Maryland considers making violent offenders do more time if a child sees the crime
by Theresa Vargas
The boy hadn't heard the 911 tape before. But on this day, as he sits at the dining room table in his family's apartment, he tells his mother he's ready. He's 14 now, no longer a terrified 9-year-old, and he wants to hear what he told authorities the night he almost lost her.
Reluctantly, she pushes play on her laptop. The sound of distant crying and shouting ? lls the room before a 911 operator ask his name and then, “What's the problem?”
“This man is trying to kill my mommy,” a small voice replies.
“Does he have any weapons?”
“Yes, he has a knife,” the boy says and then shouts away from the receiver, “PLEASE! Don't kill her!”
Erin Curtis walks out of the room. She can't hear any more. Her 14-year-old can't stop listening. Tears now flow down his face.
In coming weeks, Maryland lawmakers will decide on legislation that calls for increased penalties for violent crimes committed in front of children, part of what some victim advocates consider the latest phase in addressing the nation's serious domestic violence problem. Advocates, child therapists and survivors like Curtis say if it is approved, Maryland's new law would mark both a practical and symbolic victory, allowing families to feel safe from abusers longer and recognizing the invisible victims of domestic violence. It would acknowledge, they say, what they've seen firsthand: Children don't have to be touched to be traumatized.
Curtis remembers that night in 2008 in Southern Maryland in flashes, fear mercifully alternating with blackouts. Her children, on the other hand, had to see it all. The youngest, just 2 at the time, stood by his father's side as he sliced into Curtis with a kitchen knife 27 times. The oldest heard the screams from his bedroom, ran into the kitchen, where he saw the struggle and the blood, and crawled under an end table in the living room. From there, he dialed 911.
“I thought she was dead,” recalls the boy, whom The Washington Post has agreed to identify only as Michael, his middle name, to protect his identity. “I was just like, ‘Now, I don't have a mom.'”
It has been almost six years since Erin Curtis was flown to the hospital. Long enough that the scars on her torso have faded into flesh-colored seams. Long enough that the extensive therapy her sons have received make them appear like most children their age, giggly and unscathed. Long enough that she can describe her ordeal with impressive composure in speeches at domestic violence events and last year in testimony before Maryland lawmakers.
But in November, the sense of safety she has worked to build will be tested, Curtis says. That's when the man she was married to for three years, the biological father of her youngest child, will be up for parole after serving half of his sentence for attempted murder. Six years, Curtis says — not long enough.
Every year, millions of American children witness episodes of domestic violence that can haunt them for the rest of their lives. In 2011, one in 12 children witnessed a family assault, and one in three reported witnessing one in their lifetime, according to the National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence, a U.S. Justice Department-sponsored study that is considered the most comprehensive on the subject.
“Thirty years ago, we had to really convince the community that domestic violence was not a private matter but a crime,” says Dorothy Lennig, legal clinic director for House of Ruth Maryland, the state's largest domestic violence program. “The next iteration of that was we had to convince people not to victim blame. And now I feel we're moving into the next phase of really understanding the impact on the kids.”
Across the nation, 23 states and Puerto Rico have adopted laws addressing violence committed in front of children. In at least five of those states, it is considered a separate crime. Victim advocates in Virginia and the District say discussions have been held about whether to enact similar legislation but that none currently exists.
Some people worry that such laws could expose an abused parent to charges for allowing a child to witness violence. But no one has quantified the effectiveness or the repercussions of the laws, so it's difficult to gauge their impact.
Still, former prosecutor Jennifer Long describes them as “a very critical piece of a comprehensive response.”
Long, the director of AEquitas, a Washington-based organization that provides resources to prosecutors who handle cases involving violence against women, says judges don't always recognize the harm done to children and that these laws keep the issue from being minimized.
Experts say the effects of witnessing violence is the same as experiencing it. These children are much more likely to suffer as adults from addiction and other health problems and become victims or perpetrators of violence. In recent research, they are described alongside terms such as “betrayal trauma” and “complex post traumatic stress disorder.”
Paul Berman and Katie Killeen are married psychologists outside Baltimore who have testified in court about children's memories of abuse. Nightmares, depression, problems concentrating and aggressive behavior are common in children who have witnessed violence, Berman says, and the effects last into adulthood.
“The more unexpected and unanticipated and sudden it is, and the more helpless they feel when it happened,” Killeen says, “the more significant the trauma is.”
‘Like death itself'
Bruce Jamison's job is to look after children. He is a security guard at a D.C. school and can tell the difference between those who act out because they want attention and those who do so because they need it. He spent his childhood among the latter, searching for a mother figure after his was taken from him.
Jamison was 10 and sitting in the back seat of his mother's car in Prince George's County when her ex-boyfriend opened the back door and, as Jamison and his five younger siblings watched, shot her as she sat in the driver's seat. The man then turned the gun on himself.
“I saw my mother slouched over and blood coming out of her ear,” Jamison, now 29, recalls. He got out of the car, ran to his mother's side and tried to sit her upright. “I looked in my mother's eyes and told her it was going to be okay. Then I ran into the house and called 911.”
Jamison and his siblings have not talked much about that day — not to one another, and not even to the therapists they visited afterward. Their grandmother raised them and did the best she could, Jamison says. Still, the loss took a toll on each of them.
Jamison acted out in school until about ninth grade when he realized, he says, “she's not coming back no matter how I act.”
Tannetta Elliott, who shares a resemblance to her mother, recalls that day vividly, down to the dream she had after falling asleep in the hours that followed. In it, her mother stepped out of the car and was okay.
“Being a child of domestic violence is like a death in itself,” says Elliott, who was 6 and sitting in the front seat. “It's like your life is being taken. Sometimes I used to say, ‘Maybe I should have taken that bullet.' ”
Elliott, now 26 and a mother of two, says she has learned enough about PTSD to know how that day altered her. It affected how she views the world — “Sometimes you're scared to even live in it,” she says — and it left a void during milestones in her life: prom, graduation, the birth of her children.
“He didn't just take something from my mom,” Elliott says, “he took something from me.”
‘Really, really scared'
When the Maryland House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the child witness legislation, representatives from victim advocacy groups spoke one after another, citing studies and personal stories in support of the law.
Two bills were proposed — one as part of a package backed by Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) and the other put forth by Del. Luiz R.S. Simmons (D-Montgomery) with support from Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) — that called for giving judges the option of adding five years onto a sentence. Brown and Gansler are both seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, prompting some political sparring around the issue.
Last year, Erin Curtis testified on behalf of the bill that was backed by Gansler. It received support in both the House and Senate but did not come to a vote in time for the legislation to pass.
This year's legislation has generated little opposition, beyond concerns raised by the Maryland Office of the Public Defender that the proposed bill, as written, could be taken beyond family violence and applied to cases in which “children can see or hear strangers outside the home in violent conflict with each other through a window or door.”
In Maryland as many as 19,000 domestic-related crimes are reported each year. And last year, 50 people in the state died as a result of such crimes, according to the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence, which tracks the annual toll.
One memory stands out most to Michael from that night his mother was attacked. He had locked himself in a bedroom at the prompting of the 911 operator but opened the door at one point to let in his brother. When he did, he found the toddler in blood-stained pajamas, asking whether he could watch SpongeBob on TV.
After that, Michael hesitated to unlock the door again — even after the police arrived.
“Wait. May I please wait a few more minutes?” Michael can be heard asking the operator on the recording. “Wait. I'm really, really scared.”
The operator assures him that it will be okay, that no one is going to hurt him, and soon the sound of officers walking into the room can be heard. Also audible: a tiny voice calling out for “Daddy.”
“I'm sorry,” Michael tells his brother. “You'll never see daddy again.”
Curtis, whose fingers remain permanently curled inward on one hand, says she knows that once her ex-husband is released he will want to see his son. At the advice of a therapist, she has allowed her youngest, now 8, to visit him in prison. Five additional years of jail time doesn't sound like much, but Curtis says it would have made all the difference. Her youngest would have been at least 13 when his father was released, not a second-grader who, on a recent evening, was chasing his hamster Theodore around the living room.
“He's not old enough yet to really understand what happened,” Curtis says. “Every so often he'll take my hand and try to straighten my fingers. He'll say, ‘Did Daddy do that to you?'”
After the incident, Curtis says, her youngest would wake up screaming in the night, saying a man was in his room. He also suffered violent outbursts that required him to be physically restrained. He remembers enough about that night that he once told her, “I told him to stop, but he just wouldn't listen.”
Curtis, who has the word “survivor” tattooed on her left wrist, says that other than some irrational fears early on, including that her sons were going to stab her in her sleep, she has not experienced many psychological repercussions. She attributes much of that to knowing the whereabouts of her ex-husband, a man she describes as a “good person who did a bad thing,” but still fears enough that she has asked The Post not to publish his name to avoid antagonizing him.
Michael, who keeps a folder of the sketches he drew during his many therapy sessions, says his own nightmares have mostly disappeared. Even so, he recently dreamed that an announcer on the news said his mother had died. When he woke up, he ran to her room, found her bed empty and, not knowing she had left early for a flag football game, thought the worst. When he finally got through to her on her cellphone, he was crying so hysterically she couldn't understand him.
“Am I psychologically messed up?” Michael asks. “Yes, it affected me, but there are kids who have witnessed domestic violence for years and years and years. The really unfortunate truth is that if a kid has witnessed things like that from a very young age, they may think it's okay. I feel because of the experience I've had, I will never mistreat my partner in any way.”
A similar sentiment dangled above his brother's bed on a recent evening. On the front of a handmade mobile, in a nod to Martin Luther King Jr., he had listed his dreams for his community, nation and world. On the back was this sentence: “My dream is for everyone to live in peace.”
He proudly pointed it out to a stranger. Then a few weeks later, it was gone. He had torn it down during an outburst.
Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.
Vt. schools implement child abuse prevention programs
by Shelby Cashman
SOUTH HERO, Vt. -- Prevent Child Abuse Vermont has developed programs specifically for schools with the goal of ending the generational cycle of child abuse. These programs are not limited to students. They train all who interact with children on methods to prevent abuse and empower children to be heard.
"Our objective today is to explore the role everyone can play in preventing sexual harassment and abuse in particular," said Mary Ann Fisher, a Folsom school counselor.
It's 2014, but the children here are dressed up in their favorite decade. It's called "Decade Day" at Folsom School in South Hero. Eighth-grade students are talking about a topic that has spanned for decades-- child sexual abuse.
"This year we've focused a lot more, as you know, on some of the more hard and difficult subjects of sexual abuse," said Fisher.
Fisher has been teaching the SAFE-T, or the Sexual Abuse Free Environment for Teens program, developed by Prevent Child Abuse Vermont, for 15 years.
"What I really like about it particularly at our school, is that it gets kids thinking ahead of time about the relationships they're going to be facing," said Fisher.
Prevent Child Abuse Vermont began developing programs for schools after noticing a trend.
The Department for Children and Families Reports in 2012:
41 percent of sexual abusers were under the age of 20
Most of those abusers were between the ages of 12 and 19
22 percent were from ages 20 to 30
21 percent from ages 30 to 40
17 percent were over the age of 40
The group has implemented the SAFE-T program in about half of the middle schools across the state, reaching almost 5,000 students and the group says that it's working.
"We actually had a six-year scientific evaluation by the University of New Hampshire at Durham, the Crimes Against Children's Center that showed that SAFE-T is highly effective, especially with building empathy and knowledge about child sexual abuse," said Linda Johnson, the executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Vermont.
SAFE-T focuses on a wide array of topics including consent, the power of saying no, and not being afraid to speak up if something doesn't feel right.
"We're making these brochures where we pick a topic and we write that on the front and we can draw a little picture. So I'm doing consent and basically consent is having a mutual agreement between two people, so like asking permission to do something," said Folsom student Oliver Kowalewitz.
Prevent Child Abuse Vermont has 14 specialized programs for children of all ages, as well as programs specifically for parents and educators. Through their partnerships with the Department of Children and Families and various other agencies across the state, the group says they directly served about 17,000 people last year.
Program to tackle child sex abuse
Churches want children kept safe
by Ruth Ingram
Mississippi church leaders, employees and volunteers need tools to equip them in preventing sexual abuse of children — and to ensure children's safety by keeping would-be perpetrators from coming through the church doors in the first place.
Organizers of an April 29 conference open to all religious denominations hope that information will change mindsets, raise awareness and empower pastors to operate ministries free from child molestation.
The host site: Morrison Heights Baptist Church in Clinton, which for years employed as music minister now-convicted child sex offender John Langworthy, who admitted during a service at the church in August 2011 that he molested young boys in Texas and the Jackson area more than 20 years ago.
Langworthy last year pleaded guilty to five felony gratification of lust charges involving five boys ages 10-13 between April 1980 and December 1984. He received no jail time.
But his is not the only recent case of alleged or proven sexual abuse of Mississippi children by church employees, volunteers or ministers in a position of trust.
In February, a Raymond Road Baptist Church employee from Clinton was arrested on one count of gratification of lust. Adam Epperson, 34, who also was formerly employed at Central Hinds Academy, was arrested following accusations by a male youth associated with Epperson through church and school.
In November 2013, former WLBT-TV meteorologist Eric Law pleaded guilty to sexual battery of a 15-year-old girl and was sentenced to eight years in prison after admitting he repeatedly had sex with the teen at his home. Although Law wasn't employed by a church, he said on his Google+ blog that he and his wife “serve as uncle and aunt to many kids from church.”
And in December 2012, the 71-year-old pastor of Bay Springs Baptist Church in Tate County was indicted on child sex charges and held on $1 million bond. Larry Singleton is accused of abusing from age 11 a boy who's now 18.
“Reacting to abuse is not enough,” said Chrystelle Thames, director of public relations at the Baptist Children's Village, which is sponsoring the program with the Christian Action Commission of the Mississippi Baptist Convention.
“The Baptist Children's Village wants to be proactive in the prevention of all abuse which we know and understand can cause lifelong pain. We are offering this event to educate and provide pastors and church leaders with the facts and the tools necessary to prevent abuse.”
They've put together a lineup of speakers for the 10 a.m to 3 p.m. event at Morrison Heights, off I-20 at Springridge Road in Clinton. They include Fort Worth attorney Gregory Love, co-founder and director of MinistrySafe and Abuse Prevention Systems. He will identify commonly held misconceptions about sexual abuse and abusers and provide facts about abuser characteristics.
Also speaking will be the Rev. Brad Eubank, pastor of First Baptist Church in Petal and a survivor of clergy sex abuse.
“My prayer is that by sharing about God's grace in my experience, I will be able to help other victims and their families find help, healing and hope and that I will be able to save and protect children by empowering those around them,” Eubank said.
Angie McLeod Williams of the state Department of Human Services' Division of Family and Children's Services will explain what happens when someone reports known or suspected abuse, from what information needs to be conveyed to law enforcement to what happens after the person reporting hangs up the phone.
Amy Smith of Dallas, the Dallas-area leader of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, was instrumental in Langworthy's arrest and conviction. “We applaud the Baptist Children's Village and Morrison Heights for hosting this important conference,” Smith said.
“It is critical that people in our churches and communities become more educated and aware of the systemic child sexual abuse happening in our midst, in places that kids should be the safest. When churches and other trusted institutions protect the perpetrators and silence the victims, kids are not safe."
Activist leads charge for child sexual abuse law
by Anna Johnson
CARTHAGE — A native Carthaginian is heading the effort to enact a North Carolina law requiring children to be educated about the threat of sexual abuse.
After sexual abuse impacted Sonya McTillman's family, she began looking for ways to prevent children from being abused and to educate children about the threat of sexual assault. To prevent families from facing a similar tragedy, McTillman said she wants to enact Erin's Law in North Carolina.
“Erin's Law requires public school systems to hold an annual sexual abuse prevention curriculum for students and staff,” she said.
Erin's Law is named after Erin Merryn, an Illinois woman who was sexually abused as a child and has since made it her crusade to educate children about sexual abuse. It has been passed in 10 states, and the bill has been introduced or scheduled to be introduced in 27 other states, including North Carolina.
N.C. Sen. Gladys Robinson, D-Guilford, announced in February her intention to introduce the bill when the General Assembly reconvenes in May. In the coming months, McTillman said she intends to travel to Central Carolina to give presentations about the law, and she encouraged Lee County residents to contact their local representatives to express their support.
“We anticipate bipartisan support for this bill,” she said. “We don't think we'll have any trouble passing this bill because it is in the best interest of the children.”
The curriculum would be rooted in the Greensboro-based Bee Wise Kids program, which has been used in faith-based settings for the last six years, McTillman said. The program could be tweaked for secular use and should cost little to implement, she said.
The law is desperately needed in North Carolina, McTillman said, because one in 10 children is sexually abused before the age of 18 and it costs North Carolina more than $845 million per year in long-term expenses and losses attributed to child sexual abuse.
More information about Erin's Law in North Carolina can be found at www.beewisekids.org.
Why did stories on dog picture, child sex abuse elicit much different reactions?
by Alyssa Rosenberg
WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- The photo of a dog hanging has gotten a lot of attention over the past few days. The story on our website got 132 comments and nearly 40,000 reads in just 48 hours.
But why did a story about a couple facing more than 100 sex crimes with a child got far less reaction? And why are some comments even more violent than the alleged offenses?
We asked a clinical psychologist for insight.
Extreme comments were not hard to find on our stories about the dog being hanged from a ceiling and the couple charged with the crimes with a child.
Doxie lover posted on the dog abuse story, "This is SO SICKENING! What kind of MONSTERS would do this. I hope anyone involved in stringing this poor puppy up like this BURN IN HELL!"
And Dirk Diglr had this to say about the two charged with sex crimes: "Its a shame public hangings are no longer allowed. These 2 would be perfect candidates. I hope the die a long miserable, suffering, painful death."
Clinical psychologist and UNCW professor Dr. Kate Nooner says there may be a few reasons for the violent comments.
"Being online and having that level of privacy kind of makes you willing to say things that are bigger than what you would say in another context, and also, the second part, is people feel like, well you did something against a harmless creature, so it's justified for me to harm you," Dr. Nooner said.
She says it's human nature to react like this.
"Our natural reaction when something wrong happens, our emotions run high, and if something violent happens responding with aggression is kind of the natural emotion that comes out," Nooner said.
But why would this picture elicit more emotion than a child investigators say was abused for nearly a decade? It is something that outraged Sad Man, who wrote: "What's really sad is that this story only had three comments, and the stupid dog hanging from its harness for a few seconds has 132 comments of outrage.What's really sad is that we have twisted priorities that put a dog, or any animal, above a child."
Dr. Nooner says there may be a reason for this.
"Thinking of harmful things, especially sexual abuse happening to children, is so terrifying that they don't even want to click and look at a story on it," she said.
Dr. Nooner says when it comes to dealing with something violent, aggression usually is not helpful and can make things worse.
On A Single Day, Nearly 10,000 Domestic Violence Victims Couldn't Get The Help They Needed
by Bryce Covert
On a single day last year, domestic violence support programs were unable to meet 9,641 requests for help, from emergency shelter to legal representation, according to the latest census from the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV). “This means that over 9,000 times an advocate was forced to tell a courageous caller or person at the door that, unfortunately, there was no bed, counselor, or attorney available to help,” the report notes.
The organization attributes this unmet need to the financial situation of the country's domestic violence programs. More than a quarter say that they couldn't provide the support because of cuts in government spending and 20 percent said it was because of staff reductions. Nearly 1,700 staff positions were eliminated across the country last year.
Of the unmet needs, the most, or 42 percent, were for emergency shelter. “[I]n most places, the demand for emergency shelter is outpacing the availability,” the report notes, as more than 4,000 requests went unmet. Nearly 200 programs had to reduce or eliminate emergency housing last year. This leaves many victims in extreme danger. As an Oregon advocate relates in the report, the program got a call on its 24-hour crisis line requesting emergency shelter. “She was fleeing from her abuser, who had found her at her sister's house and assaulted her so badly she ended up in the hospital,” the advocate says. “Unfortunately, we have no shelter space available, and she has nowhere to go.”
Another 40 percent of unmet needs were for services that weren't related to housing, and 18 percent were for transitional housing. Transitional housing can be critical for getting victims back on their feet as they leave emergency shelter, but only 42 percent of programs are able to provide it and 71 had to reduce or eliminate this service in the past year.
Low funding and staff led programs to cut back on other services. Ninety-four reduced or eliminated transportation services, but many victims don't have cars or money for gas to get to shelters. An advocate in Rhode Island reported that a woman who had been severely beaten by her husband and was living in a homeless shelter needed a confidential shelter so he couldn't find her. “We were full and the only shelter with space available was a few states away,” the advocate said. “Unfortunately, we didn't have any transportation funds to get her to that shelter.” Sixty-nine cut back on legal representation, but victims often need support in navigating the legal system.
When these programs were asked what happens most often when survivors are turned away from services, 60 percent said they return to their abusers, and another 27 percent said they become homeless.
This is NNEDV's eighth census, a snapshot of domestic violence needs and services around the country conducted on September 17, 2013. The good news is that 66,581 adults and children received the services they needed.
But domestic violence shelters and programs have been dealing with reduced funding for some time. They suffered a severe drop last year under sequestration when the automatic budget cuts took a $20 million chunk out of their funding. Yet even before those cuts took place, programs were grappling with smaller budgets. In 2012, nearly 80 percent said they were getting lower government funding and many were also getting less money from private sources of funding. That meant 43 percent had to reduce their services, even as most shelters reported an increase in demand as well as the severity of abuse.
The consequences can't be overstated. As one program in California told ThinkProgress, “As [services] get cut we're going to see more and more homicides.”
Pregnant mom who drove kids into ocean at Daytona Beach charged with attempted murder
Ebony Wilkerson, 32 - who is nearly seven months pregnant - was booked on a litany of charges that included attempted murder for wildly driving into the surf with her three children in the vehicle on Tuesday. Police said she told the children, ages 10, 9 and 3, that she was 'taking them to a better place.'
by Joe Kemp
The pregnant mother who wildly drove her three children into the surf at a Florida beach was booked on a slew of charges that included attempted murder and child abuse, authorities said.
Ebony Wilkerson, 32, was arrested after her release Friday from a local hospital, where she has been under evaluation since the apparent murder-suicide bid at Daytona Beach, authorities said.
Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson told reporters that Wilkerson was cuffed after several interviews with the woman's children — ages 10, 9 and 3 — and several witnesses.
“She actually told them to close their eyes and go to sleep, ‘I'm taking you to a better place,'” Johnson said. “The fact that she did intentionally try to kill the children...this is a tragic event.”
Wilkerson, who is nearly seven months pregnant, was driving erratically along the shoreline near Silver Beach Ave. when she suddenly veered into the ocean on Tuesday.
“Her son was actually trying to fight her for the steering wheel,” Johnson said.
As soon as the minivan plunged into the water, a group of lifeguards rushed into the water and braved the rolling waves to pluck the screaming kids from the abandoned van.
“The two in the backseat was crying with their arms out, saying: ‘Our mommy's trying to kill us, please help,'” Tim Tesseneer, who helped rescue the wailing children, told WESH-TV.
The terrifying ordeal happened just moments after Wilkerson, who was visiting from South Carolina, was pulled over by police — who tracked the woman down after a frantic call from her sister, authorities said.
The sister told the 911 dispatcher that Wilkerson wigged out inside her Daytona Beach home before putting her kids in the minivan and speeding away.
“She's talking about Jesus, that there's demons in the house,” the sister told the operator, according to a recording of the call obtained by WESH-TV.
“She's got the kids in the car with her.”
Police they pulled her over a short time later, but because the woman showed no signs of causing harm to herself or anyone else, the officers had no reasonable cause to take her into custody, Johnson said.
Soon after Wilkerson was allowed to get back on the road, she drove her van into the ocean.
The wild-eyed mother managed to hop out of the van and tried to stop the lifeguards from rescuing her children, Johnson said.
Wilkerson was taken to a hospital, where she underwent a psychiatric evaluation. Her children were placed temporarily with the Florida Department of Children and Families.
Officials with the agency are working with the South Carolina Department of Social Services, which is investigating any possible abuse history in the family.
Johnson said the father of the children has yet to show up to talk to investigators, but the mother has calmly denied the charges.
“She's denying that she was trying to harm the children,” said Johnson, adding that the woman had been “very calm and collected” during her interviews.
Investigators found no evidence of any prior mental illness history, Johnson said. But it was not immediately clear if alcohol or drugs were involved.
Wilkerson was scheduled to appear in court on Saturday.
Johnson said it was important to make sure the charges were enough to keep her in jail for a long time.
“We're going to make sure this doesn't happen again involving these children,” he said.
The arrest came after it was revealed that Wilkerson had been involved in another deadly accident.
Court records obtained by The Post and Courier show that Wilkerson was connected to a fatal car accident in Delray Beach in 2007.
Wilkerson was cited for making an improper lane change — which caused another car to crash into a concrete barrier, the paper reported on Friday.
The car's passenger, 35-year-old Jennifer Krane, died from her injuries two weeks later.
Detroit police officer charged with sexually assaulting woman while responding to call
by Gina Damron
The woman called 911, seeking help from police after reportedly being assaulted by her boyfriend.
But while police responded to the domestic violence call, one of the officers allegedly took the woman into an upstairs bedroom and sexually assaulted her, authorities said.
Detroit Police Officer Deon Nunlee has been charged in the alleged Oct. 30 assault of a 31-year-old woman. Police said DNA connected Nunlee to the assault.
“I'm troubled,” Detroit Police Chief James Craig said at a news conference Friday. “Certainly, this is the type of criminal misconduct that should never happen by any member of this department, or any department for that matter.”
Nunlee, 40, has been charged with three counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count each of assault with intent to penetrate and misconduct in office, according to the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office.
Prosecutors said Nunlee and his partner were dispatched to an early-morning domestic violence run on the 16000 block of Asbury Park, where the woman said she had been assaulted by her boyfriend.
According to the prosecutor's office, Nunlee took the woman upstairs and his partner stayed with the boyfriend downstairs.
“It is alleged that when Nunlee was in an upstairs bedroom with the woman, he sexually assaulted her,” according to the prosecutor's office. “While they were alone upstairs, Nunlee indicated he would be coming back to the house later at 7 a.m.”
Police said Nunlee did not return.
According to the prosecutor's office, the woman reported the alleged assault to police the next day.
Craig said the other officer at the scene did nothing wrong. He said that in domestic dispute situations, officers do keep parties at safe distance, but in this case, they were in different parts of the home. For officer safety, Craig said, “an officer should never lose line of sight of their partner.”
Cmdr. Johnny Thomas of the department's professional standards bureau said that when the woman reported the alleged assault to police on Oct. 31, Nunlee was placed on administrative duties. On. Feb. 10, after results from the rape kit came back, Nunlee was suspended without pay, Thomas said.
Asked whether Nunlee denied the allegation, Thomas said Nunlee was given his Miranda warning and took his right to remain silent.
Nunlee was arraigned Friday in Detroit's 36th District Court. His preliminary examination is scheduled for April 17.
Nunlee, who was working in the 8th Precinct, has been on the force since 2008 and previously had minor misconducts, police said.
Craig said this incident is not a reflection of the department.
“This is an anomaly. This is not what our police officers do,” Craig said. “This officer who decided to engage in criminal misconduct does not represent the 2,500 or so sworn men and women who wear this uniform.”
Nunlee is the third Detroit police officer to face charges this month.
~ On Wednesday, Detroit Police Officer Johnny Ray Bridges, 47, was charged with unlawful imprisonment, assault with intent to do great bodily harm, domestic violence and reckless discharge of a firearm in connection with the assault of a 31-year-old woman on Monday. According to the prosecutor's office, Bridges was off duty when he got into an argument with the woman, fired a handgun in the air and punched and kicked her in her face and body. Prosecutors said both had been drinking.
~ Suspended Detroit Police Officer Dana Bond, 41, is facing misdemeanor charges of high blood-alcohol content, failure to stop at the scene of a personal injury accident, and failure to stop at the scene of an accident with property damage. Bond is accused of driving while intoxicated and getting into an accident on Sunday. Bond was already suspended without pay at the time of the accident because she is facing retail fraud charges for allegedly stealing wine and food from stores in Detroit.
On Friday, before the news conference, Craig said the department “will always vigorously investigate any allegations of misconduct.”
California releases child abuse identification and reporting guidelines for parents
by Theresa Harrington
SACRAMENTO -- State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson on Wednesday issued new guidelines to help parents and guardians report suspected child abuse at schools.
In a letter to school officials, Torlakson explained that California's Education Code requires the state Department of Education to adopt guidelines for parents and guardians to follow if they want to file complaints against those suspected of abusing their child at school. The guidelines define child abuse as negligent treatment, willful injury or harm, sexual abuse, assault, and or exploitation. It does not include a fight between two students under 18, or injury caused by an adult or law enforcement officer attempting to stop a disturbance.
More information is available by visiting www.cde.ca.gov. Click on "Child Abuse Reporting Guidelines."
Child Abuse Cases Rise
The number of child abuse cases has risen steadily around the state but Macon county has seen a spike.
Jean Moore, executive director of the Macon County Child Advocacy Center, says the number of cases at the center is up 40-percent over the last year but funding has been cut by 30-percent over the last five years.
"We're meeting those needs with the same number of people and we just feel like we're not doing it as well as we could be doing it because we don't have the resources and we don't have the time," Moore said.
An annual report by Voices for Illinois Children shows there were 631 substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect in 2013 in Macon county; up a hundred cases from the previous year.
Macon county also has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state at 12-percent. Research shows family economic stress is associated with higher rates of child abuse.
"I'm concerned for our community because there are so many different factors and it's kind of like the perfect storm when I look at the economic factors and I think about family stress, the unemployment rate and high cost of child care and families can't afford appropriate child care," Moore said.
Law enforcement officials in Macon county say calls for domestic disturbances overshadow other calls for service. Decatur police responded to about 28,000 domestic calls last year and the sheriff's office had 340 calls.
Lt. Jamie Belcher with the sheriff's office said, "Domestic violence calls are one of the most dangerous calls a police officer will ever go to... Obviously we want to protect every child that's ever in any type of danger."
Another issue according to Moore is there is no funding for child abuse prevention. The Macon County Child Advocacy Center provides a parenting class but it's paid for by fundraising efforts, because grants for it ran out a few years ago.
Is any failure rate tolerable in child abuse cases?
by Josh Brodesky
SAN ANTONIO — Maybe John Specia is right.
Maybe it really doesn't matter that 20 percent of Texas kids who fell under Child Protective Services' watchful eye in 2008 were re-victimized over the next five years.
Children in troubled families were abused and neglected. The state agency charged with protecting those kids from harm intervened. And within five years, they were abused again.
That's the story for one in five kids in Texas and Bexar County, but maybe that doesn't matter now.
“It's what happened to the children in 2008, so it doesn't really tell us anything about what's happening today or last year,” said Specia, the head of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. “It tells us what happened five years ago.”
That was then, this is now. It's all ancient history, right?
Tell that to the kids who were re-abused between 2008 and 2013.
Besides, history keeps repeating itself. Year after year in Texas and Bexar County, we see the same stat. One in five kids who receive CPS services will get re-victimized within five years.
“For us to make this decision to either leave them with abusive parents or reunite them before the parents are ready and have that child re-abused within five years, to me, is unforgivable,” said Madeline McClure, executive director of Dallas-based TexProtects, The Texas Association for the Protection of Children.
“That's the No. 1, I think, measure of our efficacy, or lack thereof.”
While Specia doesn't want to ask any questions about this, McClure is asking the right ones.
TexProtects is examining whether caseloads affect this re-victimization rate, or if certain services improve it. Perhaps families need to receive services longer before being reunified with their kids.
“Now I will say from my perspective, clearly we are making reunification decisions too soon or before parents are ready, or we are not keeping our family-based safety service cases open long enough,” she said. “That's what I would guess at this point, but I don't have the statistics to show it.”
Research in other states has shown re-victimization mostly occurs in neglect cases, in families with substance abuse and with children 6 years or younger, McClure said. There are other factors such as family isolation or kids with special needs.
Understanding these dynamics in Texas could help improve family services and prevent future abuse.
“If families are going through CPS and not getting any better, then we need to stop, and we really need to assess, and we need to perhaps change the way we are doing things,” said Judge Peter Sakai, a longtime child advocate and abuse prevention leader.
Or we could just live with it. That's what Specia was implying, even if he didn't mean to, when he said, “It's kids in 2008.”
More accurately, it's kids who were abused at least twice between 2008 and 2013 despite CPS involvement.
Specia also said better reporting could be a factor.
“I think there is a higher sensitivity to abuse and neglect,” he said. “So when you have more cases coming in the front door, you are probably going to have a higher number of confirmed cases, and they receive services.”
Only, the rate has been steady even as reporting has increased. Between 2002 and 2008, the number of children CPS served in Bexar County grew from 3,925 to 6,230. But the re-victimization rate stayed the same. It was 19.3 percent in 2002, and 19.8 percent in 2008.
Specia also said he wasn't sure if the abuse in these cases was necessarily severe.
“I don't know how serious these matters were,” Specia said.
Some of these repeat instances might have been the lowest-priority calls to CPS, he said.
Does that really make it better?
Child Protective Services doesn't like this five-year number because there are many variables. A lot happens in five years, and it shouldn't all be pinned on CPS.
Fair enough. But that's no excuse to ignore, or diminish, what's happened to these kids. To do so is a tacit acceptance of failure.
“I am hoping that five years from now, in my term it's a lower rate,” Specia said.
History suggests otherwise.
Victim speaks out to encourage wider discussion of violence
by Ebony Battersby
THE man of the house, a stable, honourable and protective figurehead - is one whom you hold as a benchmark for future relationships.
Except when that man, your father, is the reason for your suffering.
Emma* considers herself a survivor of abuse from her father.
An advocate for expanding the classification of victims, Emma wishes to spread the message that while violence is pervasively common in domestic relationships, focus needs to be aligned on a broader spectrum.
"I do not know of another adult who is being abused by their parent," she said.
"I'd like to get people openly talking about parents abusing adult children, to increase community awareness and research and thus funding on this type of family violence."
Emma was not the only member of her family to endure suffering.
Threats to her children's lives, of suicide, stalking and manipulation were some of the psychological torments imposed upon her.
"Due to the unusual source of the family violence, I did not speak openly with family and friends about the abuse occurring," she said.
"Society expects children to show respect and care toward parents for the nurturing they provided us as children. I found it hard telling a few close people of the abuse.
"Their immediate reaction was disbelief because why would a parent harm a child?"
Fear is an emotion victims of abuse become accustomed to.
In Emma's case, it was not only from her father, but included the negative stigma from society.
Entrenched in their isolation of being minority group victims, a lack of response often exacerbates the issue.
The father figure, traditionally a cornerstone of trust in the family unit, grossly abused the relationship over decades.
With abuse only beginning in her adult years, it was a disorienting stage of Emma's life as she re-evaluated previous memories.
"The bond between parent and child is sacred; they created me," she said.
"I found it difficult to accept, being in the highest position of trust and respect in my life, yet my parent behaved like this."
Emma urges all victims of emotional, psychological and physical abuse to surround themselves with the positive support they need to realise the title "victim" is not of their choosing - or a reflection of character.
*Name has been changed for individual's protection.
Our Chance to Stop Sexual Violence Against Children in Conflict
by Anita Tiessen
When I visited a refugee registration centre in Lebanon recently, I heard stories of young children who have been through shocking experiences. Syrian boys and girls have fled conflict, lost their homes and watched friends and family members being killed. And now these children are facing another threat - the often hidden horror of sexual violence.
Rape and sexual abuse are not solely weapons of war. They also threaten children as their traditional safety nets - like extended family and social care - break down in the chaos of conflict.
Many families fled Syria with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Now struggling to make ends meet, devastated by the conflict, they sometimes feel they have no choice but to send their children out to work - picking potatoes in fields, or selling roses and tissues in the street.
Sadly these children are in great danger of sexual abuse. I heard stories of children, especially young girls, who have been sexually attacked whilst out at work.
I also heard heartbreaking stories of girls as young as nine being married off to adult men by their families, because they can no longer afford to feed them.
Children caught up in conflict and wars are experiencing the most unthinkable violations, tearing apart their young lives. And sadly most sexual abuse will go unreported because children have no one to confide in or they fear stigma or retribution.
Without the safety nets that would ordinarily protect children, such as schools, social and health services and extended family, the risk of abuse, violence and exploitation is much greater. Syria is a current and very pressing example of where children need urgent protection.
Ahead of International Women's Day I've joined together with leading women across the UK to call for action. In our open letter published in The Times we urge the UK Government to galvanise international commitment to protect children in conflict.
In June, William Hague is holding the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, in London. We welcome the Government's leadership on this issue. International leaders must seize this opportunity not only to defend women, but also children who are at high risk of rape and sexual abuse in conflict zones.
Unicef works tirelessly to help children affected by sexual violence around the world. Children who have suffered in this way need vital support - from safe spaces to play, to vital schooling and psychological assistance.
It is also crucial to work with communities to stop violence and abuse happening in the first place - including improving children's understanding of how to protect themselves and building child-friendly justice systems.
Unicef's Child Friendly Spaces can help bring normality back to children's lives and help them recover from trauma. In Lebanon the children I met were drawing pictures and playing games with each other - getting the chance to be children again. It was a million miles away from the horrors they have experienced.
In a safe space, children can use art and drama to express themselves and come to terms with their experiences. These children are the next generation of leaders for Syria but all they have known for the last few years is violence.
We need to prevent them from becoming a lost generation and carrying the legacy of conflict with them forever.
In June UK ministers must do everything they can to ensure the Summit prioritises measures to help children report sexual crimes and hold their abusers to account, and also to make sure more funding is available for psychological and long-term support for child survivors.
The upcoming Global Summit is our chance to step up and take important strides to prevent more children from suffering these horrific violations.
Take action at www.unicef.org.uk/endsexualviolence
Review: Orphanage Of The Animals' depiction of trauma off target
by Cameron Woodhead
Karen Corbett's Orphanage of the Animals hinges on abuse, especially child abuse, and the trauma it causes. It's an expressionistic play that attempts, in the playwright's words, to ''ethically represent trauma in ways that subvert voyeurism''.
The play takes place on a set of dilapidated cardboard boxes, where five adult actors - Jasper Bagg, Susan Bracewell, Corbett, Francesca Waters and Russell Walsh - flicker between the child-like personae of trauma survivors and adult abusers. A chorus of bad mothers sing, chide and screech the piece into being.
Five kinds of abuse are depicted - psychological, emotional, sexual, physical and institutional - and although the performers are locked on stage together, they inhabit isolated internal realities.
There are some ambitious monologues. Bracewell transforms from a moody teenager spitting the world out of her mouth into a woman from a developing nation selling children for profit; Corbett shifts from a nicotine-deprived scabber into a bizarre fugue that blends Catholic allegory and mental illness.
Waters is the most stable presence, as a girl who takes refuge from a life of poverty and criminality by compulsively leading the cast into playful games. Bagg and Walsh portray the anger of the trauma survivor, or the way trauma can mutilate one's ability to communicate.
Orphanage isn't easy to watch and very little in the play achieves its aim. If Corbett and co-director Catherine Samsury were trying to achieve the sort of distressing figures arrested by trauma - both adult and child, yet neither - that Peter Greenaway did in the film Drowning by Numbers , they unequivocally fail.
While the writing has a certain demotic vitality, it needs to harness a more poetic sensibility and more shapely structure to really probe and reconstruct the underlying psychological reality of trauma. Perhaps it needs to accept the inevitability of narrative, too. As it stands, Orphanage bites off more than it can chew: its dramaturgy is so opaque and fractured it's sometimes difficult to know what's going on, let alone care.
Trial begins for U.S. Army general accused of sex crimes
by Colleen Jenkins
FORT BRAGG -- An Army general will be accused of forcing a junior officer to perform oral sex, grabbing her genitalia against her will and having intercourse with her in public places when the U.S. government lays out its case against him on Friday.
But Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair's lawyers say he is innocent of any sex crimes and is the focus of a rare court-martial against a top officer because military leaders wanted to look serious about cracking down on sexual violence in the service.
The government targeted the married one-star general despite flimsy evidence based on the word of a female captain who revealed their three-year adulterous affair in a fit of desperation and jealousy, Sinclair's defense says.
"They have the testimony of one person who has been utterly discredited at every turn," said Richard Scheff, a civilian lawyer who serves as Sinclair's lead attorney.
Lawyers will set a roadmap for where the trial is headed when they give opening statements on Friday in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Their audience will be a panel of five two-star generals chosen to decide Sinclair's fate.
Sinclair, 51, a married father of two, faces up to life in prison if found guilty of the most serious charge, forcible sodomy.
On Thursday, he pleaded guilty to lesser offenses that carry a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and possible dismissal from the Army.
Sinclair admitted to having an extramarital affair with the captain 17 years his junior as well as seeking nude photos from other junior female officers and viewing pornography while he was deployed in Afghanistan. He denies sexually assaulting the captain and says the relationship was consensual, although inappropriate by military standards.
The charges saw him stripped of command in southern Afghanistan in May 2012 and sent home to Fort Bragg, where he remains on active duty.
He was required by the trial judge to provide specifics of his wrongdoing as part of his guilty plea, and more salacious details will likely emerge as the proceedings unfold.
The defense says text messages, some of them sexual in nature, and the captain's journal entries support Sinclair's claim that the relationship was consensual and that the captain pursued him.
Prosecutors, however, say Sinclair used his superior rank to force the woman to stay in the sexual relationship and threatened to harm her if she exposed the affair.
The Satanic Child Sex Abuse Case That May Have Inspired ‘True Detective'
The Hosanna Church was the heart of a child sex abuse scandal shrouded in reports of devil worship and rituals with cat blood and pentagrams. Is this the case behind 'True Detective'?
by Steven Ward
Is there any monster in this world worse than man?
The residents of the small, south Louisiana town of Ponchatoula discovered in 2005 there were monsters committing unspeakable acts to children and animals. The evil was reportedly carried out inside a church.
A splinter cult reportedly formed by leaders and members of the Hosanna Church became the salacious heart of a child sex abuse scandal that rocked and shocked the community following newspaper and broadcast reports of devil worshipping and occult rituals involving animal blood and pentagrams.
Last month, Nic Pizzolatto, the South Louisiana-reared creator of HBO's critically acclaimed pulp-thriller True Detective, told an Entertainment Weekly reporter that viewers of his show can piece together parts of the plot and forthcoming ending by Googling the words “Satanism,” “preschool,” and “Louisiana.” Pizzolatto then said, “You'll be surprised at what you get.”
His hint points to the Hosanna Church scandal from 2005.
A staff writer at The Baton Rouge Advocate, my editors sent me to Ponchatoula to investigate, meet people, and find out whatever I could about the church and what may have happened. The area was unfamiliar to me. I covered other parishes but was sent there because the reporter who usually covered the area was out on vacation. I spent a few days in Ponchatoula, met some locals and wrote three articles for my newspaper that ran in May and June of 2005.
Everyone I met said they couldn't believe what we were all reporting.
I couldn't help but think of the cliché of neighbors telling the media that the guy who turns out to be a serial killer was always so nice, quiet, and normal. But looking back, it's unclear if members of the community I interviewed were more traumatized and disturbed by the accusations of the occult or the actual sex crimes themselves.
Back in May 2005, Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards told The Baton Rouge Advocate that members of the Ponchatoula cult accused of sexually abusing children and animals said they carried out the practices for years as part of a devil worshiping ritual involving cat blood.
“This is hard to talk about and harder to believe, but some of the suspects have told us their intention in all of this was devil worshipping,” Edwards told the Baton Rouge newspaper.
Most of the community, with a population of just more than 6,000, were in disbelief when the media reports first surfaced.
Ponchatoula was known then and still today as “America's Antique City” with its concentrated downtown area lined with antique shops. The town is also recognized internationally for its Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival.
“We are in disbelief about of all of this. Never in a million, million years would we have guessed that Louis was capable of these things. Somewhere along the line, things went wrong for him,” community member Judy Hooter said in the Advocate in 2005.
The Louis she mentioned is Louis David Lamonica.
Lamonica was 45 in 2005 when he walked into a neighboring sheriff's office on May 16 of that year and confessed to detectives that he had sex with children and animals. Lamonica was the pastor of Hosanna Church right before it closed two years before in 2003. He went on trial in August 2008 after he was charged with four counts of aggravated rape of his sons when they were ages 11 or younger.
According to trial testimony reported by The Baton Rouge Advocate, an hour-long confession by Lamonica to detectives was played to jurors where Lamonica talked about the occult activities.
The cult began in 2000, Lamonica told deputies, with the dedication of an infant girl to Satan by placing the child in a pentagram, sacrificing a cat, and sprinkling the girl with its blood. “And then, (we) stopped worshipping God and worshiped Satan," Lamonica told the deputies in the confession.
He went on to tell detectives that Hosanna had two churches—one for God, in the sanctuary, and the other for Satan, in the youth room. Lamonica said his sons were selected for sexual abuse and cult members—including women—all participated.
Both of Lamonica's sons recanted the allegations that they were raped. Lamonica was one of seven people indicted in the case, and was later convicted of the crimes and sentenced to life in prison.
All these years later, it's still unclear if the devil worshipping and occult details that were given to detectives ever actually happened. There was no physical evidence, such as the existence of pentagrams on the floor or buried remains of sacrificed animals, presented at Lamonica's trial.
Were stories made up by those accused to hide the truly evil acts alleged in the indictments?
District Attorney Scott Perrilloux, who prosecuted Lamonica, told The Baton Rouge Advocate in 2008 that the case was never about satanic cults.
“This case, from our perspective, had nothing to do with a church or a cult or any sort of high pressure situation. This case is about child abuse and molestation,” Perrilloux said.
The people of Ponchatoula were also left wondering if the occult had anything to do with the crimes.
“I honestly don't know if those things happened or not,” said Pat Ory, a member of the community who knew Louis David Lamonica but left Hosanna Church in 1997 when the church was called something else.
“It took a while for us to even go back to a church after all of that,” Ory said recently. Ory recalled the Hosanna Church scandal as “very stressful.”
The defense theory in the Lamonica case was that there was a cult at the church but it had nothing to do with worshiping the devil. Defense attorney Michael Thiel presented testimony at the trial that the cult was Christian but it held the members in such power that Lamonica falsely confessed.
The jury disagreed.
No one knows for sure what kind of impact this story had on Pizzolatto and how it may fit into the True Detective storyline. But the Hosanna Church scandal is a story that proves once again that the monsters we should be scared of most are the ones that live right next door.
Military sexual assault bill heads for Senate vote
by RICHARD LARDNER
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate is voting Thursday on legislation to curb sexual assaults in the military by stripping senior commanders of their authority to prosecute rapes and other serious offenses.
The bill is firmly opposed by the Pentagon's leadership, which argues officers should have more responsibility, not less, for the conduct of the troops they lead.
A solid majority of the Senate backs the bill, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, illustrating the deep frustration among Republicans and Democrats over the military's failure to stem the epidemic of sexual assaults in the ranks.
Gillibrand, however, will likely need 60 votes to clear a filibuster. Her office is optimistic she will get the support needed.
More Than 10,000 Women Will March Through London to Call for an End to Violence Against Women
London, United Kingdom, March 06, 2014 -- (PR.com) -- More than 10,000 women and children will take to the streets of central London on International Women’s Day - Saturday, 8 March, 2014.
The march, organised by Million Women Rise (MWR), is holding up a mirror to the reality of male violence against women in the UK. MWR organises coaches to make the march accessible to women from all across the UK, thousands of whom will meet at 12 noon outside Selfridges on Oxford Street.
Professor Liz Kelly from the Violence against Women’s Coalition (EVAW) and head of Women and Child Abuse Studies and Research Unit at London Metropolitan University said: “On Million Women Rise I feel part of a movement of women dedicated to supporting survivors and to ending violence against women and girls. It is always powerful and inspiring, restoring our strength and our pledge to ourselves and each other to never give up until the violence stops.”
Sabrina Qureshi, founder of Million Women Rise, named one of the new pioneers of feminism by the Independent, said: “Worldwide, one in three women will experience some form of violence in her lifetime. If violence against women were a disease, governments everywhere would be declaring a state of emergency.
“Every one of the millions of women and children every year who die or are injured as a consequence of male violence is a stark reminder of why we march, and why we cannot rest until we have eliminated this violence against women. To do nothing is to accept this violation of our human rights and to say that those lives are valueless or less important than others.”
The march is supported by women’s organisations up and down the country including the SouthHall Black Sisters, the Women’s Resource Centre, Women and Girls Network, Imkaan and Rape Crisis England and Wales.
“Rape Crisis is extremely proud to have been part of the Million Women Rise coalition these last seven years and we’re looking forwarding to marching on London in solidarity with women and children from across the UK and the globe again this International Women’s Day. Through 40 years’ experience of providing frontline support services to women and girls affected by all forms of sexual violence, we know how urgent and how current the need to highlight and tackle male violence against women remains. We cannot and will not stop until every woman’s right to live free from the fear and experience of violence is a reality.” - Katie Russell, Rape Crisis England & Wales.
While the march is for women and children only, men are invited to cheer from the sidelines.
At the rally in Trafalgar Square following the march, there will be inspirational speakers to listen to, including survivors of the kind of violence and abuse they are marching to prevent.
The march and rally demand more than words, enquiries, policies and strategies from government. Women are marching to demand the money and resources to match the levels of violence we live with and to enable women to live free from the threat of male violence.
Million Women Rise also calls for International Women’s Day (8 March) to be declared a national holiday in celebration and recognition of women’s contribution to all areas of UK society.
Notes to Editors
Million Women Rise is a coalition of ordinary women who want to see an end to all forms of violence against women in their lifetime. Everybody who works with MWR does so free of charge and our activities are funded entirely by donations. Please check our website for more information: millionwomenrise.com
Statistics on violence against women in the UK:
|One woman in four will experience domestic violence at some point in her life.
Domestic violence has more repeat victims than any other crime (on average 35 assaults will occur before a victim calls the police).
Two women are murdered every week by their partner or ex-partner.
One incident of domestic violence is reported to the police every minute.
One woman in four will experience sexual assault as an adult.
Only 5% of rapes reported to the police result in the perpetrator being convicted in court.
Women are more worried about rape than any other crime.
250 cases of forced marriage are reported each year.
Up to 1,420 women per year are trafficked into the UK for sexual exploitation
One woman a month is murdered in the name of ‘so called’ honour.
Nearly 90% of local authorities do not have a rape crisis centre.
More than 20,000 girls could be at risk of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the UK.
Jackson County agency sees record-setting child abuse cases
by Jeanene Kiesling
KANSAS CITY, MO -- An area agency who helps victims of child abuse saw a record-setting number of cases in February.
Jackson County Court-Appointed Special Advocates assigned volunteers to 49 abused or neglected children who came under court protection in February.
This was the second-largest number in the agency's 30-year history. The highest number came last June when 64 children were served.
Executive Director Martha Gershun said the spikes are attributed to the changing in weather.
When it's extremely cold and snowy as it has been recently, children and adults are forced inside. The abuse is hidden behind closed doors.
"When the weather warms, as it did for a few days in February, children reappear outdoors where signs of abuse are recognized and reported," Gershun said.
She said the abuse can come as parents face the stress of high utility bills and extended indoor confinement. School cancellations mean some children don't get the only real meals of their day, and parents will leave the kids home alone or get upset over having to make alternative arrangements.
"A tremendous amount of child abuse and neglect are related to winter and poverty conditions when children are locked up in their homes and can't get outside with very little competent adult supervision," Gershun said.
As the snow melts and warmer temperatures arrive in the coming days, Gershun asked people to be on the lookout for signs of abuse and to report any suspicions.
The physical abuse indicators are unexplained welts, bruises and scars; injuries in various stages of healing; unexplained burns and injuries; fractures; and bite marks.
She said if you are fearful about a child then call to check on them or knock on the door.
"Sometimes food or paying an electric bill can save a life," she said.
The Missouri Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline is 1-800-392-3728. The Kansas Protection Report Center is 1-800-922-5330.
CASA helps provide judges the information they need to ensure abused and neglected children get the best possible medical, educational and therapeutic services. The agency served 1,000 children in 2013.
With 22 programs in Missouri, Jackson County serves a third of all the state's children.
Volunteers only need a background check, training and a heart for helping children. Hours are flexible and about 10 hours are needed a month.
The Missouri Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline is 1-800-392-3728. The Kansas Protection Report Center is 1-800-922-5330.
Learn more about Jackson County CASA and the work that they do.
Call the Jackson County CASA at 816-984-8204 or call CASA of Johnson and Wyandotte counties at 913-715-4040.
Man plans 6-month journey to bring awareness to Ky., Ind. child abuse
by Christina Mora
LOUISVILLE, Ky. —A man in Louisville is preparing for a six-month journey in hopes of shedding light on Kentucky and Indiana's alarming child abuse rates. Rickey Harney is leaving for California later this month.
He'll trek more than 2,000 miles -- from Mexico to Canada -- to raise money.
Donations will go toward child abuse prevention education.
Kentucky and Indiana’s child abuse rates are among the worst in the country.
"I was shocked at the facts that are out here in Kentucky and the area and how many kids are lost to child abuse,” said Harney.
Pope says “no-one has done more” than Catholic Church to tackle child abuse
Pope Francis has defended the Roman Catholic Church saying ‘no-one has done more’ to root out paedophilia.
The pontiff, in an interview with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, said the church had acted with ‘transparency and responsibility’.
It comes after the United Nations last month strongly criticised the Vatican for imposing a so-called code of silence to cover up crimes.
Pope Francis said: “The statistics on the phenomenon of violence against children are shocking, but they also clearly show that the great majority of abuses are carried out in family or neighbourhood environments.
“The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution to have acted with transparency and responsibility.
“No-one else has done more. Yet the Church is the only one to have been attacked.”
He also praised his predecessor Pope Benedict for his work on the issue.
The UN’s report said the church had adopted policies and practices that had led to the continuation of abuse by the perpetrators.
It called for the Vatican to immediately remove all clergy who are known or suspected child abusers.
But the Vatican, in response, said the report was ‘distorted’ and ‘unfair’.
Art exhibit captures pain, survival of sexual abuse victims
by Akilah Johnson
More than two dozen pairs of eyes stare out from photographs hanging in the second-floor lobby of the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse in downtown Boston.
These eyes are brave. These eyes are unbreakable. These eyes are strong and proud. These eyes belong to children who have been sexually abused or assaulted. The eyes of some caregivers are there as well.
Each pair of eyes has a name and a story. Each pair of eyes is there because they are not ashamed.
It’s called the “Now You See” exhibit, and it is presented by the Suffolk district attorney’s office, Suffolk County Juvenile Court, and the Children’s Advocacy Center of Suffolk County. The goal is simple yet profound: remove the shame from sexual assault and encourage others to come forward.
“I am Yvonne,” say words above an image cropped so only the 16-year-old’s eyes are visible. “My eyes are irreplaceable.”
Then there is a description of what happened to Yvonne, who was raped for the first time at age 12, again at 14 by a man who then tried to sell her for sex, and again at 15.
“These things didn’t destroy my body, but they destroyed my soul,” her words beneath her picture read. “I live day to day with fear still in my heart.”
But she also wants other children to know: “You always have a voice.”
The images were unveiled Tuesday night and will remain affixed to the walls and columns in the courthouse lobby for the next two to three weeks.
The amateur photographer Jacquelyn Lamont, a forensic interviewer in the district attorney’s office and director of youth safety and outreach, started capturing the images about three years ago, starting with Sara, a scared 15-year-old when she first met Lamont.
That first interview with Sara was in the spring. Her grandfather, who had been abusing her for about five years, was arrested within 24 hours and indicted within a month. Sara — the Globe does not fully identify sexual abuse victims — met with the prosecutorial team five or six times “to talk about the hard stuff,” said Maryrose Anthes, one of the assistant district attorneys who prosecuted the case.
On the day the trial was set to begin, Sara’s abuser pleaded guilty and is now in prison.
“My Eyes Are Brave and Inspiring,” the now 19-year-old freshman at Wheelock College declares above her photograph.
Sara, who is studying education, said she knew instinctively what she wanted another child who had been abused to know. Written with her photograph is this: “Being silent will only hurt you in the long run. Speak to someone you trust, and they will help you. You are not alone in this world, so don’t feel like you are. Don’t let anyone hurt you ever again!”
During an interview, she said, “I would like other people, when they see it, to know that they are not alone, and there are plenty of people who have spoken up for themselves. I’m not scared anymore. I’m like, I don’t know how to say it, I feel more confident.”
Tuesday night, Lamont sat in front of Sara, other children featured in the exhibit, and their caregivers to explain what was going to happen. There will be a few speakers, Lamont told them. Then five children will receive framed copies of their photographs, though modified to include only their words of encouragement and not the description of abuse.
“I’m not going to talk about what happened, but how brave you all are,” Lamont said. “But part of this is so other kids know that it’s OK to talk about it, even though it’s scary and embarrassing. It’s OK.”
But 8-year-old James, a name he chose to go atop his photograph, was preoccupied with his shoestrings. James, who had the name Nike and a swoosh cut into his hair, said he picked the name from a television show on Nickelodeon “when I was 5 . . . because it’s a show, a singing show. I don’t watch it anymore.”
Now, he said, he is all about the Disney Channel and WWE, World Wrestling Entertainment.
James was 6 when his mother caught a family friend preparing to rape him, she said.
“It’s a mother’s worst nightmare,” she said Tuesday night. “I wanted to kill him.”
The young man, now in prison, had been helping James’s mother care for her children when she and their father separated. The young man — she described him as “like a nephew” — would take James and his younger brother to school and pick them up.
But something, she said, started to seem off with James. She would find him sleeping in his brother’s crib, and he became clingy, crying hysterically if she left to run errands or go to the corner store.
She took him to the pediatrician and a therapist, but it was not until she walked into the bedroom two years ago that she discovered the reason behind her son’s behavior.
The young man had been molesting James on the way to and from school. Sometimes, she said, James’s little brother would be there when it happened.
The entire family is in counseling. James’s 3-year-old brother has trouble being separated from his mother, and James still has nightmares, dreaming that a snake or shark is chasing him.
But his mother said James is healing. They all are.
Ex-Chesco prison guard to get ‘eternity in hell' for child sex abuse
by MICHAEL N. PRICE
WEST CHESTER — A former Chester County Prison lieutenant was sentenced to 20 to 40 years in state prison Tuesday after he pleaded guilty to sexually abusing five foster children under his care.
According to the Chester County District Attorney’s office, 60-year-old Leroy Mitchell and his wife were foster parents to over 50 children over a decade-long period at their West Bradford home. Authorities said Mitchell also worked as a youth sports coach and was active in his community church.
“The defendant will spend the rest of his life in prison and the rest of eternity in hell,” said Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan. “He stole the youth innocence and youth of these children. No punishment is severe enough for this conduct.”
Mitchell was arrested last May after a 10-year-old victim reported that she had been sexually assaulted by Mitchell. In a subsequent interview with investigators, officials said, Mitchell admitted to the reported assault and another separate assault of a different child.
According to a criminal complaint filed by investigators, both of the victims were under Mitchell’s care when the alleged offenses were committed. The first victim was 9 years old when the assaults occurred, the complaint said.
The complaint describes alleged assaults that occurred on multiple occasions at Mitchell’s home and other locations. The second victim was 7 to 9 years old at the time of the alleged assaults against her.
After the interview, members of the Pennsylvania State Police and the Chester County Detectives launched an investigation into Mitchell’s past, discovering that he and his wife had fostered over 50 children throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
Authorities said investigators tracked down witnesses across the country, discovering and corroborating accounts from other suspected victims. After media reports covered Mitchell’s arrest, other victims came forward. Authorities said many victims provided similar stories about Mitchell gaining their trust, then using that trust to commit abuse.
Officials said Mitchell’s employment with Chester County Prison was immediately terminated after the initial report and arrest. He was incarcerated at a jail in Montgomery County as a precaution, officials said.
On Tuesday Mitchell pleaded guilty to charges of aggravated indecent assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, indecent assault, corruption of minors, and endangering the welfare of children. Those charges focused on offenses against five children, officials said.
According to authorities, there were numerous other victims who came forward, but their cases were outside of the statute of limitations. Prosecutors credited Mitchell’s arrest and sentencing to the courage of the victims who came forward to report the abuse.
“It was the courage of a one 10-year-old girl who started this investigation. These victims came forward, told the hard truth about the defendant, and brought the defendant to justice. The strength of these victims was awe-inspiring,” said Assistant District Attorney Deb Ryan, who prosecuted the case.
The main investigators in the case were state trooper David Brodeur and Chester County Detective James Ciliberto. Mitchell was sentenced by Common Pleas Judge David Bortner.
“This is one of the most disturbing child abuse cases in the history of Chester County. The defendant was a wolf in sheep’s clothing, using his respectability to gain access to innocent children,” Hogan said. “The Pennsylvania State Police and the Chester County Detectives are to be commended for taking this predator out of our community. Nothing is more important than the safety of our children.”
Massachusetts court says 'upskirt' photos are legal
by WDAZ TV
(CNN) -- Massachusetts' highest court ruled Wednesday that it is not illegal to secretly photograph underneath a person's clothing -- a practice known as "upskirting" -- prompting one prosecutor to call for a revision of state law.
The high court ruled that the practice did not violate the law because the women who were photographed while riding Boston public transportation were not nude or partially nude."
A female passenger on a MBTA trolley who is wearing a skirt, dress, or the like covering these parts of her body is not a person who is 'partially nude,' no matter what is or is not underneath the skirt by way of underwear or other clothing," wrote Justice Margot Botsford of the state Supreme Judicial Court.
CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin said the law has not caught up to technology and called it an assault on a woman's right to privacy."
I think the courts got it wrong," Hostin said. "The spirit of the law makes it clear it is about the person's privacy."
The ruling stems from the case against Michael Robertson, 32, who was arrested in 2010 and accused of using his cell phone to take pictures and record video up the skirts and dresses of women on the trolley, according to court documents.
Two separate complaints were filed against Robertson with the transit police. Authorities then staged "a decoy operation" to catch Robertson, who was eventually arrested and charged with two counts of attempting to secretly photograph a person in a state of partial nudity. Police observed him point a cell phone video camera up the dress of a female officer, court documents state.
Wednesday's ruling reversed a previous decision by a lower court, which had denied a motion by Robertson seeking the dismissal of the case, said a statement from the Suffolk County district attorney's office."
In sum, we interpret the phrase, 'a person who is ... partially nude' in the same way that the defendant does, namely, to mean a person who is partially clothed but who has one or more of the private parts of body exposed in plain view at the time that the putative defendant secretly photographs her," the high court ruled.
The ruling that state law "does not apply to photographing (or videotaping or electronically surveilling) persons who are fully clothed and, in particular, does not reach the type of upskirting that the defendant is charged with attempting to accomplish on the MBTA."
Prosecutors had argued that the current statute, which prohibits secretly photographing or videotaping a person who is "nude or partially nude," includes upskirting, according to documents.
But Robertson's lawyers argued that the female passenger on the trolley was not "nude or partially nude" and was not in a place where she had a reasonable expectation of privacy, according to court documents.
"Every person, male or female, has a right to privacy beneath his or her own clothing," Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley said in a statement Wednesday. "If the statute as written doesn't protect that privacy, then I'm urging the Legislature to act rapidly and adjust it so it does."
Robertson's lawyer, Michelle Menken, did not return a phone call seeking comment.Robertson faced misdemeanor charges punishable by up to two and half years in prison.
Screening for Sexual Assault in a Primary Care Setting
by Mary E. Muscari, PhD
The term "sexual assault" includes a wide range of victimizations such as rape, attempted rape, fondling, exhibitionism, voyeurism, and forced prostitution. Sexual assault is a global problem that can result in considerable physical and psychological consequences for its victims. In the United States, there are approximately 237,868 victims of sexual assault each year, which translates into 1 American being sexually assaulted every 2 minutes. Eighty percent of sexual assault victims are under age 30 years, and about two thirds of all sexual assault victims know their assailants.
Sexual assault victims are at increased risk for unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and mental health problems such as post traumatic stress syndrome, depression, and anxiety; child and adolescent victims of sexual abuse are also at increased risk for sexual victimization in adulthood.
The US Preventive Services Task Force report, Screening for Family and Intimate Partner Violence, published in 2004, concluded that there was insufficient evidence to recommend for or against clinicians screening patients for family and intimate partner violence, both of which can include sexual assault. By contrast, the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Nurses Association all recommend that clinicians screen female patients for sexual violence, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that healthcare providers routinely screen patients for sexual assault.
In this article, we will review key populations that may be most vulnerable and/or the least likely to report sexual assault and consider how screening for evidence of sexual violence can aid clinicians in the accurate diagnosis, treatment, and referral of victims of sexual assault.
Understanding Sexual Assault
Legally, sexual assault is defined as any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. This could include sexual activities such as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape and could also include forced viewing of or involvement in pornography. Perpetrators can be strangers, acquaintances, friends, or family members who commit sexual assault by way of violence, threats, coercion, or manipulation.
Regardless of the circumstances, no one asks or deserves to be sexually assaulted, and all forms of sexual assault can be devastating to the victim. While some sexual assault survivors find they can recover relatively quickly, others feel the lasting effects of their victimization throughout their lifetime.
Despite its consequences, an estimated 60% of victims do not report the assault. Reasons for not reporting sexual assault vary; however, common motives are: self-blame or guilt; shame or embarrassment; a desire to keep the assault private; humiliation; fear of the perpetrator; fear of others' perceptions; fear of not being believed; fear of being accused of playing a part in the crime; and lack of trust in the criminal justice system. Lack of reporting increases the importance of screening for sexual assault in primary care settings.
Who Is at Risk? Considerations by Age Group
Although individuals at any age are potentially at risk for sexual assault, clinicians should recognize factors that are unique to certain age groups.
Children can be sexually abused at any age, even in infancy, and are often targets of polyvictimization, experiencing multiple victimizations of different kinds. For example, children who are physically assaulted in the past year are 5 times more likely to be sexually victimized.
Sexually abused children may present in primary care with a variety of signs and symptoms. Presenting symptoms may be nonspecific, such as sleep disturbances, abdominal pain, enuresis, encopresis, or phobias, and may be mistaken for other physical or emotional problems. Children may also be coerced into secrecy by the perpetrator, who may even threaten to harm or kill the child or her family if she discloses the abuse. Clinicians should maintain a high level of suspicion and carefully and appropriately question the child to detect sexual abuse when nonspecific symptoms are present.
Victims of clerical sexual abuse -- While child sexual abuse is not exclusive to any one religion, the abuse by Catholic priests is probably the most widely known and studied. The National Clergy Sex Abuse Report found that more than 10,667 persons were abused by 4392 Catholic clergy between 1950 and 2002 and that 81% were boys. A qualitative study of child abuse by clerics demonstrated that participants did not initially identify the trauma as sexually abusive, which may have hampered their coping abilities. The participants described their abusers as effective manipulators who secured their silence by telling the victims that they were evil or dirty, that they invited the perpetrator's abuse, that others would not believe them, that they would be punished or taken away from their home, or that they deserved to be abused. The perpetrators also told them they were "chosen" over others and that they would show their love of God by not telling. Because the perpetrators were seen as representatives of God, victims often believed that the abuse was expected and the way religion was expressed through them.
Adolescents and young adults have the highest rates of sexual assaults of any age group. About 40% of adolescent victims and offenders use alcohol or drugs before the sexual assault, and drug-facilitated sexual assault is not unusual. Both male and female adolescent victims are less likely to report sexual assault than are adult victims. The rate of perpetration by a known offender is similar for males and females, but forced oral sex, the use of weapons, and multiple assailants are more common in males. Adolescents may also be victims of sexual assault when they agree to sexual contact with persons aged 18 years and older, such as a teacher. In such cases, the adolescent may be very reluctant to discuss it due to not wanting to get their partner in trouble.
Drug-facilitated sexual assault -- Drug-facilitated sexual assault is an increasing problem, particularly among older adolescents and young adults at social parties, clubs, bars, and rave clubs. In these cases, offenders covertly use prescription and nonprescription drugs to induce sedation, disinhibition, and amnesia to facilitate sexual assault. Substances used in assaults include alcohol, alprazolam, chloral hydrate, gamma-hydroxybutyrate, flunitrazepam (Rohypnol®, known as the "date rape drug"), ketamine, lorazepam, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and zopiclone. The amnesic effect of some of these drugs results in delayed reporting of the sexual assault for days, weeks, or longer. Victims of drug-facilitated sexual assault may have multiple symptoms that include impaired memory and judgment, drowsiness, confusion, partial or total amnesia, dizziness, reduced inhibition, feeling of having "blacked out," nausea, vomiting, impaired motor skills, "rubbery legs," and weakness. Victims may also report a strange sensation of being paralyzed and powerless, a disassociation of mind and body, as well as unexplained genital and/or other injuries, unexplained bodily fluids found on their body, and a vague sensation that "something happened."
Multiple perpetrator sexual assault (MPSA) -- Sexual assaults can be perpetrated by a group of offenders who work together. The incidence of MPSA is unknown. One study showed a rate of 11% of all rape cases, but, as with other cases of sexual assault, MPSA is likely under reported. Victims are usually young, with one study finding an average age of 13 years and another finding a mean age of 21 years. Victims are also more likely to be using alcohol before the incident and more likely to have mental health problems. Victims of MPSA are also more vulnerable to physical and psychological complications of sexual assault.
Reports of sexual assault incidence among college students vary. A review of the literature showed more than 50% of college women reporting unwanted sexual experiences, including sexual contact, sexual coercion, attempted rape, and rape. Barriers to reporting include shame, embarrassment, not wanting others to know, concerns about confidentiality, and fear of not being believed; both male and female victims also report fear of perpetrator retaliation and male victims being judged as gay. Some students may also "underreport" their assaultive experiences, suggesting that it resulted from miscommunication.
Victims aged 60 years and older are an often forgotten population because rape myths perpetuate a nonexistent stereotypical young female victim. Elders can be victimized by family members (including intimate partners), nursing home employees, nursing home residents, or strangers. Postmenopausal sexual assault victims tend to have more genital injury than premenopausal sexual assault victims; however, elders may also be victimized by noncontact crimes such as voyeurism, exhibitionism, and sexual threats. Elder victims may disclose in a covert manner, such as wondering about being pregnant, wearing extra clothing, or not wanting the offender near them. They may also have difficulty talking about sex and sexuality in general, making it even more difficult to talk about the assault, especially to younger clinicians. Others may have cognitive or communication disorders that limit their ability to disclose, which also increases their vulnerability to a sexual predator.
Who Is at Risk? Special Populations
Regardless of age, certain demographic groups may be particularly vulnerable and/or less likely to report sexual assault.
Although the overall incidence of adult male victimization is unknown, one study suggested that only about 6%-25% report it to police. Fears of doubts about their sexuality, disbelief, blame, and other negative reactions may prevent male victims from coming forward. The literature suggests that certain men may experience sexual assault at higher rates than others, including men who are gay or bisexual; men who have mental health disorders, physical disabilities, or cognitive impairment; veterans; and prisoners. The assailant is usually another man who is known to the victim. Men may also be assaulted by multiple perpetrators or have weapons used against them. Anal and oral penetrations are common, resulting in physical injury in many cases. Male victims of sexual assault may also suffer from depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, and dysfunctional sexual behavior and may exhibit self-mutilation, angry outbursts, risk-taking behaviors, and suicidal threats.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer (LGBTQ)
A systematic review of 75 studies on sexual victimization among individuals who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual showed significant rates of child, adult, intimate partner, and hate-related sexual assault, suggesting that individuals who identify themselves as gay, lesbian, or bisexual may face a higher risk for sexual violence than the general population. The literature has also shown a relationship between sexual assault victimization and high-risk sexual behaviors, mood disorders, and suicide attempts among individuals who identify as LGBTQ as well as barriers to posttrauma services due to homophobia and transphobia.
Immigrants, especially those who are undocumented, face added difficulties in seeking safety, medical help, and justice when victims of any type of violence. These difficulties include: language, economic, and cultural barriers; fear of deportation; fear of the police; and misinformation about the legal system. The US Department of Justice's Office for Victims of Crime notes that provision of high-quality multicultural victim assistance should include acknowledging the cultural customs of recovery from traumatic events; supporting cultural paths to mental wellness and incorporating them into victim services and referrals; and multiethnic teamwork to implement and monitor effective victim services.
Persons With Disabilities
Children, adolescents, and adults with physical, cognitive, and mental disabilities are at higher risk for sexual assault than the general population. Persons with disabilities may be more vulnerable if they are dependent upon a caregiver; lack access to support services; are isolated from their community; and/or have cognitive, communication, or mobility impairments. Stigma and discrimination also place them at higher risk, as does placement in institutions.
Military sexual assault is a prevalent problem among the millions of individuals in active and reserve duty in the 5 branches of the US military. Sexual assault has been associated with female service personnel; however, men are also victims, usually in the form of hazing or punishment. Reporting is hampered by fear of retaliation by other soldiers and the chain of command, and many bases and the US Department of Veterans Affairs are outdated, understaffed, and underfunded and thus not equipped to handle sexual assault victims. The Department of Defense Safe Helpline provides 24/7 support and information for active military and veterans who have been victims of sexual assault.
Many sex workers are former victims of child sexual abuse, and victims of human sex trafficking are groomed via persuasion or force into this form of sexual slavery, making both groups chronic victims of sexual assault. A study of 462 sexual assault cases found that one fifth of these cases were sex workers and that sex worker victims suffered greater injuries than other victims, were younger, had lower incomes, and were more likely to be using heroin or cocaine. They are also more likely to be murdered. Victims of human trafficking may also suffer from a number of physical and emotional healthcare problems beyond those related to the sexual assault and may not report assaults due to fear of the police or their traffickers, who may have threatened to harm or kill them or their families.
Sexual assault is a persistent, yet not inevitable, problem in jails, prisons, and juvenile detention centers, even though the Supreme Court ruled in 1994 that correctional agencies that fail to protect inmates from sexual assault are in violation of the Eighth Amendment, which forbids cruel and unusual punishment. The consequences of prison sexual assault can be severe; victims are 17 times more likely to attempt suicide than other inmates, suffer serious injuries such as concussions and broken bones, and contract sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV and hepatitis. They may also develop depression, anxiety, and rape trauma syndrome. Despite the consequences, prisoners hesitate to report due to embarrassment, fear of retaliation and harassment, fear of being labeled a snitch, and not wanting to be placed in protective custody.
Screening for Sexual Assault
There are many reasons that clinicians do not screen for sexual assault. They lack training, fear approaching sensitive subjects, lack time to screen, or do not have private facilities for screening. Most do not screen because they do not know how to ask questions and/or how to respond when the victim discloses. Clinicians may also have experienced sexual violence in their own lives, either directly or in a family member. In such cases, the clinician should seek help to resolve his/her own distress to avoid a countertransference response.
When properly screened, victims can disclose their abuse and receive the care and services they need. The "telling" alone provides meaning to their experience and helps to better manage emotions. Not asking reinforces the victims' silence.
Screening should take place during routine wellness exams and during episodic illness exams when symptoms are suspicious for sexual assault. Red flags include: anxiety; depression; sudden-onset sleep disorders; stress-related complaints; requests for pregnancy testing, emergency contraception, or testing for sexually transmitted diseases; pelvic area trauma; and bruising that may be from restraints. Clinicians should keep in mind that victims vary in response to sexual assault, ranging at one end to showing no response and at the other end to showing significant emotional or physical symptoms.
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center recommends the following:
Normalize the subject by including it within the sexual history
Provide context by connecting the subject to the patient's health and well-being
Be direct but avoid using terms like rape and sexual assault
Validate the patient's responses
Ask about sexual experiences that were uncomfortable or unwanted:
Have you been touched without your consent?
Have you ever been pressured or forced to have sexual contact?
Do you feel that you have control over your sexual relationships?
Allow the patient to verbalize and be heard
Clinicians should develop a protocol to ensure that all patients are screened adequately and consistently. Protocols should ensure privacy in both the interview, which should take place when victims have their clothing on, and the documentation.
For example, the SAVE screening protocol developed by the Florida Council against Sexual Violence in 2003 focuses on the following 5 points:
Screen all of your patients: anyone can be a victim
Ask direct questions: be nonjudgmental, make eye contact, stay calm, do not blame the victim or dismiss what the victim discloses even if the victim minimizes the event
Validate their response: believe the victim, tell them they are not alone, support their courage to disclose, assure them there is help and that their disclosure is the first step toward healing
Evaluate, educate, and refer: assess whether there is current danger, identify the perpetrator, assess for suicidal and homicidal ideation/attempts, obtain a substance use history
Some patients will not disclose when first asked. Thus, screening should take place with each visit. Some may also not be sure whether what happened to them was sexual violence, giving the clinician an opportunity to discuss it further. Some patients, including males who were abused by other males, may not want to talk to a male provider and may need referral to a female provider.
Appropriate interventions depend on whether the sexual assault was recent or remote. If the assault was recent, a forensic examination may be warranted. Adult victims can decide whether or not to have the exam and usually may do so without reporting the incident to the police (this differs for older adults and vulnerable adults in some jurisdictions). Exams are best conducted by sexual assault forensic examiners/sexual assault nurse examiners, usually in emergency departments or specialized centers. The patient may also have needs regarding emergency contraception, antibiotics for sexually transmitted diseases, and/or physical injuries. If the assault took place in the past, a forensic examination will not yield fruitful results.
All victims should receive referrals for counseling, preferably to a professional who is skilled in working with sexual assault clients, or to a victims' resource center. Some may need crisis intervention, legal services, support groups, or housing (especially if the person is in imminent danger). Clinicians should develop, maintain, and update a list of community resources for ready access, and each patient should receive a copy of appropriate resources with their contact information. Some victims will act immediately; others will need time to process their disclosure. Let patients know that their decision is theirs and that it may take time.
A number of factors affect the reporting of sexual assault to police, particularly the age and vulnerability of the victim and the timing of the assault, as screening may uncover both recent and past sexual assaults. Adults who report victimization during childhood may still be able to press charges against their perpetrator, depending upon the jurisdictional statute of limitations.
Clinicians are mandated to report child abuse. However, there are jurisdictional variations regarding the age at which a person can legally consent to sexual intercourse, the age below which a person cannot consent to sexual intercourse under any circumstances, and the requirements for reporting to child protection agencies and/or law enforcement. The US Department of Health and Human Services provides information on current state laws regarding statutory sexual assault that can assist clinicians with minimum age requirements. Mandatory reporting for elders and persons with disabilities also varies per jurisdiction. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) provides state-by-state information on mandatory reporting, confidentiality laws, statutes of limitations, and other laws pertaining to reporting sexual assault.
Regardless of their nature, all acts of sexual assault are violating. Victims of recent or past sexual assault may not know how to get help or what help is available. They may even be unsure about whether they have been sexually assaulted. Routine screening allows victims an avenue for disclosure so that they can begin the healing process on their journey back to wellbeing.
Child Advocates Praise Florida Lawmakers for Championing Children on Opening Day of Legislative Session
Florida Senate passes bipartisan package to protect children from sexual violence and punish predators, House to follow
by PR Newswire
TALLAHASSEE, Fla., March 4, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Child protection advocates today praise Florida Senate President Don Gaetz and Speaker of the House Will Weatherford for showing the people of Florida and the country the importance of protecting children and families by carrying forth what they said they'd do months ago: elevate child protection issues to the forefront of the 2014 legislative session. And how much clearer could they be than by picking up comprehensive, bipartisan bills on the opening day of session and moving them forward rapidly so they get to the Governor for signing and implementation?
The four pieces of legislation (SB 522, SB 524, SB 526, SB 528), sponsored by Senators Grimsley, Sobel, Bradley and Evers, relate to the prevention of sexual violence and punishment of predators, including measures that:
Expand the criteria for civil commitment screening so predators don't fall through the cracks and improve the multidisciplinary team that evaluates predators and offenders,
Improve awareness about sex offenders and predators near college campuses,
Toll community supervision of predators so supervision begins after release from civil commitment,
Close loopholes in our state's criminal statute of limitations to allow individuals victimized by sexual violence before age 16 to seek justice for acts committed against them as children,
Expand the amount of information sex offenders must register with law enforcement to include internet identifiers and information about vehicles and professional licenses,
Enact a 50-year mandatory minimum sentence for those who sexually assault an individual with a developmental delay or disability,
Expand the court's ability to allow use of therapy animals to aid certain victims or witnesses in their testimony.
On the eve of her fifth annual 1,500-mile "Walk in My Shoes" walk across the state, Lauren's Kids founder and CEO Lauren Book says she is humbled and grateful to the 2014 Florida Legislature for making this issue its top priority:
Next week, I will lace up my sneakers and begin my fifth annual 42-day walk from Key West to Tallahassee...42 days in honor of the 42 million survivors of child sexual abuse in the United States. I walk 1,500 miles to give a voice to children whose innocence was taken, as mine was. I walk so others never have to know the horrors I lived through. And this year, I walk in solidarity with the Florida Legislature and leaders such as Sen. Don Gaetz, Sen. Grimsley, Sen. Sobel, Rep. Will Weatherford, Rep. Matt Gaetz, Rep. Hutson, Sen. Benacquisto, Sen. Bradley and Sen. Evers.
When senators today passed a bipartisan legislative package enhancing laws protecting our most vulnerable and punish dangerous sexual predators, they were taking a stand for the 19 million Floridians they represent. When their colleagues in the House pass companion legislation next week, they will be taking a step toward a safer Florida – the kind of Florida Lauren's Kids has been fighting for since 2007.
As an abuse survivor, founder of Lauren's Kids and Vice President of the Florida Network of Children's Advocacy Centers, I applaud lawmakers for creating smart, substantive policy that protects our children from dangerous sexual predators. This legislation will ensure we catch the worst of the worst before they are allowed to commit another life-shattering act of sexual violence. We know sexually violent predators cannot be rehabilitated, and Rep. Matt Gaetz put it best when he said 'no child has ever been raped in a state prison.'
To address these issues so pointedly and to pass the bills on the opening day of session? This is a legislature that gets it. This is a legislature that is ready to Walk with me toward a safer tomorrow.
Jennifer Dritt, Executive Director of the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, says:
With the passage of these bills, Florida has resoundingly demonstrated its commitment to ending sexual violence against all citizens. Senate leadership, in conjunction with its counterparts in the House, has shaped legislation ensuring the full participation of all facets of the criminal justice system in identifying offenders who pose the greatest risk to our communities, while ensuring the statute of limitations cannot be used to escape prosecution. These initiatives, focused on identifying and holding accountable those who commit sex offenses against children, youth, and adults, coupled with our Governor's ongoing commitment to funding certified rape crisis centers – where survivors of sexual violence, whether assaulted twenty years ago or today, can receive services – are a powerful message to survivors that their voices will be heard.
John Knight, CEO of the Florida Network of Children's Advocacy Centers, praises Florida lawmakers for their commitment to safety for children and justice for child victims. "Our legislature and its leaders speak clearly – they say what they mean, mean what they say, and back their words up with actions, as we have seen today," says Knight. "The work done by Senate and House leaders on both sides of the aisle, protecting our most vulnerable from sexual violence and aiding those who have been victimized, will make a difference for children and families for years to come."
For more information, visit www.laurenskids.org
SOURCE Lauren's Kids Foundation
Former Warren Co. Sheriff indicted on charges of sexually assaulting child
by Lillian Shupe
Former Warren County Sheriff Edward G. Bullock of Whiting, who will turn 85 on March 10, was indicted by a Warren County Grand Jury on Feb. 26 on charges of sexually assaulting a child.
Accusations of sexual abuse against Bullock go back many years.
Bullock resigned in November 1991, while under investigation for incidents allegedly involving his soliciting sex with an undercover State Trooper who posed as a 17-year-old boy.
More recently, a civil lawsuit was filed in April by a man claiming he was molested by the former sheriff in the 1980s.
Bullock was the county sheriff from 1982 until he resigned.
At the time, he told authorities he had used his authority over boys at Warren Acres, a former youth detention center, to cultivate future sex partners and admitted he had sexual contact with eight boys, authorities say. He later pleaded guilty to official misconduct and spent nine months in Hunterdon County Jail.
A criminal investigation into Bullock was launched Sept. 17 by the Warren County Prosecutor's Office, a week after a tort claim was filed with the county.
In the indictment Bullock faces:
Three counts of aggravated sexual assault, first degree, for committing acts of sexual penetration upon a child under the age of 13. The incidents allegedly occurred in Mansfield Township on or about Jan. 7, 1988.
Two counts of sexual assault, second degree, for committing acts of sexual contact with a child under the age of 13 years of age, and at least 4 years younger than the defendant. Those incidents also allegedly occurred in Mansfield Township on or about Jan. 7, 1988.
One count of sexual assault, second degree related to an incident which allegedly occurred in Belvidere, Warren County, on or between Dec. 18, 1986 and Jan. 7, 1988.
Bullock could face up to 20 years in prison on the first degree charges.
Former Warren County sheriff's child sex case: A timeline of events
Warren County prosecutors announced today that former Warren County sheriff Edward G. Bullock has been indicted on charges of sexually assaulting a boy in the 1980s. It wasn't Bullock's first legal trouble. Here's a timeline of key events leading up to the indictment:
May 1982: Bullock, then 51 and an undersheriff with the Warren County Sheriff's Office, is appointed sheriff after the resignation of fellow Republican Kenneth Gaylord. Bullock won a special election later that year to continue in the post. He'd go on to win re-election several more times.
November 1991: Bullock abruptly resigns from the sheriff post, just two weeks after being re-elected to a fourth term in office. Bullock says the resignation was because of stress.
March 1992: Bullock pleads guilty to a charge of official misconduct in connection with a sex sting. New Jersey State Police ran the sting after the New Jersey Attorney General's Office received a citizen complaint. Bullock admits to trying to curry sexual favor from a state trooper posing as a 17-year-old boy. A judge the following month sentences him to three years in prison. He's paroled after nine months.
May 1993: Attorney John J. Coyle Jr. seeks a court order compelling authorities to turn over files on their investigation into Bullock. Coyle claims in court records that he had information that Bullock would sometimes take juveniles from the Warren Acres detention facility on a furlough for unspecified periods of time. A judge later denies access to those files.
January 2013: The Warren County Prosecutor's Office announces it has opened a criminal investigation into Bullock but declines to give details about the investigation.
April 2013: Attorney Brad Russo files a lawsuit against Bullock, Warren County and others on behalf of his client, a 36-year-old man who claims Bullock repeatedly molested him in the 1980s while county employees turned a blind eye. The plaintiff was between the ages of 8 and 11 at the time of the assaults, the suit alleges.
September 2013: Russo requests that the Warren County Prosecutor's Office turn its criminal investigation into Bullock over to the New Jersey Attorney General's Office, citing a conflict of interest.
March 2014: The Warren County Prosecutor's Office announces Bullock has been indicted on six counts of sexual assault dating to the late 1980s. Bullock, who now lives in Ocean County and turns 85 next week, is not yet in custody; his attorney is arranging his surrender.
Swift response before transgender teen recanted
by GARANCE BURKE and LISA LEFF
SAN FRANCISCO — Police, civil rights activists and school district officials in the San Francisco suburb of Hercules responded aggressively when a transgender teenager showed up at his high school health center saying he had just been beaten and sexually assaulted in a school bathroom.
But on Tuesday afternoon, the 15-year-old student who alleged the attack recanted, acknowledging during a follow-up interview with a detective that he had fabricated the whole tale, Hercules police said.
The reversal left open the possibility the teen could be charged with making a false criminal report, said Connie Van Putten, a police department spokeswoman.
The student, who is biologically female but identifies as male, had told officers he was leaving a boy's bathroom on Monday morning when three other boys he did not know pushed him inside a large stall and attacked him.
But officers could not substantiate certain elements of his statement, including the time frame, and he lacked any physical injuries to his head, face and hands, police said.
The student acknowledged he had made up the story during the follow-up interview, Van Putten said. She would not speculate on why he had lied.
The incident came as school districts across California are bringing their policies into compliance with a law that took effect Jan. 1 guaranteeing students the right to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that match the gender with which they identify.
Advocates who fought to get the law through the Legislature last year said the fact that the Hercules teen's story appeared to be untrue does not minimize the harassment that transgender students routinely face.
Mario Trujillo, spokesman for the West Contra Costa Unified School District, said school officials are less concerned with punishing the student than making sure he gets the support he needs.
Since November, Hercules High has been dealing with the fallout from an on-campus fight involving another transgender student and three girls that was captured in a cellphone video. Jewlyes Gutierrez, a biological male who identifies as female, was charged with misdemeanor assault and said she had repeatedly complained about being harassed at school before she fought back.
The West Contra Costa Unified School District also has been responding to criticism over its handling of sexual harassment involving students. The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights launched an investigation of the district after a female student was gang-raped outside a homecoming dance at another high school in 2009, the year after another girl at a third high school was raped in a classroom by two classmates.
Public safety chair to host human trafficking forum
by JIM MCCUNE
Human trafficking, or modern day slavery, includes any kind of forced labor, from forced prostitution and sexual exploitation to agricultural labor, industrial labor and child labor.
It is the third largest criminal industry in the world after arms and drug dealing, and it generates billions of dollars in profit.
It is a global industry that affects people across racial, social, ethnic and economic backgrounds.
Pierce County is not immune from the horrors of this evil.
As the new chair of Public Safety and Human Services Committee for Pierce County, I hope to engage the public with the issue of human trafficking. The committee has scheduled a 1 1/2-hour presentation by Shared Hope International, followed by 30 minutes for questions and answers. It will be held from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. March 10 on the 10th floor of the County-City Building.
The committee also includes vice chair Joyce McDonald and members Stan Flemming, Doug Richardson and Connie Ladenburg.
Human trafficking in the United States is a $9.8 billion industry. At least 100,000 U.S. children are exploited in prostitution every year. The average age of entry is 12-14.
The average life expectancy of victims in captivity is about seven years. The growing demand for sex with young children is fueled by a glorification of pimping and a normalization of sexual exploitation.
The Interstate 5 corridor is a main artery for transporting trafficked victims. Trafficking is common around conventions, resorts, sporting events, trade shows, malls, strip clubs, shelters, group homes, etc.
It is more profitable for a trafficker to prostitute a child than to commit other crimes, such as dealing drugs, because the “child,” also known as a “commodity,” is reusable. Perhaps the term “human capital” could be used to describe them as well.
The child is desensitized to sexual images and terms through graphic sex education or porn. Pornography rewires the male brain to become dependent on the natural chemicals that are then released. The chemicals are linked to negative perceptions, attitudes and aggression toward women.
As in all criminal activities, there are never enough resources to eliminate the crime. Prevention and rescue starts with the community being familiarized with the signs of recruiting and trafficking, as well as working to maintain a society that protects the innocent mind of a child.
We must work to end the demand for commercial sex. We must guide policies that reflect the principles from our Founding Fathers, such as “a free people cannot survive under a republican constitution unless they remain virtuous and morally strong.”
Pray that our children will be protected from those who wish to do them harm, and that those who seek to destroy their innocence be arrested and prosecuted.
Pennsylvania's Buck County - 166 kids abused in 2012
by James McGinnis
One out of every 166 kids in Bucks County was subjected to a report of alleged child abuse in 2012, according to figures released Tuesday by the organization Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children.
An analysis by the Harrisburg-based nonprofit finds little change in the number of neglect, physical and sexual abuse complaints involving local children and teens, although the number of repeat abuse cases appears to be falling.
The number of foster children in Bucks was also reported to be on the decline slightly, from 609 in 2009 to just 583 children and teens in 2012.
Bucks generally receives about 830 child abuse complaints per year. In 2012, the PPC reported 858 complaints. Of those, 83 cases were “substantiated” through investigation, and four cases involved kids with a history of abuse, according to PPC.
Neighboring Montgomery County averages about 836 abuse complaints per year, officials said. In 2012, PPC reported 897 reports of abuses. One in 10 cases was found to be legitimate and four of those cases involved kids with a record of abuse.
Figures cited in PCC's report were drawn from Pennsylvania's Child Line and Abuse Registry, yet experts urged skepticism of the data.
“The numbers of children who are abused are not entirely accurate and reliable in Pennsylvania,” said Cathleen Palm, founder of the Center for Children's Justice, based in Berks County. “We've set a really high bar in Pennsylvania for what constitutes abuse.”
Changes to Pennsylvania's child protection and abuse laws are due to take effect in 2015, redefining the standards to physical abuse and neglect.
Currently, state law defines neglect as a “prolonged or repeated lack of supervision or the failure to provide essentials of life.” Under the new definition, neglect would be expanded to include an “egregious failure to supervise a child in a manner that is appropriate...”
Pennsylvania defines child abuse as a “serious physical injury” which caused “severe pain” or “significantly impairs a child's physical functioning, either temporarily or permanently.”
Under the future definition, serious bodily injury would be defined as causing “a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.”
Changes to state laws will help in ongoing efforts to combat child abuse in Bucks, said Lynne Rainey, director of children and youth services for the county.
“Public awareness concerning the importance of keeping our kids safe may be the strongest it has ever been,” Rainey said. “Now we all need to do our part to ensure these laws are properly implemented and followed, so suspected child abuse is appropriately reported and addressed.”
On reviewing the report, Bucks County Commissioner Diane Marseglia noted the rise of “in-home services” designed to help kids remain safely at home with their parents.
As many as 7,433 children received such services in 2013, according to the report. The number enrolled in such programs was up 14 percent from 2009.
“I have always believed in-home services work far better than removing kids or foster care,” said Marseglia, a licensed social worker. “The key is providing the in-home services as early as possible.”
PA moving forward on foster care, child protective services
Advocates say a new report on Pennsylvania's child welfare system shows a shift toward practices that promote healthier children and more stable families.
The fifth annual report by Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children finds a number of best practices are catching on.
More children entering foster care are being placed with families rather than going to institutions. Adoptions are up, and taking less time than was reported five years ago. The prevalence of in-home services has grown, as foster care placements have dropped.
But the trends observed in the latest report may not continue as recently signed laws aiming to protect children go into effect.
"We actually think child abuse substantiation is likely to go up in coming years and placement might go up," said Joan Benso, president of PPC.
Also noted in the report is drug use among parents, which has more than doubled as the listed reason for removing children from their homes in the past five years. Benso said that, for parents with substance abuse problems, treatment isn't always immediately accessible, putting the child at risk if he or she stays in the home.
"If you can't get treatment and you have a substance abuse problem either because you are uninsured or because your insurance isn't accepted in the facility or there's a waiting list for you to be in rehab, we are lengthening the time before a child can go back home," Benso said, adding that making substance abuse services more accessible could help children stay in their homes – or return to them more quickly.
Georgia ranks 6th in child abuse deaths
by Rebecca Lindstrom
ATLANTA -- A report given to Congress by the Georgia Department of Health and Human Services says Georgia has the sixth worst child fatality rate in the nation.
Only five other states -- Michigan, Vermont, Texas, New Mexico and Florida -- had higher fatality rates for abuse and neglect.
The year Georgia earned that ranking, 77 children died from abuse or neglect. An even newer state report says in 2012 maltreatment was either the direct cause or contributing factor in the deaths of 83 young lives.
11Alive's Rebecca Lindstrom shared the child fatality numbers and heavily redacted corresponding reports she's obtained from DFCS with Lt. Governor Casey Cagle.
"The people in the organization and the bureaucracy needs to know that there's going to be a new way of doing business. The outcomes we've been receiving with abuse and neglect of kids and ultimately deaths is not acceptable," said Cagle.
Cagle said one of the first steps should be a new transparency within the state.
"DFCS needs to step up and do the right thing. There's nothing to hide," said Cagle.
Ashley Willcott, the new director for the Office of the Child Advocate, passionately believes we need to protect children's privacy. She agreed that DFCS could be more forthcoming with information.
Her office investigates complaints from families who feel DFCS isn't doing its job. She's reviewed eight cases in her first month on the job and says so far, DFCS is following policy.
Wilcott says she plans to use her reviews to find better ways to hold not only DFCS, but also abusive parents, mandatory reporters and the court system accountable.
"One agency unfortunately cannot fix everything, but if all the people work together, we can only raise the bar and make it better," said Wilcott.
Checking Box 34 helps prevent child abuse
by ALAN LEVINE
Of the thousands of vehicles that pass through the intersection of Trekell Road and Florence Boulevard in Casa Grande every day, many of the drivers will have noticed a purple sign sitting on the northwest corner, in front of the Pinal County Federal Credit Union building.
The message on the sign is a reminder for taxpayers that “YOU CAN PREVENT CHILD ABUSE.” And it goes on to say that taxpayers can do so by making a donation to the child abuse prevention fund that can be found in the Voluntary Gifts section of the Arizona income tax return forms.
The Voluntary Gifts section contains several different charitable causes, from Aid to Education to Arizona Wildlife to Special Olympics. Taxpayers have the option to put a check mark or an X on any one, or more, of the boxes and then indicate the amount that they are contributing, which can be $1, $5, $10 or as much as they want to have taken out of their refund, or they can add the amount onto the check that they're submitting with their tax payment.
The Child Abuse Prevention check-off box can be found on Line 34 of the Arizona 140A (short form), and on Line 41 of the 140 Arizona (long form) income tax return.
“Pinal County Federal Credit Union has been very gracious in allowing Against Abuse to display our sign on their property for the past four years, which encourages people to make a check mark and a generous contribution,” said Jo Anne Pinto, AAI children's counselor. “PCFCU has been partnering with us on all sorts of abuse issues for more than 10 years now.”
Pinto said that checking the boxes on the Arizona tax forms is the simplest way to provide funding for the Child Abuse Prevention programs.
“The Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Council in Pinal County is doing everything it can to raise awareness about child abuse prevention,” she said.
Pinto said the council is expanding its awareness programs so that it's not just the traditional issues associated with child abuse, such as molestations and beatings but also about verbal assaults, which injure children emotionally.
“More importantly, adult-on-adult abuse that children bear witness to leaves an indelible impression on their psyches that they carry with them all their lives and too often, it results in like behavior when they reach adulthood.
“We also need to concentrate more on the bullying phenomenon that has intensified recently, which is child-on-child abuse,” she said, “and we also need to focus on texting and sexting issues, which represent serious problems for young people. The consequences of some of these behaviors are very much issues of abuse.”
How can teens recover from sexual abuse?
by Katherine K. Dahlsgaard, Ph.D., Lead Psychologist - The Anxiety Behaviors Clinic
Teenage girls are sexually assaulted with alarming frequency and many will go on to develop post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If left untreated, PTSD can make life hell for the sufferer for years after the original trauma, and increase the likelihood of other problems – most common are anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and self-destructive behaviors.
But what treatment is appropriate – not to mention effective – for PTSD in girls who have been sexually abused? A very important study, recently conducted right here in Philadelphia, points to a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) known as prolonged exposure (PE).
Typically, sufferers of PTSD go to great – and understandable – effort to avoid memories or reminders of the traumatic event. Even if the individual with PTSD attends therapy for relief, they will often avoid bringing up the trauma. Many well-meaning therapists, fearful of increasing their patients' distress, will allow the avoidance.
The problem is that avoidance doesn't work and tends to worsen the symptoms of intrusive memories, flashbacks, and emotional numbing. In Prolonged Exposure, sufferers of PTSD are encouraged by their therapists to stop avoiding and instead tell the story of their trauma over several sessions. By repeatedly recounting the details, sufferers are able to process their fear and gain firsthand experience that memories, although extremely upsetting, are not in themselves unsafe. PTSD symptoms decrease as a result.
There is much evidence that Prolonged Exposure is a highly effective therapy for adults with PTSD, but had not been researched with adolescents. Edna Foa, PhD. and colleagues from the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety at the University of Pennsylvania addressed this by completing a study with 61 teen girls aged 13 to 18 who had been sexually abused and were seeking treatment at Philadelphia's Women Organized Against Rape (WOAR) . The teens, after consenting to the study, were randomly assigned to receive either Prolonged Exposure therapy or traditional supportive counseling by therapists at WOAR.
Results showed that the girls who received Prolonged Exposure therapy did a lot better than those who received traditional supportive counseling: They were significantly less likely to have PTSD – and depression – at the end of the study and at a follow-up one year later. Of note: none of the girls who were assigned to supportive counseling chose to describe their trauma during that treatment.
The results are particularly important, says Foa, lead author of the study, because “the therapists were counselors in a clinic that serves sexually abused survivors. Prolonged Exposure in the hands of these counselors significantly reduced PTSD, depression, and dysfunctional symptoms than supportive counseling in their adolescent clients despite the fact that [the therapists], while proficient in delivering supportive counseling, were not familiar with Prolonged Exposure until they received a 5-day workshop at the beginning of the study."
And on that, I will end this post with a special shout-out to all the counselors at WOAR who provided their services for the study and are daily on the frontlines of treatment for sexual assault survivors – you are hometown heroes.
Undisputed CHAMP: Child Advocacy Center of Cayuga County welcomes first child abuse medical provider
by Samantha House
AUBURN | The Child Advocacy Center of Cayuga County opened its doors in 2010 with a mission: To offer child victims of sexual abuse every service needed to heal under one roof.
And during its nearly four years of existence, the staff's vision of creating a one-stop shop was nearly complete.
At the secure Auburn center, the multidisciplinary team of therapists, child advocates and a law enforcement coordinator gives children the treatment needed to recover and the link to justice needed to hold their abusers accountable.
But without a medical practitioner to conduct exams, the Child Advocacy Center remained incomplete.
Rhonda Stanford-Zahn, director of the center, has spent years looking for a nurse practitioner or doctor willing to serve as CAC's child abuse medical provider — more commonly referred to as a CHAMP. Two years into the center's operations, she explained that CAC had "a couple kind of nibbles, but no one bit."
The vacancy loomed over the center's otherwise successful operations.
"We have had the capacity for years since we opened, but not the staff to do it," Standford-Zahn said. "It's been one of our great frustrations, because I see it as a gap in services."
Now, that vacancy has finally been filled.
Amy Komanecky has spent the past few months training to become the center's CHAMP. The Auburn resident — who logged 12 years working as an emergency room and intensive care unit nurse — became a nurse practitioner in June and wanted to put her skills to good use.
"I've always wanted to be involved as a nurse," she said. "Now that school's behind me and my kids are older, I can help the community."
Along with taking online courses, Komanecky is working closely with the McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center in Syracuse to receive clinical, hands-on training.
Once she completes her training, Komanecky will become Cayuga County's sole CHAMP.
As a CHAMP, Komanecky will be able to perform medical exams on sexually abused children — a service victims and their families had to travel to Syracuse or hospitals to receive.
For Stanford-Zahn, adding Komanecky to the CAC's staff is a dream come true.
"It's sort of like prayers answered," she said. "Having her invested in this initiative is really fulfilling the vision of the model."
Chris McLoughlin, CAC's law enforcement coordinator and a retired member of the Auburn Police Department, heartily agreed.
"This is the biggest thing that's happened to the Child Advocacy Center since its opening," he said.
As a CHAMP, Komanecky said she will conduct exams on children who have disclosed sexual abuse. She will document evidence and ensure the children are physically healthy. Along with documenting evidence to help police build a case against alleged abusers, the nurse practitioner said the exam helps serve another important purpose.
"These kids need to hear that they're normal and OK, and parents need to hear that as well," Komanecky said.
McLoughlin added that giving victims the ability to receive medical exams, therapy and law enforcement interviews in a single location helps make a terrible situation a little easier.
"We're victim-oriented," he said. "We want this to be as painless as possible."
To further its continuity of services, CAC is strengthening its long partnership with Auburn Community Hospital.
Komanecky — who works for Eastern Finger Lakes Emergency, the medical care group that took over the hospital's ER last July — said the Child Advocacy Center is teaming up with ACH to give acute exams to children in the ER.
Under the encouragement of Patsy Iannolo, Eastern Finger Lakes Emergency Care's president and medical director, Komanecky said five ER nurses are also interested in becoming sexual assault nurse examiners, a designation that would improve services for adult victims of sexual violence in Cayuga County.
"They'll have continuity of care," Komanecky said. "I think it will be a good thing."
In 2013, the Child Advocacy Center of Cayuga County served 151 new victims:
• 109 females, 42 males
• 50 between the ages of 0 and 6
• 42 between the ages of 7 and 12
• 57 victims between the ages of 13 and 18
To learn more
For more information about the Child Advocacy Center of Cayuga County, visit: cacofcayugacounty.org
New county detective to focus on child abuse
by MICHAEL N. PRICE
WEST CHESTER — The Chester County Detectives added the agency's first female investigator in 33 years Monday with the hiring of a former West Whiteland detective as a specialist in child abuse investigations.
Detective Kristin Lund, who spent 15 years with the West Whiteland Police Department, was sworn in as the newest member of the Chester County Detectives at a ceremony attended by family members and law enforcement colleagues at the Chester County Justice Center.
In a ceremony officiated by Common Pleas Judge Patrick C. Carmody, Lund was praised for her professionalism and dedication. Lund, who has worked as a detective for the past 10 years, became the first woman hired as a county detective in 33 years and is only the second female detective to ever work in the agency.
“It's a pleasure to swear you in, it's nice when you see someone you know achieve success,” Carmody said. “You're a welcome addition, not only because you're a woman, but because of your work ethic, integrity, and conscientiousness.”
Lund was introduced by Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan, who thanked the new detective's family, the West Whiteland Police Department, and the Chester County Commissioners for making the hiring possible.
Hogan said he approached the Chester County Commissioners last year with a request for the funds needed to hire another detective to specialize in child abuse investigations. At the time the agency had only one investigator dedicated to such cases, Detective Gerald Davis, who was dealing with a spike in child abuse cases in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
More victims were coming forward, Hogan said, and county law enforcement needed additional resources to keep up.
“They (the county commissioners) did not hesitate for a second. They said nothing could be more important than protecting the children of Chester County,” Hogan said.
The district attorney was also careful to point out that while Lund's gender is seen as an advantage, it was not the reason for her hiring.
“The fact that you're a woman is great, but we hired you because you were the most qualified person for the job,” Hogan told Lund during Monday's ceremony.
Lund said she was “excited and eager” to begin working as a county detective after accepting her new credentials and badge from Chester County Detectives Chief James Vito.
In a prepared statement released prior to Monday's ceremony, law enforcement officials praised Lund's experience as a law enforcement officer and her dedication to major investigations.
“Kristin Lund is another outstanding addition to the Chester County Detectives,” Hogan said. “Detective Lund has extensive experience working child abuse investigations, murder cases, drug operations, and other major investigations. In addition, she is known throughout Chester County law enforcement as intelligent, hard-working, and of the highest integrity.”
Lund grew up in a law enforcement family. Her father worked as a federal law enforcement agent and two of her brothers also work in law enforcement. During her time at the West Whiteland Police Department she was named Officer of the Year and received numerous other awards, officials said. She began her career at the Parkesburg and Kennett Square police departments and received her criminal justice degree from West Chester University.
“Detective Lund is a very thorough and capable criminal investigator,” said West Whiteland Police Chief Joseph Catov. “As an integral part of our criminal unit, she performed her duties with utmost professionalism. The citizens of West Whiteland Township were very fortunate to have an investigator of her caliber serving the community. She will be greatly missed.”
Hogan thanked Catov and other West Whiteland officers in attendance for supporting Lund in her transition to county law enforcement.
“Detective Lund is another home-grown talent, trained by great Chester County police departments, who now joins the Chester County Detectives in protecting all of Chester County,” he said.
53 child abuse, neglect cases reported in 58 days
BernCo on pace to shatter record set in 2013
by Mike Springer
This past year there was a record high of 176 cases filed in the county. This year the county is on pace to double that number.
So far the county is also on pace to have roughly one case of child abuse or neglect reported each day.
Gini Silva is the executive director of Advocacy, Inc., a nonprofit that works to provide legal services to at-risk children. They work alongside the Children, Youth and Families Department, which has had a recent significant turnover because of high workload and stress for case workers.
According to Silva, the number of child abuse and neglect cases being filed just in Bernalillo County is about 130 cases filed each year. In 2013, it spiked to 176. This year there's been about 53 cases in the last 58 days.
A recent study conducted by Kids Count ranked New Mexico last in child well-being.
Silva hopes through more awareness and funding for organizations like hers it can help change that. She said there are efforts underway to try and make more information about child abuse and neglect cases available to the public. It's something she said may generate awareness.
Historic Jerusalem Child Abuse Conference
by Yonatan Schechter
On March 3, professionals and lay leaders from around the world will gather in Jerusalem for a historic 3-day conference. They will be convening for the First International Congress for Child Protection Organizations in the Jewish Community at the Mount Scopus campus of Hebrew University. The conference will include professors, mental health workers and policy makers who represent an array of governmental authorities and NGOs from all over the globe, with representation expected from organizations in the US, UK, Argentina, South Africa, France, Switzerland and Australia.
The purpose of this unprecedented effort is to draw community organizations together to share ideas, resources and information for the sake of improving their capabilities in addressing the scourge of child abuse in their respective communities. Among the topics planned for discussion are school-based child safety curriculums, Jewish law as it relates to child abuse and communal responses to abusers.
The event will be sponsored by two organizations that have shed light on the enshrouded topic of abused children, particularly sexually abused, within Jewish communities. The Haruv Institute, founded in 2007 and based in Hebrew University, advances research into abuse and neglect of children and implements that research by devising educational programs and by offering advanced training to professionals. The Institute has become an internationally recognized authority on child abuse and neglect. The other sponsor, Magen, is a community-based organization that was born out of one man's discovery of a glaring need within his community.
As David Morris tells the story, in 2010 he was serving as chairman of a social service organization in Beit Shemesh, when he was approached to assist in a case of a sexually abused child. Mr. Morris was astonished to find a gross lack of professional resources to respond to the child's case. Upon further inquiry, he observed widespread suspicion of authority among many Orthodox communities along with insufficient cultural awareness among authorities charged with providing services to those communities. The result was an inept system of child protection and law enforcement. And the victims, he further discovered, were hundreds of abused children without protection or treatment, and child abusers without accountability to the law. Mr. Morris then laid the foundation for Magen, whose mission was to supplement the authorities already in place for the sake of providing robust and responsive services on behalf of the community's children.
Over the next three years, Mr. Morris noted other grassroots organization, with stories and missions similar to Magen's, which were mushrooming in Jewish communities around the globe. Instead of watching from afar as each organization endeavored in isolation to “re-invent the wheel” of confronting sexual and physical abuse, Magen teamed up with the Haruv Institute to create a forum for collaboration between the various organizations. “We're trying to create a community of community organizations,” said Morris, now the CEO of Magen. He said that the primary aim of this new international community is to form a “macrosystem” that will “make sure that Jewish children will be safer from abuse today than they were in the past.”
It's time to act against child abuse
by Sabria S. Jawhar
It's becoming increasingly common these days to hear horror stories of fathers beating their children to death and that government ministries are apparently powerless or perhaps unwilling to wade in and address the problem.
Saudi Arabia is experiencing a steady rise in reported domestic abuse cases. According to the Saudi National Society for Human Rights, 576 abuse cases were reported in 2013, a 77 percent jump from 292 cases reported in 2012.
The latest incident involves a divorced Abha father, a retired Islamic Affairs administrator who routinely abused his teenage daughters. Abuse is too soft a word. More accurately, he tortured them until his 13-year-old daughter, Reem, died. He had the habit of using chains to hang all three as if they were animals ready for slaughter.
The day Reem died, the man allegedly chained two of his daughters to the windows of the house and Reem to the door. He then left them alone. When he returned he found Reem dead.
According to Arabic newspaper reports, Abha school authorities and the Ministry of Social Affairs were aware of the abusive treatment. School officials had observed evidence of beatings. The Social Affairs Ministry's Dar Al-Hemaiah Center received a report of the abuse. The father pulled his three daughters from school last year. When the school asked the father to return the girls to class, he refused. The bottom line is that enough people were aware of the abuse but did little to stop it.
The authorities need to decide which direction they want to take to protect the future of this country. The Ministry of Social Affairs implemented an awareness program to give victims and witnesses of spousal and child abuse a means to report crimes without fear of retribution. The Council of Ministers passed a law last August criminalyzing domestic abuse. But clearly, awareness programs and telephone hotlines are not enough, and there are no statistics available on whether the abuse hotlines are being used and resulting in prosecution of offenders. And it's too early to determine the impact of the domestic abuse law.
Two ministries need to make the effort to stem abuse a step further. The Social Affairs Ministry and the Ministry of Education are the best agencies to ensure the safety of Saudi children. Both ministries should also be held accountable for incidents like what occurred in Abha. The Education Ministry, in particular, is the perfect agency to stop abuse in its tracks since teachers and school administrators see children up to seven hours daily and know better than anyone outside the family the emotional and physical health of each child.
Mandatory reporting of abuse by school officials to law enforcement authorities is the only way to ensure a measure of safety for children.
School authorities that ignore abuse should face the music and there should be consequences for police investigators and shelter employees who also ignore evidence of violence.
We live in a society that values privacy and family security. We turn our backs from evidence of abuse by telling ourselves that it's a family problem and it's none of our business. Yet when families abuse the notion of privacy and security and beat their children or wives without fear of prosecution, then they should forfeit their right to have children. The community has a responsibility to step in and stop such violence.
Our male guardianship and custody laws that allow judges to give children to abusive fathers need reconsideration. The fact that often divorced mothers can only see their children during school hours and only at the school give fathers carte blanche to do as they please with their children.
Already excuses are made for the father who murdered his daughter. He was mentally ill or some such nonsense. He could be mentally ill, he hates women, or he could just be a mean, hard-hearted criminal who enjoys torturing children. Whatever the case, the signs were there that he was a dangerous abuser and his community did nothing to protect his kids.
It's too late for Reem. Will we tell ourselves that it's a private matter? Will we tell ourselves that it's too late for the next child who turns up dead because we value privacy more than life? It's not too late if we are quick to act. By putting aggressive measures in place now, we will be saving lives.
Child sex abuse image peddlers dodge UK smut filters and demand Bitcoin payments
IWF spots worrying trend as digital currency is used for first time
by Kelly Fiveash
Exclusive The implementation of network-level filters by all of the UK's biggest ISPs has contributed to a worrying side effect: it appears to be forcing peddlers of child sexual abuse images to seek different ways of distributing the illegal material. Apparently these increasingly include hacks into the websites of businesses whose security is lax by these criminals, who are starting to demand payment in Bitcoins.
That's the conclusion of the Internet Watch Foundation, a telco-backed organisation that – among other things – provides ISPs with a blocklist of child sexual abuse URLs of unlawful content that is hosted outside of the UK.
The IWF's technical researcher, Sarah Smith, told The Register that hackers, for the first time, were using Bitcoin as the only method for paedophiles to pay for highly illegal child sex abuse images found on the public web.
"We haven't encountered this previously, this is the first template we've seen using this as a payment mechanism," she said.
Last summer, the IWF said it had spotted an unsettling and growing trend among hackers who try to dodge the system to circulate sick images to paedophiles online by stashing the content on an innocent outfit's servers.
"The websites [being hacked into] largely seem to be small business websites, so we suspect that the security isn't particularly strong on these sites and that's enabling people to get access," Smith said.
She warned that more sites will be hacked in this way in the future and said that small businesses and voluntary organisations in the UK were particularly vulnerable to such attacks.
The IWF, which works closely with the UK's specialist Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) police unit, has copies of spam emails containing spoofed headers that appeared to have been the primary method used to circulate the URLs.
Smith told us that the use of Bitcoin as a payment mechanism used in exchange for sicko content online was particularly troubling because of jurisdiction issues that are amplified by a lack of financial regulation around the digital currency.
"Investigating the people who are following the money becomes that much more difficult when you're talking about crossing borders," she said. "It's like any payment mechanism; it's going to be abused by a minority of individuals."
The IWF has found 38 different domains that may have multiple redirectors to the newly uncovered child sexual abuse material template that exclusively demands Bitcoin payments. Smith added that, as of 26 February when she spoke with El Reg , there were 11 domains that had been assessed as containing the content itself.
It's understood that the redirector websites were hacked with a single .html webpage with what appeared to be an automatically generated name consisting of seven random characters. Worse still, it's unlikely that operators of the targeted sites are actually aware of what is going on.
Smith said that anything up to 25 per cent of the content the IWF sifts through was considered commercial because a payment mechanism was attached. Most paedophiles apparently use the web simply to trade illegal images with others, so no cash is involved.
In 2013 alone, the organisation - which now has 12 analysts on its books - dealt with more than 2,500 commercial URLs. But the use of Bitcoin by peddlers of child sexual abuse images only came to the IWF's attention in January.
"We group the distributors together by looking at the payment mechanisms that are being used or particular merchant accounts where the payment appears to be being funnelled to so that we can provide that information to law enforcement," said Smith.
Peddlers of such content tend to have a revenue stream linked to malware and other types of online criminality, the foundation's researcher added. But while methods such as PayPal have posed challenges, Smith said it was the case that conventional payment providers at least had safeguards in place to try to halt such transactions.
Not so with Bitcoin, however.
Filtering the filters
Meanwhile, the method of discreetly inserting child sexual abuse material into orphaned folders on hacked sites appears to openly ridicule Prime Minister David Cameron's crusade against the easy availability of perfectly legal adult content online.
Smith was careful to respond to our questioning about the contentious network-level filters that the four largest ISPs in the UK have implemented over the course of the last few years to prevent regulatory meddling. She said the IWF's remit was simply about preventing access to child sexual abuse images and had nothing to do with the debate about censoring content such as pornography.
But she did tell us:
I think that action to prevent access to certain sites will mean that people are going to look at different ways of distributing this content and, potentially, to be abusing the websites of legitimate businesses could be a way of defeating filters specifically in relation to child sexual abuse content.
As recently as last summer, redirectors were found by the IWF to have been inserted in a number of porn websites. But if access to such sites becomes that little bit more difficult because of ISP filters, then it's fair to surmise that evildoers will use other methods to distribute their illegal material.
Smith was keen to stress that it was only a "possible contributory factor", but it does appear to be the case that the filters have brought about a deeply undesirable side-effect that is hitting some small businesses in Blighty, who may have no idea that their websites have been tampered with in this way.
Break down over state home child abuse
A senior NSW welfare executive has broken down as she expressed her deep regret about the cruelty girls had to endure in state homes.
Department of Family and Community Services executive director Kate Alexander also told a Sydney inquiry into child sexual abuse on Monday that a handful of children were still at risk in foster care.
Ms Alexander, from the office of the senior practitioner, told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that the evidence of 16 survivors of state care saddened her and her colleagues.
At a public hearing that started last week, the commission heard graphic and disturbing evidence from 16 women who survived institutional care at the Parramatta Girls Home and the Hay Institution for Girls in the 50s, 60s and 70s.
Ms Alexander took the stand on Monday to speak of the reforms in the welfare system.
'It is incredibly important to me that these remarkable women who have shown such incredible dignity know that they have been heard by the people who work in the child protection system of NSW today,' she said, her voice shaking.
'How very sad I am about the cruelty you had to endure.
'It reminds us in the most powerful way just how vulnerable children can be when adults chose to misuse their power'.
She told the commission that there was still a risk that child sexual abuse went undetected but it was more complicated than staff shortages or lack of resources.
'There will be some people who choose to misuse their power with children, who are very good at not being detected,' she said.
She said there had been four or five children in NSW who died from neglect or physical abuse in NSW.
Those deaths were always reviewed to identify if there were systemic problems, she said.
Earlier in her evidence, Ms Alexander said in her 18-year career with child welfare she had not heard anything more serious than what happened to the girls at Parramatta and Hay.
She also said there had been discussions in the NSW government about a reparations scheme.
The hearing in Sydney continues.