Survey shows need for education on child abuse issues
by Jon Hand
A major obstacle to preventing the sexual abuse of children is getting people to realize that it is a common problem.
A local survey released this month shows that Rochester-area residents believe child sexual abuse is "more of a national problem than a significant issue in Rochester" and more of a problem in low-income communities.
That's not true, said Mary Whittier, Bivona Child Advocacy Center executive director, who is preparing for her group's sixth annual Summit on Child Abuse next month.
"Child sexual abuse does not discriminate by income, education level or neighborhood," Whittier said in a release from the Ad Council of Rochester. "Every year, we work with children from all parts of the greater Rochester community: from all races and ethnicities and from all types of home settings. In 2013, we served 1,600 children. Since it is estimated that only 1 in 10 children ever disclose, the actual number of children abused in our community may be as high as 16,000."
Todd Butler, president and CEO of the Ad Council of Rochester, which sponsored the survey, agreed.
"This survey shows we have a lot of work to do to ensure people understand that child sexual abuse happens more often than they think, and that there are resources available to help guide both adults and children through these difficult and sometimes ambiguous situations," Butler said. "We've been working with a broad collaborative to develop a strategy that will give adults in our community access to the resources they need to protect children."
• Those at lower income levels saw child sexual abuse as a bigger concern than those at higher income levels, at 27 percent vs. 21 percent, respectively.
• Most area residents say they are confident they would know what to do to report suspected child sexual abuse, with reporting to law enforcement the most frequently mentioned action.
• Those from upper incomes and with college degrees are slightly less confident that they would know what to do to respond.
• All audiences also are much more likely to report incidents when they have direct evidence of abuse than when they merely suspect it (96 percent vs. 55 percent).
• The largest barriers to reporting abuse are all related to a lack of certainty (lack of proof, fear of being wrong, etc.).
"The study clearly shows that area residents want direct proof of abuse before they report the incident," the release reads.
This study was done online of Rochester-area adults age 18 and older and included 226 respondents from the nine-county greater Rochester region.
The release provides interesting fodder for Bivona's summit, which is the largest of its kind in the Northeast.
Become a superhero
Becoming a superhero is tough, but not impossible — and it could save a child's life.
That will be the message from Jim Holler, the retired chief of the Liberty Township Police Department in Pennsylvania and the keynote speaker at the summit, a multidisciplinary training conference for professionals who work with children.
Holler's speech will focus on how abused children often feel like there is no way out, and they are looking for a "superhero to help them heal and become a survivor." The presentation aims to give participants "the boost that is needed to succeed in being that superhero."
Holler is one of several presenters who will host workshops during the two-day conference, which is designed to help anyone who regularly works with children.
"The Summit is for everyone," said Margo Ochs, a Bivona spokeswoman. "We typically get professionals such as social workers, lawyers, coaches ... but anyone who wants to learn more about child abuse prevention and the latest techniques to heal victims will find this useful."
More than 600 are expected at the summit, which has national speakers and experts in their fields and attracts participants from all across the country and Canada, Ochs said.
It is held in April to coincide with Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Since it opened in 2004, Bivona has provided abused children and their families support by operating under a one-roof collaborative system where social and legal agencies help investigate and prosecute abusers.
Bivona Summit on Child Abuse
When: April 22 and 23.
Where: Riverside Convention Center.
Who should attend: Professionals who work with children.
Details: For more information and to register, go to: bivonasummit.org
YWCA group offers help — and hope — for young victims of sexual assault
by MARY BETH SCHWEIGERT
Mandy Kastner loves her job.
But unfortunately, she has to do it.
Kastner counsels children and teens at YWCA Lancaster's Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center. There's enough work to keep her and four other counselors very busy.
“We come to work every day hoping that one day we don't have to come to work,” she says.
Later this month, Kastner will start a group for girls ages 12 to 15 who have been sexually assaulted — the first SAPCC group tailored specifically for younger teenage survivors.
Counselors will launch two other support groups in April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The groups will target adult female sexual assault survivors and their male partners.
The center's services, including one-on-one and group counseling, are free. The YWCA receives financial support from the United Way of Lancaster County, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and private donors.
Children and teens are especially vulnerable to abuse, Kastner says. National statistics show that 1 in 4 girls is sexually assaulted by age 18.
Even so, survivors often feel alone.
Kastner hopes 10 to 12 girls join the group, which will meet Wednesday afternoons for eight weeks, beginning March 26. The group is open to girls who have experienced any type of sexual assault, from a recent date rape to years-ago abuse by a family member.
Kastner promises that the group won't involve endless talk in some stuffy room. And there will be snacks.
Listening to a child or teen describe a sexual assault can be deeply troubling. Some survivors' stories bring Kastner to tears. But she focuses on channeling her passion and training to make a positive impact on their lives.
“Give us your baggage,” she says. “Put your burdens on us. We can handle it.”
Many girls cope with an assault by not really coping at all, Kastner says. They may experience anger, confusion, decreased or increased appetite, sleep problems or promiscuity. Some practice self-harm or even attempt suicide.
Kastner aims to create a calm, safe place where girls can find accurate information and learn skills for recovery.
The rest is up to the girls.
“I'm just the facilitator,” she says. “They're the ones doing all the work ... (and) making the group their own.”
Girls won't be forced to share their stories, Kastner says, but just listening to other group members' experiences can be healing. Interacting with others helps survivors feel less alone.
“Some kids are coming at it from a bitter, angry place,” she says. “Others are farther along in their healing.”
Group members also might watch YouTube videos, make crafts or write letters to their abuser. Self-expression on paper can be helpful, even if it's shredded later, Kastner says.
“The release of getting things out, explaining thoughts and ideas, is beneficial in counseling and the recovery process,” she says.
But counselors can't be with clients all the time. Kastner also will help girls recognize and adopt healthy coping strategies, such as writing, music, meditation or breathing exercises.
Learning to cope is important. SAPCC counselor Danielle Harvey sees many adult survivors who are still struggling with unresolved childhood trauma.
“It can lead to more risky behavior as they grow up,” including unhealthy relationships and alcohol or drug abuse, she says. “It does affect all aspects of their lives.”
Support groups can make a powerful impact. Kastner counseled one teen who asked that another sexual-assault survivor join her session.
The small group met a couple of times, and the teen found that sharing her story with a peer was empowering.
“You make friends, learn to trust and have a safe place to be whoever you want, without judgment,” she says.
“Although our stories were different, it felt nice and safe to know I had someone to share and bond over what had once been a secret.”
Sharing often brings a sense of relief. Kastner and Harvey say witnessing that important milestone on the path to healing is one of the greatest rewards of their sometimes-difficult jobs.
“My favorite moment in a session is when I can see it on their face,” Harvey says. “They actually start to believe it wasn't their fault.”
Rape victims should not be afraid to report crimes: Guest opinion
by Danielle Tudor
I learned recently that Richard Troy Gillmore requested that his ninth parole hearing, which was scheduled for April 9, be postponed for another two years. To me, this is a victory in my ongoing battle to keep a dangerous pedophile-serial rapist behind bars, and I thank the people of my home city of Portland and my home state of Oregon for standing with me.
When I was barely 17 years old, Richard Troy Gillmore sexually assaulted and beat me in my childhood home. Today, 35 years after he raped me, I can speak openly about Gillmore's attack. But, for a very long time, I said nothing publicly. I had placed an impassable gulf between the rape and my life. I was very, very ashamed of being known as a “rape victim,” and I called my assault anything but that. “Rape” sounded so awful and ugly. I have understood all too well the embarrassment, panic, fear and guilt a rape victim lives with on the inside. I was maimed, broken and wounded, even if you could not see the scars.
Perhaps you don't believe that adult survivors of sexual assault live among you.
Well, we do, and there are many more of us than you think. I am the person who sits next to you in church, the clerk who helps you at the checkout counter, the woman who's pumping your gas. I make your morning coffee. I am your house cleaner, your co-worker at the next desk over at the office. Last year, there were 89,000 reported rapes of women in the U.S. Over 20 or 30 years, that means perhaps two million survivors of rape are living among us. We should never be afraid to confront our attackers — at the police station, in court or at a parole hearing.
Statistics tell us of a great many men, women and children who have never told anyone about their abuse. More than four out of five victims never go to the police.
These victims have placed that same impassable gulf that I used between sexual assault and daily life. They fear that no one will believe them. Perhaps they were so afraid that they thought, “If I don't tell, maybe I won't be abused again.” Chances are they were, anyway. Perhaps they were children whom someone should have protected -- but that someone looked the other way. Perhaps these silent victims thought, “If I don't talk about it, maybe I'll forget.” But I assure you that any victim remembers having been raped as if it were yesterday.
Another reason victims do not report sexual assault is their fear of facing the perpetrator in court. Along with eight other very young women, I reported Gillmore's attack to the police. Later, all nine of us had to describe in court what Gillmore had done to us, as he looked on. Then his defense lawyer cross-examined us, insinuating that we could not be sure we were sitting across from the man who had raped us – even though he had already confessed to raping all of us!
When I left court, Gillmore's own attorney admitted that any chance of parole for his client would be remote. But every two years, he has the opportunity for parole. As each hearing comes, and goes, I wonder how many more times I will be able to share the details of my rape in public before I cannot speak anymore. Each parole hearing is harder, not easier, than the one before. After each hearing, I hate the fear that I have to learn to overcome all over again, day after day. You're not likely to understand what I mean unless you, too, have been sexually assaulted.
After Gillmore's eighth parole hearing, in June 2012, I was not sure I would be able to continue. Then I began to realize that this was precisely what my rapist was waiting for: He was counting on my faltering. I became determined to keep putting one foot in front of the other, to keep on moving forward. I hate the everyday fears that I have had to learn to manage all over again as a result of these hearings. Anyone who has been sexually assaulted knows what I mean.
Why do I continue to fight? It's not from vindictiveness; it's because Gillmore is not getting better. Psychologists who have examined him have called his potential for recidivism extreme. Remember, he victimized a huge number of vulnerable young women. Because of his crimes, too many lives and families have been changed forever. One victim committed suicide. Giving Gillmore another chance is jeopardizing another future victim.
Since 2008, public opinion has determined whether or not Gillmore is paroled. Your voices count – just as much as mine. So I humbly thank you for the fact that Gillmore has postponed his next parole hearing and I have two more years to marshal my resources. I count you, the citizens of Portland and of Oregon, as among the best of those resources.
No need to suffer over assault
by Joyce Siegel and Jennifer Fopma
Recent articles in the Battle Creek Enquirer describing sexual assault cases in our county have led us to provide some information about sexual violence to the community.
Sexual assault is a crime committed against a victim through means of force or coercion.
While force is often easily recognized, coercion is sometimes confused with consent. In cases of sexual assault involving minors under the age of sixteen (the legal age of consent in Michigan), the public is often quick to assign responsibility to the minor victim for sexual assault committed against them by an adult.
Instead of using the term sexual assault, rape or sexual abuse, news reporters and investigators may refer to the assault as “having sex,” or state the minor agreed or did not object to the sexual contact.
When sexual abuse or assault of minor children is viewed in this way, it significantly minimizes the seriousness of the crime, the predatory nature of the offenders, and mistakenly assigns responsibility to children who have been exploited by these crimes.
Sexual assault is an act of power and violence committed by one person against another. Tactics of force, coercion, grooming, trickery and bribery are often used in order to accomplish sexual assault against a victim who is vulnerable due to a variety of possible circumstances.
Some victims are vulnerable due to physical or mental capacity, including disability, impairment, size or age. Others may be vulnerable due to deliberate manipulation of their environment by perpetrators.
In our society, the behaviors and responses of survivors are often questioned. Survivors are judged for being at the “wrong” place, wearing the “wrong” clothing, accepting a drink or a ride from someone, being out after dark, and many other behaviors that are deemed to be “high risk” in our culture.
These factors put the focus of sexual assault on the victim rather than holding offenders accountable.
These dynamics prevent many survivors from reporting sexual assault, and perpetuate a fear of not being believed. Because sexual assault is most often committed by someone known to the victim (in about 75 percent of cases), issues of trust and betrayal are common for survivors.
Thinking about the language used to describe sexual assault crimes, including sex trafficking, is critical to increasing general understanding and knowledge of sexual assault crimes and how offenders accomplish them.
Viewing minor victims as having responsibility for participating in sexual acts with adults for any reason is blaming the victim for being raped.
Children and adolescents who are victims of sex trafficking are often viewed as delinquent and judged to be equally responsible for illegal activities instead of being seen as abuse victims who need assistance.
These victims do not always understand or realize their own victimization, but as a just society, we are bound to do our best to protect all victims and hold offenders accountable.
The Michigan Incident Crime Reporting data for the most recent year, 2012, in Calhoun County finds 68 first-degree criminal sexual conduct and ten third-degree criminal sexual conduct reports were made to police.
The same report includes a total of 1,780 domestic violence offenses reported to police.
Among those offenses, there were 186 aggravated/felonious assaults, 63 stalking/intimidation offenses, and 95 sex offenses. In 2012, 171 cases of child sexual abuse were investigated through the Child Advocacy Center at Sexual Assault Services.
At Sexual Assault Services of Calhoun County, and at S.A.F.E. Place, we are committed to assisting survivors of sexual and domestic violence, and victims of child sexual abuse.
If you or someone you care about needs support and assistance following sexual violence, please contact us.
Sexual Assault Services of Calhoun County/Bronson Battle Creek's 24-Hour Crisis Hotline is 1-888-383-2192; business office, 245-3925; Child Advocacy Center, 245-3835; or visit www.sascc.net, or “like” us on Facebook.
S.A.F.E. Place's 24-Hour Crisis Line is 965-SAFE (7233) or 888-664-9832; or visit www.safeplaceshelter.org, or “like” us on Facebook.
Thank you for working to better understand the dynamics of domestic and sexual violence in our community.
Telling their stories: Forensic interviewer gives child abuse victims a voice
by Deanna Darr
An email Hollie Strand received reminds her of the impact she has every day as a child forensic interviewer. It was from a counselor who had asked a boy what it was like to run into Strand, who had interviewed him about being sexually abused by multiple relatives.
It was OK to see Strand again, said the boy: “She took away my nightmares.”
“Every time I think about how tough this job is, I think about that little guy,” said Strand, who has interviewed more than 980 children as part of her job with the Child Advocacy Center of the Black Hills, a program of Children's Home Society.
In 2013, the center interviewed 304 children, including 238 involved in sexual abuse cases, according to the Children's Home Society. In Pennington County alone, there were 128 allegations of abuse reported to the center.
The forensic interview can be the start of healing for the millions of children who are sexually abused each year.
“Sometimes kids just need to tell their story to someone who's not going to cry, who's not going to overreact to anything shameful they say,” Strand said.
Besides child sexual abuse, the Child Advocacy Center also conducts interviews in cases where children have witnessed homicides, injuries to siblings or domestic violence, or have injuries that can't be explained.
In the past, when children disclosed a form of abuse, they could be subjected to interviews by everyone from schoolteachers and principals to law enforcement and child protection services.
These multiple interviews were traumatizing and confusing for children, Strand said.
“Research shows that when kids are asked questions over and over again, they're bound to feel that they're giving a wrong answer. Kids almost have this perspective that all adults know everything and all adults know each other. So if one adult asks and another asks, ‘I must be getting something wrong.'”
The advocacy center conducts one interview in an observation room. It is recorded on DVD, may be observed on closed-circuit television by other investigative partners and may be shown in court.
“I tell kids when I interview them that the best part about this room is that no kids ever get in trouble for talking,” Strand said.
Forensic interviewers are specially trained to ask non-leading, non-suggestive questions, she said.
“It's important that we ask the right type of questions that are developmentally appropriate in order to elicit the most accurate information possible," she said.
That means letting the child provide all the details — and refraining from filling in the blanks or guessing what happened next.
“Research shows that kids have a hard time articulating facts about events they haven't directly experienced, so a lot of our questions are peripheral questions,” she said. “They can talk about what was said, what occurred, what things sounded like, what they looked like, what people acted like.”
The general rule for interviews is about 5 minutes for each year. An interview with a 3-year-old may last 15 or 20 minutes, but one with a teenager may be more than an hour, Strand said.
“It's actually a very light conversation,” she said. “'I wasn't there when you got touched. Be my eyes and tell me everything that happened from the beginning to the end.'”
Of course, there are some children who are not ready to talk.
“There are just some kids that we can tell right from the get-go that the timing is not OK,” she said. “So we may hang out in the interview room, maybe color a picture, play with Play-Doh and then bring them back on another day.”
Counseling may be recommended for those children, said Steve Deming, program director for community-based services at Children's Home Society.
“Sometimes working through some of those issues with trauma in a counseling setting enables them to develop the strength to disclose and talk,” he said.
Some children will try to protect their parents and others may be afraid to talk because they think their parents are watching the interview.
“There's a lot of shame and embarrassment,” Strand said.
The "perfect child"
Children who have been sexually abused can have many symptoms, including bed wetting, nightmares, changes in appetite, sophisticated or unusual sexual knowledge, running away, fear of going home, risk-taking behaviors or a change in school performances.
But sometimes they have no symptoms at all.
“There are kids that have ‘perfect child syndrome,'” Strand said. “Because of sexual abuse, they excel at everything. They can have great grades.”
The overachievers and go-getters may be getting involved in school because they want to avoid their home, Strand said.
“Sometimes you can look at a list of behaviors or traits and think, ‘OK, I'm in the clear,'” she said. “But sometimes we miss something. And sometimes kids keep things as normal as possible because they don't want anybody to suspect.”
Most kids don't disclose abuse right away, she said: “Most kids wait years.”
Close to home
More than 90 percent of child sexual abuse offenders are known to the children, Strand said.
“I've interviewed over 980 children and I've talked to six that were touched by strangers,” she said. Yet most schools “still teach some flavor of stranger danger.”
Instead, the danger is closer to home.
“We have a saying in this field that you should be more worried at a family reunion than at a Holiday Inn,” Strand said.
Offenders may be either a “groomer” or a “grabber.”
“Groomers lower a child's inhibitions and defenses, and they gradually groom and molest a child,” Strand said. “That can start with something as simple as attention, giving compliments, giving gifts, giving time, giving affections.”
Most kids who have been “groomed” have a hard time describing when the tickling, wrestling and normal hugs turned into abuse, she said.
As for the grabbers, “It's so rare and it causes such alarm,” Strand said. “I think that's what motivates parents to act, when the volume of cases occurs at a friends-and-family kind of setting.”
Educating the community
Among the biggest challenges of her job is getting the community to recognize and respond to child sexual abuse, she said.
“I think that if you were to tell somebody a child had cancer, you would see a community rally around that child. You would see a community step up to the plate,” she said. “But when child sexual abuse is disclosed, that's not what happens. What you see is that questioning: ‘Are you sure?'”
Only 8 percent of cases have medical findings, she said, which can add to a family's denial of abuse.
“When you're fighting against some very old myths, it's very hard to educate the parents who come in,” she said.
About 75 percent of Strand's job is providing community workshops about child sexual abuse for law enforcement, first responders, parents, day-care providers, churches and Ellsworth Air Force Base.
The Child Advocacy Center, which opened in 1999, and its staff of four, currently housed at Black Hills Pediatrics and Neonatology, will have more space for community education when they move into the Messengers Children's Center in Rapid Valley, where the Children's Home Society's foster parenting programs are housed. A vacant area of the complex will be remodeled for new offices.
“We're going to move and give ourselves some elbow room and create a place where we can do more work and have more impact in the community,” Deming said.
Besides offices, the new space will have room for families to meet and space for the multidisciplinary partners, including investigators, to do their work more comfortably, Deming said. The move is part of an effort to share the work of the center with the public, he said.
“This program does not make money,” said Tanya Fritz, assistant program director for the CAC. “It's in existence because of generous donations.”
Among its consistent supporters is the Rushmore Rotary Club. And proceeds from this Saturday's Gala at Mount Rushmore also will help support the CAC.
Providing education will help more people understand the problem and remove some of the stigma for victims, Fritz said.
“We work with kids after the fact,” Fritz said. “It's really exciting that Hollie's position is allowing us to get in front of the problem with education, recognizing that when kids are abused, they're not damaged goods.”
It's a tough subject, but Strand and Fritz said that more people are willing to listen and learn about child sexual abuse than they were even four years.
“Many things are coming together between education and legislation,” Fritz said. “We're really excited to be part of this movement. There are people all over our state, all over our country, who haven't felt safe enough to talk about this.”
And once that door is open, Strand has found that more people are willing to talk about their own abuse.
“Once you start to bring it out, they say, ‘It happened to me, too,'” she said.
Not where she expected to be
Interviewing children about sexual abuse wasn't on Strand's original career plan. Strand, of Rapid City, received a bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies from South Dakota School of Mines & Technology and considered careers in math and psychology. She received her master's degree in counseling from South Dakota State University in Rapid City, then decided she didn't want to be a psychiatrist.
After working with parolees and sex offenders through the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Strand thought she had found her niche. She got another master's, this time in forensic science at Nebraska Wesleyan University, and worked as a counselor in the prison system.
Part of that program was an internship in Las Vegas. She ended up becoming a research partner, which required her to fly back and forth to Nebraska for Saturday classes. Strand was working in an outpatient sex offender treatment program in Vegas when she got a call to take a job in law enforcement in Martin, sending her back to South Dakota.
She arrived at the Child Advocacy Center more than six years ago after Karl Jegeris, now assistant chief of the Rapid City Police, mentioned the job to her.
“I thought, ‘Doesn't he know I don't have kids; I don't want kids,'” she said. “I'm a tough girl; I work with offenders. I was a bouncer in Las Vegas.”
She blew off the job, but kept feeling “a tap on my shoulder: ‘You should just apply,'” she said.
Fast forward six-and-a-half years, and Strand is still working with kids and has her own: a 3-year-old, a 2-year-old and a foster child.
Now that she's a mother herself, the children she sees and the situations many of them have faced can weigh heavily on her.
“I think that one of the things I look at is what I can control. And there are other things that I just can't,” she said. “I try to be realistic about my fears, and I try to bounce them off of other people. It's easy to fear the entire world.”
But seeing a case all the way through and knowing she has made a difference in the life of a child — including the boy who was able to move on after repeated abuse — is one of the rewards of her job.
“God gave me such a cool job. I feel like it's what I was called to do,” she said. “And, of course, there are nights where I go home and hug my kids.”
Washington County detectives share 25 things parents should know about child sex abuse
by Amy Wang
The largest detective unit in the Washington County Sheriff's Office isn't devoted to murders or traffic accidents or identity theft. It's devoted to child abuse, particularly child sex abuse.
Washington County had 1,978 registered sex offenders as of Feb. 19. The sheriff's office's Child Abuse Unit has 11 detectives, plus a sergeant, who focus on sex abuse cases and the most serious physical abuse cases, according to unit Detectives Tim Kiurski and Chuck Anderson. In 2013, the unit handled 405 cases; the year, before that, 390. That's in unincorporated Washington County alone.
Because of the high caseload - the largest of any detective unit in the sheriff's office, Anderson and Kiurski said - they sought to educate parents and caregivers at a "Recognizing Child Molesters" presentation Thursday night in Cedar Mill.
"You parents are the filter," Kiurski told an audience of several dozen. In the best-case scenario, an alert parent can stop a sex offender before he or she harms a child and ensure prosecution on Measure 11 charges.
Here's what Kiurski, a grandfather assigned to the child abuse unit since 2012, and Anderson, a father assigned to the unit since 2007, said parents should know about child sex abuse:
1. One in four children is sexually abused before his or her 18th birthday.
2. Ninety percent of children are sexually abused by people they know, including immediate family members.
3. Child sex abuse isn't limited to sexual intercourse. It also includes oral sex, genital contact and masturbation. Anderson told of one perpetrator who persuaded a child to fondle herself while he watched.
4. In the vast majority of cases, children who report sex abuse are telling the truth. "Where would they get the context" for making up a story, said Kiurski.
5. But fewer than 5 percent of children who have been sexually abused actually report it. And fewer than 5 percent of perpetrators are arrested.
6. Sex offenders can pass criminal background checks. They may have committed their crimes before laws requiring registration as a sex offender. Or they may have committed their crimes in another jurisdiction.
7. Some sex offenders are "preferential" offenders. These people make a concerted effort to get access to children. "They're going to treat it just like a job," said Anderson. In fact, they may choose jobs and career paths that provide direct access to children.
8. Other sex offenders are "situational" offenders. Anderson gave the example of an offender who finds a child asleep with no one else around and takes advantage of the situation.
9. Sex offenders often target parents and children they see as vulnerable: single parents, parents or children with substance abuse problems, parents or children with mental health issues, children labeled as disciplinary problems, children with few friends.
10. Sex offenders often position themselves as the "hero" saving a child from a difficult or unhappy situation. They may cultivate a highly positive and respected image within the community.
11. Sex offenders don't pounce immediately. They may spend weeks or months "grooming" a child, working to make a child feel special by showering him or her with gifts, special activities and outings, and attention.
12. Sex offenders will work to break down a child's natural inhibitions. These behaviors include "accidental" touching, having the child sit on the offender's lap, roughhousing/tickling, massages, getting involved in a child's personal hygiene, sports training, "accidentally" walking in on a child undressing or showering or using the toilet, showing pornography to a child, photographing a child (in either sexual or non-sexual poses) and providing a child with alcohol or drugs.
13. Sex offenders also "groom" parents and guardians, with the goal of having them lower their defenses and allow the child to spend time alone with the offender.
14. Sex offenders may approach parents with offers that sound too good to be true, such as watching a child after school every day for free.
15. Sex offenders rarely stop at one victim.
16. Children who have been sexually abused may exhibit any of the following symptoms: depression, anxiety, guilt, fear, withdrawal, acting out, unexplained bruises, difficulty walking, redness/bleeding at the genitals/anus/mouth, age-inappropriate sexual behavior, sexual activities with toys and/or other children, masturbation, sexual drawings, fear of touch, a new reluctance to be alone with a certain person, apprehension when the subject of sexual abuse is brought up.
17. But, the detectives warned, children who have been sexually abused may exhibit none of the above symptoms. And children who have not been sexually abused may exhibit some of the above symptoms.
18. Even a parent who has experienced sexual abuse may not recognize it when it happens to his or her child because each sexual abuse experience is different and each person reacts differently to sexual abuse.
19. Include sex abuse awareness among the safety precautions you teach your kids. Just as you tell them to watch for cars when crossing the street, teach them that no one should touch their private parts and tell them it's OK to refuse a hug or other contact that makes them uncomfortable. (Kiurski bemoaned some parents' tendencies to urge their children to "give Uncle Ted a hug.")
20. Trust your gut and stand your ground. If another person's words or actions regarding your child are setting off alarm bells, say "no." If your "no" is ignored, terminate the relationship.
21. Be aware of the technology your kids are using. Kiurski said he's rarely seen a teenage girl's cellphone that didn't contain a naked "selfie" that had been sent to someone else.
22. If you're squeamish about discussing sex with your kids, get over it. Let your kids know they can talk to you about sex and sexual abuse. Give them age-appropriate sex education and use proper names for all body parts. The sheriff's office offers a list of books that parents and children can use to help prevent sex abuse.
23. Know your kids' friends and their families. Identify a trusted adult whom your child can talk to on a regular basis if he or she doesn't feel comfortable coming to you.
24. If your child tells you that he or she has been touched inappropriately, don't start grilling your child. Instead, immediately call law enforcement or the Department of Human Services. Children who are possible sex abuse victims should be interviewed only by professionals, the detectives said. "Just report it … we are happy to deal with that," Kiurski said.
25. Most sex abuse victims do not report the abuse at the time it occurs. Delays of months or years are typical. But in most cases, charges can be filed until the victim is 30. And even after a victim's 30th birthday, it's still worth reporting sex abuse, the detectives said, because that history can be used to build a case against an offender.
Anderson and Kiurski said groups of 10 or more can request a "Recognizing Child Molesters" presentation. To arrange one, contact Anderson at email@example.com or 503-846-2704 or Kiurski at firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-846-2698.
Here are recommended phone numbers for parents concerned about child sex abuse:
Oregon Department of Human Services, Child Abuse Hotline: 503-681-6917
Sexual Assault Resource Center, Beaverton: 503-640-5311
Oregon State Police, Sex Offender Registration Unit: 503-378-3725, ext. 4429
Books to help parents and children discuss sexual abuse
by Amy Wang
Worried about the possibility of your child being sexually abused, but don't know how to bring up such a delicate topic? Here are sexual abuse prevention books recommended by the Washington County Sheriff's Office, which held a "Recognizing Child Molesters" presentation Thursday night in Cedar Mill:
For toddlers and preschoolers
For preschool through elementary school
For all school-age children
Educating kids about sexual abuse not an easy task
by Dr. Gregory Ramey
If you visit Legoland, be sure to bring a child or you may not be allowed to enter because of their “no adults without children” policy.
This policy received lots of publicity last year when a 63-year-old cancer patient was refused admission to Legoland in Canada. The marketing director for the facility asserted that Legoland “is a child attraction so we do have this in place to protect the families and children that visit.”
This is craziness masquerading as child protection, and is based upon an ignorance of the real dynamics of sexual abuse. Refusing admission to adults without kids does absolutely nothing to keep kids safe.
These policies are not an anomaly. Some airlines have for years prevented male passengers from sitting next to unaccompanied minors. Some of these practices have been modified in response to lawsuits alleging sex discrimination. Some parks have similar rules restricting adult's admission without children.
Let's be clear about the seriousness of child sexual abuse. Although the prevalence rate has decreased in the past 30 years, about 10 percent of girls and 4 percent of boys will be sexually abused during their childhood. This is an extraordinarily serious problem with lifelong consequences for the child victims, and it demands aggressive action to safeguard our youngsters. However, these policies do nothing to protect children and just reaffirm misperceptions about sexual abuse.
Here are the uncomfortable facts about child sexual abuse.
First, kids are most likely to be abused by people they know and trust. “Stranger danger” is a myth. Kids should be warned about their coaches, cousins, uncles, brothers, babysitters.
It's easy to tell children to stay away from strangers, but how do we educate kids about sexual abuse without making them distrustful of the people they know and love? How can you help kids distinguish between a normal hug, kiss or tickle and a subtle manipulation into sexual abuse?
Second, a high number of sexual offenses against children are committed by older kids, with about one-quarter to one-third of offenses committed by male teens. These kids have a history of acting out against their family, school and community. They have poor judgment and use younger children for sexual gratification.
These older kids are not sexually attracted to children and rarely reoffend once they are apprehended. These teens sexually act out against both boys (25 percent of the time) and girls (79 percent of the time) depending upon the availability of the younger child.
Your friendly neighborhood teen who loves playing baseball with your 10-year-old is the real threat, not some 63-year-old adult at Legoland!
The dilemma we confront as parents is how to educate our kids early and often without creating mistrust of family and friends. Ridiculous policies at Legoland only misdirect our attention.
Dr. Gregory Ramey is executive director of Dayton Children's Pediatric Center for Mental Health Resources.
Study sheds light on dark sex trafficking industry
by Gail Sullivan
A landmark Urban Institute study released today of sex trafficking includes some startling facts. Among them:
Convicted pimps and sex traffickers interviewed for the study said they raked in between $5,000 and $32,833 a week.
Pimps-unsurprisingly-make a lot more money than the prostitutes.
Pressure from a pimp is rarely the sole reason someone joins the sex trade.
“Female sex workers sometimes solicited protection from friends and acquaintances, eventually asking them to act as pimps. Some pimps and sex workers had family members or friends who exposed them to the sex trade at a young age, normalizing their decision to participate.”
Depending on the city, sex trafficking, prostitution, erotic massage parlors, internet-based prostitution and brothels brought in between $39.9 million and $290 million in 2007, according to the surveyof eight major U.S. urban centers.
Pimps objected to the term “pimp” as derogatory, even though they admitted to psychologically abusing the women under their control.
Physical violence against sex trade employees is probably underreported, according to the study.
The underground sex economy thrives with help from the real economy, of course. Pimps, brothels, and escort services rely on drivers, secretaries and nannies to run their operations. Offenders sometimes escape prosecution by paying of hotel managers and even law enforcement agents.
The internet is the biggest boon to the underground sex economy, allowing offenders to recruit employees and find customers on sites like Craigslist.com and Backpage.com. The online market for child pornography is especially a problem as it reinforces illicit behavior and makes it easier for offenders to consider their participation a “victimless crime.”
Of the cities surveyed - Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, Miami, Seattle, San Diego, and Washington, DC – Atlanta's underground sex market was the most lucrative, raking in $290 million in 2007. Money spend on illicit sex in DC and Miami went down between 2003 and 2007, to $103 and $235 million respectively, while more than doubling in Seattle to $112 million.
How Much Is the Sex Trafficking Industry Worth in Your City?
by Judy Molland
We already know that the sex trafficking is thriving in the U.S. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children estimated last year that approximately 100,000 children in the United States are forced into sex trafficking every year. Now we know just how much it is thriving. A study by the Urban Institute, released this week, reveals that the underground sex trade is worth nearly one billion dollars annually in eight cities.
The federally funded report seeks to understand the size and structure of the sex trade through a close look at eight metro areas: San Diego, Seattle-Tacoma, Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver, Kansas City, Atlanta, Miami and Washington.
Over $290 Million in Atlanta
Estimates of the money made in the illicit sex trade in 2007 varied from just under $40 million in Denver to over $290 million in Atlanta.
Some surprising and depressing findings from the report:
* Pimps and traffickers interviewed for the study took home between $5,000 and $32,833 a week.
* In several cities, including Atlanta, there are “Latino brothels” where girls from Mexico work after being promised a “better life” by pimps.
* Physical violence against sex trade employees is probably underreported.
* Pimps, brothels and escort services often employ drivers, secretaries, nannies and other non-sex workers to keep operations running smoothly. Offenders sometimes escape prosecution by paying of hotel managers and even law enforcement agents.
* The Internet is changing the limitations of the trade. Prostitution is decreasing on the street, but thriving online. Pimps and sex workers advertise on social media and sites like Craigslist.com and Backpage.com
* Child pornography is escalating. Explicit content of younger victims is becoming increasingly available and graphic. Online child pornography communities frequently trade content for free and reinforce behavior.
* Women, family and friends facilitate entry into sex work. Some pimps and sex workers had family members or friends who exposed them to the sex trade at a young age, normalizing their decision to participate.
A Family Business
One pimp in the study is quoted as saying: “My mother was a hustler. At an early age, she would pick me up and say, ‘This is my pimp here.'”
A 45-year-old African-American male explained the impact of conversations with his aunt at a young age:
“At age five and six and seven, I seen it because my auntie was a ho. I've seen men come and go all the time, didn't know. One night, I saw and asked. She said, ‘The clothes on your back, the apartment, this is how I pay the rent.' I had nothing but love for my auntie, that's what made me fall in love with a working woman. Then my sister and my momma did it. It's been in the family. My uncle and father were pimps.”
Meredith Dank, the lead researcher on the study, was especially struck by the business aspect of the illicit sex trade: “We often think about the commercial sex economy as a hustle, where there's no real thought or planning that's involved. But we found . . . the opposite _ that some pimps and traffickers actually had a business model they followed.”
“Some of the findings might ruffle some feathers in the end,” Dank said during an interview at the McClatchy Washington Bureau. “One finding is that in some cases women are doing the recruiting of the pimps. Most people want to say all women are the victims and all men are the perpetrators. If we are really going to address this issue, I think it is really important to know the external factors and environmental factors that are pushing people into it.”
How to Combat Trafficking and Illicit Prostitution
Shedding light on the workings of the illicit sex trade is vital to helping its victims, and this report is a welcome step in that direction.
Let's hope that the Justice Department, who funded the study, will now work to combat trafficking and illicit prostitution. Here are the steps that the report proposes:
|• Cross-train drug, sex and weapons trade investigators to better understand circuits and overlaps.
• Continue using federal and local partnerships to disrupt travel circuits and identify pimps.
• Offer law enforcement trainings for both victim & offender interview techniques, including identifying signs of psychological manipulation.
• Increase awareness among school officials and the general public about the realities of sex trafficking to deter victimization and entry.
• Consistently enforce the laws for offenders to diminish low-risk perception.
• Impose more fines for ad host websites.
Congresswoman takes aim at Backpage and sex trafficking
by Nancy Cambria
ST. LOUIS • Beneath the historic dome of the Old Courthouse, U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner on Thursday announced a proposed law that would shut down and criminalize marketplaces that willfully promote sex trafficking.
Wagner, R-Ballwin, cited the 1857 Dred Scott trial which took place in the historic courthouse and “aroused public outrage over slavery.”
“And today we're here to end what I call modern-day slavery,” she said.
Wagner, a former European ambassador, said she had long been involved in curbing sex trafficking internationally. But she was dismayed to learn that more than 300,000 American youths are at risk of trafficking annually in the United States, and that the youths typically enter the sex trade when they are 13 or 14. St. Louis ranks in the top 20 cities nationally for sex trafficking, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
“Never ever did I believe that it was so rampant in the United States of America,” Wagner said.
The Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation bill — or SAVE — filed in Congress today targets enterprises such as Backpage, an online and print advertising marketplace that generates more than $37 million a year in revenue and is estimated to garner more than 80 percent of advertising profits generated by the sex trade. Wagner's office said revenue from U.S. online prostitution advertising totaled $45 million in 2013, surpassing a benchmark set when Craigslist abandoned its adult services section in 2010.
The law proposes amending federal code offenses to criminalize the sales or promotion of advertisements that facilitate human trafficking. Wagner said it gives prosecutors greater power to charge those engaging in such activity with a federal crime.
Wagner said the measure would protect First Amendment rights and third parties who might unwillingly aid in sex trafficking.
But it would go after those with direct intent to promote sexual exploitation. She said the law was intended as a deterrent to those advertisers.
“If they continue in this horrid industry, we'll see them in court with a jury of their peers and a judge,” Wagner said.
While Wagner did not allude to the nearby Crowne Plaza hotel, several in the audience noted the location, as well as recent arrests of pimps for sex trafficking in the St. Louis area. The Crowne Plaza is among St. Louis hotels pictured in ads for female escorts on Backpage.com. Photos taken in upper-floor rooms depict the landmark green dome of the Old Courthouse through the hotel windows.
Crowne Plaza owners have said they will investigate and take appropriate action.
Wagner said while the marketing of the sex trade has exploded online, laws have not kept pace. The last law to be created to combat sex trafficking was 13 years ago, she said.
Wagner said her bill is one of several being introduced in Congress to deal with the issue. She is also a co-sponsor of a bill that would better protect foster children from being coerced into sex trafficking.
A new haven opens for survivors of clergy sexual abuse
After being raped and repeatedly sexual abused by her pastor, Samantha Nelson was suicidal; her husband Steve Nelson returned home “countless times” just in time to save her life after she'd attempted to take it.
Stories of religious leaders abusing children or minors are more common: conservative Christian Bill Gothard, for example, recently resigned from the organization he founded, Institute in Basic Life Principles after many stories detailing his sexual harassment and abuse of young women and girls came to light.
Less commonly — but no less devastatingly — sexual harassment and abuse is perpetuated by clergy on adult women. That's what happened to Samantha Nelson.
With the support of her husband, Samantha eventually found healing and grace. She went on to earn credentials in Christian counseling and to found a ministry — The Hope of Survivors — that raises awareness of clergy sexual abuse and offers help to survivors.
In a telephone interview in 2012, Nelson told me, “the devastation of this abuse is that it is so poorly understood, and survivors are subject to all kinds of insensitive behavior — such as being asked, ‘didn't you like it?' But because of the power imbalance, this kind of thing can never be a consensual relationship.”
Affairs do happen, Nelson said, but her ministry sees far more instances of predatory behavior.
“Generally, we see a lot of repeat offenders who pick out vulnerable people and groom them for abuse,” she said. When we talked in 2012, I was gathering research for an article on clergy sexual abuse that was later published in PRISM magazine, and The Hope of Survivors was celebrating its tenth anniversary. Thousands of people read their website each week, and they are contacted two or three times a week by survivors of clergy sexual abuse — more than 100 people per year.
Most of these are assigned to counselors, many of whom are volunteers. Samantha told me that she had long hoped to build a healing center — a place of retreat for survivors of pastoral abuse to receive counseling, to rest, to reconnect with God and with their spouse; a place of physical, spiritual, and emotional healing.
This hope was realized late last year, when an anonymous donor made a beautiful, historic inn in Bedford, Iowa, available to The Hope of Survivors, which will now use the location as its headquarters and as a “Renewal Center,” where those who've suffered can come for counseling and rest.
“One of the saddest aspects of clergy sex abuse,” writes Christa Brown, a lawyer who wrote This Little Light, blowing the whistle on abuse and cover-up within the Southern Baptist Convention “is that it not only inflicts the grievous trauma of sexual abuse but it simultaneously yanks a powerful resource for healing.”
The Hope of Survivors and its new Renewal Center aims to return people who've suffered such abuse to return to that “powerful resource for healing.” It's an honorable goal, and I wish them all the very best.
Help for teens at risk of being trafficked
Campaign targets northern communities
by Larry Kusch
They prey on young teens, promising them an exciting life in the city.
The people who exploit children are only thinking about the money they can make by trafficking them.
It's estimated traffickers can make up to $280,000 per year for every woman and girl they force into prostitution. The ugly reality is girls under 18 fetch more money than adults.
In Western Canada, 80 per cent of the people trafficked are indigenous women and children.
On Friday, the Canadian Women's Foundation, in partnership with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) and the provincial government, announced a program to prevent luring and trafficking in 15 northern and remote First Nation communities.
The initiative, called Our Circle to Protect Sacred Lives, will educate young girls and teens in these communities on how to protect themselves against traffickers. A workshop involving representatives from each of the targeted communities will be held in the north. Experts will brief community leaders about the problem and provide them with guidelines to develop their own anti-trafficking strategies.
"This program clearly will have outcomes of preventing sexual exploitation and human trafficking. It will save lives," said Diane Redsky, project director with the Canadian Women's Foundation's task force on trafficking of women and girls in Canada.
The foundation has taken a lead in ending human trafficking of women and girls in Canada, investing $2 million on this initiative in the last few years.
It is underwriting the $100,000 cost of the Manitoba program, along with the province.
Redsky said the girls and women who are being bought and sold from inside Canada are most often society's most marginalized. They tend to come from indigenous or immigrant communities or are abuse survivors.
The program will involve schools in the remote and northern communities.
Young girls are vulnerable to luring through the Internet or when they are visiting the city, Redsky said. They may be told they can become models or think they will become the recruiter's girlfriend and lead an exciting life.
"These traffickers for the most part are pretty slick," said Redsky. "There is a sophistication to how the recruitment and luring happens."
The program is designed to educate girls about the warning signs and impress upon them the strengths and supports in their own community.
AMC Grand Chief Derek Nepinak said the issue needs to be addressed.
"Our communities have been crying out for more information, awareness, education and resources to eradicate the violence that has faced our women, children, families and communities.
"The cry has been heard, and it's time to bring this information to our First Nations communities," Nepinak said Friday.
He repeated his demand for a national public inquiry into slain and missing indigenous women, adding this initiative is not a substitute for it.
Take Back the Night: Internet crimes against children & teens
DIRECTIONS! Support & Advocacy Services, a program of Community Mental Health Center, Inc., will again host its annual Take Back the Night event.
This year's event, featuring the theme “Protecting Children & Teens from Internet Predators,” begins at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 10, at the Dearborn Adult Center, 311 Tate St., Lawrenceburg.
The Directions! event is held during national Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a time to promote awareness of sexual assault and related crimes and the impact of these crimes on society. According to a recent National Crime Victim Research study, one in six women and men in Indiana are victims of rape.
Statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation indicate that nearly 2,000 cases of rape occur annually. Eighty percent of sex crimes are perpetrated by assailants known to the victim.
Take Back the Night is a national campaign to bring greater awareness to the violent crimes of rape and sexual assault. 2014 marks the eighth consecutive year Directions! has hosted their event. Join with family, friends, co-workers and community leaders to reclaim the night from sexual predators. This event is free and open to the public.
The evening features inspirational messages from survivors and information on key strategies to use when confronted by sexual predators. Participants also learn how to help raise awareness in their communities about rape and sexual assault and about how to make a difference in the lives of survivors. Dinner is provided, and door prizes will be awarded. A silent auction of a variety of items will be held throughout the evening.
Special guest featured speaker for the evening is Aaron Negangard, Prosecutor for Dearborn and Ohio Counties. Prosecutor Negangard will kick off the night with a presentation titled “Internet Crimes Against Children & Teens.” He will also talk about “sexting” and will have a question-and-answer session.
The Clothesline Project will again be on display, as well. Originating in Massachusetts in 1990, The Clothesline Project now encompasses more than 500 communities and several foreign countries. It has become a worldwide campaign bringing awareness to violence against women. Shirts featured in the display were created by survivors and family members and friends of survivors in our communities. The Clothesline Project offers a visual tribute to the courage of all survivors.
Rape and sexual assault are grossly underreported crimes in the United States. Only about 40 percent of rapes are reported to law enforcement. Sexual violence as well as domestic violence are “crimes of silence” and as such leave victims to suffer alone in the shadows. According to the World Health Organization, victims of sexual assault are three times more likely to suffer from depression and are four times more likely to contemplate suicide.
The Internet did not create perpetrators. It has provided an avenue for sexual predators to target many more victims while maintaining anonymity. Information and safety tips for parents and teens will be passed out at the end of the evening.
If you or someone you know is a victim of rape or sexual assault, please do not hesitate to seek help. To access Directions! 24-hour confidential crisis services, call 1-812-537-1302 or, toll-free, 1-877-849-1248.
For more information on sexual violence, Directions! Support & Advocacy Services, or to inquire about volunteer opportunities as a Directions! advocate, contact Catherine Dwyer at 1-812-532-3470, or e-mail Ms. Dwyer at Cathy.Dwyer@cmhcinc.org. Information also is posted on the SAS website at www.rapecrisissas.org. The SAS website features information on a variety of resources, including the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), which has a hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) that directs calls made from the local area to the Directions! program.
All CMHC services are provided without regard to race, religion, disability, gender, color, age, national origin, ancestry, ethnicity, sexual orientation, political belief, status as a veteran, or any other characteristic protected by federal, state or local law.
Analysis shows soaring Arizona child-abuse caseloads
by Bob Christie
PHOENIX — An analysis presented to lawmakers Friday shows Arizona's child-welfare system had a greater caseload increase than all but one state in the 10 years ending in 2012, while most states saw decreases.
University of Chicago researcher and former federal child-welfare commissioner Bryan Samuels' review of state and federal data also found the response time in Arizona for child-abuse and neglect complaints soared from 63 hours to nearly 250 hours from 2009 to 2012.
Samuels said the data he reviewed at the request of state officials working to overhaul the broken system showed Arizona's child- welfare system became overwhelmed as caseloads soared. That led to a large increase in the amount of time children were in the system before being reunited with their families or placed in permanent homes.
“The big finding here is that as the system has grown in size, it has struggled to move children ... out of the system,” Samuels said. “So you have fewer children exiting, and ... they exit having been in the system longer than they would have been before.
“It has the downside effect of children being exposed to a traumatic experience for longer periods of time and experiencing the kind of instability that you wouldn't want for any child, particularly one that has been abused and neglected,” Samuels said.
The findings show Arizona's system is beyond capacity, and state officials will have to add that capacity or come up with new strategies to lower caseloads.
The findings were no surprise to the Child Protective Services oversight committee, created in 2012 to focus on fixing the system. That charge became more urgent when more than 6,500 uninvestigated abuse and neglect reports were revealed in November.
Gov. Jan Brewer in January replaced Child Protective Services with the Division of Child Safety and Family Services. A panel Brewer created that includes lawmakers, the head of the new agency, her chief of staff and others is working on legislation to make her executive order permanent.
What did surprise even Charles Flanagan, chosen by Brewer to lead the agency, is that the data Samuels presented even existed.
“I didn't know that we had access to this before this day,” Flanagan said. “We do have a problem ... with the quality of the data and the timeliness of the data and the reports we produce, and this really gives you a very clear overview of outcomes.”
The separate group meeting to rewrite the child-welfare laws expects to produce legislation by May 1.
“As you can tell, we're digging in to all the different parts of the process in CPS and child protection that have been brought up as problematic,” said Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, who sits on the oversight committee and the child-welfare reform group writing the new law.
Disgusting Ad Jokes About Incest, Child Abuse
by Ron Dicker
(2 videos on site)
Social media users are scolding a creepy ad that jokes about incest and pedophilia to sell socks.
AdWeek called attention to the spot from Burlington France. The short video, which was released in October, has sparked outrage among viewers on YouTube.
The ad's title, "Can You Sock Me?" telegraphs the premise of a young boy asking the question to his mother, who eagerly obliges in this double-entendre drivel.
And that's not even the latest shlock from the European sock company, which appears to have a legitimate Facebook page packed with negative comments. The company's new ad features a young man killing his hospitalized grandpa so he can take his socks.
Clinic will teach response to child sex abuse
Goal of free event is to help adults respond appropriately if a young person confides in them about illicit conduct
by ANDY HOBBS
Silence is one of the biggest barriers to reducing sexual abuse, but awareness is one of the solutions.
Providence St. Peter Sexual Assault Clinic in Olympia will host a free training program Thursday called Darkness to Light.
The goal is to teach participants how to recognize and respond to child sexual abuse — a crime that affects all walks of life. The training is designed for teachers, doctors, camp counselors and anyone who works with youths. Many young victims will disclose abuse to someone other than a parent, and the training program shows adults what to do in that situation.
Roughly 9 out of 10 young victims are abused by someone they know, said Lisa Wahl, an advanced registered nurse practitioner who helps run the program.
“It's not the stranger danger myth that we have always perpetuated,” Wahl said. “The numbers aren't going down. It's an epidemic in our culture — the silence, the sexual abuse.”
The statistics on sexual abuse are hard to quantify because most victims never report the abuse. Estimates range between 1 in 10 children and 1 in 4 children who suffer abuse before age 18, Wahl said. On that note, the Providence Sexual Assault Clinic sees about 350 patients each year, according to a hospital spokesman.
Sexual abuse can also lead to risky behaviors by victims when they get older. The abuse can change the way a child manages emotions and processes information, Wahl said.
“This is a health policy issue,” Wahl said.
Sex offenders often gain the trust of parents and family members in order to groom their victims. Grooming is a complex process that ultimately puts a child in a position of feeling culpable for the abuse, Wahl said. Perpetrators give victims extra attention and surround their interactions with secrecy. Children are afraid they won't be believed or protected if they tell an adult, Wahl said.
“Children have minimal coping skills and have no idea they were being led into that whole cauldron,” Wahl said.
One reason people are afraid to report is because they don't want to ruin someone's life by making a false allegation.
“We try to reframe that it's their responsibility to report,” said Heather Reid, a licensed medical social worker who helps run Darkness to Light. At the very least, the program is meant to encourage more dialogue about this serious subject.
“If we can educate just 5 percent of our community about this epidemic and give them the tools they need,” Reid said, “then we can really see an impact in our community.”
If you go
Darkness to Light runs 5:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday at Providence St. Peter Hospital in the 200 Room, 413 Lilly Road NE, Olympia. Snacks will be provided. The clinic also provides personalized training for any group of 15 or more. To register and learn more, call 360-493-7469 or visit D2L.org
Survey On Child Sexual Abuse Shows Misconceptions About The Issue
by Randy Gorbman
The results of a survey on how people in the Rochester area perceive child sexual abuse has just been released. And the organizations behind the survey say it shows there's a lot of work to be done in terms of education.
For one thing, the survey done by the Ad Council of Rochester, shows that the level of people in this area who feel that child sex abuse is common is 29 percent. But when those same people are asked about how common the abuse is in neighborhoods like their own, that drops to 15 percent.
Mary Whittier, who heads up the Bivona Child Advocacy Center, says that the survey goes against the reality: which is that child sex abuse does not discriminate by income, education level or neighborhood.
"And that's a big part of what Bivona and the Ad Council are doing together, is creating a lot more awareness and really reaching out and doing some more education ."
The survey also shows that many people will not make a report about suspected child abuse unless they feel like they've got enough evidence and proof, when Whittier says the reality is that people just need to have a suspicion, and then they can contact law enforcement, a protective hotline, or the Bivona Advocacy Center.
The Ad Council and Bivona are using this survey as a springboard to develop an educational campaign about child sexual abuse.
The Bivona Child Advocacy Center holds its annual summit on child abuse on April 22 and 23 at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center.
The 5 Negative Types of People I Have Met on My Recovery Journey
by Elisabeth Corey
I have read countless books on self-actualization, self-realization and spiritual awareness. I have done hundreds of hours of yoga, pranayama (breathing practices) and meditation. I have worked with therapists, energy workers, acupuncturists and a million body workers. All of this has been helpful, even critical, to my recovery.
One of the primary spiritual premises I have heard is that the universe will give me exactly what I need. Sounds great, doesn't it?
In my early years of recovery, I thought that had something to do with the physical world. Of course, as a trauma survivor, it was pretty hard to believe. Actually, I didn't believe it. Or at least, I didn't believe it applied to me.
Now, I look at it differently. Now, I know it isn't about providing me a vehicle when mine breaks down. It isn't about making my life more convenient. It is about providing me with the motivation to change my inner world, because the only way to recover is to change from the inside out.
That being said, I hate that. I hate the pain it causes. I really dislike looking at my problems from the perspective that I need to make the changes. It is truly painful. It is much simpler to blame everyone else, stay angry and play the victim. Of course, I have realized over time that ignoring the need for change just makes the next lesson a bit more challenging. I affectionately refer to them as “baseball bats over the head from the universe.”
As a child sex abuse survivor, my childhood was full of boundary-less adults. I learned very quickly that my boundaries were not important. I learned that nobody cared for my opinions and that my expression of emotion was unwanted. I also learned that I could do nothing right. I learned that everything I took pride in would be criticized by those who were already perfect in my family.
As an adult, I thought healing would be brought about by attracting supportive and emotionally available people into my life. But that's not how it works. I had to make my own changes to bring those people around.
In looking at my past learning opportunities, I can group them into several major categories. Many have come from my children. I have written about boundary-setting and helicopter parenting on several occasions.
However, adults provide lessons as well. And today, I will focus on the adults. Of course, these are very specific to my journey. But I think that others have similar experiences.
1. No boundaries.
I have had my share of acquaintances and romantic relationships with people who lack personal space. Whether it is the need to spend too much time with me, use my stuff incessantly or glean more information about me than necessary, my lack of space has been abundant. I once had a man tell me he would die for me, but that he wasn't willing to give me one night a week for myself. Seriously? Even he eventually realized the ridiculousness of that statement. But it took a while … and maybe a therapy appointment.
2. Emotionally and physically abusive.
I have had a romantic relationship where I had to lock the door to my bedroom after he had been drinking because he was going to start yelling about my uselessness — guaranteed. He would still stand outside the door and yell, but at least there was a door between us. I have had romantic relationships where it was assumed I would do all the work (in and out of the house) while my partner nursed the physical manifestation of the day.
And I have had some bosses that made Satan seem like a decent being. I have had bosses tell me I am stupid, that I don't deserve the job and that I am paid too much. Bosses have micromanaged me by delving far too much in to my personal life to tell me how I should manage my time to get more hours in at work (also a boundary issue). Bosses have shut my office door and yelled at me at the top of their lungs (so the shut door didn't really matter). And I am really good at my job (personal opinion of course).
I have also had good bosses. If you are one of my past bosses, and are reading this, just assume you are one of them.
3. Sexually inappropriate.
I cannot even count the number of older (way older) men who have been overly physical with me. I used to wonder why a man could not have a conversation with me without putting his hand on my arm or his arm around my shoulders. I have even had totally repulsive coworkers attempt to give me shoulder massages when I was stressed. There have been countless sexually inappropriate conversations at work or in volunteer scenarios. Of course, there have been more overt advances as well.
You know the type. They cannot do anything wrong. They have created their house of cards of perfection and any threat to that house of cards is met with a barrage of deflection tactics that leave their adversaries dazed and confused. Even when their fault is so insanely obvious, they will stop at nothing to avoid blame. They are not interested in having an adult conversation. They are only interested in taking you down with their version of the facts.
It has only been recently that I have developed relationships with people who could take constructive criticism like a mature adult. It doesn't happen every time, but when it does, my relief is almost overwhelming.
5. Passive-aggressive or overtly critical.
I have spent most of my life trying to meet the needs and likes of people who were never going to be happy with my efforts. I banked my life on the perfect Thanksgiving meal, Christmas tree or bridal shower only to hear little criticisms about whatever was not just right. Looking back on it, I was creating a very impressive home life that would have rivaled Martha Stewart. But none of it was real. And none of it was appreciated. Sometimes, the comments were passive-aggressive. “If that is how you want to do it …” Sometimes, the comments were overtly critical. “Why in the world would you think that was a good idea?” But the criticism was always there.
Every one of these meetings has caused me substantial pain. Prior to recovery, I would deal with these situations by avoiding the particular person, which does not work well when they are your boss. For years and years, I was absolutely petrified to stand up for myself. I was subconsciously convinced that I would experience retaliation, even death, for speaking my mind. I know these people were brought into my life so I could stand up for myself. And in most cases, after spending far more time with them than I should, I figured that out.
However, the pain of accommodating these people for far too long has certainly affected my quality of life as an adult. I am hoping that soon, I will figure out the lesson a little faster, so the learning from these interactions can less painful. I know there are lessons in my life right now. I know this because there is pain. And right now, I have no clue what I am supposed to glean from them. But I am working to become as aware as possible, so the baseball bat doesn't actually knock me out.
Kilah Davenport, who sparked child abuse legislation, dies at 4
by Cleve R. Wootson Jr.
Kilah Davenport, the 4-year-old whose abuse case sparked legislative changes after she suffered severe brain damage during a beating by her stepfather, died on Thursday, her family told the Observer.
Her death was caused by complications from the May 2012 assault that fractured her skull and left her permanently brain-damaged, a family friend said. Kilah would have turned 5 in three weeks.
Kilah was the inspiration and namesake for a North Carolina law that increased sentencing punishments for five child abuse-related felonies. Gov. Pat McCrory signed the bill into law last year.
Congress is considering pressuring states to increase their punishments for the worst child abuse. The House has passed a bill directing the attorney general to issue a report detailing each state's penalties for child abuse, including whether the laws provide enhanced penalties in cases of severe child abuse. It is now in the Senate.
Kilah had made previous public appearances as her family and community activists pushed for stronger child abuse penalties, including before the Union County commissioners in September 2012. Kilah and her family were present in Raleigh when McCrory signed the bill named after her into law last April.
“You couldn't help but fall in love with Kilah Davenport,” said Jeff Gerber, who encouraged Kilah's family to advocate for stronger child abuse laws in 2012. “She was such a beautiful, loving child – just so full of life. And she was stripped of her childhood and stripped of her life by someone with just uncontrollable outrage.”
Kilah suffered a fractured skull and damage to 90 percent of her brain following the May 2012 abuse at the hands of Joshua Houser.
Jurors deliberated less than six hours before convicting Houser last month of felony child abuse inflicting serious bodily harm.
Houser was sentenced by Superior Court Judge Tanya Wallace to a minimum of seven years and a maximum of 10 years in state prison.
If Kilah had been beaten after Kilah's law was enacted, Houser could have been sentenced to anywhere from 25 years to life in prison.
It was unclear whether Houser would face additional charges now that Kilah has died. Union District Attorney Trey Robinson could not be reached for comment Thursday evening.
Kilah was a constant presence two weeks ago during the final two days of Houser's trial. She sat with her mother behind prosecutors in a stroller swaddled in a Charlotte Checkers blanket.
She napped or rested quietly most of the time but occasionally uttered deep moans.
Prosecutors picked up on that when showing the jury a video of a laughing Kilah before the assault, riding a toy bike in the backyard.
“That sound of bubbly laughter, he took her voice,” Assistant District Attorney Anne Reeves told jurors. “The sound she makes now is a continued low moan. It sounds kind of like an animal's. You don't want to look at it. She never deserved this. No child deserves this.”
Fairfield baby's nose bitten off; teen dad arrested
by Catherine Mijs
Fairfield police arrested an 18-year-old man Thursday morning after authorities say he bit off the nose of his infant son during a fit of frustration from the child's crying.
Joshua Cooper was booked into Solano County Jail on suspicion of child cruelty and aggravated mayhem as a result of the investigation, which began shortly after 8 a.m., Sgt. Troy Oviatt with the Fairfield Police Department Major Crimes Unit said during a press briefing Thursday night.
Officers were dispatched to an apartment in the 1000 block of Alaska Avenue after receiving a frantic 911 call from the child's mother, whom Oviatt said was "screaming hysterically" that her infant son was bleeding from the nose, Oviatt said.
When officers arrived at the apartment, they found the 1-month-old bleeding from the face. Inside the bedroom, they made a grisly discovery, finding the tip of the infant's nose on the carpet, Oviatt said. The discovery launched the criminal investigation that ultimately led to Cooper's arrest several hours later.
Cooper, the baby's 17-year-old mother, and numerous other family members were present when police arrived, Oviatt said, but no one other than Cooper was believed to have been in the bedroom when the attack took place.
The infant was initially taken by ambulance to North Bay Medical Center for treatment, Oviatt said. In addition to confirming that the child's nose had been severed, doctors at North Bay determined the infant had possible head trauma, Oviatt said.
As a result, the infant was transferred to Children's Hospital in Oakland, where doctors determined he had suffered a skull fracture, a brain hemorrhage and that one third of the baby's nose had been severed. The child was listed in stable condition.
The severed nose was taken to the hospital with the child; however, Oviatt said he was unsure whether doctors were able to reattach it.
During their investigation, police learned that Cooper and the child were alone together in a bedroom when the "gruesome" attack occurred. According to Oviatt, the child's mother stepped out of the room and had been gone only minutes when Cooper came out of the room carrying the baby with his face bloodied.
The mother immediately called police.
Oviatt said Cooper was "responsive to police" during their investigation and appeared to be "remorseful," asking after the well-being of his son, wife and other family members.
According to Oviatt, Cooper does not have a criminal history with Fairfield police as an adult; however, said he could not comment on a juvenile record.
Cooper allegedly admitted biting the infant, but gave no explanation as to why, "other than saying he was frustrated with the baby's crying," Oviatt said.
The investigation continues to determine how the infant suffered the skull fracture and brain hemorrhage.
There were no signs of alcohol or drug use at the scene, Oviatt said. Cooper's blood was drawn for a toxicology panel, but Oviatt was unsure when the results will be known.
"I have never seen something like this before," Oviatt said.
Cooper is currently being held on $750,000 bail.
Anyone with information regarding the incident is asked to call the Fairfield Police Department's Major Crimes Unit at 428-7600, the 24-hour tip line at 428-7345 or Solano Crime Stoppers at 644-7867.
Fairfield police offer several classes that focus specifically on parenting skills, including one that includes a presentation on the dangerous and potentially deadly effects of shaking a baby and focuses on how to cope with inconsolable children.
For information on the class, call Sgt. Matt Thomas at 428-7354.
The department also offers the Parent Project, which helps parents deal with challenging teens. For information, contact Patricia Magallon at 428-7327.
Senate amends child abuse prevention bill
by Billy Hesterman
SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah's Senate approved of a bill Wednesday that seeks to create a child abuse prevention curriculum for Utah's schools but the senators also amended the bill to reinforce that a parent would need to opt their child in for the class should it address certain topics.
The opt-in discussion on the bill first came up on Tuesday but multiple Senators rose in opposition to that idea as they were concerned that Utah students who would benefit from the class would not get the opportunity to participate in it if it was an opt in. A few of the Senators even shared their own personal experiences with abuse as they spoke in opposition to the opt-in amendment arguing that Utah's students need to know they don't have to allow abuse to happen to them. The amendment was voted down.
However, on Wednesday when the bill came up for final passage, Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, proposed an amendment to the legislation to tie it to provisions already in state law that say if Utah students are taught on certain subjects - such as mental or psychological problems, sexual behavior or orientation, illegal behaviors and religious beliefs - the school must first receive written consent from the student's parents.
Valentine explained that the Senate was incorrect in their assumptions on Tuesday that the curriculum could be an opt-out option for parents and made the motion to amend the bill to tie it to what was already in state law, clarifying that if the course touches on the restricted items, parents need to opt their students in the course.
"If you are attempting to do the things in these sections you will have to have written consent to do so," Valentine said.
Valentine said he did not want to allow the bill, should it pass, to become a back door for someone to use to avoid following the opt-in requirements already laid out in state law but some of his fellow members saw his maneuver as an attempt to hijack the legislation.
"I think it is a little late frankly to make some major changes to this bill," said Sen. Pat Jones, D-Holladay. "I think people have weighed in on this, this is the last hoop that it needs to jump through before it becomes law."
Jones later told reporters that members of the Eagle Forum had been pulling Senators off the floor to to lobby them to vote for Valentine's amendment. Jones said between the members being lobbied by the conservative group and Valentine's amendment being pushed that it felt like an "end around" was being played on the bill.
Valentine said he was simply trying to avoid a situation where a school district does an opt-out program for the course but then is challenged by parents that it should be an opt-in under state law.
"Now they know about it," Valentine said.
Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, the Senate sponsor of the legislation, observed that the program would not go into effect until the school year starting in the fall of 2016. He said that gave Utah's lawmakers 18 months to determine if how the bill stands now is the correct way to proceed before it is implemented.
The chief sponsor of the bill, H.B. 286, said she plans to allow the amendment remain in the legislation when it comes up for a final vote in the House.
"We are so grateful to all of our advocates who have fought so hard for this bill," said Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City. "This is and always has been about protecting our children, giving them the tools they need to prevent."
Dottie Sandusky Speaks Out on National Television, says Husband is Innocent, Victims 'Manipulated'
by Steve Bauer
Jerry Sandusky's wife is speaking out for the first time since the former assistant football coach was convicted for his role in a horrifying child sex abuse case that shocked the nation.
Appearing on NBC's Today Show Wednesday morning, Dottie Sandusky maintained that her husband is innocent and she believes that the victims were manipulated.
During the interview with Today Show host Matt Lauer, Dottie Sandusky was flanked by documentary filmmaker John Ziegler who's spent two years researching the case.
Lauer started out by asking Dottie Sandusky if she thinks her husband is innocent. "I definitely believe him," she says. "If I didn't believe him -- when I testified at trial I could not say what I said. I would have had to tell the truth."
During the trial some of the victims testified that they were abused in the basement of the Sandusky's home in College Township. Many wondered how that could have happened without Dottie Sandusky's knowledge.
Lauer asked her if she had blocked out certain events. "No," Dottie Sandusky replied emphatically. "No, I have not. No. Because there was nothing that went on. Because I was here. It was like, I mean I will take you downstairs and let you see the basement. It is not a dungeon. It is not what those kids said."
Dottie gave Lauer a tour of her home's basement. One of the victims said he screamed while he was being sexually abused by Sandusky in that basement. Lauer asked Dottie Sandusky why she didn't you hear it.
"Because he didn't scream" she replied.
Responding to criticism that she might have turned a blind eye to what happened, Dottie Sandusky stated, "I'm not a weak spouse. As you know, my name, they call me "Sarge" because Jerry said I kept everyone in line."
Was Jerry Sandusky guilty of inappropriate behavior? "I don't believe that," said his wife. "I believe that he showered with kids and that's the generation that Jerry grew up in."
But would she think it's inappropriate if someone showered and hugged one of her children? "I would guess that I would," she said.
Ziegler had this to say about showering with boys, "As inappropriate as it seems, and I have fully acknowledged, I would not do it in a million years. But that's not what Jerry Sandusky is in prison for. That's not why he's probably going to die in prison and has had his pension taken away. That's not why Joe Paterno was unjustly fired and three Penn State administrators are facing losing their freedom over this case."
Former Penn State President Graham Spanier, Former Athletic Director Tim Curley and retired Senior Vice President for Finance Gary Schultz all face trial for allegedly trying to cover up the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. All three men say they're innocent and promise to vigorously defend themselves in court.
Sandusky was first investigated in 1998, when the mother of victim six told authorities that her son had showered with Sandusky. Investigators eavesdropped on a conversation between the mother and Sandusky in which he said, "I wish I were dead."
According to Dottie Sandusky, "Jerry would not say I wish I was dead."
Lauer also asked about the motives of the young men who testified against her husband. She responded, "I think they were manipulated. Once the lawyers came into the case they said there was some money."
Lauer followed up by asking, "I think some people who are going to watch this are going to be furious by hearing what you're both saying because it seems that what you're asking us to believe is that everybody on the other side of this case has either been manipulated or is lying, and everybody on this side of the case is telling the truth."
Dottie Sandusky replied, "I think people need to know that Jerry is not guilty and see all of the discrepancies that went on at trial."
She also talked about her relationship with family friends. "There's some people in town who are friends of ours who we know have said that they really care about us and really know what's happening but they've been advised by their lawyers to stay as far away from us as possible."
Jerry Sandusky is serving 30 to 60 years in prison. His wife is allowed to see him once a week but no physical contact is permitted.
"He is in handcuffs, he has the belt and handcuffs when he comes. He is in a little room with the doors locked when he goes in the room, there's glass, there's mesh on the side. And I'm in a room, I'm not locked, I can come and go kind of thing.
"We talk about what's been going on with the family. We talk about things with the case, how things have been going for him.
"You know he is doing things. He reads, he writes, he meditates, he has a TV which is a lifesaver for him.
"I don't really see a whole lot of changes in him. A friend had written to him and asked him what he missed, what did he take most for granted?" Dottie Sandusky began to cry before continuing, "And he said, 'Family meals, the fun time with the grandkids, playing ball, doing special things with friends.' Our family had lots of picnics. It was always athletic things that we did."
Dottie Sandusky says her husband is optimistic that he'll be able to appeal his conviction.
"Oh yeah, we talk about that a lot," she says. "He is very hopeful and he is allowed to go to law library once a week which is for two hours. ... they put him in a cage and there is usually another inmate next to him from his area. He has access to a computer that he can look up different cases and look into that. I kid him and say maybe you're going to become a lawyer.
Dottie Sandusky says that God has a plan and that something good will come out of everything that's happened.
Asked what good might come out it she responded, "I don't know. Right now I do not know what good will come out of it."
(Audio with complete interview is on site)
Dottie Sandusky's Comments May Negatively Impact Child Abuse Victims
by Jennifer Miller
David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, issued a statement regarding Dottie Sandusky's comments.
"We hope more rational relatives of Sandusky will persuade Mrs. Sandusky to stop making public statements that will not help her husband and will only further hurt others.
"Mrs. Sandusky apparently believes she's right and everyone else is wrong – dozens of victims, police, prosecutors, judges, journalists and current and former Penn State officials. We feel sorry for her. But we feel even sorrier for the young men who are in pain because they were sexually assaulted by Jerry Sandusky and who must feel more pain today because of Mrs. Sandusky's insensitive statements.
"Claiming that suffering child sex abuse victims are motivated by money is like saying adult rape victims 'asked for it.' Both are outdated, self-serving myths that only deepen already deep wounds of crime victims."
The wife of convicted child sexual abuser Jerry Sandusky and a documentary filmmaker described Sandusky's victims as liars on national television Wednesday.
Those types of comments can negatively impact child abuse victims who have already come forward and victims suffering in silence, according to Kristina Taylor-Porter, executive director of the Centre County Child Advocacy Center.
"It creates a bad environment, an uncomfortable environment, for a child to come forward in," Taylor-Porter says.
During an interview with the Today Show, Dottie Sandusky said she did not believe testimony given by her husband's victims during trial. John Ziegler said all of the victims must be liars because Sandusky is innocent. A jury disagreed, and a judge sentenced Sandusky to 30 to 60 years in state prison for 45 counts of abuse.
Taylor-Porter did not respond specifically to comments made by Dottie Sandusky and Ziegler, but instead spoke to StateCollege.com in general terms when it comes to people not believing a victim of sexual abuse.
"It really goes back to the culture of child sexual abuse where the perpetrator starts to groom the child and tells the child no one will ever believe them if they were to say something," Taylor-Porter says. "Seeing this said publicly, that victims are not being believed, will force victims to see this idea reinforced."
Additionally, when victims who have so far remained silent see other victims labeled as liars in the media, they may be less likely to come forward for help and less likely to pursue justice in court, Taylor-Porter says.
"If a victim was at the verge of coming forward about their abuse and then they were to hear these things they might not come forward," she says. "They might think, 'nobody will believe me, look at this, they're not believing those victims.' It just reinforces the idea the perpetrator puts in the victim's mind."
Taylor-Porter also raised issues with a recent ESPN report in which Mike McQueary, a key witness in the Sandusky case, is said to be a victim of child abuse. The report attributes the detail to anonymous sources.
Taylor-Porter says ESPN's report was "tasteless" and failed to protect a potential victim's rights.
"It really wasn't protecting somebody that could potentially be a victim. It wasn't protecting their confidentiality. They did it without consent of the victim. It's such a sensitive topic to talk about and to talk about it with little regard to the victim could be very damaging to that person," she says. "When a victim is going through a healing process and they have their abuse being brought to light without being the person that brings it to light, I think it makes it scary for someone to come forward about it."
Additionally, outing a person's abuse through a national news story could make victims less likely to come forward, Taylor-Porter says.
"If they wanted to go to the media about it that's one thing, but that might silence the child as well from wanting to come forward about the abuse. They might think, 'if I do it might end up in the newspaper, on TV, across the nation," she says. "I think it discourages children and adults who were abused as children from coming forward."
Taylor-Porter says 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are victims of sexual abuse.
The Centre County Child Advocacy Center at 129 Medical Park Lane in Bellefonte, opened last month. It offers a child-friendly, streamlined approach to interviewing children who have made allegations of abuse or children who have witnessed other crimes. The intent is to create an investigative system that minimizes trauma for the child.
House Subcommittee Passes Bill To Aid Victims Of Human Trafficking
Tallahassee, Fla.—The Florida House of Representatives Healthy Families Subcommittee today passed Proposed Committee Bill HFS 14-02 to better care for survivors of human trafficking and ensure they are treated as victims rather than criminals. Human trafficking of minors is a growing problem in Florida and across the country. As part of the Legislature's Work Plan 2014 “Protecting Florida's Vulnerable” initiative, this bill seeks to help these children overcome abusive relationships and grow into healthy adults.
“We would like to believe that terrible things like this don't happen in our state, but the reality is any child can be lured into this type of situation and be horribly abused,” said State Representative Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart), Chair of the Healthy Families Subcommittee. “In the past, we have done a great deal to toughen criminal penalties for traffickers. This bill focuses on the victims of these crimes, providing safe places for these children to live and receive the therapy they need to recover.”
The bill creates new administrative requirements for the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and community-based care agencies to ensure they have the infrastructure to respond to the commercial sexual exploitation of children. It provides clear standards for safe houses where child victims can live and receive treatment and authorizes DCF to create safe foster homes, making sure these residences are of acceptable quality. The bill also creates a pilot program to test a secure safe house where sexually exploited dependent children, for whom no less restrictive placement will work, can be safe and receive therapy to set them on the road to healing.
In January, House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz announced Work Plan 2014, which included “Protecting Vulnerable Floridians” as a priority. To read more about Work Plan 2014, please visit the Florida House of Representatives online.
High school students protest censorship of 'The Rape Joke,' school publication restrictions
by Sharon Roznik
FOND DU LAC — High School journalists launched a petition this week to halt censorship by school officials of a student publication.
The new administrative mandate was spurred by the February issue of Cardinal Columns that featured a story titled: “The Rape Joke.”
Written by Fond du Lac High School senior Tanvi Kumar, the investigative piece documents a prevailing rape culture within the school and its impact on students who are survivors of sexual abuse.
The piece features stories of three rape victims. Their names have been changed in the story.
On Monday Fond du Lac High School Principal Jon Wiltzius told journalism classes new school guidelines require that all stories meet his approval before publication and are subject to rejection.
“This is a reasonable expectation,” Wiltzius said. “My job is to oversee the global impact of everything that occurs within our school and I have to ensure I am representing everyone and there was some questionable content.”
As of 6 p.m. Tuesday the students' anti-censorship petition posted at change.org had garnered 700 signatures. It specifically petitions Superintendent Dr. James Sebert and each signature is forwarded directly to the superintendent's email account.
Sebert said he took issue with a picture on the inside cover that shows a woman described as “laying lifeless” in the middle of cardboard boxes. On that page the editors explain the cover photo selection process and why they rejected that (laying lifeless) picture for the cover.
“The most recent edition raised some questions in my mind after reading it as to interference with the educational process, educational environment, and the rights of other students,” Sebert said in an email to The Reporter.
He points to aspects of “The Rape Joke” article — which includes some graphic description of the types of rape a student endured, a letter from the editors called “The Punchline,” and a Pledge of Allegiance editorial that instructs students on their rights to not stand during the Pledge as questionable material for a school publication. Sebert said he and Wiltzius met with Matthew Smith, the print journalism teacher at the high school and adviser to the magazine's staff, to discuss the issues.
“Cardinal Columns is created as part of the print journalism class at Fond du Lac High School,” Sebert wrote. “District resources are utilized and the publication represents the school and the district. The guidelines created will ensure this publication as well as any school-sponsored publications are reviewed by the principal prior to print and publication. This is a reasonable expectation for a school-sponsored publication.”
School Board policy, adopted in 1988, outlines expectations for student publications and states they are subject to school guidelines as determined by the principal.
The principal may refuse to publish any materials for numerous reasons, according to the new school guidelines.
Author fires back
The controversy has spurred a flurry of comments at the petition site as well as Twitter account @cardinalcolumns and Kumar's account @Tanviiikumar, where she fired back in a publicly-posted letter to Sebert. In it she states the article had “a lasting effect on this student body and inspired many people.”
Kumar said she was repulsed by the behavior exhibited by people in the high school, pointing to a supposedly student-run twitter account called “Ethan the Rapist,” that pokes fun at a very specific rape incident and rape in general.
She said Wiltzius told students he wanted the paper to be more positive and “to bring people together.”
“This story is not false, defamatory, libelous, vulgar, or profane. Unless you view survivors of horrendous atrocities speaking out against a culture that oppresses them as ‘profane,' or ‘vulgar' rather than revolutionary or novel,” she wrote.
Rachel Schneider, editor-in-chief of the magazine along with Kumar, said some teachers were reading the article aloud in their classroom, holding it up as a piece of journalistic excellence.
“We are the students that know what is happening, what is going on at Fondy (high school), and we heard this (rape jokes) was one of the issues,” Schneider said. “If we know it and the staff knows it, why aren't we saying it? We are the voice. If they censor it, we don't have a voice.”
Cardinal Columns art designer, 18-year-old senior Austin Klewicki, said other articles written about school issues did not raise eyebrows. He spoke about the newly-imposed censorship rule at the Monday meeting of the Fond du Lac Board of Education.
“There have been stories on bomb threats, school store theft, drug dealers in school, a gay student coming out, and none of those rose a red flag. This story actually helped people, so I am confused,” he said.
Since the article was published Klewicki said he has not heard any rape jokes in school.
Staff writer, 18-year-old senior Samantha Cass, said kids are being taught about safe sex in health class but they don't discuss rape or even define it.
“Kids are having sex in high school and some don't even know they were raped,” she said.
“We are the people that can explain rape isn't OK,” said another staff writer, 17-year-old junior Cory Scherer. “If you aren't clawing and getting beaten up, people think it's not rape.”
As Cardinal Columns adviser Smith said everyone he has spoken to at the high school and in the community has given high praise to Kumar's work.
“I think we did exactly what any newsroom would do. We had serious discussions about the article before it ran,” Smith said. “The power of the subject and the importance of the piece to help people can play a role in the language used and it was not vulgar and for the most part all the words were necessary.”
The new guidelines will not change the stories students report or how he teaches journalism, Smith emphasized.
“They (the students) hold themselves to amazingly high standards and their use of critical thinking makes me really proud,” Smith said. “They have become very collaborative and they do a great job of exemplifying school goals.”
No smoking gun
Vince Filak, a professor of journalism at University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and a recent guest lecturer for Fondy High journalism students, has seen this issue played out before, but it usually involved a satirical piece gone wrong — not a well-researched article with multiple expert sources, he said.
“I was reading the article looking for a smoking gun. Oh, God did they include some kind of rape joke or name somebody, but there wasn't anything that made me wince,” he said.
While the topic may make people uncomfortable, he believes it is one worth reporting and questions why the administration would react this way to “good journalism.”
“The new policy has a lot of impact I don't think administrators — when they apply it — fully understand what they are doing to students,” Filak said. “Open discourse and freedom of the press leads to incredible journalism and instead they are basically telling students they don't trust them.”
Wiltzius said he has had no complaints about the stories printed in the February publication, but he has had issues in the past with some of the articles that have appeared in Cardinal Columns.
“We want a process in place so the building principal has oversight and guidance about the messages we are sending out into the community,” he said.
The principal said he is also aware that the rape joke connotation exists in the school environment and the school is working hard to educate students and staff to be respectful.
Linda Selk-Yerges, executive director of ASTOP, a Fond du Lac non-profit organization dedicated to aiding victims of sexual assault, said she picked up 30 copies of the article to distribute to staff and her board of directors. ASTOP prevention educator Courtney Kolb is quoted in the story.
“I am very proud of what Tanvi did. She took a subject that you can tell is very polarizing and people don't want to talk about and she really put it out there. The things she said are not lies,” Selk-Yerges said.
She quoted statistics that one out of four females and one out of six males are sexually assaulted before their 18th birthday.
“This is not fiction, this is real, so the (high school) population reading this story is perfect, as well as the adults in these students' lives so they know what these kids are up against,” Selk-Yerges said.
School Board President Elizabeth Hayes said she objected to the headline “The Rape Joke” because people might not understand it, as well as the article on the Pledge of Allegiance.
“This publication is supported by taxpayer funds and it should be held to a high standard,” Hayes said. “And we should also be encouraging students to hold high standards of respect.”
'I was blind to the warning signs...'
by Plymouth Herald
My EX was a very charming man, at least he was at first. Initially, all my friends told me I had fallen on my feet with this one.
He was well educated, polite, solvent, hard working, a pillar of society – or so it seemed. I fell head over heels.
Looking back, there were a few warning bells, even at the beginning, but I was blind to them at the time. By the time we had moved in together, things were anything but rosy, but I had no friends or family to talk to; I had moved to a new city and had no job other than some weekly volunteering - he was all I had.
When I was isolated, the emotional abuse started to increase; there were jibes about my weight, my housekeeping skills, my employment status – anything was fair game.
I would learn later that isolation is a tool perpetrators use to control someone. Slowly, my confidence disappeared but I simply didn't have the strength to leave, never mind have somewhere to go.
When I first met my ex-partner, I was a confident woman. I had everything to live for. By the time I finally left him, I had lost it all. My confidence was rock bottom and I was depressed. I felt ugly and, after yet another battering, I found myself on the doorstep of a women's refuge.
Looking back, arriving at that refuge was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.
How did I finally find the courage to leave? When I could no longer hide the truth from the outside world.
Usually bruises and bumps were strategically placed, but one incident had left me with a fat lip and a black eye. Despite my best attempts at hiding it with make-up, my co-workers at the charity where I volunteered couldn't help but notice the state I was in. I broke down and came clean about my situation.
Fortunately, someone knew the number of the local refuge, and I had an interview to assess my need. I was one of the fortunate ones; I was assessed as being in extreme risk and, luckily, they had a room free.
Had it not been for their intervention, I don't know if I would be here today. The abuse was escalating and I was very depressed; I knew my situation was not going to have a happy ending.
It was not just the shelter the refuge provided, it was the support, and the preparation they gave me for the future. A huge part of my stay in the refuge was taking part in a programme that looked at abusive patterns of behaviour.
We learnt how to spot controlling behaviour and how to deal with it. We were also taught that we didn't deserve what had happened to us and that we had value, even if we didn't feel that way at the time.
We were never called "victims", we were survivors. But I don't think I have survived, I think I have flourished. It didn't happen overnight, it didn't happen entirely in the refuge, but in the months that followed I gradually grew stronger. There was a dawning realisation that what had happened to me was wrong.
Would Clare's Law have saved me the years of heartache I had and the gradual loss of all that I held dear: my family, friends and career? I hate to say it, but for me, the answer is no.
If Clare's Law had been around then I just wouldn't have taken advantage of it and even if I had, I would have found nothing out. My ex had no previous history with the police – a lot of perpetrators don't.
The very nature of domestic abuse is that it's something hidden, something people are ashamed of. By the time the violence started I really believed I deserved it. The confident woman he first met would never have let a man raise a hand to her, but she was long gone.
He was always very sorry afterwards and then things would go back to normal – better than normal even. Life was a roller coaster of highs and lows.
Now I know what to look out for; at the first sign of controlling or abusive behaviour I would know to get out of a relationship .
For me, the knowledge that someone has a history of abuse against women wouldn't make a difference. Why? Because if I found myself in that position again, checking their history would not matter – even if they had been abusive to someone else and not been careful enough to avoid the intervention of the law.
Regardless of previous history, I know this time I would be strong enough to get out. They would not get a chance to be abusive to me.
Whilst any attempt to tackle the issue of domestic violence should be welcomed, in my personal opinion it will not help everyone.
Firstly, a large number of domestic violence incidents are never reported; the statistics in this field can never really be accurate as so many choose not to involve the police. Domestic violence is still a taboo subject, and it's often not until things are very severe that there is any police involvement.
If anyone needs to enquire if their partner has a violent past, it is likely that by that stage they have already suffered some sort of abuse – maybe it has not escalated to physical violence, but clearly they are considering that it may come to that and there are already warning bells ringing.
At this point, they are already in the abuse cycle. If they haven't left when mental abuse is occurring, it is unlikely they will when there is physical abuse too.
By the time they get an inkling that things "aren't right" they have become very emotionally involved with their partner. They feel they are "in love" and the mind set is often that either it is their fault they are being abused, or they feel they can change their partner's behaviour.
Abuse is like a cancer that eats into the mind; people stay because they have had their minds twisted to the extent that they believe they deserve what is happening to them.
Your self esteem is whittled away until you really think you are lucky anybody loves you, and in some warped way you believe your perpetrator is the "victim" who is putting up with you. It's no wonder they abuse you - you deserve it, after all.
Often it takes a key event, or the abuse affecting other loved ones, to make someone leave an abusive relationship.
That is, if they are fortunate enough to have somewhere to go. Our refuges are mainly for women, ignoring the fact that men can suffer abuse too, and they are often full to capacity; women and men in the case of the handful of men's refuges are being turned away in their time of need.
Money needs to be spent on educating children and adults to look out for the signs and symptoms of abuse. Perpetrators are clever and they don't come with the word "abuser" in thick marker on their foreheads.
Let's teach women, and men, how to spot controlling behaviour. Let's educate them as to how to spot signs a relationship is becoming toxic and how to get out of that relationship before there is nothing left of their self-esteem.
Let's make sure there are agencies in place to help people before the violence becomes physical. If Clare's law is to have any effect, we need to teach young people and adults alike to believe in the value of themselves, and to know how to spot the early warning signs of abuse.
State to pay $8M to settle child abuse, neglect claim
Six King County siblings who apparently suffered 2½ years of physical abuse and neglect while living with a family friend will get a combined $8 million from Washington state as part of a legal settlement.
by Brian M. Rosenthal
OLYMPIA — Six siblings who said they suffered 2½ years of physical abuse and neglect while living with a family friend will get a combined $8 million from Washington state as part of a legal settlement reached this week.
The King County children, who are now between 9 and 21 years old, said in a 2012 lawsuit that they were repeatedly beaten and tortured between 2008 and 2011 and that the state allowed the abuse to continue by failing to properly investigate 17 separate tips to the Child Protective Services (CPS) division of the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS).
The family friend, with whom the children were living because they would otherwise have been homeless, denied the children food and access to showers and forced them to attack each other, according to the lawsuit.
On several occasions, the suit said, the children showed up at day care with bruises on their faces.
“Countless concerned citizens — day-care workers, school counselors, even a hair-salon worker — picked up the phone and reported the concerns they had,” said attorney Julie Kays, who represented the children along with co-worker Lincoln Beauregard. “Time and again CPS failed to act on these concerns and failed to protect the children.”
The family friend, Maria Gonzales Esquivel, who lived near Federal Way, is in jail awaiting trial on multiple assault charges involving one of the children and the child's father. She has pleaded not guilty, and a trial is scheduled for June.
Mindy Chambers, a spokeswoman for DSHS, said that “any abuse of a child is a tragedy. We are glad that the individual accused of this horrible crime is in jail and will be tried before a court.”
The settlement was reached Tuesday, one day after the department agreed to pay $3 million to settle another case in which a woman claimed officials allowed sexual abuse to continue by not adequately investigating when she gave birth at age 12 after receiving essentially no prenatal care.
The timing of the settlements appeared coincidental.
Chambers said CPS received more than 41,500 reports of abuse in 2013 alone and works hard to respond but inevitably makes mistakes.
“Any time our practice is not perfect, we have to make a good-faith effort to settle,” she said. “ We hope the settlement money will be used for the benefit of these children — for education, for treatment, for what they need as they move into and through adulthood.”
Kays said the lawsuit was never about the money but holding the state accountable.
“This settlement is never going to erase the memories of what happened,” she said. “Nothing can. This lawsuit is important because, hopefully, it will bring about a greater awareness that CPS needs to change the way it conducts child-abuse investigations.”
Children's Center seeking volunteers to help with National Child Abuse Prevention Month awareness campaign
by Andrew Watanatraibhob
In recognition of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, Children's Center is undertaking a comprehensive public education and engagement campaign.
Our goal is to increase calls to our local Child Abuse Hotline and decrease incidents of child abuse in Clackamas County.
Children's Center will have a designated kiosk at Clackamas Town Center to hand out critical information about child abuse awareness.
We are looking for volunteers who can work at the kiosk during high traffic times at the mall. Volunteers will be passing out Children's Center brochures and pinwheels; both of which contain the child abuse hotline number.
Volunteer shifts will be 2.5 hours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday of April, with a maximum of three people per shift. Friends and family are welcomed and encouraged to help at this event – this is a great family activity.
If you would like to get involved or learn more about this opportunity, please contact Andrew Watanatraibhob, volunteer coordinator, at email@example.com or 503-655-7725.
We'll also need volunteers to help assemble pinwheels. Volunteers can assemble the pinwheels at Children's Center at 1713 Penn Lane in Oregon City, or offsite and dropped off when completed.
Interested volunteers are highly encouraged to attend our orientation from 3 to 5 p.m. Monday, March 17, at the Children's Center.
The orientation will provide insight into Children's Center history, mission and goals. Please RSVP by March 16th to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Children's Center is a partner in Clackamas County's response to child abuse and the answer to a child's pain. A private, non-profit medical assessment center, Children's Center supports children and families in cases of suspected physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, drug endangerment and witness to violence. For additional information, please visit: www.childrenscenter.cc
State police trained in handling child abuse cases
by Kendra Nichols
HERSHEY -- Child abuse is reported every 20 minutes in Pennsylvania, and every county in the state must have a team ready to handle these cases. Some of those teams are in Hershey this week for training at the PA State Police Academy.
The training is a joint effort between state police and Child First PA.
"We train first responders for reports of suspected child abuse. We train prosecutors, law enforcement, case workers, child welfare and what we call forensic interviewers," said Jason Kutulakis of Child First PA.
"That is what makes Child First PA really neat. It crosses disciplines. It is a team approach to investigating child abuse," said Major Adam Kisthardt with the Pennsylvania State Police. "Many investigations, like a burglary, is just state police or the city police department that is investigating. This is a team approach. Many disciplines become involved because these cases are so delicate."
Local kids volunteered to help in the training. They were given a tour of the stables at the PA State Police Academy in Hershey, and then they were interviewed by first responders about their experience.
The forensic interviewers were only given 5 minutes to try and build a rapport with the kids, who ranged in age from 4 to 10. In many child abuse cases, interviewing the victim can be the key to the case.
"Interviewing the child victim is very challenging and very critical," said Kisthardt.
"Children definitely communicate differently than adults, and if we don't understand how they communicate when we are interviewing children about something as serious as abuse, we really could miss the opportunity to get it right," said Kutulakis.
The federally funded program has provided training for more than 350 professionals.
"We actually are seeing a better rate of prosecutions, due in large part, to trainings like this one," said Kutulakis.
Child First is a national program. Pennsylvania has been certified since 2012.
Former Warren County sheriff surrenders after child sex abuse charges
by Will Lewis
A former Warren County, New Jersey sheriff is back in town to face the music.
On Wednesday, 85-year-old Edward Bullock, of Ocean County, surrendered on child sex abuse charges.
Prosecutors say they knew at some point Bullock would turn himself in.
"We had been in touch with his attorney, we knew of his medical conditions," said Michael McDonald, first assistant prosecutor for Warren County. "None of this was a surprise. And we realized that he was not going to be running from us."
Bullock is facing six counts of sexual assault.
Court records say that on or about Jan. 7, 1988, Bullock had sex with a 10-year-old boy while the child was in his custody as the Warren County sheriff.
"Mr. Bullock is 85 years old," said defense attorney, Brian White. "He's not in good health. He recently underwent a knee replacement a few weeks ago. He had a hip replacement within the last year. He's been treated for many years for heart conditions."
White said his client is not a flight risk and argued for a lower bail.
Judge Ann Bartlett agreed, but didn't grant the defense's $75,000 request.
"The severity of the charges is something the court must always bear in mind," added Bartlett. "And I set bail at $100,000, no 10 percent."
This is not the first time Edward Bullock has faced criminal charges.
In 1991, Bullock pleaded guilty to official misconduct after seeking sexual favors from an undercover officer posing as a teenage boy.
These latest charges came about after a civil lawsuit, and prosecutors think there is enough evidence for trial.
"We're committed on going forward with this case," said McDonald. "We understand that these charges we got regard allegations that took place some time ago."
Bullock was not required to enter a plea during the hearing.
His attorney refused an on-camera interview, but says his client denies all of the allegations and that he will trust the system to make the right decision.
Md. girls charged with sexual abuse of autistic boy
Two teenage girls in southern Maryland bullied an apparently autistic 16-year-old boy into performing sexual acts and crashing through pond ice in episodes they captured on cellphone video, authorities said Wednesday.
The girls, ages 17 and 15, threatened the teen with a knife, kicked him in the groin and dragged him around by his hair, said St. Mary's County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Cara Grumbels. They coerced him into walking on a partially frozen pond and then refused to help him out of the frigid water, she said.
Grumbles said the boy got out himself, but the prank could have turned deadly.
"You're dealing with somebody who doesn't have the mental capacity of you and I," she said. "Somebody like that could go into a kiddie pool and may not be able to get themselves out. That's what's really kind of disturbing to us, among the other allegations in this case. The whole thing's just very disturbing."
She said investigators haven't found any of the video online.
The 17-year-old, Lauren A. Bush, of Mechanicsville, was charged as an adult Tuesday with first- and second-degree assault, false imprisonment and solicitation for child pornography. She was released on her own recognizance.
The 15-year-old was charged as a juvenile with the same offenses and referred to the state Department of Juvenile Services. The sheriff's office didn't release her name.
Grumbles said both girls acknowledged they committed the offenses. A call to Bush's home wasn't returned. No defense attorney was listed in court records.
Grumbles said the boy's parents told police he is autistic and police described him as having "diminished mental capacity."
She said all three teens attended Chopticon High School in Morganza.
Police learned of what happened from a parent of the younger girl who had seen the video on her daughter's phone, Grumbles said. The parent showed it to a sheriff's deputy who works in the school, she said.
Grumbels said there is no evidence other students joined the bullying.
She said more charges are likely as investigators list offenses for each episode that authorities say occurred from early December to early February.
U.S. Senate Passes Military Sex Assault Bill, May Take Months in House
(Reuters) - The U.S. Senate voted 97-0 on Monday to pass reforms in how the military handles sexual assault cases, but it probably will be months before the changes become law.
The measure must still be approved by the House of Representatives, where Democratic and Republican aides said it is unlikely to be up for a vote until later in 2014.
Backed by Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, the bill includes significant changes such as eliminating the "good soldier" defense allowing a court to reduce the sentences of offenders who have strong military records.
It also strengthens prosecutors' role in advising commanders on whether to go to court martial. But it falls short of shifting the decision on whether to pursue assault cases from top commanders to independent military prosecutors.
That proposed change in the military justice system was part of a separate bill on sexual assault in the military, backed by another Democratic senator, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, which failed in the Senate last week.
Lawmakers and the military have been debating for months how to handle sex crimes in the ranks after a report almost a year ago that unwanted sexual contact, from groping to rape, had jumped by 37 percent in 2012, to 26,000 cases.
Despite deep divides in Congress over how best to deal with the issue, lawmakers passed reforms late last year in the 2014 defense authorization law. Those included stripping commanders of their power to overturn jury convictions and assigning an independent legal counsel to victims who report assaults.
McCaskill said she hoped the Senate's strong support for her bill would help get the measure through the House. "I'll continue fighting ... to get this bill across the finish line," she said in a statement.
'CANCER' IN THE RANKS
High-profile military sexual assault cases, some involving defense officials responsible for prosecuting sex crimes, also contributed to charges that the Pentagon has not been serious enough about stopping an epidemic of sexual assaults seen as a "cancer" in the armed forces.
Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Morse, a top Army sexual assault prosecutor, was suspended recently pending an investigation into allegations he groped a female colleague, a military spokesman said last week.
And Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair pleaded guilty last week to having an adulterous affair, asking female officers for nude photos and possessing pornography on his laptop. A military trial is under way over sexual assault charges, which he has denied.
The bill that was passed on Monday is unlikely to go to the House as a standalone measure. Instead it is likely to be included as part of a bill expected later this year that authorizes Pentagon spending.
"Right now we're looking at the most likely vehicle for getting it passed in the House, which is probably as an amendment to the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act)," a Democratic aide said.
A Republican aide said the defense bill could be passed out of the House in June. But it would have to get through the Senate before becoming law, a process that has taken months.
President Barack Obama - who has ordered a review of the military's handling of sexual assault cases - signed last year's defense authorization bill into law in late December.
Healing the wounds of childhood sexual abuse at The Gatehouse
Toronto man running ‘double-Boston marathon' to raise awareness, funds adult support programs
by Tamara Shephard
Jean-Paul Bedard collapsed on the ground about halfway through running the Boston Marathon last year.
He was crying. But he wasn't injured physically. He was bleeding emotionally.
Weeks before the race, the Toronto man had opened up to family and friends about the sexual abuse he suffered as a child. Running had helped him battle his drug and alcohol addiction.
On that sunny day in Boston, those dark childhood memories once again gripped his mind. The husband and father became overwhelmed by grief.
After medical personnel attended to him, Bedard pulled himself together and finished the race.
Then, the earth shook. The first of two pressure-cooker bombs exploded, projecting shrapnel into runners and crowds of supporters.
Bedard and his wife, Mary-Anne, were fleeing into the subway when the second bomb went off.
Bedard felt the trauma of the Boston Marathon bombing acutely. In fact, the horrific incident triggered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, diagnosed by a doctor.
For weeks, the English teacher had trouble focusing.
He gathered the strength and courage to call The Gatehouse, an unique Etobicoke-based group support centre for adult survivors of sexual abuse, and a child-friendly location where investigating police officers and child support workers interview children, youth and families during sexual abuse investigations.
This year, Bedard is returning to Boston to run a “double-Boston marathon,” an 84.4-kilometre feat undertaken by few.
The ultra-marathoner who represented Canada in the 89-kilometre ultra-marathon in South Africa is running a “double-Boston marathon” to raise awareness of childhood sexual abuse and its impacts on survivors, while spreading the message that healing from trauma is possible.
Bedard is directing his pledges to support The Gatehouse programs for survivors of childhood sexual abuse because “they helped me and countless others realize that what happened to us as children does not need to destroy us as adults,” he said on The Gatehouse's website.
To date, he has raised more than $10,000. Bedard's experience of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as an adult, triggered by stress or a trauma that unearths the trauma of childhood sexual abuse, is all too common, Brad Hutchinson, The Gatehouse's new manager, said in a recent interview.
Often, it is an experience of distress as an adult, whether panic attacks or PTSD, that compels adult survivors to find the strength to disclose childhood sexual abuse. For others, it is a well-worn fatigue with living with the trauma's lingering impacts.
Courage is what bring survivors through The Gatehouse's door.
“People get to the point where they're fed up with their life. ‘I'm done,' they say,” Hutchinson said. “Some are in Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous in recovery. Some have a food addiction. But they've stopped functioning because they haven't unrooted the core issues. A lot are angry.”
Since it opened in 1998, The Gatehouse has helped more than 15,000 child and adult sexual abuse survivors, Hutchinson reported.
Hutchinson became The Gatehouse's manager in January. He is a published author, Shaolin Kung Fu instructor and ministry-trained restorative justice facilitator who trains educators, police officers and social workers on its principles.
Reclaiming and healing that wounded inner child is the work of childhood sexual abuse recovery. The Gatehouse facilitates survivors' healing through adult group support programs; one for men, another for women. Male and female survivors come together in the program's second phase. The groups are offered three times a year, at no charge.
“It's not therapy,” Hutchinson explained of The Gatehouse's support groups. “But there is something really powerful about sitting with a group of men experiencing what you experience. It takes away the isolation. People say, ‘Really? There are people like me?' Men here understand there are a lot of men out there like them.”
High-profile male survivors of childhood sexual abuse like Sheldon Kennedy and Theo Fleury, former NHL stars who came forward publicly to report being sexually abused by former coach, Graham James, and Bedard through his running, help to “lessen the taboo” of men discussing childhood sexual abuse, Hutchinson said.
All three men have become advocates for childhood sexual abuse survivors.
In 1997, James was convicted for sex assaults against three players, including Kennedy. Last year, the Manitoba Court of Appeal more than doubled James' sentence to five years citing a mistake by the trial judge. James pleaded guilty to molesting Fleury and his cousin, Todd Holt, when they were teenagers.
What happens developmentally when a child is sexually abused?
A loss of voice, a sense of shame, or both, Hutchinson said.
“Two things happen when a child is sexually abused,” Hutchinson explained. “The child loses their voice. Sometimes, the person threatens, ‘I'm going to hurt your mom, dad, brother, sister, you.' Or, they feel shame. There is a shift from the authentic self of the inner child, what I call the ‘creative energy within you'. The trauma keeps that down and pushes you off your path.
“When the voice comes up 15 or 20 years later, it gets you back on your path.”
The Gatehouse's Adult Support groups are 15-week curriculum-based psycho-educational program for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse are led by two facilitators, at least one of whom is a survivor. Facilitators lead discussions to help survivors out of isolation and into inclusion as they heal.
Survivors learn tools to develop or enhance positive coping skills and trauma impacts, and discuss issues such as triggers, anger, the inner child, sexuality and resiliency and flashback and grounding techniques.
During Phase One, female survivors meet on Tuesdays from 7 to 9 p.m., male survivors meet Wednesdays from 7 to 9 p.m.
Male and female survivors then meet in a combined group in Phase Two for eight weeks to incorporate yoga, mindfulness-living techniques and Tai Chi, while discussing belief systems, meditation, moving out of being stuck and transformation.
Adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse often fear discussing the abuse will create darkness. Instead, it invites the light, Hutchinson said.
“The more you talk about it, the less power it has over you,” he said. “The greatest fear survivors have is all this ugliness coming up. But it's not true. Once it's out, it's light. Participants say: ‘I have a 1,000-pound gorilla off my back.'
“The hardest part is walking up to (The Gatehouse) door. I'd tell people, ‘Just walk up to the door. You'll feel better.' Most people continue on to a program.”
This spring, The Gatehouse will begin installation of an expansive healing garden on its property.
To donate to Bedard's run, visit Canada Helps at bit.ly/1ekYNb7
To seek support for childhood sexual abuse, to make a financial donation or learn more about its programs and other resources, call 416-255-5900 or visit www.thegatehouse.org
Survey: Florida among nation's best in domestic violence response times
by Alexandra Seltzer
While results of a national domestic violence survey exposed a need for more domestic violence resources around the country, it also put the spotlight on Florida programs, which received a 100 percent in response time for such victims on a randomly selected day in September.
There were 1,649 domestic violence programs participating in the Sept. 17 survey, called A 24-hour Census of Domestic Violence Shelters and Services, to show a snapshot of a day in the life of domestic violence.
Florida was among several states, including California, Kansas and Illinois, whose programs received a 100 percent response time. South Dakota received the lowest response time of 45 percent.
The 2013 survey was the eighth time the National Network to End Domestic Violence conducted the census.
In Palm Beach County, certified programs Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse and YWCA Harmony House participated. Safe Space participated in Martin and St. Lucie counties, according to a Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence spokeswoman. There are 42 certified domestic violence centers in Florida.
Palm Beach County has seen its share of recent domestic violence tragedies:
• On Feb. 24 Horacia Simeus was on the phone with a victim advocate when investigators say she was hacked to death by her boyfriend with a machete in suburban West Palm Beach. The 27-year-old was working on getting a restraining order against him.
• On Feb. 18 in West Palm Beach investigators say Brittania Gay was shot to death by her boyfriend who later killed himself.
• On Jan. 13 in West Palm Beach police say Jennifer Berman fatally shot her daughter Jacqueline and son Alexander before killing herself.
On the surveyed day, 2,122 adults and 1,149 children were helped in Florida. The state came in behind California, New York and Texas in serving the most people.
However, 154 of those requests for aid were not met in the state. The reason the calls were unmet could be because of reduced government funding, not enough staff, private funding cuts or reduced individual donations, according to the survey. Across the country, 1,696 staff positions including shelter staff or legal advocates have been eliminated in the past year.
“Every day in this country, victims of domestic violence are bravely reaching out for help, and it's essential that they have somewhere safe to go,” said Kim Gandy, president and CEO of the national network said in a statement posted on its website. “We have made so much progress toward ending violence and giving survivors avenues for safety. But continued program cuts jeopardize that progress and jeopardize the lives of victims.”
When services aren't available, the victim likely goes back to the abuser, becomes homeless or end up living in their cars, the statement said.
On the certain surveyed day, an advocate in Florida worked with a survivor to help build her résumé and practice interviewing. The advocate also helped the woman with an appropriate interview outfit and a bus pass to be able to attend the interview.
In the end, the woman was offered the job.
UNIQUE hosts human trafficking awareness event
by Natasha Dodson
In support of Women's HerStory Month, a nationally recognized month highlighting empowering stories about women, Sacramento State showed a film on teenage prostitution Thursday, followed by a lecture by human trafficking survivor Chong Kim, whom the film was based on.
In her book, “Broken Silence: Surviving Human Trafficking & Child Exploitation", Kim described her three-year captivity which included drug addiction and physical and sexual abuse before her heroic escape.
“When I heard who (Chong Kim) was, I researched her story and wondered why more wasn't being done (to prevent this issue),” said freshman philosophy major Katrina Cainglet. “It's crazy to see it happening here (in the U.S.).”
Every 40 seconds a child goes missing and approximately one out of eight are sold into human trafficking, according to amberalert.com
Kim, a United States citizen who was born in South Korea, was kidnapped at 19 and sold into slavery by a man whom she had known as her boyfriend.
Her naivety from an abusive childhood caused her to trust him, which she said is a common problem amongst young adults.
“I had low self-esteem and was very vulnerable,” Kim said. “I believed him when he told me he loved me. He was so dreamy.”
Kim shared harrowing details of her years in captivity and talked about the warning signs and preventative methods. She brought attention to the fact that it can affect anyone.
“The message that Chong Kim has needs to be heard by more people and not just women,” said UNIQUE'S program advisor Ajamu Lamumba.
Junior mathematics major Melanee Tano said the event was eye-opening and nothing she could ever have imagined.
“Watching the movie was really intense and people should be more aware and more careful how they interact with people,” Tano said. “I will be more cautious.”
Prior to being kidnapped, Kim said she battled with low self-esteem and her vulnerability made for an easy target.
She felt as if the torture endured was punishment for something she did in her lifetime. Using humor to help heal, Kim found solace in educating young adults about trafficking in hopes to attack the root of the problem.
“Predators know exactly what to look for,” Kim said. “Social media has made it easier for them to watch you.”
Increasing awareness of human trafficking, Kim holds multiple workshops and advocates around the country for more universities to get involved.
She is part of various Facebook organizations and survivor groups. For Women's HerStory month, UNIQUE has sponsored events that support the contributions that women have made to society highlighting challenges they are faced with on a daily basis.
They collaborate with other campus departments such as Women's Resource Center, Pride Center and Associated Student's Inc.
For the past 10 years, Kim said she has used her tragedy to educate young adults about safety measures in hopes that it will save lives.
She works alongside those who are striving to end slavery and injustice empowering victims and survivors alike.
“Don't tell me that you are sorry,” Kim said. “Tell me that you are angry enough to do something.”
Amendment to child abuse bill fails
by Billy Hesterman
SALT LAKE CITY -- An amendment to legislation that would call for child abuse prevention classes to be taught in Utah's public school brought out emotional revealings from Utah's senators on Tuesday morning.
When Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, attempted to amend H.B. 286 to have the class become an opt-in for Utah's students -- the current bill calls for students to have an opt-out option -- multiple lawmakers rose to oppose the amendment and revealed that they themselves had been victims of child-abuse situations.
Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, was the first to reveal that he was a victim of child abuse from someone who was not a member of his family.
Osmond stated that he had a great family but that his experience was not discussed in the home. He said that allowing schools to talk to students about child abuse will help prevent situations like his from happening again.
"We need to take a stand on this and teach our kids how to protect themselves," Osmond said.
Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, also opposed the amendment and described an event that took place when he was in elementary school.
Thatcher spoke about walking to school and following the same route that the other kids in the neighborhood used. On one day though he was walking alone on the route and was attacked by an older man.
"I fought like a demon," Thatcher said. "I screamed my little 70 pound head off."
Thatcher said he was able to make enough noise to gain the attention of another adult who came to his rescue but not before the attacker had ripped the zippers on his jeans off. He said keeping the bill as is, and resisting Dayton's amendment, would allow Utah to teach its students that it was okay to fight back when an adult is attempting to do something they should not be doing.
"This is happening and if we do not act it will continue to happen," he said.
Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, also discussed a situation that took place with him when he was a child.
Weiler said he was at a campout with his local LDS scout troop and was shooting at the rifle range when a man came up to him and asked if he could take a picture of the two of them together. The man then asked if Weiler would take his shirt off.
Weiler said as a young boy he didn't think anything of it and took his shirt off and posed for another picture with the man. The man then left.
Weiler said his parents never talked to him about situations like that and said he was grateful that the episode didn't go any further than it already had. He supported voting down Dayton's amendment as he said it would allow more children to be taught on how to handle scenarios like the one he found himself in.
Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Saratoga Springs, spoke in support of the amendment as he said rhetoric being used in the Senate was making the argument that the state knows better than families on how to raise children.
"I think the opposition is misdirected," Madsen said.
Madsen said students are more likely to face abusive situations from a teacher in a school than they were in the home and said the best strategy to fight against abusive situations would be to encourage more families to discuss abusive situations and not through school teachers.
Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, also supported the amendment as he said the responsibility to teach children about abuse was that of the parents. He said having the opt-in provision was a tough balancing act for him to weigh but that he trusts Utah's parents to make the right decision on the matter.
"I still have faith and trust in parents, especially the parents in this state, they will do the right thing," Valentine said.
The motion to amend was narrowly defeated.
Dayton said her reason for the amendment was to give parents greater control on the material their children may be subject to. She noted the material taught in a child abuse prevention course may be sensitive for some children to hear.
The Senate gave initial approval to the bill on a vote of 20-8. The Senate will vote on the bill one more time before giving it final approval.
Sponsor: Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City
What it does: Allows for school districts to teach child abuse prevention courses.
Online child abuse images becoming 'more extreme, sadistic and violent'
MP Damian Green raises issue at event to plan creation of central image database to help find victims and abusers
by Alan Travis
Online child abuse images are becoming more extreme, more sadistic and more violent, with a higher proportion depicting the abuse of younger children , a Home Office minister has said.
Damian Green, the minister for policing and criminal justice, said the number of individual children depicted in online abuse images, and therefore in need of protection, was estimated to run into the tens of thousands.
Green raised the issue at an event with policing and online experts to plan the creation of a child abuse image database by the end of the year. The project is designed to produce a single, central, secure database of illegal images of children to help find the victims, as well as prosecute their abusers.
"We need to free up valuable police time from having to repeatedly view the same images found over and over again on seized computers," Green said. "Instead the police need to be able to search seized devices for illegal images more quickly, to know what colleagues across the country are investigating, and have technical assistance to ask where is the child, and how quickly can he or she be safeguarded?"
Green said he had heard of cases where the sharing of an image between international police partners one afternoon had led to a child being found and protected on the other side of the world by the following morning.
Green said that in 1990 there were an estimated 7,000 hard-copy images of child abuse in circulation. The development of the internet meant there were now millions of such images online, with the number of individual children depicted running into the tens of thousands.
"They are photographs and videos that record children being abused and raped," said Green. "Even more disturbingly, the research shows that these images appear to be becoming more extreme, more sadistic and more violent, with a greater proportion depicting the abuse of younger children.
"It's why I don't use the phrase 'child pornography'. It has got nothing to do with pornography. There is no legal 'child pornography'. These are vile, disgusting images."
The database project builds on the initiative developed at a Downing Street summit last November when Google and Microsoft agreed to make changes to their search engines to prevent images and videos of, or pathways to, child abuse being returned from a blacklist of search terms, to make it harder for offenders to find the material.
Now, whenever somebody searches for a blacklisted term, clear warning messages appear on screen outlining the consequences of the offender's action and encouraging them to get help. The messages appear against 13,000 search terms on Google alone.
CAC another weapon in County's arsenal against child abuse
by CLINT FOSTER
PALO PINTO – In 2013, there were 198 confirmed cases of child abuse in Palo Pinto County. As a result, Child Protective Services removed 65 children from their homes.
With so many children at risk, one local group is looking to curb those statistics and safeguard Palo Pinto County's most precious resource: future generations.
The recently formed Children's Alliance Center for Palo Pinto County – headquartered in Mineral Wells – is an advocacy center that exists to assist in the investigation and prosecution of child abusers and the treatment and rehabilitation of victims and non-offending family members.
A contingent of CAC representatives, led by District Attorney and CAC President Mike Burns, were on hand in the Palo Pinto County Courthouse Monday morning to give a presentation to the Palo Pinto County Commissioners' Court. Burns formally introduced the non-profit organization and its purpose and requested a quarter of the thousands of dollars worth of unclaimed capital credits the county is set to receive from the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.
Last month, commissioners unanimously approved a request for the funds, which the county has not received in two years. County officials expect to get over $8,000 from the state to be divided evenly amongst local programs that help abused children: the Child Welfare Board, Hope Inc., the Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA) and, now officially, the CAC for Palo Pinto County.
The local CAC – which is the 69th child advocacy facility in Texas – provides necessary services to law enforcement, prosecution and medical and mental health providers that they might actively pursue child abuse cases. It also provides a forum in which these cases are handled.
"Historically, all of these disciplines have addressed child abuse under their own protocols," Burns said. "CPS did their thing, law enforcement did their thing, hospitals did their thing and there was little communication between the agencies.
"The effectiveness of both the prosecution of the offender and treatment of the child has been vastly increased under the CAC model. It's less expensive and more efficient. Communication is key."
Burns said the "heart and soul" of the CAC is a multidisciplinary team and a forensic interviewer.
In the interviewer, the CAC has a specially trained, neutral individual – governed by the family code – who excels in obtaining evidence from children in regard to the criminal prosecution of child abuse cases.
When a child is brought to CAC, the interviewer conducts a private exchange with the child that is both recorded on DVD for law enforcement use and watched live on the other side of the building by CAC personnel. After the interview is complete, the multidisciplinary team comes together to discuss the case and follow it through every phase until its total completion.
CAC hopes to start serving local children within the next couple of months. Needless to say, the CAC model is one that Burns and the rest of the CAC staff firmly believe in.
"I've been privileged to serve as president of the corporation," Burns said. "It's been one of the most rewarding experiences of my professional career. It is a very worthwhile project."
County Judge David Nicklas expressed his support for the program after the presentation.
"(We want to do) everything we can for the kids of Palo Pinto County," he said.
CAC Executive Director Libby Cluett said she was grateful for the support of the county and CAC's many generous donors. She and her coworkers are eager to begin the work that they are so passionate about.
"Since we're the new guys in town, it's wonderful to have the support of the Commissioners' Court and the county," she said. "We just got our certificate of occupancy, Monday (for our building at 203 SE 3rd Ave. in Mineral Wells). The next step is to move in."
Among the many organizations to donate to CAC are the Brazos Foundation, which gave $25,000, and the Mineral Wells Rotary Club and Kessler Foundation, both of which gave $10,000. Cluett said there have also been many generous individual benefactors, to whom CAC is most appreciative.
But, like most non-profits, CAC still needs to raise more money so they can best serve the endangered youth of Palo Pinto County.
Their biggest fundraiser coming up – entitled "Bags, Bingo and Badges" – is set to be held April 3 at Clark Gardens. For the price of a $30 ticket ($35 at the door), which includes 20 game cards, individuals can play bingo for the chance to win designer handbags, retailing from a couple hundred dollars to a couple thousand dollars.
The doors will open at 5:30 p.m. for the event that will also feature heavy hors d'oeuvres and the option to buy additional bingo cards for a better chance to win.
It's not only a chance to score a designer bag for a fraction of its value, but also to help a worthwhile cause to help the children of Palo Pinto County.
And the event is not just for women. In Burns' words, it's also a chance for men to come home heroes by bringing their significant other a high-class purse.
Tickets are available for purchase at Titan Bank, Ace Hardware and Cole's House of Flowers for $30. Cluett said prospective patrons can also buy tickets from her, directly, or from any of the CAC's board members. Or call 940-445-7380.
Community challenge | We are the answer to ending child abuse
by Steve Beshear
What is the cure for keeping children from dying from abuse and neglect? The answer is “all of us.”
The truth is we know what works, and we are taking steps to prevent these tragedies. This is the primary goal of the Face It campaign, a 10-year child abuse prevention effort led by Kosair Charities. Face It believes that we can all be the face that ends abuse. Whether you are a parent, a neighbor, a child care worker or a pediatrician — everyone has a role to play in ending child abuse.
We applaud the Kentucky General Assembly for “facing it” in 2014 by recently passing HB 157 and sending the bill to Gov. Steve Beshear for his signature. HB 157 will reduce the number of babies who die from shaken baby syndrome and other forms of physical abuse. The legislation requires a one-time, one-hour training for pediatricians, radiologists, family practitioners and emergency medicine and urgent care physicians on recognizing signs of pediatric abusive head trauma and physical abuse that have only recently been added to medical school teaching.
Studies indicate that doctors need this important training. In fact, random samples from the University of Louisville's pediatric forensic database showed that more than half of children under age 4 who were treated for serious physical injuries had been seen by a medical professional at some point before the trauma. In these cases, the medical professional documented injuries on the child that should have been red flags for child abuse, but were not recognized as such.
We thank Representatives Addia Wuchner and Susan Westrom, who were the primary co-sponsors of HB 157, and the Kentucky House and Senate for unanimously passing the bill this session. No physician wants to miss signs of child abuse, and this bill will help make sure that doesn't happen.
We hope that just as legislators are “facing it,” everyone in the community will also be the face that ends child abuse.
You can play a role at the upcoming Face It Rally on April 8 at 11 a.m. at the Big Four Bridge in downtown Louisville. Come show your support, and celebrate the passage of HB 157. We have a long way to go in ending child abuse, but together, we can make that dream a reality. Face it. End it.
About the Face It Movement: Face It was conceived and created in 2012 as a response to the public outcry against the increasing number of child abuse deaths in the Commonwealth, officially launched on April 9, 2013, as a 10-year initiative led by Kosair Charities. Its vision is that by 2023 all children in Jefferson County will be free from abuse and neglect. Face It directly addresses the increasingly unacceptable number of child abuse deaths in Jefferson County and the surrounding areas with best practices in child abuse prevention, community engagement and the promotion of effective policies to improve the child welfare system.
President – Kosair Charities
GERARD P. RABALAIS, M.D.
Chairman, U of L School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics
MELISSA L. CURRIE, M.D.
Kosair Charities Division of Pediatric Forensic Medicine
Family of Alleged Child Sex Assault Victim Doesn't Want Her To Testify
by SUSAN DONALDSON JAMES
The grandfather of a 6-year-old girl who was allegedly sexually assaulted by a 67-year-old man has argued she will be further traumatized by testifying at a trial this week in Berrien County Court in Michigan and his concerns have been echoed by those involved in the trial.
"There's many, many strange people, there's a judge up on a stand, it's an extremely intense and strange environment and you're talking about something that is so important," local social worker Libby Christianson told ABC affiliate WBND.
It's hard enough for adults to testify in court, she said.
"To do that to a child, I think could really compound the trauma they've already experienced," Christianson said.
Jury selection began today and according to prosecuting attorney Michael Sepic, unless there are problems, the girl will testify.
"This case is like a thousand others," Sepic told ABCNews.com. "None of us wants our children to have to testify, but I think the grandfather had hopes it would not actually go to trial. It's a necessary evil of the system when you are dealing with kid cases."
Luis Medina, a friend of the girl's grandfather, has been charged with sexually assaulting the girl. Her name was withheld for privacy reasons and the victim's grandfather has not been identified.
Sepic alleges that the assault happened when the little girl, whose family is from neighboring Indiana, was staying overnight with her grandparents on a boat that was moored in a marina on Lake Michigan.
Medina's lawyer, Brian Berger, was unavailable for comment because he was in court today, but a spokesman at his law office said Medina has denied the allegations of abuse. Court papers were unavailable today.
Sepic said Michigan law provides for special courtroom arrangements so a child victim does not have to face her alleged assailant.
"The child did testify at a preliminary evaluation some weeks ago and had no difficulties," he said. "If the child goes up on the witness stand at the trial and will not answer questions, then there is an alternate statute provided for that."
Research over the decades shows that more sexual abuse cases are coming to light and children are increasingly being admitted as witnesses in court proceedings, but there are no national statistics on how many.
A Bureau of Justice Statistics report shows 1.6 percent of children between the ages of 12 and 17 have been victims of rape/sexual assault.
In one study published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 1993, New York child witness expert Stephen J. Ceci estimated that as many as 100,000 children end up participating in family court or criminal justice proceedings in the State of New York alone.
"A very large number of kids join the court every day all over the U.S.," said Ceci, who is professor of developmental psychology at Cornell University. "The number is quite high."
"There has been a lot of research looking at the impact of testimony in open court by children," Ceci told ABCNews.com. "Studies find it is stressful for kids, but it doesn't seem to have any long-term damaging effects. When followed up six to 12 months later, the kids who testified were matched up with kids who didn't and they seemed similar on mental health tests."
"They also feel better for having had their day in court -- the biggest studies say that," he said. "They felt like even if the jury went against them and the judge went against them, kids say they felt better for having told honestly what happened to them."
The problem, according to Ceci, is that by its nature, sexual assault is a "very private act" and if a child is not available to testify against the assailant, the case is rarely prosecuted. "There is never a third party witnessing it."
But without child witnesses, assailants often go on to repeat the crimes, sometimes against the same victims, said Ceci.
"Because both sides want to win, having a child on the stand isn't easy," he said. "Defense attorneys can confuse a child, harass a child and create conditions so in the closing arguments the child's testimony looks inconsistent. It's the same for the prosecution."
One of the ways courts make it less stressful on children is to shield them by putting a barrier with a one-way screen between the child victim and the defendant so the jury and those in the courtroom can see the testimony, but the child cannot.
"A lot of defense attorneys don't like that," said Ceci. "To make a one-way screen, you put a spotlight on it and it looks like the glare of the police headlight and makes a spectacle and easier to convict. It makes the defendant look like he is on display and doesn't taint the child's demeanor."
Sometimes courts use closed-circuit television in a judge's chambers so the jury can hear testimony.
"None of these things are ideal," said Ceci. "There is no getting around the fact that it's very stressful. Ask anyone. Even for young adults. You have to go and tell strangers, with a man in black robes high up with a gavel about these very intimate things."
Sexual Abuse Survivor and Advocate Applauds State Leaders for Child Protection Legislation as she Embarks on Fifth Statewide "Walk in My Shoes" Journey
Lauren Book says Florida Leads Nation in its Commitment to Child Protection
TALLAHASSEE, Fla., March 11, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Just days away from beginning her fifth "Walk in My Shoes" journey across Florida, sexual abuse advocate Lauren Book recapped how far Florida has come in strengthening the law to protect children and applauded legislative leaders for swiftly passing sweeping legislation to strengthen Florida's process for civilly committing sexually violent predators.
"I am proud to live in a state where our elected officials make protecting our children from dangerous predators a top priority," Book said. "When you look at the laws passed over the past five years, it's clear that we've made a big impact and Florida is a safer place because of it."
As the House prepared to take up a package of comprehensive, bipartisan reform legislation to protect children and punish offenders, Book held a news conference with legislative leaders outside the Florida House Chambers. Book, who founded Lauren's Kids to raise awareness about childhood sexual abuse and advocate for change, begins her fifth annual 1,500-mile "Walk in My Shoes" walk across Florida on March 16 in Key West. The Walk ends on April 22 on the steps of the Historic Capitol in Tallahassee.
Book used the occasion to recap legislative milestones of the past five years and to praise the 2014 Legislature for making child protective legislation a priority from the opening day of the legislative session.
The 1,500-mile "Walk in My Shoes" statewide journey raises awareness about the devastating effects of child sexual abuse, educates communities about prevention, encourages victims to speak up and get help, and promotes passage of tougher laws to protect children and punish perpetrators.
"As both a parent and a legislator, ensuring the safety of children is one of my top priorities," said Speaker of the House Will Weatherford. "I appreciate Lauren's support for our 'protecting vulnerable Floridians' agenda."
This bipartisan legislative package passed through the Florida Senate unanimously on the opening day of session.
"We walked into this session knowing that we wanted to address the laws governing the treatment of sexually violent predators," said Senate President Don Gaetz. "By passing this legislation on day one, we've made it clear that this is an important issue and we will not allow dangerous predators who harm our children to walk the streets."
Since the first "Walk in My Shoes" statewide journey five years ago, Lauren's Kids has successfully advocated for the passage of many landmark laws, including:
2010 - Extending Statute of Limitations: Eliminated the statute of limitations for both civil and criminal prosecutions for crimes committed against children under 16.
2011 - Walk in Their Shoes Act: Expanded the admissibility of collateral crime evidence in cases where a person is charged with child molestation or a sexual offense.
2012 - Protection of Vulnerable Persons: Requires all Floridians report known or suspected child abuse and if a report is not made, the non-reporter will be charged with a felony. Also requires colleges and universities report abuse or face up to a $1 million fine.
2013 - Expanding the Hearsay Exception to Adolescent Victims of Sexual Abuse: Allows an out of court statement made by a victim up to the age of 16 as admissible evidence in a civil or criminal proceeding dependent upon certain findings of the court.
This year, Lauren's Kids is championing legislation to close loopholes in the justice system, mandate community supervision of sex offenders and require college campuses to notify students and staff about sexual offenders who live nearby.
In addition, the organization is also supporting legislation to eliminate the statute of limitations for certain sexual crimes committed against a child younger than 16, increase mandatory minimum sentences for sexually violent predators and those who offend against people with developmental disabilities, and expand the identifying information sex offenders are required to register with law enforcement to include things such as email addresses, screen names and information on the vehicles offenders can access.
"We recognize that no single law or policy can end the scourge of child sexual abuse from our state," said Rep. Matt Gaetz, chair of the Criminal Justice Subcommittee. "But that must never stop us from being catalysts for change and continuing to push for legislation that moves us closer to a zero tolerance policy."
Book said she is gratified by the large number of state leaders supporting these important measures. In addition to Speaker Weatherford, President Gaetz and Rep. Gaetz, she acknowledged the efforts of Sens. Lizbeth Benacquisto, Rob Bradley, Garrett Richter, Jack Latvala, Joe Negron, Eleanor Sobel, Oscar Braynon, Greg Evers and Denise Grimsley, as well as Reps. Gayle Harrell, Travis Hutson, Daphne Campbell and Dane Eagle.
To download the Lauren's Kids multimedia package, visit: www.laurenskids.org/downloads
Lauren's Kids is a nonprofit organization that works to prevent abuse and help survivors heal. The organization, which has offices in Aventura and Tallahassee, Florida, was started by Lauren Book, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who endured six years of abuse at the hands of her nanny. Lauren's organization offers a 24-hour crisis hotline, prevention curriculum, annual 1,500-mile awareness walk and legislative advocacy. For more information, visit: laurenskids.org
SOURCE Lauren's Kids
Paedophile gangs targeting children in state care in Victoria for sexual abuse
by Dan Oakes
Organised gangs of men are sexually exploiting children in out-of-home care and enticing them into trading sex for money, drugs and alcohol.
An ABC investigation has found children as young as 12 are being exploited by the men.
Some of the children have been transported between towns and even interstate, while the ABC has also been told that some abuse has been filmed by paedophiles.
It is understood that police have identified between 30 and 40 children who are living in Department of Human Services residential care that may have been exploited in this fashion in the past 18 months, but the number could be higher.
The suburbs around Dandenong are believed to be an area of particular concern to police and the department.
Police have found it difficult to charge the perpetrators, as the victims, many of whom come from traumatic backgrounds, are reluctant to give statements implicating their abusers whether through fear, a mistrust of authority or a belief that they are not actually being abused.
The Department of Human Services and Victoria Police have spent two years working on a new approach to tackling the issue, which revolves around better sharing of information and educating workers on how to recognise the signs of sexual exploitation.
Police are also practising disruptive policing.
This can mean charging the abusers with drug or property offences to bring them into the criminal justice system and keep them away from their victims.
Staff from the department have also been embedded in the police sex crimes unit.
"What we would say is that these young people are not competent to make a decision, and using that word 'prostitution' implies that they are making a lifestyle choice, working in the sex industry," the department's chief practitioner, Robyn Miller, told the ABC.
"They are children, they are young people, they have this history of trauma. They are not competent to make that decision.
"It is abuse and we name it that and we have a zero tolerance.
"Our whole approach has been to raise consciousness within police and with carers that this is not adolescent behaviour, it is not experimentation, it is sexual exploitation and it is a form of abuse."
Men would choose a girl to have sex with
In one case that did go to court, a number of men in Shepparton were charged with child sex and prostitution offences after having sex with girls in return for cigarettes, cash and shopping trips.
At the plea hearing of the ringleader, Emran Dad, in 2012, the court heard that he gave a 13-year-old girl a pack of cigarettes in exchange for sex.
Another girl, 16, said Dad would contact her via Facebook, then drive her to the house of a friend of his.
The girl said other girls were at the house and that men would then turn up and choose a girl to have sex with.
She said they would be paid about $200 each time this happened, depending on the sex acts they would perform.
She said Dad would receive a separate $150 payment for organising it.
"The young people that we work with have experienced such loss and grief and pain that they are really vulnerable to people giving them attention, and these offenders are expert manipulators," Ms Miller said.
"They are disgusting in the way that they entrap our young people, so they will use social media in an expert way and will befriend, so it's like they will pretend to be something they are not."
In a statement, Victoria Police said there had been a number of successful prosecutions for exploitation offences of this nature and that there were ongoing investigations.
Calls for 'thorough inquiry' into exploitation
The State Opposition's Jenny Mikakos says there must be an investigation.
"There needs to be a thorough inquiry into how this has happened," she said.
But Community Services Minister Mary Wooldridge says the exploitation precedes the current Government.
"It's only the Coalition Government that has responded comprehensively," she said.
She says 2,000 police, child protection and care workers have been trained disrupt the exploitation of children.
Bernie Geary, the commissioner for children and young people in Victoria, says while he is not aware of these specific cases, he knows the system is "open to abuse".
"I know that our system is far from perfect and when children who are not properly assessed have tumbled into living in situations and bringing their own pain and trauma with them, sometimes that impacts on each other," he told AM.
"The children can be assaultive towards each other or sometimes they can be assaulted by people outside.
"The [incidents] that we're talking about is something that hasn't come before me and I'm really interested to know more about it.
"I intend to make very strong inquiries of the department and get information as to that."
From "Shaken Baby Syndrome" to "Non-Accidental Head Injury" – The Continuing Research and the Law
David Bedingfield of 4 Paper Buildings charts the recent history of scientific research into serious non-accidental head injuries suffered by babies and the response of the family and criminal courts in England and Wales.
by David Bedingfield, barrister
Non-accidental head injury remains the most common cause of fatal child maltreatment. An analysis by the NSPCC released in November, 2013, puts the number of babies under one suffering from a serious non-accidental head injury in England and Wales each year at approximately 24 per 100,000. At least half of the survivors have significant neurological impairments.
Few doubt that most of these children were victims of parental abuse.
The difficulty, of course, is that no one doubts that in the very recent past physicians (and judges and jurors) wrongly found that parents or other carers had caused significant head injuries to children by shaking. Physicians believed that diagnosis of certain injuries to an infant's head almost inevitably meant that the child had been shaken by the child's last carer. Since at least the turn of this century, however, medical and bio-mechanical experts have begun to offer proof that this "certain diagnosis" was in fact all too uncertain.
The Medical Research
The history of the evolution of the scientific research – and the legal responses to that new research – is brilliantly set out by the U.S. academic Deborah Tuerkheimer in an article in the Washington University Law Review that should be mandatory reading for any child law practitioner handling cases involving allegations of shaken babies.
Professor Tuerkheimer first sets out the research regarding infant head injuries that led to convictions for murder of children routinely being handed down by juries on both sides of the Atlantic, despite no eye-witness evidence of the crime and repeated protestations of innocence by heretofore blameless parents. All of these convictions were based solely on scientific evidence by experts, who explained the importance of what has now been called the "classic triad" of symptoms in shaken baby cases:
|1) retinal haemorrhages (bleeding of the inside back surface of the eye);
2) subdural haemorrhages (bleeding between the hard outer layer and the spongy membranes that surround the brain); and
3) cerebral edema (swelling of the brain).
The presence of those three signs had been considered – certainly prior to 2001 – as pathognomic – or exclusively characteristic – of SBS.
The presence of the "classic triad" has in the past been taken to mean that a baby had been shaken hard enough to produce what were conceptualised as whiplash forces. The application of ". . . rotational acceleration and deceleration forces to the infant's head causes the brain to rotate in the skull. Abrupt deceleration allows continuing brain rotation until bridging veins are stretched and ruptured, causing a thin layer of subdural haemorrhage on the surface of the brain." The scientific underpinnings of SBS, as Professor Tuerkheimer notes, have crumbled over the past decade. The medical establishment now accepts that the term "shaken baby" is misleading, and non-accidental head injury, or Shaken Impact Syndrome, have been suggested as replacements.
Professor Tuerkheimer sets out the logical fallacy that underlies much pre-1999 research regarding Shaken Baby Syndrome: researchers selected cases by the presence of the very clinical findings and test results they sought to validate as diagnostic. Not surprisingly, as Professor Tuerkhimer notes, the studies tended to find their own case selection criteria pathognomonic of SBS. The circularity of the logic is represented by the equation: "SBS = SDH + RH [inclusion criteria], therefore SDH + RH = SBS."
The difficulties surrounding the "admissions" by carers that they shook the child are obvious: Did they shake the child after discovering the child was unconscious? How hard did they shake the child? How long? Did any symptoms precede the shaking?
Experts also began to consider the expertise of biomechanical engineers and pathologists. The shaking that had been thought to be required, these studies seemed to show, would certainly have injured the cervical spinal cord and neck. In many cases, no injuries to the neck or spinal cord were shown. The conclusion, at least by some experts, was that the child could not have been shaken to that degree if no neck injuries were shown. Advocates in cases where no injuries are revealed to the neck and spinal column must question the experts carefully with regard to the degree of force that would be required to cause the classic triad. Some experts, it would seem, have now backtracked on their previous contention that only extremely rough handling could cause these injuries. It is also right that some new research showed that relatively short-distance falls may cause fatal head injuries that look like SBS-type injuries.
In the mid to late 1990's, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) revolutionized the field of radiology. MRI enabled a far more detailed assessment of the pattern and extent and timing of injuries than had its precursor, computed tomography (CT). These new radiological findings revealed the presence of triad symptoms in cases where it had been accepted that the cause was not shaking: for example, in cases of accidental injury, or in cases where medical disorders such as autoimmune deficiency had been diagnosed. These conditions could be seen by less subtle and nuanced diagnosis to be NAI.
The importance of the Louise Woodward case also should not be underestimated. The British au pair's case was perceived as one that revealed the divide in the scientific community. Scientists challenging the SBS dogma, according to Professor Tuerkheimer, ". . . emerged as a significant force in terms of numbers as well as influence." (See 2009 Wash LR, p. 15.) Defenders of the SBS diagnosis began in the face of these arguments to adapt their analysis in subtle but important ways. No longer were physicians willing to state with certainty that the constellation of symptoms must in every case indicate that a child was abused. In particular, new studies generated new explanations for the presence of subdural haematomas and retinal haemorrhages. Most physicians by this time began to concede that the triad was not necessarily induced by shaking. A differential diagnosis must always be considered. This was a dramatic evolution in mainstream scientific thinking.
Professor Tuerkheimer points out other difficulties with the SBS diagnosis. In particular, it had been previously thought that the perpetrator of abuse was necessarily the person with the infant immediately prior to the loss of consciousness. Studies have since shown that children suffering fatal head injuries may be lucid from more than 72 hours before death. This research, of course, makes it difficult if not impossible to pinpoint the time of the injury and the identity of the perpetrator.
The Law's Response
As a result of these new medical advances, the Court of Appeal (Crim) in 2005 considered four cases on appeal. The cases are reported as R v Lorraine Harris, Raymond Charles Rock, Alan Barry Cherry and Michael Faulder  EWCA Crim 1980,  Cr App R 5;  2 FLR 412, CA. Though the cases concern the criminal standard of proof and the verdicts of juries, the Court of Appeal's judgment is required reading for practitiners in family proceedings handling non-accidental head injury cases.
The Court of Appeal in Harris held that no longer would the classic triad "automatically or necessarily" lead to a conclusion that the infant had been shaken. The appellants had all appealed in separate cases against their convictions for either manslaughter or murder or inflicting grievous bodily harm. Each case involved SBS. In each case, at the time immediately before each of the victims became seriously unwell, each had been in the sole care of the respective defendant. All had been convicted after jury trials. Each appealed on the basis of fresh evidence. The argument was essentially this: The previously accepted hypothesis in cases of SBS depended on findings of the classic triad: brain swelling and loss of brain function; subdural haemorrhages; retinal haemorrhages. Between 2000 and 2004 a team of doctors led by the neuropathologist Dr Geddes had produced three papers setting out the results of their research into the triad. In the third paper (known as "Geddes III") the team put forward a new hypothesis: This hypothesis (known as the "unified hypothesis") challenged the infallibility of the triad. The new hypothesis did not seek to show that the triad was inconsistent with NAHI, but it did seek to show that it was not diagnostic. At least prior to the trial, Dr Geddes and her team contended that it was likely that the brain swelling itself caused the subdural haemorrhages and retinal haemorrhages.
Dr Geddes accepted in cross-examination during the hearing, however, that the unified hypothesis was not likely correct, and that the brain swelling did not likely cause the subdural haemorrhages or retinal haemorrhages. Therefore the unified hypothesis was not a credible alternative explanation for the appearance of the classic triad.
But that was not the end of the Appellate Court's examination of the issue. The Court noted that there remained a body of medical opinion which did not accept that the classic triad was inevitably diagnostic of abuse. Common sense suggested that the more severe the injuries the more probable it was that they would have been caused by greater force than mere "rough handling."
In the case involving the defendant Harris, her four-month old son had collapsed and died. The evidence was solely the classic triad, without other medical evidence of injury or rough handling. The new evidence, according to the Court of Appeal, threw doubt on the significance of the subdural haemorrhages that were found. It threw doubt on the evidence of injuries to the brain. The finding of retinal haemorrhages was powerful supporting evidence of shaking, but on its own was not diagnostic of shaking. Accordingly, the conviction was quashed.
In the case of the defendant Rock, however, the triad did not stand alone. There was no dispute that the defendant had shaken his partner's 13-month-old daughter and no dispute that she had suffered an impact to the back of her head. Rock's explanation could not account for the injuries. The Court of Appeal did, however, reduce the defendant's conviction from murder to manslaughter.
The defendant Cherry was convicted of manslaughter after the death of the 21-month-old daughter of his partner. He contended the child fell from a chair some 6 to 8 inches off the floor. Two elements of the triad were present. There were two separate sites of scalp bruising. The conviction was upheld.
The defendant Faulder's seven-week-old son suffered a non-fatal injury to his head. The defendant contended the child fell from a chair. The prosecution first contended, based solely on the existence of the triad, that the child had been shaken. The Crown then changed its case to contend the child was likely beaten several different times, citing the number of bruises the child had. The Court of Appeal, noting the potentially credible alternatives put forward by the defence, held that the conviction was unsafe.
After Harris , the then Attorney General Lord Goldsmith conducted a seven-month review of 88 SBS cases, including guilty verdicts and guilty pleas. See The Rt Hon The Lord Goldsmith QC, The Review of Infant Death Cases: Addendum to Report Shaken Baby Syndrome (HMSO 2006). The AG's review was criticised by Professor Tuerkheimer and others, primarily because Lord Goldsmith considered admissions by defendants as corroborative of the diagnosis. Lord Goldsmith also considered the presence of chronic subdural haematomas as corroborative evidence. Professor Tuerkheimer contends research shows that the presence of subdural haematomas to have limited value as corroborative evidence of shaking. Three of the cases reviewed by Lord Goldsmith (3.4% of the total reviewed) were seen to be unsafe and gave rise to referral to Criminal Court of Appeal. As Professor Tuerkheimer points out, Lord Goldsmith's systematic review and the Court of Appeal's decision in Harris appreciably altered the course of SBS prosecutions.
In March, 2011, as a result of the review by Lord Goldsmith as well as the new research findings, the Crown Prosecution Service issued new guidance with regard to bringing what the CPS now refers to as "non-accidental head injury" cases:
NAHI cases will usually be diagnosed by the triad of internal head injuries set out above;
To prove a NAHI case, the Crown will usually require the triad of injuries PLUS supporting evidence;
The "unified hypothesis" is a theory used by the defence experts to challenge the triad diagnosis; however the theory has not been endorsed by the Court of Appeal;
CPS policy is to resist challenges to the triad diagnosis based on the unified hypothesis;
The defence may also try to introduce bio-mechanical evidence; to do so, the defence would be required to demonstrate its relevance to the case;
Expert evidence must be dealt with in accordance with the CPRs;
The Strategy and Policy Directorate must be informed of NAHI cases in which these issues arise.
The Latest Research – a Middle Way Forward?
Practitioners should also be aware of new research by the Canadian pathologist Evan Matshes, published in July, 2011, by Academic Forensic Pathology, the journal of the US National Association of Medical Examiners. Matshes's research shows how death from shaking could in fact occur, not because of the traditional triad of injuries to the brain, but because of injuries to the child's spinal column that directly impacted the child's ability to breathe. The new findings, in fact, split a lot of the difference between the warring camps on Shaken Baby Syndrome. In investigating the deaths of 35 children, Matshes did autopsies in a new way. The usual practice is to dissect only part of the spinal column. Matshes instead dissected the spine down through the neck and into the nerve roots. In the 12 babies whose history showed evidence of injury from hyperflexion – severe whiplash, from either shaking of from a car accident – he found bleeding in the nerve roots of the part of the spinal column at C3, C4 and C5. Matshes then compared this to the spinal columns of a group of 23 children for whom there had been no solid evidence of an injury from whiplash. (This group in the main died from smothering or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.) Only one baby in this group had bleeding in the same C3, C4 and C5 region. That child's history, interestingly, made shaking a distinct possibility, though it was denied by the carer.
The key to the finding is that C3, C4 and C5 control the child's diaphragm. Babies depend on their diaphragms to breathe, much more so than older children or adults. As the New York Times reporter Emily Bazelon points out in her story reporting Dr Matshes's findings, Matshes's work, if proved correct, could be the missing piece of the puzzle: the causal mechanism that the biomechanical experiments have not accounted for. The New York Times reporter approached four experts, two supporters of the traditional shaken baby diagnosis and two critics. They all agreed the paper, while based on a small sample, pointed to a new area worthy of more research. Dr Waney Squier, a paediatric neuropathologist who has often given evidence in the UK in these cases, told the Times reporter that "It is now terribly important to look at the neck." Squier also pointed to a methodological weakness in the paper: the study was not double blind. The researchers, in other words, knew the histories of the babies when they conducted their research. Pathologists doing autopsies, however, are ethically bound to know the subject's history. There can be no randomised controlled double-blinded studies in forensic pathology, for obvious reasons.
The paediatric neurosurgeon Norman Guthkelch, whose research 40 years ago was one of the most important early pieces of research that tended to connect head injuries in young children to violence, has agreed that Matshes's study is a vitally important new contribution to the debate. Dr Guthkelch told the US public broadcaster National Public Radio in the summer of 2011 that he worries that doctors and other medical experts are too quick to diagnose shaken baby syndrome, without considering other possibilities.
The difficulty with the study is that it is unlikely that in every case involving suspected NAI these types of autopsies can be undertaken. There are time-consuming extra steps involved. The spinal column has to be placed in formaldehyde for up to a month in order for the bone to soften before the pathologist can begin the testing process.
The Current Approach of Family Judges
Critics of the new research argue that shaking is still the most likely explanation for rhetinal haemorrhaging and subdural haematomas. 14 That said, it is clear that judges look at all other possible explanations before making findings. 15 All courts ow consider the various differential diagnoses set out by Professor Timothy David in his seminal article: "Non-accidental Head Injury: The Evidence." 16 Several differential diagnoses must now be considered:
|1) congenital malformation;
2) "metabolic disorders;
3) haematological diseases;
4) infectious diseases;
5) autoimmune conditions.
But more importantly, courts must consider, as Mr Justice Hedley did in the case of R (A Child)  EWHC 1715 (Fam), whether the cause of the injury is simply "not presently known or understood". In that case, Hedley J cited Moses LJ in the criminal appeal of Henderson and others  EWCA Crim 1269, CA:
|"There remains a temptation to believe that it is always possible to identify the cause of injury to a child. Where the prosecution is able, by advancing an array of experts, to identify a non-accidental injury and the defence can identify no alternative causes, it is tempting to conclude that the prosecution has proved its case. Such temptation must be resisted. In this, as in so many fields of medicine, the evidence may be insufficient to exclude beyond reasonable doubt an unknown cause."
In the case before Hedley J, there were three possible causes of the subdural haematomas found in the child: firstly, a peri-natal event, although there was nothing of note in this case to specifically point to this; secondly, a non-accidental, inflicted head injury; and thirdly, a cause that was not known or understood. Hedley J stated that a conclusion of "unknown etiology" was not a professional or a forensic failure; it simply recognises that there is much we do not know and that it is dangerous and wrong to infer non-accidental injury merely from the absence of any other understood mechanisms. After reviewing all of the evidence before him, Hedley J was able to make a finding that the cause of the subdural haematomas was one of unknown etiology. In that case, however, it must noted that there were no retinal haemorrhages, and no encepalapathy or brain disturbance. The child, however, suffered from a fracture of the leg. Hedley J, after examining the evidence, found that the fracture was caused by accident.
Another case that is mandatory reading for any advocate appearing in a head injury case is Baker J's careful judgment in the case of Re JS. This was ct-fa fact-fearing within care proceedings. The local authority sought findings that the head injuries suffered by the child were inflicted by his parents when the child was 15 weeks old.
Baker J heard evidence over 15 days from six leading experts in their fields. Baker J gave a summary of the up-to-date research in this area, in particular with regard to subdural haematomas and retinal haemorrhages. After considering the evidence, Baker J found that the father was responsible for the injuries by shaking the child, and that the mother had failed to protect the child from the father and therefore contributed to the harm suffered by the child.
Practitioners will take particular note of two reports cited by Baker J. The first, Intracranial Haemorrhage in Asymptomatic Neonates: Prevalence on MR Images and Relationship to Obstetric and Neonatal Risk Factors 18 , reviewed three studies (by Looney and others; Whitby and others, and Rooks and others) that showed subdural haematomas occur much more frequently at birth than was previously recognised. The Rooks paper indicated that 46 per cent of neonates had subdural haematomas seen by MRI within 72 hours of delivery. Most of these subdural haematomas had resolved within one month. All had resolved by three months. In the trial before Baker J, the experts refused to rule out the possibility, however, of chronic bleeding that persisted past three months.
With regard to retinal haemorrhages, a report by the Welsh Child Protection Systematic Review Group was cited by the experts. This report, by Maguire and others, is entitled Which Clinical Features Distinguish Inflicted From Non-inflicted Brain Injury—A Systematic Review . The review showed that apnoea and retinal haemorrhages are present in a high percentage of inflicted brain injury cases. As the expert reported to Baker J (at para 62):
|". . . non-abusive head injury was a rare cause of retinal haemorrhage and, when present, compared to those in abusive head trauma, was more frequently unilateral, fewer in number and restricted to the posterior pole. Retinal bleeding is much more likely to be found in cases of abusive head trauma with the retinal bleeding described as multi-layered, extensive and extending to the periphery, but. . . can occur in non-abusive head injury where they are more likely to be unilateral, non-extensive and restricted to the posterior pole."
Baker J was careful to note, however, that while the appearance of retinal haemorrhages may be associated with abusive or non-abusive head trauma, the appearance of the retinal haemorrhages is not diagnostic of a particular cause.
Practitioners involved in any fact-finding hearing where non-accidental injuries have been alleged should follow the 10 Legal Commandments given by Mr Justice Baker in the case of Re JS  EWHC 1370, at paragraphs 36-45.
The burden of proof lies with the local authority.
The standard of proof is the balance of probabilities.
Findings of fact must be based on evidence, not speculation or suspicion.
When considering cases of suspected child abuse, the court must consider each piece of evidence in the context of all other evidence. A judge must view the totality of the evidence in order to come to the conclusion whether the case has been made out to the appropriate standard of proof.
In serious non-accidental cases, including head injury cases, the opinion of medical experts must be considered in the context of all other evidence. The court must weigh up expert evidence against other evidence. There may be cases where a court determines that the weight of the evidence is at variance from that reached by medical experts.
In assessing the expert evidence, the court is assessing the evidence of a group of specialists, each bringing a different expertise to bear on the issue. Each expert must keep within the bounds of his or her expertise. The expert must defer, where appropriate, to the expertise of others.
The evidence of the parents or other carers is of the utmost importance. Credibility and reliability are key issues.
Witnesses often tell lies. The court must bear in mind that a witness may lie for many reasons, such as shame, misplaced loyalty, panic, fear and distress. The fact a witness has lied about some matters does not mean he or she has lied about everything.
A court must take into account the possibility that the cause of an injury or condition is simply unknown. This does not affect the burden or the standard of proof. It is simply a factor to be taken into account in deciding whether the causation advanced by the party holding the burden of proof is established on the balance of probabilities.
When seeking to identify the perpetrators of NAIs, the test regarding whether a particular person is in the pool of possible perpetrators is whether there is a likelihood or a real possibility that he or she was the perpetrator. To make a finding that a particular person was the perpetrator, the court must be satisfied on a balance of probabilities. It is desirable, where possible, for the perpetrator to be identified. But a judge should not strain to do so.
Mrs Justice Theis's judgment in the case of London Borough of Islington v Al Alas and Wray  EWHC 865 (Fam) must also be parsed carefully by any advocate appearing in an SBS case. The facts were as follows: The child Jayden Al Alas Wray was born on 7.3.2009 and died little more than four months later, on 25.7.2009. The local authority contended this was a straightforward SBS case: the child suffered from the classic triad of injuries, and also suffered from fractures and multiple sites and of varying ages. After a hearing that lasted some six weeks, Theis J conclusively found all allegations not proved. She found that all of the fractures were caused by rickets, which had been misdiagnosed by the child's treating physicians. The death was attributed to a constellation of benign causes:
|1) severe vitamin D deficiency;
2) ongoing seizures leading to raised intracranial pressure, retinal haemorrhages, and subdural haematoma, culminating in hypoxic ischemia brain injury and death.
Theis J also found that there were significant intervening events between admission to hospital and the child's death that played a role in causation, including what the judge termed "sub-optimal" medical treatment by the University College London Hospital team.
Both Great Ormond Street and UCL, which had treated the child, attributed all his injuries to NAI. GOSH did not pick up radiological evident signs of rickets, and specifically excluded any underlying metabolic bone disease to account for the fractures. This clinical misjudgement led to the erroneous conclusion that the skull fracture occurred at the same time as the child's collapse and was therefore linked to the cause of death. As counsel who conducted the case for the mother stated in an article published in the June edition of Family Law, "GOSH could not have been more wrong."
The Court, after hearing argument, decided it was not appropriate to shield the identity of the child and the treating physicians. All experts and treating physicians were therefore named in the judgment.
One factor that will always be considered by the court (under the category of "other evidence") is the reliability or credibility of the evidence given by those caring for the child at or near the time the injury is noticed. An example is the recent decision by Mr Justice Keehan. See A Local Authority v DB, RB and SM  EWHC 4066 (Fam).
In that case the child, aged 19 months, suffered the following injuries, some combination of which were fatal:
|a) a large space occupying right sided subdural haematoma, causing a midline shift;
b) widespread cerebral infarction with secondary brain swelling;
c) bilateral retinal haemorrhages, affecting all parts of the retina;
d) bilateral perimacular folds;
e) extensive haemorrhage into the orbital connective tissues;
f) extensive haemorrhage into the collagenous dual sheath of both optic nerves;
g) extensive haemorrhage in the subdural space around both optic nerves;
h) marked papilloedema in both eyes.
Keehan J also pointed out what was NOT present:
|a) no skull fractures were identified;
b) no rib fractures or fractures of the long bones were seen;
c) there was no swelling or bruising on the right side of the head;
d) there were no suspicious marks or bruises found on the child's body;
e) there was no damage to the child's internal organs caused by a grip or a shake;
f) there was no contusion to the brain;
g) the subdural bleeding was unilateral and not bilateral and multi-focal; and
h) the child (19 months of age) was outside the usual age range at which children ordinarily sustain injury by shaking.
One area of contention involved the question of whether an arteriovenous malformation in the child had bled spontaneously and had destroyed itself in the course of the haemorrhage. The paediatric neurosurgeon Mr Richards agreed that one "possible" but rare cause of the subdural bleeding in the child could be spontaneous bleeding of this sort, but stated in his written report that such cases are extremely rare. In the course of the experts' meeting, the forensic pathologist Dr Cary was reported to have said this: "I would just like to make the point though from earlier discussion I think it was felt that a spontaneous bleed was so unlikely to be completely unrealistic in these circumstances."
Mr Richards agreed. In Mr Richards' view, ". . . it [the spontaneous bleed from an arteriovenous malformation] was the only potential alternative [explanation] for acute disaster like this to trauma, and I think it is extremely highly unlikely to the point of being virtually implausible." (See para 76.)
Mr Richards explained that the vast majority of arteriovenous malformations bleed into the substance of the brain. No bleeding was found on post mortem exam of the substance of the child's brain. It was also extremely rare for an arteriovenous malformation to rupture spontaneously and extremely rare for the evidence of the existence of an arteriovenous malformation to disappear. It is also right, Mr Richards stated, that arteriovenous malformations would not cause the retinal bleeding found in the child's eyes.
In all fatal cases of suspected NAHI, an opthalmic pathologist will be asked to review the evidence. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and the Royal College of Ophthalmologists have recently issued updated guidance regarding the appearance of a child's retina after suspected abusive trauma.
Only in the last two years have paediatric and forensic pathologists begun providing to ophthalmic pathologists the orbital connective tissue surrounding a child's eyes. There is a difference between the anatomy and physiology of the eye compared with the orbital connective tissue, and it is clear much research remains to be done.
In the case before Keehan J, leading counsel for the father took the consultant ophthalmic pathologist Dr McCarthy through the various differential diagnoses that must be considered. Dr McCarthy in this case concluded that the evidence pointed (in his view conclusively) to an inflicted injury. The extent of the retinal haemorrhages seen in this child, the fact they were bilateral, the fact there were also haemorrhages in the optic and nerve sheath, in the orbits of the eye and in the orbital connective tissues – all of this taken together meant the retinal haemorrhages were not likely caused by raised intra cranial pressure. In Dr McCarthy's view the retinal haemorrhages were caused by trauma.
But at least as important as the medical evidence for Keehan J in this case was his consideration of the evidence of the mother and father. Both were seen to be kind, loving and considerate people. This was not a family with a history of violence or drug abuse. The parents did not present with the sort of chaotic lifestyle that courts often see in NAHI cases. The contact between mother, father and the other children of the family was seen to be of a very high quality.
On the other hand, the mother clearly drank more alcohol than she was willing to acknowledge. And more important, the mother and father were willing to lie about that. It was also right that the father lied about his whereabouts on the night of the injury, and had given various and inconsistent accounts about how often he was up feeding the couple's new born child (not the child who suffered the fatal injuries). The father also gave inconsistent accounts of how the child looked when he discovered the child lying face down in the child's cot. Both parents were found by the judge to have been untruthful about their movements on the day before and the day of the incident. The fact that five text messages between them had been deleted from their phones also raised questions in the judge's mind.
Keehan J gave himself the direction required of Crown Court judges when directing a jury in similar situations: the fact that a defendant has been found to have lied about something does not necessarily mean the defendant is lying about whether he or she committed the criminal act at issue. People may lie for a variety of reasons not connected with the alleged crime that was committed. Judges and juries must consider this when seeking to determine whether the defendant (or respondent) in fact caused the injuries complained of.
But for Keehan J, the parents' unsatisfactory evidence made the medical evidence even more compelling. It is right, as Hedley J pointed out in Re R (A Child), that courts must consider whether the medical evidence should simply be disregarded. Some head injuries in infants are simply unexplainable, and we are not at a point where the medical evidence can simply without any question rule out all possible causes save an inflicted trauma. But where the parents have been found to have lied about crucial matters, the court must consider carefully whether those lies are in fact positive evidence that each parent knows more than they are revealing. Keehan J, after making findings regarding the parents' evidence, had no difficulty in also finding that either the mother or the father caused the injury, that the injuries would have been obvious to the non-caring parent, and that both were colluding with each other to hide the truth from the court.
British man sentenced to 16 years on child exploitation charges
CINCINNATI — A British man who traveled to Ohio in 2011 to engage a minor in illicit sexual activity was sentenced Tuesday to 16 years in prison. The sentencing follows an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Richard Castle, 47, a resident of the United Kingdom, has been sentenced to serve 192 months in prison in connection with a trip he made to Ohio from his home in the United Kingdom in order to have sexual relations with a juvenile in June 2011.
Members of the Metropolitan Police Service's Extradition Team and International Assistance Unit, housed within New Scotland Yard, arrested Castle at his home in Northampton, England, on Jan. 12, 2012.
"This case is a disturbing reminder that international borders are no longer a hindrance for child predators," said Marlon Miller, special agent in charge of HSI Detroit, which covers Michigan and Ohio. "However, today's significant sentencing should assure victims around the world that HSI and our partners in the international law enforcement community are committed to aggressively targeting those engaged in these heinous acts."
A federal grand jury indicted Castle on Feb. 15, 2012, and he pleaded guilty on Oct. 3, 2013, to charges of coercion of a minor, traveling with intent to engage in illicit sexual contact with a minor and transferring obscene material to a minor. Castle admitted that, posing as a male named Richard Joshua Parker, he used the Internet between March 2009 and June 2011 to coerce a juvenile to engage in illicit sexual activity. He flew to Dayton in June 2011 to engage in illicit sexual relations with the juvenile and stayed approximately three weeks. Castle also admitted that he transferred obscene materials to this same juvenile.
"Threats against our children can come from any corner of the globe," said U.S. Attorney Carter Stewart. "We must become partners with law enforcement agencies around the world in order to fight child exploitation effectively."
The case was investigated by HSI, the Englewood Police Department, and the Vandalia Police Department with support provided by the Miami Valley Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory, and the Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, the U.S. Marshals Service, the HSI Attaché London Office, and the ICE Office of the Principal Legal Advisor. The Criminal Division's Office of International Affairs also provided assistance with Castle's extradition.
This investigation was conducted under HSI's Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 10,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2013, more than 2,000 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form . Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.
For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI's Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page .
HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.
Male neighbour was given permission to sexually assault girl (5) by her mother, court hears
by Neil Fetherston
The child was the victim of horrific sexual abuse by her mother as well as by the neighbour from the age of five, Roscommon Circuit Criminal Court was told.
It was also revealed in court how the little girl was led around in a dog lead by the neighbour before being raped.
Her father is to stand trial later this year on charges of sexually assaulting his daughter.
The 47-year-old woman had pleaded guilty at a previous court hearing to a total 12 charges, including sexual assault, wilful neglect or ill-treatment, as well as using her daughter for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
Last year the neighbour was given an eight-year sentence after he pleaded guilty to raping the child.
That sentence is currently under appeal by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
All of the charges took place between 2004 and 2008 in the west of Ireland.
None of the abusers can be named due to reporting restrictions to prevent the identification of the victim.
The offences came to light after the girl was taken into care with her siblings in 2008.
She initially said that her mother had been slapping her.
Garda Naomi Sloyan said that in statements from social workers and the victim, it was revealed that the mother had also taught her daughter to masturbate when she was five.
It also emerged that the child often went without food and was unable to use utensils or brush her hair when taken into care aged nine.
The male neighbour used to babysit the girl and her siblings twice or three times a week at her original family home and began abusing her.
The girl later revealed that the neighbour had told her mother about what he was doing to her and the mother said that it was fine by her – he could do it as long as he liked.
The child made it clear that when the neighbour was in the act of abuse, her mother was in the home.
The woman had been having an on-off affair with her neighbour. She also revealed that her mother had tickled her in her private parts.
The mother blamed her behaviour on the fact that she was drinking heavily at the time – cider, vodka and Coke.
But she agreed that her daughter was telling the truth.
She had found the change of homes upsetting.
"I try not to think of the crime. I thought it was everyday life and I was too afraid to tell anyone," she said.
The court was told by prosecuting counsel Caroline Biggs that the maximum sentence for the sexual exploitation of a child was life imprisonment, while the maximum tariff for sexual assault was 14 years.
The mother was released on continuing bail to the resumed sentence hearing in May.
FBI Offers $20,000 Reward In Hunt for Missing Myra Lewis
by Alexander Smith
The FBI is offering a $20,000 reward for information about a 2-year-old girl who vanished 10 days ago.
Family members last saw Myra Lewis playing with her sister at their home in Camden, Miss.
A widespread search by local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies failed to find the girl.
"We are confident that information will be uncovered which will lead to Myra's return, and we continue to solicit the public's assistance in locating this little girl," Daniel McMullen, FBI special agent in charge at the bureau's Jackson Division, said in a statement.
The girl was described as 37 inches tall, weighing approximately 27 pounds. She was last seen between 10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. on March 1, wearing white or khaki-colored pants, a turquoise sweater with a bear on the front, and pink tennis shoes, the statement said.
It added the search has included specialist ground and air teams and used up "significant resources." According to a report by NBC station WLBT, the FBI is also getting out information to its offices in Tennessee, Alabama and Louisiana.
The girl's mother, 35-year-old Ericka Lewis, was arrested Friday on a probation violation following a welfare fraud conviction, as well as a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm, The Associated Press reported.
Madison County Sheriff Randy Tucker told the AP neither offense was connected to her daughter's disappearance.
WLBT said Lewis appeared in court Monday regarding the firearm charge and her bond was set at $5,000.
The hard lives — and high suicide rate — of Native American children on reservations
by Sari Horwitz
SACATON, ARIZ. The tamarisk tree down the dirt road from Tyler Owens's house is the one where the teenage girl who lived across the road hanged herself. Don't climb it, don't touch it, admonished Owens's grandmother when Tyler, now 18, was younger.
There are other taboo markers around the Gila River Indian reservation — eight young people committed suicide here over the course of a single year.
“We're not really open to conversation about suicide,” Owens said. “It's kind of like a private matter, a sensitive topic. If a suicide happens, you're there for the family. Then after that, it's kind of just, like, left alone.”
But the silence that has shrouded suicide in Indian country is being pierced by growing alarm at the sheer number of young Native Americans taking their own lives — more than three times the national average, and up to 10 times on some reservations.
A toxic collection of pathologies — poverty, unemployment, domestic violence, sexual assault, alcoholism and drug addiction — has seeped into the lives of young people among the nation's 566 tribes. Reversing their crushing hopelessness, Indian experts say, is one of the biggest challenges for these communities.
“The circumstances are absolutely dire for Indian children,” said Theresa M. Pouley, the chief judge of the Tulalip Tribal Court in Washington state and a member of the Indian Law and Order Commission.
Pouley fluently recites statistics in a weary refrain: “One-quarter of Indian children live in poverty, versus 13 percent in the United States. They graduate high school at a rate 17 percent lower than the national average. Their substance-abuse rates are higher. They're twice as likely as any other race to die before the age of 24. They have a 2.3 percent higher rate of exposure to trauma. They have two times the rate of abuse and neglect. Their experience with post-traumatic stress disorder rivals the rates of returning veterans from Afghanistan.”
In one of the broadest studies of its kind, the Justice Department recently created a national task force to examine the violence and its impact on American Indian and Alaska Native children, part of an effort to reduce the number of Native American youth in the criminal justice system. The level of suicide has startled some task force officials, who consider the epidemic another outcome of what they see as pervasive despair.
Last month, the task force held a hearing on the reservation of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community in Scottsdale. During their visit, Associate Attorney General Tony West, the third-highest-ranking Justice Department official, and task force members drove to Sacaton, about 30 miles south of Phoenix, and met with Owens and 14 other teenagers.
“How many of you know a young person who has taken their life?” the task force's co-chairman asked. All 15 raised their hands.
“That floored me,” West said.
A ‘trail of broken promises'
There is an image that Byron Dorgan, co-chairman of the task force and a former senator from North Dakota, can't get out of his head. On the Spirit Lake Nation in North Dakota years ago, a 14-year-old girl named Avis Little Wind hanged herself after lying in bed in a fetal position for 90 days. Her death followed the suicides of her father and sister.
“She lay in bed for all that time, and nobody, not even her school, missed her,” said Dorgan, a Democrat who chaired the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. “Eventually she got out of bed and killed herself. Avis Little Wind died of suicide because mental-health treatment wasn't available on that reservation.”
Indian youth suicide cannot be looked at in a historical vacuum, Dorgan said. The agony on reservations is directly tied to a “trail of broken promises to American Indians,” he said, noting treaties dating back to the 19th century that guaranteed but largely didn't deliver health care, education and housing.
When he retired after 30 years in Congress, Dorgan founded the Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute to focus on problems facing young Indians, especially the high suicide rates.
“The children bear the brunt of the misery,” Dorgan said, adding that tribal leaders are working hard to overcome the challenges. “But there is no sense of urgency by our country to do anything about it.”
At the first hearing of the Justice Department task force, in Bismarck, N.D., in December, Sarah Kastelic, deputy director of the National Indian Child Welfare Association, used a phrase that comes up repeatedly in deliberations among experts: “historical trauma.”
Youth suicide was once virtually unheard of in Indian tribes. A system of child protection, sustained by tribal child-rearing practices and beliefs, flourished among Native Americans, and everyone in a community was responsible for the safeguarding of young people, Kastelic said.
“Child maltreatment was rarely a problem,” said Kastelic, a member of the native village of Ouzinkie in Alaska, “because of these traditional beliefs and a natural safety net.”
But these child-rearing practices were often lost as the federal government sought to assimilate native people and placed children — often against their parents' wishes — in “boarding schools” that were designed to immerse Indian children in Euro-American culture.
In many cases, the schools, mostly located off reservations, were centers of widespread sexual, emotional and physical abuse. The transplantation of native children continued into the 1970s; there were 60,000 children in such schools in 1973 as the system was being wound down. They are the parents and grandparents of today's teenagers.
Michelle Rivard-Parks, a University of North Dakota law professor who has spent 10 years working in Indian country as a prosecutor and tribal lawyer, said that the “aftermath of attempts to assimilate American and Alaska Natives remains ever present .?.?. and is visible in higher-than-average rates of suicide.”
The Justice Department task force is gathering data and will not offer its final recommendations to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on ways to mitigate violence and suicide until this fall. For now, West, Dorgan and other members are listening to tribal leaders and experts at hearings on reservations around the country.
“We know that the road to involvement in the juvenile justice system is often paved by experiences of victimization and trauma,” West said. “We have a lot of work to do. There are too many young people in Indian country who don't see a future for themselves, who have lost all hope.”
The testimony West is hearing is sometimes bitter, and witnesses often come forward with great reluctance.
“It's tough coming forward when you're a victim,” said Deborah Parker, 43, the vice chair of the Tulalip Tribes in Washington state. “You have to relive what happened. .?.?. A reservation is like a small town, and you can face a backlash.”
Parker didn't talk about her sexual abuse as a child until two years ago, when she publicly told of being repeatedly raped when she “was the size of a couch cushion.”
Indian child-welfare experts say that the staggering number of rapes and sexual assaults of Native American women have had devastating effects on mothers and their children.
“A majority of our girls have struggled with sexual and domestic violence — not once but repeatedly,” said Parker, who has started a program to help young female survivors and try to prevent suicide. “One of my girls, Sophia, was murdered on my reservation by her partner. Another one of our young girls took her life.”
Stories of violence and abuse
Owens recalls how she used to climb the tamarisk tree with her cousin to look for the nests of mourning doves and pigeons — until the suicide of the 16-year-old girl. The next year, the girl's distraught father hanged himself in the same tree.
“He was devastated and he was drinking, and he hung himself too,” Owens said.
She and a good friend, Richard Stone, recently talked about their broken families and their own histories with violence. When Owens was younger, her uncle physically abused her until her mother got a restraining order. Stone, 17, was beaten by his alcoholic mother.
“My mother hit me with anything she could find,” Stone said. “A TV antenna, a belt, the wooden end of a shovel.”
Social workers finally removed him and his brothers and sister from their home, and he was placed in a group home and then a foster home.
Both Owens and Stone dream about leaving “the rez.” Owens hopes to get an internship in Washington and have a career as a politician; Stone wants to someday be a counselor or a psychiatrist.
Owens sometimes rides her bike out into the alfalfa and cotton fields near Sacaton, the tiny town named after the coarse grasses that once grew on the Sonoran Desert land belonging to the Akimel O'Odham and Pee Posh tribes. She and her friends sing a peaceful, healing song she learned from the elders about a bluebird who flies west at night, blessing the sun and bringing on the moon and stars.
One recent evening, as the sun dipped below the Sierra Estrella mountains, the two made their way to Owens's backyard. They climbed onto her trampoline and began jumping in the moonlight, giggling like teenagers anywhere in America.
But later this month on the reservation, they will take on an adult task. Owens, Stone and a group of other teenagers here will begin a two-day course on suicide prevention. A hospital intervention trainer will engage them in role-playing and teach them how to spot the danger signs.
“In Indian country, youths need to have somebody there for them,” Owens said. “I wish I had been that somebody for the girl in the tamarisk tree.”
Female Perspectives on Ending Sexual Violence: Overcoming Rape-Related PTSD
by Stephanie Koehler
Stephanie Koehler is a journalist and photographer residing in California. She is also an advocate for the Rape Crisis Center. The goal of “Female Perspectives on Ending Sexual Violence” is to unite women all over the world to document the pain they endure as a result of sexual violence and the healing approach they take to grow from victim to survivor. Each installment includes a photo essay of a female survivor and is a platform to tell her story. Stephanie's vision is to grow this project into an international sexual assault awareness campaign. Former installments can be read here.
Audra's earliest recollection of traumatic violence dates back to before she was three years old when her step-mother repeatedly beat her into unconsciousness. The trauma of physical violence and sexual abuse continued throughout Audra's life and ended at age 21 when she separated from her then husband. Now in her 30s and a mother of three children, Audra seems a perfect example of how one can heal the wounds inflicted by severe psychological trauma. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which often results from such trauma, has shaped Audra's life. She says, “I had to be all these things that society expected me to be. I [had] to have this mask … and nobody wants to hear about [sexual violence].”
According to RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, the National Institute of Mental Health groups symptoms of PTSD into three main categories: “re-experiencing, avoidance, and hyper-arousal.” Re-experiencing refers to “repeated reliving of the event, including flashbacks, frightening thoughts, recurrent memories or dreams, and physical reactions to situations that remind the survivor of the event.” Avoidance is illustrated by “the desire of a person to change their routine to escape similar situations to the trauma.” Hyper-arousal explains the physiological symptoms of PTSD, such as “difficulty concentrating or falling asleep; being easily startled; feeling tense, and ‘on edge'; and angry outbursts.”
Describing commonalities women experience in the aftermath of sexual violence, Audra points to fear. “Not love, not compassion, [not] joy, not help, but absolute fear. This is a disservice. And it's such a loud emotion to have to live through … [in] a world where you are taught to be silent.”
Sexual violence is an act that touches the survivor on a cellular level, and the fear associated with it can be triggered randomly. Audra explains how such triggers affect her personally: “That smell [that she associates with the attack] is now there and it snatches [me] out of the present moment.”
Audra expresses part of her healing process in poetry. Her full poem can be read here. She writes of PTSD as a result of her experiences with violence;
We have a long history
I was beaten unconscious countless times before I turned three
By six, someone was molesting me
At the tender age of nine he tried to steal my virginity
16 raped, post-abortion me – made plans to die
And of her healing path and insight into what freeing herself from PTSD might look like, she composes:
Inspired by the fact that love came back to me
My symptoms, no longer in brutal control of me
And the three year-old that was and is in me
She dances and she plays – while I cry for her and for me
Wishing I could go back in time and save me
Or give birth to me
Be my own mother – the way I have been for three
What a dream that would be
I wonder who I would grow to be
Audra's experience with sexual violence-linked PTSD is not uncommon. According to the National Women's Study by the Medical University of South Carolina, “rape victims were 6.2 times more likely to develop PTSD than women who had never been victims of crime (31 percent versus 5 percent). The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that there are approximately 96.3 million adult women in the United States age 18 or older. If 13 percent of American women have been raped and 31 percent of rape victims have developed PTSD, then 3.8 million adult American women have experienced rape-related PTSD (RR-PTSD).”
The US Department of Veterans Affairs describes “one study that examined PTSD symptoms among women who were raped found that 94 percent of women experienced these symptoms during the two weeks immediately following the rape. Nine months later, about 30 percent of the women were still reporting this pattern of symptoms. The National Women's Study reported that almost 1/3 of all rape victims develop PTSD sometime during their lives and 11 percent of rape victims currently suffer from the disorder.”
Thus far, PTSD is still widely underdiagnosed and misunderstood. Some clinicians believe that the array of PTSD-related symptoms one experiences depends largely on the way one's body processes chemicals and hormones related to stress. Predisposition to depression and anxiety may play a role as well, and are often diagnosed in combination with PTSD or instead of it.
As the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress (AAETS) puts it: “[PTSD] is a normal human emotional reaction to an abnormal situation.” And it is believed that as a psychological phenomenon there is hope for a full and complete recovery. An important step in the healing process is identifying what triggers a survivor. Once a trigger has been identified, over time, the survivor can learn how to cope with the situation in a way that prevents it from spiraling back to the assault and allows the survivor to stay in control of her or his feelings. This could be through breathing techniques that calm the nervous system, or other learned mental or emotional tools to prevent the trigger from running its usual course.
It is important to listen intently to a survivor suffering from rape-related PTSD. A large part of my training as an advocate for the local Rape Crisis Center focused on the interaction with survivors, be it through the crisis hotline or in person when accompanying a survivor and assisting in the hospital after a rape is reported. Only when a survivor feels heard and safe, not belittled or degraded in any way, can she or he break the cycle of PTSD and start on the path to healing.
Audra emphasizes the importance of conversations about post-trauma recovery. “[W]e need a lot of post trauma conversation … remaining silent … is just as damaging. Those survivors are going to have issues, and they are going to need help… Every day they wake up in the same body that was violated. We don't talk about that.”
When asked what must be done to ignite change, Audra states that an open dialogue starting at home is important. Although this was not instilled in her, she feels strongly that one can take an active role in breaking the cycle and making social change happen. Audra is a better role model to her children than her relatives were to her and instills in them the values of honesty. She fosters a loving relationship that encourages them to seek her advice, or simply share what is happening in their lives. Audra believes that “conversation starts at home. … If education doesn't happen at home, then it's the next generation [that will have] to break the cycle and … make social change happen.”
Looking back, Audra stresses that the opportunities available today were not around for her, and she is excited about the change: “Locally, I am very excited to see many of the things that are happening that weren't when I was a kid. … there is a My Life Club and My Strength Club run by the local Rape Crisis Center and offered in the high schools… These programs provide education to youth and take an important role in the prevention of violence in general and sexual violence in particular.”
The My Life Club provides an environment that empowers young women to embrace their strengths, make safe and healthy decisions in their lives, and create positive change in their communities. Its male counterpart, the My Strength Club, promotes “My Strength is Not for Hurting” and encourages young men to take action to end sexual violence and to build healthy relationships. Similar clubs exist around the country and are geared at youth in middle through high school.
Listening to a woman who has endured so much and has such a beautiful outlook on life gives me hope. We need more courageous women to stand up for our rights. Audra is one of these women. Through her courage, perseverance, and inner beauty, she transformed trauma into the strength and became to be a voice for others. It is because of women like Audra that we have a chance to change.
Worldwide inquiries about Female Perspectives on Ending Sexual Violence are welcome. Participation is voluntary and the scope of each photo shoot and interview is determined with each participant to ensure women's boundaries are honored and respected. To participate in this project or for more information, please contact the author at email@example.com
About the Author: Stephanie Koehler is an artist, professional photographer and the founder of Heart-Filled Productions. Her work focuses on capturing the heart, soul and spirit of her subjects. Born and raised in Germany, she earned her Master's Degree in Linguistics from Bergische Universitaet & Gesamthochschule Wuppertal, Germany and moved to Spain at age 27. She has lived and worked in various countries and now resides in California. Stephanie's international background in marketing and event and program management combined with her creativity allows her to view the world through a lens of cultural diversity. She is an advocate at the Monterey County Rape Crisis Center and also works on a photojournalistic project that focuses on female survivors of violence, in which she highlights the beauty of traumatized women and gives them a voice to tell their story. Some of her photography can be seen at Heart-Filled Productions.
Group seeking to prevent child abuse needs new volunteers
by Lisa Kaylor
A statewide non-profit dedicated to the prevention of child abuse was itself a victim of the economy.
In 2011, Prevent Child Abuse Georgia succumbed to funding problems, taking the Augusta council with it.
After restructuring, the organization – now managed by Georgia State University – is back in a provisional status with the national organization, Prevent Child Abuse America. By summer it should regain its official status.
But what excites treasurer Jack Padgett the most is the reinstatement of the 1-800-CHILDREN helpline, which should be active and staffed 24 hours a day beginning Saturday.
It's a hotline that anyone can call for information, referrals and emotional support. It's been inactive for the past three years.
“Once you delay response to these people, they don't call back, and that's a scary thought,” Padgett said.
Prevent Child Abuse Georgia's sole mission is to prevent abuse through the strengthening of parental abilities and communities.
Locally, Prevent Child Abuse Augusta works to carry out that mission in Richmond, Burke and Columbia counties.
Volunteers are members or workers in other organizations that directly serve children, such as Child Enrichment, the Child Advocacy Center, the Rape Crisis and Sexual Assault Center, the Augusta Exchange Club and the Optimist Club, Padgett said.
They meet on the third Wednesday of each month at University Hospital. Most meetings involve helping a member who is dealing with a situation or who needs help managing a problem, Padgett said.
Outreach and community education is another component.
“One of the things we do is try to give service to churches and any other group that wants workshops on child abuse prevention,” he said.
The council assists in the sponsorship of Take Back The Night, a sexual assault rally held every year at Georgia Regents University in April, and workshops aimed at teaching those who work with children the warning signs of abuse and what they should do about them, as well as training on how to report abuse.
“The mandated reporter thing is critical,” Padgett said. “If you're paid to work with children, you're a mandated reporter, whether you're a bus driver, a teacher or a coach, even in churches now.”
Padgett, who is a member of the Richmond County Board of Education, first became an advocate for children while he was a Richmond County commissioner (before consolidation) and working for the Coalition for Children and Youth.
Since then he has worked in a variety of roles, largely in securing funding and writing grants for Child Enrichment and other child advocacy groups.
Now, he uses his background in education, public health and finance to represent Georgia at the state level with Prevent Child Abuse Georgia.
“I guess it's been something I've learned an awful lot about – abuse and how bad it is. It's worse than I ever considered,” he said.
Prevent Child Abuse Augusta is seeking more volunteers who are interested in preventing child abuse. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call Rape Crisis & Sexual Assault Services at (706) 724-5200.
A dubious honor: Lubbock County still ranks high in state for child abuse
Advocates say drug abuse, inability to deal with stress likely causes
by ELLYSA GONZALEZ
Four children are abused in Lubbock every day.
The numbers also show Lubbock County continues to rank among the counties with the highest cases of child abuse or neglect reported to Child Protective Services in Texas, leaving child protection advocates struggling to make sense of why the numbers are so high and how to slow the rate of abuse.
Lynnette Wilson, executive director of the Family Guidance and Outreach Center in Lubbock, said she believes many cases are a result of stress from job loss, divorce or dealing with relationships. Other times, the abuser was abused as a child and learned those habits.
“It's tough raising children by yourself,” Wilson said.
But the drug and alcohol traffic of Lubbock County could also play into the numbers, she said. People abusing drugs are more likely to then abuse their children. One recent, albeit extreme case of child abuse attributed to drugs involved a mother from Post who shot her daughter in the head while under the influence of drugs.
Not taking any disciplinary actions while under the influences of drugs or alcohol could help lower the statistics of child abuse, Wilson said.
The 2013 Data Book released by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services breaks the information down between men, women and unknown, and by age, marital status, ethnicity and relationship to the victims. The highest numbers for abusers in age categories were between 26 and 35 years of age; single women and married men; Anglo women and Hispanic men; and parents of the victims.
Other data show children between the ages of 1 and 3 years old were most often victims.
In 2013, three children in Lubbock County died as a result of abuse and/or neglect, according to the 2013 Data Book. Four more fatalities were reported in the region.
Of the almost 7.2 million children in Texas, 258,996 were reportedly child abuse/neglect victims; 100,861 of those cases have been confirmed, according to the report. That introduces a severe problem in the rising generation, as physical, mental, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect take a heavy toll on victims.
However, taking a child away from an abusive situation presents its own difficulties. The foster system is far from perfect, and many children yearn for the familiarity of home even when home is too dangerous for them.
“If you can imagine, a child gets removed, they get placed, they may be placed with a relative, a traditional foster home, people they may not know very well,” said Jennie Hill, executive director of CASA of the South Plains.
Court Appointed Special Advocates are tasked with helping children of abuse or neglect navigate the foster care system when they've been removed from their homes, Hill said.
“Many times, they've been in many more places than that,” she said. “Every six months while you're in the foster care system, you get moved to a new home, a new school.”
The key to lowering numbers of child abuse/neglect and displaced children lies in education about prevention, Wilson said.
The Family Guidance and Outreach Center specializes in educating parents, child care workers and children about healthy ways to handle anger and frustration. Parents and other people who have frequent contact with children can take the center's free classes and learn tips on channeling their stress, Wilson said.
“With a crying baby, put the baby in a safe place and walk away,” she said. “Do deep breathing exercises, call a friend. … Remove yourself. Don't spank a child when you're angry. I can't tell anyone how to discipline their child. But calm down before you discipline.”
Wilson suggested placing the child in time out and staying firm with disciplinary actions such as taking away toys, gadgets or other privileges as channels for frustration.
If child abuse is suspected or witnessed, Wilson said observers should call the child abuse hotline or 911.
“I always say, ‘It shouldn't hurt to be a child,' ” she said.
For more information, go to familyguidancecenterlubbock.org.
Sheffield Village to support child abuse prevention, awareness
by Stephanie Metzger
SHEFFIELD VILLAGE — April is National Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month and village Mayor John Hunter will be speaking out.
Hunter will appear in a brief radio spot on WOBL in Oberlin to provide a public service announcement for awareness of child abuse and negligence. The announcement will be aired from March 31 to April 4.
“It's just a way to bring awareness to the month,” Hunter said. “They'll air it for that time so listeners can learn.”
According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, a service of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, the month of April is a time to recognize and promote the social and emotional well-being of children and families in communities.
Recognition of National Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month in April dates back to the early 1980s, according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway website.
In 1982, Congress deemed the week of June 6-12 as the first National Child Abuse Prevention Week. The following year, April was designated as the first National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
As a result, several national and state leaders encourage iniiatives and events to generate awareness for child abuse.
A study report published in 2013 by the Children's Bureau of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services noted that child protective services responded to 2.1 million reports of child maltreatment in 2012. Forty-nine states reported 1,593 fatalities due to child maltreatment.
The state of Ohio logged a total of 160,293 referrals of maltreatment in 2012, the report stated.
Police learn latest Internet techniques to fight child porn, sex abuse
by Doug Schneider
On a recent morning this month, a group of police officers gathered in a second-floor conference room in the Brown County Sheriff's Department to learn how to better stop adults who use the Internet to commit sex crimes involving children.
Officers from across the region attended training conducted by officials from Wisconsin's Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. It's a group of about 200 agencies that focuses on stopping children from being victimized by online predators.
Increasing emphasis on Internet crimes against children “is something we have to do,” said Brown County Sheriff John Gossage, whose department hosted the training at its Bellevue office.
The training is part of an effort to crackdown on online predators who target children. The effort comes in advance of National Child Abuse Prevention Month in April.
At various times in the past year, Gossage said, investigators went online and found evidence of at least 100 images of child pornography being exchanged by Internet users within the county — and those figures include only images tagged by a federal agency to help catch predators. Those numbers stem in part from the findings last year of two sting operations, called Operation Black Veil and Operation Black Veil II, that involve local detectives focusing on Internet users who target children to commit sex crimes.
A sting last fall resulted in the arrests of 16 men in central and Northeastern Wisconsin, including eight in Brown County. Charges included child enticement and use of a computer to facilitate a child sex crime; investigators also filed prostitution and drug-possession charges.
“If I had the resources,” Gossage said, “I'd run operations like that every day.”
The number of arrests made last fall prompted Jim Valley, then a lieutenant with the Door County Sheriff's Department, to call Internet crimes against children “very big in this community.” Valley has since joined the Brown County Sheriff's Office.
Stings like Operation Black Veil typically target two major types of sex crimes involving children.
Some adults who use the Internet — often through free classified ads on websites — to try and arrange meetings with children for sex. Others trade pornographic images of children through file-sharing or “peer-to-peer” networks online. The overwhelming majority of people who engage in such activities are male.
The local training this month focused on helping officers find predators online and compile evidence to help prosecute them.
Statewide, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said on his website that the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force arrested 131 suspected child predators in 2012, the most-recent year for which figures were available. That's the largest number of arrests made in one year by Wisconsin's task force, which was created in 1999.
“Proactive, large-scale operations, in partnership with local law enforcement, will continue and should serve as a deterrent to those who may look to victimize children,” Van Hollen said.
Task Force members also conducted presentations and outreach programs that reached an estimated 36,000 people in 2012, according to Van Hollen's office.
'Mummy, Ron touched me there': Mother's horror after casual conversation with three-year-old daughter revealed she was being sexually abused by family friend
by Lucy Waterlow
A mother was shocked and horrified to discover her three-year-old daughter had been molested by a friend of the family.
Now she's urging other parents to broach the subject of sexual abuse with young children to ensure they are safe and aware of what's right and wrong.
Rachel was stunned when her little girl, Hannah, (names have been changed to protect their identities), casually revealed that her private parts had been touched by Ron Wood.
He was a trusted friend of the family who Rachel had no reason to suspect was a child abuser.
She had only raised the issue of sexual abuse with Hannah after hearing about the NSPCC's PANTS campaign - which advises parents to ensure their children know they should not be touched beneath their underwear.
Rachel explains: 'I hadn't thought about talking to Hannah about abuse before as she was only three-years-old and I didn't think that it would be something that would happen to us. Not long after hearing about the NSPCC's Underwear Rule, I was putting some cream on her where her pants had rubbed and thought it would be the perfect opportunity to talk to her.
'I said: "Where your pants cover; that area is for you. No-one else can touch this area." I expected her to just say OK but she said "Ron puts his fingers up there."'
In disbelief, Rachel and her husband, Mark (not his real name), then asked Hannah to tell them more about what Ron had done.The couple had known Ron for ten years but had never been aware he had been alone with their daughter when he had visited their home.
Rachel said: 'I felt so betrayed and I was in a state. We didn't think something like this could ever happen to her; we hadn't even left him completely alone with her. We saw Ron and his wife a lot and, from what Hannah told us, he had used every opportunity he could when he got a few minutes alone with her to abuse her. They played hide and seek a lot and she told me that he always told her to hide in the bedroom and he did it then. She said he did it "lots and lots and lots" of times.'
The parents called the police and praised the way they gently spoke to Hannah about what had happened to her before taking their investigation further.
Rachel recalls: 'Everything was taken at Hannah's pace and I can't fault the police at all for how they handled it. I agreed that Hannah could have a medical examination and the damage was consistent to what she had told us had happened.
'By now she knew that what had happened to her was wrong and she knew that she had to talk to the police about it so that Ron would be punished for what he did.
'She said: "Do I have to tell them everything that he did to me so that he is told off?" I told her that she did and I was shocked when she said he touched her elsewhere too.'
She added that she was sickened to learn Ron had been telling Hannah she was his 'special little princess'.
Ron, 60, of Chaddesden, Derbyshire, was arrested and charged with four counts of sexually abusing the girl. He denied he had done anything wrong so the family had to go through the ordeal of giving evidence at his trial.
Child abuse program introduced in Southwest Georgia
Voice Today founder shares personal story, resources
by Jennifer Parks
ALBANY — The founder of a child abuse prevention and education organization based in the Atlanta area was recently in Southwest Georgia to help promote its work and to raise awareness of a problem that has impacted her life.
A child abuse survivor, Angela Williams of Voice Today was in the area for a book signing of her “From Sorrows to Sapphires” in Tifton about a week ago, as well as a couple of appearances in Ashburn.
“We are working on a grassroots movement in Georgia and across the nation,” said Williams. “… It is a stigmatized, taboo subject, (and our purpose) is to educate people to get them talking about it.”
The median age for a child to suffer abuse is 9, Williams said, adding the victim knows the abuser 93 percent of the time. There are roughly 42 million reported survivors in the United States, and it is estimated that only one in 10 victims ever tells anyone about a violation.
By gender, the breakdown is one in four girls and one in six boys under the age of 18.
To help alleviate the problem, Williams said, there is curriculum through Voice Today that covers such topics as “stranger danger,” how to set personal boundaries, and how to facilitate the healing process. On that vein, she and her son, Jacob Williams, have either written or co-authored several books on the subject.
As far as promoting the cause outside of the Atlanta area is concerned, she said there are three goals — building awareness, encouraging prevention programs and encouraging compassion and aftercare for identified victims of abuse.
“(It's to help) to make resources available and make people aware,” she said, adding that people “need to realize it is here in this community, and know the signs and symptoms so they know when children are in trouble.
“We hope to empower adults with the prevention of child abuse … and the tools to have these conversations. Children depend on us to know what to do, and to intervene.”
The book “From Sorrows to Sapphires” tells of Williams' own story of the child abuse that she suffered at the hands of her stepfather. Without someone to intervene on her behalf, she said, the result was feelings of isolation.
“I'm very open and honest about my journey,” she said. “Survivors carry a tremendous amount of shame and grow up into adults in a world that doesn't want to give (help) to survivors. … So often it (impacts) adults at the same time. My stepfather groomed my mother to believe I was a liar, so by the time I disclosed it, she thought I was making it up.”
Following her trip to Southwest Georgia, Williams went to Los Angeles and is expected to go to Alabama next month. There is nothing else planned in this region yet, but she indicated that she would be willing to come back.
“If the invitation is there, I will be there,” she said.
Sorority campaigns to raise awareness of child abuse
News reports about child sexual abuse cases often include comments from neighbors, friends or co-workers who register surprise, saying they never suspected anything was wrong.
Experts note that this often happens because people are not trained to pick up on some of the subtle signs that might signal abuse.
“The typical child sexual abuser in not someone you'd suspect,” said Emily Cole, the chairwoman of the Carroll County Child Advocacy Center board. “In fact, about 90 percent of abused children are abused by someone the family knows and trusts.”
The University of West Georgia chapter of the Kappa Delta national sorority is joining with the Carroll County Child Advocacy Center to help raise awareness of child abuse and how it can be prevented.
“Our goal this year is to raise $5,000 for the prevention of child abuse by holding several events through this week,” said Hannah Kidd, the vice president of community service for Kappa Delta at UWG. “Our week-long series of fundraising events is known as Shamrock Week.”
Eighty percent of the proceeds raised will go to the Carroll County Child Advocacy Center, and the other 20 percent will go to Prevent Child Abuse America for its national programs and awareness campaigns.
The sorority on Monday will be selling blue pinwheels, the Prevent Child Abuse America's national symbol, for $1 each.
“You can buy these in memory of someone abused or neglected or just to support the program,” Kidd said. “We'll be posting the pinwheels in the front yard of our Kappa Delta house.”
The pinwheel sales will continue on Tuesday, along with a Spirit Night event from 5-9 p.m. at American Pie on Maple Street. Fifteen percent of food sales during that time period will go to the campaign.
Other fundraising activities will include a Wednesday night dodgeball tournament in the UWG Health and Physical Education gym, with a $10 team registration, and a Thursday night dance competition, called Shamrock Shakedown, at the same location.
“We work all year to plan fundraisers and we really appreciate the involvement of our families, friends, community and campus,” Kidd said.
The UWG Kappa Delta chapter has 93 members and is part of the national sorority with nearly 230,000 members. The national chapter adopted Prevent Child Abuse America in 1981 as its philanthropy project. Since that time, the organization has raised more than $13 million for the prevention of child abuse, with $1.5 million raised last year.
Anyone wishing to help the Kappa Delta campaign can contact Kidd by email at email@example.com, by phone at 706-499-2857.
Cole's organization continues to offer the “Darkness to Light Stewards of Children” sexual abuse prevention training to groups and individuals in Carroll, Haralson and Heard counties.
“We'll offer training at any location and time that is convenient to a group,” Cole said. “The workbooks for the training sessions cost $10 each, but the Child Advocacy Center is willing to cover the cost for the training because we believe in the critical need for it.”
The goal is to train at least 5 percent of the adult population in the three counties.
“There's a theory that when 5 percent of the population changes its behavior, a cultural shift is crated and momentum builds with that, so that societal values are changed,” she said. “This 5 percent is referred to as the ‘tipping point'.”
Cole said the tipping point in Carroll County would be when 4,120 adults are trained; Haralson County, 1.077 adults; and Heard County, 439.
“As of March 1, we've trained 2,839 adults in Carroll County, about 69 percent of our goal,” she said. “In Haralson, we've trained 456, about 42 percent of the goal; and in Heard County, 58 people, about 13 percent of the goal.”
The Child Advocacy Center began offering forensic interview services -- during which trained and certified forensic counselors talk with abused children for law enforcement court cases -- in February 2013.
“We've provided interviews for more than 150 children so far,” Cole said.
Before the advocacy center opened in Carrollton, children in law enforcement investigations had to be sent to other counties, at some distance, for the interviews.
“Child sexual abuse is one of the most prevalent health problems that children face,” Cole said. “It has a serious array of consequences, so it's important that our adult population take time to learn the steps provided in the Darkness to Light's Stewards of Children curriculum.”
She pointed out that the training discourages any one-on-one contact between a child and an adult that can't be interrupted or observed. Also, Cole said the training encourages parents to teach their children to talk about encounters that made the child uncomfortable.
Carroll County Child Advocacy is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Its website is www.cc-cac.org and its phone number is 678-390-5116. Tracy O. Lewis-Martin is the director.
Court reporter taking stand to end child sexual abuse in county
by Joseph Hamrick
COMMERCE — Cher Perry is leading an initiative to end child sexual abuse in Hunt County.
As a court reporter for Hunt County Court at Law No. 1, Perry sees all juvenile cases in the county.
Nationally, one out of 10 children are sexually abused, with 35 percent of those children being 11-years-old or under.
Perry said that statistic is not uncommon in Hunt County.
“We see a lot of that here,” she said.
After being inundated with case after case of child sexual abuse, Perry said she wanted to take a stand to take preventative measures to protect the children of Hunt County.
“After so many of those I thought ‘what can we do about it?'” she said.
Perry said it was then that she knew she had to take action. After conducting research, Perry discovered the Darkness to Light program, which trains and equips adults to spot and prevent child sexual abuse.
Perry attended one of the organization's facilitator meetings and became an accredited facilitator through the training.
Perry now trains residents of Hunt County through a two-hour Stewards of Children class.
With almost 1,000 Hunt County adults trained already, Perry said she has seen great results come through the training.
“Child sexual abuse is a complicated issue,” she said. “But this training is some basic steps we can all take to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to abuse.”
Through the training, attendees are taught five steps to combat child sexual abuse, including facts about child sexual abuse, how to minimize opportunities for sexual predators, how to talk about it with your children, recognizing if an offense has occurred and reacting responsibly when a child comes forward.
Perry said since more than 90 percent of child sexual abuse occurs with someone the child knows and trusts. The old adage “Stranger Danger,” although helpful, is not the favored form of teaching.
“This [training] helps in building personal boundaries to give children empowerment to say no to unwanted physical touch,” she said.
Perry said there are multiple actions parents can take in order to minimize opportunities for predators, such as never having a child in a completely one-on-one situation.
“I try to tell people to keep it observable and interruptible,” she said.
One of the most difficult parts of preventing sexual abuse is talking about it the right way with your children.
Perry said there are numerous resources for parents, such as books and other reading materials to help parents open dialogue with their children on the issue and how to protect themselves.
According to Perry, being open, honest, and being available for children to talk to is important in spotting and combating abuse.
“I think it's why this training is so important,” she said. “It is hard to spot the physical side of abuse.”
Although Perry said the issue is a difficult one to discuss with young children, since more than half of abuse takes place before age 11, it is a vitally important conversation to have.
“The number of victims shoots up at an early age,” she said. “This is just one of these things that no one talks about but is so prevalent. There are books parents can read to their children to help guide the conversation.”
Since Texas is a mandatory reporting state, which carries a class A misdemeanor for someone failing to report abuse, knowing how to report is important in protecting the child and bringing the perpetrator to justice.
Most reported child sexual abuse cases come either from a child speaking to a police officer or coming forward to their teacher.
Perry said these people are the first defense in helping to prevent abuse.
“Anyone that works with kids needs to go through this,” she said, adding they are currently in an initiative to train almost all teachers and counselors at public and private schools in Hunt County. “It is so important that teachers and counselors get trained.”
Perry recently facilitated a meeting in Greenville, which was sponsored by the Kiwanis of Greenville to train more than 50 people in the Darkness to Light program.
Perry said she is fortunate to have had Kiwanis support the event, and to the school districts in Hunt County for helping to train their respective teachers.
“It is really neat having all these passionate people in the community,” she said. “I'm so excited at how this has taken off and so many people in the community care about these children.”
Perry is facilitating another conference on April 22 for Greenville churches. The event will be hosted at Authentic Life Fellowship Church located on 5500 West Frontage Road in Greenville.
For more information on the event, visit www.d2l.org or on Facebook at End Child Sexual Abuse in Hunt County.
Bedford Co. man faces 2,400 charges related to child sexual abuse
EVERETT, Pa. -- A Bedford County man faces more than 2,400 charges of child sexual assault for allegedly abusing three girls for more than a decade, state police said.
State police at Bedford filed 2,426 charges against Michael William Edmonson, 45, of Everett, on Thursday for the incidents that spanned between 2002 and 2014, investigators said.
Edmonson faces numerous charges, including rape by threat, statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, corruption of minors and endangering the welfare of children, police said.
Bedford County District Attorney Bill Higgins said the youngest victim came forward to police about the alleged abuse and that prompted state police to begin their investigation. The two other girls came forward while the investigation was underway.
"As a society we've no longer stigmatized victims," Higgins said. "We do more to support victims, it's not their fault. This person offended them, hurt them, and we're going to hold them accountable and that victim is in no way to blame."
Police said the victims are now ages 14, 22, and 23.
Investigators said the girls told police the assaults occurred multiple times each week and took place throughout the county, including Edmonson's Everett-area home, a farmhouse in the Chaneysville area and Edmonson's workplace prior to coworkers arriving.
Edmonson is in the Bedford County prison on $100,000 bail, court documents showed.
A preliminary hearing was scheduled for Wednesday.
Researchers Say Super Bowl Sex Trafficking Included Minors
The first comprehensive research on sex trafficking at the Super Bowl is being released today by researchers in Arizona, where the Super Bowl will be held next year.
They analyzed and placed online sex ads, identifying nearly 2,000 potential sex trafficking victims, including 84 children in New Jersey and Arizona, during the 10 days before and after this year's Super Bowl.
The information was gathered, sometimes by former Army intelligence officers, using the same type of Internet-sniffing technology used to track militants in Afghanistan. The defense contractor that helped with the research says sex trafficking is a lot like terrorism — a problem that's hard to see.
Lead researcher Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, who is director of the Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research at Arizona State University, joins Here & Now's Robin Young to discuss her findings.
ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:
It's HERE AND NOW, and our next story may not be appropriate for children. It's about the first comprehensive research on sex trafficking at the Super Bowl. It's being released today by researchers in Arizona, site of next year's Super Bowl, researchers who combed through online sex ads, placed decoy ads and say they identified nearly 2,000 potential sex trafficking victims, including 84 children.
The information was gathered sometimes by former Army intelligence officers using the same type of Internet-sniffing technology used to track militants in Afghanistan. The defense contractor that helped with the research says sex trafficking is a lot like terrorism. It's a problem that's hard to see.
Cindy McCain, wife of the senator, helped fund the research through the McCain Foundation, which is based at Arizona State, as is the lead researcher, Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, director of the Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research at Arizona State University. And Professor Dominique, first of all, a sex trafficking research center - obviously you are focused on this problem.
DOMINIQUE ROE-SEPOWITZ: We are. This is a national problem, a global problem, and we've made a decision at Arizona State University to focus on a national solution, trying to work with other groups around the country, law enforcement, advocacy groups, analytic groups, to try to find good information to base our decisions in the future on how to combat human sex trafficking.
YOUNG: Well, and we know that you've been gathering data obviously for a while but doing it more by hand. This time around, you called in the defense contractor Prescient Analytics. Tell us more about why you did that.
ROE-SEPOWITZ: We've been working for a number of years, searching ads by hand with law enforcement partners to try to figure out the algorithm of an ad that would have a potential minor in it, that would allow law enforcement to take that ad and create a lead, and then they would go investigate and hopefully rescue a minor.
We've partnered with Prescient Analytic to try to figure out a way to use those graphics, use those photos to better map those ads within what we can find.
YOUNG: Well, and we're reading about people who used to track insurgents in Afghanistan working for this defense contractor and going through data with the sort of same kind of deliberate approach.
ROE-SEPOWITZ: So we find some similarities between what terrorism may look like in our country and what sex trafficking looks like. More than half of the ads that we identified as potential minors were linked to other ads, other girls, other phone numbers. So we actually think that this sex trafficking world is a network, multiple networks, whether they're gangs, whether they're organized crime.
But these are not one person, one girl cases in most of these cases. So using those analytic techniques, looking at the big picture as if it were a terrorist organization or communication seems to be the next step in our work.
YOUNG: Why is it so hard? Because for instance, you say you look at ads. You looked at the most popular free sex sites online, I'm not going to name them, but outside legal brothels in Nevada, this is illegal to purchase sex, doubly illegal to purchase sex with minors, children who have been trafficked. How is it that there are online ads and you can't just go and arrest somebody?
ROE-SEPOWITZ: One of the things to remember is it is not illegal to post those ads that have women, children, trafficked persons, transgendered folks, people who are in positions where they are obviously under some sort of duress. We found thousands of ads in New York City during the Super Bowl. What that tells us is there's too many of those for law enforcement to follow each and every one of them.
Even just the 50 that we flagged over 10 days that we considered to be minors, that we reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, even those 50 are too many for any law enforcement department to follow and really do a good job.
YOUNG: And we should say when you say 50, that was in New Jersey for the Super Bowl there. You found another 34 or so in the Phoenix area.
ROE-SEPOWITZ: Right, so we think that we have to really continue to increase public awareness but also create specialty units. There's very few vice-focused units that are looking at sex trafficking of minors in the country. The other part of our study, which is the demand study, which is where we placed ads online for people to purchase sex from us, we had an average of over 50 calls a day that law enforcement would never have been able to follow up on.
How do we then take that problem for the next Super Bowl, which we didn't see a dramatic increase of ads. What we see is that there's an existence of sex trafficking ads in our community at all times, and a certain percent, probably somewhere between five and eight percent of those ads, are minors. And how are we going to deal with that problem moving forward?
YOUNG: Well, what do you hope to do? You now have these military analysts who are now working for a private defense contractor called Prescient Analytics, as we said. They have the Super Bowl Project, worked with them for two years. These are people who they don't want to just put together your data for you; they want to do something about it, I imagine. Do you have analytics which show, for instance, one hub out of which you have maybe hundreds of people generating?
ROE-SEPOWITZ: So some of the things that we learned using their analytics and some of our scanning was that the majority of the minors that we detected in Phoenix, Arizona were trafficked by local persons; their area code and their phone number was local while the adults that we scanned, and we used our analytics for with Prescient Analytics, were more likely to have out-of-town area codes.
So one of the conclusions is the minors are more likely to be victimized in our community, where adults are more likely to be brought in from other places like Los Angeles, Seattle, Las Vegas and following the money more. Without having kind of the ability to kind of map and do major analytics, we would never have been able to learn that stuff.
YOUNG: It's like organized crime.
YOUNG: But you did find, if I'm reading this correctly, one minor's ad with her picture, a phone number, it went from Chicago to the Super Bowl in New Jersey, then to North Dakota a week after.
ROE-SEPOWITZ: We did definitely see movement for the Super Bowl. It was only 20 percent of the ads that had an ad before or after the Super Bowl that we could show came from somewhere else. But I think we would see migration for any major sporting event where there's men and money, called the demand effect, that we would see that in any locale.
YOUNG: What else can you glean? We remember the sex trafficking ring that was broken up because somebody recognized a sweater on a picture of a child, knew that it had been made in Scotland.
ROE-SEPOWITZ: One of the things that we found in our manual search was we found six girls connected by the same pillowcase. So they were all working either in the same brothel or for the same trafficker or together somehow. So we could link them. We could create this network picture.
There's some really amazing programs around the country. There's a program in Minneapolis created by the Minneapolis Police Department, where they went into hotels and took pictures of their bedspreads so that they would be able to recognize if a victim was in any of those hotels. And some hotels have a different bedspread on each floor. So they had to have many photos. And that's been very helpful.
And if we don't use analytics as much as those traffickers, it's going to continue to be what you said before, which is right in front of our face, right online. You can open up the website. You can buy a couch, and you can buy a kid at any type of day or night.
A recent study that we published was a study of how many buyers there are for online sex ads. And we found in Phoenix, Arizona we had an average of about 78,000 men calling sex ads per day. When we look at that problem from that vastness, how are we going to change the culture of buying sex as being not OK for the victim?
YOUNG: Well, especially when the victims are children. That's Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, director of the Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research at Arizona State University. They are releasing a report today on the amount of sex trafficking around last year's Super Bowl and ahead of next year's in Arizona. Dominique, Professor, thanks so much.
ROE-SEPOWITZ: Thank you for having me.
US Lawmakers Explore Efforts to Stop Child Sex Trafficking
by Pamela Dockins
WASHINGTON — U.S. lawmakers are exploring ways to combat child sex trafficking, a crime that child safety advocates estimate is affecting several hundred thousand American children each year.
Law enforcement officials, child safety groups and a victim shared their views on the problem with members of a House Appropriations subcommittee at a recent hearing.
Lawmakers heard from Stephanie Vu, a human trafficking survivor who now works with the Shared Hope International and Youth for Tomorrow anti-trafficking groups.
Vu told lawmakers that at the age of 12, she was "chosen."
She said an older boy that she met at a party lured her away from her family and into a life that included stripping at a club.
Vu said that later, the boy threw her out of his house on a bitterly cold night after she refused his demand to "sell herself for sex." She said she spent several hours outdoors shivering and pacing the streets before finally deciding to climb into a "buyer's" car.
"That moment changed my life forever," said Vu. "There were three men that night and at the end of it, I couldn't stop vomiting," she said.
The Polaris Project, a Washington-based group that fights global human trafficking, said U.S. sex trafficking has been found in a wide variety of venues, including residential brothels, fake massage businesses and online escort services.
In a statement, the group said the average entry age into the commercial sex industry is between 12 and 14. It said children who become victims of sex trafficking sometimes encounter challenges that include isolation, criminalization and a lack of social services to help them recover from their trauma.
Cindy McCain co-chairs the Arizona Governor's Task Force on Human Trafficking. She cited figures from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children as she told lawmakers that child sex trafficking is a "low risk," "high reward" enterprise.
"NCMEC also estimates that a pimp can make between $150,000 and $200,000 per child per year," said McCain. "The average pimp has four to six little girls," she said.
The perception of the prostitute walking the streets persists. However, Fairfax County, Virginia police detective William Woolf told lawmakers more and more child sex traffickers are actually using online tools.
"They commonly exploit social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and things of that nature to be able to target their recruitment efforts, making them a lot more effective and efficient," he said.
Woolf also said his department has seen an increase in trafficking activity, largely because of the Internet.
"We see other Internet-based companies, like Backpage.com, that is openly and, in some senses, legally advertising commercial sex," said Woolf. "It gives these traffickers opportunities to advertise to the general public, these sexual services and to advertise, essentially, our children online," he said.
However, Backpage said it cooperates with law enforcement efforts to find child sex traffickers. In a VOA interview, Backpage Attorney Elizabeth McDougall said the website is not the root of the problem with child sex trafficking.
"If Backpage shut down, the content wouldn't go away. It would go to an underground or offshore website," she said.
Urban Institute Research Associate Colleen Owens said law enforcement officers have had some success in curbing online trafficking by moving to shut down websites and, in some cases, by posing as potential clients to catch traffickers.
But she said in a VOA interview that a broader approach is needed to fully address the problem.
"To really tackle this issue, it involves a lot more than just using online sites to further investigate tactics," said Owens. "I think really trafficking requires a more comprehensive multi-disciplinary approach than maybe some other forms of crime or similar to some other forms of crime," she said.
Dr. Lois Lee is president of Children of the Night, a California-based organization that helps youth who have been victims of sex trafficking. She said law enforcement efforts alone won't resolve these problems.
"We need people to really do something, to develop programs. Homes for kids. Schools for kids," said Lee.
Lee also said there should be more emphasis on helping young children in unstable homes, a problem that she said could make them more vulnerable to trafficking as they get older.
KARE 11 Investigates: Sex Trafficking
ST. PAUL, Minn. – Sex trafficking is not just an issue impacting people living in a far off land.
The FBI ranks the Twin Cities as one of 13 U.S. cities with a high rate of child prostitution, according to the Women's Foundation of Minnesota.
To illustrate how big the issue is, St. Paul Police officials recently granted KARE 11 News a rare inside look at new ways of combating the problem.
Over a number of days, cameras followed members of the Gerald Vick Human Trafficking Task Force while they conducted stings. They not only arrested suspects but also rescued young women, which is new for law enforcement and part of the new Safe Harbor Law. The law states girls under 18 should be treated as victims, not as criminals.
St. Paul Police, Roseville Police, Ramsey County Sheriff's Office, and the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension were part of the sting.
While in a hotel room located in Ramsey County, undercover officers posted an ad on backpage.com which carries ads for escorts.
"As soon as we place that ad and it pops up online, the undercover phones start ringing," said Commander John Bandemer with the St. Paul Police Department.
How long does it take? KARE 11 timed it and found that it took just 90 seconds after police posted the ad for someone to call the undercover officer's phone. And the phone did not stop ringing.
"I've missed probably thirty calls already," said the undercover officer, who we're not identifying to protect her safety.
Police arrested a total of five men during the sting who have since been charged, according to Roseville Police.
"There's a lot of demand for it, and there's plenty of supply unfortunately," said Bandemer.
Just look online and you'll find an endless stream of ads where people can simply buy sex as easy as buying a pizza. St. Paul Police say one out of ten women they make contact with is underage.
"I would view it as modern day human slavery," said Ramsey County Attorney John Choi. "If you got runaway kids in your community, you've got this issue."
In fact, Choi said one-third of runaway children are sexually exploited.
That's why law enforcement and advocates support the Safe Harbor Law. It officially goes into effect August 1st, but many communities have already adopted the changes, including St. Paul.
During another sting, St. Paul officers called girls listed on backpage.com who appeared to be underage.
"We don't intend to arrests these girls. We want to connect them to services and get them out of the lifestyle that they are in," said an undercover officer, who we're not identifying to protect his safety.
Shortly after the girl arrived to a location in St. Paul, police identified who they were and moved her to another room where she told police something they have unfortunately heard before.
"I've been wanting out, but they wouldn't let me leave," she told police.
The girl, who turned out to be 18 years old, said she was homeless and her pimp tricked her into prostitution. With no money it was difficult to leave, she said.
She also told police she wasn't the only one who needed help. Her 18-year-old friend had also been tricked into prostitution, she said. That friend was at a nearby hotel room, possibly with a man who was armed.
Police drove to the hotel and found the girl alone. She apparently told police she was too afraid to leave without her friend.
Although police did not arrest the two girls, officers technically could have because the Safe Haven Law only protects females under 18 years of age.
"What Safe Harbor does not do is protect adult victims. And that's why we're hoping this is just a step in the right direction," said Noelle Volin with the advocacy group Breaking Free.
Volin wants all women treated as victims. After all, she said 85 percent of adult women involved in prostitution started when they were children.
"If you are being sold into prostitution you are a victim," she said.
Police arrested the pimp in the case involving the two 18 year old women and the Ramsey County Attorney's office eventually charged the man with sex trafficking. If history is any judge, he could be facing a tougher sentence than he would have just a few years ago.
In January, the Ramsey County Attorney's office got the longest sex trafficking sentence in Minnesota history where Otis Washington received 40 years in prison for trafficking several women and girls.
Choi recently told KARE 11 he believes longer sentences are happening in part because when law enforcement treat the girls as victims they are more willing to share their stories of abuse.
"Now you're seeing sentences at least in the double digits," said Choi about cases that are closed.
Advocacy groups have played a big part in the efforts to stop sex trafficking, as well. The Women's Foundation of Minnesota has provided grant money to organizations in the area, including St. Paul and Minneapolis Police, as well as the Ramsey County Attorney's Office.
The bottom line, experts believe it is going to take everyone in the community to stop sex trafficking.
"We as a community should be doing everything possible to end this," said Choi.
Sex trafficking minors in Kansas to be treated as victims, not criminals
Officers train to crack down on sex trafficking
by Brendaliss Gonzalez
KANSAS CITY, Kan. - The Wyandotte County Sheriff's Department will be one of just a few departments in Kansas to offer specialized training to crack down on sex trafficking.
Lieutenant Kelli Bailiff specializes in child crimes and will train officers in Wyandotte County, Edwardsville and Bonner Springs to identify victims.
"I think they're going to be more empathetic in order to help a young person,” she said, “instead of just saying, ‘Oh we caught you in prostitution therefore were taking you to jail.'"
Bailiff said sex traffickers target children as young as 11 years old. Eighty-three percent are from the United States, some of them coming from Kansas City.
"There are people running around that can identify these weak individuals, they take them and they turn them into child prostitutes,” Bailiff said.
The numbers sparked changes in Kansas law, starting with how officers deal with potential victims. Before this year, anyone picked up for sex trafficking, even someone under 18, would be brought into a jail holding cell. Now, they'll be brought to a separate room where they'll talk to counselors and police officers to determine whether they're victims of sex trafficking.
"They don't necessarily need to be charged with a crime,” Bailiff said, “they're being forced to do those acts.”
Kansas law has also added charges to sex traffickers. Anyone charged for sexual exploitation of a child will face a minimum sentence of 25 years.
If officers spot someone younger than 18, they're now obligated to take them into custody where they can get the help they need.
The training for Wyandotte County officers will begin within the next few weeks.