From the Department of Homeland Security
Combating Human Trafficking with the Help of International Partners
This morning, Secretary Jeh Johnson and Colombian Minister of Foreign Relations Maria Angela Holguin signed a Joint Statement between the United States Department of Homeland Security and the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Combating Trafficking in Persons.
The Joint Statement outlines shared principals with respect to regional security, economic integrity, and liberty for all persons, as well as both countries' intention to continue collaboration against trafficking by increasing joint law enforcement efforts against criminals engaged in these activities.
Additionally, the Joint Statement underscores the importance of regional partnership, sharing existing resources and best practices, and working collaboratively to strengthen support infrastructures.
Paedophile MPs are mocking British law
AS a supporter of anti-child abuse initiatives, including calling for a full investigation into institutional paedophilia over the past four decades, I have been particularly interested in the events of the past week.
by Sonia Poulton
To recap: Labour Party members Harriet Harman, her husband Jack Dromey and their colleague Patricia Hewitt have been at the centre of a media frenzy for their alleged links to the Paedophile Information Exchange, which campaigned to legalise sex with children in the Seventies.
Naturally, I found their reported connections to PIE disturbing when I first happened upon this information, which is why I wrote about it in the Sunday Express last May.
The reason I did, and why I will now return to the subject, is simple.
In October 2012, MP Tom Watson stood up in the Commons and addressed the Prime Minister. He told David Cameron that he had become aware of rumours of paedophile rings which “encircled parliament” and had done so for decades and he then asked for this to be investigated.
The Prime Minister agreed and Operation Fairbank (later evolving into Operation Fernbridge) was duly launched.
Since Mr Watson's pronouncement, we have witnessed the arrest of a Catholic priest, two unnamed workers associated with a children's care home and a sorry display of Seventies light entertainers and present-day soap stars who have been paraded before the public and the courts to answer varying charges of abuse from paedophilia to groping.
Most of the charges have been dismissed due to lack of evidence that comes when reporting historic abuse. There have been scant convictions save for the former TV presenter Stuart Hall.
However what we have failed to see, and they have been glaring by omission, are any arrests pertaining to parliamentary paedophiles.
For this reason I have been perturbed by the recent focus on Ms Harman et al by the media, including the BBC, which continues to insist that this issue is about one newpaper's battle with the Labour Party.
It was no more acceptable to support “paedophile rights” in the Seventies than it is now, even though apologists keep suggesting it was part of the “liberated landscape”.
The truth is, there is a bigger issue within the Establishment. Over the past 17 months I have interviewed many survivors of child abuse.
I have recorded testimonies from a number of adults who have implicated former MPs, from all parties, as their abusers.
I have heard stories of satanic ritual abuse, a significant factor in many paedophile rings, at the hands of household-name parliamentarians past and present.
I have listened to claims of acts so obscene, so grotesque, borne out by the physical as well as mental scars many of these survivors carry, that to hear them relay their experience has left an indelible image in my mind and no attempt to erase the details has been successful.
One problem of a Parliament dogged with paedophiles and their sympathisers is that those MPs my interviewees have named are attempting to foist their warped ideology on our society.
In their roles as representatives of our nation, they continue to align themselves with focus groups and individuals who want to significantly lower the age of sexual consent, just as Ms Harman apparently did decades ago with the National Council of Civil Liberties and PIE.
I know about these supporters because I have publicly taken to task a number of them over the past year or so in print and on TV and radio.
They include academics and lawyers and they have forcefully joined the call to legalise child sex.
Far from “protecting children who wish to explore”, as these apologists claim, it would make youngsters more vulnerable to the advances of predatory paedophiles who wish to satiate their desires while escaping scot-free because if it is legal to have sex with a child, then there will be no abuse case to answer to, will there?
The truth is, paedophilia is not a political issue but a moral one. It has no affiliations based on gender, background, cultural inheritance, wealth and religious or political persuasions.
It permeates every area of our society and not just the preserve of stereotypical dirty old men in raincoats.
'My parents sold me into the sex industry': One woman's campaign to raise awareness of this darkest of taboos
by Nuala Calvi
One of Raven Kaliana's earliest memories is being taken to a family portrait studio by her parents, at around the age of four. The studio was in the basement of a department store in a town 50 miles from their home. Once there, they waited for another couple to arrive with their child.
‘Would you like to have your picture taken with this cute little boy?' her mother asked, before the parents left the kids with the photographer and retired to the café upstairs. But while they sat eating ice cream, the images being made in the studio down below were far from happy family portraits. Raven and her companion had just been sold into the child abuse industry.
It was to be the beginning of a 15-year ordeal, which saw Raven regularly trafficked by her parents and other members of an organised crime ring from her home in a middle-class suburb in the American northwest to locations all over the US and abroad. In her teens, the crimes were often perpetrated in Los Angeles, where many film studios provided ample opportunity for the underground child abuse industry in the 1970s and 80s.
Her father, precariously self-employed after losing his teaching job, was violent towards her younger brother, but since she had become the family breadwinner, Raven was granted a peculiar status. ‘My father favoured me because I brought in the money – I was supporting our whole family. My younger brother was jealous of this special treatment – my father was affectionate towards me whereas he would beat my brother. Although he did hit me, he wanted me to stay intact because the fewer scars I had, the more I was worth.'
Inevitably, as she grew older, Raven's value to her abusers decreased and subsequently the kinds of films she was required to take part in became more extreme and violent. Yet from a young age, she had learnt from her parents to rationalise and deny what was going on. ‘It's the same way that someone who has a problem with alcohol will rationalise their behaviour – “It's only this many drinks”; “It's before noon but…oh well, just today”.
‘I remember my mother saying things like, “They'll never remember it,” like people do when they get their babies' ears pierced. I told myself that my parents meant well, that what I was going through was necessary to help my family. It was paying our mortgage.'
As we sit talking in a London café, there are two large suitcases on the floor next to us, both full of puppets she has made. A graduate of the puppetry course at the Royal Central School of Speech & Drama, Raven turned to this art form as a way of telling her story without the gaze of an audience focusing on her directly – something she finds too uncomfortable.
Her adult life has been driven by the belief that it is important for survivors of child sexual exploitation to tell their stories, in order to make people realise that these aren't crimes that happen ‘to someone else'. She moved to the UK to create Hooray for Hollywood , an autobiographical play in which the children are represented by puppets, while their parents are shown up to waist height, from a child's-eye view. This critically acclaimed drama has toured the UK, Poland and France, and has been made into a film.
A shocking aspect of Hooray for Hollywood is the banality of the adults' talk, as they rationalise the choice they have made to sell their children from the cosy confines of a café. They appear to be ordinary people, struggling a little to make ends meet; not monsters, but people who might be your neighbours.
‘You hear about a perpetrator being processed in a certain way, you hear about the police getting hold of the images, but you don't hear about the reality for the children in those images. How did they come to be in this situation? And how have they been damaged by what happened?'
Through her organisation Outspiral, Raven has launched a campaign to raise awareness of sex trafficking and familial abuse. She now uses the film of Hooray for Hollywood for public education and training for professionals working in social services, education, law enforcement and children's charities.
The biggest challenge, she says, is getting the bystanders in the child's life – neighbours, relatives, teachers, care workers, counsellors – to consider the possibility that a child might be a victim of this form of abuse. Child abuse is such a taboo subject, and the concept of parents being complicit in the crime so unthinkable, that frequently there is a failure to recognise that it might be going on. Yet the arrival of the internet has led to an explosion in the industry, which now has a worldwide value of billions of dollars, according to the UN.
Britain's Child Exploitation & Online Protection Centre, a division of the police, says the number of indecent images of children in circulation on the internet runs into millions, with police forces reporting seizures of up to 2.5 million images in single collections alone, while the number of individual children depicted in these images is likely to be in the tens of thousands. The most common way that offenders found their victims was through family and personal relationships.
A report by the NSPCC highlighted the psychological suffering that children who have been sexually abused within this industry endure, especially through the knowledge that there is a permanent record of their abuse: ‘They can do nothing about others viewing pornographic pictures or films of them indefinitely.'
For Raven, the psychological effects of her abuse have been extreme. From an early age she began to experience dissociative amnesia – a psychological phenomenon common in victims of inescapable trauma, in which painful experiences are blocked out, leading to gaps in memory. ‘I started putting things into little rooms in my mind, and it was like: “OK, we don't look in that room,”' she says. ‘When there's no one stepping in to save you and it's clear you're going to have to endure something, your mind just does that. As a child, dissociation is a survival advantage, but in adulthood it can become a disability.'
It was at the age of 15 that the coping system of denial began to break down. ‘At school, I began to get flashbacks – like remembering being in a warehouse the night before – and I could feel in my body it was true, but it was terrifying because I didn't want those things to be true.'
Astonishingly, she passed through most of school without anyone picking up on what was happening at home. ‘I got good marks, so teachers tended to think everything was fine. Most survivors I've known who experienced extreme abuse did very well at school because that was their sanctuary, a place they could be safe.'
Eventually, however, a teacher noticed that Raven was getting thinner. Her mother, by now separated from her father but still facilitating the abuse, had stopped buying food for her. ‘The teacher asked me to stay behind after school and said to me, “Tell me the truth, are you anorexic? Bulimic?” And I started laughing.'
Raven confided some but not all of what was happening to her, but begged the teacher not to report it for fear of reprisals. What the teacher did do, though, was help her find the wherewithal to move out of home eventually, get a job in a restaurant, and start saving up for college.
At university, Raven finally made a break from her family, changed her name and started to get counselling – the beginning of a long road to recovery. ‘I was in a support group for rape survivors, and it was a great help because I was around other people healing from abuse. It also gave me perspective about the things that had happened to me. I saw people devastated by one experience of being raped, so it was sobering to realise, “I've been raped by hundreds of people.'''
Once she was in a safe environment, the rage about what had happened to her finally emerged: ‘I couldn't believe how angry I was when I first escaped. In one support group they let us take a baseball bat to a punchbag and told us to think about an abuse event and imagine that we were fighting back against it. That was very helpful.'
She also saw an integrative bodywork therapist, who used touch, guided movement and vocal expression. ‘She said that post-traumatic stress is a physical reaction and that reconnecting the symptom to the source helps you to let it go, and that you don't have to discuss everything that happened to you. It was helpful, because my body was doing strange things. For example, I used to find physical touch excruciating. She told me that was called armouring, which happens when your muscles make a shield to protect the bones and internal organs during physical abuse.'
The therapy made it possible for Raven to move on. ‘I realised that it is possible to get your life back. I started to gain an appreciation for life.'
But Raven believes she will always need counselling and that her experiences have made it difficult not to fall into a pattern of emotionally abusive relationships. Perhaps surprisingly, sex has not been a significant issue, but love for her is connected with betrayal, as those who were meant to love her were those who orchestrated her abuse.
Yet, incredibly, she says she felt love for her parents as a child and still does, although she has cut all contact with them. And she believes they loved her. ‘When I screen my film, often in the Q&A session afterwards people want to know: how could parents do this to their children? I tell them that abuse is generational: my parents were abused too, so that was normal to them. They had dissociated in the way I had; they were in denial.
‘Unlike my generation, they didn't have access to counselling when they were young, and weren't born in a time when child abuse was beginning to be acknowledged. It's important to recognise that they weren't born evil – they were damaged.'
Raven thinks that the demonising of abusers such as Jimmy Savile is counterproductive. ‘It elevates them to the realm of the surreal. We need to recognise that they are very sick and that there's a context for their crimes. Only then can we tackle the source of this suffering.'
Child abuse cases reach five-year high in Brown County
by Adam Rodewald
The number of child abuse and neglect cases investigated by social workers in Brown County reached a new high last year even as advocates and services agencies moved forward on a comprehensive protection strategy more than a year in the making.
County child protection workers investigated 1,501 cases involving 2,331 children in 2013, according to data from the state Department of Children and Families. That's a 59 percent increase in investigations over 2009, when the county had 946 cases involving 1,420 children.
Those examining the increase said they can't explain the quick and steady change. Most other large counties in Wisconsin are seeing a decline in abuse and neglect.
Interactive map: Compare counties' rates of child abuse and neglect
Among the 10 largest counties, only Brown, Dane and Marathon counties saw any increase in the number of cases in the past five years. Dane County had an increase of 24 percent and Marathon County rose about one percent.
Statewide, the number of cases has grown less than 1 percent since 2009, the data shows.
“There was great concern amongst many people in our community that child abuse was really starting to spike,” said Brown County Supervisor Patrick Evans, who helped form and now leads the task force working on a strategy to slow the trend.
“It was just something where we said we cannot let this continue,” he said.
The county first noted the increase in 2012. It responded by restructuring its human services department to add child protection staff and organized the child abuse task force, which has been working with area service organizations to address the issue.
The committee will unveil its action plan during a summit on March 21, Evans said.
The number of child abuse and neglect cases in Brown County has been growing at a rate of 12 percent, on average, every year since 2009, the state data shows.
The number of children involved in those cases climbed even faster, at an average rate of 13 percent annually.
Brown County Director of Human Services Jeremy Kral said there's no obvious reason for the change, but there are likely multiple factors colliding at once, including increasing family struggles, a growing population and more awareness about the issue.
Several high profile national cases helped bring attention to child safety in recent years. Most notable is the trial of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who sexually abused several young boys. The case, which involved top university officials accused of failing to report the abuse, prompted Wisconsin and other states to adopt new laws expanding their lists of mandated reporters of abuse.
But that alone doesn't explain why Brown County is seeing a bigger increase than most parts of the state.
“We've had many discussions on what we feel could be the cause of the increase, but what we have found in breaking down the numbers is there's not one area, either geographically or socioeconomically, that we could pinpoint,” Evans said. “We know poverty is a great stresser, but that's just not the answer. We have (abuse) in all races and all income areas in Brown County.”
Kral said the rising number of cases doesn't necessarily mean there's an equal increase in actual abuse or neglect.
State records show the number of actual victims has fluctuated from year to year. There were 168 victims of substantiated abuse or neglect in 2012, the most recent year data is available. That's up from 163 in 2011 but down from 184 in 2010.
Child abuse covers everything from physical to sexual to emotional. Neglect involves failing to adequately provide a child's basic needs, including food, clothing or medical care.
“The important thing is that when we get opportunities to intervene we do it and we do it well,” Kral said.
The child abuse task force kicked off in December 2012 with more than 60 representatives from area human services agencies, police departments, school districts and other groups gathering at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay to begin mapping a strategy to reduce the number of cases.
The group will present its plan — which includes 13 immediate, mid-term and long-term strategies — during a community summit this month.
“The issue of child welfare is very complex. The United Way and Brown County have recognized it will take the engagement of all our partners in the community to really set a course and address this. The summit will be the template and launch of what we're going to be doing, but the work is years and years to come,” said Kevin Brennan, a Brown County child protection supervisor.
The 13 strategies are based on six child abuse prevention factors, including nurturing and development, knowledge of parenting and child development, parental resilience, social connections, concrete supports for parents, and social and emotional competence of children, Evans said.
Child Protection Manager Jim Hermans said that for the plan to be successful all parts of the community, including families and agencies and government, must all work together.
“The importance of that to us is it reflects the recognition within our community that child safety really is a community responsibility. As a community all these players have come to that realization,” Hermans said. “It's not just on the county to take care of that problem. Its one everyone shares.”
Alaska families try to sever the link between sexual abuse and FASD
by KYLE HOPKINS and MARC LESTER
WASILLA -- In a church-owned classroom circled by 58 acres of frosted spruce and frozen lakes, 10 children sat at a cafeteria table learning what to do if someone sexually abuses them.
The kids, most born with a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder that may make them especially vulnerable to Alaska's many sexual predators, had just watched an educational video about grown-ups, bad secrets and bribes. In the story, a girl named Juliette is abused by her uncle but refuses to stay quiet.
"Who did Juliette end up telling her secret to?" asked instructor Danielle Mohr, whose day job is working at the victim-advocacy group Standing Together Against Rape.
"Her mom!" the children shouted.
"Did her mom believe her?"
In unison: "Yes!"
Mohr nodded. "It's never ever, ever the child's fault when they get hurt like that," she said.
The class marks the first time organizers of the twice-annual FAScinating Families Camp -- one of the only camps specifically for children with FASD and their families now operating in the nation -- have sought to teach the children about sexual abuse. High-profile crimes in the Alaska news involving attackers who may suffer an FASD prompted camp organizer Trish Smith to add the lessons.
The idea strikes at one simple way Alaska can attempt to erode a statewide crisis of child and adult sexual abuse: By teaching some of the most unguarded victims that it's OK to report abusers.
"People that are affected by FASD tend to be victims a lot, or they can be perpetrators as well," Smith said. "The younger we start giving someone information, the better they are at handling situations down the road."
Catching a risk early
Alaska has the highest rate of sexual assault in the United States, more than two and a half times the national average. State health department officials suspect Alaska also suffers the highest rate of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, lifelong disabilities caused to children by a mother drinking while pregnant.
Research suggests the twin epidemics are related.
Children with an FASD are more likely than others their age to be victimized by adults, according to studies by the University of Washington. Three in four girls and women with the disability are sexually abused, said a 2004 report based on interviews with 415 patients in Washington state. A majority of the males with an FASD had engaged in "problematic sexual behavior" including sex crimes.
People with the disability are not necessarily more violent than their peers. Sometimes the opposite is true. They might be indiscriminately friendly to strangers or unable to read social cues and body language, making them less able to flag people with bad intentions.
Shawna Jack, the adoptive mother of a 12-year-old camper said she was nervous about the workshops at first, but is glad her daughter is getting the information now. On Tuesday she turns 13.
The girl makes fast friends with anyone she meets and doesn't necessarily understand that someone who is nice at first is still a stranger, Jack said. "She's very eager to please and very naive."
Among the more common symptoms of FASD is inappropriate sexual behavior, which in the case of young men who are emotionally or developmentally immature might mean seeking out unsuitably young sexual partners.
"Even though this person has the body of an 18-year-old, his mind is still functioning at a 12 or 13-year-old level," Smith said. "So of course he is going to be more attracted to someone like that."
Smith not only added classes for children, but a separate workshop for teenagers that teaches age of consent laws and social skills such as the appropriate way to ask someone out on a date.
Kids with FASD sometimes need to learn about boundaries, that behavior they saw early in life isn't appropriate, said Rozann Kimpton, a 78-year-old great-grandmother raising two children with the disability.
They are often also coping with the trauma of abuse and neglect, Kimpton said. "If they saw mommy and daddy hitting each other or wild sex going on the living room, it's hard for them to establish what is right and what is proper."
TOP SEX ASSAULT RATE IN NATION
The Alaska FASD camps began in 2000 or 2001 and cost about $14,000 a year, said Smith, who works for Volunteers of America. A grant from the Alaska Division of Behavioral Health pays the bills, while many workers donate their time.
Held at Kalmbach Lake, in the woods northwest of Wasilla, the families stay at cabins and gather in common areas for educational meetings, meals and games. Some years they go ice fishing or take dog sled rides. This winter the group traveled to an equine therapy arena to ride and pet horses.
The camp offers children with the disabilities the opportunity to be together and feel normal, and for parents and caregivers to spend a long weekend somewhere where their child will not be judged for impulsive outbursts. Another camp was scheduled this weekend in Fairbanks.
The simple tactic of teaching children and teens with FASD about appropriate sexual behavior could be replicated across Alaska, Smith said. "Absolutely we could be doing more diagnosing and supporting."
Gov. Sean Parnell has made preventing sexual abuse and domestic violence his signature social issue, championing a statewide "Choose Respect" initiative that the state says is an effort to hold offenders accountable, provide a safe place for victims and promote healthy relationships.
Despite years and decades of talk about the problem, the sexual assault rates here still top the nation with nearly 80 rapes reported per 100,000 people in Alaska compared to a national average of 27 per 100,000, according to the Uniform Crime Report.
The numbers aren't just high, but increasing. In 2012, the most recent year for which data is available, the number of reported rapes per capita was up 11 percent over the prior five-year average. Frontline officials warn of worsening turmoil in families.
Reports of child abuse and neglect are on the rise in Alaska, the director of the Office of Children's Services told legislators on Thursday. The agency's statistics show 6,856 open investigations of child abuse or neglect in the 12 months that ended June 30, an increase of 700 cases over the year before.
'WE CALL HIM OUR HERO'
If Alaskans want to help children and teens with an FASD, including teaching ways to prevent sexual abuse, the state must first identify which kids have the disability. Despite a robust diagnostic effort compared to most other states, the agencies and organizations that serve the greatest number of Alaska children who likely have an FASD do not reliably identify which children have the disability and could benefit from special help.
The Anchorage School District, which educates about one in three Alaska students, has no estimate for the number of children with the disability at its schools. The district recognizes 13 potential disabilities spelled out in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act -- including autism, deafness and orthopedic impairment -- but not fetal alcohol syndrome, a medically diagnosable disability, or other FASDs that comprise one of the leading causes of intellectual disability in the United States.
An expert on the disability works on contract for the district teaching school employees about FASD, and a brochure is available for parents.
When University of Washington researchers screened children passing through a county foster care system in that state, they found the children removed from parents homes to be 10 to 15 times more likely to have fetal alcohol syndrome than the general population.
Yet when asked for estimates, officials with the Alaska Office of Children Services could not say how many of the children it removes from troubled homes are believed to have had some pre-natal alcohol exposure or were referred for an FASD diagnosis.
The Alaska Division of Juvenile Justice also has not historically tracked the number of young Alaskans on probation or in youth jails who are suspected to have an FASD and might require a diagnosis, said clinical director Shannon Cross-Azbill. Cross-Azbill said earlier this year she wants clinicians to begin making a note of whether there is evidence of prenatal alcohol exposure.
The parents at Alaska's FAScinating Families Camps already know their children have a disability. For some, the new classes aimed at keeping kids out of trouble and protecting them from predators are painfully resonate.
One adoptive mother of three said two of her children with FASD were sexually abused by a man hired to provide respite care in their home. The mother worked with police to record a confession on a wire tap, and the man is now serving a 15-year sentence in prison.
The mother suspects her son's disability emboldened the abuser.
"They don't think these kids are smart enough to tell on them, and my son did. We call him our hero," she said.
Still, the family didn't have strangers in their home for a year. Her son kept a knife in his room long after the attacks, afraid the man might follow through on a threat to kill his parents if the boy ever told.
"Two years later he's still holding this secret inside, turning on every light as he walks down the hall," she said.
Courts Take A Kinder Look At Victims Of Child Sex Trafficking
by NPR Staff
We've all seen them: the public service announcements about sex trafficking in America. They're plastered on buses and billboards; images of young women exploited for their bodies, with hotlines to call for help.
The numbers are staggering. The Justice Department estimates that each year at least 200,000 children are trafficked for sex in the U.S., and it is said to generate upward of $32 billion a year.
Across the country, teens are being picked up on prostitution charges. It's a stunning contradiction in the law: Girls who are too young to legally consent to sex are being prosecuted for selling it.
Amy Farrell is an expert who studies sex trafficking laws. She tells NPR's Arun Rath some states are trying to fix the problem through what are called safe harbor laws.
Twelve states have passed safe harbor legislation for child victims of sex trafficking, according to Farrell. She says the basic premise of these laws is to give law enforcement and prosecutors a way to divert children who have been prostituted from a juvenile delinquent proceeding and instead put them into what's called a "child in need" proceeding.
In some states without safe harbor laws, there are efforts to set up special courts specifically to deal with these cases.
"This has basically been a whole series of individual judges seeing these cases coming through their courts and becoming passionate and involved in the issue and being willing to work with prosecutors, the defense bar and service providers to establish these problem-solving courts," she says.
Creating A Safe Place
In California, there is no safe-haven law; minors can, and are, prosecuted for prostitution. But in Los Angeles County, Judge Catherine Pratt has set up a special juvenile court to help victims of sex trafficking.
During the last few years, Pratt has been consumed by her work helping young victims of sex trafficking get treated as just that: victims . She says it's been a tough battle because the justice system treats anyone who sells sex as a criminal — even a child.
In normal juvenile courts, young women who are picked up for prostitution don't get counseling and other services — they get punished. Girls can be sentenced to juvenile detention or forced to testify against their exploiter.
Pratt remembers one case that made her believe the system was broken. A young girl was asked to testify against her pimp, in a public adult court, in a case that involved her being drugged into unconsciousness. She was asked by the district attorney to review a tape of the incident, which she had never seen, and identify the defendants in the court.
"It was a devastating experience for her, and she has struggled ever since then," Pratt says. "So that is one of the cases I feel very badly about. I feel like we did a very poor job of protecting her from that and preparing her for that. It's one of the lessons that I learned about how to work with these kids."
So Pratt set out to create a court that would protect girls from trauma at the hands of the justice system and focus on rehabilitation instead of punishment. Girls in her court are placed into special group homes with trauma counselors and sexual education resources. And, in general, the girls aren't compelled to testify against their abusers. It's all about gaining trust, Pratt says.
"When you first meet some of these kids, they are pretty off-putting," she says. "They have these levels of trauma that really prevent them from making connections with people."
To help these victims of sex trafficking make connections with trusted adults, Pratt's court partners with advocacy groups, where adult survivors of sex trafficking work as mentors.
Kristina Fitz is a survivor who mentors for Saving Innocence, a non-profit organization aimed at helping rescue and restore child victims of sex trafficking. Fitz is assigned to 25 girls; she meets with each one for three hours a week for counseling. She says they look up to her because she knows what they went through. Fitz was trafficked for sex for more than three years.
"I'm like a support system to them, so if they want to talk about certain issues that they can't really talk about, or they don't have anybody to talk to," Fitz says. "I take them out on trips, out of their group homes, so they can see there's things other than just working and being exploited through prostitution."
One of the things she teaches girls is how to recognize men who will exploit them, something they call the "Prince Charming guy." Fitz says these are typically men who will manipulate them and make them feel loved by buying them things like a cellphone, jewelry or clothes.
"Those might be little things to us adults, but to children who have never had that before, that's a big deal to them," she says. "So it's easy to manipulate a child by giving her these simple little things."
Fitz says the program also teaches the girls sexual education, like condom use and about sexually-transmitted diseases, as well as helping them with their self-esteem and assertiveness.
The Next Problem
Judge Pratt says that initially her treatment-focused approach was working as intended. It improved the ability to prosecute the traffickers. But then something else happened. A lot of the boys who were coming out of foster care and the juvenile justice system were becoming pimps.
"The foster care system and juvenile justice system is creating both sides of this market, the suppliers and the goods," she says.
Nationwide, pimps are prosecuted far less often than the children they exploit. The men who buy sex from minors are very rarely prosecuted. Farrell says states are beginning to change the law, stiffening the penalties for purchasing sex from a child.
"The bigger problem isn't so much changing the laws — we're starting to do that — the real challenge will be convincing law enforcement and the judiciary to hold people who purchase sex from trafficked persons accountable," she says. "I think prosecutors are reluctant to pursue prosecution against johns because it's not been politically expedient to do so in many communities."
As for the girls in Pratt's special court, she thinks the court has been very successful. She's even working with a national organization of juvenile court judges to teach others how to work with victims of sex trafficking.
The most rewarding thing, though, is her relationship with the girls. Her office looks more like that of a beloved school principal than a judge, with framed pictures of Pratt at birthdays and graduations for the young women who have come through her court.
"Next week one of my girls who was on probation to me turns 19, so she just contacted me and said she wanted to go to dinner," she says.
The grant that funds the court runs out at the end of this year, and Pratt says she's not sure what will happen then. The county has said the budget cannot support the program.
Law cracks down on human trafficking, child prostitution
by Tracy Sears
RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)- Both houses of the Virginia General Assembly have passed legislation that harshens the penalties for people who solicit a child for sex, and closes a loophole that allows many sex predators to walk free.
The law would order those who are convicted of soliciting an underage prostitute to be placed on Virginia's online sex offender registry. It would also allow the felony prosecution of those who bring a child into a place of prostitution for the purposes of prostitution, regardless of whether the child was willing.
“We don't want you to be able to say I convinced this 13-year-old to go with me and that would be a way to get out from under the law,” says bill patron Delegate Rob Bell, (R) Albemarle.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the average age that a child is first exploited through prostitution is 13-years-old.
Elizabeth Corey was just 7-years-old when she says her father first sold her into family-controlled human trafficking.
The sex abuse lasted until she was 18-years-old and left home.
“It's overwhelming when I think about how few laws there were to protect me as a child and how little awareness there was,” Corey says.
However, thirty years later Human Trafficking is the second largest and fasted growing criminal industry in the world. According to UNICEF, there are nearly two million children worldwide in the commercial sex trade today.
Sara Pomeroy with the Richmond Justice Initiative, says Virginia, once among the 12 worst states for human trafficking laws, is slowly cracking down on the industry and people who solicit sex from children.
“They've been buying because it's easy to do and they're getting away with a slap on the hand,” Pomeroy says.
Corey hopes Governor Terry McAuliffe will sign the legislation when it reaches his desk. She says thousands of children, who are still enduring the horrors of the sex trade industry, could spared from the same exploitation that claimed her childhood.
“They knew I was under age, not only did they know it but they sought me out because I was underage,” Corey says. “Had they known there were laws like these that put them on the sex offender registry or in jail, they may have made another decision.”
A second bill by Delegate Bell, HB 660, expands provisions for forfeiture of the profits of assets earned through prostitution and human trafficking. It is still under consideration by the Virginia Senate.
Shift in policing in SD turns up heat on sex trade
by JOHN HULT
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Three years ago, prostitution was an afterthought for Sioux Falls police.
There were six arrests in 2010: Four for prostitution, two for pimping.
Last year, Sioux Falls police made 99 arrests.
Police credit public awareness, cooperation from local hotels and motels and community education about sex trafficking as a factor in the success of the new-found focus on sex-for-money crimes.
The numbers are only part of the story, however.
Advocates for sex-trafficking victims say the attitude of street crimes detectives toward those involved in the sex trade has shifted, with prostitutes looked upon as victims instead of criminals.
For more than a decade, federal law has defined those pushed into sex for money through force, fraud or coercion as victims, but acceptance of that definition within law enforcement has come slowly.
Kimberly St. John, shelter director for Mita Maske Ti Ki, or My Sister Friend's House, said she and others who work with sex-trafficking victims now are seeing that shift in thinking from police.
"They don't want to take in women on prostitution charges. And historically, changing that — that's huge for this area," St. John said.
Officers still make plenty of arrests for prostitution, said Lt. David McIntire, who heads the street crimes unit of the Sioux Falls Police Department. There were more arrests for prostitution than for pimping in 2013.
The goal of the arrests is different now, McIntire said. Victims often aren't ready to leave the life the moment they meet an officer, thinking that their pimps or "boyfriends" are there to take care of them, in spite of any physical and emotional abuse they might have inflicted.
Many are worried that they will lose their children if they speak out. Others are unsure of where they would stay if they left.
"If we can separate the person from that relationship and offer help, we have a better chance of breaking through to them," McIntire said.
Change in emphasis and in training
The jump in prostitution-related arrests began in earnest in 2011, when police arrested 11 women in a sting operation.
The following year, officers began to focus their operations on johns and traffickers. The biggest formal change came last year, as U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson convened a human-trafficking task force, which included law enforcement from the state Division of Criminal Investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Sioux Falls police and the Minnehaha County Sheriff's Office.
Officers took part in three training sessions last year: One in Minneapolis, another in Spearfish and a conference in Vermillion. Officers also took in tactical training on sting and undercover operations.
The four detectives and one sergeant who work in street crimes now check websites nightly, looking for escort ads in the Sioux Falls area.
Community outreach has helped, too, McIntire said. The officers have given two seminars on human trafficking and began working with hotel and motel employees to educate them on what to look for and what to report.
"Education is key not only to successfully enforcing it but to stopping it," McIntire said. "It takes an entire community watching for this."
Tim Nicolai, owner of the Arena Motel in Sioux Falls, is one of the hotel owners with whom street crimes detectives work regularly.
Nicolai, whose motel is along a Russell Avenue strip of motels near a Jefferson Bus Lines drop-off spot, said his employees constantly are sharing information about potential traffickers and suspicious behavior with officers and with the other motel owners.
"Since we're right down the street (from the bus station), we're some of the first ones to see them," Nicolai said.
The practice of forced or threatened prostitution is one Nicolai sees as a community problem to solve.
"We want our community to continue to be a nice place to live," he said. "I think it is a nice place to live. We want to do whatever we can to keep this from happening."
Focusing resources on sex trafficking has helped increase the number of arrests, but McIntire said there still is work to be done in the community.
There aren't enough safe and affordable homes for the women who want out of the life.
Victims with children, in particular, are a challenge for police. Pimps tell victims that their children will be taken away if they cooperate with law enforcement. Without a safe place for a woman and her family, those fears can overtake the will to get out of the life.
Advocates at Mita Maske Ti Ki, which has space for about 12 women on a temporary basis, work with trafficking victims. St. John said it will sometimes take two dozen contacts with a victim before she's ready to take the risk and leave.
"(The police) will give us referrals, but they won't all talk to us," St. John said. "It's really scary for a woman to leave."
Kerry Stephenson, a legal advocate at the shelter, said the fear isn't only about losing children, finding a safe place to stay or being attacked by their pimps, most often referred to as "boyfriends" or "daddies."
Many trafficking victims have used drugs or been involved in petty thefts. Some have outstanding warrants and might not want to come forward for fear of being jailed.
"She's afraid to go down to the police department because she has some stupid warrant," Stephenson said. "They feel like they don't have much to look forward to if they'll just get criminalized by the system."
McIntire said he hopes the shift in attitude continues to work in the officers' favor. The task force against human trafficking includes local and federal prosecutors, as well, who scrub prostitution arrests from a woman's record for cooperation in targeting pimps.
"We have finally started to see, on a very small scale, women who will turn themselves in to us for help. That is the long-term goal," McIntire said. "Until then, we use the means that are available, offering help to each victim we contact."
Va. Senate passes bill on child prostitution
On Thursday, the Virginia Senate passed a bill sponsored by Delegate Rob Bell to address child prostitution in Virginia.
The bill would have those convicted of soliciting an underage prostitute to be placed on Virginia's online sex offender registry, and allow prosecution for those who intentionally bring a child into prostitution.
"According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the average age that a child is first exploited through prostitution is 13-years-old," said Bell in a release. "The men who pay money for children create the market for underage prostitution. If someone does this, he is endangering children. I think it is entirely appropriate that he be placed on the registry."
How the abortion industry covers up sexual abuse and why it should end
by Faith Kuzma
If there was ever a historical moment calling for politicians to take a strong stand, this last week was it: Bill 292 would have required Indiana abortionists to provide proof of having admitting privileges or an agreement with a doctor who did. The Bill failed to pass the Republican controlled House.
The recent case of Indiana abortionist Dr. Ulrich Klopfer suggests why such laws requiring transparency are necessary. Dr. Klopfer was criminally charged for failure to report statutory rape in Fort Wayne. Klopfer also lacks the required transfer agreement with a Gary hospital and there is no record of admitting or transfer privileges in South Bend, Indiana.
Of gravest concern, Dr. Klopfer has admitted to late reporting of underage abortions, universally considered dangerous for victims of statutory rape. He also routinely advises teens to skirt Indiana law by going out of state. In light of recent demographic data indicating 75% of all abortions are performed on women who began sexual activity under the age of 16, the strong link between abortion and young girls is becoming more evident.The lack of oversight of the state's licensing agreement that allowed this abortionist to bypass legal restrictions until recently would probably have been corrected sooner by Bill 292, a statute in line with current professional medical standards for outpatient surgeries.The American College of Surgeons submitted guidelines requiring doctor's obtain hospital privileges for all forms of outpatient surgery including “reproductive” surgery, and in 2002 these recommendations were passed by the American Medical Association.
An underage girl's appearance at an abortion facility is grounds to report. Keep in mind that Dr. Klopfer is not required to determine the extent of rape but only to pass along information to authorities who can then respond appropriately. Teachers, child care workers, counselors, and health professionals operate with this obligation. Nonetheless, RH Reality Check's Sofia Resnik claims reporting laws are harmful and place an unfair “burden” on abortionists.
In contrast to physicians, abortionists operate for the most part without much oversight. The traditional model of a family doctor's long-term relationship to his patients is the prototype forming the central tenant of a position paper Resnik cites, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health. The paper concludes “Federal and state laws should allow physicians and other health care professionals to exercise appropriate clinical judgment in reporting cases of sexual activity (e.g. life threatening emergencies, imminent harm, and/ or suspected abuse).” While such a recommendation sounds reasonable within the close doctor-patient context suggested in the journal, in actual practice, abortionists do not have an ongoing relationship with their patients.
Indeed, an abortionist is not a physician with a general practice; that's why the county regulatory community and legislators enact laws to detect problems so they can come to the attention of authorities. A case in point, Dr. Klopfer has no ties to the local medical community and lacks any affiliation with area hospitals and thus is not subject to the regular scrutiny under which physicians operate. As an out- of- state, itinerant abortionist, Dr. Klopfer has little connection to the communities where he practices.
In this respect, Dr. Klopfer speaks as one who has long been a law unto himself, pointing out he is not answerable to local hospitals. In a recent interview, Dr. Klopfer explained why he has refused to name his back up doctor while also highlighting the unregulated nature of his abortion business: “Nowadays the majority of medical school graduates become employed in some big corporation where the hospital or otherwise controls and dictates everything you can and cannot do,” Klopfer said. “For me to divulge information that's not necessary, I will not.”
To assume abortion providers operate according to the same standards as physicians is thus highly problematic. Practicing medicine is regulated by all kinds of laws that protect the lives of patients, yet people do not realize abortionists are not regulated like other doctors. Americans were astounded, for instance, to learn that Kermit Gosnell operated without oversight or inspection for 17 years despite reported concerns. As a result of his criminal case, the state of Pennsylvania put in place additional regulations. Even so, abortionists generally do not contend with the daily demands of hospital administrators and constant oversight of their operations by governmental agencies.
After 41 years of legal abortion, it is still claimed that abortion advances women's rights and protects women and girls in cases of rape and incest. Abortion is popularly regarded as the solution to the social problem of rape, despite the fact that abortion is not a recognized treatment for sexual abuse. In fact, the group Women Pregnant by Sexual Assault point out that claiming abortion as the best option following sexual abuse is based on a myth and the stories of young girls typically show a scenario of coercion.
Young girls and teens are the most vulnerable to rape and are the group most often pressured or even forced to abort. Dr. Klopfer's office in South Bend is located next door to The Life Center, a Catholic organization offering a range of services to pregnant women and girls with a motto of “real choices, real information, and real love.” One such outreach involves sidewalk ministers (called TLC Advocates). “It's easy to talk about women's rights,” says TLC Advocate Ellen Masters, “but often these are not women. I've seen young girls arrive by themselves, with friends, or with older guys. It makes you wonder how many of these are being reported.”
Non-reporting is seen as discretionary by proponents of abortion. Resnik, for instance, cites a position paper that argues abortion providers should be allowed to use their professional judgment when looking for evidence of coercive sexual relationships. Yet, even when they appear un-complaining, young girls are the most at risk group for sexual violence. The National Center for Victims of Crime notes that children are one of the largest groups of victims of sex abuse, that agencies designed to help often fail to coordinate services, and that re-victimization is common. Given the fact that women seeking abortion are seven times more likely to be abused than those who do not, it is clearly mistaken to assume girls entering an abortion facility are exercising a free choice.
For 41 years, the abortion industry has generally ignored and even flouted regulations, and it should be clear by now that not reporting minors seeking abortions perpetuates the vicious cycle of abuse in cases of rape and incest. Abortionists are not set up to detect sexual abuse, a fact Resnik acknowledges as reason not to require reporting. Nonetheless, in this case, Indiana law does not demand abortionists diagnose the nature of previous sexual activity but merely report minors to the Department of Child Services, who can then determine the extent of criminal activity. Resnik views any regulation as an untenable barrier to abortions.
The position paper Resnik cites advocates confidentiality as the chief priority in treating minors. In the case of rape, however, confidentiality offers the greatest benefit to the criminal not the victim. An older man who needs to cover up an illicit affair with a young girl can typically expect confidentiality from an abortionist. However, in-depth analysis of recent studies of abortion and violence led to the conclusion that stronger intervention is called for. In fact, one of the researchers, Susan Bewley, a consultant obstetrician at King's College in London, noted that abortion-minded women “welcomed the opportunity to disclose their experiences … and to be offered help.”
Agencies that deal with sexual abuse of children and sex trafficking continue to warn that juveniles are especially vulnerable as they are often compelled to participate, experience isolation, and are unlikely to report molestation. Last year, a pregnant teen in Houston who wanted to keep her child against the persistent demands and pressures from her parents, was fortunate to locate legal advocates and won her case. For these reasons, it is incumbent that a minor seeking an abortion not go unreported.
There is little reason to think girls voluntarily seek abortion. In the book Victims and Victors , rape survivors explain that it is wrong to assume survivors want an abortion. In fact, the majority of those who aborted a pregnancy conceived in sexual assault later described abortion as the wrong solution as it increased rather than reduced the trauma they experienced. Ensuring access to abortion at all costs has often meant not questioning the circumstances of how the girl became pregnant, in response to unplanned pregnancy; the shotgun wedding of the past becoming the “shotgun abortion” of the present.
The failure to support reporting abortions on young girls amounts to a cover up of the sexual abuse, protecting the very rape culture feminists decry. Accounting for about 30% of all abortions, teens suffer more abortion-related complications than other age groups, information they are not being provided. Expecting a 13-year-old girl to act with the self determination of an adult woman or to fend off a coercive adult is unrealistic, and claiming lack of access to reproductive services as a reason to oppose reporting laws does not adhere to our current understanding of sexual exploitation. Further, it is clear that abortionists such as Dr. Klopfer have little incentive to report underage abortion, let alone any sense of obligation to intervene and prevent a forced abortion.
Instead of regulation, there tends to be a call for further education, yet this is clearly insufficient to safeguard girls from sexual violence. There needs to be more reporting, not less, additional anti-coercion measures, and stronger enforcement. Failing to report abortions performed on minors may well protect rapists, rape culture, or the “right” to an abortion but does nothing to safeguard girls from sexual abuse.
Forty one years of legalized abortion shows that it is no “solution” to rape. In reality, the abortion industry has obstructed laws in place to protect girls from rape. Surely Americans who understand this reality cannot count as a victory for women's rights the protection of men who rape girls. The recent attention to Dr. Klopfer's failure to report underage abortions should rectify the misconception of abortion as the “cure” for rape and incest, increasing our awareness that abortion and rape culture are allies.
When to Let Go of a Relationship
by Jean-Paul Bedard
There are times in life when holding on demonstrates our internal fortitude and immense strength, but there are other occasions when refusing to let go epitomizes weakness and fear. I've been struggling with this fine balance for most of my adult life. In the words of Deepak Chopra, "In the process of letting go, you will lose many things from the past, but you will find yourself." I think his Holiness the Dalai Lama articulated this contradiction best when he said: "Open your arms to change, but don't let go of your values."
I don't seem to have too much difficulty letting go of things, but when it comes to people, it's another issue entirely. What I'm trying to navigate better now is recognizing when it's prudent to let go of people in my life rather than simply running away from them like I've done on so many occasions. I'm working on cultivating a sense of trust in my decisions so that I don't equate walking away from someone as cutting the ripcord and free-falling to earth.
The older I get, the more I believe I only have room to successfully nourish a finite number of relationships at any give time. Maintaining healthy relationships takes a lot of effort, and I'd like to point out that I'm not complaining about that -- Making authentic connections with people has become the driving force behind everything I do now. Even though I've been married for over 26 years, it's only been in the past five months that I've started to view my relationship with my wife as relationship that needs to be nurtured daily. I've been guilty of taking the most important relationship in my life for granted, as I've mistakenly learned to let complacency and past resiliency govern what I cherish most.
When it comes to letting go of relationships, certain themes always rise to the surface. Does it have to be all or nothing? Can we relegate a primary relationship to a less significant connection? Am I able to disengage from an unhealthy relationship, or do I allow guilt and public opinion determine who I permit to stay in my life? So, how do you determine whether or not it's time to let someone go? Here is a list of five things I keep in mind before making that decision.
1. Is the person a balloon or a ballast?
Last spring when I disclosed to people close to me that I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, for the first in my life, I was able to make an honest survey of people in my life, and I determined that at this pivotal time when I'm most fragile, I want to surround myself with people who lift me up emotionally and spiritually. I don't have time for toxic relationships from naysayers who constantly tap my energy and self-worth. One of the most difficult things I've ever had to do was to decide to end my relationship with my mother. Even if I can get past the issues of physical abuse as a child, and the fact that she walked out on me when I was nine, I could no longer accept that every time I was with her I felt inadequate and unsupported. Sometimes walking away is the strongest thing you can do.
2. Relationships should be a zero sum game.
Every solid relationship is built on a bedrock of reciprocal love and support. Life is too short to be held back by people who seem to have an insatiable ability to drain my energy and time, and never offer support in return. I know this is a delicate subject because at times, we will all take more than we give, but I believe there needs to be a cumulative balance. Even when I spend a lot of time working with someone struggling in the early days and months of sobriety, the time I invest is richly repaid in feelings of industry, self-worth, and empathy that I receive.
3. Ask yourself who's in the driver's seat?
We all can benefit from constructive criticism, but hurtful communication be it bullying, pessimism, or malicious gossip can derail even the most resilient of us. I'm beginning to trust my intuition more and not let someone else's guilt, insecurity, or fears disempower my dreams -- my vision.
4. Don't not do the thing you can't not do!
Lifelines are good, but they can easily become a noose that tethers my growth. In the words of Christopher Columbus, "You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore." We all have a passion inside of us that once it begins to grow, it can't be silenced without losing a piece of our soul. Some of us are fortunate to find that inner calling early in life, while others struggle a lifetime trying to coax it to the surface. I believe there is nothing more attractive, more inspiring, than witnessing an individual pursuing his/her passion. As a spouse, a parent, or a friend, I have a duty to cultivate that nascent passion in others.
5. Nothing good ever came from people pleasing.
If you're a people pleaser, you yearn for outside validation, and if you're like me, saying "yes" to everyone and everything is almost like an addiction that fuels your sense of self-worth. The painful truth is that when I pathologically say "yes," nine times out of ten, I find myself trying to weasel out of something I've committed to. This has been such a painful psychotic dance that's played out many times over the years, so the strategy I'm starting to rely on as an antidote to this public embarrassment is to not give an immediate answer to other people's requests. Stepping back from the situation and analyzing whether or not I honestly am capable of fulfilling this commitment, allows me the "space" to respond authentically.
Missouri House Passes New Child Abuse Investigation Bill
by Sydney Ryan
The Missouri House passed a bill about child abuse investigations almost unanimously. Missouri House Bill 1092 helps individuals in family and social services by extending the time period for child abuse cases so a proper investigation can be made.
"One of the most important things that we can do, of course, in our community is to make sure we protect out kids and take care of them," said Representative Charlie Davis, District 162.
The bill gives case workers 30 business days rather than 30 calendar days to perform investigations and determine if it is child abuse or a false alarm.
"We also want to make sure that the kids that are taken from families because of abuse, sexual abuse, etcetera, that due process is given to them and if you do things too hurriedly, then I believe sometimes mistakes are made," said Davis.
Representative Davis says current workers are behind in their workload, trying to get everything done in the allotted time.
"That's one of the things that also we're going to be looking at: Increasing case workers so that way the workload isn't too high," said Davis.
The legislation was filed by Representative Bill Lant from McDonald County and has already cleared the House. Representative Davis believes the Senate will pass the bill, as well.
"I believe, given the case order of the 30 working days to file, make sure every thing is done correctly, all the I's are dotted and the T's are crossed is something that's vital to ensure the protection of our kids, as well as making sure the families get their word heard, also," said Davis.
Protecting children: Identifying signs of a child being groomed for sexual abuse
by Whitney Evans
SALT LAKE CITY — Special attention. Unearned extra credit. A chance in middle school to present a project with college students. Compliments.
When paired with hugging, touching her knee, comments about her body and appearance, and other behaviors, these acts were the signs that Jaime Heiner was being groomed for an illicit relationship by her ninth-grade science teacher at a Kaysville charter school.
Heiner learned to lie about the relationship with Stephen Niedzwiecki, 34, to her parents and others. It went undetected for two years. Now, she has advice for people who are in similar situations.
"If it doesn't look right, then it's not," she said.
Niedzwiecki will be sentenced in March for two counts of unlawful sexual activity with a minor and two counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a 16- or 17-year-old, in connection to the sexual activity with Heiner that started when she was 15.
But his story is not unique. He is one of more than 20 teachers, coaches or other people in positions of trust over children to go through Utah's courts in the past five years in connection with some measure of sexual abuse of a child.
In most cases, the perpetrator is not a pedophile but engages in a pattern of grooming to satisfy emotional or sexual needs by gaining trust and blurring boundaries.
Heiner's grooming took place through the school year: a special project in October, talking with her in his classroom while asking questions about her faith's stance toward sexual matters, games of Frisbee golf, a comment in March about no longer viewing her as a student, requesting a list of requirements a guy needed to meet before a kiss.
“It happened slowly. I mean, I had no idea what was happening until it was too late. … He was my teacher. I never thought that he would hurt me,” said Heiner, who turns 18 this month.
He kissed her in April. When she was no longer his student, the abuse began. The Heiner family, members of the LDS Church, had been hosting Niedzwiecki in their home so he could learn about their faith from missionaries. A few months after the abuse started, he became a member of the church. He asked her parents for permission to date her. They declined. He told her parents he would never touch her, Heiner said, "and at that point he had already been abusing me for months."
A question of trust
Most sexual abuse occurs at the hands of a person the child knows and trusts, according to research from the American Psychological Association.
The association estimates that 60 percent of abusers are those the child knows but who are not related to the child. This includes teachers, baby sitters, neighbors and family friends. About 30 percent are family members. Only 10 percent of perpetrators are strangers.
"I didn't ever see any of the grooming,” said Paula Jensen, a mother of four whose son was sexually abused.
In this case, it was the stepfather of her son's best friend.
Jensen described herself as a protective parent. She did not work when her kids were young and would sit outside when her son was playing.
Her son, Preston, was a good student and well-behaved.
He kept the memories of the abuse to himself, but the unresolved trauma began manifesting itself physically with stomach pain and bleeding. It turned into seizures between ages 21 and 28. Tests revealed that he did not have epilepsy; therapy sessions helped reveal the abuse.
The sexual abuse, which occurred during sleepovers, progressed in small steps, Preston Jensen said. It started with a touch or a rub, which seemed innocent coming from a trusted adult, and progressed to inappropriate touching and eventually to rape. It continued off and on between the ages of 8 and 13.
Dozens of Children Abused at Evangelical Commune, Adult Survivors Allege
Jesus People USA, Evangelical Covenant Church named in lawsuit. New film details claims of chronic abuse.
by Timothy C. Morgan
Dozens of individuals raised in Chicago's Jesus People USA Christian community (JPUSA) are alleging that commune members sexually abused them as children, while leaders covered up the abuse for years.
The allegations are contained in a 90-minute documentary film, released today online, and in a civil lawsuit, filed in January in Cook County against the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) and JPUSA in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood.
"My intent is to expose truth, bring it to light, because it hasn't been in the light," filmmaker Jaime Prater told Christianity Today . "No one loves JPUSA more than I do. It's my home. Why would I want to see Jesus People shut down? Do I believe that those in power need to step down? Absolutely. But it is my hope that the community can somehow get past this and safety precautions can be put in place to preserve the innocence of children.
"For the first time in the history of Jesus People, former members have come together and coalesced through this journey and have started to heal collectively. My ultimate goal is for reconciliation. When the chips fall where they may and appropriate action is taken towards leadership, I would love to walk in my childhood home again and see where I grew up. That's irrational. But I'm an optimist. Healing on all sides is certainly possible."
Prater said a young man, 10 years older than him, sexually abused him while both were living in the same dorm room. At one time, many JPUSA children had very limited contact with their parents and lived in extended families.
JPUSA is one of the last remaining residential communities dating to the Jesus movement of the 1970s. It has about 400 members and joined the ECC in 1989.
The commune once published the journalism award-winning Cornerstone magazine, produced the Cornerstone Music Festival from 1984 to 2012, launched REZ Band, and was active in exposing harmful religious cults. It also operates mercy ministries to the poor, homeless, and elderly in Chicago as well as a roofing supply business.
But as a community, JPUSA has been dogged by controversy since the 1994 publication of Recovering from Churches That Abuse . In that book, Ron Enroth, author and Westmont College sociologist, chronicled how former JPUSA members reported being spiritually abused. In 2001, the Chicago Tribune reported that JPUSA leaders held an "iron grip" on commune members. In both instances, JPUSA members denied the community or the governing council had engaged in spiritual abuse or was overly authoritarian.
In 2009, Prater used Kickstarter, a crowd-funding website, to underwrite his film on JPUSA. Five years in the making, No Place to Call Home alleges that many of approximately 150 children who spent their childhood living in the JPUSA community were molested, fondled, sexually abused, or raped from 1974 to 2004.
One individual in the film, Heather Kool, 38, now living in Georgia, filed the January civil suit against JPUSA and the ECC, seeking $100,000 in damages. Other survivors may sign on to the litigation.
In total, Prater has accounts of abuse from 73 individuals and has hosted a private area on Facebook, where survivors share their stories.
The film includes victims detailing episodes of abuse, including:
A male JPUSA resident who molested children was later allowed to become an instructor.
One young child, after being spanked, was fondled by an adult resident.
A woman who was sexually abused as a child, grew to adulthood, then had children who were sexually abused.
Three women allege that a member of the JPUSA council sexually abused them in separate incidents.
Prater said some of the children, after being abused, reported the assaults. But, he said, JPUSA elders often disbelieved these accounts and isolated the victims from interaction with other children—sometimes for years. Prater said he was among the children who were shunned and isolated.
On Thursday [Feb. 27], the ECC released a brief statement, saying, "We are aware and concerned for all parties involved. We take these matters very seriously. Because of current litigation, we are unable to comment at this time.
"We care about partnership with our local congregations, but in terms of governance each local body is an independent and self-governing entity. Our member churches run themselves."
JPUSA is governed by a council of senior members and has not released a public statement about the suit or the film itself. However, JPUSA leader Neil Taylor told the Chicago Tribune, "How we are having to respond is basically not to respond, based on advice we have received from lawyers."
Prater said previous efforts by survivors to motivate JPUSA and the ECC to address the cases of past abuse failed. "No one has paid attention. Thanks to the Catholic Church, sexual abuse is in the headlines almost daily. People can't stomach this anymore. Child sexual abuse is a whole different level, which commands attention."
So far, there has been little independent investigation of the abuse. In April 2013, Midwest Christian Outreach, a ministry focused on new religious movements and abuse within the church, published a report on JPUSA by Ron Henzel, senior researcher.
Henzel concluded in his report, "We hope JPUSA will avoid attacking the messengers... Yes, it is true that Jaime Prater no longer professes to be a Christian. Yes, it is also true that he is openly gay. But these facts do not invalidate his testimony."
According to DNAinfo, a Chicago news site, the Chicago Police Department in 2013 investigated JPUSA but did not find evidence of abuse and did not seek criminal charges.
A court hearing on Kool's civil suit is scheduled for mid-April.
Public sex offender registry coming soon, says Peter MacKay
Registry among 9 new measures proposed under bill advocating tougher penalties for sexual predators act
by Amanda Connolly
Names and addresses for some sex offenders could soon become public as the federal government announced a new bill Friday aimed at combating sexual predators.
A public, high-risk child sex offender registry is just one of the nine proposals highlighted in the proposed "tougher penalties for sexual predators act."
Justice Minister Peter MacKay made the announcement at the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre in Calgary Friday. He said a child's right to safety trumps an offender's right to privacy.
"This isn't to encourage vigilantism," MacKay said. "It's to encourage protecting children from past proven behaviours."
Canada does currently have a sex offender registry but the names and personal information of those on the list are not public.
Under the new proposal, personal information about high-risk child sex offenders for whom a public notification was issued will be available to the public.
Among the other proposals in the bill — which was formally introduced in the House of Commons Feb. 26 — are plans to share more information about offenders with the United States.
It's not clear what the criteria would be for that information-sharing to take place but MacKay says the decision would likely be made on a case-by-case basis and in consultation with police.
As well, the legislation proposes making it legal for spouses of those facing child pornography charges to be compelled to testify against their partner.
'It's our job,' says advocate Sheldon Kennedy
The changes represent a step in the right direction for hockey icon and sexual abuse survivor Sheldon Kennedy.
"These kids are vulnerable," he said. "It's our job as adults and as systems and as people that have influence over children to make a difference."
Kennedy was abused by his coach during his junior hockey career and received accolades for speaking out about it and working to end the negative stigma surrounding abuse victims.
A child advocacy centre in Calgary was named after him last year. It is a not-for-profit organization located on the University of Calgary campus that helps victims of child abuse.
He went on to co-found an organization called the Respect Group, which has created a range of programs to combat bullying and abuse in sports organizations, schools and workplaces.
Kennedy, who briefly played for the Calgary Flames in the 1990s, makes public and media appearances across Canada and regularly expresses his support for the Harper government's criminal justice agenda.
The one-time NHL player brought to light the sex crimes of his former junior hockey coach Graham James in 1997.
James has been convicted for sex assaults against four junior hockey players.
He was recently convicted on a second set of charges and sentenced to five years behind bars. James will get out of prison under statutory release in the summer of 2015.
Tougher Penalties for Sexual Predators Act
The legislation, tabled in the House of Commons Feb. 26, proposes the following:
Requiring those receiving separate sentences at the same time for contact child sexual offences against multiple children to serve their sentences consecutively — one after another.
Requiring those sentenced at the same time for child pornography offences and contact child sexual offences to serve their sentences consecutively.
Increasing maximum and minimum prison sentences for certain child sexual offences.
Increasing penalties for violations of release conditions and supervision orders.
Ensuring that a crime committed while on house arrest, parole, statutory release or unescorted temporary absence is an aggravating factor at sentencing.
Ensuring that spousal testimony is available in child pornography cases.
Requiring sex offenders to provide more information regarding travel abroad.
Enabling information sharing on certain registered sex offenders between officials responsible for the National Sex Offender Registry and at the Canada Border Services Agency.
Establishing a publicly-accessible database of high-risk child sex offenders who have been the subject of a public notification in a provincial/territorial jurisdiction.
Source: Department of Justice
Sex offender reported captured in Virginia
DENVER (AP) - Federal marshals say they have arrested a child rapist who cut off his GPS monitor and disappeared from Denver one week ago.
The U.S. Justice Department said Eric Hartwell, 51, was taken into custody in Norfolk, Va., on Friday.
Authorities say Hartwell was captured at a motel on Military Highway. They say Hartwell refused to surrender and officers broke down the door to arrest him.
Hartwell was serving a three-year sentence for refusing to register as a sex offender in Colorado.
He served time for failing to register in Washington and cut off his ankle bracelet a week after being paroled there in 2009. He was later captured near Dallas and sentenced to five years in federal prison in 2010 for failing to register.
Here's what you can do to stop child abuse and negelect in our community
by Cris Ornelas
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - Kern County Child Protective Services says they see about 1,800 reports of abuse or neglect every month.
Nearly two thirds of those come from people who are required by law to report, such as teachers.
Officials say if you believe a child's life is in immediate danger you should call 911.
"We also rely upon every neighbor, family, friend if they are aware of any child that may be at risk of abuse or neglect," said Monique Hawkins, program director for Kern County Human Services.
There are several keys to reporting child abuse--the first--to report the abuse quickly and not wait.
"The injuries may be gone, the family may have disappeared or moved, so we encourage people to call right away," Hawkins said.
State law governs how quickly they respond and reports that aren't as immediate don't get responded to first.
"If it's pretty vague it can delay the response time because we have to do a little bit more research or it may not rise to the level based on the information for us to go out," Hawkins said.
They say the other key is details. Time, place, address what you saw and names of people in the family all help case workers get to the child quicker.
"We try and gather as much information as possible about the allegations so we can make an assessment as to our response time," Hawkins said.
If you're wondering whether those calls translates into helping children in Kern County, of the 1,800 reports they get a month over half are substantiated and the department intervenes.
"From there will make a decision on whether that child can stay in the home," Hawkins said.
CPS says you don't have to have proof to call the hotline.
“Their information is anonymous so they don't have to give their name or telephone numbers," Hawkins said.
Experts say child abuse is most deadly for kids under 5 because there are no teachers or other mandated reporters to speak up for the child.
"Children who are under the age of five sometimes they are at home so they are not being seen by day care providers or teachers," Hawkins said.
So ask yourself this question: is there a child you know that may be abused or neglected?
If so, call the 24 hour child abuse hotline at 661-631-6011.
GSU relaunches child abuse helpline
The Associated Press
ATLANTA — Georgia State University officials say the school's Center for Healthy Development has relaunched a free child abuse helpline.
Officials said Thursday that the Prevent Child Abuse Georgia helpline has been relaunched with support from the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation.
The helpline was shut down in 2011 and began operating again on Feb. 26.
GSU officials say the helpline is staffed by operators from the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia and will operate Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Officials say the 1-800-Children helpline is meant to be used for support and referrals, but isn't intended to serve as a point of contact during a crisis situation.
Family agency awards child abuse prevention grants
by William Laney
LIMA — Reducing the frequency of child abuse is not just the government's responsibility, an Allen County administrator says, it is everyone's responsibility.
In an effort to help reduce the rate of child abuse in the area, the Allen County Family and Children First Council awarded grants totaling $33,951 to five county agencies.
“The bottom line is it is not just Children Services responsibility to reduce child abuse in our county, it is everyone's responsibility,” Allen County Family and Children First Council coordinator Jennie Horner said Thursday after the Allen County commissioners approved a plan for fiscal year 2015. “It is our responsibility as people that we work with our kids, and our parents. It is our responsibility to protect our neighbors and this money gives us an opportunity to educate our community, to educate our parents in an effort to lower the child abuse rate we have right here in our county.”
The money for the grants came from the Ohio Children's Trust Fund, which provides funding for child abuse and neglection prevention. The trust fund receives its revenue from surcharges on birth and death certificates and divorce and dissolution paperwork.
“We are going to use the money for parent education programs, for parent activities. We want to encourage parent engagement with their kids, family activities with the children and materials to educate families on coping skills when they are frustrated the things they can do to calm themselves down to prevent child abuse,” Horner said. “We were allocated $33,951, which we are very excited about, and we will use every penny of it.”
The local council is providing a $8,490 grant to the Family Resource Center for the Incredible Years parenting program. The program focuses on strengthening parent-child interactions, reducing harsh discipline and fostering parents' ability to promote children's social, emotional and language development.
The Auglaize County Development Disabilities board received $7,631 for the Incredible Years preschool program. The program focuses on strengthening children's social and emotional competencies, such as understanding and communicating feelings, using effective problem-solving strategies, managing anger, practicing friendship and conversational skills, and behaving appropriately in the classroom.
Connected Hands Helping Others, which will provide the a parenting program, received $7,751, the Partnership for Violent Free Families received $4,787 for parenting education, and the Lima Allen Council on Community Affairs received $3,595 for a Head Start nurturing and caring program.
The grants fit in with the Family and Children First Council's mission to foster child abuse prevention, to assist pregnant teens and to help children succeed in school.
Educating youth about dangers of sex trafficking
by Molly Hackett
Talking to teens on just about any topic can be difficult. That's unfortunate, because school age children from every socioeconomic background are at risk for a danger few parents know much about — child sex trafficking.
As a business meeting planner, I was stunned two years ago when I first heard about sex trafficking from a client. We investigated the issue and found that children and young women were being forced into the sex trade at some of the finest hotels in the country, including some right here in St. Louis.
The statistics are shocking. Up to 300,000 children are at risk for commercial sexual exploitation in the United States each year. According to the Department of Justice, 2,200 kids are reported missing every day. Within 48 hours, one in three runaways will be approached by sex traffickers, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
But the most shocking stat of all is the number “13” — the average age that children are recruited into sex trafficking.
As a parent, once I knew about sex trafficking, I couldn't stop thinking about those kids, targeted in their own communities and over the Internet, then lured into a nightmare of slavery.
Jane Quinn and I, co-owners of St. Louis-based Nix Conference & Meeting Management, realized we could do something about it. We began to talk about sex trafficking with every hotel where we do business. We ask hotel managers to set policies and train staff to recognize the red flags and report potential trafficking.
We also launched Exchange Initiative, a new social action organization that is presenting the national conference “IGNITE: Sparking Action Against Sex Trafficking” Sunday through Tuesday at the St. Louis Union Station DoubleTree Hotel.
We're bringing together all of the stakeholders — criminal justice, first responders, corporate travelers, not-for-profit and faith-based organizations, and educators — to learn how to fight sex trafficking.
At the IGNITE conference, we'll teach parents and educators exactly how to approach the issue of sex trafficking with kids. Adults really can give kids the tools they need to avoid this danger.
We can teach teens to identify dangerous situations. We can warn them about being lured into trafficking with promises of fame, fortune and a great life. We can show them the role that social media plays in sex trafficking, how to identify recruiters and what to do if a dangerous situation arises.
Sometimes teachers, administrators and school counselors are the only adults in a child's life who really notice and listen to them. School staff can learn the progressive warning signs of a student being forced into a life of sex trafficking.
Maybe you're not a parent or teacher, or you believe your child could never be approached. You may assume that human trafficking has nothing to do with you, or that there's nothing you can do to stop it.
If so, you would be wrong.
Anyone can help fight sex trafficking by being aware of the signs and learning what to do. Whether you travel on business or pleasure, watch for the “red flags” of a trafficking situation. Call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at 888-373-7888, local law enforcement, or the U.S. Department of Justice trafficking hotline at 888-428-7581 if you see someone who:
• Appears helpless, shamed, afraid, nervous or disoriented;
• Avoids eye contact;
• Is emotionally flat or confused;
• Won't speak for himself or herself;
• Gives scripted answers or inconsistent stories, or tells blatant lies;
• Has no personal items, money or ID;
• Shows signs of abuse, such as bruising;
• Appears malnourished;
• Wears inappropriate clothing;
• Has tattoos that reflect ownership or money.
Learn more about sex trafficking, the work of our organization Exchange Initiative, and the “IGNITE” conference at www.exchangeinitiative.com/ignite .
Hunting The Predators: Holding ‘Johns' Accountable In Human Trafficking Situations
by Elise Hilton
Let's stick with the hunting metaphor for a moment. In terms of our justice system, “johns” have pretty much been “catch and release.” You catch the (usually) guy, slap him with a misdemeanor, and let him go. Don't want to embarrass him, his family, put his job in jeopardy.
Thankfully, with rising awareness of human trafficking, this is changing. In today's New York Times, columnist Nicholas Kristof sheds some light on what's happening in Chicago.
Several police officers are waiting in a hotel room, handcuffs at the ready, when they get the signal. A female undercover officer posing as a prostitute is with a would-be customer in an adjacent room, and she has pushed a secret button indicating that they should charge in to make the arrest.
The officers shove at the door connecting the rooms, but somehow it has become locked. They can't get in. The undercover officer is stuck with her customer. Tension soars. Curses reverberate. A million fears surge. Then, suddenly, the door frees and the police officers rush in and arrest a graying 64-year-old man, Michael. His smugness shatters and turns to bewilderment and shock as police officers handcuff his hands behind his back. Michael had reason to feel stunned. Police arrest women for prostitution all the time, but almost never their customers.
Yet that is beginning to change. There's a growing awareness that sex trafficking is one of the most serious human rights abuses around, with some 100,000 juveniles estimated to be trafficked into the sex trade in the United States each year.
Kristof cites statistics that say about 15% of men in the U.S. has paid for sex in some manner, and that about 1 man in 100,000 will face arrest for that crime. He also says that laws have been tougher on people who download porn involving children than on those who pay for sex with minors. Why?
Thomas Dart, [Cook Co., Ill. sheriff], says that a basic problem is that the public doesn't much sympathize with victims of trafficking. He remembers his department once raiding a dog-fighting operation to free pit bulls, and soon afterward raiding a sex-trafficking operation to free girls and women sold for sex. There was an outpouring of sympathy for the pit pulls, he said, but some carping about why the department was in the morals business and worrying about sex.
But ever so slowly, Kristof says, we are starting to realize “that this isn't about policing morals but about protecting human rights.” It's starting to make more sense to hunt the predators than the prey, at least in this case.
Utah Department of Health Warns Teens About Dating Violence
by Dan Rascon
One in every four high school students who dated in Utah during 2013 experienced some sort of emotional, verbal, physical or sexual abuse. That's according to a new Youth Risk Behavior surveillance survey by the Utah Department of Health.
One of those teen abuse victims spoke to 2News' Dan Rascon about her experience. "It made me feel worthless, it made me feel like garbage," said Kelsy who didn't want to give her full identity.
It was during the last school year when she was a high school sophomore that she thought she met the boy of her dreams. "He made me feel important," she said. But six months into the relationship something suddenly changed. She says it started with emotional abuse. "He started saying that I was stupid," said Kelsy. "And he would call me names."
Then it turned physical. "He slapped me right across the face and I was in shock, "Kelsy recalls.
Then Kelsy says it turned sexual. "He kind of guilt tripped me. He kind of made me feel like I had to. Like it was my fault that he wanted it and it hurt him so I had to," said Kelsy. "Like I was just an option, something just to play around with when you get bored."
Still Kelsy refused to leave him. "I didn't want to see that he was not the one. I thought he was. I wanted someone," she said.
Unfortunately Kelsy's story is all too common. According to the dating abuse survey, 28% of high school students who dated or went out with someone in the past year reported to have been abused in some way. Here's how it broke down in other areas:
|• 22.7% of students reported being verbally or emotionally harmed one or more times by a dating partner. Females (19.2%) were more likely to report verbal and emotional abuse compared to males (11.7%).
• 10.7% of students reported being forced to do sexual things they did not want to by a dating partner. Females (15.0%) were more likely to report sexual abuse compared to males (6.3%).
• 6.9% of students reported being physically hurt on purpose one or more times by a dating partner.
• 21.9% of students reported being bullied on school property; with the majority (16.8%) being electronically bullied
"It is high," said Katie McMinn, the violence prevention specialist with the Utah Department of Health.
McMinn says as a result the Health Department is releasing a Healthy Relationships tool kit that they are trying to get into every school across the state. "This tool kit basically teaches teens how to communicate more effectively, resolve conflict and manage their anger," said McMinn.
She says some of the trouble signs kids should be looking for are, "Calling all of the time, texting all of the time, getting into a boyfriend or girlfriends phone or email without permission, extreme jealousy, and insecurity possessiveness, excessive anger and temper."
McMinn says help is available for victims of dating violence by calling the toll-free, 24-hour Rape and Sexual Assault Crisis and Information Hotline at 1-888-421-1100 or the Utah Domestic Violence Link line at 1-800-897-LINK (5465).
Barbara Higgins who is the family crimes and intervention coordinator with the Sandy Police Department says, "Teen dating violence is a serious problem."
She goes into schools all the time to talk to kids about the signs they should be looking for and how to prevent abuse while dating. "Generally kids are going to know deep down that something is not right, but a lot of times kids don't want to admit it," she said. The best advice she says is to tell somebody. "Tell a trusted friend or trusted adult," said Higgins.
Kelsy has the same advice too, "Be open with your parents about your relationships and also your feelings to and they can help you," said Kelsy.
To download the Healthy Relationships Toolkit or find more information on dating violence, visit http://health.utah.gov/vipp or join the Utah Teen Dating Scene Facebook page at www.facebook.com/utahteendatingscene
Suicides show how justice system fails rape victims
by Kate Cook
In the space of just over a year, two women in Greater Manchester have killed themselves because of their experiences as complainants in sexual offences cases. The challenge this poses to the criminal justice system should be immediately clear: both women acted as servants of justice, yet were so profoundly hurt by that experience that they ended their own lives.
Feminists have spoken of the “second rape” of post-rape interrogation and the criminal trial for many years – but nothing can illustrate the need to better protect of rape witnesses as sharply as these two tragic deaths.
Frances Andrade was a virtuoso violinist whose young life was already marked by abuse before she met schoolmaster Michael Brewer at Chetham's school of music in Manchester. In February of 2013, he and his former wife were found guilty of indecent assault against Andrade, perpetrated when she was a girl of 14 and 15. The ordeal of giving evidence against these defendants was such that by the time the verdict was issued, Andrade had killed herself.
Meanwhile, in February of this year, Tracy Shelvey jumped from the roof of a car park in Rochdale and killed herself after the man she and six other women had accused of rape was acquitted. Shelvey had given evidence twice, as a first jury had not been able to reach a verdict on all of the counts.
According to her friends, Shelvey felt alone with her struggle, even though she had been in contact with the police in a distressed state the night before she died. The Greater Manchester police and crime commissioner has suggested that the treatment of victim witnesses must be improved, and Shelvey's case is being reviewed by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
These two cases have much in common, but there are also striking differences. Andrade's abusers were eventually found guilty, while Shelvey did not feel she achieved justice. The man she accused was not convicted, but that does not absolve the justice system of its duty to protect her from harm. In contrast, Andrade died while the trial was still going on. The experiences of abuse about which the women testified were also different: Shelvey's case concerned an experience from adulthood, whereas Frances was a teenager when she was abused.
In many cases, though, there is often little to distinguish sexual crimes against adults and children. It is most commonly girls and women who are targeted for their vulnerability and abused through a sexual act by force, trickery, fear, or a combination of these. The crimes against them leave child and adult survivors with a sense of powerlessness; they may also feel that they were to blame for what happened to them. Indeed, many abusers will encourage this confusion about responsibility.
Many rape survivors also go on to face long-term problems with relationships, health or other aspects of their lives. In all, it is hard for those who have not suffered abuse themselves to understand how damaging sexual abuse can be for all its victims, whatever their age at the time of the crimes against them.
In the words of a survivor who gave evidence to the Stern Review of rape reporting in England and Wales,
They [juries] … don't understand how it feels to be raped. They don't understand that the person raping is trying to abuse the person and that they are rage-full and consumed with hate when they are raping. It is not a loving or lustful thing. They don't understand that rape is like being murdered but still being alive.
When the criminal justice system takes cases to court and fails to offer the complainants a sense of justice, the effect is distress similar to the experience of being raped. Autonomy and freedom are taken away. Survivors feel that it is their duty to testify, that they need to protect others and perhaps that they might be liable for contempt of court if they do not go through with the case. Their wishes for themselves are secondary to the pursuit of justice. Vulnerable witnesses might be given “special measures”, but they are not given adequate choices, legal advice or the preparation necessary to understand and plan for the kinds of questions they will face in court.
Other countries have put in place direct attempts to tackle this problem. There are laws in place in jurisdictions such as Ireland and France which grant survivors of rape and child abuse a right to legal representation. This right can begin at the point where someone is considering a decision to report and continue through the reporting process, through the trial and beyond, meaning that complainants are safeguarded at points currently managed in a relatively informal way.
In her classic text Rape and the Legal Process, Jennifer Temkin discusses models used in other European countries and argues that it is high time to consider implementing a similar approach in Britain. When offered the appropriate level of advice, knowledge and support at all stages of the process, rape survivors will simply have more resources to draw on as they fight to survive the judicial process.
The Joint Committee on Human Rights is currently collecting evidence) about the government's record on violence against women and girls. Hopefully they will hear about the cases of Frances Andrade and Tracy Shelvey, and will consider what can be done to ensure that our current system for protecting rape complainants is scrutinised afresh.
Better Protections for Vulnerable Victims
DA Touts Efforts to Curb Human Trafficking and Elder Abuse
by Kelsey Brugger
Two campaigns to assist vulnerable populations were unveiled in Santa Barbara this week. The first is a task force set up to combat human trafficking, and it largely focuses on young people. The other is a collaborative effort by the public and private sectors to reduce elder abuse. Both incorporate an assortment of resources and seek to protect the most susceptible members of the community.
Unlike other District Attorney's Office task forces??—??like one recently established to fight animal cruelty??—??the human-trafficking unit was created to determine to what extent the problem exists in Santa Barbara. “We need to prevent this,” said District Attorney Joyce Dudley. Since it was established last August, the DA's Office has arrested a handful of individuals and is working on several active investigations. “We're not going to wait around for statistics,” Dudley said. The task force is made up of 70 members from a slew of agencies including Homeland Security, Rape Crisis Center, child welfare, and faith-based communities.
Dudley, who's worked to prevent violence against women for much of her career, explained that Santa Barbara acts as a corridor between Los Angeles and San Francisco. It's a community that's easy to get in and out of, and some rings operate by moving up and down California, or even from the East Coast to the West Coast.
Some traffickers operate via websites like The Erotic Review and My Red Book, and minors are sometimes involved. Blog posts can include geographic locations and are often accessible temporarily or are written in code. Drugs, especially methamphetamine, are commonly used to drag a young person into such a lifestyle, explained Deputy District Attorney Mag Nicola, who plays a key role in the task force. In the past several years, Asian massage parlors have also been on law enforcement's radar.
A lack of treatment facilities is one of the key problems because victims are left without a safe place to return to, possibly leading them right back to their pimps, explained Deputy District Attorney Megan Riker-Rheinschild, who is heading the task force.
Educating law enforcement officers is a crucial component, Dudley explained, as the so-called “children of the night” are sometimes considered suspects rather than victims because of drug or theft involvement. “Unless we ask the right questions, we don't know that in fact they're trafficked victims,” she said.
Deputy Chief Probation Officer Steve DeLira??—??who has worked in the county for 27 years and is part of the task force??—??said he is seeing more girls self-disclose their sexual behavior to mental-health counselors, probation officers, or medical staff during entry exams. In 2012, Proposition 35 stiffened penalties for convicted traffickers, expanded outreach and training to law enforcement officers, and required traffickers to pay fines toward victim services.
Yesenia Curiel, program director at the Rape Crisis Center, explained the center's certified assault counselors accompany the victim if she or he must testify in court. “Many people may not consider themselves victims,” Curiel added, explaining that survivors sometimes struggle because they have feelings for the trafficker. “But there is no equality there.”
In North County, Ann McCarty, who is on the task force also representing the Rape Crisis Center, noted that tracking statistics is tricky and not always telling. An increase in the number of cases does not necessarily mean that it's happening more, she added, but that incidents are being reported more.
Vulnerable senior citizens were also in the spotlight this week as various agencies gathered Tuesday for a press conference about elder abuse. Dressed in bright pink T-shirts that read “#No2ElderAbuse,” the Santa Barbara Elder & Dependent Adult Abuse Prevention Council spearheaded the event to raise awareness.
Dudley??—??holding up a photo of her 90-year-old mother??—??told the crowd that most crimes perpetrated against elders actually come from the family and in the form of neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse and exploitation, and emotional abuse, or abandonment.
Dudley added elder-abuse crimes are largely underreported because victims feel as if they “won't” or “can't” come forward, due to dependency issues or physical disabilities. Sheriff Bill Brown also spoke and said that for every case reported??—??roughly 25 egregious cases are reported each year in the county??—??another 23 are unreported.
Marion Schoneberger, longtime Santa Barbara health-care professional, told the crowd about a personal experience with a young, seemingly exceptional caregiver who turned out to be financially abusing her father by buying items like a couple of extra boxes of Cheerios while doing his shopping. These small purchases added up to $30,000 over the last two years of his life.
Traumatic memories have mind of their own
by Annette McGivney
The trauma switch flipped on for me during three terrifying weeks in July 2010. After investigating a murder for a book I was writing, I had unknowingly triggered long-buried memories about my own violent childhood. For three decades I had successfully kept it a secret — especially from myself — that as a little girl I thought my raging father would kill me. Then at age 48, despite all the willpower I could summon, the truth exploded back into my life.
After experiencing nightmares, panic attacks and insomnia, I landed in a psychiatrist's office. The diagnosis: Delayed onset post-traumatic stress disorder. I was given a prescription for medication and told to seek counseling.
In the days that followed, I was like a boat cast adrift on stormy seas, and I had absolutely no idea in which direction to find land. Not only was I rattled to my core by the uninvited memories, but my adrenaline was pumping at full throttle 24/7. My lean body lost 15 pounds, I jumped at shadows and dreaded the death dreams that visited me every night in fitful sleep. Yes, I had survived a violent childhood, but as illogical as it seemed, I feared I would not survive what the memories were doing to me now.
My behavior, I would later learn, was textbook for a child who grew up in an abusive home with no comforting or protective adult presence.
“Most adult children (of abuse) reach adulthood with their secrets intact,” writes Judith Hermann, M.D., in “Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence from Domestic Abuse and Political Terror.” But “as the survivor struggles with the tasks of adult life, the legacy of her childhood becomes increasingly burdensome. Eventually, often in the third or fourth decade of life, the defensive structure may begin to break down ... Survivors fear that they are going insane or that they will have to die.”
I had excellent support from therapists and friends, but I was also in my own private hell. I was a person who had been the model of physical and mental health, and now I thought I was going crazy. Telling people that I had PTSD or that I was a victim of child abuse did not fit the image they had of me. There also was the societal pressure to “just move on.”
But move on to where? Within a few weeks of the PTSD diagnosis, I made my way to a meeting of a 12-step program called Adult Children of Alcoholics. As I sat sobbing in the musty basement of the Federated Church, I shared my terrible secret to a group of child abuse survivors who were not at all surprised by what I said. Another woman there had been nearly suffocated as a little girl when her mother held a pillow over her face. Other people told of experiences similar to my own at the hands of drunken and raging parents. Every person in that basement completely understood my raw terror and was unfazed by my story because it was also their story.
My journey toward healing started in ACA as I learned that PTSD is not a sickness. It is the mind and body's normal reaction to what is perceived as life threatening circumstances. But for adults who have experienced chronic, prolonged trauma — usually on the battlefield or growing up in abusive homes — this fight, flight or freeze reaction becomes deeply imbedded in the central nervous system and can make the challenge of recovering from PTSD daunting, and for some, seemingly impossible.
“Healing trauma requires a direction of the living, feeling, knowing organism,” writes psychologist Peter Levine in his book “Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma.” The key to recovery, explains Levine, is not in coping with the triggering aspects of PTSD but in dealing with the body's response to the original traumatic events and a “frozen residue of energy that remains trapped in the nervous system where it can wreak havoc on our bodies and spirits.” Just as the body's automatic reaction to a bee sting causes the skin to swell, traumatic memories induce a real-time fear response that overwhelms the senses.
While medication and talk therapy can help manage PTSD symptoms and are critical in the early stages, I found that the essential next phase was tackling the trapped energy — the poison that lies beneath the surface. Under the guidance of a trained trauma therapist, I tapped into my body's fear state by inducing trembling and revisited those episodes when I was on the receiving end of my father's rage. I went there again and again through Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) and Somatic Experiencing (SE) techniques. Every time I landed in those terrifying moments, my therapist steered me toward a different outcome. Instead of re-experiencing what actually happened, I chose escape. I envisioned calmly walking out the back door of my childhood home and down my sunlit driveway into the woods where I loved to roam. Eventually, that kid in me became convinced she was finally safe and could start to let down her guard.
I do not mean to trivialize or paint a happy face on the very real and harrowing experiences of people impacted by violence and PTSD. But I want to share my own experience as proof that there is a way to not only survive the effects of trauma but to rise above it. After three and a half years of working on my recovery every single day, I remain on what will be a lifelong journey toward healing. There is no reversing the past but I have found peace in the present.
For me there is even a bright side. That switch that flipped in me turned my life from dark to light.
For more info on local meetings of Adult Children of Alcoholics, go to adultchildren.org.
Ex-DHHS inspectors say Maine managers ignored child abuse
State officials disagree and say improvements are coming.
by Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey, Project Self-Sufficiency and the Sussex Warren Partnership to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse. The community-wide education initiative aims to mobilize adults and communities to prevent child sexual assault by increasing awareness of the warning signs displayed by predators and as well as victims. Educators are particularly interested in training middle and high school youth, their parents, teachers, administrators, coaches and other youth-serving professionals on how to recognize and prevent child sexual abuse.
Training sessions will be held at Project Self-Sufficiency on Thursdays, March 6 th , 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., and March 20 th , 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. Project Self-Sufficiency is located at 127 Mill Street in Newton. Participation is free and open to anyone interested in stemming the tide of child sexual assault, but advance registration is required. To register, or to find out more about the Enough Abuse campaign, call Project Self-Sufficiency, 973-940-3500.
Clarksville man uses erectile dysfunction as defense in child sex abuse case
by Tavia D. Green
CLARKSVILLE, TENN. — A 9-year-old girl who took the witness stand Wednesday afternoon told the Montgomery County Circuit Court jury she was there because she had been molested.
When asked who did bad things to her, she pointed her small finger at 71-year-old James Dickerson and said, “that man.”
Dickerson was indicted in May 2013 and accused of raping the girl, who was 7-years-old, at least three times between June 2011 and June 2012. Dickerson is charged with three counts of rape of a child and aggravated sexual battery.
The girl described in graphic details how Dickerson performed sexual acts on her when she was 7-years-old. It is the policy of The Leaf-Chronicle not to identify possible victims of sex abuse.
The girl said she told her mother about what happened because, “I didn't want him to hurt me anymore.”
The question that the jury must answer when they deliberate Thursday is this: Was Dickerson capable of raping a 7-year-old girl, because of medical issues he's had since he was diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer in 2007.
Dr. Peter Silkowski, Dickerson's physician, testified for the defense and said Dickerson suffered with erectile dysfunction as well as numerous other medical issues. Silkowski said he had treated Dickerson with medication for the disorder but nothing had worked. He dated June 2011 as the last time Dickerson sought treatment.
Dickerson spoke openly about his condition, when he testified in his own defense and said it was impossible for him to have sexual intercourse.
The alleged victim testified in detail about Dickerson's genitals and the state they were in during the alleged sex abuse. The details coincided with erectile dysfunction symptoms, according to Kimberly Lund, assistant district attorney.
A jury was selected Tuesday in Judge Mike R. Jones' court and the trial began Wednesday with opening statements and Lund, putting on all the state's proof including the alleged victim, her mother and law enforcement agents who investigated the case.
This was the first trial that Orson, the 19th Judicial District's facility dog, was used in a child rape trial.
Orson was not visible to the jury and was laying down under the witness stand while the alleged victim testified.
Detective DeMone Chestnut, a CPD investigator, testified that he interviewed Dickerson after allegations of sex abuse were made.
Dickerson first denied any sexual abuse had occurred, said the child had disclosed she was abused by other men and said there may have been different times when they were playing that the girl mistook it for sex.
“As far as I know. I didn't have sex acts with this child,” Dickerson said in the interview.
Near the end of the interview, Dickerson changed his story and confessed to the abuse.
“I will say I'm guilty and they can do whatever they want with me. ... I will say it did take place,” Dickerson said in the video. “I'm guilty of whatever they say I'm guilty of. I had sex with her. At this point it really doesn't matter. If she needs therapy I will say I'm guilty.”
Dickerson took the stand in his own defense Wednesday and answered, ‘no' when asked bluntly by his defense attorney, Travis Meeks, if he raped the girl. He said he gave a fake confession because he was intimidated.
“I denied it and denied and kept telling them I didn't do it, but when Detective Chestnut started getting up in my face, after being there so long I got nervous because he was intimidating to me,” Dickerson said. “ ... I confessed. I didn't want her to be on the stand or in this kind of environment. It's hard when you love someone and you see them go through this. I didn't do anything but I didn't know what else to do… I felt coerced into doing it.”
The mother of the alleged victim was the state's first witness and testified she noticed strange behavior from her daughter who tried to kiss Dickerson on the lips one day.
“I watched her try to kiss him in the mouth. It didn't sit right with me,” the mother said. “She was trying real hard in school, her grades were starting to slip and she wasn't making the good grades like she was before.”
She spoke with her daughter and the little girl disclosed that Dickerson had raped her and performed sexual acts on her several times over a one-year period. She then contacted the Clarksville Police Department.
The mother said she trusted Dickerson, who was formerly a preacher, around her children.
The trial will conclude Thursday with the jury instructions being read and closing statements. The jury will then be dismissed to begin deliberations.
(Video on site)
Teacher films herself, principal teasing autistic boy stuck in chair
Michigan fifth-grade teacher Nicole McVey used a cellphone to record a 10-year-old boy with Asperger's syndrome who had gotten stuck in a chair at Oaktree Elementary School in Goodrich. The teacher and the school's principal seemingly teased the child and asked him if he wanted to be 'tasered' before the video was replayed in class and forwarded to other staff.
by Lee Moran
A Michigan teacher is under fire after she filmed herself and a school principal teasing a young autistic student who got stuck in a chair.
Nicole McVey is facing calls to quit Oaktree Elementary School, in Goodrich, after she stupidly recorded herself and boss Michael Ellis taunting the 10-year-old boy who has Asperger's syndrome.
The video shows the pupil struggling to free himself from the furniture.
In the background, fifth-grade teacher McVey is heard mocking the youngster before Ellis chips in and starts to do the same.
She asks the boy whether he wants to be tasered and, on telling the kid maintenance is on their way with help, Ellis is heard stating, "It's not really an emergency in their book."
McVey bizarrely emailed the incriminating video to co-workers who ended up forwarding it to school administrators.
Ellis has since resigned from his post, while McVey is now facing tenure charges and could be fired.
"You hear of bullying by other students and other kids in class ... but I have never had a case with teachers and administrators bullying," said attorney Patrick Greenfelder, for the boy's family.
Greenfelder also revealed that his clients were considering filing a lawsuit.
It's not clear why McVey filmed the incident on a cellphone.
Goodrich School Board Superintendent Scott Bogner told ABC 12 that an investigation into the incident was under way.
He added that if the "behaviors are clearly not in keeping with the policies of the district" or "raise concerns about professional judgment" then the board would file tenure charge.
New Jersey teacher may lose job after students found naked in bathroom
The boy and girl, both 5, told the teacher they were ‘having sex.' The school board may remove her from her job but hasn't stated its reasoning.
by Joel Landau
The South Jersey kindergarten teacher who stumbled across two of her pupils naked and "having sex" in a bathroom was suspended for supposedly failing to supervise the students, a teachers' union official said Monday.
But Kelly Mascio "acted in a professional manner and responsibly reported the incident,” Mullica Township Education Association President Barbara Rheault told the Daily News.
Now school officials are looking to fire the popular teacher who has been with the district for 16 years.
So far the district has not said why they suspended Mascio with pay, but the police who investigated the incident have not charged her with a crime.
Macio got into hot water on Sept. 30 when she found two 5-year-old students — a boy and girl — naked in the bathroom at her classroom said.
She reported the incident immediately to her supervisor but was suspended later that day. The district conducted an investigation that concluded in December but so far Rheault said they have not released the reasoning for the suspension.
But the district may be moving to terminate Mascio from her position.
The board met Wednesday and discussed the situation in a closed session meeting that was not open to the public. The board did not discuss the matter with the public afterward – even though about 200 people attended to support Mascio, Rheault said.
The day of the incident was particularly busy as the class was undergoing state testing, Rheault said. Mascio had to usher kids in and out of the room so they could take the tests, she said.
A district must submit an application to terminate a teacher through the state Department of Education. A spokesman told the Daily News Monday morning they have not received any documents regarding Mascio.
“We question why the administration would forgo the disciplinary route available and taken one that is so severe,” she said.
Superintendent Brenda Harring-Marro issued a statement to The News Monday that declined to comment on Mascio's specific case.
“The district takes its responsibilities very seriously regarding the health, safety and welfare of our children,” she said, adding they do not comment on specific personnel matters. “Simply stated, it would be unprofessional and irresponsible for anyone associated with the school district to speak about school district students or for others to seek to capitalize on that unprofessional and irresponsible behavior.”
The superintendent added the “public reporting of this matter is neither complete nor accurate” though she did not elaborate or release additional information.
Teenage survivors of sexual abuse, incest must address long kept secrets
by Catholic Online
"I was only two years old when my father began molesting me," author Deborah King, an adult survivor of incest recalls. "At nine, he raped me, and continued to do so until I was thirteen. My mother ignored what was happening as my father abused me. As a child, this seemed like an even larger betrayal than what my father was doing to me. Having been betrayed by both parents is a devastating experience for any child." The road to recovery for any incest survivor, then, is an especially difficult one, as it must forcefully uncover long kept secrets and confront members of the survivor's family.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Incest has been around since ancient times and continues into the present day. Therefore, there are many popular misconceptions about this mostly secret crime.
One of the more common myths is that kids invent incest experiences. In fact, children don't invent experiences they've not had and most are afraid to talk about it when it is happening to them.
Another hateful misconception is that children "come on" to adults. In reality, incest is initiated by the abuser, usually accompanied by bribes or coercion and force.
Another myth is that the majority of child sexual abuse is done by strangers. The offender however is usually someone they know and trust - a father, stepfather, the mom's boyfriend, grandfather, brother, or uncle. Child abuse statistics show that 46 percent of childhood victims are raped by someone in their family. Boys are molested and experience adolescent sexual abuse too, but the great majority of incest is a male with the first or only daughter.
Another misconception is that children who are molested by a sibling are just exploring their sexuality. In truth, if the sibling is older and stronger and more in control, its incest and it's just as damaging as incest with a parent.
Deborah King, that author of the book, "Truth Heals: What You Hide Can Hurt You," says speaking out on abuse by a relative is "one of the most terrifying and most liberating things incest survivors can do. It helps to heal not only the victim, but also lifts the burden of secrecy by breaking the wall of silence that incest and family abuse hide behind for the countless numbers of us who have lived through this devastating experience.
"Silence is a major part of the problem of abuse," King said in a column in the Huffington Pose. "It takes a brave soul to break the code of silence: "This is our secret; DON'T TELL!" With an implied or direct threat of consequences - OR ELSE - if we do tell. It's the secret nature of incest that keeps its victims tied up in knots of guilt and shame, feeling 'dirty' and fearing the way they will be judged by others should they dare to speak their truth."
King notes that "more people are daring to speak out. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), the nation's largest anti-sexual assault organization, there was a big surge in people coming forward with their stories of adolescent sexual abuse after Mackenzie Phillips revealed her [incestuous] 'relationship' with her father."
She also says that calls to the National Sexual Assault Hotline, or 1-800-656-HOPE increased by 26 percent and traffic to the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline increased by 83 percent following these revelations. "As incest survivors know, we have to tell our story in order to start healing from abuse. Someone has to listen to us and believe us. The truth of our lives needs to be validated."
What's the State of the Church's Child Abuse Crisis?
by Sarah Childress
The first report that church officials received about Father Shawn Ratigan, compiled by a Kansas City Catholic school principal in May 2010, was troubling.
Ratigan had taken hundreds of photographs of children, Julie Hess, the principal, wrote to church officials. He had tried to interact with kids on Facebook, and sometimes had physical contact with children in ways that appeared to other adults to be “boundary violations.”A pair of girl's underwear was found in a planter in his backyard.
Parents and staff, Hess said, were “discussing whether he is a child molester.”
Bishop Robert Finn, who had authority over Ratigan, didn't alert the police then, according to court documents. (Finn would later say he had only received a verbal summary of the letter from a deputy at the time.) He also didn't call the police several months later, when a computer technician found hundreds of lewd photos of children on Ratigan's laptop, most of which appeared to have been taken by a personal camera.
Instead, the laptop was turned over to the diocesan lawyer, and Finn called a psychiatrist, who said he thought he could help with Ratigan's “severe loneliness that has caused this problem.”
In the meantime, as subsequent civil lawsuits would show, Ratigan continued to take photographs of young girls' genitals.
Ratigan was arrested in May 2011 for possession of child pornography. He pleaded guilty to five counts of producing or attempting to produce child pornography, and was sentenced to 50 years in prison.
Finn, who argued in court that because others in the diocese were tasked with reporting abuse he didn't have a legal obligation to do so, was convicted in 2012 for failing to report Ratigan to the police, and given two years' probation.
He is still the bishop of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese, in good standing with the Catholic Church.
That, say former priests and victims' advocates, represents the state of the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church today. More than three decades after the initial reports of abuse began to emerge, critics say that many bishops, who have authority over their areas of responsibility, known as dioceses or eparchies, seem more committed to protecting the church than preventing abuse.
The Vatican defrocked nearly 400 priests from 2011-2012 who abused children, according to Vatican figures. But while several bishops have resigned in connection with sex abuse scandals, of those who ignored offenders' behavior or even intervened to protect them, a scant few have been otherwise disciplined by the Vatican.
“That's the crux of the crisis,” said David Clohessy, the national director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, a victims' advocacy group. If the bishops have impunity, he said, “there's no incentive for them to reform. It's not even in their self-interest to reform.”
The Scope of the Crisis
It's difficult to estimate the full scope of the abuse crisis. While allegations first surfaced in the U.S., the problem has become a global one, with widespread reports of abuse emerging in Ireland, Spain, Germany, Italy, Latin America and elsewhere.
In the U.S. alone, 16,787 people have come forward to say that they were abused by priests as children between 1950 and 2012, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the organization for the Catholic hierarchy in the country. Those figures are incomplete. The data excludes, for unclear reasons, any people who came forward in in 2003. The conference also counts only allegations it determined were “not implausible” or “credible.”
Each diocese determines on its own whether an allegation is credible. A recent investigation of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis by MPR News found that after adopting a rule barring abusive priests from the ministry, officials raised the burden of proof for credible allegations. “Church officials created difficult, vague and shifting criteria for an allegation to be deemed credible,” the MPR investigation found, noting that church officials dismissed some cases because the people seemed “too angry to be believed.”
To senior church officials, the pattern of allegations, the bulk of which emerged in 1970s and 1980s, suggests that the abuse crisis is winding down. “The peak of the curve is not moving forward or broadening as time goes on,” said Al Notzon III, a layperson and chair of the conference's National Review Board, which is charged with helping to oversee the U.S. church's efforts to protect children, at a 2012 presentation to U.S. bishops.
Victims' advocates say it will take time to determine whether the crisis is subsiding, since most victims don't report abuse until they're adults. Either way, said Patrick Wall, a former priest and victims' attorney, the hundreds of new allegations that arise each year are still cause for concern.
What the Church Has Done
When the first allegations in the U.S. emerged in 1985, the Conference brushed off advice to take proactive steps to confront them.
“They made it clear that they did not think this was a problem,” Fr. Tom Doyle, a canon lawyer, told FRONTLINE. Doyle worked with another priest, Fr. Michael Peterson, and attorney Ray Mouton, to draw up guidelines for handling the crisis. Their manual recommended reporting allegations to civil authorities and cooperating fully with police.
The men mailed a copy to every bishop in the country at their own expense. But ultimately the Conference chose not to implement the guidelines.
“They were still operating under the belief that they could use their stature, the deference that they were accustomed to receiving from the American society … in controlling what they did not see to be a potential bombshell,” Doyle said.
Nearly two decades later in 2002, after The Boston Globe broke a series of stories detailing a broader crisis, the public backlash forced the church to confront the problem. The Conference founded a committee dedicated to protecting children, and established a charter with guidelines to prevent abuse and deal with allegations.
Most of the guidelines were similar to what Doyle, Mouton and Peterson had proposed in their 1985 manual, including reporting all allegations to the police and cooperating with investigations. Today, allegations are also supposed to be forwarded to a review board appointed by the bishop. The board reviews the evidence and makes recommendations on whether or how to discipline the offender.
“Perhaps the most important advancement for the church in the last decade is a realization of its leaders that cooperation with legal authorities is in the best interest of the church,” Notzon, the review board chair, said during his 2012 presentation.
Notzon said that most dioceses now follow that procedure, but acknowledged that not all do. “Those few cases that are not reported [to the police] quickly become news,” he said. “The harm that can be done to children — and at a distant second, the negative publicity that results — should serve as reminder to all of how important it is to follow canon law, diocesan policy and state law.”
The Conference didn't respond to an email and phone call seeking a comment on its handling of the crisis.
The Cost of the Crisis
When Doyle and his colleagues wrote their manual in 1985, they warned that abuse allegations could cost the Catholic Church $1 billion over 10 years if it failed to act. By 2012, nearly two decades later, it had spent more than $2.6 billion in civil suits in the U.S. alone, including therapy costs for victims and the price of defending the alleged abusers, according to the Conference.
The tally is likely to rise. In Minnesota last year, the state legislature passed a law lifting the civil statute of limitations for child victims of sexual abuse, clearing the way for more lawsuits. This month, the archdiocese of Los Angeles settled with 17 people who said they'd been abused as children by a priest or other church employees, for $13 million. The Kansas City diocese has so far spent $3.75 million to settle civil suits against Ratigan. There are two more civil suits pending against Ratigan.
A Problem for the New Pope
Critics of the Catholic Church say that recalcitrant bishops have taken their cues from Rome.
“Every action taken by every bishop and archbishop and cardinal in connection with sexual abuse is effective orchestrated and controlled by the Vatican,” said Jeff Anderson, a victims' attorney in St. Paul, Minn. “Every action taken has demonstrated to us that all roads lead to Rome and to the Vatican and to the papacy. And it is the papacy that has made the decisions historically and to the present to make sure that scandal is to be avoided.”
A year into his papacy, Pope Francis has suggested some willingness to confront the problem. Last year, he amended Vatican law to specify sexual violence against children as a crime and set up a committee in the Vatican to make recommendations for addressing the crisis.
But the Vatican also declined to cooperate with an investigation by the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, which found that, when it came to child abuse, “the Holy See has consistently placed the preservation of the reputation of the church and the protection of the perpetrators above children's best interests.” Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican's observer at the U.N., said the report didn't reflect recent progress in addressing the crisis.
The Vatican also recently refused to extradite Jozef Wesolowski, a Polish archbishop who has been accused of sexually abusing teenage boys in Poland and the Dominican Republic, and is believed to be living in the Vatican.
“That's on this pope,” said SNAP's Clohessy. “He's obviously a likeable, warm, humble, compassionate man. But many of us who were molested can say the very same thing about the priests who molested us, and the bishops who rebuffed us. … It takes not symbolic action, but real courage to say, ‘I'm demoting you, or kicking you out, because you put kids in harm's way.'”
Meanwhile, back in the U.S., more than 100,000 Catholics in Kansas City signed a petition asking the pope to initiate an investigation to determine whether Finn violated church law when he failed to take action on Ratigan.
Earlier this month they received a letter from a papal representative, telling them the letter had been forwarded on to the Holy See.
The Advocacy Center: Empowering Bystanders to Prevent Sexual Violence
by Erin Barrett
The Advocacy Center (AC) has provided support, advocacy and education for survivors of domestic violence since 1977, survivors of child sexual abuse since 1982, and survivors of adult sexual assault since 2003. In 2013 Joanne Farbman, the organization's executive director of 25 years, retired. The center moved locations, launched a new volunteer education program, continued to see decreases in government funding, and still served over 1,400 local men, women and children who needed their help.
New executive director Heather Campbell spoke about the center's mission to change the culture of violence and victim-blaming surrounding domestic and sexual violence through victim advocacy and educating bystanders to intervene. “We have two parts to our mission,” said Campbell. “The first is to provide critical services to victims of abuse and that's absolutely the bedrock of what we do. But we have a second, equally important part of our mission, which is creating change through education: changing the knowledge and attitudes of people in our community that allow abuse to continue.”
Among the critical services the AC provides are legal advocacy, such as assisting with orders of protection, support at court proceedings or social services, and accompaniment to law enforcement; medical advocacy through the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program at Cayuga Medical Center; crisis intervention through their 24 hour hotline; safety planning; shelter at a confidential safe house; emotional support in the form of counseling, case management, therapy services and referrals, and support and empowerment groups; and assistance with applying for NYS Crime Victims Board compensation.
Although Campbell is new to the position she is not new to the center. “I spent 12 years as our education director, and so I spent a lot of time going out and speaking with people about domestic and sexual violence,” said Campbell. “People are often really shocked when they find out we serve over 1,400 victims of domestic and sexual violence in any given year. Those are local people, local children, local teens and local adults who experience trauma. We know this is just the tip of the iceberg, those are just the people that reach out to us, and we know there's so much more need out there.”
So what does the whole iceberg look like? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that nearly one in five women and one in 71 men experience rape at some time in their lives, and “More than 3 million referrals of child maltreatment are received by state and local agencies each year—that's nearly six referrals every minute.” In 2010, the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, conducted by the CDC, found that one in four women have been the victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner, while one in seven men have experienced the same.
Campbell explained that one aspect of her new role is to educate the public about the services the center provides. “There are so many barriers to people reaching out for services,” she said, “so we try to get the word out that the services are here, they're free, and people can call anonymously.”
According to current education director Tiffany Greco, the assumption that the AC will try to convince victims of domestic violence to leave their partner is a significant barrier to victims reaching out for services. “We don't try to convince people to leave their partners,” Greco said. “That's not our role. We're here to offer the support and resources to help victims find safety, whether that's with their partner or not.” Greco explained that most victims of domestic violence do not leave their abusers for many reasons, including love, safety concerns, children, or a lack of resources. But whatever their reason for staying, the AC offers them the support and resources to navigate the situation in ways that work for the them.
“If I'm at a cocktail party and someone asks me what I do for a living, usually they respond: ‘Oh my gosh, how do you do what you do? It's so hard.' And it's true, What we do is hard,” said Campbell. “We work with people who are afraid and in danger, people who have been hurt in really profound ways. I see what we do as hopeful; creating change in people's lives is a very hopeful thing. But the education part of our mission is the most hopeful part of our work.”
The AC works in a variety of capacities in middle schools and high schools, providing workshops, educating teachers and guidance counselors in identifying signs of abuse, and providing support to child victims of domestic or sexual violence. The center not only has an educational presence in every school in Tompkins County, but assists victims in every school as well.
According to Campbell, research shows that youth attitudes regarding violence continue to glorify violence and perpetuate victim blaming. “Our culture supports victim blaming and not accountability for people who are abusing their intimate partners or sexually abusing or raping other people. So our work with youth is critical and is really still a little radical,” Campbell said. “We're looking at how we change the way people think about these things. We have a youth educator who goes into middle schools and high schools and talks directly with youth about healthy relationships and unhealthy relationships, about sexual boundaries and consent.”
On college campuses AC educators have been utilizing a research-based program called “Bringing in the Bystander,” that focuses on sexual violence and rape prevention. Unlike most efforts to change the culture around domestic and sexual violence by educating victims or perpetrators, the concept of bystander intervention calls attention to the fact that most people are bystanders to sexual violence and as such have the ability to make a difference. “The program educates people about what they can do as bystanders to interrupt and prevent sexual violence. In the post-tests we find a decrease in victim blaming, an increase in acceptance of offender accountability and an increased willingness to take bystander action, and that's what we want to see,” said Campbell.
But, according to Campbell, classroom education is only one element of changing cultural perceptions of violence. “When we look at how we create change, we understand that we have to work on all levels. On college campuses that means working on policy, working in classrooms, working with student groups, and working with the faculty and staff who help students when there has been a report of sexual violence. We're involved in RA trainings, and we work with student activists in different clubs and organizations on campus to sponsor workshops and events and to support the work they're doing to organize on campus.”
In her time at the AC, Campbell has seen a rise in local youth groups dedicated to talking to their peers about gender-based violence, domestic violence, and sexual violence. “There's a group at Trumansburg called Femtastic! They organized themselves and then came to us and said ‘Hey, we want to talk about this, can you help us?' The fact that it is a youth-driven group makes them effective in a very special way,” said Campbell. “They've been meeting for four years. They have around 40 members, both young women and young men, and they're doing a ton of stuff in Trumansburg. They hold community and school events, and they participated in the Take Back the Night march and rally. This year we helped them secure a grant to expand Femtastic! clubs into other local high schools. The model they've created has been really sustainable, so we're helping connect them with other resources.”
Outside of schools the AC is working to educate bystanders in the community through the newly launched “Enough Abuse” campaign. “The Advocacy Center [in Tompkins County] was selected as one of three counties in New York State to pilot the Enough Abuse Campaign,” said Greco. “The CDC called the campaign ‘a trailblazing effort to prevent child sexual abuse by building a movement of concerned citizens, community by community.'”
“We've trained 19 people who are going to partner with us to train adults in this community,” said Campbell. “They'll be trained on how to identify and interrupt childhood sexual abuse. This is so critical, because the work we do with kids to talk about boundaries and different kinds of touching and empowering them with tools to be able to say ‘No' and tell, that's all really important, but ultimately adults have to be responsible for the safety of children.
“There's only so much we can do through educationstaff, only so many programs we can run,” continued Campbell. “With this model our hope and goal is that over the next couple of years we're really going to saturate the community by talking to Rotary Clubs, PTAs, people's bowling nights and church groups. We're empowering people to identify when something is not OK and teaching them about what they can do to keep kids safe.”
According to Campbell, it's common, after a disclosure of abuse, to hear from people who say they saw something one time or another but didn't know what to do and so said nothing. “When you look at the Sandusky case at Penn State, there were so many bystanders who saw something and some of them saw things that were huge red flags, but because they were unsure and there was a taboo, or there was a supervision relationship involved, they didn't say anything. We want that not to happen in our community. So we're empowering people to see those red flags that an adult is not safe with children and teaching them what to do next.”
Most of the 19 volunteers trained by the AC are already involved in youth work in the community, including folks from the district attorney's office, the county attorney's office, law enforcement investigators, Child Protective Services, the Ithaca Youth Bureau, and the Ithaca City School District. “It's a bit of a who's who of people who are involved with child safety in our community,” said Campbell.
At the same time as the AC is launching new programs, their budget has decreased steadily since 2008 due to cuts in government spending. “This economy has been really difficult for non-profits. Since 2008 we've seen steady shrinking of government funding, which is the largest source of our funding,” explained Campbell. “We've had to cut 2.5 staff positions at the same time as we've seen client numbers increase. We've done all that we can to become more efficient and meet the needs of our clients. We've had an eight to ten percent decrease in our budget every year since 2011. If we're not able to raise the local money we need, we end up with holes in our budget, and we've already made all the cuts in our budget that we can without impacting core services.”
This year the AC is looking to raise a total of $85,000 locally through fundraisers, such as the upcoming Actors Workshop of Ithaca (AWI) gala event at the Hangar Theatre, sponsored by Madeline's Restaurant, Nail Candy, Agava, and Avanti. For the second year in a row the AWI will perform the Nora and Delia Ephron play, Love, Loss and What I Wore , as a benefit show for a local non-profit organization.
Unfortunately violence against women and physical and emotional abuse is incredibly prevalent,” said AWI Director Eliza VanCort. “I haven't met a single woman who hasn't been affected by it in some way. Everyone knows someone who has been impacted by domestic or sexual violence. One of the reasons we decided to work with the Advocacy Center is because unfortunately people don't like to talk about this issue, and in order for any organization to raise money there needs to be conversation. I wanted to give back to them for all of the wonderful work they do in the community.”
All proceeds from the gala—which takes place Saturday, March 1 at the Hangar Theatre and features a cash bar before the show and free savory and sweet treats provided by Agava following the show—will go to the AC. “At $22 a ticket, it's the cheapest gala you'll ever go to,” said VanCort. “It was important for us that people who want to contribute in this fun sort of way would be able to come. It's a fun, upbeat play. Every woman will identify with one of the monologues. Some of them will make you cry, some will make you laugh, and everyone will enjoy the show.”
According to Campbell, community commitments to fundraising, such as the AWI's gala, are particularly important to the AC. “There are some specific challenges to us around fundraising. There's still a taboo around talking about domestic and sexual violence. It makes people uncomfortable,” said Campbell. “It's one of those things that people would rather not think about, so it can be challenging to fundraise in that climate. This is a really wonderful community collaboration, not just with the Actors Workshop but with the Hangar Theatre as well. The actors are really amazing community activists in their own right who have donated their time to this—there are all kinds of layers of community involved in the gala.”
For tickets and more information about the gala visit actorsworkshop.biz/love-loss. For information on the Advocacy Center, including volunteer opportunities and support services go to theadvocacycenter.org.
If you are experiencing domestic or sexual violence or suspect someone you know is being abused, the Advocacy Center has counselors and advocates available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for free and confidential help. The 24-hour hotline number is 607-277-5000.
ID Check: America's Story and Mine
by Leela Ginells
“With the exception of the police and the military, the family is perhaps the most violent social group, and the home the most violent social setting in our society.” (“Violence in the American Family,” Richard Gelles & Murray Strauss)
Finding accurate statistics about childhood sexual abuse in our culture is, in my experience, not possible. Reporting abuse requires a combination of agency, bureaucratic fluency and social capital, which children, on their own, don't possess. Tragically, this leaves children uniquely vulnerable to violation.
The statistics one does find reflect this dynamic, such as an FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin suggesting only 1 to 10% of child sexual abuse survivors ever disclose their experiences, or a report from the Children's Assessment Center, finding that 73% do not disclose within the first year.
This silence on the children's part, a group I once belonged to, belies a problem of epidemic proportions. The Department of Justice reports that the sexual assault victimization rate for 12 to 17 year olds is 2 to 3 times higher than it is for adults.
The most vulnerable age for these assaults, according to the Crimes Against Children Research Center, is 7 to 13, with the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center's website reporting the median age as being 9.
A nine year old, of course, would not know facts such as these, or possess a frame of reference with which to understand the horrors they hint at.
While our culture has long demonized strange men in vans lurking near schools as our children's greatest threats, the data paint a different picture regarding perpetrators.
A USDOJ report concludes that 90% of childhood sexual assault survivors knew their attackers. Similarly, the National Institute of Justice tells us 3 out of 4 survivors are assaulted by someone they know well.
While the number of reported sexual assaults against children each year is small, the percentage of adults who self-report having experienced such attacks are not. According to Crimes Against Children Research Center statistics, 20% of adult females and 5 to 10% of adult males identify as childhood sexual abuse survivors.
My experience correlates with the story I see in these gruesome numbers. I was raised by my perpetrator, in a “most violent social setting,” as Gelles and Strauss put it. Faced with overwhelming hopelessness, I blocked out all detail of the assaults.
Like other non-disclosing survivors, I carried the burden of what had transpired mutely and in isolation, unwittingly surrounded by others who shared my shattering experience.
Statistics demonstrate that children who survive such assaults, through their experience of violation, likely imbibe terrible lessons about life.
Revictimization is a nauseatingly prevalent trend among child sexual assault survivors. According to the National Center for Victims of Crime more than 60% of women who suffered sexual abuse by a family member also reported a rape or attempted rape after the age of 14, a statistic found consistently across multiple studies spanning 20 years.
This, too, was the case with me, as I experienced assaults from a classmate in middle school and a family acquaintance during my adolescence.
What becomes of this invisible class, children subjected to sexual assault, often from “loved ones” on whom they're dependent, who silently bear their secret wounds with no capabilities for understanding or healing them?
The picture painted by available data depicts a group desperately attempting to cope with pain, numbing or escaping it via drug and alcohol addiction or unsafe sexual practices.
The American Psychiatric Association links childhood sexual abuse to an “accelerated risk” for substance abuse, pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, a view echoed by the group Advocates for Youth. The organization Darkness Into Light, which is dedicated to the prevention of child sex abuse, estimates that 60% of teen first pregnancies are “preceded by experiences of molestation, rape or attempted rape.” They report, likewise, that more than 75% of teen prostitutes have experienced sexual abuse.
These patterns are emblematic of the injustice life in our culture hands to child sex abuse survivors. Rather than pursuing future satisfaction and contentment, we spin, in anger, confusion and futility, harming ourselves and, at times, others, ignorant of our own motivations, our perpetrators facilitating our misery through denial and escaping all punishment for their crimes.
The long healing process, should one undertake it, from repressed trauma, involving weaning one's self from addictive behaviors, facing and processing nightmarish memories and taking stock of unfathomable loss, can feel, like the assaults themselves, private and shameful.
Coming out of the shadows, cleansing one's spirit, and shedding the fear, anger and despair one has known for as long as one can recall, can take what feels like ages. It's the price of the violence our society commits against its most vulnerable, and the cost of seeking a life unaffected by crimes that should never have occurred.
Camas residents Jennifer Chilton and Kimberly Abell are working to protect other sexual abuse survivors
by Heather Acheson
As children, sisters Jennifer and Kimberly never felt safe. Never.
At a time when most youngsters are being loved, protected, cared for and nurtured, their reality instead was a home filled with abuse, mistreatment and secrets.
While growing up in California, from the time they were toddlers to into their teen years, Kim Abell and Jennifer Chilton suffered sexual, physical and psychological abuse at the hands of their father, a former police officer, private detective and Marine.
“He knew how to hide his tracks, he knew what would be noticed and what wouldn't,” Chilton said. “We were groomed from a very young age to pretend that we were Daddy's best friend, that we were Daddy's little girls — all of that.”
Nobody, not even their mother, knew the abuse was happening until a series of events played out that resulted in the long-kept, dark secrets finally coming to light.
Their father was subsequently convicted in 1991 on child sex abuse charges, sent to jail, then released in 2002.
By that time, Abell and Chilton had moved on with their lives. Abell was living in San Francisco and Chilton was married with children — living in a home not far from the one where she grew up.
Unfortunately, all of the horrible feelings and memories of their childhood resurfaced again when their father sent Chilton an email.
“It was a very scary moment,” she said. “It had been 11 years, we had started lives and families, made ourselves safe and confidential in a lot of ways, and created this whole world. And now he's out. What do we do with that? Is he going to come get us? There is still that fear, even as adults.”
Chilton contacted law enforcement officials, and others who had been involved in their case. While they all empathized with the sisters' situation, they admitted there was little that could legally be done. There were no laws restricting offenders from contacting their victims after they had served their sentences and been released from jail.
The suggestion was made that they consider lobbying legislators to get the law changed.
“I was angry and fueled, so I did,” Chilton said. “I wrote to every single one of them.”
California State Assemblyman Todd Spitzer, a well-known victim advocate, stepped forward to help propose legislation that automatically prohibits sex offenders from contacting their victims when released on parole. Chilton and Abell testified in support of the bill, and in 2006 the legislation passed and was signed into law by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Today, Chilton, 39, and Abell, 35, call Camas home and are working with State State Sen. Ann Rivers (R-La Center) to get similar legislation passed in Washington. Their hope is to protect the victims of sexual abuse, so they aren't re-victimized by their abusers.
“We are aware of how much power they have over you, particularly when you are a child and it's a family member that's been grooming you,” Abell said. “There's this power that we have to combat.”
‘Like a war zone'
The sexual abuse started when Jennifer and Kimberly were just toddlers.
Their father had a difficult time holding down a job, which put their mother in the role of being the family's primary breadwinner.
“She was not around a lot,” Abell said.
They said Jennifer, the oldest daughter, was groomed as their father's “girlfriend,” often receiving gifts and praise from him.
“When you are young and you are groomed in this way you are made to feel like this is happening to you, and even though it's torture and it's painful and there are so many horrible things about it, it makes you special. It makes you stand out in some way,” Chilton said. “I knew that it was wrong, but I also felt maybe this kind of thing is happening in every home, we just didn't know it because nobody knows it's happening to me.”
Abell, on the other hand, was put down, often demeaned by their father. She fought against his abuse, once even threatening to call the police.
Several factors kept the sisters from sharing the details of their abusive situation with anyone.
Their father used intimidation — he would threatened to kill them, their mother or their friends.
“It was constant mind battles,” Abell said. “It was like a war zone.”
There was also fear over what would happen to them if their father wasn't in their lives.
“So if I tell, my daddy is going to jail,” Chilton said, explaining her thoughts at the time. “But he was also feeding me and clothing me and taking care of me because my mom was absent. He was making sure I had what I needed, participating in school stuff — he was the involved parent. So it was a weird dichotomy. If you lose one side of the parent you have to lose the other, and as a child that feels like everything.”
The uncovering of the sexual abuse that was happening in their home came unexpectedly.
Their mother discovered their father was having an affair with a co-worker. The couple fought over the issue and, believing his daughters, ages 13 and 16 by then, would soon reveal the sexual abuse, he immediately fled to another state.
“He assumed we were going to spill our guts right away, so he never came home,” Chilton said.
But fear of his possible return continued to keep them quiet — at first.
Both girls were happy and relieved to see their father leave — reactions their mother found strange.
“She thought we were suppressing our feelings, so she took us to a therapist to talk about it,” Chilton said.
That is when first Jennifer and then Kimberly admitted to the therapist, and then their mother, that their father had been sexually abusing them for many years.
Their father remained at large until he was finally captured by police six months later.
In videotaped testimony, both girls helped to convict their father on 17 counts of child sex abuse. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison, but was released on good behavior after serving only half of that.
That's when his email showed up in Chilton's inbox.
“You could tell that he hadn't grown a day or learned a thing while he was in prison,” Chilton said. “He was still talking to us as if we were children, and not as if we were 30-something adults.”
When Chilton saw that email, she figured it was her father's ticket right back to jail.
“I was so elated that he contacted me at first because I thought, ‘now he is going back to prison — I can feel safe again,'” she said. “We had no idea that he was allowed to contact us while he was on parole. We assumed it would be against the law. Then when it wasn't, I was so angry and so let down.”
“We felt victimized again,” added Abell.
Motivated by the desire to protect the vulnerable, the sisters helped to get the law passed in California in 2006 that now automatically prohibits convicted sex offenders from contacting their victims while on parole.
The following year Abell moved to Camas with her husband, Marc. Chilton, her husband David, and their four children followed in 2013.
With the help of Sen. Rivers, this year the sisters again decided to work to make similar changes to Washington law.
On Feb. 12, the State Senate approved SB 6069. It allow victims to request notice from the state Department of Corrections when a specific sex offender is released or transferred. The bill also authorizes the DOC to require a sex offender to refrain from having contact with the victim of the crime or an immediate family member of the victim as a condition of the offender's parole.
“We need to do whatever we can to protect victims of sexual abuse and their families,” Rivers said. “And if something as simple as notification of an offender's status and whereabouts helps a victim feel a little bit safer, then it's a no-brainer ‘yes' vote for me.”
Under current law, the judge or the DOC has the option to require that perpetrators not contact victims when they are released from prison.
“But it's rarely implemented,” Abell said.
SB 6069 is currently being considered by the House of Representatives. The proposal has so far seen no opposition, so Chilton and Abell are cautiously optimistic that it will pass during this legislative session, then be signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee.
Once again working to advocate to protect victims of sexual abuse has brought emotions to the forefront for both women.
Abell said she has mixed feelings about discussing the abuse she suffered as a child, primarily because with the help of cognitive therapy she has learned to cope with and overcome it. She has gone on to have a successful career, and build a happy life with her husband and their daughter.
“I have come so far, and I don't want to be labeled a victim,” she said. “If you don't know me, it sounds like it is a label I wear on my shoulder. It's not a badge. I am a strong woman and my past has helped shape me. But I don't want to be defined by my past, so that's what's hard.”
Alternately, Chilton said talking about the abuse publicly has in many ways helped her move forward.
“I feel like every time I say it, a little piece of it comes out and is gone.”
Through it all these sisters have come to rely on each other, and along the way built a relationship that is unbreakable.
“We have just become a good team together,” Chilton said. “I don't think any of this could happen, we couldn't be the people we are fully, or conquer what we conquer together in the world, or even separately, without each other. Without being able to lean on or bounce things off of each other. You know you have the support of one other person in the world so strongly, who knows where you come from.”
Today, they have created their own niche in the world — a place where they feel confident, powerful, loved, protected and maybe most importantly — safe.
“I woke up one morning, after several years of being married, and it just hit me — we are safe,” Chilton explained. “Nobody is going to hit us, nobody is going to yell at us, nobody is going to hurt us. People take it for granted that they are just safe. I never thought that there would be such a thing as true safety.”
Raising awareness of child sexual abuse in Jewish communities
by MANNY WAKS
This week I will travel to Israel to attend the inaugural international conference on child sexual abuse within the global Jewish community, sponsored by the Haruv Institute and Magen.
This is a remarkable event for me, one I could not have envisaged when in mid- 2011 I finally shared publicly my personal story of child sexual abuse at Melbourne, Australia's Yeshivah Center, where I, as a child, studied and prayed as a member of a very large, insular Chabad- Lubavitch family and community.
Coincidentally this conference takes place in the country where I became determined to finally take a public stand on this issue. At the time I was undertaking the Nahum Goldmann Fellowship, and one morning in Jerusalem, as I read an online article in a major Melbourne newspaper that reported an ongoing police investigation into child sexual abuse, I knew I had to act.
I understood there would be significant ramifications, though as most decisions of this sort tend to unfold, I could not have foreseen the extent of the fallout, including the severity of the backlash against myself and my family. My decision, which I do not resile from for one moment, marked the beginning of a long personal and professional journey. I certainly now arrive in Israel a far more mature spokesperson for victims of child sexual abuse, and a very long way from the silenced 18-year-old who left Australia in 1994 to join a combat unit of the IDF.
This inaugural conference stands as a milestone in the significant progress that has taken place over the past few years within the global Jewish community on issues related to the controversial and sensitive topic of child sexual abuse.
While many are still yet to fully grasp the crisis we are facing – indeed some remain in remarkable denial, both regarding the abuse and subsequent cover-ups – it is now clear to most people, especially professional advocacy and support groups, that this is a communal crisis affecting the global Jewish community, and it must be confronted.
It is reputably accepted that one in three to four girls and one in five to six boys experience some form of sexual abuse before they turn 18, and sadly it can be credibly argued that the incidence may be even higher within some segments of the Jewish community. For example, in the ultra-Orthodox community, large family sizes, the taboo nature of sexual matters and certain rituals like daily use of the mikveh by males, create an environment that offers opportunity for abuse. This is reinforced by a strictly hierarchical communal structure that in practice ensures the silence of victims, thereby making repeat offenses all the more likely.
Despite the preponderance of recent cases of abuse within the institutions of ultra-Orthodoxy, which has regularly featured in global media, these crimes are committed throughout our community, in fact most commonly within families.
In the vast majority of cases, victims of child sexual abuse know and respect their perpetrators.
A number of organizations dedicated to this issue have been created in recent years. In Australia, I founded Tzedek in 2012. In South Africa, Kidsafe SA was established in 2013. Similarly, in the United Kingdom, Migdal Emunah was founded in 2013, and in Israel of course there is Magen. In the US, Jewish Community Watch was established in 2011, though it was recently forced to close due to lack of financial support. And there are others.
It is essential that we, as citizens of the global Jewish community, educate ourselves on the plight of victims of child sexual abuse, as well as institutional cover- ups that have occurred (and are still occurring) within our communities.
Understanding and acknowledging the past will help ensure we are better equipped to mitigate risks and is critical to achieving the cultural change we so desperately require.
The fact that the issue of child sexual abuse in Jewish communities has now become part of public discourse has generated much-needed awareness and has empowered parents, guardians, schools and others who are in regular contact with children to better address the issue of child sexual abuse. Importantly, it has empowered victims and given them a long awaited sense of acknowledgment.
However there is a very long way to go.
There needs to be a continued investment – moral, financial and religious – in the organizations dedicated to this issue and the work we have ahead of us to address and rectify past wrongs, find justice and educate the next generation.
Jewish groups, secular and religious, need to actively encourage and empower victims to disclose their abuse in a safe and supportive environment. It is important to note that tragically, it takes on average 25 years for victims to disclose their abuse, after decades of trauma and isolation.
In Australia the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, a government-sponsored inquiry with wide judicial powers, has been established at a federal level. Thus far it must be considered a success, and a model governmental approach to address institutional child sexual abuse. I look forward to attending this conference where the issue of child sexual abuse within the global Jewish community can be discussed openly with the urgency and legitimacy it deserves, for the benefit of past and present victims, and to ensure we are better equipped to create a safer future.
Enough! No more silence.
The author is the founder & CEO of Tzedek and has held numerous senior leadership positions within the Australian Jewish community.
Child sexual abuse royal commission: Girls 'drugged and raped' at NSW state-run homes
by Justine Parker
Girls as young as 10 were raped and drugged at a state-run home in New South Wales, the child sexual abuse royal commission has been told.
The allegation was detailed on the first day of a public hearing into abuse at two girls' homes.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is looking into abuse allegations from between 1950 and 1974 at the Parramatta Girls Training School in Sydney and the Hay Institution for Girls in the Riverina region.
In her opening address, counsel assisting the commission Caroline Spruce said the evidence would show some girls were drugged before being sexually abused by officers at the homes, while groups of girls raped other residents.
"Some girls were sexually abused in the shower room and others in the offices of the superintendant or deputy superintendant of the institutions," she said.
Audio: Listen to Sarah Dingle's report (PM)
"The evidence will also disclose that some girls were forced to take a drug, Largactil.
"I understand [the drug] is ordinarily used to treat severe depression and behavioural disturbances.
"There will also be evidence that on occasions this drug was used to subdue girls prior to sexually abusing them.
"There will also ... be evidence that girls were sexually abused by older girls."
Girl beaten and raped a week after arrival
In 1958, when aged 16, Fay Hillery was sent to the Parramatta school.
She told the commission an officer there, Superintendant Donald Crawford, began beating and raping her about a week after she arrived.
"At no time was I ever submissive," Ms Hillery said.
"I fought, I screamed, I bit, I kicked, I punched. I went to the toilet - anything to stop him from abusing me.
"This would make Crawford so much angrier. He wanted to dominate. I think he wanted to beat me into submission."
Ms Hillery says she spent eight of her 10 months at Parramatta in isolation.
She says she was too ashamed to tell anyone about the abuse and never sought compensation.
'Exposed to moral danger'
A second witness, known as OA, was sent to the Parramatta school in the 1950s because she was deemed to be in moral danger, but she told the commission it was at the school that she was exposed to moral danger.
She says she lived in fear of the officers in charge, at least two of whom raped her while she was living at the home.
"You are in constant terror there. (They are) supposed to teach you and to protect you," she said.
OA says she had a miscarriage after being raped.
Another former resident says girls were gang raped and abused by other girls living at the facility.
Wendy Kitson, who was sent to the home in 1962 aged 15, has told the commission she was also abused twice by older girls at the home.
"I saw them attack another girl on another occasion. I made it my business not to be alone with them," she said.
"I didn't want to be in a vulnerable position. I tried to sit around officers or other girls I trusted so they couldn't get at me."
Time limits on compensation claims 'should be removed'
Wendy Patton, who was sent to the home in 1958 aged 13, is calling for time limits on compensation claims to be lifted for abuse survivors.
Survivors and victims' groups say it often takes many years for a person to be able to speak out about their experiences, by which time the statute of limitations has passed.
Ms Patton was awarded $37,500 in compensation for the abuse she received at Parramatta. She was one of the few women who was sent to the home who made and was awarded such a claim.
"I believe the statute of limitations should be removed for people wanting to report child sexual abuse," Ms Patton said.
"That's my main motivation for telling my story to the royal commission. I want children to have a voice and to be heard and believed."
Former residents have not been compensated for the abuse as many did not make formal complaints at the time.
Both homes were closed in 1974 after widespread protests against the horrific conditions endured by the residents.
The hearing continues for the rest of the week.
Senate expands time for child sex abuse victims to bring actions
by Rod Boshart
DES MOINES | Victims of child sexual abuse would have more time as an adult to bring criminal or civil action against adults who preyed upon them when they were minors under a bill passed by the Iowa Senate on Monday.
Senate File 2109, which was approved by a 49-0 margin, would extend the statute of limitation to bring action to 25 years after an abused child had turned 18 years of age. The current limit is 10 years year after an abused child attains the age of 18, although some provisions have longer time frame that, too, are extended to 25 years under the legislation that now goes to the Iowa House for consideration.
“This gives child sex abuse survivors a fair chance at justice,” said Sen. Steve Sodders, D-State Center, floor manager of a bill that was amended to also extend statute of limitations for criminal offenses of lascivious acts with a child, assault with intent to commit sexual abuse, indecent contact with a child, lascivious conduct with a minor and sexual misconduct with a juvenile from the current three years to 10 years after the victim's 18th birthday.
“For years persons who suffered sexual abuse, often at the hands of trusted family members and friends, have been denied access to justice,” he said, citing “the atrocities of Penn State” and “almost daily” news accounts of horrific crimes against children in advocating for passage of S.F. 2109.
Sodders said the bill “cures” an injustice caused by “unfairly” short time lines for victims of sexual abuse while they were a minor to bring criminal or civil action once they reach adulthood.
Such short statutes of limitations “protect predators and silence our victims,” he said.
During subcommittee and committee work, Sodders said, senators heard from experts who indicated it often takes victims until they reach their 40s to understand what happened to them and to come forward.
Sen. Roby Smith, R-Davenport, said the legislation “will protect children for years to come” in urging his colleagues to vote for the measure.
In other floor action in the Iowa Senate Monday, judges would have the discretion to include pets or companion animals in a protective order covering victims of domestic violence and their minor children under a measure approved by a 49-0 vote. A judge could issue a contempt citation for violating the order.
Palm Beach County woman pushes to change state sex abuse laws
Ashley Foster said she was molested by cousin
by Dan Corcoran
BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. - A Palm Beach County woman who says she is a survivor of child sex abuse is now in the battle of her life for future victims. This, after a statute of limitations ran out, keeping her from prosecuting her alleged abuser - her own cousin.
After six years of silence, Ashley Foster finally found the courage to say this: "I had just turned 13 and my cousin started to molest me." Sexual abuse - on a weekly basis, she says, at the hands of her cousin - who is ten years older. "It's out," she said." Ok. Now what are we going to do?"
She went to counseling and then to the Boynton Beach Police Department. Ashley and her parents worked with investigators to press charges against her cousin - but it was already too late. "I finally get the courage to say something and nothing at all can be done about it," she said.
State law says charges against those who molest children aged 12 or older have to be brought within three years of the alleged abuse. For Ashley, the Statue of Limitations had run out just 60 days earlier.
Now this young woman is pushing to change that state law. She recently went before a senate committee in Tallahassee to tell her story. "They had all the evidence they needed, but yet they still couldn't do anything," she told lawmakers.
The panel voted unanimously to push Senate Bill 494 forward. "We're sorry for that and hopefully we'll fix it for victims going forward," said one lawmaker.
Ashley will never be able to press charges against her cousin. But she and her family are now fighting for future victims of sex abuse. "She's doing something that's going to help someone else or other people in the future," said Salah Foster, Ashley's father.
Her battle - both legislative and very personal - is not over yet. "Even if it's not going to help me, I can do something," said Ashley.
If approved, this measure would remove the statute of limitations for bringing charges against people who abuse children under the age of 16. The bill goes before the full legislature in early March. Ashley and family will be there for the vote.
My Sister Set Herself on Fire
by Heather Wood Rudulph
When we think of the most horrific acts of violence against women around the world — female genital mutilation, sex slavery, child marriage, honor killings — we tend to picture the Third World. We assume this can happen only in places like Afghanistan, Iran and Somalia, only in countries that don't have democratic governments or are ruled by religious zealots, only very far away from us. Right?
In America, as many as 1,500 forced marriages happen every year. And more than 150,000 girls are at risk of female genital mutilation right here in the U.S. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called gender-based violence “an issue of international human rights and national security.” Many times, these atrocities are tied to honor, a value more important than any other in many cultures.
The documentary film Honor Diaries (which will be released on iTunes March 4) explores the history and immediacy of these problems. In it, nine female activists from around the world discuss the systematic history of what they call “honor violence” — oppressive or violent acts against women taken out in the name of culture, religion or reputation.
Jasvinder Sanghera is one of those women. Today she is a bestselling author, an internationally recognized activist and a mother of three young adults. But before this life, she survived physical and psychological abuse, and an attempted forced marriage — all before the age of 16, all while living in the United Kingdom, one of the largest democracies in the world. She shares her story.
I'm number seven in order of my eight siblings. We grew up doing normal things kids do, and I remember being happy. But there was also this code of conduct that was ingrained in us by the time I was 8. It was very clear the things we could do, couldn't do, and must do in the name of honor.
I watched my older sisters be taken out of school at the age of 15, sent back to India, and forced to marry men they had only met in photographs.
When they returned [with their new husbands], they had sometimes been gone nine months and were held back two grades. They now wore only traditional Indian dress and sported wedding bands on their hands. Nobody asked any questions about their absences from school, or about this drastic physical change.
My sisters didn't protest. It was instilled in them as the norm and it was dressed up as being part of our traditions, religion and culture, which is Sikh. We lived in such an isolated community, we were never exposed to a counter message to say that it was wrong, that it was child marriage. You just went with it.
My sisters were very unhappy. They would be physically and psychologically abused. My mother's response was always to encourage them to stay with the perpetrator to make it work for the fear of shaming and dishonoring the family.
When I turned 14, there was an expectation that it was my turn. I said no. I wanted to stay in school. I didn't want to marry a stranger. But also, my view of marriage was that you get married and you get hurt and nobody comes to rescue you. I was terrified.
My mother spoiled me at first, trying to sweet-talk me into changing my mind. When it became clear that I wouldn't, the emotional blackmail began. She'd say things like, “You're ruining the lives of all your sisters.” “Your dad will die of a heart attack and it will be your fault.”
I couldn't talk to anyone about it because we had been taught to never discuss things outside of the family, because it was very dishonorable. So I retaliated. I got a haircut.
At the time, I had hair so long I could sit on it. Cutting your hair in our culture made you a hussy of a woman in the eyes of everyone. I tried to hide it by wearing a towel on my head, but my mother knocked the towel off on the fourth day. For this offense, my mother physically beat me and sent me to live with my oldest sister and her husband in London until my hair grew back. The punishments of daring to step outside of the honor codes were very real.
When I eventually was allowed to return home, my family held me prisoner. I wasn't allowed to go back to school, and I was locked in a room, with the lock placed on the outside of the door. To go to the toilet, I would have to knock on the door and be escorted. They would bring food to the door. My family, including my sisters, would enforce this. I was not allowed to leave that room until I agreed to the marriage.
In the end, I acquiesced, primarily so I could plan an escape. My mother instantly went from vicious captor to fawning mother of the bride. It felt like an out-of-body experience. I was looking down at this marriage being planned, and it happened to be mine.
The day before I was to get on a plane to India to be married, I ran away with my friend's brother. This was the first male I had ever had any sort of conversation with in my life. He liked me and I liked him. So he helped me. We drove to a town about 180 miles away from my hometown of Darby. The whole trip — about four hours — I sat crouched in the foot well of the car. I was absolutely petrified that if I put my head up, my family would be behind me.
We lasted about three months, sleeping in the car, in the park, at motels, and washing in public conveniences. I remember the knock on the door when the police found us. My friend denied I was there, but I eventually burst to the front door and hysterically begged the policeman not to send me home. Thankfully, he agreed. This isn't what happens to most women, but he had seen cases like this before. He did make me phone home to tell them I was safe and well.
I was hoping my mother or somebody would say that I could come home now and not marry this stranger. I didn't want to be out there in the world, homeless and uncomfortable. I was only 16. My mother answered the phone. Her ultimatum was, “You either come home and marry who we say or you are dead to us.” I chose not to go back.
When you're disowned by your family, it's very lonely. I missed them terribly. And I loved them. Your home is your home. It's like me asking you to wake up tomorrow morning and never be able to see any person or any thing that was familiar to you ever again. And be made to feel that it was all your fault. I constantly wrote to them, I called them, I would show up at the house, only to be shunned at every single point and be reminded of my low worth.
I had a secret relationship with my sister, Robina, who is two years older than me. We were comforts for each other. She was miserable in her marriage. When I would meet her in secret, I would see the bruises. I'd go to her house and there were smashed windows and holes in the door where her husband had kicked it in.
I begged her to come stay with me. I was living in a nearby town with the boy I ran away with. We eventually got married, but of course that was destined to fail — we were so young. Robina wouldn't listen. She said, “It's easy for you to say. You don't have to think about Mum and Dad, what people think, or your honor.” She was absolutely right.
I begged her to at least go talk to our parents, which she did. They called our local community leader, who was a Sikh counselor. He basically reinforced that she should go back to her husband and make the marriage work. He made it quite clear that I had left home and disgraced them so, if she left her husband, it would kill my parents. What he meant by that is it would kill their reputation.
Within a few days of that meeting, she set herself on fire and she died. She was only 25.
That was a turning point for me. When Robina lost her life, I remember feeling a sense of complete outrage at my mother and my community. I thought that they had killed her. They may not have physically done it, but they had driven her to that. They could have protected her, but they were more concerned with protecting their honor.
Overnight, I owned being the victim. All this time I had placed the blame on myself. Slowly, I made the transition into being a survivor. And that's when I started making decisions about showing my face where they said I couldn't. And, especially, wanting to help others. Nobody could bring Robina back, but I could give justice to her voice, which is how I found my own as well.
I established Karma Nirvana as a place for victims of honor crimes and gender-based violence to find help and support. Now, 21 years later, we handle up to 700 calls a week within the U.K.
The only way to stop the proliferation of these crimes is to look for them. People have to acknowledge that even though you're born in a democracy — in Britain or America — where you know you have rights and independence, those rights are not accessible to all. We, as a community, need to be looking for these invisible women who are suffering and help them find access to the human rights they deserve.
I'm 48 this year, and I do not take my independence for granted. I had to fight for that. There have been some costs attached, but my children will not inherit that legacy of abuse because of the choices their mother made.
If you or anyone you know is a victim of honor violence, these resources can help:
The AHA Foundation works directly with women and girls who are victims of honor crimes.
Karma Nirvana is the leading resource for women and girls in northern Europe who are victims of abuse and forced marriage.
Teaching Sexual Abuse Prevention To Elementary Children
by Melissa Schroeder
LONOKE, AR -- Safety matters when it comes to your children, no matter how old they are.
That's why a task force is working on a way to teach elementary students about sexual abuse and how to protect themselves.
According to the Arkansas Valley Resource Center, 15% of sex abuse victims are under 12 years old.
That's why state leaders and advocates felt it important to begin awareness programs already in elementary school.
For Sissy Fletcher, a mother with two boys, safety is priority number one.
So she's aware that kids can be sexually abused at a very young age.
She said, "Yes, these things happen to 5-year-olds and these things happen to 11-year-olds and we can't bury our head in the sand. It's going on."
So, the state legislature passed a bill to form a task force with one goal in mind, preventing child sex abuse.
Stacy Thompson with Childrens Advocacy Centers of Arkansas said, "...recognizing the signs of abuse at an early age."
Thompson along with other task force members are working to bring sexual abuse education inside the classrooms of kindergarten through fifth grade.
Sharon Rudder, with the Wade Knox Advocacy Center, is vital in the planning process.
She's already using a program called Speak up be Safe at Lonoke County Schools.
Rudder uses things like a mascot and dolls to show kids how to protect their bodies and when to say no.
She said, "So they have to be taught how to say no to anybody wanting to touch their body parts covered by a bathing suit."
Rudder would like to see this same, or a similar, program taught in schools across the state.
That way parents like Fletcher can get some extra help in keeping their children safe.
By October, the task force members will present their ideas to the governor.
From there, it will be decided when the programs will begin in classrooms across the state.
Bill Focused on Fighting Child Sex Abuse Heads to Governor's Desk
RICHMOND, Va (WVIR) -- The Virginia legislature is putting its full support behind a bill to help fight child sexual abuse. The bill carried by Albemarle Delegate Rob Bell requires law enforcement, prosecutors, and social services to work together when investigating child sex crimes.
In a study last year, the Virginia State Crime Commission said this multi-disciplinary team approach often leads to better, more coordinated investigations.
“The goal is to make sure we have everybody in the room together. We want to have law enforcement, the prosecutor, social service, so they can talk about these cases and find out which one needs to be law enforcement cases, which ones need to be social service, and nobody falls between the cracks,” said Bell.
Albemarle County has used multi-disciplinary teams, or MDTs, since the early 1990s. If signed by Governor Terry McAuliffe, the bill would require prosecutors across the state to implement their own MDTs by July 2015.
4-Month-Old Baby Dies After Being Sexually, Physically Abused: Cops
An infant girl died in Albuquerque after suffering sexual and physical abuse at the hands of her mother's boyfriend, New Mexico cops said.
Angelique Montano's 4-month-old baby, Izabellah, died Sunday, after two weeks on life support, according to KOB-TV.
Montano's boyfriend, Elijah Fernandez, 19, is accused of causing serious brain and sexual trauma to the child while high on synthetic marijuana, commonly referred to as spice.
Doctors had allegedly referred the child to the state's Children Youth and Families Department three times before the deadly incident because of past injuries, according to KOB-TV.
A reporter from the station previously spoke with Montano, who said the deadly abuse happened when she left Izabellah with her boyfriend while she went to do laundry.
"If I just waited to do laundry, stupid laundry, until the next morning none of this would of never [sic] happened, my daughter would've been OK," Montano said. "I don't know what triggered him to do something like this to an innocent baby. She doesn't know what's going on and she's helpless.”
Police responded to Montano's house on Feb. 7, according to the Las Cruces Sun-News.
The paper cites police, none quoted directly, who claim that Fernandez admitted to hitting the child because he was "stressed," as the paper described it, about his lack of employment and the child's crying.
Fernandez faces charges of child abuse resulting in death and aggravated criminal sexual penetration.
In an investigation last year, the Albuquerque Journal found that New Mexico ranks second in the nation for per capita deaths caused by child abuse.
Feds seek public's help to identify possible child victims of accused sex offender
(Picture on site)
HOUSTON — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is seeking the public's help to identify possible victims of a man charged with transporting a minor for commercial sex acts.
According to HSI special agents, Jason Daniel Gandy, 37, frequently traveled to the Texas cities of Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio; he also traveled overseas to the Philippines and Bali, Indonesia. ICE believes there may be additional unidentified victims involved in this case. Anyone with knowledge of the man's unsupervised contact with minors should contact HSI at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE.
Gandy was stopped by immigration officers in the United Kingdom during the London Olympics in 2012, after he and a boy arrived on a flight originating in Houston. According to the complaint, London officials' suspicions arose regarding a 35-year-old man traveling with an unrelated 15-year-old boy. Both individuals were returned to Houston on separate flights.
Upon return to Houston, they were met by HSI special agents. The investigation revealed that Gandy allegedly ran a massage business out of his home and was using the 15-year-old boy to give massages. The individuals paying for the massages were allegedly allowed to fondle the child during the massage, and the boy was required to sexually gratify the customers, according to evidence presented in court.
Gandy paid for the boy's trip to London and his passport fees so the boy could perform massages in London, according to the information presented in court. The investigation also revealed that Gandy molested the child on more than one occasion, and he intended to continue.
On July 25, 2012, U.S. Magistrate Judge George C. Hanks Jr. ordered Gandy to remain in custody pending further criminal proceedings.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.
This investigation was conducted under HSI's Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 10,000 individuals for crimes against children, including producing and distributing online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking children. In fiscal year 2013, more than 2,000 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative.
For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI's Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page.
HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.
Leader of international sex trafficking ring sentenced to life in prison
SAVANNAH, Ga. – The leader of an international sex trafficking ring dismantled by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday in Savannah.
Joaquin Mendez-Hernandez, aka "El Flaco," 35, formerly of Mexico, was arrested as part of an HSI investigation dubbed Operation Dark Night, which has resulted in the conviction of 23 defendants and the rescue of 12 victims.
U.S. Attorney Edward J. Tarver stated, "It is reprehensible that an international sex-trafficking organization set up shop within our very own communities. This organization destroyed the lives of many victims through fear, violence and intimidation, all for the love of money. Those responsible will now pay the price in a federal prison."
"While it is extremely satisfying to see these defendants held accountable for their atrocious crimes, the clear victory in this case was the rescue of their victims," said Special Agent in Charge Brock D. Nicholson, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations in Georgia and the Carolinas. "From the testimony they provided in court, these women have begun to rebuild their lives and I applaud their bravery and courage in confronting their abusers and rejecting the roles they were forced into."
According to evidence presented during numerous guilty plea and sentencing hearings, local and federal law enforcement agencies identified and dismantled an international sex trafficking enterprise that spread from Mexico to Savannah, Georgia. Members of the organization enticed women from Mexico, Nicaragua and elsewhere to travel to the United States with false promises of the American Dream. Once inside the United States, the women were threatened and forced to commit acts of prostitution at numerous locations in Savannah and throughout the southeast. Women were forced to engage in sexual activity with as many as 50 people a day. To make sure the women complied, members of the organization threatened the women, used violence against them, and held children hostage in Mexico. Members of the organization would also trade their victims to other members who operated in other states, such as Florida and North and South Carolina.
Each of the 23 defendants arrested in Operation Dark Night have pleaded guilty and been sentenced. Two additional defendants, Eugenio Prieto-Hernandez and Daniel Ribon-Gonzalez, remain fugitives.
Operation Dark Night represents the largest sex-trafficking investigation ever prosecuted in the Southern District of Georgia. The operation was conducted by HSI with assistance from the FBI, ATF, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), CBP Air and Marine Operations, IRS-Criminal Investigations, Coast Guard Investigative Services, Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department, the Chatham County Sheriff's Office, the Garden City Police Department and the Chatham County Counter Narcotics Team.
Twelve victims were rescued as a part of Operation Dark Night. HSI provides relief to victims of human trafficking by allowing for their continued presence in the United States during criminal proceedings. Victims may also qualify for a T visa, which is issued to victims of human trafficking who have complied with reasonable requests for assistance in investigations and prosecutions. Anyone who suspects instances of human trafficking is encouraged to call the HSI tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE (866-347-2423) or the Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. Anonymous calls are welcome.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tania Groover and Greg Gilluly prosecuted the case on behalf of the United States.
Eugenio Prieto-Hernandez – Fugitive
Joaquin Mendez-Hernandez (aka "El Flaco") – life in prison
Juan Carlos Pena – 240 months in prison
Luisa Capilla-Lancho – 60 months in prison
Jorge Lira-Xochicale – 66 months in prison
Mayer Sanchez-Calderon – 180 months in prison
Claudio Sanchez-Calderon – 180 months in prison
Omar Peralta-Rodriquez – 37 months in prison
Neurby Celenia Diaz – 72 months in prison
Antonio Ubaldo Mendez-Lopez – 46 months in prison
Cesar Aguilar-Rebollar – 21 months in prison
Sylvia Barrera – 27 months in prison
David Reyes – 18 months in prison
Antonio Ramirez-Catalan – 48 months in prison
Jose Ricardo Vazquez-Garcia – 36 months in prison
Daniel Ribon-Gonzalez – Fugitive
Marisol Ferreriras – 13 months in prison
Paresh Patel – 7 months in prison
Sergio Valazquez Martinez – 12 months in prison
Fernando Pelayo Silverio – 18 months in prison
Arturo Salquil-Gomez – 12 months in prison
Jose Hernandez Trujillo – 25 months in prison
Silvstre Aguilar Sayago – 27 months in prison
Rodolfo Hernandez Guiterrez – 23 months in prison
Alex Martinez Moncon – 22 months in prison
4 Tips on How Parents Can Help Their Child Heal After Trauma
by Jesse Viner, MD
When children, teens, and young adults experience trauma, life feels different for them. Seeing someone get injured, or being the target of violence, can be a life-altering experience, even for adults.
It's no wonder then that a threatening event or overwhelming experience may greatly affect how a child perceives the world around them. It may also impact their development and personality.
There are several ways parents can learn to help children heal after trauma. Here are four tips parents can try that should help.
1. Learn to identify the kinds of trauma children and young adults face.
Events such as sexual abuse, experiencing a natural disaster or involvement in a serious car accident, commonly come to mind when thinking about trauma. But not all instances of trauma are as well-defined.
Take exposure to violence, for example. Children and young adults may feel deep effects from witnessing violence on television or at school. Even though the child did not experience the violence firsthand, the event may have negatively affected the child, making him or her feel unsafe or fearing something bad will happen to him or her.
Trauma varies throughout childhood, adolescence, and into emerging adulthood. For young children, a disruption to their normal routine, such as parents separating or divorcing, may feel traumatic. Adapting to a new living situation or going to a new school may feel overwhelmingly stressful for the young child. In the lives of emerging adults, trauma may occur in the form of intimate relationship problems, peer conflicts, difficulties with academics or job loss.
Often, trauma leaves a young adult feeling confused about his or her personal identity or life goals. As parents, keep in mind that a wide range of events may be considered traumatic. It may seem like your child is overreacting to something small, but if the child or young adult identifies that an event was traumatic to them, it is helpful to validate their feelings.
2. Parents can spot a traumatic reaction.
What happens in terms of reaction, as an initial or lasting response to overwhelming, traumatic events? To begin with, the brain perceives a high threat level and pushes the mind and body to perform on red alert. The central nervous system goes into defense mode, affecting many physical, emotional, and mental functions. It can be hard to sleep; eat; breathe; focus; study; work; socialize; verbalize; engage in activities or calm down. Trauma can make a child feel jumpy; on edge; mean; scared; worried; sad; and needy for attention.
If you notice your child acting differently; having trouble sleeping; seeming more easily upset; displaying unusually angry or aggressive behavior; breaking rules or failing to finish schoolwork, they may be having a hard time processing something traumatic. Instead of focusing on punishment, switch gears and give your child positive attention. Spend time together, letting your child choose the activity. The supportive response may help your child regain a feeling of security and safety after experiencing trauma.
3. Parents can be there to listen.
There is not a one-size-fits-all trauma recovery plan that is guaranteed to work for everybody. For some, talking it out will provide much-needed relief, while for others, it won't. Trauma can create feelings that simply cannot be described in words, especially for a child or young adult who does not have the vocabulary or practice in sharing difficult emotions.
You can help your child heal from trauma by offering to listen. Let your child know you are there, in case he or she wants to talk. Express that you want to know what is going on, but that you will wait, ready to listen, whenever he or she feels like opening up.
4. Parents can model healthy ways to cope.
Positively affect how your child comes to terms with negative feelings by being a role model. Practice healthy coping skills on a regular basis, and your child may pick up on your beneficial behavior. Model ways that you deal with everyday stress. When you notice your child struggling after experiencing trauma, encourage him or her to turn to soothing and enjoyable activities to help release stress.
Recognizing violence in teen dating: Be prepared to intervene
by Karen Dandurant
PORTSMOUTH — February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month and parents can do a lot to protect their children from injury or death by knowing the signs and intervening when necessary.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are five types of dating abuse: physical, mental, emotional (control issues), sexual and financial. In studies, 1 in 10 teens reports being hit during a relationship and half of all teens surveyed say they know someone who is in an abusive relationship.
In the United States, 25 percent of high school girls have been abused. Only one-third of the teens report their abuser because of fear of exposure, because they are unaware of the laws or because they are ashamed. Teens in an abusive relationship are more likely to consider suicide and to abuse alcohol and other drugs. As with adults, teens face the risk of death at the hands of their abuser.
Karen McCall is an education and volunteer coordinator at A Safe Place, a support organization for abused and battered people.
"I have worked with so many abused young women," McCall said. "Unfortunately, without intervention, the situation can be extremely dangerous. With teens, the difficulty is identifying them. The difference between adults in an abusive relationships and teens is huge. They lack experience in what may be their first serious relationship, so they have trouble labeling this as abuse. They are influenced by their peers and struggling to become independent. They fear their parents may restrict the relationship so they don't tell."
McCall said parents need to be on the lookout because there are definite signs.
Jan Michaud, a nurse practitioner at Core Pediatrics of Exeter, said parents are in the best position to observe behavior because they know their child better than anyone and they know when something is off.
"There are the obvious, worsening grades, emotional outbursts and unexpected injuries," Michaud said. "They may become isolated from family and friends. They suddenly insist on privacy. They start putting themselves down."
"Parents must watch closely," McCall said. "Teens who suddenly seem to give up too much of their personality are basing their behavior on what their abuser wants them to be. They stop hanging out with their friends because their partner does not approve. They apologize for their boyfriend's behavior and they may start dressing very conservatively per their partner's wishes."
McCall said a teen involved in an abusive relationship might, at first, be flattered by his jealousy and possessiveness.
"But when they start getting nine bazillion texts a day, there is a problem," McCall said.
Michaud said another tell on this is when they "must" answer the texts immediately for fear of the consequences of not answering.
"Teens can get as many as 50 texts in one hour," Michaud said. "One case I heard about had a boy involving his friends to text when he was sleeping. The calls were coming in 24 hours a day. That's abuse and emotionally draining."
Sexual abuse, even rape can happen.
Emily Murphy, an educator at Sexual Assault Support Services, said they start education in schools as young as kindergarten but have a strong focus directed to middle and high school students through a program called Safe Kids, Strong Teens.
"Beginning in the seventh grade, we talk about the media and the way it presents sexuality," Murphy said. "There is a normalization of sexual violence portrayed in shows teens watch. We talk about how people view sexual assaults and try to teach critical thinking skills in ways that develop healthy relationships. We talk about the age of consent and what that means. We tell stories and discuss who is at fault in a situation. The abuser is always at fault, but the teens do not always see that right away. We talk about peer pressure because that can be huge in a teen's decision to go along with a sexual relationship, even if they are not ready or comfortable with it."
Besides injury, abusive relationships can set the tone for a teen's future relationships, carrying into adulthood.
"It starts when we don't hold young batterers accountable," McCall said. "With each subsequent relationship, they become more sophisticated at their behavior. If we can intervene at a young age, there is a chance they will make a change."
Victims in abusive relationships may come to believe the abuse is normal. They may unconsciously gravitate into similar relationships as they move forward.
If parents suspect their teen is involved in an abusive relationship, they should start by approaching them to talk, Michaud said.
"They can reach out to their pediatrician or primary care provider," Michaud said. "They can involve a mental health expert. They can offer to go with them, anything to get a dialogue started."
At a glance
Parents and teens can call a number of hotlines for help, even anonymously.
Sexual Assault Support Services hotline: (800) 277-5570
National Teen Dating Abuse hotline: (866) 331-9474. A TTY line for hearing impaired persons is at (866) 331-8453.
National Domestic Violence hotline: (800) 799-SAFE (7253).
N.H. Domestic Violence hotline: (866) 644-3574
Orphans' Lonely Beginnings Reveal How Parents Shape A Child's Brain
by Jon Hamilton
Parents do a lot more than make sure a child has food and shelter, researchers say. They play a critical role in brain development.
More than a decade of research on children raised in institutions shows that "neglect is awful for the brain," says Charles Nelson, a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital. Without someone who is a reliable source of attention, affection and stimulation, he says, "the wiring of the brain goes awry." The result can be long-term mental and emotional problems.
A lot of what scientists know about parental bonding and the brain comes from studies of children who spent time in Romanian orphanages during the 1980s and 1990s. Children like Izidor Ruckel, who wrote a book about his experiences.
When Ruckel was 6 months old, he got polio. His parents left him at a hospital and never returned. And Ruckel ended up in an institution for "irrecoverable" children.
But Ruckel was luckier than many Romanian orphans. A worker at the orphanage "cared for me as if she was my mother," he says. "She was probably the most loving, the most kindest person I had ever met."
Then, when Ruckel was 5 or 6, his surrogate mother was electrocuted trying to heat bath water for the children in her care. Ruckel ended up in an institution for "irrecoverable" children, a place where beatings, neglect, and boredom were the norm.
Polio had left him with a weak leg. But as he got older he found he had power over many of the other children, who had more serious disabilities.
"There was no right, there was no wrong in the orphanage," Ruckel says. "You didn't know the difference because you were never taught. I was put in charge of kids and I treated them just the way they treated us. If you didn't listen to me, I'd beat you."
Researchers began studying the children in Romanian orphanages after the nation's brutal and repressive government was overthrown in 1989. At the time, there were more than 100,000 children in government institutions. And it soon became clear that many of them had stunted growth and a range of mental and emotional problems.
When Nelson first visited the orphanages in 1999, he saw children in cribs rocking back and forth as if they had autism. He also saw toddlers desperate for attention.
"They'd reach their arms out as though they're saying to you, 'Please pick me up,' " Nelson says. "So you'd pick them up and they'd hug you. But then they'd push you away and they'd want to get down. And then the minute they got down they'd want to be picked up again. It's a very disorganized way of interacting with somebody."
The odd behaviors, delayed language and a range of other symptoms suggested problems with brain development, Nelson says. So he and other researchers began studying the children using a technology known as electroencelphalography (EEG), which measures electrical activity in the brain.
Many of the orphans had disturbingly low levels of brain activity. "Instead of a 100-watt light bulb it was a 40-watt light bulb," Nelson says.
As the children grew older, the researchers were able to use MRI to study the anatomy of their brains. And once again, the results were troubling. "We found a dramatic reduction in what's referred to as gray matter and in white matter," Nelson says. "In other words, their brains were actually physically smaller."
And the scientists realized the cause wasn't anything as simple as malnutrition. It was a different kind of deprivation — the lack of a parent, or someone who acted like a parent.
A baby "comes into the world expecting someone to take care of them and invest in them," Nelson says. "And then they form this bond or this relationship with this caregiver." But for many Romanian orphans, there wasn't even a person to take them out of the crib.
"Now what happens is that you're staring at a white ceiling, or no one is talking to you, or no one's is soothing you when you get upset," Nelson says. So areas of the brain involved in vision and language and emotion don't get wired correctly.
Izidor Ruckel says he suspects the wiring in his brain was changed by his time in the orphanage. And that may have contributed to his troubles after leaving the institution.
In 1991, when he was 11, Ruckel was adopted by an American family and moved to San Diego. At first things went pretty well, he says. Then he began to have a lot of conflict with his adoptive parents. Ruckel says it wasn't their fault.
"I respond better when you beat me, or when you smack me around," he says. "That never happened. When you show me kindness, when you show me love, compassion, it seemed to make me even more angrier."
And those feelings became increasingly intense. "I felt angry to a point where I could feel my heart is turning black," Ruckel says. "And at the same time I have been raised in a Christian home. And you know with my Christian faith I always wondered, am I a child from Hell? What went wrong with me?"
Scientists can't answer that question for Ruckel or any other individual. But they now know that, as a group, neglected or abandoned children tend to have abnormal circuitry in areas of the brain involved in parental bonding.
When typical children are shown pictures of their mothers, the response in the amygdala, a brain region that plays an important role in emotional reactions, is much greater than when they see a stranger, according to Nim Tottenham. She's an an associate professor of psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Her team repeated the experiment with children who had been adopted after spending time in an orphanage or some other institution. This time, the children saw pictures of either an unfamiliar woman or their adoptive mother. And "the amygdala signal was not discriminating Mom from strangers," Tottenham says.
This sort of brain adaptation may help children survive in an environment without parents, she says. But it also may affect the kind of family relationships these children have once they are adopted.
Tottenham, who is a parent herself, says all the research on neglected children reminds her of something that should be obvious: "Parents are playing a really big role in shaping children's brain development." And parenting, she says, is a bit like oxygen. It's easy to take for granted until you see someone who isn't getting enough.
Children who lack parenting in the first couple of years of life are the ones most likely to have long-term problems, researchers say. Other neglected children, though, often show remarkable recoveries.
Things turned out pretty well for Izidor Ruckel. After leaving home at 17 and being out of touch with his adoptive parents for several years, he learned that his family had been in a serious car crash. He realized he couldn't just leave them there. So he went to the hospital.
"It was really hard because I wanted to make sure they were OK," he says. "I was scared. And I didn't think I was going to be forgiven for everything I'd put them through."
But they did forgive him. And since then, he says, he and his adoptive parents have become very close.
That may be possible because his brain has changed, Ruckel says. "I believe that even the brain cells that don't work as a child, I believe that they can develop as a grown man."
Scientists have their own version of that idea. They say the brain has a remarkable ability to rewire itself and compensate for things that go wrong during development, including some problems caused by neglect.
Ruckel is 33 now and lives in Denver. In addition to writing a book about his experiences, he's also produced a documentary on Romanian orphans who were adopted. And he's raising money for a second documentary about what happened to the orphans who stayed in Romania.
"I've become an advocate fighting for other orphans," Ruckel says. "And I believe that has everything to do with my parents because I realized what love, what compassion, what affection can do."
Faith leaders to be trained on issues of child abuse, neglect
by Ashley Wright
How do faith communities respond to child abuse and neglect?
Starting Thursday, Prevent Child Abuse North Dakota will address the question and try to educate and equip faith community leaders. The sessions are titled Faith-Based Response to Child Abuse/Neglect.
“We know that often in cases of family violence or abuse a person reaches out to a faith leader,” said Karen Van Fossan, communications director for Prevent Child Abuse North Dakota. “So it's very important to us to be able to advocate for people by making sure those who surround them with care are as educated and informed as they long to be.”
The first training session will deal with prevention and intervention and will allow time for pastors to ask questions and “wonder” together about how they deal with the reality of abuse and neglect in their congregations, said the Rev. Renee Splichal Larson, pastor at Heart River Lutheran Church.
Authentic Voices, a creative presentation by North Dakota authors who are faith-filled survivors of abuse and neglect, will perform.
“Often when we have training events, it's an expert coming in and talking about something. But this training is really designed to hear from survivors and ask the questions and wonder together what we can be doing as faith communities to further intervene and prevent cases like this,” Larson said.
Faith leaders also will learn about community and congregation-based programs that are accessible to them, like the Healthy Families program run by Lutheran Social Services.
The training aims to provide space where faith leaders can discuss sometimes difficult topics.
“What's the role of the pulpit? There's some difference of opinions on whether the issues of child abuse prevention and neglect should be preached,” Van Fossan said. “Also, faith leaders — pastors in particular — are in a particular category that in terms of reporting (abuse and neglect) leave lots of room for question and doubt.”
Pastors and rostered church leaders are mandatory reporters, which means they must report when they feel someone's life is in danger in any form, Larson said.
“Sometimes we're the first people that hear confessions of people of what's really going on in the home,” she said. “It gets complicated because people come to you for confidential confession. It's a huge discernment issue, which is why these trainings are so important.”
The training will teach pastors what they need to do, who can help make those decisions and how to respond.
The second session on March 27 will deal with the unique role faith communities can play in restorative justice.
There are restorative justice programs in all counties in North Dakota that focus on repairing harm to crime victims.
As faith communities, Larson said, restorative justice means walking with families — both the victim and the perpetrator — through the process of healing.
“How do we as church workers help foster an environment that has reconciliation in it, that has healing in it and wholeness,” she said. “Restorative justice is being in relationship and walking with offenders, but also the people that they hurt, and creating space in which there could be potential for healing, a place where relationships are restored, to be a catalyst for it.”
Too often, people think only about the time offenders serve but don't think about what happens to a family during and after an offender is released, Larson said.
“As a returning citizen comes back into the faith community, you still have that family there, and what if there is transformation, and how do you keep that going and also forgiveness within the parish,” she said.
Restorative justice is hard work and may not work for everyone, Larson said.
“It is too painful for some, and that's OK,” she said. “For people in which it is possible, I think the faith community has a unique opportunity to be a different voice within culture and society to say that just because someone got locked up doesn't mean it's full justice. Justice comes from God in the means of healing and in the means of reconciliation and hope and love.”
Larson has dealt with abuse and neglect in her mentoring work at the North Dakota Youth Correctional Facility.
“A high percentage of them have suffered abuse and neglect in their lives and I see where it leads people,” she said.
She hopes that training and advocacy help prevent young people from taking to the street because their caregiver abuses them or turning to drugs and alcohol to cope with abuse and neglect and ending up in prison.
Overall, the training is about the resources that are available to faith communities and creating space to ask what's next, Larson said.
“What are the small things we can do as a church community to help the larger community as a whole?” she said. “To work as a church toward what God wants for all humanity, dignity and wholeness.”
Listen to your children
by LAKSHMI KRUPA
While it is important to equip kids with information about sexual abuse, it is equally necessary for parents to listen to their children, and do so without prejudice or fear, says Lakshmi Krupa.
In a passionate note, following the recent public spat between director Woody Allen and Dylan Farrow (the latter has accused Allen of abusing her sexually as a child, which Allen has publicly denied), Andrea Grimes, who was sexually abused as a child, wrote on the website http://rhrealitycheck.org, spoke about her own story and concluded: “I'm not asking you to decide, today, whether Woody Allen is a child abuser, or to preach fire and brimstone the next time someone picks up a copy of Manhattan. I am asking you to do something more powerful, more long-lasting, more revolutionary: listen to survivors. Understand that our stories are not sad addenda, but part of our whole being, part of the people you love or hate or see in the elevator sometimes at lunch. See us not as victims, or characters, or some unidentifiable, sad and tragic “other,” but as the whole people we are, moving in and out of your lives. Listen to us, so that we can listen to ourselves.”
Indeed, at this point of time, our only productive take away from the Dylan Farrow-Woody Allen ‘episode' has to be to ask ourselves, “How do we, as a society, as parents, artists, writers, citizens, and just readers of news react to someone's story of abuse? And what is our responsibility towards the abused?”
“Children just don't disclose abuse. Period,” Vidya Reddy, Tulir, Centre for the Prevention and Healing of Child Sexual Abuse, begins. “Children are not sexually abused once and then let go. That's assault. When someone wants to abuse a child, they ‘groom' them and ensure that it will remain a secret. (See box on grooming). So abuse is a well-planned thing.” Children do not reveal abuse for a whole host of reasons, including fear of losing someone they are in awe of besides the fear of being blamed and shamed. Research shows that only 12 per cent of children reveal their abuse and often it is accidental. However, experts ascertain that allegations are rarely false in such cases, even though there are a few exceptions.
Children may often not even understand what has happened to them. By reacting in a way that can shock them or instil in them fear or feelings of shame you will not be helping them. “When your daughter or son comes to you with a complaint about abuse do what you can to gain your children's confidence,” says Vidya. Many victims whose parents have failed to listen to them often grow up with immense resentment. More so against their mothers/parents than the abusers. “And boys too are being abused. Just as much as girls,” Vidya clarifies and adds, “The only thing that as parents you can do for them is to be non-judgmental. Pay attention and these are trying times for every family. You must be there for them.”
Many a time, post-abuse parents only focus on things like ‘Is the child eating well or doing well in school' and do not consider the trauma the child goes through in the process of the abuse. “The sexual subtext and the intentions escape parent's attention because they think nothing ‘really' happened. But something did. And that needs to be paid attention to.” Your child may need therapy, so consider taking him/her to a professional. Parents must also do all they can to protect their children from abusers and ensure they do not have to face them again.
“If someone has been abused as a child and they are now young adults who want to deal with it and haven't done so till now, my advice to them is to seek professional help,” says Vidya. You may find yourself healing a lot better with the help of a neutral outsider, a counsellor than by talking about it to those around you.
Anitha Rajarajan, founder president of Soroptimist International (SI), Madurai, an organisation for women that works to transform the lives of girls and women, was in town recently for a programme “No, Go, Tell” for children at the Rani Meyammai School in Chennai. She says, “We undertake local, national and international projects that educate, enable and empower women and girls to reach their full potential. This year, 15 clubs have been focussing on doing programmes on gender sensitisation as we feel that this is a very relevant issue. We have done this programme successfully in several schools in Madurai and Karur and it has been appreciated. Apart from a power point presentation on ‘No, Go, Tell' and teaching them a few self-defense techniques with the help of someone trained at the Police Academy, New York, we also performed a small mime to highlight safe and unsafe touches.
”For parents who wonder if its ever too early for them to have the talk about unsafe touch with their children, and for those of us who worry if we are taking away from the innocence of children or inducing paranoia," Anitha says, “we must give children of today more credit than that. They are very smart.” And Vidya adds, “It is better to err on the side of caution if that's what parents are worried about. It is our responsibility to have this conversation because we all occupy the space between the abusers and the abused every day. They are walking amongst us.”
Mangayarkarasi, Principal, Rani Meyyamai School says, “Our Correspondent Kumararani Muthaiah wanted this session to be held in our school because the girls who come to our school hail from the economically weaker sections of society. Often, they don't have someone in their family to educate them on safety. Most of our students' parents aren't educated. We had this session because they are innocent and are vulnerable to abuse from those around them. The girls also wanted to know how to react to situations that they encounter in buses, and other public spaces. We had one successful session for girls from class nine and while they were initially very shy, they soon overcame that and asked many relevant questions. Soon we are going to have one more session for our students in class eight.” Indeed, such sessions for children, both boys and girls, from poorer sections of the society are of great importance and here's hoping more organisations will come forward to host them.
The tricky trap
- Child sexual abuse is always well-planned by the abuser.
- Abusers ‘groom' children and that is the crux of the problem.
- They prepare a child for secrecy and silence.
- Abusers do this by finding the child's Achilles' heel.
- For example, if a child is not doing well in swimming class, and her coach happens to be an abuser, he would tell her that he will spend extra time to teach her. But she cannot tell anyone about it, because then the other kids will also want to spend extra time. By doing so, the coach ensures the child comes in early and spends time alone with him and also ensures that it remains a secret.
- Children don't reveal abuse because of the fear that this grooming brings to them.
- They may be afraid of losing the affection of the abuser, who is often known to them well, or they may have been blackmailed by their abuser into silence with a seemingly scary outcome.
Jimmy Savile victims 'were laughed at' or 'ignored'
Victims of serial sex attacker Jimmy Savile were not believed when they first confided in others, an NSPCC report has found.
Many were ignored, dismissed or laughed at by those they told shortly after Savile abused them.
Some of them were even told by friends or relatives they were "lucky" the late DJ had paid them attention.
The NSPCC said the accounts were "heart-rending", and the victims had shown "true courage".
The former presenter of the BBC's Top Of The Pops and Jim'll Fix It died aged 84 in October 2011 - a year before allegations that he had sexually abused children were broadcast in an ITV documentary.
The revelations prompted hundreds of victims to come forward. They said they were attacked at BBC premises or in other institutions, including hospitals.
The report was commissioned by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary to find out why so many victims stayed silent for so long.
The research was carried out by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), which interviewed 26 people. Four were adults when they were abused; the others were children. One of them had reported the matter to police at the time but no action was taken.
A number of victims who were staying in hospital when they were abused told staff at the time but were not taken seriously.
The report says those who did not come forward until decades after the attacks stayed silent for so long because they felt that, as Savile was a celebrity, their word would not be believed over his.
Several had not realised what had happened to them as they were so young, with many saying they had not understood Savile's actions constituted sexual abuse.
The report says: "Some remembered feeling that an elder - particularly a celebrity like Jimmy Savile - must know better than they did.
"There were also cases where participants also remembered feeling conflicted, and wondering if they should feel flattered or grateful that he had 'chosen them'."
There was an "overwhelming belief" they would not have been believed at the time.
"Jimmy Savile was a powerful and influential adult, who was seen as a 'charitable, good guy' raising a lot of money for charity," the report says.
"This led to feelings of hopelessness and inferiority in his victims, who felt there was no way that their word would have been believed over his."
Many also thought that crimes had to be reported by an adult, rather than a child.
The report found that Savile's abuse caused wide-ranging repercussions throughout victims' lives, including mental health problems, substance abuse and thoughts of suicide.
Years after being attacked, a "significant number" of the victims, who were aged between eight and 26 at the time of the abuse, have still not told family and friends.
Those interviewed by the NSPCC said media reports of others coming forward played a part in them subsequently reporting the crimes.
The report says: "Crucially, all participants said that they would not have come forward now had they not seen the stories of other victims in the press."
However, some revealed that seeing images of their abuser in coverage of the scandal triggered flashbacks and made them feel physically sick.
Most victims felt police were helpful when they came forward - but one reported feeling she was to blame when an officer commented: "I think I would have pushed him off."
All of those interviewed said they did not believe police intended to be unhelpful or inconsiderate.
NSPCC director of national services Peter Watt said: "The responses these victims received when they first revealed Savile's sickening crimes make heart-rending reading.
"They were ignored, dismissed, not believed, laughed at and astonishingly told in some cases they should feel lucky he had paid them attention."
Mr Watt said everyone should be aware of signs of abuse to "ensure there is never a repeat of the Savile scandal".
He praised the victims' "true courage" in talking about their experiences, adding: "Half a century on, the world finally discovered just how dreadful his crimes were - something these men and women had known all that time but felt powerless to do anything about."
'Pain and anguish'
Liz Dux of law firm Slater Gordon, who represents some of Savile's victims, urged the government to act on the report's suggestion that people in authority should be obliged to pass on information about abuse allegations.
She said: "It is hugely significant that the victims unanimously call for professionals who work with children and the vulnerable to have an obligation to report abuse they become aware of.
"It is frankly shocking this is not already law."
In the report, the victims also call for the introduction of new ways for people to report sexual abuse and for additional specialist training for police officers investigating such crimes.
Her Majesty's Inspector Drusilla Sharpling said the report "vividly portrays the pain and anguish suffered by Savile's victims".
"Despite the difficulties they have faced, victims have highlighted important ways in which police responses can be improved," she added.
"We owe it to them to make sure that the police service responds positively and ensures victims are supported, listened to and treated with compassion."
Chief Constable Simon Bailey of the Association of Chief Police Officers said there had been a change in the way society reacts to child abuse since Savile committed his crimes.
He said: "We know that reporting is always going to be emotional and difficult for victims of sexual abuse but, partly following the allegations against Jimmy Savile and other high profile child sexual exploitation cases, across society there is a much greater understanding of child abuse and an intolerance of it."
Los Angeles' Child Abuse Reporting System Underfunded & Underutilized
by Christie Renick
Better information sharing between law enforcement and child welfare topped a list of recommendations made to Los Angeles' Board of Supervisors by a blue ribbon commission created to reform the county's child protective services.
The county doesn't lack for motivation on the subject; it already shelled out $2 million to build a software program meant to help child welfare agencies and law enforcement share information about suspected abuse. But five years after the system was phased in, funding woes and a lack of mandate has stemmed its usefulness.
The Electronic Suspected Child Abuse Reporting System, or E-SCARS, won two county awards and promised to give first responders timely information that could help protect children. But it was built without much thought about how to force agencies to actually use it, or who would pay to maintain it, and that has left critical information that could improve child safety just beyond the fingertips of those who need it most.
During a September 2013 presentation to the Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection, Susan Steinfeld of the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office cited a number of outstanding issues impeding E-SCARS' use and effectiveness. Beyond straightforward problems, like the need to update the system so it works with the latest edition of Microsoft Windows, more obdurate problems remain.
Steinfeld could not be reached for comment. But in a phone interview, the DA's Office confirmed that the use of E-SCARS is not enforced across child welfare-serving agencies in Los Angeles County.
“We can't require or order anyone to use anything, we're all separate entities,” said Mike Gargiulo, assistant head of the DA's Family Violence Division. “We're working on a memo of understanding between law enforcement and DCFS that might make it required, as sort of a best practices kind of thing, but right now it isn't.”
E-SCARS was created in 2005 and launched in 2009 by three Los Angeles County agencies: the District Attorney's office, the Department of Children and Family Services, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. The system was created in response to California's Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act, which required that DCFS and law enforcement cross-report allegations of suspected child abuse to each other to prevent cases from falling through the cracks.
E-SCARS is an online reporting system that provides child welfare agencies with one central database containing histories of all abuse or neglect allegations, investigative findings and other information pertaining to a child or suspected perpetrator.
This system links DCFS's Child Protection Hotline with the District Attorney's Office, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, the Los Angeles Police Department and 45 other municipal police departments, and all city prosecutors' offices.
“From a prosecutor's standpoint, it helps us get a better sense of who our suspect is, helps us see if there's a pattern or if the alleged victim has a history of making things up,” said Garjiulo.
E-SCARS was designed to make police work and social work more efficient. Its promise on that account earned it two Productivity & Quality Awards from the Quality and Productivity Commission back in 2010. From the nominee descriptions:
“One of the significant results of E-SCARS is the elimination of multiple responses by law enforcement. Overall, investigation time is reduced, children are less traumatized since they no longer experience multiple interviews, and there is greater cooperative effort among children's social workers and police officers.”
But four years after the praise and almost a decade since the system was conceptualized to fulfill state law, it is still underutilized. One reason is that none of the original $2 million grant from the Los Angeles County Quality and Productivity Commission was set aside for system maintenance and upgrades, or if it was the money has run out.
“My understanding is that the money is all gone,” Gargiulo said in a phone interview. “There's going to have to be a request by one of the departments or all of us together to go to the Board to ask for more money.”
According to LA County's Class and Salary Listings for 2014, a management-level Information Technology employee's salary is around $108,000 annually. A single employee dedicated to E-SCARS' maintenance would go a long way toward ensuring the system is up-to-date and fully functional.
In addition to needing new money for system maintenance, there is also the question of institutional inertia. Inundated with ever-evolving and discarded software, there may be resistance among various departments within these agencies to fully embrace E-SCARS.
In the 2012 report that addressed systemic issues in DCFS and was part of the impetus for the creation of the blue ribbon commission itself, the lead attorney found 63 different information systems and 17 more in development.
“As the number of these systems has grown over time, so does the potential for systems overload,” wrote the report's author Amy Shek Naamani.
Under such a burden, Vanessa Rizzo, who audits E-SCARS for the DA's office, finds it unsurprising that the program hasn't been more widely used.
“It's a new system,” Rizzo said. “People want to make sure the system works and that it's going to keep working.”
The Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection suggested, in its interim recommendations released in December 2013, that E-SCARS should be “utilized fully by all relevant agencies and receive the necessary support to be well-maintained and enhanced.”
The interim report also stated that “The District Attorney's Office should increase its oversight of the law enforcement response and sharing of information, including cross-reporting between DCFS and law enforcement agencies, to ensure that each agency carries out its mandated investigative response.”
E-SCARS' capacity to provide a level of case tracking and auditing that was previously impossible coupled with the blue ribbon commission's recommendations could mean that child abuse reporting in Los Angeles County has the potential to become the protective, closed-loop system it was intended to be.
“It's the first time that you can see all these reports at once — the history is right at someone's fingertips,” said Rizzo.