Where is our outrage over child abuse?
by Marcia McCann
Early in my nursing career, a pediatrician and I were preparing a four-year-old girl for surgery. Part of the process included placing a Foley catheter in the child's bladder. When we began, the child started kicking and screaming “God's going to punish you.”
It turned out that the little girl had gonorrhea, given to her by her father. She was discharged back into the home she came from.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services statistics on child abuse in this country are staggering. Reported incidences of child abuse indicate that 9.2 victims per 1,000 children are abused per year and 2.10 per 100,000 are killed. The majority of these crimes are committed by parents.
The types of abuse include neglect, physical and verbal abuse, sexual abuse, psychological and medical neglect, and murder.
It seems to me that little effort is being made to make child abuse a daily front-page issue. Outrage is expressed about child abuse but, in my opinion, the verbal outrage is equal to “tsk, tsk” since families, neighbors, churches and schools have a history of covering things up or ignoring the abuse.
How and where does child abuse factor into the “American Family Values” picture? Why is there an organized effort against birth control and abortion, and no effort to rally around living children who are being tortured? Why are there not marches on homes, schools and churches where child abuse is going on?
Why not carry signs of broken, bruised, burned, raped, tortured children? It would take more courage to face a known abuser than it takes to march around abortion clinics. Not to mention it would in fact save lives. Right to life, my foot.
The born-in-the-U.S.A. terrorists pose a far greater threat to our country than any foreign terrorist. Especially since child terrorists are so well shielded by family, friends, churches and the authorities who don't do the job of punishing child terrorists appropriately, let alone providing help and comfort for survivors.
If child abuse victims live, most grow up to be unstable adults to say the least. The abusive pattern is carried on. Survivors end up miserable and carry on with their lives with some sort of self-destructive craziness.
Child abuse can lead to drug abuse (self-medication), criminal activities and promiscuity. Survivors are damaged people who end up trying to function in a society that seems not to acknowledge that child abuse is a crisis and the ramifications of child abuse are extreme.
When working in a methadone clinic, I heard stories about being given heroin by a father, being pimped out for drug money, rape, beatings and every kind of abuse imaginable. These people self-medicate since the pain is unbearable. I never heard from any drug users that they came from a nice, loving home.
The “War on Drugs” is putting the cart before the horse. Why not put the money toward a “War on Child Abuse”?
In the news recently it was reported that an Arizona biker group is taking a stand against child abuse. The actions of this group are not only the most humane I have heard of with regard to child abuse, but also they are absolutely the right and courageous actions to take.
Where is everyone else? Will God punish you for keeping your mouth shut?
Darkness to Light: Program aims to educate parents on signs of abuse
by Dalondo Moultrie
Most of us, as parents, teach our children to let us know if ever someone harms them.
But, according to a program presented monthly by the Children's Advocacy Center of Comal County, the burden should be on adults to recognize signs and symptoms of abuse and end it.
Young victims shouldn't be forced to fend for themselves.
That's where Darkness to Light: Stewards of Children comes in.
“I think it's up to the adults to protect the children,” said Trendy Sharp, CACCC executive director. “That's what Darkness to Light does.”
She said Darkness to Light (D2L) is a national program embraced by CACs statewide as a standard tool in helping promote child abuse prevention awareness.
D2L enlists the support and assistance of concerned adults in communities across the nation, including educators, staff and volunteers in youth-serving organizations, parents and caregivers, according to www.d2l.org, the Darkness to Light website.
The program increases knowledge, improves attitudes, and changes child-protective behaviors, according to information on the website.
CACCC has been using the teaching mode since December, said Susan White, forensic interviewer and prevention program director.
White said she's trained nearly 80 people in that time and had five training sessions scheduled for April, which is National Child Abuse Prevention Awareness month.
She presents the program from 9-11 a.m. every third Saturday of the month free to the public at CACCC, 1168 Pride Drive, New Braunfels.
Needed to do more
White said she and Sharp talked about the vast network of available assistance in the county that responds to help children who have been abused. They agreed that what is in place helps loads but taking a different approach my be a better tactic, she said.
“We decided we needed to do more to get out on the front end and prevent abuse from happening,” White said. “In Comal County we're trying to get to a tipping point where the majority of people think a certain way. One of the ways we're doing this is by presenting the prevention training through Darkness to Light.”
She said the presentation includes video of child abuse survivors who have grown into adulthood and come forward to tell their stories. It lasts about two hours and can be tailored a bit toward specific groups.
“The greatest thing about it is it is practical,” White said. “We want to get out to as many people as possible.”
The Comal County Child Welfare Board is scheduled next to see the presentation. White will present to the board at its regular meeting Monday, said Susan Partain, board president.
She said board members hope to become better aware of the dangers and signs of abuse. They may leave the presentation with a new outlook on reporting and preventing child abuse, Partain said.
“One of the things Trendy told me is for so long we've expected reporting abuse to be the child's job. ‘Tell your teacher, tell your counselor',” she said. “But really it's the adults' jobs to look for the signs. That's what we want our board to be able to do.”
The Texas Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS) earlier this year released 2013 child abuse statistics for the state. Last year in Texas there were 7,159,172 children, 27,233 in Comal County.
Statewide last year, DFPS's department of Child Protective Services (CPS) confirmed 40,249 cases involving 66,398 victims of child abuse or neglect. Those numbers were 670 cases confirmed in Comal County resulting in 377 confirmed victims of abuse or neglect.
The types of abuse the state tracks runs the gamut. And while D2L: Stewards of Children is primarily focused on sexual abuse, Sharp said the programs tenets can be applied to all sorts of abuse and neglect.
The program outlines five steps:
1. Learn the facts.
2. Minimize opportunity for sexual abuse.
3. Talk about it.
4. Recognize the signs that abuse is occurring.
5. React responsibly
Sharp said following the steps will help adults stop child abuse in progress and maybe head it off before it begins. She said she thinks the program is most effective in getting all the adults in a community to work smarter to protect the youth in that community.
She said adults should be held accountable.
“Something else that should be mentioned is if you make a good faith report to CPS, you have civil immunity,” Sharp said. “You can't be sued if you make a report in good faith. On the other side of that is if you know some kid is being abused and you don't report, it's a crime in the state of Texas.”
For information locally about Darkness to Light: Stewards of Children, visit the CACCC website at www.comalcac.org and click on the programs link. Or call (830) 626-2543 and talk to White at extension 200.
Colorado responds slowly to psychotropic drug use among foster kids
by Jennifer Brown and Christopher N. Osher
Diego Conde was 12 when his mother died, devastated and bursting with rage at the rotten way life was treating him.
The only living thing left that mattered to him was his tiny dog, Littlefoot. Then, three months later, Littlefoot died.
Diego was sent to live with strangers — a string of foster families in Denver and Aurora. He got in fights at school, started drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana, and exploded in anger at his teachers and temporary parents. At 13, he overdosed on borrowed prescriptions because he "couldn't take it anymore."
And so the state medicated him heavily, with twice-daily doses of potent mood-altering psychotropic drugs he says he did not want to take.
Diego spent most of his teenage years numbed by a combination of Risperdal and Prozac to tame his rage and drown his grief. Now 18, he has aged out of the foster-care system and is speaking up for the thousands of foster children in Colorado who are medicated with psychotropics because of mental and behavioral problems.
About 4,300 of Colorado's 16,800 foster children — more than a quarter — were prescribed psychotropics in 2012, according to a University of Colorado analysis released to The Denver Post under open-records laws. Among teens in foster care, 37 percent were prescribed psychotropic drugs.
Antipsychotics are the most powerful of these drugs, with brand names such as Abilify, Zyprexa and Risperdal.
Colorado officials have known since at least 2007 that prescriptions and dosage levels of psychotropic drugs — which also include antidepressants, mood stabilizers, stimulants and anti-anxiety medications — were rising sharply among children on Medicaid, a group that includes foster kids. But Colorado's response has taken years, even as other states took aggressive steps to reduce usage levels. Colorado hasn't yet addressed key issues such as ensuring that the child-protection system tracks whether foster children are on the medications or confirming that legal consent is properly obtained from guardians.
Some psychiatrists and other backers of the medications argue that children and families are benefiting from a new generation of antipsychotics, and that today's children are more likely to have severe mental illness that requires medication.
Critics counter that few studies have examined side effects on children, and that the drugs have been linked to weight gain, diabetes and growth of breasts in boys. Foster parents and therapists say heavily medicated children are detached from reality — as though "walking in a cloud."
They also contend that the use of the drugs has been fueled by pharmaceutical firms pursuing big profits with the help of willing doctors.
"The less a child has a powerful, invested adult advocate, the higher the probability that people will just use interventions that are meant to marginalize or basically zombie-fy kids," said Dr. Bruce Perry, a doctor at Houston-based ChildTrauma Academy who is a national leader in pushing for less medication and more therapy to treat the root causes of children's mental problems. "They are just sedating them and trying to control their behavior. Kids just sort of stumble through whole stages of their lives."
Colorado child-welfare and Medicaid officials defend their progress in addressing high prescription rates among foster children, saying they were proactive when they created a state panel last year to review the issue. Also, they said, it's expected that foster kids would need more mental health medication.
"One big reason is the trauma that these kids have had in their lives," said Dr. Judy Zerzan, chief medical officer of the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing. "Their lives have not been easy — that's why they are in the foster-care system."
Doctors choose psychotropic drugs for those children because their trauma-induced behavioral problems mimic the symptoms of mental illness, she said. Also, foster parents often need a more immediate fix.
Diego said he spent most of his teenage years forcing down anti-psychotics he didn't want to take, drugs that eliminated his lows and his highs, made him numb. One of his foster fathers had a timer that went off at medication time. The four boys living in basement bunking quarters would traipse upstairs for their doses and glasses of water.
"I didn't know how to feel. I was on autopilot, going through the motions," said Diego, who was part of the state panel that reviewed psychotropic use in foster care.
He gained 25 pounds, a common side effect of Risperdal. On medication, exercising made his "blood boil" with aggression instead of reducing stress, he said. He lied to his psychiatrist in hopes of lower doses. "I felt like if I would reveal my true self," he said, "they were going to up the dosage."
Limited use of drugs
Foster children, many experts said, often are treated with anti-psychotics meant for patients with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia even though their mental problems stem from abuse and neglect, post-traumatic stress and grief. Most advocate for a limited use of the drugs in conjunction with therapy that focuses on repairing developmental delays in brain function caused by trauma.
About half of the kids on government insurance who are taking antipsychotics in Colorado have not been diagnosed with a psychotic illness, or at least do not have one listed in their Medicaid claims, according to an analysis of the claims by CU school of pharmacy researchers and released to The Post. Without a diagnosis, they are taking the drugs for so-called "off-label" reasons not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
The FDA approves the use of antipsychotic drugs for adults and teens mostly for diagnoses of autism, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, but they are legally prescribed for children as young as toddlers for off-label use.
Federal officials have reviewed the use of psychotropic drugs in children in recent years, resulting in a 2003 FDA requirement that antipsychotics include a label warning of diabetes and a 2004 requirement that antidepressants include a label warning of heightened risk of suicidal thoughts in children.
The FDA's pediatric committee examined the rise in antipsychotic use among children, releasing a 2011 document that called for further research. The agency's role is to push for drug-safety studies and ensure safe labeling, but not to regulate doctors' prescribing decisions, spokeswoman Stephanie Yao said.
The CU study found that foster kids took antipsychotics at a rate 12 times greater than other children on government insurance in 2012. Even toddlers and preschoolers in foster care were far more likely to receive the drugs, according to the study. Among Colorado's 7,200 foster teens, 37 percent were prescribed psychotropic drugs, and nearly half of those were on at least one antipsychotic medication.
Use of antipsychotic medication by Colorado foster kids increased from 6.2 percent in 2011 to 11.5 percent in 2012, the most recent year CU data was available.
The average cost of psychotropic medications per year for a foster child on Medicaid is $2,295, compared with $1,202 for a non-foster child in Colorado on Medicaid, the CU study said. Medicaid spent $9.9 million on psychotropic drugs for Colorado foster children in 2012, of which $5.6 million was spent on antipsychotics.
Colorado's overall rate of anti-psychotic prescriptions to children on Medicaid was lower than the average of nine states in a 2008-11 Medicaid Medical Directors Learning Network study of the drugs.
But Colorado stood out in two notable areas.
Low-income children in Colorado were more likely than children in any of the eight other states to take antipsychotics at two or more times the maximum recommended dose. Also, Colorado had the highest rate of children prescribed two or more antipsychotics at the same time. Foster children were the most likely to fall into this category.
"Whose needs is this medication addressing? The reality is, for the most part, it helps foster parents, schools, therapists, caseworkers — the adults," said Steve McCrea, a supervisor with Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children in Portland, Ore.
More than medication, foster youths need long-term relationships with adults who they trust will not send them away for expressing their grief and anger. "If they are traumatized, they need secure relationships with adults," McCrea said. "They need to know people care about them and aren't going to abandon them."
Foster mother Christi Beach, who takes in up to six teenage boys at once in her Arvada group home, has made it her mission to help foster youths wean themselves off medication, and most of them arrive on meds — for depression, for anxiety, for sleeping.
This is what she tells them: "Yes, you are going to be sad. Yes, you are going to be angry. Yes, you might have some sleep issues. But I'm willing to walk the miles with you to see what that looks like, as you stabilize, as you are in a nurturing environment, as you learn to have hope. Let's go outside and hit the punching bag, or run around the block."
But other families who have taken in children with extreme anger issues view psychotropic drugs as a matter of survival.
Colleen Tarket adopted four foster children who were siblings, survivors of severe abuse and neglect. The oldest, who was 10 when she was adopted, had violent fits and attempted suicide. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and prescribed psychotropic medication but refused to take it consistently. Her behavior became so extreme that her parents sent her to a residential treatment center.
But the girl's youngest sibling, who was 5 when she was adopted, improved dramatically on psychotropic medication. Her grades and her mood got better, and she no longer spoke in nonsensical phrases. Still, Tarket said, weighing the positive outcomes with the side effects was "incredibly difficult."
"Is weight gain and high cholesterol a good trade-off for being able to communicate with her peers?" she said. "Will the weight gain then hurt her self-esteem, which is already suffering, and make her more depressed? It's a constant struggle to figure out what the right answer is, and that answer seems to be a moving target."
Just the two of them
Diego's mother moved to the United States from Colombia, settled in Aurora and started her own cleaning business. As a boy, Diego helped her put advertising fliers around town. They were happy, just the two of them.
Then she was struck with gastrointestinal cancer. Diego became her caregiver, cooking their meals, cleaning and caring for her. For months, he held it together on his own — until his middle school guidance counselor pulled him out of class to ask what was going on at home.
Diego's mother, Isabel Rengifo, went to a hospice and he moved in with a teacher, bringing his Pomeranian with him. His mother died in April 2008 while he was living with the teacher. "I remember stumbling down the hallway and seeing my mom in a casket," he said.
Her name and a cross are tattooed on his left arm.
"The dog helped me out," he said. "I would cry every night, and my dog would come be with me."
When his dog died, Diego cracked. Talking about Littlefoot upsets him still.
Diego's official diagnosis was chronic depression and anxiety. He recalls occasional meetings with a psychiatrist. As he neared the end of his time in foster care, working two fast-food jobs and taking advanced classes to graduate early from Smoky Hill High School, he says he lied to his psychiatrist about his true emotions in order to get off medication.
At first, he felt like his mind was in heavy fog, like he couldn't think straight. But he was "free to feel," Diego remembered. To deal with his sadness, and to rid his body of the chemicals, he worked out twice a day.
Diego, who left foster care last year, is living with a friend while he searches for an apartment that will accept his low-income federal housing voucher. He took a few classes at CU Denver and is employed at a job-training program that helps people find work in the tech industry.
"I had to grow up young," he said.
A dramatic rise
As early as 2007, psychotropic drug prescriptions were rising dramatically for Colorado kids on Medicaid, data uncovered by an independent researcher shows.
Among children ages 6-12, the number taking three or more psychotropic medications for at least three months jumped from 68 in 2006 to 108 in 2007, according to data received by Ben Hansen, a mental health researcher and advocate in Michigan, and provided to The Post. The state Medicaid office said in response to a recent open-records request from the newspaper that it could not release the data.
State officials attributed the rapid rise in prescriptions for such drugs to improved antipsychotics coming on the market, adding they were prohibited from restricting them by a state order meant to protect consumers' access to medications.
Hansen's data also found that the percentage of teenagers on Medicaid who were taking four or more psychotropics at once for at least 90 days jumped 130 percent from 2006 to 2007.
The data was produced by a research firm that received it from the Colorado Medicaid office, in cooperation with Eli Lilly, maker of the antipsychotic Zyprexa.
The two-year monitoring program, initiated in 2006, found Colorado's Medicaid program was spending more than $1.4 million every two months on "high-risk" prescribing of antipsychotics to children. Kids were taking higher-than-recommended doses or multiple antipsychotics for long stretches.
After new federal requirements, state officials in 2013 convened a panel to examine the high rates of psychotropic prescriptions for children. The panel included psychiatrists, social workers and child welfare experts.
As recommended by the panel, the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, which administers the state's Medicaid program, began requiring prior authorization for children prescribed psychotropic medications for any dosage above the FDA-approved maximum. The state also requires prior approval before paying for antipsychotics for children under 5.
But other recommendations from the panel are not in place. The group wanted Colorado to monitor whether foster children are taking three or more psychotropics at once, and to identify doctors who are prescribing the medications at higher-than-recommended doses.
State Medicaid officials said they hope within the next six months to have a plan that would lead to regular analysis of insurance claims identifying which patients are taking three or more such medications at a time. The CU pharmacy school has not had the money or staff to do such regular analysis for the state, Medicaid officials said.
The panel also recommended that Colorado require prior approval or monitoring of children receiving psychotropic medications for off-label reasons — such as when children have no diagnosis of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or other psychosis. State officials said they are working to resolve out-of-date technology issues that make it difficult to tell whether patients have a diagnosis. Also, officials plan to require prior approval for off-label prescriptions "in the very near future."
"This is a high-priority item, but it is too early in the process to state with certainty when this will be resolved," said Medicaid department spokesman Marc Williams.
Along with re-evaluating medication policy, Colorado has increased spending in recent years on therapies that focus on children's trauma, including at places such as Mount Saint Vincent home in northwest Denver.
Addressing the high prevalence of foster children on medications will take major change in doctors' habits and government health care, which are more complex issues in some ways than an attack on pharmaceutical companies, experts said.
"It's easy to point fingers at the pharmaceutical industry, but it didn't take a lot for them to ignite this epidemic," said Dr. Dave Rubin, a researcher at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Most states lack sufficient therapy programs as alternatives to medication, and government insurance typically reimburses psychiatry visits at much higher rates than other therapy visits, he said.
"We are probably using medications at rates that far surpass what we instinctively feel comfortable with because there are no other options," he said. "And to some degree, we need to acknowledge that, in the short term, medication settles a kid down. It works. The problem is, is that the best way to treat that child? It's sort of a chemical restraint. These are very potent, powerful medications that can have very serious side effects, and we don't know the effects on a developing brain."
About the drugs
Psychotropics: A broad class of medications made of chemicals that alter brain function, including mood and behavior; these include antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs and attention-deficit-disorder drugs.
Antipsychotics: The most powerful drugs in the broader class of psychotropics; have been linked to diabetes and weight gain in children, and growth of breasts in boys.
Atypicals: The latest generation of antipsychotic medications, with brand names such as Abilify, Zyprexa and Risperdal.
About the series
This investigation by The Denver Post into psychotropic drug use by foster children stems from The Post's "Failed to Death" series on Colorado's child-welfare system that ran in 2012.
The overprescription of powerful psychotropic medication to foster children is a national epidemic — yet in Colorado, efforts to curb the problem lag some states.
The Post obtained unpublished state data and reports, interviewed foster families and children, reviewed other states' efforts and examined promising new therapies.
Sunday: Foster kids are prescribed powerful drugs that alter brain function at rates far higher than other children. A growing number of experts say this is not only unnecessary, but harmful.
Monday: Over decades, the pharmaceutical industry pushed aggressively to market psychotropics to children and tap into the lucrative Medicaid system.
Tuesday: New therapies to repair developmental delays in children's brains caused by abuse and neglect are taking hold. Proponents advocate for more therapy and fewer medications.
Wednesday: Other states have been more aggressive and more effective than Colorado in establishing policies to reduce prescriptions of psychotropics to foster children.
Child abuse and neglect needs to be state's priority
by Dick Yarbrough
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month in Georgia, as proclaimed by Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal. Child abuse is a subject I don't like to think about, let alone write about and you would probably just as soon not hear about. But it is there and we need to acknowledge it and demand some solutions.
Sadly, child abuse is not confined to Georgia, The child advocacy group Child Help says there are more than 3 million reports of child abuse in the U.S. every year and between four and seven children die daily due to abuse and neglect. That would be a shameful number in a Third World country. It is simply staggering in a supposedly civilized society, which we claim to be.
According to the Federal National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, Georgia had 77 child deaths related to abuse or neglect in 2010 and 65 in 2011 (a reporting period covering October to the following September.) There may have been more. These are just the ones reported to the state Division of Family and Children Services.
Speaking of DFCS, that agency has borne the brunt of the criticism for the way they it has dealt with children's wellbeing. According to an Atlanta newspaper investigation, 152 children died despite the intervention of DFCS in 2012. One grossly-mishandled DFCS case was that of 10-year-old Emani Moss, of Gwinnett County, who was starved to death, burned and dumped in a trash can this past November by her so-called parents. Speaking of burning, may these two low-lifes burn in hell.
Child abuse and neglect are beginning to get the attention of our state leaders. Gov. Nathan Deal said he will add $27 million over the next three years to DFCS to hire more than 500 new caseworkers and supervisors and to make up for some of the agency's budget cuts during the economic downturn of recent years. The governor has also created a council of experts from advocacy groups and government to review DFCS and to recommend suggested reforms and possible legislative solutions.
The Legislature took a stab at the problem this past session with a push to privatize Georgia's foster care system, much to the discomfort of some knowledgeable professionals who thought the effort too hasty. Melissa Carter, executive director of Emory University's Barton Child Law and Policy Center told me this is an area that requires much careful study before taking such a dramatic step.
Privatization is good in theory and may even be a good solution for taking care of our children in need, but let's think the matter thoroughly and deliberately. These are vulnerable children we are discussing here. Let's do it right.
And let's be very careful that there is not some special interest group pushing this effort that is more interested in promoting a particular political philosophy — privatizing government services — than in looking out for the ultimate welfare of our children. The way proponents tried to rush the legislation through the last session makes me wonder.
Even if legislation had passed, the investigation of child abuse claims would still be left in the hands of DFCS and with the public lacking sufficient information on child deaths in Georgia. As I reported earlier, Rep. Christian Coomer (R-Cartersville) sponsored legislation to take the review of children's deaths away from the Georgia Office of the Child Advocate and put it under the supervision of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, where it should be and to make more information on the subject available to the public. Kudos to Mr. Coomer and his colleagues for that effort.
But more needs to be done and we should let our legislators know that next year we want to see child abuse and neglect a priority. Our Legislature has shown us it can pass a bill nobody but a narrow special interest group wanted that allows guns in churches and bars with no way of knowing whether the gun toter has a license to do so or not and — my favorite — allows silencers on our hunting rifles (What's next? Cowbells on the deer?) So now that we are sufficiently locked-and-loaded, maybe we can get to more substantive issues, like taking better care of neglected and abused children in Georgia.
CORRECTION : I identified the Republican public school teacher/legislator from Valdosta who pressed Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick) about what was wrong with Common Core standards — a simple question he couldn't answer — as Amy Grant. She is Amy Carter. I know better. My apologies.
Kane CASA advocates join hands to raise awareness of child abuse
by Gloria Casas
The life of a CASA advocate has low points and high points. They can expect to get sick of bureaucracy and expect to feel helpless, 16th Circuit Chief Judge Judith Brawka said, before swearing in new advocates Thursday afternoon.
“You will never feel as helpless in your life as you will as a CASA,” she said. “You will become so afraid for children and want to shake someone and tell them ‘listen to me.'”
“There are happy endings,” Brawka said. “When you have success, it's like you won the lottery except you don't win any money. It's better. You save a life.”
The swearing in ceremony was held in conjunction with CASA Kane County's 10th annual Hands Around the Courthouse at the old courthouse, 100 S. Third St., Geneva. The event is held to focus on National Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month.
Kane County handled nearly 4,000 hotline calls last year and served 600 children, CASA Executive Director Gloria Bunce said. CASA placed 600 blue and silver pinwheels on the courthouse's front lawn for each child it served.
In Illinois, there were 108,610 alleged victim of abuse and neglect and 30,050 were indicated or investigated, while 104 of those children died, Bunce said.
“It is an issue everyone should think about, if affects the future of our country and the most vulnerable of our country. Child abuse prevention is everyone's job,” CASA Director of Advocate Supervision Amy Girardot said. “It's a hard thing to discuss and admit. It's something that happens in your backyard.”
CASA volunteer Dave Shepard has been an advocate since 2008. He has worked on behalf of two children, seeing one case until the court closed it. The mom in that case was able to get her life together and regained custody of her child. “It was a very, very happy ending,” Shepard said.
“I think neglect is much more widespread than what people realize,” Shepard said. “I think it's the way families grow up today, so use to using the TV or computer as babysitters. They don't realize children have needs. You have to talk to them, you can't ignore them.”
Child abuse and neglect use to be held in secrecy and pushed under the rug, Brawka said. Cases were seldom brought to court and there were no efforts to change the pattern of child abuse. But a shift occurred when people came to realize a civilized civilization means taking care of our most vulnerable citizens, our children, she said.
The 16th Circuit's family court is not about punishment but protecting children through proactive interventions, said Brawka, who once presided over family court.
Kane County State's Attorney Joseph McMahon sometimes gets asked why his office prosecutes cases, he said during the ceremony. It's the right thing to do, he said, adding communities need to address child abuse and neglect.
“A community that really treasures its most vulnerable residents must align its actions with its beliefs,” McMahon said. CASA volunteers are an example of that, he said.
Newly sworn in CASA advocate Helen M. (CASA does not release the last names of advocates) echoed Brawka's view on children. They “are our most vulnerable and they deserve a voice,” the Northern Illinois University law student said. “I want to be that voice.”
“I am so proud and excited to do this,” Helen M. said.
Child abuse in Alaska: Knowing the signs and the steps
Children groomed not to disclose, adults groomed not to see abuse
by MELISSA GRIFFITHS
It's one of the ugliest truths of society: There are people who willingly harm children.
Understanding the signs of child abuse or maltreatment — and the steps to take — can make a big difference in a child's life.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month in Alaska, named by a declaration by Gov. Sean Parnell in February and legislation passing the Alaska House and Senate earlier this month. It has been declared Child Abuse Prevention Month annually in Alaska since 1983 and, according to a press release, “the resulting increase in awareness and prevention efforts led to federal grants, state and federal legislation, state Children's Trust funds, more accessible resources, public service announcements, conferences and task forces.”
Mark Gnadt, press secretary for the House Democratic Caucus, said Erin's Law, sponsored by Rep. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage, may be the most powerful legislation to date to fight child abuse. The mission of Erin's Law, as championed by the eponymous Erin Merryn, is “to get education in all 50 states on the prevention of sexual abuse by empowering children with their voice instead of allowing sex offenders to silence them.”
“In 2013 in Alaska, there were over 40,000 allegations of child maltreatment with 5,000 of these substantiated,” Tarr said in a press release about Child Abuse Prevention Month. “In perspective, this is 13 children … in Alaska being abused every day. We must take this opportunity to work together and break this cycle of abuse. Recognition and an open discussion are vital for Alaska to continue taking steps to reduce the rates of abuse and neglect in our great state, and help our children grow to their full potential.”
How does a community prevent a pervasive problem that remains hushed?
Prevention starts with educating parents, said Bryant Skinner, program manager for the S.A.F.E. Child Advocacy Center.
“Educating parents on what child maltreatment looks like, looking out for all the kids in our society — not just the kids behind their doors — is an effective way of reducing child abuse rates,” Skinner said. “We have started, we're trying to be more involved with the community as far as educating on child maltreatment.”
Educating children, while important, can be ineffective, he said, because abusers will groom children. They'll also groom the community, he added.
“When a child does disclose,” Skinner said. “If they do, the parents are more likely to believe the offender than the child — they've spent time building trust, helping families, doing things that make the parents more likely to believe their side of the story than the child's when and if the child does decide to disclose.”
How can parents and community members be duped into not recognizing abuse?
Skinner said it's a perfect storm of social issues.
Part of it is disbelief. This can't be happening, can it?
“A lot of us have children,” Skinner said. “I have three boys. We don't want to believe that these horrible things are happening to children.”
He also cited an “overall lack of commitment to doing something” when signs of abuse are recognized.
“It's difficult to see something going on in your community or with your neighbor and thinking ‘Well, if I say something, what's going to happen? What are my responsibilities?' And they might have past trauma and think if they report, they'll have to deal with their emotional trauma,” Skinner said, adding that people also question, “Is that normal childhood behavior or not?”
Knowing the signs
Knowing what abuse looks like in a child can be a challenge.
“I think there's a perception of what child abuse is, I think everybody has a good understanding that doing certain things to a child is not OK,” he said. “I think it's a lack of understanding of what it looks like, what behaviors a child might be displaying when they are being abused.”
More often than not, a child who is abused or maltreated will not directly disclose abuse. It's up to adults to recognize behaviors and report possible abuse or maltreatment.
“There's a misconception, I think, that if a child is abused that they will go right out that day or the next day and they will tell their teacher, mom or counselor — that would be an exception to the norm of child disclosure,” Skinner said.
A child might disclose months later, which, Skinner said, means the child is dealing with it. But more often than those straightforward disclosures, adults must look at children's behavior and development and ask themselves, ‘Is that normal?'
“When kids are acting out, sexually, that's a way to disclose what's going on with them,” he said.
Other behaviors that could indicate abuse or maltreatment include bedwetting, anger outbursts, changes in behavior, a drop in grades, or performing or simulating sexual acts on other children.
“That's not just a problem child,” Skinner said. “That's likely a child that is disclosing through behavior that abuse has happened.”
Often adults see these behaviors and focus on trying to stop them, not addressing the root of the behaviors, perhaps because they are not sure that they are seeing.
For all the cases of abuse and maltreatment that do get reported, there are countless cases that are not reported.
“I don't think there is a good understanding (about what doesn't get reported),” Skinner said. “Abuse on boys is probably very unreported.”
The lower rate of reporting among boys, Skinner suggested, likely has a lot to do with how society views and treats boys differently — “There's more guilt and shame associated,” he said.
And the abuse and maltreatment that does get reported? What happens then?
“I'd be lying to say it's not frustrating to see how many cases just can't go forward for whatever reason,” Skinner said. “The criminal justice system is just not set up to be child-friendly.”
As a reported case of child abuse or maltreatment moves through the system, there are a lot of places where it can go no further.
The first step in Southeast Alaska is with the Southeast Alaska Family Evaluation Child Advocacy Center, which serves Juneau and other Southeast Alaska communities, providing videotaped forensic interviews, forensic medical examinations, case management services, mental health counseling, crisis intervention, family advocacy, community education, comprehensive family support, statistical information and referrals for domestic violence intervention — all with a child first philosophy.
Skinner joined the S.A.F.E. Child Advocacy Center in February 2013, with a background in conducting forensic interviews with a prosecuting attorney's office in Washington. He took a few years off, earning an MBA, then sought a job in the CAC world, he said.
“I felt like I could make a difference and help children that have been abused, been through some sort of maltreatment,” Skinner said of working in a field with such emotional weight. He and a small team serve the community out of a small building in the Jordan Creek area.
Skinner has high hopes of increasing community outreach in Juneau and Southeast Alaska, but said with limited funding — the organization is a nonprofit under the umbrella of Catholic Community Service — most resources go toward intervention, rather than primary prevention.
“But having a good intervention process is good prevention,” Skinner said. “We can stop offenders, hold them accountable.”
Help from partners
The Child Advocacy Center partners with community organizations and agencies, including Bartlett Regional Hospital, Office of Children's Services, Division of Juvenile Justice, Juneau Police Department, Alaska State Troopers, District Attorney's Office, Attorney General's Office, SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, Aiding Women in Abuse and Rape Emergencies, Tlingit & Haida Tribal Family & Youth Services and Juneau Youth Services to provide services as a neutral third party, focused on what's best for the child.
Skinner believes firmly in the Child Advocacy Center model, having spent those eight years in Washington in a district without a Child Advocacy Center.
“It's a night-and-day difference, I think, for children in decreasing the trauma and revictimization that the system a lot of time does to kids. I think it's the best system we have nationwide for dealing with child abuse cases,” Skinner said. “Our CAC is child first, which basically means the needs of the child come before the parents, the investigation, the court — anyone else who has an opinion on what should happen.”
From the waiting room of the Child Advocacy Center to the examination room, children's needs were taken into account. There are toys in the waiting room, crayons and pages for coloring in the interview room, and after an exam, each child takes home a donated fleece blanket.
Skinner said it can be difficult to find medical providers for their exams, but said the environment and equipment catering to children is far less traumatizing than having an examination conducted at the Emergency Room.
The forensic interview is another crucial element, since for a case to go forward criminally, it is necessary to get “a pretty detailed disclosure about abuse,” Skinner said. “We perform a structured interview that follows protocol to get reliable information from a child about an event that may have happened without being leading, using open-ended, non-suggestive questions.”
The interview is recorded so the child is not made to relive the trauma more than necessary and can be viewed live in an adjacent room, usually including law enforcement, and health and mental health providers.
Having individuals from partnering agencies viewing the interview not only benefits those invested agencies, but also allows the individuals to provide feedback if the interviewer should ask further questions.
Partnering agencies aren't around just for the interviews and exams, though, a key component to the CAC is a multidisciplinary team, which formed in 1997. The CAC was formed in 2001 and accredited in 2007. It's one of 10 in Alaska, all working with the National and Alaska Children's Alliance.
The multidisciplinary team performs case review to determine what steps are best for the child.
Even with a child-first method and great care paid to making a child feel safe and comfortable, many children aren't ready for the criminal justice system.
All the children who served by the CAC, generally referred by law enforcement or the hospital, are under 18, with medical exams conducted on very young children who might exhibit abuse marks or burns or other acute issues that might be attributed to maltreatment. For the interviews, there's a certain developmental stage required, though children as young as 2 1/2 to 3 years old might be interviewed.
“Sometimes a case doesn't go forward criminally, but that doesn't mean the case is closed,” Skinner said. “We're not just doing criminal cases, we're trying to help the child in a more holistic way.”
For cases that continue in the criminal justice system, there is support for the child and family, but services and support are offered to the child and family even if the case doesn't make it to the criminal justice system, including counseling for the child and parents.
Skinner said the CAC allows a case to go forward in the court system with a minimal amount of dependence on the child victim.
“It's difficult to do, but I think we're continuing to improve and evolve how we approach these investigations,” he said.
Skinner said the CAC serves an average of a little more than 100 children a year from Juneau and outlying Southeast Alaska communities, but he also said child abuse is not just an Alaskan problem, it's a global problem.
“There are people that want to take advantage of the most vulnerable in our society in pretty much every society everywhere,” Skinner said.
But we can all help: if you see something, say something.
For more information, visit: CCSJuneau.org/51 and AKChildrensAlliance.com
Police worry more children were victims of abuse by man charged in sex assault
by Monica Ayala-Talavera
AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin police arrested a man who sold chips, candy and sodas to children from his home after a teen reported he had sexually assaulted her when she was 6-years-old.
The teen reported Marco Antonio Rodriguez-Bustos sexually assaulted her after she went to buy chips from his house located on the 7100 block of Astro View Drive. The victim is now 15-years-old.
While police documents say Rodriguez-Bustos admitted to sexually assaulting the young girl, his neighbors say they're having a hard time believing this happened.
“I'm in shock,” Jimmy Griffin said. “I never known him to do nothing like that.”
Police say the girl told her mother and sister that Rodriguez-Bustos forced her to have sex with him when she was only 6 or 7 years old. According to court documents, the victim says she was sexually assaulted three different times.
“The suspect forcibly grabbed the young child bought them into the residence and sexually assaulted her,” Austin Police Det. Ricardo Pelayo said.
Neighbors say Rodriguez-Bustos is a father who was helpful to everyone and spent time volunteering at a nearby school.
But police say he admitted earlier this week to touching the girl inappropriately. Officers arrested him Thursday at his home.
Based on the victim's description and timeline of the event, police believe there may be more victims.
“Because of the nature that he was selling these snacks out of his residence, we are worried other children may be involved,” Pelayo said.
APD Child Abuse detectives ask anyone who may have been a victim, or anyone who knows someone who may have been a victim, of Rodriguez-Bustos to call the Child Abuse Unit at (512)-974-6880.
Rodriguez-Bustos was arrested on aggravated sexual assault of a child and is currently in custody at the Travis County Jail on an immigration hold.
Longmont initiative focuses on child sexual assault
Project Pinwheel aims to educate kids, parents and school officials about realities of the crime
by Pierrette J. Shields
As the parents of five children, one former Longmont couple had a lot to juggle and a lot of worries for their family. But they had a blind spot, and the results were devastating.
They now say that they never seriously considered that someone close to the family would exploit that relationship and sexually abuse their son, who was 13 when the assaults started. The assaults persisted for about a year. The family knew Bradley Boda through church, where he served as a youth director, and other social circles. He attended family events and chaperoned the children on church trips.
"I didn't suspect anything," the victim's father said. The Times-Call is withholding their identities. "First of all, sexual assault on a child wasn't in my thought pattern."
His wife agreed. Their children were safe with trusted adults, they thought.
"You look back at family photos and you just want to puke because there he was," she said, noting that Boda attended the wedding of the son they later would learn he groomed and sexually assaulted.
Boda was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2010 for sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust, showing a pattern of abuse. The couple's son was among at least 14 victims identified during the investigation and prosecution.
The experience suffered by the family is common enough that Longmont Public Safety Chief Mike Butler asked the Longmont Ending Violence Initiative to work with his officers to develop a program that will raise awareness and reporting of child sexual assaults to law enforcement. Longmont Police Detective Sandie Jones and Sgt. Sean Harper are working with LEVI on the new initiative, called Project Pinwheel, or Preserving childhood innocence now with healthy environments, education and lives.
Jones said her caseload of sexual assault cases is hovering around 50. Harper, whose typical assignment does not include sexual assaults, said he asked if he could help because he believes protecting children is among the most important jobs for police.
Trish Wood, project coordinator for LEVI, said Project Pinwheel is aimed at educating children, parents and school officials about the dangers of child sexual assault. One of the keys for that education is that the danger tends to lurk among people the children know, like in Boda's case, and not among strangers.
A $29,410 federal Justice Assistance Grant will fund the initial effort to get Pinwheel off the ground.
"The first take of the grant is to get a strategic plan together," Wood said.
A steering committee started work in 2012. The grant was awarded in 2013 and this month marks a "mini awareness campaign" in the city.
The committee defined a significant problem that children face, noting in a February report that in Colorado, 25 percent of females and 6 percent of males will be victimized in their lifetimes and it typically takes 10 to 16 years for an offender to be detected. More than 90 percent of perpetrators are known to the victims.
"That is a lot of people that are damaged," Wood said. "There is a lot of kids and a lot of long term repercussions, for sure, on the whole family."
It is a tough topic for many adults to consider.
"It is a lot of stigma," she said.
The mother of the man who was victimized in the Boda case said her son has struggled with guilt for not coming forward sooner and with pornography use introduced to him as a child.
"It is a lifetime sentence for every victim he touched, and there is not way you can ever change that," she said.
Jones, Wood and Harper said Pinwheel is aimed at not only detecting assault cases but preventing them.
Wood said the organization hopes to reach elementary aged children to teach them about how to identify inappropriate behaviors from adults. Additionally, education will be offered for adults whose positions require them legally to report suspected child abuse.
The victim's father said he isn't sure he would have heard messages about sexual abuse of children, but in retrospect would have liked the opportunity to learn about the dangers somewhere.
"It was never on my radar at all, ever," he said, adding had he had an inkling of what was happening to his son he would have intervened immediately.
Residents in Longmont may start seeing advertisements in local restaurants in an initial effort to begin raising awareness. However, the project is still in its infancy, so it doesn't even have a website launched yet. Wood said it is in the works. Pinwheel organizers are working with Boulder's Blue Sky Bridge, which provides forensic interviews of children who may have suffered sexual assaults.
Wood said children who speak out should be believed.
"If a kid tells you something is going on, the chances they are not lying is really high," she said, but she noted some adults hesitate to believe them. "Who wants to believe that someone you trust and love will do something that horrible to you? So, that is a huge hurdle."
The victim's mother said the community needs more education on the issue, in the classrooms and within families.
"That is exactly what this project is for, to put that awareness out there," Jones said, adding she expects the project will result in a heavier caseload for detectives.
Healthy Relationships | Teach children about consent, boundaries
by Anne K. Ard
In addition to the much-anticipated arrival of spring, April is also the month when we work to heighten awareness of both sexual assault and child abuse.
Recently, the Centre County Board of Commissioners heard presentations from the director of the Children's Advocacy Center of Centre County about Child Abuse Prevention Month and the director of outreach of the Centre County Women's Resource Center about Sexual Assault Awareness Month and issued proclamations about both.
It is not just an interesting coincidence of the calendar that Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month happen at the same time. The serendipitous timing of these prevention and awareness months remind us that sexual violence and child abuse too often coincide — something we in Centre County know all too well.
The statistics are disturbing — nearly 10 percent of those children who experience maltreatment or abuse suffer sexual abuse. Estimates are that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be victims of sexual abuse. And the numbers don't improve when we talk about adult victims of sexual violence. The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that between 20 and 25 percent of women attending higher education institutions experience rape or attempted rape during their college careers. And sadly, we know that an experience of child sexual abuse increases the likelihood that a person will experience sexual assault as an adult.
But just as sexual violence can happen across the life span, so too can the development of healthy sexual relationships.
The common roots of the prevention of child sexual abuse and adult sexual assault give hope that change is possible. For example, while we know that it is adults who are responsible for the abusive acts perpetrated upon children, we also know that we can give our kids tools that will decrease the likelihood they will be targeted by those who would hurt them — and we can provide them with the resources to ask for help when they need it.
Teaching our children appropriate boundaries and supporting them when they exercise those boundaries are critical to our children understanding issues of bodily integrity and consent.
Our kids need to know that it is OK and appropriate to say “no” when someone tries to touch them in ways that make them uncomfortable. And we need to back them up, even if the person our kids are saying “no” to is a family member or friend.
Kids who have learned that it is OK to say no to an unwanted kiss or hug from Aunt Sally or Uncle Bob will understand as young adults that it is OK to say no to someone who pressures you for sex. Children who are taught to understand and recognize personal boundaries will grow into adolescents and adults who understand consent.
We begin to protect our adolescents and young adult children when they are small by giving them the tools to understand that the giving and receiving of consent are critical components of adult sexual behavior.
Like all characteristics of healthy adult behavior, consent is not something that children understand or can give. But as we teach our kids healthy personal boundaries and as we support them when they exercise those boundaries, they will grow into adults who can engage in healthy and safe relationships.
Know sex trafficking when you see it
by AARON MARTINEZ
EL PASO, Texas | The world of sex-trafficking is complicated and complex, yet the solution may be as simple as education.
"Education is key," said Virginia, a victim liaison for the Paso Del Norte's Center of Hope who requested that her last name not be used so traffickers couldn't use her to find the victims she works with. "I am a native El Pasoan and I had no idea how big of an issue sex trafficking — human trafficking in general — is here in El Paso."
In recent years, anti-trafficking nonprofit groups such as the Center of Hope and federal, state and local law enforcement have worked to bring sex trafficking to the public's attention.
Edward Owens, assistant special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations in El Paso, said El Paso is a hotspot for sex trafficking in two ways — many victims are forced into sex there, and traffickers use El Paso as a key stop along the circuits of cities where they sell their victims.
"This makes it more important for us to try to intercede at this level," he said. "It gets harder once they are moved into the interior of the United States."
Law enforcement and anti-trafficking groups want people to recognize the signs so they can help.
"Keep your eyes open and keep listening," Virginia said. "Most of the victims, nationwide, come to the attention of entities like ourselves because someone see something where they get a gut feeling that something just isn't right. This person just looks like they are being controlled or beaten up and needs help."
A shy person who won't make eye contact, a neighbor who never leaves the house alone, someone who seems to be controlled by someone else, houses filled with people who are not allowed to go outside unaccompanied or have an unusual number of visitors — all could signal human trafficking.
"It could be a visit to a grocery store, a salon, a hotel or at your apartment complex," Virginia said. "There are so many different places where a sex-trafficking victim could be forced to go."
States working to toughen laws against sex trafficking
Legislation aims to target 'pimps' with harsher penalties
by Deborah McDermott
In the small town of Sydney, Maine, population 4,200, a father and son were arrested Thursday on charges of sex trafficking for running a brothel out of their home with half a dozen women. That same day, two people in Litchfield, Maine, population 3,600, were arrested on the same charges for conducting a similar operation at their mobile home.
Just two weeks earlier, three Gorham, Maine, men were arrested on sex trafficking charges for arranging for a 19-year-old woman to engage in sex acts with strangers for money.
In February, police arrested two Massachusetts men in Salem, N.H., on charges they coerced a 15-year-old runaway into having sex with five or six clients a day for money.
"People think of this as a big-city problem, and it's not. They don't realize this happens next door to you, and survivors are people who may look just like you," said professor Erin Corcoran of the University of New Hampshire School of Law.
Ten years ago, almost no states were dealing with the issue of human sex trafficking — defined as a situation in which one or more people coerce another person to engage in a sexual act against her or his wishes.
"In 2004, only a handful of states had laws on the books," said Brittanny Vanderhoof, policy counsel for the Polaris Project, an organization that advocates for stronger laws in the United States and internationally to combat human sex trafficking.
Today, only two states lack a sex trafficking statute, she said, although the Polaris Project also tracks whether states have instituted related measures like law enforcement training, asset forfeiture, labor trafficking, victim assistance, access to civil damages and vacating convictions for sex trafficking victims. Vanderhoof said the Polaris Project ranking, the only one of its kind for states, is intended to nudge them to take a look at this issue.
"There's this idea among some states that it's not happening here so we don't have to worry about it," she said. "The usefulness of the map is not to shame states but to say, 'You can do better.'"
In 2013, based on 2012 data, Maine scored a 5 out of 10, while New Hampshire scored a 3 — making it one of the worst states in the nation in terms of providing protection to victims of sex trafficking. But officials in both states anticipate that will change completely when next year's rankings come out. Major legislation has been enacted or is on the verge of enactment in both state legislatures this session, and Maine passed a comprehensive bill in its Legislature's previous session as well.
In New Hampshire, Senate Bill 317 creates "a huge sea change in how victims are looked at," Corcoran said. It makes prostituting minors a felony, provides protection from criminal prosecution or juvenile delinquency proceedings to minors who have been trafficked, makes it a felony to force a person to engage in sex or labor acts against her or his will, and allows victims to sue their trafficker for damages.
"This legislation is intended to get us up to speed" with the rest of the country, Corcoran said.
"We know that New Hampshire is not immune and that trafficking is not just an urban problem," said Amanda Grady Sexton of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. "It's happening right in our communities and it needs to be stopped."
The bill has made it through the Senate and the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee will hold a hearing on it Tuesday, April 15. If it makes it to the desk of Gov. Maggie Hassan, she is likely to sign it.
"Gov. Hassan believes we must take action to address the heinous crime of human trafficking," said her communications director, Marc Goldberg.
Corcoran said the fact that 150 people signed up for a recent law school conference on human trafficking, including service providers, law enforcement, prosecutors and state agency officials, indicates the breadth of interest in the issue.
The Maine Legislature has passed two major pieces of legislation — one last year and one just signed into law by Gov. Paul LePage on Thursday. The 2013 law expands the definition of human trafficking to criminalize the victimization of another individual for profit. The law also renames "promotion of prostitution" to "aggravated sex trafficking" and "sex trafficking," depending on the circumstances of the offense. It also toughens penalties for multiple violations.
Maine Rep. Amy Volk, R-Scarborough, took another step in this legislative session. Her bill, signed into law last week, makes sex trafficking a defense to the charge of prostitution, which could result in a lack of criminal conviction for the prostitute.
"Law enforcement has said they're more interested in getting to the pimp than the prostitute," Volk said. "What this allows police to do is to say to the victim, 'If you can show us you're a victim by turning in your pimp, we won't prosecute you.'"
Sex trafficking perpetrators are also fined $500 to $1,000, to go into a special victim compensation fund. This could be used for housing, therapy, medical care or myriad other needs of victims.
Asked why she filed the legislation, Volk said, "I'm a Christian, and this is an issue Christians have been talking about for many years. I thought it was a no-brainer. I didn't realize people thought it didn't happen here."
These laws are terrifically important, said Destie Holman-Craig of the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
"In most cases, it's local people with local pimps," she said of prostitution in Maine. "We'll see pimps from Boston or even New York City coming here because they know there's a low awareness of the issue, so there's less risk. And there's a lot of opportunity because we have a lot of poverty in rural areas. We see young people take the bus to the city (like Portland or Bangor), and these guys are waiting for them right there."
Holman-Craig said there's a tandem awareness going on now, on the part of both victims and law enforcement. "Clients we've been seeing for a while for other issues, when we say, 'By the way, have you had sex in exchange for a place to stay?' They're saying, 'Yeah, of course.'"
Meanwhile, police are also becoming more aware of the issue. In Maine, for instance, last Thursday the Auburn Police Department partnered with other organizations to host the conference "Not Here: A Call to Action Against Human Trafficking." It is the fourth year the conference has been held. Among the speakers was Thomas Delahanty, U.S. attorney for Maine, who called sex trafficking "a serious problem" that is getting more and more attention.
"It's being reported more, and people are recognizing what it is, including the U.S. Justice Department, which is giving it higher priority," he said.
Putting the focus on the pimp instead of the prostitute only makes sense. "Instead of focusing on the act of the defendant, we're starting to look at the broader picture and find out what's happening underneath that one act," Delahanty said.
Child sex trafficking in D.C. a $100M industry
by Andrea A McCarren
WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA9) -- As the days pass with no sign of Relisha, some who are following her case believe she may have been sold into a child sex trafficking operation.
They point to the wads of cash and expensive items Relisha's mother and boyfriend flaunted on Facebook in the days following the little girl's disappearance.
WUSA9's Andrea McCarren interviewed some experts to learn why investigators have not ruled out that possibility.
"If they're vulnerable, then they're at risk," said Andrea Powell, Executive Director of FAIR Girls.
Relisha Rudd may be just eight years old, but that is not too young for the world of sex trafficking.
Said Powell says, "There's kids as young as 5, 6, 7."
The average age of entry into this dark and devastating underworld is 13.
"A child who's a victim of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation cannot go to school, is most likely not able to speak unless they're asked to speak, they can't even go to the bathroom without getting permission," she said. "They're probably having sex with 5 to 10 men a night."
And it is happening here in the nation's capital, where wealth and power are next-door neighbors to poverty and despair.
"A trip to McDonald's can mean the world to a child like Relisha," said Powell.
Like many child trafficking victims, she says Relisha was vulnerable. Kahlil Tatum, a skilled child predator.
"He really seemed to know what he was doing and how to lure a child. Buying gifts, making friends, even the trick of using another child to make Relisha feel safe and comfortable, very common tactic," she said.
"We gotta keep looking because that child could still be alive out there," said Bob Lowery, Jr. of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which is assisting in the ongoing search for the little girl with the sweet smile and a lifetime ahead of her.
He said, "There's been such intense pressure to find this child, you would think if someone had this child, they would be willing to return her. That has not yet happened, so we're hoping it may still."
He says child sex trafficking is a larger problem than many imagine, because it is no longer in the open. It is moved from the street corner, in many cases, to the Internet.
"We don't know. The possibility of child sex trafficking is a possibility, but I think it's just one of the many possibilities that could be out there," said Lowery.
Considering the grisly alternatives, it may be the best option.
"I hope that sex trafficking is what's going on because that would mean that she has value to someone and they maybe wouldn't kill her," he said.
Unfortunately, the man who could unlock this mystery took his secrets to the grave.
In Washington, D.C. alone, the trafficking of children is a $100-million industry. Nationwide, 300,000 children are forced into prostitution and child pornography every year.
If you or someone you know is a victim of trafficking, you can get help by contacting the National Human Trafficking hotline. The number to call is 1-888-3737-888.
Unified effort needed to stop sex trafficking
by Andrea J. Cook
Combating human sex trafficking and its devastating impacts takes education and a community effort, Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., stressed Friday during a roundtable discussion at the Rapid City Public Library.
"We all have to link arms to really have a big impact," Noem said in her opening remarks to a group of about 20 representatives of various community organizations.
Noem is a co-sponsor of several pieces of anti-trafficking legislation that Congress will consider this year, but South Dakota also has to improve its laws, the congresswoman said.
The nonprofit Polaris Project ranked South Dakota last in the nation in how it handles human trafficking, which means a need exists for stronger legislation and a support network to help victims and their families recover from the stigma associated with sex trafficking, she said.
"We've got some work to do to get our laws up to par," Noem said. "We also have a real need for shelters and counselors to help those who have been involved in the sex trafficking industry."
Around the world, an estimated 4.5 million children are victimized by sex trafficking, according to Noem. In the United States, it is estimated that 300,000 children, 98 percent of which are girls, are caught in the sex trafficking web.
"It happens in poor countries and it happens here," said Tess Franzen, director of the Human Rights Division for the Family Heritage Alliance.
Human trafficking does not mean that a victim is transported some place to perform sexual acts. Instead, any commercial selling of sex for money or anything of value falls under the definition, Franzen said.
A Sioux Falls man, Mohammed Sharif Aboudi, was recently sentenced in federal court to four concurrent life sentences for preying on vulnerable young girls, Noem said.
Last April, the South Dakota Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force had 275 responses to Internet ads offering young girls for sex. Then in August, the task force arrested seven men who negotiated to have sex with young girls during the opening weekend of the Sturgis motorcycle rally.
"I'm still amazed at the amount of responses we had," said Brent Gromer, a special agent for the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation who was assigned to the ICAC task force.
When the local media learned about rally arrests, the ICAC ads were shut down briefly before being activated on the final weekend. Two more men were arrested that weekend.
"The other scary thing is that of the nine arrested, five were from South Dakota or the Black Hills, that is certainly concerning," Gromer said.
Crafting stronger laws that make it harder for sex traffickers to succeed is only part of the equation, he said.
"The problem is, this is not often a crime that is immediately reported to law enforcement," Gromer said.
Educating children and parents is vital to protect children and help victims understand they are victims, according to Hollie Strand, a forensic interviewer with the Child Advocacy Center of the Black Hills.
"The best way to stop this industry and what it's doing and the damage it's doing to our kids is to prevent them from ever becoming victims," Noem said. "And, the only way that happens is to make sure that they are informed, that we're talking to our teenagers, that were talking to families about how someone goes after... to draw someone into this industry."
Bay Area fugitive added to ICE's Operation Predator smartphone app to locate at-large child sex predators
SAN JOSE, Calif. — A Sunnyvale man who absconded following his indictment on federal child pornography charges is the latest fugitive to be profiled on the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) smartphone app, seeking public tips on at-large and unknown child predator suspects.
Jose Alberto Centurion-Cruz, aka Jose Alberto Cruz, 30, was indicted by a federal grand jury in northern California in January 2013 for possession and distribution of child pornography. When ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents searched Centurion-Cruz's Sunnyvale residence in connection with the probe, they found more than 100 sexually explicit videos of minors on his laptop computer and other digital media. Centurion-Cruz was scheduled to appear in federal court in San Jose last month, but failed to show up for his hearing. On March 18, a bench warrant was issued for his arrest.
Centurion-Cruz is 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighs 200 pounds. He has black hair and brown eyes. Investigators believe Centurion-Cruz, who is a Salvadoran national, may have fled to his native country.
Centurion-Cruz's mug shot, along with his biographical information, are now posted on ICE's Operation Predator App, which has been downloaded more than 89,000 times since its launch in September 2013. The app can be downloaded from Apple's App Store or from iTunes. Tips from the public can be reported anonymously through the app, by phone or online, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"We're hoping featuring this fugitive on the Predator app will produce some valuable leads in this case and ultimately result in his capture," said Clark Settles, special agent in charge for HSI San Francisco. "Social media has proven to be an invaluable asset in HSI's efforts to identify and locate offenders in child sexual exploitation cases such as this one."
ICE's Operation Predator App allows users to receive alerts about wanted predators, to share the information with friends via email and social media tools, and to provide information to HSI by calling or submitting an online tip. Additionally, the app allows users to view news about the arrest and prosecution of child predators and obtain information about ICE and its global partners in the fight against child exploitation. This year, the app was nominated as one of eight finalists for "Best App" in the PR News' 2014 Social Media Icon Awards.
HSI requests that anyone with information about Centurion-Cruz, or any of the other fugitives profiled on the app, contact the agency though the app; or by calling the HSI Tip Line, which is staffed 24-hours a day at 1-866-347-2423 from the U.S. & Canada, or 1-802-872-6199 from anywhere in the world, or by submitting an online tip form at www.ice.gov/tips/. Individuals should not attempt to apprehend the suspect personally.
The smartphone app is part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders and child sex traffickers.
HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.
HSI reaches out to more than 5,000 students in Puerto Rico
Outreach activity part of Project iGuardian
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — More than 5,000 students from the public and private schools in Puerto Rico received hand-on tips on how to avoid falling victim to online sexual predators Tuesday and Wednesday at the Ruben Zayas Montañez Coliseum in Trujillo Alto. The presentation was part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Project iGuardian launched in March.
As part of Project iGuardian, HSI special agents in San Juan organized the largest Internet safety outreach for kids 12 to 16 years old to provide them with the necessary tools to make smart decisions when navigating in the Internet. HSI San Juan made the massive event possible by soliciting the support of the public and private sector engaging the Puerto Rico Department of Education, which arranged the transportation of students from 51 schools in the San Juan and Carolina areas to the Ruben Zayas Montañez Coliseum, as well as that of the HSI San Juan Citizens Academy.
The acting Governor of Puerto Rico David Bernier and the Puerto Rico Secretary of Justice attended the event and described it as unique and necessary and expressed their commitment to continue supporting HSI's initiative. All heads of federal agencies represented in Puerto Rico participated of the event and provided their personnel and equipment for the exhibits that followed the Internet safety presentations. According to the participating agencies, cyber safety education not only aids in prevention, it also frequently generates valuable case leads.
HSI will be working closely with its partner law enforcement agencies in Puerto Rico to coordinate and conduct Project iGuardian presentations. The initiative builds on the outreach already being conducted by the Puerto Rico Crimes Against Children Task Force in which local, state and federal law enforcement agencies work together with local and state government agencies to effectively pool their resources to jointly investigate all crimes against children in Puerto Rico. Through the task force, law enforcement officers are encouraged to share evidence, ideas, and investigative and forensic tools to ensure the most successful prosecutions possible. As such, PRCACTF allows law enforcement to speak with one unified voice in defense of the children of Puerto Rico.
At the end of the event, Jose Luis Cruz Cruz, mayor of Trujillo Alto, passed the baton to the municipality of Toa Baja, where the massive event will take place next year.
Awareness is key to preventing sexual abuse
by Wanda Meade
Many believe that sexual abuse happens “somewhere” but not here. Not in my neighborhood and not to people I know. The reality is that sexual abuse happens everywhere, all the time.
In May 1973, I was finishing my first year as a school counselor in a large Upstate junior high when a 14-year-old honor roll student came into my office the last week of school and said, “I cannot go home! I can't live in this all summer! You have to help me!”
And she then began to pour out what would be one of the worst cases of sexual abuse that I would hear in my career. Her story has stayed with me and what I remember most vividly is one line she said about her father. “He nailed the windows shut so we couldn't get out.”
For more than 40 years, I have listened to survivor stories, first as a school counselor and then as a forensic interviewer. Later, as a visiting instructor for Clemson University, I walked my graduate students through their first encounters of reporting and dealing with sexual abuse.
Now I listen to the experiences of adult survivors. I don't find the stories. The stories find me.
According to adult retrospective studies by Silent Tears (silenttearssc.org), one in four women and one in six men were sexually abused before the age of 18. Many have never told their stories to anyone.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Ethically, morally and spiritually, every day should be Child Abuse Prevention Day, but during this spotlight month of April, I encourage you to take time to educate yourself on ways to prevent sexual abuse in your communities.
One way you could have become more aware was by visiting the Finding Voice exhibition at Furman University last week. Furman featured the project in the Trone Student Center as part of its SHARP (Sexual Harassment And Rape Prevention) Awareness Week.
Finding Voice seeks to raise community awareness for sexual abuse prevention. The exhibit includes a series of canvases that feature a powerful photographic image paired with a story line entrusted to me for this project by individual survivors in the hope of opening eyes and raising consciousness.
Finding Voice gives survivors an opportunity to tell their stories without revealing their identities, a process that has been freeing for many of them. When one survivor saw her story on a panel she said, “I'm crying, but not from sorrow. I am crying for joy! My story has been released and I share it now with the Universe. I hope it will help others.”
Many believe that sexual abuse happens “somewhere” but not here. Not in my neighborhood and not to people I know. The reality is that sexual abuse happens everywhere, all the time. Sexual abuse crosses all economic, ethnic, religious and racial lines. The next time you are dining in a restaurant, attending a concert, sitting in a house of worship, participating in a public meeting, walking down the street, having dinner with friends or picking up your children from school, remember that one in four or one in six have a story.
The desire with every Finding Voice canvas is to have the viewer step into the survivor's story and imagine what it would be like to have lived that experience. The hope is that having seen the exhibit, people will take action within their respective communities and find ways to answer the question, “What can I do right here, right now, to help prevent sexual abuse in my own backyard?”
Every time we put prevention in place — big or small — we can save a child from a trauma. Each prevention means a safer child, right here and right now.
Wanda Meade is a former educator and forensic interviewer, and the creator of Finding Voice. She can be reached at WMeade@survivorsfindingvoice.com.
Children's summit seeks to raise awareness on child abuse, physical punishment
by SUZANNE CASSIDY
Children, if you have been sexually or physically abused, there is hope — Lancaster County has resources in place to help you through the trauma.
And parents, if you use physical punishment as a means of discipline, cease the spanking and slapping — you're harming, not helping, your child.
Those were among the messages conveyed at the One with Courage Children's Summit at Eden Resort Inn Friday morning.
The summit was organized by the Lancaster County Children's Alliance and Lancaster General Health's Nurse-Family Partnership.
Its aim was to raise awareness about child abuse.
Such abuse “can be prevented,” said Kari Stanley, program supervisor for the Lancaster County Children's Alliance. “It can be stopped.”
The alliance is a children's advocacy center under the umbrella of Lancaster General Health. It brings together a multidisciplinary team to investigate, treat and prosecute cases of child sexual abuse.
As Lititz Borough Police Detective John Schofield noted at the summit, children used to have to go through repeated interviews after disclosing that they'd been abused.
Now, children tell their stories to a trained forensic interviewer at the alliance, in a child-focused environment.
One such child was Kayla Schneider, a Quarryville teenager who was molested at the age of 12 by Michael Archacki, a former police officer and firefighter.
Archacki now is serving up to 65 years in prison for sexually abusing Kayla and three other girls.
Kayla told her story — which was detailed in a March 30 issue of The Sunday News — at the summit Friday.
She told of the calculated way Archacki insinuated himself into her life, and into her family's life; of how he warned her not to tell her parents about the molestation.
When Kayla revealed the abuse, her parents moved quickly to report it to the police, and to help their daughter seek justice.
The teenager said she was grateful that she was able to speak to a female forensic interviewer at the Lancaster County Children's Alliance.
She said she couldn't imagine having to tell her story to a police officer, especially a male one, after being abused by a former police officer.
Holding a prayer shawl that had been given to her by her “church family” — with a note saying they wanted her to feel “the warmth of our prayers wrapped around you” — Kayla said her road to healing had been difficult.
She's undergone intensive counseling.
But she now has hope for her future, she said, and she extended that hope to other abuse survivors.
“We are not alone, and we are not damaged goods,” she said, adding, “Keep fighting ... Be one with courage.”
She received a standing ovation from the 90 or so health care, child welfare, criminal justice and social work professionals in attendance.
Sherry Sensenig, a founding member of PROP — Parents Reaching Out to Parents of Sexually Exploited Children — said too many parents “live in silence” after learning their children have been abused.
PROP exists, she said, to give parents a place where they can talk about their struggles, their pain.
As parents, she said, “sometimes we forget we are victims, too.”
Dr. Maria McColgan addressed a different parental concern: discipline.
The medical director of the child protection program at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children in Philadelphia, McColgan spoke at length about the damaging effects on children of physical punishment.
She said that physical punishment is a “toxic stressor” that can impair the healthy development of a child's brain.
A brain's first priority is survival, she said.
When pain is being inflicted on a child, the child's brain simply won't absorb any lesson a parent is seeking to impart by hitting that child.
She urged the adults at the conference to think about the last time they were in pain. “Could you have learned calculus?” she asked.
She said spanking and other forms of physical punishment make a child more aggressive, and more likely to hit his peers or siblings.
“Physical punishment does not lead to good behavior,” McColgan said.
Children who have been subjected to physical punishment are more prone to anxiety, depression, developmental delays, problems at school, and health issues, she said.
She quoted one writer who noted that hitting another adult is considered assault, and hitting an animal is considered cruelty, but hitting a child is called discipline.
McColgan said parents should establish and enforce limits, model good behavior and, above all, be consistent.
For children younger than 3, a parent should “distract, redirect and supervise,” she said.
Children older than 3 should be disciplined with time-outs.
Withholding privileges and “active ignoring” — refusing to give in to whining and tantrums — works for children of all ages, McColgan said.
Pope assumes responsibility for priest sex abuse
by NICOLE WINFIELD
VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope Francis said Friday he took personal responsibility for the "evil" of priests who raped and molested children, asking forgiveness from victims and saying the church must be even bolder in its efforts to protect the young. It was the first time a pope has taken personal responsibility for the sex crimes of his priests and begged forgiveness.
Francis' off-the-cuff remarks were the latest sign that he has become sensitized to the gravity of the abuse scandal after coming under criticism from victims' advocacy groups for a perceived lack of attention to, and understanding of, the toll it has taken on the church and its members.
The evolution began last month when he named four women and an abuse survivor to a sex abuse advisory panel that the Vatican has suggested will address the critical issue of sanctioning bishops who cover up for pedophiles.
Francis delivered the comments to members of the International Catholic Child Bureau, a French Catholic network of organizations that protects children's rights. Sitting with them in his library Friday, Francis spoke slowly, deliberately and softly in his native Spanish, deviating from his text.
"I feel compelled to take personal responsibility for all the evil that some priests, many - many in number, (although) not in comparison with the totality - to assume personal responsibility and to ask forgiveness for the damage caused by the sexual abuse of the children," he said.
"The church is aware of this damage," he continued. "We don't want to take a step back in dealing with this problem and the sanctions that must be imposed. On the contrary, I think we must be even stronger! You don't play around with the lives of children."
No pope has ever taken personal responsibility for the tens of thousands of children who were molested by priests over decades as bishops moved them from parish to parish rather than reporting them to police. Pope John Paul II denounced priests who abused children, saying there was no place for them in the priesthood. Pope Benedict XVI expressed sorrow and regret to victims, met with them and even wept with them. But neither ever took personal responsibility for the crimes or begged forgiveness as Francis did.
Last month, Francis named the initial members of a commission to advise him on best practices to combat sexual abuse in the church. Half of the eight members are women and one, Marie Collins, was assaulted by a priest as a child. Collins, who became a well-known activist in the fight for victims' justice, had previously called on Benedict to ask personal forgiveness for the scandal and those church leaders who put loyalty to the church ahead of the safety of children.
The Vatican has said Collins and the other members will now draft the statutes of the commission and would look into the legal "duties and responsibilities" of church personnel, a suggestion that they might take up the critical question of disciplining complicit bishops. Church law provides for sanctions if a bishop is negligent in carrying out his duties, but to date no bishop has been disciplined for protecting an abuser.
Though unclear, Francis' comments about the "sanctions that must be imposed" could be a reference to the need to hold bishops accountable.
Francis named the commission members in March after coming under fire for taking no action since the commission itself was announced in December. Victims groups also have been irked that he hasn't met with survivors and recently told a newspaper that the church had been unfairly attacked for its abuse record. His defensive tone, coupled with the perceived languishing of the commission, led survivors and church commentators to question whether he "got it" on sex abuse.
The main U.S. victim's group, SNAP, said it was waiting for more.
"We beg the world's Catholics: Be impressed by deeds, not words," said SNAP's outreach director Barbara Dorris in a statement. "Until the pope takes decisive action that protects kids, be skeptical and vigilant."
Francis comments during the closed audience were reported in part by Vatican Radio, and Vatican Television excluded them entirely in its initial edit of the audience. The full quote was obtained after The Associated Press requested video of the full comments from Vatican Television.
'Speak' author: 'We as adults struggle to talk to kids honestly about sex'
by Emanuella Grinberg
During 15 years of talking to high school students about sex and bullying, Laurie Halse Anderson has continued to get the same questions from boys: Why was the main character in her book, "Speak," so upset about what happened to her? Didn't she want the attention of one of the popular boys? And why was the impact so traumatic?
Anderson, who published the award-winning novel in 1999, believes the questions come from an honest place. They're teen boys, after all, growing up in a society where media and pop culture tell them women are created for sexual gratification.
They're not used to reading novels that feature characters like Melinda Sordino, a teen who is raped by a classmate at a house party. As her classmates and neighbors go to great lengths to protect her attacker, Melinda plunges into near-silence, refusing to say what happened while still feeling ostracized by her classmates.
Fifteen years after its publication, society has shed some of the stigma associated with sexual violence, but the conflict at the heart of "Speak" still shows up in headlines, from Steubenville, Ohio, to Maryville, Missouri.
And yet, many parents still struggle to find the words or the courage to talk to teens about sex and intimacy, Anderson said. As a mother who raised four girls, Anderson knows that parents today are navigating uncharted territory when it comes to adolescent sexuality, and they're doing it earlier than parents in other generations.
Talking to teens about sexuality, intimacy and consent is urgent, she said.
"We've fallen down on our responsibility to our children by somehow creating this world where they're surrounded by images of sexuality; and yet, we as adults struggle to talk to kids honestly about sex, the rules of dignity and consent," she said.
"So many teens out there are operating in a vacuum, they're operating in adult situations without any adult support or advice."
For the 15th anniversary of "Speak," Anderson is lending her support to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network , a resource for survivors of sexual violence. Macmillan, the publisher of "Speak," is matching donations to the organization in April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Anderson said she wrote "Speak" based on her own experience of being raped as a teen. She struggled for years to find the words or the courage to express what she'd gone through.
Much has changed since then, she said, and "Speak" has become required reading in some schools across the country.
Scores of students still describe the same struggles to Anderson, and she often directs them to the RAINN hot line, she said. Over the years, more resources have emerged for survivors of sexual violence, especially online. Today, if you're a victim of any crime, including sexual violence, you can go online and "find someone who's walked in your shoes who can help you make sense of what happened," she said.
"I do see reduction of shame, which is very good. We still have a long way to go yet.That's the reason many victims don't come forward. That feeling is understandable, but it's why we still need to do more to reduce the stigma around rape," she said.
While the Internet brings people together and creates supportive communities, it has also become the source of damaging images and intense bullying, she said.
"We as a culture are still figuring out how to teach our children the awesome parts of the Internet and cell phones and new media, but we also have to figure out how to keep them safe," she said.
Although many students first encountered "Speak" in high schools, it's now being taught in middle schools, Anderson said. She thinks it's an acknowledgment that sex education needs to start earlier if we want to help teens feel comfortable talking openly about sex and what feels right and wrong.
She believes parents can be more involved, too; just take a deep breath and commit to talking about sex and what constitutes consent, she said.
"Because boys and girls can be victims of rape, we need to try to teach them to make decisions about life that keep them safe, sober and with people they can trust, and make sure people who might be inclined to rape -- who think they can get away with it -- know they can't get away from it.
"It used to be that we teach girls not to be raped, but we need to start teaching boys not to be rapists, and that's a really hard thing for parents of boys to process," she said. "No one wants to think of their sons as rapists.
"We are a culture who is right now in 2014 finally having the conversation that it actually doesn't matter what a woman is wearing, you're not supposed to rape her. I think we're all trying to find the right language surrounding sexual assault. I'm optimistic that we're heading in a better direction as a culture."
The term "young adult lit" was hardly in use when Anderson wrote "Speak." She didn't set out to be a public touchstone in the genre, she said.
A teacher who uses "Speak" in her classroom told Anderson that she calls it "resilience literature," a term Anderson said she is proud of.
"Speak" is about teen rape, the pressures of high school and the insularity of small-town life, but most importantly, it's about overcoming stigma, Anderson said.
"That can be the most painstaking aspect of being a teen, figuring out what the world really looks like," she said. "If you find someone in a book, you know you're not alone and that's what's so comforting about books."
When nice guys behave like monsters
by Christine Ristaino
In recent years we've been rocked by stories about nice guys behaving like monsters. Woody Allen. Bill Cosby. Jerry Sandusky. The reactions to allegations of sexual violence around these charismatic figures usually fall into two different camps: half of us are enraged, the other half are coming to the nice guy's defense. But a new study, released in early March, demonstrates that these two polar responses may actually be contributing to the problem.
As a survivor of sexual violence myself, I know how hard it is to come out with the news that there has been a transgression, especially if the offender is a nice guy. Often survivors of molestation or assault put off sharing this part of their lives for years. In Cosby‘s and Allen‘s cases, the victims waited decades before they spoke publicly about these nice guys. I put off telling my immediate family until I was over 40.
There are many reasons why survivors wait to tell their stories. Part of the cause involves age and the healing process itself. Sharing a transgression often means understanding it. Even for those who do understand, it is hard to talk about. And the difficulty for victims is compounded by a nice guy vs. monster paradigm that our society clings to.
In a March 2014 scholarly article featured in the British Journal of Criminology, Anne-Marie McAlinden asserts that the current paradigm makes things worse for the victim in a number of ways. According to McAlinden, our society not only envisions the perpetrator as a monster, but it also paints the victim as innocent and pure. Children and teens become confused if they don't completely see themselves as innocent, and when their molester has human rather than monster-like qualities. Children are often durable and tough, and the innocent victim portrayal might not resemble anything they are feeling. They are less likely to talk about their experiences as a result. And if they do speak out and are not the completely innocent child our society expects, they are less likely to be believed. This paradigm creates a landscape ripe for victim-blaming, and a society of onlookers who do little to change the landscape.
In an article in Slate, written around the events of the Penn State scandal, Mark P. McKenna reveals that he, too, was abused by a college coach. Of predators he states: “Predators do not look like monsters; they look like your neighborhood basketball coach or the guy running a children's charity. They look like people you know, because they are.” The man who molested me was a fabulous cook and a great storyteller. He was kind and funny. He made people feel loved and valued, and even today, when I see some of these qualities in my own personality, I wonder if I learned them from him. Why is it still difficult for me to admit that he molested me one day when I was 9? It's simply because I loved him and because, well, my family did, too.
McKenna brings up another great point. “If you teach them [your children] that they should be on the lookout for monsters, they will be confused by the inappropriate behavior of adults who don't fit that profile.” As a society, we hate to admit that molesters are people. They have families. They advocate for what they believe in. They do noble things. They can be lovable, charismatic, the life of the party. And the sooner we admit this, the easier it will be for victims to get the help and support they need. Because even though it's difficult to acknowledge, sometimes victims love their abusers for all the same reasons other family members do. If we are able to admit that a child molester can be lovable, then maybe it will be a lot less frightening for victims to come out with their stories.
To help victims of sexual violence, we need a paradigm shift when it comes to how we view them and the people who commit molestation. Child molesters are people who have made a terrible choice in their lives, a choice that will confuse everyone in its path. For those who have made their childhood secret public, I can vouch it was most likely one of the most painful and difficult decisions they have ever made. They did not go into it lightly. Unfortunately, often victims are ostracized and blamed for a crime they are desperately trying to survive, only compounding the trauma they have to endure. To help survivors of abuse, we need to acknowledge the ambivalent feelings survivors might be having around their abuse, as well as the fact that not all victims are virginal and pure with a perfect past.
Is there a gender bias in cases of sexual assault? A live chat recap
by Chris Mautner
Do we have a gender bias when it comes to underage sexual assault? Is the act of a male teacher having sex with students more deplorable than the act of female teachers doing the same? Are we more forgiving as a society of relationships between older women and younger men?
Those are some of the questions we posed to Kristen Houser, vice president of public relations for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape. Houser joined us yesterday for a discussion of those issues and more, in light of a recent story involving a teacher charged with institutional sexual assault.
Here are some of the highlights from that conversation:
Q: Is there a gender bias when it comes to cases of underage sexual assault?
Houser: In general, bias comes in to play in more obvious ways when the underage person is beyond puberty, and in different ways per gender. For instance, teen boys face many barriers to having their victimization recognized as such when the perpetrator is an older female. We have many messages in our society that tell them it's a "lucky experience" to have "guidance" from an older woman. Those messages ignore the experience of being manipulated, having trust violated, having someone in a role of authority abuse that authority, etc.
When the perpetrator is a male, male victims face many other barriers to even being able to talk about it - fear of being labeled or bullied about homosexuality; having their strength or masculinity questioned (why didn't you fight him off?); and the confusion of "why me" because our society doesn't recognize the vulnerability of adolescent boys.
Female adolescents face different barriers to having their victimization recognized or believed. They are often painted in the role of "temptress" or "seductress" and adult physical sexual characteristics somehow overshadow the rest. Teen girls who are sexually abused by older women also fear being labeled or bullied as "lesbian" or face difficulties rooted in the pornographized representation of "girl-on-girl sex".
When we don't allow victims to tell us who is committing these crimes we are helping ensure that person will have access to other victims.
Q: Where does that message that a teen is "lucky" to have "guidance" (as you said below) from an older woman come from? What is it rooted in? And what is the best way to combat that perception?
Houser: Let's address how to combat it first: challenge people who repeat those messages with the reminder that there is nothing "lucky" about being manipulated or pressured. Remind people of the naivety all teens have about healthy relationships and question the motives of an adult who seeks sex with someone so inexperienced. What does an adult gain from that? What is mutual about it?
Michael: Having a lot of sex is tied tightly to our society's notion of masculinity. As a teen, sex with an older woman would theoretically be "out of reach," so to do so must mean that guy is "lucky" or a "player." To complain about it, as a man, is seen as some sort of weakness.
Houser: It's difficult to say where the messages have originated, but they are certainly reinforced through all kinds of entertainment/media. They are also reinforced by default - our society rarely talks about these situations, period, let alone labeling them for what they are. Societal norms about sex and sexuality for men certainly vary between cultures or socio-economic classes to some extent, but the general norm is that for males, all (hetero) sexual activity is good, more is good, and saying no to any of it calls masculinity in to question.
Michael: Talking about healthy sexuality instead of "having sex" would be a great way to challenge the perception. That's what this year's Sexual Assault Awareness Month theme is all about.
Houser: It is important to note that many of the social pressures for teenage boys to see sexual activity with an older woman as "lucky" or otherwise desirable make it very difficult for that teen to call it abusive. However, many men reflect back on these experiences as adults in their 30's, 40s and 50s and can see far more clearly how they were manipulated, can speak to the pressure they felt to "go along with it" even though they felt uncomfortable, didn't want others to know, and were ashamed or embarrassed. Very often carrying that shame for so many years impacts their trust in themselves, in their ability to have open, trusting relationships, and to seek help for feelings that persist even decades later. These social pressures ultimately compound the harm inflicted by the adult.
Q: Does the age of the student ever matter in these instances? Some readers felt that the fact that the student in the CV case was 18 made a difference.
Michael: There's a huge power imbalance between a teacher and a student, regardless of age. Students can't consent to a sexual relationship with their teachers for the same reason a enlisted service member can't consent to a sexual relationship with a commissioned officer.
Houser: And that is exactly why PA has a law against these relationships. The power imbalance makes consent a moot point in a teacher-student situation.
I should have said "relationships" in quotes, because they are not true relationships with mutual participation on equal footing.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about that law? I think some people were confused about what Institutional sexual assault meant.
Houser: Institutional sexual assault laws recognize that there are conditions or environments which make the normal age of consent a moot point. The situations are all instances where a power imbalance exists such as prisons or juvenile detention settings; between a therapist and a patient; in residential youth treatment/program settings; youth coaches and the youth they are trusted to guide, support and coach; and teacher or other school employees and students. The law recognizes that the imbalance of power creates a situation that advantages the person with the power. In school settings that is clearly the teacher or other school employee. In prisons it is the staff of the correctional facility. In coaching it is the adult coach.
Q: Is this gender bias reflected at all in either our laws or the way we enforce them?
Houser: There is no regard for gender in the state statutes. Sex crimes are defined by force, threat of force, or whether the victim is able to give consent, including instances where power imbalances make that impossible.
Enforcement can vary widely. We are more concerned with the biases that prevent people from reporting in the first place. In general, most victims of sexual abuse and assault DO NOT report it to any one, and while each individual reason may be different, they are almost always based in the victim's belief that they will not be believed, supported or assisted.
Gender biases are a part of that reasoning, and unfortunately, we see real life examples all of the time that prove these fears to be real. We see rumors started about the victim or the victim's sexual history; victims are harassed and bullied in school & via social media; families are ostracized when they report abuse by a beloved or popular teacher/coach/community member; many times the survivor's environment becomes hostile instead of empathetic or concerned.
SO! The take away message is that "our" behaviors as mentioned above actually put the entire community at further risk. When we don't allow for victims to tell us who is committing these crimes (and by the way, people who commit sexually abusive acts count on us to help keep the victim silent, and to not believe them if they tell), we are helping ensure that person will have access to other victims. Adults who commit sexually abusive acts have usually been doing so since adolescence and will continue to do so until their behaviors are interrupted.
We often remind people that rumors among the student body are extremely important to pay attention to as a big red flag! Students often pick up on the inappropriate attention a teacher is paying to a classmate, but don't have the knowledge to call it abuse. Instead, it turns in to rumors about the teacher "having a crush" on the student. Students may also share "secrets" with their friends such as inappropriate text messages - rumors often are rooted in reality.
Q: How serious a problem is this in Pennsylvania? We seem to have had a rash of these stories in the news lately, but do they accurately reflect a growing problem?
Houser: We don't believe it is a growing problem, but instead the increased number of cases being reported is likely the result of growing awareness. PA has seen its share of extremely high profile cases between the Sandusky case and the 2 Grand Jury reports on the Philadelphia Catholic Diocese. I think many more adults are recognizing this happens, this is serious, and kids and teens need adults to help them by stepping in. (And this is certainly not unique to PA.)
Q: The major theme here appears to be power imbalance and the way different types of power (institutional, physical, etc.) interact to allow a victim's abuse to be recognized. Do you think it makes a difference (in terms of recognition) whether the power is real vs. perceived? In other words, if a particular victim could be easily physically overpowered by his or her attacker, do you think that abuse is more likely to be recognized as legitimate?
Houser: Perception is reality. Often the power imbalances aren't about physical strength, but are instead about authority and creating other negative consequences. In a prison or juvenile detention environment, this could mean the child/teen recognizes their access to recreation, visits, phone, commissary, or other "freedoms" in that environment could be taken away. For students it may mean fearing bad grades, being embarrassed in front of the class, having the teacher tell other teachers you are difficult, accused of cheating, etc.
Q: If a reader believes there has been an instance of institutional sexual assault, what should he or she do? Are there resources for victims and protections for witnesses?
Houser: There are several options. First, any rape crisis center in PA can offer guidance about reporting to ChildLine or to the police. They also can provide assistance and guidance to the teen and their family. The suspicion of abuse can also be reported to school authorities, who, under law, must report it to authorities.
ChildLine is 800-932-0313. Adults in communities with "child advocacy centers" can also contact them for support and information.
Q: Is there a statute of limitations to report a case of institutional sexual assault?
Houser: There are statutes of limitations for sex crimes. Criminal statutes allow a report until the victim is age 50 - but, making a report doesn't mean there will be a charge or prosecution. For civil action, the statute of limitations expires when the victim turns 30. (though there is legislation that has been introduced to eliminate this civil statute - it has not passed)
Q: What do you think is the best terminology for reporters (and others) to use when reporting on a situation in which a teacher (for example) has repeated sexual contact with an underage student? So many times we hear the term "sexual relationship," but can it be a relationship when one party is legally incapable of consenting?
Houser: They are charged with crimes, so I'd use the legal language or phrasing. For instance, "sexually abusing a student" or "engaging in institutional sexual assault" or something like, "teacher accused of forcing sexual acts on student" - these are far more accurate ways to talk about it since students cannot consent.
The Poynter Institute has an online course on how reporters can ethically cover sexual assault cases - it's a great course!
Q: Last question: I know this is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Can you talk a little bit about the importance of this and the need for greater awareness?
Houser: I cannot emphasize the importance enough! Let me see if I can do this succinctly:
Talk early and talk often with children in age appropriate ways. Young children should be taught the correct names of all body parts. Adults need to give children permission to decide if/when/who they have physical contact with & have those decisions supported (so it's OK when they don't want to hug aunt Susan or kiss uncle Dave or sit on the neighbor's lap!)
As children grow, the information needs to change. There are great resources available at www.nsvrc.org/saam to help parents with this.
As children become teens, we should be talking about values, healthy relationships, boundaries, etc. There are TONS of opportunities to begin these discussions in pop culture - use the lyrics to a song, or a scenario in a TV show or movie to ask them "what do you think about that? What would you do? What would you do if that were one of your friends? Who would you go to for help? Do you know that you or your friends can talk to me/your other parent/your extended family/a teacher/etc..."
As long as "we" continue to think, "no one I know or trust would do anything like that" we are doing a disservice to our children and our community. But people who offend usually invest time and effort to trick not only the person they are targeting for abuse, but also others around them, including other adults. Adults need to learn to trust themselves when they feel uncomfortable about things they see or hear, and recognize there are a ton of ways to intervene that don't involve "accusing" someone.
Stopping child abuse through prevention
by Laura A. Mustari
Approximately 70,000 cases of child abuse and neglect are reported in San Diego County annually, according to San Diego County Child Welfare Services.
From our view, even one is simply too many.
Child abuse is typically thought of as an isolated issue, with an “it can't happen in my world” mentality; however, everyday pressures commonly associated with simply making ends meet shouldn't be overlooked as increasing causes of abusive situations.
As a licensed clinical social worker and chief executive officer of the 42-year-old local nonprofit Home Start, I urge us all to step back and shift our mindsets to explore how financial and employment issues, health and nutrition access and even affordable housing may contribute as underlying causes to child abuse in our communities.
Job loss or insufficient wages can cause anxiety in a home environment. A child acting out at school or in the home can add strain to relationships. Stressful situations can quickly lead any person to experience increased tension and behavioral changes as a coping mechanism, which can also be the trigger to verbal or physical abuse.
By addressing child abuse through awareness of everyday stressors that may serve as these trigger points, we can impact unhealthy behavior patterns, and prevent abuse to children, usually unsuspecting victims, before it happens.
It's through this prevention-focused lens that we urge San Diego to view child abuse. We need to stop it before it starts.
Based on our experience working with San Diegans in their homes and communities for the last 42 years, we know that education is a key tool to prevention. Teaching families about positive behavioral choices and parenting techniques has proved effective for families experiencing stress and anxiety.
We know this because we‘re seeing it in our service trends, and therefore tailor our in-home programs to address the real-world challenges families are facing.
That's why more than 80 percent of our services are prevention focused, with education and real-world teaching opportunities taking precedence. By using evidence-based programing, education and assistance can be tailored to directly address these complex issues.
By lessening even one trigger point, we may have a better chance at reducing the probability of abuse.
The first step is awareness and understanding of the personal and societal stressors that can lead to child abuse, but it's the action we take collectively that will make an impact and stop the cycle of abuse. San Diegans need to be cognizant of our personal and community struggles and speak up when help is needed — it's never too early, nor is it ever to late to ask for help. There are many free, confidential resources that can provide a solution to your struggle. We can all play a role in making San Diego a safe and nurturing place for our children, and that role starts within each of us.
If we all work together, we can prevent 70,000+ cases of child abuse before they happen.
Mustari, LCSW, is CEO of Home Start, Inc.
Stop the silence: Failing to report child abuse is a crime, officials say
by Steve Breen
In Kentucky, more than 25,000 additional cases of child abuse and neglect were reported from 2009 to 2013, according to an annual multi-agency assessment prepared last year by the Division of Protection and Permanency, the Department of Community Based Services and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
Perhaps the most shocking detail of the assessment, 17,884 cases were reported across the commonwealth in 2013 alone.
Christian County's 900 cases were 5 percent of the statewide total. Including the cases in Todd and Trigg counties — 296 and 158, respectively — the Southern Pennyrile region accounted for just over 7.5 percent of the state aggregate.
Local officials and relief agencies are battling this tsunami of reports of abuse and neglect with resources they say are dwarfed by the volume of cases. Additionally, April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, which focuses the discussion of how to prevent child neglect and abuse.
What is abuse?
To stem the tide, officials say it's necessary to first define the different types of abuse.
According to Christian Family Court Judge Jason Fleming, “education and information are the most important tools” in fighting neglect and abuse even though not all cases of “abuse” can be qualified as such.
“First, everybody has a duty to report child abuse,” he said, emphasizing that it's actually a crime in Kentucky not to report it. Anyone who suspects child abuse and fails to speak up can be fined, jailed or both.
The judge said dependency cases are his primary focus. These are the cases where, through no fault of anyone, a child must be placed in the care of another relative or in state custody.
Fleming gave examples that, “if both parents are in jail, or a custodial parent is in the hospital following a car accident, or if both parents are deceased, it is up to the court to place those children with an appropriate caregiver.”
Fleming said neglect cases deal with environmental issues, such as children living in filthy conditions or not being bathed or fed properly, and these cases do not necessarily have to include physical abuse. He said many of these cases do not require taking a child away from the parents or custodians, as long as the offenses are mild and can be remedied with in-home support services from organizations like Pennyrile Allied Community Services — commonly called PACS.
“Sometimes taking a child out the home in these mild cases does more damage to the child than the actual neglect itself,” Fleming said. “Unfortunately, there are many more mild neglect cases than there are case workers.”
He went on to say PACS has a program that shows parents and custodians who are cited with neglect how to better care for at-risk children. Fleming spoke glowingly of the organization.
“In-home based services are so good that I wish every parent, whether they were cited or not for neglect, would take advantage of this program.”
Joe Farless, director of PACS in Christian County, said his organization offers five programs to address varying degrees of neglect and abuse. These range from a simple in-home prevention program up to a crisis-level program where the child is at imminent risk of removal from the home.
The PACS Community Collaboration for Children program is a self-referral program that requires no caseworker but provides caregivers with resources to provide proper nutrition and can even help them in getting food stamps. Farless said it's a “preventative program only,” and although it may be ordered by the court for a caregiver to attend, he said no one forces anyone to come.
The Community Collaboration Program is focused on pre-empting the unnecessary removal of a child from the home. He echoed Flemings' statement that removing a child from the home can sometimes do more damage than good.
PACS also has a program designed for caregivers of problematic teenagers who are having control issues and offers a reunification service for families where the child is returning home after a stint with a foster family or state care.
County Attorney Mike Foster said his office leans toward a team concept — working in conjunction with family court and relief agencies — to resolve abuse cases.
“We must bring all the community resources together to protect the child,” he said, adding that his office analyzes the cases to determine if a criminal indictment is necessary or if a domestic violence order should be issued. In worst-case scenarios, Foster said, it may be necessary to remove the child. Often, these cases are a result of sexual or physical abuse.
For Judge Fleming, the worst-case scenario means terminating parental rights altogether and putting the child up for adoption.
“If the parents are unfit,” he said, “it opens an avenue for a relative to formally adopt the child, although sometimes that's not possible.”
Foster said “it's not like the old days” when officials came a across a child with a black eye, issued a warrant and then put the person who did it in jail because “it doesn't solve the underlying problems that contributed to the abuse.”
The county attorney concurred that substance abuse, domestic violence, mental health and poverty are often factors in child abuse cases. According to Kentucky statistics, in 17,098 cases of neglect, 4,236 cases of physical abuse, 1,639 cases of sexual abuse and 89 cases of emotional abuse, 74.1 percent of the substantiated reports had two or more of those elements present.
In cases of sexual abuse, there is a one-hour timeline for authorities to make contact with the family following a report. Forensic investigators trained specifically to interview child-victims will try to contact the child at school, if possible, and interview the alleged victim at the Pennyrile Child Advocacy Center on East Seventh Street. The center has “kid-friendly” rooms for children of different ages to place them in a more relaxed setting.
Judge Fleming said investigators allow the child to set the pace of the interview.
“It's up to the child,” he said. “Some children take longer to talk while others open up right away. You never know since it is up to the child to speak in his or her own way.”
The state report details how there were 366 deaths or near-deaths received by the Department of Child Based Services from 2009 to 2013. The report also details how 205 of those fatalities came from cases where there was prior involvement with the agency. In 83 percent of all cases involving physical abuse, the children involved were older than 3.
Two cases specific to Christian and Todd counties are in that fatalities tally.
Recently convicted, Charles T. Morris was a soldier at Fort Campbell soldier who beat his 3-year-old daughter, Alayna Adair, to death in July 2011. In Todd County, the case of Garrett Dye, whose conviction in the murder of his adoptive sister, 9-year-old Amy Dye, was overturned because police coerced a confession, brought the state's failures to recognize a child at risk into the spotlight for many Kentuckians.
In Amy Dye's case, there were multiple reports of abuse before her brother allegedly beat her to death with a steel hydraulic jack handle. Many around the state called for change after it was uncovered that reports of Amy Dye's abuse at the hands of her adoptive family, some coming from school nurses, spanned years.
The social worker in both of those cases, Donna Currey, is scheduled to stand trial on charges of tampering with records for her role in the Adair case. According to her indictment, Currey is accused of ignoring doctors' reports of abuse and falsifying information to make it appear as if she had investigated the case when, in fact, she hadn't.
The New Era contacted the Cabinet for Health and Family Services after being referred to it by officials at the Department of Child Based Services. The newspaper specifically wanted countywide statistics of the number of reported cases for Christian, Trigg and Todd counties and asked the questions: “What are the cabinet's biggest challenges in combating abuse?” And “What are the solutions the cabinet is seeking to answer those challenges?”
However, no answers were forthcoming from officials in Frankfort, and all information for this article, including the 2013 child abuse report generated by the cabinet, came from local sources.
As Judge Fleming summed it up, “We can always be better,” and the best thing anyone can do to stop child abuse is report it.
“If a child is abused, anyone can call the child protection hotline at 1-877-KYSAFE1 or 1-877-597-2331, at any time,” he said. “It's completely confidential.”
YWCA raises awareness of child abuse, sexual harassment
by STEPHANIE SORRELL-WHITE
UTICA — Memphis Brannum is a survivor.
On Wednesday, Brannum talked about the fallout from a rape she experienced four-and-a-half years ago by someone she knew, including how her marriage fell apart from it and how she couldn't stand to be touched, not even by her daughter.
“It turned my world upside-down,” she said during a news conference at the YWCA.
“I felt worthless, disgusting,” she added.
Brannum said she was initially scared to share her story with others, including her mother.
“I was scared to justify why I needed help,” she said. “Luckily, I didn't have to do that.”
Brannum said she sought out the services provided by the YWCA Mohawk Valley.
“The help I received was super beneficial for not only me, but for my daughter,” she said. “I lost a lot of my self worth … I want to let other survivors out there know they are worth something.”
“I'm so glad I reached out to them. I don't know what would have happened. I was so depressed,” Brannum added.
Noting she didn't have any relatives who lived nearby, Brannum said, “The YWCA became my family.”
April is National Child Abuse Prevention and Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The YWCA has events planned throughout the month, including a Take Back the Night event at Ward Square in Little Falls at 6 p.m. on April 24 and an open microphone night at 6 p.m. on April 29 at the YWCA, 1000 Cornelia St., Utica.
“I hope people realize what it takes for [Brannum] to come and talk about being sexually assaulted,” said Natalie Brown, YWCA executive director, during the news conference.
Oneida County Sheriff Robert Maciol also praised Brannum for sharing her story.
“The courage you have shown up here is amazing. I hope your message will reach out to other victims. I commend you,” he said.
Brown and Maciol noted through a committed partnership, several agencies are able to work together to help sex abuse victims.
“We're one part of a dynamic team,” said Maciol. “… It's important for us to be part of that team, and to see that justice is served and that predators are put in a place they can't hurt anyone.”
Also recognized for their work with the YWCA along with the sheriff's departments were the district attorney offices in Herkimer and Oneida counties, the state police, town and village police agencies, Catholic Charities and Department of Social Services.
In 2013, the Oneida County Child Advocacy Center conducted 601 investigations involving 1,097 children; the majority of these cases involved sexual abuse.
Also in 2013, the YWCA's Child Advocacy Center and Sexual Violence Services of Herkimer County program worked with 536 individuals, including 297 children.
Dyana Smolen, media representative for the YWCA, said the YWCA's Herkimer County programming is focused on sexual violence services. The Child Advocacy Center component provides help to the child victims of sexual and severe physical abuse, and assists non-offending secondary victims, like parents and siblings.
Smolen said the other component provides services to rape victims and adult survivors of child sexual abuse.
“We have victim advocates who help victims navigate medical, law enforcement and court procedures and social worker therapists for individual and group counseling,” said Smolen in an e-mail to The Telegram.
The YWCA provides 24-hour support services to child and adult victims of sexual abuse and sexual assault in Herkimer County and to adult victims in Oneida County. Child victims in Oneida County are served by the Oneida County Child Advocacy Center.
YWCA services include 24-hour confidential hotlines, victim advocacy and accompaniment throughout all medical, court and law enforcement procedures, assistance with crime victim compensation, safety planning, individual and group counseling, and information and referrals for social service needs.
The YWCA Mohawk Valley hotlines are 866-4120 in Herkimer County or 797-7740 in Oneida County. For more information, go to: www.ywcamv.org
Childhood sex abuse survivor testifies for Senate bill
by Kimberley Haas
DOVER — As a child, Jessica Paradis of Somersworth did not know something was wrong. When she did, she did not know what to do about it.
A mother of five sons and a member of the Somersworth School Board, Paradis is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. She was abused for nine years as a child. As a young adult, Paradis said she was sexually assaulted once.
Today, Paradis and a local contingent will be testifying in support of a Senate bill that is aimed at making children more aware of when they are being touched inappropriately by others. The hope is that by giving elementary and secondary school children the knowledge they need to know when something is wrong, they will report sexual abuse to the appropriate authorities and receive treatment.
SB 348, which is sponsored by state Sen. David Watters, D-Dover, has already been adopted with an amendment by the Senate. This week it will be heard by the Education Committee of the House of Representatives.
Watters said he started working on the bill after having a number of discussions with Paradis and people interested in talking about sexual abuse prevention. He learned that some school districts in New Hampshire have educational programs about sexual abuse, while others do not.
“We all know the issue of sex abuse of children is an important one,” Watters said Monday. “We need programs that, in an age appropriate way, teach them how to get help.”
The bill would only establish a commission to study sexual abuse prevention education in elementary and secondary schools. It would not mandate that schools start teaching about sexual abuse.
For Paradis, who is a former vice president of the Sexual Assault Support Services (SASS) board of directors, it is a first step.
Paradis said SASS currently serves Rockingham and Strafford County school systems, teaching approximately 10,000 students a year about personal body safety, Internet safety and healthy relationships, but there are a total of 40,000 students in the two counties.
“I want every kid in New Hampshire to learn about being safe and strong and healthy,” Paradis said. “We teach kids fire drills, intruder drills, emergency bus evacuation drills, healthy eating, physical health, dental hygiene ... but no one wants to talk about this ugly epidemic that affects one in three girls and one in six boys in their lifetime.”
Paradis said there are 12 other states that provide this type of education to students. If a commission is established, it would look at what is already in place in the state and country to make a recommendation about what would serve the needs of New Hampshire.
Paradis said the bill has support from police, rape crisis centers, child advocacy groups, the Department of Health and Human Services and those in education. Paradis has been told that if SB 348 passes the House of Representatives, it would have the support of Gov. Maggie Hassan.
Photojournalist Deb Cram, SASS executive director Kathy Beebe, and Lisa Jones from the University of New Hampshire Crimes Against Children Research Center are also expected to testify on behalf of the bill.
L.A. programs to prevent child abuse in 'state of emergency'
by Garrett Therolf
A new report from the blue-ribbon commission on Los Angeles County's safety net for abused and neglected children levels stinging criticism at the Board of Supervisors for a sluggish approach to reform, and declares that the system has fallen into a "state of emergency."
"Nothing short of a complete rethinking about how the county ensures safe and supportive care for abused and at-risk children will lead to the seamless and comprehensive child welfare system that the county has needed for decades," the commissioners wrote in a draft report expected to be approved in a vote Thursday afternoon.
The members of the commission said the elected Board of Supervisors has responded too slowly and failed to identify a coordinated mission and clear, measurable goals for the child-protection system.
The commission released its first set of recommendations in December. In its new report, it notes that none of the suggestions were approved and evaluations of their costs or potential benefits haven't been completed.
"Since then, another 5,000 referrals of child abuse and neglect have been investigated without the benefit of systemic reform," the commissioners wrote. "Each day we wait for reform, 40 more infants are reported as possible victims of abuse and neglect."
Currently, the commission found, infants sit for hours at social workers' desks or in holding rooms awaiting foster placements. Also, children are often unable to get return phone calls from their social workers and lack a meaningful voice in decisions about their care, the panel said.
"On our watch, many of Los Angeles County's most vulnerable children are unseen, unheard and unsafe," the commissioners said.
The county's chief executive, William T Fujioka, also comes in for criticism from the panel, which says a report from his office on the feasibility of the commission's original recommendations is overdue.
"The commission has requested, but not received, an update on the progress of the analysis," the report said.
A culture of secrecy and an obsession with civil liability often trumps the best interests of children, the report said.
"Crucial access to information between appropriate entities, within county government and throughout the community, often is needlessly blocked in the name of confidentiality," the report said. "Problems within the system remain hidden and often uncorrected because of secrecy around decision-making and other recurring failures."
Expanding on its recommendations in December, the panel's new report calls for the creation of a new "Office of Child Protection," with broad accountability for the overall effectiveness of child-protection programs.
The office should be led by someone with extensive experience in child welfare, who is empowered to move people and resources across departments, the report said.
The county should improve data collection and use it, not periodic reactions to crises, to establish child welfare policy, the panel said.
The county's relationships with community groups and foster home contractors needs significant improvements, the panel said. Among other things, "performance-based contracting" should be adopted that ties financial rewards to better outcomes for children.
“In eight months of hearing hundreds of hours of testimony, the commission never heard a single person defend the current child safety system,” the commissioners said.
The commission began its work last summer to improve the county's child welfare system after the death of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez.
The boy was found in May with his skull cracked, three ribs broken, and his skin bruised and burned. BB pellets were embedded in his lung and groin, and two teeth were knocked out. County social workers had investigated six reports of abuse but allowed Gabriel to stay with his mother and her boyfriend.
Pearl Sinthia Fernandez, 29, and Isauro Aguirre, 32, each face one count of capital murder with the special circumstance of torture.
Making a Difference, Every Day ... Preventing Child Abuse Begins with You
Prevent Child Abuse America President and CEO James Hmurovich to speak at Penn State
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, during which communities across the country sponsor activities to raise awareness about the importance of child abuse prevention and healthy child development. This annual designation is an opportunity for communities to evaluate progress and reaffirm their commitment to building safe environments for children.
On April 23, James Hmurovich, CEO and President of Prevent Child Abuse America, will speak at 7:30 p.m. in the HUB Auditorium on Penn State's University Park campus about why prevention matters, how communities across the country are responding to the challenge of promoting healthy child development and providing safe environments, and what is needed going forward.
A panel response titled “Campus to Community Perspectives” will follow Hmurovich's talk and include campus and Centre Region representatives. The group will discuss local prevention efforts and how every person can help in this important fight.
Panelists include Centre County Judge Bradley Lunsford, First Assistant District Attorney of Montgomery County and Penn State Alumni Association Vice President Kevin Steele, president of the student group One Heart Cristina Fernandez, Penn State Youth Programs Compliance Specialist Sandra Weaver and Penn State's Network on Child Protection and Well-Being Director of Research and Education and Professor of Human Development and Family Studies Jennie Noll.
The event is sponsored by the University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA) and Penn State's Network on Child Protection and Well-Being. It is free and open to the public.
Joining UPUA and the Network as event sponsors are Penn State student organizations including One Heart and Walk for Prevention; Penn State Offices of Student Affairs, Human Resources, and Ethics and Compliance; and community organizations including the Children's Advocacy Center of Centre County, Centre County Youth Service Bureau, Centre County Women's Resource Center, YMCA of Centre County and the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR).
Child abuse and neglect is substantiated in more than 1.2 million children each year in the United States. Working together to build awareness and understanding is an essential key to preventing child abuse. Everyone has a part to play.
Does Poverty Cause Child Abuse?
Poor parents are no more likely to hurt or neglect their kids, the author argues. They're just more likely to be punished for failings both real and imagined.
by Dawn Post
Cornell University released a large study last month positing that poverty causes higher instances of child abuse and neglect. Considering the advance publicity, it seemed to me that the average reader might overlook the crucial role that socioeconomic and racial biases play in determining which families come under the scrutiny of the child welfare system to begin with.
While poverty is widely recognized as a risk factor in abuse and neglect cases, it is by no means a cause of abuse and neglect. Children are just as likely to be abused or neglected in wealthy homes as in poor ones. However, wealthier white families are simply not under the same scrutiny that brings families of color of low socioeconomic status to the attention of child welfare authorities.
Is this increased scrutiny due to societal or systemic factors that make living conditions worse for minority families? Or is it due to implicit biases? Disproportionate minority representation of children of color in foster care is a complex one with many contributing factors. But as much as people may want to deny it, this is due in part to implicit bias and choices that are made by decision-makers who encounter these families. Consider the brief released in June 2011 by University of Chicago research institute Chapin Hall, which argued that that foster care placement is needed to protect black children from the "self-destructive behavior" that occurs in "racially segregated impoverished enclaves."
Racial prejudices, biases and assumptions contribute to the fact that 97 percent of children in New York City foster care are children of color. According to a leading researcher in the field, Dorothy Roberts, author of "Shattered Bonds," "[t]he fact that the system supposedly designed to protect the children remains one of the most segregated institutions in the country should arouse suspicion." This is most clearly demonstrated by the documented decisions that medical professionals make when they encounter abuse and neglect in families of color. The data in the books "To the End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care" (Cris Beam) and Roberts's "Shattered Bonds" illustrates this point:
Black women have been reported to health authorities at delivery 10 times more often than white women, even though studies show that drug use is relatively equal, for instance, between blacks and whites (9.5 percent and 8.2 percent respectively), and that more pregnant white women use drugs than pregnant black women (113,000 versus 75,000).
Doctors failed to detect abusive head trauma twice as often in white as compared to minority children.
Even reviewing neutral e-rays for fractures, hospitalized minority toddlers were five times more likely to be evaluated for child abuse, and three times more likely to be reported for child abuse, than white children.
Any child protective attorney can attest to the truth of this statement. New York City Family Courts, which handle child protective cases, are courts of the poor where white families are a significant minority. White families are given the benefit of the doubt when allegations of abuse and neglect arise, and, as noted in the statistics, they simply do not suffer the same scrutiny by mandated reporters. In addition, they have less contact with the mandated reporters at schools, mental health facilities, welfare offices and hospitals, resulting in fewer calls to the Administration for Children's Services. Factors such as homelessness, unemployment and welfare enrollment bring poor families into greater contact with more bureaucracies and caseworkers. In addition, living in a poor neighborhood with drug use and street crime where there is greater police presence increases a family's visibility to police scrutiny.
One of the only cases in which I represented a young white child of white parents involved a mother from England who was addicted to heroin. I came to call it my "heroin chic" case. Three times, the mother was found with the young child on a street in the classic "heroin high" pose—a blissful and euphoric state in which she was nodding out while standing up, slowly falling forward and displaying seemingly amazing acts of balance before slowly standing straight up again, her child by her side.
Was this mother immediately arrested and the child removed from her care by the Administration for Children's Services? No, not the first two times. Emergency personnel who responded escorted the mother home and ACS offered the mother drug-rehabilitation services , with which she refused to cooperate. It wasn't until the third time when the mother passed out on the street and the child was injured that a case was finally filed against the mother in family court. Had this been a child of color, it is much more likely that the child would have been immediately removed from the mother's care when she was first found nodding out in the street.
I had this case during a time where there were hundreds of neglect cases being filed in family court involving allegations of marijuana use under the theory that marijuana was the gateway to hard drugs. Frequently, neglect charges were brought solely based upon recreational use and then other allegations were added later to bolster the neglect claims. And a small portion of these marijuana cases involved children being placed into foster care. Needless to say, these cases all involved families of color.
The racial and socio-economic prejudices, biases and assumptions that result in a disproportionate amount of children of color being placed into foster care in New York City are systemic and institutional issues, and they are larger issues than those of us in the family court who work on child protective cases can address. This bias that exists goes beyond foster care and implicates society as a whole.
Certainly, as the Cornell study shows, poverty is a strong risk factor in abuse and neglect cases. But it should never be assumed that abuse and neglect predominately occurs in poor homes or that children will be better off in foster care than in so called "impoverished enclaves" where they may live.
Lawsuit: State failed sexually abused girl at 3 foster homes
Girl abused for 16 years; 2 foster fathers convicted of separate molestations
by LEVI PULKKINEN
A former foster child raped and abused at three Western Washington foster homes has sued the state, claiming too little was done to protect her.
In a lawsuit filed earlier this week at U.S. District Court in Tacoma, attorneys for the girl claim she was sexually assaulted at all three homes where she was placed after she was pulled from her mother's care as a young child. Two of the girl's former foster fathers have since been convicted of child molestation, as has one of her foster brothers.
The young woman's attorney contends state regulators failed in each case to act when the abuse was detected. Instead, the former foster child – now in her early 20s – was left to endure horrific abuse at the hands of people paid by the state to care for her.
"You think that the parade of horrors would end at a certain point, but it does not," said Vito de la Cruz, a Bellevue attorney representing the woman.
According to the lawsuit, the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) licensed one of the girl's foster mothers even though she had previously lost custody of her own children due to a drug problem.
“You don't expect children to be treated this way, and … it shouldn't happen to any child,” de la Cruz said. “We as a society should demand more.”
The two foster fathers caught abusing the girl received suspended prison sentences – at least initially – after Pierce County judges opted to use a sentencing scheme available to sex offenders who abuse children they're close to.
Had she not been living with the men, both would have faced years behind bars; instead, they were able to avoid prison time entirely through Washington's Special Sex Offender Sentencing Alternative law.
Born to drug-addicted, mentally ill parents, the girl became a ward of the state at age 4. DSHS reports from her time before foster care indicate she was living in a filthy home. One investigator found a kitchen sink filled with moldy dishes and a bed with a dead mouse on it.
“It started off in a very bad situation for our client,” said de la Cruz, an attorney with Yakima-based Tamaki Law Offices. From there, he said, life went “from bad to worse” for the girl.
She was first placed with Jose Miranda and his wife, Juanita. Jose Miranda would later become infamous for the sexual abuse he perpetrated on children during the nine years he was a foster father.
The Mirandas were licensed as foster parents even though Juanita Miranda's own children had been taken from her while she was living in California. Having been convicted of crimes in Washington, Oregon and California, Juanita Miranda also tested positive for opiates while she was pregnant six years before the girl was placed with the couple.
According to the lawsuit, Juanita Miranda was under Department of Corrections supervision for a felony theft when she and her husband were approved as foster parents. Both lied to DSHS on questionnaires meant to prevent convicts, addicts and people too sick to care for children from becoming foster parents.
Speaking Thursday, DSHS spokesman John Wiley said foster parents now undergo an extensive background check. A history of criminal convictions or problematic court orders – such as losing custody of one's children – prompt a second level of scrutiny by department leaders, who are unlikely to approve applicants with less than sterling records.
Though he declined to discuss the allegations presented in the lawsuit, Wiley said DSHS has been working to improve safeguards meant to protect foster children.
“In recent years, we have striven to reform our child welfare system,” the spokesman said.
Living on government assistance and receiving disability payments, the Mirandas were licensed in late 1997.
The girl was placed with the couple in March 1998. By May, the state was investigating problems with her care, and she was removed from the home in June.
During her three months in the home, Jose Miranda molested the girl, forced her to shower with him and made her wipe his behind when he soiled himself.
Six years passed before reports of sexual abuse at the home prompted an investigation that ultimately saw Jose Miranda convicted of child molestation and related crimes.
Though he systematically abused the foster children assigned to his Pierce County home, Jose Miranda initially received a suspended sentence under the state's Special Sex Offender Alternative Sentence scheme.
Meant to put sex offenders in therapy instead of prison, the sentencing alternative is available only to offenders who hurt someone with whom he or she had an existing relationship. Had Miranda been convicted of attacking a child on the street, he would have been sent to prison; instead, because the five or so children he admitted to sexually assaulting were his foster children, Miranda was able to avoid prison for a time.
Two years after his guilty plea, though, investigators learned Miranda had molested two other boys. Largely because he'd failed to tell his sex offender treatment provider about those assaults, he was charged, convicted and ordered to serve at least 11 years in prison. He has since died, as has his wife.
Release from the Mirandas' care provided little respite for the girl, who, according to the lawsuit, was placed with a couple who had been allowed to maintain their foster-parent license despite numerous reports of abuse at the home. Having been certified in 1993, the couple's license was revoked months after the girl left there in late 1998.
In their care, the girl was beaten and sexually assaulted, de la Cruz told the court. Her attorneys do not contend the couple was behind the sexual abuse, though they note the state received numerous reports of sexual behavior by other foster children at the home.
From there, the girl was passed to the Rosenfelts, a Pierce County couple licensed as foster parents in three prior years. It was in their home that she was sexually assaulted by both her adoptive father, Lavern Rosenfelt, and his son, Travis.
The abuse was first reported to authorities in early 2007 after the girl, then 13, went to a school counselor with allegations of sexual assault. Investigators later learned her adoptive mother had been aware of the sexual abuse for years but did nothing to stop it.
Lavern Rosenfelt was charged with child molestation in June 2007 and was prohibited from having contact with the girl. Nonetheless, the girl's adoptive mother allowed Lavern Rosenfelt to visit daily and eat dinner with the family. The woman later wrote letters to the Pierce County Superior Court judge who sentenced her husband, urging that he be spared prison.
For his part, Rosenfelt described himself as the girl's “papa,” and placed blame on the girl, saying she suggested that he walk around nude in front of his adolescent adopted children. While he ultimately pleaded guilty, court records show he continued to defend his behavior even after admitting to the molestations.
In the end, despite his apparent shortage of remorse, Lavern Rosenfelt avoided serving prison through the same sentencing law that nearly allowed Miranda to dodge hard time.
Then 19, Travis Rosenfelt also was spared prison. He pleaded guilty to two assault counts – one of which was sexually motivated – and was sentenced to 14 months in prison, though he does not appear to have served significant jail time.
Interviewed by court staff, he denied any wrongdoing. The interviewer described him as being in “complete denial” and without empathy for his victims.
Lavern Rosenfelt has since died, while his son currently lives in Enumclaw.
De la Cruz said his client carries the psychological scars of the years she spent in the foster care system. Now, the attorney said, she's looking for the acknowledgment that many abuse survivors seek.
“They want to be heard,” de la Cruz said. “They want to be able to tell what occurred to them, and have people held accountable.”
The lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court at Tacoma. Attorneys for DSHS are expected to respond in coming weeks.
The lawsuit calls for financial damages. An exact dollar figure was not given.
Former child star discusses sex abuse in Hollywood
by JASON NARK
THERE WASN'T a monster Corey Feldman couldn't handle in the movies.
Feldman, 42, starred in a string of blockbusters and cult classics in the 1980s that Generation Xers and their siblings probably played over and over on VHS tapes until they broke.
Feldman slayed vampires in "The Lost Boys," traded wisecracks with Mama Fratelli and her sons in "The Goonies," battled gremlins in "Gremlins" and shed youthful innocence in "Stand by Me."
But monsters lurked in Feldman's offscreen life, too. Adults in the Hollywood system and his own family abused him mentally and sexually, he says, at a time when he was one of the world's biggest child stars. He's only recently figured out how to defeat these real-life terrors.
"It's all about communication," Feldman said in an interview with the Daily News this week. "Victims need to feel they can open up and express themselves in these situations."
Feldman opened up about his own abuse in Coreyography , a memoir published in October that details the California native's quick rise from television commercials to feature films, along with his often-rocky friendship with fellow troubled child actor Corey Haim, who died in 2010, and Michael Jackson, whom he first met on the set of "Goonies."
One reviewer described the book as "unflinchingly bleak."
"I had a very rough childhood," Feldman said. "But when I was on the set and working with my peers, in films like 'Goonies,' I made deep bonds I still carry today. I try to look back on most of it in a good and positive light."
Feldman is scheduled to speak at the Collingswood Grand Ballroom on White Horse Pike in Camden County today as part of New Jersey's Crime Victims' Rights Week. He agreed to come to Camden County and talk about the abuse after being contacted via Facebook by Amanda Milano, a fan of his films and a victim advocate with the Camden County Prosecutor's Office.
Milano, 30, said she grew up watching Feldman because of her older siblings and contacted him after reading Coreyography .
"It took a lot of courage for him to put this into writing," Milano said. "A lot of our victims don't even know they're being abused, and that's something he spoke about extensively in the book. He didn't always realize what was going on while the abuse was happening."
In Coreyography , Feldman claims he was sexually abused by men in his circles, including his own employees. They would often give him drugs before, during and after, and he developed addictions before he turned 18.
"I was just trying to depress those feelings," he said. "It's fairly common for victims to become addicts."
Feldman didn't identify his alleged abusers because the statute of limitations ran out years ago, but he said at least one is a well-known Hollywood figure.
Victims often recall the abuse decades after it happened, when memories are jarred loose by sobriety or therapy, and Feldman said abusers shouldn't get a pass just because of the calendar.
"They are all aware of the book and they are all concerned," Feldman said of his abusers.
Despite the drugs and the abuse, stints in rehab and the loss of Haim, who Feldman said was also sexually abused, he hasn't stopped acting, appearing in spoofs, straight-to-video productions and television series for the past two decades. It's doubtful you'll see Feldman in anything at your local movie theater, but according to the Internet Movie Database, he's appearing in five movies this year alone.
He said he remains interested in taking part in a "Goonies" sequel. He's already appeared in two sequels to "The Lost Boys."
Feldman also makes music that seems to be inspired, in some ways, by his late friend Michael Jackson. Many critics would beg to differ on whether it's actually music, Feldman said, but that's not stopping him.
"I had some big hate thrown at me in the last couple of years," he said. "I don't let that stop my inspiration and my creativity. My fans speak in volumes."
600-year sex abuse sentence may be Mohave County record
by Doug McMurdo
KINGMAN - If he were immortal, convicted sexual predator Edmund Herald Adams, 54, would be 680 years old before he walks the Earth again as a free man.
That's 626 years and six months from now, less than an hour shy of 228,825 days.
After that "release," thanks to Superior Court Judge Rick Williams, Adams would have to serve a lengthy term of community supervision - one day for every seven he spends in prison - which equates to nearly 13 more years.
For good measure, he would also have to register as a sex offender.
Adams is not immortal, obviously, and the longtime predator will likely die before he finishes the first of 22 consecutive prison terms he received Monday.
"I can't recall a longer sentence," said Chief Deputy Mohave County Attorney Jace Zack.
That's a sentiment shared by Sheriff Tom Sheahan, who has lived in the county for 42 years. The sheriff is pleased with the outcome.
"This case, the amount of time he got, this sends a message to pedophiles that Mohave County takes these crimes seriously. He will never see the light of day again."
Williams, apparently, was not in the mood to temper justice with mercy. He stacked Adams' sentences, one on top of the other.
On three counts of sexual conduct with a minor, Williams sentenced Adams to a term of 37 years for each conviction.
He received 35 years for child molestation, 35 years each on four convictions of sexual exploitation of a minor (with known local victims), 28 years each on two convictions of sexual conduct with a minor (with an unidentified local victim), 28 years each on 10 convictions of sexual exploitation of a minor for possessing child pornography from the Internet and two years for his conviction on one count of surreptitious videotaping.
Finally, Williams sentenced Adams to 2 years and six months on a misconduct involving weapons conviction.
Williams was able to hand down the unusually harsh sentence for a number of reasons.
Prosecutor Greg McPhillips noted 20 of Adams' 22 convictions are classified as dangerous crimes against children, which require an enhanced sentence. Nine counts involved two victims in Golden Valley and two more involved the defendant filming himself sexually abusing an unidentified child, also in Golden Valley.
Adams was convicted of child sexual abuse in California in the early 1990s, a so-called "predicate felony" that allowed Williams to further enhance his sentence.
Williams, said McPhillips, also took into account the emotional harm Adams' abuse caused the victims and their families.
The damage he wrought began at least four years ago, in 2010, when Adams first began victimizing at least three young boys in Golden Valley, crimes that would go unchecked for the next two years.
The Mohave County Sheriff's Office didn't learn of Adams or his proclivities until 2012, when a woman reported he inappropriately touched her son.
Adams was arrested a mere three days after the investigation began, but detectives continued to search for more victims.
Those victims and physical evidence - including homemade videos and images of child pornography - helped build an ironclad case against Adams.
Veteran Mohave County Sheriff's Detective Jason Elsbury, who received specific training on how to examine computers in these types of cases, discovered a good percentage of the evidence.
"I found hundreds of images of child porn," he said. "And I found (evidence) of him searching for child porn and evidence that he manufactured child porn."
Elsbury said similar investigations typically require about 40 hours of work, but "this case involved a lot more than that."
Sheahan said the images were "disgusting" and reiterated his opinion of the Adams' sentence.
"He deserves every day he got," said the sheriff. "This was a great job by the prosecutor and the judge for the sentence handed down."
If Williams had any leniency in mind when he sentenced Adams to more than six centuries in the penitentiary, it came early in the hearing when he gave the man credit for the 566 days he has spent in the Mohave County jail since his arrest.
The credit is only good for the first 37-year term and does not apply to any subsequent terms.
The weapons conviction regarded more than 20 firearms Adams attempted to hide from law enforcement officers.
He is a prohibited possessor.
Also on his record is a 2011 Mohave County arrest for failure to register as a sex offender regarding the California conviction.
280 - The number of years convicted child molester Edmund Herald Adams must serve on 10 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor for having images of child pornography.
196 - The number of years Adams must serve on six counts of sexual exploitation of a minor under 15 years of age with known and unknown victims in Golden Valley.
111 - The number of years Adams must serve in prison on three counts of sexual conduct with a minor.
35 - The number of years Adams must serve on a single count of child molestation.
2.5 - The number of years Adams must serve for misconduct involving weapons
2 - The number of years Adams must serve for surreptitiously videotaping himself sexually abusing a boy.
Total: 626.5 years
From the Department of Homeland Security
DHS's Continued Efforts to Combat Human Trafficking
by Maria Odom
Today, Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS) Jeh Johnson joined key federal partners at the White House for a meeting of the Presidential Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons where he highlighted the work of the DHS Blue Campaign, announced new interagency partnerships and highlighted the Department's ongoing efforts to combat this heinous crime.
During the meeting, Secretary Johnson discussed the Department's interagency engagement through the efforts of the Blue Campaign, and announced a new partnership with the Department of Education (ED)—working together to develop trafficking indicator training and other resources for school administrators, teachers, and staff. DHS has also been working closely with the General Services Administration to display human trafficking awareness materials in government-owned buildings across the United States.
Over the past year, DHS has focused an unprecedented level of resources and engagement to combating human trafficking through a victim-centered approach . Identifying and rescuing victims, however, is only the first step to end human trafficking.
In 2013, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) opened nearly 1,025 cases related to human trafficking, many with the help of the public, resulting in 816 convictions and the identification of more than 330 trafficking victims. Through the ICE Victim Assistance Program, specialists ensure that human trafficking victims are not only rescued, but provided with referrals for medical, mental health and legal assistance, as well as referrals for long term immigration relief, case management and other services.
DHS aims to provide support and assistance for immigrant victims of human trafficking. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services provides immigration relief in the form of T visas and U visas, allowing victims to remain in the United States and assist in the investigation or prosecution of the crime. These visas also provide a pathway to lawful permanent residence and permit certain family members to join them in the United States.
DHS and the Blue Campaign will continue our efforts to increase investigations and prosecutions of human traffickers, train more frontline law enforcement partners to recognize the indicators of human trafficking, and further improve victim services.
To learn more about DHS' efforts to combat human trafficking and what you can do, visit: www.dhs.gov/bluecampaign
Adult survivors of child sexual abuse: Emotional costs/legal remedies
The Tennessee Code requires the reporting of suspected child abuse; it is a misdemeanor for the knowing failure to make such a report.
Sexual abuse against children permeates our society. According to a 2004 study, as reported by the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, it is estimated that one of four girls and one of six boys experiences a sexual offense before they reach 18. A sexual attack on a child is frightening and devastating, producing the following common reactions:
- Anger, perhaps the emotion that is most difficult to manage because, when you were abused, you were powerless and your anger did not affect your abuser. Now, as an adult, you may feel that your anger may not be helpful.
- Flashbacks and memories.
- Guilt and shame.
- Lack of self-esteem, feeling isolated, and inability to engage in normal sexual relations.
- Not being able to mourning and grieve for your losses (for example, innocence, trust, normal family relationships), and not being able to trust others.
The Tennessee Code requires the reporting of suspected child abuse; it is a misdemeanor for the knowing failure to make such a report.
Despite the statute, however, many cases of child abuse are not reported, either deliberately or through ignorance. In addition, the above-listed reactive factors may lead a victim not to reveal the abuse or seek treatment until he or she reaches adulthood. Besides then seeking medical and/or psychological treatment, what legal remedies should the victim consider?
The first avenue is to pursue filing criminal charges, even if the abuser seems treatable. Even professionals in the field often feel that jail time is appropriate for treatable offenders, or may feel that the criminal process is an avenue to ensure that the offender takes responsibility for his offending behavior, which includes entering into treatment. A criminal prosecution may also be important to offer protection to the victim, his or her family and society at large.
Filing a civil suit will be worthwhile, although care may need to be taken. A suit can be empowering for the survivor and important for his or her healing. A suit, however, may also be time consuming and have a number of unpleasant consequences. Victims who testify in court have to face their abusers, and may have to be cross-examined in depth and reveal experiences that they consider shameful to a wider audience.
However, they are a great number of possible pros to filing a lawsuit, including the following:
- The exposure of wrongdoing.
- Vindication, punishment and acknowledgement.
- Monetary compensation for medical bills, and for pain and suffering.
- Healing and recovery, including being supported by friends and family.
If you, or someone you know, are an adult survivor of a child abuse incident, you should consider seeking medical treatment, but should also consider your legal remedies, both criminal and civil. On the civil side, you may want to consult an experienced personal injury attorney, who can investigate the facts of your case and best determine the compensation to which you are entitled.
James House helping abuse survivors
Sexual assault and child abuse occur every day. Adults and children are affected in ways that forever change their lives and alter the way they view the world and the people around them.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month, and while we need to be concerned about these issues year-round, this month provides the opportunity to shine a light on these topics which too often remain hidden behind closed doors.
Daniel was just 8 years old when his uncle Rick lost his job and moved in with him and his mom. Almost from the beginning Rick began to sexually abuse Daniel.
"I didn't really understand what was going on. I didn't know what to do," Daniel says. "I remember just sitting there as still as I could trying to pretend it wasn't happening. Waiting for it to end and it seemed like it never would."
When Daniel finally got up the courage to tell his mother what was going on, she did not believe him, screaming at him and saying, "Rick would never do that, he loves you." Nothing changed and Rick went right on abusing Daniel.
Daniel buried what happened for a long time but the anger, fear, confusion, and hurt were never far from the surface.
He turned to alcohol and drugs to numb the pain and eventually sought help from a therapist who recommended he contact The James House. Daniel attended a support group for men who were sexually abused as children.
"I remember being really nervous but I'm glad I called. I think if it hadn't been for The James House I might be dead. Sharing my story, and hearing the other guys tell their stories, was the best thing that could have happened to me."
Celebrating 25 years of exemplary service, The James House provides support, advocacy and education for people affected by sexual violence, domestic violence and stalking, to empower them to become healthy, safe, and self-sufficient.
The only nonprofit agency in the Tri-City area accredited by the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, all James House services are cost-free and confidential. To learn more, call 458-2704, visit www.thejameshouse.org; or email email@example.com.
The James House's new online video series, "The 26th Story," commissioned for the group's 25th anniversary, will tell 25 stories from survivors who have been helped and community members who have helped us to make a difference.
The James House will release a new video on YouTube every two weeks throughout 2014.
Daniel's story is the fifth in the series. What will the 26th story be? Stay tuned to The James House YouTube Channel, www.youtube.com/thejameshousehelps and Facebook page to find out.
MS. Foundation and Downstate Crime Victims Coalition Present April 10 Educational Webinar on Need to Reform NY's Antiquated Child Sex Abuse DStatutes of Limitations
Female survivors are focus of on-line event featuring Assemblywoman Markey, whose Child Victims Act bill seeks to remove criminal and civil SOLs for childhood sex abuse
The Ms. Foundation for Women, in partnership with the Downstate Crime Victims Coalition, is putting technology to work to reach a statewide audience of victim services and other professionals who provide support and counseling for female survivors of childhood sexual abuse,
The April 10 webinar, featuring Ms. Foundation Senior Strategist Julie F. Kay, and others, plus Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, sponsor of the Child Victims Act of New York, will present national experts on childhood sexual abuse and the movement to reform the statute of limitations on these offenses in New York State.
The program, “Female Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse Access to Justice,” seeks to educate professionals and advocates about the urgent need to reform antiquated criminal and civil statute of limitations codes in New York State, which currently require victims to report these offenses within five years after the victim turns 18. The Markey legislation (Assembly bill A1771A), would completely eliminate these statutes of limitations and also provide a one-year civil suspension to permit older victims of abuse to get justice.
Assemblywoman Markey, explaining why current statute of limitations codes in New York are inadequate, said: “Research consistently shows that survivors of childhood sexual abuse do not come to terms with what happened to them until later in life, often not until middle age. Providing more time for them to come forward not only provides justice for those who have been victimized, but will also expose pedophiles who remain hidden because of current law.”
Ms. Foundation's Julie F. Kay said: “Media focus on incidents of abuse that occurred in institutions such as Penn State, the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts can give the false impression that child sexual abuse victims are primarily male and that most abuse occurs in institutional settings. In reality, girls make up 86 percent of child sexual abuse victims and they, too, need access to justice. Short statutes of limitations deny survivors and society the opportunity to hold perpetrators accountable for the damage they have caused.”
Other speakers will include Cardozo Law School Professor Marci Hamilton, an author and leading expert on statute of limitations rules across America; Michael Polenberg of Safe Horizon and co-chair of the Downstate Crime Victims Coalition; and Susan Xenarios, founder and director of the Crime Victims Treatment Center at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, Co-Chair of the Downstate Coalition and a member of the NYS Crime Victims Board Advisory Council; and Mary Haviland, Executive Director of the NYC Alliance Against Sexual Assault.
Professor Hamilton will discuss the movement underway in many states across the nation to reform or eliminate similarly inadequate statutes of limitations. She said: “Survivors of abuse need access to justice. This webinar will educate on why and how we can increase access to justice, support survivors, and identify child predators.”
Michael Polenberg, Vice President, Government Affairs, said: “As the nation's leading victim assistance organization, Safe Horizon is acutely aware of the trauma and pain that childhood sexual abuse can inflict on survivors throughout their lives. We applaud Assembly Member Marge Markey for championing legislation that would give adult survivors of these heinous crimes more avenues to seek justice, and we look forward to educating New Yorkers about the merits of this legislation through the April 10th webinar.”
Mary Haviland , Executive Director, said: “The New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault supports the Child Victims Act because this legislation allows survivors of child sexual assault access to justice and stops perpetrators from harming more victims. We recognize the enormous harm of child sexual abuse and support Assemblymember Marge Markey's tireless efforts to protect children from this crime.”
Susan Xenarios, Co-Chair with Michael Pollenberg of the Downstate Crime Victims Coalition, said: “The prevalence of childhood sexual abuse is astonishing. However, the greater tragedy is that we have failed to protect our children who often have no voice. These heinous crimes have long term psychological and destructive manifestations that severely impact not only the victim but their families and our communities. The time for New York State to take a stand to give these victims access to Justice is overdue. We wholeheartedly support the Child Victims Act as a major step in making a difference for the rights of children and adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse..”
The April 10 webinar is the first in a series of events over the coming weeks in support of the Child Victims Act of New York. The Ms. Foundation for Women and the Downstate Crime Victims Coalition will hold a press conference later this month to introduce organizations serving female survivors that are announcing their support for the legislation. On May 13 supporters and advocates for the Child Victims Act will hold a Lobby Day for the bill in Albany to reach out to legislators. Assemblywoman Markey's Child Victims Act has been adopted by the Assembly four times since it was first introduced, but has not yet made it to the floor of the State Senate for a vote.
For information about joining the April 10 webinar, contact Beatrice L. Abreu at the Ms. Foundation for Women at firstname.lastname@example.org. Telephone 212-709-4455.
For rape victims, a light in darkness
by Peter Korn
Police Bureau advocate Susan Lehman helps sex assault victims recover from crisis
There are days, more than a few, when Susan Lehman feels, if not torn, at least tugged by the possibility of what could be done. Lehman works as a Portland Police Bureau sex abuse victim advocate. Her job is to help women who have been raped.
On the job, she is as likely to hug a teenage girl who has been sexually abused as she is to spend an entire afternoon lining up shelter for a victim who is homeless. At night, she occasionally finds herself in tears, having successfully maintained the professional barriers her job requires, saving emotional reaction for her private time. And sometimes, in her private moments, Lehman gives way to the feelings she is not allowed to voice on the job.
“I have thought to myself, I would like to get this bad guy off the street,” Lehman says.
Lehman is one of two victim advocates hired five years ago by the Portland Police Bureau after a 2007 city audit determined that Portland had a remarkably low rate of conviction in sexual assault cases. Too many victimized women, the audit noted, were not coming forward to work with police, and not following through to testify after their assailant was arrested.
It was hoped that advocates working with assaulted women might help prosecutors achieve a higher conviction rate, as more victims learned to trust the criminal justice system. Lehman knows this. But she also knows that her first loyalty is to the women (and very occasionally men) she tries to help after they have been assaulted. Which is why during the daytime she so often has to keep her thoughts about what she'd like to happen to the bad guys to herself.
Nationally, only a small percentage of victimized women — estimated at less than 1 in 10 — brave the full process that leads to a conviction. Lehman could, if she were of a mind to, influence some hesitant victims to work with police and testify in court. But she never does. Not even close.
“I have never thought I hope the victim changes her mind,” Lehman says. “It is such an intensely emotional process that I wouldn't want someone to do that who isn't thoroughly prepared.”
In February, the Portland City Auditor issued a report assessing the current state of the police response to sexual assault. The report said that there have been significant improvements since the scathing 2007 audit.
Victims in Portland now can report sex assaults anonymously using a Jane Doe rape kit. That means police can start an investigation, and if the victim later decides to testify, the evidence will be available. All of the major Portland hospital emergency departments now have those rape kits and are able to use them; previously only the emergency department at Oregon Health and Science University could do so. And victim advocates such as Lehman are available to victims when they report rapes or when they are interviewed by detectives.
These changes have been occurring nationally as well. And yet, the data surrounding sex assault cases still puzzles experts, including some within the Portland police. First, statistics appear to show that in the last two years, women have become less willing to report rapes. Nationally, 28 percent of victims reported sexual assaults to authorities in 2012, down from 56 percent a decade earlier. Some experts say the last two years may have been an aberration, because previously reporting rates had been rising. But in addition, according to the latest Portland police data, police here are clearing fewer sex assault cases than they did six years ago.
After the 2007 audit, the rape clearance rate for Portland police jumped to 55 percent (in 2008) from around 30 percent. It has declined each year since.
Experts — nationally and in Portland — say that victims need and benefit from the support of advocates. They have assumed that advocates working with victims would increase the rate of convictions. And that as word got out about the support, more victims might be willing to report sexual assaults.
“I think they absolutely drive the clearance rate up,” says Sgt. Pete Mahuna, who heads the Portland police sex crimes unit. Mahuna is convinced more victims testify because they have the support of an advocate. In 2013, victims reported 194 rapes to Portland police. Fifty-six of those cases ended up suspended, almost all because the victim was unwilling to pursue prosecution. Unfortunately, Portland police do not have comparable data from the years before they began using victim advocates.
Mandy Davis, clinical director of the Trauma Informed Care Project at Portland State University's School of Social Work, says Lehman's willingness to see to the needs of victims is crucial in helping them get through the criminal justice process, and she's pretty certain having Lehman on hand increases the chances victims will testify against their attackers.
“She is phenomenal,” Davis says. “She is what all advocates should be like.”
But the tension inherent in the work done by women such as Susan Lehman makes it impossible to know if Davis and Mahuna are right. Lehman and the police bureau's other advocate, Slavica Jovonavich, work with 650 to 700 women a year. Another a half-dozen or so cases each year involve men, whose reporting rate is even lower than that of women.
Separating abused, abuser
More than 80 percent of sexual assault cases in Portland involve women Lehman describes as extremely vulnerable. Most are homeless or very poor, many suffer from addictions or mental illness. Most know the men who rape them, if only from the streets. So Lehman's first form of victim assistance, and often most long-lasting, involves making sure victims have housing that can keep them separate from their abusers. Homeless women who have been raped need a place to sleep where they can shut the door — immediately. Many need psychological and addiction counseling. Some simply need food.
“You can't address someone's emotional needs until their basic needs are met,” Lehman says.
Most of the time Lehman meets victims alongside a detective who has been assigned to investigate a case. But lower-level sexual assault cases that involve offenses such as groping often are not investigated by a detective. The same is true when victims say they don't want to press charges. In both cases, the women are still referred to Lehman or Jovonavich.
But those cases can be tricky. In one tragic incident last year, a woman told a police officer she had been raped by a nurse at a local hospital. But because the victim did not initially say she wanted to press charges, her case was referred to Lehman rather than a detective. Lehman attempted to call her by phone and, after not hearing back, sent a letter and later closed the case. A month later, the victim called the district attorney, who contacted the police. Lehman called the victim's pager again, did not hear back and closed the case again. Meanwhile, the nurse assaulted other victims before being arrested.
About three times a week Lehman or Jovonavich starts working with a victim on a case that looks like a good bet for a conviction — but the victim says she won't press charges or testify. That's where Lehman's resolve can get tested, but not as severely as some people think.
“We only do what victims want us to do,” Lehman says. “They don't want their case investigated, whether they are a minor or an adult, we don't investigate them. Because that would be re-traumatizing the victim.”
In fact, Lehman says her role can put her at odds with the investigating officer with whom she works.
“My job is to make sure the detectives do what the victims want,” she says. Possibly in reaction, at this point not all the sex crimes unit detectives invite Lehman or Jovonavich to accompany them when they interview victms, as has been recommended by auditors.
Lehman is working with a detective on a case involving a rapist who police think has assaulted a number of women in Portland, and will likely do it again. The rapist has been identified by a victim who reported the rape but says she won't pursue the case. Lehman says the victim appeared to her “tentative and pensive.” Not only does Lehman feels no desire to push, she thinks the victim might be best served by choosing not to testify.
“We restore the power in their lives to them by giving them the option,” she says.
Also, pushing for testimony could backfire. “Imagine if we pressured a woman to go forward,” Lehman says. “She may not show up for trial. She many not accurately testify. And consider the emotional damage that would inflict on her, to feel somebody else yet again taking away her power.”
Homeless, mentally ill are most vulnerable
Kim was walking in Old Town recently when a man came up and gave her a big bear hug before stepping back and continuing on his way. Later, Kim, a tiny sprite of a woman who has been homeless on and off in Old Town for years, explained how she knew the man. He had raped her just a few blocks away.
Kim (not her real name), says she hardly reacted to the hug. What could she do? After the rape she had felt the same sense of impotence. Convinced nothing would be done to the man, she had not bothered to report the rape to police.
In fact, Kim says, she has been raped a number of times. Pretty much every homeless woman she knows in Old Town has been raped as well. Kim suffers from schizophrenia, and, while clean now, has a history of drug abuse. She knows she wouldn't make a great witness in a he said/she said courtroom case.
Only once has Kim reported a rape. Two and a half years ago a stranger happened by and saw Kim, arms and legs bound by tape, tape across her mouth to keep her silent, being raped in Southeast Portland. The passer-by stopped the assault and called police.
Kim was taken to a hospital emergency department where she met Portland police Det. Jeff Myers, who called victim advocate Susan Lehman. Myers took Kim's statement and Lehman arranged to have Kim taken to a women's shelter after her release from the hospital.
The rapist, one day out of prison after serving time for a similar assault, was easily identified by the bystander. Convinced that this time was different because of her rescuer's corroboration, Kim agreed to file a report with police.
Lehman's job during the succeeding 10 months was to “keep her on board.” Lehman found Kim a subsidized apartment, drove her to medical appointments, even found a used computer and set it up so Kim could get email. When Kim said she was afraid to sleep alone, a police officer supplied a cat.
Two to three times a week Lehman visited Kim, taking her grocery shopping and to doctor and dental appointments, aware that if Kim were to become homeless again or her schizophrenia flared up, the case against her rapist would likely be dismissed.
On the day Kim was scheduled to testify in court, Lehman and Myers picked her up and drove her downtown. Lehman had taken a black skirt from her daughter and given it to Kim, along with a burgundy top, so Kim would look “ready for court,” according to the advocate. Lehman noticed Kim fidgeting in the back seat of the car, so they stopped at a Starbucks and talked awhile. Clearly, Lehman says, the prospect of testifying was unnerving Kim, whose mental illness, which can include hearing voices, is exacerbated by stress.
At the courthouse, Lehman stayed with Kim in the victims' lounge, and later walked her into the courtroom, aware all the time that, “She could have done anything.”
Kim was able to describe the events of her rape well enough that her rapist was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Her experience is pretty much the standard for homeless women, says Doreen Binder, executive director of nonprofit Transition Projects Inc., which provides day services and shelter to the homeless in Old Town.
Asked what percentage of downtown Portland homeless women have been raped, Binder doesn't hesitate. “A hundred percent,” she says.
“We're not just talking about women. Men are sexually abused on the street all the time.”
Binder says whether it occurs while they are living on the street or before, sex abuse in some form is almost always part of the life narrative for the homeless. Many homeless women, she says, are incest and domestic violence survivors. Sexual abuse has shaped their world view and often shaped their later lives.
“You can't be an incest survivor and abused as a child, end up on the street and say, ‘I won't allow it.' It just becomes the norm for you,” Binder says.
As it was to Kim, until Susan Lehman entered her life. Lehman still sees Kim nearly every week. The man who raped Kim in 2011 is behind bars, but others who did the same, including the one who gave her the bear hug, are still walking around Portland.
Kim credits Lehman for much more than helping her put one rapist behind bars. Asked what would have happened if she had not met Lehman, Kim says, “I wouldn't be living here and I wouldn't be stable.”
A Call to Action: Stay Informed about Child Sexual Abuse
by BELINDA WILKERSON
Why stay informed about child sexual abuse? CSA is no stranger to Cumberland County and the surrounding area. Last year, the Child Advocacy Center assisted almost 500 families through the trauma of alleged child abuse. Recently, Chancellor James Anderson of Fayetteville State University, the keynote speaker at the 2014 Human Relations Commission Recognition Banquet, spoke hauntingly about the loss of 5-year-old Shaniya Davis in 2009. He reminded us of our personal responsibility to the children and youth in our community — to keep them safe, healthy and whole.
Child abuse, in general, and child sexual abuse, in particular, are neither vile subjects that we can wish away, nor can we afford to pretend they do not exist in our community. April is National Child Abuse Month. In an effort to educate the community, the CAC sponsors an annual conference that informs participants about topics of concern regarding children and youth. This year's event, A Community Cares: Putting Our Children First, is on April 15, at the John D. Fuller Recreation Center. Unable to attend this informative program? Here are three ways you can be an active participant in eradicating child sexual abuse and other forms of child abuse.
Use Social Media. Follow people and organizations dedicated to preventing CSA on Facebook and Twitter. Personally, I follow Erin Merryn, a tireless advocate for the prevention of CSA and an adult survivor, who details her work to pass Erin's Law at facebook.com/Erin'sLaw and @ErinMerryn on Twitter. Briefly, Erin's Law focuses on legislation requiring developmentally appropriate curriculum to increase the awareness of child sexual abuse for children and youth. More details of Erin's Law are at www.erinslaw.org. Another organization committed to the prevention of child sexual abuse is Stop It Now!, Twitter handle @StopItNow. Locally, the Child Advocacy Center's Facebook page, facebook.com/CACFayNC and Twitter account, @fayNCcac, share news of local events and information in the fight against CSA.
Attend Local Events. Recently, the Junior League of Fayetteville sponsored a Women's Conference featuring Dr. Sharon Cooper, an expert on all areas of child sexual exploitation, as a plenary speaker and workshop presenter. Unflinchingly, Dr. Cooper, in her talk Protecting Girls: A Community Response, presented research and human stories on the sexualization of our society, and of our young girls, in particular. On April 10 at 6 p.m., Cumberland County Schools Student Services, Cumberland County District Parent Teacher Association and the Child Advocacy Center will host a screening of the documentary film, Chosen , at Douglas Byrd High School Auditorium. Chosen is a prevention film produced by Shared Hope International that highlights the true story of two “All American” teenage girls who were tricked into sexual trafficking. Dr. Cooper will be the facilitator. No registration is required to attend this free workshop.
Be on the lookout for similar events in our community and become an active participant in the work to protect our children and youth.
Support the Child Advocacy Center. The Child Advocacy Center is a non-profit organization that welcomes volunteer assistance in multiple ways. Interested in volunteering? Call Faith Boehmer, prevention and volunteer coordinator, at 910.486.9700. Another way to champion the work of the CAC is to attend events like the aforementioned April conference, the recent American Girl Fashion Show , or the upcoming Gently Loved Purse Sale . Check the CAC's website, www.childadvocacycenter.com for information about volunteer opportunities and upcoming events.
This is our community and it is our responsibility to take care of all of our children and youth.
Child safety advocate visits Daytona ‘anti-sex predator' playground
by Frank Fernandez
DAYTONA BEACH — Lauren Book brought her “Walk in My Shoes” journey across the state to Daytona Beach on Wednesday to recognize a neighborhood that's not playing around when it comes to keeping sex offenders out.
Bayberry Lakes residents joined forces and wallets to build a $27,000 community playground, which gives kids a place to play while at the same time creating an exclusion zone. That zone sealed off an area in the neighborhood where sex offenders could have lived.
Book, a survivor of child sexual abuse, praised the efforts of the community and Assistant State Attorney J. Ryan Will, who came up with the playground idea.
“This is a stop that I could not miss here in Daytona,” Book said. “ We see a lot of pretty difficult things on our walk. We meet a lot of survivors who really are struggling. We meet a lot of kids who are in really dark places. We meet a lot of adults who are in really dark places. But when we have the opportunity to see a community that was empowered to protect its children, this is a stop that we could not miss and we were very, very excited that everybody rallied around this project.”
Bayberry Lakes, off LPGA Boulevard, already had exclusion zones created by Champion Elementary School on the north and a park at its community center to the south. But a zone was open in the middle. The park sealed that gap. Law enforcement and corrections officials contacted last summer when the playground opened in August said they had not heard of a community building a park to keep sex offenders out.
“The construction of this playground is an open and obvious display of our intent to protect our children,” Will said. “With the cooperation and support of the city of Daytona Beach, we were able to pull permits and construct the very first anti-sex predator park here in the state of Florida.”
State law bars sex offenders whose victims were younger than 16 from living within 1,000 feet of a school, child care facility, park or playground. A similar Daytona Beach city ordinance is stricter, excluding sex offenders and sex predators from living within 2,500 feet of such facilities.
The press conference also included comments by other officials including Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood.
“I don't mean to be sarcastic but if you think you are going to wait for the government to solve your problem it's not going to happen,” Chitwood said. “It's incidents just like this, it's neighbors getting together and saying we have to protect the most vulnerable members of our society.”
Daytona Beach Vice Mayor Patrick Henry spoke, saying that Chitwood had suggested the city enlarge the exclusion zone.
“The people of Bayberry just took a great step in keeping our children safe,” Henry said.
And everyone praised Book for her work. The 29-year-old Book is on her way to Tallahassee where she said it has been a good year for toughening laws against sex offenders.
Gov. Rick Scott last week signed bills increasing notification requirements, including requiring higher education institutions to alert students that a sexual predator is on campus. Another bill increased prison sentences for certain offenses involving an adult victimizing a minor. It also prohibits gain-time for sex offenders convicted of certain crimes.
Book said it's important that people realize that a child can be victimized anywhere, including, like in her case, by her nanny in a gated community.
“I wanted people to know that it can happen to all kids,” Book said after the press conference. “But we need to be aware. We need to talk about things. Parents need to have open and honest communication with their children and how important it is that communities like this lock arms to protect their children.”
Go 'upstream' to stop the horrors of child abuse
by Mimi Graham
Little Billy and his baby brother will again be taken into state custody, as they were found filthy and unsupervised. It is a typical “dirty house case” in which the mother will be ordered to clean up and then the children will be returned. Her clinical depression, history of mental illness, substance abuse, childhood traumas and domestic violence will once again go untreated. Research shows that these children will likely repeat the same multigenerational trajectory of adversity.
Our efforts to improve Florida's child welfare system remind me of the old fable about babies floating down the river and how folks were trying to save each baby, when finally someone said, “I'm going upstream to see what's causing this!”
In child welfare, we keep trying to pull each baby “out of the river” without ever going “upstream” to stop the root cause.
The Legislature's latest proposal to add additional child protection investigators and a new safety methodology may help to “pull babies out of the water,” but it does nothing to stop the ever-growing stream of children entering the child welfare system. Even the best investigators and caseworkers cannot substitute for professional mental-heath and substance-abuse treatment counselors — resources the Legislature has long neglected to fund — that they are denied by Florida's ill-informed child welfare policy.
Scientific research provides an “upstream” vantage point, and over the past decade it has taken a quantum leap in understanding the “science of adversity,” a convergence of evidence from neurobiology, medicine and public health. Research shows that abuse and neglect in childhood result in a cascade of lifelong consequences on physical health and mental health, a devastating legacy that is then passed forward to the next generation.
The research proves that the more adverse childhood experiences people suffer, the higher the risk for future health and social problems for themselves and their children. The impact of early adversity extends far beyond childhood. Individuals with four or more adverse childhood events are over twice as likely to be a teenage parent, over four times more likely to use illicit drugs, eight times more likely to be an alcoholic and 18 times more likely to attempt suicide.
Imagine what amount of Florida's staggering Medicaid, substance-abuse, corrections and public-health costs could be saved if adverse experiences were eliminated or mitigated?
The good news is that, with effective interventions, early adversities can be prevented or the damage healed.
If we treat little Billy's and his brother's trauma early, unhealthy patterns of development and the subsequent mental and physical health problems can be mitigated But even adults like Billy's mom with extensive adversity have been able to turn their lives around once their early trauma was appropriately and professionally treated. Fortunately, an extensive array of evidence-based treatment is available for both children and adults.
However, there is a huge disconnect between “what we know” from science of adversity and early childhood and “what we do” in child welfare policy and practice.
Every day in our state, dependency and delinquency judges process cases in which the abused or neglected child is now the maltreating parent. Florida spends an astonishing billion dollars a year to “pull babies out of the water” and far too little on “upstream” prevention and substance-abuse treatment and mental-health interventions that would stop the flow.
Considering the state's responsibility to serve as the ultimate protector of children, it has failed miserably to understand or to effectively intervene to mitigate the toxic impact of early adversity and trauma.
The time is long overdue for fundamental shifts in child welfare policy and practice not only to “rescue the drowning babies” but also from the “upstream” perspective. The potential for achieving substantially greater outcomes is enormous.
Mimi Graham is the director of Florida State University's Center for Prevention & Early Intervention Policy (http://www.cpeip.fsu.edu). Contact her at: email@example.com
Letter to the Editor
Inmate abhors child abuse
To the Editor:
Trying to make the most of my time, still here at the "Low Gap Motel." Not that I expect to be hobnobbing with high society types when I checked in. I am an outlaw. I'm accustomed to most criminal types. I was not however prepared to encounter the current media monsters, publicly accused of sexually abusing children.
Sitting in jail and having to look at the faces of women that have committed horrible sex crimes against children would be hard for anyone. For some it brings back painful traumatic memories to relive nightmarish incidents in their own lives and to lose sleep. A number of child molesters or "cho-mos" as we call them, have recently came into custody and placed securely in isolation cells where the general inmate population can see them throughout the day. Then we are locked in our rooms for three hours at a time while each "cho-mo" gets their turn in the day room where they can use the shower and watch television.
Like the majority of female inmates in medium security, I am a mother. Regardless of our differences among each other or the circumstances surrounding our own cases, it is undeniable that the most difficult part of incarceration for a woman is missing her kids. The dynamic as a community in custody instantly changes upon the introduction of a child predator. It sickens and saddens me to have to coexist for the past two months with this vile scum of the earth.
God says, "love all my creations." Lord, forgive me for wishing the darkest of the world's evil upon these "cho-mos."
I have heard that "cho-mos" are not carefully segregated from the rest of us once they get to prison. I've heard some gruesome stories of what happens to "cho-mos" in both men and women's prisons. I am afraid for them, though I would never admit to feeling sorry for one.
This letter had been composed by multiple inmates at the Mendocino County Jail. We want the women who would victimize our children to know we are aware that your stay in jail has been uncomfortable. Expect others like us to be waiting for you on the yard.
Mendocino County Jail
Child abuse must be stopped - now
by Sun Herald, Biloxi
If you suspected or witnessed a homicide, you wouldn't call Mothers Against Murder. You'd call the police or the sheriff's office. And you'd do it as if it were a matter of life or death.
The same should apply to spousal and child abuse, because it too can be murderous. It certainly kills love and trust and innocence. And it can tragically escalate to a fatal wound or blow. Domestic violence — whether it is the abuse of an adult or a child — is a crime, and you should report a crime by dialing 911.
Nonprofit organizations, social service agencies and advocacy groups have roles to play in preventing and coping with such violence. But their involvement is often too late.
This plea for immediate intervention — by law enforcement — is prompted by April being Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Too many of us still accept lame excuses for cuts and scars and bruises on friends and co-workers and children.
As this is April, we will focus on the children.
According to the Mississippi Department of Human Services, there was evidence 8,282 children in Mississippi were the victims of abuse during fiscal year 2013. Nearly 20 percent of them — 1,568 — lived in the three coastal counties of Hancock, Harrison and Jackson.
What if there were an equal number of murders in our coastal communities? Or even half that many? Would we simply observe Murder Awareness Month, hold a few fundraisers and move on? Of course not. We would be furious with anyone and anything we thought might be responsible or could take responsibility. So why not the same outrage and action with domestic and child abuse?
Why do we permit the perpetrators to work and worship among us? Why do we drink and dine with them and put out of mind what happens out of sight? Of course, it isn't all hidden. Sometimes there are bandages covering the slashed skin or casts to mend the broken bone.
We cannot dispel the dark shadows that hang over so many households along the coast. As we said, public and private social service agencies have been dealing with abusive behavior for generations and have yet to put an end to it.
What we can do is urge an end to any tolerance of it and any rationalization for it.
Franklin County seeks center for child abuse victims
Officials say center would minimize trauma while gathering evidence
by Marcus Rauhut
CHAMBERSBURG -- Officials are looking to establish a children's advocacy center in Franklin County to help victims of abuse.
The center would provide victim services in one place in a child-friendly environment, according to District Attorney Matt Fogal.
About a third of the counties in Pennsylvania operate similar centers, where abuse victims can be interviewed, receive forensic medical exams and follow-up treatment.
Fogal said in areas that do not have advocacy centers, victims as young as 5 may have to undergo multiple interviews in different locations.
"The child is shuffled from agency to agency with authoritarian figure after authoritarian figure. What the advocacy center does is have one interview by a trained child interviewer which does it in a child-friendly environment," he said. "It's obvious that's a better setting for the child."
Prosecutors could be allowed to use the interview in court in lieu of making the child testify — and potentially forcing the victim to be in the same room as the abuser.
The forensic testing is just as critical, Fogal said. An examiner trained in child abuse can conduct a forensic medical exam to gather evidence.
Currently, the county's Children & Youth Services provides some of the interviews. The county also contracts with out-of-town children's advocacy centers and medical centers to provide forensic interviews and medical exams, according to Commissioner David Keller.
The proposed advocacy center would also provide counseling and after-care treatment.
"The system is great at investigating crimes, but I always felt we're not great at what happens next," Fogal said. "Chances are there's a pretty significant psychological impact that they have to deal with that could manifest in their own behavior or acting out. We want to stop the cycle."
The county is applying for a $150,000 Justice Assistance Grant through the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency for start-up costs for the center, which would be run by the newly-formed nonprofit Franklin County Over The Rainbow Children's Advocacy Center. Fogal chairs the nonprofit board.
The county would contract with the nonprofit to provide the services. Justice Assistance Grant funding is expected to be announced mid-September.
Keller said the county is also reviewing a new grant program announced Monday by the state Department of Public Welfare that provides funding for children's advocacy centers. The grant program was part of a package of bills recommended by the Task Force on Child Protection in wake of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal.
The Legislature is also considering another set of child protection bills recommended by the task force, including proposals to change to mandatory abuse reporting requirements.
In 2012 there were 196 reports of suspected child abuse in Franklin County investigated by staff of a county agency or Department of Public Welfare regional staff, according to DPW. Of those reports, about 20 percent were substantiated.
In 2010 there were three fatalities in Franklin County linked to child abuse, according to a DPW report.
"I think people are generally surprised to learn just how much it (child abuse) occurs in Franklin County," Fogal said. "There's not an epidemic, but it's a lot more prevalent than people think."
The center would also be active in prevention and community outreach efforts, according to Fogal.
Other counties that have established children's advocacy centers have provided some guidance in developing the local center.
"It's quite a task to start something new, but we've had a lot of people help, not only within the community but also outside of here," Fogal said. "We're really optimistic about the future of Over The Rainbow."
System to Detect Child Abuse or Injury
by Dee Mueller
Every year an estimated 1,760 children die from injuries related to child abuse. Another 150,000 children suffer permanent disabilities. Of the children fatally injured, over 75 percent are younger than four years old. If medical personnel, law enforcement officers, and child protection services were able to differentiate between bruising from accidents and bruising from abuse, many of these deaths or injuries could be preventable. Early detection is a critical component in preventing escalating injuries but many times it is difficult to determine the actual cause behind the bruises. Abuse is commonly and falsely reported as injuries. Now, a team of researchers from the University of Louisville are conducting studies on a system to detect whether bruises are the result of injury or child abuse.
The new system takes into account skin and soft tissue injuries. A child surrogate, otherwise known as an anthropomorphic test device (ATD) has been routinely been used for predicting injuries to head, chest, and femurs of children in motor vehicle accidents and has provided the base of the new studies. Now, researchers are modifying the ATD with a sensing skin to acquire data during injury simulations from falls or trauma from abuse. The system records the data, the potential areas of bruising which are caused either by abuse to the child or injury and will ultimately help detect what type of bruising comes from which type of injury.
The clinical studies are now beginning to determine patterns and characteristics on individual body locations. The research team is developing the sensors to run simulated tests on both abusive events and various accidents to identify the outcomes on the sensors and the skin. The current protocols fail to recognize child abuse cases up to 71 percent of the time. The new sensors contain three elements on the surrogate to detect bruising. These elements include the sensing skin, a data acquisition system, and image mapping which all come together to form a single functional unit which is utilized to detect impact events. The events are mapped by computer which displays both the force of the impact and the location.
The investigations, diagnoses, and legal examinations conducted during cases of child abuse often do not take into account bruising patterns which typically display as constellations of individual bruises. These missed opportunities to gain a higher understanding of the child's environment are not taken into account due to the fact that these injuries are generally not life-threatening. However, the patterns of bruising would provide information on whether or not the bruising is a result of accident, injury, or abuse.
Using the device has the potential to support the diagnosis of child abuse and aid in further investigations. The information gained would also contribute to the overall injury assessment of the child. The sensor system could be used to determine whether the injury has been caused by an accident or it may detect false accident reporting and determine if the injury occurred from child abuse. Additionally, the detection system could also exonerate those whom have been falsely accused of abuse by providing objective data in each case. The future could see similar methods used to determine accident versus abuse in elderly patients as well. The procedure and system are not without limitations. One of the main limitations is that individuals all have a number of factors which influence not only the severity of bruising but the occurrence as well. Variables from distribution of force over either larger or smaller areas can affect bruise development as well as such factors as fat content of the individual, skin toughness, and vessel fragility, which all play a role in the bruising process. While the bruising threshold may vary between different patients, generally it can be said that larger forces are generally associated with higher bruising potentials. Regardless, the system has been tested and baseline models are being documented. A future where child abuse may be differentiated from accident or injury with a much higher certainty than is currently available is possible.
NYPD and child therapists team up to tackle abuse in East Harlem
NYPD officers in the 23rd Precinct and counselors from Safe Horizon will visit kids living in violent households uptown.
by Simone Weichselbaum
Child abuse victims and kids living in violent homes across East Harlem are getting a new team of defenders.
Domestic violence officers in the 23rd Precinct are partnering with therapists from nonprofit Safe Horizon to provide free in-home counseling to troubled families.
The Child Development Community Policing Pilot Program, which will begin by month's end, is the first of its kind.
“We're identifying children who are victims of domestic violence or witness domestic violence,” said Deputy Chief Kathleen O'Reilly, head of the NYPD Domestic Violence Unit. “We're starting off small, in one precinct, and we hope it can grow.”
East Harlem was picked to host the nascent endeavor due to its 2014 spike in domestic violence crimes. As of March 30, the 23rd Precinct counted 45 incidents — up from 29 during the same period in 2013, according to NYPD data.
The neighborhood had the highest count of family violence out of the other upper Manhattan communities.
Cops and therapists will make up to six visits to problem homes. Those who need more in-depth counseling will be referred to Safe Horizon centers located across Manhattan.
The plan is modeled after a program launched two decades ago by police in New Haven and the Yale Child Study Center.
Personal tragedy drives Big Family founder's bid to help kids
by Laura Berman
April is national child abuse prevention month — perhaps because poet T.S. Eliot once celebrated its cruelty. Growing up, Jeanne Fowler considered every month cruel. Until she was an adult, she could only wonder: “When is it going to get better?”
At age 6, she was taken from her mother by authorities. She wishes they had come, listened, cared sooner.
After the death of her 3-year-old brother in Chicago, she was told a policewoman had indeed responded to a concerned call from neighbors a few months before. That May day in 1953, young Jeanne was locked naked in a closet, rags in her mouth, tied standing up. Her brother was wired to a hot water pipe in the bathroom. The policewoman never checked either room, and later testified she didn't know either child existed.
Peter's fate was starvation, broken bones, death. But the memory of his quiet spirit inspired his sister's survival. She credits her brother, whose death freed her from her parents, with ultimately helping thousands of children through Big Family, the Harrison Township-based nonprofit she founded 14 years ago.
I had to find the 1953 newspaper clippings to believe Jeanne Fowler's childhood memories, her detailed recall of abuse and torture at the hands of her mother and, then, foster parents. And when I found them, in newspapers across the country, I understood why she kept her story secret from family and friends for almost 50 years.
Because she knew people wouldn't believe her, or would believe her doomed to repeat the story. “You come from a mother who tortured and killed her kids, people think you will do that. I knew I hadn't killed anybody. I hadn't abused anybody,” she says. “But I knew what people would think.”
Over decades, she found the courage to keep going, to marry and raise children. She finally began to tell her story — first to her then-husband, now to groups in Michigan and around the country — after hearing Dave Pelzer, the author and child abuse survivor, speak in Saginaw. He told her: “Teach what you learned.”
So she does. Last year, Big Family sent 900 foster children to Tigers games, and got her sunburned this Sunday, as she watched the Tigers play with 30 foster children.
Big Family sends packages of ready-to-go birthday parties, Christmas gifts and school supplies for foster children, and provides household goods for foster children aging out of the system.
Jeanne uses her memories of loneliness to fuel her organization, and her own compassion for today's children who experience what she did. “People don't understand what a child loses when they're placed in foster care. You lose your home, your neighbors, your school, your church. Everything.”
The little girl she was didn't look like this Jeanne Fowler, a woman full of energy and quick to laugh. She holds out pictures of herself at 6, as an 18-year-old — pictures of a girl whose eyes don't know where to look, whose eyes are dull and empty. Somehow she made an extraordinary journey from that girl to this vibrant woman. Somehow she did so without forgetting the pain she suffered or the kindness she learned from a very few caring adults.
She remembers her young self — alone, with no possessions of her own — every time Big Family gives “comfort bags,” filled with toiletries, and pajamas, socks, a plush blanket to children entering foster homes.
Recognizing victimhood as a kind of death, she chose to be a survivor. Yes, she wishes every month and especially in April, that someone had heard her muffled cries sooner, that someone had called, that someone had found her little brother before it was too late. But her fervent hope now is that if we see, if we hear that tortured child Jeanne once was, that this time we will.
Perseverance Expert and Author, Abused as a Child, Gives Voice and Hope to Millions Suffering Silently
Minneapolis, Minn. –- Debra Pauli fulfills her life's purpose speaking for the voiceless millions of Americans, abused and neglected as children, who today suffer in agonizing silence. She understands first hand their silence and feelings of hopelessness and shame. As a child, she was beaten daily, tortured and subjected to several near-death experiences inflicted by her paranoid schizophrenic mother. Born in 1961 just outside of St. Louis, Debra survived one of the most horrific child abuse cases documented in Missouri court history. Today, as a successful speaker/author, she shares the tools and techniques that enabled her to conquer the negative effects of her catastrophic child abuse.
First daughter born of her mother's five children, from birth Debra was singled out for punishment by a mother who claimed that Debra was "The Devil's Daughter." Young Debra's daily torment included confinement in a homemade straitjacket preventing her from scratching sores caused by unchanged diapers, imprisonment in a small dark closet, cigarette burns, cattle prod electric shocks while in a bathtub of water and an attempted suffocation. She was forced to eat dog food, her own feces spread on her face to dry in front of an electric fan, and fed adult sedatives to keep her immobile. Death knocked three times on little Debra's closet door during her first three years of life, but he left empty-handed, as she still had work to do in this world.
Relocating to Palo Verde (40 miles west of Phoenix, AZ) in 1967 with her mother and four siblings, following her parents' divorce, brought only a heightened terror to Debra's almost unspeakable abuse. While her father had fallen helpless in protecting Debra from her mother's daily attacks, her new stepfather was an ex-military man with a twisted sense of discipline and obedience. He was the perfect partner in crime at her mother's side.
At the slightest provocation, he would lift Debra off the ground by the back of her hair, kick her, and then drop her to the ground like a sack of potatoes. She was repeatedly forced to walk barefoot on sheets of galvanized metal which baked all day in the hot desert sun. Although her shoes were taken to prevent her escape from her desert prison, Debra's repeated attempts to find safety finally caused her mother to abandon her and a younger sister on the sidewalk in front of the Maricopa County Social Services office just before her sixth birthday.
As the nation now marks April 2014 as National Child Abuse Prevention Month, Debra takes little comfort in the most recent statistics. In 2012, an estimated 1,640 children died due to abuse or neglect; almost 700,000 individual children were officially confirmed as being abused or neglected; and about 3.4 million reports were made to child protective services concerning the safety and well-being of approximately 6.3 million children, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports. As an advocate for child abuse prevention, Debra is grateful that these statistics are improving due to the tireless efforts of many government agencies and nonprofit groups, yet she can't deny the heartache she feels knowing that millions of unloved, abandoned, neglected, broken children are still destined to become dysfunctional adults.
Research shows that child abuse and neglect, like other trauma, is associated with adverse health and mental health outcomes, and these negative effects can last a lifetime. The trauma of child abuse and neglect has been associated with increased risk of: sexual promiscuity, teen pregnancy, academic failure, depression and suicide attempts, substance abuse, incarceration, social problems with other children and adults, and several chronic illnesses, among other risks. This list of negative outcomes reads like a play-by-play description of Debra's continuing life story after Palo Verde. Emotionally wounded, Debra became trapped in her dysfunction.
Raped twice by age eleven (once in foster care), Debra was pregnant by 14, married by 16, a high school dropout, a young mother to four boys by age 22 (with four miscarriages – all girls) and defiant toward any authority figure in her life. Ill-equipped to be married at such a young age, Debra sought the attention of other men when her marriage wasn't filling an emotional void. The guilt and shame of her infidelity, coupled with the feeling of unworthiness beaten into her as a child by her mother, led Debra to attempt suicide twice by age 30. By 36, her twenty-year marriage had crumbled.
Each abused or neglected child, who grows into adulthood, is like one of our combat soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan; each has experienced his or her own Hell. Many of these adult survivors, again like our returning soldiers, are not getting the mental health care that they need. Due to feelings of guilt and shame resulting from her childhood abuse, Debra suffered in relative silence for almost forty years.
Her silence was broken in 2003 when she wrote her first book "A Survivor's Closet" in which Debra transcribed her memories, verified and expanded upon later by conversations with some family members, and now which serves as a diary of her horrific childhood. She quickly followed with a second book in 2004 ". . . and Then There Was Light" which describes her spiritual healing, awakening and transformation, much as a result from her many years of therapy, counseling, education and self-introspection in dealing with and overcoming her thoughts and attitudes toward her horrendous upbringing. (For more information on these and more books written by Debra Pauli, go to www.debrapauli.com).
Today, Debra lives in a suburb outside of Minneapolis, MN, earns a six-figure income as an Information Technology (IT) Project Manager for a leading health care corporation, is a loving grandmother of seven, and is in a committed romantic relationship with a man she "prayed for" several years before. She's earned degrees in Psychology, Sociology, Graphic Arts and Word Processing, and is a self-taught expert in many areas of IT project management.
Debra is often met by attendees, at expos, book signings or public speaking engagements, who pull her aside to share their stories of abuse. Some attendees, though, simply look into Debra's eyes with a certain knowing but are unable to say a word. They buy her books and then quietly leave. They're just not strong enough yet. Debra knows that there are many more survivors like her out there. Millions more. She yearns to help them find the strength to transform from mere survivors of their dark pasts to conquerors of their own thoughts and attitudes.
Debra's passion of speaking to those who feel unloved, neglected, abandoned and broken . . . to share her coping tools and techniques within the context of real life examples . . . to serve as a beacon of light so that others may be encouraged to learn how to heal their dysfunctional souls . . . is a passion that burns brightly within her. Like a contestant on the TV Reality Show The Voice, Debra has a dream . . . a vision . . . a story that the world needs to hear. Even today she prepares for the moment when one of the judges will turn his/her chair around and invites her to share her story on a national or international platform. She's ready. The world's ready. The time is now.
Over 3-Million Children Witness Domestic Violence in their Home
Every year, more than 3 million children witness domestic violence in their homes. Many of those children (30%-60%) become a victim of the abuse themselves. Without help, girls who witness and experience domestic violence as children are more vulnerable to abuse as teens and adults. Without help, boys who witness and experience domestic violence are far more likely to become abusers of their own partners and children as adults, thus continuing the cycle of violence in the next generation.
Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services seeks to not only help adult victims and survivors of domestic violence, but children also. The abuse may be of primary form; direct verbal, physical, or sexual abuse, or secondary; witnessing abuse and living in a violent household. To help aid child sufferers of domestic violence we provide court advocacy and assistance in obtaining Orders of Protection, individual counseling and children's support group, safe-shelter for the family, and sexual assault hospital accompaniment for victims 13 and older.
All forms of violence continue to be a huge social problem burdening our community, but with the workers, donors, and volunteers of the various organizations working to put a stop to it, we can make a difference. In 1983 Congress declared April “National Child Abuse Prevention Month.” This month, please help give those a voice who do not have one. Donate or give your time to a local organization striving to protect and heal the children of our community, for there are still far too many children who live in fear.
Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Services have been serving Rutherford and Cannon Counties for over 25 years and continue to provide a wide array of free services to aid victims of domestic and sexual violence in the most effective way possible.
Call (615) 896-7377 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We can all help stop child abuse
Looking out the window, and cautiously waiting for the moment when his father gets home, the fear begins to set in. Many reoccurring questions start to develop in his head; “What will he do this time? Was it my fault? Will it hurt?”
Fear and anticipation begin to take over while his dad's car starts pulling into the driveway. After noticing the angry look on his father's face, the fear takes over. The boy jolts for the best hiding place before the father gets to the front door. The boys slides under his bed as the door begins to open, and then the sound of heavy footsteps echo through the house, mimicking the pace of his ever-racing heartbeat.
His father yells, “Don't you hide from me boy. You know what's coming for you.”
As the tears of fear run down his face, the shoes of his father come into view from underneath the bed.
“I hear you crying,” his father yells. Then, the whole bed rises from the floor and is thrown across the room.
The little boy tries to secure himself to the floor. Then, the stiff grasp of his father's hands lift him off the floor and slams him into the wall. Words of anger burst out of his father's mouth and eyes of fiery rage steal the very breath away from him. His father pulls him off the wall and twists him around and starts to spank him over and over. He cries with every stroke, only wishing it would just stop.
This story is real.
It came to me from one of the many resilient survivors of childhood abuse who walk among us each day. He is now a college student and loving father of two young children. He wrote to me asking to tell his story, because in his words, “the best prevention is to raise people's awareness about the effects of child abuse.”
Unfortunately, the lifelong effects are significant. There is mounting scientific evidence that child maltreatment and household dysfunctions are risk factors for the leading causes of illness and mortality, as well as poor quality of life in the United States.
It is estimated that our country spends $124 billion annually to address the downstream impacts of child maltreatment. These costs include loss of productivity, child health care costs, adult health care costs, special education, child welfare and criminal justice costs.
As of March 2014, the number of children in foster care in Montana is the highest it's been in at least 14 years. Please consider joining our efforts by supporting your local community programs that work toward this end. The future of our most vulnerable youth depends upon all of us doing what is necessary to prevent the eyes of one more child from seeing what too many eyes have already seen.
Together, let's make a child's wish come true. Let's make it just stop.
Montana children need a safe, stable family environment. Each individual in Montana can protect children who are being abused or neglected by reporting suspected abuse or neglect. To report concerns about a child's safety, call 1-866-820-KIDS (5437). Another way to help is by learning more about becoming a licensed foster parent. To learn about becoming a foster parent, call 1-866-936-7837 (866-9FOSTER) or email email@example.com.
Sarah Corbally is administrator for the Child and Family Services Division of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services.
Corbett approves millions to fight child abuse in Pa.
by Peter Jackson
HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Corbett signed legislation Monday designed to step up efforts to prevent child abuse in Pennsylvania by doubling the fee for duplicate birth certificates, which would raise nearly $4 million a year.
The main bill is expected to provide nearly $3 million to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency as grant money for child-advocacy centers and multidisciplinary investigative teams, and $1 million for the Department of Public Welfare to use to train doctors, teachers and other professionals who are required by law to report suspected abuse.
For the year starting July 1, when the law takes effect, DPW will receive all the new fee money to pay for mandatory reporting training and other child abuse prevention costs.
The bill also establishes an advisory committee that will work with the crime commission in awarding the grants.
The expanded use of regional child advocacy centers was recommended by a legislative task force that was established soon after Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant football coach, was arrested on child molestation charges. Twenty-one centers are operating, and supporters say the legislation should result in an expansion of the system.
“It is raining outside but it is a sunny day in here today because it's a bright future for the children of Pennsylvania,” Corbett said at a news conference where he was flanked by about three dozen supporters of the legislation.
The bill increases the fee for copies of birth certificates from $10 to $20. It will be the first time the fee has been increased since 2004, when it was increased from $4.
Corbett, who is running for re-election this year, promised in his 2010 campaign not to raises taxes or fees. Asked what he would call this latest fee increase, he said, “It's a cost of doing business.”
The Republican said the legislation builds on years of progress in dealing with child abuse.
“We clearly need to punish those who victimize our children, but we also need to heal the children and to break that cycle of victimization,” he said.
Additional revenue for the child-abuse legislation will come from transferring a $408,000 surplus from the anti-drug DARE license-plate program, which is being terminated.
Corbett also signed a bill to establish a statewide electronic database through which law-enforcement and county agencies can share information about suspected child abuse.
Locals spotlight child abuse epidemic
by Marquel Sennet
Nationwide children are suffering from a hidden epidemic of child abuse and neglect. Locally, Bossier and Caddo Parishes have the highest rates of abuse in our region.
April is child abuse awareness and prevention month. Monday local groups are trying to bring awareness and of course their biggest goal is ending the abuse.
Joel Hooper says, “Child abuse and neglect exists in every community including this one."
Hooper is a child welfare specialist for Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services. He says communication is key to ending abuse.
"To pay attention to the kids that they're around every day, because kids won't come out and tell you hey I'm being abused or neglected sometimes.
At Monday's “Light of Hope program” hundreds of shoes represent just some of the abused children in our area.
Vickie Ricord says, “All the children that have to walk up these steps who enter foster care and end up having to be in a courtroom through no fault of their own every single year."
Just last year 600 children in north Louisiana entered the foster care system.
Ricord says. "This just spotlights how many people are out there being abused and neglected and we need to bring awareness to the public."
Hooper says they depend on the public's help to put abusers behind bars.
"Certainly there are some injuries that lead you to believe that there may be abuse or neglect situations going on."
Experts say to explain abuse to children let them know there are three kinds of touches. A good touch is ok, that's a hug from your parents or a high five from a teacher.
The touches that are not ok, an ouch touch when someone hurts you or an uh-oh touch when someone touches you and it just doesn't feel right.
Also tell children the places covered by their swimsuit are private. No one should touch them there.
Make sure children know to tell an adult they trust if someone touches them inappropriately.
Ricord says Court Appointed Special Advocates are in dire need of volunteers. CASAs are trained volunteers appointed by judges to advocate for the needs of children removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect. Contact Vickie Ricord at 318-425-4413 or Vickie.Ricord@vyjla.org if you're interested in volunteering.
Chattahoochee Circuit Child Abuse Protocol signed into effect
by TIFFANY STEVENS
Dozens of leaders gathered Monday to sign the first crime protocol binding all six counties in the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit.
The Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit's Child Abuse Protocol outlines procedure for assisting abuse victims and their families through the process of reporting, prosecuting and sentencing a suspect.
“We do have a document that I believe is comprehensive. It deals with the instances law enforcement have to respond to on a weekly, daily, sometimes hourly basis,” Superior Court Judge Gil McBride said.
Chattahoochee's Child Abuse Protocol was created by a Georgia Legislature-mandated committee under McBride. Members on that committee include representatives from the major court and law enforcement systems, victim's advocacy and county boards of education and health.
The 60-member Child Abuse Protocol Committee began working on the protocol in early December, McBride said. It produced a 23-page document that for the first time requires Chattahoochee, Harris, Marion, Muscogee, Talbot and Taylor counties to use the same protocol when addressing child abuse.
Before the protocol's creation, individual counties had their own procedures with conflicting reporting methods between law enforcement agencies, often resulting in lost or forgotten cases.
“We had a lot of cases that weren't showing up on anybody's table,” said Assistant District Attorney Letitia, who was also the chairwoman of the committee. “A family would move, or a person working the case would move out of that position. We've adjusted the protocol to try and take out a lot of those loops.”
One of the changes include requiring those who commonly work with children, such as school officials, to notify both police and the Division of Family and Children Services when they encounter a potentially abused child.
“We're trying to close what I call the ‘Or Door',” Sikes said. “Before, the policy said to notify police or DFACS. What we are enacting here is to ask mandated reporters to handle an extra step, and to report to both agencies.”
This allows DFACS and police to work together and ensure the case is being handled correctly by both agencies.
Members of the Protocol Committee that were unable to attend Monday's signing will be sent a copy to sign this week. Any adjustments to the policy will also take place during that time, in addition to regular updates during the year.
“It is a work in progress,” McBride said. “The same statute that requires this type of protocol also requires that it remains updated.”
State House OKs bill adding scope to child abuse reporting
by JOHN KOPP
The state House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation Monday that broadens the scope of people required by law to report suspected child abuse.
The list of mandated reporters includes licensed health professionals, school employees, religious leaders, social service agency employees, law enforcement officials, librarians, emergency medical service providers and individuals who accept the responsibility of children as part of a regularly scheduled program, among others.
The bill was unanimously passed by the state Senate last October.
Helping to prevent child abuse, one handprint at a time
by NOREEN HYSLOP
They're spotted more and more each year -- those colorful, personalized Missouri license plates with the children's handprints on them. On the bottom of each are the words, "Prevent Child Abuse." So, how can a personalized vehicle license plate help prevent child abuse? Easy.
An annual donation of $25 (or more) at the time of purchasing a vehicle's plates grants vehicle owners the specialized editions. In turn, all of those donations are distributed annually to Children's Trust Fund (CTF). In Stoddard County, there is just one entity that benefits directly from the sale of the plates, and that is the Regional Healthcare Foundation in Dexter.
The local Foundation's executive director, Lisa Thrower explains how that funding is then filtered back throughout the county.
"We utilize the funds in a number of ways throughout the county," Thrower explains. "The money is dispersed to programs such as the Mother to Mother Program, Parents as Teachers, the Gospel Rescue Mission, BRAVE (Women's Shelter), and for Fire Safety and Prevention."
Thrower says money from the sale of the plates also helps in the purchase of infant massage kits, DVDs titled, "Period of Purple Crying," which address Shaken Baby Syndrome, and to purchase cribs and safety equipment for young children.
The Mother to Mother Program within the Regional Healthcare Foundation has a significant focus on preventing child abuse, Thrower says. The program is long recognized for its work with pregnant and parenting young mothers, with a mission to empower young mothers so that they become better able to handle the emotional, physical, intellectual and financial needs of their children. It is a three-phase mentoring program to support young women who are pregnant or parenting by giving them the resources and skills they need to become successful parents.
Five Protective Factors -- parental resilience; social connections; concrete support in times of need; knowledge of parenting and child development; and social and emotional competence of children -- make up the core of the M2M program.
"Without the funding that is generated from the CTF license plates, we would not be able to provide the degree of support to our young parents regarding child abuse prevention that we do now," Thrower explains. "Education is key, and that's been our focus, especially with regard to our Mother to Mother program."
By purchasing the CTF plates, she says, the community has an opportunity to become involved in the ongoing struggle to prevent children in Stoddard County from becoming victims of child abuse.
To obtain the CTF plates, call 1-88-826-KIDS (5437) or go online to www.ctf4kids.org, or send a check or money order to Children's Trust Fund, P.O. Box 1641, Jefferson City, MO 65102-1641.
CTF plates may also be ordered at the Stoddard County License Bureau in Dexter.
The specialized CTF plates are only renewable during the month of July. The Department of Revenue will prorate fees accordingly. If a driver currently has personalized plates, that personalization may be transferred to a CTF plate as well. CTF plates allow for six characters for regular plates, five characters for motorcycle plates and four for disabled plates.
Whether applying for or renewing CTF plates, an annual DOR $15 personalized plate fee is assessed in addition to the regular fee and the $25 donation.
Legislature should address child abuse in Georgia
by Dick Yarbrough
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month in Georgia, as proclaimed by Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal. Child abuse is a subject I don't like to think about, let alone write about, and it's something you would probably just as soon not hear about. But it is there, and we need to acknowledge it and demand some solutions.
Sadly, child abuse is not confined to Georgia. Child advocacy group Child Help says there are more than 3 million reports of child abuse in the United States every year, and between four and seven children die daily due to abuse and neglect. That would be a shameful number in a Third World country. It is simply staggering in a supposedly civilized society, which we claim to be.
According to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, Georgia had 77 child deaths related to abuse or neglect in 2010 and 65 in 2011. There may have been more; these are just the incidents reported to the state Division of Family and Children Services.
Speaking of DFCS, that agency has been heavily criticized for the way it has dealt with children's well-being. According to an Atlanta newspaper investigation, 152 children died despite the intervention of DFCS in 2012. One grossly mishandled DFCS case was that of 10-year-old Emani Moss of Gwinnett County, who was starved to death, burned and dumped in a trashcan this past November by her so-called parents. Speaking of burning, may these two low-lifes burn in hell.
Child abuse and neglect are beginning to get the attention of our state leaders. Gov. Nathan Deal said he will add $27 million over the next three years to DFCS to hire more than 500 new caseworkers and supervisors and to make up for some of the agency's budget cuts during the economic downturn of recent years. The governor has also created a council of experts from advocacy groups and government to review DFCS and to recommend suggested reforms and possible legislative solutions.
The legislature took a stab at the problem this past session with a push to privatize Georgia's foster care system, much to the discomfort of some knowledgeable professionals who thought the effort too hasty. Melissa Carter, executive director of Emory University's Barton Child Law and Policy Center, told me this is an area that requires much careful study before taking such a dramatic step.
Privatization is good in theory, and may even be a good solution for taking care of our children in need, but let's think the matter through thoroughly and deliberately. These are vulnerable children we are discussing here. Let's do it right.
And let's be very careful that there is not some special-interest group pushing this effort that is more interested in promoting a particular political philosophy — privatizing government services — than in looking out for the ultimate welfare of our children. The way proponents tried to rush the legislation through the last session makes me wonder.
Even if legislation had passed, the investigation of child abuse claims would still be left in the hands of DFCS, with the public lacking sufficient information on child deaths in Georgia. State Rep. Christian Coomer, R-Cartersville, sponsored legislation to take the review of children's deaths away from the state's Child Advocate for the Protection of Children and put it under the supervision of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, where it should be, and to make more information on the subject available to the public. The bill passed the House, but stalled in the Senate. Still, kudos are due Coomer and his colleagues for that effort.
More needs to be done, and we should let our legislators know that next year we want to see child abuse and neglect made a priority. Our legislature has shown us it can pass a gun bill that only a narrow special-interest group wanted. So now that we are sufficiently locked and loaded, maybe we can get to more substantive issues, like taking better care of neglected and abused children in Georgia.
Protecting NJ Children From Abuse
by David Matthau
(Audio on site)
Law enforcement, social service and child advocate groups from across the Garden State gathered in Newark on Monday for a first-ever Child Abuse and Neglect summit.
One of the featured speakers at the event was state Senate President Steve Sweeney.
“It's critically important to bring attention to the issue of child abuse and fund programs to prevent it, because these are young people that have had their innocence stolen from them,” Sweeney said. “We have to do everything we can to try to help these young people get back to as normal a life as they possibly can.”
He said abused children are often reluctant to come forward about their experiences.
“A lot of young people that have had this kind of crime committed to them hide in the shadows, 'cause they're ashamed and they're afraid,” Sweeney said. “You can only imagine when someone steals someone's youth.”
Even those who do acknowledge being victims of abuse, according to Sweeney, may believe they did something wrong.
“So honestly, this is to raise awareness to ensure young people that people do care,” Sweeney said, “and we need you to come forward when something bad like this happens so we can prevent it from happening to others.”
Evelyn Mejil, executive director of Wynona's House Child Advocacy Center, organized the event. She called called child abuse a silent epidemic.
“More than six million children are abused every year,” Mejil said. “These children deserve a platform. We need for our children to be invisible no more; we need for our victims to not be overlooked.”
Mejil said 1 in 4 girls will be sexually abused during childhood, and 1 out of every 6 boys will also be abused, but “a lot of the things that get hidden in the shadows are the emotional abuse, the neglect — those are under-reported.”
She said there are more than 90,000 reported cases of child abuse a year in New Jersey, one of the highest totals of any state in the nation.
“If you suspect child abuse, call the hotline: 1-800-NJ-ABUSE,” Mejil said. “That is the hotline when you feel that any child is at risk. The community must unite to make sure that we are intervening and providing the services our children need.”
Colorado bill would expose pot users to child abuse charges
by Greg Campbell
Parents are worried they will be charged with child abuse simply for keeping marijuana in their homes under a Colorado bill that seeks to define a “drug endangered child.”
Criminal charges can be filed if pot is used, grown or merely possessed in a home where children live and if authorities determine the drugs threaten the “health or welfare” of the kids. Such a threat can come from a parent or guardian who is stoned, or if the drugs are accessible to children, according to the wording of the bill.
“If a child is exposed to or is in a home where a controlled substance is or manufactured, used, distributed, those kinds of things, it could be considered as a child abuse situation,” Republican Sen. Bernie Herpin told Pueblo's ABC News Channel 13.
Sierra Riddle, who grows marijuana and infuses it in oil to treat her 4-year-old son's leukemia, told the station she's worried that if the bill passes, she'll be at risk of being charged with a crime.
Her son's cancer has been in remission for a year and the marijuana oil is used to supplement his costly medical treatments.
“All I'm doing is growing a simple plant trying to help cut costs of how much his cancer treatments are for our family,” she said. “And now that we have it, I could be charged with child abuse or neglect.”
Medical marijuana has been legal in Colorado since 2000. Voters in 2012 legalized adult recreational use, including the right to grow it at home.
Part of the intent of the bill is to give child welfare officials and law enforcement the ability to regulate the manufacture of THC into concentrate, which is extracted using bottled butane. It can be a dangerous process that has resulted in several high-profile accidents in which the butane ignites, blowing up houses and causing severe burns.
Riddle said she supports regulations for such manufacturing to protect children in such situations, but the bill should be more narrowly worded to protect parental caregivers.
“When you get into the manufacturing, then yes, I think something needs to be clear,” she told the station. “We are not on [that] side of things at all.”
Area agencies team up to prevent child sexual abuse
Child sexual abuse impacts 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys in the U.S., which is why the National Sexual Violence Resource Center is encouraging individuals and communities to learn more about it in an effort to help prevent it from occurring.
A local collaborative campaign to help prevent child sexual abuse was initiated in 2013 by the Child Abuse Council of Charlevoix and Emmet Counties; Great Start Collaborative of Emmet, Charlevoix and Northern Antrim counties; and the Women's Resource Center of Northern Michigan, Inc., with the goal of getting information and resources into the hands of parents and educators to provide a better understanding of the issue, enabling them to become part of the solution in preventing this pervasive crime.
Through this prevention project, free informational materials have been offered to elementary schools in Charlevoix and Emmet counties to share with staff and parents of students in kindergarten through third grade. Schools participating in the project include Alanson, Boyne City, Boyne Falls, Harbor Light, Pellston, St. Francs Xavier and Central, Lincoln and Sheridan schools in Petoskey. The cost of materials was funded by the partner agencies, as well as a $2,000 grant from the Char-Em United Way Emerging Needs Fund. During the two-year campaign, support was also provided by Charlevoix-Emmet Intermediate School District and the Health Department of Northwest Michigan's Early Childhood Behavioral Health Initiative.
“We decided to get this important information out to parents through local schools that were willing to participate in the program,” said Stacey Walsh-Hoobler, clinical director and therapist with the Women's Resource Center. “The information and resources are intended to help them understand their role in supporting healthy childhood development and how to talk with their children about a subject that can be difficult.”
Part of the prevention effort also includes an Early Childhood Networking Night for caregivers and parents at the Char-Em ISD Taylor School for Exceptional Learners in Petoskey from 6-7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 9. Event topics include child sexual abuse prevention and the role of mandated reporters presented by Dar Charlebois, community prevention educator with the Women's Resource Center of Northern Michigan and Dana Stempky who will provide details on the Michigan Child Protection Law. The Early Childhood Networking Night is free of charge and includes dinner and child care. To register, parents and caregivers may call Susan Chowen of Great Start to Quality Northwest Resource Center at (231) 582-8070 or visit greatstartforkids.com.
Elementary schools in Charlevoix and Emmet counties that have yet to order the free prevention materials may inquire about availability by contacting Maggie Kromm, executive director of the Child Abuse Council of Charlevoix and Emmet Counties at (231) 753-8511 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Information on healthy childhood sexual development and tips for talking to your child on this subject can also be found on the National Sexual Violence Resource Center website at nsvrc.org
Author who overcame physical, sexual abuse as child to speak at annual AWARE breakfast
by Danielle Salisbury
JACKSON, MI – The more control his mother had, the more sinister she became.
With greater dominance came uglier abuse, never satisfaction, contentedness or happiness.
Eventually, she lost her children, and her life, just as a billionaire who profits from harm sees his worth diminishing as the human and environmental costs grow.
“The only thing I have found that is sustainable is compassion,” Gregg Milligan said Thursday, April 3.
Milligan, 50, of Plymouth, overcame the physical and sexual abuse he endured as a child to become an Air Force pilot, an information technology executive, father, author and abuse prevention advocate, sharing his message all over the world.
Tuesday, he will speak at the AWARE Inc. annual spring benefit breakfast from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. at the Commonwealth Commerce Center, 209 E. Washington Ave.
His story is not only heart-wrenching. It is hopeful.
“I chose to go a different path. It all starts with a different choice,” Milligan said. “Every human being born on this planet can choose not to do harm on another individual, but give back themselves.”
By the time Milligan was 11, he knew if he stayed with his alcoholic mother, she was eventually going to kill him and his sister and brother.
Slapping had graduated to beatings that would leave him unconscious. She sexually molested him and forced him into prostitution.
Milligan, born in Ypsilanti, begged a stepsister to let him, his brother and sister stay with her. She eventually agreed, but she did not “break the cycle” and the abuse continued for four more years.
For reasons he cannot explain, Milligan did not leave until his sister ousted him when he was about 16. A brief stay with another abusive sister preceded a stint of homelessness. Milligan was on the street, in and out of shelters, but managed to graduate from Ypsilanti High School.
He went on to earn his degree from Siena Heights University in Adrian. In the dorm, he had three meals a day and somewhere to live. No one was beating him. “I made a very clear decision that I was not going to lose this.”
Two years later, however, he fell apart, suffering a nervous breakdown. “I never told anyone what happened. I never dealt with the after-effect.”
He sought therapy for the first time and finished college. He also earned a graduate degree from Wayne State University in Detroit.
Milligan spent 17 years, 12 of them in combat, in the Air Force. He raised a son, now 27, and launched a corporate career.
About his experiences, he wrote two books, 2009's “A Beautiful World” and “God Must be Sleeping,” published in 2011. “This visceral book heralds one boy's courage in the face of devastation,” reads a description for the two volumes posted on Amazon.com.
Milligan presently is working on a third book, “Landscapes of the Heart,” his attempt at a “self-help” book.
He wants to show people that when you combine education with compassion, “you are never going to be wrong.”
Milligan aims to do more than say “I made it.”
“I need you. I need everyone. I can't do it alone. It is more than a message. It is about how we are all designed, how we are all connected.”
He uses what he learned from his childhood, the lessons from his parents, and takes it to a “grander scale,” discussing the world-wide problems associated with power and greed.
He donates all the book proceeds to charities, usually involving child abuse and treatment programs, and charges nothing for his speaking engagements.
To make a living, he designs computer infrastructures, taking contract positions throughout the world, but it is clearly the unpaid work that gives him the most satisfaction.
“It is such a selfish endeavor. I get more than I give,” he said.
He believes when people have the ability to help someone, then they must do so. “If I don't contribute, if I don't try to do my part to do things to make things better, this is my only planet. This is all I have.”
Brown Univ. professor's new book on sex abuse ‘witch hunts' praised at launch
by Kate Bramson
PROVIDENCE — Ross E. Cheit's work on the witch-hunt narrative about sexual-abuse cases in the 1980s involving child-care centers drew praise during a panel discussion for his new book's launch at Brown University last week.
Cheit's book, “The Witch-Hunt Narrative: Politics, Psychology, and the Sexual Abuse of Children,” argues that a long-held belief about those child sexual-abuse cases is wrong. That witch-hunt view says that hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent people were wrongly convicted of child sexual abuse during a time of social hysteria.
After 15 years of research, Cheit, a political science and public policy professor at Brown, writes in his book that the cases were far more complex than they're often portrayed. He argues that the witch-hunt narrative ignores credible charges of child abuse and dismisses medical evidence that children were harmed.
“He goes right to the standards of justice,” said James Morone, a Brown professor of political science and urban studies whose work examines why the witch-hunt metaphor, particularly in politics, has remained an enduring American reflex. “It's the sheer power of the research that makes this book so remarkable.”
In the book, Cheit explained how students from “almost a generation of the university” examined the cases with him. Some researched a single case for as long as two years. Others gathered “docket sheets, transcripts and stories about the surprising challenges of this kind of original trial court research” while in their hometowns on university breaks.
Noting the 99 students named in the book for helping with the research, Morone said he'd nominate the work “as the essential Brown University book” for representing the way academics ought to work.
Furthermore, the book “reads like a true-crime novel,” said Nancy Whittier, a Smith College sociology professor whose research examines how social movements lead to changes in public policy and culture. Yet his “unbelievably meticulous, original research” stands in stark contrast, she said, “to pretty much all the published work on the witch-hunt narrative.”
Whittier offered suggestions for why the witch-hunt view persisted — the incorrect belief that seemingly normal-looking people cannot abuse children; a black-and-white kind of thinking that doesn't allow for any middle ground; the fact that powerful, believable people promoted the witch-hunt story; and the idea that both conservative and liberal thinkers' views converged on that version of events.
Panelist Jennifer Freyd, a psychology professor at the University of Oregon, connected Cheit's work with her research into institutional betrayal and sexual abuse.
Society can have what she calls “betrayal blindness for institutional betrayal.” As an example, she spoke of a Penn State employee whose job and livelihood might depend on a particular coach and how that might cause someone to turn a blind eye to abuse.
She said now is the right moment for Cheit's book to be published, particularly given President Obama's announcement in January that he has charged a task force with examining how to end sexual assaults on university campuses.
It's Time to Count the Costs of Child Sexual Abuse
NSPCC's lead on tackling child sexual abuse
by Jon Brown
Will we ever win the fight against child sexual abuse? This important question is one I've debated this week at the NSPCC's How Safe are our Children conference.
And I think it is time to prioritise child abuse as a public health issue like heart disease, smoking and obesity. These diseases get a high profile in part because they have a cost, not only in human misery but also for the economy.
It sounds crass at first but we all know money talks, and if we can put a cost on the long term damage that child abuse does to society I believe this could be the catalyst needed to make it a public health priority.
The NSPCC is currently researching the economic costs to the UK of child sexual abuse and it is likely that it will be billions of pounds a year.
Billions every year are being spent now in concerted efforts to reduce cancer, heart disease, to give people a better quality of life and save a lot of money now and down the line.
We need to be doing the same to tackle child sexual abuse and we need to wake up to its entirely preventable impacts and costs.
Childhood experience of abuse and neglect effects brain functioning and behaviour and can lead to an increased risk of a wide range of problems from behavioural disorders, to depression, to personality disorders, to poor reading skills.
Some key building blocks are now in place with the establishment of the Home Office National Group on Sexual Violence Against Children and Vulnerable Adults. We must maximise the opportunity provided by the establishment of this important and very welcome development.
To give an idea of the scale of the problem facing us, there were a total of 23,663 sexual offences against children recorded by the police in the UK in 2012/13. These are shocking numbers and we must never forget that behind these numbers are children who have suffered appalling abuse.
However, we also know that 1 in 3 children abused by an adult did not tell anyone else at the time and 4 out of 5 young people sexually abused by a peer did not tell anyone else at the time. This isn't only a UK problem of course, and international estimates are that between 60-90% of all sexual abuse and exploitation never gets disclosed.
So it is clear that when it comes to exposing child sexual abuse we've barely scratched the surface.
Savile, Hall and other high profile historic cases of child sexual abuse and the much-publicised child sexual exploitation cases in Rotherham, Rochdale, Oxford and elsewhere as well as our growing awareness of the online abuse of children have brought the sexual abuse and exploitation of children into a sharper focus.
But the child protection system is still catching up and it needs to quickly.
There is some good news from our latest research report, which shows there is an increased willingness to speak out about abuse and neglect. For example, contacts to the NSPCC helpline increased by 15% in 2012/13 compared with the previous year.
But by the time abuse is reported the damage has been done. So how do we prevent abuse from happening in the first place?
Why don't more children speak out when they are sexually abused? Because child sexual abuse is fundamentally about the abuse of power usually fused with a sexual interest in children. This unequal power dynamic means that children can be groomed and shamed into silence, feeling that that they cannot really make sense of that they were in some way to blame for what happened, they are often left feeling impossibly confused, prematurely sexualised and utterly powerless.
All this means that children, young people and adults find it incredibly difficult to begin to talk about what happened for fear of not being believed, for fear of what they say spiralling out of their control and for fear of how they will be treated in the court system.
Those on the front line of child protection- social workers, the police, teachers and health workers - are getting better at identifying victims and perpetrators of child sexual abuse and child sexual exploitation. It's vital that anyone whose work could involve stopping abuse gets regular, up to date training in the latest evidence and best practice.
The NSPCC has commissioned research to help us understand social workers' levels of confidence and competence working with child sexual abuse. We are also examining the impact of online abuse on children and into the impact of pornography on children and young people. All this learning will help us to respond as an organisation and importantly, collaboratively with other organisations to some of key issues in the UK.
And when we catch offenders treatment is vital to prevent reoffending. We know what works with offender treatment; let's make it available to all those for whom it will be effective.
The NSPCC is not shying away from this difficult and often controversial work. Our services work with children and young people with harmful sexual behaviour, and with adults who pose a sexual risk to children.
Public education is also vital so that everyone - children and adults - know what abuse is and how to get help. That has to include good quality and consistent, and well evaluated relationships and sex education for children and young people starting in primary school delivered by well trained and supported teachers and relevant advice for parents such as that provided by the very successful NSPCC Underwear Rule campaign.
It is only through rigorously testing approaches and then sharing what we learn with other child protection professionals that lasting and sustainable improvements can be made to preventing child sexual abuse.
We should all remember that child sexual abuse and child sexual exploitation will not ultimately be prevented by government, the NSPCC or any other single organisation.
Whilst we can all play our part, particularly if we work together, it is well informed, aware and passionate individuals, families and communities that in the long term will make the biggest impact.
Can we prevent all child sexual abuse? I hope one day we can. We owe to children today and in future generations to make this the number one social challenge of our time.
UK 'leading child abuse fight'
Computer hackers are hiding child sexual abuse images in the websites of unknowing UK businesses, an internet watchdog has warned.
Cyber criminals plant abuse images on innocent business and personal websites in a complex bid to spread malware, software designed to gain access to private computers, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) has said.
In one case, a furniture company's website was hosting images without the knowledge of the business owner or even its customers.
A total of 392 reports of websites hacked to host child sexual abuse content were received by the IWF between June and December last year, compared to zero in the same period the year before.
In addition, the IWF's c onfidential hotline for flagging criminal content on the web recorded a 31% surge in the total number of reports of child sex abuse images found online , up from 39,211 in 2012 to 51,186 in 2013.
Emma Hardy, director of external relations, said: "We had barely seen hacked websites hosting child sexual abuse imagery for some time, then last year we experienced a spike in reports.
"It seems that whoever was behind it used this method to distribute malware. In the process, ordinary internet users were confronted with images of children being sexually abused, as well as having their devices infected.
"The folders of images were often placed on legitimate businesses' websites.
"Those businesses would not have been aware that this had happened.
"The best way to safeguard against this happening is to have good security and tough passwords to prevent someone from hacking into the administration side of a website."
Hacking innocent websites to host child abuse images has has not been seen in widespread use since 2010, the IWF annual report said.
Internet users unwittingly open the illegal imagery when clicking on videos on legitimate adult porn websites, the IWF said.
As well opening the images, this triggers a download of a so-called Trojan programme, allowing hackers to access the user's machine.
Unwitting victims are then unlikely to report the malware attack for fear of reprisals over the child abuse images downloaded on to their computer, the IWF said.
The rise in the number of UK businesses' websites hacked to host folders of child sexual abuse images was behind a rise in the number of UK- hosted images, from 73 webpages in 2012 to 92 webpages in 2013.
In its report, the IWF said: "The specific nature of the content on these adult websites, which often featured mature adult actors, is such that it is exceptionally unlikely that those who are being exposed to the child sexual abuse images were seeking them."
"The evidence uncovered during the course of researching this trend suggests that the sites have been hacked predominantly for the purposes of distributing the malware - possibly as a means of marketing "hacking as a service" - and not for the specific purpose of distributing the child sexual abuse content," the report added.
Elsewhere, the IWF identified 13,182 webpages containing child sexual abuse imagery in 2013, up from 9,696 the previous year
More than half - or 51% - showed the rape or sexual torture of a child or children, while more than 80% were of victims aged 10 or under.
Girls were victims in the majority of cases, 76%, while 10% were boys and 9% showed both genders.
Nearly a quarter - or 24% - of images and videos were sold on a commercial basis.
Most images and videos were hosted in North America - 54% - due to the technology available, while 43% were hosted in Europe, including Russia.
However, t he UK still leads the world at removing criminal imagery - less than 1% of all child sexual abuse images and videos identified were hosted in the UK.
Writing in the report, Prime Minister David Cameron said: ""This has been a hugely important year for child safety online and the IWF have played a vital role in progress made.
"Thanks to the efforts of the IWF and their close working with industry and the National Crime Agency, we have seen more sites identified and more pages removed, helping to protect more children from this appalling crime.
"Over the coming months, with their beefed up team of analysts and new proactive role in seeking out these webpages, the IWF will be able to track down and remove even more of these horrific sites.
"Through its important work, the IWF is helping the UK lead the global fight against child abuse images online."
Talking Points: Child Sex Trafficking & Backpage.com
by Esme Murphy
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Child sex trafficking continues to be a problem across the country and here in the Twin Cities.
Law enforcement officers say websites that advertise escort services are one of the biggest sources for trafficking.
The FBI has ranked Minneapolis as the 13th worst center in the nation for child sex trafficking. And much of that trafficking happens online.
One website that has come under fire locally and nationally is Backpage.com. Both Minneapolis and St. Paul have passed resolutions condemning the site and calling on Backpage to stop running escort ads.
Minnesota Congressman Erik Paulsen has introduced federal legislation to hold websites like Backpage accountable. He appeared on WCCO Sunday Morning.
“There is no doubt it is making it more difficult for law enforcement to track down where sex trafficking has occurred, targeting juveniles,” he said. “Our legislation is going to hold them accountable, when Backpage is getting $26 million a year, profiting off of sex trafficking opportunities.”
Backpage has successfully fought off other legal efforts that would require it to verify the age of its users. And Backpage has insisted it works with authorities to report trafficking cases.
Law enforcement agencies have on occasion been able to turn the tables on these websites. Last year, Fridley Police used ads in Backpage to stage a prostitution sting, which resulted in 23 arrests.
We did reach out to Backpage for a comment and did not hear back.
Shop to help victims of sex trafficking opens in Winona
by Melissa Turtinen
A Winona shop to help support victims of human sex trafficking opens Sunday.
Set Me Free sells jewelry and other items handmade by women saved from – or who escaped from – the sex trade. The proceeds will go to help the women, who are overseas, get counseling and education, according to the Winona Daily News. It will also give them a sense of pride and teach them job skills, Danielle Rothering, who owns Set Me Free, told the newspaper.
Rothering and her husband, Al, are holding the grand opening of the store in the back of the Awakening Coffeehouse, which they own together, the newspaper says.
Rothering, a former sexual-abuse counselor for the Pentagon, decided to open the store after seeing a poster at a shop in Wisconsin that said 27 million people are enslaved in the human trafficking industry, according to the Associated Press.
In February, she traveled abroad to meet some of the women she was helping and was shocked by what she saw. One victim was an 8-year-old girl who was sold into slavery when she was only 5, the newspaper says.
The FBI says human trafficking is the most common form of modern-day slavery and is the fastest-growing business of organized crime and third-largest criminal enterprise in the world.
The majority of sex trafficking is international, with victims taken from Asia, the former Soviet Union, Central and South America and other less-developed areas. The people, usually women and children, are moved to more developed areas, including Asia, the Middle East, Western Europe and North America, the FBI says.
Sex trafficking also occurs in the United States. The U.S. faces an influx of international victims and has its own homegrown problem of interstate sex trafficking of minors, the FBI says. An estimated 293,000 American youths are at risk of becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation, according to the FBI.
The FBI identified the Twin Cities as one of 13 U.S. cities with a high incidence rate of child prostitution, the Women's Foundation of Minnesota says. A 2010 study found that each month in Minnesota at least 213 girls are sold for sex on average of five times per day through the Internet and escort services, the foundation said.
In 2013, officials in Duluth worked to raise awareness about sex trafficking. Also in 2013, St. Paul officials broke up a family-run sex-trafficking ring that operated for nearly two years. Last year, a state panel recommended a $13 million plan to treat victims of sex trafficking as part of the Safe Harbor Act.
Disturbing New Report Details Hispanic Role In Sex Traffic
by Hope Gillette
Whether people are aware of it or not, sex trafficking is a serious issue in several major U.S cities.
Despite law enforcement efforts and preventative laws, Hispanics are largely affected by this problem.
Data from a new study at the Urban Institute reveals that Hispanics are increasingly populating–and running–underground sex businesses, and though they're not as organized as other ethnicities in the illegal sex trade, the crime rings are growing.
“The Hispanic side is still about the money. There is some organization there, but it's not anything like the Asian organization which is truly organized crime that ranges clear back to China,” said a San Diego Law Enforcement Official in the report.
”It's not by chance that they pay somebody just to come over here, it starts there. They pay whoever they pay and that person is linked up with someone over here, and whoever they get in contact with, that whole chain is linked up together,” he explained.
In some cities, such as in Miami, the underground sex trade is predominantly Hispanic, with most of the women and men from Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, being forced into the underground due to smuggling debts.
Some of these, however, offer no other reasonable options but to sell their bodies to cover personal debts, and are considered to have entered the sex trade through a personal choice. Meanwhile others are sold into it by family members.
At the same time, other Hispanics–men and women–are often operating a number of underground sex businesses, involved in everything from prostitution to child pornography.
Dallas, Texas, for example, has a number of Hispanic-owned and -operated massage parlors that act as a cover for women who voluntarily participate in prostitution.
This practice has become common in Dallas where there's been a huge increase in the number of Hispanic women sold into the sex business.
Most women are sold into the sex trade world by their mothers who feel a need to feed their drug addictions.
But the issue of Hispanics in the underground sex trade goes even further–they are also the primary customers of underground sex rings, especially in cities like Washington, D.C.
Nationwide, 80 percent of clients for Hispanic sex rings are Hispanic men.
The psychology of prostitution
There is little to explore behind the reason for sex trafficking; those who operate such institutions are in it for the money.
There's always a profit to be made where there's a demand for something, and sex has always been a powerful force in humankind.
For clients of underground sex rings, however, it isn't about money.
Often, there's a misconception held by the client that the women involved in such practices are not only there willingly, but enjoy the work they do.
The client isn't aware of the fact that many women in sex rings are coached to always please the client, to fake orgasms and to do whatever it takes to put on a smile on their faces. If they did otherwise, they'd be exposing themselves to being hurt or to having their families targeted.
According to research from the University of Portland, the average male in the United States who visits a prostitute is usually likely to have served in the military, only slightly less likely to be married and white, and only slightly more likely to have a full-time job and be more sexually liberal.
Despite the common assumption that men who pay for sex are looking to dominate or hurt a woman, data suggests this is not the case; most men paying for sex truly believe a prostitute wants or desires sex on a level incomparable to most other women–including wives and significant others.
“While it is noteworthy to recognize that the 1 percent of adult men who paid for sex in 2010 still result in a large number of customers,” said Christine Milrod, a study researcher at the University of Portland.
“There's no credible evidence to support the idea that hiring sex workers is a common or conventional aspect of masculine sexual behavior among men in the United States.”
But what about those women who are in the sex trade by force? Are they seeing the same types of customers as women who voluntarily enter into prostitution?
The answer to these questions is elusive, as few studies have been done evaluating clientele for voluntary and involuntary sex businesses. According to experts from Psychiatric Times, however, the belief that underground sex rings are places of violence and horror is no myth.
“Prostituted women are unrecognized victims of intimate partner violence by pimps and customers,” states the report from Psychiatric Times.
“Pimps and customers use methods of coercion and control like those of other batterers: minimization and denial of physical violence, economic exploitation, social isolation, verbal abuse, threats and intimidation, physical violence, sexual assault, and captivity.”
The systematic violence emphasizes the victim's worthlessness except in her role as prostitute.”
Most women forced into the sex trade are punished if they show any indication of unhappiness.
Experts indicate that even if clients aren't abusive, the pimps and sex traffickers more than make up for it through physical and psychological abuse, all used as a means of control.
Hispanics and sex trafficking
While there is no justification for the number of Hispanics involved in all aspects of sex trafficking, historians indicate prostitution has long been a part of many Hispanic cultures.
Some of the first prostitutes in the United States were Spanish-speaking women from Mexico, and during the early years of the nation, prostitution paid better than most jobs held by men.
For Hispanic women and their families, prostitution was often a way of providing for those they cared about.
In similar fashion, Hispanics today value family above all else, a belief that often forces women to extreme measures to take care of those around them.
Unfortunately, drug addictions and poverty can make a dangerous mix for any ethnicity, and many Hispanic girls are forced into sex slavery as a means to pay for accrued drug debt.