Teacher Felicia Smith gave her middle school student a lap dance
Felicia Smith, 42, has been charged with engaging in an inappropriate relationship with a student, KHOU News reports.
According to a male student at the school in Houston, Texas, Ms Smith grabbed his journal and stopped him from talking to his friends as he walked into class. When the bell rang, Ms Smith placed a chair at the front of the room, and the boy's classmates told him to sit on it.
Music started to play. Then Ms Smith gave the student a “full contact lap dance”, grinding against him and rubbing her hands all over his body. The teacher also got on her knees and placed her head between his legs, KHOU reports.
The boy says he “slapped Ms Smith on the buttocks” several times.
At the end of the dance, which apparently lasted about four minutes, Ms Smith hugged the student and said “I love you baby, happy birthday.”
When she was questioned by police, the teacher admitted to performing the lap dance, saying she did it at the urging of his classmates.
Investigators have reviewed video footage of the incident, which is being kept on file at the District Attorney's office.
Sex assault prevention: Education is key
by Debbie McGuiness
Statistics show one in four girls and one in six boys in the U.S. will be sexually assaulted.
No matter where you live — a big city or a small town — sexual assault is a problem. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention even lists it as a public health concern.
“We need to do a better job in primary prevention of sexual assault,” said Chris Krajewski, domestic abuse/sexual assault program director at Women's Resource Center of Northern Michigan.
In addition to its individual and community services in counseling, advocacy and information, education is an important aspect of the work the Women's Resource Center of Northern Michigan is engaged in.
The Women's Resource Center, along with the Child Abuse Council of Charlevoix and Emmet Counties and Great Start Collaborative of Emmet, Charlevoix and Northern Antrim Counties, initiated a campaign to help prevent child sexual abuse by offering information and resources to parents and educators.
For the past two years, free informational materials have been offered to elementary schools in Charlevoix and Emmet counties to share with staff and parents of students in kindergarten through third grade.
Women's Resource Center of Northern Michigan clinical director and therapist Stacey Walsh-Hoobler works with the collaborative effort.
“We give parents the tools they need to talk to their children, to correctly name body parts and tell children they have the right to say ‘No,'” Walsh-Hoobler said. “Young children are generally assaulted by someone they know and trust — by a family member or neighbor, for instance. We show parents how to teach children that their body is special and belongs just to them. The resource center offers information on what parents need to know regarding Internet predators — how to protect their children online.”
The resource center offers educational services to companies and groups, to nonprofit organizations, faith-based institutions and more, said Dena Sydow, marketing and communications director at the Women's Resource Center of Northern Michigan. Sydow said its 100 Men Campaign was designed “to help engage the good guys” in support of showing how men can affect change by standing up against violence to women. It also provides film screenings to area communities to raise an awareness of the culture of violence in the United States.
And the organization is working with area schools, looking to educate middle and high school students about healthy relationships. The program, “Just the Facts,” is facilitated by Dar Charlebois, prevention coordinator. The program provides teens with information on sexual assault, teen dating abuse, gender role stereotypes, Michigan law, healthy relationships and setting limits/boundaries.
“We need to teach gender roles to middle and high school students,” Charlebois said. “Teens are bombarded by hypersexualization of media … the volume is extremely insulting toward women. Teens mimic what they think is cool. We should re-look at how and why change is needed in our culture, our society.”
At Wolverine Public School, Charlebois recently visited the eighth-grade classroom for a session, which was made up of four days, one hour at a time. She led discussions in unhealthy relationships, jealousy and controlling relationships, role playing and how to be safe when texting.
“Don't text or post anything you wouldn't want your grandmother to see.” She offers websites the students may want to visit — loveisrespect.org is a teen dating hotline; thatsnotcool.com has cards to download the teens can use to respond to texts.
In the ninth-grade class session in Wolverine, Charlebois led the students in discussing abuse in gay and straight relationships. They discussed the role media plays in society.
“Be conscious of that — women are unfairly scrutinized in the media,” Charlebois said.
She shows the class gathered around long tables in the school's art room a video — young teen Tavi Gevinson's TedX talk, “Still figuring it out,” on YouTube.
As a few teens feign disinterest, most appear to be listening to Charlebois.
“We have to change the culture. There are girls still pretending to be less smart so guys will like them,” Charlebois said.
Northern Michigan resources for assistance, support, advocacy and support for victims of sexual assault include the Women's Resource Center of Northern Michigan. The Women's Resource Center of Northern Michigan sexual assault services program offers immediate support to survivors at emergency rooms or through its 24-hour crisis line; specially trained, professional counseling staff; advocacy on behalf of the survivor; and support groups for women, teens, men and family members of survivors. All of these services are free of charge.
Free counseling and support services
Free counseling and support services through the Women's Resource Center are provided to any crime victim, including survivors of robbery, hate crimes, elder abuse, economic exploitation/fraud, DUI/DWI crashes, domestic abuse, sexual assault, child abuse, child sexual assault and abuse and survivors of homicide victims. This free service is also extended to past survivors of crime, such as adults who were molested as children.
Counseling services are provided at four locations in Northern Michigan: 423 Porter St., Petoskey; 825 S. Huron St., Suite 2, Cheboygan; 95 Livingston Blvd., Gaylord; and 205 Grove St., Mancelona.
The Women's Resource Center in Petoskey offers support groups for survivors and has separate groups for women, parents and partners of survivors, teen girls and an adult men support group.
Women's Sexual Assault Recovery Group
Women's Sexual Assault Recovery Group is a weekly support group for adult women who are survivors of childhood or adult sexual abuse. It is an ongoing group that provides an opportunity to share common experiences; receive support; and address issues impacted by sexual trauma such as relationship and intimacy challenges, mental health concerns and self-esteem and life satisfaction. To register, contact the Women's Resource Center of Northern Michigan at (231) 347-0067.
Healing Together is a support group for parents and partners of sexual assault survivors that provides information, and offers an opportunity for parents and partners to share their experiences and learn how to help their loved ones heal from sexual assault. This group takes place the third Wednesday of the month from 5:30-6:30 p.m., at the Women's Resource Center of Northern Michigan Petoskey office, 423 Porter St. No registration required.
Men's Voices is a support group which takes place for adult men who have experienced sexual abuse in their lives. This weekly, ongoing support group provides fellowship and support with issues common to men who have faced sexual abuse in their childhood or adult lives. To register, contact the Women's Resource Center of Northern Michigan at (231) 347-0067.
Teen Girl Survivor Group
Teen Girl Survivor Group is a weekly support group for teenage girls and provides an opportunity for teen girls to receive information and support with addressing how sexual abuse has affected their lives. To register, contact the Women's Resource Center of Northern Michigan at (231) 347-0067.
National Domestic Violence Hotline: (800) 799-SAFE (7233)
TTY: (800) 787-3224
Call toll-free 24 hours a day anywhere in the U.S. Trained counselors provide confidential crisis intervention, support, information and referrals to local programs to victims of domestic violence, their families and friends. The hotline links people to help in their area including shelters, legal and social assistance programs. Help in English and Spanish with interpreters available for 139 more languages.
Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN)
(800) 656-HOPE (4673)
Call toll-free 24 hours a day anywhere in the U.S. Provides confidential counseling and support for survivors of sexual assault. The hotline automatically routes calls to the rape crisis center nearest the caller by reading the area code and prefix of the caller's phone number.
Domestic Violence Court Strives to Reform Batterers
by Alison Gene Smith
RUPERT -- Jorge looked down at the table in front of him.
"What am I going to have to do to convince you that if you don't take this seriously, you'll just do the jail time?" asked Magistrate Judge Rick Bollar of Minidoka County.
Jorge began a long answer, saying he just needed to stay away from his victim and leave the area, but Pocatello probation wouldn't take him.
"But when are you going to start?" Bollar asked.
Jorge seemed confused. "Start?"
His April 8 review hearing marked Jorge's second time going through the program of Domestic Violence Court for the 5th Judicial District.
He was supposed to have signed up for treatment before the hearing, but he hadn't.
Bollar stopped short of jailing Jorge that day but gave him a list of things to do by the end of April: Sign up for the 52-week treatment program with Preferred Child and Family Services, get on a drug testing schedule, have his evaluations done.
"It'll keep you out of jail," the judge said.
Court Director Kristy Rasmusson later pulled Jorge aside and tried to discover what would work.
In 2010, Bollar and Rasmusson saw domestic violence courts popping up around the state and thought south-central Idaho needed one, too. But they had to prove that need to the state.
Bollar, Rasmusson and Amber Prewitt, the county's director of adult misdemeanor probation, all visited Nampa's Domestic Violence Court. Then they looked online, found programming for domestic violence treatment and started offering it through the probation department.
The first class started with one offender, a woman. Bollar sentenced her to probation and made the treatment classes mandatory.
Today, three 90-minute classes are given each week — two for men and one for women. Twenty of the 148 offenders who have gone through the program so far are women.
A domestic violence evaluation costs $400 to $700. Program participants paid for it themselves until the court finally got funding in October through the Idaho Supreme Court.
The court had operated independently for three years, and Bollar had applied for that grant nearly a year before they received it. The court became official when Rasmussen became its director in October.
"Domestic Violence Court isn't optional," Bollar said. "It's sentenced as a component of probation. And if they don't comply, then the only alternative is incarceration."
At the April 8 review hearing, murmurs filtered through the courtroom about couple's therapy, getting back to work and progress in counseling.
"I hear you're doing awesome," Rasmussen told one participant, Jose, as she entered the hearing.
When it was Jose's turn to talk to Bollar, the judge noted that it was Jose's last review.
He had been in court 25 times since he was 16 in 1997. But since his latest charge, for domestic battery, he had done a 180-degree turn-around.
"I don't think anybody has done it better than you have," Bollar said.
Jose said he and his family have introduced positive activities into their lives through their church and couples therapy.
"You've come a long way since you were 16," Bollar said. "I won't be seeing you again."
The court is often the first time offenders, especially the men, express themselves in public. Group therapy forces them to open up to strangers about their problems.
One man, Travis, said he initially had trouble "getting into the groove" with the intense Moral Reconation Therapy, known as MRT.
Another said, "I never really talk about my problems. It's all to myself." But hearing other people's insights into his problems has helped.
Bollar stressed that offenders are held accountable. They are on probation and must test clean on urinalyses, do community service, get treatment, show up on time and undergo counseling.
Information from each entity is brought up at review hearings. Rasmusson said she and the counselors, lawyers, victim's advocates and probation officers constantly call and email each other to discuss each case.
If something isn't going well, she said, she'll question the person to find the root of the problem. Some have problems finding work; others with transportation.
The court currently can only handle misdemeanor offenders. Eventually, Rasmusson would like to see a separate, high-intensity court for felony offenders.
The officials also will try to develop more domestic violence courts, first in Jerome County if it has enough services and everyone gets on board.
It's time-consuming, Rasmusson said. Setting up the court requires counselor services, court clerks, judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys.
“We don't want to set up the offender for failure,” she said.
The program had 23 offenders in April. Along with domestic violence treatment, they take parenting classes, get mental health treatment and learn about other life skills. “It just depends on each individual," Rasmusson said.
Since the program started, two participants have had new domestic violence charges filed against them. That's probably not an accurate gauge of recidivism, though, because many victims don't report abuse or may have moved away, she said.
Although each case is different, many people who enter the program want to keep the family together. If a victim begins to see a change in the partner's behavior, the victim often starts attending the court hearings as well, she said.
During exit interviews, no one has said they regretted going through the court, Rasmusson said.
“They're getting tools for life.”
Since October, only one probation violation has been filed against an offender who went through the program.
While the program isn't right for everyone, Rasmusson said, it's incredibly helpful to many.
“Previously, we had domestic violence offenders. They just weren't getting treated,” she said.
Most people who participate find it helpful, Bollar agreed.
"They find alternative ways to deal with stress and anger and the things that have caused their families to have difficulties or break up," the judge said.
Violence is almost always a learned behavior, Rasmusson said.
“There's no medication for a domestic violence offender. That's a behavior or belief system that needs to be looked at by the offender.”
Drugs, alcohol and mental health problems can exacerbate the problem.
Some offenders come into the program not understanding what they did wrong.
Rasmussen, a domestic violence survivor herself, said abuse was learned and accepted in her abuser's childhood home.
Many offenders enter the program with an attitude of "dinner better be on the table," she said.
Rural residents sometimes have few outside influences to change such ideas. “People just accept it.”
Generally, though, court participants begin to see a different way.
“There is usually that ‘ah-ha' moment,” she said, but not for everyone. “Some have gotten to the 20th week (of 52) and start all over because that moment hasn't happened.”
Still, she said, though the court focuses on the offender, the goal is to keep the victim and family safe.
Congress should listen to child sex-abuse victims
All nine United States Supreme Court justices recognized that possession of child pornography is not a victimless crime when the Court issued its decision in Paroline v. U.S. this past week.
According to the Court, “every viewing of child pornography is a repetition of the crime.” But that is not news. The Court recognized that fact 32 years ago when it issued its decision in New York v. Ferber and reiterated it in Osborne v. Ohio in 1990.
All nine justices also agreed that victims of child pornography are entitled to restitution from those who possess their sex abuse images. That fact is also not news. Twenty years ago, Congress passed the Mandatory Restitution Statute (18 U.S.C. 2259), which was intended to ensure that all victims of sex abuse crimes receive full restitution for their harm, including victims of child pornography possession.
Not only is the purpose of the Mandatory Restitution Statute to restore victims, but also “to impress upon offenders that their conduct produces concrete and devastating harms for real, identifiable victims,” the Paroline Court explained.
Unfortunately, almost no victims of child pornography possession have received restitution under the Mandatory Restitution Statute in the past two decades, and the majority opinion made clear in this week's ruling that they should. The problem is the Court was unable to explain how much restitution is owed or even how to determine the amount owed.
On the one hand, the majority opinion, which was written by Justice Kennedy and joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Alito and Kagan, held that the restitution should be “reasonable” and “circumscribed” — neither “severe” nor “token” or “nominal.” But what does that mean?
In the Civil Damages Statute (18 U.S.C. 2255), victims of child pornography possession are entitled to a minimum of $150,000 in damages from offenders. That is far less than the $3.4 million in restitution that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered for the victim in Paroline , but far more than the $0 that Paroline argued he owed.
But, of course, it was the Mandatory Restitution Statute that was before the Court, not the Civil Damages Statute and so the majority opinion made no mention of that amount as a potential minimum.
All it determined was that victims were entitled to full restitution for their losses “someday.” The indeterminate phrase prompted the victim in Paroline to ask, “when that day will be and how long I … and other victims will have to wait for justice.”
The lack of clarity in the statute and the majority opinion prompted Chief Justice Roberts to enter a dissent, which was joined by Justices Scalia and Thomas. Although they agreed that child pornography victims deserve restitution and that Congress intended for them to have it, the dissent argued that the Mandatory Restitution Statute was so poorly drafted that, contrary to its intent, it allowed the victim no recovery and Congress should be called upon to “fix” the statute.
Justice Sotomayor entered a separate dissent arguing that, contrary to Chief Justice Roberts' dissent, the statute was quite clear that the victim was entitled to the full restitution of $3.4 million from Paroline under the Mandatory Restitution Statute. Justice Sotomayor also suggested that Congress should consider redrafting the statute and offered concrete suggestions for doing so, including mandatory minimum restitution amounts similar to the $150,000 minimum set in the Civil Remedy Statute.
Once again, we have a poorly written statute, a divided Supreme Court, and a younger generation that is caught in the middle and will pay the price. None of this is news, unfortunately.
What is news is that Paroline v. U.S . was the first time in the Court's history that a crime victim was allowed to be represented by her own counsel. Giving child victims a voice in matters that affect them is a universally recognized right. The question now is, “Will Congress listen?”
Warren Binford of Salem is an associate professor of law and director of the clinical law program at Willamette University College of Law. She, along with Paul De Muniz and several of their students, submitted an amicus brief on behalf of the Dutch National Rapporteur on Trafficking and Sexual Violence against Children in support of the victim in Paroline v. U.S . Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sexual Assault, Child Abuse: Do You Know Your Neighbor?
by Darlene Tedesco-Cullen
SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - April is child-abuse prevention month as well as sexual-assault awareness month. As part of the effort, both Middlesex County and South Plainfield Mayor Matt Anesh are working to spread awareness about child abuse and sexual assault, as well as the lasting effects they have on children, families and the community.
According to many who have looked at these problems, there are clear-cut ways to end the harms they cause. Constant vigilance, as well as education, is a start. But that is just the beginning. Advocates say strict laws and support for survivors are also needed to bring these problems to an end.
Child abuse, sexual exploitation, and sexual assault are global issues. Still, the United States remains the largest producer and consumer of child-abuse content in the world, according to the Thorn Organization (Digital Defenders of Children), a group that works to develop technology to help fight the sexual exploitation of children.
According to the proclamations Anesh authorized at Monday night's council meeting, statistics show that one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually assaulted before age 18. The goals of both child-abuse prevention month and sexual-assault awareness month are to educate people about the signs of abuse, to help prevent sexual abuse and assault, and to support the survivors.
It is reported, that all too often sexual abuse occurs within communities by people who are perceived as “upstanding citizens." Their positions of trust, at times, are used to lure victims or take advantage and prey upon the very children who trusted them.
The examples hit close to home. At the end of 2013, a teacher and coach was sentenced to six years in prison for videotaping young boys in the showers at Immaculata High School in Somerville. By all accounts, he was a trusted member of the community. According to a Somerset County Assistant Prosecutor, the “real” person was manipulative, narcissistic, and a predator.
More recently, a 45-year-old Edison man was sentenced to 18 years in prison after pleading guilty to producing and distributing child pornography. He was charged with taking pictures of naked children and distributing the pictures over the internet, along with hundreds of images of sexually abused children involved in sadistic and masochistic acts. He was a school crossing guard in Metuchen.
A case from South Plainfield involves another purportedly trusted member of the community, a retired police officer. The defendant is awaiting sentencing for persuading a minor to engage in sexually explicit acts that were disseminated over the Internet. The charges, which were outlined in a criminal complaint by the U.S. Attorney's Office, say he paid the minor to videotape her and photograph her performing sexually explicit acts for him and with him.
Not only did this predator admit to abusing and violating an underage child, but there is a pending criminal complaint against the mother of one of the minors, who worked as a local photographer and reporter. The woman attended school and community events throughout South Plainfield, and she is charged by the U.S. Attorney with sexual exploiting children. According to court records, these two alleged predators purportedly began the abuse when some of the children were as young as twelve.
“Too often child abuse and sexual assault hit to close to home,” said Anesh when introducing the proclamations about child-abuse month and sexual-assault month. “My own boss was sexually abused as a minor and went on to write about the experience as a means of healing himself from his childhood ordeal.”
“Safety and security of our children just doesn't happen,” the mayor added. “As a community we need to create safe havens for our most vulnerable citizens. It is our obligation to protect someone's child, son, daughter, sister or brother. Children are the future.”
Woman says man sexually assaulted her still free; case never went to trial
by Genevieve Curtis
EL PASO, Texas -- It's one of the most underreported crimes and local attorneys said it's also the hardest case to win in a courtroom.
Adult victims of rape and sexual assault are finding the system doesn't always work for them and sometimes they are silenced by that very system.
But determined prosecutors and survivors of sexual assault want to see a change, and one El Paso woman is breaking her silence.
KFOX14 normally does not reveal the identities of sexual assault victims, but this woman wants the public to hear her story.
"I screamed again and this time he got really, really angry and he told me that nobody could hear me, that I was his bitch. Who was going to go help me?" said Brenda Fornelli
It's the testimony Fornelli said she would have given on the stand in a court of law.
"When I turned around, that's when he put the first handcuff on. The ground, it just goes under you, the shock. For a minute I thought this is a joke, this has got to be a joke," said Fornelli.
But her case never went to trial. Fornelli says two years after the night she was raped she wants her voice heard.
"I hope you can take a minute of your time, and listen to my story and help me re-open my case," said Fornelli.
Two years ago Fornelli's daughter Gisela Tourk contacted KFOX14's Genevieve Curtis about her mother's case.
Fornelli claims she was raped by a neighbor, a federal officer, in March 2012. At the time, they were frustrated that after several months no arrest had been made.
"All we want is just justice," Tourk told KFOX14 in July 2012.
Fornelli thought she did everything right -- she went to the police and filed a report, she went to the hospital for a rape kit and she told her story over and over again.
"I have a voice and it wasn't heard," said Fornelli.
But the arrest never came, and she said the justice she sought proved harder to find.
"We believe the community needs to know," said Tourk.
Prosecutors said sexual assault and rape cases among adult victims remain the most challenging cases.
"Those are the cases I've had the worst outcomes on," said Assistant District Attorney Penny Hamilton. Hamilton is the Chief of the Rape and Child Abuse Unit.
Hamilton spent about 20 years of her career trying rape, sexual assault and child abuse cases in El Paso County.
"Our society, when it comes to sexual assault, we are not out of the dark ages," said Hamilton.
Not just in El Paso, but across the country; The Rape, Abuse, Incest, National Network, also known as RAINN, reports four out of every 100 rapes in the United States will result in a conviction. Out of every 100 rapes, 40 get reported, 10 result in an arrest, eight are prosecuted and four are convicted.
"The success rate when you do go to trial is not as high (as) when you have a murder," said Hamilton
Hamilton leads an aggressive team fighting for the victims.
Yet justice doesn't always deliver. That's because the question often becomes, who is really is on trial?
"It's a very common defense to go after the victim, as a matter of fact. Typically it's the only defense. The victim is attacked in some way for their choices prior to be sexually assaulted," said Hamilton
A victim's past, lifestyle choices, possible alcohol consumption, even clothing become silent factors in a jury's verdict.
"What in the world were you thinking going to that bar in that short skirt? The victim is scrutinized unlike any other, their behavior is put to the test," said Hamilton
At times it comes down to who seems more credible.
"Then it becomes a matter of who do you believe, an intoxicated victim or an offender who says, 'Everything was good; everything was consensual. She's just mad because I wouldn't give her a ring, or whatever,'" said Hamilton.
Fornelli knows what it feels like to not have people believe her story.
District Attorney Jaime Esparza says his office presented a full case, but the grand jury chose not to indict, meaning there would be no arrest and no trial.
"I went into a state of rage, disbelief, despair," said Fornelli.
Hamilton says it is rare that a grand jury does not indict a case.
While Fornelli's case may be in outlier, sometimes sexual assault cases leave room for a jury's doubt.
"Regardless of whether or not I can prove it, I understand they are a victim of sexual assault in their heart, in their mind, absolutely being able to prove that is something else entirely," said Hamilton.
Even the verdicts in the strongest cases have surprised Hamilton; one in particular stays with her.
"(The victim) suffered such severe injuries during the assault that she almost died. She will never, ever be able to have children. I truly believe the evidence was so incredibly overwhelming in that case I can honestly say I was shocked when the not guilty verdict came in that one. That one -- I will never forget that victim or that case," said Hamilton
Fornelli said the attack has consumed her life for the past two years.
She feels the El Paso Police Department could have done more to collect evidence.
She claims they failed to take photos and document the marks from the handcuffs on her wrist, among other things.
"I recognized and signed his picture, and after I did that, Detective Lara looked at me in the eye and he told me, 'Do you know that you are going to ruin this man's life?' Me ruin his life? What about mine? Mine is not worth anything?" said Fornelli.
"No one knows what it feels like until you've been there," said Tourk.
Tourk said one of the hardest things has been watching her mother's home deteriorate.
Fornelli, an avid gardener, once had a blossoming garden. But since her attack she hasn't been able to go outside and work in her garden.
"I let it die," said Fornelli. "It was the death of me."
The U.S. Department of Justice reported a decline in the number of reported rapes in 2013.
But Hamilton worries the low conviction rate sends the wrong message to other victims not to report their assault, to suffer in silence.
"I absolutely fear that it does," said Hamilton.
Fornelli hopes other voices will join hers to change the community's perception.
"The best thing I can say is speak up, even if you think no one is listening, speak up. I feel that I should advocate for others," said Fornelli.
She's reached out to local lawmakers in an effort to get the police department to reopen her case.
"In my case, justice was not done but it's not over yet, it's not over yet," said Fornelli.
Fornelli is in counseling and says she plans to advocate for victims someday.
KFOX14 crunched the numbers and out of all of the El Paso criminals in the Texas prison system, 3.4 percent were convicted of sexually assaulting an adult victim.
KFOX14 reached out to the El Paso Police Department; this is their response:
"In Sexual Assault cases the El Paso Police Department works closely with the District Attorney's Office, Medical Personnel, STARS and victims to assist them during this critical time and crisis. The El Paso Police Department encourages victims to report sexual assaults immediately to assist in the preservation of evidence. The victim, upon reporting the incident, was taken to a medical facility and evidence was collected as is standard in any sexual assault case. This case was assigned, as are all sexual assault cases, to our Crimes Against Persons unit for investigation. The case was investigated thoroughly and the completed case was forwarded to the District Attorney's Office. We have reviewed this case and determined it was handled appropriately."
For help reporting a sexual assault: http://www.stars-elpaso.org/
Somerset Hills YMCA shining a light on ‘darkness' of child abuse
Teaming with community to recognize problem
by AMY BARATTA
BERNARDS TWP. – The statistics are staggering.
One in 10 children – or 400,000 each year – will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday, according to Darkness to Light, a nationally recognized nonprofit organization that has championed the movement to end child sexual abuse since it was founded in 2000.
Yet almost three quarters, or 73 percent, of those children do not tell anyone about the abuse for at least one year and many never say a word, according to the organization, which created the “Stewards of Children” child sexual abuse prevention curriculum.
To that end, the New Jersey YMCA State Alliance, which includes the Somerset Hills YMCA, has teamed up with Darkness to Light to educate adults in the community about how to recognize and prevent child sexual abuse.
Through the initiative, the Y is offering the “Stewards of Children” program through in-person, facilitator-led sessions that are open to the public.
“Child sexual abuse is a silent epidemic,” said David Carcieri, president and chief executive officer of the Somerset Hills YMCA. “Many communities are unaware of the alarming statistics that demonstrate how prevalent it is or how to tackle it as a societal issue.
“Collectively, the 40 YMCAs in New Jersey came together and pledged to bring this silent epidemic out of the darkness by raising awareness about it and training people how to react responsibly. Because the Y is committed to creating healthier communities for our children, we believe it is our duty to educate the community through this initiative.”
The first workshop, which will be held in conjunction with the Y's Healthy Kids Day, is scheduled from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 26, at the Somerset Hills YMCA, 140 Mount Airy Road in Basking Ridge.
There is no charge for this event.
Two other community sessions also have been scheduled, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 27, and from 1 to 3 p.m. Wednesday, June 18, at the local YMCA.
The cost for either workshop is $15 per person.
Registration is required to attend any of the workshops. To sign up, contact Susan Visser at email@example.com
Local businesses and other organizations, especially those that work with children, are encouraged to participate or even schedule their own workshop.
The Rotary Club of Bernardsville, for example, will hold a workshop for members in May, while full-time staff members at the Somerset Hills YMCA as well as staffers at Cedar Hill Elementary School in Basking Ridge already have taken the “Steward of Children” training, according to Andi Williams, the Y's vice president of strategic partnerships.
The training also can be done online at Darkness to Light's website, www.d2l.org. Continuing education credits for professionals in various fields can be obtained for those who complete the program.
For New Jersey residents, the training is free through Saturday, June 1. After that date, the cost is $10 per person.
And while the computer version also takes about two hours to complete, the participant has a period of two weeks in which to finish the training. In fact, he or she can log off and then log back on, picking up where the program left off.
“I thought it was an outstanding course. It was much different from what I was anticipating,” said Steve Mueller, chairman of Ridge Youth Sports, who completed the online program this winter.
“I would love to see all sports programs in town take it on – it's that critical.”
In fact, Ridge Youth Sports, which offers several sports programs year-round to children in elementary and middle school, has mandated that all of its coaches – more than 200 by Mueller's count – complete the course.
The organization also has provided a link on its website, www.ridgeyouthsports.com, so that parents can get involved, too.
“Our goal is that we'd love to get the families taking it as well as the coaches,” Mueller said. “This is such an important issue.
“People are primarily unaware or say that it doesn't happen in Basking Ridge. Well, it happens everywhere.”
For Frank Coppola, president of the American Tae Kwon Do Academy, which operates the tae kwon do program at the Somerset Hills YMCA, the decision to become the first organization to sign on to participate in the Y's “Stewards of Children” initiative was a no-brainer.
“I've been involved with the Boy Scouts and they have quite extensive training with (regard to) youth protection,” he said. “That gave me the familiarity with the need. Since the Y was providing a platform to train people, it was like a breath of fresh air. Now I have something I can offer my group of volunteers (at the Y).
“There was really no decision to be made.”
In the short term, Coppola's goal is to have all of his black belt instructors and volunteers – about 30 people - complete the online training by the end of this month.
“My long-term goal is I want to make this mandatory for all black belts,” he said. “In order to earn that black belt (they must complete the training). I sincerely feel it is that important.”
To emphasize his point, he recalled that Williams made a presentation about the “Stewards of Children” program to his group during a charity tournament at the Y in November.
“There were probably 250 people (there) with a bunch of our kids who helped her with the presentation,” Coppola said.
“(Afterward), two of my teen-age students came up to me and thanked me for presenting this. You could fill in the blanks and realize that we had struck a chord with our own membership.”
Also supporting the initiative is the new Astrahealth Center urgent care facility, located at 18 Lyons Mall in Basking Ridge.
All of the doctors there have undergone the “Stewards of Children” training, and fliers containing information about the program and the online link are available in the waiting area, according to Rita Zarabara, the facility's director of community outreach.
“I think it's good,” she said about the online training program, which she recently completed. “What I really liked about it were the survivor stories and how real it was. It just wasn't about having medical professionals and psychologists talk about things. I thought the program was very well done.”
Zarabara is also the athletic coordinator for the William Annin Middle School Athletic Organization, a parent-run non-profit group that sponsors pay-to-play athletic opportunities for middle school students in Bernards Township.
Because coaches in the organization already undergo mandatory training that includes topics covered in the “Stewards of Children” program, Zarabara said she is currently investigating how much overlap there is before deciding whether to mandate completion of the program.
“That being said, I think the program is really valuable,” she said, noting that plans are in the works to add the online training link to the organization's website, www.wamsao.com, as an outreach to its 750 families.
“It's a subject that is not really talked about,” she said. “I think the more it's out there…the better. (The program) basically protects kids, and that's what we want to do.”
Letter to the Editor
Child Abuse prevention Month is a reminder of the problem - and ways to help
Angela Moe, Mattawan
A report of child abuse or neglect is made in the U.S. every ten seconds. More than 200,000 Michigan children are involved in investigations of child abuse or neglect each year. Children's Protective Services in Kalamazoo County received 6,112 reports last year alone. These statistics represent a staggering, yet entirely preventable, social problem. April is national Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month and the Kalamazoo County Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Council (KCAN) has worked for 38 years to educate the community in hopes of preventing child maltreatment.
While it's common to think of more obvious forms of abuse, such as a physical assault, when it comes to child maltreatment, it is important to understand that the majority of cases that come to CPS' attention are for neglect (i.e., failing to provide something, like food, appropriate clothing or medical care, that a child needs to be healthy). Indeed, children can be harmed in many ways maltreatment - physically, sexually, emotionally, medically, cognitively, spiritually. The effects of abuse and neglect are far reaching and long term.
Signs of abuse may not be obvious. In many cases, they are more subtle and cumulative over time. It is important for everyone to look out for children in their lives and it's easy to report suspicions of abuse or neglect in Michigan — call 855-444-3911 at any time, from any place. Callers do not need to identify themselves and there is no legal repercussion for reporting on good faith, even if the situation ends up being unfounded. In short, there's nothing lost, and much to possibly be gained, by showing concern for a child. CPS investigates reports of abuse and neglect, provides emergency intervention, and coordinates rehabilitative services for families that may benefit from them. The task is difficult, but necessary.
During the month of April, KCAN increases its awareness efforts through several community events. The Blue Ribbon Display (blue is the color of child abuse prevention) on the trees outside Burdick's (Radisson) on the pedestrian mall in downtown Kalamazoo.
Our work includes the publication and distribution of the free Family Help Book which contains hundreds of resources for families (or anyone else) facing hardship. We also provide free education to children ages 3-5 through the Kids are Special program. Additionally, we provide Mandated Reporter Training to help those who are required by law to report suspected abuse and neglect (e.g., teachers, physicians, nurses, therapists, social workers, law enforcement, clergy, child care providers).
To learn more about child abuse and neglect, as well as the prevention efforts of KCAN, visit our website (www.kalamazoocan.com) and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Angela M. Moe is a professor of sociology at Western Michigan University and Chair of the Board of Directors for the Kalamazoo County Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Council.
Clark County School District amends child-abuse reporting regulations
by TREVON MILLIARD
Extensive changes are on the way for how school employees report suspected child abuse, according to amendments to Clark County School District regulations made Thursday.
While school officials say the revisions, unanimously approved by the School Board, are not in response to the death of 7-year-old student Roderick “RJ” Arrington, the changes might have made a difference for him on Nov. 28, 2012.
On that day, Roundy Elementary School staff noticed RJ was walking with difficulty and had extensive scarring. He told staff his mother and stepfather beat him on the buttocks and back with a TV cord, broom handle, spatula or belt when he was in trouble. School staff called Clark County's child abuse hotline to report the case but refused the hotline worker's request to check the boy for new injuries, according to county records.
The district's new regulations make it clear that employees have “immunity from civil or criminal liability” under state law when reporting suspected child abuse in “good faith.” Including that reminder helps assure employees are “comfortable” to fully report suspicions, said Bill Grimm, senior attorney for the National Center for Youth Law.
“The default should be report, report, report,” he said.
The message here is to report everything to Child Protective Services, district spokeswoman Kirstin Searer said.
“It's best to err on the side of caution,” she said.
Without school staff providing evidence of current visible injuries to RJ, the hotline worker determined the boy was not in immediate danger and labeled the case a lower priority, directing school staff to let the student go home. RJ died from injuries suffered that night at home.
While former school policies tell staff to only call the child abuse hotline within 24 hours, Thursday's changes require them to tell a school administrator, counselor and nurse, if on site. A nurse would check for current injuries, which would lead a hotline worker to label the case a top priority, not allowing the child sent home until a Child Protective Services investigator arrives, according to the policies of the Clark County Department of Family Services.
Under the School District's new rules, school staff would also call school police for direction when a worker suspects abuse would occur should the child return home.
One parent told the School Board Thursday that workers shouldn't question every bruised student and jump to call the child abuse hotline, “slandering parents.” Board member Linda Young couldn't disagree more, remembering cases in the past few years where Clark County students have been seriously hurt or killed.
“We are required by law to report suspicions, and we should. I want to put that on the record,” Young said. “We all have a responsibility, not just as educators, to report it and make sure somebody gets on it.”
Day care owner awaits sentencing for failing to report child abuse
by Kristyna Engdahl
OMAHA, Neb. —An Omaha day care owner pleaded no contest Thursday after allegedly failing to report child abuse.
Jennifer Schmaderer owns Grow with Me Day Care near 120th and State streets.
Sarah Cullen, who was found guilty of intentional child abuse resulting in the death of 4-month-old Cash Bell , worked at the day care before she became the nanny of Bell.
In court, prosecutors outlined several incidents were Cullen's actions were not reported by Schmaderer.
-- Video: Day care owner accused of not reporting abuse
A staffer at Grow With Me told the Department of Health and Services that she watched Cullen push a child's foot with a shoe into the child's mouth, causing the lip to split and bleed.
Cullen was also seen grabbing a young child under her arm, flinging her into the classroom and dropping the child. Another worker told law enforcement Cullen slammed a child on the floor hard enough to cause the child to cry.
Schmaderer still owns the child care center but has hired a new director and has started a policy of mandatory reporting.
Failure to report child abuse is a class two misdemeanor punishable by up to three months in jail and a $500 fine.
She will be sentenced July 24.
Campaign launched to reduce child abuse and trauma
by Dave Ranney
TOPEKA — Dozens of studies have shown that abused and neglected children tend to grow up to be unhealthy adults.
“The more adverse childhood experiences someone has, the more long-term health problems they will have as an adult,” said Vicky Roper, director of Prevent Child Abuse Kansas at the Kansas Children's Service League. “In fact, their lifespans will be shortened.”
Kansas Children's Service League is launching a five-year campaign in an effort to “stop ACEs (adverse childhood experiences) in the next generation,” Roper said.
Kansas Children's Service League is a nonprofit headquartered in Topeka that provides adoption, foster care, and child abuse prevention services.
There are various sources of childhood trauma, Roper said.
“It's not just abuse and neglect, it can be a child having an incarcerated parent, or a substance-abusing parent, or a parent with mental health issues, or domestic violence, or abandonment or divorce,” she said.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is providing grant support for similar campaigns in California, Colorado, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Washington.
But the Kansas initiative, called Kansas Power of the Positive, is being underwritten by money from the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City, Morris Family Foundation, Christie Development Associates, and the Junior League of Wichita.
The project's initial design is scheduled to be discussed from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Friday at the Department for Children and Families Learning Center, 2600 Southwest East Circle Drive South, Topeka. The meeting is free and open to the public.
Featured speaker will be Sandra Alexander, a consultant with the CDC's Division of Violence Prevention.
CDC-sponsored studies have found that children who are exposed to traumatic events are more likely to develop mental and physical health ailments, including diabetes, heart disease, obesity, depression and substance abuse.
The Kansas initiative, Roper said, will be partly modeled after a CDC program called “Essentials for Childhood: Safe, Stable and Nurturing Relationships and Experiences,” and will include building public awareness, collecting and interpreting data, and hosting local discussions on how to create a ‘culture change' for reducing children's exposure to trauma.
“In the field of child abuse prevention, nationally,” Roper said, “we kind of went through a time of public awareness then there was the evidence-based practices phase, and now, finally, we're getting into more of a community-based phase where the challenge is to get everybody on the same page and working together to have impact.”
By year's end, she said, the group hopes to have 16,000 adults' responses to a 10-question survey designed to measure their exposure to trauma. The survey will be conducted by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
Joyce Grover, executive director with the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, said the campaign would benefit everyone because traumatized children "grow up to be adults and there's a long list of long-term impacts.”
After the meeting Friday, many of the participants are expected to attend Kansas Children's Service League's 121st annual meeting, which will start at 11:45 a.m. at the Ramada Convention Center, 420 SE 6th, Topeka.
App launched to tackle child sex abuse
Microsoft and children's charity Barnado's have pooled resources to create an app to protect children from sexual exploitation.
The innovative app, called ‘Wud U?', has been designed for education professionals to use in teaching children about potentially dangerous scenarios.
The app poses situations in which a child may be at threat of exploitation, asking the user what they would do in that same situation and then explaining why their choice would be a good or bad decision.
The app is the culmination of a working relationship between Microsoft and Barnado's, drawing on their collective expertise in the fields of digital innovation and supporting vulnerable children.
The app, featuring a series of illustrated stories, can be downloaded free of charge from all major app stores.
Barnardo's director Michelle Lee-Izu explained: “A vital part of empowering children to protect themselves against sexual exploitation is getting young people to think for themselves which scenarios might put them at risk.
“We want all children to be able to identify what a healthy relationship looks like, so that when they are with a partner, at a party or just chatting on-line they make good decisions”.
Barnado's worked with over 2,000 sexually exploited children in the UK last year. In 2011, an inquiry by the Children's Commissioner for England estimated that around 16,500 children are high-risk for sexual exploitation.
The new app has been called “vibrant, interactive and engaging”.
Child Abuse Awareness Month at Centenary College
Carol Levine, a child abuse awareness advocate with the National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse, spent two days at Centenary College educating its students on child abuse statistics and intervention in recognition of Child Abuse Awareness Month.
Levine and fellow advocate Donna Shuck were guest speakers to several sections of SOC 1000 – Contemporary Social Issues.
During the presentation, blue ribbons were distributed, questions were answered, and students learned about various prevention and intervention strategies.
'Secrets: Exposing and Preventing Child Sexual Abuse'
by Prue Salasky
The SECRETS Conference at Relevant Church in Williamsburg on April 25 and April 26, is intended to create awareness.
Lisa Bishop, founder of the conference, is drawing on her own experience with her child. "If you can save your child from the agony that my child experienced, it will be worth it," she said.
Topics include: How sexual offenders operate and how we respond; educating adults on the surprising statistics about sexual predators; reminding people to trust their instincts and follow their suspicions; taking the fear out of the reporting process; and survivors sharing their stories.
Speakers include investigators, psychologists, ministers and more.
For more information, contact Lisa Bishop, 757-641-9209; www.facebook.com/secretsconference
6 fired for closing Arizona child abuse reports
by BOB CHRISTIE
Five senior Arizona child welfare employees were fired for orchestrating a plan that led to more than 6,500 Arizona child abuse and neglect cases being closed without investigations, officials said.
The firings were the first major personnel action since the cases were discovered in November.
Charles Flanagan, who heads a new state child welfare agency created in the wake of discovery of the closed cases, said an additional senior administrator at the state agency that formerly oversaw Child Protective Services was also fired Wednesday.
Flanagan briefed reporters after state police completed an investigation into what led to reports phoned into a state child abuse and neglect hotline not being investigated starting in late 2009. The discovery of the cases led Gov. Jan Brewer to pull CPS from its parent agency and create a new cabinet level post led by Flanagan to oversee child welfare cases statewide.
Flanagan said the five upper-level managers and administrators he fired were responsible for creating and overseeing the case closings against policy and in violation of state laws. He said they not only knew that what they were doing was against policy but took steps to keep their actions secret.
"There was a lack of policy, a lack of procedure, lack in systems, people made decisions that they actually documented that they knew were wrong and did them anyway," Flanagan said. "They made decisions and failed to communicate those appropriately."
All six were at-will employees, meaning that they could be fired without cause.
The lawyer for the five fired CPS workers, Terry Woods, said they acted on the orders of the fired deputy director of the Department of Economic security, the former parent agency of CPS.
"Our position is that it was unfair to terminate them for planning an operation at the request and direction of their superiors and executing it with the knowledge and direction of their superiors,' Woods said. "The person they know knew everything was Sharon, and of course she lost her job too."
Sharon is Sharon Sergent, the DES Deputy Director for Programs.
Woods said he is reviewing whether a wrongful termination lawsuit is possible.
"In Arizona, at will employees can be fired for no reason, or for a good reason, but not for a bad reason — or a reason that violates public policy," he said.
The state police report, delivered to Flanagan last Friday, was also released Wednesday. Flanagan said it contained no revelations that had not been revealed in a previous report he oversaw that was released in January that found troubling problems in CPS.
The five senior workers fired Wednesday had been on administrative leave since early December. They created a system to screen hotline reports and prevent them from being sent to field workers as a way to reduce a crushing workload on the field workers. The group had become what Flanagan called "the de facto leadership of CPS under the Division of Child Safety and Family Services."
"And they made a determination that with the increase in calls and cases that it was a crushing workload, they couldn't do the workload," he said. "And so they made the decision, a very bad decision, a dysfunctional decision, to remove cases from the field."
A team led by Flanagan is reviewing all of the nearly 6,600 cases that were not investigated between late 2009 and last November. So far, 550 children have been removed from their homes, and one in six of the cases had supplemental investigations.
Brewer pulled CPS from the Department of Economic Security in January and appointed Flanagan to lead a new agency called the Division of Child Safety & Family Services. DES is a massive state agency that also oversees unemployment benefits, Medicaid, welfare and many other social programs.
DES Director Clarence Carter remains in his job, and Flanagan said he saw no evidence that he knew of the actions of his employees. Carter's staff released a letter he sent to staff Wednesday saying he had appointed an interim Director of Programs after taking "appropriate and necessary personnel action."
"The Department of Public Safety issued its administrative review of the 'Not Investigated' CPS cases," Carter wrote. "The review paints a very troubling picture of poor policy, practice, communication and decision-making that ultimately put many vulnerable Arizona Children in harm's way."
Flanagan echoed that conclusion.
"These people that made these decisions at a managerial level and at an administrative level should have known better that this is not an appropriate way to do business," Flanagan said.
Woods said the five fired workers were asked by Sergent to come up with ways to reduce the backlog of cases.
"They come back with a plan, and the boss says, 'Yeah, I like that plan, let's go,'" Woods said.
Kanawha prosecutor barred from child abuse cases
The Associated Press
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Special prosecutors are being installed to handle child abuse cases in Kanawha County.
The action comes after Circuit Judge Duke Bloom disqualified prosecutor Mark Plants and his staff from handling such cases. Bloom will swear in special prosecutors Thursday morning.
Plants is charged with domestic battery for allegedly hitting one of his sons more than 10 times with a leather belt. He has argued in court papers that he was acting within a constitutionally protected right to protect his child.
In Wednesday's order, Bloom bars Plants and his office from handling cases involving crimes of violence by a parent or guardian, abuse and neglect cases, and violations of domestic violence protection orders.
The West Virginia Supreme Court has set a May 5 hearing on whether to suspend Plants' law license.
APD works to seal up cracks for child abuse cases
by Crystal Gutierrez
ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Albuquerque police is working hard to make sure child abuse cases don't fall through the cracks by ensuring officers get crucial information when responding to calls and they may use technology to speed up the process.
A hot button issue sparked after the death of Omaree Varela, 9. It even got the governor's attention.
“It makes no sense for an officer and case worker to work on the same case and never share notes,” Governor Susana Martinez said in early April.
APD officers took three calls of possible child abuse against the boy before his mom kicked him to death in December 2013. However, they didn't know of all 9 referrals to the Children Youth and Families Department.
APD recently started-up the Child Abuse Prevention Task Force to make sure that doesn't happen again. Their goal is synching up CYFD's and APD's databases.
“We can make it work. We are confident we can make data connections with different agencies we can make it work,” Wilham said.
However, APD may take a step further. The department is looking at new technology to speed information.
“We're looking at what we call GIS or GPS technology that would alert an officer's cell phone if they step foot on a property thats connected to a warrant,” Wilham said.
Right now, APD knows the technology can send information like warrants or previous arrests. They're wondering if they could also add alerts of previous CYFD calls.
Wilham said that information could be crucial.
“Just knowing that this child might be under the supervision of CYFD or there might be a CYFD case there is certainly important information that an officer should have,” Wilham said. “The wheels are turning on how we might be able to do that.”
That could mean that officers will know within seconds if a family has been on CYFD's radar or which child has been the focus of child abuse allegations before.
The Child Abuse Prevention Task Force is behind the efforts to link up the two agencies. Wilham said the only hiccup is finding out how to get enough CYFD information to officers without violating privacy laws.
Wilham said the new police chief is on board and wants to see the new technology in place soon.
Right now, they're trying to figure out how much it would cost.
Scott pushes to spend $39 million for more child-abuse investigators
Gov. Rick Scott meets with child-welfare workers in Orlando
by Kate Santich
Gov. Rick Scott's plan to spend an additional $39 million on child-abuse investigators would mean some 145 more workers in Central Florida, allowing them to double-team on high-risk cases, officials announced Wednesday.
Scott and leaders from the Florida Department of Children and Families made their comments at a visit to Orlando's Howard Phillips Center for Children and Families, where abused and neglected children are evaluated and counseled. The governor's remarks follow a series of highly publicized cases in which children were killed through abuse or neglect — despite DCF being warned that the kids were in danger.
One of them was 2-year-old Tariji Gordon, whose body was found in a shallow grave in Crescent City in February. Her mother, 32-year-old Rachel Fryer of Sanford, has been charged with first-degree murder. She has pleaded not guilty.
Scott called the additional funding — $31 million for DCF and $8 million to sheriff's offices — part of a "historic overhaul" of DCF that began last summer and already has provided additional training for 1,000 child-welfare workers. It would add 400 more investigators statewide.
"It's the right thing to do," he said.
William D'Aiuto, who heads DCF's 12-county central region, said the proposal to add a second-investigator to high-risk cases is already part of a pilot project underway in Pine Hills. The targeted cases include those with children under age 4 in homes where there is substance abuse, mental illness, domestic violence or a history of child abuse or neglect.
Interim DCF Secretary Esther Jacobo, who accompanied Scott on the visit, said the additional money — if approved by legislators — would be enough to expand the pilot program to a few areas of the state but not adopt statewide.
"First, we have to reduce overall caseloads," she said.
Lawmakers consider extension to child sex abuse lawsuit deadline
by Jai Cunningham
A large amount of legal paperwork is being filed seeking civil damages in sex assaults alleged to have happened decades ago.
The court filings come as the deadline approaches for an exemption on the statute of limitations regarding a victim of child sexual abuse to file a lawsuit against his or her alleged abuser.
“The window closes on April 24, and so I'm sure that's why these plaintiffs are scrambling to get lawsuits filed in time,” said state Sen. Maile Shimabukuro (D-Waianae, Makaha, Makua).
The clerks office at Circuit Court has processed six lawsuits filed in the last two days.
“It does concern me that with the deadline closing tomorrow, that there are many, many more out there, who are just going to run out of time,” said Shimabukuro.
Lawmakers are now mulling over extending the deadline.
“What we may end up having to do is give the Governor two different options — one that is more conservative, two years, and the other one that is five or more years extended on,” Shimabukuro said.
Shimabukuro says going forward, the legislature is also hoping to set an age limit as to when victims can no longer file a sex assault lawsuit, possibly at 55 years old.
“Many people feel as if that is too young,” Shimabukuro said. “Many of the victims who are filing are in their 70s, 80s because it has taken them so long to come to terms with the abuse that occurred… We're hoping for some kind of age that is reasonable and gives victims enough time to be able to have the courage to come forward.”
Read HB2034 in its entirety.
'Magical Warlock' Allegedly Molested Children As Young As 3 Years Old
by Simon McCormack
A man is accused of forcing a child to perform sexual acts on him by claiming it was "magic" that would "make mommy well," a criminal complaint states.
The allegation is just one of the crimes that police in Bluefield, W.Va., said were committed by James Irvin, 56, according to WVVA.
Irvin was arrested on Monday and charged with 10 counts of sexual abuse and five counts of sexual assault against three victims ages 3, 9 and 13.
The victims lived in Irvin's home along with their mother and stepfather, according to the station.
The Bluefield Daily Telegraph reports that Irvin allegedly referred to himself as a "Magical Warlock."
Police also said Irvin is a practicing pagan and Wiccan.
32 percent of adult Canadians report experience of physical, sexual abuse during childhood: Study
by Cez Verzosa
The fight against child abuse is far from over, especially in Canada. A new study paints a grim picture of the reality in a first-world country.
In a study [pdf] titled "Child abuse and mental disorders in Canada," a team of researchers led by Tracie Afifi found "robust associations" between child abuse and mental health.
Like in any country, cases of child abuse are no stranger in Canada, even recording 100,000 cases of child abuse in 2003.
In fact, in 1990, the Ontario Health Supplement revealed that 31 percent of males and 21 percent of females suffered from physical abuse when they were younger. At the turn of the millennium, the figures hadn't budged. Data from The Ontario Health Study a decade later showed a small kick in the number of Canadians who admitted were sexually abused when they were kids.
"Although the association between child abuse and subsequent mental conditions is well established, we know little about differential effects associated with several abuse types and specific mental disorders, and we currently have no nationally representative Canadian data," said Afifi.
The study focused on three types of child abuse namely physical abuse, sexual abuse and exposure to intimate partner violence. It also considered 14 mental conditions such as mental disorders, ideas on suicide and suicide attempts.
Data were collected from more than 23,000 Canadian respondents aged 15 years living in the 10 provinces of Canada, with 18 years and above interviewed about childhood abuse that occurred before the participants reached their 16 th year. The over-all household-level response rate was 79.8 percent.
And what did they find out? The figures were to be expected, but they are still alarming.
Physical abuse, which was classified as either being slapped, pushed, grabbed or shoved, having something thrown at the respondents, or spanked with something hard more than once, recorded the highest prevalence rate with 26.1 percent and it was men who suffered most from this kind of abuse.
Women are meanwhile the prime victims of sexual abuse and are most exposed to witnessing intimate partner violence, posting 14.4 percent and 8.9 percent, respectively.
Sexual abuse was described as experiencing sexual attempts, forced sexual activity with threats, grabbing, kissing or fondling against the respondent's will at least once, while exposure to intimate partner violence was classified as "having seen or heard parents, step-parents or guardians hitting each other or another adult in the home 3 or more times."
"The strongest findings were for drug abuse/ dependence, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts, with all three types of child abuse remaining significantly associated with these outcomes in the most adjusted models," Afifi said.
Among the 10 provinces that were included in the study, Manitoba ranked the highest in terms of child abuse prevalence with 40 percent, followed by British Columbia with 35.8 percent and Alberta with 36.1 percent.
"From a public health standpoint, these findings highlight the urgent need to make prevention of child abuse a priority in Canada," Afifi concluded in the study. "Success in preventing child abuse could lead to reductions in the prevalence of mental disorders."
Survivors seek dangerous-offender label for sex-abuse 'superstar'
As Gordon Stuckless goes to trial again, those who still coping with the aftermath doubt his claim to have hurt no one since his 2001 parole.
by Rosie DiManno
He slipped into the places where predators go: hockey arenas, carnivals, community centres, public school gyms, sports clubs. And, most thrilling of all for wide-eyed boys, Maple Leaf Gardens.
He preyed on minors easiest to lure: youths from broken homes, latch-key kids, public housing urchins, behavioral problem students, youngsters with low self-esteem and unlikely to tell.
Over the course of his miserable existence, Gordon Stuckless has faced 675 counts of sexually molesting children. He doesn't remember all their names; he has forgotten some of the details.
They were interchangeable, to him. But he looms still over their memories of ruined childhoods, deeply troubled adolescence and adult lives that, for many, went off the rails a long time ago; that, for at least one, took him to the edge of the Bloor Viaduct, contemplating suicide.
The classic pedophile and hebophile — attracted to children who have reached puberty — operating in the shadows, yet also in the open. Except nobody was looking closely enough, even as Stuckless and cohorts operated a notorious sex ring at the Gardens in the '70s and '80s, trading access to the Leafs — he was an assistant equipment manager — for access to, violation of, the youthful boy bodies he craved.
Look at him now: A hunched, stoop-shouldered 65-year-old man with close-cropped grey hair who shuffles when he walks. But predators often don't look the part; not what you'd imagine.
He didn't look at them, though, on Tuesday, the victims who sat in the body of a courtroom at Old City Hall, where Stuckless pleaded guilty to 100 charges involving 18 victims, and those who stepped inside only long enough to hear the bare-bones allegations of eight further charges — ranging from buggery to gross indecency to assault to possession of a weapon (knife). Stuckless weeded those counts, arising from three complainants, out of the larger case file and will face trial on them May 5.
Because, as Stuckless' lawyer told reporters outside court, the defendant was always a man of, well, perverse principles. He never buggered a boy. He drew that line.
“He's not pleading guilty to counts involving a sexual assault with a weapon,” said Ari Goldkind. “Mr. Stuckless maintains he never used a weapon. There are two counts of what was called buggery back in those days. It's now sodomy or an anal-sex type charge.”
The Crown has asked for a dangerous offender assessment, which, if granted by Justice Mara Greene, could keep him in prison forever. Sentencing on the pleaded charges will be delivered only after the upcoming trial.
“They want a dangerous offender assessment,” Goldkind continued. “In my view, that will not be lawful. We're simply going to ask Her Honour to follow the law.
“Not a lot of people understand what's gone on with Mr. Stuckless,” said Goldkind, who added that those matters will come out at trial. “He is Public Enemy No. 1. I'm sure he'll be plastered all over the paper. But in 2001, Mr. Stuckless made a vow that he would never, ever harm another young person again. A lot of people make that claim. Mr. Stuckless has actually made that come true.”
Stuckless, who is on a sex-offender registry and is continuing castration therapy, was convicted in 1997 for sex assaults on 26 boys aged 11 to 15 between 1969 and 1988 — his Gardens years, where he enticed youths to do his sexual bidding by promising them Leaf autographs, tickets to games and insider access to the hockey shrine on Carlton St. He groomed them. He befriended their trusting parents. He told the boys what they were made to do was okay. He coerced many into silence, including three brothers who never even told each other of the assaults.
Sentenced to two years less a day — later increased to five years — Stuckless was paroled in 2001 after serving two-thirds of his sentence.
He was rearrested last February after more victims — they prefer to be called “survivors” — came forward to lay complaints, and then more, and more: arrested five times in 2013 on charges extending back to the late '60s, incidents that occurred in Toronto, Markham, Muskoka, Brampton and Richmond Hill. The offences are described in language that no longer exists in the Criminal Code.
It took 40 minutes for the court clerk just to read the batch of charges, for arraignment, and described in an agreed statement of facts delivered by Crown attorney Kelly Beale. One child's abuse began when he was 6 years old. Another, who became a professional hockey player in the States, later died of a drug overdose and is represented in court by his mother.
Then, suddenly, there was less than the required agreement needed for Greene to accept the plea. That's because, through his lawyer, Stuckless said he could not remember the details of “each and every allegation.” The court can't accept a guilty plea from a defendant who claims not to remember the offence, even when the charges are not being disputed. Too much information, from Goldkind, in other words.
“I'm not confident I can take the plea as structured,” said Greene.
However, upon further questioning, Greene accepted that Stuckless' “admission to all the essential allegations” was sufficient for accepting his plea on the 100 charges.
Stuckless made no comment when questions were thrown at him by reporters as he left the courthouse. Several of his victims, though, expressed their outrage over a system they believe is skewed towards the offender.
“He is now the most prolific sex offender in Canadian history,” charged Allan Donnan, who was part of the 1997 case. “So far he's served three years in a hotel.
“What matters here is one number: 675. What proof does anybody have that since he came out of jail there has not been a single occurrence?”
Donnan described Stuckless as a “specialist ... a superstar.”
“For 30 years he was cold, he was calculated, he was premeditated. He thought about who, he thought about how, he thought about when. He perfected the craft. He was the best.”
Michael McTague was abused by Stuckless at the Gardens as a 13-year-old. Three years later he went to jail, an angry young man, and would eventually consider suicide, standing on the Bloor Viaduct. The pain hasn't gone away.
“I'm bleeding inside. I bleed every day. The nightmares never go away.
“I see him standing there and I'm cringing. I'd like to stab him in the heart.”
Sun, sea, sand and sexual misconduct
by Raymond Hainey
Bermuda is in the middle of a sexual misconduct crisis, an expert said yesterday.
And Women's Resource Centre (WRC) executive director Patrice Frith-Hayward said young men needed to be taught the limits of acceptable behaviour.
“There is a sexual misconduct crisis going on with our young people — right here in paradise, in little Bermuda, much like the rest of the world,” Ms Frith-Hayward.
She said that action by everyone was needed to help curb sexual abuse, harassment and misconduct because “we don't believe they get the urgent attention they deserve.”
“We must send a message to predators and potential predators letting them know our young people are protected — but of course that first means we must be protecting our young people,” she said.
“We must listen to, support and believe the vulnerable.”
She added that society as a whole “needed to stop dressing up these vile acts with fluff ... let's call it what it is. They're molested.”
Ms Frith-Hayward was speaking at the regular meeting of Hamilton Rotary Club, held at the Royal Amateur Dinghy Club in Paget.
She told the audience that the Women's Resource Centre worked across every area affecting the lives of women, including helping with low self-esteem, unhealthy relationships, work-life balance and parenting concerns, as well as in sexual assault awareness and prevention.
She noted that the WRC was also planning a support group for adult survivors of incest, to be run with anti-child sex abuse charity SCARS.
But she said that the WRC also helped with food vouchers for struggling women — depending on availability as the centre relied on donors for food programmes.
Ms Frith-Hayward added that the WRC did charge fees to cover the cost of trained counsellors — but that no one was turned away.
She said that April was Sexual Assault Awareness Month and the WRC had responded with a series of initiatives to highlight the problem.
“We believe if we get more involved in some of the social issues that are spiralling out of control in this country, the less of a problem the issues might be,” she said.
She said that, contrary to popular belief, many sex assaults were carried out by someone known to the victim — not strangers: “They are sometimes sexual predators disguised as people in positions of trust.”
And she stressed that women were capable of sexual misconduct — although men are thought to be “less likely to report a problem.”
Ms Frith-Hayward said that young women were often given advice on their moral behaviour before going out and society was often more judgmental when they fell prey to predators — while young men were more likely to be warned about their driving and, if old enough, told to use protection during sex.
But she added that young men needed to be taught “respecting and relating to the girls who will eventually become their partners, wives and mothers of their children.”
Ms Frith-Hayward said that victims of sex abuse as children often carried the scars into adulthood — and sometimes perpetuated the cycle of abuse.
“Innocent children suffer vicariously at the hands of the abuser,” she said.
She said that employers should ensure they had clear rules governing sexual harassment — and that they took complaints from victims in the workplace seriously.
“We are all a part of this community and we can strengthen it by coming together and doing something. Let's take responsibility, let's take action and let's do something.”
Effects Of Domestic Violence Is Long Lasting
by Stacey Page
The effects of domestic violence on children can be long lasting and perpetuates the vicious cycle of abuse into the next generation. That's why Beaman Home Executive Director, Tracie Hodson, wants to remind community members that children who have witnessed domestic violence are more likely to experience depression, unacceptable social behaviors, anxiety, nightmares, teen dating violence and disruptions with school work. “In fact, the trauma can be very similar to when children experience abuse themselves,” Hodson explained.
Domestic violence survivor Traci Miller, agrees. “We need to be aware of the effects abuse has on our children. We don't want them to learn love hurts or that it is okay to hit someone in anger,” she said. “Children should not live in fear and learn that being abused is normal.”
Miller encourages caring adults to talk to the children about their worries, encourage them to express their feelings and be patient and give extra hugs. Hodson adds, “The Beaman Home can help abused parents work with their children through their Outreach Center whether or not the parent is housed in the emergency shelter.”
A recent study conducted by the American Psychological Association contradicted stereotypes that domestic violence is more prevalent in low-income or minority households. It showed violent incidents crossed economic lines with 28% occurring in households with annual incomes under $20,000; 30% with incomes from $20,000 to $50,000, 18% with incomes $50,000 to $75,000 and 24% with incomes of over $75,000.
Families of all races and ethnicities were also affected — 53% white, 20% African-American, 16% Latino and 11% other races. Three of every four perpetrators were male. “Our experiences show it can happen to anyone,” stated Hodson.
Family violence definitely cuts across all society's segments and income levels and has a serious impact on children, the nationwide study indicates. Parents are such important figures in a child's life. If a parent is endangered, that threatens a child's well-being. They worry that if their parent is in danger, who will protect them.
The study interviewed children who had witnessed domestic violence. Three in four children saw the violence, 21 percent heard it and 3 percent saw the injuries later. The violence included beating, hitting and kicking a parent or caregiver. One in 75 cases reported the child was physically hurt during a violent attack on their abused parent. All experienced fear and anxiety, and more than half said they were afraid someone would be hurt badly. The children indicated the violence was one of their scariest experiences ever, according to the study published online April 7 in the APA journal Psychology of Violence.
The new Emergency Shelter and Outreach Center campus for domestic violence victims on North Parker Street in Warsaw will allow The Beaman Home to establish a children's program which will enable case managers and advocates to better serve these vulnerable children as well as their parents.
Hodson noted, “Construction of the new facility is critical for our children's programming and recreational space. Today we have self-sufficiency, job and life skills programs for adults, but our current facilities limit our services for the victimized children who represent roughly one-half of our clients annually.”
Hodson explained, “We need the community's help raising the final 30% of fundraising for the new facility. The campaign's final phase, the community phase, is underway and we encourage individuals, businesses, service organizations and churches to help by funding a room or furniture and equipment needed to fill the new facility.”
Those wishing to help with this project may call Hodson at 574- 372-3503 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why I Stopped Talking About What Happened -- And Why I'm Changing That
by Grace Brown -- Founder, Project Unbreakable
Nearly five years ago, I had just turned 17 and I needed a ride to my grandparents' house before going to my dance auditions. My parents had recently divorced, and my mom asked my grandfather to pick me up. The idea of him doing it felt strange; even though I had known him my whole life, I had barely spoken to him. Something about him always scared me -- I never wanted to hug him, never wanted to kiss him, never wanted to remotely go near him. But I was grateful he was picking me up, and was hoping it would be a time for us to bond.
I got in the car and thanked him profusely for taking time out of his day to get me. He responded by saying that he was glad my mom had asked -- he said he had a question he wanted to ask me, but I couldn't tell anyone. I obliged, unsure of where the conversation was about to go.
He began saying "I know you like money -- how would you like to make a thousand dollars?" I was confused and silent, so he pressed more: He said I was about to be 18 and could soon make my own decisions. Then he asked, "Do you like boys? Do you have a boyfriend?"
It was then that I started crying and begging him to stop talking. There was something about his questions that felt unsafe; I knew they were not innocent, but I didn't know what direction they were going in. He started talking louder, begging me to not tell anyone about this conversation, stating over and over that he loved me. I remember this very distinct moment of staring at my cell phone at my feet and wondering if I had the chance to call the police if he tried to do anything to me. Finally, he said, "Can I write you a check to keep you from telling anyone?"
I told him I didn't want his money; I knew that I wouldn't tell anyway. Instead of going back to his house, I told him to drop me off at my dance studio. As I closed the door behind me, I felt myself closing too. There was such confusion -- so much of a gray area -- that I didn't feel like I ever deserved to bring attention to it. I told some friends, but stood staunch in my beliefs of never telling my family. I sat across him at dinners, wearing my most conservative shirts, praying it wouldn't happen another time. I did everything I could to make sure I never needed a ride from him again. Finally, I decided to cut ties with my grandparents, so I could avoid him completely. A year after doing so, my grandmother passed away suddenly. I have never stopped regretting that year -- he was the reason I sacrificed my relationship with her. Around the same time, I told my cousin what had happened, but begged her not to tell anyone else.
Two and a half years after the incident -- shortly after creating Project Unbreakable, a project for which I photographed sexual assault survivors holding posters with quotes from their attackers -- I decided I was ready to talk about it again. I had been having flashbacks, I wasn't sleeping well, and I began to realize how often I had dreams about confronting him and telling my family. But I didn't expect to be believed. I knew my story was confusing, and I knew it was not black and white, but I also knew my truth: He wanted to ask me something that very clearly crossed a boundary, and I needed to expose him.
Finally, I decided to tell an adult family member (to remain unidentified). I called her while crying in a very public Starbucks in Brooklyn. Before I told the story, I said I would understand if she didn't believe me. I internally had come to peace with the idea that I would potentially lose my family by coming out about it. But she did believe me. Then she told me why she believed me: He had molested her as a child. She only told two people and neither of them were in my family. She carried the secret her whole life.
After everything happened with my grandfather, I had gone back through my story over and over, trying to find a hole, trying to figure out what had happened, trying to see if I was wrong. But as soon as my aunt shared her experience, I realized I was right all along. There was something inappropriate about him: He was a pedophile and I knew it -- I likely knew it my whole life.
I began to tell the rest of my family and I thought it was the end to my healing -- they all believed me. One of my aunts even encouraged me to call him and confront him; she was incredibly supportive of both myself and the other family member who had come out about the abuse.
When I called him, he denied it. He denied it over and over, and finally, I received a call from that same aunt who encouraged me to call him in the first place. She opened the conversation by congratulating me for a Project Unbreakable feature in TIME , then she stated matter-of-factly that she was suing me for slander against my grandfather, for reasons I may never know. Naturally, since I never released his name, she had nothing to stand on. She began to make accusations about other people in my family, and she did everything she could to try and sabotage Project Unbreakable. She wrote comments on public pages, reached out to organizations supporting the project, and threatened to create a website exposing everything: all because she couldn't handle the truth. We have not spoken since.
She did not succeed in sabotaging Project Unbreakable, but she did succeed in another way: She silenced me. I stopped telling my story and I tried to hide it from all corners of the internet. The first person I opened up to again was my girlfriend of over a year. For a long time, I didn't feel like I deserved to share it; it wasn't that bad -- I was never physically assaulted.
It wasn't until I was at an event recently where people began sharing stories similar to mine when I realized it was still something I had to deal with. I ached so badly to open my mouth, but I viewed that part of my life as a cobwebbed corner; I was supposed to be the strong one, the one who ran Project Unbreakable, not the one who burst into tears in the middle of an event. In the two years of working on Project Unbreakable, I never allowed myself to break. I focused on only giving others a voice. I didn't realize I had allowed my family anguish -- and myself -- to silence my own.
So here I am. Telling my story again, and this time, I'm not going to take it back. My grandfather died a year ago, and I will never know exactly what he was about to proposition me. But I do know that I am not alone in this -- that there are thousands of others like me who exists in that "gray area" between harassment and assault. That we too need to heal from it, and to learn to trust again, and to stand confident in our truths.
I am often asked "What has Project Unbreakable taught you?" and usually, I say something rather clichéd. But now I know what it has taught me: You can't help heal others if you do not allow yourself to heal as well. You must give yourself the same amount of compassion as you do the people you work with.
When I sat down to write this, it was the first time that I was able to fully understand the staggering courage behind the people who participate in Project Unbreakable. If they can do that, I can do this.
FBI Seeking Public Assistance in the Investigation of an International Teacher Suspected of Molesting Children Abroad
Washington, DC - The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is seeking the public's assistance to identify victims of suspected international child predator William James Vahey. Vahey, a United States citizen, was employed as a teacher in various private American schools abroad since 1972. Vahey was 64 years old at the time of his death by suicide in Luverne, Minnesota, on March 21, 2014.
According to a search warrant affidavit filed on March 19, 2014 in the United States District Court, Southern District of Texas, FBI special agents sought a search warrant to access and search a USB thumb drive belonging to Vahey. The USB drive was provided to the FBI by an employee of the American Nicaraguan School, located in Pista Suburbana, Managua, Nicaragua. An employee of the school filed a complaint with the FBI alleging the USB drive contained pornographic images of minor males who appeared to be asleep or unconscious. According to the report, the minors appeared to be middle school-aged, approximately 12 to 14 years old. According to the employee, the folders containing the pornographic images were titled with locations and corresponding dates the employee believed referenced locations Vahey had previously traveled with students. The employee stated that Vahey had been teaching ninth grade world history and advanced geography at the school since August 12, 2013. According to the report, when the employee confronted Vahey about the images, he confessed he was molested as a child and admitted he molested boys throughout his entire life. He further reportedly admitted giving the minors sleeping pills prior to the molestation. The ongoing investigation has not yet identified what drugs, if any, were administered to any of the minor victims. The American Nicaraguan School terminated Vahey's employment on March 12, 2014.
Through the ongoing investigation, FBI agents have reviewed photographs dating back to 2008 that depict at least 90 alleged victims. While the review is ongoing, the FBI is seeking to notify individuals of the existence of the investigation and encourage additional potential victims to come forward. In addition to foreign nationals, the schools were attended by the children of American diplomats, military personnel stationed overseas, and other American citizens working abroad.
In 1969, Vahey was arrested in California on six counts of child molestation. Vahey pled guilty to one count of child molestation and was sentenced to 90 days in jail, followed by five years' probation. Vahey's conviction required him to register with the state of California's sex offender registry for the remainder of his life. However, Vahey had not renewed his registration as a sex offender since 1970.
Further investigation revealed Vahey engaged in extensive international travel over the past four decades, working as a middle school and/or high school teacher at several American international schools in at least nine different countries, including Nicaragua, the United Kingdom, Venezuela, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Greece, Iran, Spain, and Lebanon. Vahey worked in numerous positions which would have afforded him close access to the students who attended these schools. In addition to teaching, Vahey coached boys on middle school, junior varsity, and varsity basketball teams at several of the international schools. He also coordinated and accompanied students on various overnight field trips, cultural studies trips, and other educational or athletic travel opportunities for students at these schools.
Vahey was born in New York and was a United States citizen. According to his personal resume, Vahey graduated from California State University, Long Beach, with a Bachelor of Arts in political science, and he received a master's degree in curriculum development from Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont. At the time of his death, he was married with two adult children. Vahey maintained two residences—one in London and another on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Vahey was a white male, 64 years old at the time of his death, approximately 6'0” tall, and weighed about 190 pounds.
The FBI will continue to work with the Department of State-Diplomatic Security Service and other national and international law enforcement partners on this ongoing investigation to bring closure to the alleged heinous crimes. By his own admission, Vahey used sleeping pills to drug his victims, but investigators want to learn more about his methods and what drugs he may have used. They are hopeful the public can assist them.
If you have information about the ongoing investigation regarding William James Vahey—or believe you may have been victimized by him—please complete our confidential questionnaire or submit a confidential e-mail to HOvictimassistance@ic.fbi.gov. You can also contact your local FBI office or the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Information regarding Vahey's professional history is below.
Professional History: William James Vahey
2013–March 2014: Managua, Nicaragua
Vahey was employed as a ninth grade world history and advanced geography teacher at the American Nicaraguan School, located in Pista Suburbana, Managua, Nicaragua. His employment was terminated on March 12, 2014.
2009–2013: London, United Kingdom
Vahey was employed as a history and geography teacher for middle and high school students at the Southbank International School, located in London, United Kingdom.
2002–2009: Caracas, Venezuela
Vahey was employed as a social studies and history teacher for middle school students at Escuela Campo Alegre, located in Caracas, Venezuela.
1992–2002: Jakarta, Indonesia
Vahey was employed as a social studies teacher for middle school and high school students at the Jakarta International School, located in Jakarta, Indonesia.
1980-1992: Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
Vahey was employed as middle school assistant principal and social studies teacher for middle school students. He also coordinated K-9 social studies curriculum at Saudi Aramco Schools, located in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.
1978–1980: Athens, Greece
Vahey was employed as a social studies teacher and guidance counselor for middle school students at the American Community School, located in Athens, Greece.
1976–1978: Ahwaz, Iran
Vahey was employed as a history teacher for middle school students and spent one year as a fifth grade teacher at the Passargad School, located in Ahwaz, Iran.
1975–1976: Madrid, Spain
Vahey was employed as a middle school teacher at the American School in Madrid, Spain.
1973–1975: Beirut, Lebanon
Vahey was employed as a social studies teacher for middle and high school students at the American Community School of Beirut, located in Beirut, Lebanon.
1972–1973: Tehran, Iran
Vahey was employed as a social studies teacher for middle school students at the Tehran American School, located in Tehran, Iran.
Professional activities over the course of Vahey's career included various coaching positions for middle school, junior varsity, and varsity boys' basketball, softball, flag football, and soccer. He also collaterally served as activities director, student council adviser, cooking club adviser, forensics adviser and field trip adviser throughout his teaching career. According to his resume, Vahey participated in student study tours in the following countries: Thailand, India, Jordan, Nepal, Bahrain, Syria, Greece, Egypt, Russia, England, Kenya, Hungary, Turkey, Iran, Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, and Venezuela.
Some questions to consider:
Did you or your child attend school at one of the known locations during the time period in which William James Vahey was employed in that location?
Do you have knowledge or information related to William James Vahey?
Do you believe you were a victim of abuse by William James Vahey?
If you answered yes to any of the questions above, please complete the secure, confidential online questionnaire at https://forms.fbi.gov/william-james-vahey-case-victim-questionnaire
Information from the public may also be submitted confidentially via e-mail to HOvictimassistance@ic.fbi.gov
Shift in Culture Needed to Prevent Child Abuse
by Jennifer Miller
Everyone from citizens to politicians, need to be part of a shift in culture in order to prevent child abuse in America, according to a well-known expert.
James Hmurovich is CEO and president of Prevent Child Abuse America. He'll be addressing the issue of child abuse during an appearance at Penn State later today.
"The public understands it's an issue, but we haven't been successful as a country to engage people and to stop abuse," he says.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and Penn State will be hosting an awareness and prevention event at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the HUB Auditorium. Hmurovich will speak during the event which is sponsored by the University Park Undergraduate Association and Penn State's Network on Child Protection and Well-Being.
"Our definition of prevention means that the abuse or neglect never occurs," Hmurovich says. "We know how to do it, we're just not doing it."
Specifically, while the federal government has many programs in place to prevent child abuse, the structure is not connected, Hmurovich says. Additionally, he says those in charge of each separate initiative likely has its own definition for child abuse prevention.
The solution, he says, is to "connect the dots" by creating an integrated, comprehensive strategy for children as well as draft a national definition of prevention. To get there, elected officials need to draft a framework of policies and citizens need to support it, he says.
"If we want to prevent abuse and neglect we ought to be talking about how we ensure on an equal basis the happy and healthy development of every child," says Hmurovich. "People want to help, but they don't think they know what to do to help, so that's an awareness issue."
The responsibility also rests on corporations, Hmurovich says, by recognizing that employees' time with their family can be more important than the bottom line.
"We need corporate leaders to say families are important and our employees have families and they have the right to have time with their families ... maybe we've got to change the way we do business," he says.
Prevention can also occur at a more local level – for example if an adult is shopping at the mall and witnesses a parent aggressively dragging their child, Hmurovich says the adult should consider speaking up in a non-confrontational way.
"Say something that makes them smile, but lets them know they're being watched," he says.
In regards to the Jerry Sandusky, a former Penn State football coach who is now a convicted pedophile, Hmurovich says if something positive did come out of the abuse that received international attention it is that more people are talking about child sexual abuse than ever before.
When it comes to whether Penn State administrators, other employees, players, family members etc., did enough to stop the abuse by Sandusky, Hmurovich says that is less or a legal question and more of a moral question.
"We all have a responsibility that if you see something, say something," he says. "We have an obligation to report it and do something about it. ... I think the lesson that this circumstance taught us is we all have that responsibility.
"It's all in the best interest of the child. ... It can't be about money or the law ... to me the issue is, was everything done in the best of the child?"
Bill would extend window for justice on abuse cases
by Tiffany Brooks
Assemblywoman Margaret Markey is renewing her push for legislation that would give sexual assault victims more time to file criminal and civil complaints against their abusers.
Markey's Child Victims Act (A.1771-a/ S.06367) would eliminate completely the statute of limitation on reporting criminal charges of sexual assault, erasing the current five year limitation on reporting an incident after a victim turns 18. The bill would also suspend the civil statute of limitations for one year in order to help expose older crimes and allow for possible identification of hidden abusers through the court discovery process.
"Research consistently shows that survivors of childhood sexual abuse do not come to terms with what happened to them until later in life, often not until middle age," said Markey, D-Maspeth. "Providing more time for them to come forward not only provides justice for those who have been victimized, but will also expose pedophiles who remain hidden because of current law."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 percent of men and 18 percent of women have been sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Thirty-five percent of female victims were assaulted as minors and 28 percent of male victims were assaulted under the age of 10.
It is also estimated that 60 percent of sexual assaults go unreported to police.
"The prevalence of childhood sexual abuse is astonishing. However, the greatest tragedy is that we have failed to protect our children who often have no voice. These heinous crimes have long term psychological and destructive manifestations that severely impact not only the victims but their families and our communities," said Susan Xenarios, co-chair of the Downstate Crime Victims Coalition. "The time for New York state to take a stand to give these victims access to justice is overdue. We whole heartily support the Child Victims Act as a major step in making a difference for the rights of children and adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse."
When Markey first introduced the bill eight years ago, she originally wanted to add five years to the statue of limitations for child sexual abuse, which would have allowed child victims to come forward with allegations of abuse until the age of 28.
But in light of sexual assault incidents with male victims at Penn State University, Syracuse University, and the Horace Mann School – where victims came forward with stories of abuse decades later – Markey says these scandals have shown that society needs to change how it views the statute of limitations in cases of child sexual abuse.
"It really allows them to seek justice, because of the nature of child sexual abuse it takes victims some time to move on and heal," said Julie Kay, advocacy and policy senior strategist for the Ms. Foundation for Women. "It serves as a powerful prevention tool to help identify abusers still out there." Kay said the bill, which is sponsored in the Senate by Brad Hoylman, D-Manhattan, would also put institutions on notice to step up and protect children from abuse rather than covering it up, subjecting children to long-term damage as a result.
Advocates plan to hold a rally on May 13 to push for Senate support for the bill, which has passed in the Assembly four times. The bill is currently in the Codes Committee in each house.
Nowhere Does Islam Excuse Child Brides
by Arzu Kaya Uranli
A friend of mine sent me a a Daily Beast piece that said, "A new law would approve marriage to girls as young as nine in a bid to appease the nation's conservatives ahead of parliamentary elections in the Iraqi parliament in the last days before the April 30 election." and asked what I think about it as a Muslim mother from Turkey who has a beautiful daughter!
"What in the God's green earth are you talking about!... I started. My answer is simple: Both trying to make a new law to let girls marry as young as nine and claim that it's Islamic are not really acceptable. You cannot relate that wrongdoing with a religion! Underage marriages are child abuse and "abuse" doesn't have any religion or nationality.
However, this month's plan by Iraqi parliamentarians to legalize underage marriage at nine follows the Pakistan Islamic Council's demand last month that Pakistan abolish all legal restrictions on child marriage, the revelation that Syrian refugee girls are being sold into marriage against their will and the increased pressure in many African countries to ease the restrictions on selling child brides.
Child marriage, defined as a formal marriage or informal union before age 18, is catastrophic for most girls. The most common reasons for child marriage are poverty, lack of education, religious myths, gender inequality in society, insufficient laws or belief of a culture that a girl would be safer once married.
A report from the UN's Children Fund (UNICEF) shows that a great number of adolescents give birth in developing countries, and they are mainly girls with little or no education from low-income households in rural areas. Also, a UNFPA survey that took place in 2010, in 54 of the world's poorest countries, 36.4 million women between the ages of 20 and 24 reported having given birth before they were 18. Bangladesh, Chad, Guinea, Mali, Mozambique and Niger are countries where early marriage is the most common.
Nowadays, Islam is the major religion in most of those countries, thus one area of Islamic law that has been subject to heavy criticism. Many of them believe that Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.) is the originator of this repugnant practice because some men use his marriage to Aisha (R.A.) as an excuse to marry girls at young ages and claim that they do it to honor Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.)'s sunnah because it is known that his sunnah's are the primary source of law, ethics and behavior Muslims should follow besides the laws of the Koran. Yet again, these men purposely misapprehended Prophet Muhammad's sunnah of marriage.
The best translation for Sunnah can be "a normative behavior of the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.)." He did marry nine times, and except Aisha (R.A.), all of his wives were previously married (either divorcees or widows) and they were quite old. His first wife, Khadijah (R.A.), was 15 years older: He was 25, she was 40 when they got married. Their marriage lasted for over 25 years by the time she passed away. Also, their marriage was monogamous, despite the regularity of polygamy at that time. Thus this marriage should also be considered as a standard of sunnah marriage because this marriage was the longest for the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.).
Also, marriage and family have a very important place in Islam. In the Koran 30:21, marriage is described as combination of peace, comfort, tranquility and fulfillment of a natural instinct. The text explains that an important purpose of marriage is to achieve psychological, emotional, and spiritual companionship. So to accomplish this type of companionship level, parties should be equal in a way of access to marriage and compatible in marriage. Thus, child marriages cannot be considered as Islamic because to perform the marriage according to Islamic principles, both parties should reach the age of maturity and physically, emotionally, and mentally to be able to consent independently. Islam clearly insists that marrying off a girl without her consent is not acceptable.
Maybe marriages at an early age are meant to protect girls' lives, yet instead they ruin their lives. Not only is it a violation of human rights and keeps girls from receiving an education, but is also a significant factor in long-term health complications. Underage brides are very vulnerable and they can suffer irreparable damage, if not death, after bearing children when their bodies are not fully prepared for pregnancy. UN statistics show:
"Complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading causes of death for girls ages 15-19 in developing countries. Of the 16 million adolescent girls who give birth every year, about 90 percent are already married. UNICEF estimates that some 50,000 die, almost all in low- and middle-income countries. Stillbirths and newborn deaths are 50 percent higher among mothers under the age of 20 than in women who get pregnant in their 20s."
Early age marriages in Turkey
Even though child marriage is illegal in Turkey, it is a common practice in rural areas. When 33-year-old Berivan Elif Kiliç was officially elected mayor last week as a survivor of a child marriage, early marriages have become an issue of a discussion in Turkey. Kiliç said her mother had been married off at a similar age, so she did not think twice about having Berivan marry at 15. "Nobody is questioning why girls are being forced to marry at such a young age," she said. Ms.Kiliç wasn't the first child bride in Turkey and unfortunately, she will not be the last.
According to the Strategic Research Organization (USAK), child marriages in Turkey constitute 14 percent of all marriages. A study of Turkish marriage practices conducted by Hacettepe University in 2011 reveals that the issue of child brides may be more prevalent in Turkey than one might think. The study indicates that almost 40 percent of Turkish women between 15 and 49 years of age were married by their 18th birthday. This new tendency of a disproportionally higher number of underage girls is very disturbing especially when "there is an increase of 94.2% in application to courts by families to get marriage permit[s]," according to Professor Dr. Nazan Moroglu, president of the Turkish Federation of University Women. Dr. Moroglu indicates "the problem is not the law itself but its lack of implementation."
Actually, early marriage has been prohibited in Turkey since 1926. According to the Turkish Civil Code, a person may marry at age 17 with parental consent and at age 16 under special circumstances with court approval. The incidence of marriages of 16 and 17-year-old girls culturally is acceptable. According to the information from Dr. Erhan Tunç, an assistant professor at Gaziantep University, one in three marriages in Turkey involves at least one party under 18 years old. His research also puts forward that 82% of child brides in Turkey are illiterate. Also, in many cases girls get married while still only 11 to 14 years old to older adult men or widowers. Newspapers in Turkey report incidents like these almost on a daily basis.
Flexibility in legislation on prohibition of child marriage, and poor implementation of existing laws are the main barriers for changing the mentality that doesn't distinguish child marriage as wrongdoing. Nevertheless, there are uplifting religious voices against child marriage recently in Turkey. In November 2013, the head of Turkey's Islamic Religious Affairs, Mehmet Görmez, condemned "parents who forcefully marry off underage girls to older men, without girls' consent, before they have not gained the maturity for being a wife and mother as 'ruthless'." He added that, "In Hanafi Madhab minimum age for marriage is 17. Whoever claims an argument or justification [for child brides] in any Islamic source, does injustice both to religion and that girl child. Thus it is all our responsibility to take all these information [historical facts] again and share them with society anew."
Nowadays, a faithful Muslim man should not think of getting married to an under aged girl with an excuse of 'honoring sunnah' because early aged marriages harm the name of the religion. Also, it would be a big mistake to universalize a particular action of the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.) without analyzing the circumstances of his era. Also, to distinguish between culture and religion is a big challenge. Thus the minimum age decreed in marriage laws in the USA are dependent on cultural background in some way, and they change remarkably from state to state. For instance, in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, individuals can get married with parental consent at the young ages of 13 and 12, respectively.
Underage marriages occur not because Islam allows them to, but they occur because women are powerless to stop them and men allow the marriages to take place. In many communities, the fathers, village chiefs, and religious leaders, who have the privilege to make these decisions, are males. Thus empowering girls through education is a must to stop child marriages. Helping girls become aware of their rights by including gender equality in school curricula is crucial yet not only do girls need to be educated, but also men of the societies have to be educated to change their mindset. Governments, NGOs, local authorities, teachers, school directors, doctors, nurses and religious leaders have to work together to make it happen. At the local level, mutual efforts should be performed with some prominent members of community. Child marriages are a form of modern day slavery, and they have to end. Justice should prevail and Islam is a religion for peace not for violations of human rights.
If you witness child abuse, don't hesitate to report it
by Gail Burry
When people think of child abuse what comes to mind first?
Bruises? Broken arms? Or worse?
Of course, all of these instances are forms of child abuse, but they're not what make up the majority of cases in today's society. Unlike what may come to mind, the most common form of abuse is neglect.
Simply put, neglect is when a parent or caregiver fails to provide the necessary care for a child. This isn't always willful. With the all too common struggles with addiction, untreated mental illness and family violence, more and more children are being neglected as these issues trap parents.
During 2013, almost 3,000 abuse reports from Lake County were received by the Florida Abuse Hotline. Of those reported almost, 700 children were verified to have experienced abuse, neglect or abandonment. Thirty-four percent of the verified child abuse involved substance misuse — 236 children's caregivers used substances instead of properly caring for their children.
April is Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month. There are simple things that you can do to help families struggling with these issues.
First and foremost, be vigilant. Being aware of what is occurring around you and paying attention to those that surround you allows you to notice when something is amiss. Never hesitate to report suspected abuse. Call the hotline at 800-96-ABUSE.
Second, be a support to family, friends and neighbors. Parents — especially young parents, parents of multiple children or single parents — can become overwhelmed. Offering words of encouragement and understanding lets parents know you're there for them.
You can also offer to babysit or just listen. Last, talking about child abuse, substance abuse and domestic violence can help. When you speak up and acknowledge the problem in a nonjudgmental fashion, others will listen and some may seek help.
Coming together as a community will strengthen our families, children and our future.
For more information on child abuse in our community visit EndKidsTears.com.
Gail Burry of Leesburg is chairman of the board of directors of Kids Central, Inc, a nonprofit organization that contracts with the state Department of Children & Families to manage child welfare in Lake, Sumter, Marion, Citrus and Hernando counties. She retired in 1997 after 17 years as president of the Lake County Education Association.
Atlanta Rotary Clubs tackle human trafficking through Covenant House
by Maria Saporta
Two years ago, U.S. District Attorney Sally Yates spoke to the Rotary Club of Atlanta.
“She told us about the underbelly of our city that few of us knew and no one wanted to hear,” wrote Rotarian Bob Hope in the Rotary newsletter about how Atlanta had become a major center for human trafficking. “Sally Yates' message was an epiphany.
” So began Rotary's involvement in the human trafficking issue and its support of the Covenant House.
Yates returned to Rotary on Monday to thank the civic organization and individual members for taking action and making a real difference in the lives of young people.
“You've transformed them from victims to survivors,” Yates told the Atlanta Rotarians.
Rotarian Clark Dean was equally moved by Yates' words two years ago. Dean worked with his Rotary colleagues, including Dave McCleary, a past president of Roswell Rotary, as well as his Leadership Atlanta class.
They quickly found out that the Covenant House, which addressed the issue of homeless teens, was in dire need of more space.
“They had 15 beds with 10 kids on floor mats and 150 kids on a waiting list,” Dean said. “We helped them acquire a seven-acre piece of property and a 60,000 square foot facility that has a crisis shelter with 45 beds. It also has three cottages that will ultimately allow the whole complex to house about 100 kids.
” The total project cost was $4 million. “We still have about $200,000 left to raise,” Dean said.
Meanwhile Yates said work is being done to train local law enforcement to be on the lookout for victims with possible pimps. Even taxi drivers have been trained.
Staca Shehan, director of the Case Analysis Division for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said that last year one out of seven runaways were being exploited for sex trafficking.
“The biggest change has occurred online,” said Shehan, who was part of Monday's Rotary panel.
Linda Smith, a former Congresswoman from the State of Washington who is the founder and CEO of Shared Hope International, urged everyone in the audience to be sensitive to signs of young people who might be in trouble
“The most important thing you can individually do is change your language,” she said, adding that a girl who is a victim of sex trafficking is not a prostitute. “The average age of entry is very, very low – 13."
Shehan also said it's not just girls who are victims. And Atlanta is a pioneer in helping boys who have been victims of sex trafficking.
Marq Taylor currently is working to open Anchor House. It will be the first home in the country to serve only boys and male survivors.
MCW's Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment awards $158,000 to combat sex trafficking among youth
by Maureen Mack
The Medical College of Wisconsin's (MCW) Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin endowment awarded $158,000 over two years to the Proactive Outreach for the Health of Sexually Exploited Youth (POHSEY) project through the Healthier Wisconsin Partnership Program (HWPP).
Wraparound Milwaukee, a unique system of care for children with serious emotional, behavioral, and mental health needs and their families, is the lead community partner on the project. The goal of the POHSEY project is to improve the identification and treatment of youth who are at-risk for or are victims of sex trafficking.
The law defines involving a child in a commercial sex act or sexually explicit performance as human trafficking. Last year, the Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission released a report estimating that, over a two-year period, 77 children were identified as victims of sex trafficking in Milwaukee. The landmark report put a number on the problem for the first time. However, because the report only included youth who had police contact, the partners on this project believe that many more youth are actually affected in Milwaukee.
Academic partner Wendi Ehrman, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics at MCW and a specialist in adolescent medicine at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, in collaboration with the Milwaukee Adolescent Health Program, Wraparound Milwaukee, the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office and Rethink Resources, will investigate common risk factors for sex trafficking that can be used to identify youth in need of intervention and services, such as physical and mental health care.
Studies indicate that the information collected by health care providers and the juvenile justice system contains many known factors for evaluating the risk of commercial sexual exploitation. The goal of this project is to use data from Milwaukee's juvenile justice system and other system agencies to create a new method for identifying those youth who have experienced sex trafficking or who are at risk for being victimized.
HWPP has awarded a total of $2.3 million as part of its ninth funding cycle. POHSEY is one of nine project awards by HWPP in 2013 to partnerships between academics and community health and non-profit organizations for urban, rural and statewide health improvement projects in Wisconsin. HWPP is a component of the Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin (AHW) endowment, a fund stewarded by MCW with the mission of serving as a catalyst for positive change in the health of Wisconsin communities.
Bryan Singer accuser files more sex claims
A man who has accused X-Men director Bryan Singer of sexually abusing him as a teenager has sued three more Hollywood figures, claiming they also molested him.
Michael Egan, 31, alleges TV executives Garth Ancier, David Neuman and theatre producer Gary Goddard were part of an underage sex ring in Hollywood.
A lawyer for Mr Goddard said the complaint was "without merit".
Mr Ancier and Mr Neuman could not be reached for comment.
In allegations similar to those filed against Singer, Mr Egan claims he was lured into a sex ring in 1999 by former entertainment executive Marc Collins-Rector, a registered sex offender, with promises of auditions for acting and modelling jobs.
He alleges he was forced to have sex with adult men at "infamous and degenerate parties" in Hollywood and the abuse continued on trips to Hawaii, where he was inappropriately touched, made to consume alcohol and drugs, and forced into sex.
He is claiming $10m (£6m) in damages for battery, assault, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The legal action was announced at a press conference in Los Angeles attended by Mr Egan and his mother.
"Somebody has to stand up to these people. You can't change the stigma that exists in this world against childhood sexual abuse unless someone talks about it," Mr Egan said.
His mother, Bonnie Mound, said she tried to help her son contact police and the FBI to report the abuse 14 years ago and questioned why the information he provided did not result in criminal charges.
"It's not about money. It's about disarming these paedophiles who use their wealth and power to escape justice," she said.
Alan Grodin, a lawyer for Mr Goddard - who has produced several Broadway shows and created attractions at Universal Studios - said the executive had not yet seen the legal claim.
"Based on what we have heard, the allegations are without merit," Grodin said. "Once we have seen the complaint we will respond appropriately."
Mr Ancier oversaw the launch of Fox television and later worked as an executive producer for NBC and BBC America. He is credited with creating The Ricki Lake Show and 21 Jump Street.
Mr Neuman is a former president of Walt Disney TV and chief programming officer at CNN.
Last week, Mr Egan filed a legal claim against Singer, alleging the director forced him into sex during parties when Mr Egan was 17-years-old. He is seeking more than $300,000 (£178,321) in damages.
In response to the claim, the FBI said it could not discuss specifically what Mr Egan told them, but denied it had ignored any information about the director.
Singer's lawyer said the action was "absurd and defamatory".
"We are very confident that Bryan will be vindicated," Marty Singer, who is not related to his client, said.
He added he would be "bringing a claim for malicious prosecution" against Mr Egan and his lawyer.
Singer, 48, has directed three instalments of the X-Men franchise, including the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past - due to be released next month - and the next instalment to be released in 2016.
His other credits include The Usual Suspects, Superman Returns and last year's Jack the Giant Slayer.
Children's Expo & Public Safety Day Set for April 26
County Executive MaryEllen Odell announced the Ninth Annual Children's Expo & Public Safety Day, which will take place rain or shine, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday April 26, at the County's TOPS (Training and Operations) building on the Donald B. Smith Campus, 112 Old Route 6 in Carmel.
“The Children's Expo and Public Safety Day has become an annual event that families look forward to attending year after year,” Odell said. “It provides vital information about the resources the county offers to families in a fun and entertaining atmosphere.”
The event includes many aspects of child safety and health, from child abuse prevention to fire prevention to child car seat passenger safety.
The prevalence of child abuse throughout the country is ongoing and remains unresolved. The Child Advocacy Center (CAC) makes every effort to bring awareness to the problem, which is the first step in preventing it.
Entertainment planned for kids includes a magic show, an animal safety program, and a Martial Arts (UMAC) demonstration. The Mahopac Falls Dive Team will be on hand, and, if weather cooperates, there will be a STAT helicopter landing. In addition, other favorite activities include: Operation SAFE CHILD cards, tours of the 911 Center, car seat checks, the Brewster Fire Safety House and fire engine tours. There will be games, raffles, food and free giveaways.
Trafficked Boys Overlooked
by Yu Sun Chin
For years, the sex trade was "their" problem, a heinous part of culture in poorer nations. But attention here to sex trafficking has slowly increased in recent years with the reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act and other federal state laws.
Still, males remain a largely invisible population within the dialogue on sex trafficking. According to a 2008 study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, in fact, boys comprised about 50 percent of sexually exploited children in a sample study done in New York, with most being domestic victims.
However, the percentage of male victims may be higher due to the underreported and subversive nature of the crime, said Summar Ghias, program specialist for the Chicago-based International Organization for Adolescents.
“We're conditioned as a community to identify female victims more readily,” she said, “because that has been the more prominent focus of the anti-trafficking movement.”
Despite these high percentages of commercially sexually exploited boys, a 2013 study by ECPAT-USA indicates that boys and young men are rarely identified as people arrested for prostitution or rescued as human trafficking victims, and are arrested more for petty crimes such as shoplifting.
Experts say that the law enforcement's attitudes toward male victims are still weighed down by gender biases in trafficking discourse, which pins females as victims and males as perpetrators. Therefore, male victims in custody often fall through the cracks of services that could be offered to help them because they are not properly assessed for sexual exploitation.
“Responses are more or less the same – how can a boy be trafficked, they're much stronger than girls, they could get out of it if they wanted to so,” says Genna Goldsobel, state policy coordinator of ECPAT-USA, a national anti-trafficking organization based in New York.
Many people also mistakenly associate male prostitution with homosexuality, when a majority of the trafficked youths are not gay, said Steven Pricopio, program coordinator of Surviving Our Struggle, an aftercare center for young male trafficking victims.
“When people think about male prostitution, they think of it as gay phenomena, that [the boys] are in control of what they're doing,” Pricopio said. “They don't see them as victims … It's not an issue of sexual orientation, it's an issue of right circumstances which bring you to exploitation or the vulnerability that brings you into being sexually exploited.”
Male victims come from similar backgrounds as female victims, often raised in broken families with a history of neglect and abuse, with at least 70 percent having experienced sexual abuse as children, Procopio said.
A 14 year-old male from the John Jay study, who started prostitution at age 12, said that his family's neglect contributed to his apathetic attitude toward his own life.
“My mother, she's lazy; she wouldn't care,” he said. “She would care if I
died, but that's all she cares about.”
The extent of their trauma is amplified due to their previous experience with sexual violence from a young age, making it difficult for them to identify as victims.
LGBTQ youth, who are more likely to be kicked out of their homes due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, may comprise about one-thirds of this population, according to the John Jay study.
The other two-thirds are made up of non-gay youth and “gay for pay” victims, or young heterosexual men who have sex with other men, said Meredith Dank, Senior Research Associate at The Urban Institute, a Washington D.C.-based think tank.
One 18-year old male from the John Jay study said that although he was heterosexual, he slept with men to sustain himself: “I just gotta do what I gotta do and so I can eat every day. I don't like the fact that I have to be with another man, just to survive. That's what I hate the most.”
Once on the streets, young men are often lured into prostitution not only by pimps, but also by friends through peer networks that may stand to earn cash for “helping them out,” which confuses the cycle of exploitation, Dank said.
A 15-year old male from the John Jay study said he was pressured into the work by his friends, saying that “I didn't know my friends did that — that they sold their bodies.”
Boys are bought and sold in both online and offline venues such as clubs and bars and websites such as backpage.com. Buyers are mostly white and upper-middle class men, and are often professionals with lots of flexibility in their schedule, Procopio said. However, 40 percent of the boys in the John Jay study also reported that they had served a female client.
“It makes boys more distrustful of authority figures because [the buyers] are authority figures,” he said.
Identification of male victims is difficult not only due to the lack of awareness, or focus, from law enforcement and service providers, but also the reluctance of boys to speak up.
Victims are unwilling to come forward to service providers, which may include doctors, social workers, and probation officers, due to feelings of shame and stigma.
An 18-year old male from Bronx in the study reflected on the guilt he associated with his work: “My mother taught me a lesson. If you're ashamed a sumpin'… don't do it, you know? … but at the same time, when you're in the position that I'm in, it's hard to live by it.”
Others are concerned that the service provider will try to criminalize their social network, said Anthony Marcus, who helped draft the John Jay study. The paradigm of child sex trafficking is unappealing to many victims, who may have children themselves and use prostitution for survival, he said.
“A lot of them don't see themselves as children and don't see themselves as victims and don't see themselves as having suffered abuse so it puts a damper on the desire to go to any service professionals,” Marcus said.
Illinois passed the Safe Children Act in 2010, which is meant to protect minors who have been forced into prostitution from criminal prosecution, and place them in the child welfare system instead of the criminal justice system. However, many victims are still reluctant to reveal their victimization because they are unwilling to enter the foster care system, Dank said.
Male victims of trafficking also face a severe lack of aftercare and reintegration services, which may include both short-term and long-term housing options, education and job placement programs, and mental health services. The youth from the study echoed this need for more long-term housing. An 18-year old male from the study described the process of going from shelter to shelter: “Them shelters are 90 days. So, I gotta crash at a friend's house, stay in a open-door type, and get my name back on the list to get another 90 days.”
According to the ECPAT-USA study, out of the 40 informants contacted, only four out of 25 shelters for commercially sexually exploited children serve boys, leaving them no choice but to return to their homes or the streets where they face potential re-exploitation. The absence of services tailored for male victims stem from the lack of general awareness about their experiences and victimization, Procopio said.
Without more concrete numbers on male victims of trafficking, funders may be unwilling to donate to shelters specifically tailored for their needs, Goldsobel said.
“When you don't have statistics, it's hard to get funding. If you don't have funding, then you're not helping victims and they get re-victimized and it comes full circle,” she said.
Main Line native, child of sexual abuse tells his story in biographical film
by Richard Ilgenfritz
There's a question that many parents might contemplate about their small children – when will they begin to retain long term memories.
For Sasha Neulinger the earliest of his memories go back to when he was 3 years of age. They are also among the most tragic for a small child because, “When you are raped that is when you start remembering things. And that is part of the loss of innocence,” Neulinger said during a recent interview with Main Line Media News. It was the early 1990's and the 3-year-old was living inside what should have been the safety of his family's home on Rosemont Avenue in the Rosemont section of Lower Merion Township.
“When I was sexually abused for the first time, I was instantly severed from myself. I remember the pain faded out as I just became numb but I remember walking down the stairs with my abuser into the kitchen and my parents – who had no idea what was going on – hugged my abuser and he sat down and my mom fed him food. For a child that is very confusing and really painful and in that moment, I lost all trust for adults and all love for myself because the adults that were supposed to love me – in my mind – didn't,” Neulinger said.
What his family didn't know was that an uncle from New York took advantage of holiday trips to Rosemont and molested the boy.
Neulinger went on to survive years of sexual abuse by two uncles and a cousin.
Now at the age of 24 and after having endured years of pain, the justice system and then physiological treatment, Neulinger has come to terms with what happed to him through his early life and he's trying to turn that nightmare into a positive for other children who might be facing the same situation.
Eight years after his last abuser pleaded guilty in Montgomery County Court, Neulinger is not only telling his story but his is making a documentary film about his experiences with the goal of helping other kids. Neulinger, who now lives in Wyoming, is a documentary filmmaker and is using Kickstarter to raise funds to make a movie about his experiences.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s Neulinger's case made national headlines when it was learned that one of his abusers was a well-known New York City Cantor, Howard Nevison. Nevison along with his brother, Lawrence, and Neulinger's cousin, Stewart Nevison, had been sexually abusing the boy for years.
Lower Merion police went on to arrest and charged the men and the Montgomery County District Attorney's office prosecuted the case.
Larry and Stewart Nevison were both convicted in 2000 of child sex-abuse charges.
According to published reports, charges against Howard Nevelson were filed much later than the others because it took longer for Neulinger to admit that he was being abused by his uncle, Howard. He said his uncle had threatened to kill him if he ever said anything. In the end, Howard Nevison escaped receiving any jail time after pleading guilty to various misdemeanor charges related to the case in 2006. At the time, Neulinger was turning 17.
Now Neulinger, who was born with the last name Nevison and later had it changed, is revisiting those years of torment for his film.
In “Rewind to Fast-Forward,” Neulinger weeded through 200 hours of video footage that his father shot documenting Neulinger's childhood. It shows the child before the abuse began, while the abuse was going on and then after the abuse ended.
Neulinger said the footage shows his emotional state at different stages while the abuse was taking place.
“There is this arc from how I changed, how I shifted and it allows us to move back in time as I tell my story and really show the story of how I change and I talk about what the internal state of being was for me,” Neulinger said.
To help make the film a reality, he is asking for help from interested people, calling on them for donations through a Kickstarter campaign.
“We wanted to raise $137,000 and we gave ourselves a month to do it and in the first six days after we released the [trailer] video we raised $161,000,” Neulinger said. Recently they've upped the goal of raising $200,000 for the film. He says the more money that is raised, the more time he can spend in the Philadelphia area interviewing key players for his film.
“With this film, I'm not trying to point fingers or call out monsters,” Neulinger said. “I'm trying to share my experience with abuse to express what it was to be a victim from the first moment of abuse all the way through the process of rebalancing everything in my life. And hopefully that helps current survivors but I also hope by showing this story we can open up a more detailed dialog of about how to protect the next generation of children so that they don't grow up wounded – paralyzed by the fear and the pain that comes with abuse hopefully so that they don't repeat the cycle,” Neulinger said.
Neulinger said since starting the process, he has received lots of letters from victims thanking him for his efforts.
“I've received thousands of personal messages from people who are saying through Facebook or Kickstarter that ‘I was sexual abused and thank you for speaking up on this,'” Neulinger said.
The idea of the film and the idea behind the title also has a much deeper meaning of simply telling his story. It is also about outing a deeply hidden secret that only came to be known after it was learned that Neulinger was being abused. The story will rewind to the time when his father was a child and had too suffered sexual abuse at the hands of his much older brother, Howard Nevison.
“So ‘Rewind to Fast-Forward' is the title that I came up with, one, because I went through 200 hours of home video but the deeper meaning is let's rewind to my childhood, let's talk about it. [But] let's rewind even further back to my dad's childhood to where the abuse started and let's talk about all of this so that we can move forward into the present with clarity and shift the way we deal with child sexual abuse,” Neulinger said.
According to Neulinger, for the documentary they took the cameras back to the childhood home in Northeast Philadelphia where his father has said he was abused by Howard Nevison.
“By going back another generation and looking at the multi-generational abuse cycle – where the abuse started – I'm actually comparing my situation as an abuse victim to my dad's experience as an abuse victim and even his brother, Larry's experience.”
Neulinger explained that the story touches on the cases where his uncle, Larry, was abused and went on to abuse another child. Then there was Neulinger's father who was abused and despite not getting treatment he never went on to abuse children. And then there was himself who he describes as having a happy life and “thriving.”
“I think the huge difference between me and my uncle Larry – both of us were sexual assault victims but the big difference is that I got help and support legally, clinically and emotionally from a very early age and he got no help at all,” Neulinger said.
Fundamentally, he believes that the abuse is in a sense handed down from generation to generation. The abused often becomes the abuser. Still, Neulinger says, that is no excuse and means that those who abuse children should not escape the legal system.
“I want to make something very clear, I'm not defending abusers. If an adult abuses a child that is 100 percent on them. They are the abuser. That is their responsibility and there should be justice. But that same person … if we as a society took that child when they were completely alone and abandoned … maybe they would not have grown up to abuse a child,” Neulinger said. “And we have a chance right now to recognize a pattern and do something about it.”
But what would compel someone to ever abuse a child?
“What I think is that every human being is born beautiful. I think the only reason why people hurt other people in such a violent way is because of a repressed hidden fear inside of them that is so great that they are disconnected from themselves. I don't think that someone wakes up randomly and says ‘I'm going to sexually abuse a child today.' There's a dark place that a human being has to be in to do something like that – an unhealthy, sick place to do something like that. But that sick adult was once a child who probably didn't get the help that they needed to be healthy,” Neulinger said.
Neulinger says it's much easier to be angry at the abuser then it is to ask what can be done to prevent child sexual abuse.
“I think that if we want to reduce the number of child sexual abuse victims it starts with this current generation of children. If we can make sure that they are being taken care of, given the proper emotional and psychiatry support that they need to heal from their wounds, then when they go out into the world as adults they have the hearts of human beings and [are] not capable of repeating the cycle,” Neulinger said.
When he was about 10 years old, Neulinger and his family moved to the Allentown area – in large part to escape the massive media attention that the case was getting. At the time he was a fifth grader at Gladwyne Elementary. After graduating high school in 2008, he moved to Montana where he went to school and still lives.
“After everything I've been through, I love my life,” Neulinger said. “I love who I am as a person. I have incredible friends that I trust and love. I live in a place that I love and I have a dream job and I realized that if I didn't go back and show my story than I've wasted an incredible opportunity to help out other people.”
He also said he had no idea how much making the film would help him.
Once deciding to do the project, Neulinger says he spent three months watching and logging the 200 hours of video footage that his father had shot and re-watching his life.
“Rosemont for me, Lower Merion for me used to be a place of darkness and memories of pain, we left for Allentown when I was 10 and never looked back,” Neulinger said.
But reviewing the video footage helped change that.
“As I was looking through this home video, I got to watch some of the most beautiful moments of my childhood that I didn't even remember because at that time I was lost in a cloud of fear,” Neulinger said. “And when I re-watched these beautiful moments of my childhood I remember I got to reclaim some really incredible moments in Lower Merion from my childhood and for me that has been very therapeutic.”
Some people still might ask why dredge this up now? Why not just put it behind you, move on with life and forget about it? For Neulinger, that is not an option. He says its best to confront one's past.
“I believe that if … something that you feel is awful and you never fully address it, it stays with you,” Neulinger said. “It's very hard to sit down and look at your fear in the face and fully acknowledge and accept the vulnerability that comes with that. But in my opinion it's the fastest way to heal and overcoming the abuse.”
He described confronting one's experience with child sexual abuse as like a splinter that sticks in you flesh. You can look at the splinter and continue pushing it deeper and deeper allowing it to get more and more infected or you can address the splinter and pull it out.
“I often wonder how things would have been different if Larry and my dad had gotten help as abused children. And I also wonder where I'd be today if I hadn't gotten help,” Neulinger said.
Neulinger also discussed some of the details about how it was finally discovered that he was being abused.
It began with a mask made from his underwear.
As Neulinger recalls it, he was 7-years-old when he decided to find a way to let his parents know that something was wrong. But he couldn't come right out and say what was happing to him so he made a mask out of his underwear. He even cut out little eyeholes so he could see.
On the mask, he wrote words such as loser and bitch and then ran down stairs naked with only the mask on. Once down the stairs, he grabbed a knife and put it to his mouth and started screaming. One of his abusers, Stewart Nevison, had been living with the family at the time. Neulinger said he packed up that night and moved out. His parents didn't known what was going on with their son.
He was taken to therapists but eventually it was realized that there was abuse going on. His first psychologist even suspected his father might have been behind the abuse.
But he wasn't.
Once Neulinger finally opened up and told the psychologist who was abusing him, Neulinger said that was when his father opened up and told him that he believed him because his older brothers did the same thing to him.
Neulinger says that people have asked how his father could have allowed his brothers to have entered his home and be near his son.
“The answer is that my dad was a child when he was abused and when my brothers left the house it stopped. So there was this childhood memory of abuse. No one explained that he was abused because [his brothers] had issues and he believed the same things that I did. He was gross, dirty and unlovable. No one explained that he was the victim of abuse. And no one even expanded to him what an abuser was and that it could happen again,” Neulinger said.
In fact what got Neulinger to finally try to find a way to let his parent know what was happening to him was that it was happing to his younger sister and although he saw himself in all of these negative ways, his sister was “the most beautiful person alive.”
Neulinger said his father had never mentioned the abuse until it came to be known that his son was being abused. And in the trailer for the film, Henry Nevison makes mention of it.
“If I had gotten the help I should have had and someone explained to me that both of my brothers were really sick and that they would do this again they wouldn't have been anywhere within miles of you, ever,” Henry Nevison tells his son in the trailer for the film.
“I'm going on show what my experience was but I'm going to go back another generation and talk about what my father's experience was,” Neulinger said.
Neulinger went on to say that his father went on the record and said he too had been abused by his brothers Howard and Larry. Published reports also say that Larry had said he too had been molested by his older brother Howard.
For Neulinger, a childhood was lost.
“It wasn't until I was almost 17 when the last court date happened and I got to finally put it behind me and go on with my life. That's my entire childhood. So I had to have 10 years of therapy. I had to be in and out of courtrooms for 10 years – so while I'm trying to heal in therapy it's constantly being hindered and put on pause because of the trial,” Neulinger said.
One of the problems he faced was graphic nature of the questions he was constantly facing in courtrooms. Those court dates began around 2000 in front of Magisterial District Judge Henry Schireson on Montgomery Avenue and ended in 2006 when Nevison finally pleaded guilty to numerous charges in Norristown.
“You're asking a child that over and over again as they are trying to heal and that is hard. It's hard to move forward from the pain of that experience when you are asked to relive the vivid details of it not for the purpose of overcoming it but for the purpose of being explicit as we move forward with prosecution,” Neulinger said.
In his case, Neulinger said his parents dropped everything and focused on getting him the treatment that he needed. At the time they had been running a video production company in Bala Cynwyd.
Neulinger also went on to discuss some of the status associated with child sexual assault. According to Neulinger, one-in-four girls and one-in-six boys are sexually abused before they reach 18.
“If we want to reduce the one-in-four girls and the one-in-six boys' number, the statistic for abuse victims, then we have to take a look at what kind of support we give child abuse victims right now to hit the horse over the head. If we are able to help child sexual abuse victims to heal fully so that when they grow up they are healthy, happy the numbers of children being abused is going to be significantly reduced,” Neulinger said.
Despite getting the thank you from other sexual assault victims, Neulinger says his story is only his and he hopes others will be encouraged to step forward.
“I can't claim to be anyone's voice but may own,” Neulinger said. “And I hope that by sharing my voice and my story and standing up against the stigma of shame it may give others the courage to stand up. I think that the more that we are willing to talk about what child sexual abuse is and what it does both to children and to that child as they grow up into adulthood that's where we can really understand the weight of this issue and really do something about it.”
Retiree bids to prevent, prosecute child abuse
Man starts movement to speak for those who can't
by Jennifer Feehan
He can think of no victims more helpless or voiceless than children whose lives are cut short at the hands of adults entrusted with their care.
Daniels Arnett, a Dana Corp. retiree from Petersburg, Mich., said he has followed child-homicide cases for years with a mounting sense of frustration over the crimes' sheer brutality, followed by what all too often seem like light sentences for those who cause their deaths.
“I just don't understand how you can treat any living thing the way they treat these children,” said Mr. Arnett, a father of four grown children.
“There's just case after case in the Toledo area as well as Monroe and all over southeast Michigan,” he said. “It happens more often than one could imagine and is much more horrific. In essence, I think it's somewhat of an epidemic that goes unnoticed by the public.”
Mr. Arnett is looking for like-minded people from across the area to help him launch a group he is calling Ally for Broken Children. It would be an organization that would advocate for stiffer sentences for those convicted of murdering children, attempt to speak on their behalf before sentences are imposed, and educate the public to be alert for signs of abuse and report it.
“Anybody who wants to do anything gets kudos from me,” Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates said of the effort, adding that child-abuse prevention is key.
Dean Sparks, executive director of Lucas County Children Services, said he certainly shares Mr. Arnett's outrage over child homicides, but he understands that cases are complicated — that caregivers rarely intend to kill a child.
“I've been in this 35 years, so I've seen a lot of child fatalities, and generally those child fatalities happen because somebody was stupid, somebody was frustrated, somebody was high or drunk, or something else like that,” Mr. Sparks said.
Ohio law allows prosecutors to seek the death penalty when a murder victim is under the age of 13, but it must be proven that the murder was premeditated — something that is unusual in these cases.
Currently, there are charges relating to children's deaths pending in Ottawa, Hancock, Defiance, and Erie counties. In Lucas County, 26-year-old Amanda Bacon was convicted Friday of murder and child endangering in the 2012 death of her 6-month-old son, whose head was bashed in, according to prosecutors. She faces life in prison when sentenced Thursday.
In Monroe County, where Mr. Arnett lives, an 18-year-old man who shook his 6-week-old infant nearly to death last year pleaded no contest to first-degree child abuse and was sentenced to nine years in prison with the agreement that he would not face additional charges if the baby's condition changed. The youngster died in January.
Nine years, Mr. Arnett says, does not seem like nearly enough of a punishment.
“Now the prosecution says it's looking into it, but I think that's just to ease the public's mind,” he said, adding, “That's what this group would zero in on keeping the prosecutor's feet to the fire, saying, ‘Are you looking into this?' ”
Two other recent cases that screamed of injustice, Mr. Arnett said, occurred in Wood County.
In December, Nathan Brenner was sentenced to 11 years in prison after conviction on two counts of endangering children for the injuries that led to the death of 2-year-old Emma Zehnpfennig, his girlfriend's daughter.
In the case of 3-month-old Carter Steinmiller, who prosecutors said was injured repeatedly almost since the day he was born, his father, Brian Steinmiller pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and two counts of endangering children. Though prosecutors recommended a 10-year sentence as part of the plea agreement, Wood County Common Pleas Judge Robert Pollex imposed 14 years, saying abuse the baby suffered was atrocious.
The child's mother, Rebecca Steinmiller, received three years in prison for failing to protect her young son.
Wood County Prosecutor Paul Dobson, who approved the plea deals, said sometimes such plea agreements are simply the best outcome.
“I agree 100 percent absolutely [with Mr. Arnett] because I believe that someone should get more time, not less time, for doing what they did to a child,” he said. “But I also have to work within the confines and constraints of what the legal system is, and people are not going to be any happier if that guy walks free.”
Sending a defendant to prison even for a seemingly short sentence is, in some cases, a more just outcome than risking an acquittal at trial because of a lack of witnesses, problems with evidence, finger-pointing by the caregivers, and expert witnesses called by the defense to challenge the state's experts, he said.
Mrs. Bates agreed that the cases can be difficult because investigators often lack evidence that enables them to conclusively say who caused the fatal injuries.
In December, she approved plea agreements with the mother of Elaina Steinfurth, a missing East Toledo toddler whose remains were left in a garage to decompose, and the mother's boyfriend, Steven King. She said it was the only way to find out what happened to the child and punish those responsible.
“It's about the right person being held accountable,” she said. “It's a search for the truth.”
Angela Steinfurth and King were given life sentences. She will be eligible for parole after serving 18 years in prison; he will be eligible for parole after 25.
Another life sentence was imposed in Lucas County last year for Kenisha Pruitt, who admitted she submerged her newborn baby in a water-filled bathtub, then tied a shoelace around his neck until he was dead. Her boyfriend, Antonio Cervantes, received a 15-year sentence for putting the corpse in a freezer and leaving it there when the couple moved.
“These children are alone,” Mr. Arnett said. “There are no people in their corner supporting them or crying for justice.”
Anyone interested in getting involved with Mr. Arnett's effort may contact him at: email@example.com
Minnesota counties 'screen out' most child abuse reports
by BRANDON STAHL
Minnesota's counties received nearly 68,000 reports of child abuse or neglect last year but closed most of those cases without investigation or assessment.
A review of state and federal data by the Star Tribune shows that the number of child abuse reports being screened out without any protective action rose last year to the third-highest rate in the country.
In all, the state screened out more than 48,000 such abuse reports last year — and authorities often made their decisions after only gathering information from a phone call or a fax.
What happens to those cases is largely unknown. Records are not open to the public. Many counties also don't keep track of closed cases, potentially resulting in multiple reports of abuse of a child without intervention. A bill advancing through the Legislature would require counties to keep information on screened-out cases for a year to spot recurring child abuse.
“We're finding gross discrepancies in what one county does vs. another,” said the bill's sponsor, Sen. Jeff Hayden, DFL-Minneapolis.
Red Lake County in northwestern Minnesota screened out nearly 93 percent of its cases last year, the highest in the state, taking in only three of the 41 child abuse complaints it received, according to data from the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS). Le Sueur County, about an hour south of Minneapolis, was second highest, rejecting 89 percent of the 453 abuse reports it received.
Houston County in southeastern Minnesota closed only 5 percent of its complaints without investigation, the state's lowest percentage.
The screened-out reports can be an early warning. Nicollet County received a report in 2007 of suspected child neglect by Mona and Russell Hauer but chose not to investigate, records show.
Five years later, Mona Hauer brought her 8-year-old son to a Mankato hospital. His bones pressed against his skin and he weighed just 35 pounds. Doctors admitted him to intensive care and diagnosed him with failure to thrive and anemia. Authorities accused the parents of starving the child and confining him in a basement, and charged the two with child neglect.
Only six counties screened out a higher percentage of their reports last year than Nicollet.
“This is something to be extremely concerned about,” said John Mattingly, a senior fellow at the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation, which studies child welfare. “It's happening because the initial criteria they have set allows too many cases to be dismissed before you even take an initial look at them. If you want to know what that's about, it's about controlling caseloads.”
Erin Sullivan Sutton, DHS' assistant commissioner for children and family services, defended the state's record of investigating child abuse and neglect by pointing to a state audit released in 2012.
That audit found child protection agencies made decisions on whether to investigate in a “reasonable and deliberative manner.”
Sullivan Sutton said screen-outs have nothing to do with caseload or budgetary concerns. Rather, she said the majority of the abuse reports don't meet the statutory requirements for a county response.
“We cannot intervene or interfere with families unless statutory thresholds are met,” she said.
Sleeping on a sled
Counties fielded reports of possible child abuse or neglect an average of seven times an hour last year in Minnesota, one of the highest rates in the nation. Child protection agencies must determine if those reports meet the legal threshold of abuse. If so, the law requires the agencies to intervene by investigating whether abuse occurred or assessing the child's safety and risk for maltreatment.
County child protection agencies closed 71 percent of abuse reports without investigation last year. Nationwide, the average number of screened-out calls was 38 percent in 2012.
“It adds up to 22,000 abuse calls a year that in an average state would be screened in,” said Rich Gehrman, the executive director of Safe Passage for Children of Minnesota, a watchdog group for child welfare.
Nicollet County officials would not talk about the Hauer case, and the family declined to comment through their attorney, Tom Hagen. A public record provided by Gehrman to the Star Tribune shows that the county became aware of possible neglect of the boy in 2007.
“The report was screened by a child protection worker, but it was determined no neglect occurred, so Social Services decided an assessment was not necessary,” according to the record.
Then in October 2011, a passerby saw the boy walking by himself along Hwy. 169 and called law enforcement, according to court records. The boy told Nicollet County Chief Deputy Karl Jensen that he was hungry and walking to get a hamburger at a gas station, which Jensen said was about 7 miles from his home. The boy could not identify his parents, so the deputy took the boy to get food.
Jensen said in an interview that he tracked down the boy's address and took him home. His mother, Jensen said, told the deputy that the boy was being punished and was supposed to be moving wood outside, but walked away when she went to check on their other children.
Jensen said the boy did not appear malnourished at the time, and he did not file a report with child protection.
Investigators later learned that around the time Jensen found the boy, the Hauers began sleeping outside of his room to try to stop him from stealing food, according to court records. They moved the boy to the basement, where an alarm on his door would go off if he left. The boy slept in a plastic container and then a sled because he was wetting the bed. In case he had to relieve himself at night, he was given a bucket, which he had to clean and empty each morning.
In October 2012, Mona Hauer brought the boy to the hospital after finding blood on his shirt. She told doctors that the boy had been regurgitating his food since December 2011. He stayed in the hospital for about a month as doctors worked to bring him up to a normal weight and treated him for brain atrophy and delayed bone growth from malnutrition. The boy told his doctors that he been eating his regurgitated food because he did not know when he would eat again.
After an investigation, Nicollet County moved to terminate the Hauers' parental rights over the 8-year-old and their other three children. A judge granted the termination for the boy and placed him in foster care, and allowed the Hauers to retain custody of the other children while giving the county protective supervision. In October 2013, the Hauers each pleaded guilty to one count of child neglect.
A judge in February 2014 found that the Hauers were complying with the requirements of the protective supervision.
Gehrman of Safe Passage said the case is an example of the system missing a maltreated child.
Abuse screened out
In 2012, the Minnesota legislative auditor also found problems with the screening system, including wide variations in what reports that counties considered worthy of a response.
The auditor presented 10 sample scenarios to county child protection officials. Among them: A father threatens his son and shoots the family dog in front of him. A father chokes and punches a mother as the kids play video games. A mother drinks too much while caring for her child.
About half of Minnesota counties said they would decline to respond to those cases.
DHS sent out an advisory to counties in early March on what should be done in those cases. Counties should assess or investigate reports of a dog-killing father and a drunken mother. But DHS advised against investigating the case of the mother-abusing father, because no child was maltreated.
A Hennepin County task force in 2011 found that the person who makes the report also influences the decision to investigate. People who are not required by law to report abuse or neglect but do so anyway rarely get their complaints investigated, the task force found.
“They could have all of these things that are really concerning,” said Denise Graves, the former head of the task force. “But if they don't really have explicit details, it won't get screened in.”
After screening out a report, counties can refer families to voluntary Parent Support Outreach Programs, which began in 38 Minnesota counties in 2005 and have since spread statewide. About 50 percent of families referred to the programs choose to participate, according to DHS.
Joan Najbar, who works with a Twin Cities-based PSOP, worries that counties too often turn to these programs, which she said can be an inappropriate response to children in danger.
“Most Minnesotans assume we have systems in place to help families and keep kids safe,” Najbar said. “We don't.”
Najbar said Isanti County asked her in February to work with a family that it declined to investigate. Family members reported that the caregiver was drinking daily, kept firearms in his home, and became psychotic and heard voices telling him to kill people when he got drunk, Najbar said.
Najbar said she refused to take the case and asked the county to reconsider its decision to screen out the case. She doesn't know what has happened to the family since then.
Students taking steps to call attention to child abuse
by Kelly Urban
JOHNSTOWN — An upcoming community walk will help raise awareness of child abuse.
In recognition of April being designated as National Child Abuse Month, The Christian Home of Johnstown has organized a walk for April 24 that involves student groups from Bishop McCort Catholic and Greater Johnstown high schools.
The walk will leave Greater Johnstown High School at 1 p.m. with students representing the Interact and Key clubs, and proceed to McCort, where it be joined by members of the National Honor Society.
The walkers will make their way to The Christian Home of Johnstown's Fend Home, 1100 Edson Ave., where the students will place blue pinwheels symbolizing child abuse awareness and prevention in the lawn.
Participants will then walk back to Greater Johnstown High School and watch the short film “ReMoved,” which portrays child abuse and aspects of the foster care system through the eyes of a young child representing victims of abuse.
Chantay Jeffers, executive director of The Christian Home of Johnstown, said that in 2012, there were more than 3,300 confirmed cases of child abuse in Pennsylvania.
“In Cambria County in 2012, there were 47 confirmed cases - that's 47 too many. None of these should have happened,” she said. “We have to remember that these children often can't speak for themselves. Others have to step forward and play a role in stopping the abuse.”
Jeffers said the statistics are compelling, and people need to be mindful of the fact that there is a face of a child and a family behind those numbers.
“The numbers are hard to deal with,” Jeffers said. “One of our goals is to increase awareness about child abuse prevention throughout the community.”
Part of the organization's programming is to address child abuse prevention with the children in its care.
“We make it a point to talk with them about parenting issues, about social accountability and the fact that each of us is responsible for our actions,” Jeffers said. “All this is geared toward helping them grow into responsible, productive adults who are positive role models for their families and the community.”
Established in 1908, The Christian Home of Johnstown is a nonprofit, nonsectarian agency that provides residential and outreach programs for youth ages 10 to 21 who are transitioning from unstable living situations. In addition to its residential programs, the agency is contracted by Cambria County Children and Youth to teach youths, ages 16 to 21, independent living skills.
For more information, call 535-8775 or visit: www.chjcares.org