Hard work, awareness are needed to stem child abuse
Community has a big problem that isn't going away
by Kathryn Wall
I'll admit it. While I have high hopes for members of the Child Abuse and Neglect Collaborative, they temper their enthusiasm with the reality of just how big a problem our community faces.
On Dec. 19, the Community Partnership of the Ozarks announced the new group — a collection of stakeholders dedicated to preventing abuse.
That same day, Springfield police responded to six incidents of alleged child abuse or neglect. Talk about sobering.
And keep in mind, those are only the incidents that were reported to police. There could be dozens more behind closed doors.
One report came from Mercy Hospital Springfield. Someone there was concerned about a “suspicious injury” to a child.
Another report came from a local homeless shelter. A third was from a home in central Springfield. Both were labeled as potential child abuse or endangerment.
The fourth call was about potential drug use thought to be dangerous for children in the home.
The fifth was a disclosure by a child. She told investigators she had been inappropriately touched but couldn't tell them who. She is 8.
In the sixth report about a missing child, a mother later admitted leaving the child unattended while using drugs. The child was eventually found.
While by no means scientific, in my experience over the past few years, six incidents in one day is higher than normal.
This problem isn't going away. It isn't slowing down.
In 2012, Children Division caseworkers handled an average of 489 children's cases per month through October. In 2013, workers managed 543 children's cases through October.
But I'm encouraged that the members of the CAN Collaborative have stepped up to the plate for prevention.
It's only going to be through increased awareness and hard work — like that the group promises — that we can stem the tide of child abuse and neglect in our community.
But we have a long way to go.
A key first step is this group's new website. You can access it at HowItEnds.Org.
I've written a lot about child abuse and neglect in the past four years. I've gone to a lot of websites. I've heard a lot of people speak about the issue.
To be frank, while it can be galvanizing at the beginning, the fervor generally dies down.
But this group — and this website — interest and excite me. Take a look; they need you to have strong interest too.
Aware center focuses on violence prevention, family needs
by Chris McGuinness
Aware Central Texas is a Belton-based nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing child abuse, neglect and family violence.
Aware began in 1986 as the Family Outreach of Bell County. There were 34 similar centers across Texas, with four located in Central Texas until 2003, when the Texas Legislature cut funding.
All but 10 centers closed, and Central Texas was left with one.
Aware Central Texas was created in 2006, and is no longer associated with Family Outreach Services, according to the organization's website.
Currently, it is the only agency in the region that solely focuses on violence prevention.
The organization not only provides a 24/7 hotline, support, counseling and case management services for victims of violence, it also provides awareness and education in Bell, McLennan and Coryell counties.
The organization offers several classes and support groups. These include anger management classes for juveniles and adults, as well as parenting classes.
Aware also offers the Community Awareness and Resource Empowerment Program and Cognitive Awareness (& Violence) Prevention Program.
Other programs the organization offers are: HOPE Survivors of Child Abuses and Workshops and VOICE Domestic Violence Support Groups.
Rely on donors
As a nonprofit organization, Aware Central Texas relies heavily on support from the community.
According to information provided by Guidestar online, the organization reported a revenue of $332,326, and expenses of $295,000 for 2012.
Of its expenses, about $216,700 was spent on Aware's various programs, and $73,952 was spent on administrative costs.
Of its revenue, about $145,000 came from the community.
Those funds include donations from organizations like the United Way of the Greater Fort Hood Area.
The organization received $1,200 from the United Way, according to Sue Ellen Jackson, Aware Central Texas' executive director.
“All our finding comes from grants and support from the community,” Jackson said. “We rely heavily on the community to help support us in our mission to prevent abuse and family violence.”
For more information about Aware Central Texas, call 254-939-7582 or go to awarecentraltexas.org.
Don't Ask, Don't Tell -- The Rules of a Molested Child
by Janet Weinberg -- nterim Chief Executive Officer, Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC)
Frank Spinelli, MD, a GMHC Board member, recently came to speak to the entire staff. His topic -- Pee Shy , his latest book. I will admit, I was skeptical about what the presentation was going to be like. Well, let me tell you -- it opened up our staff in a way that I have not seen in a very long time. Staff approached Frank, person after person, to thank him for telling his own personal story.
Frank did not just write a book, he wrote a movement. The movement is about a very difficult topic: child molestation. Frank is brave enough to talk about his own childhood struggles after he was molested by none other than his Boy Scout leader who was also a cop. After Frank disclosed his truth, clusters of people gathered. Two staff members stated to me, "Frank told my story, how did he know?" So what were the commonalities?
Frank and the staff members, as well as the molesters, were connected to a church.
Their molesters were people in authority.
Their parents would not report the abuse to the police once they learned of the incidence.
They were ashamed of being a target of the molesters.
One in six boys and one in four girls are molested by age 18. And why exactly do we not talk about it? We do not ask about it when a child's behavior changes, when we are taking medical histories or even during psychological interventions. There are signs. Yet parents do not speak to their children about sexual abuse. Children do not hear about it from their educators. "Don't ask, don't tell" did not work for the military and it certainly does not work for children who are not empowered to protect themselves from an adult.
There are similarities that often happen after abuse has occurred. Sexually abused children are prone to risk-taking behavior including unprotected sex, substance abuse, isolation, addictions and obesity, which are all telling signs. From Frank we learn that not all pedophiles are child molesters but all child molesters are pedophiles -- as some pedophiles do not act on their sexual desire of children. We must look for signs of abuse in the child and behavior patterns of the molester. Yet somehow we fail to do both. This puts us at double risk.
Why does an HIV/AIDS organization care so deeply about this issue? Some of the behaviors that can occur years after molestation can increase the risk of the child to become exposed to HIV as an adult. Substance use and other addictions can put a person at higher risk. Depression and a sense of self-worthlessness can also be risks for HIV. We know firsthand this is a critical issue for both our HIV-positive and HIV-negative clients who have experienced abuse in their childhoods.
The movement that can come out of the book, Pee Shy makes way for these courses of action:
The public can be made aware of the frequency of molestation.
Parents can learn the profile of molesters.
Parents can learn what signs to look for if their child is molested.
Educators can learn the necessity to teach about this problem.
Victims can learn they are not alone.
Victims of molestation can learn that there is help and mental health treatment that can assist with the after effects of abuse.
Health care professionals can learn to screen for abuse and begin the healing process.
The impact of the abuse, especially if not addressed, can last for years leading to potential risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Frank is a brave man for exposing a taboo topic, a topic that has plagued children since the beginning of time, a topic that parents and children are ashamed of when they are prey to a predator. We can all do a better job at addressing molestation before it happens and to help the victim recover after it happens. Our collective involvement in this movement can help decrease new HIV infections.
To learn more about Frank Spinelli's new book, "Pee-Shy," please visit: amzn.to/1eoEbje
Victims' Rights Group Teams With Churches To Combat Sex Trafficking
by Gigi Barnett
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Outnumbered and outmanned. Victims' rights groups nationwide say human trafficking is the second largest crime.
Gigi Barnett explains why one of those groups is turning to churches for help.
Baltimore Washington Thurgood Marshall Airport and a large truck plaza in Howard County near Jessup are two of the state's hottest spots when it comes to human sex trafficking.
That's according to The Samaritan Women organization, a Baltimore-based victims' rights group.
“People want to think that this isn't really happening, so we have to make it real for them,” said Samaritan Women founder Jean Allert. “And I think that moves people to say, ‘Wait a second, this is in my backyard.'”
That's why Allert is reaching out to community groups and churches across the state. This weekend, she's at Grace Point Church in Severn, asking members to keep their eyes peeled to the crime and report it.
“Their best tips come from good Samaritans, come from people who are just in their own community, saying `This does not look right in my community. Why are there those people hanging out in front of the middle school?'” Allert said.
Across the state, more than 1,100 children are unaccounted for at any given time. The state earned a “D” when it comes to creating laws against human trafficking. That's why victims' rights groups like The Samaritan Women say more churches need to get involved.
“I'm thinking, also, I want to see what we can do this session to maybe get some more laws on the books to decriminalize the children,” said Grace Point Church member Linda Smith.
It's a noble goal for members of this church. Allert says they'll need many more houses of worship doing the same.
“If you see a house down the street that seems to have traffic all night and day and it just looks suspect, it is incumbent upon us to say something,” she said.
The Samaritan Women is hosting seminars to teach churches how to recognize the signs of human sex trafficking. If you'd like more information, click here.
Davenport rector trying to root out human trafficking, even here in Iowa
by Rekha Basu
Rev. Brian McVey, rector of Davenport's St. Alban's Episcopal Church, does this every time he stays in a hotel: He asks the maids if they're getting paid. Some say no, or that they are now. When he asked four maids at a four-star hotel in Nashville, they immediately took off, never to return. The hotel had contracted with a third party, who collected the money. It's unlikely the women saw any of it.
Hotel maids, like restaurant workers, gardeners and seasonal field hands, are frequently brought into their jobs through human trafficking, which is believed to be a $30 billion-plus industry. “John Deere does that much in revenues,” quips McVey, a trafficking expert for the Episcopal Church, whose fast-talking style belies his financial-brokerage past before he answered a higher call. Most labor trafficking is in foreign workers who go unpaid and/or are placed in deplorable working conditions. A smaller subset, sex trafficking, is more likely to involve Americans, lured in through force, fraud or coercion, often groomed at early ages, recruited at shopping malls or on Facebook.
It happens in Iowa, too. Traffickers can earn as much from it as selling drugs or guns. But they're far less likely to be detected or arrested. So until communities learn the signs, and the questions to ask, those victims have little hope of freedom.
“If you own a company, and somebody's offering you something too good to be true,” said McVey, “it probably is.” Traffickers may approach businesses offering services for half of what they would normally pay. If you work at a clinic where a young woman repeatedly returns for abortions, she may be a sex trafficking victim.
An emergency room nurse McVey knows saw five female patients from Africa accompanied by a man who wouldn't leave. She was almost certain they were being trafficked. “But she had nothing to offer those ladies,” says McVey. Even those who suspect don't necessarily understand the economic and psychological dynamics that can make helping a challenge.
To that end, an organization called Attacking Trafficking, along with St. Ambrose University and several religious and other groups will hold two conferences in Davenport on Jan. 9 and 10, the first for the general public, the second just for medical and social work staffs to help them detect signs of victimization and provide appropriate care, for example, for post-traumatic stress.
Iowa doesn't have the trafficking numbers of some larger cities. In 2012, the National Human Trafficking Resources Center hotline received 82 calls from Iowa. The first half of last year, there were 54. But young women recruited here can be lured to bigger cities. One Quad Cities girl met a man on Facebook who wooed her for two years with gifts, gave her a cellphone and persuaded her to run off to Chicago to marry him. But once there, he pimped her out to other men. Though she returned a few years later with a baby, she took to making money the only way she knew — by selling sex — and was arrested. Survivors might continue to sell sex because it's all they know, and they've seen how much money can be made — $2,000 a night instead of $12 an hour at another job.
Story City's Brittany Phillips was lured into the trade at age 14 with promises of a modeling career by a man she met on the street after running away from a group home. He took her to Chicago, gave her a cellphone and posted pictures of her on Craigslist, telling her she'd need to do other things first. That led to her arrest by undercover police. She is free now, back in Iowa.
There are 6,000 to 8,000 runaways a year in Iowa. Under Iowa's laws, arresting someone for selling sex may be the only way to save a victim. Some victims' advocates are working with police agencies to find more appropriate ways to help.
Sex trafficking led to a lesser known form of employment of undocumented workers at the Agriprocessors meat plant in Postville before the 2008 immigration raid, says McVey. He said some 74 girls had been recruited in poor Honduran villages with promises of good-paying jobs in America — which turned out to be sexually servicing employees. Though the women could have been eligible for special visas to help convict their traffickers, they were deported.
It's a tough topic to hear or think about, the violations of human rights so abhorrent, the victims at the mercy of their captors often by virtue of being poor or from dysfunctional homes. Fortunately, human trafficking is galvanizing a diverse group of responders, from churches to human rights advocates, from liberals to conservatives.
Iowa needs better services, shelters for survivors and changes to the law to protect victims and punish traffickers. Just as it took awareness-raising for medical and social workers to start screening patients for child- or spouse-abuse and reaching out to them, it will take consciousness-raising to help trafficking survivors and root out this blight.
The organisation supporting ethnic minority adult survivors
by Sally Clifford
Great strides have been made to ensure that sexual abuse isn't the taboo topic it once was.
Today, services and organisations are in place providing support to those who have broken their silence and finally opened up, in confidence, about the trauma they have experienced and carried with them throughout their lives.
However, one Bradford woman believes there remains a gap in long-term specialist support for adult survivors within the ethnic minority community who have experienced child sexual abuse or sexual violence at any point in their life. She is hoping to bridge that gap through a project offering help and support.
Sophia is a young Pakistani Muslim who, through her background in the legal profession, is aware of the experiences of sufferers she has come into contact with.
After spending many years researching and working on Unity & Hope, an organisation providing support for victims of sexual abuse, Sophia is now bringing the project to public attention through her online petition. She hopes the more support she can attract will hopefully encourage the Government to support the project.
“The vision is to set up a dedicated service for women and girls who have suffered childhood sexual abuse. I know people will say there are services, but there is no dedicated service for the ethnic minority community,” she says.
Sophia refers to a Glasgow-based service called Roshni working extensively with ethnic minority communities and partners across Scotland.
She hopes to set up a local project working along similar lines, raising awareness and providing support. She says the aims of Unity & Hope are: l To improve the responses, practices and support services for adult survivors, in particular women and girls from Asian communities who have experienced child sexual abuse and/or sexual violence at any point in their life or are currently at risk l Raise awareness of the long-term effects and impact this can often have into adult life.
l Campaign for an end to child sexual abuse and sexual violence, particularly against women and girls l Challenge myths, taboos, victimisation, and pathologisation of women and girls who have experienced child sexual abuse or sexual violence.
Sophia claims that within the UK the portrayal of Asian women and girls and their experiences of sexual violence and abuse is overlooked or under-represented.
She believes services are failing to identify cultural differences and challenges faced by Asian women and girls, which means failing to ensure women and girls from all backgrounds have access to equal support. This, she says, further magnifies the difficulties in determining the precise scale of crime and violence committed against Asian women and girls.
Feeling they are to blame, or that they won't be believed, or fearing isolation, social exclusion, stigma, disempowerment, victimisation or ostracisation are just some of the issues faced by some Asian women and girls, says Sophia. They may also face reprisals by families or communities.
Sophia says a reason why people from ethnic minorities may be under-represented is due to cultural background, shame and embarrassment, as sexual abuse often isn't a subject for discussion in Asian communities.
Her vision is to set up a service locally for adult women and girls, which is inclusive of Asian women and girls, who have experienced child sexual abuse or sexual violence at any point in their lives or are at risk.
Child sexual abuse and sexual violence affects thousands of women and children every year from all parts of the country and from all backgrounds. Various forms of violence against women, including emotional, psychological, sexual and physical abuse, coercion and constraints, are all interlinked.
Through her background working within mental health services, and through researching the issue, Sophia has seen how it can have a ripple effect, impacting on healthcare and relationships.
Thankfully, though, the issue of sexual abuse is emerging from behind closed doors as more and more people find the confidence to talk about their traumatic past with the hope that they can finally move on with their lives.
“I think we are seeing a shift. We have made progress within the criminal justice system and the more protection that has been made people are coming forward, but there is still that taboo and that stigma attached,” says Sophia.
For further information, visit unityhope.co.uk.
St. Cloud Diocese reveals names of priests accused of abusing children.
by JEAN HOPFENSPERGER
The St. Cloud Diocese on Friday released the names of 33 priests who have been credibly accused of sexual misconduct with children, bringing to nearly 100 the total names of such priests revealed in the past month in Minnesota.
“It is my hope that the release of these names will provide validation to those victims who have been sexually abused and have already come forward,” St. Cloud Bishop Donald Kettler said in a statement released Friday afternoon.
“I pray it will also give strength to those who have remained silent and allow them to come forward,” he wrote.
The release of the list came one day after attorneys filed a lawsuit in Stearns County District Court on behalf of Robert Ethen of Sartell. The lawsuit says Ethen, then a child, was abused in the mid-1960s by the Rev. James A. Thoennes while attending St. Anthony's parish in St. Cloud.
Thoennes has been the subject of previous allegations of child sexual misconduct, yet the diocese moved him to another church, said Mike Finnegan, an attorney for Anderson & Associates of St. Paul, which filed the lawsuit along with attorney Mike Bryant.
The list includes both diocesan priests and members of St. John's Abbey of Collegeville, which released its own list of 18 priests charged with sexual misconduct last month. There is some overlap with the St. John's list and with the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis list released last month.
Twenty of those named in the St. Cloud list are dead. The whereabouts of five are listed as “unknown.” Three currently live in Collegeville: the Rev. Richard Eckroth, the Rev. Thomas Gillespie and the Rev. Brennan Maiers. One priest, Thoennes, lives in St. Cloud. One, transitional deacon Michael Weber, lives in the Twin Cities.
The priests served in St. Cloud as well as in smaller towns across central Minnesota, from Little Falls to Belle Prairie.
‘There's more to this list'
Victims' advocates immediately questioned whether the list was complete, pointing out that it contains the name of only one member of the Crosier religious order, which ran a prep school in the town of Onamia in the diocese. In 2002, the Crosiers publicly identified eight members who have sexually abused minors, according to news reports.
“There's more to this list,” said Bob Schwiderski, Minnesota director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP).
The St. Cloud Diocese is the fourth diocese in the past month to make public such a list. Like the others, it has the names of priests credibly accused of abuse between 1950 and 2004. It was compiled by the diocese for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Finnegan called the release of the list a good “first step forward.”
“With the number of offenders, and the number of parishes they served at, I think there are dozens of survivors out there,” he said. “I'm hopeful that the release of this list will give them permission to break the silence.”
Kettler, who became bishop of the St. Cloud diocese in November, urged any victims to contact the diocese. “I am struck by the courage and strength of the victims of abuse who have come forward,” he wrote.
Mother arrested after not feeding infant, 5 year old for four days
CITRUS COUNTY, Fla. - Citrus County Sheriff deputies arrested a mother after their father found their children unfed and changed for four days.
Dawn Geiger had picked up her children on New Year's Eve from school on her court ordered day. The children predominately stayed with there father in Gainesville.
After the father was unable to contact the mother of their three children for four days, he drove to her house to find out what was going on. Geiger had reportedly just gotten out of a rehab facility a month prior.
The father knocked several times on the door, but no one answered. Before he left Geiger's house he saw her stumble outside and then back into the home. He immediately called 9-1-1 to have deputies come respond to the residence.
When deputies got to the house they found an open sliding glass door. Inside the house they were able to see Geiger passed out on an air mattress with an infant laying next to her in urine. A five year old, wearing only underwear, ran from the door once he saw his father in the distance.
Unable to wake Geiger, the deputy took the baby to it's father, though it looked lethargic. The father attempted to change the boy's diaper, but found it was sticking to the child's genitals with mold growing inside. There was also blood inside the diaper.
The five year old told the deputy he was hungry. When the deputy asked when was the last time the child had eaten he said he hadn't eaten since his mother picked him up from school.
Both children were taken to their pediatrician by their father. The other child, a teenage, was not found at the mother's house. She had been picked up and taken to a friend's house where she was later taken back into the custody of her father.
Once awoken, Geiger was arrested on charges of child abuse.
Deputies observed several one gallon wine bottles near Geiger's bed.
Pa. priest released from custody amid appeal
A church official who recently won an appeal of his landmark conviction in the priest-abuse scandal was released from custody Friday, and the city's Roman Catholic archbishop defended the decision to use church funds to help with bail.
Monsignor William Lynn was staying at an undisclosed location in Philadelphia after being processed at a city jail and being fitted with an electronic monitoring device Friday morning, defense attorney Thomas Bergstrom said. He was due in court Monday for a bail hearing.
Lynn, who left a state prison on Thursday after 18 months behind bars, is the first U.S. church official to have been charged for hiding complaints that priests were molesting children.
City prosecutors had charged him with felony child endangerment, but the state Superior Court ruled that the law that existed at the time did not cover people who did not directly supervise children.
Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams this week said he would appeal the ruling, and he has criticized the archdiocese for helping Lynn post his $250,000 bail.
Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput said in a Friday letter to clergy and parishioners that helping Lynn come up with $25,000 to post 10 percent of his bail was "both reasonable and just." He said Lynn remains on administrative leave and may not function in public as a priest.
Chaput described the appeals court decision as a matter of legal substance rather than technicalities.
Lynn "presents no danger to anyone," the archbishop wrote. "He poses no flight risk. The funding for his bail has been taken from no parish, school or ministry resources, impacts no ongoing work of the church and will be returned when the terms of bail are completed. Nor does it diminish in any way our determination to root out the possibility of sexual abuse from the life of our local church."
David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said Chaput has refused to "take harsh, clear disciplinary measures against those who hurt or let others hurt kids."
"Here's the message Chaput sends ... by bailing out Lynn: `No matter how egregiously you misbehave and how many kids you endanger, we in the church hierarchy will continue to support you even if you're found guilty at trial,'" Clohessy said.
Biker gang wages war against child abuse
DERBY, Conn. -- Every year, more than 3.5 million children are abused in the U.S. Many don't know where to turn, but for some, help is coming to them, on wheels.
For years, Karen and her 9-year-old daughter, whose identity CBS News is choosing not to share, were abused by Karen's husband.
“It was terrifying when you can't close your eyes at night to go to sleep because you don't know what's going to happen – it's the unknown that you're afraid of,” said Karen.
Fearing for their lives, Karen found help from an unlikely group of people: a 3,000-member organization committed to protecting children around the world. They call themselves BACA - Bikers Against Child Abuse.
“One thing we try and do as an organization is to help that child feel empowered so they can enjoy their childhood and grow up as an adult knowing that there's always going to be somebody there and not all adults are bad,” said Happy Dodson, President of the Connecticut chapter, which is currently helping eight families across the state.
BACA helps by stepping into the void left by an overwhelmed court system -- and by forming a cocoon of support around the abused child, pledging 24-7 protection. Each member goes through an extensive Federal background check and adopts child-friendly road names like Scooter, Shaggy and Pooh Bear.
“If the child has problems sleeping or getting on the bus or is afraid to go to school we'll take you to school. When the bus drops you off, we'll be there. We'll take you home and if need be we'll stay in that yard until you feel comfortable,” Dodson said.
The group also shows up to court appearances to let the abuser know that the child is a part of the BACA family.
For some of the members, the cause is personal; they too were abused.
“I've known a lot of kids when I was growing up that were under that umbrella of being afraid, nobody around to help,” Dodson said. “That's why we're here.”
As for Karen, she and her daughter feel a new found sense of comfort and protection.
“It was nice to know that all of these people were on her side. She had that backup, you know, and that she wasn't alone,” Karen said.
BACA's motto is "no child deserves to live in fear." Because of them, this young girl no longer does.
Florida governor signs death warrant for boy's killer in notorious case
Florida Gov. Rick Scott has signed a death warrant for the man convicted of kidnapping, raping and murdering 9-year-old Jimmy Ryce on his way home from school almost 20 years ago.
Forty-six-year-old Juan Carlos Chavez is scheduled to die by injection Feb. 12 for the Sept. 11, 1995, slaying.
The boy was abducted after being dropped off by a school bus near his home in south Miami-Dade County. Chavez took him back to his trailer, where he raped him. He held Jimmy captive for three hours before he shot the boy as he tried to escape.
The case horrified the state and led to the passage of the Jimmy Ryce Act. It allows authorities to commit dangerous sexual predators to mental institutions once they have completed their prison terms.
19,044 referrals about child abuse concerns were received in 2012
Minister Frances Fitzgerald said figures for 2013 indicate will be similar to previous years.
IN 2012, THERE 19,044 received refferals received to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs where there was a concern of child abuse.
In a response to a parliamentary question from Fine Gael's Bernard Durkan about the extent to which instances of child mental, physical or sex abuse or child prostitution are reported to her Department of Children and Youth Affairs, Minister Frances Fitzgerald said that in 2011 there were 15,808 referrals where there was a concern of child abuse and in 2012 there were 19,044 received.
She said that child abuse referrals are broken down into four categories: sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse and neglect and although child prostitution is recorded as sexual abuse, it is not broken down according to the type of sexual abuse reported.
Figures to date for 2013 indicate that the level of referrals will be similar to the number of reports made to Social Work Services in 2012.
The minister said that the HSE was ultimately responsible for the delivery of child welfare and protection services but said occasionally her department received calls from individuals concerned.
She added that the HSE have advised that all referrals received an initial assessment to determine what further action is required in accordance with Children First Guidance (2011).
Any immediate protective action which may be required is taken in accordance with the HSE's statutory duty under the Child Care Act 1991.
Intervention is provided as appropriate ensuring at all times that it is proportionate and in accordance with an assessment of the child's needs.
Where it is not possible to deal immediately with a referral of abuse, those which are assessed as highest priority are dealt with in the first instance by social work teams.
All referrals received are reviewed and responses monitored.
Should You Divorce Your Family After the Holidays?
Splitting from a bad spouse is accepted but a stigma remains about cutting out a damaging sibling or parent. How do you decide to let one go?
January has long been considered the most popular month for divorces with many unhappy spouses ready to make a fresh start after faking it through the holidays for the sake of the kids or other family members. But what if the dysfunctional relationship in your life isn't with your spouse, but with another family member? Is January a good time to consider divorcing a sibling, parent or other family member who makes you miserable?
While divorce is widely accepted today there remains a stigma around ending a relationship with other family members, often no matter how egregious their behavior. I was reminded of this just before the holidays when on a recent episode of Oprah Winfrey's Lifeclass , megachurch pastor T.D. Jakes chastised two sisters who had not spoken in years. The reason for the estrangement: one sister tried to engage in an affair with the other's boyfriend but was caught before the relationship was consummated. The sister in question had never apologized to her sibling for this transgression. Yet for some reason Jakes seemed under the impression that having this woman out of her life was a major loss for the sister who's boyfriend the other one had tried to shag and insisted they reconcile. But the question I kept asking is why?
Why should this woman want a person she cannot trust and has shown her no remorse or empathy to remain in her life? What benefit is there in such a relationship? Jakes insisted on the importance of blood, which seems an odd reasoning to focus on when it comes to defining what constitutes a worthwhile relationship, particularly since we live in a society in which there are plenty of strong, healthy adoptive families who do not define family along bloodlines. He did mention the possibility of needing a kidney one day, which I guess is something. But by that logic children should never be taken from abusive parents and adopted by others because “you never know when they might need a kidney.”
Jakes is not alone in believing that your family must stay your family no matter how hurtful or dysfunctional they may be. Academy Award-winning actress Mo'Nique talked publicly about being a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of her brother as a child. After confiding about the abuse to her parents, her brother was sent away briefly, then returned to the family who pretended nothing happened. Her brother was eventually convicted of sexually abusing another girl , and Mo'Nique became estranged from the entire family as an adult. (This is not as rare of an occurrence as people might think. I personally know of two families that handled incidents of sexual abuse similarly.)
So where exactly is the line that a family member must cross for estrangement to be justified and furthermore not stigmatized?
The short answer is, it depends on whom you ask. Dr. Jeff Gardere said a tell tale sign is “When you feel your self getting emotionally ill, but even worse, physically ill” when interacting with the relative in question. He explained that “Back and stomach problems, ulcers, migraine headaches, etc., that is the body saying; ‘Enough, you are killing me!'” Dr. Michelle Golland suggested a sort of checklist of traits that are warning signs a familial relationship is unhealthy and may be worth ending, including: “You feel drained when associating with the person. The person continuously makes you angry. The person is manipulative towards you to get what they want.” But perhaps most seriously, “You often feel threatened with the person.”
Bill Doherty is a Professor in the Department of Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota. While he is a pioneer in the field of discernment counseling, a form of therapy in which married couples are encouraged to consider divorce as an equally healthy therapeutic outcome alongside possible reconciliation, Doherty believes a higher bar should be set when it comes to ending other familial relationships. He explained that ending a familial relationship altogether should only be done in extreme circumstances when all other avenues of reconciliation and coexistence have failed. More specifically, “when active emotional cruelty or physical/sexual abuse continues to occur and all efforts to limit it or distance from the person have failed.” Doherty later explained that a “state occasions only” rule tends to be an emotionally healthier option for most people. This means that while you may not speak regularly to the sibling or parent that has hurt you, you do not allow that relationship to derail your relationships with other family members by skipping family functions such as weddings to avoid him or her. He cautioned that avoiding such events to avoid that person might take “more emotional energy,” than simply setting firm boundaries with the relationship and your level of interaction in adulthood.
When asked to clarify why he thinks divorce is a more acceptable option for spouses who hurt each other versus two siblings who hurt each other he replied, “marriage is a contractual relationship entered in adulthood with vows/promises made about mutual obligations and legal norms created in nearly every culture for ending the marriage for serious reasons. Other family relationships (so-called blood relationships) are not contractual in the same way and they generally begin when at least one of the parties is born; thus they are inherited and not chosen.” He concluded, “You can have an ex-spouse but not an ex-sister. Even adopted kids refer to their ‘birth mother' even if they never met her.”
For this reason and others we all tend to tolerate behavior from siblings and parents we never would from spouses or romantic partners. But Doherty and the other therapists interviewed also believe we tolerate more from family members because society expects us to. Pressure, particularly on those who are religious, to forgive can often result in the mistaken assumption that forgiveness means one should tolerate unhealthy behavior for a lifetime.
But Rev. Jacqui Lewis, a pastor at Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan said this is not the case. While she stressed that as a pastor her focus tends to be on healing, counseling, therapy if necessary and ideally reconciliation, “sometimes we have to break up to stay healthy in our lives.” She added, “I think in some blood-related families there can be such toxicity, such violence to the spirit that it's not healthy to be in that relationship.” She also noted that biblical text does not support the idea of staying in a harmful, destructive relationship with anyone for any reason.
All of those interviewed suggested various ways of coping with the social stigma of ending a family relationship. Doherty suggested that in a situation in which abuse has occurred and no amends have been made it might be best to simply tell other family members who have asked the full story. Strangers and acquaintances on the other hand just need an “it's complicated.” Dr. Golland similarly advised “to keep it simple and honest without too much detail. I know people can be curious but it is important to set boundaries if others are being rude or judgmental around your decision.”
Ultimately when asked about the idea of familial divorce Rev. Lewis concluded, “If your heart is broken day in and day out the same way, by the same person, you probably need to think about changing your pattern. We can't change anybody except ourselves. The only person we can change in relationships that are not healthy is us, and one way to change is to disconnect.”
Adolescents need a rite of passage to ease them into adulthood
Sadly, some young people join gangs. We need to devise a ritual to help them through this difficult transition
by Tim Lott
An intriguing organisation called A Band of Brothers has been in touch with me. They seek to provide rites of passage for alienated young men – often involved in gang life – by giving them male mentors and separating them from the community for a given period to instil confidence and promote emotional intelligence. This is seen as an urgent task. As the website states: "If the fires that innately burn inside young men are not intentionally and lovingly added to the hearth of community, they will burn down the structures of the culture."
I have only daughters, but this is not just a male issue. Men may join gangs, but the violence girls do to themselves in adolescence – self-harming and self-starving, for example – is equally problematic. We also have no secular rites of passage within families for girls to mark, say, their first menses, or for boys to mark the signs of physical maturity. Yet this idea of marking the passage from child to adult, has appeared in all cultures at all times in history. Even though the secular community has little to offer the soul in transition, the need has not gone away. It has just become private rather than public.
Once, for boys, there would be separation from the community, transition and reincorporation. Ordeals would be undergone in which bravery and endurance would be tested – perhaps through scarification or ritual marking, or being sent to cope with the wilderness alone.
More recently, boys were sent into the military. My father often told me that he entered the navy as a boy, age 16, and emerged as a man two years later. He was always grateful for this forced enlistment. He certainly never had any problems in thinking about himself as a man after that.
In traditional societies, the rite of passage for girls might be separation from the male community for a period, to be mentored by wise women. Or it might involve the brutality of genital mutilation, an act of personal violation that can only now be interpreted as a form of abuse.
I am not suggesting that we return to any of those traditions. Apart from the intrinsic violence of some of these rituals, our society is too individualistic, too atomised – there is not enough consensus about what values are to be passed on to our children.
Some rites of passage do still exist. My daughter Eva, 11, has just gone from primary to secondary school, and this is clearly marked – for instance by the adoption of a uniform, having to find her own way to school and so on. Likewise, my two elder daughters are at university and will have the fact of their own living space to mark the change. There may be driving tests, or certificates gained. But these happen to happen and are not a societal ritual.
Lacking these rituals, youths have taken the task on themselves. At an extreme, teenage girls may prove their fertility by getting pregnant, and teenage boys may demonstrate their manhood by ritualised violence through gang warfare. Both sexes will be liable to mark themselves out by their clothing and by forms of scarification, such a tattoos or piercings.
We cannot turn back the clock. But the fundamental need to have our passages in life marked cannot be erased. Slap on the veneer of civilisation as much as you like, and blur the line between male and female as much as you find convenient, but these urges remain with us and need somehow to be addressed – not just privately, but at a wider level. A Band of Brothers has shown a possible way to reduce violence among boys. Perhaps a "Sorority of Sisters" might cut rates of teenage pregnancy, self-harm and anorexia.
Incest And Sexual Abuse Of Children Killing The Deadly Bug
by Beauty Obamwonyi
One common form of sexual abuse of children is incest, which has been defined as sexual contact that occurs between family members.
Most incest occurs between older male relatives-and younger female children in families of every class and colour. Other instances of sexual abuse of children are most often committed by friends who have access to children with in the family setting and by people normally trusted by parents, doctors, dentists, teachers and baby-silters;
A sexually abuse relationship is one over which a child or young woman has no control; A trusted family member or friend uses his power as well as a child's love and dependence, to initiate sexual contact and often to ensure that the relationship continues and remains secret.
Despite the fact that children are more likely to be sexually abused by an adult they know, parents teach children to expect danger from strangers and not from trusted authority figures. It is understandable, given this fact, that a violation of this trust is so terribly frightening and confusing.
The Extent of incest and childhood sexual abuse is difficult to measure because of lack of reporting and lack of memory. One study in which adults were asked to report on past incidents found that one in four girls and one in ten boys had experienced sexual abuse.
Incest and sexual abuse of children take many forms and may include sexual suggestive language; prolong kissing, looking and petting; Vaginal and oral intercourse; and oral sex, Because sexual contact is often achieved without overt physical force, they may be no obvious signs of physical harm.
Whether or not the signs of abuse are physical and obvious, sexual abuse in childhood can have lifelong consequences. As survivors, we often blame ourselves long after the abuse has ended …. For not saying no, for not fighting back, for telling or not , for having trusted the abuser. Often there is no one to confirm that someone treated us cruelly and that this abuse was devastating to us.
Many of us have difficulty with sexually intimate relationships because of the memories they revive. Many of us desire sexual intimacy yet have difficulty trusting.
A lot of these children, when they grow up, struggle with self blame, might run away from their homes, depression and see themselves a worthless being, it is often very difficult to talk about incest or childhood sexual abuse. Some of us may never have told anyone, though the abuse may have continued for years. We may have dreaded family gatherings, where a particular uncle, cousin or family friend would come after us.
For some exploring our bodies with an older brother turned a sexual encounter; after which we found ourselves feeling we had been taken advantage of. Sometimes a father, uncle, cousin or teacher abuse our sisters, and we didn't find out for years. Every surviour has her own story, and every story is valid.
Each of us responds differently to the pain and tenor of incest and childhood sexual abuse. We struggle to find ways to cope that will permit us to keep on functioning and to survive. Too often, the coping mechanisms become problematic and don't serve the survivor well as an adult. Common coping mechanisms include self- injury, substance abuse, eating disorders and dissociation.
SELF INJURY-Self-injury, much more common among women than men, occur when we consciously hurt ourselves, by, for example, cutting hitting, or burning ourselves. Because of the shame surrounding self injury, women often keep this problem secret and do not reach out for support from others. Although self-injury is not usually done with he Intent of suicide, self injury can also be a way of expressing anger and other strong emotions.
SUBSTANCE ABUSE-many that were abused sexually during childhood find that we have no outlet for the feelings associated with the trauma of sexual abuse. We may turn to alcohol or drugs to help cope with strong feeling of terror, grief, and anger.
EATING DISORDERS –problems with eating can develop in the wake of sexual abuse. These may take several forms, including bulimia, anoreda, and compulsive overeating. Each of these may sense as a different coping ,ehanism and may itself become a problem.
DISSOCIATION-Many survivors are familiar with dissociation. This is a process that produces an alteration in a person's thoughts, feelings, or actions so that for a period of time, certain information is not associated or integrated with other information.
A continuum of sorts, dissociation occurs when a child leaves her body and goes to the ceiling during the abuse; they may have trouble concentrating, experience detachment from ourselves, have dramatic mood shifts, and /or develop several distinct personalities.
GETTING HELP-To heal from the trauma of incest or early sexual abuse, we need to tell our stories to people who understand what we have experience.
FEMINIST INSIGHTS INTO INCEST AND CHILDHOOD SEXUAL ABUSE
Years ago, “experts” who wrote about incest and child abuse blamed mothers for abandoning their children to sexually depraved husbands or accused young girls of being seductive or offantasising about sexual relationships with male relatves in a society that puts so much emphasis on sexuality as a measure of a man's worth fathers, uncles, nephews, cousins and brothers may try to bolster a low self -image by taking sexual advantage of the powerlessness of the children in their lives.
One unfortunate result of this change has been an attempt to popularize the so-called FALSE MEMORY SYNDROME. This theory claims that many adults who remember sexual abuse as children are actually not remembering correctly.
Research into the subject of memories and how they work however confirms that children often repress their experience of trauma in order to survive and that this is a necessary and appropriate coping mechanism, not something that the child did wrong.
Overcoming Insecurity, Low Self Esteem
by HAUWA ISMAILA
Low self esteem refers to a negative perception about one's worth. It is often characterized by lack of confidence, negative thinking, and difficulty in making decision and communicating one's needs effectively.
Real self confidence and esteem is based in emotion, not self image.
To build self confidence and overcome low self esteem is to change how we feel emotionally about ourselves. To change our emotion requires changing two different core beliefs about self image. The first core belief is obvious. It is the belief that we are not good enough. It may have a more specific association to how we look, how smart we are money, or lack of confidence sexually.
The second core belief to change is the image of success that we feel we should be Changing this belief is contrary to logic but is a must if we are to overcome insecurity and raise our self esteem.
False self image of perfection cause of low self esteem and lack of confidence when your mind has an image of success that you “should be” it associates happy emotions with that picture. I call that the image of perfection in our mind. The mind does a comparison between the image of perfection and how you see yourself image currently. The comparison results in judgment and self rejection for not meeting the image of perfection. The self rejection results in feeling unworthy and low self esteem.
While the image of perfection appears to be a way for us to feel good about ourselves, it is actually causing us to reject ourselves which creates feelings of “not being good enough”. If you were to dissolve the belief that you should fit into the image of perfection you would eliminate the self rejection and feelings of unworthiness that result.
Feelings of confidence and security means no self rejection.
The approach of dissolving our image of perfection sounds contrary to our sense of logic about building confidence and esteem. This is because we have the belief that achieving the image of perfection will result in positive happy emotion and feeling confident with our success. Our mind has actually been programmed to have these emotional associations. We desire to feel these feelings and chase the image of perfection we have attached to them.
What we may not be aware of is that achieving our image of success doesn't effectively change our emotional state. It doesn't do anything to permanently change the way the voice in our head speaks to us or what we believe about our self many times. People have achieved their goals only to find themselves still unfulfilled. Your emotional state may briefly change in the euphoria of the immediate success.
But the core belief of not being good enough and your long term habit of self rejection in the mind hasn't been altered. The critical voice in our head is more likely to put a higher goal in front of us to achieve. I was talking with a woman who competed on the basket ball team in Nigeria several years back. She described feeling like a failure because she was only ranked about 10th in the competition in the state. It's okey to have high goals, but you don't have to make your love and self acceptance dependent on them.
Change what you believe and you change how you feel emotionally. The second belief to dissolve is that we are inadequate and somehow not good enough. These are the beliefs that create emotions, insecurity and fear. The emotions are not the problems, they are just the resulting symptom of negative core beliefs. The “not good enough” image is a construct of our imagination.
It is a belief about ourselves created by the mind concluding that we are “not good enough to meet the image of perfection”. A step to changing this belief is to recognize that we are observing the “self” image. We can not be the “self” image we are looking at.
We are the ones doing the looking. This means the “self” image we create is really a “non self” image, with awareness we can decide to believe in the “nonself” image or not believe in the “non self” image. Having this awareness helps shift our point of view and is a beginning step that will help us change a belief.
Changing the “not good enough” image is much easier once you have broken your belief in the image of perfection. Without the image of perfection you no longer have the comparison, reinforcing the unworthy “self” image.
You are not an image in your mind you create them.
Lack of awareness about how your mind misleads you can result in failed efforts to improve your confidence, and self esteem. Often people try to pro up their confidence with efforts to become their image of perfection. This great effort usually involves reinforcing the belief that we should be that fictional image. The result is a stronger mechanism for self rejection. With awareness we can avoid chasing these false beliefs and spend our time on what really makes a difference in the way we feel.
Real change in how you feel emotionally begins with becoming aware of the beliefs and thoughts in the mind. The second step is to change those core beliefs.
If you can begin to change some of the smaller thoughts and emotions you have, then you can learn how to change the larger thoughts and emotions you experience.
Father ‘murders teenage son with axe because he thought boy was a demon and going to eat him'
Gary Sherrill, 51, from Phoenix, Arizona, had shared custody of 13-year-old David and when he was not returned home on time the boy's mother rang police.
When officers arrived at Sherrill's apartment at roughly 3:45pm on Tuesday he told them the boy was not there, but eventually allowed them in to talk further.
Police say they then found the teenager's body covered in stab wounds and lacerations.
According to local news station ABC15 Sherrill is alleged to have admitted to the killing, apparently defending his actions by saying he was scared of his son, who he believed to be a demon that was going to eat him.
Neighbours claim they had seen Sherrill acting strangely recently.
‘He had been screaming at a tree the other day,' said Davina West.
He is now being held on first degree murder charges.
Mother facing multiple charges for allegedly sexually abusing three small children
ELK CITY, Okla. – Authorities arrested an Elk City woman after she allegedly sexually abused her children.
Police arrested 30-year-old Natalie Lynn Webb after claiming she was involved in the “sexual abuse and exploitation” of her children.
In the police affidavit, investigators learned that Webb had allegedly abused her children on multiple occasions over the span of three months.
Authorities claim an 9-year-old child told authorities that his 8-year-old brother and his two 3-year-old sisters had all been molested.
The affidavit stated, “He said she [Webb] was selling sex from them. He said he would run and hide in the dumpster.”
The boy allegedly told investigators that he accidentally walked in on the abuse at one point.
The report also stated, “[He] thinks when mom took the needles it would make her act different. He thinks that because she would act weird and her breath would smell funny and her arm would have little dots where it was bleeding.”
The children are all in protective custody.
Webb is now facing charges of sexual abuse of a child under 12-years-old and child neglect.
She is being held on a $2 million bond.
Should It Be Mandatory To Report Suspected Child Abuse?
by Nick Morrison
Perhaps more than any other profession, teachers are exposed to the everyday reality of child abuse. While medical practitioners and social workers bear the brunt of dealing with the aftermath, it is teachers who are in daily contact with the victims even before the allegations come to light.
So it is not surprising that schools are on the front line of the debate over whether it should be mandatory to report suspected child abuse.
Pressure to change the law in the U.K. has been growing since the autumn publication of a review into the death of a young boy. The review, which makes horrific reading, details the torture, starvation and beatings inflicted on Daniel Pelka at the hands of his mother and stepfather, as well as the failure of agencies, including Daniel's school, to intervene.
The campaign for new legislation – dubbed the ‘Daniel Pelka' law – has been led by Mandate Now, a coalition of charities representing survivors of childhood abuse. A petition has so far gained almost 95,000 signatures, while a poll last month revealed a majority of adults in favour of a change in the law.
Now the children's commissioner for England and Wales has lent her support to the campaign, adding her voice to that of the former chief prosecutor for England and Wales, who last month called for failure to report suspicions to be made a criminal offence.
While this would bring the U.K. into line with countries including the U.S.A., Canada, Australia, Spain and the Republic of Ireland, the U.K. government has so far been resistant to the move, arguing that there is no evidence that mandatory reporting protects children.
Teacher unions have also been sceptical. The deputy general secretary of one of the largest unions said the emphasis should be on ensuring there are clear procedures in place which are known to all staff. There are also concerns over fanning hysteria about child abuse and encouraging unnecessary reporting.
The U.K.'s leading children's charity, the NSPCC, opposes mandatory reporting, arguing that priority should be placed instead on supporting professionals to identify and report abuse.
But while training and awareness is undoubtedly needed, reading the report into Daniel's death it is hard to believe that they would have made a difference.
School staff had noticed Daniel's obsession with food, including scavenging in bins and trying to eat beans that were being planted in soil, but believed his problem was medical and locked food away to stop him stealing. In the weeks before Daniel's death teachers had seen injuries to his face on at least six occasions, but did not take effective action to help him.
Spotting the signs of abuse is difficult. Abusers are often devious and able to provide explanations for injuries or changes in behaviour, while the victims may be uncommunicative and unwilling to cooperate.
It is also one more burden we are placing on teachers who are already performing many of the functions of social workers, not to mention those of parents. And even with mandatory reporting, abuse will still go unnoticed and unreported.
But our experience shows that the present system does not work. It is more than a decade since the death in the U.K. of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie, tortured and murdered by her guardians under the noses of health and education professionals. Her murder prompted much soul-searching and promises that lessons would be learned. It seems they have not been.
If there is one thing we should learn from Daniel Pelka's death it is that, despite an unprecedented level of awareness of child abuse, even dedicated professionals sometimes fail to act. And unless reporting suspected child abuse is mandatory, it will be easier for them to continue to do so.
Child Pornography Reduces Child Abuse
by Tim Worstall
I have an article over in The Register looking at the influence of pornography on the incidence of sexual crimes.
In economists' terms, are pornography and, say, rape, complements or substitutes? Does consumption of the one lead to the second ? Or does consumption of pornography lead to less rape?
There have been a number of studies into the subject and while purely theoretical ones can indicate that they are complements, the empirical studies all seem to state that they are substitutes.
Certainly this is the basic correlation we see in the world around us. Even as the societal shame of having been raped has declined, the reporting rates of those rapes that do happen have climbed and more, what is considered rape has expanded from Whoopi Goldberg's “rape rape”, the actual number of recorded rapes has been falling precipitately. That fall coinciding at the very least with the enormous expansion of the availability of online pornography.
What really surprised me in one of the studies I looked at was this:
Following the effects of a new law in the Czech Republic that allowed pornography to a society previously forbidden to access it allowed us to monitor the change in sex related crime that followed the change.
As found in all other countries in which the phenomenon has been studied, rape and other sex crimes did not increase.
Of particular note is that this country, like Denmark and Japan, had a prolonged interval during which possession of child pornography was not illegal and, like those other countries, showed a significant decrease in the incidence of child sex abuse.
A result which is almost mindboggling. That more child pornography might lead to a reduction in the incidence of child abuse. There's almost a case there for child victim units to get to work with Photoshop churning the stuff out.
No, I think the idea is as ridiculous as you do: but that is the direction the evidence leads us in.
Report shows 30-percent jump in Bay County child-abuse victims from 2011 to 2012
by Cole Waterman
BAY CITY, MI — The number of victims of child abuse in Bay County jumped by nearly 30 percent from 2011 to 2012, according to a new report.
The 2013 Kids Count in Michigan report by the Michigan League for Public Policy shows there were 400 child-abuse victims in Bay County in 2012, compared to 312 in 2011. The number of children in families investigated for abuse and neglect accusations also increased from 2,281 to 3,054, the report states.
"More people are reporting suspected child abuse and neglect, and we're seeing more confirmed victims," said Suzanne Greenberg, president and CEO of Child Abuse and Neglect Council Great Lakes Bay Region.
"That tells us people are doing the right thing by making the call to Children's Protective Services," Greenberg said. "We need to continue reaching parents with support and education to prevent abuse from happening in the first place."
Bay County ranks 58th among the state's 83 counties with 131 children per 1,000 living in homes investigated for abuse and neglect. The statewide average is 90 children per 1,000. Bay County's rate of confirmed victims — 17.2 per 1,000 — exceeded the state's average of 14.6 per 1,000.
Saginaw County ranks 43 out of 83 counties. From 2011 to 2012, Saginaw County increased from 107.5 children per 1,000 living in home investigated for abuse to 116.1 children per 1,000. However, the county's rate of confirmed child abuse victims decreased from 22 per 1,000 in 2011 to 16.2 per 1,000 in 2012.
Emily Yeager, CAN public awareness specialist, said the increase in confirmed cases is likely a result of the larger number of investigated families.
"If there are more reports of suspected abuse, it does make sense to expect there will be more confirmed victims," Yeager said. She added that there are various factors that could lead to an increase in abuse, and an increase in reporting it.
"What the report alludes to is that various economic factors impact the rate of child abuse and neglect seen statewide," she said, adding that job loss and declining family income can affect parents' stress levels and how they respond to their children.
Yeager added community efforts to curtail abuse and expose it are laudable.
"We're not turning a blind eye (to abuse), we're not assuming others will make the call," she said. "We're stepping up to the plate to make sure children are safe. Our community can proactively address the problem by continuing to report suspected abuse and inviting supportive prevention programming into our neighborhoods."
She specifically cited children advocacy centers, present in both Saginaw and Bay counties, which allow forensic interviews of young victims "so that prosecutors are better armed with the evidence they need to make successful prosecutions against abusers."
For more information on how CAN Council Great Lakes Bay Region works in the community, visit cancouncil.org. Those who wish to report suspected child abuse can call 855-444-3911.
The Lasting Damage of Child Abuse
The effects of childhood sexual and physical abuse last a lifetime. Abused children may grow up to be adults prone to depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and other psychiatric disorders. They are more prone to suicide. However, in recent years we have learned that abuse does more than wound self-esteem and break the spirit. It can damage the very substance of the brain and how it functions.
A major way by which childhood abuse can disrupt normal brain activity is by diminishing its capacity to handle stress. Stress is more than the worry and distress we experience when the circumstances of life push us beyond our limits. The body's response to stress is a complex biological mechanism. When the brain senses that the body is being taxed beyond its usual capacity, it initiates the stress response by releasing a substance called corticotrophin releasing hormone, or CRH. CRH stimulates the pituitary gland to release ACTH that, in turn, triggers the release of the stress hormone, cortisol, from the adrenal glands. Cortisol marshals the body's resources to provide the extra energy and endurance to meet the demands being placed upon it. Once, this might have been escaping an angry mastodon. Today, it would more likely be getting used to a new job, a nasty divorce, or recovering from surgery.
The stress-induced switch into physiological overdrive is designed to be brief. In fact, among the many things that cortisol does in the body, one of the most important is to feed back to the brain and start to shut the stress response down. Cortisol does this by binding to specific receptors in the brain. Cortisol fits the receptor, like a key in a lock, and turns the response off. One of the problems in those that have suffered severe, childhood abuse is that the brain's turn-off switch for the stress response is disabled.
Instructions for how each cell in the body operates are in the DNA of those cells. Although every cell in the body has an identical copy of DNA, these cells can be very different. One means by which a cell becomes a skin cell instead of a liver or muscle cell is that certain genes in its DNA are turned off by the addition of a molecule called a methyl group. The addition of methyl groups to specific sections of DNA is an essential process in embryological development. It may also be involved in learning and other adaptive brain processes throughout life. However, DNA methylation can be abnormal.
A study published in 2009 in the prestigious journal Nature Neuroscience revealed part of the reason why adults who were abused as children have abnormal stress responses. The grim details of the study included comparisons of the brains of individuals who had committed suicide vs. those who had died natural deaths. Among those who had committed suicide were some who had suffered severe childhood abuse and others who had not. It was found that among those who had suffered abuse, there were fewer of the special cortisol receptors in the brain that allow cortisol to turn off the stress response. It was further found that the section of DNA responsible for maintaining adequate numbers of these receptors had been methylated. They were no longer in full operation.
When the stress response won't shut off and cortisol levels remain high in the brain, bad things can happen. Whereas bursts of cortisol help bolster the brain's supply of glucose and chemical messengers, sustained high levels of cortisol can cause damage. Cortisol diminishes the brain's response to the chemical messenger, serotonin, while it enhances the response to norepinephrine. Persisting high levels of cortisol also decrease levels of Brain-derived Neurotrophic factor, a substance that is necessary to maintain and replenish neurons in the brain. These and other changes alter mood, disturb sleep, heighten anxiety, and cause irritability. Consequently, the individual becomes more prone to Major Depression, PTSD, Generalized Anxiety, and other psychiatric disorders.
The emotional upheavals suffered by adults who were abused as children can continue to wreak havoc on jobs and schooling. They can lead to substance abuse. They can devastate marriages. Thus, the innocent victims of child abuse continue to suffer as adults. Perhaps the most tragic effect of child abuse is that adults who were abused as children, either physically, emotionally, or sexually, have a higher than expected risk of becoming abusers themselves. Thus, the cycle of abuse and suffering perpetuates itself.
We, as a society, must pursue every means to end this social cancer that reaches deep into the brains of children and across generations. The problem must be addressed by government and in schools, in churches and synagogues, and by community organizations. Doctors and other health care providers must redouble their efforts to spot child abuse and give the victims the help they need. Though it may be difficult to have sympathy for those who abuse children, they must be helped as well. After all, many of them were victims of childhood abuse. If nothing else, treating the perpetrators may prevent creation of still more victims.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
It's Been a Positive Year in Tackling Child Abuse, and Your New Year's Resolution Could Make Next Year Even Better
What's your New Year's resolution? Perhaps you can play a part in helping the 50,000 children in England and Wales who are in care because of abuse or neglect? Now don't get me wrong, for most of them, care will be the best option and care can provide an incredibly good home for very troubled young people. But we need to go back a step and stop abuse before it gets to this stage. It's a daunting task but this year has been a good one for progress made on tackling child abuse, and next year I'm determined will be even better.
2013 has seen some horrific cases of child abuse including the trial of the mother of little Daniel Pelka and her partner - who tortured, starved and finally killed him; the trial of the mother of Hamzah Khan - the boy who was left to starve in a cot after he disappeared off the radar of our society; and the truly stomach-churning case of Ian Watkins who plotted to rape babies.
But there have been some huge positives. Figures released by the NSPCC this year show that child murders are at their lowest level in three decades. Reporting of child abuse is, by almost all measures, at its highest level. This isn't because abuse has gone up, it's because people are far more willing and able to report it because of the high profile it's receiving, not least as a consequence of ongoing fallout from the Jimmy Savile scandal. Contrary to popular belief, serious physical abuse and some forms of sexual abuse are slowly falling. There's also been a sharp drop over the last decade in suicides of older teenagers too, although calls to ChildLine from younger and younger people with deeply worrying low levels of self-esteem, show we have a long way to go.
At our headquarters in July, David Cameron announced plans to clamp down on child abuse images, after years of campaigning by the NSPCC and others. And his government, along with technology companies, is also helping to shield young children from adult pornography - something we said is warping young people's views of sex and relationships. New arrangements have been introduced, influenced by the Savile case, to improve how reports of sexual abuse are dealt with by the police and the CPS. Taking pre-recorded video evidence from vulnerable child witnesses is to be trialled in England. Again these are things the NSPCC has pushed for over many years - it is heartening to see politicians responding.
I imagine most of you reading this will be starting to think about New Year's resolutions. Give up drinking for a while? Join a gym? How about a resolution that will change other people's lives and yours too? ChildLine is urgently seeking volunteers to go into schools to talk directly with nine-11-year-old children about different forms of abuse and about staying safe. We also need volunteers for the ChildLine helpline in bases all over the country. You don't need any previous experience and you will be given first class training and support. As well as playing your part in strengthening the resilience of a whole generation of children, you'll become part of a great team. A recent survey of our volunteers found that it improved their happiness, their confidence and their self-esteem.
Your contribution can save a life, literally. Esther Rantzen, the founder of ChildLine, talks of her visit to one Childline base when a counsellor waved for a supervisor to come over. He was on a call from a young person who was on a bridge on their mobile phone threatening to jump. The counsellor spent 30 tense minutes talking to them and eventually convinced them not to jump. Esther asked the counsellor how long he'd been volunteering with ChildLine and he replied 'this is my first shift.'
Another of our counsellors, Colin, once took a call from a young girl who was pregnant and wanted to kill herself. After a long discussion she decided not to take the pills and instead plucked up the courage to tell her mother who turned out to be very supportive. She called back several months later and got through to Colin. She said she'd kept the baby and had decided to name it after him. I imagine what Colin felt then, and still feels to this day, beats any gym membership in the world or a few weeks without a drink.
So go on, volunteer in 2014, and support the children out there who desperately need your help.
Sugar Ray Leonard Raises Child Sex Abuse Awareness In Philly
by Sarah Glover
Earlier this month, boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard, 57, stood in the Montgomery County home of Martha Snider and spoke about the impact of child sex abuse on his life.
"This is not about me (being a poster child for child sex abuse). It's about those kids. It's about me helping, making an impact, outside that ring," said Leonard. "This pain is so deadly. It's a wonder that I'm alive."
Leonard says a former Olympics coach performed a sex act on him when he was a teen and working to make the 1976 U.S. Olympics team. Leonard told the Philly-area crowd he began drinking and had a headache for over 40 years because he never told anyone.
Abby Friedman traveled from Las Vegas to attend. She described the gathering of prominent business professionals and community leaders as powerful, as some came forward to share their "shocking and horrific" personal experiences. The Dec. 1 event served as a fundraiser for the Let Go... Let Peace Come In Foundation.
"The courage and fortitude that Sugar Ray possess is so inspiring. The strong man was moved to tears exposing a weak and vulnerable part of his life, sharing these horrific episodes he endured," said Friedman. "The real strength of Sugar Ray was not in his punch, but was in his spirit. That's a strong man."
Leonard has made it his mission to bring awareness to child sex abuse, as has Peter S. Pelullo, an Elkins Park native who founded the Let Go... Let Peace Come in Foundation. Pelullo says he was molested by two neighbors when he was 7-years-old. He wrote about his experience in the book "Betrayal and the Beast."
"This is not a Catholic church problem, Boy Scouts problem or Penn State problem," said Pelullo. "It's a problem tearing at the fabric of society and dessiminating our families."
Pelullo sought treatment at age 55, like Leonard who also sought help later in life.
The two crossed paths and collaborated efforts this fall. Leonard's December visit to Philadelphia was to announce he had joined the "Let Go" board of directors and to raise funds for the group's lofty capital campaign. About $30,000 was raised at Snider's home that night.
"Let Go" kicked off its $25 million capital campaign, which seeks to setup 1,000 support rooms for child sex abuse victims nationwide. Organizations, therapists and physicians will be connected via the "Let Go" network so victims may easily access recovery and treatment services.
A national conversation about child sex abuse surfaced as a result of the Jerry Sandusky case. The former Penn State football coach was convicted of 45 counts of child sexual abuse and is serving 30 to 60 years in prison for his crimes.
Pelullo said he was contacted throughout the Sandusky case by some of the lawyers of the victims and by others who sought healing. Leonard spoke at a Penn State conference just weeks after Sandusky was sentenced in October 2012. From the Sandusky case to the allegations of priest sex abuse, Pelullo hopes that Leonard's coming forward will help make it easier for others despite the pain.
"I believe Sugar Ray is going to be a game changer. We can't wait for the next tragedy. Let's try to wake up the world and change the world," Pelullo said.
A Philadelphia priest's pending release from prison this week has been met with strong reaction from SNAP and other sex abuse victim support groups. Monsignor William Lynn relinquished his passport and is ready to be released from prison after a landmark decision that overturned his conviction for child endangerment, stemming from allegedly covering up priest sex abuse in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The Archdiocese contibuted to Lynn's $25,000 bail.
Leonard boxed in five weight classes, earning more than $100 million in purses over two decades. He beat Marvin Hagler by a split decision on April 6, 1987 in a showdown promoted as "The Super Fight." He finished his career with 36-3-1 with 25 knockouts and the 1976 Olympic gold medal.
Mom admits suffocating daughter, poisoning other kids
by Brittany Elena Morris
Authorities suspect a Casa Grande mother, fearful that her ex-husband was going to take her four children, suffocated her 13-year-old daughter with her bare hands.
Connie Villa, 35, faces murder and attempted murder charges after she was suspected of smothering her eldest daughter and tried to kill her three youngest children, ages 3, 5, and 8, by forcing them to take prescription narcotic drugs on Christmas Day, she told police detectives in a interview according to the Casa Grande Police Department on Tuesday.
Villa forced her three youngest children to ingest the undisclosed amount of drugs at their apartment before she honed in on her eldest daughter, Aniarael Macias, police said.
When Macias refused to take them, Villa told police she suffocated her daughter to death with her bare hands in their bathroom.
After Villa lured her ex-husband, Adam Villa, to the apartment, she stabbed him repeatedly in the upper torso, according to Officer Thomas Anderson, a Casa Grande Police Department spokesman. Adam Villa, who is the biological father of her three youngest children, escaped and called 911 while driving to Casa Grande Regional Medical Center.
Responding officers had to force their way into the home, where they found Villa with apparent stab wounds to her upper torso, Anderson said. She was holding a knife to her chest and had the three younger children at her side.
Police took Villa and the three children to Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix for treatment and discovered Macias' body in the bathroom, Anderson said.
Villa told detectives she wanted to prevent her ex-husband from getting custody of the four children, police said.
The type of the drugs Villa used have not been released. Authorities are awaiting the toxicology reports for Macias and the three younger children, Anderson said. The results could take up to three weeks.
Villa was arrested Sunday morning after she was released from the medical center where she was being treated. She remains in custody at the Pinal County Adult Detention Facility.
The County Attorney's Office said in a news release Monday prosecutors are "prepared to file the necessary documents and present evidence necessary for the court to hold Villa in custody until the investigation is complete and formal charges are filed."
Villa faces charges of first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder in connection with the stabbing of her ex-husband and the drug poisoning of her three surviving children, ages 3, 5 and 8.
Erin Merryn overcomes child abuse with relentless courage in her third book
by Jerome Elam
DALLAS — In the absence of hope, we can become surrounded by the darkness, and in those times we need the stars to guide us. We search the skies for a bright point of light that provides the strength for us to hold on just a little while longer. We wish for someone to stop the flicker of our internal “pilot light” as it begins to wane, to cup the flame protecting it from the winds of despair.
Erin Merryn is a survivor of child abuse who has indeed become one of the brightest stars in the lives of so many, giving hope to victims and survivors of child abuse. She has become a champion of those imprisoned by silence and is a hero and a voice for all victims and survivors of child abuse.
Molested by a friend's uncle during a sleepover and then by a cousin, Erin had locked her pain away, afraid to tell anyone, a prisoner of the pain and shame that shackles every victim and survivor of child abuse.
When her sister confided in her that the same cousin who had been molesting her was now targeting her sister, Erin knew she had to act. Overcoming her fear, Erin approached her parents and, as her body quivered and her cheeks overflowed with tears, she told them about the nightmare she had been living.
Her parents immediately called the police and her cousin was arrested. Erin had not only saved her sister with that courageous act, she had also found a new purpose in her life defending innocent children from sexual predators who sought to take advantage of the vulnerable. The friend's uncle who had molested Erin refused to cooperate with police and due to a lack of evidence they were unable to prosecute him. On the average those convicted of sexually abusing a child serve less than a year of jail time and 32% to 46% serve no jail time at all.
There are over 42 million survivors of child sexual abuse in the world today. According to a Centers for Disease Control study, the lifetime costs for the victims of child sexual abuse reported in one year is $124 billion. That includes the cost of psychiatric counseling, drug treatment, suicides, incarceration for criminal offenses and lost work hours. One in four girls and one in six boys are victims of child sexual abuse.
Childhood sexual abuse has no sense of economic status, ethnicity, gender or celebrity. Survivors include James Dean, Michael Reagan, the adopted son of former President Ronald Reagan and actress Jane Wyman, comedian Mo'Nique, actress Ashley Judd, former President Richard Nixon, Oprah Winfrey, actor Gabriel Byrne, actress Mackenzie Phillips, Massachusetts senator Scott Brown and actor and director Tyler Perry.
Pedophiles walk silently among us, and the shocking revelations brought forth by Jerry Sandusky's conviction on 52 counts of sexually abusing young boys over a 15-year period show us just how vulnerable our children are.
TheNational Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports that there are currently 500,000 registered sex offenders in the United States, and typically 100,000 of those are unaccounted for. Research has also shown that each victim of child sexual abuse has to tell an average of seven adults before they are believed, and those who make it to the seventh adult are few in number.
As a young girl Erin suffered alone, unable to speak about the tremendous burden she carried inside. Her only solace was found in the pages of a small diary where she wrote of the lonely and hopeless existence she endured as she kept her silence. The tear- stained pages were filled with an eloquent story of a young girl's suffering and a refusal to give up on hope.
In 2005 Erin turned her diary into her first book, “Stolen Innocence,” and after its publication, the courage and passion of Erin Merryn and her triumph over child abuse has inspired multitudes of survivors and victims.
With the publication of her first book Erin had achieved national attention and with her newly found celebrity and a drive to protect children, she became an architect for “Erin's law.” Erin's law requires states to incorporate education about child abuse into their curriculum from kindergarten through eighth grade.
Through her tireless efforts, Erin Merryn has succeeded in passing Erin's law in eight states, and fourteen states are introducing the law in 2013-2014. Erin Merryn followed up her first book “Stolen Innocence” with her 2009 book “Living for Today,” where she further chronicled the courage of her struggle to overcome the effects of her abuse as a child.
In 2013 Erin Merryn further plumbed the depths of her battle with the pain of her abuse and bravely revealed hard- kept secrets of her struggle in her third book, “An Unimaginable Act.”
Within its pages she courageously shares her triumph in overcoming not only the trauma of her abuse but in defeating the horrifying obstacles she faced as a child. Early in her life Erin Merryn was diagnosed with a learning disability and would have fallen through the cracks of societies' educational floor had it not been for the tenacity and love of her mother.
In “An Unimaginable Act,” Erin speaks of how teachers labeled her and further drained the already shallow reservoir of her self-esteem. It was then that her mother became her greatest champion and refused to allow Erin to be trapped in the quagmire of a diagnosis. Erin's mother advocated for her and worked to help her overcome her difficulties, and today Erin Merryn holds a master's degree in social work from Aurora University.
But fate was not done challenging Erin Merryn and in “An Unimaginable Act,” she also reveals shocking revelations of a life-threatening condition unveiled after an unexpected turn of events and dangerous coping mechanisms she developed in order to deal with the pain and suffering caused by her abuse.
As we struggle in our own lives we seldom ponder the depth and breadth of what others endure. If we only took a minute to consider what others have accomplished we might awaken the sleeping giant within all of us whose name is hope. Erin Merryn is a hero for our time and she humbly accepts that role as she fights for every child to be safe from predators such as those who stole her innocence as a young girl. If we are looking for an example of all that is good in the world we need look no further than the pages of her latest book.
To find out more about Erin Merryn and Erin's law go to: http://www.erinmerryn.net/erins-law.html
Child abuse prevention adovocates look to new year
by Johnny Jackson
HAMPTON — The holiday season can evoke a kaleidoscope of emotions — when joy is drowned out by stress and vice versa.
“It is a hard time of the year,” said Gayla Nobles, executive director of the Southern Crescent Sexual Assault and Child Advocacy Center in Hampton.
Nobles said now is also a time to keep those emotions in check when it comes to the welfare of children.
“The holidays are especially difficult for people,” she said. “But there are resources out there for help. Child abuse is never the answer.”
Such is the center's anthem.
Nobles sat near the bottom of the center's back stairway discussing the center's focus and goals in the community. The center hosted a holiday open house on a particularly sunny December day to thank local law enforcement personnel and health care professionals for their work in helping report and prevent child abuse.
Painted on the cascade of steps near her were words from Dr. Seuss' “The Lorax”: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it's not.”
“I think it's important to let people know about child abuse and preventing child abuse,” said Nobles, whose agency has seen dozens of cases in the few short months its new facility has been open.
Hampton is the second of the center's two locations. The first, in Jonesboro, has provided services and resources to assault victims since 1994.
Nobles said the Hampton location opened last April as a central site in its seven-county service area. It offers forensic exams and includes on-staff forensic pediatric nurse practitioner.
In December, the center hosted a child abuse protocol meeting for Henry County in which representatives from agencies dealing with children discussed potential changes to the county's abuse reporting protocols.
The agencies meet periodically and include the Henry County Police Department, the District Attorney's Office, the Sheriff's Office, the Department of Family and Children Services, the Health Department, Henry County Schools and Prevent Child Abuse Henry County.
Nobles, the newly elected chairperson of the Child Abuse Protocol committee, said the center will take part in another meeting Jan. 23. She said the MultiDisciplinary Team, overseen by Chief Judge Arch McGarity, will meet and review previous child abuses cases in order to help officials determine how best to handle future cases.
Nobles said she expects a relatively busy year ahead in the center's advocation of child abuse prevention.
She said the center is planning a charity 5K run for the spring. A date has not been set, but residents can keep up with the center's activities at www.scsac.org .
Southern Crescent Sexual Assault and Child Advocacy Center also has a 24-hour crisis hotline at 770-477-2177.
Child abuse awareness to be raised in Gloucestershire primary schools for first time
by The Citizen
PRIMARY schools in Gloucestershire will be visited by ChildLine volunteers for the first time in 2014 to help youngsters spot abuse.
Currently, the children's helpline service is seeing the vast majority of cases its handling coming from over-11s.
But it fears younger boys and girls are suffering in silence simply because they don't have the education or tools to realise what abuse is and what they can do about it.
ChildLine Schools Service has been running for about three years but is coming to Gloucestershire for the first time in the next 12 months.
Charity the NSPCC is launching a recruitment drive for volunteers across the county.
They simply need to be comfortable talking to a classroom and have basic IT skills. Full training will be given to help them equip kids as young as nine with the knowledge they need to get themself out of harm's way.
Natalie Chamberlain is co-ordinating the service's roll out in Gloucestershire, Somerset and South Gloucestershire.
She said: “It's been running since about 2010 as a result of a review done into the phone line.
“One finding from that was that, from the amount of children contacting ChildLine, the vast majority were over-11.
“For some reason, children below that age were not contacting us and that's probably either through fear or a lack of knowledge.
“There are two children in every schoolroom, on average, who have suffered some form of abuse and we need to equip children with the knowledge they need to contact us in confidence if they fear abuse.”
Eventually, her team will number about 25 volunteers and the service's aim is to get to every primary school in the country once every two years.
It will be targeting Years 5 and 6 - nine-11-year-olds.
Assemblies will be held first then, a couple of weeks later, the volunteers will return in pairs to carry out more detailed workshops on what abuse is and what they can do about it.
Natalie added that it's not just the children who will benefit.
Volunteers get more than they bargained for too, with 77.2 per cent noticing an increase in confidence in their abilities and 64.9 per cent saying they've had an increase in their own sense of self esteem.
Over half, 54.8 per cent, have seen an increase in their emotional well being.
As a ChildLine School Service volunteer, those signing up will spend up to half a day per week helping support the ambitious new programme, one of the aims of which is to prevent abuse before it starts.
The volunteers will encourage children to recognise situations where they may need help and show them ways of accessing support.
The service has already visited children in a cross section of schools in other parts of the country and has proved popular with children, teachers and parents.
The charity said 99 per cent of schools who provided feedback in 2012/13 claimed pupils' knowledge of child abuse and bullying was enhanced as a result, while 91 per cent said their pupils were now more aware of who to talk to if they felt unsafe.
Natalie added: “When you have finished an assembly you feel like you have made 30 new friends, it's great. The children are all brilliant and we have fun.
“It's inspiring and you never tire of it.”
New volunteers will receive expert ChildLine training and ongoing support to help them gain valuable skills in communicating with children.
For further information and details on how to apply go to nspcc.org.uk/childlinevolunteer
Advocating for the end of human trafficking
by Laura Silliman
"“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
This quote is most often attributed to Edmund Burke, an Irish political philosopher during the 18 th century. Though I have been familiar with this quote for a while, my attendance at the Harvard National Campaign Conference in October 2013 and resulting conversations have given these words new meaning.
During the first session of the conference, our speaker Gene Corbin, who serves as Assistant Dean of Harvard College for Public Service, ascribed the greater concept of social change to three essential elements: community service, advocacy, and electoral politics. Discussion soon ensued, as we identified a worrisome contrast between how passionate our generation is about doing community service and how apathetic we often are about politics.
As students offered varying opinions about why this apathy occurs, one reason that really resonated with me was the idea that politics tend to marginalize, while volunteer work builds community. Our generation seems to value the ability to work towards a common goal above the assertion of potentially polarizing opinions.
If we want to change our generation's attitude toward politics, we need to begin by advocating for political issues around which everyone can rally, regardless of party affiliation. One particularly unifying issue is that of combating human trafficking. One 2012 UN report estimated that 2.4 million people are victims of human trafficking around the world, of which 80% are victims of sexual exploitation. This horrendous abuse not only occurs internationally, but is increasingly being exposed within U.S. borders as well.
Two summers ago, my internship experience with the human rights agency International Justice Mission (IJM) equipped me with a personal story with which to advocate for the end of human trafficking. As an intern with the Field Operations department, I had the opportunity to research and write reports on the prevalence of sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of minors in the countries of Lithuania, Brazil, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic. The stories I read that summer changed the trajectory of my life. Since my experience at IJM, I have worked to advocate for the end of human trafficking on my college campus and beyond.
On November 19, 2013, our Vanderbilt IJM campus chapter promoted the IJM #1step1voice campaign in the two main student centers on campus. For this campaign, we asked students who wanted to help end human trafficking to call U.S. Senator Corker to ask him to support the Human Trafficking Prioritization Act. As we joined with other students in advocating for this issue, we were reminded that doing something that seems small, like a thirty-second phone call to your Senator, can have an enormous impact in changing policy. In this way, the name of IJM's campaign, #1step1voice, echoes the sentiment of Edmund Burke's statement. When good men do something instead of nothing, evil can be defeated.
9-year-old boy made abuse claims to CYFD before death
Mom makes first apperance in court Sunday
by Chris McKee
ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - Could a 9-year-old boy's death that was caused by abuse have been prevented? According to police records, the boy had cried out for help at least once before.
According to a criminal complaint in Synthia Varela-Casaus' arrest, police were informed during their investigation Friday night and Saturday morning that the New Mexico Children Youth and Families Department had an investigation into the home where Varela-Casaus' boy was found dead Friday.
Varela-Casaus made her first appearance in court Sunday on a charge of “child abuse resulting in death” after the 9-year-old boy was found dead at their home Friday night. According to Albuquerque Police, Varela-Casaus originally said her child hit his head falling off a bouncy horse. Police say she later changed her story and admitting to kicking the child.
Sunday evening, a single bouquet of flowers was lining Varela-Casaus' Albuquerque home on Comanche near San Mateo where the death occurred.
While investigation continues, the question remains as to why this incident happened.
"Because it was ... it was an accident,” said Varela-Casaus in her first court appearance Sunday.
Meanwhile, it became apparent in court that Varela-Casaus has a long history with authorities.
"We did locate two juvenile contacts, 28 misdemeanors, 16 convictions, 21 bench warrants, 14 for failure to appear, five felonies with three convictions,” said a court criminal background investigator.
According to a criminal complaint against Varela-Casaus, the 9-year-old boy's body was marked with new and old wounds from bruises to cigarette burns, also a bite mark and several cuts.
The complaint also states the family has an active case with CYFD after the boy allegedly threatened to harm himself and also disclosed he had been abused.
So could the boy's death have been prevented?
"Per the Children's Code Law of New Mexico, we aren't able to release any information regarding any current investigation or any prior,” said Henry Varela, a spokesman with CYFD.
While CYFD says it can't comment on specifics of the case, it says even with allegations of abuse, CYFD can only recommend that a child be taken out of its home. The final removal call has to be made by police or the courts.
"If law enforcement goes into to a situation that they have to respond to and if they feel that at that time that there's no imminent danger for the children that are in that home then they may not ... they, you know, may not give us custody of that child,” said Varela.
It's not clear if the boy should have been in the house, but Varela-Casaus made it clear with her words in court Sunday that's she's dealing with other issues.
"I have an aneurysm located on the (unintelligible) gland on the brain, and I have all of the documentation for it, and my surgery is actually scheduled on 6:30 on January 16th, and then I have a psych evaluation January 24th,” said Varela-Casaus.
It's also unclear at this point if anyone failed to act in any way in this case, whether it's police or CYFD. CYFD says it reviews its employees casework frequently. However, it couldn't say at this point if it will review this particular case.
A judge set Varela-Casaus' bond Sunday at $100,000 cash only.
Woman cut man's penis with box cutter over molestation claim
FRANKLIN – Police arrested a woman accused of using a box cutter to slice the genitals of a man she believed may have molested her 2-year-old son.
On Saturday morning, police were called to the 300 block of East Jefferson Street, where they spoke with a man who said his girlfriend's mother—Bonita Lynn Vela—held him captive in a trailer and wouldn't let him go unless he allowed her to cut his penis.
The 18-year-old man from Avon said Vela and two other people held him for three hours. Vela believed he had molested her 2-year-old son, according to a report from the Johnson County Sheriff's Office.
Police said the man had blood stains and a cut on his penis. He said Vela told him that “she wanted to scar him so that he would have to look at it every time that he had sex in the future.”
When initially interviewed by police, Vela said she'd gone to a friend's house where she smoked marijuana and told police she wasn't sure if “if that was the only drug she ingested,” according to the report. Around 3 a.m., she became angry and had a friend get her daughter's boyfriend as her suspicions grew. She demanded to know if he'd molested her son or messed around with her daughter.
According to a written statement from the boyfriend, he said Vela and two others held him for three and a half hours. He described Vela as “extremely mad” and said she threatened to turn him in for molesting her son. The man said he never touched the boy and told police Vela wouldn't listen to him because “she was out of control.”
He told investigators Vela was “going to take him out, shoot him in the head and tie him to a tree so the animals (would) eat him.” He said she then told him to drop his pants so she could “cut his (expletive).” If he didn't comply, “she was going to have people hold him down and she would cut (his penis) all the way off,” the report said.
The man said he was so scared that he did drop his pants. He said Vela tried to stab him with a knife but didn't draw blood. She then switched to a box cutter. The man said Vela told him he'd “have to choose his life or his penis” and that he should “leave Franklin… or die.” The man said he feared for his life.
In a written statement, Vela said she was loud and shouted at the man to get him to admit to molesting her son. She also said she sent a friend to bring the man to her. Her “anger just grew” throughout the encounter, the report said. The man begged her not to call police and said he'd never touched her son. She said if he “didn't have anything to hide then he should let her ‘cut him' and that regardless of what happened he was to leave and never come back.”
Vela said she had the box cutter in her hand, but the man knocked it out of her hand; she told police that's how the man's penis was cut. Vela asked police “several times how (the man) was doing and wondered if he was going to ‘make it,'” the report said. She told investigators that she never intended to hurt him and wanted to scare him.
Vela was taken to the Johnson County Jail on charges of criminal confinement with a deadly weapon and battery with a deadly weapon.
Police said the investigation into the molestation claim is ongoing.
Nonviolent Parent Spent Year Reuniting Family
by Anna Limontas Salisbury
The Detroit mother of five had no idea that her household was about to split up when child welfare authorities called her in for a meeting. The leader of a local advocacy group says the system has a problem when it focuses on the nonviolent adult.
When Nancy Vivioda, 26, set off for a meeting with Detroit's Department of Human Resources in 2004 she brought all five of her children and a false expectation.
The fast food worker was working nights and paying her bills. She thought she was going in to discuss some discrepancies with her current food stamp case. But the appointment turned out to be about her husband of four years.
At the start of the meeting the children were escorted into the department's playroom by a social worker, a common practice in child welfare. By the end of the meeting her children were being sent to five separate foster homes.
Vivioda recalls being led into an office and seated across a table from three unfamiliar authority figures: a Protective Services investigator, that investigator's supervisor and the district manager for the Department of Human Resources, South Central.
Vivioda was told that she had come to the attention of the Department of Human Resources because of a reported dispute with her husband, the father of her three youngest children and step-father to the two eldest. The people at the "team decision-making meeting" were concerned about him. By the end of the meeting she was escorted to the playroom to say goodbye.
"I had to tell my older daughter that I wasn't going with them."
After the meeting Vivioda found herself in car with a silent social worker behind the wheel. Crying all the way, Vivioda was taken to a shelter an hour away from Detroit in Pontiac, a suburb she knew nothing about, stopping only to pick up her final paycheck and quit her job.
'There Was No Support'
She said she remembered thinking the social workers only cared about two things: placing the children in foster care and her in a shelter. "There was no support for me," she said.
City authorities had reasons for what they did. Vivioda's husband was abusive and the household was vulnerable to more violence. But Vivioda's case raises the question of why authorities focused on Vivioda, who was nonviolent.
Detroit's Department of Human Resources did not respond to requests for comment.
"Unfortunately, the system's response is to remove a child from the non-abusive parent rather than working with the non-abusive parent to help her keep the children safe," said Vivek Sankaran, director of the Detroit Center for Family Advocacy, a group created in 2009 to serve families under the stress of the child welfare system.
In the 1990s policy makers and advocates began reviewing the divide between advocates for battered women and government workers focused on protecting children from household violence. While both camps sought to protect their clients, neither seemed to recognize that violence in the home overlaps for both victims and their children. Between 3.3 million and 10 million children are present each year during the battering of a caregiver, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
When state workers remove children from the nonviolent parent it's often because that parent--most commonly the mother--is seen as negligent in her ability to protect her children as a result of her children's exposure to domestic violence. Advocates for battered mothers say this means the women are victimized twice, first by their abuser and second by state workers who take their children away.
In 2004, a New York judge found the practice of removing children from situations of domestic violence unjustified. A number of states are practicing an integrated approach where advocates for children and battered spouses work and train across platforms. Some state programs offer legal, housing and educational services for victims and their children.
Sankaran, of the Detroit Center, said her group helps non-abusive parents keep their children by helping them file for divorce, arrange orders of protection and separate from the batter and obtain sole custody of their children. "In addition, the organization would provide her with the help of a social worker and family advocate to ensure that she receives the appropriate services, such as housing and financial assistance along with other needed services," said Sankaran.
Long, Lonely Year
But the Detroit Center didn't exist in 2004 when Vivioda lost her children. It took her a long lonely year to get back to Detroit, reestablish a life there and get her children back from foster care. "I felt hurt and embarrassed," she said.
When it was over, she said she felt like most parents in her situation; anxious to get back to some semblance of normality and keep a distance on the system. "When the case is closed they don't want to be bothered with other people going through the process."
But she realized that she needed to be in a community. That's when she and the future founder and director of the Detroit Center for Family Advocacy crossed paths.
"I could help them emotionally and get resources to get their kids. I became a mentor for other parents," said Vivioda.
Vivioda knew about navigating the system from hard personal experience.
Shortly before the meeting in 2004, a social worker had interviewed Vivioda's then 6-year-old daughter at school. Vivioda's daughter told the social worker that her stepfather was bad.
Vivioda hadn't seen him that way.
"To me he was a guy who went to work all week and had beers with his friends and family on the weekends," Vivioda said. But she also said he was not happy and had begun taking it out on her about a year and a half after they were married. "You put on make-up and you keep walking," she said.
During the interview Vivioda said that as a child she had witnessed domestic violence and suffered abuse. "As a kid it was normal," she said.
The people at the meeting said the department had investigated her husband and found illegal dealings about which she said she was completely unaware. Vivioda said she struggled to reconcile her impressions of her husband, with the man being described to her.
"I was trying to figure out what their investigation meant," she said.
For her, that investigation meant that she wound up being driven to Pontiac and getting dropped at a women's shelter. Vivioda remembers being scared and crying. During the meeting she said the social workers promised her everything was going to be OK. " 'Consider this a new start. They're going to help you get back on your feet,' " Vivioda said she was told.
But upon entering the center she was traumatized by the sight of a woman with a busted eye.
She was ushered into an orientation session where she learned she could stay for 31 days. That's when she realized she would not have her children with her. "I didn't realize I was going to be on my on once I was at the shelter," she said.
After Vivoda's 31-day stay at the first shelter, she moved to two more shelters, each with a maximum month stay for all domestic violence survivors.
A Reunification Plan
To regain custody of her children she needed a "reunification plan" that included mandatory meetings of one-hour a week with her children. But she was an hour away from Detroit with no job and no transportation.
"There were no services to help find work or housing. There was no meeting to find out how to get my kids back," said Vivioda. "I was lost in my emotions of missing my kids."
She managed to obtain an old car to get to court hearings and appointed visits but it was hard to find a job that fit with her family-reunification schedule.
"Employers don't hire you. You need too many days off to go for visits with your kids, hearings and therapeutic sessions."
Vivioda said at one point the car broke down on the way to a meeting and she was scared and upset because missing a meeting was not possible. But she had to remain calm. "The workers were always judging you," she said, referring to state social workers assigned to observe her interactions with her children during the visits and interviews that made up the family-reunification process.
"You couldn't get upset or angry about what was happening to you. If and when you do, you have to go to anger therapy."
She shared her frustration with one social worker assigned to her by the court during her initial reunification hearing process. " I need to go back to Detroit. I know my old neighborhood," she said.
She was shocked when the worker said: "You could have done that a long time ago."
She was assigned a new worker with a new focus: How do we help get this family back together?
She went back to Detroit and stayed with a friend. Within days she was getting domestic violence therapy, housing and going back to her old employer to get her job back. She started doing everything on the to-do list.
"I was more in control, at peace and in my comfort zone," she said. "I knew where to go. In Pontiac, I felt I was at everybody's mercy and scared."
Anna Limontas-Salisbury is a reporter and writer living in Brooklyn, N.Y. This story is part of a series on Child Protective Services and low-income women made possible by a grant from the Fund for Investigative Journalism.
Dad who planned sex abuse before kids were born to face sentencing
by Amy Pavuk
A man whose parenting plan was detailed during a graphic child-sex trial in Orlando federal court this year will soon learn how much prison time he will serve for his crimes.
Jonathan Adleta, a 26-year-old former Marine officer who once lived in Central Florida, was accused of sexually abusing his children, as well as a girlfriend's daughter.
He was convicted of two child-sex charges during his weeklong trial in September and will be sentenced Jan. 6. He faces up to life in prison.
His ex-wife, 29-year-old Sarah Adleta, served as a key witness for prosecutors, explaining how having sex with their two children was part of their family parenting plan — even after they divorced.
Prosecutors said Jonathan Adleta had a "sexual appetite" for his own daughter and dreamed of the day when he could have "daddy-daughter sex."
After Sarah Adleta had a son, she was expected to have sexual encounters with him.
Sarah said she needed Jonathan's financial security, loved him, and did whatever it took to not lose him. They married in 2010.
Jonathan Adleta sexually abused the couple's daughter while they were stationed in California, his wife said. By late 2011, he filed for divorce and Sarah Adleta returned to Oviedo with the children.
But the parents stayed in close contact, and Sarah Adleta said she allowed her ex-husband to continue to prey on their daughter through the videoconference program Skype.
By the spring of 2012, he met a new girlfriend, Samantha Bryant, who also had a daughter. Bryant testified she too let Jonathan Adleta molest her daughter.
Months later, in December 2012, Sarah Adleta and her two children traveled to Oklahoma to spend time with her ex-husband and Bryant.
Sarah Adleta and her two children returned to Oviedo after Christmas, and weeks later, Jonathan Adleta suggested she find another man to sexually abuse their daughter so the girl would become more comfortable with being assaulted.
At that time, Sarah Adleta was communicating with Aaron Dixon, a North Carolina man who was later arrested on child-sex charges in an unrelated case.
FBI agents received a tip that Sarah Adleta was communicating with Dixon, and learned she performed sex acts on her children while Dixon watched via Skype.
Sarah Adleta, who was a student at University of Central Florida, was arrested after that discovery and subsequently pleaded guilty in Orlando federal court, admitting she too sexually abused her children.
After testifying against her ex-husband, Sarah Adleta was sentenced to 54 years in federal prison — more than twice as much time she was hoping to receive as part of her plea deal.
Bryant, Jonathan Adleta's girlfriend, was also charged with and pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting her daughter and allowing him to abuse the girl.
Public must know how DHS failed to stop child abuse
Every resident of this state has a right to know how the despicable acts perpetrated by serial child abuser and foster parent James Earl Mooney went unrecognized for so long.
This is a man, you will remember, who in 2011 confessed to sexually abusing at least nine infants and toddlers in his care between 2007 and 2011.
Mooney is serving 50 years in prison for the perversion and pain inflicted on innocent, fragile beings incapable of fending off the beast who was supposed to have been shielding them from harm.
We, the people, simply do not know the complete story of how these horrors were allowed to happen, and we would argue that we must be provided with an explanation, else risk a recurrence from the next deviant applying to the Department of Human Services to become a foster parent.
But the DHS, the very agency responsible for oversight of children in foster care, wants to deny access to the records in Mooney's case to lawmakers, media and members of the public. This month, the agency asked a federal judge to forbid the release of evidence in a civil lawsuit that accuses the agency of neglecting signs of sexual abuse among the children.
In June, a Portland attorney filed civil lawsuits in Multnomah County and the U.S. District Court against DHS on behalf of nine of the children. The suit accuses the agency of improperly vetting Mooney and ignoring signs of abuse. The plaintiffs asked for $22 million in damages.
DHS promised in court documents to release its files on the nine children named and on Mooney — but only after a judge rules on a protective order that would forbid anyone associated with the case from “discussing or revealing the contents of these documents,” and “require the files be returned or destroyed within 30 days of a final verdict.”
DHS argues that the content of the files must remain confidential, ostensibly to protect the victims. But in doing so, it also would protect DHS from the kind of government and media scrutiny one would expect in a case of this magnitude.
Just last week in Kentucky, a judge issued a scathing court order against the state's Cabinet for Health and Family Services for willfully circumventing open records laws by failing to release full records on child abuse fatalities and near-deaths. The cabinet was fined a whopping $765,000.
The plaintiffs in the case were the Louisville Courier Journal, a Gannett property, and the Lexington Herald-Leader. Both news organizations have sterling records of exercising the power and privilege to pursue truth and justice.
In his ruling, the judge warned that “there can be no effective prevention when there is no public examination of the underlying facts.” The judge also argued that heavy-handed redaction of records superimposes a “veil of secrecy” in abuse cases.
The DHS is asking the court to create more than a veil of secrecy. It's asking for an iron curtain in exchange for “releasing” records that must see the light of day.
The records of the Mooney case should be made public, with common-sense redaction. The public deserves to understand what happened, how it happened and how vast of an impact this convicted child abuser had on innocent children in the care of the state. It's unbelievable that a state agency, especially one in charge of the welfare and care of children, would — with a straight face — ask a court to shroud any possible facts that may incriminate its actions. And the idea that DHS thinks lawmakers, media and members of the public should sit back and just trust the system is laughable, given the seriousness of this breach.
There's more at stake in the Mooney case than the public's right to know. The very credibility of Oregon state government is in jeopardy if DHS prevails in keeping certain facts secret.
Secrecy creates a vacuum, which inevitably will be filled with something.
We can fill it with the truth, or we can fill it with rumors, suspicions and distrust.
We know what does more damage.
Legislation Would give Child Welfare Workers More Time to Investigate Abuse Claims
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The state Supreme Court has heard arguments on two cases that could result in pending child abuse investigations being thrown out, and the removal of names from the state's child abuse and neglect registry.
Two women filed lawsuits saying child welfare workers didn't notify them within 90 days of initial abuse and neglect reports made against them, of the conclusions of investigations into those reports. State law allows 30 days for such allegations to be investigated and 90 days for the accused to be motified of the case worker's finding.
Representative Bill Lant has filed a bill that would give those workers 30 business days to complete investigations. He says that would be a good starting point, the details of which could evolve during the legislative session.
“It adds nearly 30 percent to the total amount of time they have when you think about the four weekend days that month of time … in most cases it's going to let them complete that job.”
Lant has filed the annual report on the findings of the Joint Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect. Of the findings in that report, he says he wants to focus this year on improving training and support for child welfare investigators. He thinks that will help them reduce caseloads and thereby diminish the number of cases that go beyond the statutory timelines.
Child welfare advocates are worried about how the state Supreme Court will rule on two cases related to the time it takes to investigate reports of child abuse and neglect.
Two lower courts have agreed with two women who say child welfare investigators didn't tell them by the statutory deadline the outcome of investigations that led to their names being put on the registry of child abuse and neglect. Caseworkers have 30 days to investigate allegations and 90 days to tell the accused what they find.
Missouri Kids First Deputy Director Emily Van Schenkhof says the cases before the Supreme Court could be causing investigators to be told to rush cases.
“Saying that (caseworkers) have to have a letter out to the person … that you have to have this case decided in a certain timeframe … it's just not possible in all cases,” says Van Schenkhof. “We're forcing people to make decisions when they don't have all of the facts and we want people to have quality investigations, not just simply, ‘We've got to meet this timeframe and if we don't, we lose jurisdiction.'”
She worries that cases older than 90 days will be dropped.
“So where does this leave these children?” asks Van Schenkhof. “We're dropping these children and a lot of times in very complex cases. Law enforcement doesn't have these sort of artificial timeframes.”
The Court heard arguments in those cases December 3. Decisions could come at any time.
Representative Bill Lant (R-Pineville) has filed a bill that would allow 30 business days for investigations.
Fighting Against Child Sexual Abuse
by Mike Bryant
Fear, embarrassment, even guilt. These are things that most survivors of sexual abuse feel at some point. The strength it takes to move on after this abuse is tangible, and yet so many will still not fight against it. Being abused by anyone is tragic, especially when it comes from someone you are supposed to be able to trust. It changes your perspective on how you see people, even those closest to you. Over the next month as we continue to talk about sexual abuse inside the Catholic Church one thing needs to be made clear; it is okay to get help. Taking that first step and admitting you are or have been harmed is the hardest part, but you may be surprised to learn that you are not alone, and there are so many people willing to help you find the relief and justice you deserve.
We have been presented with huge opportunities to finally bring these cases out in the open and put them to rest. In May of 2013 the Child Victims Act was announced, most recently the Catholic Church has been ordered to present a list of names of those priests who have been accused of sexual abuse, more and more people are standing up to the suffering they have endured. The Catholic Church has been proven to hide incriminating evidence and move its priests to different parishes in the attempt to protect those who have been accused of abuse. Now is our chance to shine the light on what has happened and do what we can to put an end to it.
Abuse of children and the continued silence by the offenders needs to be prevented. If you suffered, saw, or suspected such events, it is important to know that there is help out there.
Houston Endowment awards $4 million to the Children's Assessment Center to better prevent and treat child sexual abuse in Harris county
Houston Endowment recently awarded $4 million to The Children's Assessment Center's Restoring Hope Rebuilding Lives Capital Campaign. The Children's Assessment Center (CAC) is expanding its current facility in the Rice Village to better advocate for all children in Harris County through the prevention and treatment of child sexual abuse. They plan to add approximately 77,000 square feet to their current building.
A vital component of the expanded campus will include a larger training center. This new training center will be a place to train and educate first responders and the community at large on the signs and symptoms of child sexual abuse. The CAC will also expand outreach programs to include classes on internet safety and overall childhood protection.
The expansion will also provide the necessary space for the growing number of agencies housed at The CAC that work on cases involving child sexual abuse. Since building its current campus in 1998, the number of partner agencies has quadrupled, growing from ten to forty-five. Today, partners include Texas Children's Hospital, Harris County District Attorney's Office, the FBI, Houston Metro Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, Houston Police Department, Texas Center for the Missing, among others. The CAC serves nearly 5,000 Harris County children each year.
“The Children's Assessment Center is extremely grateful for the incredible gift from Houston Endowment for our capital campaign. Our vision for a brighter future for children who have been sexually abused is one step closer to becoming a reality,” said CAC Executive Director, Elaine Stolte. “These funds will allow us to expand our facility to house our entire multidisciplinary team and provide for a larger training center to educate teachers and other mandated reporters. Childhood is a special time and every child deserves a life full of promise and possibility. Houston Endowment understands our mission and the impact this gift will make for thousands of innocent children in our community.”
The CAC's capital campaign goal is $30 million and they have raised over $22 million to date. They need to raise the remaining $8 million to begin construction on Phase II of their expansion.
About The Children's Assessment Center
The mission of The Children's Assessment Center is to provide a professional, compassionate and coordinated approach to the treatment of sexually abused children and to serve as an advocate for all children in our community. As a collaboration of Harris County Commissioners Court and The Children's Assessment Center Foundation, The CAC represents a true partnership between the public and private sectors for the most effective service delivery to children and families.
The Children's Assessment Center is the only advocacy center in Harris County providing services to child victims of sexual abuse and they are a proven leader in this movement. In the last nine years, The CAC has assisted Advocacy Centers from 31 states across the country and 13 child welfare programs in foreign countries. For more information, please visit http://cachouston.org
About Houston Endowment
Houston Endowment - a philanthropic foundation established by Jesse H. and Mary Gibbs Jones in 1937 - improves life for the people of greater Houston through its grants to nonprofit organizations and educational institutions. The foundation donates approximately $75 million each year to organizations that support and promote arts and culture, education, the environment, health and human services. For more information, please visit http://www.houstonendowment.org
‘Sex and money' Freedom Cafe holds viewing of human sex trafficking film
by Mikaela K. Reynolds
DURHAM — Right here in the United States, in the state of New Hampshire, in our own cities and towns, there are people preying on young and old victims, alike, right now.
As the second largest criminal enterprise in the world and the fastest-growing business of organized crime, human sex trafficking is a huge modern day issue that hits close to home.
“Traffickers know it's a crime that hides in plain sight,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Zuckerman, stationed in Concord.
On Friday night, guests of the Freedom Cafe learned how to combat the issue through the screening of “Sex and Money: A National Search for Human Worth,” a film brought to them by Straight Street, a nonprofit out of Roanoke, Va.
According to Zuckerman, most sex trafficking cases are reported by everyday people who notice something that is out of place or slightly off. He said spreading awareness is the key to battling the crime.
“Kids who run away usually come within control of a trafficker within 48 hours,” he said.
Some ways to identify situations that may be suspicious include noting younger children alone on the streets or with adults who don't appear to be guardian figures. Zuckerman said another sign that something may be off is when the young victim won't talk to you or anyone that would not be a customer. He said traffickers like to control every aspect of the victims' lives and often won't allow their victims to talk to anyone they didn't approve.
Another way to battle the systemic abuse is to encourage local law enforcement to get educated about the issue and how to identify victims.
“It will let traffickers know that we know what they're up to and were not going to tolerate it,” said Zuckerman.
The film explored the topic through interviews with victims, former “pimps” and even some “Johns” or customers.
“It showed all the different angles and honed in on the problem in America,” said Greg Hadley, 23, a viewer at the screening and Marketing and Outreach Chair of the Freedom Cafe.
Hadley has spent months learning about the issue, but found the film provided a conversation-inducing perspective.
“You always hear about the violence,” he said of the abuse of victims in sex trafficking, “but hearing from the survivors brings it home.”
Hadley, of Durham, said human trafficking is a serious issue that most people don't think about.
The film concludes with a powerful quote that encourages people to start thinking about it and to stop turning a blind eye to the crime; “What one generation allows, the next generation embraces.”
Hadley wanted to contribute to the solution.
“I got upset about all the injustice in the world and the (Cafe) was a good opportunity to do something about it,” said the University of N.H. alum.
Bryan Bessette, 37, of Durham, got involved with the Cafe after a trip to Nepal where he met former bonded slaves. It was this trip that inspired him to fight against human trafficking and he now serves as the Operations Manager for the Cafe.
On Friday night, he enjoyed the screening. “It was a very compelling documentary that raises a number of challenging questions,” said the Chaplain who serves UNH.
He said he liked that the film leaves viewers wrestling with the definition of slavery, the connection between prostitution and trafficking, and other questions like what one can do to combat trafficking.
“This documentary, more than any other I've seen so far, encourages conversation,” he said.
For those wishing to get the conversation started and to find out more about the film, go to sexandmoneyfilm.com.
To find out more about the nonprofit Freedom Cafe, who hosted the screening, and the work they are doing to provide a brighter future, here at home, and abroad, go to facebook.com/thefreedomcafedurham.
More about Straight Street, the organization that provided the screening, can be found at straightstreet.org.
Bessette said the Cafe hopes to screen the “Sex and Money” film again.