‘Stranger danger!': Washington girl, 6, thwarts abduction by fighting back, screams for help
The little girl, Savanna Norman, was crossing the street when two men tried to snatch her outside her Parkland home on Wednesday. But the little girl said she punched and kicked at the suspects, before yelling for help and running away. One of the creeps was arrested a short time later.
by Joe Kemp
A 6-year-old girl was nearly abducted from outside her Washington state home — but escaped unharmed after she punched and kicked the creeps before running away.
The little girl, Savanna Norman, was crossing the street to her Parkland home after playing with a neighbor when two men suddenly emerged and tried to snatch her on Wednesday.
“I looked both ways, there was no one coming but...then I went halfway across the street, two guys came out of nowhere,” she told KOMO-TV. “They grabbed me.”
But Savanna said she didn't panic, because her mother, Amy Norman, told her what to do.
“Stranger danger!” the child yelled as she fought back the suspects.
“I kicked him,” she said. “I screamed loud.”
Her mother saw the attempted abduction from her window and sprinted out the door as the suspects ran away.
“My heart was pounding,” she told the news station. “What happened...was very scary for all of us.”
Police found one of the suspects, Jakeel Mason, a short time later and arrested him for unlawful imprisonment.
Mason, who lives just blocks from the Normans' home, was ordered held in lieu of $150,000 bail.
York Region's program for victims of child sexual abuse a “life-saving” institution
The York Region Abuse Program hosts its Hand in Hand Gala on May 3. It will feature a monument to abuse survivors the province has declined to display at Queen's Park
by Kim Nursall
When children start treatment at the York Region Abuse Program, they get to choose their very own stuffed bear.
The 30-centimetre-tall knitted toys are called “bravery bears,” and each one is unique. The child's chosen bear will stay with him or her throughout the Newmarket-based program, which treats victims of child sexual abuse.
“Letting go of the hand of a caregiver and grabbing the hand of a therapist and toddling down the hall into a room can be overwhelming,” Alison Peck, YRAP's executive director, says while sitting in a black leather chair in the centre's dimly lit library.
“I call it ‘bearing witness,' ” she says softly, looking down at the two bears she holds in her hands.
YRAP opened its doors 25 years ago and, although still a tiny organization, it has become a cornerstone of York Region's social programs, providing free services to those who face a potentially debilitating setback so early in life.
As many as one in three girls and one in four boys suffer child and sexual abuse before they turn 18, although an exact figure is hard to nail down because of low rates of reporting. Peck says victims may consequently suffer eating disorders, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress, homelessness and suicidal ideation “to end the pain.”
“It's shocking to look at a school photograph and think ‘one in three, one in four,' or go to the mall — one in three, one in four — or you see a group of kids running in the park — one in three, one in four,” Peck says.
“It's something I have to keep in mind when I go speak to people,” she continues. “I'm sitting in a boardroom potentially with 20 to 30 corporate executives who were all children at one point in time, too. We have to get beyond looking just at this issue as a childhood issue, and think about the impact that this has, potentially, lifelong for people and their families.”
YRAP offers two streams: one for children and youth under 18, as well as their supportive caregivers; and one for adults.
Peck says YRAP's 10-person staff alongside a handful of practicum students and professionals offering in-kind services help upwards of 100 people a year, with treatment time averaging about 12 months.
“Programming is very intensive trauma-focused work,” says Peck. “You're doing actual processing of the traumatic event while making sure people are safe and secure . . . and then work on reintegration into society.
“A number of our youth and adult clients will literally talk about the organization as life-saving, and they don't mean that in a soft way. They mean that ‘if I wasn't here, doing the work I've done with you, I wouldn't be living.' ”
For young children, treatment is largely play- and art-based, and a couple of rooms at YRAP are filled to the brim with toys and craft materials.
“You can sort of tell by looking down the line of puppets here, we have the happier friendlier ones, and the not-so-happy scarier ones,” says Peck, pointing to the stuffed wolves, seals and other characters that line one of the room's pastel-blue walls.
“You can help kids identify the different characters in their lives and construct a narrative,” she says.
YRAP is supported through provincial funding and partner organizations like the United Way. Peck says they also must raise $100,000 to $150,000 each year.
One of YRAP's cornerstone fundraising events, the annual Hand in Hand Gala, is on May 3 and will feature a massive monument to child abuse survivors. The monument is composed of two bronze quiltlike structures, with about 300 squares featuring casts of hands and messages of hope from abuse survivors and their loved ones.
It will be brought to the gala on a flatbed truck.
Peck had written to the provincial government asking to install the monument at Queen's Park after the event. Last month, however, creator Michael Irving was told it would not be installed.
Still, Peck remains hopeful the government will change its mind and help Irving's work find a home on public property.
Going forward, Peck says YRAP is focused on eliminating its six-month wait list for the child and youth program. Adults no longer need to wait to get in, something Peck says is critical for treatment.
“If you were a referring organization or a supportive caregiver that called us and says, ‘This happened — an investigation has happened — we need your help right now,' to say to them, ‘Great, we'll see you in six months' would be devastating,” she says.
One reason increased capacity is needed, Peck says, is because the Internet had made it easier to abuse and exploit children.
“Individuals who are either pedophiles or who sexually abuse children . . . now have different tools to operate and groom and access children and disperse images.”
Before saying goodbye, Peck points to a wall of handprints on colourful paper that surround the acronym for “you only live once.”
Just as each child receives a bear on starting at YRAP, they are asked to leave a little something behind to be remembered by.
“Because we can't have names and we can't have photographs or anything else, we ask each child as they leave us to leave us with a handprint,” she says. “Every time we see them, we're reminded of the important work that we're doing.”
Sex Trafficking: My Life My Choice offers a mentorship model for victims
by Holly Smith
BOSTON , April 5, 2014 — In my recently-released book, Walking Prey, I explain that exposure to healthy and empowered survivors is vital in aftercare programs, especially for child victims of commercial sexual exploitation, including sex trafficking. In the chapter on Intermediate and Long-term Aftercare, I point out that, “One way to do this is via a Survivor Mentor model like the one created by My Life My Choice (MLMC).”
MLMC of the Justice Resource Institute, located in Boston, Massachusetts, pairs survivor mentors with exploited girls to encourage their use of existing services — including those outside of MLMC's scope — to support their exit from the commercial sex industry, or to break their bonds with their traffickers. Exploited girls are identified through a variety of sources, including law enforcement, child protective services, medical providers, and clergy.
MLMC's Survivor Mentor program seeks to stabilize a girl's situation shortly after identification, thereby decreasing the likelihood that she will run away during this time. It then provides support, motivation, and hope to the young woman consistently over time.
Each mentor spends a minimum of one to two hours per week face-to-face with each girl. When appropriate, MLMC survivor mentors take their mentees into parts of the community where they have been denied access during their period of exploitation: movies, restaurants, cultural resources, etc. These outings help the girls bond with their mentors as they get to experience ordinary adolescent activities, thereby building their confidence and social skills.
Mentors help girls build the intangible skills that they need to be successful, healthy adults: self-worth, a positive self-image, the ability to trust, and the tools to know how and where to seek help when they need it.
“Survivors are uniquely able to decrease a victim's sense of isolation and are able to support her as she builds a new life for herself,” says MLMC cofounder and director, Lisa Goldblatt Grace. “Survivors are ideally suited to provide key mentoring services to exploited adolescent girls. Victims of exploitation, and girls who are disproportionately vulnerable to exploitation, live with complex histories of trauma that make finding safety and stability outside ‘the Life' difficult. Our survivor-led model connects girls in crisis to an unwavering support system and a relationship that heals instead of hurts as they work toward finding a path to recovery.”
“As leaders in the field of anti-exploitation work, we understand that this journey takes time,” continues Goldblatt Grace. “MLMC's Survivor Mentoring program never closes cases. As long as girls are willing to work with us, they never ‘age out' of our program; and we travel to see girls wherever they need us: in foster homes, hospitals, treatment facilities, and in their communities. Many mentoring relationships continue for years as they grow, deepen, and change to fit what a young woman needs to grow into a healthy adult.”
In a recent article, “Mental health workers must collaborate with trauma survivors,” author and clinical social worker Zoe Kessler highlights a young survivor, Tanee, who was exploited as a young teenager and then rejected by a mental health worker:
“At age 14, Tanee was placed in a group home in the Boston area after experiencing abuse and neglect in childhood. Later, Tanee ran away from the group home while under the influence and control of a pimp. This pimp beat, raped, and forced Tanee to ‘turn' 10-15 ‘tricks' a night. He isolated her and deprived her of sleep, food, and water. On one particularly brutal day, Tanee reached out to her former group home for help. She hadn't eaten in three days and was mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted.
“A mental health worker responded; however, this professional immediately passed judgment onto Tanee's situation. As she got into the car, Tanee was met with negative comments about her ‘hooking behavior.' Two days later, Tanee left the group home and returned to the pimp. Three years later, at age 17 and still under the pimp's control, Tanee was picked up by an ambulance. She had been gang-raped and beaten so badly that she almost died.”
Tanee was then connected with MLMC's services, where she received compassion and understanding in place of judgment. Tanee finally began to thrive, and she went on to become a mentor and group facilitator at MLMC.
I highly recommend a mentorship model similar to that of MLMC for any program working with adult or child victims of sex trafficking, or any other type of exploitation. To learn more about MLMC and their other services, including their 10-week Exploitation Prevention Curriculum for girls, please visit www.FightingExploitation.org. For additional resources for child victims of commercial sexual exploitation, please read Walking Prey, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound.
Lawmakers recognize boy for raising child abuse awareness
The Louisiana Legislature has at times strayed from considering legislation that would improve conditions in the state and ventured into things that seem a bit bizarre.
But sometimes lawmakers get it right when they venture off the path and take time to honor excellence exhibited by young people.
Often it's sports teams or students who exhibit academic excellence. Sometimes it's someone who has shown leadership in improving their community.
Such was the case Thursday when Sen. Page Cortez, D-Lafayette, and Rep. Stuart Bishop, R-Lafayette, got the Senate and House to pause long enough to recognize 16-year-old Elijah Evans of Youngsville, a sophomore at Ovey Comeaux High School. Members of each body listened to resolutions honoring him as one of two Louisiana high school and middle school students to be selected to receive awards in the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program.
After applauding, lawmakers lined up to have their photographs taken with him.
Evans works to raise awareness of child abuse and to improve the lives of foster children. He raises funds to host an annual Christmas party for children in foster care and has formed an organization called No Use for Abuse.
Unfortunately, he knows what it's like to be abused and to be a foster child. When he was two years old, his biological mother put him in a tub full of scalding water, which burned him from the waist down. He lost all the toes on his right foot and the toes on his left foot are webbed.
He spent nearly three years in foster care until he was adopted by Lynore Harding, one of the nurses who cared for him during his many trips to the hospital.
When he was in eighth grade, he found a way to make people more aware of child abuse and to do something special for kids in foster care. “I knew what it was like to not get gifts you really want,” he said.
He estimated that he would need $5,000 to host his first Christmas party, so he began fundraising, speaking about child abuse prevention and sharing his story at local churches, schools, civic organizations and with the news media. He recruited volunteers, collected donations and sold raffle tickets, as well as T-shirts that he designed.
The Department of Children and Family Services identified 72 foster children for him to invite. Each child filled out a Christmas wish list and he went shopping for presents to purchase with the money he raised.
His “Christmas of Hope” party has become a yearly event.
Louisiana's other Prudential Award recipient is Madison Waldron, 13, of Haughton, an eighth-grader at Haughton Middle School. She works to improve the lives of homeless dogs by fostering puppies, fundraising and giving presentations to local groups on the importance of having pets spayed and neutered.
Lawmakers from the Haughton area have yet to introduce resolutions recognizing her award.
State award winners receive $1,000, a silver medallion and an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., with a parent or guardian. They get tours of the city, the Capitol and monuments and meet with members of their congressional delegations. A recognition dinner at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and dinner cruise on the Potomac River also are part of the activities.
No action after child abuse charges is inexcusable
by Scott Sexton
WILKESBORO – In the middle of February, Bill Sebastian, the director of the Wilkes County Department of Social Services, stood before county commissioners to talk about how his agency protects abused and neglected children.
He ticked off numbers that documented the number of serious abuse and neglect cases (56), the number of kids in foster care who were in the custody of the county Department of Social Services (134) and the number of social workers and supervisors employed by Wilkes DSS (31).
“The Wilkes County Child Protection Team is required to submit an annual report … making recommendations, if any, and to advocate for system improvements and needed resources where gaps and deficiencies may exist in the area of Child Protection Services,” Sebastian read.
He never mentioned, though, an inexcusable screw-up discovered just two weeks before that led to two sexual abuse victims – children – contracting sexually transmitted diseases after being placed by social workers in the home of a woman who had a prior conviction for child abuse.
That little detail must not have been important enough to mention.
Reviews and reports
Two weeks before the presentation of that annual report – and self-congratulations for participating in a vigil for prevention of child abuse — Randy and Tammy Renee Combs Galyean were charged with an array of charges including rape and felony child abuse in connection to giving the 12-and 14-year-old girls trichnomoniasis, a sexually transmitted disease.
Perhaps even more disturbing is that the sisters were put in the Galyeans' home even though Tammy Galyean's criminal history includes a 1996 conviction for child abuse, the result of a plea bargain that led to her surrendering the parental rights to her own children and being barred from being alone with other kids.
Even a cursory background check would have uncovered something that egregious. And that leaves only two logical conclusions: either a background check wasn't done or it was ignored.
In the weeks since, not much has changed.
Instead, a predictable round of navel gazing, paper shuffling and a glaring lack of public accountability has ensued.
After granting one defensive interview in which he indicated that DSS workers were following accepted policy, Sebastian lawyered up. He has cited confidentiality laws intended to protect victims, not the professionals whose mistakes – either of omission or commission – might have led to abuse victims being subjected to further abuse.
On the state level, officials with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services promised to conduct a full review.
“DHHS' Division of Social Services have concluded an assessment of the Wilkes County DSS operations and services,” wrote Kevin Howell, the agency's legal communications coordinator, in an e-mail Thursday. “The report is still in progress at this time. Please note that this report does not provide any case specific information.
“Rather, this is an agency level report of findings/observations and recommendations for program improvement.”
And that means …. What exactly?
Strange rules and regulations
The whole sordid episode did, however, manage to rile state Rep. Sarah Stevens, a Republican from Surry County and a co-chairman of a committee that oversees foster and dependent care.
Stevens, an attorney who represents Surry and Wilkes counties, said that a confusing set of rules and regulation appears to have hampered the state from taking quicker or more decisive action. Social services programs, she said, are administered at the county level and only nominally overseen by the state and federal governments.
“It's a strange set of rules and regulations,” she said. “They (administrators) will tell us that's the way they've always done things and they'll tell us the ‘what.' But I'm the type of person who asks ‘Why?'
“Why can't we do things another way if it makes more sense?”
At the county level, those in charge can't — or won't — say what's being done to prevent another tragedy.
Gary D. Blevins, the chairman of the board of commissioners, said commissioners are “kind of waiting to see what the state has to say. The role of county commissioners is to provide money. We have no direct control.”
Paul Freeman, DSS attorney, didn't return phone calls. Joyce Blackburn, DSS' administrative officer, said Friday that she “wasn't at liberty to discuss” any change and Sebastian said in an e-mail later that day that the state has not taken over the day-to-day operations.
And when asked directly about that possibility, Howell wrote that the state's “findings and observations … will be used to develop a plan of corrective action.
“The state's role moving forward will be to provide training and technical assistance as the plan indicates. Additionally, the state will continue to monitor the services provided to ensure they are being delivered in accordance with all applicable laws, rules and policies.”
In other words, it's business as usual.
Protect our children from needless incidents of abuse
by Stephen Wright
Once again, my heart is broken. Another child has lost his life — a victim of child abuse, allegedly beaten by the mother's boyfriend. This does not have to happen. Parents must recognize the risk factors that may lead to their children's deaths or life-long, devastating neurological injuries.
Having an unrelated male caregiver is one of the risk factors. Do not take this risk! I urge parents to avoid leaving their children with someone who uses drugs, has anger management issues, is violent and/or does not understand child development, especially if your child is younger than 4 or has special health care needs.
As we enter April, which is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, I must share some sobering facts:
Kentucky has consistently ranked as one of the worst states in the country for the rate of child abuse and deaths tied to child abuse. Every single day there is a child at Kosair Children's Hospital who is victim of abuse. Almost every single week we have at least one, sometimes two children who are injured so severely that they require care in our “Just for Kids” Critical Care Center.
Child abuse is 100 percent preventable. It does not need to happen! Parenting is a difficult task. I understand becoming frustrated but it is never OK to take those frustrations out on a child.
Babies cry. They may cry because they are tired, hungry or need their diaper changed. They use crying to communicate. Toddlers may cry because they don't know how to tell you what they want or they're frustrated. Babies and kids may even cry for no apparent reason.
It's important to remember that they don't cry to be bad or make you angry.
If you do find yourself becoming frustrated, it is OK to take a break. Put the baby in a safe place and step away for a few minutes. Take a few deep breaths, listen to your favorite song or do a few exercises. You can also call a trusted friend or relative or call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at (800) 4-A-CHILD/(800) 422-4453. Admit that you are becoming frustrated. Bring the child in your care to Kosair Children's Hospital where caregivers will work with you to prevent another needless death.
If you're a parent, grandparent or other caregiver, be aware of the early signs of child abuse. It may save a child's life.
Thanks to research done at Kosair Children's Hospital, we know that certain bruises on a child can indicate child abuse:
• A bruise the size of a dime on a child's abdomen may be an indication of a torn liver.
• Ears do not bruise easily. If your child has a bruise on his or her ear, that is usually the result of a really hard blow to the head.
• We know that children under the age of 4 months should not have a bruise anywhere . If a child is under 4 years old, they shouldn't have a bruise on the torso, ear or neck.
If your child or a child you know has these bruises, please bring him or her to Kosair Children's Hospital for an evaluation. If this isn't possible, report your concerns to Child Protective Services.
Wouldn't you rather be wrong? Your actions could uncover a history of abuse and may even save a life.
Stephen Wright, M.D., is the medical director at Kosair Children's Hospital and Kosair Children's Medical Center–Brownsboro, professor of pediatrics and academic advisory dean at the University of Louisville School of Medicine and chair of the Partnership to Eliminate Child Abuse.
Effort underway to fund assessment center for child victims of sexual abuse
by Kevin Grasha
Last year, 211 children were interviewed in a room at Sparrow's St. Lawrence Campus in connection with cases most often involving sexual abuse.
About the same number — an average of four children per week — were interviewed in 2012.
Ingham County's child assessment center has been housed in that small room for about two years. The space was donated after law enforcement sought a neutral location for the interviews, something other than a police station or a child victim's own home, where an abuser might live.
County law enforcement officials now are seeking a dedicated location for the center, called Small Talk Children's Assessment Center. It is expected to be a house in Lansing. The nonprofit is raising money to purchase a house. The goal is to create a child-friendly, comfortable environment that promotes complete disclosure by victims.
“It takes away some of their fear,” said Ingham County sheriff's Detective Annie Harrison, who specializes in child abuse cases. “Sometimes prosecution is less important than how a child feels when he or she tells their story. That can make a lifetime of difference.”
A location specifically equipped for forensic interviews is recommended under state guidelines for conducting child abuse investigations. All Ingham County law enforcement agencies follow those guidelines.
A key component is ensuring that a child victim is interviewed only once.
National statistics say that about one in four girls and one in six boys are victims of sexual abuse. Most never report it.
The interviewing facility — according to protocols developed in the late-1990s by a task force and updated twice — should provide “a relaxing environment.”
It also should include comfortable waiting rooms with toys and games as well as interview rooms with video and audio links to observation rooms.
Harrison said a separate room open to everyone in the investigation team — including law enforcement, social workers and medical personnel — is crucial to ensuring there is only one interview.
Ingham County's current location at the hospital is less than ideal and was intended to be temporary, officials said.
An Okemos woman, whose then-8-year-old son was assaulted by a man now serving up to 50 years in prison for sexually assaulting numerous boys, said in an interview that she recently asked her son if he remembered his experience at St. Lawrence in 2012.
Her son's response: “It was a sad place,” said the woman, who is not being identified because it would identify her son. The State Journal does not name victims of sexual crimes.
She recalled walking in the emergency room entrance, past a security guard, then walking down institutional hallways to a waiting room, where she could still hear sounds from the ER.
“We were already in this sad situation,” she said. “It just didn't feel right. It wasn't comforting.”
Among Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties, only Ingham has a child assessment center.
It is available to any law enforcement agency that wants to use it. Clinton and Eaton counties rely on centers in neighboring counties.
“We don't turn children away,” said Ingham County Assistant Prosecutor Debra Rousseau, one of two prosecutors assigned full-time to handle child sexual abuse cases.
Of the 211 children interviewed last year at the assessment center, the vast majority were from Ingham County. The prosecutor's office reviewed more than 200 cases last year. Information was not available showing how many of those case reviews led to charges.
Shiawassee County started its own center, which is in a house, in 2005. Livingston and Jackson counties also have facilities. There are 24 centers in the state accredited by the National Children's Alliance and another eight seeking accreditation.
A grassroots effort led to the opening of Shiawassee County's center according to Carrie Gregg, executive director of the Owosso-based Child Abuse Prevention Council.
Gregg said the county's center was inspired by a nationwide movement to address the problem of asking children to endure multiple interviews by police, social workers, doctors and others.
“Kids were being interviewed 3 or 4 times,” Gregg said. “By the time they got to the prosecution stage, they were overwhelmed, traumatized.”
Having a house specifically for conducting interviews “is the optimal way to do it,” she said.
Child sexual abuse cases are among the most difficult to prosecute. Among the challenges is obtaining information from young victims who can't easily communicate what they experienced.
“A case often surrounds the words and credibility of a child, and we have to build a case surrounding that,” Detective Harrison said, adding that it's important to have an environment “that is neutral, child-centered, with a trained interviewer.”
Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III said it's crucial that the process is the least traumatic as possible.
Successful prosecutions, Dunnings said, make the community safer.
“These perpetrators, in my opinion, are serial perpetrators, and they need to be put away,” he said. “Otherwise, they're going to victimize other children.”
|» Ingham County's Small Talk Children's Assessment Center needs financial support to purchase a permanent location where child victims of physical and sexual assault can be interviewed.
» Checks can be made out to “Child Abuse Prevention Council — Small Talk.” Mail to Small Talk Children's Assessment Center, P.O. Box 11115, Lansing, MI 48901.
» For more information, go to www.smalltalkcac.org
To report abuse or neglect
Call 911 or Children's Protective Services toll-free at 855-444-3911
1 in 4 girls are victims of sexual abuse
1 in 6 boys are victims of sexual abuse
211 children interviewed in Ingham County last year in cases most often involving sexual abuse
Sources: National Children's Alliance, Small Talk: Children's Assessment Center
Children's Advocacy Center offers safe environment for handling tough topic of child sexual abuse
Since opening its doors seven years ago, the Children's Advocacy Center has seen a 59 percent increase in the number of cases handled in Bristol County of children who have been abused or sexually assaulted, said Michelle Loranger, the agency's executive director.
by Charles Winokoor
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Taunton Daily Gazette has committed the entire month of April to special coverage in honor of Child Abuse Prevention Month — an ongoing series of stories as well as a daily fact or prevention tip. We urge our readers to educate themselves about child abuse, ask questions and perhaps, share their personal stories. If child abuse has touched your life, we would love to hear how your family healed — and better yet, what advice you would offer to parents and caregivers today. Please call Editor in Chief Lynne Sullivan at 508-676-2534 or email email@example.com. We want our readers to learn, interact and support one another. Our hope is that we can prevent other children from being hurt.
TAUNTON — Since opening its doors seven years ago, the Children's Advocacy Center has seen a 59 percent increase in the number of cases handled in Bristol County of children who have been abused or sexually assaulted, said Michelle Loranger, the agency's executive director.
And in a way, she said, that's not wholly negative.
“Word gets out nowadays. It's the Sandusky effect,” she said, referring to the former Penn State defensive coach in prison for his conviction on 45 counts of child sexual abuse.
News media coverage of high-profile sex-assault cases, Loranger said, has helped spread the word that victims or parents of young victims of sexual or physical assault should contact either police or an advocacy center like the Fall River-based CAC.
The Children's Advocacy Center of Bristol County provides direct services to children and adults with severe intellectual disabilities who have been sexually assaulted, physically abused or a witness to violence.
Victims are afforded a safe environment where they are interviewed by a trained forensic interviewer.
“We coordinate the investigation, but we also provide information and education to schools and police,” she said.
Loranger said the number of cases since the CAC began operating seven years ago have reached 2,550, with 450 cases in 2013.
The message she wants to deliver to victims and their families is to “be courageous and come forward.”
Child sexual assault, Loranger said, is “a very complex issue, and we help navigate those complexities.”
The CAC serves four urban centers: Taunton, Fall River, New Bedford and Attleboro.
Of the 20 municipalities it serves the highest reported number of cases, in descending order, have been New Bedford, Fall River and Taunton.
Loranger said the number of cases are split fairly evenly by thirds for children up to age 8, ages 9 to 12 and ages 13 to 18.
Sexual assaults account for 94 percent of cases handled by the CAC, she said, with the rest being victims of physical attacks or homicide.
Loranger said she is in close contact with police departments, the Department of Children and Families and the DA's office. She also stays in touch with Attleboro-based New Hope Inc., which is a first-responder for women who have been raped or assaulted.
Referrals among those entities are key to aiding victims, she said.
The court process whereby a child is required to testify about an assault, she said, “can be incredibly trying.”
“It's a very tough process — it's so cumbersome,” Loranger said.
Oftentimes, she said, a child victim is threatened or intimidated by an adult attacker. A boy or girl who has been sexually assaulted will also hesitate to report the crime out of a sense of shame.
As for the attackers, Loranger said at least 90 percent are a close or relative.
Only 1 percent, she said, fall into the category of “stranger danger.”
“The old story of someone jumping out from behind the bushes and raping kids is a myth,” Loranger said.
Taunton police Detective Lynne Pina, a 25-year veteran of the department, has been handling child sexual assault cases during her nearly three years as a detective.
Pina credits CAC for facilitating the process of collecting information that helps victims and holds suspects accountable.
“They (CAC) get the victim into counseling and provide the family with support so we don't have to worry about that. It allows us to focus on the investigation,” Pina said.
Pina urges minors, which now includes people who are 18, to contact either police, DCF or the CAC.
“Just seek help,” she said.
Pina said the element of embarrassment is a hurdle. In some cases, she said, a child will confide in a school counselor or friend who in turn calls police.
“It's a team approach between investigators, prosecutors therapists, a medical team and the family,” she said.
Pina said the length of time between an arrest and a court arraignment can be frustrating. Of the 30 cases of child sexual assault she has handled only five or six have gone to trial. All of those cases, she said, resulted either in a dismissal or a guilty plea entered by a defense attorney.
But she said she can't underestimate the element of cooperation between police and children advocacy centers.
“We have a greater success rate when the CACs and other agencies are involved,” she said.
Police keep in contact with a forensic interviewer outside the room where a victim is interviewed via an earpiece.
Taunton Mayor Thomas Hoye Jr. this week presented a proclamation recognizing April as Sexual Assault Awareness and Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Loranger said the mayor's simple gesture is significant because it helps spread the message that child abuse is a problem that is not going away any time soon.
“The more we talk about it the more awareness there is,” Loranger said.
Feds, strip clubs fighting human trafficking
by Annie Sweeney
It was a standard hotel conference room scene — slices of fresh fruit and muffins laid out next to coffee urns and bottles of water chilling on ice as the attendees straggled in, industry friends hugging hello and quickly catching up on personal lives.
The west suburban conference, though, was hardly typical, and before it got started a hotel manager, standing near TV cameras there to cover the event, even asked an organizer to leave his hotel chain's name out of remarks if possible.
The 100 or so attendees were dancers, doormen, valets and bartenders from six Chicago-area strip clubs. And they were there to meet with federal agents from the Department of Homeland Security about how they might offer help with a problem that has increasingly become a target of law enforcement investigations: sex trafficking.
The pairing of federal agents with an industry that has drawn a fair share of negative attention for everything from alleged links to organized crime to negative effects on neighborhoods strikes some as surprising.
But those working at the clubs say their jobs put them as close to the problem as anyone. They have seen troubling signs of trafficking — scared women who seem under the control of the men who pick them up — and want to know what to do.
"I would love to learn how to get them to reach out, (to learn) what we can say to get them to come forward," said Anna Dulin, 30, a dancer who is now a hostess in the VIP room of Scores in Stone Park. "We are on the front lines to save these girls."
The training Dulin attended is part of a 3-year-old partnership between federal agents and the strip club industry that started after St. Louis-based club operator Michael Ocello found one of his clubs the target of a human trafficking investigation.
Though no charges came of it, Ocello said learning about the issue led him to reach out to federal law enforcement to offer his help. He has since organized a group called COAST — Club Operators Against Sex Trafficking — and has hosted more than 40 training sessions across the country, involving 200 clubs, run by Homeland Security agents and social service providers.
"The topic at hand is slavery," Ocello told the crowd. "We want to educate our industry."
At last week's training, agents highlighted the signs of trafficking, including a dancer who doesn't carry her own ID or passport or someone constantly short of cash, because her trafficker is keeping most of it. Physical abuse or reluctance to make friends or to be social is another concern. Agents also urged club employees to pay attention to who picks the dancers up after work.
Sex trafficking links to strip clubs have turned up in federal investigations nationally, including a major case tried in Chicago federal court in 1999 in which several Latvian women were forced to work as dancers here. Two years ago in Detroit, federal charges were brought against seven people who forced women to dance at clubs there. Agents said U.S. citizens have been forced into trafficking as well through coercive measures.
For many at the training, these and other stories were eye-opening.
"You hear about it here and there, and I have seen some television specials," C.J. Johnson, a DJ at Polekatz, said of the problem. "I thought maybe it's in a little club on a side road in a small town. But it's happening in big markets, and we're a gigantic market."
But some experts who have studied the sex trade question the effort.
Gail Dines, a sociology and women's studies professor at Wheelock College in Boston, was skeptical about law enforcement working with an industry with direct links to the exploitation of women, including prostitution. Dines said she suspected what was really happening was an effort by a long-criticized industry to cozy up to law enforcement.
"It's trying to legitimize the industry," she said. "It's a very smart, clever move."
Bernadette Barton, a women's studies professor at Morehead State University who researched the strip club industry for her 2006 book "Stripped: Inside the Lives of Exotic Dancers," wondered how inclined dancers would be to draw law enforcement's attention to a club, given other crimes that might be occurring there and the potential for retaliation.
"I feel uneasy about this," Barton said. "I am not saying the motivation is bad."
Agents involved in the training said it is not unusual for law enforcement to get close to criminals for the purpose of investigations. They also said they were willing to take leads from anywhere if it will help a victim.
Former federal prosecutor Jeffrey Cramer, who now runs Kroll Investigations' Chicago office, said agents are likely willing to partner with the industry because of how hard it is to investigate and build cases, which often require help from traumatized victims.
"It's farther below the radar than the drug trade," he said. "It's hard to identify victims. It's harder to identify the perpetrators. You have to go where the victims are forced to work."
Exploiting Our Daughters: Fighting Sex Trafficking | Commentary
by Reps. Erik Paulsen and Gwen Moore
The stories sound too horrible to be true. One woman tells of the boyfriend she loved forcing her to perform sex acts on strangers to pay for the rent. Another young girl says she was kept in abandoned warehouses and was shipped with dozens of other women in the back of trucks like cattle. News reports detail the story of a teenage girl who had her pimp's initials forcibly tattooed on her eyelids to show that she was his property. Sadly, the personal accounts of sex trafficking are as common as they are horrific.
For many, as awful as the stories sound, this seems like a distant issue that couldn't possibly occur in their neighborhoods. However, the facts show that sex slavery can be traced to the far corners of our country; no community is immune. Advocacy groups estimate that more than 100,000 children in the United States are exploited every year, the majority of whom are young girls. It reaches into our urban, suburban and rural communities and crushes the hopes and dreams of far too many. A simple Internet news search turns up cases of human trafficking in Maine, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Louisiana, Washington and Florida in just the past month.
The reality is that many traffickers prey on the vulnerable. Studies have estimated that up to 90 percent of runaways eventually end up in the sex trade. The average age that a girl is first trafficked is 13 years old. By taking advantage and exploiting these children when they are young, traffickers make it difficult for victims to leave. Many have lost connection with family and friends and are subject to the rule of law that sees them as criminals. An escape from prostitution often means time spent in a detention center, jail or homeless on the streets. While many are living their own personal hell, for these women it's often a case of the devil they know being better than the devil they don't.
The sad fact is that human trafficking is a problem that is only getting worse. The growth of the Internet has brought with it the ability for pimps and traffickers to find more susceptible victims and take sex slavery underground—away from the watchful eyes of law enforcement. In order to end this problem, we need a comprehensive approach to combating it.
That is why we've joined together to introduce legislation that will allow young women to escape from this tragic fate. Our bill, the “Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act” ( HR 3610 ) would change current law to ensure that trafficked minors are treated as victims, and provide an avenue for them to leave their situation. The bill requires states to pass “safe harbor” legislation that takes victims down a path of protective services, counseling and skill building rather than entering the legal system and facing incarceration.
The Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act includes multiple prongs to attack sex trafficking in the United States. It would discourage prosecution of trafficked minors for prostitution related crimes. Currently, trafficked women are often not forthcoming with law enforcement because their statements could be used against them in a court of law. That makes it difficult for police and welfare agencies to find traffickers and bring them to justice. By taking prosecution off the table, victims of these crimes will be more willing to come forward and will be easier to help.
The bill would also provide opportunities for victims to build employment skills to help them find jobs. By making them eligible for participation in the Job Corps program, it decreases their susceptibility to human trafficking and minimizes the likelihood that they will be forced to return to sex slavery.
While “safe harbor” laws are already in effect in some jurisdictions, to end this epidemic, resources at the local, state and federal level will need to come together. Our legislation will establish a national strategy to combat human trafficking by integrating agencies and coordinating resources to be more effective in holding responsible the criminals that are ruining these young women's lives.
Taking action to end sex trafficking is a cause that cannot wait. At a time when partisanship in Washington reigns, we are proud to reach across the aisle to support every daughter, sister and friend who has had their livelihoods and childhoods stolen. Our legislation is a bipartisan effort to combat this scourge, because ending the exploitation of children in our country is an issue that should have no ideological bounds.
Rep. Erik Paulsen is a Republican from Minnesota. Rep. Gwen Moore is a Democrat from Wisconsin.
Utah County family hopes to adopt 8 child abuse victims
by Alex Cabrero
UTAH COUNTY — A family of nine will hopefully become a family of 17, and a horrific story of child abuse will soon have a happy ending.
Last week in Tampa, Florida, Jamie Hicks was arrested on charges of abusing her eight children.
"All of the children in separate interviews gave consistent accounts that they had been slapped, they had been choked to the point where they couldn't breathe. They had been kicked, punched in the stomach. Their head had been held under water," Tampa Police spokeswoman Laura McElroy told WFLA. "They were forced to eat old and moldy food. When they would throw it up, the mother would then make them eat their vomit."
The story hit extremely close to home for Jennifer Gossard and her family. Jamie Hicks used to live in Utah and was charged with neglecting three of her other children 18 years ago, and Gossard adopted all of them.
“One of the first things I asked my mom was, ‘Can we get those kids?'” 17-year-old Cayla Gossard asked. “Because I didn't want them to be separated either.”
Even though they don't really know each other, they're family, and soon they will be together.
“We just want to take them and give them a good home and love them and hopefully teach them everything they can to succeed, and be there to support them and care for them,” Jennifer Gossard said.
Gossard said she will have to buy a new house, a new car and new clothes to support the family.
She will fly out tomorrow morning to Florida to meet the children. Gossard hopes they will be able to fly back with all eight kids in a couple of weeks.
For people who want to help the Gossard family, an account* has been set up at Chase Bank under the name Jennifer Gossard.
*KSL.com has not verified the accuracy of the information provided with respect to the account nor does KSL.com assure that the monies deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit to the account you should consult your own advisors and otherwise proceed at your own risk.
Rapist's life sentence has long-ago victim finally feeling free
by Megan Gray
Liz Williams' prison walls have crumbled and her shackles are cut free.
She is a survivor. After years of worrying, Williams is now at ease in the knowledge that the man who raped her has been locked away for good.
It was her testimony in a Denton County courtroom earlier this year — more than 30 years after she was assaulted in Houston — that helped put Rory Keith Jones, 55, behind bars for life in the 2011 assault of a maid at a Lewisville motel.
“It's like I can breathe again,” Williams recently told the Denton Record-Chronicle . “He is a very dangerous man and needed to be locked away. He wasn't going to let someone live after he got to them again.”
Jones' conviction was among a growing number of sexual assault cases in Denton County. While statewide data shows sexual assaults decreased nearly 1.5 percent from 2011 to 2012, Denton County saw a 27 percent increase during the same period. Some officials attribute the increase to the county's growing population.
The Record-Chronicle generally does not name victims of sexual assault, but Williams authorized the use of her name because she wants to help other women who have been sexually assaulted.
Williams was 19 and working as a cocktail waitress in Houston when she was raped, robbed and her life threatened on her way home from work early one morning.
“It was Nov. 1, 1982, but I still remember it as Halloween night,” Williams said. “I was dressed in a nurse costume and it was 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning after my shift.”
Years later, as the mother of a little girl, she still struggled with celebrating Halloween because of the memories that continued to haunt her.
She identified Jones from a police lineup. He was convicted in her case in 1984 and sentenced to 45 years in prison. By then, he'd already been convicted in another case of aggravated rape, in 1983, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
He was released on parole on March 28, 2011, with a GPS monitoring device. Officials said he didn't meet the requirements of the Civil Commitment Program, a statewide program that places some sexually violent offenders under ongoing supervision even after they have completed their sentences.
Jones moved to Carrollton and, just 87 days after his release, on June 23, 2011, he went to America's Best Value Inn & Suites on Interstate 35E in Lewisville. He demanded money from a maid before assaulting her, dragging her to his blue pickup and threatening her with a screwdriver, according to Lewisville police.
The maid, who was 36 at the time, is also a survivor. She could not be reached for comment about the case, but Williams said they are linked forever through Jones' decades-long history of violent offenses.
Williams said she had the opportunity to meet the woman and present her with a small cross necklace during a meal after the trial was over.
“He was not going to let his next victim live,” Williams said. “I am so happy she [the Lewisville victim] fought him off. … It took courage.”
Jones was found guilty in February of aggravated robbery, attempted aggravated kidnapping and aggravated assault and sentenced to life in prison. Officials with the state prison system said Jones will also serve out the remainder of his sentence from Harris County as well, since he violated his parole.
“I can't thank the Denton County District Attorney's Office enough for all their due diligence,” Williams said. “They have helped me feel confident again.”
Bruce Isaacks, a Denton-based attorney and former Denton County district attorney, was appointed to represent Jones. He did not respond to requests for comment.
Being a survivor
Williams said it took her 10 to 12 years before she could fully cope and get her life back on track. Once she did, she decided not only to help herself but to help others.
“I have no idea what I would've done in the past, but that part of me was dead and it's something I have been teaching women to learn to bury so they can start a new chapter in their life,” Williams said. “What was taken from them is gone, but you can move on.”
Move on is exactly what Williams did. For the past 19 years, she has worked as a police officer with the Flagler Beach Police Department in Florida. Now, as a detective, she has been assisting the agency in obtaining grants to aid women and children who have fallen prey to assailants.
Denton police Investigator Rachel Fleming said all women who overcome assaults are survivors, but it's paramount that they seek some sort of assistance after the trauma they have encountered.
“Most experts agree that the most important thing for a survivor of a sexual assault to do is to talk about her experience, whether it's to a counselor, a close friend or an understanding family member,” Fleming said. “Sexual assault is not usually about sex, rather about power and control. Giving control back to the victim as soon as possible is of utmost importance.”
Statistics tell a story
One rape occurs every hour in Texas, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety's 2012 Crime in Texas report.
The state has seen a decline in sexual assaults, which range from consensual sex under certain circumstances to forced contact against men, women and children as defined by the Texas Penal Code, according to state records. In Denton County, however, sexual assaults have increased, from 245 cases reported in 2011 to 335 reported in 2012, according to the DPS report.
Statistics for 2013 are not yet available.
According to the FBI, which has tracked a narrower category that includes only forcible rapes against women, the state had a 3.3 percent increase from 2011 to 2012 and Denton County had a 4.8 percent increase, from 126 rape cases in 2011 to 132 cases in 2012.
Tom Vinger, a DPS spokesman, said the reporting of incidents for the DPS crime report is voluntary.
More often than not, sexual assaults go unreported. When a true sexual predator is put away, it's a victory for all involved, law enforcement officials said.
“He [Jones] had on his GPS tracking device, and that obviously did nothing to deter him,” said Jamie Beck, Denton County's first assistant district attorney. “We are glad to have him put away where he cannot harm women.”
While 271 sexual assault cases ended in convictions in the past 10 years, Denton County officials said stranger-on-stranger convictions — such as Jones — are a rarity.
Toni Johnson-Simpson, executive director of Denton County Friends of the Family — an organization that serves those impacted by rape, sexual abuse and domestic violence — said she believes the area's population growth is the reason behind the increase in sexual assaults.
From 2010 to 2013, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates Denton County's population jumped 10 percent, from 662,604 in April 2010 to an estimated 728,799 in 2013.
Johnson-Simpson, whose organization has been in operation in Denton County for almost 34 years, said the agency provides nurses to examine those who have been assaulted and gather evidence for rape kits for law enforcement authorities. She said Friends of the Family handles about 130 to 150 new cases each year. Of those, about half involve assault by an acquaintance, she said.
Education and awareness are key to avoiding an attack, according to law enforcement and advocacy groups.
Denton police have instructed an estimated 2,100 women in the department's Rape Aggression Defense class since its inception in 1998. The women-only class trains routinely, with the only cost associated with the monthlong session being $10 for a manual.
Afterward, women can take the class as many times as they want and attend more advanced training, police said. The next session begins April 16 at the Denton Police Department. To register, contact Lt. David Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or 940-349-7945.
“Women should consider taking a class such as RAD because mental preparedness is just as important to learn as physical techniques,” Fleming said. “If one can learn how to be aware of risks, recognize risks, reduce risks and avoid risks, that's 90 percent of self-defense education.”
Walking confidently, not looking down at a cellphone and having keys in hand before heading out the door are just a few of the common-sense precautions that police recommend to avoid becoming a target.
“Remember to look after yourself, even if you are around people you think you might know,” Fleming said.
Johnson-Simpson said help and advice is always available from Friends of the Family at the group's website, www.dcfof.org, or by calling the crisis hotline at 1-800-572-4031.
Now 50, Williams said she has fought a long time to not only keep the man who raped her behind bars but to preserve her sense of self. She said she has been unable to fully trust a man since.
But she is beginning to believe that Jones, finally, will stay behind bars.
“Despite him saying he will be exercising his right to appeal, for the first time in my adult life, I feel like it's over,” Williams said. “Maybe I will find someone to share life with. … Everything seems more possible now.”
SC woman gets 20 years in breast feeding overdose
by JEFFREY COLLINS
SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) — A judge sentenced a South Carolina woman to 20 years in prison Friday for killing her 6-week-old daughter with what prosecutors say was an overdose of morphine delivered through her breast milk.
Stephanie Greene, 39, said nothing as the minimum sentence was handed down. A jury found the former nurse guilty of homicide by child abuse the day before and she could have faced up to life behind bars.
Her lawyer said she will appeal and it's likely the case will be tied up for years to come. Both the prosecutor and Greene's lawyer agree no mother has ever been prosecuted in the United States for killing her child through a substance transmitted in breast milk.
Greene's daughter Alexis was born healthy, but was found dead in her parents' bed just 46 days after she was born in November 2010.
An autopsy found a level of morphine in the baby's body that a pathologist testified could have been lethal for an adult. With no needle marks on the child's body, authorities decided the drugs must have gotten into the infant through her mother's milk, prosecutor Barry Barnette said.
A review of her medical records showed Greene carefully hid her pregnancy from her primary doctor. After a home pregnancy test showed she was pregnant, she told her primary doctor she needed to go to a gynecologist for a birth control. She then got prenatal care from that doctor while not telling her all the painkillers she was taking. She also skipped appointments with her primary physician when it was obvious she was pregnant and sent her husband to pick up her painkiller prescriptions, Barnette said.
"She was a nurse. She knew how to work the system," Barnette said. "She caused the loss of that child."
Greene spent more than 10 years racked with chronic pain after a car wreck before her unexpected pregnancy with her husband in 2010, attorney Rauch Wise said.
Wise argued that prosecutors didn't prove how the baby got the morphine and there is little scientific evidence that enough morphine can gather in breast milk to kill an infant.
Green already suffered an immeasurable loss with the death of her child and shouldn't have to face prison time, Wise said.
Society wants to portray people who need painkillers as drug addicts and horrible people, but Greene and others often are just trying to get through each day without debilitating pain, her lawyer said.
"She needed those meds to get up in the morning and function," Wise said. "She was on total disability because of her pain, her fibromyalgia and all the other things wrong with her."
Greene will have to serve 16 years in prison before she is eligible for parole.
Indiana authorities investigate 'hit list' at elementary school
Students at a northwestern Indiana elementary school have put some classmates on a "hit list," according to local police who are investigating the incident.
The list was part of a letter found by officials at Wadsworth Elementary School in Griffith, Indiana, about 30 miles south of Chicago.
"On Friday, March 28, 2014, a 'hit list' of students was discovered in the afternoon," Griffith Superintendent Peter Morikis said in a letter to parents released several days after the letter was discovered. "The students involved in the creation of the list have been removed from school pending the outcome of the investigation."
Wadsworth Elementary School has about 310 students in kindergarten through sixth grade, according to its website.
Details of the threatening letter were not released, and it was unclear how many students were on the hit list.
Citing federal law, the school said it could not disclose the names and ages of the students involved.
The Griffith Police Department and the Indiana Department of Child Services were also assisting with the investigation, police said in a statement.
"As the investigation continues, both the Griffith Police Department and the Griffith Public Schools have taken cooperative precautions to ensure the safety of our students," the statement said.
Former New Bethany resident now dedicates her life to helping sexual abuse victims report the crimes
by Rebecca Catalanello
Teresa Frye knows that what she is about to say could make some people angry but she needs to say it anyway.
"It's wrong," the 46-year-old says in her North Carolina twang, "for me to say that it's perfectly acceptable for an adult survivor of sexual abuse to stay silent about what happened to them."
Frye, a single working mother of four, feels so strongly that sex abuse victims should report their abusers that she recently traveled 900 miles and spent hundreds of dollars to help support a woman she knew only through Facebook on her quest to tell investigators her story of childhood molestation.
The trip, which she helped coordinate with several other like-minded women, was the culmination of a core-shaking journey that Frye started about seven years earlier as she sought to make sense of the eight months she spent as a child at New Bethany Home for Girls in Arcadia, La.
For some in the general public, the religious boarding school for wayward youth had been little more than fodder for occasional newspaper stories throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Accusations of children being abused there bubbled into local and national media over the years and lawsuits between the school and the state wound their way into and out of state and federal court.
But for residents like Frye, the boarding school became a memory they tried to forget. She says that while she was there, she witnessed abuse and degradation, but was not herself the victim of sexual abuse. In 2007, when Frye stumbled across an online message board containing hundreds of conversations between former residents, she felt her life pivot.
"I started reading it and probably for a week I did nothing else at night besides read and read and read," Frye says. "After getting away from it and not thinking about it and shoving it to the back of your head and trying to live your life, it's not real anymore."
It wasn't enough to read the comments; Frye wanted answers -- and solutions -- and quickly found herself as one in what is an expansive and tightly woven network of people interested in exposing and ending institutional abuse of children. She joined with national groups like Survivors of Institutional Abuse and HEAL, which offer resources and support for people who say they were abused in religious boarding homes similar to New Bethany.
"I started finding out that there were places opening up all over the United States that had the same theological teachings," Frye says. "I thought at the time that (New Bethany) was a one-of-a-kind place and that no one would ever believe what happened there."
Over the course of the past seven years, Frye has found herself on the phone with journalists, filmmakers and police investigators. While looking for answers, she rediscovered her faith in a higher power, one she feels opened doors that for so long have appeared shut.
Frye and a team of friends hunted down answers for a man who was haunted by his last memory of a friend from New Bethany Home for Boys in Longstreet, La., a school that was later shuttered amid complaints of abuse. The man said he remembered a boy named "Guy" being beaten so badly that his eyes bled. The next day, he told Frye, Guy disappeared from the home.
Frye, who worked as a private investigator assistant before becoming a legal case manager in a North Carolina law firm 10 years ago, spent hours and months trying to find out what had happened to him before finally confirming he had died as an adult -- information that came to her through what she has come to believe was divine intervention.
"I told God that I couldn't find him and He needed to show me where he was," she says. Seconds later, she says, she did a Google search for a name that she had searched hundreds of times before and the information popped up. "That's what really knocked me off my knees."
In Frye's determination to find answers and solutions, though, she sometimes manages to rub others the wrong way. Of the four women who recently went to law enforcement to file reports of sexual abuse at the New Bethany while they were residents there, one said she just had to do it in her own time and felt Frye was abrasive in her zeal to get people like her to report.
Frye says she recognizes that her actions and statements can seem harsh to some, but she doesn't see a way around it. Sexual abuse doesn't end, she says, when one victim grows up; perpetrators who aren't stopped find other children to harm.
"The general consensus that I have seen is that a victim of a childhood sexual crime doesn't have to report it if they don't want," Frye says, "but yet these victims will go and post what happened to them online. We're not going to 'awareness' people to death."
Frye thinks of her recent trip to Arcadia to support another woman on her quest to tell police about her childhood abuse as a rough model of what should happen more often. Statistics indicate that one in five girls and one in 20 boys are victims of child sexual abuse.
"Look here!" Frye says with urgency. "Get a posse of people together and report the (perpetrator). Raise a stink! Raise a big ol' stink! This is what's working and other people need to see what's working."
‘The Power of Voice' Confronts Abuse
by Nicola Smith
If silence and shame are the weapons of someone committing acts of domestic and sexual violence, then the chorus of voices telling their stories at the Lebanon Opera House Thursday evening in “Unedited Voices of the Upper Valley” helped to dispel the burden of secrecy that many survivors carry for years.
Sponsored by WISE, the Lebanon nonprofit organization that advocates for people who have experienced sexual and domestic violence, the event, which was directed by New York actor Kathe Mull, honored the resilience of women and men who have endured such abuse themselves, or know people who have.
Standing on the opera house stage, women and men read from accounts written about what it is like to experience domestic and sexual abuse. Some people read their own stories; others read on behalf of people reluctant to speak publicly; all the speakers were anonymous. The stories were blunt and unsparing, and the words charged with anger, confrontation and resolution. Some women on stage chose singing, rather than reading, as a way to express their emotion.
“Tonight is really about the power of voice and the power of listening,” said Abby Tassel, assistant director at WISE, who introduced the evening, speaking to a nearly full house. “Listening to these stories can sometimes be hard because it means accepting the reality that (domestic and sexual violence) can happen in this world and that it can happen to us.”
The stories were interwoven into a litany of both lament and bravery.
“I am alone. I am afraid.”
“He is always smart because I am always stupid.”
“I lost my self, little by little.”
“He makes me want to kill myself.”
“Like a little mouse I slowly crept, finding a way to be safe.”
A woman summons the strength to leave. “I did it for my children.”
One woman recounted how her partner beat her dog as a substitute for beating her. A middle-aged man recalled how he'd been molested repeatedly as a 13-year-old by a male teacher in summer school who ordered him not to tell anyone. The man had kept it hidden for years. “If you can't tell your parents, seek out an adult you trust and tell them,” he said.
Peter Hackett, a professor of theater at Dartmouth College, spoke about the incidents of sexual assault on the campus, and the statistics that suggest that between 100 and 125 co-eds will be “victims of attempted sexual assault or an assault” during the next academic year.
Other speakers talked about what is a kind of second assault: not being believed or being ignored or silenced by others too uncomfortable to acknowledge the pain of the victim. A woman who had been raped in her home by a stranger talked about the humiliation and betrayal of being disbelieved by the police; the police never compiled a rape kit and they accused her of lying.
A woman recited the kinds of reactions that people can often expect to encounter when they tell someone what's happened to them. “I hate it when you say, it could be worse.” “I hate that you turn to stone when I say it. Rape.”
A man talked about the moment he learned that his own father (“A 78-year-old grandfather, a patriarch, a pillar of the community.” ) had, for years, sexually assaulted the man's daughter; the grandfather is serving a sentence for the crime in prison in Concord. The daughter spoke of having to endure the trial, and leaning on her brother for support.
The evening ended with the readers on stage embracing the power of speech to reclaim their lives. “I am standing here, unafraid to tell my story.” “I am no longer the woman who people stomp on at will.”
Performers included DaChords, an a capella group from Hanover High School; The Raqs Salaam Dance Theater, under the direction of artistic director Gina Capossela; and Sayon Camara, who played the djembe drum to introduce each new segment or story.
Audience members seemed deeply affected by what they'd heard. “It was really moving and courageous,” said Carolyn Gordon, a Hanover resident.
Michelle Gottlieb, from Norwich, echoed her sentiments: “It was just beautifully put together,” she said.
“It was about the power of being heard,” said Ann Perbohner, who lives in Lebanon. It was valuable, she said, “that we heard stories from a lot of different types of backgrounds, different economic backgrounds.”
“It's disturbing to hear the trouble that people have had trying to get justice,” said a woman who didn't want to identified. “It took a lot for people to share their stories tonight,” said WISE director Peggy O'Neill, adding that they might consider staging a similar event again at some point.
Girls escape sex trafficking through Door to Grace
by Amy Frazier
PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Mara Hutchins is a wife, a mother and a business owner. She's also a survivor of child sex trafficking.
When she was just 13, she was sold up and down the I-5 corridor. It affected her life for decades and spurred her to become a passionate advocate on the topic — and a resource to help other girls in a similar situation.
“It took me 20-something years just to kind of work through a lot of the trauma and a lot of the pain and guilt and shame,” she told KOIN 6 News.
“It's something I'm actually quite passionate about, the fact that victims of child trafficking can become survivors.”
At her salon, Stylab in downtown Portland, she displays a brochure for Door To Grace, a faith-based non-profit that offers day services to commercially exploited teenage girls often referred by DHS.
Hutchins said her life might have been different if she had had access to something like Door To Grace.
“Maybe,” she said, “I wouldn't have gone through all the domestic violence relationships, drug abuse, severe depression.”
Door To Grace
Jody Noon, the executive director of Door To Grace in Northeast Portland, said the girls who come there share similar feelings.
“They come with so much shame and so much negative feelings about themselves that they don't really feel like they're worth it,” Noon told KOIN 6 News. “There are traumatic bonds that they have with biological family, their pimp.”
Specially trained volunteers work to show the girls they do deserve better. Activities, like jewelry making, help them to explore and highlight their strengths.
Door To Grace has become a state-licensed child caring agency, certifying private homes for the girls to live. Right now they have two trained host families, and they're working to build more.
“We're looking at homes with no minor children in them so the focus can be on this girl, really a committment with that home of being there for the girl through thick and thin,” Noon said. “So even if that girl runs they're open to having that girl come back.”
“They need long term care”
Det. Sgt. Michael Geiger with the PPB's Human Trafficking Unit, said he is encouraged by this.
“It's clear to me, and it has been for a long time, that this is not a fight that only the police can engage in,” he said. “They need long-term care, they need people who can surround them with a positive influence, a nurturing influence.”
A recent Portland State University study revealed a total of 469 child victims in Portland over a four-year period.
In the past year, Door To Grace has served 14 girls through its day program. Two girls chose to live with host families.
Breaking the cycle isn't easy. But for Door To Grace, giving up is not an option.
Sgt. Geiger said without the intervention as children, as adults the girl will “continue their life of being exploited.”
Mara Hutchins knows a life can change.
“It's really exciting to see there's something out there really making a difference and giving these girls hope,” she said.
City makes push to encourage reporting child abuse
by Kayla Ayres
ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – The fight against child abuse is now hitting the streets. The city will be using electronic billboards and bus posters to remind people it's your duty to report child abuse.
Albuquerque Mayor R.J. Berry announced the push Friday at the Child Abuse Prevention Summit, saying there are too many kids falling through the cracks. He mentioned several high profile child abuse cases, including Ty Toribio and Omaree Varela.
Omaree was kicked to death by his mother in December. CYFD and APD were heavily criticized following Omaree's death, and the city created a Child Abuse Prevention Task Force in response.
The mayor also says he wants an APD employee to act as a child abuse liason to work with other agencies, and he's set aside $100,000 in his proposed budget to make some changes.
“That task force is going to be looking for recommendations on how to better collaborate between APD, CYFD and other agencies, both public and private, and the money is this year's budget is to help kickstart that effort,” Berry said.
Those billboards and bus posters that are coming will highlight CYFD's hotline for reporting child abuse, or #SAFE.
The summit comes two days after the governor proposed an overhaul of how CYFD investigates abuse cases after she was criticized for not doing enough to fix the department's problems.
More child abuse bills in final stretch
bY ROBERT SWIFT
HARRISBURG - The legislative response to the Jerry Sandusky scandal continues to unfold with two additional bills strengthening the state's child protection system awaiting Gov. Tom Corbett's signing.
One measure would require professionals who care for or supervise children to have ongoing training in how to identify child abuse and report it.
This training bill will make it less likely that abuse of a child goes unnoticed and unreported, sponsors said.
"Mandated reporters are so critical in uncovering a crime that, while pervasive, is kept in the dark while innocent children suffer in silence," said Rep. Mauree Gingrich, R-101, Cleona, the bill sponsor. "My legislation will help to ensure that those whose jobs require them to interact regularly with children are trained to recognize the signs of child abuse and know how to report it."
The other bill would establish a state database containing reports of child abuse and children in need of protective services that law enforcement and social agencies can access. Mr. Corbett plans to sign this bill Monday.
Lawmakers are wrapping up work on another key bill that specifies which individuals in a profession or line of work must report suspected child abuse.
This bill faces final votes next week, said Rep. Todd Stephens, R-151, North Wales, who's worked on the issue.
Among those required to report under the bill are health care providers, school administrators and employees, social services workers and individuals, paid or volunteer, who are directly responsible for a child such as through the activities of a youth organization.
Lawmakers have reached a compromise to include attorneys representing an institution that cares for children as mandatory reporters subject to the state court rules governing attorney conduct, said Mr. Stephens.
Another bill awaiting final action would upgrade penalties for mandated reporters who fail to report.
The effort to revamp state laws protecting children stems from the arrest in November 2011 of Mr. Sandusky, a former Penn State University football coach, on child sex abuse charges and his subsequent conviction and imprisonment in 2012. The state Supreme Court refused this week to hear Mr. Sandusky's appeal of his conviction.
A special state task force made recommendations to revamp child abuse laws in late 2012, and bills were introduced in both the House and Senate this session. A number of bills addressing such topics as tougher penalties for child pornography, a broader definition for what constitutes child abuse and defining who is a perpetrator of child abuse have already been signed into law.
Youth organizations voice support for expansion of mandatory child abuse reporting in Pennsylvania
by Charles Thompson
Making youth mentors, counselors and coaches – even those who are strictly volunteer - mandated reporters of suspected child abuse appears to be drawing little opposition or concern within Pennsylvania's youth services community.
Some, like the Boy Scouts of America, already consider their volunteer scoutmasters and other troop leaders to be mandatory reporters, and provide them with training to that effect.
"We're already there, in terms of mandatory reporting," Ron Gardner, Scout Executive and CEO of the New Birth of Freedom Council serving much of the midstate, told PennLive in an interview Friday.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Region – a group that is fueled by the efforts of nearly 700 volunteer mentors – has also infused its program with a culture of reporting, according to executive director Maddie Young.
Mentors who suspect any abuse of their junior partner are already encouraged to file direct reports with the state's ChildLine hotline so the calltakers there are dealing with firsthand reports.
Bringing them under a new mandate, Young said, is really just another step in the right direction, with the added plus of bringing along other agencies and programs “that maybe don't do this right now.”
Sen. Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland County and the sponsor of the mandatory reporting bill, said her office has received no pushback to date on the concept of making volunteers who play "integral parts in a regularly-scheduled program, activity or service" for youth mandated reporters.
Supporters are trying to expand that net to ensure that more incidents of potential abuse get checked out.
Ward's Senate Bill 21 is expected to get final votes in the state legislature this week.
“My thought is that 99 percent of the people that are volunteers to help kids are going to do it (make a report) anyway if they came across a potential problem,” Ward said. “Because they obviously care about these kids.”
It is worth nothing that while mandatory reporters have an official duty to report suspected abuse under the law, anyone who suspects the abuse of a child may file a report with ChildLine, the police or local child welfare officials.
Colorado boy, 3, dies after being left home alone — mom charged with child abuse
Megan McKeon, 24, allegedly left Austin Davis in a Steamboat Springs campground cabin overnight, while she spent the night with her boyfriend.
by Lee Moran
A young Colorado mom is facing felony child abuse charges after her 3-year-old son died when he was left home alone.
Megan McKeon, 24, allegedly left toddler Austin Davis by himself at their filth-strewn Steamboat Springs campground cabin overnight last week.
Megan McKeon, 24, allegedly left Austin Davis in their Steamboat Springs campground cabin overnight with food, juice and a movie playing, while she spent the night with her boyfriend. l
It was around the 20th time she'd abandoned the youngster in such conditions.
But, when she returned some 20 hours later, little Austin was reportedly found lying face up with his eyes open — showing no signs of life. l
Medics were called and a doctor who tried to save the boy's life feared he'd ingested prescription medication or other substances.
McKeon was arrested and initially pleaded guilty to three misdemeanour counts of child abuse in court last Thursday.
But those charges, which would have only carried a maximum sentence of 42 months if convicted, were then sensationally dropped.
In a dramatic twist, the District Attorney said he now intended to charge her with the more serious crime of child abuse resulting in death. Her bond was set at $250,000. http://www.newsinc.com/privacypolicy.html
The District Attorney's office is now waiting for toxicology reports to be returned before officially filing the charges, reports CBS Denver.
UTSA to host April 9 event as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month
by Tim Brownlee -- Associate Director of Internal Communications
As part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), the UTSA Police Department will host a ceremony from 9 to 9:30 a.m., Wednesday, April 9 at the University Center Paseo on the Main Campus.
UTSA students, faculty and staff are invited to help raise awareness of sexual assault violence. Those attending can sign a SAAM teal ribbon poster as a commitment to support education and awareness. There will events such as this across the country.
Following is the proclamation issued by President Barack Obama for 2014 Sexual Assault Awareness Month: "Every April, our nation comes together to renew our stand against a crime that affronts our basic decency and humanity. Sexual assault threatens every community in America, and we all have a role to play in protecting those we love most -- our mothers and fathers, our husbands and wives, our daughters and sons. During National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, we recommit to ending the outrage of sexual assault, giving survivors the support they need to heal and building a culture that never tolerates sexual violence."
Learn more at the National Sexual Violence Resource Center website.
For more information, contact Maranda Tupper, officer in the UTSA Police Department Crime Prevention Unit, at 210-458-6974.
What is sexual violence?
Sexual violence occurs when someone is forced or manipulated into unwanted sexual activity without their consent. Reasons someone might not consent include, fear, age, illness or influence of alcohol or other drugs.
Anyone can experience sexual violence including children, teens, adults and elders. Those who sexually abuse can be acquaintances, family, trusted individuals, or strangers. Of these, the first three categories are most common.
Who does it happen to?
Sexual violence happens to people of all ages, races, genders, sexual orientations, religions, abilities, professions, incomes and ethnicities.
These violations are widespread and occur daily in our communities, schools and workplaces.
What is the impact of sexual violence?
Sexual violence can affect parents, friends, partners, children, spouses and coworkers of the survivor. It is important for those close to them to get support.
Schools, workplaces, neighborhoods, campuses, and cultural or religious communities may feel fear, anger or disbelief when a sexual assault happens.
There also are financial costs including medical services, criminal justice services, crisis or mental health services, and the lost contributions of individuals affected by sexual violence.
What are some ways to prevent sexual violence?
Be a role model for respectful relationships and behaviors.
Speak up when hearing harmful comments or witnessing acts of disrespect or violence.
Create policies at workplaces, agencies and schools.
Coordinate community prevention efforts.
Talk with legislators and ask them to support prevention and victim services.
What can bystanders do?
Bystanders can speak up when they witness these actions to foster healthy sexuality and safe communities. Many opportunities exist in daily life where society can prevent behaviors that promote sexual violence.
While some forms of sexual violence may not be illegal, such as sexist jokes, catcalling or vulgar gestures, this does not make them any less threatening or harmful to the person victimized. These behaviors contribute to a culture that accepts sexual violence.
Don't stereotype child abusers as looking like social misfits
Since April is “Child Abuse Awareness” month, there is something for parents and the public to keep in mind about child predators.Sexual predators are rarely the scary stranger standing on the street corner, but instead they are typically someone you know.
They are very cunning and manipulative. They know every trick on how to groom, threaten, lie, and put the fear of God into children and sometimes even their family members. They also appear to do a lot of good things; they can be very charismatic and you may think they would never harm a child. They have to be this way, in order to not get caught and to continue to abuse.
Sexual predators are often powerful and well loved. It would be comforting if those who preyed on the vulnerable were obvious social misfits whose appearance would somehow set off alarm bells and give us the willies or the creeps.
They rarely do.
Usually, predators are among the last people we would suspect of sexually violating others. While they are grooming the child and even family members, they devote lots of time and energy building trust with them by giving them money and gifts. They tend to make children feel that they are special and loved.
Also, we must stop thinking that because a man is old, that somehow he's automatically safe. It's just irresponsible to endanger kids by assuming an adult is harmless simply because he or she may be losing hair, wearing glasses, using hearing aids or walking with a cane.
These can be signs of advancing age, but they are not signs that an individual is safe around kids.
It takes a lot of courage to speak up and take action about being sexually abused. This is not an easy thing to do, but it is extremely rare that a child predator has only one victim.
Some have many.
Child predators need to be reported to law enforcement and kept far away from kids forever.
Keep in mind your silence only hurts, and by speaking up there is a chance for healing, exposing the truth, and therefore protecting our children today.
Jones is an associate director of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, that has investigated cases in the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown.
USCCB's sex abuse report contains bad news and good news
by Thomas Reese
The sexual abuse crisis was the worst crisis to have hit the U.S. Catholic church in the 20th century. It destroyed the lives of thousands of children, cost the church billions of dollars, and undermined the authority of bishops in the church. While many would like to move on from the crisis, others fear that if we are not vigilant, more abuse will happen.
One way of knowing the current state of the abuse crisis is through the annual report done for the U.S. bishops' conference on the implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, colloquially known as the Dallas charter.
This year's report, the 11th so far, is divided into two parts: the finding of a three-year audit done by StoneBridge Business Partners and a statistical report on new allegations of abuse in 2013 conducted by CARA, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate.
The latest audit shows continued improvement but still indicates that some areas need improvement, as explained by Joshua J. McElwee's excellent article.
One diocese (Lincoln, Neb.) and three eparchies refused to participate. The National Review Board also urged more bishops to allow parish audits and not just on-site audits of dioceses. In 2013, StoneBridge visited 91 parishes and schools in 26 dioceses, a 44 percent increase over the year before.
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Dioceses were also urged to improve the accuracy of their databases documenting the number of clergy and volunteers undergoing background checks and training. The extent and quality of these programs vary from diocese to diocese, but it is hard to document because of difficulties of collecting data.
Some dioceses "continue to struggle with outdated information, lack of cooperation at the parish/school level, and inefficient processes for information gathering." As a result, the auditors were "furnished incomplete or inaccurate data which affects the reliability of the information presented" in their report. The auditors said changes in personnel could also lead to a breakdown in the process.
The USCCB Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection found "diocesan concerns around the issues of boundary violations, letters of suitability, and how often diocesan/eparchial review boards should meet." Between 2011 and 2013, seven dioceses/eparchies were found to be noncompliant because the bishop had not convened their review boards. Even though these dioceses had no allegations during the period, the auditors reminded the bishops that the boards were required to meet to review diocesan policies and procedures. They have promised to comply.
Despite these problems, dioceses were found to be compliant with the charter's mandatory reporting process and procedures. The audit also reported diocesan actions that went above and beyond the requirements of the charter.
Critics object that the audit is based on self-reporting by dioceses and review of written policies, not actual practice. The auditors acknowledge that the compliance letter only states whether a diocese is "in compliance with the data collection requirements for the 2012/2013 Charter ." It "does not imply that a diocese or eparchy is compliant with the Charter . Compliance with the Charter can only be effectively determined by participation in an on-site audit." During the three-year period, StoneBridge auditors visited 188 of the 195 dioceses and eparchies.
In the on-site audits, compliance with the mandatory reporting requirement "was determined by review of related policies and procedures, letters to local authorities regarding new allegations, and interviews with diocesan/eparchial personnel responsible for making the reports," according to the auditors. "In some instances, auditors reached out to the applicable public authorities and confirmed diocesan cooperation." But the auditors interviewed only two victims and two accused clerics in 2013.
Although the church sometimes is prevented from reaching out to victims because of litigation, "dioceses and eparchies provided outreach and support to 340 new survivors and their family members during the audit period. Continued support was given to 1,843 past survivors and family members."
Besides determining compliance with the charter, the auditors also gave "management letters" to many dioceses with their recommendations for improving. The information in the report on the content of these letters gives a good indication of the concerns auditors raised.
For example, they recommended that dioceses clearly define what "prompt" reporting of allegations means and how soon an accuser could expect a response from the diocese. And although diocesan websites published their policies and procedures, some websites in the audited parishes did not. Twenty of the management letters addressed these problems.
Twelve bishops were told to update their diocesan policies to include adults who "habitually lacks the use of reason," as required by church law. Thirty were reminded to update their policies to include child pornography under child abuse. Four dioceses did not have a written document describing their process for removing accused clerics, although they did have a process. They were told to document the process.
Two bishops in violation of the charter were found to have failed to announce to the affected parishes the removal of an accused priest. Both bishops immediately made the appropriate announcements.
Five dioceses and eparchies were told to develop policies regarding virtual interaction with children by personnel, including teachers, catechists and coaches.
The auditors also recommend that dioceses and eparchies ensure that background screening agencies used for c harter compliance include records from all appropriate jurisdictions, including sex offender registries.
While it is disappointing that dioceses had to be told to do these things, it is comforting to know that the auditors are catching failures and telling bishops to fix them. The auditors concluded: "The Catholic Church in the United States continues to handle the issue of sexual abuse of minors by clergy effectively through the implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People ."
Looking at the statistics
StoneBridge reports that of the 936 allegations against clerics in the 2011 to 2013 period, 472 allegations were deemed by the audit "unable to be proven." That is just over half the allegations. That is a lot of allegations. What is going on here?
According to the report, an allegation is unable to be proven when there is not enough evidence to determine whether or not abuse occurred. In the report, "unable to be proven" allegations are distinguished from 78 "unsubstantiated" allegations and 223 allegations where an investigation is still ongoing.
As a result, an "unable to be proven" allegation is a closed case where there was not enough evidence to determine whether or not the abuse occurred. To have 472 such allegations in this three-year period is at first glance quite disturbing. Does this uncertainty mean that children are not safe? What happens to priests with "unable to be proven" allegations?
But reading further, we discover, "This is generally the outcome of an investigation when the accused cleric is deceased." Since the report tells us that 204 of the 730 accused priests are dead, that means a lot of these "unable to prove" allegations are against deceased clerics. I would guess that fewer resources are devoted to investigating these allegations because the accused can no longer endanger children.
There are also allegations against 217 unknown clerics (men the victims could not or would not identify), which would make it difficult to investigate. Bankruptcy proceedings have further complicated the process. For example, in 2013, "the Diocese of Spokane received 118 allegations from 88 victims via its bankruptcy proceeding. The diocese is unaware of the identities of the victims or the accused, and is unable to determine whether the allegations have been reported before." These allegations were included in the 936 listed by the audit.
In addition, 44 of the accused had been laicized, 131 removed from ministry, and 13 resigned.
Only 50 accused clerics are still in active ministry. StoneBridge does not give information on these men, but they appear to be priests still in ministry pending a preliminary investigation into the allegations or clergy returned to ministry following a resolution of their cases.
Looking only at the most recent year for dioceses and eparchies, CARA found: "Three-quarters of alleged offenders (73 percent) identified in 2013 are deceased, already removed from ministry, already laicized, or missing."
Only nine diocesan clerics who were accused in 2013 were returned to ministry; nine more were returned to ministry who were accused before 2013. Ten accused clerics were still active pending an investigation, including three identified prior to 2013.
CARA goes on to note, "Another 19 priests or deacons (7 percent) were permanently removed from ministry in 2013." Twenty-three clerics who had been accused before 2013 were also permanently removed from ministry in 2013.
In addition, 84 clerics (28 who were identified in 2013 and 56 who were identified before 2013) have been temporarily removed from ministry pending completion of an investigation.
There is no data on the total number of clerics who have been temporarily removed from ministry or how long they have been on suspension. I have always considered this a serious lacuna in the data collection process. Investigations that go on indefinitely are fair neither to the priest nor the victim. Justice delayed is justice denied. How can we know how well the system is working without this information?
Of the 290 diocesan priests and deacons identified as alleged offenders in 2013, 56 percent had already been identified in prior allegations. Since 2006, the percent of new alleged offenders has ranged between 36 and 45 percent of the accused.
This statistic is disturbing. That 128 newly accused clerics appeared last year (and similar or higher numbers have appeared each year since 2006) shows that there are likely to be many more unknown offenders, either alive or dead. It is the live ones who are still at large that are of greatest concern. This is why it is so important for dioceses to encourage victims to come forward.
The good news is that the number of allegations has declined markedly since 2004. In 2013, 365 victims made 370 allegations against 290 diocesan priests or deacons. In 2004, the respective numbers were 889, 898 and 622.
Of the 370 new allegations, only nine, or 2 percent, involved children who were still minors in 2013. Two-thirds of new allegations (69 percent) occurred or began between 1960 and 1984. The most common time period for allegations reported in 2013 was 1970 to 1979 (125 allegations). "This is approximately the same time pattern that has been reported in previous years," reports CARA, "with most allegations reportedly occurring or beginning between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s."
The lack of many new allegations for the 1990s provides evidence that the church was finally getting its act together at that time.
In addition, of the 370 new credible allegations reported in 2013, 63 new allegations (17 percent) were unsubstantiated or determined to be false by Dec. 31. An additional 33 allegations received prior to 2013 were unsubstantiated or determined to be false during 2013. From 2006 to 2013, the percent of unsubstantiated or proven false accusations has ranged from 7 to 17 percent.
Eighty percent of the victims were male, nearly identical to previous years. Forty-four percent of the victims were between the ages of 10 and 14, with 22 percent between 15 and 17, and 12 percent under the age of 10.
All but one diocese (Lincoln) participated in the 2013 CARA survey, but only 155 of the 215 clerical orders of men participated, about the same response rate as in earlier years.
CARA examined information on religious orders in a separate chapter. Ninety-two victims made 94 allegations against 62 offenders (down from 194, 194 and 134 respectively for 2006). Three-quarters of the accused religious priests were deceased, already removed from ministry, or already left the religious institute at the time of the allegation in 2013. Another 8 percent were permanently removed from ministry in 2013. Only four priests were returned to ministry in 2013, and one priest was in active ministry pending an investigation. Of the 94 new allegations, 10 were determined to be unsubstantiated.
The annual report is not fun reading both because of the topic and the detailed reporting. Every allegation of sexual abuse is bad news, but the fact that the allegations are public and that the numbers are declining is a bit of a silver lining.
Victim's mom hopeful after new sex predator laws
Grieving mother leads campaign, finally watched Gov. sign legislation into law
by Crystal Moyer
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Diena Thompson, mother of 8-year-old murder victim Somer Thompson, was in Tallahassee Tuesday, witnessing the Governor sign four landmark bills, designed to better protect children in Florida from sexual predator.
Thompson led the campaign for the bills and promised she would be there when they were signed into law, and she was. Members of Jacksonville's Justice Coalition and sexual abuse survivors were also in attendance.
“It was so many emotions, maybe too many emotions to put one word onto. Empowering, somber, happy, hopeful. So many emotions to put one word on it,” said Thompson.
The new legislation is near and dear to Thompson's heart. Her family was affected by sexual predators. Her daughter, Somer Thompson was abducted and killed by 26-year-old Jarred Harrell while walking home from school in Orange Park in 2009.
The bill signing happened on April 1st, the first day of both National Sexual Assault Awareness Month and National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
“I hope these laws save children's lives,” said Thompson.
She turned her pain into progress, and has lobbied for stricter laws in Florida since she lost her daughter. On Tuesday she got to watch some of her hard work pay off as Scott signs new sexually violent predator legislation.
"I absolutely think it is going to work. I do not believe that we can just stop here and not do anything else," Thompson said. "We need to keep looking at our laws and going over things and seeing what loopholes there are available to people to get through. We also need to partner with people for prevention and educating the adults and our children."
State lawmakers were also prompted into action by another Jacksonville case: the abduction and murder of Cherish Perrywinkle. Investigators said she died at the hands of Donald Smith, who has a long history of sexual crimes.
“I believe had these laws been in effect last year, Cherish Perrywinkle would still be here with us. Her monster should have never been let back out on the street,” said Thompson.
Just days after the Governor signed the new legislation, Thompson will celebrate, what would have been Somer's birthday Saturday, April 5th. Thompson said she believes her daughter would have been so proud of what she accomplished.
“She would probably say, 'That's my mommy.' Just be proud that was her mom who decided not to fall down and be a weeping willow. That decided to stand and make tragedy turn into triumph,” said Thompson.
Human trafficking in our own backyard: It's inhuman
by Minouche Kandel
As Passover approaches and we reflect on the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and our liberation from slavery, it is timely to acknowledge the forms of bondage that persist today in our world.
Human trafficking is one of the most significant human rights issues to emerge in the 21st century. It is a form of modern-day slavery occurring internationally and in the United States. Victims include children involved in the sex trade and adults 18 or older who are coerced or deceived into different forms of labor or services, including commercial sex.
After drug trafficking, human trafficking is the world's second most profitable illegal industry, estimated at $32 billion a year. Sadly, the Bay Area is a hub for human trafficking and a hot spot for child sex trafficking. The FBI has identified the Bay Area as one of the 13 worst areas in the country for the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
The typical image of a human trafficking survivor is a person from a developing country. Yet child sex trafficking survivors are primarily homegrown. Some 50 to 75 percent of these youth have prior involvement with the child welfare system. Many have histories of child abuse and neglect. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth are particularly at risk for commercial sexual activity, in part due to homophobic home lives that push them onto the street. Some youth are sexually trafficked as young as 12 or 13 years old.
While the sexual trafficking of children is not new, we are undergoing a systemic change in our response to these cases. Child sex trafficking is now recognized as a form of child sexual abuse. Children who are trafficked need to be treated as victims, not criminals. We need to talk about “prostituted children,” not “child prostitutes.”
Historically, these youth have been in the juvenile justice system. Yet arresting youth “for their own good” stigmatizes them. Federal and state law specifically define youth involved in commercial sex work as victims of human trafficking, even if no force or coercion is present. Yet under California criminal law, a child can still be charged with prostitution, an inconsistency that needs to be rectified.
Interventions can be challenging. These youth may not recognize themselves as “victims” or identify as exploited. Their exploiter may be the first adult who has given them positive attention. The youth can confuse this with love, even when the exploiter puts them out on the street to make money. Some youth may not have a pimp and may engage in “survival sex” to meet their basic needs.
Sex work can be a dangerous occupation, resulting in serious trauma. This is particularly true for those who enter into sex work before age 18 and who can suffer physical, psychological and developmental harms as a result.
The hopeful news is that help and support are available in the Bay Area. In San Francisco, we are revamping our response to child sex trafficking and are involving our child welfare system, which deals with child abuse, to interact with these youth. Mayor Ed Lee has convened a task force to address human trafficking, and responding to child sex trafficking tops the agenda. It is a holistic effort, staffed by the city's Department on the Status of Women, with participation from law enforcement, public health, child welfare, the school district and community-based organizations that work with trafficking survivors.
So what can the general community do about this issue? If you work or volunteer with youth, educate yourself about the signs that a child may be sexually trafficked. Volunteer time or donate money to an organization that works with trafficked youth. Find organizations in the San Francisco Collaborative Against Human Trafficking's Directory of Services for Victims of Human Trafficking at http://www.sfcaht.org
Because some youth engage in commercial sex to meet their basic needs, support programs offer job training and skills development for youth at risk. Suspicious activity should be reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at (888) 373-7888.
As we celebrate the Exodus of the Jewish people from slavery this Passover, remember we cannot truly be free as long as some of us are enslaved.
Minouche Kandel is the director of women's policy for the San Francisco Department on the Status of Women, where she staffs the Mayor's Task Force on Anti Human Trafficking. She wrote this piece with Kristin Snell, a graduate policy fellow with the Department on the Status of Women.
Giving hope to abused women
by Rosaland Tyler
Nearly a half dozen years ago, Catherine Staton moved from being a domestic violence victim to launching an organization that helps others achieve the same feat.
In 2008 Staton launched My Help My Hope Foundation, a non-profit that aims to increase awareness on an issue that affects one in four women. The non-profit will host its annual Be Silent No More Campaign on April 5 from noon to 2 p.m. at Refuge Nation Church, 646 79th St., Newport News. The program will include panel discussions and several experts including city officials, counselors, and domestic abuse survivors.
“My goal is to help someone get out of their situation, or prevent someone from getting into a violent relationship,” said Staton, the executive director of the foundation. She has received several awards including a November 2011 award from Channel 10. In April 2012 she received the Positively Dress Foundation Award.
This month, Zeta Phi Beta awarded one of 10 community service awards to Staton at its Finer Womanhood Breakfast on March 29 at Greenbrier Country Club in Chesapeake.
“We chose her because she has taken pain and changed it into triumph,” said Shavonne Perry who has served for the past year as the second vice president of the Virginia Beach Graduate Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta.
“We also helped her raise funds for the school uniform drive this fall,” Perry said describing a long list of services the Zetas have helped Staton provide. “We raised $300 and it went to the school uniform drive. We went to Wal-Mart to help her buy the uniforms. We also worked with her on the Operation Wish List. Meeting her has been a blessing. Her testimony has touched some of our members who are also domestic abuse survivors.”
Staton said, “I believe everyone has the right to a healthy relationship and to live abuse free.”
But before Staton rethought being a victim, launched a non-profit which has produced a ripple effect, she was a statistic.
Domestic violence cuts across racial, economic, and cultural lines. As a result, nearly 5.3 million domestic violence victims reach out for help each year, records show. Meanwhile, a 2009 Allstate Foundation poll showed 67 percent of those surveyed said they believe the poor economy has caused domestic violence to increase.
So, sheer numbers may explain the whirl of activity. Her non-profit helps youngsters buy school uniforms. It helps women obtain professional clothes to wear to work or to seek work. It helps with toy drives and special holiday events. Staton has been a keynote speaker at several events.
“What happens in domestic violence is one person is establishing power and control over the other,” said Fran Dillard, a domestic violence expert with at least two decades of experience in the field. Dillard will appear on the panel at the Be Silent No Campaign on April 5 in Newport News.
“It messes with a person's psyche because you are psychologically attached,” Dillard explained. “People want the violence not necessarily the relationship to end. The victim will think I need to be a better wife, mother, and so forth. They blame themselves.”
“Many Black women don't want to see another brother caught up in the system,” Dillard continued. “Black women have been raised to stick by their man. But it can happen across all racial and economic lines. Domestic violence does not discriminate.”
“I think sometimes our own strength prevents us from loving ourselves more,” Dillard said. “Because of our heritage and lineage, sometimes we are told that we are so strong. But our own strength can be the thing that prevents us from loving ourselves enough to let this person who is harming us go.”
“A large portion of the women in the shelter were AMAC, which means Adults Molested As Children,” Dillard explained. “They have never gotten any help for it. So they tend to normalize violence. When that is all you have seen it becomes normalized.”
“Many women stay in these situations feeling they are protecting their children,” Dillard said. “You have to let your guard down to receive help. That is the difficult task. People keep their guard up. They feel they cannot trust anyone. And some women go back because it is hard to survive.”
“It is difficult to change the way you think and start believing in yourself,” Dillard said. “A batterer leaves psychological scars on a woman.”
But Staton is more like a bud that continues to blossom as she notices new possibilities. ““My goal is to move from city to city,” she said.
“I receive responses that tell me the impact I have had,” Staton continued. “It brings me great joy. It fills me up and makes me feel really good about helping someone in need. I feel God surrounds me with His Grace and He is saying well done. Everything I do is for Him. Being able to give someone help and hope is a beautiful thing and I thank God for it daily.”
Staton said her foundation is not funded by grants but donations help to pay its expenses that total from $1,000 to $5,000 a year.
Please mail donations to: Cathy Staton, P.O. Box 2662, Chesapeake, Va. 23427. You can learn more here: Website: www.myhelpmyhope.org; Email: email@example.com; Office# (757) 541-8043.
Bills would change child abuse reporting requirements in Pa., defining who reports and how
by Charles Thompson
This one took a little while.
But lawyers and non-lawyers appear to have reached a compromise on what may be the biggest upgrade yet to Pennsylvania's child protection laws coming out of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
Final votes are expected at the Capitol next week on bills that redesign mandatory reporting requirements in cases of suspected child abuse.
Lawmakers have already modernized the definition of abuse, and approved measures that strengthen law enforcement and child welfare response.
But, as some child protection advocates note, the best system in the world doesn't get activated without a report.
“Without a report (of suspected child abuse)… the cavalry doesn't come running to ask that child if they're OK,” explained Rep. Todd Stephens, a Montgomery County Republican who played a key role in late-stage negotiations on the bills.
The new requirements delineate 14 categories of mandated reporters, including all school employees, all staff at child care and medical facilities, librarians and even – in a Pennsylvania first – volunteers who work regularly in youth sports or other activities like church groups, Boy Scouts or dance companies.
In addition to the new classes of reporters, some old categories have been given greater clarity.
"School employees," for example, will now specifically include staff at all public, private and community colleges in Pennsylvania as well as K-12 schools.
The changes don't end there.
Senate Bill 21, sponsored by Sen. Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland County, is layered with new rules for what it means to file a report.
The biggest change is that all reports must first be made to the state's ChildLine hotline -- where intake specialists route them to the appropriate child welfare or police agency for investigation -- or direct to local law enforcement or child welfare personnel.
So now, "you only fulfill your duty when you go outside your institution and make your report," said Cathleen Palm, of the Center for Children's Justice.
"We would no longer allow the institution to decide whether anyone gets called" to investigate.
Under the new law, then, former Penn State football assistant Mike McQueary's 2001 catch of Sandusky in a shower-room assault would have gone directly to outside authorities instead of to university officials who were subsequently charged with bottling it up.
In theory, at least, that might have lead to Sandusky's arrest 10 years earlier.
In another change, the duty to make a report can be triggered either by direct observation of a child, or a credible second-hand report in which there is an identifiable victim.
And reporters will be trained to try to include the victim's identity; the nature and extent of the alleged abuse; the name and relationship of the suspects; and what the source of the information is.
“The end result will be better quality reports to child welfare and better child protection,” said Angela Liddle, executive director of the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance. "It is no longer acceptable to say: ‘I did not know what I had to do.'”
The reporting reforms had been stuck for months on the issue of whether to include attorneys on the revamped list of mandated reporters.
Deputy State Court Administrator Tom Darr, in a December letter, noted that doing so could encroach on the Supreme Court's authority to regulate the legal profession, and diminish attorney / client privilege.
But lawmakers like Stephens were insistent on enlisting attorneys in the fight, in keeping with recommendations from a blue-ribbon task force that studied the state's child protection systems in 2012.
Stephens noted most states have some requirement on attorneys to report, and pointing again to the Sandusky case, he said if Penn State's then-counsel Wendell Courtney had been required to report what he know, Sandusky again might have been stopped in 2001.
The compromise is to list attorneys who work for a school, church or other organization with responsibility for “the care, guidance, control or supervision of children” as mandated reporters of reports that come to them.
But a personal attorney who takes a direct confession from a client in the context of, say, a family law case, would not be forced to report in honor of the privilege.
Darr said this week he believes the compromise is a good one that recognizes both a major public policy goal and a critical element of the legal system.
To protect the changes against a potential court challenge, however, drafters will make the upgrades to the current system in two bites.
The first 13 categories of mandated reporters are captured in Ward's bill.
The clause pertaining to attorneys will enter the code in a separate bill, Stephens' House Bill 436.
That way, sources said, if the attorney provision is successfully challenged, it can be struck without harming the rest of the changes.
Both bills could get final floor consideration as early as next week, and move on to Gov. Tom Corbett's desk for enactment.
Any changes in mandatory reporting law would take effect Jan. 1, 2015 to permit time for training of all those affected.
Sandusky, the onetime Penn State football legend, was convicted in2012 of sexually abusing 10 boys between 1994 and 2008. Several of those boys were victimized after the notorious 2001 shower incident at Penn State.
Utah child abuse rate rising again
by Jamie Lampros
OGDEN -- Up until last year, child abuse rates in Utah were on a slight downhill trend. Now they're climbing again.
In 2013 there were 19,068 cases of child abuse reported to the Division of Child and Family Services compared to 18,831 in 2012. Of those, 9,233 cases were confirmed. The most common form of child abuse was sexual, followed by child endangerment, physical abuse, domestic violence and neglect. Thirty-five percent of abuse or neglect cases had alcohol or drug abuse as a contributing factor reported by caseworkers, which is an increase of 4 percent over the past two years. Of the confirmed cases in Utah, 73 percent of victim perpetrators are parents, stepparents, or an adoptive parent, and 16 percent are other relatives. Nearly 42 percent of all cases involved children under the age of 5.
April is Prevent Child Abuse Month. A kickoff assembly was held at Bluff Ridge Elementary School where blue and silver pinwheels were planted around the campus.
"The pinwheel represents the bright, happy future that every child deserves," said Prevent Child Abuse Utah associate director Carrie Jensen. "We hope to see pinwheel gardens popping up across the entire state."
Prevent Child Abuse Utah is working in the schools and homes to prevent child abuse in all its forms, Jensen said.
"The Pinwheels for Prevention campaign is an effort to change the way we all think about prevention and how we can better deliver on our commitment to Utah's children," she said.
Child abuse is preventable, yet there are approximately 3.6 million reported cases of abuse and neglect each year in the United States, according to Prevent Child Abuse Utah. In most cases, abused children go on to lead difficult lives. They are twice as likely to fall below the poverty line as adults, due to poor physical and mental health, social difficulties and behavioral problems.
The total economic loss from both fatal and non-fatal cases of child abuse was $124 billion in 2010. Utah, which has the 8th highest number of substantiated child abuse cases in the nation, contributes greatly to that burden at the tune of around $1 billion per year, or $2.84 million per day.
Child Abuse Utah executive director Trina Taylor, said House Bill 286, which passed this year, mandates teachers, administration and parents all receive child abuse prevention education. It also makes it possible to reach school students as well.
Anyone suspecting abuse should call the police. All people 18 years and over are mandated reporters, said Taylor. They should call the 24 hour line for the Division of Child and Family Services at 855-323-3237.
To purchase a pinwheel and see what events are happening throughout the month, go to pcautah.org.
Parenting classes hope to end cycle of child abuse
by Natalie Cullen
LAS VEGAS -- Sometimes, the most dangerous person to a child can be their own parents. Several high profile cases of alleged abuse and neglect have come to light just in the last month.
One, where police say a mother, Christine Allen, drowned her 3-year-old son in a bathtub.
Last week, two adoptive parents and their adult daughter were charged with numerous counts of child abuse, neglect and sexual assault.
The cases leave people asking how parents could hurt their own children. In many cases of abuse and neglect, experts say the parents were abused themselves.
Many have no idea how to keep their own kids safe, but one group of advocates say in some cases abuse can be prevented.
They are helping one parent at a time at East Valley Family Services. Single dad Bryan, who did not want to give his last name, is doing anything he can to get his little girl back.
"It is not about me anymore. It is about my daughter," Bryan said.
Protective services took her away, and now Bryan can understand why.
"Not having a job, not having a stable place to put her," he said.
When she was born, Bryan says he simply wasn't prepared to be a good dad, but now, he is ready.
Bryan now heads to parenting classes every week, where he, along with other moms and dads, learn how to listen and talk to their kids. Plus, what it takes to make children safe.
Most of these parents are required to be here by the courts. Educator Leah Guevara says at first, they push back.
"They feel fingers are being pointed at them and that is certainly not the case when they come to class." Guevara with East Valley Family Services said.
After eight weeks of learning, parents are held accountable.
"This class is there to have a support system, because when they leave class, there is no excuse for them to say, 'we don't have anybody anymore.'" Guevara said.
Guevera feels this will help keep Las Vegas kids out of the foster system and hopefully prevent cycles of abuse.
"A lot of those parents did not have good parenting themselves. So they're dealing with learned patterns," Guevara said.
Now, many parents say they keep coming back to class by choice. Bryan is one of them.
"It is a time to step up and change," Bryan said.
He gets his daughter back in three months. Bryan says he will return here not just for the lessons, but for the support offered by everyone in the room.
Dental professionals are important allies against child abuse: April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month
by DentistryIQ Editors
Cleaner teeth and better oral health are the obvious benefits of children making regular dental visits. But when some kids sit in the dentist's chair, a more troubling problem than cavities may come to light – physical abuse.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Delta Dental member companies are proud to support their local P.A.N.D.A. programs, and the company salutes dental professionals who participate in the program.
The focus of the P.A.N.D.A. (Prevent Abuse and Neglect through Dental Awareness) program is to train dentists to recognize and report suspected cases of abuse or neglect in their young patients. A study in the mid-1990s found that dentists were responsible for identifying less than 1% of all reported suspected child abuse cases.(1) So Delta Dental of Missouri partnered with the Missouri Bureau of Dental Health to found the first P.A.N.D.A coalition, and the program has since grown to include 46 states and seven countries.
“When properly trained to spot signs of child abuse, dentists can be an important ally in identifying potential neglect and preventing further abuse,” said Dr. Bill Kohn, DDS, Delta Dental Plans Association's vice president of dental science and policy.
More than 124,000 children were reported as being physically abused in 2012.(2) Studies have indicated that dentists are five times as likely to report suspected abuse if they receive proper training in this area.(3) All states have laws requiring health professionals, including dentists, to report concerns of child abuse and neglect to appropriate authorities.
Injuries to the head, face, and neck account for an estimated 65% of injuries in physically abused children.(4) A check-up gives dentists the unique opportunity to uncover potential signs of abuse. Signs of physical child abuse can include (but are not limited to) unexplained cuts, welts, or bruises, and unusual alertness or anxiety.
Dentists and dental staff members who suspect child abuse or neglect can file a report to both Child Protective Services and local law enforcement officials (depending on the state). Dental professionals who would like more information about the P.A.N.D.A. program can visit http://bit.ly/1dULL3s
An insider's view: when children report sexual abuse
by Steve Pokin
Connilee Christie, who interviews children who report they have been sexually abused, said Thursday it is vital that those who work in the field define success beyond prosecutions and convictions.
Christie, 36, spoke during the sixth annual Missouri State University Criminology and Criminal Justice Conference.
She offered an insider's view of what it's like to work with children as young as 3 and 4 who report being sexually abused. She also talked about how important it is for those who advocate for abused children to realize the great help they provide even when no one is arrested or no one is convicted.
Her audience was mostly MSU students studying, among other things, law enforcement and social work.
Christie said that at age 21 she earned her degree in social work from William Woods University in Fulton. She soon became a forensics interviewer, meaning she talked to children as part of a team that includes police and prosecutors.
"I wanted to save the world," she said. "What I quickly learned is that there are a lot of frustrations working on these types of cases."
Christie worked several years at the Children's Advocacy Center in Jefferson County. In recent years she has worked at the center based at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
Although teamwork is essential, she said, at times team members can have different goals because they have different functions. She asked her audience how they would define "success" in a case where a child reports sexual abuse.
Their answers included: getting the child out of a home where there is abuse; incarceration of the accused; providing counseling to the family; and providing counseling to the victim — even after he or she is considered safe.
Success often is measured on prosecutions, she said. In part, she said, because it is easily measured.
But that is not how the Children's Advocacy Center in St. Louis measures it. The center abides by what is called the "Child First Doctrine," which states:
"The child is our first priority. Not the needs of the family. Not the child's 'story.' Not the evidence. Not the needs of the courts. Not the needs of police, child protection, attorneys, etc."
"Sometimes that means no prosecution," she said.
She mentioned a defendant in a sexual-abuse case in St. Francois County.
"We wanted to put him away," she said. "We wanted him to fry."
But the victim would have been traumatized by testifying in court. In Missouri, Christie said, a child who is a victim of sexual abuse must appear in court at least once to be subject to cross examination.
The prosecutor did the right thing, she said, and offered the defendant an attractive plea bargain that, at least, required that he register as a sex offender.
Christie said that at the St. Louis advocacy center 40 to 50 percent of the cases lead to criminal charges. "Does that mean 50 percent are not successful?" she asked.
Again, her answer was no.
First, she said, it is difficult to prosecute a case if the victim does not want to testify.
In roughly 90 percent of child abuse cases, she said, the alleged abuser is someone known and trusted by the family: a step-parent, a grandparent, a coach. They generally are people, she said, who the child does not want to see go to jail.
The reluctance of children to report sexual abuse is so strong that it is estimated that 30 percent of children abused never tell anyone. She said she is often asked how anyone could know that — if the children don't tell anyone.
As an example of how researchers might know that, she said she was working in Jefferson County when a 4-year-old boy reported that his babysitter's boyfriend had sexually abused him.
The boyfriend ultimately confessed. But he also admitted that he had abused some 40 children over 30 years. He gave investigators names. Yet, those interviewed either said they could not recall what might have happened so long ago or they flatly said it did not happen.
She mentioned another reason why children do not report sexual abuse. Many parents tell children to immediately let them know if they are touched inappropriately.
When it happens, and the child does not tell the parent, they are fearful of reporting it if it happens again. They think they will get in trouble for not reporting it the first time.
She told her audience of students that if they work in the field they must maintain a sense of humor.
"If you don't find humor in some things, you are going to go crazy," she said. "I do not want to be the bearer of bad news here, but this is tough work."
Tales from the courtroom
Connilee Christie's tales from the courtroom, told during her speech today to the sixth annual Missouri State University Criminology and Criminal Justice Conference:
|• A 5-year-old girl from Crawford County says she has been molested by a neighbor, someone who has earned the trust of her parents. The girl testifies. Christie had also testified.
The defense attorney calls Christie to the witness stand and asks if she has ever heard of or played the "tickle game," where two people randomly tickle each other on different parts of the body.
Christie is unsure if she's ever played the game, but suspects the question is simply an attempt to offer jurors an alternative story to what the girl says happened.
The verdict is not guilty. Christie is frustrated. Since the defendant did not testify, jurors never knew he was a convicted sex offender.
|• A 4-year-old girl from Crawford County is on the stand. She had previously been deposed, meaning her sworn statement was taken by the defense attorney.
In court, the defense attorney asks the girl about the deposition. The attorney points out that earlier she was asked if "someone" had touched her inappropriately and she had answered no. Yet now she was answering yes. Why?
The prosecutor is able to explain that in the literal mind of the little girl it wasn't "someone" who had touched her. It was her father. He is convicted.
|• Koryssa, 12, tells Christie she is being abused by her step-father, who enters her bedroom at night. She will not testify and does not want the matter pursued because her mother loves the man and Koryssa does not want to shatter her mom's happiness.
But her mother and the man eventually break up. Although Koryssa now feels safe, she sees no point in pursing the abuse because the man is out of their lives.
When Koryssa is 16, her mother joyfully announces that she and the man are getting back together. He moves in and within weeks he is again entering Koryssa's bedroom at night to sexually molest her.
Koryssa tells someone at school and authorities are notified. The mother supports prosecution.
Although the trial is in Jefferson County, the defendant hires a top St. Louis' defense attorney. In general, Christie says, defense attorneys treat teen-age accusers rougher than young children. The defense attorney calls witnesses who recount how, in non-related matters, Koryssa did not tell the truth.
The defendant is found not guilty.
For years, Christie says, she worries that the trial might have harmed Koryssa.
But Koryssa, now a young woman, recently stopped by. She tells Christie she is forever grateful for the work done to bring the defendant to trial. She is able to recall by name every police officer and every prosecutor who worked the case. She says she never doubted that each one of them, including Christie, believed her.
How can you talk to your children about sexual abuse?
by Shaley Sanders
LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) -- April is child abuse awareness month, but addressing sexual safety with children can be difficult.
That's why a locally licensed professional counselor has created coloring books to provide an easy way for adults to teach children about this difficult topic through fun and familiar activity.
Doctor Beth Robinson said she often speaks to parents who avoid conversations about sexual safety with their young children because they either do not know how to address such a sensitive subject or because they think their children would never find themselves in a dangerous situation.
But after working with hundreds of children, Robinson says anyone can be a victim.
"We like to believe it won't touch our families, but the reality is it crosses socioeconomic lines, gender lines, ethnicity lines - it impacts us all. This is a very safe way for parents to talk to their kids about it at a very young age when it's appropriate," Dr. Robinson said.
Dr. Robinson said the idea to create these coloring books stemmed from a situation at a church.
"They had 12 different families in a small group that were impacted by one child in the group who was sexually acting out with children from all of the families. What they asked for was a resource that would have made it easier for them to talk about appropriate and inappropriate touching," Dr. Robinson said.
It is a simple concept, a coloring book that helps kids understand what is and is not appropriate.
"I think it's very awkward at times for parents to have sexual safety and physical safety conversations with their children. First of all, parents don't believe anything will happen to their kids. Secondly, they don't have the language," Dr. Robinson said.
Something this coloring book gives them.
"Children can begin to understand safe and unsafe by age three and four. The coloring book may be a little advanced, but safe and unsafe they can understand at a young age, and I intentionally chose the language safe and unsafe not good and bad because I don't want the kids to feel like they are being bad if something happens to them that's not safe," Dr. Robinson said.
So, just how prevalent is child abuse in the Lubbock region?
"I think because we have such a high rate of child abuse here...we are about fifteen percent, the state average is around nine percent," Dr. Robinson said.
If you would like to learn more about the coloring books or order one, visit www.drbethrobinson.com.
Last year, there were 1,354 cases of child abuse reported in Lubbock County, that number has increased since 2012.
Those cases are represented by pinwheels placed around Lubbock County by Sondra's Song, an organization dedicated to bridging the gap for foster youth as they transition out of care.
There will be a ribbon cutting for the organization at 2 p.m. Friday morning at City Park where they will recognize those cases.
Dad who tossed toddler into creek strapped in car seat is convicted of murder: 'We finally got justice'
by John Luciew
Jurors determined that Arthur Morgan III's actions were "knowing or purposeful."
This means the 29-year-old dad convicted of tossing his two-year-old daughter into a creek strapped in her car seat to drown is likely to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
This, after the New Jersey jury yesterday convicted Morgan of murder for killing Tierra Morgan-Glover, whose body was pulled from a creek in a park near the Jersey shore in November 2011, according to the New York Daily News.
Jurors also found him guilty of child endangerment and interference with custody.
But instead of remorse, the convicted father smirked and winked at press photographers as he was led out of court in handcuffs.
But prosecutors had the last word.
"We finally got justice for Tierra Morgan-Glover," said Marc LeMieuxm, first assistant Monmouth County prosecutor, the newspaper reported.
"God bless her," added county prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni. "I hope she's in a better place."
Defense lawyers had asked the jury to convict Morgan of reckless manslaughter, which could have seen him freed in as little as five years.
Background according to the Daily News: The girl's relatives gasped when Morgan smirked broadly as he was led out of the courtroom after his conviction, his hands and feet shackled. Immediately after leaving the courtroom, several of them collapsed into sobs, with one woman wailing, "Oh, God!"
Prosecutors had said he killed Tierra to get back at her mother for breaking off their engagement. They said he weighed down her pink car seat with a tire jack to ensure it would sink. Her body was pulled from a creek in Wall Township, about 20 miles from her Lakehurst home, with one tiny black and purple sneaker sticking out of the water.
The medical examiner testified that the toddler could have been alive in the water for several minutes, gasping for breath.
State senators: Time needed for child abuse review
by BETH GARBITELLI
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - As Vermont lawmakers finished their fourth meeting about child protection issues Wednesday, the only thing that became clear was how much work remained to be done: senators said they would need more time, more input from Vermonters and possibly subpoena power to dig deep into the state's child abuse policy.
Panel co-chair Sen. Dick Sears, a Bennington Democrat, said the senators needed additional time to meet over the summer and possibly in the fall.
“And we need to hear from Vermonters, and the only way I know to hear from Vermonters is to get out there with public meetings,” Sears said.
The Senate Review Panel on Child Protection formed in the wake the death of a Rutland County toddler who had a history of child abuse injuries and whose mother was convicted last year of cruelty to a child. Two-year-old Dezirae Sheldon, of Poultney, died in February after suffering severe head trauma. Her stepfather, Dennis Duby, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder.
This week, the senators heard about protocols from the Vermont Children's Alliance and others on the front line of child abuse cases including child advocacy groups and police investigators.
Executive Director Jennifer Poehlmann submitted several recommendations, including adopting a stronger child endangerment law and expanding certain protections already available to sexual abuse victims to victims of child abuse. Currently, children who are sexually abused are not required to re-tell their story in court, only to submit to cross examination. They can also testify outside of court if the court process would be deemed traumatic for the child.
The recommendations from the Vermont Children's Alliance also included child-abuse treatment programming for offenders, changing the family court timeline to allow investigators to fully assess risks and more in-state training, especially for medical providers.
The panel members are also considering using subpoena power to obtain child abuse documents.
The draft resolution to request subpoena power states “for the Panel to fulfill its mandate, it must have the ability to compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of records and documents.”
The draft resolution would also allow the panel to meet up to 10 times after the General Assembly is out of session and hold field hearings.
The panel might amend the resolution language and will not make a final decision about filing a resolution for subpoena power until next week at the earliest.
D.A. releases educational video series for child abuse training
by John Kopp
MEDIA — The Delaware County District Attorney's office has released an educational video series designed to help school professionals comply with a state law requiring child abuse training.
The six videos discuss the signs of abuse and sexual misconduct, the reporting requirements for suspected misconduct, appropriate relationships and human trafficking, among other topics.
Pennsylvania Act 126 requires school teachers and coaches to undergo child abuse training, but District Attorney Jack Whelan and Delaware County Council are encouraging any adult to watch the videos. The videos are accessible on the Information page at www.delcoda.com
“We cannot educate the public enough as to how to deal with these types of issues,” Whelan said. “But it's up to the public, it's up to the teachers, it's up to our educators to make sure that when they see signs of child abuse, that they're reporting them. We'll investigate.
“It may not be a child abuse situation, but we need to be able to do the investigation so that we can make the determination. Early intervention is key.”
Delaware County Children and Youth Services investigated 2,010 cases of abuse or neglect during the last two years, according to Director Deirdre Gordon. Those cases included about 400 referrals regarding sexual abuse. There has been a 15 percent increase in investigations during the last five years.
“We decided to ramp up our prevention efforts,” said Tom McGarrigle, the Republican chairman of county council. “We wanted to create a message that we could share with the whole community. That message is simple: it's everybody's responsibility to stand up for our children.”
The video series was produced by the district attorney's office. It already is being used by educators in Delaware County school districts, county officials said.
Whelan and other county officials also filmed a series of public service announcements encouraging adults to report any signs of child abuse. The PSAs are accessible at www.co.delaware.pa.us
County council also declared April as Child Abuse Prevention month during its meeting Wednesday.
“It's important that we don't turn away from abuse,” Councilman Dave White said. “Don't look away. Don't assume. Just make that call and let the authorities do what they do best.”
Anyone suspecting a child has been abused is asked to call the Pennsylvania Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-932-0313 or contact CYS at 610-713-2000. The D.A.'s Special Victim's Unit also can be contacted at 610-891-4811.
McGarrigle is running against Democrat John Kane for the vacant seat in the 26th Senatorial District.
Task force sponsors proclamation to prevent child abuse
by Jourdan Vian
SPARTA—Of the 642 possible child abuse cases reported to the Monroe County Human Services Department in 2013, 182 showed substantial evidence that child abuse occurred.
When that happens, social workers with the department thoroughly investigate the claim and try to make sure the county's children are taken care of properly, according to human services director Ron Hamilton.
In 2013, the human services department found evidence of neglect in 75 cases, physical abuse in 61 cases and sexual abuse in 44 cases. The department found 19 cases that warranted criminal charges.
The Monroe County Child Abuse Prevention Task Force asked Tomah Mayor John Rusch, Sparta Mayor Ron Button, Monroe County Administrator Cathy Schmit and Col. Steve Nott to sign a proclamation to support efforts to eradicate child abuse in the county.
The task force includes representatives from the Tomah and Sparta area school districts, Tomah and Sparta police departments, Boys & Girls Club, Fort McCoy, The Parenting Place and the Monroe County Human Services Department.
It was created in 2008 to build a public relations campaign to promote Child Abuse Prevention Month each April.
Members hope the committee will bring local agencies and organizations together to work to prevent child abuse, according to Sparta school counselor and committee member Carla O'Rourke.
The number of cases investigated in Monroe County varies each year, but that number did go down in 2013 from 2012.
Hamilton said the department typically finds evidence that requires a more thorough investigation in 30 to 40 percent of the cases referred to its office.
“The investigation is pretty intrusive and extensive,” Hamilton said.
Approximately half of cases investigated, or 20 percent of all cases reported, will show substantial evidence that abuse occurred.
Most of those cases will require ongoing services and monitoring.
“When we open cases for ongoing services, they would typically be open for a year or often times longer,” Hamilton said.
Even if the department doesn't find evidence that criminal charges are warranted, it takes steps to avoid future problems.
“Even if we do an investigation and find that it's not substantiated, we're always offering services that will be available for families,” Hamilton said.
The Human Services Department usually finds other needs in families they investigate and directs parents to community resources.
“We do want to make sure kids are safe, and we are really building the capacity of parents in Monroe County,” Hamilton said.
O'Rourke said the task force does what it can to spread a message of “All Kids are Special! Keep Them Safe!”
“We choose to promote child Abuse Prevention Month with a positive message that helps people realize they can have a positive impact on every child they encounter,” O'Rourke said.
The group asked students in Monroe County school districts to participate in art and poetry contests to help spread their message. The winning art will be displayed at the Tomah Boys & Girls Club Teen Center and Hanson's IGA as well as on placemats in Culver's.
“We plan a variety of activities in our campaign to reach as many people as possible in Monroe County,” O'Rourke said.
In addition to the proclamation, the organization put up blue ribbon yard signs in Tomah's Gillett Park and Sparta's Blyton Veterans Park, display boards at Tomah Memorial Hospital and Scenic Bluffs Community Health Centers and a banner in downtown Sparta.
The group also sponsored three radio public service announcements.
Berenstain Bears character to help educate about child abuse prevention
by KAYLA LEWIS
PLANT CITY A costumed character from a popular children's book series will entertain but also help deliver a serious message at an April 10 child abuse prevention program.
A performer in character from the Berenstain Bears will present a skit at the Children's Board's Family Resource Center, 639 E. Alexander St.
The interactive story time will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. with light refreshments and snacks being served. The event is open for children and their families.
“Families are going to come and we'll give them information about child abuse,” center Manager Marcia Cedano said. “Last year was the first year we did it and it was a huge success.”
Cedano said last year's event also featuring a character from the Berenstain Bears drew more than 50 people, including many parents.
“We're emphasizing that families be the first advocate for their child,” Cedano said.
Cedano said that Children's Board Family Resource Centers emphasize different themes each month that help promote child development, safety and wellness. April is child abuse prevention month.
The centers provide free services to children of all ages and their families, which include homework assistance, child development screenings, and lessons in wellness and safety such as car seat safety, CPR and first aid certifications.
Cedano said the center strives to provide services that benefit individuals and the community as a whole.
“I'm a strong believer in being an advocate for the underserved,” she said.
For information, contact the center at (813) 752-8700.
Report shows Adams County child abuse rate almost double state average
by Jeremy Culver
QUINCY, Ill. (WGEM) - April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and a recent report from Illinois Kids Count shows Adams County is almost double the state average.
According to the report, the rate of child abuse and neglect in Adams County is just over 15 percent. The state average is 8.6. Agencies across the country are running campaigns to help make people aware of the issue for Child Abuse Prevention Month in April . Transitions Director of Development Barbara Chapin says they often have a hard time getting parents to admit they need help.
"If a person seeks professional help, the professional who is working with them isn't going to judge them," Chapin said. "I think often times people fear that if they ask for help with a problem that is sensitive or embarrassing that they are going to be judged."
Chapin says she feels all parents want to help their child but outside stresses keep a parent from doing that, which leads to abuse or neglect. Chapin said she believed the rate is higher in Adams County because the poverty level has risen by 11 and a half percent. And, Adams is the second highest county in the state for meth arrest.
According to numbers from the Advocacy Network for Children, there were 106 new cases of sexual abuse right here in Adams County last year. Executive Director Clairice Hetzler with Advocacy Network for Children says because they are unable to show victims faces, people are led to believe there isn't a problem locally.
"When the kids come into our centers or when we have volunteers that advocate in court, we see those faces," Hetzler said. "We would love to tell everybody the stories of each one of those children, but because of confidentiality and the fact that our kids are all victims we can't do that."
Hetzler says that between the Advocacy Network and CASA they deal with almost 300 cases of abuse per year.
Chapin says though there are different types of abuse, common signs can be how a child acts, like getting mad over something they shouldn't or didn't before. Also pay attention to what a child wears. Chapin says if a child wears a sweatshirt or jacket and it's hot out, this could be a sign of them covering up. One last common sign is a child's grades. If the child was getting A's and B's, but now gets D's and F's that could be a sign something is going on.
Hetzler says the Advocacy Network does a program called Happy Bear in the schools for grades pre-k to 1st grade and talk about telling. This is so that if a child is sexually abused, they know it is ok to tell an adult.
State appeals order requiring release of documents on child-abuse deaths
by Bill Estep
The state has appealed an order requiring it to give Kentucky's two largest newspapers documents on children killed or badly injured as a result of abuse or neglect.
The Cabinet for Health and Family Services announced this week that it had asked the state Court of Appeals to review the ruling, and that it had asked that the case be transferred to the Kentucky Supreme Court in order to get a final answer.
Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd ordered the cabinet to give the records to the Lexington Herald-Leader and The Courier-Journal in response to requests from the Lexington and Louisville newspapers.
Shepherd also ordered the cabinet to pay a $756,000 fine, saying it had willfully violated the state's open-records law by withholding public information, and that it had refused to follow his instructions on releasing the information.
Shepherd also ordered the cabinet to pay more than $300,000 to the newspapers for attorneys' fees.
The cabinet has released thousands of pages to the newspapers on cases from 2009 and 2010 under an order from Shepherd, but Shepherd ruled that the state inappropriately removed more information from the documents than it should have.
The records showed that the cabinet did not conduct required internal reviews of at least some fatalities and near-fatalities, and that some reviews were far less detailed than others.
"The cabinet is seeking a final resolution to this long-standing disagreement between the state's two largest newspapers and the cabinet over the privacy of family members and other individuals identified in child fatality files," cabinet spokeswoman Jill Midkiff said in a news release.
The cabinet hired Louisville attorney Sheryl Snyder to help its attorneys with the appeal. His firm agreed to take the case for an hourly rate of $125 for attorneys, according to the news release.
Snyder, who has represented Kentucky governors in a number of cases, said in a statement that Shepherd's ruling raised significant legal questions.
"Public agencies are entitled to clear, final decisions by the courts when the agencies respond to open records requests. Only the appellate court can bring finality to these legal issues," Snyder said.
Advocacy Center raises awareness for child abuse prevention
Blount County's agency dedicated to abused children is painting the county blue in April.
Already this year, New Hope, Blount County Children's Advocacy Center, has provided services to 134 children who were allegedly abused. There were 194 children allegedly abused in 2013.
To honor these children, the agency will be planting blue pinwheels during April in recognition of Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Blue pinwheels lined the advocacy center yard starting Tuesday and will be moved throughout the month to a variety of locations “to promote a movement of change in our community,” according to a news release from the Advocacy Center.
This movement started in April 2011 when New Hope adopted Darkness to Light's Stewards of Children program. The training focuses on educating adults about child sexual abuse in hopes that adults will learn how to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to abuse.
“When adults are educated on a topic we see great change occur,” said New Hope Executive Director Tabitha Damron in the news release. “In time we will notice a difference in the way people react and we have confidence our county will become a healthier place to live.”
Since 2011, New Hope has provided this free training to Blount County residents in many local venues and organizations. Four public training sessions are scheduled in April.
Damron also credited the Junior Service League, John Sevier Elementary, Broadway United Methodist Church, Blount County Schools Central Office, Masonic Lodge, Broadway Baptist Church and Chroma which are holding private trainings in honor of Child Abuse Prevention Month.
New Hope encourages Blount residents to participate in a Stewards of Children program as well as one of its other prevention events in April:
• The center will be participating in the Great American Clean-up on from 4-6 p.m. Saturday at Springbrook Park. Bring the kids out for a day of learning and fun.
• Papa Murphy's is promoting the Advocacy Center from 4 to 7 p.m. April 10 through a fundraising event. Purchase a pizza and 20 percent of the proceeds will be donated.
• RJ's Courtyard will give a percentage of proceeds for lunch and dinner on April 18.
• The Advocacy Center is partnering with Fine Arts Blount from 6 to 8 p.m. April 25 at The Last Friday Art Walk to display New Hope children's art. Coulter Grove Intermediate School Choir and All That Jazz Show Choir will also perform during this open house at the center.
“Prevention is the key to protecting our kids,” Damron said. “Join the movement and make a difference in the month April.”
Child abuse prevention is not an ‘us and them' issue
As Maine kicks off Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month, Maureen Milliken writes that we all need to do our part.
The group in the restaurant was getting up to leave.
They'd obviously had a fun lunch — several generations talking and laughing long past when their plates were emptied.
As they got up and put on their coats, a young mother made her reluctant toddler son hug and kiss several people he obviously didn't want to hug and kiss.
Cute, huh? A rite of childhood.
But my friend, who works as an advocate for sexual abuse prevention and education, had a different take.
“I hate to see that,” she said.
?And, as Child Abuse Prevention Month kicks off in Maine with a slew of events this week, we're reminded that child abuse and neglect is not a simple problem that “regular” people are insulated from.
Those of us who believe our exposure to child abuse amounts to looking at the mug shots in the newspaper and sighing with relief that guys like that aren't anywhere around our kids need to take a broader view.
One thing people who work with children and in abuse prevention fields point out is that the problem is complex; it's not a black and white issue that can be easily divided into us and them.
When asked later to elaborate on her thoughts in that restaurant, my friend said in an email, “It's not so much that people aren't told that kids have a right to their body — it's that they haven't internalized it and don't believe it.
“We still pick kids up and hug/kiss/tickle without their consent and/or” tell them to give the person a hug. “And I think that seemingly little thing can translate into broader issues of not recognizing boundaries — their own and others.”
That's one of the many thoughts people who work in the field — and because abuse is so complex “the field” is almost any job that involves children or abuse — think the public should know about child abuse.
Because as much as we know, most of the general public is unaware of many of the deeper issues that surround the topic.
Rallies and vigils are great at promoting the basics of awareness, but until the deeper issues are understood, the number of children who are abused in Maine won't start decreasing.
When asked if there's one thing they'd like people to know about child abuse that they don't think is general knowledge, here's what some of the people in the field said:
“So many kids in Maine right now are struggling due to poverty, homelessness, parents' substance abuse problems and conflicts in the home,” said Libby McCullum, MaineCASA program manager. Her organization provides court appointed special advocates for children who help represent abused and neglected children in the state's welfare system.
“I remind people when I talk to them about volunteering as a court-appointed special advocate to look around their child's class the next day, because I guarantee many of their children's classmates likely came to school hungry and saw and heard some horrible and even terrifying events the night before.”
She said that many, if not most, of those kids “will make it through and be kind, loving and good citizens.”
“All it takes sometimes is one caring adult that a child can rely on for reassurance and positive support.”
She added, “Maybe that person is a grandparent, but maybe it is a teacher, a bus driver, a neighbor, a coach and of course sometimes a CASA volunteer. There are a lot of adults in Maine who step up every day to listen, to provide guidance and support and sometimes just give a hug to a kid who is carrying heavy feelings from home to school one day.
“Those small but profound acts of kindness can give that kid the hope and the encouragement to want to do better with ‘the hands they were dealt.'”
McCullum's bottom line?
“I want Maine people to know you can absolutely make a difference in a child's life and everyone should try.”
Rita Furlow, a senior policy analyst for the Maine Children's Alliance, echoes McCullum — that people being there for kids is the first step toward prevention.
“While most people recognize what a serious problem child abuse and neglect is,” she said, “what most people don't know is that solutions exist — including prevention.”
She said that children who experience abuse or neglect can have what scientists call toxic stress responses, which can disrupt the pathways in the brain.
“Yet this research also tells us that there is a lot we can do to buffer this toxic stress for kids,” she said. “We need to ensure that children have supportive, stable relationships with caring adults. So — when we provide home visiting, which improves families' understanding of child development, we are putting in place a preventive system that catches kids before they fall. When we provide access to caring adults in places like preschools, we are putting in place a preventive system that can help to rewire the brain.
“In other words, if we want strong, healthy young children who will lead our communities tomorrow, we have to invest in the kinds of supports and structures they need today.”
The connection between domestic violence and child abuse “is a significant one,” said Julia Colpitts, executive director of the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence.
Colpitts shared some information from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that drives this fact home:
The department's website says that “research suggests that in an estimated 30 to 60 percent of the families where either domestic violence or child maltreatment is identified, it is likely that both forms of abuse exist.
“Studies show that for victims who experience severe forms of domestic violence, their children also are in danger of suffering serious physical harm. In a national survey of over 6,000 American families, researchers found that 50 percent of men who frequently assaulted their wives also abused their children.
“Other studies demonstrate that perpetrators of domestic violence who were abused as children are more likely to physically harm their children.”
Charles Rumsey, deputy chief of the Waterville police, said he thinks people are aware that police are concerned about child abuse and “thoroughly investigate” complaints.
“Many people may not realize that when there are concerns about possible child abuse, they should call either the police or DHHS themselves — as soon as possible,” Rumsey said. “Folks may think that it's not their job or not their business or that ‘someone else will do it,' but the truth is, someone has to call us so that we can begin the task of finding out whether a child is being mistreated and make them safe.
“Making this community a safe place for our kids is everyone's business.”
While these advocates for children all have different specific concerns, their ultimate message is the same: Child abuse isn't an us and them issue.
By the time the mug shots are in the paper, it's too late. It's up to everyone to do what they can from the beginning to prevent child abuse.
Resources for those who need help
Faced with a child abuse or domestic violence situation, or just want more information on how to help? Here are some places to start:
The Maine Children's Alliance: mekids.org
http://mcedv.org/ The Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault: mecasa.org
http://casaofmaine.org/ Maine CASA (court appointed special advocates): casaofmaine.org
http://casaofmaine.org/ SafeVoices: safevoices.org
http://www.safevoices.org/ The state Office of Child and Family Services: maine.gov/dhhs/ocfs
http://maine.gov/dhhs/ocfs The Maine Children's Trust: mechildrenstrust.org
http://www.mechildrenstrust.org/ Statewide Domestic Abuse Helpline: 866.834.4357
A listing of helplines to help with other abuse and support issues can be found at maine.gov/dhhs/hotlines
Letter to the Editor
Sexual predators are typically someone you know
Since April is Child Abuse Awareness month, there is something for parents and the public to keep in mind about child predators.
Sexual predators are rarely the scary stranger standing on the street corner, but instead they are typically someone you know.
They are very cunning and manipulative. They know every trick on how to groom, threaten, lie, and put the fear of god into children and sometimes even their family members. They also appear to do a lot of good things, they can be very charismatic and you may think they would never harm a child. They have to be this way, in order to not get caught and to continue to abuse
Sexual predators are often powerful and well-loved. It would be comforting if those who preyed on the vulnerable were obvious social misfits whose appearance would somehow set off alarm bells and give us the willies or the creeps. They rarely do. Usually, predators are among the last people we would suspect of sexually violating others. While they are grooming the child and even family members, they devote lots of time and energy building trust with them by giving them money and gifts. They tend to make the child feel that they are special and loved.
Also, we must stop thinking that because a man is old, that somehow he's automatically safe. It's just irresponsible to endanger kids by assuming an adult is harmless simply because he or she may be losing hair, wearing glasses, using hearing aids or walking with a cane.
These can be signs of advancing age, but they are not signs that an individual is safe around kids.
It takes a lot of courage to speak up and take action about being sexually abused. This is not an easy thing to do, but it is extremely rare that a child predator has only one victim. Some have many. Child predators need to be reported to law enforcement and kept far away from kids forever.
Keep in mind your silence only hurts, and by speaking up there is a chance for healing, exposing the truth, and therefore protecting our children today.
Judy Jones • Marthasville
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
'Strong at the Heart'
When child sexual abuse is covered in the news, the reality can be heartbreaking. But there is a positive side to the story, too.
”It's hard work, but people can heal -- and gain a lot of strength from that process,” according to Carolyn Lehman, Arcata based author of “Strong at the Heart: How It Feels to Heal from Sexual Abuse.”
Lehman will be celebrating the launch of the paperback edition of her groundbreaking book at Northtown Books, 957 H St. in Arcata, on Friday at 7 p.m.
The timing is especially notable because April is “National Sexual Abuse Awareness Month.”
The book, originally published in hard cover in 2005, contains interviews with men, women and teens who have experienced rape and molestation, and have gone on to create rich and satisfying lives for themselves.
”It's a very out book,” Lehman says about her choice of using real names and photographs with the interviews. “What I want to do is de-stigmatize the experience of being a survivor. It's the perpetrator who is responsible for sexual assault or abuse. The shame belongs to them, not us.”
The Journal of Trauma and Dissociation says that “Lehman's book is an excellent resource for increasing awareness of the pervasiveness and diversity of sexual abuse, as well as the universal potential for healing from it, at any age.”
For almost 30 years, Lehman has written and spoken in public about surviving trauma and overcoming adversity. Her children's novel, “Promise Not to Tell,” received the Christopher Award for its sensitive portrayal of a young girl's struggle to tell about abuse.
”Strong at the Heart” has received many national accolades. Eclectica called it “a lifeline to those who will need it most,” and The Therapist described it as “a wonderful and empowering collection of survival experiences.”
Proceeds of book sales at the celebration will benefit the North Coast Rape Crisis Team. For more information on “Strong at the Heart” and to order copies, visit http://strongattheheart.com.
”Post Traumatic Growth” is positive change experienced as a result of the struggle with a major life crisis or a traumatic event. Post Traumatic Growth is a recognized goal in psychology, spirituality and literature.
SIDEBAR: Facts about Childhood Sexual Abuse (compiled by Carolyn Lehman)
* One in four women and one in six men acknowledge sexual abuse in childhood in a retrospective study of 17,000 middle-class adults in the Kaiser Health Care System. (”The Adverse Childhood Experience Study,” Dr. Vincent Fellitti, Kaiser Permanente, and the U.S. Department of Public Health)
* Two-thirds of victims of reported rape are under age 18. More than half of these are under 12. (U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics)
* Only 7 percent of offenders are strangers. One-third of the people who sexually abuse children are family members. More than half are acquaintances including trusted adults and other children. (U. S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics)
* Symptoms of post traumatic stress were reported by the vast majority of women and one-third of men who had experienced sexual violence or stalking as reported in a large scale government survey. (Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, Center for Disease Control.)
SIDEBAR: Local Resources for Survivors of Sexual Assault and Those Who Care about Them (sources: http://www.humboldt.edu/stoprape/healing.html, North Coast Rape Crisis Team)
* North Coast Rape Crisis Team provides support for survivors of all genders and ages and in all stages of healing through their advocacy, confidential crisis line, individual counseling and support groups. They provide information to the community and help friends and family members who are concerned about possible abuse. 24-hour crisis line: (707) 445-2881. Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
* Emma Center (emmacenter.org) is a nonprofit women's center for survivors of child abuse, domestic violence, and other trauma. (707) 825-6680, 5050 Valley East Blvd., Arcata
* Humboldt Domestic Violence Services (hdvs.org) offers emergency support services, including emergency shelter. Helps survivors of domestic (including sexual) violence develop their safety plan. 24-hour crisis line: (707) 443-6042 or toll free (866) 668-6543. Location: HDVS can meet with you at a safe location. Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
* Two Feathers Native American Family Services (twofeathers-nafs.org) provides advocacy, crisis intervention, referral and counseling for Native American survivors of child abuse or sexual violence. (707) 839-1933 or toll free (800) 341-9454. 2355 Central Ave., Suite C, McKinleyville. Open Monday- Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
* Yurok Tribal Services, Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Project (http://www.yuroktribe.org/departments/socialservices/ydvsap_home.htm). Provides confidential and culturally appropriate support. The advocate can also assist clients with navigating the legal, civil and criminal court process. (707) 954-8938 or (855) 945-4357.
Even popular kids are bullied in high school, researchers find
by Mary MacVean
Only the prom king and queen are safe.
Researchers say that the more popular teens are – except for those at the very apex of the fragile high school hierarchy – the more likely they are to be bullied, perhaps a surprise to people who presumed outcasts were the exclusive targets.
Researchers Robert Faris of UC Davis and Diane Felmlee of Penn State University write that traditional, everyday views of bullying – reported by nearly a fifth of teens – tell less than the whole story. "For most students, gains in status increase the likelihood of victimization and the severity of its consequences," they wrote in the journal of the American Sociological Assn.
The aggressors, too, often "posses strong social skills," and bully others to move up the social ladder rather than to "reenact their own troubled home lives."
So while the uppermost teens on the social scale can "afford" to be nice, those in the next tier have to keep themselves there, Faris said Tuesday.
He and Felmlee looked at how status can increase the chances of being a victim and how it can magnify the distress caused, which can include depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.
They wrote that "the ways in which status can increase risk have been largely ignored and we identify a new pattern of victimization," which they call "instrumental targeting." And it can work, they said. "Evidence suggests that aggressors' campaigns of harassment and abuse are rewarded with increased prestige … particularly when they target socially prominent rivals."
Perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise that popular kids get targeted: If the tormentor is aiming to raise his or her own status, "targeting prominent rivals makes strategic sense," the researchers wrote. And for high-status victims, the fall can be more drastic.
To sort this out, the researchers used data from more than 8,000 students in 19 North Carolina schools about their five closest friends and five students who had "picked on or were mean" to them, and five they in turn had been mean to. They used that web of connections to draw their conclusions.
In that group, about half the students were white and a third African American. Most lived with two parents. The average student was harassed by 0.72 students during the spring term, but among victims, the average number of attackers was 2.2. Girls had higher rates of victimization. The researchers noted that there could be differences in other populations.
Some students found protection; being friends with teens of the opposite gender provided some shield.
The researchers don't suggest that outcast teens of various sorts don't get bullied – only that theirs is not the whole story.
Faris also said that there was a message in the research for teenagers and their parents: It's probably better to have a few close friends than 200 Facebook friends. In addition, the "drama" that's often discussed about adolescent relationships might be taken more seriously – by students and parents, he said.
And many students, Faris said, don't see what's happening "as bullying and they may be sort of like fish in water and accustomed to having a lot of drama around them."
The students don't see what the researchers do: "We have very precise measures of the status and we have access to the social map of the school. We can assign a score to each kid. … The kids don't have access to that degree of precision."
Mum 'heard crazy voices' before she drowned her two young sons
by Jessica Best
Police say Laurel Michell Schlemmer told them she could be a better mother to her eldest son if the younger two 'weren't around'
A mum has claimed she heard "crazy voices" before she pushed her two young sons into the bath, drowning one and leaving the other critically injured.
Laurel Michelle Schlemmer, 40, told police she thought she could send the children to heaven and be a better mother to their older brother "if the other two boys weren't around".
She has been charged with homicide following the death of three-year-old Luke, and aggravated assault as six-year-old David fights for his life.
Her third child - a seven-year-old boy - was at school at the time of the attacks, according to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.
Schlemmer, a former teacher from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is alleged to have pushed Luke and David down into a bathtub of water and then sat on them.
Afterwards, police say the stay-at-home mum got out of the bath, changed out of her wet clothes, and went back to the bathroom to take the boys out of the bath.
She then laid them on the floor and called the emergency services.
Police allege she did not attempt CPR on either child, because she didn't know how.
Schlemmer is now being held in Allegheny County Jail, and is due in court on the homicide, aggravated assault and other charges.
Her husband, Mark, has so far not commented on the tragic events, and Schlemmer's father Donald Ludwig declined to say anything after meeting with police.
Pennsylvania top court denies coach Sandusky's child sex-abuse appeal bid
by Dave Warner
Pennsylvania's top court on Wednesday rejected a bid by former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky to appeal his 2012 conviction on charges of sexually abusing children.
In a case that rocked the world of big-time college sports, Sandusky was found guilty of 45 counts of sexually abusing 10 boys over 15 years, using his position in the prestigious football program to gain access to youth.
Pennsylvania's Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected the 69-year-old Sandusky's appeal request in a terse, one-sentence ruling: "The petition for allowance of appeal is denied."
State officials welcomed the news.
"We are very pleased with the Supreme Court's decision," said Attorney General Kathleen Kane. "Protecting Pennsylvania's children is one of my top priorities and I remain committed to seeking justice for all victims of sexual abuse."
An attorney for Sandusky, who is serving a sentence of 30-to-60 years in a state penitentiary, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
His lawyer, Norris Gelman, had argued that the state's case rested on the credibility of the victims because there was no physical or forensic evidence presented.
He said some of the complaints by the victims dated back as long as 16 years, and that should have warranted an instruction to the jury on the failure to make a prompt report of sexual abuse.
The case raised questions about the motivation of people who may have been aware of Sandusky's behavior and failed to report a top coach in the school's lucrative football program.
His one-time boss, coaching legend Joe Paterno lost his job in the aftermath of the scandal. Paterno died in 2012 at age 85.
FBI seeks identity of child sex abuse suspect
(Picture on site)
The FBI is trying to identify a man who is suspected of sexually exploiting a child.
Images and video of the unidentified man engaging in sexual activities with a child were first recorded by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in November of 2012, FBI officials said.
FBI and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children investigators enhanced the images and they hope that there are enough clues that someone may be able to identify him.
For example, the video depicts the subject and the victim inside a residence with a blue sofa chair and a picture hanging on a wall. Also, the subject is wearing wire-framed glasses and a burgundy T-shirt with what appears to be a shark logo on the left side.
Investigators cannot link the suspect to a particular state or region.
The man appears to be a white, possibly in his 30s or 40s, with a receding hairline.
Anyone with information can submit a tip online at https://tips.fbi.gov/or call the FBI's tip line at 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324).
Massachusetts / Pennsylvania
Changing the culture of child sexual victimization
Stop It Now! and PASSHE begin an innovative training series on April 3rd
Northampton, Massachusetts -- Stop It Now! and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) have teamed up to develop a first-of-its-kind program that will train "Prevention Squads" to help prevent child sexual victimization on college campuses.
The first training sessions, in what could become a national model, will be held Thursday and Friday at the Dixon University Center in Harrisburg. Additional sessions will be held later at Slippery Rock, Bloomsburg and Cheyney Universities of Pennsylvania.
Participants from all 14 PASSHE universities eventually will take part in an extensive two-day program developed in collaboration with Stop It Now! (Now!), which, since 1992 has been preventing the sexual abuse of children by helping adults, families and communities take actions that keep kids safe - especially before they are ever harmed.
The pilot program will provide participants with the knowledge and skills necessary to help prevent children from becoming victims of sexual abuse. They will form "NOW! PASSHE Prevention Squads," which will lead the prevention efforts at their respective universities.
"PASSHE's staff and faculty have so many circles of influence and have the ability based in their positions to help to shape and create a culture of prevention," said Deb Donovan Rice, executive director of Stop It Now! "If they prevent one child from being abused or create a safer and more protective environment for a child that has been victimized to ask for help through this program, then PASSHE has succeeded."
"The serious issue of child sexual victimization cuts across all aspects of society," said PASSHE Chancellor Frank T. Brogan. "When 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls may be sexually abused before age 18, we have an obligation to play a role in prevention and awareness when and if we can. With the support of our provosts and vice presidents of student affairs, PASSHE has played an integral part in assisting Stop It Now! in developing a training program specifically for higher education. We are proud to be a leader in this endeavor."
Through the generosity of a donor focused on awareness and training in a college setting, Now! was able to take their past research and their "Circles of Safety" modules to create a training program relevant to PASSHE universities to ensure that they met their needs and addressed their issues. After the pilot training has been reviewed, it will serve as a training model for universities and colleges across the country.
Now!'s expertise in sex abuse programming crosses the spectrum of prevention. The organization provides tools, training and support at the individual and relationship levels, and provides training and technical assistance, advocacy, and leadership at the community and societal levels.
"The information shared at this two-day training is not a straight transfer of knowledge, but rather the beginning of helping to create a culture of prevention," said Kathleen Howley, PASSHE's senior associate vice chancellor of academic and student affairs. "Colleagues leaving the training will become highly informed individuals who will be prepared to integrate this 'new information' within their sphere of influence both on and off the campus."
Donovan Rice praised PASSHE's participation in the program.
"It is a privilege working with PASSHE and its team of leaders across the 14 universities' campuses," she said. "For the past 10 months, I continued to be impressed with the level of commitment and passion to integrate a culture of change at every level on each campus."
The additional training sessions will be held April 24 and 25 at Slippery Rock University, Oct. 20 and 21 at Bloomsburg University and Oct. 23 and 24 at Cheney University.
April is recognized as National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
PASSHE is the largest provider of higher education in the Commonwealth, with about 112,000 students.The PASSHE universities are Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester Universities of Pennsylvania. PASSHE also operates branch campuses in Clearfield, Freeport, Oil City and Punxsutawney and several regional centers, including the Dixon University Center in Harrisburg and PASSHE Center City in Philadelphia.
Helping the Survivor Break the Silence of Abuse
In Honor of Child Abuse Prevention Month, Praeclarus Press Offers a Book and Webinar by Dr. Stefanie Stolinsky to Help Survivors of Childhood Abuse Overcome Their Pasts
Psychotherapist, Dr. Stefanie Stolinsky, offers people who have experienced childhood physical, sexual, or emotional abuse specific ideas on how they can survive--and even thrive, through her upcoming webinar and book offered by Praeclarus Press. April is Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Childhood physical, sexual or emotional abuse can cause long-term harm, often lasting well into adulthood, according to author and psychotherapist, Stefanie Stolinsky. April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Effects of childhood abuse include depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, substance abuse and anxiety. Abuse survivors are also at higher risk for physical health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease. These effects do not simply “go away” as children mature.
The good news is that adults can heal from trauma and abuse they experienced in childhood. On April 8, Dr. Stolinsky will present a webinar entitled, Helping the Survivor Break the Silence of Abuse. This webinar will help the survivors take stock of ways to cope over time, break the silence of abuse and deal with self-defeating behavior, and deal with specific areas of concern, such as self-esteem, sexuality, and family relationships. Dr. Stolinsky will relate stories of survivors who have survived, and even thrived. And she will provide information on therapy, support groups, and self-help.
Dr. Stolinski's book, Act It Out: 25 Acting Exercises to Heal from Childhood Abuse, is a self-help book published by Praeclarus Press, which guides readers through a series of exercises that actors use. Each exercise is linked to short video with actors demonstrating it. Author Stefanie Stolinsky, a psychotherapist and former actress based in Southern California, began incorporating acting exercises into her psychotherapy sessions when she noticed that many of her clients presented the same kinds of complaints actors did in drama classes. Her clients had difficulties feeling and releasing emotions, such as sadness, weakness, or fear. They often relied on alcohol or drugs to help them cry in a scene or “feel”; playing “at it” or faking it rather than really feeling it. They were often afraid that releasing true emotions because they believed that they would be dangerous. They held back or experienced stage fright. They felt embarrassed, fearful of revealing themselves, and shame.
Because of these striking similarities, she began incorporating acting exercises into her therapy sessions. If acting exercises can help actors get unblocked, perhaps they could also help her clients get “unblocked” and start healing.
Acting exercises in therapy allow clients to have total control over what they are experiencing. If things are too painful, they have permission to pull themselves out of the exercise. The acting exercises are also fun. They give clients a chance to “play” while also addressing some of the serious issues in their lives. Acting exercises are a natural adjunct to traditional therapy that also works well as a self-help technique. Dr. Stolinsky guides readers through the exercises and provides examples of how clients benefited from each one.
According to Dr. Trudy Moss,
"Act It Out offers the reader an opportunity to travel beyond an intellectual understanding of his or her struggle to become a more integrated, self-loving person. Written with compassion and respect, Act It Out invites the reader to privately begin to release old sensations of shame and self-doubt… Act It Out leads its readers safely into that place of self-healing where the light of emotional release forever illumines the dark corners of the cave. Unconscious fears that have imprisoned victims' capacity for fully realizing their own potential will be scattered, and readers will reap the benefits of their inspiring acts of courage."
Stefanie Stolinsky, Ph.D. is a clinical and forensic psychologist who has a private practice in Beverly Hills, California. She began her career at UCLA, where she did original research on adult women sexually, physically and emotionally abused as children. She is a noted speaker and held training seminars on Overcoming the Aftereffects of Child Abuse. She lives with her husband, David, a retired physician, in Los Angeles.
Act It Out is available through Amazon and at Praeclarus Press.
Praeclarus Press is a small press specializing in women's health. It is owned by health psychologist Kathleen Kendall-Tackett and is based in Amarillo, Texas. Praeclarus Press features books, webinars, and other materials on all aspects of women's health. Our goal is to produce materials that change people's lives.
'This Is Not Prostitution -- This Is Child Rape.'
by Malika Saada Saar
Not too long ago, when a man hit his wife, it was considered a private matter. But, because of the domestic violence movement, the hidden, normalized ways in which women were abused in their homes got challenged. Indeed, the movement named these acts committed in the personal realm of marriage, intimacy, and home as violence -- and violence that needed to be subject to the rule of law.
Today, there is another form of violence that must be named. It is time to name what child prostitution really is. It is not vice or prostitution. It is an act of rape and sexual violence against a child.
Unfortunately, like acts of domestic violence committed decades ago, "child prostitution" is tolerated. And it is the child who is criminalized, not her abusers. Last week, survivor leader Withelma "T" Ortiz Walker Pettigrew testified before the U.S. House of Representative's Committee on the Judiciary about her own experience of being jailed, and not helped or protected, for the repeated rape she suffered:
"Suffering, isolated, tired and helpless at the age of 15, the concrete box that represented my cell in Zenoff hall, the girls section -- the largest of the juvenile facility in Las Vegas, Nevada, seemed no less invasive than the horror of the streets. As much of a real physical confinement It was, it wasn't all too different from the mental confinement I endured from my pimp. I was interrogated for hours on end, reminded that my opinions didn't matter and locked in, like a dog in a kennel. Unless I was saying the answers to the questions that they wanted to hear, My Voice was irrelevant. Skip ahead a few years later, I endured it again in California, only that time experiencing my 17 birthday within the juvenile walls. Both times I was faced with charges of Solicitation and/or Prostitution, a crime that as a minor who wasn't of legal age to consent to sex, couldn't seriously be charged to commit. But yet, there I was, facing them."
In her testimony, Ms. Walker Pettigrew also points to the other side of what happens when these crimes against children are construed through the lens of prostitution. The buyer is exempted. However, if the act of child prostitution is reframed as child rape, then the buyer must be named as an assailant. That means such persons are not charged with solicitation, but statutory rape, child endangerment and/or sexual assault of a minor. As Ms. Walker Pettigrew points out:
"...more must be done to focus on the root cause of the issue -- that people are buying children for sexual purposes. This is not prostitution -- this is child rape. And those who purchase these children for sex should be viewed and punished as child rapists. Buyers should not get away with it, but as of now they do everyday. Just as it is expressed that it is not ok to sell children in our country -- we need to make clear that it is not ok to buy them either."
Another powerful part of Walker Pettigrew's testimony regarding the buyers deserves closer attention. She spoke to the racial differences in who is arrested and prosecuted: "It seemed like they always wanted to detain me and my pimp, both people of color, instead of focusing on the buyers who were adults -- and primarily white -- no one seemed to care about them!"
Indeed, traffickers are generally the black and brown men we already incarcerate. Buyers tend to be educated white professionals. There are undeniable racial implications in focusing on the culpability of the trafficker, at the exclusion of the buyer.
It is therefore critical that the anti-trafficking movement, which takes so much of its language from the anti-slavery, abolitionist movement, and holds up African-American heroes like Frederick Douglas and Harriet Tubman, steer away from perpetrating racial disparities in how we discuss who is to be criminalized. As a human rights movement, the anti-trafficking movement must urge for laws, policies, and practices that hold both the trafficker and the buyer accountable for their crimes.
As I listened to Ms. Walker Pettigrew's fierce, brilliant testimony before the U.S. Congress, I gave thanks for her and other young women and girls like her, who are demanding that they be recognized as victims and survivors of sexual violence, and that those who hurt them be held accountable. Because there's no such thing as a child prostitute.
5,800 confirmed cases of child abuse in Bexar County in 2013
by Jenny Suniga
SAN ANTONIO -- Local leaders and elected officials will gather at the Bexar County Courthouse Tuesday to raise awareness on the kick off Child Abuse Prevention Month.
In 2013, Texas lost 156 children in reported cases of child abuse, 10 of those deaths were in Bexar County.
Last year there were more than 5,800 confirmed cases of child abuse in Bexar County which propelled the county to a number 2 ranking in the state.
Those numbers in Bexar County are down by 400 cases, according to Child Protective Services.
Harris County topped the state with the highest number of reported cases.
Local leaders want to put a stop to those alarming numbers.
They're asking people to speak out if they suspect abuse or neglect. Leaders are urging residents to get more involved by finding out about agencies and resources that can help children and parents.
Senator Carlos Uresti will hold a Blue Ribbon Task force town hall meeting and press conference on the steps of the Bexar County courthouse Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. to ask the community to get involved and discuss more ways to fight child abuse.
Money for child abuse centers OK'd by lawmakers
by MARK SCOLFORO
HARRISBURG, Pa.—A bill to expand programs that help detect and prevent child abuse in Pennsylvania was approved overwhelmingly by the state House on Monday and sent to Gov. Tom Corbett for his signature.
The House voted 197-5 in favor of the measure designed to expand the use of children's advocacy centers. Corbett's office said he planned to sign it.
The need for greater use of such regional centers was recommended by a legislative task force established soon after former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky's arrest on child molestation charges.
"The task force at that time felt there should be a one-stop shop for everybody to get together when there is a problem with a child who had been abused or at risk in the system," said the prime sponsor, Rep. Julie Harhart, R-Lehigh.
The bill funds the centers with a new $10 surcharge on the cost of obtaining duplicate birth certificates that is expected to raise more than $2 million annually. The legislation also sets up a committee that would recommend how to administer the new funding. In the first year, half the proceeds will be dedicated to train people who are required to report suspected abuse.
In making grants, the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency is supposed to consider the number of children served, the need for such services and the availability of other funding sources.
Supporters say it should result in an expansion of the existing system of 21 centers across Pennsylvania, which bring together experts from various fields to help abused children, and foster the use of multidisciplinary investigative teams.
Sandusky is serving a decades-long prison sentence after being convicted in 2012 of the sexual abuse of 10 boys over a 15-year period. He maintains his innocence and has a request pending before the state Supreme Court to take up his case on appeal.
Child Abuse prevention must take priority
by Carlos Uresti
Last fiscal year 804 Texas children tragically lost their lives. Of those, 156 resulted from abuse or neglect. That's 804 individual tragedies — 156 of which were 100 percent preventable.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and a great opportunity for child advocates to bring heightened awareness to this all-important issue. Amidst calls by some lawmakers to cut even further what is already a bare-ones state budget — 49th in per capita spending for fiscal year 2011 — I say child abuse prevention is one area where we must radically increase our investment.
And I use the word investment purposefully because Texas has the resources to protect our children. We spent $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2011 on abuse. Of that, less than 1 percent was on prevention. If we invested just $0.07 on prevention for every dollar spent on treating victims, we could potentially save millions of dollars and hundreds of lives.
Yet we continue to underfund these services. In the 2002-2003 biennium, prevention was 8.37 percent of the Department of Family and Protective Services budget. Ever since, that number has steadily dropped to a low of 2.23 percent in the 2012-2013 biennium. In flat dollars, prevention funding is currently below 2002-2003 levels, and that is not even accounting for inflation and population growth. It's no wonder we can never get ahead of the problem.
I will continue to advocate for an increase in the state's investment on child abuse prevention. At the absolute minimum, we should attain the flat dollar funding levels of 2002-2003. But I need your help to make this happen. Please go to www.carlosuresti.com to find out how you can get involved.
We need a concerted, coordinated effort — private investment and public resources to make a real difference. It won't be easy, but efforts like the Blue Ribbon Task Force are advancing the cause and making our community a safer place.
As you know, “Where there is no vision, the people will perish.” — Proverbs 29:18.
These words have deep meaning for me because I believe we must implement a vision for Texas that ensures the well-being of every child. Because — make no mistake — if we do not commit to a significant investment in child abuse prevention, people will perish. And those people will be Texas children.
Texas Sen. Carlos Uresti , D-San Antonio, represents District 19, which covers all or parts of 17 counties, including Bexar County.
Psychologists Available to Discuss Child Abuse Prevention
April is national child abuse prevention month
An estimated 1,640 children died from abuse or neglect in the United States in 2012, while another 686,000 were victims of abuse, according to the most recent federal statistics. Psychologists who work with children and parents can explain why abuse occurs, its immediate and long-term effects on children and ways to prevent it. The following American Psychological Association members are available for interviews:
Ernestine C. Briggs-King, PhD
Phone: (919) 599-0572
Newswise — Briggs specializes in evidence-based practices to reduce child abuse and trauma. She is director of the data and evaluation program at Duke University's National Center for Child Traumatic Stress, and was previously a fellow at the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center and the Medical University of South Carolina, where she researched the impact of family violence, child abuse and other youth trauma.
Gail Goodman, PhD
Phone: (530) 752-6981
A professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, Goodman has researched how abuse affects a child's mental health and children's ability to testify about abuse they have experienced or witnessed.
Yo Jackson, PhD
Resiliency of ethnic minority child victims of abuse and trauma is Jackson's area of specialty. She is associate professor of clinical child psychology at the University of Kansas.
Alan Kazdin, PhD
New Haven, Conn.
As director of the Yale Parenting Center, Kazdin focuses on domestic violence and children, child rearing and interpersonal violence. Kazdin is the John M. Musser professor of psychology and child psychiatry at Yale University. He was APA president in 2008.
Lenore Walker, EdD, ABPP
Phone: (954) 224-9639
Walker specializes in domestic violence's impact on children and child abuse. She is a professor at Nova Southeastern University's Center for Psychological Studies.
David A. Wolfe, PhD
Based at Ontario's Centre for Prevention Science, Wolfe and his research team developed an international program to help reduce violence and abuse among youth. He is past editor-in-chief of Child Abuse & Neglect: The International Journal and a professor at the University of Toronto.
Congress designated April “National Child Abuse Prevention Month” in 1983. APA provides in-depth information and resources to raise awareness of and prevent child abuse at Protecting Our Children From Abuse and Neglect
Emotional child abuse has to be banned – the science backs up our instincts
The government is right: children need love as much as they do vitamins – and a lack of it often leads to adult psychosis
by Oliver James
We cannot be blamed for feeling nervous when this government talks of criminalising lack of parental love. There are uber-Thatcherites in its ranks who talk up the 'big society' but blame the individual. A wheeze for dumping their failure to support parents back on them would be no surprise.
However, in proposing to criminalise emotional abuse and neglect crimes, I am inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt. Many estimable campaigning groups, such as Action for Children, have advocated such legislation.
The case for it comes from the nature as well as nurture side of the child development debate. In an astonishing admission in the Guardian last month, Robert Plomin, the country's leading genetic psychologist, admitted of the Human Genome Project's quest for genes for psychological traits of all kinds: "I've been looking for these genes for 15 years and I don't have any."
On the other side of the equation, the evidence for the role of maltreatment in causing emotional distress in general, and emotional abuse and neglect in particular, has become overwhelming. This applies as much to the extreme disturbance of psychosis (mostly schizophrenia and bipolar disorder) as to more common problems such as depression and anxiety.
A definitive analysis of the 41 best studies into the impact of childhood adversity on the risk of psychosis (mostly schizophrenia and bipolar disorder) was published in 2012. It broke down the role of different kinds of maltreatment. Emotional abuse meant exposure to behaviour such as harshness and name-calling from parents. Emotional neglect meant lack of love and responsiveness. Overall, in order of impact, emotional abuse increased the risk of psychosis the most (by 3.4 times, physical abuse and emotional neglect did so by 2.9, sexual abuse and bullying by peers by 2.4).
That emotional abuse is more damaging than sexual and physical abuse may seem surprising, although they tend to go together. One study found that the emotionally abused were 12 times more likely to be schizophrenic than the general population (compared with six times for the physically abused and twice as likely for the sexually abused). Another study followed adolescents for 15 years and found that over a third became schizophrenic if both parents were hostile, critical and intrusive, compared with none where only one parent was or neither were. In his definitive book, Models of Madness, John Read, a clinical psychologist at Liverpool University, shows that in the 10 studies testing the matter, the more extreme the childhood adversity, the greater the risk of adult psychosis. The results are similar for the number of adversities. In one large study, those subjected to five or more adversities were 193 times more likely to suffer psychosis than those with none.
Similar findings come from studies of less extreme emotional distress. In the definitive one, which followed 180 children from infancy to the age of 18, 90% of those who suffered early maltreatment qualified for a mental illness. Emotional neglect under the age of two was a critical predictor.
It is in light of this evidence that the government's plans must be understood: the crucial role of early nurture seems to be accepted in a cross-party consensus.
The null hypothesis of the Human Genome Project will almost certainly have to be accepted: that genes play almost no role in explaining why one sibling is different from another. In the meantime, we need not fear Orwellian intrusion on parents by social workers measuring how much we love our children.
If there were laws against hitting children, as there should be, it would not result in many, or even any, convictions. It will be the same with this law. What is important is for the authorities to signal clearly that, as John Bowlby pointed out 60 years ago, love is as vital as vitamins for a child to flourish.
Stop It Now !
Stop It Now! and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education have teamed up to develop a first-of-its-kind program that will train "Prevention Squads" to help prevent child sexual victimization on college campuses.
The first training sessions, in what could become a national model, will be held Thursday and Friday at the Dixon University Center in Harrisburg. Additional sessions will be held later at Slippery Rock, Bloomsburg and Cheyney Universities of Pennsylvania.
Participants from all 14 PASSHE universities eventually will take part in an extensive two-day program developed in collaboration with Stop It Now! (Now!), which, since 1992 has been preventing the sexual abuse of children by helping adults, families and communities take actions that keep kids safe - especially before they are ever harmed.
The pilot program will provide participants with the knowledge and skills necessary to help prevent children from becoming victims of sexual abuse. They will form "NOW! PASSHE Prevention Squads," which will lead the prevention efforts at their respective universities.
"PASSHE's staff and faculty have so many circles of influence and have the ability based in their positions to help to shape and create a culture of prevention," said Deb Donovan Rice, executive director of Stop It Now! "If they prevent one child from being abused or create a safer and more protective environment for a child that has been victimized to ask for help through this program, then PASSHE has succeeded."
"The serious issue of child sexual victimization cuts across all aspects of society," said PASSHE Chancellor Frank T. Brogan. "When one in six boys and one in four girls may be sexually abused before age 18, we have an obligation to play a role in prevention and awareness when and if we can. With the support of our provosts and vice presidents of student affairs, PASSHE has played an integral part in assisting Stop It Now! in developing a training program specifically for higher education. We are proud to be a leader in this endeavor."
Through the generosity of a donor focused on awareness and training in a college setting, Now! was able to take its past research and "Circles of Safety" modules to create a training program relevant to PASSHE universities to ensure that they met their needs and addressed their issues. After the pilot training has been reviewed, it will serve as a training model for universities and colleges across the country.
Now!'s expertise in sex abuse programming crosses the spectrum of prevention. The organization provides tools, training and support at the individual and relationship levels, and provides training and technical assistance, advocacy and leadership at the community and societal levels.
"The information shared at this two-day training is not a straight transfer of knowledge, but rather the beginning of helping to create a culture of prevention," said Kathleen Howley, PASSHE's senior associate vice chancellor of academic and student affairs. "Colleagues leaving the training will become highly informed individuals who will be prepared to integrate this 'new information' within their sphere of influence both on and off campus."
The additional training sessions will be held April 24 and 25 at Slippery Rock University, Oct. 20 and 21 at Bloomsburg University and Oct. 23 and 24 at Cheney University.
April is recognized as National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Delaware's Affluenza Case Affects Justice, Too
As if his crime wasn't bad enough, the way in which Robert Richards IV's rape case was handled is the real injustice and exemplifies a truly crooked system.
by Jay Michaelson
The blogosphere is afire with outrage: A rich do-nothing given probation for raping his three-year-old daughter! Judge says he “wouldn't fare well in prison”! What injustice!
Hold on a sec. The case of Robert Richards IV, the aforementioned do-nothing, is a miscarriage of justice, but not for the reasons bloggers, and some journalists, are screaming about.
First, just to clarify, the crime took place in 2005, and sentencing happened in 2009. We're learning about it now because Richards's ex-wife has filed a civil suit based on the rape. This didn't just happen yesterday.
Second, while it is unusual (to say the least) that Judge Jan Jurden took Richards's welfare in prison into account, the real injustice is that by the time Richards was sentenced, he was only convicted of fourth-degree rape, which only calls for a prison term of zero to 2 ½ years. In Delaware, fourth degree rape is usually applied in cases of “statutory rape,” i.e., sexual intercourse with a minor. Technically, the criminal statute does include non-consensual sex, but normally, that calls for a higher charge.
Originally, Richards was charged with two counts of second-degree rape, each of which would have carried a mandatory ten years in prison. But a few days before the trial, in June 2008, Richards got a plea deal from the Delaware state prosecutor: admit to the abuse, and go down to fourth degree instead of second. Prosecutor Renee Hrivnak recommended probation, not jail time—surely part of the plea deal as well.
So the real question is: Why was such a generous plea deal offered, in a case as hideous as this one?
There are many possibilities, with varying degrees of believability.
Most likely, and unfortunately for all of us sickened by this crime and its sentence, is that there wasn't a strong enough likelihood of conviction. Media reports from the last 24 hours only repeat the accusation made by a five-year-old girl, fully four years after the rape occurred—together with an admission from Richards, who said, “It was an accident and he would never do it again.” What does he mean by “accident” here? We don't know.
Moreover, by 2008, there probably wasn't any physical evidence remaining from the 2005 crime. And weren't we just told, in the context of the accusations against Woody Allen, that child testimony is often unreliable?
It's very possible that Richards's lawyers played a high-stakes game of chicken, and the Delaware prosecutors offered this deal because the slimebag might've gotten away with it otherwise. That's not quite justice, but it's not “affluenza”—a rich dude getting ‘treatment' instead of punishment—either. The current internet mob's cry is that a rich guy just got away with rape. Actually, a rich guy got away with rape in the (probable) absence of fully convincing evidence two years after the crime.
It's also possible that the Delaware state prosecutors, or the judge, were in cahoots with the rich-as-royals du Pont clan, of which Richards was a scion. It is Delaware, after all; a small state with a handful of very wealthy families, of whom the du Ponts are the wealthiest. Could someone have said something at a country club to someone in the prosecutor's office? It's certainly plausible, especially to fans of House of Cards— but of course there's no evidence anywhere of wrongdoing. Not at this time, anyway.
There are, to be sure, a few weird loose ends. Beau Biden, attorney general of Delaware and son of our vice president, reportedly said that the prosecution of crimes against children was a top priority. But then, he's also said that he wasn't involved in, or even aware of, the Richards prosecution. Really?
As we say down South, that dog won't hunt. A celebrity defendant accused of a horrific crime cuts a massive plea deal—and the AG isn't even aware of it? He leaves it to his deputy, Ian McConnel, to rubber stamp the deal? Answers, please.
But wait, it gets weirder. Current state prosecutor Kathleen Jennings used to be—get this— Richards's probation lawyer . Now, there's nothing necessarily suspect about that; prior to taking her current job in 2011, Jennings was in private practice for 15 years. Before that, she was a deputy attorney general—so of course Richards' family got him the best. Need I say again: Delaware is a small state.
But at the very least, this situation, too, cries out for answers. Was Jennings Richards's lawyer in 2008 and 2009, when he got his sweetheart deal? Are there other relationships between the du Pont clan and the AG's office?
If you're of a conspiratorial bent, this all looks like a shady cover-up. Rich defendant, revolving door attorneys, last-minute plea deals… cue the brooding theme music and time-lapse photography.
I, however, am not of such a mind. Not because I'm not cynical enough—rather, because I am too cynical. I think that to lay this case at the feet of a few bad guys hats is to miss the wider injustice that this case really represents. This case wasn't a few villains (or incompetent judges) thwarting the justice system. This was the justice system itself.
Richards got his plea deal because he had good lawyers, one of whom has indiscreetly commented that “it was [a] more than reasonable, an enlightened plea offer.” Of course, he had them because he was rich, but also because he was privileged, white, and above all connected. And those lawyers produced a lot of documents and sowed a lot of doubt. This would've been a hard case that might've ended in a loss. The prosecutors folded.
Not to belabor the point others have made, but if Richards were a less enfranchised American—say, 33-year old African American woman Marissa Alexander, facing 60 years in prison for waving a gun at her abusive husband; or CeCe McDonald, a transgender African American woman who pled down not to probation, but to 41 months in prison, for defending herself against a transphobic and racist attacker—things would have turned out differently. The lawyers would have done their best, but they wouldn't be past deputy attorney generals, and they'd probably have a lot of files in their briefcase. No way Delaware's prosecutors would agree to no jail time.
The problem isn't one rich guy buying his way out of the system. The problem is the system itself, underfunded by conservatives and the tough-on-crime crowd, and thus at the mercy of lawyers able to play the game with their full attention. Prosecutors, public defenders—none of them have the resources to be able to focus like a good criminal defense team can. It's affluenza, alright—but the entire system is afflicted with it.
McConnel, the deputy attorney general who approved the plea deal, told the Delaware New Journal that these cases “are extremely complicated and difficult and we strive to do justice in each and every case to the best of our ability given the facts and circumstances presented; That sometimes results in a resolution that is less than what we would want."
That's an understatement.
Texas couple starved 5-year-old son, kept him locked in stairway closet: police
Bradley and Tammi Bleimeyer reportedly kept the tiny boy in a little closet with just a mattress. He was found wearing just a diaper, his bones showing underneath his skin, after police first responded to the Spring, Texas home.
by Sasha Goldstein
A Texas couple kept their bruised, malnourished 5-year-old son in a diaper and locked in a closet of their Spring home, police said in a horrifying case of abuse.
The tiny, blond-haired boy was severely underweight, his shoulder blades, ribs and vertebrae showing through his skin, when officers found him late last week.
Bradley Bleimeyer, 24, the boy's father, and his wife, Tammi Bleimeyer, 33, the boy's stepmother, were arrested Friday on a charge of child endangerment.
It wasn't until the little boy's teen step brother told police Thursday about the abuse that the child was saved.
Cops responded to the family's home in the 21500 block of Castlemont Lane in Spring last Thursday after a report of a fight, KPRC-TV reported.
There, they found Bradley Bleimeyer arguing with his 16-year-old stepson, who told officers the man was keeping his stepbrother locked in a closet.
Authorities entered the house and found the closet under a stairway, with mattress inside and a lock on the door, the TV station reported.
Tammi Bleimeyer had already fled the home with the child by the time officers arrived, and both adults refused to tell cops the location of the boy.
Officers on Friday tracked the woman and her husband to a nearby motel.
The child was taken to the hospital while both parents were arrested.
“He was severely under nourished, bone sticking out, bumps, bruises. His skin was coming off on his back. It's a horrific horrific situation,” Harris County Constable Precinct 4 Assistant Chief Mark Herman told KHOU-TV.
Tammi Bleimeyer, who is pregnant and has five children, including the 16-year-old, was released on a $2,000 bond, the station reported.
Bradley Bleimeyer, already out on bail for a burglary arrest, was held without bond.
The child remains hospitalized.
ICE nominated for 'Best App' in PR News' Social Media Icon Awards
WASHINGTON — Catching child predators? There's an app for that, and it's up for "Best App" in the PR News' 2014 Social Media Icon Awards.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) "Operation Predator" smartphone app is designed to seek the public's help with locating suspected child predators, and is one of eight finalists vying for the award.
This first of its kind smart phone app was designed and developed by ICE Web Content Manager Kevin Downey, under the supervision and direction of ICE Strategic Communication Director Cori W. Bassett.
"This app has been very well received by the public and has served to increase awareness of the need to locate and arrest criminals who are sexually exploiting children," said ICE Director of Public Affairs Brian Hale. "I applaud Cori and Kevin's creativity and dedication in making this app a reality. The positive attention that the app has already received and the recognition for being a finalist in the Social Media Icon Awards is really a bonus."
The Operation Predator app – currently compatible with Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch – lets users receive alerts about known fugitive and unknown suspect child predators, share the information with friends via email and social media tools and provide information to ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) by calling or submitting an online tip.
Additional features of the app include news about arrests and prosecutions of child predators, and resources for the public from ICE and its global partners in the fight against child exploitation.
Download the app, newly redesigned and optimized for iOS 7, through Apple's App Store or iTunes. Users with the app already installed can check the App Store's updates list for the newest version. An Android version of the app is planned for the near future.
For information on Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, or to report suspected child predators, visit: www.ice.gov
Cory Booker, U.S. Attorney among speakers at Newark child abuse prevention summit
by David Giambusso
NEWARK — Roughly 6 million children are abused in America every year. More than four die from abuse and neglect every day.
In New Jersey, there were more than 92,000 reports of child abuse in 2012, according to the annual Kids Count, a yearly survey of child health and well-being.
Aside from the personal trauma those statistics represent for the children affected, the epidemic of sexual and physical violence toward children also bears huge costs for society in treatment, prosecution and the lasting effects on children as they become adults, advocates say.
Next week, Wynona's House in Newark — the state's only full-service child advocacy center — will host a two-day summit at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, titled “Invisible No More.”
U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-10th Dist.) and Essex County First Assistant Prosecutor Robert Laurino are among political and law enforcement heavyweights scheduled to speak at the summit.
“This is our response to kids that have been severely sexually and physically abused,” said Evelyn Mejil, executive director of Wynona's House. “We want to raise awareness about child abuse and neglect.”
Mejil, herself a child abuse survivor, runs a carefully calibrated advocacy center designed to encourage children to feel comfortable and to limit the trauma they experience when reporting abuse.
The center, on Washington Street in Newark, is named for its founder, the late state Sen. Wynona Lipman (D-Essex).
It is filled with bright colors, toys, games and original art often created by the children who walk through the center's doors.
“When they come into our center they go through the forensic interview process,” Mejil said.
A child sits in a room with one interviewer, generally a mental health professional. In another room is a team of caseworkers, police officers and prosecutors who observe the interview and determine a course of action and treatment for children and families.
The process is purposely designed to limit the number of times a child has to tell his or her story.
“Every time a child tells their stories it becomes a re-victimization,” Mejil said.
The summit, which will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on April 7 and 8, will discuss best practices here and throughout the country as well as the societal effects of child abuse.
Dr. Robert Anda, one of the guest speakers, is a nationally recognized child abuse expert who since the mid 1990s has collaborated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente's Health Appraisal Clinic in San Diego to conduct the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study — an ongoing evaluation of 17,000 abuse victims and the problems they experience later in life.
Major problems experienced by abuse victims include alcohol and drug abuse, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), depression, suicide, sexual promiscuity, smoking, liver disease and heart disease. The CDC puts the total lifetime cost of child abuse at $124 billion each year.
Among the goals of the summit, Mejil said, will be to convince state legislators to make centers like hers legislatively mandated, which will help provide funding for the centers in New Jersey, which rely now on grants and philanthropy.
“This is not just a moral responsibility but it's a fiscal responsibility as well,” Mejil said.
Off-duty pilot convicted of groping 14-year-old girl on flight
SALT LAKE CITY – An airline pilot was convicted this week of two counts of abusive sexual contact for groping a 14-year-old girl while he was a passenger on a flight from Detroit to Salt Lake City last year.
Michael Pascal, who has homes in Park City, Utah, and Texas, was found guilty Thursday by a jury after a three-day trial in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City.
The girl told investigators that she woke up from a nap on an Oct. 26 Delta Airlines flight and found Pascal's hand under her, gripping her buttocks. She was sitting next to a window, and Pascal was in the middle seat.
Pascal, 45, who worked at the time as a pilot for a regional airline carrier that contracts with Delta, told investigators he fell asleep with his hands in his lap and doesn't know how one ended up underneath the girl.
He's scheduled to be sentenced July 29 and could face up to five years in prison.
The girl told authorities she elbowed Pascal after waking up with his hand underneath her and said, "What the hell are you doing?" court documents show.
She says Pascal pulled his hand out from under her and said, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I was asleep, I have to use the bathroom."
She said the armrest that she had pushed down was in the upright position. Pascal said he pulled up the armrest between him and the girl because the man on the other side of him was taking up a lot of room, according to documents.
The girl, who was flying alone, told flight attendants what happened and changed seats. She maintained Pascal was "clearly awake" and put some of his body on her.
Pascal's attorney, Rhome Zabriskie, has said his client was in shock about being charged. He has a teenage daughter of his own, Zabriskie said, and any touching that occurred was inadvertent.
It took the jury a couple of hours to reach the verdict.
Quarryville teen overcomes child sexual abuse, wants others to know there's hope
by SUZANNE CASSIDY
When Kayla Schneider revealed on her 13th birthday that she'd been molested by a family friend, her shocked and devastated mother told her that her experience, while horrifying, wouldn't have to define her life.
She'd be able to have a bright future, her mother told her, but she'd have to fight for it.
And that's what Kayla did: She fought for it.
She told her story to a forensic interviewer at the Lancaster County Children's Alliance, and eventually in court.
And her testimony — along with that of three other girls — helped to secure the conviction of Michael Archacki, of Quarryville, a former police officer and firefighter, who was sentenced in December 2012 to up to 65 years in prison.
Kayla knows her fight isn't over. But she's finding her way. She's found her voice. And she intends to use that voice to let others who have been sexually abused know they can overcome their trauma.
She'll be speaking at the One with Courage Children's Summit on Friday, April 11.
The summit is being held by the Lancaster County Children's Alliance, a children's advocacy center, and Lancaster General Health's Nurse-Family Partnership.
It will aim to educate “adults on the courage that hundreds of children throughout Lancaster County have every year when they walk into the Lancaster County Children's Alliance,” says Kari Stanley, the alliance's program supervisor.
She says she hopes the summit raises awareness about the alliance's work, and encourages adults to recognize and report child sexual abuse.
“It is our hope (that) by taking action — no matter how small or large the act — we make a significant difference in the life of a child, in our communities and in the movement to end child sexual abuse,” Stanley says.
Kayla also plans to take part in the Run with Courage 5K on April 6, which will raise money for the Lancaster County Children's Alliance.
She says she wants to give back to those who helped her regain control of her life.
And she wants to offer hope to other sexual abuse survivors.
“I never want them to think they are alone,” she says.
Where the blame lies
In a recent interview at Solanco High School, where she is a sophomore, Kayla, 15, is thoughtful and remarkably poised.
Her mother, Christine Schneider, says that poise is hard-won; her daughter, she says, lost part of her childhood.
Kayla says she no longer blames herself for the pain her family endured when she revealed her abuse.
She knows the blame lies entirely with the grown man who took advantage of her and other children.
She was 12 when, in May 2011, she had to leave a softball game to play the violin in a concert. When the concert ended, she met her victorious teammates for ice cream.
A teammate and friend introduced her to her “like-Dad, Myke,” who was a father figure to Kayla's fatherless friend.
That evening, Archacki introduced himself to Kayla's mother.
A week later, he began texting Kayla; the texts eventually would number in the thousands.
“He offered to help me with any bullying issues at school, or issues with my parents, because he mentored other girls and was a police officer,” Kayla recalls. “He seemed to understand what I was going through. He also asked me if I believed in love at first sight.
“He said he saw me at my orchestra concert and instantly fell in love with me. Over time he acted like he was my boyfriend.”
He was three decades older than Kayla.
'He seemed everywhere'
Knowing that Kayla's mother periodically checked her phone, he directed Kayla to delete his texts.
“When I first met Myke, he seemed really nice, friendly and helpful,” Kayla says. “He made me feel good about myself. Before I knew it, I felt like he controlled my every thought and action.”
She says she had been an overweight kid, with self-esteem issues. She says she knew it was “weird” that a grown man would tell her he had fallen instantly in love with her, but he was an adult, and she was 12.
He was calling all the shots.
One night, she was invited to a friend's house to sleep over. The friend fought with her guardian, and called Archacki, who came to pick up the girls.
He brought them to his house, and introduced them to his girlfriend and their respective children. The kids danced and watched movies, and then went to sleep in the basement.
“Myke woke me up in the middle of the night and said he needed to talk to me,” Kayla remembers. “The rest I would like to forget.”
Archacki molested her.
“I was confused and paralyzed with fear. … I couldn't say a word. What was happening? Was it my fault? Myke told me he loved me and what he was doing was not wrong, it was normal.”
In the weeks that followed, Archacki insinuated himself into the lives of Kayla and her family.
He and his girlfriend began attending their church; Archacki offered to help with Bible school.
“Our families became friends and hung out with each other,” even going on vacation to the beach together, Kayla says. “He seemed everywhere.”
Truth comes out
In July 2011, Archacki told Kayla's parents that he had been accused of improperly touching a young girl. He proclaimed his innocence, and said he was sure the matter would be cleared up soon.
Shaken, Kayla's parents asked her if Archacki had ever done anything to her. She got upset, asking how they could believe a friend had done something so awful.
Archacki had told her that what happened between them was their secret, and if she revealed it, her parents would never look at her the same way again.
She says she didn't want to disappoint her parents.
But soon after, her parents — saying there were too many red flags — forbade her from going near Archacki.
Archacki was asked to stay away from Kayla's 13th birthday party.
At the end of the party, Archacki's girlfriend, who was a party guest, asked Kayla to come outside to the driveway with her. There Kayla found Archacki waiting to give her an 8-foot teddy bear.
Kayla's parents were furious. Her mother emailed Archacki to tell him he wasn't to have any contact with Kayla.
A few days later, on Kayla's actual birthday, she told one of her friends what Archacki had done to her.
And then Kayla told her mother.
“My parents' reaction was nothing like Myke told me it would be,” Kayla says. “They weren't ashamed of me. Instead they told me they were proud of me for telling the truth, and they loved me unconditionally.”
Christine Schneider remembers running across the family's yard, screaming, as she ran to get her mother to stay with Kayla, while she and her husband Joel spoke to the police.
“I believed her right away,” Christine says. “There was never a doubt. It was just the magnitude of it. It all came crashing down in an instant.
“I knew I could either cry, or I could take action. My husband, being the protector, grieved a lot. He felt like he let his daughter down.”
Says Kayla: “There were times when I would just cry into his arms, and keep on repeating to him that he was the best father.”
Christine and Joel Schneider are loving and involved parents who remain stunned over what happened to their daughter.
Christine says she had role-played, over and over again, with Kayla and her little sister, what to do if a stranger approached them.
She didn't realize that the real danger was the amiable and helpful guy, the family friend whose house was filled with trophies and law enforcement memorabilia.
A painful road
“The road to healing has been hard,” Kayla says. “I would like to tell you that after I told my mother that I was molested, everything was OK. I knew in my head I did the right thing. My parents and other people told me ... I saved other girls from being abused by Myke.
“But all I could see was pain around me.
“I felt exposed, embarrassed and ashamed. I felt I brought on this pain to my family. Kids made fun of me at school. Some kids — and even some adults — didn't believe me and the other girls because they thought we were doing it for attention. My friends didn't know what to say to me.”
Kayla says she had moments when she thought maybe her family would be better off without her; her pain led her to cut herself, in a futile attempt to replace her mental anguish with physical pain.
Her parents were afraid of leaving her alone, lest she hurt herself. Finally, they pulled her out of school so she could focus on counseling.
She was cyberschooled for the rest of eighth grade.
They also took away her phone for a while, so the bullying she'd been experiencing in school couldn't follow her home.
'A positive path'
Kayla began going to intensive therapy with Heidi Scott, of Morning Star Counseling in Quarryville. She joined a survivors' group.
“Kayla has worked so hard to not let this affect her in negative ways,” says the therapist, who commented with permission from Kayla and her mother.
“She has been determined from the beginning to use this experience to help others and I know she has drawn on that motivation to get her through the rough times. ... Kayla decided early on that she was going to choose a positive path.
“She has struggled through the memories and the shame and has always demonstrated tremendous courage, but it has certainly come at a cost.
“It has been painful and lonely at times, but she has never stopped fighting.”
Kayla says she learned in counseling to cope with her feelings, and with flashbacks. “I started to believe that I wasn't damaged goods and could be happy again.”
She says she came to realize that “God didn't desert me, and he loved me. Myke made bad choices and it was his fault, not mine or God's.”
She drew strength from the prayers of family members, friends and her “church family,” she says.
And now, she says, she's finally starting to feel like “a normal teenager.”
Having returned to school in the ninth grade, she's a member of Solanco High School's flag squad, orchestra and Link Crew (a mentoring program aimed at helping freshmen).
She had elbow surgery but hopes to be back on the softball field soon. She's looking forward to going to the prom with her boyfriend.
She's excited for the future, she says.
“I don't believe the road to healing will ever be over for me. I will never forget my abuse. But I am hopeful for the future and my life. I'm happy and now want to focus on helping others.”
The One with Courage Children's Summit breakfast will be held from 7:30 to 11 a.m. Friday, April 11, at the Eden Resort and Suites in Lancaster. Cost will be $20 a person. Register by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 544-7972.
Healing group artists to present exhibit
— “Healing Trauma through Expressive Arts,” a traveling art exhibit created by adult survivors of sexual abuse from the Integrative Healing Group, will be on display from 4 p.m. Monday through noon Friday in the lower level of St. Francis Library and Learning Commons on the campus of St. Francis University, Loretto.
The university counseling center is hosting the exhibit, which is a free program for female adult survivors of sexual abuse. The exhibit has traveled throughout the community and will continue to travel in April for Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
A program will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday when visitors will be able to meet the artists and learn more about the Integrative Healing Group.
The exhibit is free and open to the public.
Information: 472-3211 or email email@example.com.
Participate in ‘alienation' week
by Donna Tidwell Hickman
During a recent Florence City Council meeting, Mayor Mickey Haddock proclaimed the week of April 20-26 as Parental Alienation Prevention Week and more specifically, April 25, as Parental Alienation Awareness Day.
Some experts have called parental alienation “the worst form of child abuse.” Testimony from adult survivors who become released by this cruel form of indoctrination by one parent to hate the other say that awareness and discussion and education is what has freed them, though scars to the entire family remain.
Unfortunately, many adults fall under the manipulation of an obsessed parent willing to use his or her child to psychologically torment an ex-spouse and therefore aid the alienating parent in abusing the child or teen along with causing the target parent extreme pain. An alienating parent will often claim the target parent is mentally unbalanced and others simply believe it because who could believe someone would be so hateful and conniving and depriving?
Dr. Amy J. Baker's research shows the child will align with the abusive parent out of survival and confusion. Some alienated parents are even forced to let go of their child to allow that child to be free from being asked to make false testimonies in court and other unhealthy and immoral behaviors.
A child's right to freely love both parents is essential for their development and a healthy adulthood as well. Many teens having issues are quietly suffering. I hope the schools will participate.
Firing child -abuse workers goes far beyond 'oops'
Arizona's child welfare agency didn't need another black eye. Especially not on the face of the new office that's supposed to be an example of how things should be done.
Unfortunately, the black eye is one result of news about two investigators who worked on child abuse cases for months before being fired for making false claims to get hired.
If this is the only result of this folly, kids will suffer.
First, let's be clear: This is a big blunder from the state Office of Child Welfare Investigations, which earned kudos last year for revealing that more than 6,500 reports of child abuse and neglect were systematically ignored by the agency formerly known as Child Protective Services.
This revelation led Gov. Jan Brewer to name a top-level task force, rename CPS and ask lawmakers to permanently pull it out of the Department of Economic Security as part of a major reform. That process is ongoing.
So this is a particularly unfortunate time to learn that OCWI hired two investigators that likely wouldn't have made the grade if mandated employment checks had been properly done.
One provided a resume that falsely claimed he was a former Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy. The other quit the Pima County Sheriff's Office rather than being fired after he sent a cell phone picture of his exposed penis to his girlfriend while on duty. He says nobody at OCWI asked, so he didn't tell.
The problems with both of these applicants could have been discovered if OCWI followed a 2012 law that requires "documented, good faith effort to contact current and previous employers." This goes beyond "oops."
The lack of investigators' credibility could damage cases against accused child abusers. State officials say no cases were compromised. Let's hope not.
Let's also hope that OCWI digs a little deeper into resumes from now on.
But here's the rub: Arizona was supposed to be beyond just wishin' and hopin' for better from Arizona's child welfare system. The governor promised big changes, and that led to big expectations.
This incident looks like the latest foul-up from system so far beyond redemption that even the reformers can't get it right. Such justifiable cynicism is one result of this dumb and potentially dangerous hiring mistake.
But it cannot be the only result.
In truth – and with no desire to excuse what happened – there are perils in ramping up a workforce quickly. That's what Arizona's child welfare agency has been authorized to do, and it is long overdue. But hiring in a hurry can result in subtle reductions in standards or scrutiny.
This incident is a reminder to guard against that – especially in the new office that focuses on criminal investigations.
The public – and lawmakers – need to guard against another peril of reforming a long-broken agency. It's important to have high expectations, but it can be counterproductive to expect an immediate turnaround.
There is a long road ahead for Arizona's child welfare agency.
The challenges faced by an agency designed to help abused and neglected children involve complex human relationships. Those formidable complexities are compounded by years of underfunding, inept management and a culture of secrecy at CPS.
It will take time to get reform right. This incident demonstrates why it will also take careful scrutiny, transparency, oversight and attention to detail.
Child abuse response times steady despite rising case numbers
by Adam Rodewald
Brown County child protection workers complete most of their abuse and neglect investigations on time despite an escalating number of cases.
The agency has one of the best response times in the state, according to the state Department of Children and Families.
State standards require social workers to make contact with families accused of child abuse within 24 hours to five days of receiving the report, depending on its severity. They then have 60 days to complete an investigation.
Brown County social workers have met those requirements 90 percent of the time in the past six months, the data shows.
Statewide, social workers made initial contact on time in 82 percent of cases and finished only 71 percent of investigations on time.
Local child protection workers said meeting timeliness requirements has been a struggle.
“I can tell you it has not been easy. The staff here are incredibly dedicated and good at what they do,” said intake supervisor Lauren Krukowski, who helps oversee abuse and neglect investigations. “We do the best we can to make sure children are safe, so we put in the hours. We don't go home until it's done.”
The number of child abuse and neglect cases investigated by the Brown County agency has increased 59 percent in the past five years, and the trend is continuing in 2014. Social workers have said cases are also becoming more complex.
Since noting the increase in 2012, the county has responded by adding more staff to conduct investigations and take reports.
The full-time equivalent of 16 social workers do investigations and three take and process the initial reports, Krukowski said.
That means social workers averaged 14 open cases per full-time worker over the past six months.
The county had a backlog of 14 cases waiting to be closed out as of the end of February.
“It's all about diligence and being dedicated to your job,” said social worker Kristie Sickel, who conducts abuse and neglect investigations. “I have a same-day case right now. I have until midnight to find this family. If I can't meet with this family initially, I will continue to work all day until I confirm (the children's) safety.”
Time management is key to keeping up with the demand, Krukowski said. Social workers have flexible job descriptions, meaning they can switch roles as case demands fluctuate.
“We have no control over what comes through the door, and we need to do what we can for staffing rotations so we have coverage for emergency cases that come in,” she said.
Krukowski said she couldn't say whether the rising number of cases will begin to impact the agency's response times. She said the county has so far been responsive to their needs.
“There have been times where it feels incredibly difficult. Right now it feels incredibly difficult. It is what it is, and we're lucky we have a team that's willing to step up and assist each other,” she said.
Junior League site targets local child abuse
by Amy Renee Leiker
Combating local child abuse is the focus of a new website launched by the Junior League of Wichita.
ChildAbuseWichita.org offers a one-stop community resource for victims and witnesses of child abuse, information on prevention and intervention, awareness events and fundraisers.
There is also information about volunteer opportunities, statistics on the prevalence of child abuse locally and a list of area organizations that serve abuse victims.
The site is a partnership between about 20 local agencies that provide services to victims of child abuse and the Junior League of Wichita, an organization of women devoted to voluntarism and community improvement. It can be accessed at www.childabusewichita.org.
“Child abuse is a complicated issue that affects every facet of our community,” Kristin Baker, chair for Junior League of Wichita's child abuse website, said in a news release.
“Our hope is that the website will serve as a valuable resource for many different types of people, and we are proud to give the site as a gift to our community.”
Baltimore center helping to heal the youngest victims of abuse
Group holding inaugural "hero" fundraiser featuring Sugar Ray Leonard
by Donna M. Owens
Maryland's own Sugar Ray Leonard is perhaps best known as a baby-faced Olympic gold medalist and champion prize fighter with a winning smile.
Yet for decades, the world-renowned boxer suppressed a devastating secret: Leonard had been sexually abused as a teen.
"I didn't scream. I didn't look at him," the athlete writes of one particular incident involving a male coach revealed in his autobiography, "The Big Fight: My Life In and Out of the Ring." "I just opened the door and ran."
Leonard, now 57, has become a national advocate fighting for children who have suffered abuse. Having grown up in Prince George's County, he'll return to the region as a celebrity guest when the Baltimore Child Abuse Center hosts its inaugural Be A Hero fundraiser at the American Visionary Art Museum on Thursday at the Inner Harbor.
Founded in 1987, the non-profit center serves victims of child abuse in the city — upwards of 1,000 cases annually. Accredited by the National Children's Alliance, it's part of a network of some 800 child advocacy sites nationwide. The Justice Department notes that approximately 293,000 youngsters utilized such facilities in 2013 alone.
A recent report from the Crimes Against Children Research Center indicates that one in four girls and one in 20 boys in the United States, experience sexual abuse or assault by age 17.
"Child sexual abuse is pervasive. It's an issue that affects the entire community," said Baltimore Child Abuse Center executive director Adam Rosenberg, a former city state's attorney who once prosecuted sex offense cases. "When a child cries out, we're here to help."
With nearly two dozen health experts, social workers, forensic specialists and other personnel, the team provides comprehensive interviews, medical treatment and crisis counseling services to youngsters and their families and caregivers.
Rosenberg, who has helmed the organization since 2008, explained that its original mission stemmed from growing awareness among advocates that sexually abused children not only suffered from its myriad effects, but were often re-traumatized by the lengthy, typically repetitive, investigative process intended to assist them.
"We have a coordinated, stream-lined response that results in a timely, child-sensitive investigation of sexual abuse," he said. "We're on call 24 hours a day."
The Be A Hero event aims to raise monies for the center's $1.8 million budget, which relies primarily on private and government funding, while honoring individuals in the local community who have demonstrated a commitment to protecting children from sexual abuse.
Honorees include Neil Meltzer, CEO of LifeBridge Health; philanthropist Ellen Wasserman; and Angelique Redmond, a businesswoman and activist.
The evening's honorary co-chairs are Debbie Phelps, educator and mother of Olympian Michael Phelps, and Baltimore City State's Attorney Gregg Bernstein.
Meltzer and Wasserman are being jointly recognized for efforts that resulted in a strategic partnership between the center, and the Herman and Walter Samuelson Children's Hospital at Sinai, part of the LifeBridge system.
Thanks to Meltzer's vision and a multi-year financial gift from Wasserman, the nonprofit has been able to make its medical director — a pediatrician with specialized expertise in child sex abuse — a member of the children's hospital faculty.
Meltzer says the arrangement saves the operation significant expense, and augments its ability to connect children with the best care possible.
"Unfortunately, there's a need for these services," said the CEO, who noted he was "stunned" to learn the center was acknowledging him. "It's a great organization. I'm not one to grab the spotlight, but this means a lot to me."
Redmond was equally surprised.
"I thought, 'me'?" said the owner of Kinkx Studio, a hair braiding salon in the city's Belair-Hamilton neighborhood that caters to a clientele aged14 and under.
Over the past year, center officials say Redmond has been integral to the success of its "Enough Abuse" campaign, an effort to heighten awareness and community dialogue around the issue of child sexual abuse.
She opens her shop for meetings, hosts discussions and rallies, and is a vocal advocate for inner city youth. "The well being of children is very important to me," said the wife and mother of three.
Organizers said the gala among is already sold out.
While that makes Rosenberg happy, he's unabashed about the center's ongoing fiscal needs as it works with children and trains the greater community to learn what they can do to help prevent child abuse.
"We're still trying to raise awareness," he said. "We want to build the next generation of child protection advocates."
For more information about the Baltimore Child Abuse Center, visit bcaci.org.
Child abuse awareness activities set for Lima this April
Children Services reports up 70% since 2008
by Megan Kinnear
LIMA — Child abuse. Neglect. The words alone are enough to make a heart heavy. However, for 967 children in Allen County, those words became reality last year.
According to Cyndi Scanland, director of intake and investigations at Allen County Children Services, 3,555 referrals and calls came into their office in 2013. Of those, 967 turned into reports where the agency found it appropriate to do a formal assessment. Hundreds of other calls were redirected to other agencies and resources to help with families' needs.
Scott Ferris, executive director of Allen County Children Services, said, “April is National Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention month, which began in 1983. In addition, April 9 is our third annual ‘Ohio Wears Blue' day. We want to be able to shine awareness on the problem.”
Donna Dickman, executive director for The Partnership for Violence Free Families, said, “We try and do something big during April to keep in the public's eye. Our coalition, which is made up of many agencies, works together to see what (events) are going on, and what more can we add. It's a big month. We really want to drive home the fact that this community is addressing (child abuse).”
Some of April's other events include: a flag-raising ceremony at noon Tuesday at the Allen County Courthouse to honor the victims of child abuse; a presentation of blue pinwheels at 12:30 p.m. April 7 at Lima Memorial Health System; and a “Spank Out Day” and healthy kids' day 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 26 at the Lima YMCA. These are just a few of the many awareness events and activities planned for the month. For a complete list, visit: www.pvff.org
According to Ferris, child abuse and neglect reports are up 70 percent from 2008.
He attributes it, in part, to “an economy tanking, stress factors, and bad decisions which lead to other bad decisions.”
Ferris also added that the calls that come in don't necessarily mean that there is more abuse than before. Perhaps there has been more awareness and resources for people to be able to report the abuse.
Staff at Allen County Children Services take calls around the clock for anyone to report violence or neglect against a child. A person can call 419-227-8590 any time to make an anonymous report.
“We take referrals by phone, in person or by letter. We prefer if people call or come in. We have two full-time screeners who are social workers and are excellent at what they do, “ Ferris explained. In addition, there are other highly trained and educated support staff members who assist when needed.
“A lot of times what's reported to us is not the problem, it's a symptom. Neglect might be a symptom of a deeper problem like substance abuse or financial problems,” Ferris said.
Recognizing Allen County families' desperate need for assistance on different levels, the agency adopted Alternative Response. This program is designed to be a proactive approach to keeping children safe. It helps families solve problems and connects them with community resources.
Scanland said, “In June 2012 we began Alternative Response. We focus on soliciting families as partners. We try to engage families right from the beginning, from the first call to us.”
Jenny Knippen, intake supervisor at Allen County Children Services, said, “It's more difficult to engage and work with families if they have a negative feeling already.”
Scanland added that once families learn the agency is on their side, negative perceptions tend to change. When they learn about Alternative Response, they are overall cooperative because they understand that we to work with them to help them to keep the family unit together. “Our goal is to maintain kids in their home,” she said.
Scanland said there might be a perception from the public that if a report is made, a child will be taken out of the home — which is not usually the case.
Though the goal is to keep a child in his/her own home, the steps taken to investigate reports are thorough. If the staff at Allen County Children Services feels there is a dangerous threat to a child's well being, they will do everything necessary to ensure that child's safety.
The first step will be to help the family get the help they need. If things do not improve, they will look to place the child with family members.
“Foster care is a last resort,” Scanland said. “Our resources have evolved over the years. In addition, we offer parenting classes. There's no charge for our services.”
Knippen added, “We really can't tell (parents and guardians) that they can't spank. We will help them learn new non-violent techniques, though.”
Dickman explained that parents and guardians might have too high of expectations of their children. She said the best thing parents can do is to educate themselves on the mental and social development of their children.
“We can't expect a toddler to sit for an hour quietly at Walmart. They aren't supposed to be able to do it,” she said, and added that parents get mad if they don't behave like “little adults.”
Dickman said, “The largest time of brain development is from ages 3 to 5. Toddlers are testing out the world. They are learning to understand emotions and empathy. You can't expect a 2-year-old to play nicely. They can't do it.”
“We need to stop spanking. When anyone is hit, your brain shuts down with learning. IQs are lower in children who are hit,” Dickman said and added, “(Spanking) is also an opportunity for things to get out of control.”
Dickman said that children don't have the vocal capacity to explain their emotions but will model good behavior.
“Parenting is about consistency, and backing up between both parents. You can't threaten. If children understand consequences, they will listen at age-appropriate levels,” she said.
Dickman cited a past Ohio media campaign: “Just take a breath.” By this, she explained parents in stressful situations should step back, take a deep breath and put things in perspective. Also, parents should use community resources and supportive services. Visit www.pvff.org for a list of resources.
Ferris and the others suggested everyone should be wary of suspected child abuse in the community.
“If it's hot out and a child comes to school in long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, it might be an indicator that they are hiding marks,” Ferris said. “It's natural for kids to get some bruises on legs and arms from playing, but marks that look like burns or are in unusual places like the backs of legs would be suspicious. Sleeping in school and/or school attendance issues are also causes for concerns.”
Knippen concurred that suspicious bruises are definite causes for concern, as well as inconsistent stories between the parent and the child of how an injury may have occurred.
Some people are required to report suspicious events. These “mandated reporters” are professional childcare providers, teachers, clergy members, or anyone who works with children as their job.
Others, such as family members, friends or causal observers in public places are encouraged to also report abuse but will have the choice to remain anonymous. Please call Allen County Children Services to report any violent act or neglect against a child. People are available to answer the phone seven days a week, 24 hours a day at: 419-227-8590. Call 911 if it's an emergency situation.
“When people see something in public, they tend to turn a blind eye because they don't know what to do. If there were more by standards who would step in, we could take care of this problem,” Dickman said.
For more information and resources, visit: www.allencsb.com
Ferris added that he hopes this month people will become more aware of this problem, but will do things to help change it every month of the year, not just in April. Also, he hopes people might simply show appreciation for the many advocates in this community.
“Say ‘thank you' to those who do this day in and day out,” Ferris said.
Columnist: You can be the one to report suspected child abuse
by Linda Braswell
Vigil held for 4-year-old boy found in. Mom charged in the death of 2-year-old. Prosecutor says man killed 4-year-old boy.
Headlines like those send shock waves to all who read them. These are stories that get your attention. They deserve it.
There are so many more.
Our Child Advocacy Center saw nearly 500 children last year and almost all were from Cumberland County. The center sees only the most serious cases of sexual abuse and physical abuse. That said, there are many more reported and investigated.
April begins Tuesday. It is Child Abuse Prevention Month and time to pause and think about what you can do to help ensure children are safe.
People of good will fail to act sometimes because they don't know what to do. Furthermore, they fear they might not be right or that reporting could get someone in trouble when there could be another explanation for suspicion. They may think reporting will only make it worse.
And it is hard to believe that sexual and physical abuse happens here in our community. It is easier to turn away, to not see or act.
As with so many other issues in life, knowledge and education strengthen resolve. So let's examine first how to recognize child abuse and how to report it when it is suspected.
The National Children's Alliance lists ten signs of abuse:
1. Unexplained injuries such as burns or bruises, especially in the shape of objects.
2. A child's behavior may change. Abused children often are scared, anxious, aggressive and depressed.
3. Regressive behaviors may occur. Children may return to earlier habits such as thumb-sucking or bed-wetting.
4. A child may be afraid of going home.
5. A change in eating may occur.
6. A change in sleeping habits may happen.
7. Changes in school performance and attendance may be seen.
8. Changes in hygiene or personal care.
9. Risk-taking behaviors may be seen.
10. Inappropriate sexual behavior, along with explicit language, can sometimes be seen.
Does it make it any easier to know that our responsibility is to report it - not to investigate?
As responsible and caring adults, each of us is called upon to report suspicions to the Department of Social Services or to the police. They will take the information, which can be reported anonymously, and begin an investigation.
They will take on the role of protecting the child and prosecuting the offender. The Child Advocacy Center provides a safe, child-friendly place for children to tell their stories. The center also hosts the multidisciplinary team that assesses needs and coordinates care for the child.
Good care physically and emotionally can prevent lifelong bad effects. A phone call puts it all in motion.
Abuse of a child is intentional maltreatment. Anyone can be in the right place at the right time to help a child.
Linda Braswell is chairperson of the board of directors of the Child Advocacy Center in Fayetteville.
Openings abound to help CSRA's abused children overcome tragedies
by Dan Hillman
Child Enrichment is known for innovative and aggressive child advocacy programs. April is national Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month. Everyone can do something to help abused children.
Let's start with the question: Are children safe?
CHILD ENRICHMENT programs offer a safe haven for children who have been abused. Last year 639 child victims of abuse or severe neglect received our services. All of us see the headlines, read the news articles and watch the television coverage with the gruesome details of child abuse, child abduction, child sexual abuse and even murder. In the six weeks between Thanksgiving 2013 and Jan. 8, 2014, 10 men were convicted of sexually abusing children in Columbia and Richmond Counties.
There is a problem, and it is significant.
As professionals who work with victims of child abuse, we not only know about the reality and horror of the abuses perpetuated upon children, but we also must look into the eyes of the individual child victims, and hear of their experiences. In those eyes we see fear and stress and distrust, but we also see hope.
For Child Enrichment employees, board members and volunteers, it is all about hope.
The standards followed by Child Enrichment about child protection, and advocating for the respect of all children, are promoted beyond the walls of our buildings. In attempting to raise awareness in this community and with other professionals with whom we work, we continually aim the focus on the children and their needs.
Last year, Child Enrichment provided counseling, court advocacy and forensic interviewing, or found safe and permanent homes, for 639 children. Yet, we also worked with 333 of their non-abusing caregivers – helping them to keep the children safe, and to follow the recovery guidelines. Abused children can recover from even the most horrible abuse and torture. Child Enrichment programs prove this.
Children have died because of physical abuse this year in our community. In the United States, millions of children are physically abused each year, and thousands of children die because of physical abuse. Most children who die from abuse are younger than age 6.
THERE IS PROOF that hundreds of thousands of children are sexually abused each year, and it is estimated that millions of other cases go undetected. Many cases of child sexual abuse are not disclosed until the victim reaches adulthood. Children are most often abused by people whom they know and trust. How can this be?
As adults in this society, there is only one answer to these problems. All adults must step up and address the issue directly.
So, the answer to the question “Are children safe?” is: It depends. Yes, they are safe, if adults are doing everything possible to keep them safe; and, no, they are not safe, if the children are vulnerable, unsupervised, lonely, depressed or fearful.
For the most part, we should consider children to not be safe . Children are not capable of protecting themselves. Children need adults to protect them. Yet, most adults seem to fear getting involved.
If adults understand child abuse and child sexual abuse, they probably will do something to help a child. Regardless of whether you are capable of looking into the eyes of abused children, you can experience their hope, and you can help. Everyone can do something to help abused children. You can make a difference!
Maybe more adults would help if they knew how. So, here is how to help:
Make a donation. Funding is always a concern for non-profit organizations such as Child Enrichment, and with the recent trend of foundations and funders wanting to fund new or different charities each year, it is even more difficult to provide excellent programs to help child victims to recover. Donate and be a loyal donor to effective programs.
VOLUNTEER AT THIS or other child advocacy programs.
Learn about child abuse. Visit the Darkness to Light web page – www.D2L.org. Learn about effective strategies for families, religious organizations and programs to protect children.
Help make our community
safe for all children. Voice that expectation. Communicate clearly that adults who may harm children are not welcome and will be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law.
These are all good beginnings.
(The writer is executive director of Child Enrichment Inc., the Child Advocacy Center and Court Appointed Special Advocates for abused children.)
Expert: Conversation Shouldn't Solely Focus on Child Sexual Abuse, but All Sex Crimes
by Jennifer Miller
While Pennsylvania has made progress in awareness and prevention of child sexual abuse in the wake of the Jerry Sandsuky scandal, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape says it is critical to put a spotlight on all sexual abuse.
Following the arrest of former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, who is now a convicted pedophile, Penn State University teamed up with PCAR to enhance awareness and prevention of child sexual abuse. The university and PCAR have both touted success through that partnership.
At the same time, Kristin Houser, spokeswoman for PCAR, recently told StateCollege.com it is critical for such initiatives to focus on all victims of sex crimes, not just children.
"Many people who commit sexual offenses are not pedophiles, but the damage they cause to the community is no less than child sexual abuse," Houser says. "I do think helping the community expand the conversation about sexual abuse beyond children to look at the lifespan is really important."
While the Sandusky case was a child abuse sex case, Houser says the reality is many people who commit sex offenses against children also abuse teens and adults, which can also include gender cross over. She says it's also important to highlight sexual abuse on college campuses, which is prevalent across the country.
Houser says around the world it is often said that children are innocent victims, which is true, however, she says such a statement can imply that adult victims are not as innocent. Just as an offender grooms a child, an offender grooms an adult in an attempt to get away with the abuse, Houser says.
"It sort of uncovers a lot of misinformation of adult sexual assaults," she says.
Additionally, Houser says it is important to change the double-standard for victims based on gender. For example, House says there is a stereotype that if a female assaults a male victim it equates to a "badge of honor" for the victim.
"It is damaging," she says. "Our societal standards make it much harder for that young man to come forward."
As part of Penn State's partnership with PCAR, over the past year more than 30,000 people affiliated with the university have received training to identify and report suspected child abuse.
Additionally, PCAR has used a portion of the $1.5 million provided by Penn State to fund several initiatives. The funds came from Penn State's 2011 share of the Big Ten bowl revenues as part of the university's effort to fight the crime of child abuse.
PCAR also is one of 18 sponsors of Penn State's upcoming third annual Conference on Child Protection and Well-Being to be held May 5 and 6 at the Nittany Lion Inn. The two-day conference will focus on "Parenting, Family Processes and Intervention" and feature presentations and panel discussions from top researchers in the field.
Congress Eyes Crackdown on Sex Trade Customers
by Maya Rhodan
While the federal government has taken steps to curb child sex trafficking, lawmakers agree a more aggressive approach is needed on the demand-side of the problem. Texas Rep. Ted Poe said Wednesday that customers of child prostitutes need to be held accountable
More needs to be done to prosecute those who purchase children and teens for sex, lawmakers in both parties agreed Wednesday.
“The kids are not for sale, period,” Texas Republican Rep. Ted Poe said during a meeting of a House Judiciary Committee panel. The hearing, during which Poe decried the “boys being boys” attitude taken when it comes to the men who purchase prostitutes, reflected a growing focus by policy makers on the demand-side of the sex trade.
While state and federal law enforcement officials testified Wednesday about the many ways they've altered their approach to victims over the years, none could give concrete answers to questions about how “johns” who purchase sex are prosecuted. Corporal Chris Heid of the Maryland state police's child recovery unit testified that the authorities rarely even arrest johns. Under federal law, those found guilty of engaging in sex with a minor can face between a 10- and 15-year mandatory minimum sentence, though in many states charges are now always pursued, officials testified.
Bringing charges more routinely, FBI Agent Michael Harpster said, would require a reallocation of resources. “Our resources are currently aimed at victims,” said Harpster, the chief of the FBI's violent crimes against children section.
Congress estimates 100,000 children are sold in the U.S. sex trade every year. Many exploited children come from the foster care system or are runaways from sexually and physically abusive homes. Out of the 450,000 youth that runaway from home each year, one-third are estimated to be lured by pimps within their first 48 hours on the street. Congress has already taken steps to fight trafficking in the U.S., having introduced and passed several anti-trafficking bills in recent sessions, though committee members said more must be done.
In 39 states, child victims of sex trafficking could face criminal charges if police catch them. Withelma Ortiz Walker Pettigrew, who was a victim of trafficking between ages 10 and 17, said Wednesday that her experiences behind bars were just as traumatizing as her experiences with her pimp.
“This is not prostitution and it should not be treated as such,” Pettigrew said. “This is child rape.”
Atlanta airport unveils sex trafficking signs
by Duffie Dixon
ATLANTA -- The next time you're at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and you enter a shop or restaurant notice the sign placed in front of the cash register. Look down slightly. There it is, in English and Spanish.
Its called a Human Trafficking Notice and the question is simple: "Are you or someone you know being sold for sex or made/forced to work for little or no pay, and cannot leave?"
Airport spokesman Reese McCranie said there's a reason the signs are all positioned at about four feet off the ground.
"They're at eye level for a child to actually see the print and the 1-800 number to call and get help if they think they are a victim of trafficking," said McCranie.
The airport is partnering with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation following a recent report that Atlanta has the biggest cash-based underground sex economy in the nation. The Urban Institute's Justice Policy Center reported street and online prostitution, brothels and massage parlors are bringing in $290 million a year.
"We've decided to partner with the GBI and they are responsible for the wording of the message. We wanted to make sure we did everything we could to help stem this tide," said McCranie.
In addition to the signs, airport employees including Larry Newman who works for We Juice It, are getting trained on how to spot possible sex trafficking.
"There are a lot of things to look for, like if a child is hesitant to talk without permission or if they look uncomfortable in the situation. Sometimes you may overlook that someone is actually in danger unless you know what to look for. What I learned in the training is there is more than one way that people might cry out for help," said Newman.
Alleged victim targets accused pedophile priest 30 years later
‘Brutal abuser' remains free while former altar boy fights for change in sexual-assault laws
by Jason Sickles, Yahoo
The Rev. James Brzyski allegedly began molesting John Delaney when the altar boy was 11, persuading the child to keep quiet by saying his parents condoned their sexual relationship.
“This guy had me all screwed up in my head,” Delaney said.
More than 30 years later, the now defrocked Philadelphia Catholic priest is still trying to manipulate the narrative.
When asked about Delaney by Yahoo News, Brzyski, 63, was silent for several seconds. Then he blurted out, “Quite a liar, John is,” and hung up the phone.
Delaney, now 42, brushed off Brzyski's denial.
“You tell him John Delaney's coming for him,” he said in a thick Philly accent. “I'm not a little kid anymore. You can't do this to me. I'm going to fight back now.”
Delaney getting his day in court will be easier said than done.
In 2005, a grand jury report made public by the Philadelphia district attorney's office alleged Brzyski had subjected Delaney and at least 16 other boys to “unrelenting abuse, including fondling, oral sex, and anal rape” while working as an assistant pastor at two churches in the late 1970s and early '80s.
The DA's findings were the result of a broad inquiry in the wake of multiple allegations of sexual abuse by Philadelphia's Roman Catholic priests.
The three-year investigation branded Brzyski as one of the “archdiocese's most brutal abusers” and revealed he could have had “possibly over a hundred victims.” The report states Brzyski admitted to a church official in 1984 to “several acts of sexual misconduct” with two boys, but was persuaded not to resign.
“Archdiocese leaders knew the names of many of his victims, and could have known the identities of many more had they simply followed up on reports they received,” the grand jury wrote.
Instead, the investigation concluded, the Philadelphia Archdiocese conspired to shield Brzyski and 62 other priests who had molested hundreds of children over three decades. The hierarchy “excused and enabled the abuse” by burying reports and “covering up the conduct … to outlast any statutes of limitation.”
Because the time to file criminal charges had lapsed, neither Brzyski nor the other priests were ever charged.
Delaney, who had shared his abuse in graphic detail with the grand jury, ran into the same roadblock in civil court. His lawsuit was thrown out because at age 34 he was 14 years beyond the cutoff.
“This has ruined so many things for me,” said Delaney, who had kept his abuse secret until the DA's investigation. “It was something I buried down deep.”
Fallout from the grand jury report did prompt legislative changes in Pennsylvania. Child sex abuse victims now have until age 50 to bring criminal charges. The civil statute was increased by 10 years to age 30.
“That was an awesome thing that came out of that, but it still leaves a guy like me where I never get my day in court,” said Delaney, who now lives in Tennessee. “For guys like me who came forward, who were the first ones, we never get our day.”
The remedy, Pennsylvania state Rep. Mark Rozzi told Yahoo News, is to reform the law again by increasing the civil statute of limitations to at least age 50 or by opening a one- or two-year window for retroactive suits to be filed or refiled.
“In the best-case scenario, I'd like to eliminate the statute of limitations as it pertains to child sex abuse,” said Rozzi, who was molested by a Catholic priest in 1983. “My perpetrator is dead, but a lot of them are still running around out there abusing the next generation of kids.”
In 2003 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled retroactive extensions of the criminal statute of limitations for child sex abuse cases were unconstitutional. But California, Delaware, Hawaii, Guam and Minnesota have allowed various overrides for "aged-out" plaintiffs in civil courts.
After learning that lawmakers had for years repeatedly rejected similar legislation in Pennsylvania, Rozzi decided to run for office in 2012.
“When I got elected this was the top priority,” he said. “They always come after the victims saying this is about money. For us, this isn't about money. We want validation.”
Delaney will be featured with other victims in a Rozzi-produced documentary next month, which they hope will help push legislators to broaden Pennsylvania's statute.
“It's unfair what they are doing to people like me,” said Delaney, the father of two teens. “If it was one of theirs, I guarantee they'd be real quick to change the law.”
Rozzi, who still considers himself a Catholic, maintains this isn't just about his church.
“My thought is if you protected pedophiles, I don't care who you are, you need to be held accountable,” he said.
Still, Rozzi said he believes it's lobbyists for the Catholic Church and for for-profit insurers who put up the biggest fight.
“The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference cozies up to all these powerful guys and then they refuse to pass legislation,” he said. “The only way I think we can win this is if the public understands why these bills aren't moving and who's responsible for not letting these bills move.”
Victims' advocates have used newspaper and TV ads to target Pennsylvania state Rep. Ron Marsico, who they maintain uses his position as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee to stonewall proposed reform.
According to campaign finance records, the Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania contributed nearly $344,000 to 112 state candidates in 2012. Three donations totaling $2,250 went to Marsico.
In an email to Yahoo News, Marsico stated he has worked hard for several years on strengthening criminal statutes against child predators. However, he wrote, legislation allowing retroactive lawsuits is unconstitutional.
“While it might feel satisfying to pass a bill that includes a window, any such provision would simply give false hopes to a victim whose civil claim has been barred by the existing statute of limitations because it would later be declared unconstitutional by the courts,” Marsico wrote. “Those victims deserve better than to be given such false hope, only to see it snatched away.”
Marci Hamilton, a constitutional law professor who runs a website advocating statute-of-limitation reform, has previously challenged Marsico to produce legal precedents supporting his claim.
“I am appalled that Mr. Marsico has chosen to misrepresent the constitutional law of Pennsylvania, and then say it is his ‘sworn duty' to do so,” Hamilton wrote in an email to Marsico's office in March 2013.
In Hamilton's opinion, retroactive civil legislation is constitutional if the legislative intent is clear and change is procedural.
Sam Marshall, president of the Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania, says he feels switching deadlines after the fact is unfair to everyone.
“Insurers, policyholders and claimants need a predictable and stable liability system that provides the ability to cover, price and properly reserve for liability exposure in that system,” Marshall wrote in an email to Yahoo News.
Both Marshall and Amy Hill, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, noted that the state already allows victims more time to bring a civil suit than approximately 40 other states. Broadening the law would remove fairness, Hill says.
“Over time witnesses' memories fade, evidence is lost or never found, and in many instances perpetrators or witnesses may be deceased,” Hill responded in an email. “The passage of time makes it nearly impossible for an individual, a church or any organization to defend against allegations from decades ago.”
Delaney wants to forget, but says what happened at Saint Cecilia Parish in northeast Philadelphia still haunts him.
“I have anxiety attacks where I pass out and physically hurt myself,” said Delaney, who until eight years ago abused cocaine to escape the pain.
“The course of my life changed,” he said. “I didn't want to be a 42-year-old roofer living in Tennessee barely making it.
“They were supposed to be looking out for me. That's all I remember hearing about is that they're the shepherds of the flock and they're supposed to take care of the flock. Well, you didn't take very good care of me and a bunch of other people I know too.”
According to the grand jury report, a Catholic high school counselor who persistently reported names of Brzyski's victims to church officials was told not to initiate therapy for the boys. Even after Catholic officials institutionalized Brzyski for “a repressed personality with chronic immaturity manifested in … pedophilia,” orders from the archdiocese were to not actively seek possible victims.
For many years the archdiocese has provided counseling and psychiatric services to adult sex abuse survivors and their families.
“The archdiocese as well as Archbishop [Charles] Chaput and his predecessor, Cardinal [Justin] Rigali, have offered public apologies to victims of clergy sexual abuse on multiple occasions,” said spokesman Ken Gavin.
Records show Brzyski left treatment after a few months and withdrew from the active ministry in early 1985. But the archdiocese didn't forcibly laicize Brzyski until 20 years later when allegations during the grand jury investigation were found credible.
The grand jury warned that there would “likely be future victims of this serial molester and child rapist” who they said remained free and unsupervised “thanks to the Archdiocese's concealment of his crime spree under its auspices.”
Three months ago, some Dallas residents phoned the Philadelphia Daily News and told a reporter that Brzyski's behavior at their apartment complex had caused them to research his background. The story quoted neighbors saying Brzyski often played with boys in the apartment swimming pool and would brag about wooing what appeared to be underage males online. The neighbors said Brzyski moved from the apartment complex in December after they questioned him.
It was news that Delaney had feared for years.
“The fact that he's still wrecking kids' lives, it eats at me, it really does,” Delaney said.
Since leaving Philadelphia, public records show, Brzyski has also lived in Chesapeake and Virginia Beach, Va., Kenosha, Wis., and West Hollywood, Calif.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported in 2005 that a 17-year-old accused Brzyski of groping him in Virginia. But a 2002 attempted sexual battery charge was dropped after Brzyski accused the teenager of trespassing and kicking him. Public records show Brzyski was twice convicted of driving while intoxicated in Virginia.
Yahoo News discovered last week that Brzyski is currently wanted in New Mexico for failing to appear in court after a 2010 arrest. According to records, Brzyski was towing a U-Haul trailer through Truth or Consequences, N.M., when he was involved in a hit-and-run crash. Police arrested the former priest on charges of driving while intoxicated, driving with a suspended license and operating an unregistered vehicle with no insurance. He spent six days in jail before being released on his own recognizance.
At his arraignment, Brzyski pleaded not guilty and was awarded a court-appointed attorney by claiming that he was indigent. On court records, Brzyski stated that he was disabled and receives $1,117 a month in government assistance.
From all indications, Brzyski has kept a low profile the past few years in Dallas. Records show he's never applied for a Texas driver's license, and his former neighbors told Yahoo News that he relies on public transportation to get around town. His new address, they believe, is off a train line west of the city.
“He needs to be in prison,” Delaney said. “I'm ruined with this every day. How can he keep getting away with it?”