicide. The Ridgefield toddler's father, 36-year-old Kyle Seitz, recently turned himself over to the authorities after finding out that a warrant for his arrest had been issued.

Seitz's son, Benjamin, had been strapped into the car seat of a hot vehicle in July of this year. Left for approximately seven hours in the searing summer heat, with temperatures climbing to over 80 degrees, medical examiners concluded that Benjamin died of hyperthermia due to environmental exposure.

In the aftermath of his son's demise, Seitz said he had accidentally left his son in the car after mistakenly believing he had dropped him off at the daycare center. Seitz discovered his unresponsive son in the backseat of the car, after he went to collect Benjamin from the daycare center. Seitz then transported his unresponsive son to the hospital, where medical practitioners confirmed the boy had died.

Shortly after Benjamin's death, the boy's mother launched a campaign for carmakers to install devices that tell parents when they have a child in the backseat of the vehicle.

According to CBS News , criminal law professor William Dunlap, of Quinnipiac University, has revealed that the charge of criminally negligent homicide is an offense that “… does not require any intent.” Rather, Dunlap argues that the father's actions simply need to demonstrate “criminal negligence” to qualify for such a charge.

Between 1990 and 2013, over 700 children died of heat strokes after being left in hot vehicles. The issue has recently gained national attention, with multiple reports of parents leaving their children in hot vehicles, unattended, for long periods of time.

Thus far, Seitz's legal representatives have not issued any comment on the matter.



After death of 2 year old, community rallies against child abuse

by Lindsey Yates

PARIS, IL (WTHI) – It was Monday News 10 told you about the death of a toddler out of Paris, Illinois. Now, many questions surround what happened to the two-year-old, Landon Weaver.

Illinois State Police told News 10 there is an open and active investigation into Landon's death.

“We lost another one and it's not right,” said Steve Comstock.

Despite uncertainty the small community is rallying together against child abuse.

“It needs to stop. Child abuse needs to stop,” added Glenda Branson.

Family and friends recall the heartbreak they felt upon hearing the news of Landon's death.

“I'm very sad and disappointed. I don't have the words to describe it,” said Branson.

“I lost one but it wasn't to child abuse, but I lost a son, and to lose one of those little kids it can't happen, somebody has to do something about it,” said Comstock.

According to a “Go Fund Me” page, on November 5th Landon was air lifted to Riley Children's Hospital in Indianapolis for multiple traumatic injuries, the result of what the page calls a “severe beating.”

An autopsy is currently underway according to the Marion County Coroners Office. They told News 10 an autopsy on a child could take more time.

In the meantime, support continues to mount for the little boy who had a bright smile. Those who didn't even know Landon are displaying a blue ribbon on social media, and donating upwards to $3,000 to his memorial page.

“Tomorrow night in Paris we want everyone at the courthouse at 6'olock, bring your own candle,” said Branson.

Branson is one of many who want to create awareness and encourage others to report abuse.

They hope “Light Up the Sky” will be the first step towards putting an end to child abuse.

“To lose one child is too much,” said Comstock.

“Children do not need to die, they cannot die anymore,” said Branson.

We will continue to follow this story and bring you more information as it becomes available.S



Ravens participate in league-wide program on domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault

by Aaron Wilson

The Ravens participated in a mandatory league-wide NFL educational program Monday dealing with domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse issues.

The league instituted the program for NFL players, coaches and all staff members in the wake of indefinitely suspended former Ravens running back Ray Rice's high-profile domestic violence incident in which he was charged with felony aggravated assault for knocking out his then-fiancee in February at Revel Casino in Atlantic City, N.J.

The league also has been dealing with the fallout of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson's child abuse incident involving his 4-year-old son.

Ravens tight end Owen Daniels said the program was well-received.

"I think so," he said. "Obviously, that's a hot topic just across the country in general right now. It doesn't matter what line of profession you're in, so it was good to get some expertise and perspective on that and just some enlightenment.",0,2288447.story


New Mexico

LAPs — Reducing domestic violence homicides

by Melinda Williams

According to the latest figures available from the U.S. Department of Justice, three women are killed each day in the United States by a current or former spouse or dating partner. Victims of intimate partner violence also include police officers responding to domestic violence calls; bystanders trying to help; children and other family members; and new partners of the victim.

Studies have shown that accessing domestic violence services is the most effective way to reduce future violence. Many victims of domestic violence may call police at the time of a violent incident but never seek help from an agency specializing in services for survivors of domestic violence. It is crucial for law enforcement, clergy, and medical and court personnel to be trained to intervene where needed and to help make the connection between victims and appropriate service providers.

This week I write about the Lethality Assessment Program (LAP), which studies show helps to decrease the number of intimate partner homicides. This program provides an easy method for police officers and other service providers to identify victims of domestic violence who are at the highest risk of being seriously injured or killed by their intimate partners.

The Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence developed the LAP, which is a series of standard questions for police officers and first responders to ask victims when responding to a domestic violence call. The brief series of questions are designed to identify situations where domestic violence — or stalking — has the greatest potential of escalating into lethal violence. The questions include whether the perpetrator has ever threatened to kill the victim or her children, and whether the victim thinks that the abuser might try to kill her.

The Town of Taos Police Department and Community Against Violence (CAV) are working together to explore training and implementation of such a program in our community. We hope that all officers are trained to always use these questions and identify victims who are at high risk and then immediately connect them to the appropriate domestic violence services shown to increase safety.

When a victim at high risk is identified, law enforcement will call CAV's 24-hour confidential hotline (575-758-9888) to connect the victim with a specially-trained advocate who can provide information about safety options and encourage victims to seek safe shelter and services, whether at CAV or another safe location. Of course, as always, victims decide whether they want to speak with an advocate. Advocates can work with victims to develop individualized safety plans for how to respond to potential danger from their intimate partner, whether the client chooses to stay in the relationship or not.

If a victim is identified as being at high risk, law enforcement will know to pay extra attention to calls from that home. The police officers can also increase patrols by the home or make follow up contacts with the victim to strengthen the safety net for the adult and child victim(s) and be aware of any signs of increased danger.

Prior physical violence is just one of many risk factors for intimate partner homicides. Some women are be killed by an intimate or former intimate partner when there has been no other physical abuse, but there were other signs. Using the lethality screening questions, the police and other service providers can identify potentially lethal situations, even where there has not been any prior physical violence.

Malinda Williams is the executive director of Community Against Violence, Inc. (CAV), offering FREE confidential support and assistance for adult and child survivors of sexual and domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking; re-education groups for domestic violence offenders; community and school violence-prevention programs; and community thrift store. To talk with someone or get information on services available, call CAV's 24-hour crisis line at 575-758-9888 --




Work remains on fixing sex trafficking enforcement

Washington is at the forefront of a movement to end sex trafficking, but its laws must be better enforced and communities more attuned to the signs a child is being exploited

WASHINGTON boasts some of the nation's strongest laws against sex trafficking of children. That's why it's one of only three states in the country to earn an “A” grade from Shared Hope International, which last week released its annual report card analyzing each state's existing rules.

Protecting children from being sold for sex is something state legislators agree on. They have made it a felony for adults to traffic, sexually abuse, communicate electronically for sexual purposes or view pornography depicting anyone under 18.

Yet, this illicit trade thrives. In King County alone, hundreds of underage sex workers are active each night. Only a fraction of buyers and traffickers are ever caught and brought to trial.

Shared Hope International President Linda Smith, whose anti-trafficking organization is based in Vancouver, says better enforcement of Washington's current laws is necessary. However, enforcement will likely remain a challenge until there is more training for communities and law-enforcement officials to detect the signs of a commercially sexually exploited child. Signs of trouble might include running away from home and missing school.

Police officers, prosecutors and sheriff's deputies working in Seattle and King Countyin recent years are making a point to treat girls found working in prostitution as the victims they are rather than as criminals.

That mindset must continue to spread statewide. Prostitution is not a victimless crime. Real-life survivor stories tell us many are lured into the commercial sex trade as young as 12, when they are especially vulnerable to influence by people posing as boyfriends or protectors.

“We need to train the folks who come in contact with these children on a daily basis to recognize them, advocate for them and connect them to services,” says King County Juvenile Court Judge Barbara Mack, who presides over cases involving trafficked youth. “Once you start seeing the warning signs, it's pretty easy, but people don't want to believe that these children are being trafficked.”

Lawmakers should heed Mack's advice to provide such training to school counselors, teachers, hospital workers, shelter staff, community organizations and social workers — as well as law-enforcement officers throughout the state.

Washington might get top marks for crafting anti-sex-trafficking legislation, but it can't effectively enforce those rules unless more victims are found and rescued.



Take Back the Night honors victims, celebrates survivors

Malone University has hosted a Take Back the Night event for more than 15 years. It's held to honor victims, celebrate survivors and challenge the community to help stop violence against women.

by Patricia Faulhaber

JACKSON TWP. -- Malone University has hosted a Take Back the Night event for more than 15 years. It's held to honor victims, celebrate survivors and challenge the community to help stop violence against women.

This year's event was a bit unique. In past years, the audience was predominantly female. This year, the audience included many more males.

The increase in male attendance is due in part to a state wide initiative to get males more engaged in the conversation about sexual and domestic violence against women. Jane Hoyt-Oliver, chair of the social work program at Malone University, and Karen Abel Jepsen, prevention director of the Domestic Violence Project, Inc. (DVPI), coordinated this year's event.

“October is domestic violence awareness month and we partner with Malone to hold this event to help raise awareness of violence against women,” Jepsen said.

Hoyt-Oliver said the issue matters greatly to social workers and Malone's students in that program. With recent awareness of the domestic violence among professional athletes, the athletic management students were also in attendance. The big difference this year was really the increase in male attendance at the event.

“Our two speakers this evening will talk about ways to get more men into the conversation and what to do to extend the conversation to others,” Hoyt-Oliver said. “Sometimes people become bystanders to the violence because they just don't know what to do about it.”

Corina Klies, Delta Coordinator for New Directions Shelter in Mt. Vernon talked about the need for student activism. She recommended students take an active role and “be at the table when there are discussions about campus policies towards violence on campus.”

“Women have been doing the work for building awareness and addressing the issue for years,” Klies said. “We need to have more men involved to help with the work. Organizations have been finding ways the past few years to get more men involved in the conversations.”

One of the latest organizations formed to help engage more males in the conversation is the Ohio Men's Action Network (OH-MAN). It was formed with the help of the Ohio Domestic Violence Network and the Ohio Alliance to end Sexual Violence.

According to the organization's website, OH-MAN “is a network of men and women working to engage men and boys in efforts to prevent sexual violence; sexual exploitation; domestic, intimate partner, family and relationship violence and to promote equitable, nonviolent relationships and a culture free of oppression.”

Jeff Sindelar, a lawyer and sexual and domestic violence advocate with OH-Man, told the audience that statistics show one in four women will be sexually assaulted while in college or in their lifetime. He said women see this as an issue while most men really don't think about it.

“Men just don't get sexual assault and domestic violence as an issue, men don't realize how prevalent rape is because they don't hear the stories,” Sindelar said. “Because these are ugly issues, no one likes to talk about rape, child sexual abuse or domestic violence. Many times men will ask what the rape victim did and that's why men often don't see it as an issue.”

A video was shown where a group of female students were asked what they do to protect themselves from sexual assault. A group of male students were asked the same question. All of the females told how they used pepper spray or the buddy system when walking outside at night. Almost none of the male students could answer the question because they had never thought about it before.

Sindelar offered several suggestions for the men in the audience to talk more about the issues. He said men need to stop and listen to other men talk about their experiences while at the same time be open to listening to women talk about their experiences.

“Men need to be more outspoken about being against sexual assault and domestic violence,” Sindelar said. “Men need to start asking themselves why do we think it's OK for men to take the risk of getting drunk and then sexually assaulting a woman? Those men who don't agree with those kind of actions need to reach out to those who do take the risks.”

For more information about DVPI, visit the website, The organization does host a 24/7 hotline at 330-453-7233. For more information about OH-MAN, visit the website at:



See child abuse? 'Stop It!' book by Lake Oswego therapist offers plan for what to do

by Amy Wang

Over the past 20 years, Mary Lansing estimates, she's intervened in 25 to 30 cases of parents either abusing or on the verge of abusing their children in public.

Intervention is not something anyone can do. Lansing has been a teacher and parent educator and recently retired from running her own practice as a licensed marriage and family therapist. "I've worked with whole families in various ways for 35, 40 years," she said.

But intervention is something Lansing thinks everyone can learn to do. That's the motivation behind her book "Stop It!: How to Intervene in Public Child Abuse."

Lansing self-published the book a year ago but has been battling health and medical problems since then, she said, so she's just getting around to promoting it now. Here are five things to know about her and her book.

What inspired her to write the book: "I was just not a person who went by that (kind of) scene in public without having strong feelings," she said. "It just occurred to me one day that I couldn't walk by it and not do anything. I made my first intervention and then I did it again and again and it began to be a thing that I did when I saw it. I wrote all of (the interventions) down."

How she did it: "Based on my experience as a family and marriage therapist, I knew what to say to communicate so that the other person didn't feel put down. You have to intervene without making the other person feel bad or attack you," she said.

Her book lays out a five-step process, starting with awareness. "You have to become aware of your own feelings and then you have to give an appraisal of what the other person is going through," she said.

"You get on their same level," she said. For instance, it's not unusual for the other person to say, "This is none of your business." Lansing said her usual response was, "I understand that ... I know it's none of my business." That, she said, usually calmed down the other person to where she could continue talking.

"The key to it, I've realized over the years, is that I go in and I neutralize their anger. And I have a lot of ways to do that that are in the book," she said.

What else is in the book: "Other things that I or somebody else did that didn't work as well, so that the person who reads the book gets all sorts of experiences. When it's a good time to do it and when it's not a good time to do it."

That last part is key to remember, she said. "It's important not to do it in a dark alley with a man who's beating up his son. I have seen something like that. What I have done is gone for help ... a policeman or a manager in a store or something like that."

Where to get her book: Online through Lansing said she's hoping to get local bookstores to pick up the book.

It's not just for kids: Lansing, who called herself a dog lover, said, "This does not stop at parents and children. It also involves what you do when you see somebody abusing an animal."


United Kingdom

Rotherham child sex abuse: Police 'ripped up files'

Police in Rotherham tore up paperwork relating to one child sex abuse victim and stopped another from being medically examined, the BBC has been told.

One woman claimed a policeman called her a liar after she reported being abused aged 15, and the other alleges police prevented her being examined after she was abused aged 13.

Both were speaking to BBC Inside Out.

South Yorkshire Police said both cases were now with the police watchdog.

A report in September by Prof Alexis Jay found 1,400 children had been abused in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013 by men of mainly Pakistani heritage.

The abuse they suffered included beatings, rape and trafficking to various towns and cities in England.

Two women told BBC Inside Out Yorkshire that police not only ignored, but actively obstructed investigations into their abuse.

The two cases happened eight years apart. The women, given the pseudonyms Jenny and Carol, are part of a group of 32 preparing to sue South Yorkshire Police and Rotherham Council.

Their cases span nearly two decades from the 1990s until 2007.

Carol was living in a children's home in the 1990s when she was taken on occasions by taxi to an Asian restaurant in the town.

'Called a liar'

In one incident she was subjected to a violent sexual assault by one of her abusers and was left bleeding.

Carol said: "I told the staff at the children's home and my social worker and they said a police officer was going to to pick me up and take me to a unit.

"The officer that used to come to the children's home [regularly], he came and picked me up in a police car.

"He took me to a lay-by; kept calling me a liar, saying he'd read my files and that I was a liar and no-one was going to believe me, it was more trouble than it was worth and he ripped my paperwork up.

"He dropped me back at an Indian restaurant... back with my abuser."

Lawyer David Greenwood, who is acting for the women in these historical cases, said: "The evidence that I've seen and the girls that I've spoken to, tell stories that suggest to me that there's something going on at a systematic level, where the police [were] actively preventing cases going forward against these perpetrators."

Jenny's mother, Julie, recalled how in 2007 her 13-year-old daughter was in regular contact with the police, but came home one Saturday night "blind drunk".

In the morning, Julie questioned her daughter who had vague recollections of spending the evening with a much older man. Her mother collected up her clothing, which had evidence of sexual activity, and called the police.

Julie said: "They sent two police officers out and they said they would take us to a rape centre - there wasn't one in Rotherham - to either Sheffield or Doncaster so they started taking us to Doncaster.

"On the way to Doncaster, the police got a call on the radio and said they were returning to Rotherham General Hospital."

'Spoil his Sunday'

She added that two CID officers came to take a statement.

"They were trying to dissuade her from making this statement by saying that the police surgeon was coming down the motorway to examine her and it was going to spoil his Sunday afternoon with his family - did she still want to go through with this statement?

"They kept going on and on at her till she said 'No, I don't want to do it anymore' so the two police officers took us home and stopped at the door and said sorry.

"I had the items of clothing with me. I put them in the washing machine."

Julie said her daughter got a shower but the hospital called asking where she was and she explained the child did not want to be dealt with by the police surgeon.

"She said 'I don't know what you're talking about 'cos there's no police officer coming down the motorway - our own doctor was going to examine her.'"

In a statement South Yorkshire Police said: "Our staff are now better informed than ever and we are absolutely committed to achieving justice, stopping the harm and preventing future offending.

"All frontline officers and specialist staff have now been trained in relation to child sexual exploitation and spotting the signs.

"Chief Constable David Crompton has asked the National Crime Agency (NCA) to lead an independent investigation into matters relating to the Alexis Jay report and this will be led by Trevor Pearce, NCA director of investigations."

The statement said the terms of reference for the investigation were being finalised.

"South Yorkshire Police has referred 14 people to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and may make further referrals should the criteria be met," it continued.

"All allegations will be investigated and where there is evidence of any misconduct referrals will be made to the IPCC."