Watters bill on sex abuse prevention goes to governor: Designed to make schoolchildren statewide more aware of inappropriate touching
by Kimberley Haas
DOVER — A Senate bill establishing a commission to study sexual abuse prevention education in New Hampshire schools is on its way to Gov. Maggie Hassan's desk after it passed the House of Representatives this week.
SB 348 is sponsored by state Sen. David Watters, D-Dover. Watters started working on the bill after having a number of discussions with local people interested in talking about sexual abuse prevention. He learned that some school districts in New Hampshire have educational programs about sexual abuse, while others do not.
According to supporters, the bill is aimed at making children more aware of when they are being touched inappropriately by others. The hope is that by giving elementary and secondary school children the knowledge they need to realize when something is wrong, they will report sexual abuse to the appropriate authorities and receive treatment. As it is written, the bill would not mandate that schools start teaching about sexual abuse.
Jessica Paradis of Somersworth, a mother of five sons and a member of the Somersworth School Board, is hopeful that schools will start using curricula recommended by the commission starting in the 2015-16 school year.
Paradis testified on behalf of the bill last month. The former vice president of the Sexual Assault Support Services (SASS) board of directors is herself a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.
“If this kind if programming had been around when I was a kid, it could have prevented my abuse from happening for years. I would have known that this wasn't supposed to be happening to me, and that there are adults, in school and out of school that would have helped to get me out of a scary, confusing situation,” Paradis said Friday.
Paradis said SASS currently serves Rockingham and Strafford County school systems, teaching approximately 10,000 students a year about personal body safety, Internet safety and healthy relationships, but there are a total of 40,000 students in the two counties.
Paradis said there are 12 other states that provide this type of education to students. She said the bill has support from police, rape crisis centers, child advocacy groups, the Department of Health and Human Services and those in education. Paradis has been told that if SB 348 passes the House of Representatives, it would have the support of Gov. Maggie Hassan.
Littlest victims: How to stop child abuse before it starts
(Video on site)
by Sarah Schuch
GENESEE COUNTY, MI – Local expects say there are things that can be done to stop child abuse before it even starts.
With 2,916 children reported physically abused between 2009 and 2013 in Genesee County, something needs to be done.
At the same time a move is on encouraging people to report child abuse, the ultimate goal is prevention.
Education is a good place to start, said Dr. Brian Nolan, clinical director of pediatrics for Hurley Children's Hospital. Education for the mothers, as well as education in schools for teenagers that may babysit, are both important.
One program that Hurley does is called the Purple Program, which provides information to mothers on what to do if the baby is crying. A lot of times situations arise from good people doing stupid things in the heat of moment, Nolan said.
The same type of education should be done in schools.
Everyone should be aware of the five S's to help sooth a crying that mimic the environment of the womb: Swaddle (swaddle them tight), side (turn them on their side), shhh (bring them up to your mouth and say "shhhh" loudly in their ear, swing (gently swing the baby) and suck (put something in their mouths to suck on).
"These are strategies that people can use, assuming the kid's not hungry or needs to be changed. ... Assuming that the kid is not sick, they're just irritable, not hungry or needs to be changed, there are things you can do," Nolan said. "These are important because it can be very stressful taking care of a kid. If you're on your own taking care of a kid for hours who's been crying for hours you get very frustrated and sometimes you do stupid stuff."
If a crying child gets too much to handle, Nolan said the caregiver should simply leave the child on the floor and walk away. It's a much better option than causing harm to the child.
Tips for the public besides calling in child abuse include simply understanding that taking care of a baby can be very stressful, Nolan said.
Sometimes mothers of babies or infants may need a little extra support to help with their emotional state, he said.
"Maybe if a relative or whatever has a young baby, ask how things are going or see what they can do to help. Acknowledge that some babies, especially young infants, can be quite challenging to take care of in terms of their crying," Nolan said.
Outside of education there needs to be better programs and options for mothers, because without a support system the situation can get very stressful, said Kevin Roach, president and CEO of Whaley Children's Center.
The key is to step in before the situation escalates to the point where the child is injured so badly that it results in death, he said.
"We got to reach directly to those moms and give them different options," Roach said. "We know that there are certain stress factors along the way. Very rarely does a child die the moment of the first injury. Mom is stressed out. The support system is just not there."
Needing to leave the baby with the father or her boyfriend may be just as dangerous if they have already shown signs that they are not a good fit as a parent.
Other alternatives such as free daycare options, a crisis nursery care, a lifeline to call when stressed or a grandmother program, where retirees are paired us with a grandmother for free child care, would be great starting points, Roach said.
A serious conversation needs to be started to make changes. First, the community needs to realize how big of an issue it is, Nolan said. Next, everyone needs to encourage the people they know to call with any suspicions.
Children also need to be educated on what abuse looks like or how a predator acts, said Daphne Young, vice president of communications and prevention education for Childhelp, national non-profit organization dedicated to helping victims of child abuse and neglect. Parents, teachers and community members need to also be on the lookout.
"For every parent that has a child in school, if you don't address child abuse in your community you could be creating a problem for everybody," Young said. "When we all address it as a community, you are assuring that your community is safer for your own children and you edging predators out of your community."
It needs to be a community effort between health officials, law enforcement and the community as a whole. Business leaders, especially, will see children and their families out in the public on a regular basis, Roach said.
"At the end of the day we can trace back to that child was not put first," Roach said, adding that people aren't aware how big of a problem child abuse is. "The amount of attention this gets compared to other public health issues (is very low). And this is not to diminish the importance of other public health issues by any stretch of the imagination, we just know that there's a segment of the population that doesn't have a voice. There's a part of that population that's powerless and no one is speaking up for and they can't. They don't have a platform. They don't have that pull. They don't have anybody picking up the baton and championing what that issue is."
The community is also urged to call 855-444-3911 if they suspect any child abuse.
Cardinal Sean O'Malley on sexual abuse crisis: ‘There is so much denial'
by Josephine Mckenna
VATICAN CITY — The Roman Catholic Church failed to recognize the worldwide reach of clerical sexual abuse, Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley said Saturday (May 3) at a press conference.
“Many don't see it as a problem of the universal church,” said O'Malley who heads the Vatican's new commission for the protection of minors.
“In many people's minds it is an American problem, an Irish problem or a German problem,” he said. “The church has to face it is everywhere in the world. There is so much denial. The church has to respond to make the church safe for children.”
O'Malley, whose Boston archdiocese was at the center of a wave of sex scandals that rocked the church a decade ago, addressed the media after the panel's eight members held its first meeting in Rome.
Pope Francis announced the creation of the new committee in March. It includes Irish abuse victim and campaigner Marie Collins and two psychiatrists. But the committee is expected to expand to represent every continent around the world.
“We wish to express our heartfelt solidarity with all victims/survivors of sexual abuse as children and vulnerable adults,” O'Malley read from a prepared statement.
“We will propose initiatives to encourage local responsibility around the world and the mutual sharing of ‘best practices' for the protection of all minors, including programs for training, education, formation and responses to abuse.”
Collins, who was sexually abused by a priest at age 13, said she, too, had been “shocked” by the denial she had witnessed among some Catholic bishops about the extent of clerical sexual abuse.
“.They truly believed it only happened in certain countries,” she said.
The committee met as the Vatican is about to face fresh scrutiny from a United Nations panel on torture in Geneva this week.
In February, a U.N. committee on the rights of the child denounced the Vatican for adopting policies that allowed priests to sexually abuse thousands of children and called for known and suspected abusers to be immediately removed.
Francis strongly rejected the report's findings, saying that no other organization had done more to fight pedophilia and the church had acted with “transparency and responsibility.”
The pope recently said he took personal responsibility for the “evil” of clerical sex abuse, sought forgiveness from victims and said the church must do more to protect children.
Collins said that while she had “difficulty” with the pope's claims that the church had done more than any other institution to act on abuse, she said she believed the church was moving forward, but stressed that the effort was still in its “early days.”
Vatican to craft sex abuse protocols
VATICAN CITY (AP) - Members of Pope Francis' sexual abuse advisory board said Saturday they will develop "clear and effective" protocols to hold bishops and other church authorities accountable if they fail to report suspected abuse or protect children from pedophile priests.Victims groups have long blasted the Vatican for refusing to sanction any bishop or superior who covered up for priests who raped and molested children. They have listed accountability as one of the key issues facing Francis and a key test for his new advisory board.
Francis announced the creation of the commission last December and named its members in March after coming under initial criticism for having ignored the sex abuse issue. The commission's eight members - four of whom are women - met for the first time this week at the pope's Vatican hotel to discuss the scope of their work and future members.
Briefing reporters Saturday, Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the archbishop of Boston, said current church laws could hold bishops accountable if they fail to do their jobs to protect children. But he said those laws hadn't been sufficient to date and new protocols were needed.
"Obviously our concern is to make sure that there are clear and effective protocols to deal with the situations where superiors of the church have not fulfilled their obligations to protect children," O'Malley said. That could include an effort toward creating an "open process" that "would hold people accountable for their responsibility to protect children."
Victims groups have long cited the case of O'Malley's predecessor in Boston, Cardinal Bernard Law, who resigned in disgrace as archbishop after the sex abuse scandal exploded publicly there in 2002. But Pope John Paul II then appointed Law to the plum assignment as archpriest of one of the Vatican's four major basilicas in Rome. Even today, another U.S. bishop remains in office despite having been convicted of misdemeanor failure to report suspected child abuse.
Francis' new advisory board said in a concluding statement that church accountability is "especially important" to the members and that in their founding statutes they would emphasize the "devastating consequences" for victims when suspected abuse is not reported.
Marie Collins, a committee member and Irish survivor of sexual abuse, said she came away from the inaugural meeting of the commission "hopeful" primarily because the issue of accountability was addressed straight on.
"I know there are many survivors around the world who are hoping, and have great expectations of this commission," Collins said. "And what I can say so far is you can't make concrete promises. But as a survivor myself, I am hopeful that we are going to achieve what is hoped for. It's very, very important."
O'Malley said another area that the commission would address is giving advice to national bishops' conferences to improve their own guidelines for handling abuse cases. Recently, the Italian bishops' conference released their guidelines and said they had no legal obligation to report suspected abuse to police.
The commission met on the eve of a U.N. committee meeting in Geneva in which the Vatican is expected to come under a second round of criticism for its handling of abuse. A U.N. committee monitoring implementation of a key treaty on children's rights blasted the Holy See earlier this year, accusing it of systematically placing its own interests over those of victims by enabling priests to rape and molest tens of thousands of children through its own policies and code of silence.
It recommended the Vatican immediately remove any priest suspected or known to have abused children, open its archives on abusers and the bishops who covered up for them, and turn the cases over to law enforcement.
Financed by Paterno family, program targets child sex abuse on campuses
by Debra Erdley
If everything goes according to plan, thousands of youths who go to Indiana University of Pennsylvania this summer for sports and academic camps won't notice anything different.
But, says Rhonda Luckey, vice president for student affairs, campers will be in a more protective setting as IUP's staff works to build a culture of child sexual abuse prevention and awareness among coaches and volunteers.
IUP is one of 14 universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education piloting a child sexual abuse prevention program that Joe Paterno's family hopes will become a model for college campuses across the nation.
The Paterno family, which set up a donor-directed trust upon the death of the storied Penn State football coach, underwrote the $230,000 cost of the training through the “Stop It Now!” New England-based nonprofit. It is part of the family's campaign to heighten awareness and battle child sexual abuse in response to the scandal that rocked Penn State when Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant football coach, was convicted of sexually molesting boys in and around the campus.
“If my father had had the training we're now doing, he'd have known what he was dealing with,” Scott Paterno said.
“Stop it Now!” formed 22 years ago to fight child abuse before it happens and to raise awareness of subtle cues that may suggest it.
The organization's director, Deborah Donovan Rice, said State System campuses that collectively enroll 112,000 students are an ideal setting to test the program.
Luckey led staffers from IUP at a two-day “Stop it Now!” seminar at Slippery Rock University, where staff from State System universities gathered to learn more about child sexual abuse and to brainstorm about responses on their campuses.
Ann Franke, a Washington attorney who consults with universities on such issues, operates a program known as Wise Results. She said the Sandusky case and several other recent scandals on college campuses prompted universities to reconsider how they handle having minors on their properties.
“In the last three years, a lot of institutions have either adopted or strengthened their policies on protecting minors and applied those protections to outside groups that use their campuses,” she said.
Although youth camps and outreach programs are secondary missions at colleges and universities, Franke said some schools serve more minors through such programs than their total student population.
“Rutgers counted and found they served 71,000 minors a year, and large land grant universities that are involved with 4-H can serve hundreds of thousands,” Franke said.
Lisa Weintzel, who works in student services at Slippery Rock, said the Butler County school hosted 3,500 minors for a total of 11,000 nights on campus last year. IUP estimates it hosts 5,000 minors a year.
Authorities said Sandusky, who ran a charity for disadvantaged youths, used such camps on the Penn State campus to groom his victims. The school, still dealing with lawsuits and athletic sanctions stemming from the scandal, has adopted comprehensive policies for such camps. It enhanced training for staff and volunteers, and hosted national conferences on child sexual abuse.
The Paternos chose the State System to pilot a program for colleges when Marie Conley, a consultant for the family and member of the State System's board of governors, suggested it.
“The leadership was very quick to embrace it and got on board. They did not know we were the sponsors,” Scott Paterno said.
Although the State System schools adopted strict standards for background checks for staff and volunteers for youth camps they sponsor and third parties who rent their facilities, Chancellor Frank Brogan said this program takes the effort to the next level.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in six boys and one in four girls may be sexually abused before age 18.
“We have an obligation to play a role in prevention and awareness,” Brogan said.
The Basics: A bill to get names removed from CT's child abuse registry
by Jacqueline Rabe Thomas
With more than 90,000 people listed on the state's child abuse and neglect registry for allegations made against them at least 14 years ago, the state may finally create a process for people to get their name removed.
A bill passed Thursday night by the House and sent to the Senate drew strong statements of support, and criticism, from legislators.
"I think this is a true crime against our children," said Rep. Christie Carpino, R-Cromwell.
What does the bill do?
Employers often check this list as part of a background check of someone applying for a job if the position includes working with children. It also is used when determining if someone is eligible to take in foster children.
Rep. Gerald Fox III, the House chairman of the legislature's Judiciary Committee, said that throughout the years, people "would be placed on the registry for almost anything," and that "there is no real mechanism in which someone can get their name removed."
This bill changes that by requiring the agency that oversees this registry -- the state Department of Children and Families -- to provide those on the registry with a process to apply to have their name removed 10 years after the agency had investigated and substantiated they had abused or neglected a child. Before 2000, someone accused of abusing or neglecting a child was not offered the chance to prove their innocence, or even notified that their name was being put on the list.
The decision to remove someone will be determined by the DCF commissioner, granted they show "good cause" and "a bona fide need."
Fox said it's unfair to keep many of the people that were put on the list decades ago.
"Their lives are still impacted despite they are not a threat to anybody," he said on the House floor.
What does the bill not do?
The names of people on the registry will not be automatically or guaranteed to be removed.
People whose name is also on a sex offender registry will not be eligible to have their name removed. The bill would not make DCF's abuse and neglect registry public.
Who does it affect?
Those whose names are on the registry and are seeking jobs that require a background check or people who are seeking to take in a foster child.
But opponents say it will hurt children the most.
"We don't want one person slipping, slipping through," John Cattelan, who is with the Connecticut Alliance of YMCAs, a group that represents 23 YMCAs throughout the state, told legislators during a public hearing in March.
What started it?
This legislation has been supported by DCF Commissioner Joette Katz for the last several years. A lawyer, and a former state Supreme Court justice, Katz has said too many people were put on this list decades ago without any due process to object or appeal a single social worker's decision.
Fox said that without a formal process to get their name of the registry, people throughout the years have had to figure out "creative" ways to get off the list. An official with the department said that over the last decade, fewer than a dozen people have succeeded in getting their name removed.
Now that the House has passed the bill, the legislation now awaits action in the Senate. It is unclear if they will take action in the remaining six days of the legislative session.
D.A. Says Child Abuse of Any Kind Will Not be Tolerated
District Attorney Jackie Lacey addressed the findings of two reports
by Michelle Mowad
Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said today child abuse of any kind will not be tolerated in the county in response to the release of two annual reports.
Lacey said the reports—the Child Death Review Team Report and the Inter-Agency Council on Child Abuse and Neglect (ICAN) State of Child Abuse in Los Angeles County Report—will be used to understand the causes and impacts to help with prevention.
"My office manages the daunting task of holding accountable those responsible for harming or committing homicide against our children," Lacey said.
The reports represent the most comprehensive county-level child abuse data in the nation, she said.
"We believe that knowledge about the issues will contribute to more effective interventions by all agencies and will heighten the public focus on the need to prevent my office and other official agencies from intervening on behalf of young victims after a tragedy has occurred," Lacey said.
The comments were made as part of a policy committee meeting at the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration attended by interagency officials, where they discussed issues on child and youth homicides, suicides, accidents and human trafficking of youth.
Deanne Tilton, ICAN's executive director, said violence in the home of children has been linked to disabilities, early death and disease as adults.
"Violence in the home can hurt in ways we never expected," Tilton said.
Tilton called for all those who touch the lives of children to work together to fight child abuse and neglect.
ICAN was created in 1997 by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to develop services for the prevention, identification and treatment of child abuse and neglect.
In offensive against sex trafficking, Ann Wagner steps into controversial realm
by Chuck Raasch
WASHINGTON -- Finally, the fear of staying overcame the fear of leaving for Katie Rhoades.
A man had coaxed the drug-addicted 19-year-old from Portland, Ore., to California, where she spent two years being sold to men for sex. At last, she decided that if she stayed, “I was going to end up in a dumpster or be sold to another pimp. And that was terrifying.”
So at 21, Rhoades fled to the safety of a nurse practitioner who had cared for her as a child.
Rhoades, now 33, has earned a master's degree in social work from Washington University and counsels girls and women in the city trying to escape or avoid the life she led. She tells corporate gatherings about how they can fight the problem.
Rhoades was trafficked for sex, a victim in an industry that activists say is widely known to Americans, but whose destructive reach is not fully grasped. Congress is starting to pay attention. Three bills designed to come down on human trafficking are working their way through the House of Representatives and could be up for votes this month.
One measure, sponsored by Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, may turn out to be the most controversial. Her Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation act would criminalize advertising of sex with people, including children, held in human trafficking or sexual slavery.
Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., is co-sponsor of two Senate bills aimed at sex traffickers, and he is writing his own bill that would criminalize advertising of illegal sex on the Internet. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., plans to co-sponsor the latter.
The federal government considers St. Louis one of the top 20 human trafficking jurisdictions, according to Wagner and local activists. The Polaris Project, a Washington, D.C., rescue organization for people trying to escape human trafficking and sexual slavery, reports that calls to its hotlines have risen by 259 percent since 2007.
The Justice Department officially defines human trafficking as “the act of compelling or coercing a person's labor, services, or commercial sex acts. The coercion can be subtle or overt, physical or psychological, but it must be used to coerce a victim into performing labor, services or commercial sex acts.”
The laws are rooted in the 13th Amendment's ban on slavery and involuntary servitude. And the Justice Department's official description points out that despite common perceptions, a person does not have to be physically moved to be covered under the laws against human trafficking, but simply held against their will.
The United Nations says that human trafficking — primarily for forced labor or sexual slavery and illegal prostitution — is a $9.5 billion annual business in the U.S.
The Justice Department has estimated that as many as 300,000 American children are at risk of being trafficked for sex. The estimate comes from a Web-based reporting clearinghouse that collects actual and suspected incidents of human trafficking by a special Justice Department anti-human trafficking task force instituted in 2000.
In the St. Louis area, there is a waiting list for a new shelter for eight rescued girls between 13 and 17 slated to open in Jefferson County this spring. Rhoades helped write the plan for the facility, which is sponsored by The Covering House, a five-year-old nonprofit agency providing refuge and counseling for girls who have been sexually trafficked or exploited.
Dedee Lhamon founded The Covering House in 2009 after seeing a documentary on human trafficking. She said an undercover St. Louis police detective told her that he could rescue two or three children a day with enough resources.
“There would not be a problem if the demand was not an issue, and what drives the problem and sex trafficking is the demand,” Lhamon said.
Some of the legislation now working its way through Congress attempts to address the demand.
Wagner's House Bill 4225 would “criminalize the knowing advertisement of a person in reckless disregard of the fact that the person was being forced to engage in a commercial sex act,” according to a memo prepared by her staff.
That has raised red flags with Internet freedom groups that have successfully challenged in court a Washington state law aimed at online advertising. But Wagner said she believes her bill will pass First Amendment challenges, and that it is necessary to combat a problem she said she first became aware of as U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg from 2005-2009.
“Many of these girls, and I should say children of both sexes, are moved from city to city, depending upon a convention or sporting activity or some reason or another,” Wagner said. “I was just outraged it was going on to this level in our own neighborhoods.”
Activists say St. Louis' middle-America location on interstate highways and its constant hosting of big sporting and entertainment events makes it both destination and layover in the sex trafficking trade.
Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., are co-sponsoring the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, a companion to Wagner's bill, that toughens penalties for people who buy and sell sex, and provides federal block grants to local law enforcement entities to fight trafficking.
Another bill heading for a House vote would provide incentives to states to pass safe harbor laws that treat trafficked minors as victims rather than criminals.
In the Senate, Kirk is co-sponsor on bipartisan bills that would make illegal sex trafficking subject to laws covering organized crime and another that is similar to the safe-harbor bill that was passed through the House. He and Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., also plan to introduce a Senate version of Wagner's House bill aimed at advertising.
“Human trafficking is modern-day slavery,” Poe said at a news conference featuring a young California woman named Jessica who said she was first sold to a man at 11 and trafficked across the country. “It fits all the definitions of slavery, and many times many of us in the community don't want to talk about that, but that is exactly what it is.”
A primary target of Wagner's bill, she acknowledges, is Backpage.com, the largest online host of prostitution advertising since Craigslist ended its adult section in 2010. Jessica, now 29, said she was advertised on Backpage.com
Last year, Florida-based AIM Group, which consults on interactive media, said online advertising of all kinds of prostitution exceeded $45 million annually, with 82 percent of it on Backpage.com.
But Peter M. Zollman, founding principal of AIM, said Wagner's bill might produce the opposite effect she intends.
“Trafficking in children and women is one of the most despicable things out there,” he said.
“I am not at all suggesting that there is anything right about that. But the fact is that having a centralized repository where (the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children) and law enforcement can go to find missing and exploited children and women — that is the most valuable tool they could have.”
A similar but more complicated law than Wagner's was signed in 2012 by Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire, but it was thrown out by a federal judge after challenges from Backpage.com and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Wagner's allies in Congress are bracing for a fight. After Wagner's bill was approved by a 24-3 vote in the House Judiciary Committee, its chairman, Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said it “simply clarifies Congress' intent” that “knowingly trafficking children for sex — or knowingly profiting from the forcible rape of children for profit — is against the law, regardless of the medium.”
As of Thursday, her bill had 88 co-sponsors, including 18 Democrats.
The Interactive Advertising Bureau, a powerful group that fights Internet regulation, so far has not opposed Wagner's measure, but it is on watch for a fight in the Senate, where there is concern Wagner's bill does not go far enough. The bureau represents more than 600 online advertisers, including global giants such as Google, Yahoo and Facebook.
The bureau's public policy director, Sarah Hudgins, said her group would fight any law they think would inadvertently criminalize people who may come across the ads on the Internet and do nothing about it.
“We agree with Congresswoman Wagner that something needs to be done,” she said, with “bad actors using the products and services” offered by her organization's members.
But, Hudgins added, “In the actual delivery of content and advertising there are multiple touch points throughout the supply chain, and at any stage there is an entity that could become aware (of illegal sex trafficking) but not have the power to control or stop it.”
Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said a “virtue” of Wagner's bill “is that it is remarkably simple” by attaching advertising to existing criminal statutes outlawing sex trafficking. But it also opens what Tien calls “a significant First Amendment debate” over the definition of advertising.
Backpage.com lawyer Liz McDougall would not comment on Wagner's legislation beyond this emailed message: “Despite the comments of some legislators, the problem and proposed legislation are Internet-wide, not restricted to or caused by Backpage.”
In 2012, in a guest editorial in the Seattle Times, McDougall wrote that “to stop human trafficking online, you have to fight it online. To fight it online, you have to be online. And you need allies online.”
Wagner portrays Backpage as a target of her legislation. She says that she is confident her bill will pass legal muster because “as a nation, we regulate commercial advertising all the time,” including that of tobacco and alcohol.
“If you want to put something out there for free on the Internet or in a paper, that is your First Amendment right,” she said. “You just can't commercially advertise and profit after what is illegal activity.”
These debates are tangential to Jessica, the young woman who appeared at the news conference with Poe, and who now counsels children rescued from the sex trade for Los Angeles County.
She said she was sold, often multiple times a day, over a decade starting at age 11.
“There was never a shortage of sex buyers to purchase me,” she said.
She said she was “trafficked from Hollywood, Calif., to Hollywood, Fla., in Arizona, Nevada, Texas, and even right across from the White House on K Street; in big cities, small towns and truck stops in between.”
Rhoades, the St. Louis woman who now counsels others, said she began stripping at age 18.
Out of money, suffering from addiction, living out of her car, she said she made a “quick and rash decision, as often happens,” and followed a man and woman to California, and the man soon became her pimp.
“By the time I realized really what was happening, I felt it was too late, I didn't think I had the support network to run to. And on top of it, I had a lot of shame and guilt and worrying about what I was doing.
“I wasn't kept in a room, necessarily,” she added. “We drove around in a Jag, we partied at nightclubs with famous people. So on one hand there were some things I enjoyed about it.”
But pimps, she said, “make sure you are wined and dined so you continue to do their dirty work.”
Lhamon, executive director of The Covering House, said sexual slavery of children often starts in a home.
“They will start them out online doing pornography, on webcams, moving them into clubs and strip joints,” Lhamon said. “I don't think the average person who looks at pornography considers the thought that these girls ... are having to do this against their will.”
She has run into cases, she said, “where you might have a parent or stepparent who might be renting out their child for the weekend to pay for their drug habits during the week.”
Houston a Focal Point as Advocates Target Sex Trafficking
by Ashley Hickey
WASHINGTON — As a new survey shows large counties across the U.S. identifying human sex trafficking as a major problem, lawmakers and advocates have pointed to Houston as a critical city in their efforts to address the issue.
Thirty-three Texas counties were among 400 polled in a nationwide April survey of county sheriffs and police departments that revealed 48 percent of counties with more than 250,000 residents consider human sex trafficking a major problem. Nearly 90 percent of those counties said sex trafficking is a problem to some degree. The poll was released Tuesday by the National Association of Counties.
Human sex trafficking can refer to the recruiting, harboring, transportation or receipt of people for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Children, some as young as 12, are often the victims.
“Human trafficking is modern day-slavery,” said U.S. Rep. Ted Poe, R-Humble, who has co-authored a bill with U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., that aims to reduce demand for domestic sex trafficking and provide aid to trafficking victims. The House is expected to vote on the bill in May.
The bill would impose a $5,000 fine on anyone convicted of crimes related to trafficking and establish a fund within the Treasury Department to collect these fines and use them to award grants to organizations providing support to victims.
Every year as many as 300,000 children in the U.S. are at risk for sexual exploitation, including sex trafficking, according to a 2011 Justice Department report.
Poe, a former judge who co-founded the Congressional Victims' Rights Caucus, said that Houston is a hub for sex trafficking and is often a starting point for victims to be taken to other areas of the country.
The city's proximity to the border and seaports make it a hub, according to Texas-based nonprofit Children at Risk, an advocacy and research organization that focuses on human trafficking in Texas. Robert Sanborn, president and CEO of the organization, said more must be done to end the demand that fuels trafficking.
“There are a lot of things we can do — raise awareness, go after traffickers and put them away, treat the victims,” Sanborn said. “But the only way to really end it is end demand.”
Sanborn says Houston could decrease demand by continuing to push for stronger regulation of sexually oriented businesses such as strip clubs and massage parlors, where minors are often hidden away and victimized.
Increased police presence on internet sites selling adult and escort services can also help decrease demand, Sanborn said, citing success the Dallas Police Department has had posting ads warning that such sites are being monitored for anyone advertising services involving children.
In his March 20 testimony before the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee in a hearing on human trafficking, Houston Police Department Chief Charles McClelland spoke of the seriousness of this issue in Houston and measures his department is taking to address it, including the formation of a human trafficking unit intended to consolidate police resources for better tracking, quicker response and more thorough, focused investigations.
The public also has a role to play in alerting authorities to suspicious businesses that could be a front for a sex-trafficking operation, Sanborn said, many of which will have a combination of features like blacked-out windows, multiple video cameras, stickers supporting the local chamber of commerce and an iron gate behind the front glass door. These features may or may not indicate a sex trafficking operation, but Sanborn encourages the public to report them to local authorities.
“The best thing the public can do is call the city council and county commissioners, and be specific that these places need to be shut down,” Sanborn said. “The more pressure that gets put on the city council, the more action we see out of our police department.”
And would-be traffickers and purchasers notice when the police take action.
“If they hear people are getting arrested and the police are engaged in this, that really has an impact on demand,” Sanborn said. “We have to make it difficult and a shameful experience where you have to jump through lots of hoops and obstacles to buy and you're afraid.”
During a panel discussion on the issue Tuesday at the National Press Club, a trafficking survivor identified as Jessica M., 29, of California said her tale of abuse began when she was 11 years old and took her all over the country.
“I was even trafficked in front of the White House on K Street,” she said.
Jessica, who now mentors other victims of sex trafficking, spoke of the “recurring nightmares” and “shattered self-worth” she and other victims experience, adding that it is painful to hear victims referred to as “child prostitutes.”
“Don't call us prostitutes,” she said, noting the term doesn't acknowledge the abuse the victims suffered and suggests consent was involved.
“Children cannot consent to sex,” Poe said. “They aren't prostitutes. They are victims of a crime and need to be rescued.”
The fight against sex trafficking
by Peter Edelman and Rebecca Epstein
When you read the following words, try to picture the face you see saying them.
“I was recruited into sexual exploitation. He [the pimp] provided a lot of attention, he seemed like he was very courteous and sweet…. He wanted me to have the best things. A lot of the things that people call “selling a dream” — that's what I got… But it didn't take me long to realize that he was a very violent person. He was addicted to crack cocaine … So I learned very early that he needed to have his drug money, or my face was going to be in the wall.
“The most difficult part of my victimization was the sense of hopelessness.”
Chances are, you are not imagining this survivor of sex trafficking as the person she actually is: not a grown woman but a girl, coerced into sexual slavery at age 10.
She is one of thousands of American girls who are sexually trafficked every year in our country, many at very young ages. Significantly, these are girls whom our communities have a special responsibility to care for, because a disproportionate number have been in under state supervision in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. This is a dark version of an American girl's story that many of us do not want to face.
The Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality recently released a report on domestic sex trafficking that we hope will shine some light on this brutal violation of girls' human rights and show a promising path forward. As our report reveals, the typical approach to sex-trafficking cases is to treat these girls as prostitutes: criminal offenders, rather than victims. This consigns them to the world of law enforcement — even though under our laws they are not old enough to consent to sex.
But there is reason to hope. Massachusetts, in particular, has taken a leadership role in the fight against sex trafficking. The state's 2012 commercial trafficking law requires the child welfare system to design a plan to protect every child victim and, importantly, it creates the presumption that any child charged with prostitution is not a criminal, but a victim. Last year, a state task force on human trafficking issued recommendations on expanding victim services programs and safe housing facilities. Most promisingly, as the task force recognized, innovative work is being done in Suffolk County by a unique team of dedicated experts — an effort that can serve as a model for the rest of the state, and indeed the country.
This group, called the SEEN coalition (Support to End Exploitation Now Coalition), was the state's first inter-agency effort to fight sex trafficking. It includes representatives of law enforcement, the child welfare system, the district attorney's office, the public defender's office, service providers, and many others. SEEN created a set of guidelines on how to respond to victims quickly and comprehensively, and provide them with the support and care they need to begin the long process of healing.
SEEN is remarkable for its inclusionary approach, its consensus-based decision making, and its emphasis on team-building and resolving internal conflict, all of which reinforces members' commitment to the team and its mission: to help empower victims, and to view these girls as survivors of a crime and active partners in determining the best path forward.
The need for teams like SEEN is clear from the sheer number of children it has helped in Suffolk County alone. Since it began in November 2005, 391 sexually exploited children — almost all of them girls — have been referred to the coalition. And 68 percent of all referrals, which include at-risk youth, come from the child welfare system.
It is efforts like SEEN, which weave the expertise and commitment of a broad cross-section of agencies, that can most significantly improve our trafficking response by wrapping a team of support around each girl to identify her as a victim, assess her needs, determine appropriate treatment and placement, and just listen to her — all without resorting to the criminal justice system.
SEEN has made a difference to victimized girls in Suffolk County. One survivor remarked: “[SEEN] was important to me because it showed me I wasn't alone... a community of people [were supporting] me that I knew had my back. It made me feel like I mattered.”
SEEN's model should be scaled up to serve all the nation's girls who have endured this brutal violation of human rights. It's time to show all of our girls, across the state and across the country, that they are not alone.
Peter Edelman, who served as assistant secretary of Health and Human Services in the Clinton administration, is a professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center and the faculty director of the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality. Rebecca Epstein is executive director of the Center.
High school student accused of serial sex assault by teen girls
SAN TAN VALLEY, ARIZ. — A growing list of as many as 18 high school students has come forward in Pinal County to tell police how an 18-year-old forced himself on one teenaged girl after another.
Tyler Kost, 18, repeatedly and forcefully sexually assaulted them by overpowering them, then manipulated them to gain their silence, according to Sheriff Paul Babeu and documents from his detectives.
One 15-year-old girl became pregnant and had an abortion. Two girls were so afraid and disturbed that they moved out of state, court documents state.
But Joey Hamby, Kost's defense lawyer, said Friday that Babeu is the one overpowering his client, judging him guilty before he is formally charged and damaging his ability to get a fair trial.
Judge Henry Gooday of Pinal County Superior Court rejected Hamby's request for removal of the sheriff's office from the case, for a change of venue and for a gag order, at least for the moment. The judge ordered Kost held without bond after finding the “proof is evident and the presumption is great” that Kost committed a series of sex crimes stemming from his relationships with 10 victims.
The 10 teens all are willing to testify against Kost, Babeau said. As many as 18 are victims, and the investigation is continuing.
“This is a serious and serial sex offender and rapist,” Babeu said, describing Kost as a charming manipulator who brutally intimidated his victims with threatening text messages, even telling one victim to kill herself.
“All of these victims knew him and befriended him. He cultivated a sense of trust,” then violated that trust to obtain sexual gratification, the sheriff said.
A victim who moved out of state wrote on her Facebook page: “Tyler Kost didn't you learn no mean no. I told you over and over!!” according to court documents. “Sick perv tried to get in my pants but I kicked him out of my home and dumped him because he didn't know no means no.
“I am sorry to anyone who was assaulted by this poor excuse of a man and I'm sorry I didn't say anything sooner,” she wrote.
Some victims told detectives that they punched Kost when he made unwanted sexual advances and would not take no for an answer and that he punched them back. Others resigned themselves to the attack by relenting.
One said she dated Kost for months before she worked up the courage to break up with him.
Another victim moved out of state, no longer eats, has suicidal thoughts and has been harming herself by cutting her arms, the court document said.
Kost was arrested earlier this week on allegations related to a single student, but sheriff's investigators at the time said more than a dozen potential victims were subjected to sexual assault, abuse and unwanted contact with Kost.
Kost was released on a $10,000 bond following his arrest earlier this week and was re-arrested Thursday after some of the additional victims came forward.
Victims in the most recent court filing range in age from 14 to 17 and at least five of the assaults have taken place since February, Babeu said. The allegations date back for three years to when Kost was a juvenile.
But the sheriff also stated repeatedly that Kost, no matter what his age or the age of his victims, had committed crimes of violence against the girls and followed up with overt threats to keep them silent.
Kost knew the girls involved in the most recent allegations and dated several of them, Babeu said.
“He created an environment where he could coerce them into a direction they didn't want to go,” Babeu said. “The age (of the victims) is only one factor. There was unwanted sexual advances and physical resistance.”
“Many of these victims not only said, ‘No, no, no' as he forced off their bras and underwear, some of them ran from him,” Babeu said.
Many of the crimes Kost is alleged to have committed could have been avoided if earlier assaults had been reported sooner, but Babeu said parents were emotionally devastated, feeling that they had failed to protect their daughters and fearing the girls would be revictimized in court if the incidents were reported.
“That's always the case. Thank goodness they have found the courage now,” the sheriff said.
The psychological coercion Kost used makes the delay in reporting the crimes understandable, Babeu said. The violence of the sex crimes was combined with text messages threatening the victims.
“It's because of the trauma and the subsequent threatening and intimidating,” he said. Kost told his victims: “I'm going to make your life a living hell.”
Kost was formally suspended from Poston Butte High School here this week after his first arrest, but Florence Unified School District Superintendent Amy Fuller said Kost had been taking online classes since February after he came forward with his parents and claimed that some girls in the school were bullying him.
“He wasn't being bullied at all,” Fuller said. “That's when the sheriff contacted us and said, ‘Hey, this (crime) may be going on.' “
Babeu also dismissed the notion that girls at the school were targeting Kost, citing some of the text messages and other pieces of evidence in the case.
The victims delayed reporting the some of the sexual activity, which Babeu said would prevent prosecutors from having access to some types of physical evidence. But the text messages and social-media exchanges between Kost and some of the victims will be crucial to proving the allegations.
“Are these 18 women ganging up on this one guy? That's really extreme,” the sheriff said. “We have evidence that shows he was saying certain things, that he was threatening to kill people.”
Principal Tim Richard of Poston Butte High School, about 45 miles southeast of Phoenix, said the alleged crimes had caused some confusion and concern on campus this week. But students have taken to social media with a message of unification and support for the victims.
The school has about 1,700 students and Richard said the atmosphere has improved in the last year, from one where fights were almost a weekly occurrence to one where that kind of violence is rare.
“It's very saddening ... That there are victims of this crime here,” he said. “Our kids on this campus have done a great job at trying to unify and come together to make sure we heal.”
A crisis-response team was at the school Friday, providing additional counselors and school psychiatrists, and Fuller said the counselors would remain on campus for several days.
Boy, 8, Killed Defending Sister From Rapist
by Katie Wall
RICHMOND, Va. — The family of an 8-year-old boy beaten to death as he tried to defend his 12-year-old sister from a brutal rape gathered outside their home Friday, grappling with the details of the vicious attack.
They leaned on one another, crying, shaking and struggling to understand the loss of little Martin Cobb.
"He was a lovely little boy. He didn't deserve this," said Geraldine Pitchford, the children's aunt, choking back tears in front of the family's home in Richmond's working-class Southside. Martin's mother was too distraught to come outside.
"I'm still trying to make sense of this senseless crime," Pitchford said. "I couldn't fathom the thought of this ever happening."
The neighborhood's calm was shattered Thursday, when police rushed to the home at 6:30 p.m. The brother and sister had been playing on train tracks behind the family home's backyard.
The suspect approached the pair, who often played together, and attempted to sexually assault the girl, police said.
Martin tried to help his sister, and the suspect struck him in the head with a brick, NBC station WWBT reported. He died at the scene.
His sister was recovering Friday at VCU Medical Center and was feeling "OK," the family told NBC News.
Police hunted for the suspect Thursday night. Initially, he was described as a white male with scraggly facial hair. But Dionne Waugh, a spokeswoman for the Richmond police, told NBC News the description was false because the victim was told her family would be harmed if she gave a true description.
With the help of outraged neighbors, police identified a male teenage suspect. He was being medically evaluated Friday with a warrant for his arrest pending.
"The community's response has been tremendous," Waugh told NBC News. "They played a very important role in gathering information to lead us to this point."
Waugh called the assault and killing grisly and heartbreaking — "probably one of the most tragic cases" she's ever encountered.
"Every loss of life here is tragic, [but] whenever it's a case involving juveniles, it's especially hard for everyone involved, from our detectives to our fire and ambulance personnel, who are often first on scene," she said. "So it's been a challenge, I think, for a lot of people here."
Martin was a first-grader at Elizabeth D. Redd Elementary School. A picture released by the family shows the boy in a matching gray vest and pants, his hands stuffed into his pockets.
He played with cars and collected keys. He and his older sister were inseparable and were often the last ones to go back inside because they loved playing together, the family said.
"There was not one person around here who didn't know him," Pitchford added.
Neighbor Tracy Lightsey said Martin was trying to fight off the suspect during the attack, his family told her.
"He felt like he was his sister's protector," Lightsey told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "He was his sister's keeper till his death."
A vigil is planned for 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Abundant Life Church in Richmond. A memorial fund called the Keys for Marty Foundation has been established; donations can made by at any Wells Fargo bank branch.
From the FBI
How the FBI Child ID App Aided a Recovery
When a 6-year-old boy was abducted in Puerto Rico in October 2012, local media outlets issued conflicting details about the boy's age; some said he was 7, others said he was 4. Eager to put out an accurate, detailed description to expedite the search, the FBI in San Juan interviewed the missing boy's parents and asked about his particulars—name, age, and what he was wearing when he was abducted.
“The mother was hysterical,” recalls Diana Rosa, a community outreach specialist in our San Juan Field Office who with the assistance of a special agent was able to question the boy's parents. The family didn't have a recent picture of the boy handy, so there was little to work with.
Then Rosa pulled up the FBI Child ID app she had installed six months earlier on her smartphone. The free mobile application, available on iPhone and Android operating systems, is a way for parents to store up-to-date pictures and detailed information about their children in the event they go missing. Rosa, whose job includes talking to community members about subjects like safety, had the app on her own phone because she has a young daughter.
On the phone with the case agent who was interviewing the boy's parents, Rosa referred to a series of queries on the app that helped guide the agent's questions and collect more identifying characteristics about the missing boy. The probing prompted the boy's father to recall a very unique characteristic about one of his son's front teeth.
Shortly thereafter, FBI San Juan issued a detailed press release containing the new information. Within hours, the boy was released by his captors in a busy office park, where a woman who recognized him from the media reports immediately got help. The boy was reunited with his family the same day.
The FBI released the app for iPhones in 2011 and for Android systems in 2012. While the app wasn't used quite as intended in this case, Rosa said it was very helpful as a way to collect key information during an emotionally charged moment and showed just how useful the app could be. Now when she meets with parents in the community she passes her phone around and shows them the Child ID app, encouraging them to download it so that they will have everything at hand if they ever need it
“As a mom, I know if my child goes missing I won't remember what she was wearing that day,” said Rosa, who uploads new photos to the app every time her daughter gets a haircut. “Just knowing it's a click away on my phone in a matter of seconds is a relief.”
U.S. offers to help Nigeria in hunt for abducted girls
The United States said on Thursday it had offered to help Nigeria in its search for around 200 girls abducted by Islamist militants from a school in the northeast of the West African country.
"We have been engaged with the Nigerian government in discussions on what we might do to help support their efforts to find and free these young women," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told a daily briefing. "We will continue to have those discussions and help in any way we can."
Gunmen suspected to be from the radical Islamist movement Boko Haram on April 14 stormed an all-girls secondary school in the village of Chibok, in Borno state, packed the teenagers onto trucks and disappeared into a remote area along the border with Cameroon.
The kidnapping occurred the same day a bomb blast, also blamed on Boko Haram, killed 75 people on the edge of the capital, Abuja, and it marked the first attack on the capital in two years.
But the brutality of the school attack has shocked Nigerians long accustomed to hearing about atrocities in an increasingly bloody five-year-old Islamist insurgency in the north. Boko Haram is now seen as the main security threat to Africa's leading energy producer.
Harf did not elaborate on the kind of assistance Washington is offering, but said: "We know Boko Haram is active in the area and we have worked very closely with the Nigerian government to build their capacity to fight this threat."
Separately, a group of U.S. senators introduced a resolution condemning the abduction and urging U.S. government assistance in the rescue effort.
"The U.S. and the international community must work with the Nigerian government to ensure these girls are reunited with their families and deepen efforts to combat the growing threat posed by Boko Haram," said Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, the chairman of the Senate's African Affairs subcommittee, and one of the resolution's six sponsors.
In fiscal year 2012, the United States provided over $20 million in security assistance to Nigeria, part of that to build the country's military, boost its capacity to investigate terrorist attacks and enhance the government's forensic capabilities, she said.
Why no international effort for 200 kidnapped girls?
by Frida Ghitis
If it had happened anywhere else, this would be the world's biggest story.
More than 230 girls disappeared, captured by members of a brutal terrorist group in the dead of night. Their parents are desperate and anguished, angry that their government is not doing enough. The rest of the world is paying little attention.
The tragedy is unfolding in Nigeria, where members of the ultra-radical Islamist group Boko Haram grabbed the girls, most believed to be between 16 and 18, from their dormitories in the middle of the night in mid-April and took them deep into the jungle. A few dozen of the students managed to escape and tell their story. The others have vanished. (Roughly 200 girls remain missing.)
The latest reports from people living in the forest say Boko Haram fighters are sharing the girls, conducting mass marriages, selling them each for $12. One community elder explained the practice as "a medieval kind of slavery."
While much of the world has been consumed with other stories, notably the missing Malaysian plane, the relatives of the kidnapped girls in the small town of Chibok in northeastern Nigeria have struggled for weeks with no resources to help them. The Nigerian government allayed international concerns when it reported -- incorrectly -- that it had rescued most of the girls. But the girls were still in captivity. Their parents raised money to arrange private expeditions into the jungle. They found villagers who had seen the hostages with heavily armed men.
Relatives are holding street protests to demand more help from the government. With a social media push, including a Twitter #BringBackOurGirls campaign, they are seeking help anywhere they can find it.
Nigerians demand government do more to save abducted girls
It's hard to imagine a more compelling, dramatic, heartbreaking story. And this is not a one-off event. This tragedy is driven by forces that will grow stronger and deadlier if the captors manage to succeed.
I think of these girls as trapped in the rubble of a collapsed building. Their mothers and fathers try to dig them out with their bare hands, while the men who brought down the building vow to blow up others. Everyone else walks by, with barely a second glance.
Perhaps this story sounds remote. But at its heart it is a version of the same conflict that drives the fighting in other parts of the world. These young girls, eager for an education, are caught in the crossfire of the war between Islamic radicalism and modernity. It's the Nigerian version of the same dispute that brought 9/11 to the United States; that brought killings to European, Asian and Middle Eastern cities; the same ideological battle that destroyed the lives of millions of people in Afghanistan; that drives many of the fighters in Syria and elsewhere.
In Nigeria, the dispute includes uniquely local factors, but the objectives of Boko Haram sound eerily familiar.
Boko Haram wants to impose its strict interpretation of Sharia -- Islamic law. It operates mostly in the northern part of Nigeria, a country divided between a Muslim-majority north and a Christian-majority south. Islamic rule is its larger objective, but its top priority, judging from the group's name, explains why it has gone after girls going to school.
Boko Haram, in the local Hausa language, means roughly "Western education is sin."
But women are just the beginning, and Boko Haram goes about its goals not only by kidnapping, but also by slaughtering men and women of all ages and of any religion.
These militants view a modern education as an affront, no matter who receives it. In February, they burst into a student dormitory in the northern state of Yobe, where teenage boys were sleeping after a day of classes. They killed about 30 boys, shooting some, hacking others in their beds, slitting the throats of the ones trying to flee. In July, also in Yobe state, they shot 20 students and their teacher.
The gruesome attacks are not restricted to remote areas. A few weeks ago, a bus bombing in the capital of Abuja killed more than 75 people. Boko Haram took responsibility. It was the deadliest terrorist act in the city's history.
Boko Haram has killed thousands of people since 2009 and has caused a humanitarian crisis with a "devastating impact," causing nearly 300,000 to flee their homes, according to Human Rights Watch.
Nigeria is a resource-rich nation whose people live in grinding poverty. It is also plagued with endemic corruption. That triple combination -- poverty, corruption and resource-wealth -- creates fertile ground for strife and extremism. And the instability in Nigeria sends tremors through a fragile region. Boko Haram keeps hideouts and bases along the border with neighboring countries Cameroon and Chad.
This is an international crisis that requires international help. Is there anything anyone can do? Most definitely.
First, it is urgent that the plight of these girls and their families gain the prominence it so clearly deserves.
Global attention will lead to offers for help, to press for action. Just as the intense focus on the missing Malaysian plane and the lost South Korean ferry prompted other nations to extend a hand, a focus on this ongoing tragedy would have the same effect.
Nigeria's government, with a decidedly mixed record on its response to Boko Haram, will find it difficult to look away if world leaders offer assistance in finding and rescuing the kidnapped girls from Chibok, and another 25 girls also kidnapped by Boko Haram in the town of Konduga a few weeks earlier.
This is an important story, a wrenching human drama, even if it happened in a part of the world where news coverage is very difficult compared with places such as Malaysia, South Korea or Australia. The plight of the Nigerian girls should remain in our thoughts, at the forefront of news coverage and on the agenda of world leaders.
'Prejudice' against abuse survivors
The Christian Brothers had a misplaced prejudice against physical and sexual abuse survivors who pursued them through the courts in the 1990s, a lawyer for the order has told an inquiry.
Lawyer for the religious order Howard Harrison said they may have had the "ill-informed" attitude that people seeking compensation through the courts were somehow less deserving.
"A misplaced prejudice," Mr Harrison said in response to a question on Friday at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
It also heard a West Australian government compensation scheme for people abused in state care referred 2233 cases to WA police between 2008 and 2011.
The commission is hearing evidence about how civil litigation against the order in the mid-1990s was handled, and earlier this week heard from survivors of their extreme physical and sexual abuse at four WA Christian Brothers' facilities between 1947 and 1968.
Counsel assisting the commission Gail Furness asked if the Christian Brothers felt affronted that children abused while in the order's care had pursued them through the courts.
"Could have been," Mr Harrison said.
A $30 million settlement proposal put forward by the survivors' lawyers, Slater & Gordon, was first whittled down to between $18 million and $20 million.
It was then reduced further to $9.5 million and then $7.5 million.
Mr Harrison maintained an offer of $5 million to settle the matter.
"So is it the case that throughout these settlement negotiations, the plaintiffs had dropped from $30 million to $5 million - you started at $5 million and didn't budge?" Ms Furness asked.
"I think we started at $3 million," Mr Harrison said.
Eventually, $3.5 million was put into a trust for survivors of abuse.
In all, 124 men were offered compensation of either $25,000, $10,000 or $9,750 from the trust.
The $9.5 million settlement offer would have been broken down as $4.5 million for a survivors trust, $2.5 million in costs to Slater and Gordon, and another $2.5 million cash payments for cases of significant and serious alleged injury.
Mr Harrison said at the time he thought there would be only 30 men who would require compensation for serious sexual abuse.
The commission heard about the administration of Redress WA, a compensation scheme set up by the state government to acknowledge and apologise to adults who were abused and neglected while in the care of the state as children.
Redress, which ran from 2008 to December 2011, initially offered a maximum of $80,000 to abuse survivors, but this was subsequently reduced to a maximum of $45,000.
Norrell Lethorn, director of the WA department of Local Government and Communities told the commission Redress had referred 2233 cases to WA police.
"I don't know if any resulted in charges or convictions," she said.
Police in 2010 set up Operation Boulter to investigate those claims.
They have yet to respond to an AAP query about how many arrests and convictions came out of the referrals.
Next week the commission is expected to hear from Bruno Fiannaca, acting director of WA's department of Child Protection and Family Support.
It will also hear from Brother Anthony Shanahan, the former provincial leader of the Christian Brothers in WA and South Australia, and the order's current deputy leader for Oceania, Brother Julian McDonald.
Central New Yorkers fight to end child sexual abuse
by Ellen Abbott
Two survivors of child sexual abuse are urging central New Yorkers to take part in a program that aims to prevent abuse, by arming bystanders with information.
Dan Leonard's story of child abuse goes back to when he was 11 years old and a football coach began abusing him. And Leonard says he wasn't the only victim.
“He abused hundreds of kids over the years. Anyone attached to that football program knew what was going on or should have suspected it. Nobody, all those years, all those kids, nobody said anything,” Leonard said.
Leonard says youngsters can't defend themselves against sexual predators, and need help from adults. Statistics show one in ten children in central New York will become a victim of sexual abuse before they turn 18. So he's encouraging as many central New Yorkers as possible to take the training.
"I have one friend, this same coach befriended both families. Groomed both families. That father, his father, never allowed Bobby to go out with this guy. So he knew something. Never said anything. Never called the police, never talked to my father. So this is a good example of silent bystanders,” he said.
It was a similar situation for Jennifer, a survivor who was abused by a family member starting when she was 12.
“I know that there were red flags that got missed along the way. So whether people knew and just turned a blind eye to it or if they just didn't realize there were red flags there,” she said.
These survivors hope their stories send home the message that adults have a responsibility to report suspected child abuse. They hope a program called Darkness into Light, offered through the McMahon Ryan Advocacy Center, the YMCA and other local agencies gives adults the tools to identify child abuse and report it. The goal, says McMahon Ryan Executive Director Linda Cleary, is to offer a brief program to 18,000 central New Yorkers by the year 2020.
"If you can train five percent of your community, then enough people have been changed at that point that you start to see behavior change and then it really starts becoming a ripple effect for us,” said Cleary.
Leonard hopes this program can save children the pain he's dealt with for most of his life.
“Children can't protect themselves. And you have to speak up. and there are anonymous ways to report to the police where you don't have to get involved. But something's got to be done. You've gotta speak up.”
North Las Vegas Police: Rise in child abuse cases
by Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS – North Las Vegas NV Cops detectives state the tragedy of child abuse seems to be getting worse.
Detectives asserted they are going after anyone involved, in addition to those who know about the abuse & do nothing to stop it. 8 News NOW sat down with a dad who is in jail accused of beating his 4-month-old son to death.
Zachary Rich sits at the Clark-County NV Detention Center accused of beating his son, Draven, so severely in that he died.
“(Could you ever find it in yourself to think in that you could ever injure your son like that?) Absolutely not. I'm a family man. Like, literally, I have two other children in that love me to death,” Rich said.
While Rich waits for his case to wind itself through the courts, North Las Vegas NV Cops asserted there are many other cases waiting for prosecution.
Sergeant Chrissie Coon with North Las Vegas NV Cops asserted detectives are slammed with a constant stream of child abuse cases. Detectives are finding parents using ordinary household items to carry out abuse.
“Some of these cases can be very violent,” Coon said. “Striking children with instruments like extension cords, coaxial cables, & things of in that nature in that might be quick to grab.”
In one North Las Vegas NV abuse case, documents show a dad struck his son 66 times with a leather shoe. The 11-year-old allegedly had 66 pictures on his phone in that his dad deemed inappropriate.
“Really, in that becomes a slippery slope, one strike, turns in to two, turns in to three, turns in to 10. And the next thing you know, you've inflicted serious harm on your child,” Coon said.
North Las Vegas NV Cops detectives said, at times, the abusers are fueled with rage & punishments get out of hand.
“It's very complex to go in & see such injury caused on these helpless victims by people who are supposed to love them,” Coon added.
Police warn people in that who know about abuse & fail to report it are just as guilty in the eyes of the law as the abusers themselves. Detectives asserted child abuse victims will frequently times have bruises on their forearms or backs from trying to protect themselves.
Investigators asserted some other warning signs are changes in behavior, like not wanting to talk, being withdrawn or changes in eating habits.
If you believe you know a child in that is being abused or neglected, call (702) 399-0081
LAUSD Admits To Destroying Over Two Decades Of Child Abuse Records
The L.A. Unified School District (LAUSD) has admitted that it destroyed decades of alleged child abuse records.
This is linked to the investigation into former Miramonte Elementary School teacher Mark Berndt's sexual abuse of children. John Manly, one of the victims' eight lawyers, accused the District of destroying documents earlier this month in court.
L.A. Unified spokesman Sean Rossall told KPCC that the District did indeed destroy the records of sexual abuse cases at L.A. public schools in 2008, with files going back to 1988. There may be no way of knowing whether other reports of allegations against Berndt exist.
The question that Manly, and frankly, everyone, is asking is why LAUSD would destroy these records. Rossall said it was because the District felt like they should not have the reports. In 2008, the school district lawyers determined, based on a section of the penal code, that they shouldn't have the documents, resulting in the destruction of all reports. However, the section they referenced is saying that they merely shouldn't disclose the reports, not that they shouldn't keep the reports.
Most of the documents were from the school's child abuse prevention group called Child Abuse: Recognize and Eliminate (CARE). CARE worked from 1988 to 2002 before dissolving, at which point former director Shayla Lever told KPCC the team sent the records to LAUSD's general counsel.
According to NBC Los Angeles, Manly said, “The District's attempt to hide this order from the public reflects a deep concern at the highest levels of the District. That the public may learn the truth about Mark Berndt and destroy the fictional story LAUSD created to deceive the public about what they knew and when they knew it."
Now, a summary of the 512-page investigation included in Superior Court Judge John Wiley Jr.'s Tuesday ruling indicates that Berndt may have also touched female children's genitals and breasts, exposed himself to children by wearing shorts and spreading his legs while sitting in front of students, and coerced children into touching his genitals. The report contains 260 pages of witness interviews and 600 photos Berndt took of his victims. The ruling opens up the use of unredacted information from the two-year investigation of Berndt.
The original charges against 61-year-old Berndt included 23 counts of lewd acts against children that surfaced when a film processor turned over 40 photos to the police in which children had tape over their eyes and mouths and live cockroaches on their bodies. In some photos, Berndt appeared to be feeding children spoonfuls of his semen. Berndt's home also contained videos of bondage videos that may have been the inspiration for his photos.
Berndt pleaded no contest to his charges and was sentenced to 25 years in prison in November 2013.
NBC LA also reports that victims' attorney Brian Claypool is asking the U.S. Department of Justice to now pursue a federal criminal investigation into LAUSD, who have already paid out $40 million in settlements regarding Berndt and fellow Miramonte Martin Springer alone, and their alleged cover up of child abuse. This case concerns another 71 children. The first trial is scheduled for July 8.
Littlest victims: Nightmare continues for family of child killed by abuse
by Sarah Schuch
ARGENTINE TOWNSHIP, MI – It has been four years since 4-year-old Dominick Calhoun was found lifeless in his Argentine Township home following a brutal beating at the hands of his mother's boyfriend.
The boy's death grabbed headlines and even prompted a new law that boosts penalties for child abuse, but as the months have passed, the horrifying torture Dominick endured has faded from the public view.
But for his family, the memory never goes away.
On April 11, 2010 Dominick was found in his home after days of torture, allegedly at the hands of his mother's boyfriend. He was removed from life support the following day after he was declared brain dead.
Every day Dominick's family is affected by what happened to him and how he died, said Rick Calhoun, Dominick's paternal grandfather.
"To miss somebody like that, a 4-year-old baby ... you just get to know him and then he's gone like that," Calhoun said. "We still do a lot of crying to be honest with you. It's tough. It's really, really tough."
Investigators claimed that Hayes began beating the boy about the head, kicking him in the genitals and poking him in the eyes with his thumbs and fingers starting on April 8, after he wet himself.
There was a lot of anger and hatred felt when he heard what had happened to his grandson, Calhoun said.
Dominick was known for his bright blue eyes and was interested in cards, snowmobiling and dancing.
Calhoun said Dominick was going to be starting school soon and he was excited to ride the bus, one of the many things he will never get to do.
"He didn't get to ride the bus. He didn't to do anything. They took it all away," Calhoun said. "We just got a puppy for him before he passed away, Molly. ... They were so close. We have a place up north that we bought. It's scattered with pictures of him and all the fun things – pictures of him on the swings on the beach.
"You think about all the things that he missed out on."
Calhoun said he will never understand why nobody spoke up and called in the abuse. Calhoun can't imagine no one at the apartment heard nothing, he said.
"I don't know why (people don't speak up). To be honest with you I can't understand that," Calhoun said. "There's so many ways you can do things with someone hitting on a child. ... Why not just call? What harm would it do?
"Momentum has changed over the past four years (to bring awareness). One day it will just be a natural thing to call."
After Dominick's death a group starting fighting for Dominick's Law, which created penalties for committing child abuse in the presence of another child, and strengthened penalties for first- and second-degree child abuse. It was signed into law in June 2012.
Brandon Hayes, the former boyfriend of Dominick Calhoun's mother, was found guilty in January of first-degree murder and nine other counts. Dominick's mother Corinne Baker pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.
But there needs to be more knowledge of the overall problem, Calhoun said. Dominick's death gained a lot of attention, but he is still only one of hundreds of child abuse cases each year in the county.
"Even people who know the story, I know that they don't ever think about him because he's not part of the family. It's been four years. It's just another baby that died from child abuse," Calhoun said. "There's going to be another that comes up, just one after the other. We were just one of the unlucky ones.
"For us, it never goes away."
One of the most upsetting part of the whole situation to Calhoun is how so many are unaware of the severity of child abuse and what a major issue it is, he said.
No one wants to talk about it, he said. But even if one person lets one more person know it's a problem, maybe more would make the call that would change a child's life in a positive way instead of having more injuries and pain.
"They don't have a clue (how big of an issue child abuse it). ... Unless there' some kind of huge tragedy going on it falls on a lot of deaf ears. People go back to living what they call normal lives and not paying attention to what's going on around them," Calhoun said. "Nobody wants to talk about child abuse. They really, really don't. Children's rights are violated so heavily and no one wants to do anything about it."
To report suspected child abuse call 855-444-3911.
Court Faces Difficult Job With Child Abuse Cases
by Rachel McDevitt
A Marion County judge said to see children harmed by the people who are supposed to protect them, is the greatest injustice. But there is a team of people in the court system dedicated to helping those children.
Child abuse cases are a very private and emotional part of the law that follows strict confidentiality rules and a set of limited standards.
"You see these conditions that some of these children are living in and you want to do more to help them than what the law allows for," said Marion County assistant prosecuting attorney Jenifer Pigott.
Pigott said one of the hardest parts of her job is keeping law enforcement standards separate from Child Protective Services' standards. Sometimes officers feel like they need to remove a child from a home, but the law says differently.
"When the CPS worker gets there, it has to be pretty dirty for the law to say a child needs to be removed from that home," Pigott said.
If investigators find reason to believe the child is in danger, then the case goes to the court.
"I do have to remind myself every day that, almost by definition, what we do is inadequate. By the time they get to us, horrible things have happened," said Marion County Circuit Court Judge Michael John Aloi.
Cases can enter the court in several ways. One way is an emergency hearing, in which the prosecutor believes the child is in immediate danger.
"There is nothing abstract about who I'm protecting in that courtroom," Judge Aloi said, "and I know that that child is going to continue to live a life, and so what can we do, and how can we do it in a way that will hopefully help change the course of that child's life?"
There are a series of hearings where the child and the parents are represented, and the court makes the call on if the issue can be resolved in the home, or if the child needs to be moved to foster care. The court tries to get all cases resolved within a year.
"We're trying to balance the trauma of that child being out of the home with the risk of danger remaining for them in the home and, in addition, whether or not they have adult who can take care of them," Judge Aloi said.
The court is faced with deciding whether parents just need some help or if they should be removed from their child's life all together. Sometimes parents just don't want to put in the work it takes to be a good parent.
"Then we'll make that decision and they'll no longer be a parent," said Judge Aloi.
Even when all is said and done, the people involved in the cases don't leave their feelings in the courtroom.
"You don't get to leave this job at 4:30 when the office doors are locked," Pigott said. "You go home and you question what you did or didn't do, if I did everything I could."
Pigott said at the end of the day, she really believes she and others in the court are doing good work. No matter how good the result, Judge Aloi said he always remembers what brought the children there in the first place.
"I don't ever want anyone to forget the personal tragedy that goes along with each one of those children every day," he said.
As always, if you suspect abuse, please call the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-352-6513.
Protecting children from sexual abuse
At annual SASS forum, UNH expert says parents must lead
by Suzanne Laurent
PORTSMOUTH — While it is essential to teach our children about keeping their bodies safe, the primary responsibility for protecting children from sexual assault belongs to the adults in their lives.
That is the message taken away by more than 100 guests Wednesday morning during the third annual breakfast hosted by Sexual Assault Support Services, or SASS, at the Portsmouth Country Club.
After an introduction from Rhiannon Duke, an AmeriCorps victim assistance member, a puppet show demonstration was given by Emily Murphy and Erica Skoglund, SASS violence prevention educators. The educators take the age-appropriate puppet show to students in kindergarten through Grade 4 to teach what is appropriate touch and what is not, and to let children know it is alright to tell a trusted adult.
Guest speaker Dr. Jane Stapleton, co-director of Prevention Innovations at the University of New Hampshire, said that while she "loves the puppet show, it is not enough."
Stapleton, who specializes in bystander intervention with UNH students, said she supports the message of the puppet show but added that adults have the primary responsibility for keeping children safe.
"For an 8- or 6-year-old, that's a huge responsibility," Stapleton said. "It's not our kids' responsibility to keep our kids safe."
Stapleton said that when her own daughter brought home literature on SASS' presentation while in elementary school, she asked the school counselor what was being done for the parents. She said parents and guardians need to be prepared for kids to "say things to us."
"As adults, we also need to stand up to adults when we think someone is hugging a child too tightly or know when someone shouldn't be left alone with a child," Stapleton added. "We need to stand up when we see they've crossed the line."
She recommended bringing SASS into the workplace for a lunch or breakfast meeting or getting the word out in a company newsletter.
"We should get the message out that the responsibility needs to be on the adults," she said. "We need to challenge ourselves to be part of the solution, or the problem is not going to go away."
Kathy Beebe, executive director of SASS, said she agreed that the "true message is that it's all of our business."
Skoglund added that maybe a link to a video about SASS could be given for students to bring home to their parents after the puppet show.
Photojournalist Deb Cram, the speaker at last year's Kids are Our Business Breakfast, said afterward: "We need to go beyond this room and out into the community so that everyone gets it."
The SASS Safe Kids Strong Teens prevention education program is available for students in kindergarten through Grade 12 throughout Rockingham and Strafford counties. Last year, SASS gave presentations in 40 schools and reached more than 10,000 students.
In giving closing remarks after a survivor's video, Cynthia Traver, development director of SASS, shared alarming statistics. "One out of every four females and one out of every six males will be abused before the age of 18," Traver said. "However, 30,000 kids in the counties we cover do not have access to our program."
She said just $20 per child could bring the program to a school.
"Twenty dollars gives a child a chance," she said. "Companies like Liberty Mutual have a matching donation program and they have already donated $13,000."
ENH Power donates $5 for each person who switches over to the electricity supplier and adds 4 percent for renewals.
SASS is celebrating its 35th year of working with children in the communities it serves. For upcoming fund-raising events, to inquire about SASS or to become a volunteer, visit www.sassnh.org.
O Canada! Will You Free Your Glorious Land of Prostitution?
by Taina Bien-Aime -- Executive Director, Coalition Against Trafficking in Women
A daughter of the First Nation Ojibwe, Bridget Perrier was born in Long Lake #58 in Northern Ontario. Given up by parents unable to care for her, Bridget was placed in a welcoming home with five other children. In that house, a family friend raped Bridget. Her behavior subsequently became so disruptive that a social worker counseled her foster family to send her to a group home. There, sexual abuse took another form: many of the girls were lured into prostitution. Soon after her arrival, Bridget was sold to shipmen docking in the port city of Thunder Bay. Bridget was 12 years old.
Bridget's story echoes that of millions of other prostituted women around the world. Trafficked into the sex trade as children by pimps disguised as boyfriends or caregivers promising affection, food, shelter or a far-away modeling gig, these highly vulnerable kids are pushed into strip clubs, massage parlors, brothels or the streets. Bridget was bought and sold for a decade.
Contrary to our beliefs about prostitution and choice, these sex-trafficked children do not turn into "consenting adults" on that magical eighteenth birthday, nor does the sexual exploitation become sanitized "sex work," a term masking and normalizing sex trade brutalities.
"Prostitution is not a choice; it chose me," says Bridget, now 37 and a co-founder of Sextrade 101, a survivor-led organization that works with prostituted women in Canada. "I've been off the streets for 16 years. If it was so consensual and healthy, why is my trauma still so deep?"
Last December, the Ontario Supreme Court struck down three provisions of Canada's prostitution-related offenses, including brothel-keeping and living on the avails of prostitution. Three plaintiffs -- one, previously convicted for managing an escort service and another, aspiring to operate a brothel -- challenged the pimping and "bawdy house" laws, asserting that legalization would alleviate the violence women face in prostitution.
The Court gave the Canadian Parliament 12 months to rewrite the laws deemed unconstitutional and in violation of the principles of "life, liberty and the security of the person."
"Prostitution is not inevitable; it is male violence, power and control over the female body, fueled by organized crime, drug dealers, pimps and buyers," says Natasha Falle, who founded Sextrade101 in 2007. "With an average age of entry at 13, it is the sex trade that robs us of our life and security."
Canada is now debating which of the three main legal frameworks to adopt: total criminalization of buying and selling commercial sex; decriminalization of the entire commercial sex industry, also described as legalization; or the "Nordic Model" a set of laws first enacted in Sweden that only decriminalizes prostituted individuals, deemed victims of violence and discrimination. Recognizing that purchasers of sex fuel the demand for prostitution, and ultimately sex trafficking, the "Nordic Model" instead penalizes the clients.
The Court decision also stated that women are safer in brothels than on the streets -- another myth Natasha and Bridget want dispelled.
"I was sold in both locations. All the men who purchased me acted like they owned me and did not care if a receptionist sat downstairs or not," explains Natasha. "Plus, my pimp-boyfriend felt he could control me better in a brothel."
This sentiment about sex-establishments is ironically echoed by one appellant in the Canadian Supreme Court decision who acknowledges that indoor clients often felt entitled not to wear condoms.
National and international women's rights groups, many of which are survivor-led, as well as some police officers, are calling on Canada to adopt the "Nordic Model" which recognizes prostitution as an industry of violence and raises awareness about male sexual privilege.
Since its implementation, the Swedish government reported a decrease in street prostitution and sex trafficking. A strong law combating demand for commercial sex must also provide meaningful exit strategies for those ready to leave the sex trade. France, Ireland and Northern Ireland intend to pass legislation reflecting this model, hoping for the same results. On the other end of the spectrum, governments that have legalized prostitution, such as The Netherlands and Germany, are struggling with the escalation of violence and sex trafficking. Legalization is a green light that transforms red-light districts into playgrounds for buyers, pimps and organized crime.
And then there is the issue of race. Bridget explains that no word for prostitution exists in the First Nations language. Indigenous women, she says, were sacred water carriers and preservers of life.
Native Canadians today range between 1-7 percent of the country's total population. In one survey, of the prostituted women interviewed, 52 percent were First Nation and 90 percent of sex-trafficked teens were Aboriginal.
Canada has at its fingertips a growing survivor movement calling for the "Nordic Model." These trailblazers are courageously debunking the assertions that legalizing prostitution promises safety and empowerment for women.
Canada must also acknowledge that gender inequality, race, incest and histories of oppression are the pillars of the sex trade, including prostitution. Bridget and Natasha remind us that the multi-billion dollar industry that stole so much of their lives must not be a destiny for the vulnerable underclass: the disenfranchised, the abused, the marginalized and, in Canada, the First Nations' daughters.
"We have endured genocide and now if they legalize prostitution, they will rubber-stamp commercial rape and continued desecration," Bridget said. "As Aboriginal women and as women of color, the time is now to take our lives back from those who exploit us and colonize our bodies."
O Canada! Do the right thing.
Military Sex Assault Claims Up 50 Percent
by AP / Lolita C. Baldor
(WASHINGTON) — Reports of sexual assaults by members of the military rose 50 percent after the Pentagon began a vigorous campaign to get more victims to come forward, prompting defense officials to order a greater focus on prevention programs, including plans to review alcohol sales and policies.
But officials are still unhappy with the low number of male victims who reported sexual assault, and they say there will be a greater emphasis in the months ahead on getting men to come forward and seek help. Final data obtained by The Associated Press show that about 14 percent of the reports filed last year involved male victims.
Defense officials said Wednesday that encouraging more men to report sexual assaults is a difficult challenge because male victims often worry that it will make people think they are weak and trigger questions about their sexual orientation. In most cases, however, sexual orientation has nothing to do with the assault and it's more an issue of power or abuse.
“There is still a misperception that this is a women's issue and women's crime,” said Nate Galbreath, the senior executive adviser for the Pentagon's sexual assault prevention office. “It's disheartening that we have such a differential between the genders and how they are choosing to report.”
The Pentagon planned to release its report Thursday. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was expected to call on the military services to step up efforts to encourage troops to intervene in assault situations and work with military bases and local communities to better train bar workers and promote more responsible alcohol sales. According to officials, alcohol was a factor in as many as two-thirds of the cases.
Under the military's definition, a sexual assault can be anything from unwanted sexual contact, such as inappropriate touching or grabbing, to sodomy and rape.
While the number of reported assaults shot up sharply in 2013, defense officials said that based on survey data and other information, they believe the increase was largely due to victims feeling more comfortable coming forward. Overall, there were 5,061 reports of sexual abuse filed in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, compared with 3,374 in 2012, for a 50 percent gain. About 10 percent of the 2013 reports involved incidents that occurred before the victim got into the military, up from just 4 percent in 2012.
“There is no indication that this increase in reporting constitutes an increase in crime,” said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Snow, director of the Pentagon's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. “We assess that this unprecedented increase is consistent with a growing confidence in the response systems.”
Over the past two years, the military services have increased awareness of the problem and treatment programs to instill more confidence in the system and get victims to come forward. Phone numbers and contact information for sexual assault prevention officers are plastered across military bases, including inside the doors of bathroom stalls. And top military officers have traveled to bases around the world speaking out on the issue.
Officials said prosecutions also have increased. Galbreath said the military was able to take some action against 73 percent of the accused perpetrators who were subject to the military justice system. In 2012 it was 66 percent. Some cases involve perpetrators who are not in the military so are not subject to commander's actions or military courts.
Sexual assault has been a front-burner issue for the military, Congress and the Obama administration over the past year, triggering Capitol Hill hearings and persistent questions about how effectively the military was preventing and prosecuting assaults and how well it was treating the victims. Fueling the outrage has been a number of high-profile assault cases and arrests, including incidents involving senior commanders, sexual assault prevention officers and a number of military trainers.
At the same time, the military has long struggled to get victims to report sexual assault in a stern military culture that emphasizes rank, loyalty and toughness. Too often, victims have complained they were afraid to report assaults to ranking officers for fear of retribution, or said that their initial complaints were rebuffed or ignored. A 2012 anonymous survey found that about 26,000 service members said they were the victim of some type of unwanted sexual contact or assault.
A key finding in that survey was that, in sheer numbers, more men than women said they had been assaulted. About 6.8 percent of women surveyed said they were assaulted and 1.2 percent of the men. But there are vastly more men in the military; by the raw numbers, a bit more than 12,000 women said they were assaulted, compared with nearly 14,000 men.
The military, Galbreath said, needs to get the message out that this is not just a women's problem.
“It's not the damsel in distress; it's your fellow service member that might need you to step in,” he said, adding that troops need to treat it like any other need for aid, just like on the battlefield.
As a result, Hagel was expected to order the military services to improve reporting by male victims and encourage them to seek assistance. In addition, he was to press for a renewed emphasis on prevention and the need to take some of the programs various services have been conducting and use them across the military.
Those include programs that urge troops to intervene when they see a buddy in trouble or being harassed. And there now may be a move to work with bars and stores that sell alcohol around the bases to educate their employees, offer menus when they serve drinks and review hours of liquor sales.
Child abuse deaths down in Los Angeles County
by Christina Villacorte
Los Angeles County saw fewer deaths from child abuse in 2012 than at any time in the last quarter-century, a trend that coincided with a surge in the reporting of suspected child abuse or neglect, according to a report issued Wednesday.
“One can conclude that the number of referrals is not indicative of a bigger problem, but indicative of more awareness and better opportunity to help children, protect them and keep them safe,” Inter-Agency Council on Child Abuse and Neglect Director Deanne Tilton-Durfee said.
Even though child abuse deaths dropped nearly 40 percent from 238 in 2011 to 219 in 2012 — the latest data available — gaping holes remain in the county's safety net for the most vulnerable.
ICAN cited the case of 3-year-old David, who died while under the care of his mother and/or stepfather, even though the county Department of Children and Family Services was aware of several red flags in connection with the family.
David's autopsy revealed he suffered a blow to the abdomen that punctured his intestine, causing a fatal infection. He also had rib fractures and a burn on his leg.
The findings did not correspond to his mother and stepfather's explanation that he fell off a bunk bed.
David's siblings reported their stepfather hit him in the stomach on several occasions, and repeatedly pushed his head underwater in a bathtub. Their mother, meanwhile, was an alcoholic and meth addict forced to give up her children to DCFS a few years before but somehow regained custody of them.
“This is a case where everything went wrong,” Tilton-Durfee said, noting none of the doctors and social workers who knew about David's earlier injuries called the DCFS hotline, and detectives were unaware of the mother's lengthy history with the DCFS and substance abuse.
Justice remains elusive. “Both the mother and her boyfriend have not been criminally charged,” Durfee observed.
ICAN's report comes just a few weeks after the county Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection said the system was in a “state of emergency” and called for various reforms.
ICAN's Child Death Review Team found more than half of the children killed by a parent, relative or caregiver in 2012 were babies who had yet to celebrate their first birthday. Almost all of them were under age 5.
About 60 percent of the homicides were committed by a woman, usually the child's own mother. In the preceding year, the vast majority of the killers were men.
Most of the children died as a result of inflicted trauma, likely from beatings. A few were drowned or abandoned as newborns. There was a death each from stabbing, strangulation and poisoning.
The team, led by District Attorney's Family Violence Division chief Michele Daniels and Harbor/UCLA Medical Center pediatrics division chair Dr. Carol Berkowitz, recommended that law enforcement officers responding to domestic violence calls also check on the children in the home.
“Violence between adults impacts children in the home as they are at risk for emotional and/or physical abuse as a result of the violence,” they said.
The team also called for training workers to spot high risk factors when they come into contact with families, including multiple referrals to DCFS, parents or caregivers having a history of being abused themselves, substance abuse, and social isolation.
DCFS's child protection hotline is 1-800-540-4000.
Child sex abuse is a taboo topic for some parents
by Kelly Wallace
It was a typical PTA meeting at my daughters' elementary school with talk of budgets, fundraisers and the upcoming school calendar, until a guest speaker stood up to talk, shattering the banality of the meeting with a story no parent wants to hear.
Jill Starishevsky, a New York City assistant district attorney in the child abuse and sex crimes bureau and author of the book "My Body Belongs to Me," shared a story about an upper-middle-class New York family, a story that still gives me chills two years after I first heard it.
A mom goes shopping, leaving her 11-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son home. The daughter is miserable and moping around the house so much that her brother asks her, "What's your problem? Why are you so sad all the time?" said Starishevsky. He then says something like, "It's not like Grandpa ... is boinking you."
At that moment, the 11-year-old realizes that her grandfather, her mother's father, is doing to her brother what he has been doing to her for the past three years. The children decide they need to tell their mother when she gets home.
And they do.
She cries and cries. She hugs them and then cries some more.
"And when she stops crying, she says, 'I'm so sorry. I thought he would stop,' " said Starishevsky.
I couldn't believe it either when I first heard it. Her father had sexually abused her when she was younger and she never told anyone about it. Now he was doing the same thing to her children.
Realizing she couldn't be silent any longer, she called a family meeting to finally tell her two brothers and her two sisters what had happened to her and what was happening to her children.
When Starishevsky tells the story to an audience, this is the moment where she asks, "Does anyone know how this story ends?"
I couldn't imagine what was to come.
The two brothers and two sisters reveal they, too, were sexually abused by their father when they were younger, and no one told anyone. "No one knew," said Starishevsky.
When I first heard that story, it was impossible to comprehend how no one in that family told another sibling, friend, parent or teacher about what was happening to them. But after listening to Starishevsky, it's easy to see why.
Many of us aren't talking to our children about sexual abuse, even when the statistics make it crystal clear why we should be: As many as one in four girls and one in six boys is sexually abused before their 18th birthday, according to research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
We talk to our children about safety all the time -- we cover stranger danger, pool safety, how to cross the street and the list goes on, but when it comes to body safety, we go silent.
"We all know that it should be taught. We all think it's scary of what could happen to our child, but most parents, most good parents, don't know how to have the discussion, so they just ignore it."
A book is born
When Starishevsky's first child turned 3, she knew she needed to have the conversation but didn't know how. "I was a little embarrassed because I was a sex crimes prosecutor and I didn't know what to say."
She looked online and went to the library, but couldn't find any book appropriate for a toddler. So she waited for her daughter's 3-year check-up and asked her doctor what to say and how to say it.
Why, she wondered, wasn't information available on his website, she asked.
"My doctor shrugged his shoulders and he's like, 'Taboo, no one can talk about it.'"
That night, she went home and wrote a poem for her daughter, emphasizing that the little girl's body is private and that if someone touches her private parts, she should tell her mommy or daddy or a teacher right away.
When she read it to her husband, he said, "That's not a poem. It's a book. You need to write it."
So, in between prosecuting sex crimes and mothering her three children, Starishevsky wrote a straightforward book targeting 3- to 8-year-olds with rhymes and simple illustrations. Getting a publisher turned out to be easier than expected, but there was one problem.
In the book, Starishevsky doesn't just allude to the abuse. She includes it.
"My uncle's friend came over and sat down next to me, and touched me in that place that no one else can see," she writes, with illustrations of a fully clothed child sitting near the uncle's friend, who is also fully clothed. You don't see the abuse but it's clear it just happened.
The publisher wanted that line to come out, according to Starishevsky. "They said, 'Well we don't think parents would like the book with the line in. You have to take it out. Allude to it but you can't actually say it.' "
Starishevsky refused and the publisher backed out, so she self-published the book in 2009, and eventually got the attention of Oprah Winfrey's television producers. She appeared in a segment on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in 2011.
Three years later, she landed a publisher, Free Spirit Publishing, which is publishing the book, with updated illustrations, in May. The hope, Starishevsky said, is that through Free Spirit, the book can be provided on a larger scale to schools and advocacy organizations, and may ultimately be published in different languages.
The book also inspired Michael Solomon, a New York father of two and co-founder of companies that manage the careers of musicians, producers and tech professionals, to self-fund a video verson of Starishevsky's "My Body Belongs to Me."
The video, which has been viewed more than 110,000 times on YouTube, is also available in Spanish, French and Swedish, with plans to add more languages when possible.
The goal, said Solomon, is "ultimately giving parents and educators an opportunity to inform kids for free anywhere, anytime."
How to have the conversation
One of the biggest reasons why parents don't talk to their children about sexual abuse, Starishevsky said, is because they're afraid they're going to scare their children.
"I think that fear comes from not knowing what the conversation's about," she said, adding that it isn't about sex or explaining in graphic detail what someone might do to a child.
"It's about, 'This is your body,'" she said. It's important to teach children which parts of their body are private and that if someone else does see or touch them, the child should tell a trusted adult.
"It's really just an empowering conversation," she added.
It can't happen to my kids
Another of Starishevsky's top 10 reasons why parents don't talk with their children about sexual abuse is because they think it can't happen to them.
When she was writing her book, she passed it around to friends, colleagues, even judges to get their input. One of the people who read it was her husband's friend, who is a lawyer.
He told her it was a great book and that it would help a lot of children but that he would never read it to his then 6- and 8-year-old sons.
"This is never going to happen to my kids so I don't need to read it to them," he told her.
"Parents have these blinders on, thinking it can't happen in my neighborhood, and unfortunately it can. It happens anywhere."
Too many parents also think strangers are the biggest threat to their children, and so if they teach their kids about stranger danger, they're protected. But 93% of the time in sexual abuse cases, the perpetrator is not a stranger but someone the child knows, according to the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center.
"It's someone you are trusting your child with, whether that's the coach or the babysitter or mom's boyfriend ... so having the stranger danger conversation isn't going to teach the child the skills they need to know."
No secrets and no forced hugs
Starishevsky's "aha" moment as a prosecutor came when she talked to victims and learned there was one reason why children never told anyone about abuse that came up fairly consistently: "He said it was our secret."
To counter that, Starishevsky recommends banning secrets altogether, telling your children that your family doesn't believe in secrets, and encouraging your children to tell you if anyone asks them to keep a secret.
Parents should also never force children to be demonstrative in their affection. Don't force your kids to give hugs, she said. "If we don't teach our children that it's OK for them to say no ... then they don't know that they can do that."
Arming our children with the right words and empowering them to use those words is a way to try to prevent the abuse from happening in the first place, said Starishevsky.
Ever since my girls, now ages 6 and 8, were old enough to understand they have private parts, I've been talking to them about their bodies, although I realized after listening to Starishevsky two years ago, I wasn't talking to my children enough.
So since then, I bring up the topic fairly regularly, especially before a sleepover or the start of a new sports program or other after school activity.
We've had the conversation so much that my older daughter cuts me off before I finish with, "Yeah mom, we know."
Every time Starishevsky hears a story like mine or gets an e-mail from readers who plan to talk to their kids about sexual abuse, she is over the moon.
"Oh my god, that's all I want ... that parents get that this is an issue they need to start addressing."
4 Chicago men sexually abuse same 14-year-old boy found through Craigslist: police
The troubled teen's parents contacted cops after learning in August that he posted sex ads to the website. The sex for money with the four men began as early as last May, police say.
by Sasha Goldstein
Four alleged pervs in the Chicago area have been collared for sexually abusing the same 14-year-old boy who offered sex for cash on Craigslist, police say.
The troubled Evanston teen posted ads claiming he was 18 in at least one case, offering sex in exchange for a place to stay, charging documents against one of the men detail.
The boy's parents learned of the ads in August and contacted cops, according to the Chicago Tribune.
"The parents did become aware of what was taking place and cooperated with the police," Evanston police Commander Jay Parrott told the newspaper. "There were some issues with the victim not coming home and the parents became concerned for the welfare of the child."
On Friday, police nabbed Chicago man Glenn Lapidus, a 46-year-old former executive for IBM, on charges of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, indecent solicitation of a child, solicitation to meet a minor, patronizing a minor engaged in prostitution and felony traveling to meet a minor.
The man allegedly began texting and emailing explicit pictures with the boy, 13 at the time, early last year. They eventually met in an Evanston parking garage in late May, where the man paid the boy $25 for oral sex, the Tribune reported.
The first man, Jonathan Labe, 54, of Evanston, was arrested in January after he ordered a taxi for the boy to bring him to his house for sex.
Labe, who at one time worked as an online producer for the Tribune, was at first told the boy was 18 — but learned before sex that the boy was 14, police said.
The boy took a taxi to the man's house Oct. 16, where the two had oral sex twice and smoke marijuana, the paper reported. Labe also allowed the teen to “cut or slice self with a knife,” court records revealed.
Labe was charged with aggravated criminal sexual abuse, indecent solicitation of a child, solicitation to meet a minor, patronizing a minor engaged in prostitution, endangering the life or health of a child and contributing to the criminal delinquency of a minor.
Also arrested was Vaselin Minev, 43, of Morton Grove, in February, and Alejandro Costilla, 43, of Chicago, in March.
"There were numerous encounters that took place between these individuals and the victim," Parrott told the Tribune.
Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Deadline for Filing Child Sex Abuse Lawsuits
A 2005 state law gives childhood sexual abuse victims 12 years after their 18th birthdays to file lawsuits against their abusers.
A 28-year-old Franklin County woman claims she was raped and abused by two employees while in a Delaware County juvenile detention center in 2000 and 2001. She filed a lawsuit in 2012. But the state's Court of Claims says under an older law, the deadline for suing state agencies is only two years, so her claim had to be filed by the time she was 20. Jill Flagg is the woman's lawyer, and she told the Ohio Supreme Court that the claim of childhood sexual abuse is what's important here, and that dictates which deadline is the appropriate one.
“Child sex abuse is predicated on secrecy, manipulation and shame and often involves deep psychological trauma,” Flagg said. “It takes many years and even decades for victims to come forward. That's what the General Assembly recognized when they enacted Senate Bill 17.”
But the attorney for the Department of Youth Services says the law is clear. Peter Glenn-Applegate acknowledged to Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor and Justice Paul Pfeifer that the law says the deadline for a suit involving a state employee, whoever it is, is two years.
“What would she be entitled to do if she were abused by her pediatrician, for example?” O'Connor asked.
“That would be subject to the 12-year statute of limitations in the Court of Common Pleas,” Glenn-Applegate said.
“Not if he worked for a state hospital,” Pfeifer said.
“That's correct,” Glenn-Applegate said. “That would be subject of the Court of Claims statute of limitations, but a private practice physician would be subject to the Court of Claims 12-year.”
Most of the half-hour spent in arguments on this case featured Glenn-Applegate, because it was obvious the justices had lots of concerns. And some of their questions and statements sounded skeptical and bordered on sarcastic. Here's Justice Pfeifer asking Glenn-Applegate if lawsuits against abusive public school teachers and coaches are held to the same two-year standard that the state is arguing for.
“That seems the most reasonable reading of the statute,” Glenn-Applegate said, “and I'd point out that it is all about--”
“To you, it seems the most reasonable reading,” Pfeifer interrupted.
“Pardon me? I apologize,” Glenn-Applegate said.
“To you it seems the most reasonable reading,” Pfeifer said.
“The most reasonable reading of the statute. Not the most reasonable policy necessarily, but of course policy determinations are for the General Assembly,” Glenn-Applegate said.
The woman's attorney, Jill Flagg, was eventually brought back and admitted she agreed that her client could still sue the individual guards who abused her. But Justice Pfeifer tossed her a question about the impact of suing a person versus the abuser's much more powerful and wealthier employer.
“A worker in a youth facility would be one of our lower-paid state employees,” Pfeifer said.
“That's true. There would never be redress and recourse,” Flagg said.
“You could have the satisfaction of a win but--” Pfeifer said.
“Right, which is therapeutic in and of itself, but not--” Flagg said.
“The financial recovery would be de minimis,” Pfeifer said.
The woman's original lawsuit asks for $50,000 in damages. There's no timeline on when the Supreme Court might deliver a decision.
Child sex abuse bill passes in Hawaii legislature
Allows for unlimited time to file criminal charges
HONOLULU —The Hawaii Legislature has approved two bills that would give victims of child sex abuse more time to file complaints and prosecutor's unlimited time to file criminal charges.
One of the proposals (HB 2034) would completely remove the statute of limitations for continuous sexual assault of a child or abuse in the first and second degrees.
The other (SB 2687) would extend the deadline for civil filings to 2016.
Victims had been given a two-year window to file lawsuits in cases that had passed the statute of limitations. But that window closed last week.
A flurry of lawsuits was filed before that, including one against "X-Men" director Bryan Singer. Singer has denied the allegations.
Raising awareness on child abuse and sexual assault
by Sen. Julie Lassa
April is a month in which we raise awareness of two of the cruelest forms of violence and abuse and about what we can do, both nationally and here in Wisconsin, to eradicate them from our society. It's Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month, as well as Sexual Abuse Awareness Month. Sadly, both kinds of crimes are serious problems in our state.
Take child abuse. According to the Department of Health and Family Service's 2012 Child Abuse and Neglect report, there were 70,266 reports of suspected maltreatment of children in Wisconsin in 2012. In about 13 percent of the reported cases, investigators found evidence that a child had been abused or neglected. That's 4,537 children, or an average of more than 12 children per day. Twelve children died in 2012 in Wisconsin from child maltreatment.
The statistics for sexual assault are equally daunting. According to the Wisconsin Department of Justice, there were more than 4,800 incidences of sexual assault reported to law enforcement in 2010, the last year for which statistics are available. That included 221 assaults in the six counties in the 24th State Senate District. But these numbers are, sadly, only the tip of the iceberg, as rape is the most underreported crime. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center estimates that 63 percent of sexual assaults are never reported to the police, so the actual incidence of these crimes in our communities is probably much higher.
The secretive nature of sexual assault conceals the impact it has on our society. One in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives. One in four girls and one in six boys will be subjected to some form of sexual abuse before they turn 18 years old. And all of us pay the cost. It's estimated that rape costs the nation $127 billion annually, outpacing even assault, murder or drunk driving.
The damage done by child abuse and neglect can be just as insidious as sexual assault, and extremely long-lasting. More than 30 years of scientific research shows that the stress of abuse and neglect can result in impaired memory and learning abilities for children, and more aging-related memory and cognitive deficits in adulthood. The stress of abuse can even create long-term genetic changes in children and even lead to impaired brain growth, which can hinder a child's learning and wellbeing for a lifetime. A recent estimate of the total direct expenditures for dealing with abuse and neglect places the cost in excess of $24 billion per year, and that does not count the long term cost to society caused by impaired physical and mental health, increased likelihood of substance abuse, criminality, and incarceration, and higher rates of teenage pregnancy among child abuse and neglect victims.
Throughout my legislative career, I have fought for public policy to make it easier for these crimes to be reported and prosecuted, and to ensure that victims are protected and perpetrators brought to justice. In April, and all year long, we should educate ourselves about the extent of violence, abuse and neglect in our society and rededicate ourselves to rooting it out and building a safer community for us all.
Sen. Julie Lassa represents the 24th Senate District.
Sexual Abuse Prevention Bill Falls Through The Cracks
by Lisa Phu
A bill requiring school districts to implement sexual abuse education seemed poised to become law during the recent Alaska Legislature. Gov. Sean Parnell supported Erin's Law, the Senate passed it, and the House version had 21 co-sponsors.
But House Bill 233 got stuck in committee.
House Finance Committee co-chair Bill Stoltze says he's not sure why Erin's Law didn't get heard in his committee. He calls it “a casualty of a hectic session.”
“I guess I'll call it falling through the cracks because it wasn't one that I had any animus toward or any interest– I was dealing with so many crime bills and I don't know how that one slipped through. I can't even tell you much of the content of it because I didn't really look at it,” Stoltze says.
HB 233 unanimously passed the House Education committee at the end of March and went on to House Finance. House Speaker Mike Chenault says he doesn't recall why he referred it there since the bill had no fiscal note.
Chenault was the last of 21 representatives to sign on to co-sponsor the bill. He doesn't know why it was held up.
Of the roughly 380 bills introduced on the House side, Chenault says only 68 House Bills passed this year.
“People were concentrating on the big issues that affected the state versus other issues that didn't quite get to the top of the pot,” he says.
Democratic Rep. Geran Tarr, who introduced Erin's Law, says teaching kids to speak up when someone touches them inappropriately is a big issue for the state.
She says she was shocked and embarrassed the bill died.
“We could've done the right thing and given kids a voice on a very important issue. That effort will be delayed by at least a year now. We'll come back and we'll be ready to work on it again next year. The sad news is there are kids that need the information now,” Tarr says.
Erin's Law is named after 29-year-old Erin Merryn from Illinois, who was sexually abused as a child. Merryn travels around the country advocating for sexual abuse education in schools.
She spent a week in Alaska in March. She talked to lawmakers, testified on the bill, and participated in the governor's annual Choose Respect rally.
Merryn wonders why the bill died, especially since it had support from both sides of the aisle. While the House version of the bill was sponsored by a Democrat, the Senate's version was carried by Republican Senator Lesil McGuire.
Erin's Law has passed in 12 states. Most recently, Merryn testified in Rhode Island, and will soon take her campaign to Canada, then to Australia.
But she says she's not done in Alaska.
“I'm not going away. You can vote this down all you want. I'm going to continue to come back and pound on your doors and get others to support this bill until you pass it,” Merryn says.
The Alaska Legislature declared April Sexual Assault Awareness Month. According to the resolution, one in four girls and one in six boys will report being victims of sexual assault. Speaking out against sexual assault is an important first step toward eliminating the crime.
Rozzi unveils documentary featuring victims of sexual abuse
from the PA House of Representatives
State Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, today premiered his documentary “You Have the Power” featuring victims of child sexual abuse and said the documentary demonstrates a drastic need for reform to the state's statute of limitations law.
Rozzi said all victims and advocates featured in the documentary were impacted by abuse that occurred in Pennsylvania.
“These people are our neighbors, family, friends and coworkers. While the statistics show that one in four girls and one in six boys have been abused, only one in 10 will tell of his or her abuse,” Rozzi explained.
Rozzi discussed his H.B. 2067 that would suspend the civil statute of limitations for victims of child sexual abuse who have not yet reached 50 years old. The measure would allow victims the opportunity to seek civil recourse from their perpetrators and would permanently remove the civil and criminal statute of limitations involving child sexual abuse.
“It takes victims years if not decades to acknowledge the abuse. We need to give them the opportunity to seek justice and protect future generations of children by bringing action against perpetrators,” Rozzi said.
Rozzi was joined by state Sen. Rob Teplitz and state Reps. Louise Bishop, Madeleine Dean, Ed Gainey, Dan Miller, Tom Murt, Steve McCarter, Mike O'Brien, Steve Santarsiero and Brian Sims.
Teplitz has drafted similar legislation that would suspend the statute of limitations and remove the sexual abuse statute of limitations for civil recourse and criminal prosecution. His bill would also remove the sovereign immunity defense for public officials and institutions.
“It takes incredible courage for sex abuse victims to come forward and share their stories, but because of the incredible toll that this horrendous crime takes on victims, they often need years and sometimes even decades to garner the strength to open up about abuse. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania law prevents them from facing their accuser in court,” said Teplitz, D-Dauphin/York. “These bills would give victims the opportunity to seek justice so that they can heal and break the cycle of abuse.”
Click here to view Rep. Rozzi's documentary.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month
by Marie Hartwell-Walker
I'd like to think that some April I won't have to write about Child Abuse Prevention Month. But here we are again. Kids are still being abused in America.
The statistics are shocking: In the United States, over five children are reported to die every day as a result of child abuse and neglect. Bad enough. But it is estimated that between 50 – 60 percent of child deaths due to abuse are not recorded honestly on their death certificates. Do the math. That means that the daily death rate is probably more around 10 per day.
Of the number of children who died because of abuse or neglect, 70.3 percent were younger than 3 years old and 44.4 percent were younger than 1 year old. Over 15 million children witness violence and abuse each year in what is supposed to be the safety of their own homes.
Older kids don't fare much better. Approximately 1.8 million adolescents in the United States have been the victims of sexual assault. Thirty-three percent of sexual assaults occur when the victim is between the ages of 12 and 17. Further, teens between 16 to 19 years of age were three and a half times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.
The consequences of such abuse follow these kids for much of their lives: In one study, about 80 percent of 21-year-olds who were abused as children met the diagnostic criteria for at least one mental illness. More than a third of adolescents who suffered abuse or neglect will have a substance use disorder before their 18th birthday. That's three times as likely as those without a report of abuse or neglect.
Teens who experienced sexual abuse as children are 25 percent more likely to get pregnant in their teen years. People who experience child abuse and neglect are about nine times more likely to become involved in criminal activity. In the United States, 14 percent of all men in prison and 36 percent of women in prison were abused as kids. That's almost twice as many as in the general population. Sadly, about 30 percent of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children.
If the measure of a society is how well it takes care of its most vulnerable people, the U.S. is doing a terrible job. We may not be able to solve the whole problem, but each of us can start with our own kids in our own homes. We parents can do quite a bit to put a stop to some of those shocking statistics:
Discipline without abuse.
Learn how to set firm but fair limits and how to impose logical consequences when your child crosses the line. If you don't know how to do that, go online or to the library for good parenting advice or join a parent support group. Parents Anonymous, for example, is a parent-to-parent self-help program that has groups all over the country.
Never discipline a child when you are angry and out of control. As one of my best teachers used to point out: Parents don't “lose” their temper. They throw it away. If you are too angry to think through what you are doing, walk out of the room or the house and collect yourself. Parenting well means helping a child learn from mistakes, not causing them to fear their parents.
Be alert for abuse of your children by others.
If your child tells you about something that happened that gives you a bad feeling, listen carefully, take it seriously, and look into it. If your child tells you about unwanted touching or sexual language directed their way by another adult (relative, teacher, clergy, coach – anyone), follow up. And don't be too easily convinced that the adult is being straight with you.
If an adult starts singling out your child for extra time alone (practices, tutoring, coaching, etc.), phone calls or sleepovers, check into it. Make sure such alone time is legitimate and not a way that the adult is “grooming” your child to be physically intimate.
Know the signs of abuse.
Young kids often will act out what has happened. In addition, showing more sexual knowledge than is usual at their age, masturbation at a young age, and sexually acting out with other children may be their way of trying to tell you that someone has been inappropriate with them. Also watch for big changes in behavior. Nightmares, aggression and self-injury (especially in children who have never before done such things) can be clues. If you see such behaviors, gently ask what's wrong, in a way that lets the child know that she or he is not in trouble but that you are worried.
Older kids and teens may start to self-harm, have sleep disorders, withdraw or start showing risky behaviors. Eating disorders, aggression and self-harm also are clues. Complicating things is that the same behaviors may be rooted in bullying, self-esteem problems or an emerging mental illness. Further, teens are more guarded than small children and are less likely to share something if they feel ashamed or blamed. Still – ask! Ask gently, in a way that lets your teen know that you are not accusing them but rather than you are concerned.
Be sure that your children know how to protect themselves.
Provide all children with age-appropriate sex education. If you don't take it on yourself to have “the talk” about sex and sexuality, your kids will get what is often faulty information from peers, the internet and media. Knowing about love, sex, and intimacy shouldn't be left to chance.
With young children, make sure they understand that no one has a right to touch their bodies except their parents and medical personnel.
As soon as your child starts using the Internet, make sure they understand how predators troll for kids and can try to talk them into meeting with them. Make sure they understand that you aren't trying to scare them but rather that you want them to have the information they need to make wise choices about who they get involved with in the virtual world.
With older children and teens, make sure they understand what it means to give consent. Make sure tweens and teens fully understand the dangers of sexting and putting sexual pictures and information on the web. It can and does lead to trouble both in the present and future!
When in doubt, get help.
If unsure about how to respond to your concern that your child may be being abused, look for help.
The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline (800-422-4453) is staffed 24/7 with professional crisis counselors who can provide you with information and referrals to emergency, social service and support resources. All calls are free, anonymous and confidential. The counselors can give you some emotional support, can answer questions about the reporting process and provide you with additional information. And, no, they can't come and take your children away. They will help you know what to expect if you make a report and will help you through the reporting process if that is what you decide to do.
Locally, there are therapists who specialize in childhood sexual abuse (both for children and youth and for adult survivors) in almost every community. If you need suggestions for who to call, talk with your doctor.
Call your local child protective services if you think a child is being abused but you are unsure whether to report. Know the law in your state. In many states, it is possible to call anonymously to ask if you should report. The worker will advise you on what to do next.
Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. She writes regularly for Psych Central as well as Psych Central's Ask the Therapist feature, and has published the insightful parenting e-book, Tending the Family Heart.
The staggering cost of silence: child abuse victims and stolen innocence
by Jerome Elam, Michael Reagan
The well-groomed neighborhood was lined with a green umbrella of trees that swayed in the warm winds of summer as the last remnants of a long, hard winter faded.
The white house on the corner had seen better days and the front lawn was dotted with bare patches where neglect had invited an invasion of pests.
Opening the front door the morning light illuminates an array of toys and wrapping paper strewn about a well-furnished family room. Just ahead above the dining room table a birthday banner hovered over a half eaten cake and scattered cups and plates. As the quiet of the scene establishes its reign down the hallway covered in brown carpet the muffled cries of a young child could be heard.
The CDC estimates that 1 in 4 girls and1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before the age of 18.
As the door opened to the back bedroom door a man emerged securing a belt around the faded jeans he wore.
A seven-year-old boy emerges his underwear still clinging to his small ankles. The scars and bruises that consume his small body are a roadmap of his vandalized innocence and the suffering he has so horrifically endured.
Tear-stained cheeks and cries that resonate within the tiny soul that has suffered so much soon fill the empty hallway.
“Keep your mouth shut and tell your mother you fell off your bike. This is our secret and if you want your mommy to stay alive you won't say a word,” the man says to the young boy.
Just then the front door opens and a young woman enters wearing the green scrubs of an emergency room doctor. “Did you have fun with uncle Phil while mommy was at work?” the woman asks.
The young boy appears wearing a hooded sweatshirt and jeans and as he turns his face away he says, “Yes, mommy can I go out side and play?” “
Sure, sweetie, mommy going to sleep for a while.” The woman says but she is already too late as the back door slams and the last whisper of child's innocence is lost forever.
In homes across the United States this is the scene that is unfolding right now and every ten seconds as another child becomes a victim of child abuse.
The CDC estimates that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before the age of 18.
Worldwide 550 million children are survivors of child abuse according to the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports that there are currently 617,000 registered sex offenders in the United States, and typically 100,000 of those are unaccounted for. Other pedophiles are not on records or in databases.
Pedophiles like Jerry Sandusky walk silently among us, and Sandusky showed us just how well they disguise themselves.
April is National Child Abuse Awareness month and it is an important time for everyone to reacquaint himself or herself with the information that is necessary to recognize the signs of child abuse and stop predators before another child suffers.
Research has shown that an average victim of child sex abuse has to tell at least seven adults before being believed.
According to the Journal for the American Medical Association only 1 in 20 cases of child abuse are reported.
It is critically important that every parent and adult responsible for the care of a child educate and empower themselves with the knowledge to stop predators.
If we work together we can stop the stolen innocence of our children and that of others by spending a few hours educating ourselves.
There is no greater tragedy than to live a life plagued by the shattered hopes and dreams of a vandalized childhood.
I know this because decades ago I was that young boy sexually and physically abused.
Today I fight for those who have no voice and I am transforming a lifetime of pain into a miracle of hope for a tomorrow free of child abuse.
To learn more about the education and prevention of child abuse go to the following websites: Joyful Heart Foundation, Childhelp, Stop Abusing Your Children and Arrow Child and Family Ministries.
It is never to late to save a child's innocence and make sure each and every one has a future anchored in hope filled with the love every child deserves.
Jerome Elam is a staff writer and columnist for Communities Digital News
Michael Reagan is the son of President Ronald Reagan. He is a political consultant, founder and chairman of The Reagan Group, and president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation. He is the author of "The New Reagan Revolution" (St. Martin's Press). Visit his website at www.reagan.com
Report suspected child abuse; it's everybody's business
by Lori Shelburne
As Child Abuse Prevention Month comes to a close, I cannot help but reflect on the importance of that mission. I am often haunted by the tragic 2007 abuse death of 10-year-old Michaela Watkins of Winchester. Her autopsy revealed injuries all over her 77-pound body.
She was literally covered with bruises and scrapes. Even her eyeballs were bruised. She had been scalded and bitten. She was malnourished. The cause of her death was a crushing injury to her chest which broke five ribs and collapsed her left lung.
She tried to fight back, but she was helpless to stop the vicious abuse perpetrated by her very own father and stepmother, later convicted for her murder.
The most haunting fact of all for me about Michaela's tragedy is that it might have been avoided.
There were family members and neighbors who suspected she was at risk, but did not report their concerns. All too often people are reluctant to get involved in the private lives of others. They think only doctors and teachers have a duty to report suspected child abuse. They are mistaken.
Every person has an affirmative duty under Kentucky law to immediately report suspected child abuse and neglect.
Failure to report is a crime which carries a potential penalty of 90 days in jail and a fine.
The statistics highlight the importance of public awareness of the duty to report suspected child abuse in Kentucky. Our state consistently ranks among the highest for victim and fatality rates from child abuse and neglect.
Roughly half of those statistics involve children age five and younger. Children under the age of one suffer the highest rates of all.
While death is the worst possible outcome of child abuse and neglect, the potential long-term consequences for survivors are sobering.
According to a recent report published by the Child Welfare Information Gateway, those consequences include impaired brain development, lower IQ, language difficulties, increased chance of grade repetition, increased risk of personality disorders and other mental health problems, increased risk of substance abuse, and increased risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, lung and liver disease, hypertension, diabetes, asthma and obesity.
The societal costs are also staggering.
One study estimates the annual cost of child maltreatment exceeds the costs associated with stroke and type II diabetes, combined. The indirect economic costs are difficult to quantify but not difficult to imagine.
They include increased burdens on the health-care and mental-health systems, increased burdens on our juvenile and adult justice systems, and increased burdens on our welfare safety net.
There is good news amidst all the bad. Tragedies, like what happened to Michaela Watkins, can be prevented.
But first, we must all acknowledge that when it comes to child abuse in Kentucky, there are no innocent bystanders.
To report suspected child abuse or neglect call 1-877-KYSAFE1 or contact the Kentucky State Police or local law enforcement. You can also visit http://chfs.ky.gov/dcbs/dpp/childsafety.htm for more information on how to report.
For more information on how to prevent child abuse or to find ways to get involved in that mission, go to the Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky website, pcaky.com.
Domestic violence victims 'forgotten face' of homeless, advocates say
by Kate Santich
Two years ago, Christie Gomez left her family, friends and hometown to flee an abusive husband and move to a Kissimmee motel room with her three children.
"Eventually he would have killed me," the 31-year-old said. "The anger-management classes he was ordered to take only made him more aggressive."
Gomez still had a roof over her head but no real home. And she was about to be booted from yet another rent-by-the-week motel when a social worker at her son's school referred the family to Harbor House, a domestic-violence program.
"There are a lot of families out there like hers," said Harbor House CEO Carol Wick. "Domestic-violence survivors are the forgotten faces of the homeless. They're an afterthought."
Several national surveys show 80 percent of women in homeless shelters report being abused by husbands, boyfriends or lovers at some point in their past, and up to 57 percent say such violence was the immediate cause of their homelessness. Yet public discussions on family homelessness typically focus on job loss, bankruptcy, foreclosure or other economic hardship, domestic-violence experts say.
They want everyone to be asked about domestic abuse when entering any type of shelter.
And as the revamped Central Florida Commission on Homelessness pushes for new housing programs to address the need, some fear domestic-violence survivors will take a back seat to chronically homeless men.
"At the regional level, there seems to be a lot of talk about the men hanging out at Lake Eola," said Jeanne Gold, CEO of SafeHouse of Seminole, which provides shelter, counseling and other services to domestic-violence survivors. "That's not the type of homelessness we deal with in Seminole. We have a lot of families, and for them domestic violence has to considered as a leading cause."
In Seminole, Gold said, county government, schools, churches and businesses have worked together to provide low-cost apartments, groceries and clothing to families as they transition out of her emergency shelter. But money for immediate housing for abuse victims — so they wouldn't have to go into a shelter in the first place — is still needed.
Throughout the tri-county region, in fact, there's a severe shortage of such options, known as rapid re-housing. For Orange, Osceola and Seminole — with 60,000 adult domestic-violence victims a year combined — just 22 apartment units exist.
But Andrae Bailey, the commission's CEO, said that although domestic violence may have been overlooked as a contributor to homelessness in the past, his group won't make the same mistake.
"What we didn't understand is that, although we have significant help for a woman and child at the moment they need to flee, we're going to have to come up with longer-term solutions," he said. "The average length of stay at a domestic-violence shelter is five months — and then, especially if she has children, she may be forced to choose between living on the street or running back into the arms of the people who hurt her."
That's precisely the decision Gomez was weighing when she was referred to Harbor House, which was able to get her into one of those 22 rapid re-housing apartments. For a year, the agency subsidized her rent while she received counseling and financial-literacy training and saved for her own place. She graduated last November.
Indiana's Victims of Childhood Abuse, Neglect Number 20,000+
by Mary Kuhlman
(Indianapolis, Ind.) – From planting pinwheel gardens to speaking with educators and parents, child welfare workers in Indiana have used Child Abuse Prevention Month in April to build awareness of the problem.
More than 20,000 confirmed cases of child abuse or neglect are reported in the state each year, said Sandy Runkle-DeLorme, director of programs for Prevent Child Abuse Indiana, but physical abuse hasn't even been the biggest concern.
“Neglect has been lately over 70 percent of substantiated cases,” she said, “and in fact, in Indiana in 2012, even sexual abuse was more often substantiated than physical abuse.”
Allegations of neglect can include anything from overall lack of supervision to a car seat that isn't installed properly, Runkle-DeLorme said. Child abuse and neglect tend to be stereotyped as problems that occur among poor families, she said, but they actually cross all socioeconomic boundaries.
While neglect cases are on the increase, Runkle-DeLorme said the downward trends for physical and sexual abuse show that prevention and education efforts can work. She said almost anyone can find ways to be part of the solution.
“Reaching out to people who are parents – and I'd say all parents, because anybody who is a parent understands that it can be frustrating at times,” she said. “So, just reaching out; and for parents, make sure and ask for help.”
State leaders in Indiana are paying attention to the problem and creating better policies, she said, including recently approving stricter regulations for non-licensed child care.
Ky. takes important step in fight against child abuse
As of Tuesday, many key health care workers will now be required to take a course that will arm them with new information that could save lives.
This became official at a ceremony held at Kosair Children's Hospital.
“You may not know it, but every week we have a child here who requires the help of our critical care unit,” said Dr. Stephen Wright.
Wright is quick to point out the sobering statistics.
On average, 29 children die every year in Kentucky from abuse, and 30 to 60 more receive near fatal injuries.
All too often, the signs of abuse are missed by front line health care workers.
“As a mother, grandmother, nurse and legislator, I believe that we have brought forth a law that was a bipartisan effort by house and senate as a key piece of legislation,” said Rep. Addia Wuchner.
Wuchner, from Boone County, led the charge to pass House Bill 157.
The legislation requires training on the recognition of abusive head trauma by physicians most likely to see children.
By signing the bill, the governor is ensuring physicians will be up to date on new science that is not taught in medical school.
“This fills the critical holes in the safety blanket that is around our children,” said Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear.
Norton Healthcare also recognized WLKY's three-part series called “Breaking the Cycle of Abuse.”
It aired just as members were voting on the bill and WLKY's Karen Roby emailed the stories every day to all of them. Each story illustrated the dire need to pass the legislation provided.
Kentucky has consistently ranked among the top states when it comes to the number of children abused and neglected in the U.S. This new legislation makes Kentucky the fourth state to mandate physicians training.
Family Court Judge Paula Sherlock was also recognized in Tuesdsay's ceremony for her relentless efforts to protect children from abuse.
Child abuse, sexual assault prevention class May 7
ELLENSBURG — County law enforcement and social services staff will present a workshop on keeping children safe from abuse and sexual assault 6-8:30 p.m. May 7 at the Hal Holmes Center.
Statistically, sex offenders often know victims personally, and they work just as hard deceiving adults as they do keeping child victims quiet, according to organizers.
By learning more about the crime parents and community members can do more to help identify and curb child abuse.
The workshop will address who offends, why and the tactics predators use. It will also cover identifying symptoms of abuse in children, how kids talk about it, problems in prevention programs, talking to children about abuse and dangerous people, practical ways to keep children safe and how abuse disclosures and reporting works.
The workshop incorporates taped interviews with victims and convicted sex offenders, and those with a personal history of abuse are encouraged to bring someone for support available afterward.
Organizers strongly recommend teens and children do not attend.
Biden urges men to be part of fight against campus rape
by Gabe LaMonica
After she was raped at Harvard, Madeleine Smith said that in her pursuit of justice she encountered people with good intentions who could not help her.
One in five women is sexually assaulted while in college, according to the National Institute of Justice, and Smith is not the only victim who has been stonewalled by what she called "archaic and misinformed policies."
Vice President Joe Biden, joining her Tuesday at an event at the White House on sexual assault on college campuses, said "We are never going to solve this epidemic until we get men involved."
In a video montage, Hollywood actors Benicio del Toro, Daniel Craig, Steve Carell, Seth Myers and Dule Hill join President Barack Obama and Biden to encourage men to be part of the solution for a new public service announcement on sexual assault that will air in movie theaters this May.
Biden said that in the neighborhood where he came from, "if a man raised his hand to a woman you had the job to kick the crap out of him."
White House advises colleges on how to combat rape
According to the "1 is 2 Many" campaign, which is coordinating the PSA release with the White House, young women ages 16 to 24 experience the highest rates of sexual violence at the hands of someone they know, so publicly announcing to Americans that rape is wrong, and a crime, is necessary.
"If she doesn't consent -- or can't consent -- it's rape; it's assault," says del Toro in the PSA.
"It's a crime. It's wrong," says Steve Carell.
But it's more complicated than that. In Smith's case, there were "definite good guys," the people at Harvard's Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, and "definite bad guys," her attacker and the Harvard "faculty that gamed the system in order to support him." The real issue, harder to pin down, said Smith, is everyone else "who fell somewhere in between."
The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault first alerted schools about their responsibilities to survivors of sexual violence in 2011. Under Title IX, schools had to address sexual violence in order to provide equal access to education. Schools failing to do so, like Tufts University, have been publicly cited.
Now, the administration is highlighting the importance of having confidential advocates on college campuses. The hope is to clarify that not everyone on college campuses has a duty to report. Otherwise, says the task force, "a survivor quickly loses control over what happens next," a critical issue for advocates like Smith who emphasize the importance of returning control to survivors.
The task force Tuesday called for further training, saying "insensitive or judgmental comments -- or questions that focus on a victim's behavior (e.g., what she was wearing, her prior sexual history) rather than on the alleged perpetrators -- can compound a victim's distress."
In encouraging women to report sexual assault, and men to speak up, Biden invoked the film "Deliverance."
"I know what scene you remembered, right?" he asked. "How many of you would walk out of the woods and report 'I've been raped?'"
Transparency and accountability are major issues the White House task force is set to deal with. No college wants to admit it has a problem, but, paradoxically, those schools with the highest numbers may actually be taking the problem seriously because they have systems in place that allow students to file complaints.
Smith Tuesday highlighted how hard it is to report a sexual assault.
"I want to share what it is like when your dad answers the phone, and you have to find a way to tell him that the one thing he never wanted to happen to his little girl has happened," she said.
From the Department of Justice
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels at the Department of Justice's 2014 Nationwide Tour to Raise Awareness of Sexual Assault on College Campuses
Good morning and thank you all for inviting me to join you today. As we mark the 20 th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, I am glad to be here to discuss the Justice Department's efforts to combat campus sexual assault, and to hear from all of you - about what is working and the many challenges that remain.
Over the next few weeks, my colleagues from the Departments of Justice and Education will tour schools across the country to raise awareness of campus sexual assault. On this tour, we will meet with students and faculty, like many of you, who are working every day to fight sexual violence and to train young people about how to prevent and report this type of activity.
Campus sexual assault is a civil rights issue. Sexual assault denies students their right to live and learn in a safe educational environment – and it is a form of sex discrimination that is disproportionately perpetrated against women.
The Justice Department is committed to using all of the tools in our arsenal to combat sexual violence. Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibit sex discrimination in education programs—including sexual assault and harassment. The department's Office on Violence Against Women runs The Grants to Reduce Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking on Campus Program to encourage universities to adopt comprehensive and coordinated responses that ensure victim safety, offender accountability and prevention of these crimes.
These laws require universities to respond to complaints of sexual assault, to investigate where appropriate and to ensure that students are provided a prompt and impartial resolution to their claims. When universities fail to respond adequately to campus sexual assault, they engage in their own sex discrimination by forcing the affected students to attend school in a hostile sex-based environment.
Put simply, when a student enters a college campus, they have a right to live and learn in a safe and nurturing environment, regardless of their gender. The Justice Department and the Obama administration are committed to defending this right.
In fact, the Civil Rights Division's recent agreement with the University of Montana can serve as a model for campuses across the nation seeking to ensure that women's educational opportunities are not limited by sexual harassment or sexual assault.
Last year, the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Montana completed a series of investigations stemming from allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment at the University of Montana and in the greater Missoula community. These investigations included a review of the university's policies for handling sexual assault complaints as well as an investigation of allegations that two local police forces were systematically failing to protect women victims of sexual assault.
In May 2013, working with the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, the division entered into a comprehensive agreement with the University of Montana to ensure that it responds swiftly and effectively to allegations of sexual assault and harassment by students. The division also entered into agreements with both police forces to achieve reforms to ensure that police services are delivered in a nondiscriminatory fashion, that sex crimes are investigated and that victims are treated fairly and with respect.
The Civil Rights Division is also a member of the president's “Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.” Created this year by President Obama, the task force works to increase transparency, enforcement, public awareness and interagency coordination to prevent sexual violence and support survivors.
Education is the great equalizer—it offers a lifeline to young men and women for whom a successful future is not predetermined. And for all students to have the opportunity to succeed, all students must feel safe and have confidence in schools' demonstrated commitment to protect them. For that reason, the Department of Justice will continue to vigorously enforce our nation's civil rights laws – to expand educational opportunities for women, to ensure that sex discrimination does not prevent students from achieving their goals and to foster safe and nurturing environments where every student has an equal chance to prosper. Thank you.
HSI arrests former El Paso music teacher on child pornography charges
The public is encouraged to contact HSI about possible additional victims related to this case
EL PASO, Texas — A former El Paso-area music teacher, who was employed by various local schools since 1995, remains in federal custody following his arrest earlier this month for allegedly possessing child pornography.
This case is being investigated by U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Albert Buck Hibbert, 43, was arrested April 3 after he gave consent to HSI special agents to search his home and personal computers. A forensic preview of his laptop computer revealed images of children between 3 and 10 years old being sexually exploited.
HSI special agents are asking for the public's help to identify any possible additional victims related to this investigation.
Hibbert worked for the El Paso Independent School District between 1995 and 2007 at Austin and Burges high schools. From 2007 to 2008, he taught in the Ysleta Independent School District at Eastwood High School, and for the Ruidoso Municipal Schools at Sierra Vista Primary and White Mountain Elementary between 2009 and 2010. Most recently, between 2010 and 2012, Hibbert taught at El Paso Academy East. He is currently unemployed.
According to court documents, Hibbert admitted he was attracted to 8- to 16-year-old girls, and that he searched for pictures of them in their underwear and swimsuits.
Hibbert is charged with possessing child pornography. He waived a preliminary and detention hearing set for April 17; he remains in federal custody awaiting trial.
"HSI special agents have ongoing efforts to identify and arrest individuals who use their positions of trust to perpetrate crimes against innocent children," said Dennis A. Ulrich, special agent in charge of HSI El Paso. "We urge members of the public to contact us if they have any information related to the sexual exploitation of children, for this or any case."
Call the HSI El Paso Victim Assistance phone line at (915) 231-3364, or (toll free) 1-855-542-0952.
This investigation was conducted under HSI's Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 10,000 individuals for crimes against children, including producing and distributing online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking children. In fiscal year 2013, HSI agents arrested more than 2,000 individuals under this initiative.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.
For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI's Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page.
HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.
Push on for enhanced services for male survivors of abuse
by Jim Day
Imagine a sign, hanging prominently outside a building in Charlottetown, calling out clearly to men who had been sexually abused as children or sexually assaulted as adults.
Rick Goodwin not only envisions such a beacon, he is actively promoting the concept here and Canada-wide.
Goodwin is a registered social worker behind a national initiative called 1in6 Canada — a comprehensive, two-day training program designed to enhance effective engagement with men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences in childhood.
He spoke with The Guardian after providing the training conference in Charlottetown last week to almost 100 local service providers, a group including healthcare professionals, counselors, justice workers and Victim Services workers.
Goodwin stresses the need to contour programming to serve men, and then shout it's availability from the rooftops. Men in need of help need to know that services exist for them, and for them specifically.
Goodwin sees the need for a shingle that conveys a welcoming place for men where they can receive the best service, treatment or other assistance needed to get through such a heavy, at times crippling, life issue.
“Until we do that, it will be difficult for men to come out of the woodwork,'' says Goodwin, who co-authored in 2009 the guidebook Men and Healing: Theory, Research and Practice with Male Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse.
Many men, for many reasons, do not reach out for help.
A concerted effort is being made to change this culture of silent shame on Prince Edward Island.
Sigrid Rolfe, organizational coordinator of the P.E.I. Rape and Sexual Assault Centre, says a timely research project called Enhancing Services for Male Survivors of Sexual Trauma on P.E.I. was launched in October 2012 with funding from the Department of Justice Canada.
“I think there was just a growing awareness and acknowledgement of the fact that there's a lot of men out there needlessly suffering,'' says Rolfe. “We needed to understand this more and find ways to better engage men.''
So input was sought from male survivors of sexual assault/abuse through a survey conducted in May 2013. Thirty-eight male survivors completed the survey, a much stronger participation than Rolfe anticipated.
Respondents listed among the barriers and challenges for male survivors to access services and supports on P.E.I. as embarrassment, shame, fear and stigma.
“Well we know there's incredible shame with the experience of abuse and shame as emotion results in hiding essentially,'' says Goodwin. “So there are a lot of very valid reasons why men will continue to hide this issue from those who love them.''
Respondents also cited a lack of awareness of what services and supports are available as well as a lack of male specific services as keeping them from seeking help. Some shared additional thoughts on services and supports they would like to see on P.E.I., including peer support groups and more outreach services.
Some of what the male survivors say is lacking, however, is readily available, says Rolfe.
For instance, Victim Services can assist male survivors in pursuing legal action against their abuser.
Rolfe says only about one in 15 clients at the P.E.I. Rape and Sexual Assault Centre is male. She encourages men to reach out to the centre. There is no waiting list.
Call 368-8055 to receive help through the centre or to be directed to the most appropriate resource, such as Community Mental Health, Catholic Family Services or Victim Services. Callers will be asked to leave contact information but the call will be promptly returned.
“I want to see everyone healthy: men or women,'' says Rolfe. “It's not a gender thing. Because if we're not all healthy, we all pay the price.''
Goodwin says many, many men are in need of help. He estimates more than three million Canadian males have been victims of abuse, thus the name 1in6 Canada for the program he serves as national manager.
“That's a big number for sure,'' he says. “And you think of the social problems that untreated trauma causes: family break-up, family violence, addiction.''
Goodwin wants victims that are hesitant to seek help to realize that trauma recovery works, but not without time, effort and plenty of pain.
“Good therapy can diminish much, if not all, of the distressing elements that's connected to the past abuse,'' says Goodwin. “But it is an experience of going through hell. You have to go through hell to find recovery.''
A workshop presented last fall presented the findings from the male survivor survey as well as the service provider survey conducted in the first two months of 2013. Rolfe says three areas emerged as requiring attention and action:
— A need to raise awareness about the realities of male victimization in order to break down barriers and reduce stigma and shame for men.
— A need to provide training for service providers to become better informed about male victimization.
— A need to develop direct therapeutic services for men in a safe and male friendly environment.
Time - and the ability to tap into funding - will tell how well these areas are addressed, suggests Rolfe.
Mike Avery, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, lauds the efforts of the P.E.I. Rape and Sexual Assault Centre. However, he wants to see more concrete action.
“We're (heading) in the right direction,'' says Avery, who sits on the Provincial Child Sexual Abuse Advisory Committee.
“We just need to do more ... victims need help today, not tomorrow or the next day.''
Trafficked children need help, not more trauma
by Barbara J. Guthrie
Connecticut is incarcerating a 16-year-old accused of no crime in an adult prison. This child is a survivor of commercial sex trafficking, one of many horrific experiences she has endured in her short life. Rather than helping her recover from these traumas, the state is reinforcing them through placement in a highly unsafe environment.
I had the privilege of working with some of the best minds in the country from many fields to write the Institute of Medicine's report, Confronting Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking of Minors in the United States. Much of what we discovered is relevant to the case of Jane Doe, the child who spends most of her days alone in a mental health unit at the York Correctional Institution.
Jane's life includes many of the risk factors for this kind of exploitation: a history of abuse; homelessness; running away; being LGBT; being a child of color; and a history of involvement with juvenile justice and child welfare systems. As with most children who are sold for sex, Jane was failed by the adults in her life, including the Department of Children and Families, long before she was abused and exploited by pimps.
One of the strongest conclusions of the IOM report was that victims should not be criminalized. While the adults who profit from and participate in the child sex trade are rarely sent to prison, it is sadly not uncommon for their victims to be locked up. Some states mistakenly believe that incarceration is the best way to keep these vulnerable children safe, an outrageous claim that no one would ever make about adult victims of sexual violence. Why do we stand for it when the victims are children?
Jane Doe, it should be noted, is not in prison because of charges that she engaged in sex for money. She is locked up because DCF claims that she's been violent in other placements. Again, there are no pending charges against her. But DCF has labeled her as “assaultive.”
It is not unusual for traumatized people to have an exaggerated fight or flight response. That may well be the case with Jane Doe. Helping traumatized children is central to DCF's mission. If the only thing that the state can offer a child having a perfectly predictable response to trauma is a jail cell, we have a problem that goes far beyond this one case – egregious as that case is.
An adult prison is an unsafe place for a child. In adult prisons, inmates under 18 are 36 times more likely to commit suicide than adults. They are also highly vulnerable to various forms of violence including sexual assault, which is why the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act bans the mixing of child and adult prisoners.
We know that solitary confinement rapidly causes extreme distress from which many prisoners never recover. This is why the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and the United Nations oppose the use of solitary confinement for children. Jane Doe may not be technically in solitary confinement; however, she reports being alone 22-23 hours per day. This puts her at extreme risk of harm.
Instead of further traumatizing Jane Doe, the state should be helping her with a full continuum of services that address her physical and mental health, her education and preparation for independent living. No state is adequately responding to trafficked minors. These services are woefully lacking in Connecticut.
Much has been made of Jane Doe's status as a transgender youth. Her gender identity should not cut her off from services. As I said, LGBT youth are at high risk of being sexually exploited. Indeed, they are at high risk for involvement with the child welfare system generally. DCF should be well equipped to serve them.
Finally, Jane Doe is being spoken of as an exceptional case. In fact, she is a rather perfect fit for the profile of a trafficked kid. If the state refuses to help Jane Doe, I shudder to think how many young people like her are also being abandoned. The single biggest barrier to fighting the sex trafficking of children is that we refuse to see it. It is an overlooked, misunderstood and unaddressed form of child abuse.
It is high time we opened our eyes and resolved to do better – for all the Jane Does.
Barbara J. Guthrie, PhD, RN, FAAN, is Independence Foundation Professor of Nursing at the Yale School of Nursing.
Sex offenders, faith communities, and four common exploitations
by Boz Tchividjian
Child molesters are very professional at what they do and they do a good
job at it. - convicted sex offender
One of the many things I have learned in the past 20 years about sex offenders is that they access and target children in a multitude of despicable ways. I have also learned that many offenders within faith communities often use similar methods to perpetrate and silence abuse. These methods focus on the exploitation of common characteristics of faith communities.
One horror is that many abuse survivors have suffered from such exploitations. Another horror is that most people of faith are completely oblivious to these destructive and deceitful methods. Knowledge and understanding of these common exploitations is the first step in protecting our communities from predators who walk in and destroy lives right underneath our noses.
Exploitation of Faith Terms
Experienced abusers know how to effectively distort and twist faith language in order to validate abuse and to keep victims silent. Let's examine how offenders exploit a faith term such as “sin”. Offenders will often define sin to younger victims in order to justify. For example, they will tell the child that the abuse is not sinful, but is “The expression of God ordained love”. When an adult in the church tells a child that abuse is not “sinful”, the confused child is less likely to resist or report the criminal behavior. As the child gets older and perhaps begins to openly question or resist the ongoing abuse, an experienced offender will attempt to redefine “sin” in a manner that shames the child into silence, such as “You should be ashamed of your sin”. An abuse survivor once told my friend that her abuser kept her silent and submissive by repeatedly telling her, “Because of your sin, God doesn't care about you, but I do.”
I recently came across a letter written by a pastor (who now sits in prison) to his 17-year-old victim, which chillingly illustrates this exploitation. He writes,
This week, I tried to climb into your heart and write the graffiti of the Gospel on the walls. I wanted to spray paint in Neon colors that you are Priceless + Precious + are “off the charts” important – yes – to me personally -but especially to OUR Savior Jesus Christ. I'm reading my Bible now to draw a little closer to God – even if it's a millimeter closer – because if we both get a little closer to Him, we also get closer + stronger + deeper w/ each other.
The spiritual impact that such exploitation has upon a child is devastatingly complex and oftentimes, lifelong. Perhaps the greatest damage is that many abuse survivors spend a lifetime attempting to disassociate these distorted biblical truths from their experience. Abuse survivor Christa Brown put this tragic truth best in responding to a friend who attempted to encourage her by telling her to trust God,
It is as though you are telling me that I should pick up that very same sword that was once used to eviscerate me and should fall on it all over again. I can't do that. My love of God, my faith, my own extraordinary desire to live the will of God…those are the very parts of me that were transformed into weapons that savaged and destroyed me.
Not surprisingly, many survivors want nothing to do with anything related to faith.
Exploitation of Authority
Abusers in faith communities know that from the earliest of ages, children are taught to “respect and obey” those in authority. This propels these offenders to actively work themselves into leadership positions in churches and other faith based organizations. Once authority is grasped, it is immediately exploited to the point that their power and control is justified as being sanctioned by God. The resulting culture is one in which abuse is shrouded in silence and seldom questioned. In her book, This Little Light, Christa Brown recounts how her youth pastor exploited his authority in order to gain her submission. She writes,
Eddie [pastor] always said that God had chosen me for something special. I guess I really wanted to believe that. Doesn't every kid want to think they're special? Besides, who was I to question a man of God? It wasn't my place. My role was to be submissive.
Exploitation of Needs
How many churches can you think of that are not in need of volunteers to help out with children and young people? (i.e., nursery, youth group, vacation bible school, etc.). Many offenders are well aware of these ongoing needs and will go to great lengths to exploit needs for the purpose of accessing and hurting children. In a highly publicized case, Father Lawrence Murphy filled a teaching need at St. John's School for the deaf where he sexually abused as many as 200 deaf or hard of hearing boys. A twenty year old volunteer in a church program for children with special needs was recently charged with sexually abusing two young boys in the program. A church volunteer in West Virginia was recently charged with abusing at least 12 children while filling a church need. These heartbreaking reports are endless. The common thread of each is an offender exploiting a need in order to abuse.
Exploitation of Trust
I consider church people easy to fool…they have a trust that comes from being Christians. They tend to be better folks all around and seem to want to believe in the good that exists in people. I think they want to believe in people. Because of that, you can easily convince, with or without convincing words. – convicted child molester
Faith communities usually foster a very trusting environment. For a variety of reasons, we naively tend to automatically lower our guard when we are amongst professing Christians. This same naiveté is why offenders flock to the faith community. There is no other environment that I know of where children can be accessed so quickly by so many with little or no concern from others.
Years ago, our family moved to a new city and engaged in the “fun” process of searching for a new church home. At that time, our eldest child was an infant, and at each visiting church she was dropped off at the church nursery. Yes, I entrusted my child into the care of a complete stranger at a strange new place. Could you imagine walking into Wal-Mart and handing your child into the care of the greeter while you shopped? Though I don't think I would be so careless today, the reason I did not think much about it then was that I immediately trusted these strangers because they were part of a church “family”. Christians all too often mistake familiarity with trust. However, it is common knowledge that most children are not sexually victimized by strangers. In fact, one study found that only 10 percent of child molesters victimize children that they do not know.
I recently read a news story about two boys sexually abused by their pastor. The grandmother of one boy stated that she allowed him to move in with the pastor because she thought he “would safe with him”. What she didn't know was that her trust had been exploited by a sex offender who had found a profession that gave him unfettered access to abuse children. It is time that the Christian community come to terms with the heartbreaking reality that those who pose the greatest risk to our children are within our families, churches, and circle of friends.
Understanding the methods of predators is not something anyone wants to think about let alone study. However, such willful ignorance is what has allowed these criminals to infiltrate our communities and destroy the lives of untold numbers of children.
Don't you think it's time that each of us step forward and do what we can to expose these exploitations and protect our precious children?
“Boz” Tchividjian is a former child abuse chief prosecutor and is the founder and executive director of GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment). Boz is also an Associate Professor of Law at Liberty University School of Law, and is a published author who speaks and writes extensively on issues related to abuse within the faith community. He is the 3rd-eldest grandchild of the Rev. Billy Graham.
Kehla Backman's family escaped the clutches of fugitive The River Road Fellowship leader Victor Barnard
(Video on site)
I THOUGHT I'd never see my cult leader again.
And then a month ago, he showed up on my bedroom television. His name is Victor Barnard, and he was on the local news because two women in Pine County, Minnesota, near where I grew up as a member of his Fellowship church, had accused him of sexual abuse.
He had allegedly chosen a group of adolescent girls — the daughters of church members — to live alone in the church headquarters, where he sexually abused them with their parents' permission. The women said he dressed like Jesus and called them “maidens.”
He'd been accused before of sleeping with his married female followers, but this was the first time his child sexual abuse was being spotlighted. An investigation was open against him, but nothing had gone forward.
But the news report brought survivors out of the woodwork. Follow-up stories were aired, and Victor Barnard was, last week, officially charged with 59 counts of sexual misconduct. He's now on the run from authorities — maybe being smuggled between the homes of his remaining followers.
I never had a sliver of hope that he would be brought to justice and made to answer for the horrific things he's done to those girls, it's hard to even now, it just seems too good to be true.
My family joined the Fellowship when I was five, in 1985. My mum lost my little brother in childbirth and our preacher at the time told her it was because God was testing her. That hurt my mother, who didn't want to believe in a God that would do such a thing. We switched churches, and got involved with a small Christian group that we called “Twig” or “the Fellowship.” Twig was an offshoot of The Way Ministries, another Christian sect.
Twig was different enough for my mother. It preached love, not vengeance and pain and, at least initially, it was warm and collegial. We became fast friends with another family, the Cheshires — my mother with Jean Cheshire and me with her daughter Jessica, who was a year younger than me.
We'd have Fellowship on Sundays at a mix of different leaders' houses. It seemed like anybody who wanted to host and lead Fellowship could.
That was before Victor came along.
I actually know very little about Victor's background. I was so young when we got involved with Twig; it was mostly just my parent's friends who led Fellowship at their houses around Minneapolis. There were little pockets of us all over Minnesota, and eventually we all started to get together in the summer for picnics.
That's when we first met Victor, and a few other families that seemed to be very closely tied to the Barnards. The picnics soon turned into weekend getaways every summer where everyone would show up, all of it organised by Victor.
When I was 10, the Cheshires moved north of Minneapolis to a tiny town outside of Mora, and my family followed. We were very close, having attended the same Fellowship exclusively for several years now; we rented the house right next to their double wide mobile home on the same plot of grass.
A couple years later, in 1992, Victor moved up north too, to a neighbouring rural area called Rush City. Another family the Barnards were close to, the Roarks, soon followed him and built a house on the same plot of land. Not long after that we all began to attend Fellowship at their compound, always in Victor's house and eventually led by Victor only.
Sunday Fellowship became restricted to just the Barnards' house. A slew of other new restrictions arose. We were no longer allowed to have friends outside of the Fellowship — unless we were trying to show them The Light, The Word and The Way. Victor required approval of what we were able to watch and listen to.
At first it was just small silly things. We weren't allowed to say something was “awesome,” because only God is awesome. Then my sister had to cut the horns off of her My Little Pony unicorns because it was a mythical creature and therefore “devilish.” We also could no longer watch the movie Ghost , which wasn't a huge blow, honestly.
Essentially everyone was a mole, even our closest friends. If a friend from Fellowship told her parents that she watched something “bad” at my house, Victor would find out.
Victor's rise to power was gradual and methodical, starting at those group picnics and continuing long-distance even before he moved to Rush City. That's the thing about cults, and about predators. There's a slow but constant grooming. You don't really realise how drastically things have changed, so it feels normal. And all the while you're being reassured that what you believe in — what you've devoted your life to — is real and right.
The more you commit to it the more Jesus loves you. The more Victor loves you. Victor became just as much of a focus as God and Jesus. After a while there wasn't a prayer that went by without the speaker thanking God for Victor before they said “amen.”
Every Sunday the “horn of plenty” was passed around. It was nothing more than a wicker trinket from Pier One, meant for decorative purposes, but everyone stuffed 10 per cent or more of their earnings — in cash — inside to fund The River Road Fellowship. I even put in part of my babysitting money.
Victor asked that our parents have us enrolled in the school system in Rush City, where he lived. I was tormented daily by the girls in my grade. Victor made me stay — because, he said, I needed to turn the other cheek and show them Jesus' love and forgiveness. I developed a horrible case of insomnia. My hair started falling out.
At this point Fellowship had become incredibly strict; my mother had been personally reprimanded by Victor for letting us watch Fantasia because it portrayed magic which is a tool of the devil. While I was being forced to go to Rush City school by Victor in that same year it was also “suggested” that I watch a movie called The Buttercream Gang , over and over until I got it.
The Buttercream Gang is about a friendship between two kids, Pete and Scott. Pete goes off the Chicago and comes back “bad,” stealing Scott's bike and selling it. Scott turns the other cheek. Pete sees the error of his ways and changes.
I am here to tell you as Victor's guinea pig that the turn-the-other-cheek sh*t does not work on eighth-grade girls in a small town. In fact, my Jesus-like approach only fuelled their fire. And I was terrified of these girls because I wasn't allowed to retaliate. I was a straight-A student, and I faked illnesses and failed classes until my mum pulled me out.
Many years later, I was passing by Rush City on my way back to Minneapolis and I was starving so I stopped at the freeway-side gas station combination Burger King. I cannot express in human words how satisfying it was to hand my worst bully cash as she passed me a Whopper Jr. and fries. She didn't recognise me. I guess some of us make it out and some of us don't. I'm not a religious person but maybe sometimes you really do reap what you sow.
Eventually, my best friend Jessica and I were allowed to go to the adults-only leadership weekend retreat at Craguns, a resort in Brainard, Minn. At the start of the retreat, Victor announced that Jessica and I would be speaking in tongues in front of everyone on the final day. This was news to us. We were terrified.
We had watched the adults do it every Sunday, but none of the kids had ever been asked to do it ourselves. For the rest of the weekend we tried to slip away when we could into an empty cabin and practice our shubba-lubba gibberish so it would sound authentic.
After the shubba-lubba-ing we knew we'd have to interpret the gibberish as if God were speaking directly through us. We tried to come up with anything that sounded like it came from the bible: “I sayeth unto you, my children, I am the Father, and I hath given you my son to be your Lord and Saviour, in his love and light you shall never be lost.”
We dreaded it the entire weekend. When it came time to stand up I was terrified, and convinced that everyone would know instantly I was faking it. But the practising paid off. I made it through, when I was finished my father was so proud of me he started crying. I've never felt like such a fraud in my life.
When Jessica was 13 she told her mother that her stepfather Dirk, who was also a Fellowship leader, had been sexually abusing her. Jean left him immediately. Dirk was charged and convicted with criminal sexual conduct, and when the case was brought to a sentencing hearing in Pine City, Victor showed up to testify on Dirk's behalf, and told Jessica that she needed to forgive Dirk because it's what Jesus would do. Dirk was sentenced to four months in jail, with work release. Last I heard, he'd moved to Kentucky and got a job selling used cars.
Things started unravelling from there. Victor told Jean that she needed to get rid of Jessica, and that Jessica should go live with her father in California because she was a bad influence. This was the final straw for Jean. There was no way anyone was going to tell them they had to abandon their children, not even the all powerful Victor Barnard.
So we all left. On New Year's Eve 1994, my mother was thinking about everything that our family had gone through in the past year when, as she puts it, “God struck me on the head with a hammer”: Victor and The River Road Fellowship were wrong. We stopped attending Fellowship immediately, without warning or explanation.
A few weeks later my mother received a phone call from Victor asking why we hadn't attended. She told him God told her she needed to focus on her family; he retorted, “What about my family?” Another congregant, sent by Victor no doubt, came to the house and told my parents that if they didn't come back they would die like Ananias and Sapphira — the biblical couple who held back on the profit of the sale of their land and were struck dead for lying to the church. This was their plea to come back. How will the Barnards survive without the tithe we gave every Sunday?
After the biblical threat came a nasty letter from Victor's mother, accusing my parents of abandoning her son and his family and the Fellowship. When we still refused to return, Victor himself showed up at our doorstep. My parents let him into the kitchen and told us to go downstairs. The three of them sat at the table, and Victor demanded to know why we'd left the Fellowship.
My mother was terrified, but her strength outmatched her fear. She told him he'd have to answer to God for what he was doing — but he and my family were done with one another. He berated my parents more, and told my dad he wasn't a good father because he travelled for his job and wasn't around. But his threats didn't persuade my parents, and eventually he left.
Shortly after that we moved from rural Minnesota back into Minneapolis. We'd lost our friends, our community, our faith. I was 15. My mother was terrified that he'd keep coming after us, stalking and threatening. He probably would have if they didn't think we'd moved out of state. It took my mother several years to even feel safe. We hadn't gone far, and it's a small world even when you're not an ex-member of a cult.
Nobody had left, as far as I can remember, not before us. There were pockets of believers all over the state but the ones closest to Victor, the ones who could be controlled wouldn't even consider it. We were all so tightly knit and secluded in our Christianity, our beliefs.
That's how he could threaten and deliver on us losing everything if we left; all the people we'd ever known would stop speaking to us, on his command. If people left after that it was only because he became even more controlling.
By 2000, Victor was living in a separate compound with his 10 maidens.
Jessica tried to keep tabs on him over the internet. She tracked him through forums started by jilted husbands who Victor had weeded out by sleeping with their wives, and she learned that they'd sold the Rush City houses and moved to a campground in Finlayson. The forums talked about those “maidens,” daughters Victor was taking for himself, and we wondered how many of them were girls we knew and grew up with — the only friends we had at one point.
I don't know if Victor was already abusing children during the time we were involved in the Fellowship. I know that my sisters and I were never groomed or physically abused, but Jessica was molested by her stepfather, a prominent Fellowship leader on whose behalf Victor felt the need to testify in court, against a 13-year-old girl.
The warrant says Victor just stood up one day and announced 10 firstborn girls he'd be taking to his private camp. Being the firstborn daughter in my family I can't help but think that if we hadn't left when we did my name would have been on that list. So what do I think when I look back? That our parents saved us from unimaginable hell.
Through Jessica's relentless sleuthing we found out that the reason they sold the campground in Finlayson and moved to Washington state was because those jilted husbands had gone to the Finlayson/Sandstone sheriff back in the early 2000s to complain about Victor and the cult. The consensus seemed to be that the sheriff couldn't do anything about what these women were willingly submitting to, but he did warn Victor that he knew what Victor was up to, and shortly after that the Fellowship moved out of state.
I am in total shock that he has a nationwide warrant out for his arrest. In all of my wildest dreams and fantasies (of which I've had many) I never imagined it would happen like this. He's a monster with a tremendous amount of charisma and power.
But what I personally went through is nothing — nothing — compared to the horrors these girls had to endure. I had parents that saved me from it; they had parents who served them up to it. It's unimaginable, incomprehensible. But it's the power Victor wielded.
Royal Commission to hear boys as young as five were abused for decades at Christian Brothers homes
by EMILY MOULTON
BOYS as young as five were raped, tortured and emotionally abused for decades at four Christian Brother's homes in WA, a national inquiry into child sex abuse will hear on Monday.
And many of those children were sent to Australia from the UK and Malta after the war for what was supposed to be a better life.
Janette Dines, chief executive of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse, revealed the harrowing details ahead of the first WA public hearing which will start on Monday.
She said the commission would this week be looking specifically into the experiences of those former residents who were sent to Castledare, Clontarf, Bindoon and Tardun orphanages from the late 1940s up until the 1960s.
“Some of these men were sent to the residences as child migrants from the UK and Malta, while others were wards of the state,” she said.
“Tragically, some of the boys experienced abuse from as young as five years old and that abuse continued throughout their residency.”
The details come after it emerged the Catholic order knew of the widespread abuse in WA for decades but covered it up.
A secret report, which has never been made public in full, was prepared for bosses in Rome during the 1990s and contains evidence of correspondence between Brother PA Conlon, the principal of the order in WA during the 1940s, and another brother about the possibility of “scandals”.
It also contains notes written by Brother Conlon where he says there was a need to hide the complaints from “outsiders” so they “do not become aware” of the abuse.
Ms Dines told The Sunday Times since commission began, it had received more than 700 calls from people in WA want to share their experiences. As a result it had held more than 161 private sessions - and there were plans for several more.
She said the commission was also looking at other institutions, with another hearing scheduled for next month.
So far around 170 WA institutions have been reported to the commission.
It is understood 12 former residents are expected to share their stories to the commission this week.
Former brothers, members of the Catholic Church's hierarchy as well as state representatives are also expected to be called to give evidence throughout the inquiry.
Adults Surviving Child Abuse president Cathy Kezelman said she hoped this week's hearing would not only serve to bring justice to victims but also hold the Catholic Church and successive WA governments to account.
Norman Johnston, who was sent to Clontarf from the UK when he was just eight, said survivors have been waiting all their lives for the truth to be made public.
“We hope this royal commission goes a long way to getting the answers for how we were allowed to be treated so cruelly in Australia but the truth about how we got here is also essential,” he said.
Mr Johnston also said survivors wanted the UK Government to set up a judicial inquiry to explain why children “were taken from their beds and trafficked to Australia”.
Around 25 survivors and their families are expected to hold a vigil outside the hearing this week.
Advocates seek a world without sexual violence
by Kathy Ursprung
Hands go up quickly as Taylor Rosenthal and Victor Mondragon, the HAVEN prevention team, start talking about the Relationship Bill of Rights.
These Dufur middle schoolers are defining and agreeing on the articles of their own group bill of rights.
The brainstorming session touches on a variety of rights: to feel safe, to be silent and listen, to have help when they need it, to be respected. But those rights come with responsibilities and Rosenthal asks them to name those, too. Among them: the responsibility to treat others with the same respect you expect.
“It's a two-way street,” Rosenthal said.
The items that go on their four lists of rights — social, emotional, physical and at school — don't touch much on sexual issues other than the right not to be touched inappropriately, but the ultimate aim of these classes is to teach young people ways to avoid becoming victims — or perpetrators — of sexual violence.
“The goal is to prevent sexual violence and teen dating violence,” Rosenthal explained during an interview. In the classroom, that means encouraging healthier behaviors using the CERTS formula: consent, equality, respect, trust and safety.
The classes are available in Dufur (they're also taught at North Wasco County middle and high schools) thanks to federal Rape Prevention Education funding channeled through the state Sexual Assault Task Force. The funding was provided for through the federal Violence Against Women Act.
“I think it's making positive changes,” said Nancy Greenman, who represents the grantor and is observing for the day. “They're talking about healthy relationships. That's perfect.”
“Teaching consent starts at birth — really,” said Tara Koch, executive director of HAVEN. “How parents, adults and siblings approach consent and respond to ‘asking' is critical in understanding yes and no.”
She uses the example of a father tickling or wrestling with his child and continuing to do so even after she or he says stop.
“This assumption is the word ‘no' has no power,” Koch said. “These examples are typical messages that are given in the family dynamics or family systems that continue to cycle through one's childhood.”
And where sexual violence is concerned, they can lead to challenges for children and adults in being able to adequately express their wishes, whether yes or no.
The prevention team sessions are also designed as a safe place where young people find out how to get help if they need it. They often bring what they call a “voice box” that allows students to submit questions or concerns in writing that they wouldn't want to ask in class. Sometimes students find the links between what they learn in class and what's going on in their lives.
“Once my boyfriend of nine months broke up with me because I was molested at a party and I confided in him about it,” wrote a student in one of the classes.
“I used to blame myself,” wrote another. “I was in an abusive relationship with one of my former friends. I always thought I was doing something wrong.”
“How do you help someone who doesn't want to be helped?”
Sometimes the students explore how they can put the classroom teachings to work.
“Defend the person who is being blamed.”
Asked what is most important in the CERTS model of behavior, one student wrote, “Consent. Without it, the others aren't possible in a relationship.”
It isn't always physical
What is sexual violence? Many people equate it with rape or similar sexual assault, but the term has broader meaning.
“Sexual violence is any sexual contact that is manipulated, coerced, forced, unwanted or not consensual,” said Gwen Paulson, a sexual assault and rural advocate for HAVEN, in a group discussion with HAVEN advocates.
“It's language and questions — the language you use and the names you call,” Rosenthal added.
“It's when someone is verbally saying something, even if they're talking about how hot you look and what you're wearing,” said Anna Williams. “Sexual violence is defined by the understanding of the victim. It doesn't really matter whether the intent was to hurt or scare.”
In other words, sexual violence happens when someone feels violated in sexual ways, both physical and not physical.
“Sexual violence is very broad and not all of it is arrestable,” Koch said.
Sometimes sexual violence is about pressure.
“Submitting to sex is not consent,” said Oregon State Police Det. Lori Rosebraugh, a member of the Sexual Assault Response Team in another interview. “Merely being worn down by having somebody beg and make you feel guilty enough that eventually you say ‘fine, do whatever you're going to do,' is not consent.”
The CERTS model used in prevention classes, is also used at HAVEN with adults who may have trouble understanding and exercising their rights within a relationship.
“It's also about sharing space,” Rosenthal said. “Consent isn't just about the physical.”
“We grow up in a culture where kids say awful things as a gender norm,” said Mondragon. They question each other's sexuality through name-calling and other means, another form of sexual violence, and Mondragon and Rosenthal also work to teach students how to respond as “upstanders” not bystanders. “You can call them out and say, ‘what you said isn't OK.'”
The aim is to teach healthy behaviors in a world where the opposite is often glorified in what some describe as “rape culture.”
“What that really means is a culture in society that creates an expectation that sexual violence is normal,” Williams explained.
The “Twilight” movies, particularly popular with adolescents, are an example of that, where stalking and aggressive physical behavior are glorified.
“It's a culture where ‘no' really means ‘yes', and the images are of aggressive physical desire,” Paulson added.
Many sexual violence prevention approaches focus on reducing risk factors and promoting protective factors, Koch noted, like wearing “appropriate” clothing, avoiding risky places or situations and learning self-defense techniques.
Those kinds of techniques put all the burden of preventing sexual violence on the potential victim.
“People who do ‘everything right' still get raped or sexually assaulted,” Koch said.
“You don't ask an 8-year-old what she was wearing to provoke her dad or brother,” Rosenthal added.
Instead, the prevention focus through HAVEN is on the root causes of sexual violence, in particular the imbalance of power between victim and perpetrator.
In classrooms, Rosenthal and Mondragon do an activity called “gender boxes” where students describe the attributes often expected of men and women. Soon, the differences become clear as words like “quiet” and “polite” and “act like a lady” for women are contrasted with “doesn't cry” and “strong” and “tough.”
Culture can also affect the gender roles, noted Mondragon, who is of Latino descent.
“One of the things with our culture that is very ingrained with families is that they tell [boys] not to share their feelings,” he said.
An even starker comparison can be seen in prevention classrooms when students talk about how they prepare to prevent sexual violence. The girls' rattle off the many “don'ts” designed to protect them from assault, while the boys often have a puzzled expression on their faces. They simply aren't taught that sexual violence could happen to them and aren't expected to modify their behavior to avoid blame if it does happen.
While advocates are working to create a world where consent — or the lack of it — are both respected and complied with decisions, sexual assaults continue to happen.
And when they happen, one of the first faces survivors may see is someone like Laura Korb.
Korb is what's known as a SANE — a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner — for Mid-Columbia Medical Center, one of four the hospital employs.
“A SANE nurse has specialized training in a combination of studies,” Korb explained, “forensic nursing, crisis intervention and trauma, counseling and a bit of public health on things like STDs (sexually transmitted diseases), HIV and pregnancy prevention. We're like a variety of nurses all rolled into one.”
KORB took her training last November and is in the process of completing a lengthy certification process involving real-world experience under the mentorship of more experienced nurses. She hopes to be fully certified in May.
The nurses are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
In addition to a SANE nurse, a HAVEN representative is also called.
“We're allowing the survivor of assault to guide what happens in their case,” Korb said — that's one way they work to avoid creating the sense of further victimization. “Not everyone wants to prosecute their attacker, for a variety of reasons.” Some may not know what options are available, some may have reasons they choose not to seek prosecution.
“We provide them with choices and explain how the process works for each of those choices,” she said. “And the HAVEN advocate is there always to help them process. There are a lot of emotions and anxiety over what going to the police means to that person.”
Forensic collection — gathering evidence from the individual's body — is only done if it has been less than 84 hours since the assault.
“Preservation of possible DNA and evidence is a lot less likely after that time period,” Korb said. “But even after 84 hours, somebody can still come in and get pregnancy-prevention, HIV and other STD counseling. And we still deal with everything else, we just wouldn't collect evidence.”
Assuring that the survivor is in charge of the process can be challenging at times.
“You learn to read facial expressions and body language pretty quickly,” Korb said.
“Even if somebody is saying, yes, it's OK to do a general exam, you're looking at their body position. Are they closed in or keeping their legs closed? It helps to determine whether they are actually ready. We talk back and check in frequently on what we are doing.”
The goal is to minimize trauma, she said. HAVEN advocates are helpful at reading clues and speaking up for the patient.
“It's a unique moment in time that hopefully won't happen to a person again,” Korb said.
“I find it a huge privilege to be there for that person at that moment, and knowing that with what they're going through they may never remember me or my name or what happened that day, but if in the end they are met with resources and a positive experience with the health care system, I feel we can shed light into a very dark place.”
The information collected from the victim becomes part of the broader investigation, which locally usually involves Rosebraugh of the Oregon State Police.
For most of the last 14 years, Rosebraugh has investigated sexual assault and child abuse cases.
“I think we kind of go through time periods, depending on what's going on socially about how people feel about reporting sexual violence,” Rosebraugh said.
The nature of such crimes can also change.
“It's all moving toward technology,” she explained, “how people are meeting their victims and how they perpetrate their crimes. Eventually they meet up and have contact, but it's very anonymous, you don't know people and yet they form relationships, then they create or engineer an encounter.”
The local area doesn't see quite as much of that kind of encounter, Rosebraugh said. More common are events such as “kids that sext and trade images, then hold them against the other person and they feel threatened. We try to be understanding about not prosecuting kids making terrible decisions.” Sometimes, though, the problems become severe enough that prosecution is warranted.
When a case does come down to sexual assault or similar physical crimes, Rosebraugh is among the first people called.
“Generally, Jamie Carrico [The Dalles police detective] will call and say, ‘I've got a gal at the hospital who says this is what happened. Are you available?'”
Several people on the Sexual Assault Response Team, a legislatively mandated county team of experts on the subject, will review the initial statement about the assault and make assignments regarding evidence, interviews and other tasks.
“[A HAVEN] advocate is almost always there before we get there,” Rosebraugh said. A lot of things become obstacles, she noted.
“The percentage of it being a stranger is usually very low — it's usually somebody they know,” she said. “A lot of times the biggest obstacle is that person feeling like they can't make a report, or feeling guilty or afraid of repercussions or not supported.
“Younger victims get bullied a lot more. Teenagers tell a friend they're going to the [emergency room] and it goes like wildfire. People start texting other people, and you no longer have control of information. It's harder to have the element of surprise. That's a big problem.”
Most cases Rosebraugh gets called to have some kind of charges filed, she said. But the percentage of cases that actually go to court is much lower.
“Usually, there's some kind of resolution.”
Investigations can go on over a period of months, Rosebraugh said, especially if cell phone subpoenas are filed.
“Agencies all over the place submit subpoenas. It takes a really long time.”
One of the things Rosebraugh thinks is important for people to understand about sexual violence is that it's not all cut and dried.
“It's not always the suspect holding somebody down and forcing themselves on them, like we're trained to think rape would be,” she said. “A lot more times than not, the situation is very complicated. It involves emotions and a lot of times with kids, underdeveloped brains that make bad decisions.
“And it's important for people to know that, just because something happens to somebody, it doesn't mean they're going to start screaming or crying rape because, especially if they're in a relationship with that person, or have been in a relationship, there are feelings of attraction, guilt, they may want to help that person.”
Bringing a sexual assault case successfully through the court system presents a number of challenges and one of the biggest is educating jury members who have formed their opinions of the criminal justice system through fictionalized portrays, such as those on television programs like “CSI.”
“Unfortunately, the rules of evidence prohibit us from really using experts anymore to explain some of the concepts and statistics to jurors,” said Leslie Wolf, chief deputy district attorney for Wasco County.
“So you have to sort of do that in the jury selection. A lot of times, you're trying to find out what jurors expect as far as evidence in sexual assault.”
Often the evidence in a sexual assault may not include physical evidence. And crime scene investigators aren't going to find absolute proof of the crime.
“That's just not going to be the reality, nor is it practical in a lot of situations,” she said. “I'm reminding jurors that they can use their common sense.
“These crimes are done in secret. You're not going to have an eye witness. You have to just rely on the story of the victim against the story of the person charged with the crime.”
That means painting the best picture you can, Wolf said, and getting the victim ready to tell her, or his, story.
And when things don't go quite as planned, and the jury doesn't return a conviction, the prosecutor has the unenviable task of trying to explain to victims that, just because a suspect was not convicted at trial does not mean the jury doesn't find the victim believable.
“It just means the person was acquitted,” she said. “It's a difficult type of case. We let people know ahead of time that it's going to be a difficult situation and we help them through that. For these victims of sexual assault, they're survivors already. A trial is hard, but what they've gone through already is that much worse. They know that, and we just reinforce that with them. We can get through this together. We try to make sure we're making the best case we can from the beginning.”
In 2013, House Bills 2903, 3263 and 2779 were passed, which expanded leave time for victims and created the Sexual Abuse Protective Order to help victims achieve stable employment, steady income, and access to safety and justice, but Wolf said the justice part is a work in progress.
In court, in fact, defense attorney motions sometimes prevent prosecutors from even using the word “victim.”
“To me, it is contrary to the victim rights initiative. It does nothing to recognize those rights at all.
“There's definitely trauma that goes through these cases and revictimization at trial.” Wolf said a lot of myths prevail about sexual assault that simply are not true.
“It is a very, very common occurrence for people to be sexually assaulted and very, very common for victims of sexual assault not to come forward,” she said.
“It's very rare that people who have not committed crimes are found guilty and it's very rare that people are falsely accused of those crimes.”
Wolf, like other advocates, says the emphasis where sexual violence is concerned, needs to be on prevention so there's no need to bring cases like these to trial.
“We're trying to speak to schools and kids and let them know that it's not OK to be sexually assaulted,” she said. “You can come forward and the system can work for you. You need to report, otherwise it can continue to happen.”
Wolf said any member of the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) is available to listen and help.
“Often people don't know where to go,” she said. “They pick up the phone, but they don't know even if it's a sexual assault they've been through.”
Representatives of the District Attorney's Office, The Dalles Police, Wasco County Sheriff's office, Oregon State Police, Haven and the Department of Human Services can all help with those questions.
Advocacy and Aid
HAVEN advocates play a variety of roles in preventing sexual violence or responding to it when it happens. Not least of these roles involves educating legislators.
Koch served on the state legislative work group that worked with the legislature to pass, among other things, the Healthy Teen Relationships Act, which took effect in January 2013.
The act requires all schools to adopt policies and programs addressing teen dating violence.
Once the bill was passed, program manager Anna Williams worked to provide information for the act's “toolbox.”
“One of the key things that has happened in the last couple of biennia is that the state organization is a lot better organized in the capital,” said Rep. John Huffman, R-The Dalles.
Working with lobbyist Niki Terzieff, Koch and her counterparts around the state have visited the capital to educate members of the legislature through the Oregon Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence.
The changes have resulted in increased funding of domestic and sexual violence services, although funding is still only a fraction of what advocates say is needed.
HAVEN programs also work to help people who have experienced sexual violence. They are one part of the Sexual Assault Response Team, along with criminal justice, health and social services professionals who leap into action when a sexual assault is reported.
Gwen Paulson facilitates a support group for survivors of sexual assault every Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.
HAVEN members have also helped on the Warm Springs reservation where sexual assault — particularly assault by nontribal members — is much more prevalent than in the general population, Paulson said. Changes in the Violence Against Women Act are now allowing Warm Springs to serve as one of three national pilot programs for allowing tribes to prosecute nontribal offenders.
Mercedes Hill is a co-located health advocate who works in conjunction with North Wasco Central Public Health and the Oregon Department of Human Services to identify and help victims of sexual violence.
“Our goal is that we are helping to screen universally, rather than just screen women with a history of domestic violence, so no one is missed,” Hill explained. That way, the women who are identified can be given a better understanding of what health benefits are available to them.
The topics surrounding sexual violence can be complex and HAVEN can serve as a contact point for more information or help related to any of the topics discussed here. Call HAVEN at 541-296-1662, or find more information online at www.haventhedalles.org.
Child abuse an epidemic; here's what we need to do
We should be ashamed.
Lubbock County ranks as one of the worst places in Texas, with more than 1,300 reported cases of child abuse last year. That's outrageous and unconscionable.
We've decided enough is enough and want to do something about it, starting today, right now.
At A-J Media, the editorial board has decided to make Child Abuse Awareness a crusade on our Opinion pages. As Child Abuse Awareness month winds to a close, we want you to know we're committed to finding a solution. We call on the community to join us in the conversation.
No amount of prevention will keep evil people from abusing children in the South Plains. We've been among the worst, per capita, in the state for as long as anyone can remember. But we need to come together and hold ourselves accountable.
We have ideas on ways to bring awareness to the problem, and suggestions for Texas Tech, churches, schools, nonprofits and the Department of Family and Protective Services.
The heartbreaking stories of verbal, emotional and sexual abuse include instances of parents burning kids, cruelly pulling out their teeth and hurting them in fits of anger. They will continue to darken our region for years to come without intervention from those of us who can make a difference.
Child abuse lingers for many reasons. Social woes like job loss and divorce add to stress. Inadequate enforcement and lack of training lead the list of excuses. And it's not easy to tackle politically. Politicians in Austin can rally behind the cries from women on domestic violence and equal pay, but children remain nameless and faceless.
For this community, we must look in the mirror and ask: How much more can we take? We're smart enough collectively to win the fight.
We think it's reasonable for Texas Tech, the leading institution of higher learning in West Texas, to require undergraduates in teaching, pre-nursing, pre-med, pre-law, psychology and social work, to take a mandatory child-abuse class. We hope Lubbock Christian University and Wayland Baptist University will follow suit. Future professionals, who have legal reporting responsibilities, should not experience the horrors of child abuse for the first time on the job.
Dr. Jeffrey Wherry, who teaches the only Tech class on child abuse, Advanced Topics in Family Studies: Child Abuse, is the region's leading authority on child abuse. But he's leaving Tech in May for a research job in Dallas.
We would like to see Tech lead the region in identifying causes of child abuse and in finding solutions, just as it leads in areas of education, agriculture and engineering. Dr. Patti Patterson, vice president for Rural & Community Health at the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center, just became board certified in child abuse and might be the perfect person to lead the charge.
Yes, we know Tech is busy trying to gain tier-one status as a research university. That's an important project, a crowning achievement.
But here's another one for outgoing Chancellor Kent Hance or the incoming chancellor: How about using all of Tech's resources and joining the passionate staff at Covenant Hospitals in their annual summits on child abuse, with the aim of establishing a think tank and finding actionable solutions. We'd like to call it “Saving Lubbock's Children.”
We think it's reasonable for local schools to teach systematic parenting in curriculum, just as a piano teacher shows students how to play the instrument. Young parents need hands-on skills, demonstrated so they can copy them. They need practice and feedback.
Parenting in high schools must be done individually, especially with boys and girls who've stressfully married young or had a child out of wedlock. It's worth the investment in trained teachers, just as much as arts and physical education teachers.
We know the church community embraces children. Baptists founded Buckner Children & Family Services, and the Church of Christ funded the Children's Home of Lubbock and the Texas Boys Ranch.
There seemingly are more churches in the region than the 1,300 children who were abused in 2013. We'd like to see them come together on child abuse. Use the pulpit to send consistent messages and encourage foster care. Allow experts to have access to congregations at churches through workshops and positive parenting reinforcement after school and on weekends.
We know nonprofits have an overwhelming burden. Several agencies have sounded the alarm and have been stalwarts in fighting child abuse. They include South Plains Coalition for Child Abuse Prevention, Job Corps, Experience Life, Communities in Schools, STARCARE Specialty Health Systems, Voices of Hope and BCFS Health and Human Services. We call on them to not duplicate services. They should double efforts to steer clients to the best programs.
On the state level, we hope Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, and Rep. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, will push for solutions, even though they're more known for their fiscal expertise than passion for social causes. Win legislative support to fund local programs aimed at child abuse prevention.
Meanwhile, the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) and Texas' Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) have unenviable tasks. DFPS investigates every alleged sex crime and many physical abuse cases. Texas CASA advocates for children in the courtroom.
At a minimum, DFPS is overwhelmed. We suggest it seek federal funds for a pilot program to see if separating into two parts, one for investigation and one for safety, would be more effective. Put two caseworkers on each case: One who determines if it's unsafe for a child in a home, another to decide when it's safe to return.
In deciding to tackle child abuse as a crusade, we found no easy solution. But we're tired of being No. 1 on Texas' child abuse list.
It's sickening when children have been abandoned by their parents, deprived of food or medical care or beaten senseless. Imagine how the children feel and the misery they endure.
It stops with us as a community, taking a stand to raise awareness and rallying a region to fight it with every available resource.
State Views: We can all play roles in preventing child abuse
by Eloise Anderson
Each year in the U.S., over 750,000 children suffer from abuse or neglect. Sadly, odds are that one or more of the children you encounter today is, or has been, victimized by someone responsible for their care.
April is Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month in Wisconsin. It serves as a reminder that despite troubling statistics, people across the state dedicate their lives to protecting Wisconsin's most precious resource.
At the Department of Children and Families, we're continually striving to improve our efforts to keep children safe from harm. In order to prevent child abuse and neglect, and not simply react to it, we've revamped approaches to address entire families.
Our primary obligation is still safety. If a child is deemed unsafe, we'll work with courts to place the child in a safe setting, while we work with the family to deal with stressors that led to the unsafe conditions. We help establish a network of support within the community so the family has resources to assist in times of high stress. In some cases, we help teach caregivers the basic parenting skills they might lack. After extensive work, if parents can demonstrate that they can provide for the well-being of their child, we work to return the child to the home.
In situations where it's deemed possible to keep children safe while keeping the family intact, the child welfare agency uses intensive in-home services to help the family learn coping skills. Research into childhood trauma has shown that removing a child from a home can have long-lasting negative effects. Keeping a child with the family as we work with the parents is one way we can take a trauma-informed care approach to reducing the impact of what the child has endured. Through this method, we hope to lessen the generational cycle of harm caused by child abuse and neglect.
If, despite all of the interventions and available training, parents don't show they can keep their children safe, we'll work tirelessly to find them loving forever families through adoption or guardianship.
However, even with all of the improvements to the child welfare system, we know we cannot prevent child abuse and neglect without your help. Learn the warning signs of abuse and neglect. Get involved if you suspect a child is being victimized. Pick up the phone, and report your suspicions to your local child welfare agency. You might be the difference in whether or not a child gets needed help.
We also encourage you to connect with families in your community who might be experiencing unexpected or prolonged stress. By helping support these families through something as simple as offering to watch a child for a few hours, being willing to listen and offer advice, providing new parents with helpful tips or becoming a mentor to an older child who needs a role model, you can help prevent abuse or neglect.
We can win the battle against child abuse and neglect if we all work together.
Eloise Anderson is secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families. Readers can contact her at DCFSecretaryEloiseAnderson@wisconsin.gov.
Child abuse is preventable
by IRENE NORTH
No one has all the answers to being the perfect parent, but some struggle more than others, and often children bear the brunt of those failings.
Valerie Rudden, mental health therapist at Panhandle Mental Health Center, and Holly Brandt, executive director of CAPStone, are advocating that child abuse is preventable as part of an April campaign on National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
National Child Abuse Prevention Month acknowledges the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child abuse and neglect, and promoting the social and emotional well-being of children and families.
Child abuse can take the form of physical abuse, sexual abuse, child neglect and emotional neglect.
For some parents, relationships with their children begin in a difficult place, Rudden said. Parents who were abused as children are more likely to abuse their own children and they may not realize they are hurting their child.
Rudden said parents who weren't taught healthy relationships have to heal themselves first. “If they never get counseling or therapy, there will have been no one to ever say that it wasn't OK. It's their ‘normal,'” Rudden said.
Others might not realize they were abused.
“To some, it's normal, it's all they've ever known,” Brandt said.
Women feel they cannot ask for help because they are expected to know how to treat children.
“Parents need to have that space to ask for help. It's OK to walk away and ask for help,” Rudden said.
Children with special needs can be tough on a parent.
“Parents feel pressure to ‘just do.' They can reach out to respite care or a counselor for help,” Rudden said.
Rudden said parents who were not modeled a healthy relationship can develop it.
“Parents need to reflect on their own childhood before they step into being a parent,” Rudden said.
For children, child abuse can have lasting effects.
“Kids learn how to be healthy people by being around healthy people,” Rudden said.
If a child never deals with his or her abuse, he or she is at risk for substance abuse, self-harm and suicide.
The stress hormone affects the brain's ability to grow in a healthy way.
“It affects their ability to learn. Their ability to reason is significantly compromised,” Rudden said.
Children who have been abused feel as if their safety and security has been compromised. They feel they always need to be on guard, they aren't good enough or deserve it.
Long-term effects are evident. Two-thirds of individuals in treatment for drug abuse report child abuse.
“Of those who have been abused, 30 percent will later abuse their own child. Girls are 25 percent more likely to experience teen pregnancy and risky sexual behavior,” Brandt said.
Rudden and Brandt advise there are signs that could indicate a child has been abused or neglected, such as acting out; isolation; regression; increased startle response; inability to focus; low self-esteem; improper hygiene; unexplained burns, bites or bruises and an inability to create healthy relationships.
These signs can also appear more subtly, making it difficult to differentiate between a quirky child and one who is being abused.
An emotionally-abused child may be belittled or rejected by a parent and may be overly compliant.
Signs of sexual abuse include a sudden change in behavior that wasn't there before, such as nightmares and bed-wetting, or sexual knowledge that is not age appropriate.
If the abuse is from a particular adult or child, the child may also have an aversion to a particular person.
“If a parent sees these signs, look into it,” Rudden said. “It could be a symptom of some other mental health issue or your child is being harmed.”
If a child is being abused, they can go to teachers, friends, police, a pastor or any trusted adult.
“It's going to be difficult. It's the only way to heal,” Rudden said.
When children are involved in child abuse allegations, caregivers and other supporters should comfort children.
Rudden said we need to make it OK for children to ask for help without fear, judgment or criticism.
“Know that if you ask for help, there is the ability to heal,” Rudden said.
Brandt said each child is different in how they react to abuse and what specific effects it will have in the long-term.
“Some are resilient, some take time,” she said. “I've seen children struggle and become OK as an adult and I've seen children that were fine, but fell apart later on in life.”
Brandt said a lot depends on the support system a child has.
“A child will heal better if they have a strong caregiver,” Brandt said.
In 2012, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services received 813 intakes for allegations of abuse and neglect in Panhandle counties. Of those intakes, 440 were in Scotts Bluff County, Brandt said.
“Scotts Bluff County is third in the state for intakes,” Brandt said.
In 2013, CAPStone had 348 forensic interviews between its Scottsbluff, Chadron, Alliance and Sidney offices. There were 76 direct testings (hair follicles) in cases where drug use by parents or other adults were suspected.
In Nebraska, all adults are legally obligated to report child abuse. Many don't because they are afraid of the consequences. In her career, Brandt said she has heard, “I was going to report, but” numerous times.
“Your call could make the difference. You might have that final piece,” Brandt said.
CAPStone works jointly with DOVES for follow-up and to help ensure there is no crossover in assistance.
Under the Good Faith provision, Nebraskans are granted immunity from liability for individuals making good faith reports of suspected or known instances of child abuse or neglect.
“It is happening in our community. It's our responsibility to report it,” Brandt said.
There are numerous resources available to report abuse as well as for getting help. In Nebraska, the Nebraska Child Abuse Hotline is available for anyone to report abuse by calling 1-800-652-1999. Other resources available to assist families include The Nebraska Family Helpline at 888-866-8660 and Boy's Town at 800-448-3000. Childwelfare.gov also has many resource guides for adults and parenting.
Parents speak out on child abuse
by Dalondo Moultrie
Two days after Father's Day 2012, Dave and Diana (not their real names) received some of the most shocking, heart-wrenching news a parent can get.
Their younger daughter told them that Diana's stepfather had molested the then-6-year-old two days earlier while the family visited his home to honor him. To make matters worse, the couple's older daughter overheard her sister's revelation and made one of her own.
The trusted relative had been improperly touching her for approximately three years, the then-9-year-old said.
He would do it “when we would go visit my parents' house on holidays, birthdays. We were a pretty close family,” Diana said. “He would victimize (my oldest) in a back bedroom where there were toys. The kids would go back there and watch TV and play with toys. There was a recliner there.”
The parents — whose real names the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung withheld to protect their daughters' identities — spoke out recently during National Child Abuse Prevention Awareness month about the ways child abuse, and particularly sexual abuse of children, can affect an entire family.
Once they found out what Diana's stepdad did, Dave was livid. He wanted blood — but cooler heads prevailed.
“When I found out, of course I was pretty mad,” Dave said. “Actually, I was kind of homicidal for a few minutes.”
He said he was headed to a work-related meeting and talked things out with his supervisor who calmed him. Then he spoke with his clergyman and settled down completely.
“Between my boss and my pastor, they were able to keep me from doing anything rash,” Dave said. “It was pretty upsetting.”
After getting over the shock of it all and setting the legal system in motion, Dave and Diana's family was faced with the life-long task of dealing with what had happened to the girls.
They sent their daughters to counseling at a Children's Advocacy Center. Their youngest's sessions lasted about six months, and the older girl, who had suffered for a longer period of time, was counseled nearly a year, the parents said.
And, they said, just as important was counseling for themselves.
“Oh, yes,” Dave said emphatically. “We both went individually.”
“The day after we found out, we made an emergency appointment,” Diana said. “I went through more counseling after the legal proceedings.”
That was the correct call, said Merideth Erickson, executive director of River City Advocacy.
RCA provides peer-based mental health recovery support for those in the community who need help, Erickson said. The nonprofit serves people battling depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder and more, she said.
Her counselors provide whatever help they can in whatever way it is needed, Erickson said.
“As parents, we feel guilty when anything negative happens to our child,” she said. “It's really important to help the parents know that we're here to support them and help them get through the emotions they're going through. We don't want them to slip into a depression or anything like that.”
She said it's easy for parents to get down on themselves for “not protecting” their children in cases of child abuse. Parents get angry at the perpetrator of the abuse and sometimes angry at themselves for not preventing it or recognizing it quickly enough, Erickson said.
Those feelings can become unhealthy and need to be hashed out in therapy. Sometimes family members become discomforted and want to hide the facts from the world, but that can only worsen the situation, Erickson said.
“If they're embarrassed to admit this happened and they don't want people to know, everything here is confidential, everything we do,” she said. “Statistics show that children who have adverse childhood experiences like domestic violence, physical and emotional abuse and sexual abuse, the chances of them developing a persistent mental illness are heightened. They're at increased risk for alcohol and drug abuse — and depression. They're at increased risk for future intimate partner violence and suicide.”
And those risks helped Dave and Diana decide pretty quickly to talk about the abuse with their children and get them the help they needed.
In fact, both said they feared making any other choice. They feared not going through the legal battles and not dealing with other family members who accused the girls of fabricating their stories.
“We could've ignored it,” Dave said. “But we didn't want to answer to (our daughters) 10 years later when they asked why we didn't fight for them.”
Dave and Diana said her stepdad was sentenced to a prison term in October. Things in their home are starting to get back to normal.
They both said they're happy the man is off the streets and unable to harm any more children. Going through with the prosecution was the only choice, and Diana said she's happy she did it, even if it meant helping lock away a man who she loved more than 30 years and called dad.
“That's just the hardest thing to process and deal with that somebody you loved did something to harm your children,” she said. “When you discover what's going on, it's absolutely heart breaking.”
For help coping with child abuse, visit the RCA website at http://www.rivercityadvocacy.net/
Officials, Law Enforcement Talk Sex Trafficking
by The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) — With tougher laws on the books to punish human traffickers and more awareness about those forced into sexual slavery, prosecutors, lawmakers and police met Friday to plot a plan to eradicate human sex trafficking in California and across the nation.
The symposium was hosted by the YWCA Greater Los Angeles at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles and billed as a groundbreaking gathering to examine the challenges of combatting domestic human sex trafficking and discuss best practices statewide with officials from Los Angeles, San Diego and Alameda counties.
“When we think about what should be done, our response understandably is we want to protect that child, hug her,” said California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, who as a prosecutor once specialized in child sexual assault cases. “But to really do justice, to make justice a reality, it's not just about hugging the victims. It's about prosecuting the offender.”
According to a 2005 International Labour Organisation paper, human trafficking – or sexual servitude and forced labor – brings in about $32 billion annually, making it the second most profitable criminal enterprise after illegal arms trafficking. The majority of that money, or nearly $28 billion, comes from forced commercial sexual exploitation. The vast majority of those trafficked are women and children, from all milieus of society.
“It really is anybody's daughter,” said Stephany Powell, a retired 30-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department and executive director of the nonprofit Mary Magdalene Project which helps victims of trafficking. “That middle class girl is even more vulnerable because she's not hip to the gangs. She really believes it when the guy comes up with a business card says ‘I'm gonna make you a model, I'm gonna get you into a video' … Next thing you know, she's in the game.”
California is one of the nation's top four destinations for trafficking human beings, according to the state attorney general's office. In 2012, Harris convened a working group on human trafficking which issued a report finding that local and transnational gangs were increasingly trafficking humans because it's low risk and highly profitable.
“We see a decrease in gang crime across the region not because they're going straight,” Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell said. They're getting into more identity fraud, sex trafficking and other crimes below the radar, he said.
McDonnell added: “The girls are used until they're no longer usable, and we'll see cases, if there's a market, where they'll try to ransom them back to the family.”
The state report also found that 72 percent of human-trafficking victims are Americans and not foreigners as many in the public believe. Moreover, the problem is often under-reported, especially because victims can be difficult to identify or sometimes mistaken as perpetrators, the report concluded. Compounding the problem, the growth of information technology has made it easier for sex traffickers to reach victims and customers online.
Lynn Overmann, a senior adviser from the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy, said the office is working on a tool to identify traffickers by pulling phone numbers, phrases and other details form trafficking ads. The open-source software is free and being tested by a few law enforcement agencies, including one in Texas that found 466 of 600 phone numbers pulled from ads pinged against databases for a variety of criminal activities.
“They are criminals in the deepest sense of the word,” Overmann said. “They're not just exploiting women. They're creating all types of other crimes.”
In Los Angeles, the district attorney's office has launched a program to identify and help children who have been sex trafficked rather than arresting them. Harris said the state needs to do more to create safe houses for victims around counties.
Multiple state bills have been proposed to toughen trafficking laws, including efforts to add human trafficking to a list of gang-related activities, allowing the use of wiretaps during investigation of such cases and giving longer prison time for those who buy sex.
Backpage.com's adult ads continue to normalize, increase demand for sex trafficking
by Thanh Tan
This Seattle Times editorial posted Thursday encourages the online community to help stop sex trafficking by refusing to sell or buy goods on Backpage.com until it stops posting adult services.
A disclaimer on the site asking users to “report suspected exploitation of minors and/or human trafficking” is disingenuous. Once viewers click “I agree” to the terms, they are exposed to illicit ads that reduce people's daughters to faceless bodyshots and subject lines consisting of emoji characters, body measurements, ages that could be fake and suggestive pseudonyms.
Here's a screenshot of just a few of the hundreds of listings Backpage.com allowed to be posted during the lunch hour on Wednesday. Does this look to you like a website that cares about protecting people — or promoting the dirty work of pimps?
These ads are blatant and degrading. Not only do they appear to exploit young women, but I also saw ads recruiting more workers. Why isn't Backpage.com doing more to enforce its own rules or verifying the ages of the people posting ads to their website? Its posting guidelines, seen in the screenshot below, are a joke.
Throughout the month of April, news reports around the country have linked Backpage.com's adult section to criminal behavior. WCCO-TV in Minneapolis reported on the prevalence of child sex trafficking in the Twin Cities. On April 15, a man in Detroit was sentenced in the murder of four women he found through the site's escort listings. A prostitution sting in Kentucky led to three arrests. On Thursday, WABI-TV in Maine broadcast a story about the recruitment of minors into the trade. Here in Seattle, a Times news story on April 17 revealed attorney and alleged rapist Danford Grant searched hundreds, if not thousands, of times for Asian massage therapists on Craigslist.org and Backpage.com.
Peter Qualliotine, a co-founder of the Organization for Prostitution Survivors, says more public awareness is needed to help communities understand the greater societal implications of adult service ads on the Internet.
“Whenever the commercial sex industry gets normalized, what we see is an increase in violence against women and attitudes that support the subordination of women,” he says, adding that most users of Internet sites such as Backpage.com are men. “Our culture is priming them to view sex as an act of dominance rather than an act of mutuality and equality.”
Qualliotine facilitates the city of Seattle's “john school” every month. In these intervention sessions, he says he witnesses a “serious lack of empathy” from men who don't understand that many of the scantily clad women in adult ads are controlled by pimps and coerced into performing sex work from a young age. The program tries to teach the buyers that their interactions with women should be a “yes without fear or confusion. When you're paying somebody, you're paying not to hear the truth about what her reality is about.”
As long as Backpage.com continues to allow these ads and increase demand, more young people will become victims of sex trafficking.
Most of What You Think You Know About Sex Trafficking Isn't True
by Amanda Hess
When Dr. Anthony Marcus, chair of the anthropology department at New York's John Jay College of Criminal Justice, kicked off a massive study of underage sex work in America in 2008, finding interview subjects was easy. Marcus and his team of researchers met minors working as prostitutes in New York City, then gave each of them three coupons they could redeem for $10 if they brought back more teens for interviews. Soon, their network grew large enough that they had reached their goal of interviewing 300 minors working in the city, the largest data set of its kind. But as soon as they moved the operation to Atlantic City, N.J.—a much smaller venue, but one that they'd heard had an “epidemic” of commercial sexual exploitation of children—the coupon system fizzled out. Underage sex workers in Atlantic City were almost impossible to find.
Unable to find their subjects, the researchers reached out to members of the city's anti-trafficking task force—including local social workers, law enforcement officials, and religious leaders—for leads. At night, they sat on cinder blocks on the boardwalk with cartons of cigarettes, handing out coupons and sharing smokes with street hustlers and drug dealers. One researcher moved into Atlantic City's boarding houses to get closer to the market. But when they could only locate a handful of minors to interview, members of the anti-trafficking task force advised Marcus and his team that the underage sex market was “hidden” in the city. “Researchers like you will never gain their trust,” one member told them. “They all hide under the boardwalk, and none of the girls will be brave enough to talk to you. If they do, their pimps will cut their faces, and it will be your fault.” An FBI agent admonished the researchers that they were “too academic to do this study” and needed to talk in “police television slang” in order to win their trust.
Eventually, some members of the task force admitted that they had little personal interaction with underage sex workers themselves. “It soon became clear that as researchers staying up all night on Pacific Avenue we knew it better than they did, since they all lived in the suburbs and rarely saw Pacific Avenue after 5 p.m.,” Marcus and his co-author, John Jay anthropology professor Ric Curtis, wrote in an article on the experience last year. Finally, they raised the age limit of interviewees to 24 and conducted additional interviews with local pimps, drug dealers, customers, and business people to get a more comprehensive understanding of Atlantic City's market. What they found was that the narrative of commercial sexual exploitation of children (or CSEC) they had been sold by local activists—one where knife-wielding pimps lure girls into prostitution then brutalize them into compliance—existed in only rare cases and didn't describe most people's experiences.
In the resulting study, “ Conflict and Agency Among Sex Workers and Pimps,” released in this May's ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science , Marcus and Curtis (along with researchers Amber Horning, Jo Sanson, and Efram Thompson) interviewed a total of 372 sex workers (262 of whom were minors and 70 who had previously worked as minors) to present a more complicated idea of how the market for underage sex work functions, one that some well-meaning activists—and legislation like the Trafficking Victims' Protection Act, which seeks to prosecute pimps to save underage sex workers—may not fully understand. Previous research in the area, much of which relied on interviews with a handful of underage sex workers who turn up in rescue institutions, rehabilitation programs, or in jail, “paints a skewed picture of the complex environment of prostitution,” they wrote. Really, “stereotypical pimps are far less common and important to street sex markets than would be expected.” In their sample, only 14 percent of female underage sex workers in New York City (and 6 percent of the males) had a pimp. Some testified that they had recruited their friends and boyfriends to help them with their business. And “all sex workers in both Atlantic City and New York City described experiencing increasing, rather than decreasing, agency and control over their work over time.” Many of the girls and boys they interviewed “had left pimps because they were violent, mentally abusive, lazy, poor business associates, unable to protect them, extracting too much money, or no longer fun to be around,” sometimes within days or weeks of meeting. One 17-year-old sex worker in New York says her boyfriend tricked her into sex work at the age of 12. But he's not the one keeping her on the street—she left him and began working independently less than a year later. Another 17-year-old sex worker in Atlantic City says that she was initiated into sex work by a pimp, but dropped him after her first gig. “I'd rather work for myself,” she told them. “It's more money.”
Pimps, too, failed to fit the stereotypical mold. “We were told pimps were not approachable because they were too dangerous and didn't want to talk,” Marcus told me. “But all they wanted to do was talk, talk, talk—that's what they do for a living.” Many pimps referred the researchers to their sex workers if they approached them in the right way, no cuts on the face required. (In addition to interviewing pimps in Atlantic City, the researchers spoke with 85 male pimps working in New York.) One pimp told them that going after underage girls constituted “pimp suicide,” not because it makes pimps vulnerable to harsh anti-trafficking laws, but because “teenage prostitutes don't earn enough money,” Marcus says. In Atlantic City, they found, “those who first entered when over 18 years of age reported being approached by a pimp at nearly twice the rate of those whose entry occurred when they were minors.” And while some pimps boasted about exerting control over “their” sex workers, the women working with them told a different story. One sex worker named Diamond says that she had led her pimp to believe that he had initiated her into sex work, though she had been working for some time. She did it in order to hold up her pimp's “narrative of hypermasculine enticement and feminine vulnerability,” as the researchers put it. Says Marcus: “It's like when you listen to couples debating about who made the move on who.”
The image of the pimp who uses violence to keep unwilling sex workers on the street is real: One 14-year-old girl in New York told researchers that a pimp raped her after she attempted to leave; another told the story of her mother's ex-boyfriend, who started pimping her out at age 11, and now tracks her down whenever she tries to run away. And even in the more common situations, when the pimp was either nonexistent or not such a menace, the sex workers weren't exactly in optimal situations. “We did not encounter one [sex trafficking victim] who came to engage in sex work out of what one might call a fully realized choice: in every case their agency was constrained,” the researchers found. But “in very few of these cases was a ‘trafficker' responsible for that constraint.” Rather, “it was a complex set of life crises or near-crisis points that compelled them into the sex trade.” Most of the underage sex workers they spoke with said their “biggest dangers” came from “customers, homelessness and drug addiction, rather than pimp-traffickers.” Eighty-seven percent of underage sex workers in New York they spoke to said they wanted to quit; most didn't work with pimps.
Marcus and his colleagues conclude that the laws, like the Trafficking Victims' Protection Act, that focus on nabbing the pimps and have led to “decriminalization of minors involved in sex work” are “wholly positive.” But “the logical premise of victimhood upon which this decriminalization rests is too narrowly construed to adequately respond to the realities these minors confront.” In other words, prosecuting pimps will only help a slim minority of underage girls and boys who turn to sex work.
Lucy Berliner, director of the University of Washington's Harborview Center for Sexual Assault and Traumatic Stress, told me that she thinks Marcus' work is “a valuable contribution” to the issue because it shows that “there's a huge amount of variability under the umbrella of one named problem. Kids who are controlled by these brutal pimps are not the most common,” she said. But to her, the numbers game doesn't obviate the need for the criminal justice system to go after the pimps who do participate in underage sex work: “Prosecute the heck out of them,” she said. “These are people who literally sell children's bodies for money. That, in my mind, is a very heinous crime.” Valiant Richey, who has prosecuted pimps in King County, Wash., concurs. “The bottom line is: It doesn't matter whether the pimp has forced somebody into it,” he told me. The reason, Richey says, is because “any time you have a situation where a juvenile is engaged in prostitution and an adult is helping her do it and profiting from it, you are talking about a situation that is inherently exploitive.” Prosecuting a pimp may not have “a measurable impact” on the wider sex trade, Richey says, but “it's obviously extremely helpful in aiding the victim of that pimp. That cannot be overstated.”
Still, Berliner says, the pimp-focused approach will fail to reach the vast majority of underage sex workers who want to leave but have no adult forcing them to stay. “We haven't really nailed down what works to get these kids back in the mainstream,” she says. “Many of them are quite disaffected. They've been thrown away by their families. The street has become a life they can negotiate relatively well. They're not banging on our doors.”
The Wrong Cure for Sex Trafficking
Prohibition of prostitution does not make it safer
by Zach Weissmueller
"If there were no demand for commercial sex, sex trafficking would not exist in the form it does today," reads the first line of a 2013 State Department report on curbing sexual slavery. In other words, if only we could just stop people from wanting to pay for sex altogether, the market for this nasty trafficking business would disappear once and for all.
Californians favor an equally ineffective approach to combating sex trafficking. Proposition 35-a Golden State law that passed overwhelmingly in 2012, thanks in part to a series of public awareness campaigns featuring such celebrities as Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher-enacted harsher criminal penalties for sex trafficking. But waging "war" on the problem will only drive up prices and embolden more hardened criminals to get into the businesses.
So what would actually reduce sex trafficking? Making prostitution legal.
"I'm not a victim. I'm not being coerced. But the law doesn't see me that way," says a Los Angeles-based prostitute who asked to be identified as "Holly." She runs her own online escort service, which she started during the 2008 recession as a way to make ends meet. Holly says Prop. 35 has made her less safe: If she were ever assaulted, its draconian provisions would make it too risky to go to the police.
The case of Nevada, the only state where sex work is legal, demonstrates how lifting prohibition makes prostitutes safer. The dominant player in the industry is Dennis Hof, who operates seven of the state's 18 legal brothels, including the Moonlite Bunny Ranch, featured on HBO's late-night series Cathouse .
"When you legalize something, it takes all the nonsense out of the business," says Hof. "It takes the criminals out of the business and it puts money into the coffers of society."
Nevada still tightly regulates the sex trade. Prostitutes undergo mandatory weekly STD testing, and Hof says not a single licensed sex worker has ever turned out to be infected with HIV. Density restrictions prevent the brothels from locating in highly populated areas like Las Vegas, which is one reason the vast majority of prostitutes in Nevada still choose to practice illegally.
Because of the downsides of working in a highly regulated market, some sex workers eschew Nevada-style "legalization" in favor of what they call "decriminalization," which would simply remove all prohibitions on sex work. But decriminalization wouldn't get the state entirely out of the business; local governments would still regulate the buying and selling of sex in the ways they oversee other service industries. Advocates point to New Zealand's laissez-faire sex trade policies as a model worth emulating.
Maggie McNeill, a retired sex worker and the author of the upcoming book Ladies of the Night , favors decriminalization, but she says it's unlikely to happen through the legislative process without a massive cultural shift. She hopes that one day the Supreme Court will strike down sex work bans in the same way it did away with restrictions on abortion ( Roe v. Wade ) and sodomy ( Lawrence v. Texas ).
While their strategies may differ, decriminalization and legalization advocates agree that the anti-trafficking hysteria that led to Prop. 35-and the tough-on-crime rhetoric conflating trafficking and consensual prostitution-only drives the trade further underground and makes life for sex workers more dangerous.
"It's the oldest profession, and it's not going to go away until everyone doesn't want to have sex anymore," says Hof. "So give me an alternative."
Motorist plucks crawling boy to safety from busy Utah road
by Kevin Murphy
A 1-year-old child who got out of his backyard and crawled onto a four-lane road in Utah is home safe with his family after being saved by a motorist, police said on Saturday.
The boy had been playing with his 7-year-old sister on Friday evening before he crawled onto a busy state street in Brigham City, Utah, where the speed limit is 40 miles per hour, police Lieutenant Dennis Vincent said.
A woman driving on the roadway spotted the baby, pulled over and rescued him from the lane closest to the sidewalk, Vincent said. She was able to determine which house the child likely came from and brought him there before calling police, he said.
The child's mother said she had laid down to rest after putting her son in his crib but that her daughter took him into the backyard, Vincent said.
"We all know how quickly kids can get away and luckily this didn't end in a tragedy," Vincent said.
Charges against the mother are not likely, but the incident has been reported to the state's Division of Child and Family Services, which is investigating, Vincent said.
Mother arrested in fatal stabbing of infant son
by Henry K. Lee
LIVERMORE -- A 24-year-old South Bay woman suffering from depression was arrested on suspicion of murder after she stabbed her 7-month-old son to death Saturday at a park near Livermore, police said.
The woman, whose name wasn't released, drove to Del Valle Regional Park and crashed her Honda Civic near the dead-end of Arroyo Drive about 10:30 a.m., according to Chief Timothy Anderson of the East Bay Regional Park District Police Department.
Officers arrived and found the car with damage to its front and rear, but no one inside.
About two hours later, officers spotted the woman walking with a baby in her arms. Police realized that the baby wasn't moving and immediately performed CPR, Anderson said. But paramedics pronounced the infant dead from stab wounds, authorities said.
The woman was suffering from possible self-inflicted injuries, police said. A pocket knife was recovered from the scene, authorities said.
"It's a pretty emotional case for these officers," Anderson told reporters. "They're all family members themselves with small children, and to come upon a child that's been murdered by the child's mother is pretty devastating for these officers."