A window on child sex trafficking in Rhode Island
by AMANDA MILKOVITS
Editor's note: The Providence Journal does not identify people who allege they are victims of sexual abuse. In this story, the girl's mother is not named to avoid identifying the teenager.
PROVIDENCE — She was in a room with a strange man who wrapped his hands around her throat as he raped her. This was what he paid for. She struggled to breathe.
Photos of her, barely clothed, were advertised on “escort” sites online, posted allegedly by a Providence woman who told the girl that she could make some money.
“Come have some kinky fun with me and my girls,” one ad invited, “… also available for your fetishes.”
She later told her mother that some men called for “the youngest girl you've got.”
That usually meant her.
She was 14.
“Your regulars are calling asking for you,” the woman texted the girl, according to records seized by the Pawtucket police.
After running away from a group home, the Pawtucket girl ended up working for this woman. Within three weeks, the girl told detectives, about 40 to 50 adults paid to have sex with her.
“Fifty grown men. Can you imagine that? Grandfathers, fathers, businessmen — she told me the kind of guys you'd never think of,” said the girl's mother, who called the police after she discovered pictures of her daughter posted under “escorts” on a classified ad website. “She is 4 foot 11, 105 pounds. She has a baby face. She's still developing. For them not to see that?”
There was the man who choked the girl, and another who raped her so brutally that another girl pulled him away. Old men. Married men. Men who made her cringe.
Her mother says her daughter told her these stories. She believes her daughter hasn't told her everything that happened to her.
“They stole my baby's innocence,” the mother says, “and it didn't cost them nothing.”
How many other children are being sold for sex in Rhode Island?
Law enforcement and child-welfare officials say they are only beginning to understand the extent of sex trafficking of minors.
State and national statistics are hard to come by.
Arrest records would tell part of the story. But despite a 2009 state law requiring police departments to report prostitution and human trafficking cases to the governor, General Assembly and the attorney general's office, most don't.
Some cases don't lead to charges. Police and child-welfare officials say some victims are uncooperative or too traumatized to proceed in investigations.
Still, the arrest records and anecdotes about cases that police and victims' advocates encounter are a window into what's happening in Rhode Island.
The attorney general's office says it has a dozen active cases and is investigating another dozen. Day One, an agency that supports victims of sexual assault and trauma, says it is treating 20 trafficking victims. The state Department of Children, Youth and Families says that in the last year, 20 girls ages 13 to 16 have been referred for sex-trafficking investigations.
This problem “may have been there a long time, but it's just coming to the surface now,” says Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin. “I wouldn't be surprised if we see more as people begin to recognize it.”
R.I. sex industry
Rhode Island has always been a hub for the sex industry due to a loophole in the law that allowed indoor prostitution. Even after the law changed in 2009, the trade flourishes in Asian massage parlors, rings of undocumented Chinese, Mexican and Guatemalan immigrants trafficked in from New York City, and “escorts” sold in online classifieds.
Since the 2009 state laws that criminalized indoor prostitution and human trafficking, the police have found a 15-year-old Boston girl dancing at Cheaters Gentlemens Club in Providence. Three women, including one who started at age 16, were trafficked by two men from Yonkers, N.Y., in a college neighborhood in Providence. A Missouri man was convicted of enticing a 17-year-old girl from Medfield, Mass., and prostituting her at the Super 8 motel in West Greenwich.
The problem is significant enough that Eric Caron, the Homeland Security regional agent based in Rhode Island, formed a human-trafficking task force this year with the state police, the Providence and Warwick police, and the FBI to share information and investigate cases.
“The 95 corridor has traditionally been used as a gateway for drugs, from the Cape to Boston, and you can also include human trafficking,” Caron said.
Some of the sex trafficking is run by Asian organized crime, which is bringing underage girls into the casinos in Connecticut, said Bruce Foucart, special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, in Boston. Some are street gangs that are finding it as easy to sell young women as it is to sell drugs or guns. And some traffickers are just young men, in their late teens or 20s, who are looking to make money off young girls.
While there's a common perception that most trafficked girls are coming from out of state, police and child welfare officials also say that many of their victims are local girls.
The young men know how to find the girls they want. Most of the victims have a history of being abused. Some are already in the child welfare system.
Law enforcement and child welfare investigators say the pimps meet girls through other girls — some at group homes recruit others — or at house parties, or in the neighborhood. Some are already in their social circles. Some find the girls and young women in chat rooms online or through advertisements for “modeling” or being in rap videos.
“I've seen an incredible increase, and social media has a lot to do with it,” said Stephanie Terry, associate director of child welfare services at the DCYF.
Technology has made it easier for predators to lure those who are vulnerable, and then sell them online for sex, Terry said. She scrolls through the escort ads, looking at the photos of young females and trying to determine which girls are the ones missing from their families or state custody.
“There's a very organized corridor of girls being moved back and forth” across the state, Terry said. Others are prostituted online and driven to motel rooms or vacant apartments, she said.
“A lot of these young men have found out it's more lucrative than dealing drugs,” Terry said. “You can sell a girl many times over.”
All the pimps have to do is get the girls to fall in love with them. Depend on them. Believe that they are nothing without these men in their lives. Then the girls — vulnerable, abused, desperate — work hard to make them money.
That's the advice from “How to be a pimp,” an online handbook, as well as in online “pimp forums,” where users discuss how to succeed in the pimp life.
The criminals have mastered the game as police, child-welfare workers and parents try to learn it.
Her early days
When the girl from Pawtucket was little, her mother believed she'd be an attorney one day. She was always smart and quick-minded. “She's a very special little girl,” her mother says.
The girl was 12 when she was raped by a teenage boy who knew her family. The boy was arrested and eventually sent to the Training School.
Her life began to collapse. She had nightmares, her mother says, and she went through counseling and was hospitalized in the aftermath. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder and anxiety.
At the same time, her parents' marriage was ending in a “bitter, bitter divorce,” the mother says now. There was violence at home. DCYF became involved. The girl adored her father and moved in with him and his new family for a few months.
The arrangement didn't last. The girl moved back in with her mother. She was 13, hard-headed, dressing older than her years and running away.
She skipped school and was declared “wayward” by her parents. She ran away to Boston and ended up at house parties, having sex with people to have a place to stay, her mother says.
Her mother stole her daughter's shoes so she wouldn't run away. “There's only so much as a parent I can do. Every time she walked out the door, I was scared of what she was going to get into,” the mother says.
She was in and out of group homes and residential treatment for her mental issues. Last summer, when she was 14 and hospitalized again, she drew a picture for her mother, writing: “Think positive. It will get better. I promise!”
Meeting her madam
When she was released and placed in a group home, the girl ran away again.
This time, the Pawtucket police say, she met another teen, who told her how she could make money. That led to her meeting a 21-year-old Providence woman named Nicole Ferreira.
This was the deal, according to police:
Ferreira would post the girl's picture in online escort ads, make arrangements with callers, and drive her back and forth to meet the men in hotels in Warwick and Cranston. The girl paid Ferreira a percentage of the earnings.
She posed topless and barely clothed in photos. She was called “Sarah.”
‘This is my baby'
The girl was still missing in October when one of her older siblings told their mother that she was on a website advertising for escorts.
“I stopped everything I was doing and started searching the websites,” the mother says. She started on Craigslist and then Backpage.com, where she recognized her daughter in erotic photos. “It was one of the worst things to ever see,” the mother says. “This is my princess. This is my baby.”
She called the phone number numerous times, until a woman finally returned her call. Then, the mother says she screamed: “Do you know how old she is?”
Her daughter took the phone and told her mother not to worry. She wouldn't reveal where she was.
“She is thinking these people are her friends,” the mother says. She called the Pawtucket police.
Detective Donti Rosciti called the number in the ad, posing as a customer. A woman agreed to meet him. It was Ferreira.
“At the time, all we were seeking to do was locate a missing juvenile,” Rosciti said later. “We didn't know if the person who answered the phone was the madam.”
The detective showed Ferreira a photo of the girl. Ferreira admitted knowing the girl was young and said that she just posted the pictures, according to police records. She gave the police a general idea of where to find the girl.
“All she wanted to do was save herself,” Rosciti said. “If I'd known she was the madam, we would have arrested her.”
The police finally found the girl sleeping in a makeshift apartment in the basement of a house in a quiet Cranston neighborhood. She was there with other girls, who knew the homeowner.
The police didn't arrest the girl. “We just said, ‘You have to come with us,'” Rosciti said.
She seemed angry with the officers, but Rosciti said her bravado faded as he and Detective Dave Silva drove her to the Pawtucket police station for questioning. Underneath, she was scared, Rosciti said.
They sat down with her in an interview room and asked if she was OK. She was hungry, so they bought her a pepperoni pizza, he said. “Once we told her that people were worried about her, she opened up,” Rosciti said.
That empathic approach led to trust — and information. Over several hours, the detectives learned about prostitution and Ferreira's role, Rosciti said. A few weeks later, the detectives arrested Ferreira.
Since then, the detectives have learned that Ferreira may have had six or seven young women or teens working for her, including another 14-year-old and a 16-year-old girl, according to police records. The investigation is ongoing.
A snapshot of cases that have resulted in state or federal charges in Rhode Island since 2009 include girls ranging from 13 to 17 years old. Terry, at DCYF, says the youngest victims she's encountered in the last year were 13-year-old twin girls, who were prostituted in New York and trafficked into Rhode Island.
The U.S. Department of Justice's child exploitation and obscenity section places the average age of a child forced into prostitution at 12 years old. Other studies give an age range of 12 to 15.
The reason is plain. Young girls and boys are more vulnerable and easier to control and exploit than adults, says Donna Hughes, a University of Rhode Island gender and women's studies professor who researches trafficking of children and women.
Some customers are pedophiles, says Hughes. “And sex buyers find that the younger they are, the easier they are to control,” Hughes said.
The johns are rarely arrested in Rhode Island and Hughes cannot understand why. “I think there needs to be a lot of focus on arresting the sex buyers,” she said. “We are talking about the sexual abuse of minors.”
U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha agrees.
“There's something to be said for holding johns accountable … and create a disincentive to seek sex for sale,” he says.
“There's more work needed to educate law enforcement and judges,” Neronha says. “This is a huge issue.”
Handling the cases
Some in law enforcement are already changing the way they handle prostitution cases, by treating those who are selling sex as potential trafficking victims. Their first priority is saving the victims from harm, and then they pursue the criminal investigation.
Of the six or seven sex-trafficking cases he's handled over the last few years, Rosciti says, about half have led to criminal charges.
“Once they're out of it and safe, some of them don't want to rehash it. We don't want to force them. We don't want to make a bad situation worse,” Rosciti says. “We try to talk them into cooperating. We tell them, ‘You survived this, but maybe the next girl doesn't.'”
Retired Providence police Sgt. Patrick McNulty, who investigated Rhode Island's first sex-trafficking case since indoor prostitution was made illegal in 2009, involving three young women from Yonkers, says that a careful approach is critical to help the victims and target the pimps.
“The whole process begins the moment a policeman makes contact,” McNulty said. “If you don't do a good job at the beginning, it makes it harder to navigate the system afterward.”
When Providence police learn about a possible trafficking case, they call in Day One and Family Service of Rhode Island for assistance. The investigators use the victims' advocates to help find safe places for the women, while the police pursue the criminal investigations.
Need for kindness
These are not easy cases. The victims are young. They're often frightened or defiant. They've learned not to trust anyone. Some are loyal to their pimps. Some are coming off drug and alcohol addictions — crutches they needed in order to cope with their lives, Terry said.
“It is one of the most difficult interviews I've ever done, and I've been doing this for 26 years,” says Terry, of the DCYF.
Unlike other victims of sexual assault, children who've been prostituted often present a front, she says. One might say, no, I'm not controlled. I'm doing this on my own.
“It's so unnerving,” Terry said. “These girls are so torn. They defend their position that they do it by choice, and you say, ‘Why would anyone do this by choice?'”
The interviews take time, understanding and kindness, she says. “You have to give them an environment that feels safe, and that they have the power to take back their lives,” Terry said.
Terry says the girls will ask: Why do you care? Why do I have to tell you this?
“There's a feeling from the girls that ‘I put myself in this situation, and I deserve it,'” Terry says. “Some girls say, ‘I've been sexually abused so many times by people in my life that now at least I'm getting something out of it.'”
Their vulnerability is heartbreaking, she says. “The thinking becomes self-destructive. In some ways, they feel helpless. They feel hopeless. They've been told, ‘No one's going to love you.'”
U.S. Attorney Neronha says having support for the victims is important as law enforcement moves to prosecute the pimps and perpetrators.
“The challenge on the law enforcement side is, as you try to build the case, the victim may have to testify and needs to have the right support network, but it's not always easy to find,” Neronha says.
Family Court Chief Judge Haiganush R. Bedrosian is working on that.
“I want to be able to protect kids, and keep them out of the life, and give them safety and security. But the people who are trafficking them go looking for them,” Bedrosian said. “It's a game. It's a sad game to see a kid used and abused.”
Last December, the chief judge hosted a two-day conference on trafficking, trauma and exploitation of children in the child-welfare system. About 400 members of law enforcement, child-welfare workers, clinicians and investigators from across Rhode Island attended the training.
The speakers included directors of programs in Massachusetts that work with sexually exploited youths, such as My Life, My Choice and the Suffolk County Children's Advocacy Center.
My Life, My Choice survivors of sex trafficking are involved in prevention groups, mentoring and training. The Suffolk County CAC coordinates advocates, services and law enforcement to assist children who have been sexually exploited.
Bedrosian sees those programs as models for Rhode Island. “The big issue is resources,” she said.
Day One in Rhode Island received a grant from the National Children's Alliance to develop standards that Rhode Island law enforcement and victim services can follow when they find cases of child sexual abuse.
Deputy U.S. Marshall C.J. Wyant says it can take years to restore the self-worth of children who have been prostituted.
The issue in solving cases and saving victims comes down to money, says U.S. Deputy Marshal C.J. Wyant.
“What services can we offer them? How can we give support for these kids, because the pimps provide ‘love'” — Wyant raises his fingers in air quotes — “stability, new jeans once in a while.”
Programs need to replace what the pimps appear to provide the victims. They need to restore the victims' self-worth. That takes money and resources, he says.
“To try to get them back on the side of ‘you're worth something, you're a valuable human being,' that can be years.”
Running away again
The Pawtucket girl ran away again soon after the police found her. State officials wanted to send her to a group home in Boston that works with other sex-trafficking victims, but the mother was afraid her daughter would run away from there.
So, the girl ended up in a place she can't run from: the Rhode Island Training School. She was locked up on charges after stealing her mother's prescription pills. The girl's mother said the DCYF urged her to press charges.
“It was the only way to keep her safe,” the mother says.
The sad irony — the boy who raped her daughter when the girl was 12 is also at the Training School.
She is now 15. She has missed a year of school, but is getting 9th- and 10th-grade schoolwork to keep up. Her mother says she is getting counseling, but she struggles with depression and anxiety.
“She's so smart. And she's so beautiful,” her mother says. “But she doesn't believe that anymore.”
Nicole Ferreira, who is free on bail, will be arraigned Tuesday in Superior Court on charges of sex trafficking a minor, pandering, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. If convicted, she faces up to 40 years in prison.
The girl's mother wishes the men who paid for sex with her daughter were also arrested. “They took something from her that she can never get back. They are rapists. They are sex offenders.”
A mother's hope
When her mother told her daughter she had been interviewed by The Providence Journal, the girl decided to write a letter — to other girls like her.
“You are worthy of so much more,” the girl's letter says. “I know how it feels to be alone and feel hopeless and worthless, but you are not. I know so many other girls are struggling just like me, but it's never too late. It's not your fault.”
Her mother wants her to know this: “I'm going to try until the day I die for my daughter to feel that she's worth more than that.”
Meanwhile, she is arranging her daughter's bedroom for her release from the Training School in the fall. She's hanging a prayer on the wall, as well as a painting that the girl made when she was 7 or 8.
A yellow-and-green sailboat floats under a sunny sky, sailing toward a giant heart.
The painting is colorful, innocent and hopeful.
Students to get chance to intern at One Place
by Tom Smith
FLORENCE — A partnership between the University of North Alabama and One Place of the Shoals is offering one-semester internships to UNA criminal justice and sociology students.
One Place of the Shoals is a partnership between the district attorney's office and other providers of services to victims of domestic and dating violence, adult rape and sexual assault, child sexual and physical abuse, and elder abuse. The services are all in one location. One Place also works with local law enforcement agencies.
"We have a UNA graduate who interned with us last year working part time with One Place of the Shoals," Assistant Lauderdale County District Attorney Angie Hamilton said. "We are now offering internships to all UNA criminal justice and sociology students."
She said it will give students hands-on experience.
"UNA is proactive in encouraging students to provide outreach to the community and engage with community organizations," said Yaschica Williams, chairman and assistant professor in the UNA Department of Criminal Justice.
Williams said the internship will present students with the opportunity to apply what they have learned in the classroom to real-life experiences gained while working in the field.
"Not only will students apply what they have learned, but it will also afford them with the opportunity to work with victims and survivors of violent crimes," Williams said.
Williams said a substantial amount of the semester is devoted to observing victims' interactions with various agents of the criminal justice system.
Hamilton said UNA is partnering with One Place of the Shoals by assigning a UNA public safety officer to the Lauderdale County Domestic Violence Unit, which averages about 1,500 cases a year. The unit includes investigators from the Florence Police Department, the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department, the Lauderdale County District Attorney's Office and the Alabama Bureau of Investigation. The unit joined One Place of the Shoals in 2013.
Hamilton said Tony Torres, a UNA public safety officer, has been assigned to the unit on a part-time basis.
"This gives us a good working relationship with the local law enforcement agencies," UNA Police Chief Bob Pastula said. "(The other agencies) get to see our training and understand what we do, and Tony will get to undergo their training."
Pastula said Torres is bilingual, which should be an asset.
"To me, this partnership is a plus for everybody," the chief said.
Hamilton said because of the efforts of Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow, D-Red Bay, the unit received a vehicle from the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board Enforcement Division that Torres will use.
The domestic violence unit was formed in August 2011 through a partnership with the Lauderdale County District Attorney's Office, the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Office, Florence police, Safeplace, and the Lauderdale and Florence municipal court systems. The unit is funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Hamilton said the more partners the unit and One Place of the Shoals adds, the more victims can be assisted.
"With the development of the unit and the additional partnerships, we are seeing more cases prosecuted and more positive outcomes with guilty pleas or convictions.
"Now, more than 70 percent of abusers in this county are being held accountable for their actions by either being placed in a batterer's intervention program or going to jail."
Human trafficking in the spotlight; New Hampshire passes safe-harbor law
by SARAH PALERMO
When Jasmine Marino was 19, she fell in love. She thought the man loved her back, but it wasn't long before he turned from boyfriend to pimp, and she was being trafficked from her home in Massachusetts to all across New England, from Hartford, Conn., to Kittery, Maine.
“I didn't feel safe enough to call the police, because I thought I would get arrested, or he would beat me. I was in constant fear. There was nowhere to go. There were no safe houses. No one was talking about this,” she told a roundtable group of advocates that included U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster.
Human trafficking has people talking now, including Kuster, who was in town last week to talk about a series of bills she's co-sponsoring that address the crime. Five of the 11 proposed bills are likely to be brought to the House floor next week.
With the kidnapping of nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls last month, and a promise from the terrorist leader behind the act to sell the girls into sex slavery, “human trafficking has captured the attention of the public in a way that's not easy. This is a good time to be talking about it, to let people know there are people in government, education and charities that are working on it,” Kuster said.
But one of the biggest challenges the advocates face, they said, is getting out the message that it's not just girls in danger of being trafficked.
Adult women and men and boys are also victims, despite the more common public service announcement script that focuses on saving young girls. Of the 25 victims of human trafficking the state has identified in recent years, 19 were male victims of labor trafficking, said Erin Albright, regional program director for Give Way to Freedom, a private foundation for survivors of human trafficking.
And despite training for law enforcement officers – often geared specifically toward noticing young victims of sex trafficking, she said – victims are most commonly identified by churches or at shelters for domestic violence victims.
So when she hears about training for cable television installers – “it makes sense, they are going into homes and they might see things . . . but if I have limited dollars, I'm going to spend them educating people at churches first. It's too bad to think about it that way, but it's the way it is,” she said.
All of the advocates at the event Thursday told Kuster more resources for their work are acutely needed.
Shirley Vasquez, the crisis service coordinator at the YWCA New Hampshire, said sometimes she's caught weighing helping victims of human trafficking against helping more traditional victims of domestic violence.
“Human trafficking victims stay a longer time before they're ready to be on their own. And there are a lot of needs. I have to weigh, how many (domestic violence) victims am I going to have to turn away? I do take them, I figure it out, because if I don't take them, I know they're probably going to stay in the life for the shelter and because it's what they know,” she said, saying having more financial support for shelters would help.
Kuster told the group her first priority is passing the legislation that's up for a vote next week, but that she's interested in helping connect them with more resources.
One will target abuse of the visa system, while another will give prosecutors and the police tools to rescue victims. Another gives states incentives to set up safe-harbor laws, which protect underage minors from prosecution for crimes such as prostitution if they come forward for help.
New Hampshire's Legislature passed a safe-harbor law this spring, one of many initiatives the group gathered at the table last week said were good steps forward.
Deputy Attorney General Ann Rice helped write the law, after serving on the attorney general's Commission on Human Trafficking. Sitting at that table changed the way she viewed the issue, she said.
“I come from a law enforcement background. . . . I've come to see that law enforcement is a very, very small part of this,” she said. “I'm not sure everyone sees that yet, that prosecution may never come if we can't get people identified as victims and into a safe place. It's so critical that we get out and talk to schools and emergency room doctors and all of the people they touch.”
The attorney general is holding a conference next month where the commission will release a new set of guidelines and recommendations for people who may interact with victims of trafficking.
The U.S. Department of Education is planning to release a manual for school employees soon, too. It will include hotline information, training and protocols for school employees, focusing on the commercial sexual exploitation of children, said Cory Smith, the legal and policy counsel for the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking.
The Polaris Project maintains a national human trafficking hotline where people can report suspected human trafficking, connect with anti-trafficking services or request training or information, at 888-373-7888.
For child abuse victim who received $1M in settlement, a nightmarish path to adulthood
by Lisa Demer
State caseworkers didn't see the honey bucket in the little boy's room or the lock on the outside of his bedroom door. When workers gave Patrick and Sherry Kelley a fifth child for adoption in July 2000, they never looked back.
A worried aunt flew up from Florida when that little boy was 7, went to the family's Anchorage home, and said she frantically tried to get someone in the state child protection system to listen to concerns about what she saw.
No one ever responded, said the aunt, Betsy Golan, who lives in Fort Lauderdale.
If they had paid attention, then maybe they could have stopped what happened when the Kelley family moved to Big Lake far out of public view. Instead the dysfunction only grew deeper: Children were hit with switches, shovels and metal pipes. They didn't go to school. The little boy suffered a fractured arm and serious burns.
The aunt's early concerns became a key element in a lawsuit that alleged the state Office of Children's Services failed that boy.
A decade after Alaska State Troopers rescued the five Kelley children and exposed the harsh world of the family's Big Lake compound, another chapter is closing.
The boy injured all those years ago this month won a $1 million settlement in a lawsuit against the state Office of Children's Services.
He's 20 now, a young man trying to make his own way. His mom named him Christian, the Kelleys called him Brandon and now he's on his third name, Thomas Joseph White.
He goes by T.J.
State: No red flags
In the settlement this month, the state didn't admit any wrongdoing. The abuse at the Kelley house was revealed in 2004, three years after state oversight ended, said Christy Lawton, director of the Office of Children's Services. The state says it has no record of the aunt's complaints.
The Kelleys had glowing references and were considered excellent foster and adoptive parents until then, Lawton said in an email.
"The only lesson to be learned was that OCS does not have a crystal ball that will perfectly predict the future," she wrote.
Nothing changed as a result of the Kelley case but the system has evolved and improved since then for other reasons, she said. For instance, the agency in 2006 began emphasizing safety in a more comprehensive way, from the point it first encounters a family to when a case is closed. But workers remain overloaded, with an average of 20 families each when the target is 12, she said.
Both Kelleys were charged criminally in 2004 with multiple counts of mistreating the children. They eventually served time after pleading no-contest to reduced charges. Efforts to reach them were unsuccessful.
T.J. said he wants his story known to explain why he may seem a bit different, a guy without many close friends, who may be a little broken. He also wants to shed light so that other kids aren't double- neglected, first by parents who forsake them for drugs and then by the system that was supposed to protect them.
"They could have done a lot better, actually," T.J. said of the Office of Children's Services and its predecessor, the Division of Family and Youth Services.
State policy says families should be monitored for at least six months before an adoption is finalized. But in T.J.'s case, the state pushed for the adoption to be final in four months. The Kelleys were ill-equipped to handle four older and more challenging children: T.J., two stepsisters and a stepbrother, said T.J.'s lawyer, Mike Kramer. They were studied thoroughly only before they took in their first child, a healthy baby, he said.
T.J. is a big presence -- 6 feet, 9 inches tall -- a lanky kid wearing a backwards baseball cap and a Big Dipper Concessions T-shirt.
"They could have checked in on us at random times," T.J. said. "They could have looked in the background of all of us kids and seen that we looked like a troubled group."
Two aunts stepped up to adopt him when his own mother's drug addiction overwhelmed her but the state put T.J. with the Kelleys, where his step-siblings already were living.
"OCS deprived him of the only reliable adults in his life," Kramer wrote in an email.
Once the birth parents lost their rights, the entire extended family was cut off. An assistant attorney general advised OCS that T.J. and his step-siblings no longer had relatives, Kramer wrote. "Based on that opinion, TJ's aunts were pre-emptively disqualified from providing their nephew with what he needed most: love."
"It's like all these little things add up to this big mistake that they made," T.J. said.
Hopes and setbacks
On a recent day T.J. was packing his things in a second floor room at Palmer's Alaska Choice Inn. He's moved a lot the last few years. This past winter he lived in a motor home behind the Wasilla IHOP.
Growing up there was lots of moving, too, to foster homes, group homes, the Kelleys'. But he also experienced stretches of stability, two years with his great aunt when he was little and, after the rescue, a second adoption by a loving Valley family.
He's recently completed a welding certification program. On top of the TV in the motel room he displayed an orderly row of curved metal pieces from his welding test. He had a laundry basket full of tools. He wants to move to Orlando, Florida, for a 51-week automotive training program at the Universal Technical Institute branch there.
"The schooling would put me into a job," he said.
With a portion of the settlement going for lawyer fees and costs associated with bringing the case, T.J. said he will end up with around $600,000, a significant amount, but not enough to last his lifetime.
"I don't want to waste this money," he said. Most will be held in a bank trust and dispensed at key moments, he said, including at ages 25 and 30, and if he buys a house.
He and his fiance are expecting a baby in September. They met in high school but also know each other through church. Her father is a pastor.
Their plans to marry are on hold because of legal problems. T.J. said he was drinking with friends one night in February and got into trouble.
"It was stupid," he said.
He and two other guys were accused of damaging a stranger's car in the Wasilla Walmart parking lot, according to a police statement. Then they fled, with T.J. driving, the statement said. He's charged with drunken driving, minor consuming, minor in possession of alcohol and two felonies: criminal mischief and third-degree assault. He's on an ankle monitor and hoping to get the felonies reduced to misdemeanors, he said.
The first time the state child protection system got a report that T.J. was in danger, it was 1993. He was two months old. His birth mother was addicted to cocaine, and the home was chaotic, said his lawyer, Kramer. She married another addict who brought his own three children into the family -- the same children later taken away by the state and also placed with the Kelleys.
T.J. remembers life with mom in Mountain View as fantastic.
"We had a blast," he said. He and his older stepbrother ran the streets, played in the woods, broke antennas off cars to use as swords.
But, Mike Hopper, a psychologist who evaluated T.J.'s history for the court case, said the children also saw drugs, violence and sexual activity. When the mother's home became too out of control, T.J.'s great aunt, Pam Ronning, took him in.
"I had him in hockey. I had him in soccer. I had him in T-ball," said Ronning, an engineer with the Municipality of Anchorage. "I don't know how it went from that to all this horrible stuff."
She advocated for him, she said, arguing that the state should cut off his parents' rights, and warning of problems when he was returned to his mother. She wrote to Gov. Tony Knowles, legislators, the old DFYS. But she couldn't get him the attention he needed.
When T.J. was 5, someone reported that the parents sold the food they had bought with the family's food stamps to buy crack. T.J.'s stepdad had just been pistol-whipped in a home invasion, according to Kramer.
Still, the state didn't remove him for another two months.
'Nothing will be normal'
By the time the state took him away for good in July 1999, authorities had received 26 reports that he was at risk of being hurt, many of which related to the parents' addiction, Kramer said. Many weren't even investigated. At the time, DFYS was overloaded and workers were allowed to set aside reports that seemed minor. The agency no longer operates that way.
T.J. went to live with his great aunt, Ronning, again. Around Christmas 1999, he was visiting the Kelleys, where his step-siblings already lived. Sherry Kelley called to arrange a pickup and said Ronning's voice sounded slurred like she had been drinking, Kramer said.
No one investigated but the state took him from his aunt and put him in a group shelter, the lawyer said. He was 6 years old.
Another aunt, Betsy Golan, then stepped up and said she wanted to raise T.J. The plan was for him to move in with her and her husband in July 2000 at their Fort Lauderdale home.
Golan gave birth to her own son July 3 of that year. Her baby had serious medical issues and was put into intensive care. She said she asked the state to delay sending T.J. for a week or two.
But the note put in T.J.'s file that July 28 said she had changed her mind.
"I beat myself up about it every single day," Golan said. "Nothing will ever be normal. I can't take it back."
On July 31, 2000, DFYS put T.J. with the Kelleys, then living in Anchorage. The state agreed to monthly adoption payments. That's common in adoptions of high-needs children who have been in state custody. State troopers reported in 2004 that Kelleys received $3,400 a month in adoption subsidies for all the kids. Patrick worked in landscaping.
That December, the fast-track adoption was complete. T.J., now 7, belonged to the Kelleys.
Lawton said the Kelleys were doing an excellent job with their first four adopted children so the state had good cause to ensure T.J. was made a permanent part of the family.
"We now know that an additional two-month wait would have given us two more months of a glowing record caring for children," she wrote.
At first, life in the Kelleys' Hillside house was happy, T. J. said. He remembers playing basketball and street hockey with the neighbors, a young couple.
But then the kids were told they couldn't play outside anymore. Furniture was removed from bedrooms. Locks were put on the bedroom doors. T.J. doesn't know what happened.
"Us kids thought it was our fault," he said.
His aunts were worried. Officially, they were cut off, but they found out where he lived. Golan flew up from Fort Lauderdale in May 2001 and went to the Kelley house.
"All the kids ran to the door," she said.
Sherry Kelley didn't like being surprised and didn't invite her in. She met with T.J., Sherry Kelley and the other kids at a McDonald's a couple days later. Finally, Golan and her husband at the time, Brandon Wynn, who worked as a police officer, were allowed into the home.
That's when Golan saw the locks on the outside of the doors, the bucket-for-a-bathroom in the corner of T.J.'s bedroom and a rope on another child's bunk bed.
"It wasn't like a little boy's room with toys and shoes and magazines or comics," Golan said in a recent interview. "It was like somewhere very very very frightening."
Her husband posed the children in front of the disturbing elements in the guise of taking pictures. Golan asked if she could take her nephew out for a milkshake. Sherry Kelley told her only if she left her infant son at the house. She couldn't do that. They left without T.J.
"I would have taken him straight to the police," Golan said.
She said she called DFYS and waited in the lobby there to talk to someone. But no one called her back. No one stepped into the lobby to hear her story.
State officials say they have no record of those attempts. The aunt should have called police if she was so concerned, Lawton said.
Soon the Kelley family would become even more isolated.
Big Lake compound
When they moved to the family compound near Big Lake, the children were put to work, T.J. said. They didn't go to school and the Kelleys soon gave up trying to home school them, he said. T.J. said he was pulled from school in the second grade after he accidentally gave a child a bloody nose.
"No matter what we said, we were just constantly getting beat," he said. "At first it started out with belts and switches and hands and whatnot. When we moved out to Big Lake, it was logs, metal pipes, shovels, anything they could get their hands on."
Sherry Kelley was the main disciplinarian but Patrick beat them too, T.J. said. Their adoptive grandparents -- Sherry's parents -- lived next door but troopers say they didn't protect the children.
Only rarely were the four older children allowed to sleep in the house, T.J. said. They slept where they could, T.J. said, outdoors under tarps, sometimes in stripped-out junk vans.
Once he soiled his Carhartts and was told to sleep outside. Patrick Kelley went out too. They lit kerosene lanterns. It was winter -- Valentine's Day 2004 -- so T.J. made a fire and slept beside it. He woke up with his clothes on fire. Patrick Kelley threw snow on him to put it out, he said.
He suffered third-degree burns over much of his body, Kramer said. T.J. has scars from the shins to his stomach. The Kelleys poured rubbing alcohol on the burns to fight infection but didn't take him to a doctor.
As the burns were healing, T.J. said, he felt something moving and checked his legs. He had been sleeping outdoors. Maggots had infested his wounds. He told Sherry and said the parents started scrubbing his wounds with a bristle brush.
One winter day after that, he was stacking firewood. His glove had a hole in one finger where one of their dogs had chewed through.
"It just got colder and colder," T.J. said. Pretty soon he couldn't feel his pointer finger. He lost the tip of it to frostbite.
Another time, his adoptive mother hit him in the face with a shovel, knocking out a tooth, his sisters later told troopers.
He remembers eating dog food but not regular meals. Sometimes the boys would be shown what he called "tease food" -- the meal that they would have gotten to eat if they only had worked harder.
Sherry's parents lived next door. In July 2004, her father, George Long, thought things were getting out of control and called troopers. He told troopers that if he hadn't called, T.J. might have died.
With troopers on the way, Sherry Kelly rounded up T.J. and the youngest child in the family van. But getting in, Sherry hit him repeatedly with a metal pipe, the trooper investigation found. His arm swelled to twice the normal size. They headed to Walmart but T.J. said he couldn't go in the store. His injured arm would call attention.
Sherry came out with some clothes and a rare treat: gummy worms. He was so excited. But he couldn't open the package because of his injured arm. She threw the gummy worms out the window, T.J. said.
Back at home, Sherry gave him the clothes to replace his old sweatpants. Troopers returned. She told him to run. He hid under a chicken coop in the woods. Troopers found him there.
He was 10 years old.
T.J. spent the next three weeks in the hospital, undergoing skin grafts and treatment for malnourishment. The hospital stay was bliss.
"I got food and a bed and a TV, people to see and talk to," he said.
One of Sherry Kelley's sisters took the children in after that, but things disintegrated there too.
At age 12, T.J. moved in with a new foster family in the Valley, the Whites. Life improved. He built forts. He went halibut fishing. He played football and ran track at Palmer High. He was almost 16 when the Whites adopted him. He graduated high school in 2012 though he doesn't think he ever caught up completely. He could barely read when troopers rescued him from the Kelleys.
Patrick and Sherry Kelley between them faced 92 counts of abuse, neglect, kidnapping and child endangerment for their treatment of the children. The charges were whittled down in a plea deal to felony assault and criminal nonsupport against Sherry and felony child endangerment against Patrick.
They each served 17 months.
George Long and his wife, Shirley, the children's grandmother, were charged with mistreating the children as well. Prosecutors dismissed most charges and a jury found them not guilty of failing to report the abuse. George Long was convicted of misdemeanor assault for chaining T.J. to a dog run. He served a few months.
T.J. has driven by the old compound. He said Sherry seems to live there. He's seen Patrick around but hasn't talked to him. He keeps up with the other four children. The youngest is in high school. Two of the older ones have their own children already.
Now T.J. is preparing to be a young father too. He's nervous.
"I think I can handle it the right way," he said. "I know how I would have wanted to be treated."
Advocacy Official: ‘No Offender Profile' For Child Sexual Abuse
by Jeff Arnold
While investigating and prosecuting child sexual abuse can be problematic, preventing it is even more difficult.
Offenders come from every walk of life, male and female, all socioeconomic classes, all ages — a significant number of children are abused by older juveniles — and all ethnic groups.
“There is no offender profile, aside from being human beings and having a desire to do it,” said Chris Newlin, a Fort Smith native and executive director of the National Children's Advocacy Center in Huntsville, Ala. “If someone is highly motivated, they'll figure out a way to make it happen, just like an addict.”
Offenders are adept at manipulating children, their environment and their parents, often convincing parents they are looking out for the best interest of their child. However, the ability to manipulate doesn't mean an offender has to be intelligent, said Newlin.
Psychological evaluations of convicted child molester Marcus Fields and others evaluated in recent years while awaiting trial in Sebastian County show they have borderline intellectual functioning.
“You don't have to be smart to be manipulative. If Arby's, Burger King and McDonald's are all in a row and you pull up and there's a long line at Arby's and Burger King, you're probably going to slide over to McDonald's where there's not as long of line, because you want something to eat,” Newlin said.
Research has shown offenders most often pick children they see as most vulnerable.
Fields, 43, chose more than one victim from homes where a parent was absent or there was substance abuse. Fields, who has six known victims, was convicted of rape and sentenced to life in prison in 2011.
Newlin said children in a home with domestic violence are six times more likely to be sexually abused, and it's common for them to be poly-victimized, exposed to domestic violence, substance abuse, bullying, etc.
“For many of these kids, any way they turn there's this negative thing happening in their lives,” Newlin said.
In his experience, Crawford County Prosecuting Attorney Marc McCune said girls — who are more likely to be sexually abused than boys — without a father figure are often the most vulnerable. An offender will position himself as a father figure, give a girl attention and then victimize her, leaving her confused and unknowing how to respond.
While less than half of reported sexual abuse is prosecuted, a National Institute of Mental Health study estimates that only 1 to 10 percent of incidents of child sexual abuse are even reported, and other studies show disclosure is most often delayed by month or years.
McCune said adults who were abused as children come forward and reveal they were abused, sometimes only after an offender who victimized them is charged with abusing another child.
“It's almost like safety in numbers,” McCune said.
Newlin said a 67-year-old woman who toured the National Child Advocacy Center puzzled him with the exorbitant number of questions she asked.
“I found out later, she recently disclosed to a friend she was abused as a child by her babysitter's son and she thought about it every day since, but never told anyone (until now),” Newlin said. “But she always recognized how it affected the way she viewed men, her relationship with her husband, where she went and what she allowed her children to do.”
Monsey boy, 12, was molested by camp counselor: lawsuit
by Steve Lieberman
The family of a 12-year-old Monsey boy has sued a Pennsylvania sleep-away camp, claiming a counselor molested their child and another camper last July before the owner tried covering up the abuse and gave the counselor a bus ticket home to Canada.
The lawsuit says the Monsey boy videoed the counselor molesting the other boy and accuses Camp Dora Golding and its owner, Alexander Gold of Brooklyn, of knowing the counselor had an attraction to younger boys.
The camp, which serves Orthodox Jewish children, also is accused in the 20-page lawsuit of covering up past sexual abuses. Many families in Rockland and Orange counties send their children to the camp, the family's lawyer said.
The boy's father said his wife received a call from Gold telling them there was an incident at camp but their son was OK and provided no other details. Concerned, the couple left immediately for the camp, where their son told them what had happened.
"I was flipping out," the boy's fathersaid last week. "They are not the first ones. On the way home from the camp, I was crying like a baby.
"I am now a lot more paranoid with the rest of my kids," the father of four said. "I feel our life has been violated by Gold and the camp."
Gold denied the charges through his lawyer, Matthew Flanagan.
"We are confident that the family and their lawyer will come to learn that Mr. Gold did not cover up anything," Flanagan said in an e-mail statement, "and that the camp acted entirely appropriately both before and after the incident to protect this child and all of the campers."
The counselor, Chisdai Ben-Porath, 20, who is named in the lawsuit, pleaded guilty in February to molesting the Monsey boy. He was sentenced to 5 to 23 months in Monroe County jail in Pennsylvania.
The family's lawyer, Brian Condon of Nanuet, and the boy's father said Gold refused to let him call his parents and first lied to parents about what happened to the two campers.
They said the boy's 2-minute video shows Ben-Porath picking up a camper and grinding his torso against the child at about 12:30 a.m. July 11. Ben-Porath then went to the Monsey boy's bunk and began massaging the child's buttock as the boy pretended to sleep in hopes that the counselor would ignore him.
The boy then jumped up, saw Ben-Porath looked sexually aroused and went under his bunk, telling Ben-Porath that he was looking for a computer game for his iPod Touch, according to his father and the family's lawsuit.
Condon said the other camper's family declined to press criminal charges against Ben-Porath or join the civil lawsuit.
"This is not a Jewish or Catholic issue," Condon said. "This is about pervert adults preying on the innocence of the kids. This is about a camp not doing background checks on the counselors and covering up sexual abuse."
Ben-Porath's lawyer, former Rockland District Attorney Kenneth Gribetz, acknowledged the content of the videotape. He said his client had no prior criminal record, recognized he did wrong and is undergoing therapy. He said the Pennsylvania Sexual Offender Assessment Board did not deem Ben-Porath a sexually violent predator.
Gribetz said he expected Ben-Porath will be released after his July parole hearing and later deported to Canada.
The Monsey boy's father said he was angry at the lax attitude of the state police and prosecutors toward the abuse. He said if he and his wife had not pushed for an arrest, Ben-Porath would have been on a bus to Canada.
He said he agreed to downgrade the criminal charges to spare his son from testifying and being publicly identified. He also said he got phone calls from some rabbis and community members urging him to drop the charges.
Read the lawsuit:
Read the camp's response:
Read the counselor's response
Queens man sentenced to life in violent sex trafficking case
NEW YORK — A Queens man was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday in connection with his leadership of a long-running sex trafficking conspiracy that employed force, fraud, and coercion to sell young women for sex against their wills. The investigation leading to this life sentence was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents assigned to New York.
Isaias Flores-Mendez, 42, was also ordered to forfeit approximately $1.7 million, and to pay $84,000 in restitution to a victim of his crime. He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: "The defendant viciously robbed the victims in this case of their freedom, their dignity, and their fundamental human rights. Although the victims of the defendant's crimes will never be made whole, his prosecution and today's sentence hopefully signal to them and everyone else that such atrocities cannot be tolerated in our society and will be prosecuted and punished to the full extent of the law."
"This defendant will spend the rest of his life behind bars for enslaving a young woman and violently forcing her into a life of prostitution for his own enrichment," said HSI New York Special Agent in Charge James T. Hayes. "The exploitation of vulnerable young women and children in our nation is a problem that demands a strong response from law enforcement. HSI special agents are on the front lines of this battle every day, seeking out victims and bringing their tormentors to justice."
According to the indictment, other documents filed in Manhattan federal court and statements made at various proceedings in this case, including today's sentencing:
Since at least 1999, when he was first arrested for promoting prostitution, Flores-Mendez has been sexually exploiting vulnerable women for his own financial gain. His predatory crimes have ranged in scope over the years.
He used violence and threats of violence to personally force at least one young woman ("Victim-1") to engage in prostitution against her will. At the age of 17, Victim-1 was romanced by Flores-Mendez, and lured to the U.S. with the promise of a better life for her and her baby. Once in New York, Victim-1 was made to sleep on a floor with her child, was repeatedly beaten, and was verbally abused on a regular basis by Flores-Mendez, who sexually enslaved Victim-1 and made her work as a prostitute against her will for his own financial gain. When she tried to resist, she was beaten and abused. On one such occasion, Flores-Mendez pushed her and her young child outside on a cold winter night, locked the door, and refused to let her back in. Afraid that her baby would die, Victim-1 succumbed to Flores-Mendez‘s demands that she continue to be sold for sex. After she escaped, Flores-Mendez and his brother Bonifacio Flores-Mendez continued to torment her, on one occasion trying to run her over with his car.
Flores-Mendez also used threats of violence to force another woman ("Victim-A") to help teach Victim-1 how to handle customers, telling Victim-A that he would "break her in half" if she didn't comply.
In addition to his direct sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion, Flores-Mendez also owned and operated a sprawling network of brothels in and around New York City that sexually exploited at least five women per day, each of whom was required to have sex with up to 20 customers per day under abhorrent conditions. Many of the victims of this sex trafficking-prostitution enterprise were forced to engage in prostitution against their wills.
Sixteen defendants in this case, including Bonifacio Flores-Mendez, have pleaded guilty, and one has entered into a deferred prosecution agreement. All but four defendants have been sentenced. The defendants who have pleaded to date have agreed to forfeit, in total, more than $1.7 million.
Almost forgotten sex crime victims
by NewsPress Staff
STILLWATER, Okla. — In our supposedly enlightened era about sex crimes against children, there continues to be one glaring blind spot. Yes, there is more discussion now than ever before about the types of predators who target our children, the cyclical nature of these crimes and how to keep our children safe. And, yes, society does a pretty good job of gathering around to help the little girls who have fallen prey to pedophiles. Not so with little boys.
Discussion about the plight of sexually victimized boys and young male teens has been virtually absent from the national conversation. We all understand the horror and lifelong scars a rape can cause to, say, a 12-year-old female. But there remains this idea that if it happens to a 12-year-old boy, they are somehow more able to handle it, less psychologically damaged by the victimization. Some of the ill-informed even believe the boy is “lucky” to have been introduced to the joys of sex so early. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The unsettling reality is that, for a variety of reasons, young males who have been sexually assaulted don't readily report what has happened to them. It is tremendously difficult for them to admit that someone has taken advantage of them in that way. Why?
Well, no matter how evolved we may think we are, our society continues to instill in even the youngest boys the need to be brave, strong, confident and to act tough – to never appear helpless, fragile or fearful. Of course, feeling afraid and ashamed are exactly the emotions a sex victim experiences. So frequently, boys don't tell for fear of disappointing the adults in their life.
Boys often stay silent because they believe they will be seen as being gay if their abuser was – as most often happens – also male. Let's bust the myth right now that this type of sex abuse automatically turns the child into a homosexual. Completely untrue.
Also, when they experience the normal physical response to stimulation – even if it is forced stimulation – it often confuses the boy. His body is reacting one way while his mind is telling him the act is wrong. It's this confusion that contributes to the child going back to the predator time and time again. Though, usually he stream of gifts and flattering attention a pedophile offers is lure enough.
Dr. Scott Easton, of Boston College, conducted one of the largest research studies of male survivors of childhood sex abuse. He questioned nearly 500 men and discovered nearly 50 percent were abused for three years or longer. Imagine, boys who endured three years (or more) of sexual assaults before either escaping the clutches of their attacker or becoming too old to be desirable.
Parents reading this might think their son would always come and tell them if something like this was happening to them – but statistics prove that is wishful thinking.
Since law enforcement, social workers and courts hear so few complaints from young boys, there is a shocking lack of services targeted for male victims.
Left untreated and unsupported, many victims become depressed, anxious, addicted to drugs and alcohol and often think about or commit suicide.
I bring up the dynamics behind young men who wait years to report their abuse because there are a couple of cases in the news lately involving young men who stepped forward with accusations from long ago.
James Safechuck, now 36, was 10 years old when he was cast in a Pepsi commercial opposite the late singer Michael Jackson. Safechuck's lawsuit, filed in L.A. Superior Court against the Jackson estate, alleges Jackson repeatedly molested him for about four years. A Jackson lawyer has called the claim, “false and scurrilous.”
Once aspiring actor Michael Eagan, 31, filed the second headline-making lawsuit. He says that beginning when he was 15 years old, several men – who are now accomplished Hollywood veterans – lured him in with promises of lucrative acting jobs but then plied him (and other underage boys) with drugs and booze and groomed them for sexual victimization. Eagan claims the abuse continued for two years. All the named defendants have denied any wrongdoing.
Internet wags made immediate and ugly judgments about the two young accusers.
“It's amazing that (these) accusers have the same strange quality of voluntarily going to visit their abuser over and over for years.”
Before making snap judgments about someone who claims they were sexually molested as a child, could we all just take a deep breath and understand the dynamics at play? From my experience reporting on these types of cases, it is gut-wrenchingly hard for a bona fide victim to go public. It often makes them physically sick. They take their time revealing until they believe it is safe and they realize it is a step they have to take so they can begin to heal their soul.
Recriminations about why they, as a child, repeatedly returned to their abusers are meaningless. Questions about why they didn't tell their mother are ignorant. Criticizing them for asking the court for monetary compensation seems needlessly cruel. Any idea how much a course of intense therapy costs?
For teens, life's challenges sometimes prove deadly
After suicide, community looks for answers
by JENNIFER LIEBRUM
Raising children can be a bit like trying to corral mercury: elusive, shifting and sometimes risky. In recent months, the question of how we are doing as a community in regards to the task was raised in earnest with the suicide of a Wood River High School student. This series is an attempt to shed light on the challenges of being a teen in the Wood River Valley and how various agencies are working to keep kids healthy and alive. Parents are straddling giving their kids space and freedom and the overwhelming desire every parent has to protect their child from pain, hurt and disappointment. Kids sometimes think adults don't care or don't notice, but sometimes the adult just isn't sure when to step in and when to step back. Future articles in this series will address the issues of drugs and alcohol, social hosting, dating violence and teen pregnancy.
Ten minutes. That's the average time those who have survived an attempted suicide say lapsed between the impulse to end their life and their acting on that impulse.
Wood River Valley resident Lane Coulthard had eight minutes—480 seconds alone to commit an irreversible act, putting a period on a life that still had so many commas to accumulate.
The 18-year-old knew when his mother left him to run his younger sister to Hailey from their Bellevue-area home, that when she returned, they would bundle up and head out for a quiet canoe run at Silver Creek Preserve under a waxing crescent moon.
He didn't know of his mom's plans to provide his favorite food, cracked crab, before they headed off on another mother-and-son adventure.
When his mom found him lying on the snow-covered driveway Jan. 3, she assumed from the scene that he must have slipped and hit his head while he was loading the canoe.
The shotgun beside his body indicated otherwise.
The reality met her heart before it reached her head, and when it did, something inside both broke.
This was Lane, only 18 for a month to the day. The hilarious, smart, athletic kid known around town for his primal sense of responsibility for the feelings of just about everyone, and everything, he encountered.
For this tenacious young man to hurt himself—and so many others like him—contradicted everything known about him. It is only in mustering the courage and conviction to dig for, and learn from, the unknown, that his family, and his community, might find lasting peace.
An incomprehensible act
Several instances of self-inflicted violence by valley residents had occurred ahead of the Wood River High School senior's death. At least eight people had died by their own hand in 2013. There have been four suicides already in 2014, including Lane's, according to Sher Foster, executive director of the Crisis Hotline.
On their face, many of the tragedies had plausible triggers—an alcohol or drug problem, a money problem, a domestic problem, a debilitating health issue, or combinations of all of the above.
After countless tears were shed for the lost, the grieving compassionately supported, life, as it has a way of doing, went on. Yet with Lane's death, some were starting a tally of what seemed to be inordinate numbers of suicides for one community in the last five years, particularly among people under 25. The faintest cry of “Enough!” was being widely heard, even from trained emergency responders, weary of the losses.
Eighty-three Idaho school-aged children—16 under the age of 14—have died by their own hands since 2009. Kim Kane, director of the Idaho Lives Project, said in a presentation in Hailey this winter that suicide is the second leading cause of death among youths in the state. One in seven has seriously considered it, one in eight have a plan and one in 14 have attempted it, she said.
Mountain living, it turns out, can be deadly. That rugged individualism considered an asset is also responsible for untreated mental issues. Idaho, a state that lacks an anti-bullying law, and has some of the most strident anti-gay public policies in the nation, lost two kids in Pocatello weeks apart this year, prompting a lawsuit by the parents, citing a pattern of disregard for the health and safety of gay students.
In the presence of thwarted belongingness, or perceived burdensomeness, “My death would be worth more than my life, or that lots of problems would be solved,” Kane said. “Making it happen is not rocket science.”
Add to those conditions limited resources for mental-health support, and mix in easy access to guns, and an irrational moment in time can prove fatal.
In an average of 10 minutes or less
“It's a pattern of thinking that gathers into a perfect storm of incredibly uncharacteristic, deluded thinking,” says Dr. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “We only see what is visible to us. Our minds automatically look to cause and effect, while the real factors can be 100 percent invisible to anyone but the individual.
“Even they have told us it is not an act against life, or someone, or a forfeit of the future. It is just a desperate attempt to make the current situation stop.”
In the pivotal, research-rich book “Night Falls Fast,” Kay Redfield Jamison, an internationally recognized authority on depressive illnesses and their treatment, relentlessly foraged history and current reliable data on suicide to produce a comprehensive look at an issue as multi-faceted as it is regrettable—and, the experts will tell you, preventable.
Based on what are called psychological autopsies—post-mortem information gathered and analyzed—there are a few constants, but mostly, it is believed to boil down to something as maddeningly simple as this: There is pain, and the person wants it to end. The end, even in the rare instance of a note, defies categorization.
While there is no one-size-fits-all explanation for suicide—as our community would learn in discovering the circumstances at work in Lane's life—some things are generally known: At least 90 percent of people who died by suicide were suffering from a mental illness, most often depression, which can cause states of desperation, hopelessness, anxiety or rage. Spring is the peak time overall for suicides, the most frequent method is with a gun, and roughly 80 percent of those who kill themselves are male.
Jamison sheds some light on that last statistic, writing that “young or adolescent boys, for instance, are much more likely than girls to have experienced a crisis event in the 24 hours prior to suicide.”
“Particularly common,” she adds, “are breakups, disciplinary or legal crises (such as suspension from school or a pending appearance in juvenile court) and humiliating events such as public failure or rejection.”
“But psychological pain or stress alone—however great the loss or disappoints, however profound the shame or rejection—is rarely sufficient cause for suicide,” Jamison explains. “Mood disorders, alone, or in combination with alcohol and drug abuse, are by far the most common psychiatric conditions associated with suicide.
“The fact that most parents are unaware of depression and suicidal thinking in their adolescent children only makes the potential for disaster worse—as does society's too-frequent dismissal of drug and alcohol use in young people as youthful experimentation and teen angst.”
“Alcohol and drugs, used to contend with the pain of mental illness, more often worsen it,” Jamison writes. “Substance abuse loads the cylinder with more bullets.”
A community mourns
When a child is lost, people react, and Lane's death was among the most polarizing in recent memory. In a community this size, with a reputation as a get-away-from-it-all paradise, the topic has historically been an extra-rocky, less-traveled road for casual conversation. But that began to change with the loss of Lane.
Indeed, Lane's suicide buckled the community at its knees. Other deaths, like that of Dr. Bonni Curran while riding a bicycle in downtown Ketchum, had begged the questions of why, and what might be done differently, but it was his death that laser-focused attention on this formidable and unpredictable force—even among those without kids. In spite of the pain, or maybe because of it, it has become increasingly OK to talk about teens, parenting, culpability, social rituals, archaic laws and the outright fear that has stolen into hearts in the wake of so many wakes.
A candlelight vigil was held by Lane's peers, a packed church service featured some frank talk from the pulpit about the evil temptations facing our kids, community town halls were held, experts were summoned, panels empaneled, information (and misinformation) circulated, blame was placed—and opinions, fair and otherwise, were uttered and muttered. More tears. Parents tried to get children to pin down their emotions. How were they feeling, really? A few moms and dads gingerly asked for assurances that suicide was not an option. Others were too afraid to say it aloud, as though the mere mention could entice the act.
There were more questions than answers. But the latter never come without the former.
As the process of mourning spread through its quarry, the youth reacted in the only ways they knew how, with T-shirt and sticker effigies, video remembrances shared, photos of favorite memories that consumed Lane's Facebook page.
Painful reminders of the life lost, such as his prized pickup truck, were reluctantly sold or otherwise removed from view. Physical tributes to “312 Lane Linhart”—the name Lane used in motocross racing, and a play on his birthday and his mother's maiden name—showed up at his home. A specially crafted skateboard with references to his love of nature was created, a hand-carved bench presented. Gatherings, including a segment of the Sun Valley Film Festival in March, were dedicated to his spirit.
Some resented the attention. One teenager, whose name was withheld so the thoughts could be shared, reflected in an Idaho Mountain Express letter to the editor on the baffling duality of existence.
“Teenagers are no longer kids, but they're not ready to be adults. They're forced into this crazy, wonderfully horrible world—They're no longer sheltered from the realities of life,” the teen wrote. “Teenagers experience loss, stress, new love, heartbreaks and growing up. They yearn for the simplicity of being a little kid, and having no responsibilities. …
“We're afraid and anxious and trying.”
No logic in an otherwise logical life
An etched stone at the entrance to Lane's house informs visitors they have found Star Canyon Chateau, off the north end of Broadford Road. A short but curvy gravel road with paddocks on one side rolls up to the front of the home. There is a pond that can be enjoyed from either the kitchen, the living room or a sunny, screened porch.
To the yip and squeal of a swirl of small dogs and a curious cat, the single mother to Lane, and his sister Emma, looks weary, but polished on a gloomy Saturday when she ushers a stranger in to recap the life of her oldest child.
Heather Linhart is a petite woman with a large personality that, when combined with her features, and the cloak of trees shielding her large French chateau-style home from view, hints she is a television reporter, probably on a station in the south, or maybe California. She did, it turns out, study journalism, and now works in advertising sales. She has the gift of analysis and a public relations executive's mastery of guiding the conversation.
Because suicide so rarely explains itself, and to come to grips with the horror of it all, survivors eventually resign themselves to a certain truth—their truth—to begin the process of moving through their grief.
Lane's death is not an invitation to judgment, and she is not investigating any further.
“Nothing happened. Nothing. His brain shut off. It told him in that moment his life was over.”
She does, however, want to emphasize the life he left.
His room, like him, is unstuffy and masculine, not decorated like much of the rest of the home. It is inordinately tidy for a young person's space. Though sometimes there would be a pile of dirty clothes, chucked off during one of his many daily gear changes, it pretty much stayed this way. The collared shirts he wore that earned him the nickname of “Gatsby” are immaculately lined up in his closet.
“Depressed kids live in depressed environments,” Linhart offers to point out the obvious contradiction.
On a less cloudy day, it would clearly be a bright room, the sun waking its occupant with its rise, which suited Lane just fine. He greeted each day with wonder and squeezed the essence out of it. He fished most every day, kissing his catch before tenderly releasing it back to the river with an “off you go.”
Though he had learned to hunt as a young boy, he had chosen not to.
David Shaffer, a child psychologist at Columbia University in New York, states in Jamison's book that his findings are that many male adolescents who kill themselves are not only depressed but aggressive, quick-tempered and impulsive. They also tend to drink heavily, use drugs, and have difficulties in their relationships with others.
Lane wasn't that kid. He took calculated risks. He pushed the limits on his motorbike and skis, but he was a cautious driver, trusting his own instincts to guide him in competition, but not leaving the rest of his life to other people's bad maneuvers.
His walls are a testament of accomplishments. Ribbons and trophies for various sports and scholastic endeavors, handmade posters from his successful run for student body vice-president.
“He was going for president, but said he would take the second in command when he found out he had competition,” Linhart says, beaming. “He knew he would win, and he didn't want to hurt anyone, even though he wanted the position. He was willing to step aside. That's just how he was.”
She dismisses any lasting effects of the divorce from Lane's father, and the subsequent move from Las Vegas to here, saying Lane had made peace with it.
His mother and sister cheered his every performance and he was there for Emma's horse shows, the proud big brother. Of late, he had been learning to cope with his sister's suitors. He was, Linhart says, the man of the house.
Even if he didn't excel at everything he tried, he managed to keep it in perspective. Grateful for his gifts, he never hesitated to recruit newbies.
He taught kids how to ride the pump track at the Community Campus like pros, and was one of 91 of 3,000 chosen to attend Stanford's summer leadership program. He spearheaded a reseeding effort for the Wood River Land Trust in the wake of last summer's wildfires.
“He was a leader, always. Lane had an ability to love people and they loved him back,” his mother recalls. “They loved him when he won, and they loved him when he lost. He knew he was the love of everyone in his life, he just had this charisma. He was funny as hell. No one could make you laugh like that kid.”
A couch outside his room was often taken by a friend.
“He looked out for the underdogs; he took in kids who were having trouble at home,” Linhart says. “I would ask him every night, ‘Who's coming for dinner?' and he would always smile and say, ‘Make a lot.'”
Days before his death, he had received a letter inviting him to attend the University of Oregon, where he intended to pursue environmental law.
One of her favorite photos is one of Lane and his girlfriend framed to show them from their knees to the pavement. During a stroll through a Ketchum Gallery Walk, her heels had become uncomfortable, so her son gave the girl his tennis shoes and carried hers while walking barefoot.
As college approached, they were technically broken up, but they remained the best of friends.
Uncovering the unknown
In the weeks before his death, Lane endured a deeply felt loss, the death of his pet parrot.
“Today I lost my best friend,” he wrote Dec. 19, 2013, on Facebook. “Stevie was the most loving, adorable, talkative guy that was always there in my life, and now he's gone. Rest in Peace Stevie, Avidazen (sic).”
While expressing pain through words can lessen the blow, it is hard to interpret the depth of the sensation. But Stevie's ashes are still in a box on his desk.
He posted a photo with a shadowy sunrise in January, “First light of the new year.”
What his mother knows now was that wedged between her son's living for the moment and seizing a new day was an unparalleled despair.
“His biggest flaw was that he thought he was invincible,” Linhart says.
She says she had no illusions that her kid was any different than any other at this age. Though he didn't drink, she suspected he was smoking marijuana, so she randomly drug-tested him to make sure his head stayed clear for his motocross racing days.
She bought him condoms when she figured he was having sex. He knew how she felt about drugs and alcohol, the latter for which he had a genetic propensity, she says. She did think experimenting under her roof was better than partying off with friends.
“I was strict. I didn't expect him to be perfect, but he was too smart for this.”
“This” began when a trusted friend reportedly offered Lane a fun new drug at a New Year's Eve party. Either seduced by the over-the-top nature of the night, or his good sense merely dulled by a little grass, or even some beer, he chose the promise of a stepped-up thrill.
As Emma reflected later, “It would be like him. Lane lived his life bigger than life. He was going to have the best New Year, as large as he could.”
Two days later, after a day pushing snow with his buddies, he slinked around his house with a hoodie pulled uncharacteristically low over his head. He didn't want to talk about it.
“I'm just really out of it,” was all he would say.
He texted his girlfriend, “I don't know where this night is going to take me.” She replied, “Why so low?” but there was no response.
When his mother noticed he hadn't started a fire against the evening chill, and asked him to take out the trash, he snapped at her, “What, are you saying, I'm not helpful?” She encouraged him to take a hot bath.
He was taking out the garbage when her headlights fell across him as she backed out of the driveway to take Emma to Hailey, anticipating the canoeing they'd enjoy when she returned. She gestured a heart with her hands. He did the same.
‘If love could have saved you Lane, you would have lived forever!'
Ask Lane's mother where her parenting went wrong. It didn't. Ask if he had a mental illness like ADHD or anxiety, depression perhaps? No. No. No. Ask how an A-list kid with a healthy grip on winning and losing, can surrender, and she will say, it was an improbably matched chemistry.
Rather than a suicide, she sees his death as an overdose.
Her son, the champion debater, would never have chosen this end.
She insists that based on her talks with his friends, he had fallen hard from a previous night of “experimenting” and too little sleep. And then, finding his infinite positivity challenged to its core, he slipped into an unconscious state of mind.
“He couldn't even articulate it to his friends. He wasn't reckless. He didn't want to leave us. Why would he leave? This was a little hiccup in his life. There wasn't a note because it wasn't planned. And what could he say to make it make sense?”
Linhart learned from the Internet that one drug he took was the latest designer drug called 25I, which some researchers believe “robs the brain of serotonin in a brain that isn't full developed anyway.”
Similar to LSD in its psychedelic effects, it has caused numerous deaths around the world.
One drop—ingested by a 21-year-old who had broken his own rule never to take drugs from strangers—killed the young man at New Orleans Voodoo Festival within an hour.
Other undesired side effects include scrambled communication, paranoia, fear, panic and “unwanted and overwhelming feelings or life-changing spiritual experiences.”
Also known as the NBomb, 25I is being sold for $10 or less, and can be easily created by anyone with a basic understanding of chemistry. Those lab-savvy kids also know to prepare for the comedown, and stock up the body with vitamins and fluids in anticipation of the dive.
“They make it through the high with life in the palm of their hand on Friday and by Monday their brain plays this trick on them. This isn't your mother's Ecstasy,” Linhart says.
A therapist she is working with said of these drugs, “It takes you up 20 floors and brings you down 50.”
Linhart believes that kids around here get their blasé attitude about drugs “because they are living in a little piece of heaven where they believe bad things don't happen to good kids.”
Kids here don't have to see the slums and circumstances their drugs create and come from, thanks to the wealthy economic backdrop, she says.
“But now, for a little while, they are afraid,” Linhart says. “Fear is a reaction to not having any answers. Maybe the fear will knock down their invincibility. We can't lock them up, we have to educate them.”
Still, Linhart said her loss will not make her a crusader.
“I just want to save one family from our deep sorrow and grief, that's all. I want the kids and parents in this valley to have a better understanding how deadly these drugs are.”
“If love could have saved you Lane, you would have lived forever!” his mother wrote on her son's Facebook page in February.
“I'm still so mad,” she says this day. “How could you do this to us? I was madly in love with him.” The stranger leaves after a warm embrace, walking away with a sorrow deepened by knowing more about the young man, and understanding far less.
The Blaine County Community Drug Coalition, which works to prevent teens from substance abuse, is well aware of drugs like 25I and the also-popular Molly. They're banking on the “information is power” philosophy to save lives in the future.
Executive Director Michael David explains that rather than making drugs taboo, their approach is to demystify them and accept why kids are drawn to them. Through peer support, the organization aims to capitalize on teen's aggressively independent desires divided by their connection to home and adults, to guide them to decisions to rule their own health to persevere.
“Death wakes us up, but it doesn't address all those for whom drugs or addiction is causing problems,” David says. “Why do twice as many Blaine County high-schoolers think about using substances as the rest of the state? We have all these rookies using alcohol and drugs. That's Russian Roulette.”
David says substance use on a brain under 25 causes brain damage.
“We care so much about concussions from sports,” he notes, “but we have to have a lower tolerance for letting children do irreparable damage to their lives as rites of passage.”
Nancy Kneeland, Lane's aunt, is one of the original founders of the Drug Coalition, and a trained drug and alcohol counselor with an emphasis on “teen angels.”
“The beauty of drugs and alcohol is that they allow you to throw reason and judgment away,” she says. “It's the first thing to go.”
With the loss of serotonin come feelings of depression. Compounding the complexity, many kids have nowhere to turn with their feelings, because if they do, they are admitting illegal activity.
And because they rely on their peers, groups like the Drug Coalition and Idaho Lives are loading students and teachers up on information that they can use as daily field ambassadors.
“We do a pretty good job of getting kids ready to take it to the next level academically,” David says. “But we don't prepare them socially. We don't give them the information they so badly need to make good choices.”
The body blow assumed by so many after Lane's death will leave bruises that fade, but also scars that serve as reminders that challenges persist. These problems have rocked communities across the globe and now, it is our turn.
Thankfully, there has been an upswing in interest in drug education and suicide prevention—which experts say is possible—and introspection, which they likewise say is healthy for a community recovering from such a blow.
The Idaho Lives Project has invested in a pilot program currently at Silver Creek High School receiving $3,000 to implement Sources of Strength, an evidence-based suicide prevention program that utilizes the power of peer social networks to change unhealthy norms and culture to ultimately prevent suicide, bullying and substance abuse.
Suicide, it turns out, is still considered rare and, it doesn't have to be a forgone conclusion for any kid—depressed, being bullied, struggling with gender identity, or an addiction, a broken heart or seemingly without hope. For every one completed act of suicide, many more have been intervened on, preempted by caring observers. Those 10 fateful minutes didn't become fatal.
Researchers are saying that kids need to realize that despair and loneliness and anger, while painful, are changeable. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary condition.
Ambassadors among peers are essential, they say. The more who reflect that suicide is not an option, the less frequently it can be.
One suicide survivor said that a smile from a stranger was all that it took to prevent suicide that day. And research has proven that a failed attempt buys about five weeks of repair time. Long enough for medication and therapy and hope to take root.
Intentions that start off in one direction can be thwarted simply by removing the means—guns, especially—when it comes to young people.
Linhart is heartened by the news that one of her son's buddies chose to stop using drugs and get into treatment. She hopes the ripple effect of uncovering the unique circumstances that led to his suicide has some community-altering rings as it widens.
“Lane made a mistake in his life. He made 150,000 good choices in his life, and on one given night with one given choice he made a choice that took his life,” she says. “He didn't want that. If losing Lane is not enough of a life lesson, I can't save them.”
People who take their own life are selfish, cowards, weak or are just looking for attention. The fact is more than 90 percent of people who take their own life have at least one and often more than one treatable mental illness such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and/or alcohol and substance abuse. With better recognition and treatment many suicides can be prevented.
While bullying and suicide can be linked, it is not a clear-cut connection that ignores key underlying mental-health issues such as depression and anxiety.
Talking about suicide plants the idea. In fact, speaking openly about the feelings surrounding the subject and having a chance to provide alternatives has shown to prevent or delay attempts.
Talk therapy and/or medications don't work. One of the best ways to prevent suicide is by getting treatment for mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar illness and/or substance abuse and learning ways to solve problems. Finding the best treatment can take some time, and the right treatment can greatly reduce risk of suicide.
Source: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Some suicide warning signs
Talking about wanting to die or kill oneself.
Looking for ways to do so, like searching for a gun online.
Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
Talking about feeling trapped or in pain.
Talking about being a burden.
Increasing use of alcohol or drugs.
Acting anxious or agitated, behaving recklessly.
Feeling withdrawn or isolated.
Suddenly happier, calmer.
Loss of interest in things one cares about.
Sleeping, a lot or too little, mood swings.
Source: Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline.
Places to seek help
Wood River Crisis Hotline: 788-3596, also on Facebook at thecrisishotline.org
1-800-273-TALK or idahosuicideprevention.org
NAMI Wood River Valley: 309-1987 and www.nami-wrv.com
St. Luke's Mental Health Clinic: 727-8970.
The Advocates: 788-6070 or 888-676-0066 and www.theadvocates-aplacetogo.org
More volunteers sought to stem child abuse
by DON LEHMAN
FORT EDWARD -- The response to a call for volunteers to help with a new child abuse prevention program has been good, but Washington County officials said more help is needed to get the program off the ground in the coming months.
County Social Services Commissioner Tammy DeLorme said a dozen people have signed up to volunteer for the Communities Now program, designed to help families and stem child abuse, neglect and domestic violence. It is supposed to begin in the coming months with a pilot effort in Whitehall.
Washington County Sheriff Jeff Murphy said county leaders hoped for about 30 volunteers for the first phase of the program.
The first group will be trained to serve as instructors of others, who will aid families around the county when the program is fully operational.
The goal is to provide support to families, whether it's a ride to the grocery store, help with signing a child up for a youth sports program or other basic, low-cost assistance.
“It's an extension of services that are already out there, using volunteers,” Murphy said.
The program is modeled after the national Communities Now program based at the Butler Institute for Families at the University of Denver. It has shown success in intervening to prevent child abuse and neglect, decrease the number of children in foster care, improve mental and physical health and cut back on domestic abuse and violence. It prepares community members to “safely and appropriately intervene” in situations where someone may be at risk.
County leaders sought to start the program locally after a spate of child fatalities and serious injuries in recent years.
“I want people to understand it's not just a government agency that can do something to help in these situations,” DeLorme said.
Delorme said the main qualification volunteers need is an ability to comfortably talk to groups of people.
The first group of volunteers will be trained to train other volunteers in ways to provide assistance, and will need to donate about eight days of their time over the first year or so.
They will also serve as trainers for other people in communities around the county as the program branches out from Whitehall.
The goal is to have volunteers ready to provide assistance this summer, when children are out of school.
The first training is scheduled for May 21 at the county Municipal Center in Fort Edward, with subsequent sessions scheduled for June 4-6.
Those interested in helping can call 746-2323 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Offenders who travel globally to sexually abuse children and call it sex tourism
Travel and tourism has a major responsibility, and is a prime offender, to protect children being abused sexually and tourists committing such crimes. The International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children announced that a private meeting involving 70 leaders representing law enforcement, governmental and non-governmental organizations from 16 countries, and major international bodies was held yesterday in Brussels, Belgium, to address the growing problem of transnational child sex offenders who are now traveling around the world to sexually abuse children.
An estimated 2 million children each year are the victims of child sex tourism. Many countries lack laws that prevent child sexual exploitation which has fueled an increase in commercial tour packages being used by many Americans, Europeans and other Westerners who travel to destination countries for the purpose of sexually abusing a child. Many of the travelers have criminal convictions in their home countries for sexual offenses against children. Due to gaps in information sharing between law enforcement agencies, child sex offenders may find it easier to sexually abuse a child abroad than at home.
While there have been important changes in law, public awareness and law enforcement, the United Nations still estimates that child sex tourism is a $20 billion per year industry. A system is needed that alerts destination countries when and where convicted sex offenders are traveling and better collaboration and information sharing is needed between law enforcement agencies.
The Brussels meeting was convened and hosted by the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children and chaired by its President and CEO Ernie Allen. In describing the importance of the meeting Mr. Allen said,
"Our goal was to develop a solution to detect and alert destination countries regarding the travel of convicted child sex offenders. Today, we made extraordinary progress toward achieving a global consensus. We reviewed current systems, identified gaps and constraints, and agreed upon a strategy to move toward building a system that can be used on the broadest possible basis. We are encouraged by the progress and believe this meeting is a strong first step toward a solution that will better protect the world's children."
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss what is currently working and not working; identify needs and challenges such as alerting destinations to which sex offenders are traveling; identify ways to improve cooperation; facilitate collaboration and information sharing between international law enforcement agencies; and work together to develop a global strategy to address the problem.
In addition to Mr. Allen, speakers included Ian Quinn, Chairman of the Virtual Global Task Force; Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, President of Missing Children Europe/United Nations Special Rapporteur for the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; Stacia Hylton, Director of the U.S. Marshals Service; and Cathrin Bauer-Bulst, Policy Officer of the Directorate General of the European Commission; among others.
The meeting reviewed the tools currently in use including INTERPOL's Green Notices; Europol's Operation Haven and Project Raven; the Council of Europe's Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (Lanzarote Convention); U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Angel Watch; the F.B.I.'s Child Sex Tourism Initiative; the U.S. Marshals Service's National Sex Offender Targeting Center; the U.K.'s International Child Protection Certificate; as well as current initiatives of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Australian Federal Police and the Dutch National Police; among others.
Representatives from the following 16 countries participated in the meeting: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Hungary, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States. International organizations attending in addition to ICMEC included: Child Focus, ECPAT, the European Commission, the Council of Europe, Europol, INTERPOL and Missing Children Europe, among others.
Leading law enforcement agencies represented included: The Australian Federal Police; the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; the Colombian National Police; the Dutch National Police; the F.B.I.; the New Zealand Police; Norway's National Criminal Investigative Service; Switzerland's Cybercrime Coordination Unit; the U.A.E.'s Child Protection Centre; the U.K. National Crime Agency/Child Exploitation & Online Protection Centre (CEOP); U.S. Customs & Border Protection; U.S. ICE/Homeland Security Investigations; the U.S. Marshals Service; the U.S. Department of Justice/Child Exploitation & Obscenity Section (CEOS); among others.
The group committed to move forward together in an expedited way, to begin dialogue and discussion with senior policy leaders, and to expand testing of pilot programs in a growing number of countries as soon as possible.
The International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC) is a private 501(c)(3) nongovernmental, nonprofit organization. It is the leading agency working internationally to combat child abduction and sexual abuse and exploitation. The organization has built a global network of 22 nations, trained law enforcement in 121 countries and worked with parliaments in 100 countries to enact new laws on child pornography. ICMEC works in partnership with INTERPOL, the Organization of American States and the Hague Conference on Private International Law among others. For more information about ICMEC visit: www.icmec.org
Child sexual abuse to be focus of training
HICKORY, N.C. — The Children's Advocacy and Protection Center of Catawba County will offer several opportunities to adults wishing to learn more about how to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse.
This free training is called Stewards of Children: Darkness to Light. Participants will watch a documentary film and participate in a discussion led by a trained facilitator. When 5 percent of the local population takes the training, a tipping point is reached and community attitudes begin to change. In 2011, the CAPC launched a campaign to train 6,000 adults. So far, 3,100 have taken the training.
Any concerned adult is invited to take the training. Parents and those who work with children, professionally or as volunteers, are especially encouraged to attend.
The times and places where the training will be offered are as follows:
Wednesday, May 21, 6 to 8 p.m. at Great Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Conover;
Saturday, May 31, 9 to 11:30 a.m. at the Children's Advocacy and Protection Center;
Saturday, June 7, 9 to 11:30 a.m. at the CAPC;
Saturday, July 12, 9 to11:30 a.m. at the CAPC.
The CAPC is at 1007 First Ave., South, Conover. Those wishing to attend one of the trainings should pre-register by calling 828-465-9296 or emailing: email@example.com
Businesses, churches, schools or other organizations are also invited to host future trainings.
The recently updated Stewards of Children documentary film features a new selection of survivor stories, expert guidance, and practical advice as part of a five-step action plan to help adults protect the children in their lives. This evidence-informed training program also includes up-to-date statistics and current topics in child sexual abuse prevention, packaged into a concise, two-hour format. The Children's Advocacy & Protection Center is pleased to partner with Darkness to Light to offer Stewards of Children training in Catawba County, available through a facilitator-led session or through a newly improved online learning platform.
A Spanish language version of the training is also available, featuring Marisa Azaret, chief psychologist of the behavioral psychology program at Miami Children's Hospital, and medical contributor for CNN en Español. The new Stewards of Children program was recently selected by the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention as a model program.
The Catawba County Children's Advocacy and Prevention Center exists to build a community dedicated to the prevention of and the coordinated response to child abuse and neglect. The CAPC is a nonprofit organization that provides services to children who have been sexually and/or severely physically abused. Services include forensic interviews, medical exams, mental health therapy, and a support and education group for non-offending caregivers. The center sees about 300 children a year from Catawba County. In addition to the services provided to child victims, the CAPC serves as the center of a multidisciplinary team made up of law enforcement, prosecution, and Department of Social Services. The CAPC emphasizes prevention by offering Darkness to Light in addition to other prevention programs.
Hollywood pedophile parties: Symptom of a rampant disease feeding on innocent children
by Jerome Elam
DALLAS, X-Men director Bryan Singer is accused of being involved in a series of pedophile parties where young boys were molested. Along with Singer, producer Gary Goddard, former Disney exec David Neuman and executive Garth Ancier are alleged to have been involved in the targeting and victimization of young boys.
The accusations against Singer emerged when Michael Egan, a former child actor and model, filed civil suits against Singer, Goddard, Neuman and Ancier. Egan told the New York Post that during the 1990's, he and other young boys were treated “like pieces of meat at sex parties.” His attorney Jeff Herman has stated that since filing suit, he has been contacted by other victims who have broken their silence in the hopes of saving the next child from suffering as they have.
The New York Post also reports Egan's mother previously reported the abuse to the LAPD and FBI and no action was taken.
Singer and the others named by Egan have has vehemently denied the accusations against them.
The accusations brought chills of horror to me, reminding me of my own experiences.
As a young boy of five years old, I became the “property” of a pedophile ring where parties such as the ones Singer is accused of attending were a common destination for drugged and terrified children.
My journey into an abyss of hopeless indignation began at the age of five but found its roots in a much earlier time. My mother was the product of an abusive family that propelled her into an alcoholic haze and she became pregnant at seventeen. My words to describe the ill-fated marriage of my mother and father are that the extreme dichotomy of their personalities could not have survived a cross-country bus ride.
Had it not been for my father's enlistment in the Army and his deployment overseas their marriage would never have lasted the three years its lifespan consumed. Returning home, my father soon discovered all the money he sent home had been quickly spent and my mother's abuse of alcohol had worsened beyond repair. Their mutual tempers became a never-ending crescendo that still consumes my earliest childhood memories.
A torrid divorce that rivaled the most horrific of natural disasters ensued, and my mother moved us in with her parents. Thrust from one abusive situation to another, I became a child of chaos desperately clinging to the hope of a life where happiness had no price.
During my time with my grandparents I was subjected to severe physical beatings and constant abuse while my mother disappeared for days at a time inside the depths of a bottle.
Eventually my mother met someone who shared her love of alcohol and shortly thereafter they were married. In the beginning, her new husband seemed kind and often brought me gifts and the attention I so desperately longed for. My fairy tale would soon take a darker turn, as he began molesting me often several times a day.
Victims of child sex abuse are slowly and systematically trapped in an inescapable prison of silence using psychological blackmail and threats of violence against the child or their family. Pedophiles use all the above methods in a process known as “grooming” to wrap their victims in a cocoon of fear where many lay trapped until the end of their adult life.
The statistics on child abuse is horrific. 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. 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. 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.
My abuser was a well-respected member of the community, wealthy and active in his church and well liked by everyone. Below the surface, however was a seething underbelly of evil that haunts my nightmares to this day. He used my desperate need for affection to weave his trap and then sealed it with death threats against my mother.
Before long he took me to see his friends, members of the pedophile ring that he was a part of. In what became an endless cycle over many years, I was drugged, raped and used for child pornography.
As a diagnosis, pedophilia is often coupled with another major psychiatric disorder. Many pedophiles also demonstrate narcissistic, sociopathic, and antisocial personality traits. They lack remorse and an understanding of the harm their actions cause (Cohen LJ, McGeoch PG, Watras-Gans S, et al. Personality impairment in male pedophiles. J Clin Psychiatry . 2002;63:912-919).
The grooming process was complete and soon I was no more than an object for the twisted sexual appetites of a secret society of pedophiles. Their business and political connections gave them the immunity to do anything they wanted, and the lives of innocent children became their playthings. We were trafficked and sold to whoever would pay the price and the darkest fantasy became our worst nightmare.
The leader of the pedophile ring was a ruthless psychopath named “Duke” who enjoyed choking children until they became unconscious and on several occasions his sick fantasy went too far. I watched one day as a friend of mine named “Steve” suffered the consequences of Duke's rage. Steve had defied the authority of the lower ranking members and barely escaped with his life and this time he had become the nexus of the unstoppable fury of a psychopath. Duke calmly walked over to Steve placed his hand around his neck and as he lifted him off his feet I heard the last words my friend would ever say “Please no!” he pleaded but once Duke had taken action there was no stopping him. The color drained from Steve's face and as the last ounce of life drained from him his bowels released their contents spilling all over Duke's clothing. Steve's last act had been his final revenge and I will always remember the look in his eyes as he lost his hold on the tortured life we all endured and finally found freedom.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the average age of a sex-trafficked child is 13-14 years old. Each pimp can make $150,000-$200,000 per child a year, and the average pimp has four to six girls. UNICEF estimates there are nearly two million children in the commercial sex trade. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates close to 300,000 children are at risk of being prostituted in the United States right now. An average victim of sex trafficking may be forced to have sex up to 20-48 times a day (Polaris Project a nonprofit group dedicated to combating human trafficking). In July of 2013 the FBI rescued 105 children who were forced into prostitution in the United States, and arrested 150 pimps in a series of raids in 76 American cities. The campaign, known as “Operation Cross Country,” was the largest of its type and conducted under the FBI's “Innocence Lost” initiative. It all took place in just 72 hours. The youngest victim recovered was just 9 years old. (Reuters)
My ordeal as a sex trafficked child would continue for seven years, and during that time I was routinely given drugs and alcohol. These paled in comparison to the one force that constantly consumes the mind and body of every sex trafficked child: fear. It is the one factor that dominates your life even after escaping the control of those who dictate your every move.
In the world of sex trafficking you are placed in the charge one or several people called “handlers” and they run your life. They become your “shadow” and your every move is closely monitored, especially around “high value clients.”
To survive in the world of sex trafficking, most embrace drugs and alcohol as a way to numb the pain of being used as a sex object with no value. Trafficked children are brainwashed into believing that they are worthless and unworthy of love and that the gifts and twisted form of affection they receive are more then they deserve. Less then one percent of sex trafficked children escape and the average lifetime of a trafficked child is seven years.
I thank God every day for saving me from the hell I endured as a victim of child sex trafficking and I fight every day to save as many children as possible from a world that few escape. To learn more about how you can help save the next victim of sex trafficking the following organizations offer training and education, the Polaris Project; Jada Pinkett Smith's organization, Don't Sell Bodies; the McCain Institute, named after Senator John McCain of Arizona; Arrow Child and Family Ministries in Texas; and the Joyful Heart Foundation. Victims of sex trafficking are all around us and with just an hour of education everyone can learn the signs before one more child is lost.
Dating violence, abuse, sexual assault and human trafficking: A critical connection
by Barbara Amaya
The United States officially designated April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month in 2001. Throughout the month, organizations across the country host events and programs that aim to educate the public and bring awareness about the problem of sexual assault.
Increasing awareness about human trafficking, dating violence and abuse are critical to making changes and ending the practices.
Vulnerable populations are always at risk for being targeted, manipulated, exploited, coerced and ultimately trafficked, either for labor or purposes of sex. The simple reason is that those who are most vulnerable are also the easiest to control.
Children, teens and young men and women who have been abused in any form are among those vulnerable populations who are most at-risk to become victims of human trafficking.
The definition of human trafficking includes populations who are exploited and manipulated for the purposes of labor and or sex.
Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Included in the definition of sexual assault are activities such as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape. Victims of dating violence can suffer many of the same traumas as those of sexual assault.
The best way to prevent dating violence and abuse is education. Teach children about respectful, healthy relationships. Building healthy self esteem in children and teens is key to helping them avoid negative relationships.
Human traffickers look for children and teens who exhibit signs of low self esteem. Traffickers are known to troll social media sites looking for posts from vulnerable youth who post about problems at home, arguments with their families, and discuss running away from home. The trafficker will then reach out with offers of assistance and understanding.
Silence is a key factor in keeping a victim vulnerable to human traffickers. More than 70 percent of teens who are being abused and who may have experienced dating violence will never tell anyone. And most who do tell someone will only talk with their friends, not their parents, teachers or other authority figures.
Traffickers use silence in all of their tactics of exploitation. A victim who has already been silent about previous dating violence or abuse in their lives is easier for traffickers to control. Through a combination of expert manipulation and violence, human traffickers control their victims and reprogram their realities. Victims then begin to bond with their traffickers in what is called ‘trauma bonding'. This bond is a mental bond or chain that is sometimes much harder to break than any metal chain.
Teens sometimes confuse jealousy or for love, when it is actually control and abuse. This type of abusive behavior can quickly escalate into physical and sexual violence. It's important to help your teens recognize the warning signs, before it's too late.
Teach teens that it is important to understand how to treat their partners. Most teens who abuse their partners, boyfriends or girlfriends have never been taught how to have a respectful relationship. Teens need to learn that they never have a right to hurt, pressure, isolate others.
Teach teens how to identify what could be the warning signs of an abusive relationship, and also ways that human traffickers control their victims, some of which include:
Extreme jealousy or insecurity.
Isolating you from friends or family.
Checking your cell phone or email without permission.
Insulting or putting you down.
Physically hurting you in any way, even pushing.
Telling you what to do.
Pressuring you to do things you don't want to do including having sex.
Teenagers should understand that sometimes relationships end there are safe ways to terminate a relationship. Adults can help by encouraging teens to share their feelings with parents, counselors or other adults. It is important for teenagers to have a safe outlet to share their feelings.
Learning healthy relationship strategies will help them create healthy relationships later in life and also avoid becoming a target for human traffickers.
Communication is key in breaking the silence and critical connection between abuse, dating violence and becoming a victim of human trafficking. Abuse and violence thrives in silence.
Barbara Amaya author, advocate, survivor
Elizabeth Smart: 'Happy life' is best outcome after trauma
Holland, Mich. -- Kidnap and sexual assault survivor Elizabeth Smart shared both horrific and loving details of her life during the Children's Advocacy Center's luncheon Thursday.
Smart was just 14 when she was taken at knifepoint from her family home on the night of June 5, 2002, held captive for nine months and raped repeatedly by Brian David Mitchell. Convicted in 2011, he is in prison for life for kidnapping, sexual assault and burglary.
Smart has since started a foundation dedicated to child safety advocacy, married and written a book, "My Story." She delivered a message of hope and resilience to the 600 people at Hudsonville's Pinnacle Center to support Holland-based Children's Advocacy Center, which helps assaulted children and adults with disabilities recover from physical and sexual abuse. Smart would like to see more enforcement of existing laws and mandatory collection of DNA when suspects are booked by police. And she's adamant that rape victims, be they Nairobi's kidnapped girls or U.S. college students, not be shamed or blamed. Rape, she said, is never acceptable.
"I will never, ever forget how that felt," she said of her own trauma. "I will never (forget), not just the physical pain, but emotional pain and spiritual pain. What had happened, I can't imagine anything more painful than ... something so violent. I felt so broken, so filthy, so, just, worthless. I felt like I had lost all value and all reason to keep on living."
Smart said she feared losing her identity after her captors changed her name and barred her from talking about her family. She survived by focusing on the memory of her mom's voice, her parents' love and faith that God would always be with her.
Her hour-long talk included loving and sometimes funny stories about life with her parents, four brothers and younger sister as well as her large extended family. They, she said, made her recovery possible, and she is endlessly thankful.
The CAC responds to physical and sexual abuse of children and adults with disabilities, creating a team of state protective services, police, prosecutors and medical and mental health professionals. In addition to providing medical exams by specially trained doctors and nurses, the agency hosts support groups, safe forensic interviews for victims and educational programs for children and adults.
The CAC's executive director, Darcy Komejan, said she was thrilled with the record number of lunch attendees, about four times as many as last year. Another 100 were on a waiting list to get in, she said.
"Having such interest in Elizabeth Smart means I get to tell so many more people about what our agency does," she said. Learn more at cac-ottawa.org.
Proposed CPS guidance aims to help spot signs of DV against teenagers and pensioners
The Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, has proposed changes to the way the CPS considers domestic violence cases that would instruct prosecutors to consider the use of social media, gang culture and peer pressure when looking at cases involving teenagers.
Under the new proposals prosecutors looking at alleged domestic violence against an older person would also consider the specific context in which the abuse is occurring, for example following retirement, as a result of social isolation or 'care-giver' stress or anxiety. Older people may also enter into abusive relationships later in life.
New draft guidance, which has opened for public consultation, but has not yet come into force, explains the potential impact of domestic abuse on different groups to help prosecutors adopt a tailored approach taking into account their particular support needs.
Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, said:
"The destructive impact of domestic violence is felt throughout society and can be inflicted in many different ways. The guidance we are now consulting on recognises this, and makes clear that teenagers' experiences of domestic violence will often be completely different to those experienced by adults and older generations.
"Some teenagers may not consider themselves victims of domestic violence, especially if they are not being physically abused but are being targeted on social media for example. Similarly, abuse in gang environments, for example young girls being forced into sexual activity as part of gang initiation or used as 'honey traps' to set up rival gang members is often not reported. Understandably, a lot of my prosecutors will not be familiar with the workings of gang culture or gang slang so I have included it in the proposed guidance so that they know what to look for when considering such cases.
"Young people can also be reluctant to report abuse for fear of getting into trouble with their parents, being bullied at school or because they are scared of their abuser. We must make sure that we address these concerns properly and put specific measures in place to ensure their safety is paramount."
Measures included in the proposed guidance that prosecutors would need to consider when handling teenage domestic abuse cases include:
Prosecutors making enquiries with police about a victim's family life to assess whether telling their parents about any potential prosecution might have an impact on their safety.
Consideration of relevant bail restrictions and restraining orders taking into account areas the victim frequently visits, such as school or social clubs, and methods of contact, such as social media.
The DPP added:
"Abuse often takes place online in cases involving teenagers and young people. It is vital that this type of evidence is considered as part of any case and that both prosecutors and investigators adopt the full definition of domestic violence that includes non-physical abuse such as this."
The proposed guidance also sets out the ways in which domestic violence can impact elderly people. Alison Saunders said:
"We know from research conducted by others that there is very little evidence that partner violence decreases with age, and it is important we also recognise the factors that may contribute to and impact upon domestic abuse between older people."
The proposed guidance highlights the following common factors in domestic violence cases involving elderly people that prosecutors should be aware of:
Abuse may be triggered or intensify as a result of events occurring later in life, such as retirement. Previous research has shown that abusive relationships often intensify at retirement, as partners spend more time at home together.
Another common example of a change in dynamics that might result in partner abuse is the ill-health of the victim, whether physical or mental, and abuse may begin as a result of 'care-giver' stress or anxiety.
Older people may also have different reasons for not reporting abuse committed against them, for example lack of financial independence or health concerns. They may also be more concerned about protecting the sanctity of marriage and not wanting to involve outside parties in their private affairs.
Alison Saunders said:
"We must recognise that domestic violence is not just about physical violence, but includes psychological, sexual, financial and emotional abuse experienced by victims from all walks of life, at different stages in their lives.
"This guidance was prepared with input from a number of agencies with specialist knowledge in this area, including Women's Aid and Coordinated Action Against Domestic Abuse, and I would now welcome the views of others in response to the consultation."
Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Women's Aid, said:
"We welcome this draft guidance and the consultation from the CPS, especially the recognition that domestic violence is, at its core, about power and control. We are pleased that the guidance would require prosecutors to take account of coercion and controlling behaviour alongside criminal offences. The CPS has a vital role to play in making sure women and children are not put at further risk as victims and witnesses, and ensuring that perpetrators can be prosecuted appropriately. We will be consulting our member organisations and survivors in our response to this consultation, and we encourage everyone who works with women experiencing domestic violence to comment."
Diana Barran, Chief Executive of CAADA, commented:
"The CPS has played an important role in leading the way to improving the victims' safety by making Violence Against Women and Girls one of its key strategic priorities. We warmly welcome this new guidance, which seeks to refine the response to address the needs of different groups of victims and recognises that a 'one size fits all' approach does not work. Prosecutors must balance criminal justice with protecting the victim, and this guidance will help them achieve this. It also encourages prosecutors to work closely with Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs) to give victims professional support and prioritise their safety, which we also welcome."
Other specific sections in the guidance include:
Child to parent violence
Same sex or transgender relationship abuse
Minority ethnic community issues
Cases involving immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers.
The draft guidance is published on the CPS website and the consultation closes on 9 July 2014. The draft guidance is not currently in operation, but the final version will replace existing CPS guidance following the consultation.
Rape Culture is a ‘Panic Where Paranoia, Censorship, and False Accusations Flourish'
by Christina Hoff Sommers
On January 27, 2010, University of North Dakota officials charged undergraduate Caleb Warner with sexually assaulting a fellow student. He insisted the encounter was consensual, but was found guilty by a campus tribunal and thereupon expelled and banned from campus: http://time.com/100542/the-sexual-assault-crisis-on-american-campuses/?pcd=pw-pas
A few months later, Warner received surprising news. The local police had determined not only that Warner was innocent, but that the alleged victim had deliberately falsified her charges. She was charged with lying to police for filing a false report, and fled the state.
Cases like Warner's are proliferating. Here is a partial list of young men who have recently filed lawsuits against their schools for what appear to be gross mistreatment in campus sexual assault tribunals: Drew Sterrett—University of Michigan, “John Doe”—Swarthmore, Anthony Villar—Philadelphia University, Peter Yu—Vassar, Andre Henry—Delaware State, Dez Wells—Xavier, and Zackary Hunt—Denison. Presumed guilty is the new legal principle where sex is concerned.
Sexual assault on campus is a genuine problem—but the new rape culture crusade is turning ugly. The list of falsely accused young men subject to kangaroo court justice is growing apace. Students at Boston University demanded that a Robin Thicke concert be cancelled: His hit song Blurred Lines is supposedly a rape anthem. (It includes the words, “I know you want it.”) Professors at Oberlin, University of California, Santa Barbara, and Rutgers have been urged to place “trigger warnings” on class syllabi that include books like the Great Gatsby —too much misogynist violence. This movement is turning our campuses into hostile environments for free expression and due process. And so far, university officials, political leaders, and the White House are siding with the mob.
It appears that we are in the throes of one of those panics where paranoia, censorship, and false accusations flourish—and otherwise sensible people abandon their critical facilities. We are not facing anything as extreme as the Salem Witch Trials or the McCarthy inquisitions. But today's rape culture movement bears some striking similarities to a panic that gripped daycare centers in the 1980s.
In August 1983, an anguished mother reported to the police that her 2-year old son had been horrifically abused in the McMartin preschool in Manhattan Beach, California. She described a network of underground tunnels where school staff had sodomized her child and forced him to watch animal sacrifices. The mother was mentally disturbed and her story had no basis in reality. But the news media seized on the story, and paranoia about Satanic Cults became a national epidemic. Parents were already on edge: advocacy groups, politicians, and the media had warned that nearly 50,000 children were being abducted by strangers, and 4,000 of them murdered, every year. As news of the McMartin barbarity spread, daycare personnel in schools across the nation found themselves implicated in the crime of satanic-ritual child abuse. A national network of abuse-therapists promptly materialized. Through the use of intimidating interviewing techniques, they egged on children to “remember” terrible abuses in their daycare.
The abuse therapists were joined by an influential group of conspiracy-minded feminists, including Gloria Steinem and Catharine MacKinnon. When a few civil libertarian feminists—Carol Tavris, Wendy Kaminer, Ellen Willis, and Debbie Nathan—tried to blow the whistle on the witch-hunt, they were vilified by the conspiracy caucus as backlashers, child abuse apologists, and “obedient ‘daddies' girls of male editors.”
From the start of the scare in 1983 until its ending in the mid-1990s, untold numbers of children were subject to manipulative therapies and hundreds of innocent adults faced charges of ritual child abuse. Several of the accused would spend years in prison for crimes that never happened. A recent Slate article called it “one of the most damaging moral panics in America's history,” which only began to abate when skeptical journalists got round to checking facts and asking questions. A 1985 story in the Los Angeles Times informed readers that, according to FBI reports, the number of child kidnappings by strangers in 1984 was 67, not 50,000.
Today's college rape panic is an eerie recapitulation of the daycare abuse panic. Just as the mythical “50,000 abducted children” fueled paranoia about child safety in the 1980s, so today's hysteria is incited by the constantly repeated, equally fictitious “one-in-five women on campus is a victim of rape”—which even President Obama has embraced.
The one-in-five number is derived from surveys where biased samples of respondents are asked an artful combination of straightforward and leading questions, reminiscent of the conclusory interviews behind the daycare agitation. A much-cited CDC study, for example, first tells respondents: “Please remember that even if someone uses alcohol or drugs, what happens to them is not their fault.” Then it asks: “When you were drunk, high, drugged, or passed out and unable to consent, how many people ever had vaginal sex with you.” (Emphasis mine.) The CDC counted all such sexual encounters as rapes.
Reputable studies suggest that approximately one-in-forty college women are victims of rape or sexual assault (assault includes verbal threats as well as unwanted sexual grabbing and fondling). One-in-forty is still too many women. But it hardly constitutes a “rape culture” requiring White House intervention.
Once again, conspiracy feminists are at the forefront of this movement. Just as feminist psychologists persuaded children that they had been abused, so women's activists have persuaded many young women that what they might have dismissed as a foolish drunken hookup was actually a felony rape. “Believe the children,” said the ritual abuse experts during the day care scare. “Believe the survivors,” say today's rape culturalists. To not believe an alleged victim is to risk being called a rape apologist.
Some will say that these moral panics, while overblown, do call attention to serious problems. This is deeply mistaken. The hysteria around daycare abuse and campus rape shed no light: rather they confuse and discredit genuine cases of abuse and violence. Molestation and rape are horrific crimes that warrant serious attention and vigorous response. Panics breed chaos and mob justice. They claim innocent victims, undermine social trust, and teach us to doubt the evidence of our own experience.
E.M. Forster said it best in A Passage to India , referring to a panic among “good citizens” following a highly dubious accusation of rape: “Pity, wrath, and heroism filled them, but the power of putting two and two together was annihilated.”
‘We Will Not Allow These Crimes to Be Swept Under the Rug Any Longer'
by Kirsten Gillibrand -- Kirsten Gillibrand is a United States Senator from New York.
After a long and hard-fought effort to reform the military justice system, my office was approached by two extraordinary young women. They told me a story similar to what I had heard over and over from our brave men and women in uniform.
They were survivors of sexual assault. And after enduring horrific acts of sexual violence, they were then betrayed by their schools when they tried to report their assaults.
But these students refuse to be denied justice. So they organized across the country to hold their colleges and universities responsible. And they are increasingly speaking out, reliving the worst moments of their lives to total strangers and the media in the hope that other young women won't suffer the same fate.
That is the definition of courage. I cannot tell you how inspiring these women are to me personally, and I feel a responsibility to act on their behalf because the price of a college education should never include a one in five chance of being sexually assaulted.
We should never accept the fact that women are at a greater risk of sexual assault as soon as they step onto a college campus. But today they are. And it has to end.
Part of the problem is a pure lack of understanding of the true nature of campus sexual assault. These are not dates gone bad, or a good guy who had too much to drink. This is a crime largely perpetrated by repeat offenders, who instead of facing a prosecutor and a jail cell, remain on campus after a short-term suspension, if punished at all.
Another issue is that colleges and universities across the country would prefer not to acknowledge they have a problem for obvious public relations reasons. The current lax oversight has the perverse effect of incentivizing colleges to encourage non-reporting, under-reporting and non-compliance with the already weak standards under current federal law.
Our goal should be to increase the abysmally low reporting rates for sexual assaults on campus and make it in the school's immediate best interest to take proactive steps to protect their students and rid their campuses of sexual predators. The best way to accomplish this goal is through transparency and accountability to flip the incentives that currently reward keeping sexual assault in the shadows.
As a first step, I teamed up with Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, a former sex crimes prosecutor and powerful voice for victims, to secure the resources we need to investigate more cases, and enforce the laws we have.
As it stands today, the federal agencies in charge of enforcing campus sex assault laws are left to a fraction of the funding and staff needed to be effective. And without the right oversight, nearly two-thirds of schools are failing to even report crime statistics as they are required to by current law.
But this is only the beginning Senator McCaskill and I will be taking this growing crisis head on with additional bipartisan action to hold colleges and universities accountable with stiff, binding penalties, and bring more transparency through a national survey of campus sexual assaults that student survivors and advocates consistently make as their top priority.
We will not allow these crimes to be swept under the rug any longer. For all of our young people who dream of going to college, and for all of our students on campus today — they deserve better. They deserve safety and accountability. Simply put, they deserve action.
Casey bill would set national standard for child-abuse reporting
Senator's legislation, a response to Jerry Sandusky case, would require states to designate nine groups of people who work with or care for children as mandatory reporters.
by Peter Hall
Amid a flurry of new state laws designed to bolster Pennsylvania's defenses against child abuse, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey proposed a national standard for identifying people who would be required to notify law enforcement when they suspect a child has been abused.
The measure was first proposed in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal, and would require states to designate nine groups of people who work with or care for children as mandatory reporters.
Casey, D-Pa., told reporters Thursday the step would "close a loophole that allows abusers to get away with heinous crimes, and to emphasize the responsibility of all adults to protect children from abuse and neglect."
Casey's pitch came on the same day Gov. Tom Corbett signed a sweeping revision of Pennsylvania's mandatory reporting law, which requires "anyone who comes in contact with a child, or is directly responsible for the care, supervision, guidance, or training of a child," to report suspected abuse to the state welfare department.
It was the 18th bill related to child welfare that Corbett has signed after the Legislature undertook an overhaul of Pennsylvania's child abuse prevention program in the wake of the Penn State scandal, in which retired assistant football coach Sandusky was convicted of molesting 10 boys.
Three top Penn State administrators were charged with a conspiracy to hide Sandusky's crimes, although their prosecution remains mired — in part — by a question of whether any were required to report the abuse under the law at the time.
Jennifer Storm, a state victims' advocate who worked with some of the men Sandusky abused as boys, said Pennsylvania's new broader law will eliminate those kinds of questions.
"It no longer allows them to look the other way and say: 'I don't think I saw what I thought I saw,'" Storm said. "I think it would be excellent if this was a national model."
In addition to standardizing a list of occupations whose members are required to report abuse, Casey's bill proposes a rule to clarify where crimes against children must be reported when abuse happens outside of a child's home state. That's a source of confusion that has allowed abuse to go unreported, child welfare advocates say.
Under Casey's legislation, mandatory reporters would be required to report abuse to law enforcement or the child welfare agency in the state where it occurs.
The bill, dubbed the Speak Up Act, would make adoption of such state laws a requirement to receive a share of the $25.3 million allocated this year for child-abuse prevention and response grants under the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, Casey said Thursday. Pennsylvania expects about $878,000 from the program this year.
Teresa Huizar, executive director of National Children's Alliance in Washington, D.C., said that even though many states — including Pennsylvania — have reporting laws more stringent than the minimum requirement established in the Speak Up Act, Casey's bill would improve the state of child abuse prevention nationally.
"This legislation does raise the bar in a very positive way," Huizar said.
At least 48 states have a law that requires mandatory reporting of child abuse by members of designated professions. Most include social workers, teachers, physicians, counselors, child care providers and law enforcement officers.
But some states go further to include youth center volunteers, camp counselors, court appointed special advocates and even computer technicians or animal control officers.
Casey's bill would standardize the list to require, at a minimum, nine groups, including health care workers, school employees, law enforcement officers, clergy, day care workers, social workers, foster parents, court-appointed special advocates and camp counselors or after-school program supervisors.
State legislators involved in overhauling Pennsylvania's child welfare laws say Casey's bill would do no harm, but that state officials are in the best position to determine how to ensure the safety of children.
"A minimum standard is something that certainly would be appropriate, but on a local level we have already gone beyond that and that's all good stuff to protect our kids," said state Rep. David Maloney, R-Berks.
But state Sen. Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland, called Casey's adoption of Pennsylvania's mandatory reporting law, which she sponsored, "the highest form of flattery."
"If Sen. Casey finds this is a good model for the nation then he should go forward," Ward said.
• Health care workers
• School employees
• Law enforcement officers
• Day care workers
• Social workers
• Foster parents
• Court-appointed special advocates
• Camp counselors or after school program teachers
Couple behind bars after stunning child abuse investigation
by Joleen Chaney
LATTA, Okla. – An Oklahoma couple is behind bars after a stunning child abuse investigation.
Jeffery and Brandy Graham are behind bars and are accused of severely abusing Jeffery's young son.
The little boy is 9-years-old and only weighs 35 pounds.
Investigators are trying to figure out exactly what was going on inside their home in the town of Latta near Ada.
Authorities say the little boy was malnourished, dehydrated and covered in bruises and scratches from head to toe, and his forehead was covered in a bandage.
He was immediately taken to the hospital and his parents were taken into custody.
The pictures of the alleged abuse are too graphic too show.
“He has injuries to certain parts of his body that just are unbelievable. It brings you to tears if you saw those and certainly something I can't talk about on camera but it's some really bad bruising,” Pontotoc County Sheriff John Christian said. “This child has had severe trauma.”
The boy is nine years old, has Cerebral Palsy and weighs only 35 pounds.
He uses a walker and leg braces to get around, but despite that, investigators say his father and step mother, Jeffery and Brandy Graham, tried to confine him even more.
“At one point he was duct taped to a bed,” Christian said.
The child also told detectives his step mother “put his hands behind his back and beat his head against the wall multiple times and spread his legs” because she believed the boy “caused her to have a miscarriage” and she “wanted him to feel the pain that he put her through.”
“These cases always just tear at your heart. If you could show these pictures to the public, which we can't, I truly believe they would be totally outraged that someone could do this to a child especially a disabled child,” Christian said. “I'm a father, and it's kind of hard.”
The Grahams are facing charges of child abuse, child neglect and failure to protect.
Christie signs bill toughening penalty for sexual assault of young children
by Michael Linhorst
People convicted of having sex with children under 13 years old now face mandatory prison terms of at least 25 years under a bill signed into law by Governor Christie today.
The measure significantly toughens the penalty for aggravated sexual assault of a child under 13. The crime previously carried a prison sentence of 10 to 20 years.
Under the new law, that range is now 25 years to life.
“A person who is capable of such an atrocious crime deserves nothing less,” said one of the bill's sponsors, Assemblyman Jerry Green, D-Union. The bill unanimously cleared the Legislature in March. Last year, it made it out of the Assembly but got stuck in the state Senate.
Critics have expressed concern that the measure will do little to protect children and may lead to long prison terms for teens who have romantic relationships with other young children. The new law is called the “Jessica Lunsford Act,” named after a 9-year-old girl in Florida who was kidnapped, raped and murdered by a registered sex offender in 2005.
“The fate that these children endured is an affront to human decency. The trauma of sexual abuse does not end when the abuse stops or when the victim grows up. This type of abuse leaves wounds that follow victims into adulthood that many are unable to recover from,” Green said.
North Catholic alums claim three more brothers were sexually abusive
by Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Three more religious brothers who formerly worked at North Catholic High School have been accused of sexual abuse in addition to the five who were identified earlier.
The allegations come from 19 people who have contacted the Diocese of Pittsburgh in response to letters sent in recent months from the diocese to North Catholic alumni, the Rev. Ronald Lengwin, vicar general for the diocese, said today.
Father Lengwin said there were 23 allegations made against a total of eight Marianist brothers. Four of the victims said they were abused by more than one brother, he said.
Father Lengwin said diocesan officials were saddened but not completely surprised by the additional allegations.
The three additional brothers who've had allegations lodged against them are: Jerome Binder, who worked at North Catholic from from 1961-66, 1975-76 and 1979-89; James Kline, who worked there from 1940-47; and Julius May, who was there from 1960-69. All three men are now deceased.
Among the brothers identified last week was Bernard Hartman, 74 who is awaiting trial in Australia on charges he molested four children there. Brother Hartman worked at North Catholic in 1961 and 1979 and from 1986 to 1997.
That case prompted diocese officials in Pittsburgh to send two rounds of letters to North Catholic alumni urging anyone who was molested by Brother Hartman or anyone associated with the church to come forward.
Brother Hartman's case prompted the diocese to send its first round of letters in March to alumni who attended North Catholic during the years Brother Hartman worked. When that produced reports, a second round went out April 24 to some 9,000 alumni who attended in all years.
The second letter prompted allegations against Marianist brothers William Charles HIldebrand and Francis Meder, both of whom worked there in the 1950s and 1960s and are now deceased.
Allegations were also made against Brother John Keegan, who left the religious order in 1962 and whose current whereabouts are unknown. He would be 88 if still alive, Father Lengwin said.
Also identified was Brother Ralph Mravintz, who taught at North Catholic in the early 1960s and mid-1980s and is now deceased. He was convicted in 1986 of disorderly conduct related to sexual overtures made to a 15-year-old boy.
The diocese is offering counseling to anyone who reports having been abused, Father Lengwin said.
The Pennsylvania abuse hotline is 1-800-932-0313 and the diocesan victim assistance line is 1-888-808-1235.
Mary Niederberger: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1590.
Someone Is Writing Lists of ‘Rapists' on Columbia's Walls
A growing sex abuse scandal at the Ivy League institution has taken a vigilante turn.
by Olivia Nuzzi
Earlier this month, after a string of sexual abuse accusations at Columbia University, the campus newspaper published an op-ed that asked, “What would you do if you found out someone you knew had definitively sexually assaulted someone?”
As if in response, an anonymous person or persons began writing a list of alleged rapists on Columbia's walls.
“Sexual assault violators on campus” was the underlined label given to the first list, which appeared in the women's bathroom in Hamilton Hall last Wednesday. Four names were on the list, which appeared to have been written by multiple people.
On Tuesday afternoon, I went up to Columbia, where a sea of exhausted students roamed the campus eating ice cream in between their final exams. In the bathroom in the Hamilton building, multiple stickers advertising The Rape Crisis/Anti-Violence Support Center were plastered on the walls—but no list. Sean Augustine, the editor of the Columbia Lion, told me janitors were taking down the lists almost as soon as they went up.
“These people who are writing the names are writing the names in a women's bathroom, I think [because] they are trying to inform other women of these people who they felt [are] a danger to others on campus, and the fact that the university is doing a cover-up operation—it bothered me,” Augustine said.
Sexual assault is by no means a new issue on Columbia's campus.
In January, Anna Bahr, then-managing editor of The Blue and White, Columbia's magazine, wrote a gripping, deeply reported two-part series on the issue.
In April, 23 Columbia and Barnard students filed a federal complaint accusing the university of violating Title IX, Title II, and the Clery Act.
This month, The New York Times told the story of Emma Sulkowicz, a Columbia junior who was forced, the publication reported, to tell a university panel, in detail, the logistics of a “painful sex act.” Her alleged attacker, Sulkowicz told the Times, had been accused by two other students—yet all of the accusations against him were dismissed.
In a statement, Robert Hornsby, a spokesman for the university, said: “To avoid chilling complainants from coming forward and to respect all parties involved, the University does not comment on the particulars of disciplinary proceedings regarding sexual misconduct. In addition, the University is mindful of the multiple federal laws that govern these matters...These laws and our constitutional values do not permit us to silence debate on the difficult issues being discussed.”
But if the comments sections of campus publications are any indication, reactions to the outing of the alleged rapists have been mixed. Some students view the list as a witch hunt, while others view it as a necessary—if extreme—step in the right direction.
The bathroom lists first came to light when the Columbia Lion, a relatively new publication, received a photo of one of them from an anonymous source. But before staff from the publication could get to the bathroom to see it for themselves, they reported, the list had been scrubbed off. (The source said the list had not even been up for 24 hours.) The Lion published the photo but blacked out the names of the accused.
The same list soon reappeared in the women's bathroom of Alfred Lerner Hall, this time with the label “Rapists on campus.” The Lion reported that “by the time we arrived [an hour after receiving a tip] the bathrooms had already been scrubbed clean to remove all traces of the writing.” Augustine told me that a university official said they were treating the list like regular graffiti.
On Tuesday morning, two more lists appeared in the Butler Library women's bathrooms. And a few hours later, fliers appeared with the list of names. On the fliers, one of the accused was called a “serial rapist,” while the other three were listed as having been “found ‘responsible' by the University.” At the bottom of the page was the message: “To the Columbia Community: Stay safe, protect and support each other, and always always always make sure to have sober, enthusiastic, continuous consent.”
Jezebel's Erin Gloria Ryan reported on the incidents and included descriptions of the accused: “a musician, a prominent writer for a campus publication, and a varsity athlete.”
That “prominent writer” worked for Bwog—“Columbia's preeminent campus blog”—which initially published an article critical of the lists. The article was then updated with a note informing readers that the content of the piece did not reflect the views of the staff.
On Tuesday night, Bwog released a “Statement of Conflict of Interest” announcing that the member of its staff whose name appeared on the list has been asked to resign immediately. “To have allowed this staff member to remain a part of Bwog would have, in the opinion of the editorial staff, been a conflict of interest, hampering our ability to accurately report on campus activism. More importantly, in the opinion of the editorial staff, we felt that allowing this staffer to continue his affiliation with Bwog would have tacitly endorsed a rape culture we so firmly stand against.”
NM's child abuse problem ‘absolutely' preventable
by Katie Kim and Jeff Proctor
ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – The quiet, timid eyes of Omaree Varela, staring from an open doorway or from behind his stepfather, have haunted New Mexico all winter and into the spring.
The 9-year-old boy died in December, allegedly at the hands of his mother. His family had been on the radar of those in charge of protecting this state's children for years before Synthia Varela-Casaus, in her own words, “kicked him the wrong way.”
Omaree was not the first.
Long before his story began to dominate the headlines, cases like those of Baby Brianna and Ty Toribio forced into public view an uncomfortable fact: New Mexico has a long and troubled history with child abuse.
Since 2009, according to statistics compiled by the New Mexico Child Death Review Board, more than 50 children have died at the hands of abusers. More than 80 percent of those deaths could have been prevented, and that means the system failed more than 40 children it should have protected.
But in New Mexico, child abuse prevention has not been a priority. That isn't by accident.
By The Numbers
Since 2009, more than 50 children have died at the hands of abusers; more than 80% could have been prevented
At least 27 other states are using at least some version of alternative response to reduce the instance of child abuse
CYFD's Child Protective Division has a $113 million annual budget. Less than $1 million is spent on prevention services
5 out of every 1,000 New Mexico children in the care of the Child Protective Division will get preventive services- the national average is 43 kids per 1,000
CYFD staff responds to 4,500 reports a month
Staff levels are down 17% down
“Really, our mandate is to intervene, not prevent,” state Children, Youth and Families Department Secretary Yolanda Berumen-Deines told KRQE News 13 earlier this month. “Because of the amount of abuse and neglect that there is, the state's mandate is to intervene when there is a report of abuse or neglect so that we can determine if a child is being harmed, and then step in to prevent further abuse or neglect.”
Berumen-Deines said CYFD is understaffed, and the department's case workers are responding to an ever-growing number of calls that has swollen to more than 4,500 a month. That means stepping in to intervene after a child has been abused is, by necessity, CYFD's primary focus, the secretary said.
There is, however, another way.
“Alternative response,” also called “differential response,” is a model in which the system places more emphasis on identifying risk factors and providing services to families before a child is abused.
For example, if a parent in a young family is struggling with drug addiction — a common risk factor in child abuse cases — the parent gets treatment. The same applies for a parent who needs anger management therapy, or a teen mother who needs financial assistance.
At least 27 other states are using at least some version of alternative response to reduce the instance of child abuse, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Some of those states have seen positive results, according to a 2011 report prepared by the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee. In Ohio, the rate of children being removed from homes after abuse fell by 50 percent, and the recurrence of maltreatment dropped by 16 percent.
Bernalillo County tried the model in a small-scale pilot program that ran from 2005 to 2007. According to the LFC report, alternative response was working here, too. The families that accepted services had a lower rate of repeat maltreatment of children, half as many repeat reports to CYFD and fewer children taken away and placed in foster care.
It's unclear why officials didn't continue or expand that program.
But since 2011, the LFC has been recommending that Republican Gov. Susana Martinez's administration explore the idea of including alternative response and other prevention programs in its approach to child abuse.
The administration, Berumen-Deines said, has had its focus elsewhere.
“We didn't initiate because we were really struggling to man up our staff,” she said. “We were in such a hole with our staff that that was our primary focus: to get people out to conduct the investigation and to get investigations completed. Initially, our focus was to restaff an agency that had been so seriously depleted from” a hiring freeze at the end of former Gov. Bill Richardson's second term in 2010.
Berumen-Deines also pointed to budget constraints within CYFD as a reason for not pursuing more prevention programs.
“We're a poor state,” she said. “We have a limited amount of money available. And like I said before, I need to have staff that can respond to 4,500 reports a month. And I need to have staff that can get out there and investigate and make a determination of the safety of children.”
State Rep. Gail Chasey (D-Albuquerque), who works as an attorney on child abuse and neglect cases, said the money argument doesn't hold up. She points out that it costs far more to incarcerate an increasing number of child abusers and to house more and more children in foster care than it does to try and prevent child abuse.
“With the alternative response approach to abuse and neglect, the evidence has shown in the states that use it, that within one year, there's a 99.9 percent return on investment,” Chasey said. “Let's just say there's a child who is removed from the home and, eventually, parental rights are terminated, or the family relinquishes parental rights, and then the child is adopted. The cost from the beginning to the end for that one child is $107,000. That's a lot of money.”
New Mexico spends far less on preventive services for children than other states do, according to an April 2014 report from the LFC.
CYFD's Child Protective Division has a $113 million annual budget. Less than $1 million is spent on prevention services. The rest is allocated to programs that focus on keeping kids safe after they've been abused, such as investigations, foster care and adoption.
“It's not enough, and I think when we start spending our money wisely on prevention, then we will start seeing a turnaround,” said Dr. Susan Miller said, a child psychologist at University of New Mexico Hospital and founder of the nonprofit New Mexico Child Prevention Partnership.
Child abuse, Miller said, is “absolutely” preventable. “It is not a disease. It is something people choose to do.”
The 2014 LFC report cites another difficult statistic: Five out of every 1,000 New Mexico children in the care of the Child Protective Division will get preventive services. That's far below the national average of 43 kids per 1,000.
Berumen-Deines' chalks that up to her belief that some prevention models are best left out of the hands of the state, the high volume of calls to CYFD — which has caseworkers tied up with intervention — and state statutes that somewhat restrict CYFD's role.
“We have to get a report, we can't just show up at someone's door and say: ‘We're here to make sure you're taking care of your kids,'” she said. “We have to get a report first of all, that's what starts the ball rolling. At that point with our central intake system, we have to make a determination whether it falls in the purview of CYFD intervention.”
However, Omaree's case and other recent high-profile child abuse deaths have the state taking notice anyway.
Last month, CYFD rolled out several pilot programs that lean toward prevention. In Bernalillo County, a team of 10 family support workers will be hired to regularly check in with families who have been the subject of three or more child welfare investigations in the past 10 years. The goal of the support team will be to connect the families to services and visit their homes.
“With this, we'll have more engagement than we've had in the past,” Deines said. “Our investigators have simply been involved in conducting the investigation, making the determination and if they find the services are needed, they do the referrals and try to get the family engaged, but there is no follow up.
“Our family support workers will be there to engage in relationship with the family, help the family to see that we're not a threat, we're not someone to be feared, but that we're there to help.”
Governor Martinez also established a child advocacy center pilot program in Valencia County that aims to improve coordination between CYFD caseworkers, law enforcement and community partners who work with families on child abuse cases. Under that program, support services are to be offered under the same roof, which officials hope will allow better daily communication between all stakeholders, according to a governor's press release.
Another change would require any family who has been the subject of two CYFD investigations to have any subsequent investigation be reviewed by a high-level supervisory team, which includes the county office manager, supervisor, caseworker and children's court attorney. CYFD caseworkers are also now required to review police reports related to cases before making a final investigative decision.
As child abuse cases have dominated the headlines, the issue has become increasingly politicized.
“We have deep divisions politically, where there is increasingly strident divide over the role of government,” Representative Chasey said. “My argument would be: if we look at all of the good that governmental programs or governmental funding can do — going through community programs and through the public schools and through the universities and through the public health programs — to build families up, I really think that we begin to address our whole poverty issue by investing in New Mexico's families at the very earliest stage.”
What's happening in New Mexico, she said, clearly isn't working.
“If we don't want to lose generations of children, If we don't want to continue down this path, we have to shift dramatically,” Chasey said. “You have to shift the focus from that moment of reporting to before it's necessary to report.”
Berumen-Deines said she's not against the idea of preventive services. But she sees the state's role differently.
“ Do we want state employees out there doing prevention?” she said. “I'm not sure I agree with that.”
Communities and groups such as the partnership led by Dr. Miller from UNMH should take the lead on stepping in before children are abused, Berumen-Deines said.
“We want to partner with them, we don't want to take over their business,” she said. “And in my mind, having the state take responsibility for all of those things, it's really messing in people's business more than we need.”
Dr. Miller and her colleagues at UNM Hospital started the New Mexico Child Abuse Prevention Partnership, known as NM-CAPP, three years ago.
“Just seeing so many traumatic brain injuries was devastating to me and to learn that most of them or a majority of them were caused by child abuse, I just finally couldn't handle it anymore,” Miller said. “I went to my boss and said please would you allow me to start an organization for prevention so this never happens?”
Today, the group has more than 200 community partners whose singular focus is the prevention of child abuse.
“My vision for CAPP is that we would become an umbrella organization with many partners taking part with each having their own specialty,” Miller said. “What my job is, I feel, is to kind of drive a wagon train with many horses, and I'm trying very hard to get everyone to travel in the same direction. That's hard because we are very siloed here in New Mexico.”
But the group is gaining momentum. NM-CAPP was the recipient of $21,000 from the 2014 Governor's Ball Award. The group also held its second annual Precious Gems Gala last week.
All proceeds will be put toward a child abuse prevention summit, which Miller hopes will be an annual event. The first likely won't happen until fall 2015.
“What we're looking for through the summit is best practices. If we're using risk assessment, are we using the same ones so we can actually look at data and show that we're making a difference? That would be wonderful,” Miller said.
Hundreds contact FBI in U.S. about overseas pedophile teacher
by Ian Simpson
Several hundred people have contacted U.S. agents investigating a teacher suspected of molesting boys while teaching at American schools around the world, an FBI spokeswoman said on Wednesday.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation said in April that the suspect, William Vahey, had molested at least 90 boys, whose photos - dating back to 2008 - were found on a thumb drive.
Now deceased, Vahey, 64, had taught at schools in nine countries during an international teaching career that began in 1972. He committed suicide in Minnesota in March, two days after FBI agents in Houston sought a warrant to search the contents of the thumb drive.
"We've been contacted by several hundred individuals from around the globe wishing either to reach out as potential victims or provide information in the ongoing investigation," said FBI spokeswoman Special Agent Shauna Dunlap.
She said the FBI was continuing to investigate Vahey, a registered sex offender, and urged those who have not yet come forward to do so via the agency's website.
Dunlap said that even though Vahey had killed himself, charges still could emerge.
"Just because the subject decides that he's not going to face justice doesn't mean that we're going to stop our investigation," she said.
The thumb drive was given to the FBI by an employee of the American Nicaraguan School, in Managua, Nicaragua, where Vahey taught history and geography.
A complaint filed with the FBI said the USB drive contained pornographic images of boys between the ages of 12 and 14 who appeared to be asleep or unconscious.
When the school employee confronted Vahey, he said he had molested boys his whole life and "reportedly admitted giving the minors sleeping pills prior to the molestation," the FBI said in a statement.
The school fired Vahey in March. The FBI said Vahey had worked at American international schools, which serve the children of diplomats, well-off Americans and local elites, in Nicaragua, the United Kingdom, Venezuela, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Greece, Iran, Spain and Lebanon.
At the time of his suicide, Vahey was married and the father of two adult children.
In 1969, Vahey pleaded guilty in California to a child molestation charge and was sentenced to jail and probation, the FBI said. Vahey's conviction required him to record his name with the state of California's sex offender registry for the remainder of his life. However, Vahey had not renewed his registration as a sex offender since 1970.
Minnesota 'safe harbor' law serves as federal model for combating sex trafficking
by Devin Henry
WASHINGTON — Their cause has brought them to Mexico, the oil fields of North Dakota and on ride-alongs with Minnesota police, and it's meant letters and floor speeches about events a world away, in Nigeria.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Erik Paulsen have joined an expanding, bipartisan group of lawmakers looking to tackle sex trafficking in the United States and around the world. When the U.S. House returns to work next week, it will vote on a series of anti-trafficking bills, including a couple from Paulsen, and Klobuchar said the Senate is planning on taking up of a few of its own.
Among their goals: expand nationwide what has worked in Minnesota, a “safe harbor” law meant to treat girls who are trafficked as victims of a crime rather than criminals themselves.
“We'll give safe harbor to young girls or juveniles, maybe being human trafficked or sex trafficked or in prostitution, so they have no fear of prosecution, that they'll get the counseling that they need and deserve as victims,” Paulsen said. “It helps law enforcement because when you remove that fear of criminalization, they share more about the bad guys. It's worked very effectively in Minnesota.”
Bipartisan package up soon
Klobuchar and Paulsen came to focus on sex trafficking in different ways.
Klobuchar dealt with sex crimes when she was Hennepin County prosecutor, and she said she “saw the devastating effects on these young girls, when they were sold into prostitution.”
In the Senate, she's worked with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to write legislation aimed at the problem. Her allies include Cindy McCain, Sen. John McCain's wife, who traveled to Mexico with Klobuchar last month to talk about human trafficking with officials there. Last week, Klobuchar gave a floor speech calling for increased U.S. efforts to help find the 276 girls kidnapped trafficked by a terrorist group in Nigeria.
In an interview, she said combating sex trafficking should be “a major tenet of our foreign policy.”
“We have seen time and time again that when girls are not basically treated as doormats, that they are contributing members of the economy and the whole society changes,” she said.
Paulsen said he had a “natural interest” in protecting exploited women because he's the father of four daughters, an interest only deepened by stories of sex crimes in Minnesota and around the country (he participated in a trafficking roundtable last week in North Dakota's Bakken oil fields, where an economic and population boom has meant more sex crimes as well).
Paulsen went on ride-alongs with Bloomington and Minneapolis police last year, where he heard first-hand about the department's anti-trafficking measures. Last fall, he brought the issue to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who worked with lawmakers to craft a package of bills they intend to move before the month is out.
Paulsen introduced two bills that were wrapped into the package, including one requiring foster homes to warn law enforcement when children go missing (a full list of the bills is in this April memo from Cantor's office). In the Senate, Klobuchar has bills meant to increase penalties for federal trafficking crimes, and the pair worked on two similar bills modeled after Minnesota's new safe harbor law.
The idea behind safe harbor laws is simple: previously, trafficking victims were arrested, treated as criminals and charged as such (for prostitution or other crimes). But Minnesota's law, one of a dozen such laws around the country, says trafficked children under 16 are not to be charged, but given access to rehabilitation services instead. The rationale is that the girls will be given a chance to recover from their trauma — and hopefully be willing to assist law enforcement in locking up their traffickers if not facing prosecution of their own.
Paulsen's and Klobuchar's bills wouldn't establish a national safe harbor law but rather offer federal financial incentives for states to implement their own.
“Not only do you better for them,” Klobuchar said, “you also do better for the cases, because they're more likely — if they get help rather than ending up in jail — they're more likely to testify against the pimps that run the sex rings, if they think that they at least have some future and people are trying to help them.”
So far, the group of lawmakers pushing sex trafficking bills has been a bipartisan one, and given leadership's support, the House is likely to pass the bills next week. The Senate isn't moving as quickly, but both Klobuchar and Paulsen said they expect lawmakers to pass at least some anti-trafficking measures this session.
“There is just a natural opportunity for an elected official to say, ok, what can we do to make a difference?” Paulsen said.
Hundreds convicted of sex trafficking in Minnesota
Advocates and lawmakers say sex trafficking is surprisingly prevalent in Minnesota and the Twin Cities, which the FBI ranked among the top 13 cities in America for sex trafficking crimes last year. More than 600 people were charged with sex trafficking violations in Minnesota in 2011, according to the State Court Administrator's Office, and nearly 400 were convicted. Officials blame the Twin Cities' location and transportation system, a major population center in the middle of the Midwest, sitting at the confluence of two major interstate highways.
Social justice and advocacy groups, who work with hundreds of woman and girls victimized by sex trafficking every year, say they tried for years to get the issue on politicians' radars.
In 2005, state lawmakers responded. The Legislature established, with help from a federal grant, a special division within the St. Paul Police Department, the Gerald Vick Task Force, focused on combating sex trafficking around the city and state.
The Ramsey County attorney's office secured a record 40-year prison sentence for a man convicted of trafficking in January, and county attorney John Choi says he's doubled sex crime convictions since he took office in 2011.
Choi credits the safe harbor law. In February 2011, the county attorneys in the seven-county metro area announced they would stop prosecuting minors who were trafficking. Later that year, the state Legislature passed a state-wide law saying the same thing. Since then, Choi said, law enforcement has been able to more aggressively pursue pimps and johns rather than focusing on the girls themselves.
“We have to think differently,” he said. “We are not saying, ‘we're going to prosecute you,' because we can't. Instead, you develop a much more robust and trustful and meaningful relationship, and that has made all the difference.”
Advocates: more funding needed
“It was a journey to get there, to get the safe harbor law passed,” said Vednita Carter, the founder and executive director of Breaking Free , a St. Paul-based advocacy organization devoted to providing services to victims of sex trafficking. “Minnesota, in comparison to some states, has really jumped on board, and has really listened.”
Minnesota is unique in allocating funds to implement components of its safe harbor law, and lawmakers set aside $2.8 million last year to expand women's shelters and appoint support staffers around the state.
But Artika Roller, the Pride program director at the Family Partnership, said that still won't be enough to meet demand — there are only four beds in Minnesota's shelters set aside for trafficked girls right now, she said, and the new funding will open 18 more.
Breaking Free helps between 400 and 500 woman every year, Carter said. Roller said her program works with 250 adult woman and 100 minors annually.
“And if that's just our program working with that many people, we know we are really not scratching the surface of providing the services for victims of trafficking,” she said.
Community combats human trafficking
by Olivia Koester
Children who are pulled into sex trafficking often experience 30 or more sexual assaults per day. On average, this goes on for two weeks and starts when they are 12-14 years old.
It's happening right here in Minnesota. Right here in Anoka County.
HOPE+RESQ, a nonprofit out of Blaine dedicated to ending human trafficking; the Minnesota Department of Health; and Spring Lake Park School District 16 presented “Building a Safe Community” May 4.
The event brought resources and speakers to Spring Lake Park High School to educate parents and community members about human trafficking, the second largest elicit enterprise, behind narcotics.
Approximately 50 turned out to hear the day's keynote speakers: Steve Fitzhugh, a former Denver Broncos player and motivational speaker; Patty Wetterling, co-founder of the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center out of St. Paul and director of sexual violence prevention with the Minnesota Department of Health; and Minneapolis Police Department Sgt. Grant Snyder.
“The first line of defense is with our parents,” Fitzhugh said. It's their job to celebrate their children each and every day.
If kids aren't getting enough attention from their parents, they will seek it elsewhere, and predators know how to look for children who will be receptive to affection, bribery and other common lures, he said.
Fitzhugh spent a few minutes addressing the Internet and its dangers. He urged parents to confine Internet use to a common area of the home.
There are lots of bad messages out there, but parents can't shelter kids from those messages – there are too many, Fitzhugh said. What parents can do is have conversations with their children about those messages.
Wetterling spoke briefly about the time after her son Jacob's kidnapping in 1989.
She moved quickly to things parents can do to lessen the chance their children will become a predator's target. Teaching kids the names of their body parts will help fend of predators, she said.
Having five trusted adults will ensure kids always have someone to whom they can turn. She urged members of the audience to become that trusted adult for other kids. “They need to know that they have a safety net,” Wetterling said.
Finally, Snyder spoke about his work as head of the crimes against children unit and juvenile trafficking team in Minneapolis.
“My objectives [today] are to increase your outrage and increase your passion,” he said.
Community members were shaking their heads when he played an audio recording of a pimp, a man currently incarcerated for prostituting children, making arrangements with an upper-middle class man from Eagan to have sex with a girl who is the same age as the man's daughter, 15.
“I don't care about the age – I care about the look,” the man told the pimp.
Snyder classified the demand side of the problem as “a problem with male behavior,” which prompted a series of questions for the Q&A panel.
The Q&A panel consisted of the three keynote speakers; Karrie Schaaf, Anoka-Hennepin's McKinney Vento District Homeless Liaison; Cynthia Gill, a licensed family therapist; Donna McDonald, violence prevention coordinator for the Anoka County Community Health Department; and Anoka County Sheriff James Stuart.
One man in the audience was upset by Snyder's assertion that males are the only ones molesting children, as he was molested by seven of his nine female babysitters as a child.
Others texted in questions about young boys being molested.
Statistically, more girls are victims of human trafficking, but boys don't often self-report, Wetterling said.
North Metro TV filmed the event, and it will be aired in the coming months.
The Anoka County Sheriff's Office and Anoka-Hennepin District 11 will put on their own forum about human trafficking May 29 from 6-7:30 p.m. at Coon Rapids High School.
It's Not Just Boko Haram In Nigeria: Millions Of Women And Children Victimized By Human And Sex Trafficking
by Bill Vourvoulias
While the world is focused on the fate of hundreds of girls in Nigeria who have been kidnapped in recent months by the extremist Islamic group, Boko Haram, it might be a good time, activists say, to talk about how the trafficking of humans is a global problem.
“What's happening in Nigeria is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Terry FitzPatrick—the communications director for Free the Slaves, a non-profit organization in Washington, D.C., dedicated to ending slavery.
“It's important to think about rescuing all the children who are enslaved throughout the world,” FitzPatrick told Fox News Latino.
The United Nations' International Labour Organization estimates that 21 million people are being held in some form of slavery or another, but other groups put the figure closer to 30 million. More than one-quarter of them are children.
“The misperception is that sex slavery is the biggest problem,” FitzPatrick said, “but only 22 percent of people in slavery are in the sex trade.”
The conditions that give rise to human-trafficking—poverty, the lack of education, large numbers of people marginalized for reasons of class or ethnicity or race—are often present in places like Mexico, where large numbers of people are trying to cross the border.
“Millions of people are on the move around the world,” FitzPatrick observed. “Most of those are looking for work. Places like the U.S.-Mexico border, that's a Wild West environment where human traffickers can pose as legitimate labor recruiters.”
FitzPatrick estimated that there are 60,000 people in the United States who have been tricked or coerced into doing work that they cannot leave. And even if they aren't in the sex trade, he said, “From interviewing women coming out of that sort of situation, it's our understanding that most have experienced some element of sexual exploitation.”
A memorable New York Times magazine article from 2002 described women and girls from Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa being smuggled into the U.S. through the border with Mexico.
According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, California and Texas rank No. 1 and 2 in suspected instances of trafficking, together accounting for nearly 60 percent of all cases.
In a high-profile case, Charles Marquez, an El Paso, Texas, man was convicted of seven counts of sex trafficking last year. For five years, Marquez posted ads in Ciudad Juarez newspapers for fake jobs in order to attract his victims.
"The El Paso area is an intense place for trafficking, both forced labor and sex trafficking," John Martin, director of the Center of Hope, told the El Paso Times last year.
But those are by no means the only place those sorts of things happen. A Baltimore-area businessman named Alarcon Wiggins pleaded guilty for taking part in a sex trafficking ring that promised young women careers in the music industry.
A 2014 study of the commercial sex industry by the Urban Institute found that pimps make between $5,000 and $33,000 a week. The underground sex trade in Atlanta was estimated to be worth $290 million in 2007, "nearly 2.5 times bigger than the 2013 payroll of the Atlanta Falcons."
Her Choice? Our Choice! Understanding & Ending Sex Trafficking In Our Community Public Forum
Dates: Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Time: 11 a.m.–2 p.m.
Location: Highline Community College's Student Union; Building 8, Mt. Constance Room
Highline's main campus is located midway between Seattle and Tacoma at South 240th Street and Pacific Highway South (Highway 99); address: 2400 S. 240th St., Des Moines, WA 98198.
Description: Highline Community College Women's Programs in partnership with the Southwest King County Coalition Against Trafficking (SWKCAT) is hosting the “Her Choice, Our Choice!” forum to raise awareness about human trafficking.
Come to learn more about this important issue from two perspectives, the victim and the buyer, and how we can end sex trafficking in our community. Make your reservations for free at: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/670020. Lunch is provided.
Sponsored by: Highline Community College Women's Programs, Southwest King County Coalition Against Trafficking, Federal Way
Coalition Against Trafficking and Washington Engage.
Fighting sex trafficking in Atlanta
Haven ATL wants to turn an old house into a drop-in center to help victims of commercial sexual exploitation
by Gavin Godfrey
Atlanta ranks among the top 14 cities in the nation for commercial sexual exploitation of children. In 2007 (the last year for which key data was available), Atlanta's underground sex economy netted $290 million from an extensive network of prostitution. Worldwide, the sex trade industry produces almost $10 billion annually.
It's numbers like these that keep Hillary DeJarnett up at night. As co-founder and program director of Haven ATL, a nonprofit with a mission to end sex trafficking in metro Atlanta and beyond, DeJarnett and her team, including co-founder Sandra Pobjie-Pawar, work to help women go from victims of abuse to leaders in their communities.
"These girls are powerful," DeJarnett says. "They're smart. They're intelligent. They just really need support and they need to be held accountable and have a place to grow, so that's what we try to do."
The idea for Haven came to DeJarnett in 2011 while working on her master's thesis in nonprofit management at the University of Georgia. The assignment turned into a full-time job after DeJarnett presented the idea to Pobjie-Pawar. The pair officially established Haven ATL that summer as a program of the Salvation Army (DeJarnett's parents are Salvation Army officers).
Haven ATL assists women, girls, and transgendered individuals of all ages who have experienced exploitation. Local shelters, including Salvation Army's Red Shield Downtown, which has transgender dorms and houses same-sex families in need, among other things, refers victims of commercial sexual exploitation directly to Haven. While the shelters provide housing in the evening, Haven ATL works around the clock to get the women back on their feet with counseling, education, and job training.
Haven ATL currently operates out of the Salvation Army's 53,000-square-foot Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in the Pittsburgh neighborhood. Later this year, Haven ATL will move into its own drop-in center and offices. The donated house, also in Pittsburgh, will provide a more intimate setting where the 20 women involved in Haven ATL will be able to experience its services under one roof, including counseling and mentorship, job training, cooking classes, yoga, and voluntary Bible study, among other things. There's a community garden in the backyard, where the women have been working together, learning about farming, and developing a sense of pride in how their landscaping work is paying off.
"I think the house is truly going to be that haven for the women," DeJarnett says. "That place that they can come and know that they are safe and know that they are loved."
As part of Creative Loafing 's Do Good Campaign, a series of grassroots partnerships with local organizations, we're collaborating with Haven ATL to raise funds to renovate the new drop-in center and help landscape the yard and garden. Do Good partner the Home Depot Foundation will match the money raised with in-kind donations up to $2,500. All funds raised and matching donations from Home Depot Foundation will go directly to Haven ATL in support of the Pittsburgh drop-in center.
Haven's relationship to the Salvation Army initially raised concerns for us at Creative Loafing because of instances of the organization's reported discrimination toward the LGBT community. Creative Loafing is a strong supporter of gay rights and the fight for equal rights in which the LGBT community is engaged.
"I know that there have been issues in the past that have been brought up with the Salvation Army, but those were isolated instances and I can assure you that the Salvation Army does not discriminate in who we serve as reflected in our mission statement. Our shelter in Atlanta actually has specific services for Transgendered homeless individuals. Haven ATL has served LGBT individuals and we want to continue to champion serving individuals regardless of their background," DeJarnett said in an email earlier this spring. "My hope was that this [Do Good] partnership would help bridge and repair the relationship between the LGBT community and the Salvation Army — it could open the door for reconciliation and positive change."
Pam, a former madam who turned to the sex trade after her family was displaced by Hurricane Katrina, sought help at Haven after being arrested. Pam works with DeJarnett's team to reach out to individuals in the community who may be too afraid or ashamed to seek help. She's now one of the organization's community leaders and helps get women, girls, and transgendered individuals out of the industry rather than into it.
"I kept trying to do it by myself and I kept falling back into it," she says. "If you're already thinking about changing, [Haven ATL is] the place to actually make it happen."
Documentary seeks to stop sex trafficking in Ohio
by JoAnne Viviano
(Video on site)
The Rev. Steve Feazel wants every grade-school student and every parent in Ohio to know the things he has learned about sex trafficking in the state — things he sometimes wishes he didn't know.
He feels compelled to share the knowledge with a public that, he says, seems to be unaware of the magnitude of the problem.
Feazel is producing a documentary, Shadow on the Heartland , about sex trafficking in Ohio. His goal is to raise enough money to get a free copy into every public and private school and before every youth group in the state.
He'll be joined on Thursday by survivors of sex trafficking, public officials and others at “A Night for Freedom,” a fundraiser featuring the film's trailer at Grove City Church of the Nazarene.
State Rep. Teresa Fedor, a Democrat from Toledo who has sponsored bills aimed at fighting trafficking, will speak at the event, and the Governor's Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force is expected to present a report.
Feazel, a retired minister of the Church of the Nazarene, said he considers the film a “ missionary” that can travel to all corners of the state with the support of donors. The goal is to raise $200,000.
“If we're going to reach the youth culture of America and speak their language, you have to put the message on-screen,” Feazel said. “You're getting this film out to share its message, just like you'd send a missionary out.”
Officials estimated that 1,100 children are forced into the sex trade each year in Ohio, and that 13 is the most-common age for children to become victims.
Feazel has worked with videographer Gunther Meisse II, who is the president of All Pro HD in Mansfield, and with NISRE, a faith-based nonprofit group that helps homeless people and people coming out of prison find housing.
Melanie Murphy, who has held the titles of both Miss Ohio and Mrs. Ohio, is expected to narrate the film. Fedor is to appear in the piece, along with survivors, advocates, law-enforcement professionals and scholars.
Gov. John Kasich has recorded a segment for the film, said Elizabeth Ranade Janis, the state's anti-trafficking coordinator. She said community-led efforts to raise awareness, such as the documentary, can help achieve long-term responses to the crime.
“The more the general public understands and recognizes the signs of human trafficking, the more likely we are to identify victims, get them the assistance they need and prevent the crime of trafficking from ever happening in the first place,” she said.
Lack of awareness leads to misconceptions that children who run away choose to be part of the sex trade, said Marlene Carson, who is to appear in the film. Carson has opened Rahab's Hideaway homes in Columbus and Mansfield to help both youth and adult victims of sex trafficking, and she operates a Columbus restaurant where survivors are employed.
She was 15 and living in Columbus when she was coerced by a neighbor, separated from her family and forced into prostitution. She was first used for a weekend in New York, then again for an eight-month span. Now 51, she said she escaped with the help of a local church.
Feazel said the film has received donations from White Castle and Ariel Corp. He is asking churches to donate and plans to create a Churches Against Sexual Trafficking nonprofit organization. He hopes to have the film completed by Sept. 1.
Feazel and Meisse became determined to create the film after work on other projects led them to a conference on sex trafficking at Regent University, a Christian school in Virginia Beach, Va. Meisse, who has a 9-year-old daughter, tears up when he discusses it.
“We want to wallpaper the state of Ohio with this,” he said. “The community needs to come together to protect our kids. ... That's our responsibility.”
The Shadow on the Heartland fundraiser begins at 7 p.m. on Thursday at Grove City Church of the Nazarene, 4770 Hoover Rd. in Grove City. For information on the film, visit www.shadowontheheartland.com
Missouri bill lengthens child abuse investigations
by The Associated Press
JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri lawmakers have given final approval to legislation that would give social workers more time to complete investigations into child abuse and neglect.
The House voted 139-2 on Tuesday to send the measure to Gov. Jay Nixon. The Senate passed it earlier this month.
Current law stipulates that investigations involving children must be completed within 30 days. The bill would give the Department of Social Services up to 45 days to submit a report after first hearing allegations of abuse and neglect.
Sponsoring Rep. Bill Lant, a Pineville Republican, said these serious investigations shouldn't be rushed and added that the current timetable puts a strain on department staff.
Campaign aimed at child abuse prevention nets 86 arrests
by John Brannen
HOUSTON -- To mark Child Abuse Prevention Month, Crime Stoppers of Houston took a stand against offenders throughout April with a multi-agency effort.
Several law enforcement groups divided warrants across the Houston area to arrest convicted felons who had committed crimes against children. The campaign led to the arrest of 86 fugitives.
The sweep focused on crimes against children who were up to 18 years old, such as abandonment or endangerment of a child to super aggravated sexual assault of a child.
The agencies involved include Crime Stoppers, the Harris County Sheriff's Office, the Houston Police Department's Criminal Warrants Division, Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Task Force and the Pasadena Police Department.
Crime Stoppers offers rewards up to $5,000. Anyone with information that leads to an arrest or charges is encouraged to call Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS (8477) or through the Crime Stoppers website.
Protecting kids from abuse
Pennsylvania is making progress, though there's much more to do
by MARY CARRASCO / CATHLEEN PALM
Pennsylvania is renewing its commitment to protect its children from child abuse.
More than a dozen pieces of legislation have been signed into law since December. This comprehensive package has resulted from years of diverse stakeholders consistently seeking to answer two fundamental questions: Why has Pennsylvania been a statistical outlier when it comes to child abuse and what does that mean for the safety and well-being of our children?
In 2012, Pennsylvania investigated abuse reports at a rate of 8.6 per 1,000 children; nationally the average rate was 42 per 1,000 children. One of every 1,000 children in our commonwealth is determined to be a victim of child abuse, while nationally the figure exceeds nine for every 1,000 children.
It took nearly two decades to cultivate reforms in how Pennsylvania defines, reports and investigates child abuse.
Between 1997 and 2008, modest child-protection improvements were put in place. The Joint State Government Commission's Task Force on Services to Children and Youth was created. Legislation was enacted to require that child abuse be investigated via a team approach to minimize childhood trauma and avoid tainting victim testimony. Some loopholes in the mandatory reporting law were corrected. Additionally, the criminal statute and civil statute of limitations were extended in child sexual-abuse cases.
Still, Pennsylvania laws remained adult-driven, not child-centered.
Many cite the unfolding child-protection reforms as a consequence of one particular high-profile case. Those of us on the front lines of protecting children know that the serial abuse perpetrated by Jerry Sandusky, including at Penn State, proved a critical tipping point. It helped Pennsylvania, particularly policy makers, better understand that the trauma-filled childhoods of his victims was shared by countless other Pennsylvania children.
In 2011, the Pennsylvania General Assembly created the Task Force on Child Protection with the charge to restore “public confidence” in the state's child-protection efforts. Today, the fruits of shared labor are taking root to better protect our children. These include:
• Recognizing that certain acts, such as burning a child or forcefully striking a child under age, is child abuse regardless of whether bodily injury occurs;
• Enhancing penalties for aggravated assault when a child is under the age of 6;
• Strengthening the criminal justice system's response to child pornography;
• Requiring reporting of suspected child abuse immediately to trained authorities outside one's own company or institution;
• Increasing accountability if a person willfully fails to report suspected child abuse;
• Tracking child-neglect cases to ensure that prior neglect reports are considered in assessing a child's safety when a new report is made;
• Dedicating money for children's advocacy centers so investigations are child-centered and coordinated among law-enforcement, child-welfare authorities and service providers;
• Protecting survivors of childhood sexual or physical abuse by having identities shielded by the courts; and
• Modernizing ChildLine, the state's child-abuse reporting hotline, so information between police and child-welfare authorities is shared in real time.
Enacting laws was the easier part. The harder work is just beginning. Now we must focus on:
• Ensuring parents are more fully supported so they have the competence and confidence to effectively nurture, protect and educate their children, in part by discouraging harsh parenting practices;
• Inviting and preparing every adult to be ready to step in and speak up when a child is in harm's way;
• Engaging communities to understand that protecting children and reducing adverse childhood experiences is a shared responsibility; and
• Assuring child protection remains a priority in Harrisburg so that never again does Pennsylvania fall behind instead of proving itself a leader in protecting children and strengthening families.
Mary Carrasco is director of A Child's Place at Mercy, a children's advocacy center affiliated with Pittsburgh Mercy Health System (www.achildsplaceatmercy.org). Cathleen Palm is founder of The Center for Children's Justice, a statewide children's advocacy organization based in Bernville (www.C4CJ.org).
Speak No Evil
Secrecy, denial shield an alleged child molester in a prominent Orthodox Jewish school
by Phil Jacobs
It is a sunny, cool beautiful winter day in the suburbs of Jerusalem. Rays of light enter broad windowpanes and illuminate a group of chatty little children as they make their way from their gan (nursery school) for outside playtime.
Two teachers lead the children through the front door. Another one stays behind to prepare their lunch. Grilled cheese and cut-up apple.
Genendy Eisgrau keeps one eye on the children exiting the front door while making her adult guests feel comfortable at the same time. Her nursery school students call her “Gan-nendy.”
Before the conversation turns serious, she takes her visitors on a tour of the gan. There's nothing cynical or negative in the nuances of her speech. From a window, one can see green and light-brown landscapes collide. It is the land of milk and honey, and no one has to question why she, her husband, or anyone else would consider making aliyah (emigrating to Israel).
Yet there is something that Eisgrau did not leave behind in Baltimore when she moved to Israel in 2005.
Genendy Eisgrau has demons. She has been sharing them privately with the Jewish community of Baltimore for years. She also shared them in the 2011 documentary film Standing Silent , which was screened at Jewish film festivals nationwide and in Israel (Feature, “Silent No More,” March 9, 2011). She alleges that she was molested by both her grandfather and her father, Rabbi Eliezer Eisgrau, the principal of the Torah Institute in Owings Mills. In the documentary film covering molestation in Baltimore's Orthodox community, Genendy, 41, shows her artwork and talks about her pain. The artwork is that of a young soul tormented by memories of abuse.
In recent years, Genendy has shared her story on her blog The Price of Truth (genendyspeaks.blogspot.com) and the website of the Awareness Center (theawarenesscenter.blogspot.com), the international Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Abuse/Assault (JCASA), which has a page dedicated to the “Case of Rabbi Eliezer Eisgrau.”
Genendy is motivated to revisit and expand upon her story now, both here and in a 2013 story in the Jerusalem Post , because, three years after the release of Standing Silent , Rabbi Eisgrau is still the principal of Torah Institute, where he oversees the education of 650 students. She wants her father to be seen by professionals who are trained to evaluate sexual offenders. She wants her father to be deemed safe to continue his position working with young children.
And Genendy Eisgrau remains painfully estranged from her family and the tight-knit Baltimore Orthodox community she grew up in.
“My father did speak to me a couple of years ago on erev Yom Kippur,” Genendy said this month. “He would love to have a relationship with me if I would start from now and pretend nothing happened. I can't do that.”
She is also not alone. There was at least one other complaint that was filed by the parents of a Torah Institute family through the City State's Attorney's Office back in 1999. But the investigation was dropped.
“We had enough . . . to place him under arrest,” says detective Richard Hardick, a deputy with the Harford County Sherriff's Office in the domestic violence unit who still remembers the situation. “[But] no one wanted to come forward.”
Another former student describes physical abuse. “It's not what he did, but it's how he did it,” says the former student, now an adult, adding that he would never let his children set foot in Torah Institute. “He was sadistic.”
Another of Eisgrau's daughters, Dina Schneider, said that the family has nothing to say about their sister. When Genendy visited Baltimore in May of 2008, she telephoned her sister and asked if she'd like to get together. The sister made it clear that as far as she and the family were concerned, Genendy hardly existed anymore unless she recanted her claims against her father.
Schneider, who called herself the family spokesperson, was asked why Genendy would be willing to state publicly that her father molested her when she was a young child. Why would it be worth her reputation, peace of mind, and the estrangement from her parents and 11 siblings to pretty much risk every connection with her family?
I called the rabbi to give him an opportunity to comment. When that call was not immediately returned, I traveled to Torah Institute.
The school, located in Owings Mills, is considered among Baltimore's most religious Jewish schools for boys. It has a reputation of religious excellence. You walk through its halls and see photographs of gedolim , rabbis who the students look up to with complete reverence. The boys have a better chance of knowing the name and background of a rabbi deceased many years than Adam Jones or Joe Flacco.
I recall, years ago, when the school was located on Northern Parkway, 8 1/2-by-11-inch glossies of the rabbis lined the halls, staring down at me, making me feel as if their eyes were following me with disapproval. There, in the middle of the rabbis' photos, were two photos that didn't make any sense. One was a photo of the actor Robert Redford. The other was a photo of a woman with a rag on her head, rubber gloves, and a sign of disdain as she looked prepared to clean her oven. It was an ad for an oven-cleaning product. When I asked why these photos hung on the wall, I was told by my tour guide that they represented two prayers, “one thanking God for not making me a woman; the other thanking God for not making me a goy [Gentile].”
When I visited the Owings Mills facility, the rabbi wasn't there, but he later returned the original telephone call. Finally, the game of telephone tag ended.
“This is Rabbi Eliezer Eisgrau returning your call.”
“Thank you, rabbi, for returning my call. I was hoping we could get together?”
“What is it you want to discuss with me?” asked the rabbi.
“I have interviewed your daughter Genendy several times,” I said. “She addressed a public audience here in Baltimore with many serious allegations about you. I am reaching out to you as best as I can to give you the fair opportunity to respond to these allegations. And as a dad, I'd like to know how all of this has impacted you.”
“What is there to discuss?” he responded. “To me, in my life, this has been all too painful that I just can't discuss it.”
Subsequent calls to Rabbi Eisgrau have not been returned
On May 5, 2006, a group of survivors of sexual molestation gathered at Ohel Yaakov Synagogue on Glen Avenue, a short walk from the brown, shingled home where Genendy was raised. About 20 people, split equally by gender but 100 percent Orthodox, sat on chairs in a circle. There was only one door to enter and exit. The weather was warm on the outside but hot and stuffy inside the room.
Yacov Margolese, himself a survivor of sexual molestation, organized and led the group. It was done in 12-step-recovery style. Each person was given a few minutes to speak.
From each of the voices came difficult-to-hear experiences. If it wasn't the rabbi who molested, it was the educator. If it wasn't the camp counselor, it was the uncle. On and on it went. Each survivor told a small part of his or her story. At one point, a woman didn't tell her “own” story, instead she publicly stated the name “Genendy” and read notes as if she, herself, was sitting among us.
The pain in the room skinned bloody the senses. Many of us were looking at that closed door, because we wanted to escape from the oxygen of pain we were all breathing.
That is until one young man said that it was all very nice to have a meeting, but that nothing would ever be done in Baltimore to help Orthodox survivors of sexual molestation. Though every unthinkable statement stuck with me, the one that got to me was the one questioning if anything would ever be done.
No more than a week passed when Tamir, one of the group's attendees, a young Orthodox man, telephoned me. He wanted to tell me the entirety of his story. We met in June 2006. As a survivor myself, I did not revisit my notes. I was sexually molested as a 14-year-old in Pikesville by a man named Bob Weisman. He was a B'nai B'rith Youth Organization advisor. He owned a soft-serve ice cream truck and was known as “Big Bob.” I worked for him on that truck.
On my first day of work, when the customers were out of sight, he put his hand under my pants. Despite my screams and embarrassment, he continued. I didn't begin to wake from the nightmare until I turned 40. I never told my parents, friends, or teachers. At age 40, and now a parent worried about the safety of my daughters, I told my wife, Lisa. I then told and still am telling my therapist. To this day, I don't find entering that memory space easy to do. So when it came to Tamir's story, I couldn't look at the notes of his sexual torture. But Tamir persisted. He called me many times asking when the story would appear. Finally, I asked to interview him again. In February of 2007, the story “Today, Steve Is 25,” about Tamir, was published as the cover story in the Baltimore Jewish Times , where I was the executive editor at the time. This would be the first of about 10 such articles.
I was told by a close friend that if one molestation story was published, more people would come forward with their stories.
Indeed, survivors of the late Rabbi Ephraim Shapiro and, later, the now-late Rabbi Jacob Max called or emailed me almost as if I was operating a hotline. Rabbi Max was found guilty when a former employee of Sol Levinson and Brothers Funeral Home pressed charges. Rabbi Max officiated at my wedding.
I traveled to Florida in March for several years with two friends to watch the Orioles play in spring training. One of those friends, Scott Rosenfelt, is an accomplished film producer and director. Perhaps his best-known film is Home Alone . During one visit to Florida, I had to stop at a coffee shop to interview a survivor of Rabbi Shapiro. Scott met the survivor. At the game we attended that afternoon in Vero Beach, Scott asked me many questions about the stories I was writing. He asked if I would consider participating in a documentary. That conversation resulted in Standing Silent , a film about the coverup of molestation in Baltimore's Orthodox community. Part of that film included the shunning I was experiencing in the community I still call home. People stopped wishing me a good Shabbos (Sabbath) as I walked on Saturday's to synagogue. The blog-postings were horrific, the worst wishing that my daughters would be barren or unable to have a child.
Indeed, in the years since Genendy publicly made her accusations against Rabbi Eisgrau, Orthodox community blogs have had no shortage of chatter involving Rabbi Eisgrau, mostly in his defense. One young adult had an entirely different viewpoint than Genendy.
He said that when he was a young teen, he was in an especially vulnerable position. His father had died, and he was already looked upon as a “geeky,” “awkward” kid in his Torah Institute class. It was Rabbi Eisgrau who was his rebbe (teacher), who would make sure that he was OK. It was the rabbi who would pick him up and take him home from school some days. It was the rabbi who made sure that he had friends with other classmates. The two, said the young man, spent plenty of time alone together. Not once, said the young man, did the rabbi come close to touching him in any inappropriate manner.
I called another person closely connected to Torah Institute. He wished to remain anonymous but said that even though he had heard these rumors, he was absolutely convinced that they were only rumors, and that he and the board and the parents had total trust in their principal. Not one complaint of this nature had been registered.
When it was known that I had met with Genendy, Torah Institute's then-president visited my office at the Baltimore Jewish Times . He insisted back then that the city police department's investigation found nothing against Rabbi Eisgrau. He had a few disparaging things to say about Rabbi Eisgrau's daughter Genendy, and he made it clear that he and the school felt these allegations were part of an unfounded rumor generated by a daughter seeking attention and help.
His comment raised the question: If nothing happened to her, then why was Genendy seeking help?
She is one of 12 children of Rabbi Eliezer and Mrs. Sora Eisgrau. “Even as a very young child, I knew that anyone could do anything to my body and there was nothing I could do to stop it,” Genendy said. “I knew that I was not safe anywhere. As a child I hated myself. I hated my body. I wanted to be anything but the shameful being that I believed I was. These feelings started when my father began molesting me. The abuse took place from as early as I can remember until I was 7.
“I blamed myself for the abuse,” she continues in a stream of consciousness. “ Tatty [Yiddish for daddy] is good, and I am bad. He has to hurt me because I am bad. This is what happens to bad, yucky little girls. My only escape was to dissociate and pretend the abuse was not really happening. Inside I was shattered. On the outside I behaved like a normal little girl.”
She said that her father was not the only perpetrator. She has memories, she says, of being molested at her grandfather's yeshiva by him and by some of his students. Her dad was one of those students. She said she remembers her grandfather exposing himself to her once in a yeshiva bathroom.
“I remember the guilty look that my sister gave me when we came out of the bathroom. We knew it was a secret.”
Genendy remembers being depressed from an early age. She said that her mom would often tell her that there was no reason to feel angry or sad, and that she should put a smile on her face.
“I stumbled through a painful adolescence,” she said, “Trying to survive. Trying to pretend I was all right. Trying to be the good Bais Yaakov [Baltimore's largest girls-only Jewish school] girl that my parents wanted me to be. Until it got too hard to pretend and I gave up. As an 18-year-old, I was sent by my father to his friend, a frum (Orthodox) psychologist, for treatment. When I finally told her about my father, she told me that she didn't want to know about it and terminated treatment very suddenly. She broke confidentiality by speaking to my family's rabbi, to at least one of my siblings, and to [this reporter], by telling them that she did not believe that my father abused me.”
Genendy Eisgrau went to other rabbis for help. Their response was a quick “it didn't happen.” Her hopelessness at getting any help from her family and community led to a suicide attempt, and a dissociative-disorder diagnosis led to a Sheppard Pratt hospitalization. She would live with a family who offered her support. She lived also in a home operated by nuns.
She would leave for a few years saying she could not “understand” how the Torah could be better than anything else if didn't help people supposedly “ talmidei chachamim ” (Talmud scholars) be just a little more ethical, moral, and healthy. She said she was angry at God for “allowing” her to be molested by frum Jews in a yeshiva.
“Abuse and Torah are intertwined in my family,” she said. “I felt like the Torah itself had molested me. I needed time and space to pull the Torah and my family apart.”
Genendy said it was many years ago that she was cut off by her siblings, aunts, and uncles as if she were dead. To this day, she has one aunt who speaks to her, barely. There are sporadic conversations with her mother, which reach only the level of “have a good Shabbos.”
“As a mother myself, I cannot comprehend how she has given me up. I offered both of my parents the opportunity to meet their grandchildren before we made aliyah. I was in Baltimore for Shabbos and gave them the address. They never showed up. I offered her the opportunity to visit me in Israel, or in the States when we are there for the summer. She said, ‘I will see you in Eretz Yisrael [the land of Israel] when Moshiach [the messiah] comes.'”
Her three children have never met their Baltimore grandparents.
“When they ask, I tell them that maybe someday they will meet them. When they ask why they haven't met them, I tell them that my family is upset with me because someone in my family wasn't safe with children, and I didn't keep it a secret like they wanted me to. They know that I'm an advocate for children's safety, and this makes sense to them.”
She said that it was her family's rabbi, a leader of Baltimore's rabbinate, who advised the family that they would have to choose between their father and their sister.
“It was decided by my family based on the advice of this rabbi, my father's psychologist friend, and others in the Baltimore Jewish community that I was not to be heard, believed, or helped but instead to be cast out as a korban [sacrifice].”
“In spite of the terror and trauma that my father put me through as a young child, I don't see him as a monster,” she said. “My father also did many normal things with me that other fathers do. He took me places, bought me toys, and played ball with me outside when I was a teen. He cared about me in his own limited way. My father has done much good for some in the Baltimore community, and as hard as that may be to reconcile, that can't be ignored. But he is a person who should never be around children unsupervised.
“I can understand why the leaders of the Baltimore community are desperate to believe that my father is innocent,” she said. “My father has helped many of the community leaders and rabbis with their own children. In protecting my father, they are protecting themselves. The Baltimore community is just beginning to wake up to the reality that perpetrators often hide behind respectable personas and professions, and that child molesters like my father depend on their disbelief and silence to continue abusing.”
On a visit to Baltimore in 2008, shortly after “Today, Steve Is 25” and other stories about molestation in the Orthodox community had been published, Genendy Eisgrau sat on a bench outside of a kosher ice cream stand in Owings Mills. At that point, she still had not gone public with her story. On the opposite bench were four young men, bedecked in black yarmulkes. In between slurps on chocolate custard, they said, when asked, that they were students at the nearby Ner Israel Rabbinical College.
I asked how they felt about the stories that appeared in the Jewish media covering sexual molestation in the Orthodox community.
One young man simply said, “It's all untruths. It never happened.”
Another inferred it was a way for the company to sell more papers.
Genendy didn't reply.
That evening she had a different audience.
In front of 23 social workers, friends, and other survivors at a Northwest Baltimore condo community clubhouse, minutes from her parents' home, Genendy told her story. She brought along the artwork she painted, some so distressing in its symbolism that it was difficult to look at.
“The reason I am going public is because I believe that the attempts to silence, shame, and blame, survivors is what allows child sexual abuse to continue. I honestly don't see any real change happening unless and until these stories do go public. I want to send a message to other survivors that they don't need to hide in shame. A crime was perpetuated on them. They did nothing wrong. Child molesters are addicts who can't stop on their own. By not being afraid to publicize who they are, we can protect future generations of children from suffering as we have.
“Another reason I am willing to go public is that I think that rabbis, especially in Baltimore, need to get the message loud and clear that advising a family to cut off a sister who remembers being molested by her father is not a functional, healthy, or compassionate response under any circumstance. My entire family is in pain. We needed—and still need—the rabbis' help. Instead of healing, they caused more trauma and suffering. It is clear that this kind of response does not make the sister disappear or the problem go away. Losing family is a terrible thing. The shiva [mourning period] on both sides never ends because I am not really dead.”
There is power behind her words. An urgency. There is a worry on the other side. Her sister, Dina Schneider, spent an hour and a half meeting with me, talking about what she sees as her sister's mental instability. She brought a family friend, a former University of Baltimore law school dean, as a witness to the meeting, held in a private JCC Park Heights office.
Schneider's not the only one who thinks her sister is mentally unstable. At a meeting of Jewish leaders in Baltimore held several years ago, a psychologist and former Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore constituent agency head who worked with Genendy Eisgrau as a client when Genendy was 18 described her as “crazy.”
In a later interview with Rabbi Yosef Blau, the spiritual dean of students at Yeshiva University, who is familiar with this situation, his word association is different. It is simply, “this woman is not crazy. I have been in steady contact with Genendy for a few years and have found her normal, religious, functioning well, and credible.”
Then there is the other victim whose family filed charges, who, now an adult, said from his home in New York that when he was a child, Rabbi Eisgrau, who was his teacher as a young boy, “saw something on the crotch of my pants, reached down, and brushed it off. He smiled at me, this big smile. There was no skin-to-skin contact.
“The worst thing about being molested,” he continued, “is that you are finished, you are completely finished. He abused me for no reason in his class . . . he shouldn't be in a classroom with children.”
Genendy told her audience that when an abused child speaks out, he or she is frequently labeled (“mostly by people who don't know us”) as crazy, troublemaking, unbalanced, non-credible, having a vendetta . . . “anything to ensure that we will not be taken seriously.”
She said that these labels turn a need for treatment or a call for help into a stigma, one that is learned at an early age and thus prevents survivors from seeking help. She then gave the group a lesson in the words “lashon hara,” “mesira,” and “chillul Hashem.”
“ Lashon hara is gossip,” she said. “I was always taught the importance of never saying anything negative about another Jew, even and especially when it's true because of its potential to destroy lives. Just yesterday I called on one of my sisters to tell her that I was in town and to see if she wanted to get together. She told me that, until I made a commitment to stop the slander, she can't be my sister.”
Mesira , explained Genendy, is the concept of not taking an issue outside of the community.
Chillul Hashem is the prohibition against desecrating God. “It is much more comfortable to discredit the person than to face the reality,” she said. “This inability to face truth has caused me to feel deeply betrayed by many people I know and love.
“Although the physical part of the molestation ended at about age 7, the experiences had a huge and mostly a devastating impact on my life. I still suffer symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.”
In February 2008, after the initial series of stories about molestation in the Baltimore Orthodox community, at a meeting of the local rabbinic council at B'nai Jacob Shaarei Zion Congregation attended by 500 people, noted molestation therapist Dr. David Pelcovitz said that survivors rarely make up stories of molestation.
It was at a day school and yeshiva principals meeting several years ago that the issue of molestation was first raised. The issue caused quite a stir, according to one principal in the room, especially when one of his colleagues got up and vehemently protested any such violations in the Orthodox educational arena. That protesting rabbi was Eliezer Eisgrau, according to the source.
Genendy is a founding board member of a child-protection agency in Israel. Her blog, genendyspeaks.blogspot.com, has brought her in contact with survivors from all over the world.
“My message to Baltimore is that healing is possible on an individual, family, and communal level,” she said. “The greatest obstacle to healing is denial. The closer one is [to] the alleged perpetrator and the more one identifies with him, the harder it will be to overcome denial. My father has been an integral part of the Baltimore Orthodox community for many years. He has a personal relationship with the rabbis who are the decision-makers in the community. I have written to three [prominent] rabbis about the dangers of having my father work with children. My letter has been ignored.”
Standing Silent and the stories in the Jewish Times , I want to believe, have helped the Orthodox and non-Orthodox survivors. Indeed, the Shofar Coalition, connected and funded by the Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, has for years now sponsored a survivors speaker series and therapy groups for men and women.
In 2007, the Vaad HaRabonim, the umbrella organization of Baltimore's Orthodox rabbinate, released a letter signed by many of its members condemning any act of abuse or molestation. Truth is, though, it's years later, and I am still getting calls for help.
Bullied Children May Experience Inflammation Into Adulthood
by Jaleesa Baulkman
Researchers found that kids who are bullied tend to be sick more often than their peers and may have stomach aches, headaches and sleep problems.
"Our findings look at the biological consequences of bullying, and by studying a marker of inflammation, provide a potential mechanism for how this social interaction can affect later health functioning," William E. Copeland, lead author of the study and an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University School of Medicine, said in a statement.
Copeland told Reuters his team is "pretty confident" this is a bullying effect. He added that inflammation might explain the connection between bullying and physical health.
For the study, researchers used data from the Great Smoky Mountains Study, a robust, population-based study that has gathered information on 1,420 individuals for more than 20 years. Individuals were randomly selected to participate in the prospective study, and therefore were not at a higher risk of mental illness or being bullied.
Participants were interviewed throughout childhood, adolescence and young adulthood, and among other topics, were asked about their experiences with bullying. Researchers collected blood samples from the participants to measure C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of low-grade inflammation and a risk factor for health problems including metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease.
Based on their findings, young adults who had been both bullies and victims as children had CRP levels similar to those not involved in bullying, while bullies had the lowest CRP -- even lower than those uninvolved in bullying. Thus, being a bully and enhancing one's social status through this interaction may protect against increases in the inflammatory marker.
The findings suggest that bullying can disrupt levels of inflammation into adulthood, similar to what is seen in other forms of childhood trauma.
"Our study found that a child's role in bullying can serve as either a risk or a protective factor for low-grade inflammation," Copeland said. "Enhanced social status seems to have a biological advantage. However, there are ways children can experience social success aside from bullying others."
The researchers concluded that reducing bullying, as well as reducing inflammation among victims of bullying, could be key targets for promoting physical and emotional health and lessening the risk for diseases associated with inflammation.
The findings were recently published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Documenting Child Sexual Abuse in South Africa
by David Rosenberg
Warning: Some of the victims' stories may be upsetting to some readers.
Photographer Mariella Furrer sees My Piece of Sky, her 700-page book documenting child sexual abuse in South Africa, as both a record and a catalyst for her life's work.
For more than a decade, Furrer documented—through photographs and interviews—the stories of the survivors and families of child sexual abuse, sometimes told through their artwork and poetry also included in the book. Furrer wanted to develop a fully realized project, so she added the stories she learned directly from a number of sex offenders, as well as from child services professionals, police, prosecutors, and the general population.
“It kind of fell upon me,” Furrer said about the work. “I can't explain it. If it had been any other project, I would have done it in four years, but with this kind of topic, I was working at 30 percent because 70 percent of the time you're just dealing with all the emotional baggage and just trying to get up again to continue doing it. … It really pushed me to the edge. There's no way to deal with these sorts of crimes against children and be normal and be the same. … It will change you forever.”
She began the project in 2002 when she received an assignment to cover a story about infant rape in South Africa for Marie Claire . Furrer was so floored by the number of children receiving treatment for abuse that knew she wanted to work on something bigger than an article for a magazine. She began by traveling from her home in Kenya to the Johannesburg-based Teddy Bear Clinic for Abused Children, a nonprofit organization that provides therapy and support for abused children.
When she explained she wanted to document the children, the clinic proposed they use actors to stage the photographs instead of actual victims. “I explained to them that I am documenting the real thing,” Furrer said. She promised not to photograph the children's faces and met with caseworkers and families to begin building their trust and eventually relocated to South Africa to work on the project.
When she was 5, Furrer herself was molested and said it took until she was an adult to begin talking about what had happened to her. She spoke with many of the children she photographed telling them she, too, had been molested; she was sensitive to their situation and promised to stop anytime. “I was very aware of how it would feel as a child to have a camera pointed at you, even if your face isn't shown. The fact that someone is paying this much attention to you because you've been raped—it's kind of pointing a finger at you,” she said. To make things as casual as possible, Furrer said she would often use a simple point-and-shoot camera.
About halfway through the project, Furrer went to Perpignan, France, for the photojournalism festival Visa pour l'Image, where she said the photographs from the project she showed brought a lot of those who saw it to tears. “It was the first time I realized it is powerful,” Furrer said. “As a package it tells a story, and it's moving people either because of the images or they've been directly or indirectly affected by child abuse. … That motivated me to continue.”
According to a 2009 report by Solidarity Helping Hand, South Africa has some of the worse rates of sexual abuse against children in the world, with a child being raped every three minutes. Furrer emphasizes that although she found the violence attached with the rapes in South Africa to be extreme, child sexual abuse is a global problem. She hopes to raise international awareness about crimes against children, including child pornography on the Internet, and said publishing My Piece of Sky is only the beginning. “I'm hoping that by talking about it, it will allow people to open up about their own abuse and offload it, because you carry this burden of guilt and shame … That is the killer,” she said.
Furrer will hold a conversation about My Piece of Sky with photographer Stephanie Sinclair followed by a book signing at the Aperture Gallery and Bookstore on Tuesday from 6–8 p.m. in New York City.
Hearing the silent cry for help: recognizing the signs of child abuse
by Linda Blackiston, RDH, BS
Dental professionals are on the forefront of saving children's lives. Recognizing the signs of abuse and neglect can help a child escape a dangerous or fatal situation. Many dental professionals tend to deal with abuse and neglect with an attitude of denial, that it doesn't happen in their community or dental practice. Most signs of abuse occur in the head and neck area, therefore the dental community is well suited to recognize it.(1)
Dentists and dental hygienists are mandated reporters of suspected child abuse and neglect in all 50 states. Child abuse happens across all socioeconomic and educational levels. Chipped or cracked teeth, bruises around the ears, finger marks on the neck, a black eye or bruises in different stages of healing are a few of the indicators that a child may have been abused. Any of these occurring repeatedly or in combination may indicate abuse. If you believe you are treating an abused child, whether currently or in the past, call the local authorities or call The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) . The Hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with professional crisis counselors. The Hotline offers crisis intervention, information, literature, and referrals to thousands of emergency, social service, and support resources. All calls are anonymous and confidential .(2)
It has been shown that the issue of education for healthcare providers is particularly important, as it increases the rates at which clinicians report suspected abuse.The overall findings of research shows, in general, all healthcare professionals have low rates of reporting. However, clinicians with more education on the matter suspect abuse more often.(2)
Most physicians receive minimal training when it comes to oral health or the oral cavity, therefore, they may not notice the oral aspects of abuse or neglect. Dental offices may want to consider collaborating with local physicians to increase the detection and prevention of this tragic event.(3)
P.A.N.D.A. (Prevent Abuse and Neglect through Dental Awareness) is a program that was founded in Missouri by Dr. Lynn Mouden.(4) The purpose of this program is to train dental professionals and other healthcare providers on recognizing and responding to cases of abuse and neglect in patients. Philips Oral Healthcare has partnered with Mid-Atlantic P.A.N.D.A. Philips offers two successive one hour continuing educations courses online to educate the dental community on the Philips Learning Center.(5)
Philips is an approved AGD/PACE Program Provider. The webinars include information on recognizing child, spouse and elder abuse along with education on recognizing human trafficking. The combination of the two courses will satisfy the continuing education requirement for this topic in many states.
Even if you are not required to take the course for licensure, the education received may help you to save a child's life . The intent of this article is not to completely educate someone on the signs of abuse and neglect, rather, it is meant as an encouragement to seek out education on the subject.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention month. Children in trouble may be screaming for help; hear their silent cry. Be part of the solution, be aware, report. Please don't ask "What if I'm wrong," ask "What if I'm right."
* * Editor's Note: April is National Child Abuse & Prevention Month. However, this issue deserves our attention everyday throughout the year. Kudos Linda!
Pedophile teacher abused scores as clues missed
by Michael Weissenstein And Tami Abdollah
He was one of the most beloved teachers in the world of international schools that serve the children of diplomats, well-off Americans and local elites. He was often the first to arrive in the morning, and last to leave. He led student trips to exotic places and gave out cookies and milk at bedtime.
That was the public persona of William Vahey until a maid stole a memory drive from him in November. On it was evidence that Vahey had molested scores of adolescent boys, possibly more.
The discovery of a man the FBI regards as one of the most prolific pedophiles in memory has set off a crisis in the community of international schools, where parents are being told their children may have been victims, and administrators are scurrying to close loopholes exposed by Vahey's abuses.
Apparently, not even Vahey's victims knew they had been molested. The double-cream Oreos that he handed out were laced with sleeping pills — enough to leave the boys unconscious as he touched them and posed them for nude photographs.
Vahey attempted suicide in Nicaragua after his maid stole the drive. He survived but killed himself on a second try, stabbing himself to death at age 64 and leaving hundreds of former students wondering if they had been abused.
There were decades of missed opportunities to expose Vahey. An early California sex-abuse conviction didn't prevent him taking a series of jobs exposing him to children. Colleagues and supervisors failed to question why he was so often with boys overnight. And at least twice, boys fell mysteriously ill while under his care, and there was no investigation of Vahey's role.
In 1969, Vahey was arrested on child sexual abuse charges after police said he pinched the penises of eight boys, ages 7 to 9, at an Orange County, California, high school where he taught swimming. Vahey, then 20, told authorities he had started touching boys without their consent at age 14.
He pleaded guilty to a single charge of lewd and lascivious behavior. He received a 90-day jail sentence and five years' probation. After two, he was allowed to leave the country unsupervised in January 1972.
Vahey was required to register as a sex offender and update his address whenever he moved, but he never updated his information after the first time he registered and authorities didn't pursue the matter. When the state registry was put online in 2004, his name wasn't included because authorities discovered he was no longer living in California.
Vahey began his international teaching career with a year at the American School in Tehran in the run-up to Iran's oil boom, the first in a series of stays around the Middle East and Europe. He taught history, social studies and related subjects in Lebanon, Spain, Iran again, Greece and then Saudi Arabia, almost always to middle school students.
By the time he arrived in Saudi Arabia, Vahey was married and had two sons with Jean Vahey, a woman who became a widely respected administrator in international education. He taught eighth- and ninth-grade social studies, coached boys' basketball and led school trips to Bahrain, Turkey and Africa.
By 1992, Vahey and his wife moved to the prestigious Jakarta International School in Indonesia.
After 10 years the Vaheys moved to Escuela Campo Alegre in Venezuela, where Jean became superintendent and the man known to all as Bill took a teaching job at the sprawling hillside campus overlooking the capital, Caracas.
All new hires were required to provide a police record from either their home of record or their last country of assignment, if they had been there for more than five years. Vahey presented one from Indonesia with no history of problems.
Again in Venezuela, the popular teacher and family man took students on trips
Authorities may have missed a warning sign when two students under Vahey's care were rushed to a hospital after falling unconscious in their hotel room during a trip for a basketball game, parents and staff said. Officials were unable to determine why and chalked it up to a possible failing air conditioner.
Seven years later, the Vaheys went to work at the Westminster campus of London's Southbank International School, with about 350 pupils from 70 countries.
Bill Vahey founded a "travel club" and led a 13-day trip to Nepal in 2012.
Southbank's chair of governors, Chris Woodhead, told Britain's Press Association there had been one complaint against Vahey. A boy on a trip felt sick, Woodhead said, and Vahey took the child into his room, apparently "to look after him."
"The boy's parents agreed that there was nothing untoward and the matter shouldn't be pursued," Woodhead said.
When Vahey went on to the American Nicaraguan School with glowing references, his wife stayed in London.
In early March, the maid handed the USB drive to school director Gloria Doll. On it, she found photos of unconscious boys, many blonde or red-headed and between the ages of 12 and 14, often being touched by Vahey.
Doll confronted Vahey, who told her, according to an FBI affidavit, that he had given the boys sleeping pills, adding: "I was molested as a boy, that is why I do this. I have been doing this my whole life."
Vahey said he had swallowed more than 100 sleeping pills in November after discovering the USB drive had been taken.
Doll demanded Vahey's resignation, according to the affidavit.
Vahey flew to Atlanta the next day. It was only after he boarded the flight that Doll notified authorities at the U.S. Embassy in Managua, U.S. officials said. U.S. officials immediately notified Nicaraguan police, but he had left the country.
Vahey traveled to Luverne, Minnesota, where his brother, sister-in-law and mother live, the latter in a nursing home. He checked into a hotel and stabbed himself in the chest with a knife, leaving a note apologizing to his family.
"He's one of the most prolific pedophiles that we've seen here due to the sheer numbers," FBI Special Agent Sharon Dunlap said.
At least 60 of the 90 or so children in the images were from the Southbank school, according to police, and a significant number of parents said they did not want to know if their children were abused. Woodhead, the governor, has blamed the U.S. system.
"How did he qualify as a teacher in the United States, how is it this information was never available to any of the schools across the world who employed him over the next 40 years?" he asked in an interview with the Press Association.
Meanwhile, schools where Vahey taught are reviewing their background check policies and security procedures. A coalition of six organizations of international schools has formed a task force to review recruitment and child abuse. Teacher recruiting firms are conducting a similar joint review.
In the meantime, one of the men molested by Vahey in the Westminster, California, swimming pool as a 9-year-old boy says terrible memories have revived.
"It certainly bothers me that a person like that would be left unsupervised and obviously not tracked over the last 45 years now," the man said, his voice growing unsteady. "I find it troubling. I guess the question is: How can the system allow that to happen?"
Six brothers charged with abusing girl for more than a decade in N.C.
by 13News Now
HERTFORD, NC -- Six brothers from Perquimans County have been charged with sexually abusing a 16-year-old girl for more than a decade.
Eric, 27, Jon, 25, Matthew, 23, Nathaniel, 21, Benjamin, 19, and Aaron Jackson, 18, were arrested last week. They are charged with crimes related to rape of a child.
Deputies also charged the brothers' parents, John Jackson, 65, and Nita Jackson, 54, with felony child abuse, saying the couple knew what was happening but did nothing to stop it.
One of the brothers supposedly told investigators his mother witnessed the alleged abuse on at least one occasion and walked away.
"It's disgusting that you would think, that parents knew that something like this was going on and just let it go," Sheriff Eric Tilley told 13News Now. "That's disgusting."
Tilley said his office's investigation began in December of 2012 after a Jackson brother reported the alleged abuse at the urging of the brother's pastor.
"Said, you know, that's not a normal situation. That's not the way a normal family lives, you know, this is absolutely wrong and to do the right thing, you need to go and talk with the authorities," Tilley explained.
"When he came in and told us that, our initial belief was that we probably wouldn't get far with this case. We probably knew we were gonna get some resistance because this family is, like I said, they're close-knit. They stay to themselves, you know, they didn't go to school, so they're not really out socially," Tilley said.
Instead, Tilley told 13News Now, after deputies began their investigation, 2 other brothers corroborated the claims.
When investigators spoke to the victim in March of this year, she, too, said the allegations were true.
Tilley said the abuse took place beginning when she was 4 until she was about 14.
Although the brothers supposedly were home-schooled, their level of education seemed low. The oldest, Eric, had difficulty writing his name when he spoke to investigators.
When deputies went to the family's property on Chapanoke Road, they denied them access. Tilley said by mid to late 2013, the parents moved much of the family to Colorado.
The six brothers and their parents were indicted April 24, 2014.
"Never suspected anything," said Bette Butler who lives next door to the Jacksons' home and whose son grew up with the boys.
"They first moved here, we did have them to dinner a couple times. They seemed like really normal people, normal children," Butler offered. "There wasn't a lot of interaction between the Jacksons and people in the area much. I mean, they pretty much kept to themselves."
Another neighbor told 13News Now the children always seemed friendly. He added there were some odd things about the family, including the collection of junk they accumulated on the property.
"We reached out, couple of times to help 'em out when they first got here, but to no avail," the neighbor said. "To have something like this, and for the parents to be able to allow something like that to happen, you know, it's just really heartbreaking, really heartbreaking."
"The only thing that can come out of this -- good -- is that, you know, this young lady gets some kind of closure, and, hopefully, she's strong enough and with a support group put it behind her and go on with her life," Tilley said.
The defendants returned to North Carolina rather than be arrested in Colorado and await extradition. Tilley told 13News Now the parents are not cooperating with deputies and that they returned to Colorado after they posted a $15,000 secured bond.
The brothers are being held in Albemarle District Jail under secured bonds of up to $150,000 and awaiting arraignment.
Should young sex offenders be identified that way for life?
by Laura Benshoff
Pennsylvania's Supreme Court is hearing arguments on whether teens found guilty of certain types of sexual offenses must be registered on public sex offender lists.
In some cases, that label can last for a lifetime. Pennsylvania adopted the federal Adam Walsh Act in 2012, which means that juveniles between 14 and 17 convicted of certain categories of sex crimes must register as sex offenders.
The challenge to the current registratrion requirements has brought more attention to the issue of juvenlie sex offenders — some of them are as young as 10 — and it raises tough questions: Where do kids learn to act that way? And how do judges and therapists currently treat sex offenders who are also children?
Natalie Dallard is a therapist at the Joseph J. Peters Institute in Philadelphia, an organization that provides treatment for survivors and perpetrators of sexual abuse. A variety of factors influence kids' behavior, she said.
"Probably nine out of 10 of the girls that I've worked with have been victims," said Dallard. "With boys, not as much as people think. Generally with boys there's a lot of other anger issues, and a lot of exposure to pornography, poor boundaries, and association with older peers, negative peers."
If kids are charged with a sexual assault, disclosing their own sexual trauma or family environment may actually backfire, said Megan Perez, a supervisor with the Public Defenders Association of Philadelphia. She said that if her clients have themselves been abused, she would not share that information in the courtroom.
"A lot of people assume that people who have been perpetrated against are more likely to be a perpetrator themselves," said Perez. "I think our Family Court judges in Philadelphia would look at a factor like that as more indicative of guilt than of innocence."
Consequences to fit the crime
There is a lot of evidence that kids' brains work differently than those of adults, especially when it comes to understanding consequences and controlling behavior.
"Impulse control develops as you get older," said Dallard. "You have a greater ability to manage some of these feelings. And young kids are also a lot more susceptible to outside influences, and they don't have that critical thinking to think out outcomes."
Dallard believes that sexual offenses elicit such an emotional response in people that it clouds their understanding of who the offender is.
"People are always asking me how I do what I do, but, at the end of the day, I'm helping children. Sex crimes are so stigmatized that people fail to see that these are children," said Dallard.
She recommends teaching boundaries and reducing access to pornography as keys to reducing assaults by young people.
In Pennsylvania, juvenile sex offenders who are found guilty are typically ordered to receive treatment — the minimum is six months of individual and group therapy. Depending on their own history of trauma, treatment could continue for two years.
Juveniles commit around 30 percent of sexual assaults against victims 18 and younger. Statistically, sex offenders – particularly young ones – are not likely to reoffend.
What Sort of Events Lead to Complex Trauma?
by Sara Staggs
Events that cause complex trauma are usually prolonged, severe exposure to interpersonal trauma. Examples include:
Childhood sexual abuse
Neglect by parent/caretakers
Human trafficking victims
Multiple events (least likely)
Parent's divorce, followed by death of family member and resulting attachment issues
Serious illness accompanied by other losses or events
Usually events resulting in complex trauma occur in childhood while an individual's personality and coping abilities are still developing. Children don't had the same coping abilities that adults do and if they lack support, or models of healthy coping, they may respond in ways that aren't healthy and adaptive, resulting in trait-like symptoms (discussed in the next post). The International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS) shares that adult-onset trauma is rare, but can happen in extreme cases of prolonged, interpersonal trauma, like refugees or individuals exposed to torture or genocide (p. 7).
Many studies report that girls and women are more likely to be victims of sexual assault and child sexual abuse. Men and boys are more likely to be exposed to accidents, nonsexual assaults, witnessing death or injury, disaster or fire, and combat or war. Studies also suggest that women are less likely to experience what are called “potentially traumatizing events.”
The problem with this type of measurement is that the types of “potentially traumatizing events” that men and boys report are stand out events—accidents, disasters, fires, war. They're easy to remember and to report. The types of events that women experience tend to be considered routine and it can be a long time, if ever, that women see these abusive events as abusive. It is extremely common for childhood survivors of sexual violence that I work with to consider their upbringing standard and only later when stories emerge of extreme verbal abuse or neglect do we both realize how their childhood may have impacted them. It's not that they forgot the events, they just didn't realize that not everyone was treated that way. When children are young, their experiences are totally normalized and only much later to many people realize that other families are different. Therefore, women who are asked whether they were abused, may answer “no,” giving a false negative response. This is also important to remember when we look at symptoms—women are more likely than men to develop PTSD after the same type of incident—so a car accident, combat trauma or a rape. Could this hidden history of trauma play a role?
Bill changes requirements for reporting child abuse
by Kristen Doerschner
It took nine years and a national scandal for a bill that strengthens child abuse reporting requirements for school employees to make its way through the Legislature.
The bill -- which cleared the House on March 18 and the Senate Wednesday -- was first introduced in 2005 by Sen. Wayne D. Fontana, D-42, Pittsburgh. Fontana, determined to see the bill become law, said he has re-introduced the bill every session since then.
The bill was presented to Gov. Tom Corbett Thursday, and, after it is signed, it will take effect Dec. 31.
Two of the major changes regard who is required to report suspected abuse to the authorities and what types of injuries can be investigated.
School employees and anyone who provides a school-sponsored program, activity or service will be required to report suspect child abuse directly to the Department of Public Welfare's ChildLine and to their school administrator.
The law applies to intermediate units, public and private schools, charter and cyber schools, vocational-technical schools, colleges and universities, and private residential rehabilitative institutions.
While Pennsylvania does currently have a mandated reporting requirement for suspected child abuse, the onus was not placed directly on employees to report abuse to the authorities. Instead, the law reads the employee “shall immediately notify the person in charge of the institution, school, facility or agency or the designated agent of the person in charge when they have reasonable cause to suspect on the basis of their professional or other training or experience, that a child coming before them in their professional or official capacity is a victim of child abuse.”
From there “the person in charge or the designated agent” assumed responsibility for notifying an investigative agency.
Beaver County District Attorney Anthony Berosh said different school districts had different policies regarding how such cases were to be handled. The upcoming changes make it very clear who is responsible for reporting such abuse and how.
THE TURNING POINT
Fontana said a couple of things kept the bill from progressing over the years. “One, if you're in the minority in Harrisburg, a bill, even if it is a good bill, can take a long time to pass through the committees, or it just doesn't get listed or discussed or debated,” he said.
“It (the bill) didn't move. It sat there,” Fontana said. He said there was some push back from those representing school employees who had some concerns about what would happen if a child made a false accusation. “We had to work through some of those things,” Fontana said.
Asked if the Penn State University sexual abuse scandal involving former football coach Jerry Sandusky had anything to do with the bill moving forward, Fontana said, “There's no question that had something to do with it. If this bill would have been a law [Mike] McQueary would have had to report to an investigative agency, not just a superior.”
McQueary was a graduate assistant in the football program in 2001 when he reported to then-coach Joe Paterno that he had witnessed Sandusky sexually assaulting a young boy in a school locker room, but he did not report the assault directly to the police. According to reports, Paterno then relayed the report to his superiors. Again, the authorities were not contacted, and Sandusky wasn't indicted on any charges until 2011, 10 years after McQueary reported the assault to his boss.
Fontana acknowledged there is no guarantee McQueary would have reported the abuse to law enforcement at the time, but at least the requirement would have been there for him to do so.
Beaver Area School District Superintendent John Hansen said he sees the bill as making positive changes by making it clear what steps must be taken if there is suspected child abuse.
“The immediate reaction is, of course, we want to do everything we can to make sure that our children are safe,” Hansen said. “When it appears they are not, we need to do everything we can to protect them from harm.”
Fontana said he introduced the bill after a distraught mother called his office because her son had been assaulted by a teacher and taken to the emergency room with bleeding brush burns, choke marks on his neck and broken blood vessels in his face. The child's mother, the emergency room doctor and a social worker all tried to report the incident to the ChildLine, but they were told legally the incident could not be investigated because the injuries were not serious enough.
The current law defines “serious bodily injury” as the child having substantial pain. The new law changes that definition to include “impairment of the physical condition.”
Berosh said that change in wording jumped out at him when he read the bill. He said there have been cases in the past where a child has been injured through abuse, undergone medical treatment, but the doctor also determined the injury didn't amount to substantial pain. That essentially leaves law enforcement “boxed out” of investigating because of the wording of the law, he said.
“It's been a source of frustration in the past,” Berosh said. “It's a change for the better.”
The bill also addresses how county agencies, such as Beaver County Children and Youth Services, and law enforcement must work together. Both agencies will be required to conduct a joint investigation instead of each agency conducting its own investigation.
“By and large we've been on the same page,” Berosh said of Beaver County agencies.
CYS Director Dayna Revay did not return a call for comment on the bill.
Berosh said he plans to put together a training program for local schools to address questions about the new law.
Anyone who suspects a child is being abused can make an anonymous report by calling ChildLine at 800-932-0313.
Preventing child sexual abuse can also reduce college assaults, rapes
by BYRON MANERING
College campuses are among of the most dangerous places in America for women. According to the 2014 White House Council on Women and Girls, one out of five college women are sexually assaulted and nearly one out of 10 college men are rapists.
This pervasive problem first gained national attention in 1972 with the adoption of Title IX, a civil rights law prohibiting federally funded colleges from gender discrimination, including sexual harassment and rape.
Title IX and the more recent Cleary Act of 1990 have led to widespread prevention strategies and an 85 percent drop in rapes on campus over the past 40 years.
In spite of these improvements, sexual assault remains an epidemic affecting over a quarter of college students and countless others who are friends and family of the victims. Furthermore, 55 U.S. colleges are currently being investigated for their possible mishandling of sex crimes on campus.
Tolerance for sexual assault has a foothold on college campuses across the country. Its prevalence is perpetuated by the fact that students are free from parental oversight for the first time and have easy access to drugs and wild parties. These conditions put them at high risk for sexual assault.
However, students and college administrators who are complacent did not suddenly become so when they set foot on campus. They brought these unhealthy attitudes and behaviors with them. Studies indicate that 33 percent of rapists committed their first offense as juveniles and that one in five girls are raped while in high school. Only half of these attacks are ever reported.
The issue begins at an even earlier age. According to the Department of Justice, 7 percent of fifth-grade girls report being sexually abused, a percentage that is only slightly higher than that reported by middle school students living here in Whatcom County.
In fact, 50 percent of women who are victims of rape were also sexually abused as children. Furthermore, 65 percent of one-time rapists and 85 percent of serial rapists were sexually abused as kids.
What role does the prevalence of child sexual abuse among college women who are raped and college men who are rapists play in the strategies that colleges can take to end sexual violence on campus?
Many students arrive on campus with an incorrect and harmful distinction of right and wrong regarding sexual behaviors and attitudes. Sex-related behavior as a means for exerting power and control is common in high schools where it shows up in incidents of hazing and harassment. In middle school it is prevalent in incidents of bullying and groping. In elementary school it is seen in incidents of teasing and when kids act out in a sexual way that is inappropriate for their age.
This lifetime exposure to undeterred sexual bullying and violence results in tolerance and minimization.
Notably, 60 percent of women do not label incidents of rape as such. Instead, the incidents are frequently dismissed with statements like, "boys will be boys," and "it was as much my fault as it was his."
Rapists make similar comments like, "she wanted it," and "no one ever gets in trouble for it." Of the men who commit rape, 84 percent say that what they did was definitely not rape.
The White House report recommends that colleges address six areas for improvement. Five of these areas focus on enforcement of laws that are already in place. The sixth recommendation is to engage men as advocates for prevention.
In addition to following the report's recommendations, college campuses can do more by addressing issues related to child sexual abuse. The victimization of children at Penn State is an example of how poorly equipped most colleges are in protecting children who visit their campus.
College students interact with children ages 5-18 throughout their collegiate life. At Western Washington Universities for instance, 22 on-campus programs serve thousands of children in kindergarten to grade 12 each year. By adopting training and protocols on adult, child, and youth interactions, colleges can both protect children and protect their faculty and institutions.
Not only would these policies and practices decrease the likelihood of abuse of children on campus, they can be an effective way to empower the student body to address the issues that lead to their own victimization. The skills students learn to protect children from being abused are skills that can generalize into protecting themselves and others as young adults in college.
Western Washington University has already made steps in this direction. Their Children at Western Leadership Group is in its final stages of developing an adult, child and youth safety policy that includes training and reporting requirements. Their commitment to child safety is an important next step in eradicating sexual assault on campus.
For more information on adult, child and youth safety policies and training, contact Brigid Collins Family Support Center.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Byron Manering is executive director of the Brigid Collins Family Support Center in Bellingham. For more information online, go to: brigidcollins.org
Yountville session to teach sexual abuse prevention
The Napa County Child Abuse Prevention Council, Cope Family Center and the town of Yountville will offer a free training session to help parents, teachers and others prevent the sexual abuse of children. The program will be offered at 6 p.m. May 22 at the Yountville Community Center, 6516 Washington St.
Participants will learn about the scope of child sexual abuse as a public health problem; the conditions that support abuse in home and community; and receive information on preventing sexual assault of children.
Organizers encourage parents, faith-based leaders, community groups, teachers and others to attend the training session. To register for the program, call 707-944-8712 or visit townofyountville.com
For more information, visit copefamilycenter.org or enoughabuse.org
National compensation scheme for child sex abuse victims the way forward
by Francis Sullivan
Over the past two weeks Australians have heard stories from 11 old men who endured the worst physical and sexual abuse as young boys in orphanages and farm schools run by the Christian Brothers in Western Australia from the late 1940s and into the 60s.
Most of the boys, some as young as four, were in care before being shipped off to Australia from homes in England and Malta as part of UK and Australian Government sanctioned child migration schemes. Some were sent without the knowledge of their family.
They came on the promise of a life in Australia they could never hope for in post-war Europe: a warm bed, a full belly, an education. Some were promised land. All were promised a better future. But many got years, sometimes decades, of misery.
What these men told the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse was for many in the hearing room beyond belief; stories of forced labor, of torture, of beatings and rape – experiences no one, anywhere, should ever have to endure.
This abuse took place in dark and intimidating ‘homes' run at the time by the Christian Brothers that bordered on forced labour camps. Some of the evidence in fact suggested at least two boys died as a result of the abuse.
The boys had no one to turn too. Often the very people they went to for help abused them as well.
Over many years these children were let down by the police they reported to, doctors and nurses who treated their injuries, senior government officials who turned a blind eye. But more than anyone, they were let down by the men who were charged with their care – the Christian Brothers.
How it was that people, part of an organization with a commitment to the teachings of Christ and the values of revolutionary Irish educator, Edmund Rice, could behave in the way they did is one of the many questions being asked by the Commission.
Evidence from current leaders in the Christian Brothers went some way to explaining, not justifying, the behavior.
Issues such as personal and sexual immaturity of Brothers at the time, lack of appropriate training, historic inappropriate screening of candidates wanting to enter religious life, isolation, overcrowding and understaffing all contributed to some sort of explanation for the abuse.
Br Julian McDonald, senior Christian Brothers' leader in Australia, told the Commission at least two of the institutions where the abuse happened were isolated geographically and all four institutions were socially isolated.
One of the schools, Bindoon, is one and a half hours drive from Perth by today's standards. At the time, it might as well have been on the moon.
Brother McDonald spoke of the failure of the Brothers to have any training in dealing with children, no training in sexual development and no understanding of boundaries.
Much of the evidence given during the hearing dealt with justice for the survivors of the abuse and the failing of the Brothers to deal fairly and compassionately as each of the men returned years later looking for help.
It was encouraging to hear at the end of the hearing that the Brothers have now invited anyone who feels they have been unjustly treated to have past settlements reviewed and re-considered.
Much of the evidence during the eight-day hearing dealt with a class action brought by survivors against the Brothers. Most agreed that this court action, for a variety of reasons, failed to provide justice and fair compensation for the men.
What is now increasingly clear, with more evidence from every public hearing, is that the Courts are poorly suited for delivering justice for victims of child sexual abuse.
The lack of corroboration, delays in reporting the abuse, the age of some of the accused, finding someone to sue - all contributed to the difficulties survivors face in Court.
Support seems to now be building for an easy to access, national compensation scheme, funded by the Catholic Church and other institutions responsible for abuse. Such a scheme will provide a way forward for survivors.
A national compensation scheme is part of a reform package proposed by the Truth Justice and Healing Council and supported by Catholic leaders.
This would involve a national independent authority investigating and determining compensation, which would be paid by the Church or any other institution responsible for the abuse. Such a scheme will provide just, consistent resolutions for people seeking redress.
The days of the Church investigating itself are over.
I believe this would be the most compassionate way forward and in the best, long-term interest of survivors, many of whom have faced the trauma of litigating their claim in court.
We cannot change what has happened, but we can do our best to ensure survivors are well compensated and given every opportunity to heal and to lead a life of dignity and hope.
Francis Sullivan is the CEO of the Catholic Church's Truth Justice and Healing Council which has been coordinating the Church's response to the Royal Commission and driving the Church's reform agenda.
Old Child Sex Abuse Crimes: Delayed Justice – Part 1
by Catherine Pegram
They're old crimes with no evidence, no witnesses and only the recollections of two people, one of them a child at the time.
More child sex abuse cases are coming to light, 10, 20, even nearly 30 years later.
Just this week, a former teacher in Bass Harbor was in court, accused of sexually assaulting a student 15 years ago.
And since the first of the year, Penobscot County has seen two convictions in cases decades old.
The District Attorney says it's not all coincidence.
In April, more than 28 years after she was first sexually abused, the woman who only wants to be identified as Sheila finally found justice
The former neighbor and babysitter who molested her – 71-year-old Dean Knights – was sentenced to nine years in prison.
“I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. This is the end of the court piece, but it's just the beginning of my healing process.”
Just weeks earlier, 65-year-old Clarence Cote of Nebraska was sent away for five years for raping an 8-year-old girl more than two decades ago.
“In some sense it is a coincidence that we had two back to back. But I think there is somewhat of a trend that more victims are going to come forward.”
Penobscot County District Attorney Chris Almy says changes in the law, beginning the late 90's, lifted the statute of limitations on several sex offenses, meaning they can be prosecuted at any time, just like a murder case.
Almy says as victims deal with the effects of their abuse later in life, some are called to take their cases all the way to court.
“Some of the instances of abuse are so particular and so memorable, gruesome perhaps is a better word, that victims do remember details of when, where, how it all happened. And they carried that burden for a long time.”
“Many years ago, they had a choice taken away from them – to protect their own bodies. So what is the best way to empower somebody – by giving them that choice back.”
Angel Shaw is with Rape Response Services in Bangor, an organization that helps people who've been sexually assaulted take the next step, including into the courtroom, even years after the crime.
“They're really going to have that face to face contact with the perpetrator and sometimes that can, they can actually just say, you haven't killed me. I'm not going to slink away. You're not controlling me.”
Even though the abuse is a crime, not every case makes it to court. Almy says older sex crime cases have to be even more carefully evaluated, especially since there's no evidence or witnesses.
“When you have 12 jurors listening to somebody recount sex offenses or sexual abuse, they have to have a firm belief in their own mind that it happened, so we need to have a victim who's able to convey that to a jury.”
The result can encourage others who've been abused to come forward – and that's just the beginning.
Shaw says, “It really makes the community aware. If we get a conviction, it gives a little bit of pride in the fact the community is saying look, we're not going to tolerate this.”
“Sex offenders have their own wiley way of of maneuvering around in life and they know what happens in the courtroom,” Almy says. “And I think it makes them pause about whether or not they're going to victimize somebody else cause they know they could get caught and the consequences are significant.”
“I'm just thankful that for 9 years, no little girl is going to get hurt.”
Anyone who has been impacted by sexual violence can contact Rape Response Services Crisis and Support Line.
The number locally is 1-800-310-0000 or Statewide, 1-800-871-7741.
You can also find information on their website at: www.rrsonline.org
Old Child Sex Abuse Crimes: Delayed Justice - Part Two
by Catherine Pegram
The scars of child sex abuse can take years to heal.
But more survivors of that abuse are coming forward, even decades later, to seek justice.
Just this year in Penobscot County, two men were convicted in separate cases of sexually abusing young girls.
In the case of 66-year-old Clarence Cote it was more that 20 years after the crime. For 71-year-old Dean Knights, nearly 30 years.
For Tina Dionne, who pushed for decades to prosecute her abuser Clarence Cote, the time, pain and emotion that it took to bring her case to court was worth it.
“It started in ways that you wouldn't think were anything. it started as like spoiling me.”
Tina Dionne says the abuse she endured from her Uncle Clarence Cote began when she was about eight years old.
She never wanted anyone to know what happened to her – but a few years later, she broke down to her mom. Her brother overheard and told authorities at school.
As police investigated, Cote took off to Arizona.
Then Dionne wrote letters to the Governors of Arizona and Maine, fighting to bring Cote back.
“I just didn't want anybody else to go through what I had gone through. I didn't want him to do that to anybody else and that's what drove me to hopefully find him someday.”
But when Dionne was 18, she was told Cote was dead and although she didn't really believe it, she found a way to accept it.
Then two years ago, Cote was discovered in the Midwest during a traffic incident.
Dionne was at her mom's house when she learned the news.
“I just walked out of her house crying. I couldn't – I didn't know what to say. I didn't know what to – there was so much emotion going on in my head.”
Dionne never doubted she wanted to go through with pressing charges against Cote, even though it meant exposing old, deep wounds – and this time to a jury.
“That was I've been waiting for my whole life is to finally get justice, let him know it's not okay to do this – he can't run forever.”
“That was probably one of the hardest days of my life, is having to sit up there in front of him and say what he did to me and see absolutely no emotion on his face, no look of I'm sorry or responsibility on his face at all for what he did.”
Then she finally heard the words she'd been waiting to hear – guilty and a 5 year prison sentence.
“It was like time stopped and it was just emotional and I remember just holding my husband and saying, thank God he can't hurt anybody else.”
“It wasn't as long as I probably wanted him to be in there, but that's 5 years that some other little girl isn't getting hurt. and I keep telling myself that.”
Dionne says even years after the abuse, she still wrestles with the pain.
“People think that because the verdict is done and the sentencing is done, that it's okay. You should be find now, you should be able to move on with your life and go back. But I think it was actually harder for me this time than it was years ago to move on. Even daily, I just have to tell myself, you can do this, you can do this.”
Dionne now offers support to others who are struggling with sexual abuse.
She wants them to know they are not alone – and they still have a chance to get back a part of their lives, lost so long ago.
“I just want people to know that it's okay to have that voice, to say what happened to you. You don't have to live with it, locked up forever.”
One of the women Tina Dionne's been an encouragement to was as the center of the other historic sex crime case in Bangor involving 71-year-old Dean Knights of Enfield.
Last month, he was sentenced to 9 years in prison for molesting his neighbor's daughter, almost three decades ago.
Anyone who has been impacted by sexual violence can contact Rape Response Services Crisis and Support Line.
The number locally is 1-800-310-0000 or Statewide, 1-800-871-7741.
You can also find information on their website at: www.rrsonline.org
Huntsville woman charged with cutting her baby
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — Police say a Huntsville woman has been charged with attempted murder after she cut her 3-month-old baby with a butcher knife.
Al.com reports the infant girl was taken to Children's Hospital of Birmingham in critical condition after the attack late Saturday.
Sgt. Mark Roberts, a Huntsville police spokesman, says the child's mother, 31-year-old Natasha Dean Townsend, was charged. He says police believe she intended to kill her baby and then commit suicide. It was not known if Townsend had an attorney.
A neighbor, Promise Shorter, described Townsend as an intelligent woman who held down a job that paid well and was in a committed relationship her daughter's father.
Shorter said, "She's a good person... I just think she snapped."
New Boko Haram Video Allegedly Shows Abducted Girls
Boko Haram released a new video on Monday claiming to show the missing Nigerian schoolgirls, alleging the teenagers had converted to Islam and would not be released until all militant prisoners were freed.
The group's leader, Abubakar Shekau, speaks on the video obtained by the French news agency AFP for 17 minutes before showing what he said were the girls, in Muslim dress and praying in an undisclosed rural location.
A total of 276 girls were abducted on April 14 from the northeastern town of Chibok, in Borno state, which has a sizeable Christian community. About 223 are still missing.
The footage shows about 130 girls in black and grey full-length hijabs sitting on scrubland near trees, reciting the first chapter of the Muslim holy book, the Koran, and holding their palms upwards in prayer.
In the video, three of the girls are interviewed. Two of the girls said they were Christian and had converted, while the other one said she was Muslim. Most of the group remained seated. The girls appeared calm and one said that they had not been harmed.
There was no indication of when the video was taken, although the quality is better than on previous occasions and at one point an armed man is seen in the shot with a hand-held video camera.
Boko Haram has been waging an increasingly deadly insurgency in Nigeria's mainly Muslim north since 2009, attacking schools teaching a "Western" curriculum, churches and government targets.
Civilians, though, have borne the brunt of recent violence, with more than 1,500 killed this year alone while tens of thousands have been displaced after their homes and businesses were razed.
Eliza Griswold, author of the book “The Tenth Parallel,” called Shekau “a lunatic” on CNN's GPS Sunday news show.
In her book, Griswold spent seven years traveling along the world's 10th parallel, which bisects a number of troubled countries, including Nigeria.
“Abubakar Shekau ... is really a lunatic. If one were to compare him to somebody else in Africa, we would look at Joseph Kony, the head of the Lord's Resistance Army, who actually in setting precedent took a whole school of young girls from their boarding school some years ago in northern Uganda,” Griswold said.
“Both of them use religion. Kony claims generally to be Catholic. So it really is not as much about Islam as it really is about thuggery, about seizing power, about sex, about taking these young women really as sex slaves and cooks to do the things that the militants themselves don't want to do,” she said.
Nigeria's government has been criticized for its lack of immediate response to the kidnapping but has been forced to act after Shekau threatened to sell the girls as slaves.
President Goodluck Jonathan has now accepted help from the United States, Britain, France, China and Israel, which have sent specialist teams to help in the search effort.
In the video, Shekau appears in front of a lime green canvas backdrop wearing combat fatigues and carrying an automatic weapon. Shekau does not appear in the same shot as the girls at any point during the 27-minute video.
Speaking in Hausa and Arabic, he restates his claim of responsibility made in a video released last Monday and said the girls had converted to Islam.
"These girls, these girls you occupy yourselves with … we have indeed liberated them. We have indeed liberated them. Do you know we have liberated them? These girls have become Muslims," Shekau said.
The militant leader said that Boko Haram's brothers in arms had been held in prison for up to five years and suggested that the girls would be released if the fighters were freed.
"We will never release them (the girls) until after you release our brethren. Here I mean those girls who have not submitted (converted to Islam)," he added.
Boko Haram has used kidnapping of women and young girls in the past and Shekau indicated that more were being held.
At least eight girls were abducted from the Gwoza area of Borno state on May 4.
French President Francois Hollande on Sunday offered to host a summit in Paris on May 17 with Nigeria and its neighbors focused on the militant group.
The leaders of Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger might also attend and Britain, the European Union and the United States would probably be represented as well, Hollande's aides said.
The abducted girls were also on the minds of European foreign ministers meeting Monday in Brussels.
"The thoughts of all of us remain with the families, especially the parents of the abducted children, the girls in Nigeria. I have no doubt that that will again become part of our discussions today as it is so important that we all continue to help to support the Nigerian government to find the girls and reunite them with their family,” said Catherine Ashton, European Union foreign policy chief.
The mass abduction of schoolgirls has touched a chord around the world, and triggered a support campaign using the Twitter hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.