Giving voice to the victims: Abuse survivor speaks out in hopes of helping raise awareness, prevention
by Dalondo Moultrie
When Susan White was just a happy-go-lucky child, playing with friends and having no cares in the world, a man she knew did the unspeakable to her.
“When I was six, I was raped ...,” she said. “That was very difficult. It was very traumatic.”
For more than 25 years, White blocked out the painful memory and didn't tell a soul.
She has since opened up to family members and now, during National Child Abuse Prevention Awareness month, wants to tell her story to the world. She hopes to shed light on what most try to keep in the dark and dispel some myths about child abuse and sexual abuse of children.
“I think it's a problem that people don't acknowledge that this happens. I think too many times kids feel ashamed, embarrassed,” White said recently. “They feel like they can't tell people, and they feel dirty. I want kids to know they didn't do anything wrong, that they shouldn't feel ashamed. The person out there that did this to them should feel ashamed.”
After the man sexually assaulted her, White basically sleep walked through the next several years, she said. Her family members noticed a change in her behavior but had no idea of its cause.
They saw she was moody, acted out, defied authority and exhibited violent tendencies. But she didn't tell them her secret — and buried it deep within her psyche where no one could learn it.
That is, until she was 32 years old and married with children of her own. As she sat in bed one night, memories came crashing back.
“It just suddenly came out of nowhere,” White said.
She remembered moments before the attack hearing her abuser's wife try to dissuade him from raping White. She remembered the man physically assaulting his wife, quieting the woman before he took the 6-year-old in a room.
She remembered her tormentor standing in front of her, and she remembered the things he whispered while he assaulted her, White said.
She remembered the ominous warning he gave her after he finished and sent her out of the room.
“He was very scary,” White said. “He told me when it was over to get dressed and go out. He said in this very mean and menacing voice it would be better for everybody if I didn't tell anybody what happened.”
She kept her mouth closed. However, even in her silence, statistics show, she wasn't alone.
According to a 2003 National Institute of Justice report, 3 out of 4 adolescents who have been sexually assaulted were victimized by someone they knew well.
There are an estimated 39 million adult survivors of child sexual abuse in the United States alone, according to the Children's Assessment Center of Houston's website.
Statistics show that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before the age of 18 in this country.
According to information from the National Center for Victims of Crime, a nationwide organization that advocates for crime victims and those who serve them, 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys are victims of child sexual abuse.
Self-report studies show that 20 percent of adult females and 5 to 10 percent of adult males recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident, according to the center.
A major problem with sexual abuse is society's seeming willingness to sweep instances of it under the rug, said Trendy Sharp, executive director of the Child Advocacy Center of Comal County, which provides counseling services and forensic examinations to children involved in abuse investigations. She said White knowing her attacker is not unusual because 90 percent of offenders know, are close to or are in their victim's family.
“It's not that stranger in a trench coat on the street,” Sharp said. “That statistically isn't what's happening a whole lot.”
She said openly talking about sexual child abuse is a start to eliminating it. Predators use parents' and victims' inability to talk about the issue as a tool to continue abuse, Sharp said.
Then, the negative stigma that being abused sometimes carries in the public eye further helps to silence victims, she said.
So, to help end the silence, White spoke out and encourages others to speak out. She said she understands she did nothing wrong; her attacker is the one who should be ashamed.
After recalling the abuse she suffered, White said she kept it to herself, not even revealing her secret to her family members for years. But no more.
“I had been dealing with it privately,” she said. “I chose not to tell anyone because I wanted to move forward and be done with it.
“I think moving forward and not talking about it is a problem now,” White continued. “I think that people need to know there are people walking around here that they know and love and see every day who have been sexually abused. They may not even know it, but we need to talk about it.”
Sexual assault can be prevented
by Liza Walshe
While I, my sister, brothers and cousins were growing up, we'd stay at our Granny's apartment. Granny was a strong, wee Scotch-Irish woman, with a soft heart for her “wee bairns.” Frequently at night, our Granny would have nightmares of someone “comin' thru tha winda.” In the morning, she would laugh and make a joke of it: Look at how silly she is.
It wasn't until I was long an adult that I found out the truth: Granny had been raped at the age of 12 by a member of the Cheeky Forty gang. She didn't know what sex was at the time and didn't understand what had happened to her. And, so, until the end of her life, it haunted her. Looking back, I see patterns. Granny is just one of the hundreds who live with the scars, illnesses and sorrows caused by sexual assault, domestic violence and abuse.
Out of every 100 women, 50 have experienced intimate-partner violence, 31 have experienced sexual violence, and 57 have experienced both. And that's in Fairbanks, according to the 2011 Alaska Victimization Survey.
That's half the women walking past you right now, as you sit on a bench, ski, take a walk or shop.
We lead the nation, according to the Uniform Crime Report. That's a shaming statistic. More than 90 percent of abusers are people our children know, love and trust (according to Darkness to Light, a child abuse prevention organization), 1 in 33 men have been sexually assaulted (according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network), and 1 in 6 male adults were sexually assaulted as children (according to the CDC).
I am one of eight forensic nurses at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital. We have three full-time and five per diem nurses serving this vast beautiful land and caring for men, women and children who have been victims of crime in Interior Alaska. Last year, we had more than 450 cases.
People ask me: Why do you do this?
One of the reasons is my Granny, who was haunted by an act she didn't understand and that caused her to make life-altering decisions that may not have been the best for her and her family at the most and given her broken sleep nights at the least. Victims suffer from depression, flashbacks, fears and post-traumatic stress disorder. I do it because sexual assault doesn't just affect a male or female victim; sexual assault also affects the family, children, friends and coworkers of the victim.
I hope, with my work, to help people who have been assaulted to start on the path of healing, to go from victim to survivor. There are plenty of people to help our patients to heal from such a brutal, confusing, life-altering act. In Forensic Nursing Services, we work closely with local law enforcement, advocates and other agencies to physically, mentally and emotionally help our patients begin to heal. We do this with compassion, honor and respect for the patient who has the dignity and courage to come forth and face the monster of sexual assault.
There is hope for healing.
Our Granny taught me well.
While you can never completely protect yourself from sexual assault, here are some things you can do to help reduce your risk of being assaulted.
• Be aware of your surroundings. Know where you are and who is around you.
• Walk with purpose. Even if you don't know where you are going, act as if you do.
• Make sure you have your cellphone.
• Avoid putting headphones in both ears.
• Trust your instincts. If you feel unsafe, call 911.
• Watch out for your friends and vice versa.
• If you suspect you or a friend has been drugged, call 911.
• Remember that being in this situation is not your fault. You didn't do anything wrong. It's the person who is making you uncomfortable that is to blame.
• Be true to yourself. “I don't want to” is always a good enough reason. “No” is a complete sentence.
• Have a code word with your friends or family so that if you don't feel comfortable you can call them and have them come to get you or make up an excuse for you to leave.
• Lie. If you don't want to hurt the person's feelings, it is better to lie and make up a reason to leave than to stay and be uncomfortable, scared or worse.
• Think of an escape route.
• If you and/or the other person have been drinking, you can say that you would rather wait until you both have your full judgment before doing anything you may regret later. Alcohol can increase your risk by decreasing inhibitions and causing blackouts, amnesia and unconsciousness.
Liza Walshe is a forensic nurse at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital.
Survivors not classified as victims, but effects devastating, experts say
by DIANE JENNINGS
Angry parents have been killing each other since the beginning of time, and domestic violence has been a public health issue for more than 30 years. But little is known about the effect of family murders on children.
That's because surviving children are not classified as victims, making them hard to find and follow. However, the number of kids affected is significant: A 2007 report, Adult Perspectives on Growing Up Following Uxoricide, estimated more than 4,000 children nationwide had lost a parent to domestic violence annually — more than the number of some childhood cancer cases.
“What I think is most striking is how little institutional attention there is to the matter, how every case is handled on an ad hoc basis,” said one of the researchers, Kathryn Laughon, associate professor of nursing at the University of Virginia.
What little is known is sobering: Children who witness domestic violence often suffer from adjustment problems, struggle in school and are more likely to be violent themselves, extending the damage inflicted on them to others.
When a domestic violence fatality occurs, “People concentrate a lot on the mom,” said Lotteice Greene, who was 8 years old when her mother was slain. “And they forget about the kids. And we're the ones who continue that legacy. ... When do people stop and come in and be proactive and rescue those children?”
Through the years Greene struggled to control her temper and says she shuts down emotionally if someone yells at her. She finds it difficult to open up to people, and she feared becoming a victim.
She also blamed herself for not saving her mother. I have days when I think if I had responded earlier, if I hadn't stopped … or if we had said something beforehand, maybe she wouldn't die,” she said.
Finally, she said she struggles with the hatred she feels for her mother's killer and her deep Christian faith, which tells her to forgive.
Her feelings aren't unusual, experts say, But Greene has one advantage over some survivors: The man who killed her mother was not her blood relative.
“The ones where it was mom's boyfriend, the kids seemed to have much less trouble,” Laughon said.
Similarly, Barbara Parker, retired professor from the University of Virginia, said children seem to recover better in cases where a mother has killed the father after a history of being abused. “That seemed to be a lot easier to live with because it kind of made sense. Because what people try to do is make sense out of this.”
Children related to the killer, however, wonder how one parent they loved could kill another loved one. They also worry about their genetic inheritance and how to relate to the killer.
“They're going to definitely have, ‘Why did he do this to me? Did he not love me enough?'” said Nicole Holmes, a psychologist with Friends of the Family, which provides services to domestic violence victims in Denton. “There's also going to be a lot of struggles of their own self-esteem. … It impacts the child's identity because the child is partly from him.”
Talking about it
Whether the killers commit suicide or go to prison, they're no longer part of the children's daily lives. The decision to maintain a relationship with an incarcerated relative is not necessarily up to the child. In many cases, the child's new family was related to the victim, so arranging visits behind bars reopens wounds.
Grieving relatives also are tempted to talk negatively about the killer or avoid discussing the incident, which can be damaging to children, experts say.
“The kid looks in the mirror, they see a part of their parent within themselves,” Holmes said. “They were raised by this person. So often the sense [is], ‘Am I bad, too?'''
If a child inquires about what happened, “you should definitely talk,” said Ernest Jouriles, co-founder of the Family Research Center at Southern Methodist University.
When caregivers don't respond, “a lot of these kids will invent all sorts of bizarre things because they don't know what's going on,” he said.
Not talking about the crime is traumatic, Parker said. Many adults in her study said the parent's death “was the elephant in the room that we could never talk about.”
Counseling for children and as adults can be helpful, experts agreed. “But it has to be the right kind,” said Jouriles, who is a psychologist. “You need someone who's trained at least in a program that's going to be helpful.”
Parker stressed that traumatized caregivers also need counseling for their own grief as they try to help the child in their care.
Though the road to recovery from a domestic violence slaying is long, it's not impossible to navigate, experts say.
“Just because you witnessed very frequent severe violence or had a parent die, it doesn't automatically guarantee you're going to be doomed,” Jouriles said.
Families voice concerns about child abuse and CPS at forum
by Brittni Smallwood
BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - A public forum was held on Saturday about protecting children from abuse and neglect.
Kevin Retzer and his wife Christine are one of many families that have seen the damage violence and abuse can do to a child. Their great nephew Jay J Bolvin was severely beaten by his father Jeremy. As an infant he had eleven broken bones and still suffers from complications.
“He had suffered permanent brain damage from being shaken so violently. He was having seizures up to 200 a day” said Retzer, Jay J's great uncle.
Retzer said Jay J is 4-years-old now and doing much better. However they recently got some tough news.
They learned Jay J's father, who was sentenced to serve up to four years behind bars in 2011, will be released soon.
“His father is going to be released on Monday after serving a little more than two and a half years for good behavior. My nephew has a life sentence. He does not get off for good behavior” said Retzer, Jay J's great aunt.
The Retzer's shared their story on Saturday at a public forum held by Senator Tim Kennedy and Assemblywoman Chrystal Peoples-Stokes.
One by one people explained how they've been affected by Child Protective Services and what they'd like to see it improved.
Both lawmakers plan to use the information from the meeting to help shape future legislation for reform.
“We're taking proactive steps with our legislation in order to make the system set up to protect our children better and safer for those children and make it more efficient and effective” said State Senator Tim Kennedy (D).
“Hopefully the revisions, amendments and/or new legislation that we create here will be helpful across the state to make it better for the children” said Assemblywoman Chrystal Peoples-Stokes (D).
Linking claims may help stem child abuse
by LIZ MULLINAR
WE are never going to make the slightest impact on the horrific child sexual abuse figures unless we develop a new approach to the whole problem on a number of fronts.
One area of improvement is a better system of reporting and using information of suspicion of abuse.
There has been righteous outrage that it took so long for justice to be served on the former TV actor Robert Hughes. Why it took so long to charge him if so many people knew that he was abusing. Two children went to police about him many years ago but this still was not enough for immediate action.
We must not just focus on whether background checks are tough enough or regulations on employers are strict enough. They are strict and largely irrelevant in terms of making continued improvements to child safety.
The Hughes case is not that unusual. Every day in Australia, a concerned parent or adult will go to police with the certain knowledge that abuse has happened. Without sufficient evidence to satisfy the requirements of the law, the perpetrator is unable to be charged. Nothing can happen; no warning or recognition that this person may be a danger to children can be registered.
The presumption of innocence and safeguards to protect people from being falsely accused are important tenets of our legal system. However, not having sufficient evidence to satisfy a court of law is very different from the parent, friend or worker knowing abuse has happened and the child being severely impacted.
There needs to be a way that some warning can be registered so that the evidence from bystanders or people the child has confided in, even if this would not stand up in a court of law, is noted. If another child goes to the police the accounts can be married. Such a system would help police and victims.
Another issue highlighted in the Hughes case is that victims or their families are frightened or unwilling to come forward. The reluctance of others or victims to come forward is partly because of another lesson from the Hughes case: perpetrators are usually lovely, attractive, warm people that are known and trusted by family. Abuse largely occurs in the home or trusted surroundings.
I have taken young people to police and watched them become unwilling to repeat what they have told one of my staff or me. They are too scared of the outcome or the impact on their family. Without those statements to police, nothing can be done to save the child or other children from ongoing harm.
You can understand a child, who has already suffered enough, not wanting to take that final step.
This evidence or information cannot be disregarded just because a child is not prepared to speak.
It is not right that such a tiny percentage of perpetrators are brought to trial, it does not make this country safe. I am not arguing for anyone to be able to accuse falsely. It is increasingly apparent that the law is too kind to perpetrators and too hard on the victims.
If five people from different parts of Australia reported the same person had sexually abused them, there is no national database it can be entered on so as to see the repetitive offending.
Regulations don't stop paedophiles. Systems that link reports of suspicious activity and greater support for victims to come forward will have far more impact.
Liz Mullinar is a survivor of abuse and founder of Heal For Life Foundation, a Hunter-based centre for survivors of childhood abuse and trauma. She was also the casting agent for the Hey Dad! series in which Hughes starred.
New program to help Wisconsin victims of child sex trafficking
by Ashley Luthern
Child sex-trafficking cases are among the most traumatic to come before the court system.
The suspects often are accused of kidnapping or otherwise luring teens, often girls, with promises of love or money and then forcing them into prostitution.
Nude or seminude photos of the teens often are posted in online advertisements. The teens are sexually assaulted, sometimes beaten, sometimes drugged. They are forced to hand over their earnings. And the cycle continues until they can escape or law enforcement finds them.
Charges could be filed if a suspect is caught, and prison time becomes a possibility.
But what happens to the teen? In Wisconsin, there has been no comprehensive service for those young women. Not only do victims have mental and physical health needs, they also need a safe place to live that's outside the reach of traffickers.
Seeing a need, Lad Lake, an organization that serves at-risk youths, and the state Department of Children and Families have teamed up to create the first specialized residential program in Wisconsin for girls who have been victims of sex trafficking. Five girls between the ages of 13 and 16 are enrolled in the one-year program.
The length and comprehensive nature of the program has drawn praise from advocates who work with victims and survivors of sex trafficking.
"Lad Lake offers a longer period of time instead of a revolving door," said Rachel Monaco-Wilcox, chairwoman of the Mount Mary University justice department and coordinator of a legal clinic for trafficking survivors. "It's comprehensive and takes them away from old patterns and practices, and there is completely a need for that."
Claudine O'Leary agreed. As the founder of Milwaukee-based Rethink Resources, an organization dedicated to victim advocacy and education about human trafficking and sex trafficking, O'Leary has trained Lad Lake staff and leads several programs for teens at Lad Lake.
"I have to say that when it was announced that Lad Lake was starting this program, not only was there excitement during all these different meetings with stakeholders, there was actually relief," O'Leary said. "It was the sense of 'Finally, we need this so much.'"
A growing problem
Although comprehensive data about child sex trafficking can be elusive, a study by the Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission released last year found that 77 youths, mostly girls, were sexually exploited in Milwaukee during a two-year period.
The study was admittedly limited and likely an underestimate of the scope of child sex trafficking; it took information only from Milwaukee police reports and excluded any ongoing state or federal court cases. But it was the first time data was collected about youths involved in sex trafficking in Milwaukee.
"We don't really know the scope and scale of this, but we get a sense there's an significant issue here," Lad Lake chief executive Dan Magnuson said.
Program participants were referred to Lad Lake by the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare. Lad Lake has received referrals from counties throughout the state but has capacity for only seven participants, he said.
The state Department of Children and Families, which operates child welfare services in Milwaukee, recognized the growing need for resources for young women who have been trafficked, spokesman Joe Scialfa said.
"We are hopeful that the Lad Lake program can serve as a model for what can be done when the department, the Legislature, the community and our partners work together to come up with a solution to this terrible problem, and we will continue to evaluate this program's effectiveness moving forward," Scialfa said.
The department is providing funding, estimated at $125,000 for each individual who completes the program, he said.
Lad Lake has estimated an operating budget for the program of $480,000, and any expansion of the program would require a public-private partnership, Magnuson said.
Lad Lake, which operates facilities in Milwaukee and Waukesha counties, works with 1,500 children a year and provides treatment options ranging from alternative schools to residential facilities to in-home therapy.
Lad Lake officials declined to allow the girls in the new program to be interviewed by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and asked that the newspaper not identify the exact location of the program, citing security concerns.
The Lad Lake program is based on similar programs in New York City, Portland and Seattle, and uses a three-phase model of recognizing trauma, rebuilding an individual's sense of self and reconnecting a person with her community.
The young women in the program live and attend school at a Lad Lake facility and have intensive therapy as individuals, in groups and with their families.
"Sometimes I think when people talk about youth who have been trafficked, automatically it's assumed the families are out of the picture," O'Leary said. "But these are parents who have been struggling and looking for assistance. They are so happy to participate in a program, and that's who (the teens) are going home to."
One key treatment is art therapy, which can help the young women discuss their experiences without speaking directly about a sensitive topic, said Erin Bostelmann, a therapist at Lad Lake.
"With art therapy, you can talk about a piece of art that might be metaphorically all about you, but you're talking about the art so it can provide that distance," Bostelmann said. "Typically trauma is not something that heals quickly."
Despite the trauma, the girls still have goals and aspirations, she said.
"They have dreams and a lot of the girls, and kids in general, just value somebody who has information about how they can achieve that dream," Bostelmann said. "They value that listening ear."
Starbright offering sex trafficking workshop
Starbright Foundation will host a sex trafficking awareness and training event on April 23 in Gilbert.
There will be a panel of experts to educate the public on identifying trafficking victims, how predators are getting to children, what resources are available and what is needed to combat this issue. The panel includes officers and members of sex trafficking task forces that specialize on issues of sex trafficking.
The event will be at Christ's Greenfield Church, located at 425 S Greenfield Rd, Gilbert, from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. For more information, contact Lori Regnier at (480) 228-8888 or email email@example.com
Body found on highway identified as missing Fitchburg boy
Fitchburg boy had vanished in September
by Evan Allen and Jeremy C. Fox
FITCHBURG — The body of a child found Friday off Interstate 190 in Sterling has been positively identified as Jeremiah Oliver, the Fitchburg preschooler who vanished last year while his family was being monitored by the state's child-protection agency.
“I don't feel relief,” Jeremiah's father, Jose Oliver, said in a telephone interview. “I'm disappointed.”
Jose Oliver, who lives in New Britain, Conn., said he had been told by authorities that the body was his son's just minutes before the announcement was made publicly Saturday afternoon.
The body was found in a grassy area off the southbound side of the highway south of Exit 6. In a brief statement Saturday afternoon, Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. said the body had been identified, but the autopsy report is not complete and no further information would be released at this time.
At a news conference Friday, Early said the body was discovered wrapped in cloth inside what could be either a suitcase or a duffel bag, and said the death “appeared to be a homicide.” A spokesman declined to answer questions Saturday.
Jeremiah was 4 when he was last seen by a relative in September. He is alleged to have been the victim of violence involving his mother, Elsa Oliver, 28, and her boyfriend, Alberto Sierra Jr., 23, both of whom have refused to say anything about his whereabouts since their December arrest on assault and child endangerment charges.
James Gavin Reardon Jr., who represents Elsa Oliver, said the district attorney had not spoken to him about additional charges his client might face.
“Obviously, we know there's a tragic death, but the circumstances and the responsibility for it are open questions,” said Reardon. “So far as I know, there is still no evidence that my client is responsible for the death, and that's certainly one of the issues that will be addressed in the court proceedings.”
Questions about Elsa Oliver's mental state have swirled throughout the case, though on Jan. 24 she was declared competent to stand trial after an examination and sent to MCI Framingham. Reardon said Saturday that on April 2, prison officials transferred her to a mental health facility. Reardon said he did not know what sparked it and he declined to say where she was being held.
“I still strongly believe that Ms. Oliver is not competent to process the magnitude of what's happened, and understand the procedure which is occurring in the legal system,” he said. “And obviously, I'm concerned that the prison transferred her to a mental health facility.”
He said he had not spoken to his client after the district attorney confirmed that the body was her son's.
The attorney for Alberto Sierra Jr. did not respond to messages seeking comment.
As word of Jeremiah's death spread through his Fitchburg neighborhood, community members, many of them families with young children, began making the pilgrimage to Kimball Street, where the little boy lived, to light candles and leave stuffed bears and balloons in a growing makeshift memorial.
“He was the same age as my grandchildren, so it hits home big time,” said Lori Lavoie, 45, of Fitchburg. She knew the Oliver family casually because her father had managed a package store where Jose Oliver was a customer, and she had met Jeremiah when he was a baby.
The identification of the body provided resolution, and some relief, she said, “but it should never have happened to Jeremiah. He was a sweet boy.”
As night fell and the crowd grew to near 100, the Rev. Stephen D. Mayo, pastor of the Elm Street Community Church, and the Rev. Thomas Hughes, pastor of New Creation Community Church, led brief prayers. Hughes called on those present to treat their own children with patience, never violence, and to support Jeremiah's family.
“We don't have to look anymore,” Hughes said. “The hunt is over. Our Jeremiah is home.”
Though the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families had been monitoring Jeremiah's family for two years after allegations of neglect, officials did not realize he was missing until December, when his 7-year-old sister told school staff that she and her 9-year-old brother had been physically abused at home and that she had not seen Jeremiah in a long time. The last time she saw him, she said, he was bleeding from his hand and their mother was afraid he would die from the wound.
An investigation into the boy's disappearance found that the assigned social worker had skipped mandatory monthly visits since last April. The worker and two supervisors were fired, and the case has sparked investigations into systemic problems within the agency.
“It's a terrible tragedy what happened with Jeremiah Oliver, and we as a government can't allow an agency to let that happen on their watch,” said Representative David P. Linsky, who chairs the House Committee on Post Audit and Oversight, which is investigating DCF.
“The entire executive branch will have new personnel next January. The question that should be asked is, who can lead DCF for the next eight months?” he said. “That's not a legislative function, that's a function of the governor.”
DCF Commissioner Olga Roche, who has been at the center of much of the controversy surrounding her agency's handling of the Oliver case, said in a statement Saturday that DCF is focused on caring for Jeremiah's siblings. “We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Jeremiah Oliver,” said Roche. “The Department is grateful for the dedication of the District Attorney and law enforcement partners leading this investigation and will continue to assist in any way we can.”
Governor Deval Patrick also lamented Jeremiah's death.
“I am so grateful to the State Police and others in law enforcement for their tenacity in finding Jeremiah, and so sad that he was not found alive,” Patrick said Saturday. “We now look to the District Attorney to prosecute this crime to the fullest extent of the law.”
Reardon said murder charges against his client were “within the realm of possibility,” but he could not speculate.
HSI Cyber Crimes Center's victim identification efforts featured in Bloomberg Business Week
WASHINGTON — The latest work being done by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to identify child victims of sexual exploitation was highlighted as part of a recent article by Bloomberg Business Week on the various global law enforcement agencies, non-profits and technology companies working to combat the spread of online child pornography.
The story features a case referred to the HSI Cyber Crimes Center (C3) by Danish police in September 2012, which uncovered child abuse images on the Darknet's The Onion Router, or Tor, that were believed to have originated in the United States. C3's Child Exploitation Investigation Unit used the latest technology and software tools to find and analyze clues in the images: a blurred-out prescription bottle with partial name and prescription information, the interior car which helped determine make and model and a photo with a close-up of the suspect's hand that yielded partial fingerprints. The clues led to the identification of 15 victimized children and to the perpetrator, Stephen A. Keating, of Jesup, Ga., who was apprehended by HSI Savannah last summer and sentenced to 110 years and ordered to pay $1.2 million in restitution to his victims.
Read the online story on Bloomberg or Business Week.
Autopsy to ID Dead Boy; Body Cast Off Side of Road
WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) — All Massachusetts authorities could say for sure is that they found the lifeless body of a small boy, apparently cast off the side of a highway.
An autopsy should reveal if the child is Jeremiah Oliver, the Fitchburg 5-year-old missing for months before police learned of his disappearance and began looking for him. Jeremiah's case has led to criminal charges against his mother and her boyfriend and calls for changes within the state's child welfare agency. Three state workers have been fired.
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‘‘What we know right now is that a young child has died, and that his body has been disposed of in a heartless way,'' Gov. Deval Patrick said in a statement Friday. ‘‘As we await news about the child's identity, as Governor and as a parent, I feel a deep sadness.''
The body found off a highway in central Massachusetts matched Jeremiah's height and weight, authorities said. Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early Jr. said authorities can't make a positive identification until the state medical examiner conducts an autopsy.
‘‘It appears to be a homicide,'' the prosecutor said at a news conference.
Jeremiah was last seen by relatives in September but wasn't reported missing until December. Authorities have said they feared he was dead.
Early said the body was found at about 9 a.m. Friday by a police search team about 40 feet off Interstate 190 near Sterling, which is about 12 miles from Fitchburg. He said it was wrapped in blanket-like material, and packed in material that resembled a suitcase.
He would not say what led authorities to the location, or how long the body may have been there. He said the site is near an area that is regularly mowed on the side of the highway but would not have been visible to passing cars.
Jeremiah's mother, Elsa Oliver, 28, pleaded not guilty in March to charges including kidnapping, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and reckless endangerment. Her boyfriend, Alberto Sierra, 23, pleaded not guilty to similar charges.
The family was being monitored by state social workers since 2011. And after Jeremiah's disappearance, their case led to intense scrutiny of the state Department of Children and families.
Three employees of the agency — a social worker, a supervisor and an area manager — were fired after an internal investigation. Officials said the social worker had not made required monthly visits to the family.
The governor asked the Child Welfare League of America to review DCF but resisted calls from some lawmakers to fire Olga Roche, the agency's commissioner.
In an initial report filed by the league last month, it recommended that Massachusetts take a number of steps to shore up its child welfare system, including boosting staffing levels to reduce social worker caseload.
A separate report from the state's Child Advocate, Gail Garinger, suggested that state social workers missed nearly one in five home visits during a recent 12-month period, though state officials said the figure was likely overstated.
Roche assured state legislators in January that DCF had accounted for the safety of all other young children in its care.
Oliver and Sierra, who were indicted by a Worcester County grand jury, are both being held on bail — $100,000 for Oliver and $250,000 for Sierra.
Three other people have been charged with interfering with a criminal investigation and misleading police in connection with the case.
Child Sex Abuse Survivors Speak Out: "I'm Ready to Say It: I Was Abused"
When 28-year-old Dylan Farrow wrote an angry open letter in The New York Times accusing her adoptive father, Woody Allen, of sexually molesting her at age seven, America exploded with opinions. Many readers believed her every word, their opinions of Allen forever tarnished; others suspected that her mother, actress Mia Farrow, had put Dylan up to it—or even that Dylan was flat-out lying. But whatever you think of the case itself (no charges were filed against Allen when the allegation was investigated more than 20 years ago, and he continues to deny any guilt), Dylan's passionate public words ignited a conversation about child sex abuse—and sparked all kinds of personal memories for survivors. Listen in as three of them tell you their heroic tales of healing, moving on, getting justice...and finding peace.
Confronted My Abuser—and Then I Forgave Him
I grew up in a small city in Missouri, and my parents were so normal—Dad was a teacher, Mom a secretary. But I always knew we were different from other families. My father sat me on his lap to open his Playboy and Penthouse magazines and walked around in front of me naked.
At first, when he'd come into my bedroom after I was asleep—I'd smell the alcohol on his breath—he'd lie on me and put his fingers inside me. At some point between when I was seven and 10 (that's how much I blocked it out), it was his penis.
I can't remember how many times my father raped me. I turned to food, but I also immersed myself in schoolwork—all the way through medical school. And I became an emergency room physician because being the calm person in the middle of chaos felt so familiar to me.
I was getting a facial three years ago when the aesthetician put a warm washcloth over my face—the same way my father used to smother me with a teddy bear. ("Just lie quietly," he'd say before raping me.) I jumped up, paid, and ran to my car. I was crying so hard I couldn't drive. I sat there in solitude and started yelling what I had not yelled when I was nine: "Help me! Help me! Help me! "
That year I talked to a psychiatrist about whether I should report my father. He wasn't around kids anymore; he was 65. We decided we'd think about it for a week and then make a decision.
Almost exactly a week later, my father was hit by a car. I flew to Kansas City, Missouri, and walked into his intensive care room. I asked to be alone with him. There, bending over his face, I told him that I remembered everything and that for him to do something that terrible to me, something terrible must have happened to him. I told him I wished somebody had loved him when he was little.
And then I told him I forgave him.
Minutes later, he stopped breathing. I know that my father was waiting for those words from me.
—Jennifer Hanes, 39, an emergency room physician and mother of two in Austin, Texas
I'm Still Getting Stronger Every Day
My stepfather, an Air Force sergeant, pled guilty to indecent acts with a minor, including touching and kissing my private parts and making me touch his. He went to prison for three years, but he still didn't get it. He wrote me letters from prison about the music he was listening to and how he was working out—as if he'd done nothing wrong! Yes, he was punished, but it was not enough compensation for my suffering or truthfulness.
I'd finally told a counselor about the abuse when I was almost 13, after trying to commit suicide. And even after he was sentenced, I continued to struggle—dropping out of school at one point, cutting boys' names into my arms, feeling like a toy to them with no self-worth, running away. Then I had a son at 19, and that kicked everything into full gear for me. I eventually accepted what I can't change and decided to help other victims. I went to college. I juggled three part-time jobs. I am now a buyer for an aviation company—and every day a stronger person.
—Trisha Fielding, 34, a retail buyer for an aviation company and a mother of one in Titusville, Florida
I Worked With Cops to Convict My Rapist
It was two years ago that I made the "cold call." As I stood there with two detectives, I dialed my abuser's number, ready to lure him into a friendly chat about our "relationship." The cops had tapped his line. I wanted evidence.
I'd met this man—my friend's dad—10 years earlier. At 13 I wanted to be an artist, and he was an incredible painter. Extremely cunning, he saw from the get-go that I was naive and vulnerable, devoutly Christian, and unhappy at home. "I know what you're going through," he'd say. "Your parents don't understand you." I started coming over once a week. I'd sit on his couch; he'd scoot closer to me, grab my hand. "You're beautiful," he said one day. Then he kissed me. I was 13. It was my first kiss. Within a couple of months, he was forcing me to perform oral sex on him. I felt very confused. I didn't realize I was being worked over by a master manipulator. When I was 14, he started raping me, keeping me around with threats, saying things like "If God brought us together, who are you to rip us apart?"
But I started to see through him, and by the time I was a sophomore in college, he was out my life. Physically, at least. When I fell into the most severe depression imaginable, I knew I needed to tell the police.
The case took a while, but he pled guilty to sexual abuse of a minor and will serve jail time. I'll never forget how nauseated I felt during that cold call, pretending to have even the slightest bit of affection for this guy. I made myself talk sweetly, but the whole time I was so angry, I kept giving the phone the finger! After I hung up, one of the detectives said, "I almost started laughing when you did that. I'm so proud of you."
—Liz Rattan, 25, a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania
Counselor responds to study linking child abuse to excessive drinking
by Brett Luster
ALTON — A WellSpring Resources director responded to a study indicating people who were abused as children are more likely to drink alcohol saying there is hope for those at risk via therapy.
WellSpring is a mental wellness resource based at 2615 Edwards St. in Alton, and serves four counties in the Metro St. Louis area.
According to a study published earlier this year in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, college students with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) drink more alcohol than their peers.
In addition to problems normally associated with alcohol abuse, the students' heavier drinking also exacerbates their PTSD symptoms, the study found.
WellSpring Resources Director of Counseling Services Erin Bickle confirmed the study based on her research, saying that some people who were abused during childhood sometimes turn to drinking to mask the pain.
But there is help Bickle said, through cognitive behavioral therapy which WellSpring offers.
Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on examining the relationships between thoughts, feelings and behaviors.
“By exploring patterns of thinking that lead to self-destructive actions and the beliefs that direct these thoughts, people with mental illness can modify their patterns of thinking to improve coping,” Bickle said.
According to Bickle, offering people a chance to tell their stories is big and WellSpring provides therapy in either an individual or group setting.
Ulitmately she said there is hope for people who have been abused and have a propensity toward alcoholism.
“WellSpring Resources has a staff of trained professionals who work with consumers to personalize therapy based on each individual's needs and goals. Getting past childhood abuse can be difficult, but with professional assistance, it can make a real difference in people's lives,” she said.
You can view testimonials from people who have had success through treatment at WellSpring Resources at www.wellspringresources.co/resources/success-stories
Black Men Who Were Sexually Abused as Kids, and Why Some Didn't Know It
Keeping Black Men Healthy: Most of these celebrities were riddled with fear and shame, while some responded to the reality of their abuse with resistance or humor.
by Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele
hat is especially sinister about child molesters is that they often take advantage of a child's ignorance about sex to perpetuate the assault.
When Oprah Winfrey spoke to admitted child abusers and their therapists about the tactics and strategies they used to groom their victims, one of the most disturbing revelations was when the predators described how they could manipulate the assault so that it felt good for the victim.
“That confuses the child into blaming themselves when it's never the victim's fault,” Oprah said during the interview. Oprah was the victim of a rape at age 9, and molestation from age 9 to 14.
There are several instances in which famous African-American men—only after having spoken about their early sexual encounters (often with women who were much, much older than they were)—realized or, more often than not, were told that they might have been victims of sexual abuse.
In part 3 of The Root series Keeping Black Men Healthy (read parts 1 and 2), we look at celebrities who shared these personal stories of child abuse, with a particular emphasis on the aforementioned kind of abuse: men who either did not understand or did not completely agree that they were, in fact, sexually assaulted as children. The stories of R&B star Chris Brown and New York City radio and TV personality Charlamagne Tha God come to mind.
Their experiences shed light on the role that race and gender can play with regard to sexual predation, and how young black men are not often raised to think of themselves as capable of being victims of sexual activity. In fact, some black boys perceive most sexual activity as “a source of pride—or a rite of passage—instead of abuse.”
R. Kelly's experience sits on the side of the spectrum that suggests he had a healthy awareness of the foul play taking place during his assault. In his 2012 autobiography, Soulacoaster: The Diary of Me , the R&B icon describes how he grew up in a house full of women who walked around half-naked, and that one woman in particular would have a young Robert take pictures of her and her partner having sex.
Another woman began to sexually abuse Kelly when he was 10 years old and did so for several years. The silver lining to this—however faint—is that Kelly described how he felt ashamed about the molestation, which is a normal reaction for a young child who was forced into such horrid acts. It suggests that he immediately knew something was awry.
Robert would go on to gain notoriety for an infatuation with dating underaged females and was accused of child pornography, which is evidence, perhaps, of how these sorts of things are cyclical and perpetuate themselves from victim to abuser and back again.
When Brown told The Guardian that he lost his virginity at age 8 to a 14- or 15-year-old girl, it sent commentators into a frenzy. The Root' s Keli Goff argued that a lot of his issues as an adult likely stemmed from that traumatic incident, especially since the trauma went undiagnosed: Brown attributed the incident to normal activities that typically occur in the country.
The Root columnist Jozen Cummings http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2013/10/chris_brown_and_virginity_what_we_can_learn.html weighed in from a man's perspective, explaining that as shocking as it may be for some people to believe, 8-year-old boys think about sex, and some of them are already having it—consensually. While the incident may have been characterized as “rape” from a legal standpoint (because both Brown and the girl were under the age of 18), Cummings suggests that the charged language we use to label these sorts of incidents doesn't translate the same in certain parts of the country where this behavior is the norm. It's probably why Brown was allegedly grinning and chuckling during the interview when he told this story, and why he might react to the opinion (or fact?) that he was raped with skepticism and denial.
The CNN anchor spoke about being sexually abused as a child in his 2011 memoir Transparent but first spoke about it during a televised interview with a group of young men who accused Atlanta mega-church pastor Eddie Long of sexually abusing them.
During the interview, Lemon was well-versed on the issue and wanted to communicate the fact that child abusers don't fit a certain profile—they come in all shapes and sizes.
In early 2013, shock-jock radio personality Charlamagne Tha God tweeted about how he received fellatio from a 20-something-year-old female when he was just 8 years old.
His suggestion that he may have some unprocessed thoughts and feelings to work through as a result of that happening is duly noted. However, every now and then the radio emcee references this incident in a humorous manner during his radio program, seemingly brushing it off or downplaying its relevance in his life.
In a candid interview with The Root in 2012, the R&B singer described the sexual abuse he was subjected to, beginning at the age of 6, and explained why it took him nearly 12 years to tell anyone about it: “There was a feeling of powerlessness. In my case, it was violent and there was bullying attached to it. It created the fear of ‘Don't tell anybody, or I'll really hurt you.' It was an ongoing thing, and it happened in church, often.”
Patterson profoundly summarizes how early abuse and sexuality are irrevocably linked because those experiences thrust young children into an introduction to sex that they didn't get “to discover on their own.”
Who can forget Perry's appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, when he spoke about the sexual abuse he endured as a child by four different adults, including a friend's mother, and the ongoing physical abuse he received from his father and grandmother.
Perry described how the molestation, particularly by the adult men, left him confused sexually:
How could it not? I knew I liked the little girls in the neighborhood, but this man was doing something to me and my body kept betraying me. It took me all of my 20s to figure out what this was that this man had given me to carry inside of my heterosexuality that did not belong to me. This is why so many men will not talk about this—the shame of having to admit that. And there is no textbook definition for what molestation does to someone. Each individual is different.
Archdiocese task force designed to fall short
by Ruben Rosario
Many well-intentioned reports urging change are only as good as their implementation.
Which gives me an opening here to address the findings released this week by the seven-member Safe Environment and Ministerial Standards task force. The panel was assigned to look into how the local archdiocese mishandled clergy child abuse and misconduct cases in recent years and to recommend changes.
Not surprisingly, the task force found "serious shortcomings" in the way the archdiocese handled the cases of one priest found with adult pornography in his possession and another priest arrested, convicted and serving time for abusing minors while a pastor in a parish on St. Paul's East Side.
Conducting criminal background checks on priests every six years, creating an anonymous abuse complaint hotline, making the Delegate for a Safe Environment a mandated reporter and having all misconduct allegations reviewed by the archdiocese's Clergy Review Board were among its recommendations.
But what the task force did not dohas drawn criticism for the report. A clergy victims group, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the report failed to name names or to assign blame to those who "ignored, hid, minimized or enabled heinous crimes against children."
Jennifer Haselberger, the former chancellor for canonical affairs whose public disclosures last fall through Minnesota Public Radio of mismanagement shed light on the cases and led to formation of the task force, was not impressed with the findings.
"I am puzzled that the task force concluded that there were not appropriate mechanisms in place to (bring to the) surface failures with the policies and procedures," Haselberger, who resigned in protest in spring 2013, told me. "I assure you that we were very well aware of the failures, and that I wrote countless memos on the subject, and that the decision to proceed in the same manner was a deliberate one."
On advice of her attorney, Haselberger turned down a request to meet with the task force.
Yet "I did provide them with information," she added in an email. "Specifically, I informed them that all necessary information was available from the archdiocese in the countless memos I had prepared over the course of nearly five years, which described in great detail the concerns I had regarding the archdiocese's handling of clergy misconduct.
"According to the report's appendix of materials reviewed by the Task Force, my memos and other internal communications were either not sought or not produced."
'DON'T CALL THE CHURCH. CALL 911'
The truth is that the task force members did not review Haselberger's memos. This panel was created with the sole mission of looking into flawed policies and making recommendations. It was not a grand jury seeking to indict someone or assign blame. How could it be? It was commissioned by the archdiocese itself.
The panel also was handicapped by its members' inability to interview two other key church officials heavily involved in the decisions that led to the mishandling of the cases. One is former vicar general Kevin McDonough, who lawyered up soon after the public disclosures, and his successor, the Rev. Peter Laird, who resigned in October in the midst of the news reports.
The manner by which Laird was not made available to the task force may suggest that an entrenched culture in church leadership may be hard to change.
The task force was informed by a church official that Laird was on leave and they could not locate him. Yet, the panel later learned that Laird sent a letter to the archbishop and expressed a willingness to meet with the panel. But the panel had concluded its probe by then.
Not all seven members bought the explanation of why Laird was not made available to them in a timely manner.
In its report, the task force expressed disappointment that "the archdiocese was not more transparent with respect to the situation with Father Laird. The Task Force sees this failure to communicate and lack of urgency as an example of the kind of issue that the Archdiocese needs to address to change its culture."
In fairness, the task force's job was to simply look at what went wrong and to create an environment that would prevent it in the future.
It was not there to present heads on a silver platter. Perhaps another entity will be assigned that task. The recommendation of bringing in more lay people to monitor handling of cases and conducting regular performance audits are ways to ensure that no one individual can decide a case and also eliminates that "thin black line" of clericalism.
It also noted that "the Office for the Protection of Children and Youth needs to ensure that all parish websites emphasize that concerns and suspicions of clergy sex abuse of minors should be reported to law enforcement."
Or, to quote a former parish pastor of mine during a homily more than 15 years ago: If you suspect a child has been abused, don't call the Church. Call 911."
That is still the best recommendation of all.
Ruben Rosario can be reached at 651-228-5454 or rrosario@ pioneerpress.com . Follow him at twitter.com/nycrican
Helping Victims of Child Sexual Abuse
by Tiffany Liou
MOLINE, IL – The statistics are shocking. One in six boys will be sexually assaulted before they turn 18. For girls, it's one in four.
Nicole Cisne Durbin of Family Resources says most of the time, it's done by someone the child knows and trusts. "Unfortunately, the majority of the time, the victim or survivor knows their perpetrators. Especially in the case with kids, it's someone they know and usually love and trust and that's why it's really under-reported because they're being manipulated by adults."
Family Resources, a group that works with abused children and families, says the problem is a lack of education. For every assault reported, eight go unreported.
Cisne Durbin says, "Leaving your children in the care of a sexual offender is a very dangerous thing to do. That's common sense to a lot of us, but it may not be to some people who just don't know any better."
In some cases, the spouse may also be a victim, or have grown up being sexually abused. Cisne Durbin says, "Kids are resilient, so when they have specialized services, it's easier for them to head down a path of recovery and be resilient to something as awful as a traumatic event like child sexual abuse."
If a child does come forward, Cisne Durbin says it's important to listen. "The number one factor in their recovery and healing from that trauma is an adult believing them." She says to tell them they are not alone, it's not their fault, and get them help immediately.
Colorado makes child abuse data website public
by Christopher N. Osher
Colorado has created a website that provides the public with child-protection and child-abuse data for each county, making the state one of four in the nation to make such information accessible to the public.
The creation of the website is one part of a series of reforms in Colorado after news reports on problems with the state's child-protection system by The Denver Post and 9News.
"At the end of the day, the goal is to be transparent with the public and to keep our families safe and healthy," said Julie Krow, the director of the Office of Youth and Families in the Colorado Department of Human Services. "This is something we can't do alone. We need our community to help us."
California, Arizona and Iowa are the other states with similar websites available to the public.
Colorado's website, cdhsdatamatters.org, provides county-level data on child-abuse referrals, instances of child abuse and how many children are reunified with their families after being placed in foster care. Other tracked information includes instances when children are removed from troubled families, caseworker visitation rates, child fatalities, types of maltreatment, and timeliness of responses to allegations of abuse.
"This is a strong effort to increase transparency," Krow said.
The website, which the state created in partnership with the University of Kansas, required an initial investment of about $390,000, Krow said. Ongoing maintenance costs are minimal, she said.
The website allows comparisons that show how a county is performing in contrast to the rest of the state or to another county. Information also can be sorted by age, gender and race, and by the state's judicial districts.
Krow said county child- protection officials can use the data to see how they are doing compared with their peers in the state. If those officials see one county excelling in certain areas, they can reach out to the other county to find out how to make improvements, she said.
Already, before the data became public, the state has been reviewing it to make improvements, Krow said. She said that over the past year, the state sought to improve response times for reviewing and investigating child-abuse allegations. The counties now meet time standards nearly 90 percent of the time — up from 50 percent, she said.
The website drew praise from Stephanie Villafuerte, the executive director of the Rocky Mountain Children's Law Center, an advocacy organization.
"Now we can talk about the facts," she said. "We can talk about the numbers and statistics and talk about all that as opposed to just talking about anecdotes. I think that this is a brand-new day."
Colorado officials launched the website the same month they announced they had spent nearly $1 million to arm child-protection workers with new laptops, smartphones and computer tablets to help them become more efficient. The state also plans to have a new child-abuse hotline up and running by January. Efforts also are underway to overhaul the system for training child-protection workers and mandatory child-abuse reporters.
The investigative reports by The Post and 9News in 2012 found caseworkers often made mistakes in their paperwork or when doing safety assessments and safety plans for at-risk families. In more than half of the child-abuse deaths reviewed during a six-year period, caseworkers did not follow state policy regarding how to investigate abuse and neglect allegations, according to an analysis of state child-fatality reviews done by the news organizations.
'Parental Substance Abuse: Its Impact on Children' to be held on April 23
by The Messenger-Gazette
The Somerset County Commission on Child Abuse & Missing Children (CCAMC) will hold its annual spring forum for professionals who serve children and families on Wednesday, April 23.
“The Commission provides educational programs on child abuse and is a key player in the development of community-based collaborations,” said Freeholder Director Patrick Scaglione, who will be a featured speaker at the event. “The speakers at this year's forum will address the negative effects of parental substance abuse, as well as the positive effects from parental recovery.”
The forum, titled “Parental Substance Abuse: Its Impact on Children,” will be held from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Somerville Lodge 1068, B.P.O. Elks, located at 375 Union Avenue.
The conference fee is $25. Registration and breakfast will be available at 8:30 a.m. Checks should be made payable to Friends of Somerset County Youth. To register, contact Andrea Clegg, Office of Youth Services, at (908) 704-6333 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Speakers will include Freeholder Director Scaglione and retired Judge Thomas H. Dilts. Presenters from Richard Hall Community Health Center, the New Jersey Department of Child Protection and Permanency, Princeton House Behavioral Health Center, and Catholic Charities will discuss parental substance abuse and its effect on children.
Sponsored by the Somerset County Commission on Child Abuse and Missing Children and Friends of Somerset County Youth, the annual spring forum is held during Child Abuse Prevention Month and is intended to help raise community awareness and combat abuse and neglect of children.
For more information, contact Mariann Bruno, Somerset County Office of Youth Services, at (908) 704-6356.
Addressing sex abuse at a young age
by Levi Ismail
AUSTIN, Minn. – As part of a month-long effort to discuss child sex abuse, one county is empowering young students to speak out.
Each year, more than 300,000 kids are the victims of sexual assault in the country, that's according to the American Psychological Association.
In Mower County the Crime Victims Resource Center is paying visits to second grade classrooms as a way to instruct students on how to interpret inappropriate behavior.
“Sometimes it can be difficult for children to be able to process that but it's also a very good and healthy conversation to have with the parents and people here at school,” said Joe Kroc, Neveln Elementary School Social Worker.
All month-long, Joe Kroc of Neveln Elementary School is working with the Crime Victims Center, to help bring the message of sex abuse awareness.
“The biggest challenge is you are dealing with an age group that is not savvy about the world they don't have adult experiences to draw on their not really adept at formulating and explaining what they saw or what may have happened to them,” said Capt. David McKichan, Austin Police Department.
According to Capt. McKichan and those at Neveln Elmentary, the challenge to these kids, is simple.
“To report to a trusted adult if someone is making you feel uncomfortable and your body feel unsafe, that you need to go to a trusted adult and report that right away,” said McKichan.
Reporting abuse is an issue that doesn't affect just young people.
Adult victims often avoid their abusers, who many times, they know, but with young victims, the emphasis is on bringing positive adult role models into their lives, who are willing to step forward.
“The child is not going to be capable of driving down here walking down into our L.E.C and telling us they like to make a report about what's going on them. So those other people in the child's life are of paramount importance if abuse and neglect or other things are going on,” said McKichan.
For more information about the second grade sexual abuse prevention education program, call Crime Victims Resource Center at 507-437-6680 or 1-800-349-6680.
New book asks how best to prevent child sex abuse
by ILENE FLEISCHMANN
The statistics are shocking: As many as one-third of boys and three-quarters of girls in the United States experience some sort of sexual abuse as children or adolescents. The response has been determined: Governments have passed strict laws, entered into international treaties and established large bureaucracies in hopes of curbing child sexual abuse.
But Charles Patrick Ewing, SUNY Distinguished Service Professor in the UB Law School, says an honest accounting shows that none of these efforts has been demonstrably effective against the problem. “The bottom line,” he says, “is that for most part the data don’t support much of what’s been done and it’s very difficult to prevent children from being sexually exploited or abused.”
What does work? Some common-sense strategies, he says, that can be as simple as teaching children to stay out of risky situations and making transparency and safety a priority in organizations that serve children.
That common-sense advice is at the heart of “Preventing the Sexual Victimization of Children: Psychological, Legal and Public Policy Perspectives” (Oxford University Press), Ewing’s new book that critically examines the ways adults have tried to protect children from sexual abuse.
The idea for the book, Ewing says, came when he spoke at a conference at Johns Hopkins University on preventing child sexual abuse. “I learned a lot about the subject and I heard a lot of ideas, but not much empirical support for them,” he says. “I decided to survey all the methods that people have purported to use to prevent child sexual abuse. I came up with a rather large list and then I asked, do the data support any of these?”
Chapters in the book give a historical overview of the problem, examine the effects of the crime on children, discuss prevention strategies aimed at parents and children, and at perpetrators, and review Internet-related child sexual abuse and exploitation, the abuse of children in institutional settings and the significant problem of the prostitution of children.
“Over the past couple of decades, society has made significant gains in preventing child sexual abuse,” Ewing writes in his conclusion. “However, if these apparent gains are to be maintained in the years to come, preventive efforts … will need to be carefully examined using both empirical evidence and logical reasoning.”
He cites as “probably ineffective or counterproductive” such strategies as enhanced criminal penalties, extending statutes of limitation, civil commitment of child sex offenders and restrictions on offenders’ jobs, residency and travel.
“Strategies that may be effective” include parent education, encouraging bystander intervention, background checks for those who work with children and limiting the sexualization of children in media and advertising.
Strategies most likely to be effective, Ewing writes, include risk education and teaching children to protect themselves, minimizing private space in schools and juvenile detention facilities, using technology to stop the production and distribution of child pornography, and severely punishing the producers and distributors of such material.
“It seems almost so simple as to be absurd,” Ewing says, “but we keep looking at these grand schemes and there are some things just staring us in the face that are more effective.”
- Rethinking the architecture of institutions that serve children, putting in more windows and fewer doors, with more open space.
- Parents not allowing their children to be alone with teachers or other adults.
- Teaching children to protect themselves. “Even younger kids can be taught what's wrong and right, and to tell someone if something happens to them,” Ewing says. “With older kids you can teach them to get away and to avoid situations where they might be subject to sexual abuse.”
- “Desexualizing” the way children's images are used in media. “Everywhere you look,” Ewing says, “people are trying to sell you something and using sexualized images, and a lot of the images are about kids.”
- Changing the culture of institutions that serve children. Ewing credits recent changes in the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts for reducing the risks of predatory sexual behavior.
- Treating children who are arrested for prostitution — almost always runaways — as victims and not criminals, and diverting them into programs that provide housing, education, counseling and therapy.
- Making Internet service providers responsible for screening out child pornography being traded on their bandwidth. “Clearly, a huge way in which kids are sexually abused is in the making and distribution of child pornography,” Ewing says. “As it is now, the guy who gets caught downloading or possessing child porn gets a draconian prison sentence, but what about the people who create the stuff?”
Davenport women accused of letting kids stay with known sex offenders
by Shellie Nelson and Brittany Lewis
Four women now face child endangerment charges in connection with a sexual abuse and child pornography bust in a Davenport mobile home park.
Police said at least six children were victims of child abuse, child neglect or child pornography that happened at one Davenport home in the Patriot Mobile Home Park and Apartments, in the 4800 block of West Kimberly Road, in Davenport.
Three adults were arrested and charged in connection with the case in early April 2014. Now, four more people are charged.
“I've had a lot of sex abuse cases over the last 20 years, but this is probably the largest sex abuse case with this amount of people involved in it by far” said Lieutenant Bryce Schmidt of the Scott County Sheriff's Office.
The investigation began when a man reported suspicions that three children – ages 2, 4 and 6 at the time – were sexually abused by James Faler and Melvin Lucier. Faler and Lucier were roommates at the time of the alleged abuse.
Lucier was arrested in his trailer at the Patriot Mobile Home Park. Faler remained jailed in Louisville, Kentucky, where he had been previously arrested and allegedly had digital and printed images that showed him sexually abusing children. Jessica Epping was also arrested for allegedly allowing Faler to supervise her six-year-old son.
Police said Wednesday, April 15, 2014, four women who are all from Davenport were also arrested and faced felony charges in connection with the case. The women are each accused of allowing children to be supervised by Faler and/or Lucier:
Jenni Jenkins, 29, was charged with one count of child endangerment with bodily injury. She was held in the Scott County Jail in lieu of $10,000 cash-only bond.
Sherry Ann Oats, 48, was charged with four counts of child endangerment plus one count of child endangerment with bodily injury. She was held in the Scott County Jail in lieu of $30,000 cash-only bond.
Sarah Melissa McConnell, 34, was charged with one count of child endangerment plus three counts of child endangerment with bodily injury. She was held without bond in the Scott County Jail.
Shaneka Posey, 23, was charged with two counts of child endangerment with bodily injury. She was held in the Scott County Jail in lieu of $10,000 cash-only bond.
“At one point or another, they had custody of children, and they allowed those children to go to a sex offender's residence,” said Schmidt, “Unfortunately in some of those incidents, there were some sexual acts that did take place during those incidents.”
“That's something you do not do. You warn your kids, you tell your kids, you don't send them into the lion's den,” said Michelle Taylor who lives in the Patriot Homes Mobile Park.
Records show on multiple occasions kids reported being sexually assaulted by either James Faler or Melvin Lucier.
According to affidavits, some of the women are accused of letting their own kids spend the night with the two men.
One mom allegedly sent her kids to the home Faler and Lucier lived after the child reported sexual abuse and was allegedly present when another child was assaulted.
“Some of the kids are very young, almost too young to talk to, where for them to comprehend. The ones that we were able to successfully interview, I think there were 6 or 8 that were part of the investigation,” said Schmidt.
“I sat here when I heard about it thinking, it's happening right across the street, is there something I could have done?” said Taylor.
(Picture on site)
Cult Leader Victor Arden Barnard Charged With Child Sex Abuse
by M. Alex Johnson
Washington authorities put out a statewide alert Wednesday for a cult leader facing dozens of charges in the alleged sexual abuse of young girls in Minnesota.
After a two-year investigation, Victor Arden Barnard, 52, was charged last week with 59 counts of criminal sexual conduct during his time as leader of the River Road Fellowship near Finlayson, Minn. Each of the counts carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $40,000 fine.
Barnard is believed to have been living most recently in the Spokane, Wash., area, Lt. Shane Nelson of the Washington State Patrol said Wednesday.
According to a criminal complaint obtained Wednesday by NBC News, Barnard left the church and moved to Washington sometime around 2012 when the fellowship splintered over allegations that he was having affairs with married women.
He may have gathered a new group of followers around him in Washington, according to the complaint, which was filed in Minnesota's 10th District Court in Pine County in support of an arrest warrant.
In the complaint, Minnesota prosecutors called Barnard a "master manipulator" who persuaded church members to let their daughters, some as young as 12, live apart from them to fulfill what he preached was their biblical obligation to have sex with him.
The girls, who lived in a group called "Alamoth," were required to be virgins when they were "invited" by Barnard and were to remain unmarried, according to the affidavit, which NBC News is not reproducing because of its explicit nature and because the alleged victims were minors.
The affidavit focuses on two unnamed girls, who are now adults but who were 12 and 13 at the time they say Barnard assaulted them.
They told detectives that Barnard preached that he "represented Christ in the flesh" and that because Jesus "had Mary Magdalene and other women who followed him," it was normal for Barnard to have sex with them.
Barnard would tell them "it was in God's Word," according to the affidavit.
The girls treated Barnard — who often dressed in biblical robes — "like a rock star" as he repeatedly engaged with sexual intercourse with them over a period of about 12 years beginning around 2000, prosecutors said in the affidavit.
It also says that Barnard's control over his followers was so strong that investigators have had trouble getting church members to cooperate.
The mother of one of the two girls cited in the complaint even talked her husband out of removing their daughter from Barnard's inner circle when she learned of his abuse, the affidavit says.
Man smothered crying son over video game
by Associated Press
HOMOSASSA, Fla. — A Florida man suffocated his young, crying son so he could play video games on his Xbox and watch TV, sheriff's deputies said Friday.
Cody Wygant, 24, is charged with third-degree murder and child neglect. He was being held Friday without bail at the Citrus County Jail.
Sixteen-month-old Daymeon Wygant wasn't breathing when emergency crews arrived at the home Thursday morning. The child pronounced dead at a hospital, investigators said.
“It is inconceivable that a father could kill his infant son — it just baffles the mind,” Sheriff Jeff Dawsy said. “Our only sense of relief now comes from knowing that we did exactly what we needed to do to bring justice to him swiftly. Our prayers go out to those who knew and loved Daymeon.”
Wygant said he was frustrated because the boy was crying uncontrollably, preventing him from playing his Xbox games, according to investigators. He covered the boy's nose and mouth for three to four minutes until he became lethargic, then placed him in a playpen and covered him with bedding, which was tucked around the boy's body and head, officials said.
Wygant didn't check on Daymeon for five hours, investigators said, while he played Xbox and watched three episodes of the television show “Fringe.” By the time he checked on the child, Daymeon had turned blue and was unresponsive, they said.
Wygant is the primary care giver for the child, and the mother — Wygant's girlfriend — was not home, officials said.
During preliminary interviews with the parents, they indicated the child had been placed in the playpen around 7 a.m. Thursday, officials said. But upon further questioning, Wygant said he suffocated the child around 1 a.m., they indicated.
The medical examiner performed an autopsy, but results haven't been made public.
Sheriff's officials said Wygant moved to Florida in 2013 and has no family in the area except for his girlfriend. Her name was not released.
They have a 3-month-old daughter, who is in the custody of the Department of Children and Families.
Child Advocacy Center — Giving children back their lives
by Jessica Graham
A report of child abuse is made in America every ten seconds, according to the United States Government Accountability Office.
The national child abuse statistics show that almost five children die each day as a result of child abuse and 70 percent are under the age of four. And data shows that 90 percent of child sexual abuse victims know the perpetrator in some way.
Dan Christophel, director of investigation with the Child Advocacy Center of Ottawa County said CAC is a safe, child-friendly environment that provides a comfortable space for child abuse victims and their loved ones to interact with professionals.
He said child maltreatment includes all types of abuse but the four common types are physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect.
“Abuse is an epidemic,” he said.
In the 2013 Ottawa County statistics, 86 children were served at the CAC. Of those the center made first contact with 25 children age six and under, 38 were between the ages of seven and 12 and 23 were between ages of 13 and 18.
The statistics also shows that of those 86 alleged cases, 38 were reports of sexual abuse, 24 physical abuse, five neglect, two witnesses of violence and four were drug endangerment. And of those cases, law enforcement filed charges on 13 with only three convictions.
Christophel said he feels comfortable in all the cases he has worked on where someone has been prosecuted and convicted, whether they served jail time or not, were guilty of the crime.
State law requires every person who has reason to believe that a child is being abused or neglected, or is in danger of being abused or neglected, must report promptly to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.
“Everybody is a mandated reporter of child abuse,” he said.
According to the Oklahoma Child Abuse Reporting and Prevention Act, it is a crime for an adult to have knowledge regarding the abuse of a child and fail to report it to the proper authorities.
The common indicators of child abuse include bruises, burns, black eyes or broken bones. Also a child who is overly compliant, passive or withdrawn may have experienced physical or emotional violence.
To make a report of suspected child abuse or neglect call the hotline at 800-522-3511.
Child maltreatment is a serious problem which can have lasting harmful effects on victims Christophel said.
Christophel said CAC is a place where victims can learn to be survivors.
“Here at CAC we give the child back their life,” he said. “The ultimate goal in the beginning is the safety and protection of the child but in the end the goal is for the child to heal.”
‘John' or Child Rapist? On Holding Buyers of Child Sex Accountable
by Yasmin Vafa, Human Rights Project for Girls
There is no doubt that this is an exciting time for the anti-trafficking movement. In 2013, President Obama expressed a commitment to combating human trafficking, declaring it “one of the great human rights causes of our time.” He also reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, which for the first time since its inception recognized child sex trafficking as a form of sexual violence, and signed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act into law.
There has even been more attention paid to the long overlooked issue of child sex trafficking in the United States—that is, the trafficking of U.S. children—with hearings in both the House and Senate emphasizing the link between foster care and a child's increased vulnerability to being exploited and trafficked. Meanwhile, a new report from Georgetown Law maps out this dangerous intersection of foster care involvement, sexual abuse, and American girls' trajectory into a life of exploitation and slavery.
This new momentum on the issue of trafficking reveals a true tipping point in where we are as a movement. But there is one crucial element that is glaringly absent from the discussion. With as much emphasis as there has been on the crisis of human trafficking and its devastating effects on the lives of millions around the world and at home, there is almost complete disregard for the unfettered demand that is fueling this multibillion dollar industry. Yes, we've made significant strides in recasting survivors as victims, and yes, we have succeeded in bringing more and more exploiters and traffickers to justice; however, we are still struggling to combat the demand side of this equation by pursuing and deterring buyers.
The House Judiciary Committee recently held a hearing to confront the issue of domestic child sex trafficking. The most powerful segment of the hearing came to light during the testimony of survivor advocate and young woman leader Withelma “T” Ortiz Walker Pettigrew. She courageously detailed the repeated incarceration she suffered—the experience of being locked up for being bought and sold for sex when she was only a child, while the adult men who purchased her for sex were never arrested or prosecuted for their crimes against her. Walker Pettigrew explained:
While in detention, I was so hurt that I was the one who was locked up. It seemed like they always wanted to detain me and my pimp, both people of color, instead of focusing on the buyers who were adults—and primarily white—no one seemed to care about them! It hurt that even when I was released, I knew this cycle would continue because buyers were always going to get what they wanted and get to walk away. Some of them would even pay more knowing I was an adolescent.
Walker Pettigrew's experiences were corroborated when Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and John Conyers Jr. (D-MI) repeatedly asked representatives from the FBI and state police to describe law enforcement's response to buyers of child sex. Both FBI and state police representatives explained that buyers are rarely, if ever, apprehended as a matter of law enforcement policy.
It is important to note here the racial implications of failing to hold buyers of child sex accountable—a point that was reinforced by the state police officer's testimony at the hearing. Traffickers are generally the Black and brown men we already incarcerate. Buyers, on the other hand, tend to be educated, white professionals.
Just as law enforcement must shift its current practices to bring more buyers to justice, so too must the anti-trafficking movement—which takes so much of its language from the anti-slavery abolitionist movement—steer away from perpetrating racial disparities in how we discuss who ought to be criminalized. As a human rights movement, the anti-trafficking community must fight for laws, policies, and practices that hold both the trafficker and the buyer accountable for their crimes.
Much like we do in any other case of child sexual abuse or child rape, those who purchase sex from our children must be brought to justice—and not merely on misdemeanor solicitation charges, but through federal laws that criminalize the purchase of sex with children or state laws criminalizing sex with minors. Because as Walker Pettigrew powerfully makes clear: “This is not prostitution—this is child rape.”
‘People see you doing the impossible and realize it's possible'
Sex abuse survivor passes through LaGrange in world record triathlon attempt
Norma Bastidas is a survivor.
The 47-year-old single mom is a survivor of sexual abuse and violence. When she first spoke out about her abuse, she was ignored, blamed and told to stay quiet, but she continued to speak out.
Now, she has decided to show that persistence and hard work can pay off by seeking to break the Guinness World Record for an ultra-triathlon by completing more than 3,750 miles in 55 to 70 days. Her goal is to bring awareness to the fight against human trafficking in Mexico and the United States, to empower victims and survivors of sexual violence and human trafficking across the world, and to prove that victims can become heroes.
“When I started, people said I was breaking a physical barrier, but if I break this record, then … people see you doing the impossible and realize it's possible,” Bastidas said Tuesday, as she stopped in LaGrange along her trek. “It's a metaphor to let people see that anyone can overcome. I am a survivor, and I can overcome.”
A dual citizen of Mexico and Canada, Bastidas began her quest in Cancun, Mexico, on March 1, swimming 122 miles. Bastidas said she only began swimming about a year ago.
She then biked 2,740 miles into the U.S through Texas, going through San Antonio to Houston, and on to New Orleans, La. When she reached LaGrange, she switched to running and began heading for Washington, DC, a 690-mile trek for which she will attempt to average 30 to 50 miles daily.
Bastidas said she hopes to encourage victims of sexual abuse and violence to speak out and overcome their victimization. She said as long as someone puts their heart into something and works incredibly hard, they can accomplish anything.
Victims of sexual abuse and violence are often targeted at a young age, and it happens in all types of communities, Bastidas said. People can help combat it by speaking out if they see indicators in their community, like substance abuse at home. Factors like that previously have held a stigma of being personal problems, but Bastidas encouraged anyone who sees signs of abuse to report it.
She added that children of single, working parents also tend to be more often targeted. She said community help for those families and can come from support from churches and community organizations.
Bastidas also said that anyone who is a victim should speak up and keep speaking up about their abuse until someone listens. She said when she first spoke out about her abuse, she was ignored and even blamed, but she kept speaking out until she received help.
Bastidas also was almost kidnapped into a sex trafficking ring. She said that the United States is not only a source for sex traffickers, but also a destination.
“This is nobody's choice, if a girl runs away and falls into the lifestyle, she needs a way out,” Bastidas said.
Born in Mazatlan, Mexico, the eldest of six children, Bastidas helped raise her siblings after her father deserted the family while she was still young. She experienced sexual abuse as a child, and sexual violence as an adult. She currently lives in Canada with her two sons, one of whom is losing his sight due to a congenital eye disease.
As a stress release, she began running when she was 38 and in a short span of time decided to become an ultramarathoner to raise money for organizations working to fight blindness.
In 2012, after facing the challenge of speaking about the sexual abuse, rape and near trafficking experience she suffered, she set out alone from Vancouver, B.C., to run to her birthplace in Mexico – a journey she made to empower victims to stand up against the violence they'd undergone and to fight human trafficking. She chronicled her trip in a book titled “Running Home.”
The current ultra-triathlon record listed by Guinness World Records is by David Holleran of Australia, who completed a triathlon of 26-mile swim, 1,242-mile cycle and 310-mile run for a total 1,579 miles in 17 days, 22 hours and 50 minutes in 1998.
A documentary team from iEmpathize, a non-profit organization with the mission to combat modern slavery and child exploitation, is accompanying Bastidas to capture her event on film. The resulting film iEmpathize will release later this year or in early 2015 will be titled “Be Relentless.” It is planned to feature the story of Bastidas and human trafficking victims and their advocates in both the United States and Mexico.
Money raised from the film will benefit prevention projects through development of materials, programs and curriculums for education projects, and empower survivors through scholarship funds.
During her first U.S. marathon, iEmpathize provided Bastidas with support both in Los Angeles and in Tijuana, Mexico. “Be Relentless” is their first joint project.
“We had just wrapped up a project partnering with Mexico's Commission to End Human Trafficking, a national campaign focused in their federal district,” said Brad Riley, iEmpathize founder and president, in a prepared statement. “And we wanted our next project to be something that would engage multiple sectors in multiple countries, spread the message to an expanded audience, cause people to focus on the problem – without polarizing them or causing them to turn away — and then consider what their role could be in ending sexual exploitation. ‘Be Relentless' is that project, and Norma makes it a reality.”
Riley believes cultural perceptions surrounding the current condition of human trafficking in the United States are inaccurate or reflect a gross misunderstanding of the rate at which this is occurring in our backyards. The “Be Relentless” project will work to demystify what a survivor is, how he or she becomes a victim, and then demonstrate that survivors – and virtually everyone everywhere – are capable of doing extraordinary things to make a positive impact in the fight against human trafficking.
“If Norma can more than double the world's record for the longest triathlon, most people should be able to find a way, albeit small, to transform themselves into ‘everyday heroes' and agents for positive change,” Riley said.
Bastidas believes this ultra-triathlon is a metaphor for life – anything is possible if it's broken down into small parts. She proclaims, “These victims are heroes, they are survivors, and hopefully people at the end of the documentary will change their perception of what a strong person, or a strong human being, or a strong woman is.”
To track Bastidas' progress, check out http://berelentless.iempathize.org , and for more information check out www.normabastidas.com and www.iempathize.org.
UN Calls For Actions To Fight Violence Against Women
Press Release: UN Human Rights Council
LONDON / GENEVA (16 April 2014) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo, today urged the Government of the United Kingdom to consider the best interests of all women and girls in addressing the specific needs of survivors of violence.
“The UK Government has declared violence against women a priority, and in 2010 developed a strategy and other measures to address the problem,” Ms. Manjoo noted, “but a more comprehensive and targeted response to address acts of violence against women and girls is needed.”
“Despite many positive developments, violence against women remains a pervasive challenge throughout the United Kingdom,” said the independent expert charged by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor, report and advise on violence against women, its causes and consequences.
In the course of last year, she recalled, “7% of women in England and Wales reported having experienced any type of domestic abuse. This is the equivalent to 1.2 million female victims. It is also estimated that 2.5% of women reported having experienced any type of sexual assaults. This is the equivalent to an estimated 400,000 female victims.”
“Other manifestations of violence which were reported throughout my visit,” Ms. Manjoo said, “included sexual harassment, gender-based bullying, forced and/or early marriages, female genital mutilation, gang-related violence, so called honour- related violence, and trafficking.”
Women's organizations in the UK informed the Special Rapporteur that black and minority ethnic and migrant women experience a disproportionate rate of domestic homicide, and that women of Asian origin are up to three times more likely to commit suicide than other women as a result of violence.
“A very clear concern was articulated about the shift from gender specificity to gender neutrality in the Government's responses to violence against women,” she warned. “The shift to a formal understanding of equality is working to privilege neutral approaches, to the detriment of gender specific initiatives and programmes.”
The Special Rapporteur also pointed out that the current austerity measures are having a disproportionate impact, not only in the specific provision of violence against women services, but more generally, on other cross-cutting areas affecting women, such as poverty and unemployment, which are contributory factors to violence against women and girls.
“It is important to recognize that the reduction in the number and quality of specialized services for women does impact health and safety needs of women and children, and further restricts them when considering leaving an abusive home, thus putting them at a heightened risk of re-victimization,” the human rights expert stressed.
Ms. Manjoo welcomed the implementation of the 2010 strategy to fight violence against women in the UK, which is accompanied by annual Action Plans developed in consultation with all relevant parties, and monitored across government departments.
She noted that, in order to address shortcomings in responses, the British authorities have piloted and completed the evaluation of a series of initiatives, including Domestic Violence Protection Orders, which enable the police and magistrates to exclude a perpetrator from the home for up to 28 days.
The rights expert further noted that, since March 2013, the non-statutory definition of domestic abuse in the UK, previously restricted to “adults”, includes victims aged 16 and 17, as well as the concepts of controlling and coercive behaviour.
During her 16-day mission to the United Kingdom, the Special Rapporteur visited London, Leicester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Belfast, Cookstown, Cardiff and Bristol.
The Special Rapporteur's comprehensive findings will be discussed in the report to be presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2015.
When You're Afraid to Go to Sleep
by Jim LaPierre
It used to surprise me how many of the trauma survivors I serve enjoy horror movies. It took me a long time to get it. Unlike the imagery in your head, you can make the movie stop anytime you want.
She talks about Nightmare On Elm Street and tells me she's like the girl who has already been up for days and eating ground coffee because she's afraid to fall asleep and see Freddie. In her case, “Freddie” is her past abusers. “I watch the same movies every night in my sleep. If I don't stay super busy during the day, I see them playing sometimes when I'm awake.”
She shakes her head vigorously, trying to dislodge the memories that just surfaced. We talk about forgetting and why it doesn't work. Acceptance is slow when the truth hurts this much.
When the thoughts and memories are triggered, she has no sense of being an adult. She is a little girl who is exposed, defenseless, and terrified. She sees that child clearly, sees what she was forced to do, and hates herself anew. Grooming ingrains lies upon the soul of a child.
I hasten to remind her, “You're an adult today. You don't need to run or hide.”
She sees herself as crazy and repeatedly says, “I don't know what's wrong with me!” She's been diagnosed with everything from Bi Polar disorder to Borderline Personality disorder. She's none of these things. She's a survivor.
She's both relieved and angry when we talk about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Understanding flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, nightmares and night terrors help her to feel less “crazy” but she's understandably outraged to look back on decades of misdiagnosis and countless medications. “Why didn't anyone ever ask me about what happened?”
“Because you're a recovering addict and too many doctors and clinicians understand very little about addiction and the symptoms people present both when active and when in Recovery.”
(People who don't understand ask why we don't volunteer this information in therapy. It's simple – we were taught not to tell and were generally not believed when we did).
The percentages of people – both in active addiction and in recovery who have survived childhood abuse and trauma are very high. Our stories too often remain unspoken. Opportunities to work through past trauma are conspicuously absent from most professional efforts and are outside the scope of AA & NA to address.
Too many of us suffer silently and alone, all the while unaware that many of our peers, friends, and family are struggling in very similar ways. This needs to change.
My favorite question in therapy is, “How do I…?” It's good to talk about feelings, experiences, and ideas. It's important to get down to concrete steps and strategies that promote change. I talk to survivors every day who pay a very high price for being chronically sleep deprived. I explain the impact that this has on emotion and memory.
The questions remain:“How do I slow down my brain so that I can sleep?”
A lot of us depend on mindless activities like television or Facebook to wear us out. I urge folks to journal. Take all the things that are on the hamster wheel of your brain and write them down. This works in two ways: Write out everything you're concerned with/afraid you'll forget/anticipating. This will relieve stress and promote a healthy perspective if we are willing to separate what we can do something about from what we cannot. The former we plan for and for latter I recommend the Serenity Prayer.
The second form of journaling is to write down what you're trying not to think about. (Counterintuitive)
We push away thoughts and memories because we find them intolerable. They act as boomerangs and return, only to be pushed away again and again. This is a constant battle with self. It doesn't require conscious thought but it's very draining, promotes anxiety, and undermines any sense of safety we might have.
We don't need to write out the whole story – rather we can simply acknowledge what the thought is. We make conscious decisions regarding what we will do with this (ideally work through it in therapy or in other safe places with folks who understand).
The point is to make conscious choices because what we do automatically too often is unhealthy.
No matter what else we achieve in life, the basics remain vital to our health and happiness: nutrition, exercise, sleep, self care. If you have questions about these ASK! If you don't have folks to ask, email me email@example.com
Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in assisting people in recovery (whether from drugs, alcohol, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles and improve their quality of life.
Man made up dozens of fake child abuse cases
by Conor Mooney and Perry Russom
Kirkwood, NY State Police arrested a Whitney Point man they said reported 48 instances of child abuse, none of which were actually true.
Troopers said from Sept. 27, 2013 to Feb. 17, 2014, Harry Clauson, 43, called a child abuse hot line dozens of times, reporting instances of children being abused, or living in an abusive environment.
"When Child Protective Services calls my department, New York State Police, and says we have a report on the hotline of a child abuse, that jumps right to the top of the list," said Fred Goodall, senior investigator for the New York State Police.
Clauson allegedly made most of the reports anonymously during odd hours of the day, but for some, used the names of other people without their knowing.
"It's very frustrating because it is a total misalignment of our resources," said Julia Hepworth, director of Child Protective Services.
For every report of child abuse, law enforcement must respond to the residence in question, and expose children to sensitive interviews.
"When you have this number of false reports, it's really hard to go in and say 'What if this is true?' If you don't you could be making a fatal mistake," said Hepworth.
There were more false reports made from the same location as Clauson's 48 claims making the total number of false reports 83. Goodall said the suspect in the other 35 false claims has not been charged.
Officials arraigned Clauson in the Town of Chenango Town Court and took him to the Broome County jail on of $1000 cash bail and/or $2000 property bond.
He is charged with endangering the welfare of a child and 48 separate counts of making false child abuse reports to the New York State Child Abuse Hot line.
Elected officials, experts to meet in Lake Oswego to discuss child abuse
by Special to The Oregonian
A roundtable panel discussion including elected officials and experts in the field of child abuse will be held on Tuesday, April 22, at Lake Oswego City Hall.
The meeting will be held from 10:30 a.m. to noon in Room 3 at 380 A Ave.
The panel will include: United States Senator Ron Wyden, United States Representative Kurt Schrader, state representatives Brent Barton and Julie Parrish, State Senator Chuck Thomsen, Clackamas County Commissioners Jim Bernard and Martha Schrader, Clackamas County District Attorney John Foote, Oregon City Superintendent Larry Didway, Children's Center Medical Director Dr. Sue Skinner, and FamilyCare Health Plans Medical Director Resa Bradeen. KATU Channel 2 News Anchor Anna Canzano will moderate.
The discussion will begin with an introduction to the Adverse Childhood Experiences research. The study shows that the cost of failing to intervene in child abuse comes in the form of chronic, life-shortening physical and mental health conditions and challenges. The panel will proceed to have a conversation about policy issues and solutions that mitigate the damage of child abuse and support intervention efforts. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend.
Children's Center worked with Representative Kurt Schrader to arrange this panel discussion as part of the local effort to recognize Child Abuse Prevention Month in April.
“Our hope is that the citizens of our community will attend and help us address this public health epidemic head-on,” said Children's Center Executive Director Barbara Peschiera. “We're thankful that so many of our leaders are coming to the table on behalf of our youngest and most vulnerable citizens.”
As Clackamas County's sole agency providing medical evaluations, forensic interviews and family support services to children who are suspected victims of child abuse and neglect, Children's Center plays a vital role in ending the trauma of abuse for local children.
Children of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds are referred to Children's Center for suspicion of abuse.
Learn more at www.childrenscenter.cc
Session aims to reduce child abuse
by AMY FLOWERS UMBLE
Close your eyes and remember the most humiliating event of your life. Kristel DiGravio–Ferguson gives that instruction when she trains fellow law enforcement officers on handling child-abuse victims.
Then, she asks them to imagine that they are 7 years old and have just lived through that experience—and have to share every excruciating detail with a group of strangers.
DiGravio–Ferguson, an investigator with the Caroline County Sheriff's Office, spoke at a child-abuse prevention event in Spotsylvania County earlier this week.
She told the crowd that she and another investigator have a saying when they arrest a sexual predator, “One down, a million more to go.”
Dealing with child abuse—physical, emotional or sexual—is tough for law enforcement officers, who often have to take on roles as social worker and psychologist, DiGravio–Ferguson said.
The victims typically are traumatized by the abuse.
“Most of these perpetrators are not people these children don't know,” she said. “These are people who are supposed to love and support them, whether it's financially, emotionally or spiritually.”
And that increases the feelings of shame and guilt that victims feel, DiGravio–Ferguson said.
Those feelings make it hard for victims to talk about the crime, said Melanie Gardner, an art therapist with Rappahannock Council Against Sexual Assault.
Gardner talked about the toll sexual abuse takes on young victims, who often act out because they can't deal with the emotions that result from the abuse.
Some can't talk about the trauma, because they've been told not to talk about sex. Others don't even have the right vocabulary. A 5-year-old, for example, doesn't know the words to describe being raped.
Instead, young victims often exhibit new behaviors: bed-wetting, nightmares, aggression, promiscuity or cutting, Gardner said.
“These children are trying to say something,” she said. “It's just not always verbally. They're doing the best they can with what they have.”
Gardner and another speaker—Dianne Bachman, a licensed clinical social worker—emphasized the need to seek help for any child if there are signs of abuse.
The Virginia child-abuse prevention hotline is 800/552-7096.
Crisis Nursery Helps Victims Of Child Abuse
by Edward Moody
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Child abuse continues to be a major problem in the Twin Cities metro, leaving many children without a safe place to stay.
A local organization is doing its part to provide shelter for these kids, and you can help. The Crisis Nursery in Minneapolis is a spot where children come from tough family situations, and there are a few ways people can come in and volunteer their time for kids who need it.
Children who are victims of abuse stay at the Crisis Nursery, whose mission is to end child abuse and neglect and to create strong, healthy families. Joel Bergstrom with the Crisis Nursery said they do that through several programs, starting with their shelter.
The Crisis Nursery has a crisis help line where parents can call and talk with somebody about a family situation. They also offer a parent education class and home visits for some families.
Bergstrom said the facility offers a number of volunteering opportunities. Those range from child care providers, which is a six-month commitment, volunteering at least every other week for a three or four-hour time frame.
There's also several short-term volunteering opportunities, which including cooking meals for the kids.
Bergstrom said the kids at the Crisis Nursery range from newborns to age 6.
Don't ignore the signs of child abuse
Child abuse is so abhorrent, so ghastly that some people will believe a lie rather than accept that someone could be that cruel.
They'll accept the tales of a child taking multiple tumbles that explain away bruises and sores. They'll accept images of a child being slight when they are actually malnourished. If it means they don't have to recognize child abuse, some people will agree to just about anything.
But as a society, we can't do that. We can't sit by and disregard what our gut is telling us is wrong. Children are the most vulnerable members of our society and, sadly, far too often they find themselves at their most helpless in their own homes when under the care of tormented family members or friends.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Child Abuse Prevention Month. In South Carolina, there were 11,439 confirmed cases of abused or neglected children in 2012, and more than 12 percent of those involved children less than a year old. Children aged 3 and younger comprised 34 percent of the confirmed cases.
The Department of Social Services handles this colossal workload. The life of a DSS case worker is filled with filtering tragic circumstances. Day in, day out, DSS sees the ugly belly of society, the one most would like to pretend does not exist.
The quality of the job it is doing, though, has come under fire recently. A Senate panel is investigating the state agency, and S.C. DSS Director Lillian Koller spoke before the panel Wednesday, asking for more time and more money (DSS has roughly 1,000 front-line social workers, up from around 850 last summer). The agency is being questioned following complaints of ignored cases of abuse that have, in some cases, led to children's death.
Critics, particularly coroners, have said their efforts to investigate children's deaths have been hampered by the slog of the agency's bureaucratic shuffle. Lawmakers are awaiting results from an audit review of DSS before moving forward. The children of the state need a resourced, qualified and competent agency protecting them.
The Pee Dee has seen horrific instances in recent years of unhinged abuse. The tragedies of little girls like Bennettsville's Edna Hunt and Florence's Ty'Lashia Grant indicate failure on a broad level where a system of checks and balances fell short. That system starts with government agencies such as DSS but extends to neighbors and friends.
South Carolina requires certain authority figures — physicians, emergency personnel, mental health professionals and teachers — to report child abuse to the appropriate authorities. It can be done anonymously. Potential warning signs include repeated bruising, social awkwardness and malnourishment. In parents and caregivers, warning signs include drug or alcohol abuse, mental illness, young mothers, the presence of a paramour or multiple children in the household.
When the signs of abuse are present, suspicions should be reported. But these signs aren't always visible to everyone in every situation. Children project in different ways. Even toddlers can be adaptive to a certain degree.
No one can always know what's going on behind closed doors, but people have to heighten their awareness of their surroundings and not be willing to accept a story that does not add up. Someone who notices a small sign of abuse might be the only lifeline a child has to escape a brutal situation.
Report it. And then report it again. Heed the warning signs. Bring in other sets of eyes. If a family has isolated itself, even an effective state agency will have difficulties investigating it. Don't stop until the story is that the child is now safe.
Not all signs of abuse will pan out. That's OK. Our children are worth the trouble of a failed query.
Groups aim to combat child abuse
by Josh Birch
Child abuse affects hundreds of children in Eastern Carolina every year.
Tedi Bear is an East Carolina University program devoted to helping children who have been sexually and physically abused.
Tedi Bear also tries to educate the public about child abuse through classes like Stewards of Children, a free class that any adult can take.
"We target child care providers, schools, churches, places that work with children in particular to get this message out there," said Kelly Baxter, the Community Educator for Tedi Bear.
Pitt County is one of the eastern counties to utilize social workers in the schools. Cassandra Campbell is one of the social workers who trains school employees to look out for signs of abuse, like changed behavior and physical bruises and cuts.
"I have found over the 20 some years that I've been doing this that children will tell," Campbell said. "But they just need to feel safe and secure when giving information."
Tedi Bear helps between 600 and 800 children every year across the east.
Julie Gill is the director of the group and says advocacy centers are essential.
"Prior to advocacy centers, children were basically re-interviewed and re-examined and taken from place to place, and that itself became abusive," said Gill.
North Carolina requires anyone over the age of 18 to report any suspected cases of child abuse to the police.
Campbell wants to ensure everyone knows that abuse can strike any child.
"It doesn't matter what the profession is. It doesn't matter how much money you make," Campbell said. "It crosses the board. It's a human issue."
Fore more information about Tedi Bear and the classes they offer, visit their website.
Good Samaritan allegedly stops alleged child abuse
TULSA, Okla. – A case of alleged child abuse at an east Tulsa hotel on Tuesday night led to two babies being taken from their parents.
It happened at a hotel near 41st and Highway 169, police say a woman walking by stopped a mother from allegedly suffocating her baby.
“Someone walked in and saw the mother holding a pillow over the older child's face and telling him to be quiet,” said Cpl. Greg Smith with the Tulsa Police Department.
Tulsa police said Stormy Jones and Brendan Dixon allegedly became drunk and fought violently in front of their 22-month and 3-month old babies.
Police said the parents and their babies just moved to Tulsa from Pennsylvania and were living out of the hotel room. The father is accused of also breaking out a hotel window.
Police say Jones was allegedly upset with her child making noise during the dispute and began to smother one of her babies with a pillow. A good Samaritan pleaded for Jones to stop putting the pillow over her baby, and police said it probably saved the baby's life.
FOX23 talked to that Samaritan, but she did not want to go on camera.
“She saw what she thought was inappropriate behavior with the child with the pillow, and she yelled stop. And fortunately she did comply with that,” said Smith.
Dixon is charged with public intoxication, but police said more charges of criminal mischief could be filed for alleged damage to the building he created during the dispute.
The children are in the custody of the Department of Human Services.
Delaware renews effort to combat child abuse
by Mark Eichmann
With the hope of reducing the number of incidents in the First State, this year's Blue Bow campaign seeks to train more than 35,000 Delawareans to recognize the signs of child abuse,
Nationally, about one out of every ten children will experience abuse. In nine out of ten of those abuse cases, the perpetrator will be someone who is close to the victim.
In Delaware, the child abuse rate has decreased. Roughly 1,500 substantiated cases of child abuse were reported in Delaware in 2013, compared to 1,700 cases in 2012. While the decreases are encouraging, and reflective of a similar national trend, child protection advocates say that there are still too many children suffering.
"When a child is abused, life changes," said Leslie Newman, CEO of Children and Families First. "It's everyone's responsibility to assure that all of Delaware's children have the opportunity to grow up in a safe, nurturing environment."
On Wednesday afternoon, Newman was joined by other child advocate groups at the Blue Bow campaign launch event in Wilmington. The blue bow, a symbol used to represent child-abuse prevention efforts, honors a Virginia grandmother who tied a blue bow on her car antenna after her grandson was killed as a result of child abuse.
While the state has a mandate to continue efforts that protect children from abuse, these efforts are said to have an impact on the community at large. It's something Patricia Dailey Lewis has witnessed first-hand as the director of the family division in Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden's office.
"Take a walk around any of our facilities where we house perpetrators of violence on our communities and find out how many of those people were abused as children," Lewis said. "Where does this violence begin? It begins with child abuse and domestic violence. It begins in the home. It begins when people are victimized by the only people they trust."
While some people may have suffered abuse without any long-term effects, that is not the case for everyone. She said five of her brothers were hit with a belt while growing up: four of them were fine, but one died at the age of 42 after years of alcohol and drug abuse
"Abuse and violence begins in our home and it destroys our neighborhoods," Lewis said.
Seeing the signs
This year, the Blue Bow campaign is focused on training 35,000 Delawareans to identify the signs of child abuse. That training will utilize the Stewards of Children program, which includes a five step guide to prevent and identify possible abuse.
On the prevention side, the guide suggests eliminating isolated or one-on-one situations between children and adults. The program also encourages ongoing dialogue with children about their bodies and the appropriate boundaries.
To identify signs of abuse, the training material encourages adults to watch for signs of withdrawal, anger or fear of people or situations. A suspicion of abuse should be investigated.
"People who offend are rarely seen in the act of sexually abusing a child, but they are often seen breaking rules and pressing boundaries," the guide states.
The training program has already been implemented at the YMCA of Delaware with positive results, according to YMCA CEO Deborah Begatta-Bowles.
'Guaranteed to reduce abuse'
In addition to the training program, the state is also touting a program, proved over decades, to reduce incidents of abuse. Gov. Jack Markell called for an expansion of the Nurse Family Partnership program during his State of the State Address in January.
Through the NFP program, nurses make home visits to teach first-time, low-income mothers how to care for their babies.
"These visits are guaranteed to reduce the number of incidents of child abuse," said Lt. Gov. Matt Denn, a longtime advocate for children's issues. Markell's proposal would expand the number of mothers served in the program from 200 to 500 at a cost of about $1.3 million.
Denn encouraged those at the Blue Bow campaign launch to call their lawmakers, and urge them to support funding for an expansion of the NFP program. despite the difficult budget year that legislators face
"I'm very hopeful and very determined that this particular item stay in the budget because there are actual, real live kids who are being born in the next calendar year who will not be abused as a result of this happening," Denn said.
Tri-County CASA seeks additional volunteers as child abuse cases increase
by Mark Friedel
CLAREMORE — From 2010-2013, Oklahoma has seen an increase in children entering foster care. According to Oklahoma Department of Human Services reports, approximately 11,000 children are in state's custody because of child abuse or neglect — 4,000 in the Tulsa area alone and more than 100 in Rogers County.
Judge Dynda Post, who serves Rogers, Mayes and Craig counties in the state's 12th Judicial District, said with the growing numbers statewide, there is a need for more court appointed special advocates (CASAs), as well as foster families.
The local court appointed special advocate program, Tri-County CASA, serves Rogers, Mayes and Craig counties. Headquartered in Claremore, Tri-County CASA's mission is to help find a safe, permanent, nurturing home for children as quickly as possible.
“CASA volunteers are the eyes and ears of the court,” said Post. “Each volunteer has a case, and they focus on those children's needs and write a report. Whether it's that the child needs glasses, or that they enjoy a particular hobby or sport — it's the little things that count, and sometimes their needs get lost throughout the court process.”
Post said there have been circumstances when CASA members have found distant family members who were interested in adopting the child, resulting in a permanent safe and healthy home placement
The Tri-County CASA program includes a total of 40 members, with nine members currently in training.
Angela Henderson, Tri-County CASA program director, said volunteers are information gatherers that meet the families, interview the children and provide their reports to the court.
“We deal with physical, sexual abuse and charges against the parents; but most of the time, there are no charges involved,” said Post. “Overriding reasons for the relocation of a child include drug usage and domestic violence. Those are hard problems to fix because a lot of times it's generational.”
She said there are second, third generational families where violence coexists quite often, and it is a combination of parents being unable and unwilling to correct the problem.
“The number one problem is selfishness. These parents keep having babies and they're not able to take care of the ones they have, and we wonder why the numbers are growing,” said Post. “When a child comes into custody, the goal is reunification or we look for other permanency. Half of the cases, children are in traditional foster homes, and the others are in relative foster homes — grandma and grandpa or aunt and uncles, etc.”
Other permanent placements involve non-relative kinship, such as teachers.
Post said another reason for the increase in the amount of children in state custody, has to do with the time it takes for jury trials to be settled.
When parents are determined to be unfit to raise their children and a motion to terminate permanent rights is ordered, parents have the right to a jury trial. They almost always exercise that right, said Post.
“Jury terms begin April 21, and that's a two-week term. We don't have another jury trial until September,” she said. “We try not to carry over to the next term because we don't want to leave anybody hanging in legal limbo. These children cannot have permanency plans until the trials are complete, and some of these children have been in custody 15 and 16 months already.”
She said this does not include the appeal process that parents have the right to exercise. The time for appeal averages 18 months.
“We've had children waiting for a permanent home for easily three to four months.”
In Oklahoma, jury trial terms are held during January-February, April, September and October.
Post said the jury trial aspect can change.
“Our CASA would like to see some legislative changes. The law says a judge only has to interview a family who's child has been placed into state custody, every six months,” Post said. “The law should be every three months because if we interview the child's parents and they have made tremendous progress, we can begin to start the reunification process faster. All good reasons to have the hearing more frequently.”
So far this year, Rogers County has filed 13 new child abuse or neglect cases — each with multiple children involved. Post said the district has taken six Rogers County children into custody since Monday.
“More funds need to be allocated for prevention services at the federal and state levels. We have to start upstream, because that's where the pollution is,” said Post. “If we can reduce the amount of children in custody by 15 percent, then we've made a major accomplishment.”
There is a tremendous need for foster families in Rogers County, she said.
In an arrangement with OKDHS, TFI Family Connections has been working to recruit and retain foster families. TFI will help support families as they interact with OKDHS throughout the foster care approval process, during placement and care of children in their homes and help provide an understanding of the child welfare system.
TFI is also a Therapeutic Foster Care (TFC) provider. TFC is residential behavioral management service provided in foster home setting, serving children ages three to 18 with special psychological, social, behaviorl and emotional needs.
For more information on foster parenting, call Jason Cecil of TFI Family Services at (620) 231-1069 or (800) 279-9914.
For more information or to volunteer for the Tri-County CASA program, call (918) 343-1515 or visit tricocasa.org.
Nashville unifies sex abuse prevention strategy
by Tony Gonzalez
Sarahi Castillo waited more than 10 years to speak up about the sexual abuse she experienced as a young child.
And she'd been waiting ever since for the Nashville community to get serious about preventing child sex abuse.
So on Tuesday morning, Castillo felt a surge of conflicting emotions during an announcement of a citywide push to protect children.
“This opportunity is something that I, as a survivor, have been waiting for,” she said. “I had a sense of relief.”
Castillo, 19, was one of hundreds on hand for a call to action by the Nashville Child Protection Coalition, a group of nonprofits that has agreed on a single strategy to stop child sex abuse. The group wants 5 percent of Davidson County residents — a so-called “tipping point” for cultural change — to go through a two-hour training called Stewards of Children.
A newly announced $25,000 gift from the HCA Foundation will help bring the class to residents and organizations that otherwise couldn't pay to attend. In the past three years, about 2,500 people have gone through the class in Nashville and 11,000 statewide — but the big push begins now as part of National Child Abuse Prevention Month. At least seven nonprofits have classes scheduled.
Police and state child abuse investigators responded to more than 1,000 child sex abuse allegations in Nashville last year. Because of underreporting, the number of victims may be thousands more, said Tom Tohill, executive director of the Nashville Sexual Assault Center, during the announcement at HCA's midtown campus.
“It's way too many children,” he said.
But the community knows more about how to prevent child sex abuse than ever before, he said. The responsibility falls on adults and leaders of organizations that work with children.
Through the Stewards of Children classes, agencies can learn about policies and hiring practices to protect children, and how to respond when allegations come forward.
Dawana Wade, CEO of Salama Urban Ministries, said the afterschool program overhauled its code of conduct and now requires volunteers and seasonal staff to be trained to recognize sex assault.
“Even our bus driver, our cook, our administrative staff, and our business manager,” she said.
The training also provides the basic facts, even if they are hard to face. For one:
“Most of these kids know the perpetrator,” Tohill said. “It's not the boogeyman hiding in the bushes in a trenchcoat grabbing our children and molesting them. The perpetrators are people that know and have access to our children.”
That was the case in Castillo's abuse. Although The Tennessean does not usually identify victims of sexual assault, Castillo shared her name and said part of her healing has included speaking to survivors. She said she hopes sex assault survivors will come forward.
“Once you hear that voice that don't think you have, you'll not be afraid,” she said.
Reach Tony Gonzalez at 615-259-8089 or on Twitter @tgonzalez.
Get the training
Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee coordinates training sessions for child sexual abuse prevention known as “Stewards of Children.” Some funding is available from the HCA Foundation for organizations that cannot afford to pay for the program. For more information — including about seven upcoming classes in Nashville — call 615-383-0994.
Conn. Dept. of Children and Families places trans girl in male prison
‘Jane Doe' has not even been charged with a crime
by Connecticut PSL
In an almost unprecedented move, the Connecticut Department of Children and Families is attempting to transfer a 16-year-old transgender girl (“Jane Doe”), to Manson Correctional Center, a high-security, 21-and-under male-only prison. Due in part to widespread community outrage, the DCF decision is currently being challenged in Conn. state court. The 16-year-old's advocates point out that the transgender youth does not have any adult criminal charges and is therefore unfit for a prison sentence. A recent affidavit filed by Doe's attorneys charge that she had been repeatedly sexually and physically assaulted while in DCF custody. After an incident in a facility in Massachusetts, she was detained and sent to York Correctional Facility, a women's prison, for “evaluation.”
DCF cited a little-known and outdated law to transfer her to York. DCF in Connecticut has a long history of corruption, abuse and neglect of the children and families in its care, and has been under federal court supervision for over 20 years.
It is obvious that instead of finding suitable and safe placement for a 16-year-old transgender girl, Connecticut's DCF is instead choosing to evade responsibility by locking up one of their most vulnerable youth in a notoriously dangerous and damaging setting. Even more outrageous is DCF's callous mistreatment of a transgender sexual assault survivor, who would be at risk for more abuse at a men's prison. The system of institutionalized oppression, working hand-in-hand with the prison-industrial complex, has sentenced Doe to a horrifically unjust fate while refusing to address her needs as a queer youth who has endured years of trauma and sexual abuse.
The youth's lawyers assert that she is not dangerous, and that the state's rare decision to transfer her to York Correctional Institution violates two federal statutes that protect children from being detained in adult prisons. They ascribe the rarity of this case to outright transphobia, especially because the many other so-called assaultive youth within the DCF system have not been transferred to prison. It is an obvious failure of the capitalist system - which marginalizes women, queer people, and survivors - when a transgender teen is victimized by abusers and punished for the “crime” of fighting back.
All progressive and revolutionary people should stand firmly with this survivor. Jane Doe's abusers should be standing trial and the victim not be punished any further. Jane Doe must be released from York Correctional Center and never sent to Manson Correctional Center. DCF must fulfill its legal duty to find her a safe place to live.
Human trafficking is modern-day slavery
by DaNita Carlson
Last month, the Daily Tribune printed a two-part article about sex-trafficking, also known as human trafficking. I would like to thank them for bringing awareness to this growing issue within our community.
Human trafficking is the trade in humans, most commonly for the purpose of sex or forced labor. When the word human trafficking is used, most often it refers to sex trafficking, but not always. United States federal law defines victims of human trafficking as young children, teenagers, men and women who are subjected to force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor.
An example of sex trafficking would be forced prostitution; an example of labor trafficking would the forced labor of domestic or farm workers for little to no pay. Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery.
When you hear the term “human trafficking,” you most likely think of women and children overseas who are being forced into the sex trade. However, according to the U.S. Department of State, as many as 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States annually. Thousands more are trafficked domestically, so the problem is much closer than you might think.
Data compiled by the Polaris Project, one of the nation's largest anti-trafficking organizations, indicates that between 12 million and 27 million adults and children are in forced labor, bonded labor and forced prostitution around the world. One million children are exploited by the global commercial sex trade every year. Human trafficking is a $32 billion enterprise and is second only to drug smuggling as the largest criminal enterprise worldwide. One main difference between drug smuggling and human trafficking is that in human trafficking, the “product” can be sold and used again and again.
Trafficking is not just a national issue — it is a local issue. According to the Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance, trafficking has occurred in urban and rural areas in more than half of Wisconsin's 72 counties. There have been 200 identified cases of human trafficking in Wisconsin. In these cases, 75 percent were victims of sex trafficking, and 15 percent were child victims of commercial sexual exploitation (younger than 18 years).
The victims of human trafficking can be men or women, adults or children, foreign nationals or United States citizens. Although anyone can become a victim of trafficking, there are certain populations who are especially at risk. These populations may include: undocumented migrants, runaway or homeless youths or those who are living in poverty.
Perpetrators are incredibly deceitful and very skilled at manipulating their victims. They often are part of larger networks of traffickers that recruit victims — using methods such as online classified ads and social media — and then transport them around the country. Traffickers often target vulnerable people and use gifts and false promises to earn trust. Once a victim trusts a perpetrator, the perpetrator will use lies, threats and violence to keep the victim under control.
Assisting victims of trafficking can be difficult because they do not identify themselves as victims. In many cases, these victims self-identify as criminals and have been taught to blame themselves and to distrust authorities. Cases involving victims of trafficking are very complex and require comprehensive services and specialized training to help victims overcome trauma, physical and mental health issues or substance abuse and addiction.
State legislators have begun to address human trafficking. Wisconsin Assembly Bill 620, passed in March, gives victims the ability to seek the expungement of prostitution convictions that occurred as a result of their bondage. This is critical to helping survivors of sex trafficking rebuild their lives and is key to appropriately recognizing survivors as victims of crime, rather than criminals.
If you do suspect someone is a victim of human trafficking, and you think there is a threat of immediate harm to a victim, call 911. If there is no immediate danger, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center: 888-373-7888 or the Milwaukee Human Trafficking Task Force: 414-297-1580.
Please call the Family Center at 715-421-1511 for more information.
DaNita Carlson is Family Center executive director.
Sexual Assault Awareness Month
by Christina St-Jean
Every two minutes, an American is the victim of sexual assault. That's according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN); by that same statistic, some 237,868 victims were reported. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the United States, and it is a topic that many still deem taboo.
Sexual assault is still a crime that goes widely unreported for a variety of reasons. In some cases, it is a matter of there being some confusion as to whether or not a sexual assault actually occurred. In my case, it was a quiet incident where I kept protesting and saying “No,” but my rapist – a man I had been seeing only briefly – kept saying, “shhh.” He was over twice my weight, a solidly muscular firefighter, and I was solidly pinned to the bed. I had been in my very early twenties and was convinced that sexual assault had to be noisy, incredibly violent and involve some sort of weapon. None of these things are true.
Strictly speaking, rape is forced sexual intercourse. It does not matter whether or not the penetration was oral, anal or vaginal. The way rape is portrayed on television and in the movies does occur, but the media portrays it in that way because then creates tension in the scene, where the viewer is hoping and praying that the victim does survive and when he or she does, that revenge will be gotten against the rapist. The definition of rape does not involve violence through weaponry, though that can occur simply because the person being attacked feels intimidated by the other person's size or persona. In addition, noise, weaponry or not aside, the very fact that rape occurs by force implies that one of the parties involved in the rape was an unwilling participant. How did the victim end up participating? Because by virtue of the attacker's size, speed, or sheer intimidation of the victim, the victim was forced to comply.
However, lack of resistance to the crime does not mean that the victim was a willing participant. It simply means that there may have been the possibility of escalation of the violence if the victim resisted. In my case, I did not resist because I was intimidated by the man's sheer size compared to mine. He was big and muscular and effectively had me pinned. While I did not fear for my life, I was seriously troubled by what had happened and just prayed he would finish quickly.
There are many victims of rape who do not resist their attacker in their own best interests; their focus is on survival and hope that the incident stops sooner rather than later. There are also victims who believe that because they were unconscious or really drunk when the assault occurred that it would not be rape. If the victim is too drunk to consent or unconscious, that does not mean consent is implied.
Sexual assault is generally thought to be a crime that involves unwanted sexual touching, though several states and countries use the term interchangeably with rape. This could be fondling or rubbing – anything which may be deemed as unwanted sexual touching. 38 percent of all sexual assaults are at the hands of a friend or an acquaintance. As a result, there are many who do not believe that an actual crime occurred, as they do not believe their friend or acquaintance or loved one would be capable of a crime like sexual assault.
Molestation is one example of sexual assault. A five-year-old is incapable of giving consent to an adult to having things of a sexual nature done to them, as they largely do not understand what sex even is. Many times, the parents of the molested child simply want to forget the incident even occurred; that is what happened in my case. I was molested at 5 by my second cousin, who was in his 20s. My parents were of the generation where you would yell, cry and scream at the perpetrator, and cut them out of all family functions, but the police would not be involved. This was sadly the case; my family did not discuss the matter, and I wound up forgetting about the incident until my late teens, when a similar crime occurred on a television show I was watching and the memories of the molestation flooded back in full Technicolor.
This is, apparently, not uncommon to sexual assault survivors. When they are young, as I was, the brain tends to tuck it away until it can effectively process the memories. Some simply do not have the reminders that it occurred until something tweaks the memory. Then, a wide range of things could occur, such as increased anxiety and depression, in addition to trust issues and shattered self-esteem. Some argue that repressed memories really do not exist; however, studies have shown that repressed memories that come to life are actually what ultimately contributes to the mental health issues and potential for drug abuse and not the actual event of the sexual assault itself. The argument can therefore be made that memories of the sexual assault are what needs to be dealt with and that is ultimately contributes to the trauma.
During Sexual Assault Awareness Month, it is important to note that sexual assault is not as simple as going to court to see that justice is done. Those who have gone through sexual assault, whether as a child or as an adult, can deal with the trauma of memories for years to come, up to a lifetime. Unfortunately, because of the taboo that continues to revolve around issues like sexual assault, it is difficult for sexual assault survivors to discuss their trauma openly. It will only be when people are willing to reach out to those survivors and encourage them to talk that the barriers will ultimately be broken.
by Christina St-Jean
National Sexual Violence Resource Center
As child abuse increases in East Texas, survivors say it is time to change
by Kristen King
HARRISON COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - A group of East Texans are trying to shine the light on the growing problem of child abuse.
In the several years, Smith County has seen an increase in the number of victims that were reported. The number of reports assigned to investigation in Smith County went from 1408 in 2012 to 1461 in 2013.
However, Harrison County is seeing a decline. The Harrison County Children Services Board hosted a short ceremony in honor of Child Abuse Awareness on Tuesday.
Angela Person is a survivor and found the bravery to discuss the most hurtful events of her life.
“I finally decided that I wasn't going to let it live in me. I was going to be better than that. I was going to overcome that,” she said.
Every 11 seconds a child is reported abused or neglected.
“Every single one of us decide that we are going to put a stop to this,” Person said.
While Angela was able to overcome her abuse and now volunteers to help victims, others haven't been able to find that strength.
According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, 65% of prison inmates were abused as children and 90% of convicted murderers were also abused as children.
Authorities remind folks that if you know about child abuse and do not report it, that can be prosecuted as a crime.
Airports An Important New Front In Combating Human Trafficking
OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Anti-trafficking advocates and Bay Area prosecutors and congresspersons said Tuesday that airports are an important new front in combating human trafficking and rescuing victims.
Speaking at a news conference at the Oakland International Airport, Betty Ann Boeving of the Bay Area Anti-Trafficking Coalition said airport personnel, airline workers and passengers need to be aware that human traffickers use airports to transport their victims around the world.
Boeving said cases have been documented in which traffickers have misrepresented themselves as sports coaches, employers, and family members of trafficked victims.
She said airport personnel at ticket counters, gates and other areas of airport operations are in a unique position to identify potential victims and report potential incidents to law enforcement agencies, in order to rescue victims and bring traffickers to justice.
“Airline employees need to send a message to human traffickers that they're not welcome to do business in the Bay Area,” Boeving said.
The news conference was followed by a training session for airport staff to teach them how to recognize and address suspected human trafficking at the airport.
Similar training was conducted at the San Francisco airport in March 2012 and at the San Jose airport in January, Boeving said.
Deborah Flint, the Oakland airport's director of aviation, said, “Human trafficking is a global problem that needs local solutions. We can end human trafficking in our region if we know what to look for.”
U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, said human trafficking is “the fastest-growing criminal enterprise globally” and described it as “modern day slavery.”
U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, said, “Sex trafficking and human trafficking is big business in this country and region and it's high time that we got serious about eradicating it.”
Speier said the message that needs to be sent to airport workers and airline employees and passengers is, “If you see something, say something” to the appropriate authorities.
Boeving said people who see something suspicious should call the trafficking hotline at 1-888-3737-888.
U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said that in addition to forcing people to engage in the sex trade, human traffickers force people to work in agriculture and other lines of work and also keep them in debt bondage.
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley said the campaign to raise awareness at airports and on airplanes “is a tremendous asset in fighting human trafficking.”
O'Malley said, “In our neighborhoods and our businesses we need to be the eyes and ears of law enforcement and humanity” in combating trafficking.
Boeving said, “People need to know what human trafficking victims look like at an airport.”
She said possible clues are people who aren't dressed appropriately, such as wearing warm weather clothes when traveling to a cold weather destination, and passengers who don't know their destination.
“Airline employees are essential” to helping fight human trafficking, Boeving said.
In Iowa, human trafficking laws lacking
Iowa's penalty for sex with enslaved prostitute pale when compared to drug charges
by Annie Easker
Backpage.com advertises escort services from women with descriptions such as “Full of energy, fun & seduction!” or “Mixed EXOTIC PlayGirl Visiting Limited Time.” On one Friday the website listed 43 of these ads for the Des Moines area.
What many may not realize is that escort services often are fronts for human trafficking, a crime reported in Iowa with increasing frequency — a growth rate on pace to reach just over 71 percent between 2011 and 2013, according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center's hotline.
“The Internet has just empowered traffickers,” said Teresa Downing-Matibag, director of the Network Against Human Trafficking in Ames. “It's given them a legal venue to traffic.”
In response to this growing crime, state legislators crafted a new bill strengthening penalties for both prostitution and human trafficking offenses. It passed both the Senate and House and was headed for Gov. Terry Branstad's office.
Branstad was reserving judgment until examining the bill in its final form, his spokesman Jimmy Centers said on April 15.
“I think we're starting to wake up to realize it is a lot worse than what we imagined,” Rep. Greg Heartsill, R-Chariton, said. “It breaks the heart of anyone who studies this issue.”
Yet in Iowa, the law considers human trafficking less serious than drug cases. Many drug charges are class B felonies bringing up to 25 years imprisonment. In contrast, most trafficking charges carry five-year maximums as class D felonies.
If the victim is a minor, the offense brings a 10-year maximum as a class C felony.
“The consequences of having drugs on you are greater than the consequences of selling a human being. That's wrong,” said Ruth Buckels, the adoptive mother of a former human trafficking victim who lives in the Ames area.
A growing industry
According to the Washington, D.C.-based Polaris Project, an organization devoted to fighting human trafficking and pushing for stronger state and federal laws, trafficking is a $32 billion industry — and it's growing.
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center provides a hotline for anyone to call to report trafficking. In 2011, it received 63 calls from Iowa.
In 2012, that number increased to 82 calls. In 2013, it received 54 calls from January to June alone.
The calls received most likely only represent a small percentage of the actual trafficking taking place.
“Very little human trafficking is reported at this point,” said Cathy O'Keeffe, executive director of Braking Traffik, a Quad Cities-based organization dedicated to fighting sex trafficking in Iowa and Illinois.
Without being reported, human trafficking victims have almost no way of escaping. Brittany Phillips, a human trafficking survivor from Iowa found in Chicago in 2006 at age 14, said many girls try to run but are found and hurt by their pimps, so they stop trying.
Phillips herself was rescued during an undercover raid on her captors, but she stressed that many girls are not so lucky.
“It's better to report it and it be nothing than to not report it and it have been someone in danger,” said Phillips, now 22 and living in the Ames area.
A common misconception about human trafficking is that it only involves foreigners brought into the United States, or that most human trafficking victims are kidnapped, but that this is not always the case. Phillips was trafficked as a runaway after being offered what she thought was a modeling job.
Many traffickers target vulnerable teens and first build a relationship with them. In some cases, parents even traffic their own children to pay the bills.
If signed into law, Iowa's bill would allow county attorneys to refer a minor arrested for prostitution to the state Department of Human Services as a child in need of assistance, rather than filing a petition alleging that the minor has committed a delinquent act.
The bill also would expunge prostitution convictions from minors after two years of good behavior with no other convictions, other than traffic convictions or simple misdemeanors.
Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, who sponsored the bill, said it was important not to criminalize minors who are not prostitutes but, instead, are victims forced into sexual acts against their will.
O'Keeffe said law enforcement, hospital staff, schools and social service providers are starting to get the training to more readily identify human trafficking, but there is still a long way to go.
Trafficking in Iowa is not a new topic. The Gazette carried a 14-part series on trafficking in Iowa in 2008. “The most important thing for people to understand is that human trafficking happens in Iowa,” O'Keeffe said. “It includes small communities. It's not just a big city crime or a crime that happens in other parts of the United States.”
HUMAN TOLL ON VICTIMS
Human trafficking is a crime that occurs whenever an individual is exploited for labor or sex through force, fraud, deception, or coercion, except if the victim is under 18. Then coercion does not need to take place.
The Network Against Human Trafficking's Downing-Matibag said 16- and 17-year-olds in prostitution sometimes will be waived out of juvenile court into adult court to be tried for prostitution and receive a permanent criminal record. Other times they stay in juvenile and may have to serve probation.
“They're essentially criminalized,” Downing-Matibag said. “When they go out and get jobs, it's hard for them to get employment, and they don't get the services they need.”
Brittany Phillips's case was handled in Chicago, where she was found, in a manner similar to the new bill, and she said she thinks it is a good way to deal with the situation. Phillips was arrested for prostitution but eventually her charges were dropped.
“I was told that if I testified that I wouldn't be charged, and I think that is something that should be implemented here in Iowa,” Phillips said.
Phillips did not end up testifying because of safety concerns. She said more options should exist for victims to testify, such as over the phone, so they can receive justice for what has been done to them without fearing for their safety.
“It's better to get the girl out of the situation and get the help she needs instead of arresting her and charging her for something she had to do against her will,” Phillips said. “They aren't going to get any help sitting in jail or being fined and let go. They are just going to go back to it when they get out or released.
“At least if you turn them over to DHS they will have someone attempting to give them the counseling and love they need.”
Buckels, Phillips's adoptive mother, said arresting victims is the only way to get them out of the situation, and the charges may need to be pending to hold victims in a safe environment.
Buckels said she believes county attorneys will recognize human trafficking and not criminalize minors. However, she said, they will need more education to understand victims' needs and what human trafficking is.
A common problem is that victims do not see any other way of life for themselves.
“If they've never been taught their strengths, they're not going to stay out of the industry because they don't know how to make a living,” Buckels said.
Mike Ferjak, director of the Department of Justice's human trafficking squad, said human trafficking victims often resist law enforcement because they do not identify themselves as victims.
In many cases, victims develop a traumatic bond with their traffickers, which happens when a person cannot fight or run, so they are forced to develop a relationship with their captor.
“It is very common in our experience at least that the victims have created some type of pseudo-romantic relationship with this person,” Ferjak said. “They believe this is someone that actually cares about them despite the terrible things they make them do.”
This is why many women never make it out of human trafficking, experts who work with the victims said. Plus, if they are charged with prostitution as adults, it is considered an aggravated misdemeanor.
“We have a lot of adult prostitution in our country, and I think that the vast majority of people in prostitution have a history of being trafficked as children,” Downing-Matibag said.
Redefinition and higher fines
Purchasing sex also is an aggravated misdemeanor, but the new bill would make it a Class D felony, resulting in five years in prison and a fine of $750 to $7,500, if the person whose services are purchased is a minor.
In a human trafficking situation, a person who solicits services from a minor knowing they are enslaved would be guilty of a Class C felony, which carries a fine of $1,000 to $10,000 and a 10-year sentence. Soliciting services from an adult victim is a Class D felony.
In addition to these consequences, the new bill adds a $1,000 human trafficking surcharge to be put into a human trafficking victim fund. There was initially some debate over these aspects of the bill because of the general victim fund already in place.
Rep. Heartsill said that, considering the low number of human trafficking cases prosecuted, the surcharge money will not go far.
Downing-Matibag said $1,000 is a minuscule amount when traffickers can make $60,000 t0 $70,000 off one person in a year, but that the surcharge is a good start.
Ruth Buckels said any amount that hits traffickers in the pocketbook is a good thing, but she wants human trafficking charges to be as strong if not stronger than drug charges.
Since Brittany Phillips first shared her story, she and Buckels have been involved in helping raise awareness about human trafficking.
“I don't like seeing people cry, but when they do you know it's affecting them and making them think about this stuff,” Phillips said. “Even when you think your story isn't worth sharing because people aren't going to care, it really is, and you don't know if there is someone in the audience that is that 14-year-old girl that I once was and is going through the same thing.”
Phillips has spoken to many groups and has been involved in groups working to strengthen Iowa laws on trafficking. She also helped make a documentary with Cathy O'Keefe of Braking Traffik that tells the stories of three Iowa survivors of sex trafficking.
The documentary is to be shown in middle schools and high schools as part of Braking Traffik's awareness program, Traffik Jam.
Buckels emphasized the importance of educating all people on what slavery looks like in 2014. Her anger is directed toward those who turn the other way, such as front desk workers in the hotels Phillips was checked into while being trafficked.
“Her pimp would go in and book 10 rooms and put a girl in each room, and nobody turned this in. Nobody called. Nobody said, ‘Uh, I think he's running a pimping business, and these girls are little. They're underage,'” said Buckels.
“Nobody spoke up, and that to me is unbelievable.”
While education may help prevent human trafficking, Downing-Matibag stressed that demand is the crux of the issue.
“These traffickers are just smart business people, and they wouldn't have anything to do if there weren't men out there wanting to buy sex,” Downing-Matibag said.
“The demand is the source, and the people buying are our neighbors and friends and professionals.”
This story was produced by Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism-IowaWatch.org, a non-profit, online news website that collaborates with Iowa news organizations to produce explanatory and investigative reporting.
From the Department of Justice
Associate Attorney General Tony West Delivers Remarks at the National Indian Child Welfare Association's Thirty-second Annual Protecting Our Children Conference
Thank you, Theodore and Alex, for that kind introduction and for inviting me to join you today at this conference. It is wonderful to be here with so many friends, colleagues, and supporters. And it is an honor to share the stage this morning with two great partners, Assistant Secretary Washburn and Associate Commissioner Chang.
I would especially like to thank NICWA and its members for the work that you do -- day in and day out -- to strengthen Indian tribes, to support Indian families, and to protect Indian children in both state child-welfare and private-adoption systems throughout our nation.
And I think it's fitting that what brings us together this morning, this week -- from communities across this country -- is our commitment to children, particularly Native children. I think it was the French philosopher Camus who wrote about this being a world in which children suffer, but maybe, through our actions, we can lessen the number of suffering children.
Indeed, what brings us to Ft. Lauderdale is that promise we make to all of our children: that their safety and well-being is our highest priority; that they are sacred beings, gifts from the Creator to be cherished, cared for, and protected.
It was that promise that, nearly forty years ago, led Congress to hold a series of hearings that lifted the curtain and shed light on abusive child-welfare practices that were separating Native children from their families at staggering rates; uprooting them from their tribes and their culture. Roughly one of every three or four Indian children, according to data presented at those hearings, had been taken from their birth families and placed with adoptive families, in foster care, or in institutions that had little or no connection to the child's tribe.
And in the face of that overwhelming evidence, a bipartisan Congress acted and passed the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978.
And in the four decades since, as everyone here knows, ICWA has had a dramatic impact. Families, tribes, social workers, and Indian foster and adoptive parents have invoked ICWA's core protections to stem the most flagrant abuses.
Tribes no longer face the prospect that a quarter to a third of their children will simply disappear, shipped off to homes halfway across the country. Today, in many places, tribes and states have developed productive working partnerships to implement ICWA – partnerships that ensure that Indian families and cultures are treated with the respect they deserve.
And while it is right for us to recognize the landmark achievement that is ICWA, we also know that there is much work left to do. There is more work to do because, in some states, Native children are still removed from their families and tribes at disproportionately high rates.
There's more work to do because nationwide Indian children are still two to three times as likely as non-Indian children to end up in foster care; in some states the numbers are even larger.
There's more work to do because every time an Indian child is removed in violation of ICWA, it can mean a loss of all connection with family, with tribe, with culture. And with that loss, studies show, comes an increased risk for mental health challenges, homelessness in later life, and, tragically, suicide.
So, as far as we have come since ICWA became law in 1978, we have farther still to go.
You all know this is true from both professional and personal experience. And I want you to know that President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder share your commitment to improving the welfare of Indian children and are committed to working with you to help achieve that goal. Although ICWA speaks primarily to the responsibilities and roles of the states and the tribes, we believe there's a constructive part for the federal government to play.
That's why the White House has directed the Departments of the Interior, Health and Human Services, and Justice to engage in an unprecedented collaboration to help ensure that ICWA is properly implemented. I believe we will hear more about this effort from Assistant Secretary of the Interior Washburn in a few minutes.
For our part at the Justice Department, our main ICWA contributions have focused on precedent-setting litigation that can affect ICWA's reach and force. One of ICWA's most important provisions is its recognition that Indian tribes, as sovereigns, have presumptive jurisdiction over Indian child-custody proceedings. And over the years we have worked hard to help protect this tribal jurisdiction by participating in federal and state court litigation as an amicus curiae, or “friend of the court.”
In Alaska, for example, we've participated in a line of cases over the last 20 years to ensure that Alaska tribes have jurisdiction over child-custody disputes. Starting with the landmark John v. Baker case, we've filed multiple amicus briefs in the Alaska and U.S. Supreme Courts, successfully arguing that even tribes that lack “Indian country” retain jurisdiction to address child-custody disputes.
Of course, we've not always prevailed. Last June's U.S. Supreme Court decision in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, which narrowly interpreted ICWA and terminated the parental rights of a Cherokee father in connection with his daughter, was decided over our arguments in support of the father.
But even when we don't prevail, our legal arguments can have a major impact on the ultimate decision. You'll recall that in Baby Girl, one of the arguments advanced by the adoptive couple was, essentially, that ICWA was unconstitutional -- that it "upset the federal-state balance," suggesting that Congress was prohibited from overriding state child-custody law when an Indian child was involved.
We countered that applying ICWA in that case raised no constitutional concerns, as Congress has plenary authority to protect Indian children from being improperly separated from Indian communities. And on this point, we were successful: even though we lost the ultimate issue and the High Court ruled against the Cherokee father, the Court did not rely on the adoptive couple's constitutional argument and did not rule that ICWA was unconstitutional.
Notwithstanding setbacks like the Baby Girl decision, we will continue to stand up for ICWA because, as we said in the Supreme Court, it's “a classic implementation of Congress's plenary [trust] responsibility . . . for Indians.” You see, for us, standing up for ICWA means standing strong for tribal sovereignty. "Nothing could be more at the core of tribal self-determination and tribal survival,” we said during oral argument in the Baby Girl case, “than . . . [determining] tribal membership and . . . [caring] about what happens to Indian children.”
This, of course, is completely consistent with the Administration's steadfast efforts to advance tribal sovereignty on a whole host of fronts. It was our Nations' Founding Fathers, the framers of our Constitution, who expressly acknowledged tribal sovereignty when they empowered Congress to regulate commerce not only “among the several States,” but also “with the Indian Tribes.”
It's a principle that was succinctly summed up by President Obama in 2009 when he observed: "Tribal nations do better when they make their own decisions."
And for those of us privileged to serve in the Obama Administration, what does standing up for tribal sovereignty mean?
It means not only filing briefs in Indian-law cases that seek to preserve the victories tribes have won in the lower courts; but also seeking to change the law, where necessary.
Perhaps the best example of that is last year's fight to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA. As you know, the same year Congress helped advance tribal sovereignty by passing ICWA, the Supreme Court, in the Oliphant case, held that tribes lacked criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians unless Congress said otherwise. But for 35 years, Congress remained silent.
So even violent crimes committed by a non-Indian husband against his Indian wife -- in the presence of their Indian children, in their home on an Indian reservation -- he could not be prosecuted by the tribe. So violent crimes went unprosecuted and unpunished, and violence against Native women escalated.
So in 2011, the Justice Department drafted federal legislation to fix this problem by restoring tribes' criminal jurisdiction. Last winter, that legislation was enacted by Congress and signed into law by President Obama. Today, the Justice Department and three Indian tribes -- the Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona, the Tulalip Tribes of Washington, and the Umatilla Tribes of Oregon -- are all actively implementing the first pilot projects under VAWA 2013.
And while VAWA 2013 is the best example of our trying to change the law's balance in favor of tribal sovereignty, it's not the only one. When the Supreme Court's decision in the Carcieri case made it harder for the Secretary of the Interior to take land into trust for some tribes, we stood with the tribes and repeatedly pushed Congress to pass the Carcieri fix, so that tribes could put their land into federal trust regardless of when they were recognized.
In addition, in response to Carcieri, the Interior Department has analyzed what tribes were under federal jurisdiction in 1934, which in turn has enabled Interior to make positive land-into-trust decisions for many tribes. And the Justice Department is vigorously defending those decisions when they are challenged in court.
Standing up for tribal sovereignty also means extending the benefits of that government-to-government relationship to every legitimate Native American group in the United States. That's why the Interior Department is currently revising its federal acknowledgment regulations, so that tribes that have been terminated or otherwise denied their proper status as sovereign nations can reestablish a government-to-government relationship with the United States.
Standing up for tribal sovereignty means supporting the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as this Administration does, declaring that all “[i]ndigenous peoples have the right to self-determination . . . [and to] freely determine their political status.”
And it means not overlooking one of our country's largest indigenous communities: the Native Hawaiian people. In 2010, Attorney General Holder and then-Secretary of the Interior Salazar took the historic step of expressing this Administration's strong support for a proposal that would lead to reestablishing and maintaining a government-to-government relationship with the Native Hawaiian community.
Tribal leaders in the continental United States have long proclaimed that Native Hawaiians deserve the same inherent rights to local self-government, self-determination, and economic self-sufficiency that other Native Americans enjoy. And today we have a federal government willing to stand beside them and defend those core principles.
So standing up for tribal sovereignty means moving forward on all of these fronts, as well as many others, like continued support to improve public safety in tribal communities -- almost 1000 DOJ grant awards to tribes totaling nearly $400 million over the last four years.
Or working to identify ways to reduce the violence experienced by too many of our Native children, as our Task Force on American Indian/Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence is doing through convenings and listening sessions throughout the country, the next one occurring later this week here in Ft. Lauderdale.
Or improving the safety of tribal communities by more U.S. Attorney prosecutions of cases in Indian Country -- up by more than 50 percent in the last four years.
These are pragmatic, meaningful and significant measures in support of tribal sovereignty, and they are making a difference every day.
Let me close by saying this: one of the great privileges of my office as the nation's Associate Attorney General has been the opportunity to delve into issues of tribal public safety and tribal sovereignty. And over the last five years, my work has taken me to Indian Country more than a half-dozen times.
And for me, those visits are a reminder of the rich legacy that First Americans have bestowed upon this country, and that we are a stronger America because of that legacy.
They remind me of the important trust relationship between the United States and tribal nations, and that the struggle for tribal sovereignty and self-determination has too often been waged in the face of disruption and devastation caused by assimilation and termination policies pursued in the not-so-distant past.
They remind me of the Code Talkers, the Cold War Warriors, and the other Native American men and women who proudly wore the uniform and whose continued service today helps secure the freedoms we enjoy here, at this moment and in this place; and that, as important as is our shared history, so too is our common destiny: a future that is left in our hands to shape.
A future that can be defined by sovereignty and self-determination; by resilience and sustainability and economic opportunity; a future unclouded by violence, in which the Seventh Generation is healthy, happy and strong.
That is the vision of the future that unites all of us in this room. It is our charge and our challenge; our collective mission. And for all that you do to make real this promise to our children, know that I salute you, proudly stand with you, and will work alongside you, today and in all the days ahead.
Thank you very much.
Former child actor, sexually abused, directs a documentary about his experience
by Tirdad Derakhshani
Like most Americans born since the video revolution, Sasha Joseph Neulinger's childhood was lived on camera.
But unlike other families, the home movies his parents took at their Rosemont home showed a family in crisis.
A family beset by secrets.
At age 7, Neulinger told his parents (Henry Nevison and Jacqui Neulinger) that for the previous four years he had been sexually abused by his paternal uncles Howard and Lawrence Nevison and Lawrence's son, Stewart - the same men captured on video so warmly embracing Neulinger's parents, sharing jokes at birthday parties, or passing the salt across the dinner table.
"My dad believed me completely," Neulinger, 24, said in an interview Friday in Center City. "He later told us he was abused as a child by his brothers. . . . But he had never reported it."
A child actor ( Unbreakable , Shallow Hal ) turned filmmaker, Neulinger is directing a documentary about his experiences as a survivor of child sexual abuse using footage from the more than 200 hours of home movies his father, himself a film producer, amassed.
"I spent three months digitizing 200 hours of my childhood," said Neulinger, an alumnus of Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Performing Arts in Bethlehem. He studied filmmaking at Montana State University.
"There are moments . . . that were extremely painful and scary for me. But . . . I also got to watch beautiful moments from my childhood that I didn't remember ever happening because they had been so overshadowed by the trauma."
Called Rewind to Fast-Forward , Neulinger's film is being funded through a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign that already has raised more than $170,0000 of its $200,000 budget.
Neulinger said the film will explore abuse from a multiplicity of angles that take it from the personal and the particular to the universal.
"I'm hoping to share my story from the first moment of abuse all the way through my process of healing," he said. "And I want to cover it from an emotional perspective, but also a legal and clinical perspective." Several legal, medical, and psychiatric experts already have signed up for the film.
Neulinger said he hoped his film would show lawmakers that the current legal system often adds to, rather than helping to heal, the pain of the abused child.
He'll discuss how he spent a decade in and out of courtrooms and therapists' offices as his uncles and cousin went through the legal system. Lawrence and Stewart have admitted the abuse and were found guilty of various felonies in 2000. Seven years later, Howard, who continues to deny the charges, struck a plea deal, pleading guilty to five misdemeanors.
"When I was 7 and I told my parents, I thought the nightmare could . . . be over," Neulinger said. "But . . . I had to relive the pain of my experiences in vivid detail to doctors, detectives, the prosecution team, over and over again in horrible detail.
"The fact that it took me 17 years to finally move on in my life is not OK," he added.
He said his film would offer suggestions on how the criminal justice system could help minimize the victim's trauma.
Rewind to Fast-Forward will not stop with the victims of abuse, but will investigate how many abusers themselves were victims of abuse. Both Lawrence Nevison and his son Stewart have said they were sexually abused as children.
"If we really want to reduce the numbers of children victimized by sexual abuse, it's our job to make sure every victim goes through a proper and efficient healing system," Neulinger said, "so when they go out in the world as adults, they are not walking wounded. That they are not going to repeat the cycle."
He added, "It's by helping to heal abuse survivors that we can protect the children of the next generation."
Family Violence Prevention Center prepares for ‘An Uncommon Affair'
by Amanda Crowe
XENIA — The Family Violence Prevention Center of Greene County (FVPC) will once again welcome the spring season with “An Uncommon Affair” to help provide continued support, care and education to survivors of family violence.
The event will be held Friday, May 16, at Country Club of the North, 1 Club North Drive, to raise much needed funds for the center. “An Uncommon Affair” was first held in 2005, but was re-structured and returned in 2012 as an annual fundraiser.
“This county-wide event is our signature fundraiser for the year,” said Joan Dautel, FVPC Board of Trustees vice president.
FVPC is a United Way Partner Agency, a contract agency with the Mental Health & Recovery Board of Greene County and is accredited by the Council on Accreditation. It is run by contributions from individuals, businesses, corporations, foundations, government agencies and local organizations.
The mission of FVPC is to reduce family and relationship violence and its impact in Greene County. The money raised by “An Uncommon Affair” will help Greene County meet the rising demands for services.
“Forty percent of families in the United States experience domestic violence, and in Greene County a woman is three times more likely to be assaulted by her partner than getting any type of cancer,” said FVPC executive director Debbie Matheson. “And it crosses all lines. It's not just low income families or those in the lower educated demographic. We want these women to know they don't have to stay in an unsafe environment, and they don't have to manage or deal with abuse.”
The center has a wide range of services to help protect victims and provide the support necessary to rebuild their lives through prevention, intervention and outreach. Those services include a 24-hour crisis hotline, safe housing, children and youth services, community advocacy, counseling, education and training.
Last year's event raised more than $40,000 for FVPC. This allowed them to provide prevention education to more than 3,500 junior and senior high school students in Greene County public schools, shelter at least 120 adults and children in their safe house, and assist roughly 4,000 individuals with information and referral services through their crisis hotline.
Seating for the 2014 “An Uncommon Affair” is limited to 200 guests, so early reservations are encouraged. The deadline to register is May 2. Cost is $75 per reservation, of which $25 is tax deductible.
The Masters of Ceremonies for the event will be Shaun Kraisman, host of WDTN's “Living Dayton,” and Kim Faris, B94.5 afternoon drive personality. Dress will be “spring casual” attire.
The evening will begin at 6:30 p.m. with a reception, silent auction and raffles, along with the live auction preview. The hand-bell call to dinner will be at 7:15 p.m. Dinner music will be provided by Garry Finton of Fairborn. Meal options include chicken Parmesan, bśuf bourguignon, herb crusted seared salmon and penne pasta.
The live auction, by Bart Sheridan, and raffle drawings will begin at 8:50 p.m., followed by music and dancing with Rocky Weaver from Rock to Bach DJ services at 9:30 p.m.
For more information, call 937-376-8526 or visit the FVPC website at www.violencefreefutures.org.
Justice Served – One Man's Fight to Put His Molester Behind Bars
by Rick Andreoli
On the surface, Dr. Frank Spinelli had it all: a thriving medical practice, a comfortable home in Manhattan, a budding relationship. There had been darker times — at 11 his Scoutmaster, Bill Fox, molested him, causing years of mental and emotional damage — but on the surface it looked like Spinelli had moved on.
Then the unthinkable happened. Spinelli accidentally learned that his former Scoutmaster had adopted fifteen boys in the decades since they last crossed paths. Some of those boys were mentally challenged. One adoption in particular earned his abuser a national Father of the Year Award and a book deal.
“I became obsessed. I went crazy,” Spinelli says from his office in New York. Thirty years prior, when Spinelli told his parents what happened, the local Boy Scouts organization convinced his Italian immigrant family to let them handle it. Fox was a respected police officer in the community, and these things needed to be handled delicately. But, as with many abuse stories, that really meant covering up the incident, pretending like it never happened. “I knew he'd abused other Boy Scouts, and now that this man had children in his care, I had to stop him. No matter what.”
This is the story that unfolds in Pee-Shy, Spinelli's gripping memoir about bringing his molester to justice. The title refers to Spinelli being paruretic , or unable to urinate in public, which affects nearly 17 million adults, many of whom were molested as children. When Spinelli learns about Fox's new life, his condition worsens, exacerbated by the fact that he can't press charges because the statute of limitations has passed in New York. So Spinelli sets out to find other abuse victims who will come forward — which proves more difficult than he expected.
“A child molester is usually someone the parent or child knows,” he explains. “Most likely the parent introduced the child to the molester, so this person is someone you trust. And when you realize this person has betrayed that trust, it rattles the foundation of your family and community. So what happens — let's say with a church, the Boy Scouts, a sports team — the system will try to minimize the controversy as a way to protect itself. In reality, they're not doing anything. They need to protect the child, and they need to report it as a crime.”
Part of protecting the child involves understanding the psychology of abuse, as well as destroying myths about the subject. For example, in the case of male-boy molestation, most perpetrators do not identify as being homosexual. That's because being gay or lesbian is a sexual orientation, but sexual abuse of children is a psychopathology. It's a crime.
Child molesters will often live within a construct of heterosexuality. Indeed, Spinelli's abuser often went to great lengths to mock gay men and assert his heterosexual prowess, theoretically because heterosexuality is perceived as being “normal” and upstanding within a community. It's part of why these people become so deeply trusted and given positions of authority. (For a fascinating examination of this concept, read Malcolm Gladwell's story “Jerry Sandusky and the Mind of a Pedophile“ from The New Yorker .)
Because the child sees this person as an authority figure, the young person can be groomed into wanting to please or protect the abuser. The child will sometimes blame himself for any perceived wrongdoing. And, according to Spinelli, what made his situation so insidious wasn't just the sexual contact, but Fox's psychological manipulation.
“Bill used other Boy Scouts to bully us,” he explains. “He created a hierarchy, where good boys rode in the front of his car and got ice cream, but bad boys rode in the back.” In the book, Spinelli recounts instances where some Boy Scouts who Fox was abusing would tease and torment him in order to score favor with the Scoutmaster. Ironically, this made Spinelli want to please Fox more — for both friendship and protection — even though he hated what they were doing.
“To me, that was more horrifying than any kind of sexual situation,” Spinelli says.
As the story plays out, Spinelli's journey becomes more intense. After numerous dead ends, victims and their families unwilling to admit the truth, death threats, and Spinelli harming his own relationships with family and friends, he finally confronts Fox. This is a victory in itself; most survivors never get that opportunity. As Spinelli says, “Once I saw Bill — old, barely able to walk — he didn't seem so scary. Once I saw the real him, it freed me. I was able to take back the power he had over me.”
Does Fox end up in jail? You'll have to read the book to find out. But according to Spinelli, that isn't the real point of Pee-Shy .
“I really want to encourage survivors to come forward to tell their stories,” Spinelli says. “You have to come forward and tell your story, and not feel shame, and not blame yourself and not feel victimized. I think more and more if we just do this, there will be a shift, and as a society we will take abuse more seriously.”
PA Family Support Alliance Statement on Passage of Child Abuse Mandated Reporting Bills
Responding to legislative passage and the anticipated signing by Governor Corbett of House Bill 431 and other bills reforming the state's mandated reporting requirements, Angela Liddle, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance (PFSA), today issued the following statement:
“These bills contain elements that are critical to improving how we report suspected abuse. We must all remember that the child welfare system does not begin to protect children until a report is made.
This last series of child welfare bills headed to the Governor's desk for signature continue to advance the recommendations made by the state's Task Force on Child Protection.
They cast the net wider in defining who is required to report child abuse, and require licensed and certified professionals who work with our children to be trained on key issues related to child abuse identification and reporting.
These key mandated reporters also have had some roadblocks to reporting child abuse removed. No longer required to report their suspicions first to a supervisor, a mandated reporter is directed in this new legislation to make the report first and then inform their appropriate management personnel.
This sends a clear message that the protection of children is now viewed as holding more importance than institutions and their chains of command.
“These bills also bring greater accountability to schools, nonprofit organizations and really all entities that serve and work with children. Volunteers, in some situations, are now considered to be mandated reporters of child abuse. Our licensed and certified professionals, who always have been mandated reporters, will now be required to have training designed to give them clear instruction on their legal requirements.
“The bottom line of this legislation is that it is no longer acceptable to say, “‘I did not know what I had to do.' Legislation aside, the message we most need to convey is that every person in Pennsylvania has a role to play in keeping children safe and should report suspected abuse to ChildLine at 1-800-932-0313.”
About PFSA: PFSA provides training on recognizing and reporting suspected child abuse and neglect through schools, early childhood education centers, religious institutions, and social service agencies.
PFSA is the Pennsylvania sponsor of The Front Porch Project®, a community-based training initiative that educates the general public about how to protect children from abuse. PFSA also works with more than 50 affiliate agencies across Pennsylvania to provide information, educational materials, and programs that teach and support good parenting practices.
To learn more about how you can recognize and report child abuse, visit http://www.pa-fsa.org.
Family Success Center stressing fight against child abuse
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and the Safe and Successful program of the Family Success Center hopes to blanket Etowah County in blue ribbon bows.
Each bow signifies a willingness to join the fight against child abuse. All money raised from the sale of the bows will help to continue school-based education programs and community awareness events designed to protect children from the horrors of abuse.
Donations may be mailed directly to the Family Success Center at 821 East Broad St., Gadsden, AL 35903.
In 2000, almost 1 million children did not know what it was like to be “safe and sound” in their homes. Tragically, three children of all races, genders and socioeconomic backgrounds die each day as a result of abuse or neglect.
During Child Abuse Prevention Month, the Family Success Center will sponsor events to call attention to the importance of preventing such tragedies and all forms of child maltreatment, and the role people can play in those efforts.
The school-based Safe and Successful program reaches about 5,000 students each year in Etowah County's three school systems, kindergarten through high school grades. The program empowers children to tell a trusted adult if they are being touched in any inappropriate way, not just by strangers but by people a child might know. The program discusses what abuse is and stresses that living with it is not normal for anyone. The program suggests that parents be sure anyone working with their children has proper screenings in place before any contact begins.
“We need to raise the public's awareness of the devastating effects of child abuse,” said Joan Henry, program coordinator, “and empower and encourage people to become involved and support families and parents, so that we can prevent all forms of child abuse and neglect from reaching our children.”
Gadsden Mayor Sherman Guyton proclaimed April as Child Abuse Prevention Month. The Etowah County Commission also signed the same proclamation.
For additional information on efforts to fight child abuse, visit www.preventchildabuse.org. For more information about child abuse prevention programs and activities, or to purchase a blue ribbon, contact Henry or Family Success Center Director Marie Johnson at 256-547-6888.
Guest essay: With sexual abuse, kids need to be heard
by Lori Day
Canandaigua, N.Y. -- April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the staff at Safe Harbors of the Finger Lakes would like to take this opportunity to reach out to the adults in our community.
We have all heard the saying “Children should be seen and heard and believed.” Unfortunately, when a child discloses the fact that they have been sexually abused, they are often not believed.
The fact that we live in a society where one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused by the age of 18 makes our initial reaction to a child telling even more important. Due to the fact that 93 percent of children who are sexually abused are abused by someone they know and trust, our first reaction may be one of shock or denial. It is hard to imagine that someone close to our family may hurt our child. If you are confused and angry at the disclosure, imagine what the child must be feeling. For that and many other reasons, such as threats and bribes, only 10 percent of children who are sexually abused ever tell anyone what has happened to them.
What should you do if a child tells you he/she is being sexually abused?
- Take what the child says seriously.
- Emphasize that the abuse is not the child's fault and they didn't do anything wrong.
- Give the child lots of love, comfort, and reassurance that they are safe.
- Tell the child how brave he/she was to tell you.
- Acknowledge how scared he/she must be feeling.
- Make sure to report the abuse.
There are resources in our community to help children who have been sexually abused and their families. The children in our community deserve to be seen, heard and believed.
Safe Harbors of the Finger Lakes provides medical and legal advocacy, a 24-hour crisis hotline and short-term counseling for child/adult victims of child sexual abuse, their parents, and other secondary victims. We also provide a prevention-education program in Seneca, Yates, and Ontario counties.
For more information on our services or to speak with an advocate, call our Geneva office at (315) 781-1093 or our Penn Yan office at (315)536-9654. To reach our 24-hour hotline, call (800) 247-7273 in Ontario/Seneca counties and (315) 536-9654 in Yates County.
Police say sex offenders wore GPS monitors during killings
by Ed Payne
Two convicted sex offenders, who have been charged with raping and murdering four women in Southern California, were wearing ankle monitors at the time of the alleged crimes, police say.
"The GPS was in fact attached to these suspects during the commissions of the crimes," Anaheim police Chief Raul Quezada said Monday.
Steven Dean Gordon, 45, and Franc Cano, 27, were arrested Friday night, and police say their ankle monitors and the women's cell phone records helped authorities tie these cases together. Both men are expected to appear for arraignment Tuesday, authorities said.
"The utilization of GPS through our two suspects, that coupled with initial evidence, led us to those individuals," Quezada said.
According to Lt. Bob Dunn, both men were in compliance with their regular, required check-ins with police every 30 days. He said police had no reason to watch them more closely.
Both have been convicted of sex crimes with children: Gordon in 1992, and Cano in 2007.
All four women are believed to have died over the last six months.
The body of Jarrae Nykkole Estepp, 21, of Oklahoma was found at an Anaheim recycling plant last month.
The disappearances of three other women in Santa Ana are being treated as homicides, although their bodies have not been found.
Kianna Jackson, 20, was last seen in Santa Ana on October 6. Josephine Vargas, 34, was last seen on October 24. And Martha Anaya, 28, was last seen in Santa Ana on November 12.
All of the women are believed to have worked as prostitutes, police said.
Neighbors never suspected there were seven dead babies in her garage
by Lindsey Bever
She was a good neighbor. She was a friendly person. And she babysat for their grandchildren.
Folks in Pleasant Grove, Utah, say they knew her pretty well. But somehow they didn't know her well enough, they say, to notice how often she got pregnant — seven times in recent years. This weekend they found out, in the most gruesome way imaginable.
The suspect's estranged husband, who has been identified by family and neighbors as Darren West, found seven infant bodies in cardboard boxes while cleaning out the garage on Saturday as he was getting ready to move back into the house this summer. He recently got out of prison on drug-related charges, police said.
Now, Megan Huntsman, 39, is accused of killing her babies after giving birth to them between 1996 and 2006, investigators said. She was booked on Sunday into the Utah County Jail on six counts of murder. It wasn't clear why there were six counts and not seven, The Associated Press reported.
Neighbors said police cars blocked the entrance to the house Sunday evening as they went through belongings taken from the garage that were strewn across the lawn.
Pleasant Grove is known as “Utah's City of Trees” — a middle-class neighborhood with mostly older homes nestled some 30 miles south of Salt Lake City. It's a community where little seemed amiss, neighbors said, until this.
Neighbors told reporters that Huntsman used to babysit for their grandchildren. They said that her three daughters — one teenager and two young adults — were normal girls, and that Huntsman and West were friendly people.
“It makes us so sad, we want to cry,” longtime neighbor Kathie Hawker told the AP. “We enjoyed having them as a neighbor. This has just blown us away.”
Hawker told KUTV that she and her husband, Aaron, had been Huntsman's neighbors for about 15 years, and that she “was a good neighbor, as far as we knew.”
Aaron Hawker added, “I've had a few shocks in my life, but this one was a huge one.”
They were also stunned, they said, that Huntsman had been pregnant in recent years.
Neighbor Sharon Chipman, who let Huntsman babysit for her grandson for years, told The Salt Lake Tribune that she had noticed Huntsman had gained and lost some weight throughout the years, but she never considered that Huntsman might be pregnant. “This really shocks me,” she said.
Fred Newman, a neighbor whose cousin is the West's mother, told the AP he has cleaned their driveway with his snow-blower and the girls thanked him.
“What's shocking is the three older ones living there and not noticing that their mother was pregnant,” Newman said.
Huntsman moved out of the home several years ago, leaving her three daughters to live alone, the Hawkers said. They aren't sure where she's been living.
Another shocker: Police do not believe West was aware of the killings.
“We don't believe he had any knowledge of the situation,” Pleasant Grove Police Capt. Michael Roberts told the AP.
Asked how the man could not have known about the situation, Roberts replied, “That's the million-dollar question. Amazing.”
Help raise awareness of domestic violence
Sexual Assault Awareness Month is the kind of observance we'd like to think would never be necessary.
Domestic abuse is the single major cause of injury to women in the U.S. More than one million seek medical attention for injuries caused by an intimate partner. Approximately 20 percent of women who seek medical attention do so because of injuries from battering. Each year more than 4,000 women die at the hands of their partners.
That's why there are organizations like Crisis Intervention Services of North Iowa and the North Iowa Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault Community Coalition, to keep the issue in public consciousness.
In previous years, men donned women's shoes and walked around Central Park in an event called Walk a Mile in Her Shoes. This year a day of events is planned for Thursday, April 24, at The Music Man Square starting at 1 p.m.
A unique feature will be a T-shirt decorating event called the Clothesline Project, designed to give more survivors the chance to participate in a meaningful way, according to Mary Ingham of Crisis Intervention.
Survivors can express their emotions through the decorations, using different colors for different types of abuse.
“The clothesline project is a powerful visual,” Ingham said.
A documentary film will be shown at 6:30 p.m. and local law enforcement officers will lead a “Take Back the Night” walk starting at 8:30 p.m. using glow sticks and flashlights.
Concluding the day is a survivor “speakout” at the CoffeeCat across from Southbridge Mall.
Cerro Gordo County Sheriff Kevin Pals and his department have been active participants in domestic violence awareness events, no doubt because the department sees first-hand its devastating effects. Same for Crisis Intervention, which answered thousands of calls last year and provided 4,829 days of shelter to 208 adults and 126 children.
"We've thought about ways to bring awareness, and this is all about awareness," Pals said. "Obviously, we'd like sexual assaults to stop happening but we know in order for that to happen we have to have some community awareness.”
We're with you 100 percent, Sheriff Pals. We'd like to never have to report another case of domestic assault. But knowing that's not going to happen, perhaps the next best thing is raising community awareness and education.
A good start would be attending the event April 24. We urge many North Iowans to show their compassion and concern by taking part.
Hopefully it's an effort that raises awareness year-round.
Agencies plan local training seminar for child abuse, sexual assault awareness
April is Child Abuse Prevention and Sexual Assault Awareness Month
by Elena Ruiz
Child abuse and sexual assault are topics not easily discussed, but must be.
In 2011, 15 children in New Mexico died as a result of abuse or neglect.
April is Child Abuse Prevention and Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Gretchen Bolsing, of La Pinon Sexual Assault Recovery Services of Southern New Mexico, wants residents to know there is help and resources available for victims, advocates and the community.
"We work closely with local law enforcement to ensure those affected by either child abuse or sexual assault are cared for, given first priority and also provide support for the family," said Bolsing.
La Pinon and the Sixth Judicial District for Luna County invites all residents to attend a training seminar on Sexual Assault Protocol from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., and once again from 11:30 to 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 23, at the Andres Z. Silva Conference Center, 119 E. Pine St. The seminar will also include protocols for children facing physical abuse.
Local and state agencies will be providing presentations to attendees on protocols when sexual assault or child abuse is suspected. Sixth Judicial District Attorney's Office, Children Youth and Family Division, Adult Probation, Deming Police, Gila Regional Medical Center and La Pinon will speak and also answer any questions.
"What we want the community to get from this training — besides knowing the procedure — is to better serve the needs of victims of sexual assault." said Bolsing.
The seminars are approxiamelty two hours each and the public is strongly encouraged to attend. There is no cost.
Court Appointed Services Advocates, or CASA, have also planned an event for Child Abuse Awarenss and Prevention Month from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 26, at the Marshall Memorial Library, 110 S. Diamond St.
Food, beverages, balloons, music and children's activities are only a small part of the events for the public to come out and enjoy. Two bicycles will be raffled along with other fun prizes. The event is also free to the public.
• In 2011, New Mexico had 31,932 total referrals for child abuse and neglect. Of those, 16,992 reports were referred for investigation.
• 5,601 children were victims of abuse or neglect in New Mexico in 2011, a rate of 10.8 per 1,000 children, representing a 7.4% decrease from 2010. Of these children, 85.8% were neglected, 13.5% were physically abused, and 3.7% were sexually abused.
• Approximately 26,395 New Mexico grandparents had primary responsibility caring for their grandchildren in 2011.
How to recognize, discuss child sexual abuse
by Kristina Taylor-Porter
One in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday; therefore, the likelihood of knowing a child or adult who has been victimized is high.
April is Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month, but as adults, it's our obligation every day to recognize the potential signs of abuse and take an active role in preventing, responding to and reporting our suspicion of abuse. Often, there are no physical signs of abuse; however, the most recognizable signs are changes in the child.
Some signs of abuse may include but are not limited to:
• unexplained injuries, which may include cuts, burns, and/or bruises in a pattern or shape;
• an appearance of anxiousness or aggression, or withdrawn behavior;
• a child's regression to earlier behaviors, such as thumb-sucking, bed-wetting, etc;
• fear of going to the place in which the abuse may be occurring, such as home, school, church, etc;
• a change in a child's sleep patterns or the report of frequent nightmares — often, adults notice a more fatigued or tired child;
• a change in school performance and attendance;
• a child's poor personal care or hygiene;
• and the display of inappropriate sexual behaviors.
Sometimes, children are reluctant to disclose their abuse for many reasons, and as adults, we may struggle with ways to talk with our children about abuse. But it's important to start dialogue when they are young.
Talk with children about their bodies and feelings early on. Empower the child to claim ownership of his or her body and feelings. Teach children that people should treat their body and feelings with respect, which means no one has the right to hurt them or make them or their body feel uncomfortable in any way. Likewise, children are to respect other people's bodies and feelings.
Then, adults must be prepared. Be prepared to listen to our instincts when a child presents his or her changing behaviors. Be prepared to listen when children are ready to talk.
Open the lines of communication and eliminate distractions when talking with children. Create a safe space for your child to talk to you about anything. Remember, children are learning to navigate this world and, as adults, it's our job to be a positive sounding board and mentor to encourage safety, growth and understanding.
Listen without judgment when a child brings the little problems to you so they know you will do the same if they have bigger problems. When children bring their problems to you, thank them for telling you and talk with them about how you can work together to solve it.
If, during your time with a child, you become aware or suspicious of child abuse, it's vital to report it immediately so trained professionals can begin to ensure the child's safety and investigate. Reports can be made to children and youth services, local law enforcement and/or to ChildLine at 800-932-0313.
Legislation cracks down on sexual abuse
by TOM MILLER
One out of every 10 children will be a sexual abuse victim by their 18th birthday, according to Emily Chittenden-Laird, executive director of the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network. This startling statistic prompted members of the 2014 West Virginia Legislature to work on creating new laws to stop crimes against children such as neglect, physical abuse and child pornography.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin recently signed three of these bills - HB4005, HB4006 and HB4139 - into law. Delegate Linda Phillips, D-Wyoming, was lead sponsor of HB4005 that had eight other sponsors in the House. It creates a criminal offense for child abuse by a parent, guardian or custodian that causes a substantial risk of bodily injury. Penalties for a first or second offense are misdemeanors while a third or subsequent offense is a felony.
According to figures from West Virginia Child Protective Services, there were 4,591 victims of child abuse in the last reported year.
The second new law, HB4006, deals with the possession and distribution of child pornography. Delegate Phillips was also the lead sponsor of this bill that attracted 10 co-sponsors in the House of Delegates.
It passed the House on Jan. 27 but didn't receive final approval by both chambers until the final day of the 2014 regular session March 8.
This new law makes it so any person who engages in any activity that portrays a minor in "sexually explicit conduct" is guilty of a felony and subject to up to 15 years in prison or a fine of up to $25,000, or both.
Delegate Nancy Guthrie, D-Kanawha, is the lead sponsor of HB4139, which "restricts the parental rights of child custody and visitation when the child was conceived as a result of a sexual assault or sexual abuse." Like the other two bills, this measure becomes effective June 6 - 90 days after it was passed.
Both custody and visitation rights will be denied to a natural parent convicted of sexual assault when a child is produced as a result of that offense unless the victim or guardian consents and it is in the best interest of the child.
House Speaker Tim Miley, D-Harrison, formed a bipartisan Select Committee on Crimes Against Children during the interim period between the 2013 and 2014 regular legislative session, according to Delegate Guthrie.
"We called in state police agencies and child advocacy networks because they're such an important part of dealing with child abuse and neglect," Guthrie told a reporter for the Beckley newspaper. State police said they often don't have the legal recourse to make sure parents are being held accountable.
So committee members then worked to make sure the laws "have more teeth," Guthrie said.
Meanwhile, a reporter for CNN - John King - created a political furor in West Virginia recently when he said 3rd District Congressman Nick Joe Rahall, D-WV, was considering retiring at the end of his current term, Morgantown radio newsman Hoppy Kercheval reported last week.
But when Kercheval contacted Rahall's office, they told him that Rahall "has been committed to running for re-election from the moment he announced his candidacy." Spokeswoman Diane Luensmann said "nothing has changed in the interim."
The Republicans are excited about state Senator Evan Jenkins, who has switched from the Democratic party to the Republican party and plans to challenge Rahall in this year's election. West Virginia State Republican Chairman Conrad Lucas said in a news release that "it's clear he (Rahall) doesn't want or need to be there. These reports from CNN make clear the rumors we have heard for months."
The Rothenberg Political Report is the latest nonpartisan political publication to move Rahall-Jenkins into the tossup category. Deputy Editor Nathan Gonzales told Kercheval on his Metronews Talkline recently that the Rahall-Jenkins race is "going to be quite ugly."
Finally, the junior U. S. Senator from North Dakota - a Democrat like current West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, who hopes to win a seat in the United States Senate later this year - will be in West Virginia this week to campaign for Tennant. Heidi Heitkamp won a close race over her Republican opponent in the 2012 election.
A statement from Tennant's campaign claims Sen. Heitkamp and Tennant have a "lot in common - both are tough, moderate Democrats in conservative, energy-rich states."
But state Republicans countered with a statement that those similarities are exactly why people shouldn't vote for Tennant. GOP leaders in the state claim Sen. Heitkamp has voted in favor of President Obama's policies 97 percent of the time, including for anti-coal policies. They say Heitkamp is "very supportive of Obamacare and made it easier for a Democratic-controlled Senate to confirm an Obama nominee. These are issues West Virginians need to be aware of."
Major admits Salvation Army treatment of child sex abuse complaints 'pathetic'
Major Peter Farthing was chair of the Personal Injuries Complaints Committee assessing claims of child sexual abuse from 2005 to 2009. He's admitted some of their decisions were 'pathetic', and that in at least one instance of correspondence with a victim of child sexual abuse, the Salvation Army was trying to cover itself legally. At one point in the hearings, Major Farthing asked the Salvation Army's lawyer to 'remind him' to review whether an extra payment should be offered to one victim who was raped as a child and had bricks tied to his feet before he was thrown into a swimming pool.
by Sarah Dingle
MARK COLVIN: A former head of the Salvation Army committee that assessed claims of child sexual abuse has admitted that some of their decisions were 'pathetic', 'disbelieving', and 'mean-spirited'.
Major Peter Farthing also told the child abuse Royal Commission that in at least one instance of correspondence with a victim, the Salvation Army was trying to cover itself legally.
At one point in the hearings, Major Farthing asked the Salvation Army's lawyer to 'remind him' to review whether an extra payment should be offered to one victim who had bricks tied to his feet before being thrown into a swimming pool.
Sarah Dingle reports.
SARAH DINGLE: Major Peter Farthing notched up 36 years with the Salvation Army last January. He's held senior leadership positions, including chair of the Personal Injuries Complaints Committee, or PICC, from 2005 to 2009.
As chair of the PICC he presided over the vast majority of victims complaints that came to the Salvation Army. Payments were calculated using a matrix.
Major Farthing confirmed to Counsel Assisting Simeon Beckett that the matrix allocated money depending on what kind of abuse was suffered.
SIMEON BECKETT: You might allocate, say, $30,000 to sexual assault, for example?
PETER FARTHING: That's correct.
SARAH DINGLE: Two women, known to the Commission as JD and JG, were abused as children by a Salvation Army officer John Lane. They reported the abuse to the Salvation Army in 1992, which failed to report it to police. Instead both women had to report it to police themselves years later, with the result that Lane was charged, convicted, and sent to prison.
The ex gratia payments offered by the Salvation Army to JD and JG were only settled more than a decade after those charges. Major Farthing said he wasn't sure he presided over both their claims, but Counsel Assisting Simeon Beckett told him both were settled under his leadership in 2009.
SIMEON BECKETT: JG was offered an ex gratia payment of $80,000, plus an additional amount of $20,000 to support her in education and training.
PETER FARTHING: Okay.
SIMEON BECKET: And then, with respect to JD, she was offered and accepted an amount of $40,000 plus counselling. Do either of those ring a bell?
PETER FARTHING: Forty thousand more? Again, I think we probably would have done that on an intuitive basis; it sounds pathetic when I'm saying it now, but we didn't have a matrix for those... well, not that common, those kinds of claims.
SARAH DINGLE: Major Farthing told the commission the two women's claims were uncommon because they weren't in a home, they were the children of Salvation Army Corps.
Counsel Assisting Simeon Beckett said given that both were sexually assaulted, the matrix for payments should have still applied.
PETER FARTHING: We could say it appears... I mean, looking at it now, I wonder how we came up with $40,000.
SIMEON BECKETT: Are you saying that, looking at it now, that the amount of $40,000 appears to you to be inadequate with respect to JD's claims?
PETER FARTHING: I shouldn't waffle on, because I can certainly remember from JG's evidence, but I'm not remembering right now all that JD testified to. So... I shouldn't be waffling.
SARAH DINGLE: Another victim, Wally McLeod was in a Salvation Army home as a child, and accepted $20,000 from the Salvation Army for the physical beatings he received there.
Some years later, Major Farthing met Mr McLeod at a reunion and offered him another $10,000 'out of the blue', which confused Mr McLeod. That offer was accompanied by a letter written by Major Farthing saying 'we are not obliged to make any further payments'.
Major Farthing was asked to explain why.
PETER FARTHING: I think, your honour, I suspect we were... I was just trying to... can't find the right word. I was going to say 'cover ourselves'; I don't know if that's the right way of putting it. I guess I was trying to reiterate our... what we understood to be our legal position.
SIMEON BECKETT: But again, why? Why were you doing that?
PETER FARTHING: I'd be guessing... I guess there's a lot of claims out there, there's a lot of people who have been abused, and I didn't want to sort of just make a gesture which would make the Army vulnerable legally without at least pointing out our position.
SARAH DINGLE: Major Farthing was also asked about the case of a man known as EF, who suffered multiple acts of anal rape by Salvation Army Major Victor Bennett. EF also says that Major Bennett woke him up one night, stripped him, tied bricks to his feet, and threw him in a swimming pool.
EF was only ever offered $11,000.
Major Farthing says he will reconsider EF's claim as new, and asked the Salvation Army's lawyer, Mr Geary, to remind him to do so.
PETER FARTHING: I will give an undertaking that we will do that. We will go and meet him, have a fresh impact, get him to go and see a psychiatrist/psychologist who can help him prepare a fresh impact statement, and we'll give it a whole fresh look. I've give that undertaking. Treat it as a new case, apologise for our failure in the distant past, and go with it again.
SIMEON BECKETT: I'll just take you back to paragraph 173 of your statement...
PETER FARTHING: Can someone remind me to do that, please. Thank you... just want Mr Geary to remind us to do that, that's all.
MARK COLVIN: Major Peter Farthing of the Salvation Army ending that report by Sarah Dingle.
Jury Finds Fmr. Youth Pastor Not Guilty In Sex Abuse Trial
by MaryAnn Martinez
FT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – A Ft. Lauderdale jury found a former youth pastor accused of molesting children not guilty on all counts.
When the jury resumed its deliberations Thursday morning in the trial of Jeffrey London, jurors had a question for the judge concerning the definition of “reasonable doubt.” The judge told the jury to go back and read up on the definition.
Just after 2 p.m. a decision was reached and London was acquitted of 27 counts of abuse.
“I'm very relieved cause I know my son didn't do the things they said,” said Clara London.
Prosecutors claim London, 50, sexually assaulted four boys who are now adults.
“My clients were absolutely floored, devastated, and specifically, in total disbelief and shock that there could ever be a verdict other than guilty on all counts,” said Brad Edwards. He's the attorney for three of the four accusers.
Despite gripping testimony from four men, who all said London molested them as children, the jury wasn't convinced.
“The evidence in this case was so overwhelming and strong against Jeffrey London,” said Edwards.
London testified denying anything ever happened.
“I think it came down to no physical evidence,” said Defense Attorney Lourdes Gonzalez.
The victory is bittersweet because London is not going home. He is going back to jail to await trial again. Four other men have accused him of doing the same thing.
Jeffrey London's mother, Clara, had this message for the accusers.
“We love them,” said Clara London. “I have nothing against those kids. We will always love them.”
On Tuesday, London took the stand and said he had been falsely accused. London said the young men who brought the charges were upset at being evicted from the home he provided for them.
The four men who claimed they were abused by London gave emotional testimony last week. They described to the jury how they endured years of sexual abuse.
Questioned repeatedly by his attorney as to whether he has abused anyone, London firmly answered ‘no' each time.
When asked about an incident his ex-wife described when she found London in bed with a 16-year old boy, London said plainly, “It never happened.”
He said he asked the troubled youth to follow rules in his home which included a curfew, attending school and not smoking. London testified that the young men who brought the charges got to the point where they didn't want to follow the rules, so he asked them to leave.
After London's testimony, defense rested.
His attorney began her case on Monday presenting witnesses who countered prosecution's testimony.
The first witness who took the stand worked at the church and said it was impossible for the sexual abuse to happen. The witness argued the alleged victim's time frames don't make sense because there would have been no time to commit the sexual abuse.
The second witness lived in London's home along with dozens of underage boys. The witness stated that none of the other boys talked about the alleged sexual abuse or told him about it. The witness said that London helped him out with school education and encouraged the boys to better themselves.
On April 2nd, Clive Lowe who used to live with London took the stand. Lowe, who worked for Metro PCS, told the jury that London questioned him about how long they kept text message records.
Jonna Jones took the stand after Lowe. She attended the charter school where London was dean. She told the jury about the time she was with a fellow student who received a phone call from London and put it on speaker phone. Jones said London told the student to keep it between them what had happened. The student was one of London's alleged victims.
The rest of London's accusers also took the stand. Each described how the abuse started when they were young and how London kept them quiet.
“What would he offer you in exchange for sexual abuse,” the prosecutor asked one of the men.
“Chunkies, money, sometimes entertainment, games, clothes,” he replied.
“How much money are we talking about?”
“The most like $300 to $400.”
If convicted London could have faced life in prison.