Child Abuse Centers Get Financial Boost with New Bill
by Allison Mechanic
Abused children in the Wiregrass are getting a much needed funding boost thanks to the passing of a new bill.
“The Victims of Child Abuse Re-authorization Act” is a bill co-sponsored by Alabama US Senator Jeff Sessions. The bill will provide $20 million a year to 800 child advocacy centers nationwide.
The Southeast Alabama Child Advocacy Center in Dothan is one of the selected centers. Officials say the funding is vital to helping them serve the hundreds of children they see each year.
“The thing with child sexual abuse and really one reason that the continued funding is so important is because when you are abused it is basically like a scar and it leaves a scar and it's something that the children will have to deal with no just immediately right when it happens but something they will have to deal with for the rest of their lives,” explained Jessica Goolsby, Community Outreach Manager at the Southeast Alabama Child Advocacy Center. “Senator Sessions really pushing the bill and finding some way to get it funded will really help child abuse victims in what we call their life-long healing process so we are very thankful for our Senator doing that.”
The center does not know when they will start receiving the funding, or how much they will get, but they say every dollar counts when it comes to helping abused children.
Daniel's Law: Abusers will fall through net warning
by Matthew Bates
CHILD abuse campaigners claim plans to make covering up abuse a criminal offence don't go far enough.
Daniel's Law supporters said some abusers would not get caught because the proposals - made by the NSPCC - failed to cover certain institutions including schools.
It comes as 170,000 people signed a petition sparked by the death of Coventry four-year-old Daniel Pelka.
The Holbrooks schoolboy - who would have turned seven on Tuesday - was killed by his mother and step-father in March 2012 after agencies failed to spot the abuse he was suffering.
Daniel's Law calls on mandatory reporting in all settings in a bid to give professionals - such as teachers - the confidence to report concerns.
Campaign head Paula Barrow said she would write to Prime Minister David Cameron outlining public support for new legislation.
Last week it was announced NSPCC head Peter Wanless will hold a review into high-profile historical allegations after home secretary Theresa May called for the move.
But his plan to prosecute those who cover-up abuse in hospitals, boarding schools and children homes came under fire from campaigner Jonathan West.
He said on his blog: "The NSPCC needs to explain why it is that it thinks that children in these specific settings are deserving of the protection of mandatory reporting, while the vast majority of children not in residential settings do not deserve the same level of protection.
"It's a bit like concluding that you need a law on drink driving, but then deciding it should be applied only to lorry drivers.
"People don't know that a criminal act of child abuse has taken place unless they witness it - very rare - or the perpetrator admits it - even rarer.
"In all other situations, you don't know, you just have a suspicion of varying degree depending on what you have seen or what a child has disclosed."
Child Advocate Says Infant Deaths Cause For More Monitoring
by JOSH KOVNER
HARTFORD — A final review of 2013's unusually high death toll of infants and toddlers shows child-protection officials, pediatricians and caregivers must pay closer attention to the youngest children in troubled families, the state Office of the Child Advocate said Thursday.
In her report, Child Advocate Sarah Eagan presents case summaries of some of the 10 homicides of children younger than 3 last year — the highest total in at least a dozen years, and describes another troubling and growing category of infant deaths — unsafe sleeping conditions.
Eagan notes that the Department of Children and Families had open or previous cases with most of the families in which an infant died of unnatural causes.
She said the responsibility of reacting to danger signs in families and safeguarding children doesn't rest solely with DCF and includes doctors, community providers, and other mandated reporters of child abuse. But Eagan said her "review of DCF-involved children or families reveals questions and sometimes significant concerns regarding … ensuring infant safety in high-risk homes."
"Repeatedly, records did not seem to reflect cognizance of the level of risk for an infant in a home with a substance-abusing care giver," Eagan reported.
Eagan and other advocates and child-welfare officials have discussed the 2013 figures at various times this year – because the alarming trends are continuing.
The Courant on June 29 reported on the 22 child-maltreatment deaths over the previous 18 months. Maltreatment deaths include homicides, as well as any other child death in which DCF has substantiated at least one allegation of abuse or neglect against a caregiver.
DCF Commissioner Joette Katz said in June that the department was working with Connecticut's two major children's hospitals to create a team of on-call doctors to assist DCF investigators and other health providers in detecting and responding much earlier to abuse injuries in children. Katz said that at least 400 DCF caseworkers had received additional training in early detection, and that DCF nurses are being trained to convey those techniques to private pediatricians.
The Courant reported in February that infants dying in unsafe sleeping conditions was the leading cause of death of children in DCF-involved families over the previous three years. Katz at the time said DCF social workers were making safe sleep a top priority in home visits and giving cribs to families that needed them. Eagan's office and DCF also issued public information bulletins pushing safe sleep.
Asked about Eagan's report on Thursday, DCF spokesman Gary Kleeblatt referred a reporter to the February and June initiatives.
Eagan reviewed all 82 infant and toddler deaths from 2013 that were reported to the medical examiner. In addition to the 10 homicides, there were 44 natural deaths, 12 accidents and 16 undetermined deaths, many of which involved unsafe sleeping conditions
Eagan's review of abuse and unsafe-sleep deaths showed inconsistencies on the part of DCF caseworkers. The official who monitors DCF's compliance with court-ordered reforms said in his latest quarterly review that social workers were overburdened with caseloads that are twice the national average.
"Some of the cases reflect frequent visitations and use of evidence-based interventions,'' Eagan said. "Other cases highlight significant quality-assurance and case-practice weaknesses."
Signs of Child Abuse, a guide released today by NoBullying
Child abuse happens in the homes of more than 700,000 children per year. Unfortunately, many cases of child abuse go unmentioned for various reasons including shame, fear and ridicule. Many abused children feel as if the abuse is their fault. NoBullying releases today a guide to signs of child abuse.
Child abuse involves physical violence such as choking, punching and biting a child. Child abuse also involves striking a child with an object that is not intended for punishment. Items that may be used in an instance of child abuse include irons, belts and pipes. Child abuse can also be emotional or mental or simply in the form of child neglect.
When looking at child abuse, it is also essential to talk about the trend of parental bullying. Bullying parents can use verbal and emotional abuse which leaves a lasting mark on a child's psyche.
Signs of Child Abuse include cuts and bruises, which are the most obvious signs. Other signs may include lower graders, behavioral changes, and withdrawal from social activities or even strange sexual behaviors.
Abused children sometimes wish that they could go back in time to a time when they first felt safe and secure. For that reason, many of them revert to younger behaviors such as bed-wetting, thumb sucking, and memory or learning difficulties.
Lack of personal hygiene may be one of the signs of child abuse. A neglectful parent will not take the time to do small tasks such as hair brushing, tooth brushing and cleaning. Therefore, the child may come to school with the same clothes on several days in a row. He or she may have dirty fingernails, bad breath or body odor.
Abuse can also affect the way a child sleeps. Insomnia can occur because of recurring nightmares or the fear of a parent causing harm in the middle of the night. Depression can trigger the opposite response and cause the child to get too much sleep.
The guide calls on all members of the community to act out against child abuse by reporting any worrisome cases they may encounter to child services or the police. It is also advised that councilors and teacher try to talk more to the child about their home life to see if there is anything going wrong. A child needs to feel safe enough to tell more about being abused.
Macartan Mulligan, Co-Founder of NoBullying.com, said “It is an alarming and heartbreaking fact that children are suffering abuse and still afraid to talk about it. Children of abuse can grow up to be bullies and spread more unkindness and harm to others.”
He added that parents and teachers should make a point to educate the younger generations about the sad outcome of bullying online and offline. According to Mulligan, it is quite imperative to press for more firm laws condemning all acts of bullying and harassment.
NoBullying.com features many pages dedicated to parents, teens, teachers, health professionals as well as posts related to cyber safety and the latest news about law making concerning curbing Bullying worldwide as well as inspirational Bullying Poems and famous Bullying Quotes.
The website regularly updates its bullying statistics and cyber bullying statistics as it is essential to understand how widespread the bullying epidemic is. It also regularly runs cyber bullying surveys and questionnaires to get recent updated statistics on everything related to cyberbullying.
He also added that anyone suffering from bullying in any form or way can always find advice and help on the NoBullying website – but if anyone is suffering from severe bullying or cyber bullying, the best thing is to talk to someone locally – a parent, teacher or local organization that has been set up to help with specialized councilors to deal with this topic.
Mom: I didn't know boy was dead until smell set in
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The mother of an 8-year-old Pennsylvania boy whose decomposing body was found on the third floor of their home said Saturday she didn't know he had died until noticing the smell.
Kimberly Tutko said her husband was the primary caretaker of their mentally disabled son, and he waited several days to tell her the boy had died, Pennlive.com reported. Police were called to the home Friday and found the boy's body.
Police charged Jarrod Tutko, 38, on Saturday with child endangerment, concealing the death of a child and abuse of a corpse. Court records do not list an attorney for him.
Harrisburg police said in a statement that Tutko informed his wife about the death of their son, Jarrod Tutko Jr., "when the odor of decomposition became too strong."
It's not clear how the boy died. An autopsy is scheduled for next week.
The couple's five other children were placed in protective custody.
Kimberly Tutko told Pennlive she understands people will find it difficult to believe she did not know her son was dead.
She said her son was severely mentally disabled and often difficult to control. He would rip up the flooring and carpeting of his bedroom, smear his feces on the floor and walls, and refuse to wear a diaper, she said.
He lived on the third floor and was primarily cared for by his father, while she looked after another disabled child who requires round-the-clock care and stays on the second floor, she said.
"My daughter relies on me," Kimberly Tutko said. "I take care of her and my husband takes care of Jarrod Jr."
Kimberly Tutko said her husband told her their son died Tuesday.
"I said to him 'Why didn't you say anything?'" she said. "He said he was too afraid to say anything because of other kids in the house."
The immorality of child abuse on display in two world crises
by Richard Greene
Regardless of all the far-ranging arguments and opinions about how to deal with two dominant crises in the world at the moment, one thing is for sure: Using children as political pawns is not just wrong, it is immoral.
No matter that it is working well in both cases for those achieving their disturbing objectives, it is appalling child abuse for which there can be no justification.
The nearly universal answer the leaders of Israel have gotten to their question of “what would you have us do” is “stop harming children.” Terrorist armies bent on destroying the nation of Israel and other Jew haters around the world have created the myth that the deaths of children and other civilians are intentional tactics in the Gaza war.
Although the strategy of Hamas using neighborhoods, schools, hospitals and houses of worship as places to store and launch death-dealing rockets into Israel is not completely lost in media coverage, most of what we see are tragic pictures of children caught in the crossfire of combat.
Never mind that the Israeli commanders send ample and timely warnings with instructions of where innocents may seek safety from impending surgical strikes, coverage focuses on the travesty of dead and injured children.
Never mind that the warnings are countermanded by Hamas telling or compelling civilians to remain inside the targeted buildings, or that they have no compunction whatsoever of sacrificing their own children and civilians in their “holy” mission to destroy Israel.
Secretary of State John Kerry, in an interview with India media, questioned last week's reports of Israel having shelled a U.N. school in Gaza.
“I don't know who did that,” Kerry said.
Never mind that Israel's prime minister has agreed to peace negotiations time after time or that Hamas refuses to discuss peace because peace is not the organization's objective, Israel gets the blame for civilian casualties and the world demands that Israel stop defending itself.
For Hamas, the images of civilian war victims in the streets are nothing more than evil propaganda to influence world opinion. That's immoral.
Closer to home we have Central America's children being used as pawns in a political contest to advance the mission of amnesty being pursued by the Democrat Party.
While not the same as victimizing children in acts of war, it's still wrong.
When the governor of Texas gets scant help from the president in his plea to secure the border and sends the National Guard to deal with the flow of more than a thousand illegal aliens every day crossing into the state, he gets accused of sending armed soldiers to confront children.
Never mind that only a fraction of the illegals entering the country are desperate children, none of whom guardsmen have been told to shoot. But, what we see in the media and hear in the debates of partisans in Congress is how awful it is to be denying the children the sanctuary they are seeking.
Never mind that the governor explains that his actions are in response to compelling statistics that include thousands of homicides and sexual assaults committed by foreign nationals that the Texas Department of Public Safety refers to as “criminal aliens.”
The dean of CBS News, Bob Schieffer, has declared us in the midst of a “world gone mad.”
He's right. And at the root of it all are shameful actions that should be called what they are: acts of immorality either by terrorists who should be destroyed or by politicians who ought to be removed from the offices of public trust they have sworn to serve.
Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor and served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency. email@example.com
There are different kinds, signs of child abuse
by BILL REAGAN
Four children die every day as a result of child abuse.
“Child abuse consists of any act of commission or omission that endangers or impairs a child's physical or emotional health and development,” according to Child Help, a national organization dedicated to the prevention of child abuse.
There are four types of child abuse.
Actions causing a non-accidental injury to a child are physical abuse. Examples of physical abuse include behaviors such as hitting, slapping, biting, choking or throwing a child.
Sexual abuse includes any sexual act between an adult and a child. In addition to penetration exhibitionism, pornography or forcing a child to witness sexual behavior are forms of sexual abuse.
Seventy-four percent of child abuse cases result from neglect. Failure to provide adequate nutrition, clothing, supervision or shelter are some of the most common forms of neglect.
Yelling at a child, name calling, telling a child he or she was a mistake and shaming are examples of psychological abuse.
Look for these signs.
Look for unexplained injuries, such as burns or bruises.
Children suffering from abuse may show changes in behavior. They may be suddenly withdrawn or anxious. Sometimes the child will return to earlier behaviors.
Other signs include a fear of going home and changes in eating and sleeping habits. Changes in school performance and attendance may be indicators of abuse.
Lack of personal care or hygiene, engaging in risky or inappropriate sexual behavior are signals of abuse.
Keep calm if you suspect a child has been abused. Tell him or her you believe them. Let the child know you are interested and concerned. Give reassurance and support.
Child Help suggests four questions to ask if child abuse is suspected: What happened? Who did this to you? Where were you when this happened? When did this happen?
If you suspect child abuse call the National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).
Bill Reagan is executive director of Loaves & Fishes of the Rio Grande Valley.
Let's Not Forget About Domestic Violence on College Campuses
by Ariel Zwang
As parents, my husband and I try our best to give our daughters examples of what healthy relationships look like. However, we know there are no guarantees this will positively influence their relationships, especially once they leave our home and go off to college. And we have reason to be concerned.
We have been glad to see the heightened attention given recently to stopping sexual assault on campus. This is a pervasive problem that deserves sustained attention, from policy-makers and college administrators alike. Somehow, though, the dialogue about campus rape too often glosses over a painful reality: Young women are far more likely to experience violence at the hands of an intimate partner than a stranger they meet at a party.
In fact, one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, and women between the ages of 20 and 24 are most at risk. With much-needed attention being paid to campus sexual violence, now is the time to address campus domestic violence.
I'd like to share the story of Kira Kazantsev, who was recently crowned Miss New York 2014 and who is raising public awareness about domestic violence.
When Kira began her college journey a few years ago, she embraced the experience with enthusiasm, exploring many subjects, participating in school events, and leading an active social life. But things quickly took a turn. She went from being a happy, confident, young adult to one who was traumatized, stripped of her self-confidence, and struggling to escape an abusive relationship.
Ariel Zwang, CEO Safe Horizon: Kira, why did you choose to speak about domestic violence as your public advocacy platform for the Miss America organization?
Kira Kazantsev, Miss New York: Through the Miss America Organization, I have the opportunity and responsibility to bring significant public advocacy to an issue. Domestic violence has personal resonance, and I am honored to collaborate with Safe Horizon to help raise awareness.
In college, I started dating a person who seemed great. He was popular, and at the time I felt like he'd chosen me. He made me feel special. But six months later, when I looked around, I was isolated from my friends and family and he had become my whole world. Over two years, the relationship turned abusive. I felt like I had done something to make him treat me like that. Eventually I realized I was experiencing domestic violence.
We often see victims tell themselves "I must have said or done something for this to happen." They internalize blame. But we know it's not the victim's fault.
When you told me your story, I heard so many examples of stalking behavior. More than 60 percent of female stalking victims are stalked by a current or former intimate partner, and 67 percent have also been physically abused by their partner. What were some of the behaviors you experienced?
I would receive unsolicited text messages from phone numbers I didn't recognize, fluctuating between intense love and intense hate. The messages became very explicit, describing his intimate involvement with other girls. This was very demoralizing and destabilizing. Our separation only escalated the attempts to control me-especially because I didn't know what would happen next. I was in a constant state of anxiety and fear. He would show up at the same events for no legitimate reason.
We know abusers and stalkers are persistent and can make victims feel like they aren't safe anywhere. It's hard to recognize the signs of stalking, especially when we're all so interconnected online. What were some of the ways in which you made yourself safer?
I was able to leave school and I waited for him to graduate before returning. I also blocked him on social media and even blocked his number on my phone. He would try to find ways around it, though. He still tried to contact me using different phone numbers or accounts. I sought help from the school and I'm very grateful for the free counseling I received -- I'm not sure I would have bounced back emotionally without it. And, I opened up to trustworthy people who made me feel they were looking out for my physical and emotional safety. I decided to volunteer at Safe Horizon because I want my story to help young people recognize and overcome one of the most common forms of violence: domestic violence.
As public attention intensifies around campus violence, we now have the opportunity to create a safer environment for students. Parents need to maintain open dialogues with our kids so that we will be able to react quickly to signs of trouble. As an organization that exists to heal and find justice for victims of crime, Safe Horizon strongly encourages colleges to develop responses that truly support and protect survivors and that involve advocate organizations who specialize in this work. Our children deserve healthy relationships and lives that are free of violence and abuse, especially as they take their first steps into adulthood.
Where to find help:
National Domestic Violence Hotline
National Center for Victims of Crime
Euro 'Social Misery' To Blame For French Child Abuse Incident
by Andre Walker
A 20-year-old couple in Aisne in northern France have been arrested and charged with child abuse after they posted a photo of themselves beating their baby on Facebook. Prosecutors say the incident, which may have left the child disabled, was caused by the "social misery" of youth unemployment which has rocketed since the Euro was introduced.
The incident took place on Monday when the unnamed one-month-old was said to be injured after being beaten for crying. A Facebook friend of the family spotted the photo and alerted police, who were told that there was an "abnormal" picture of the child. On Wednesday, the police charged both parents with child abuse following a brief investigation.
Sources at Le Parisien reported that the child's injuries were worse than they appeared to be on the social networking site. The source also claimed the baby was "in a bad state".
During questioning the father stated that he was unable to cope with the baby crying and that is what prompted the violent response. He explained posting the picture on Facebook saying they had done it "for fun".
The mother claimed she had not reported her husband's actions to the proper authorities as she was worried he might walk out. Although the baby is thought to have neurological problems as a result of the abuse, the extent and severity is not yet known.
Although the pair cannot be named for legal reasons they are believed to have faced charges of "abuse of a minor under 15 years causing permanent disability," already. Raising questions about why they were allowed to have custody of the child at all.
The pair are in their twenties and prosecutors have claimed that the situation is symptomatic of the "social misery" caused by the young ages of the parents and that they are unemployed.
If prosecutors are right that the current levels of youth unemployment are to blame for this situation, it raises the possibility that this child is yet another victim of the implementation of the Euro.
Since the implementation of the Euro young people across Europe have struggled to find employment. The youth unemployment rate in France is currently around 25 percent, a level considered far too high and one that is leading to serious social problems.
In 2001 before the Euro was introduced the French youth unemployment rate was 16 percent, in the years since it has come close to breaking the 30 percent mark.
Child Abuse Going Unpunished in Some Cases
by David Hodges
BURLINGTON, Vt. - Attorney General Bill Sorrell says there are Vermont children with broken ribs and brain injuries but no one has paid the price of punishment for it.
“We know it's child abuse there's no question,” Sorrell said.
Sorrell says in child abuse cases where two caregivers are involved but neither of them admits to it both can walk away without charges. And he says it's not uncommon.
“Two people who were there when the child was injured or killed and neither is talking we ought to have some ammunition to bring criminal charges,” Sorrell said.
Sorrell says when people escape those charges they often don't end up on registries that would prevent them from caring for other children.
“If we're going to protect Vermont kids better I think we need to shine a light more on how prevalent is,” Sorrell said.
Vermont lawmakers tried passing a law two years ago that would punish people who don't report or attempt to stop child abuse. It was defeated, in part Sorrell says, because opponents say it could punish women who are also being abused and whose safety would be in jeopardy if they spoke out.
When sex offenders confess to clergy: Three mistaken beliefs
by Boz Tchividjian
This past week, a Florida pastor was arrested for failing to report the suspected sexual abuse of a child. Over a year ago, one of the three young victims informed the pastor of the ongoing abuse. Though he provided the victim with counseling, the pastor never reported the crime to the police because he “didn't have proof”.
How does a pastor respond when informed of allegations concerning child sexual abuse? All too often the responses by pastors are too little too late. Here is a simple rule that should be followed by pastors and everyone else: Immediately report allegations of child sexual abuse. Not only will you potentially save the life of a child and stop the heinous acts of a predator, but you will also most likely be following the law.
Approximately 27 states specifically designate members of the clergy (pastors) as mandated reporters. Another 18 states designate all adults to be mandated reporters of suspected child abuse. This means that in almost every state of the country, pastors are mandated by law to report suspected child abuse or face criminal prosecution. Even in those limited circumstances when a pastor is not a mandated reporter, nothing prevents him/her from voluntarily reporting suspected abuse to the authorities.
Perhaps the most confusing issue for most pastors related to reporting child sexual abuse is what to do when a perpetrator is the one who discloses the abuse. If a perpetrator confesses to sexually abusing a child to a pastor, every effort should be made by the pastor to insure that the offender immediately reports his/her crime to the authorities. This should certainly be the expectation if the perpetrator has expressed a desire to demonstrate repentance. Expressing repentance for a crime without voluntarily submitting to the civil authorities is manipulation, not repentance. The dark reality is that most offenders who confess abuse to a pastor won't report themselves to the authorities. In those circumstances, the pastor has a fundamental decision to make; remain silent and protect a perpetrator, or report the abuse and protect a vulnerable child.
In the past few years, I have discovered that many pastors have mistaken beliefs about reporting child sexual abuse disclosures made by perpetrators who refuse to report their crimes to the authorities. I want to briefly highlight three common mistaken beliefs:
Mistaken Belief #1: Mandated reporting exceptions prohibit pastors from reporting
Many jurisdictions that designate pastors as mandated reporters do make an exception if the disclosure was made during a confidential conversation between the perpetrator and the pastor. This exception is based upon the age-old clergy-parishioner privilege that holds sacred the private communications between a parishioner and member of the clergy. This exception does not mean that a pastor is prohibited from making the report. All it means is that a pastor who fails to report a child sexual abuse disclosure made by an alleged perpetrator will not be prosecuted for violating the mandated reporting law. Nothing prohibits the pastor from voluntarily reporting the crime to the authorities out of concern for the life and safety of a child.
Mistaken Belief #2: Clergy-parishioner privilege prohibits pastors from reporting
A pastor is never prohibited by law from reporting known or suspected child abuse to the authorities. Though the law may not prohibit such a report, a pastor who reports abuse learned during a conversation with the alleged offender may violate the clergy-parishioner privilege. However, in these circumstances such a privilege must be formally recognized by the particular church or denomination. A pastor who violates a recognized privilege could be subject to civil legal action.
The reality is that except for the Catholic Church, most churches have not formally recognized a clergy-parishioner privilege. This means that the pastor can freely report a disclosure of sexual abuse made by a perpetrator with little concern about civil legal consequences. What ultimately determines whether a pastor reports the admitted sexual abuse of a child should not be whether or not the church has a formally recognized clergy-parishioner privilege. Neither should it be whether or not the pastor may one day be sued for violating a recognized privilege. What should ultimately determine whether a pastor voluntarily reports abuse is the life and safety of a precious child made in the image of God.
Mistaken Belief #3: Rules of Evidence prohibit pastors from reporting
Rules of evidence are the rules each court follows in determining the admissibility of evidence in hearings and trials. Almost every state jurisdiction in this country recognizes some type of clergy-penitent privilege as part of its rules of evidence. All this means is that certain conversations between an offender and a member of the clergy may not be admissible in a judicial hearing or trial. Rules of evidence that exclude these communications do not prevent pastors from reporting admitted abuse to the authorities. Whether or not a conversation between a pastor and an offender is admissible in a court of law is the exclusive role of prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges, not pastors.
Regardless of whether the conversation is ultimately admitted into evidence, a pastor who reports the confessed sexual abuse will protect the child by roviding law enforcement the opportunity to collect additional corroborating evidence. In those circumstances, even if the court decides to exclude the “confession” from trial, there may still be sufficient evidence to convict the perpetrator. I remember prosecuting a child sexual abuse case in which the court did not allow me to admit into evidence the implicating conversation between the pastor and the defendant. Fortunately, we were still able to secure a conviction because the police had collected additional implicating evidence as a result of a brave pastor's decision to report what he had been told.
When pastors are told about the abuse of a child, all too often too much time is spent evaluating and analyzing, instead of reporting. As the evaluations and analysis go on and on, the child is the one that pays the highest price. Just ask the three young victims in Florida.
Minimizing mistaken beliefs will prayerfully lead to maximizing the protection of little ones.
“Boz” Tchividjian is a former child abuse chief prosecutor and is the founder and executive director of GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment). Boz is also an Associate Professor of Law at Liberty University School of Law, and is a published author who speaks and writes extensively on issues related to abuse within the faith community. He is the 3rd-eldest grandchild of the Rev. Billy Graham.
Victims of sex trafficking can now find shelter on St. Paul's East Side
by Raya Zimmerman
When a shelter opens in St. Paul's East Side on Friday, girls who could have been charged as criminals and detained for involvement in sex trafficking will instead have a safe place to stay and heal.
Under Minnesota's Safe Harbor law, passed in 2011 and effective Friday, Minnesota becomes the fifth state to treat girls age 17 and younger who have been sexually exploited as victims and survivors, not criminals.
Launched by 180 Degrees, a nonprofit group that provides services for at-risk youth and adults, the shelter offers 14 beds to girls ages 10 to 17 who have been trafficked -- bringing the state's tally to 18 beds.
That's fewer beds than the demand, according to Vednita Carter, executive director at Breaking Free, a nonprofit that has four permanent beds for youth trafficking victims.
But Carter, along with advocates in state agencies, law enforcement and community organizations, says the Safe Harbor law is a huge win for victims in Minnesota. The North Star State has been among a select few to put tax dollars behind recovery programs, services and housing, according to the Safe Harbor program's new director, Lauren Ryan.
"For too long, society has turned a blind eye on these young women, and we're saying no longer will we tolerate our girls being for sale," Richard Gardell, president and CEO of 180 Degrees, said.
The new shelter built by 180 Degrees is called Brittany's Place, named in honor of Brittany Clardy, who was 18 when she was found dead in a Columbia Heights impound lot last February after reportedly working as a prostitute. Alberto Prece Palmer, 25, was charged with premeditated murder and murder in her death and is being held in Anoka County jail in lieu of $2 million bail set in Anoka and Hennepin counties. He is expected to go to trial in September.
Clardy worked at the North Dale Rec Center in St. Paul and worked with kids in the rec center's summer programs; she also taught dance to children on the weekends. Before her death, she and her mother, Marquita Clardy, were applying for financial aid so she could attend college to become a pharmacist.
She was home every night, Marquita Clardy said, and Brittany always checked in with her every couple of hours or so.
"It doesn't matter whether they had a home, because if (sex trafficking) can happen to (Brittany), it can happen to any young girl," Marquita Clardy said.
Prior to adoption of the Safe Harbor law, many girls were placed in detention centers for a short time, and then with no place to go, they would run back to their trafficker, said Gardell, who has been an assistant chief in the St. Paul Police Department.
"Our hope is we'll be able to provide a place for some safety," he said, "and at the same time, keep them safe from predatory behavior."
With accented sky-blue walls, a community kitchen, a water garden and a classroom for girls to continue their education, the 7,000-square-foot shelter is staffed around the clock and provides mental health and chemical dependency services.
All the beds are expected to be filled Friday when the shelter opens, Gardell said.
On average, girls will likely stay 90 days, with the option to accept assistance for up to one year, he said.
'IT'S SAD WE'RE GROWING SO MUCH'
The nonprofit secured $1.5 million in private funding for the shelter and is accepting donations to raise another $2.2 million, Gardell said. Last year, the city of St. Paul's Neighborhood STAR program provided a $350,000 grant and a $150,000 loan.
Several nonprofits and organizations in Minnesota provide emergency shelter and recovery programs, but the focus has turned to teenagers and children only in recent years.
The average age of entry for shelters in Minnesota is 13, Carter of Breaking Free said, and many haven't graduated high school and have never held a job.
"Once you're in, it's hard to get out," she said of trafficking.
Breaking Free, which is staffed primarily by trafficking survivors, provides paid internships for youth and women in hopes of equipping them with the skills needed to find jobs and housing. They serve up to 530 women and children a year, Carter said.
Carter also said there are always around 70 youth and women on the nonprofit's waiting list for a bed; they host group sessions outdoors because they don't have enough space.
That's where Safe Harbor funding comes in. The nonprofit is using $256,000 over a two-year period from a Safe Harbor grant to provide five more beds for transitional housing for 16- and 17-year-old victims, with a projected opening date of Sept. 1.
"It's sad we're growing so much," Carter said. "That's the reality of what's going on right now."
The nonprofit is also adding 17 units to its current 36 for women and children who've been sexually exploited, expected to be completed this fall. It provides the only permanent housing for trafficked women and girls in the country, Carter said.
Ramsey County Attorney John Choi was among those in the seven-county metro area who said in 2011 they would stop prosecuting minors involved in trafficking.
Prior to 2011, the criminal delinquency code stated that the act of prostitution was a crime, Choi said. However, he said, youth under age 18 needed protection.
"Age makes you vulnerable," he said. "If you run away from home and if you have mental-health issues and chemical addiction, it's almost as if (traffickers) have a radar."
Choi said there was a better strategy to recognize the victimization and vulnerability of prostitution, adding that trafficked girls are more likely to trust law enforcement if they won't be penalized. Since attorneys made the change in 2011, a few months before the Safe Harbor law was passed, prosecutions statewide have more than doubled against traffickers, he said.
Starting Friday, the law increases penalties for commercial sex abusers or purchasers. Every trafficking case Choi's office has seen has involved Backpage.com, an online classified ad site, he said.
Before the law, he said, victims were often the only ones arrested rather than the traffickers.
Although there's no exact number of how many women and children are trafficked annually in the state, Carter said the number is much higher than a recent estimate from the FBI, which was up to 12,000 women and children.
Once the law was passed, the Department of Public Safety published the No Wrong Door report early last year, which recommended ways to set up services for victims, including training for professionals and law enforcement. Roughly $13.5 million was requested to prepare for the law taking effect Friday; $2.8 million was granted after the 2013 legislative session solely for juvenile trafficking victims, according to Jeff Bauer, director of public policy at the Family Partnership. Bauer's organization provides support for about 300 sexually exploited women and children per year, he said.
"It was definitely a victory," Bauer said. States nationwide have looked to Minnesota as a model, he said.
The Department of Human Services allocated $1 million to fund shelter beds, which was granted to four projects around the state, including Breaking Free's additional five beds, and six emergency shelter and five longer-term beds for The Link in Minneapolis, which provides services for at-risk youth and young adults, according to Bauer.
Another $1 million went to statewide infrastructure that helps pay for Ryan's director position, along with eight regional navigators to connect resources, such as services and housing, with victims.
The first $2 million are in the Legislature's base budgets, Bauer said, so the funding will be granted every year unless there are cuts.
The remaining $800,000 was divvied up, with the Ramsey County attorney's office using $700,000 for statewide training for law enforcement, prosecutors and frontline providers. The other $100,000 will cover training for police officers.
"We're building something entirely new, not just in Minnesota, but for the entire country for how far-reaching our system is," Bauer said.
FBI sex trafficking bust recovers 168 kids, some never reported missing
by The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — When FBI agents and police officers fanned out across the country last month in a weeklong effort to rescue child sex trafficking victims, they pulled minors as young as 11 from hotel rooms, truck stops and homes.
Among the 168 juveniles recovered was a population that child welfare advocates say especially concerns them: children who were never reported missing in the first place.
Advocates say the roundup reinforces the need for a standardized, nationwide approach to reporting children as missing, especially those absent from state foster care systems who are seen as most vulnerable to abuse. Concerns over unaccounted-for children aren't new, but they're receiving fresh attention amid heightened awareness of child sex trafficking. State and federal efforts are under way to streamline how police are alerted when kids go missing.
“This has been a movement that I would say over the last year has really galvanized,” said John Ryan, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Legislation pending in Congress would require child welfare agencies to alert police and the center, which has specialized response teams and other resources, within 24 hours of a child's disappearance.
The current patchwork of state and federal policies has yielded what advocates describe as a fractured safety net with little accountability.
Though states may have policies encouraging child welfare agencies to report missing children to law enforcement, most don't have laws requiring that notification, according to the missing children center. That means children can disappear without police knowing they're missing or being directed to look for them.
A federal law does require law enforcement agencies to enter missing children into the FBI's National Crime Information Center — a database available to law enforcement nationwide — but that presumes police are provided the names or have enough specific details about a child. A 2011 Government Accountability Office report said law enforcement agencies are having trouble getting timely information from state agencies.
Some children who are feared missing turn up after just a few hours. In some cases, children involved in sex trafficking leave their homes to meet their pimps for work and then return before their absence is noticed. The center worries about them as well.
The missing children center says it received more than 57,000 missing-child reports between 2009 and 2013. The organization says two-thirds of the children reported missing last year who likely were sex trafficking victims were in the care of child welfare systems when they ran away.
The difficulties aren't limited to foster care. In the most recent action, called Operation Cross Country, far more children came from single-family homes than from families under state supervision, the FBI said. But experts say they're concerned that children in foster care, who often come from more troubled backgrounds, are particularly vulnerable to being targeted by sex traffickers.
“These pimps really know how to appeal to these kids. A lot of these pimps come from similar backgrounds as well. They can lure them in by providing them care, feeding, attention,” Joseph Campbell, assistant director of the FBI's criminal investigative division, said in an interview.
In a transient child welfare system, it's a challenge for states to keep perfect track of children under their care. Many run away repeatedly but return on their own, giving guardians little incentive to report them missing each time. The Internet enables children to be prostituted through online advertisements instead of street corners, making it easier than ever for trafficking to cross state lines.
“When you come across a child and you have no information on who they are, it becomes difficult to, first of all, ID them — you don't know if there are warrants for them or if there are medical needs for this child,” or if they're supposed to be under state care, said Michael Osborn, chief of the FBI's Violent Crimes Against Children unit.
About one-third of the kids rescued in the most recent Operation Cross Country had been reported missing, Osborn said. Some of the others hadn't been gone for long enough to raise concerns from their guardians.
State policies vary.
The Minnesota Department of Human Services is issuing a bulletin to county agencies with instructions on reporting missing foster children to local law enforcement and the missing children center. It plans to propose legislation to that effect next year. Nebraska urges foster guardians, instead of the state agency, to directly file missing children reports with police. The state says it monitors the situation and contacts police if the foster parent doesn't.
A new Georgia law expands who can report a child as missing to include any caretaker or government entity responsible for the child, not just the parent or guardian.
Florida developed new policies following the 2000 disappearance of foster child Rilya Wilson, whose caseworker lied about visiting her while filing false reports and telling judges the girl was fine.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a sponsor of legislation that would require child welfare agencies to provide notification of missing children, said failure to do so is a “moral blot on our country.”
Wyden has previously introduced similar versions of the bill, but this year those provisions were folded into broader legislation that, among other things, would increase incentives for adoption and give money to states to encourage youth sports participation. Aides say the measure, which last week passed the House, has bipartisan support.
Hollywood human trafficking summit slams Roman Polanski, says stars can do more
by Hollie McKay
LOS ANGELES – If Hollywood wants to do more than give lip service to the issue of human trafficking and a worldwide pandemic of child rape, it can start by disowning Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski.
That's what a number of domestic violence and human trafficking survivors said at a summit held Thursday in Beverly Hills ahead of Wednesday's first United Nations World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.
The event at the Crescent Hotel was organized to encourage entertainment industry leaders to play an important role in eradicating the scourge by promoting ways to prevent human trafficking and by educating the public about its existence.
Survivors said the industry was hurting the cause by providing a platform for Polanski, who was arrested in 1977 and charged with raping a 13-year-old girl in Los Angeles. He pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with a minor and fled the country while out on bail and awaiting sentencing. Now 80, he resides in Paris, where he was born.
“It is soul crushing to see Roman Polanski – who was convicted of raping a 13-year-old girl – living a life of luxury in Europe and escaping his prison sentence on a technicality of dual citizenship,” Amy Malin, an L.A-based publicist and founder of Trueheart Events, told FOX411.
“It makes me sick to think that after he sexually assaulted a minor, his film (2002's “The Pianist”) won three Oscars and he has worked with A-list talent on big budget films steadily ever since,” Malin said.
“What kind of message is this sending to the world? That a movie or a paycheck is more important than a child's safety and well-being? If we are handing out awards to convicted rapists, then the cycle of violence will never be broken.”
The issue is personal for Malin, now in her early thirties, who was 18-years-old when she was lured by a man in his 30s who chained her to a column in his Miami Beach home and held her prisoner for a year during which he and his friends raped, beat and tortured her.
“The psychological warfare he used against me continued to degrade my sense of self until I became his puppet,” she recalled. “He held a knife to my throat and threatened to kill me and my Nema and Tata (grandparents) if I didn't dance at strip clubs. He would starve me for days and force me to work 15- to 20-hour days, and beat me for good measure.”
Rani Hong, who was sold into the sex trafficking trade in India when she was 7-years-old, agreed that Hollywood “is not leveraging its position, influence and success to becoming the voice for those who cannot speak.”
“There is no other platform capable of reaching as many people globally that has the power to educate, motivate and also potentially bring harm to so many people by its ability to influence perceptions and proper treatment of women,” said Hong. Three decades after being taken from her mother in India, she is now a special adviser to the United Nations and co-founder of the non-profit The Tronie Foundation with her husband Trong, also a human trafficking survivor.
“At the heart of human slavery is the notion that human beings are commodities, objects for profit and gain,” Hong said. “If females are consistently portrayed in film as highly sexualized, with limited speaking roles, and as victims incapable of rising up from oppression without assistance from men, it becomes the ‘cultural norm.'”
But some people in Hollywood are trying to change that. “90210” star AnnaLynne McCord – also a survivor of sexual violence, having been attacked in her home by a friend prior to her on-camera career – is writing several television pilots related to the issue.
“My story is much more common than I ever would have imagined,” McCord said. “As a victim you feel isolated, damaged and completely alone in your plight. And women roles, which portray the female character with her own story outside of just her connection to male roles, are sadly scarce.”
Inspired by the crime series “Dexter,” McCord is creating a show centered on a female vigilante as a means of sharing real-life stories, educating the general public on the issue and empowering women in the entertainment arena by “showcasing feminine strength and cunning sensibilities.”
According to the State Department, an estimated 27 million people across the globe are victims of the $32 billion-per-year human trafficking industry. Up to 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the U.S. every year, and around 244,000 American children and youth are at risk of sexual exploitation, with the average age of entry into prostitution 12-14 years old.
New Law Mandates "Age-Appropriate" Sexual Assault Education for Kids
State leaders came together today to announce a new law that requires schools to provide age-appropriate sexual abuse education to children as early as kindergarten.
Gov. Dannel Malloy signed off on “Erin's Law” last month and announced the legislation Wednesday along with Lt .Gov. Nancy Wyman, state and local leaders and representatives from Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services.
It comes just months after sexual assault survivor and activist Erin Merryn, for whom the law is named, visited Hartford, urging lawmakers to take action.
The law requires public schools to develop programs that will teach kids about sexual assault and how to protect themselves. Schools have until Oct. 1, 2015 to implement them, according to a release from Wyman's office.
"It is a shame that we have to teach these skills to our children, but I recognize that oftentimes the abuser is known by the child and the child is not sure what to do," State Rep. Diana Urban said in a statement Wednesday.
During her trip to Connecticut in March, Merryn explained the “swimsuit lesson,” which urges kids to confide in parents or trusted adults if anyone touches them in the places their bathing suits cover.
“Honestly, I think the only ones that should be against this bill are the sex offenders themselves,” she said while campaigning for the law in Hartford.
The bill made it through the State Senate last year but was halted in the House. Now, Connecticut is taking action.
“Erin's Law prioritizes efforts to give students the language and resources they need to respond to a threat or get help if they are victimized. This is important information that can help keep young people safe,” Wyman said in a statement Wednesday.
Connecticut is the 18th state to pass Erin's Law.
Sen. Sobel Calls for All Child Deaths, Not Just Those From Abuse, To Be Reported
by Margie Menzel
The Senate sponsor of Florida's sweeping new child-welfare law says she'll be back next year with a bill to expand its reporting requirements.
Sen. Eleanor Sobel, chairwoman of the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee, said the new law doesn't go far enough in requiring all children's deaths to be reported.
The law (SB 1666), approved this spring by lawmakers, overhauled Florida's troubled child-welfare system and went into effect July 1. Among its many provisions, the law requires the state Child Abuse Death Review Committee to “prepare an annual statistical report on the incidence and causes of death resulting from reported child abuse in the state during the prior calendar year.”
However, the number of deaths “from reported child abuse” is just a fraction of the total number of child deaths, and critics say that means crimes are slipping through the cracks.
“Even a car accident could be abuse and neglect, depending on the state of the driver,” Sobel, D-Hollywood, said Thursday.
During 2012, 2,111 children under the age of 18 died in Florida, according to the Child Abuse Death Review Committee's 2013 annual report. Of those, 432 were reported to the state abuse hotline, which is housed at the Department of Children and Families. Of those, the department verified 122 deaths as being related to child abuse or neglect.
Depending on DCF's definitions for abuse and neglect, the hotline counselors screen cases in or out.
“You see variations year to year in how many abuse deaths are reported, depending on the criteria used by the hotline,” said Pam Graham, associate professor of social work at Florida State University.
Sobel said the department is screening out too many cases that, with additional scrutiny, could be determined to be child-abuse deaths.
“There's been too much of a cover-up in this state,” she said. “The Department of Children and Families should be required to report what they find.”
Her criticisms echo a Miami-Dade grand jury report in June that blasted DCF for its reporting of child deaths, noting, for instance, that the department in 2010 changed its definition of “neglect” in a way that made it apply to fewer children.
“The public does not have confidence in the accuracy of the number of child deaths reported,” grand jurors concluded. “Reported reductions in the total number of deaths may only be a consequence of changing the definitions of abuse and neglect.”
One of the grand jury recommendations was that the department should revert to its pre-2010 definition of neglect and eliminate other inconsistencies in its reporting.
“Once those standards are prepared, we recommend that DCF conduct trainings for all DCF staff who are involved with verifying causes of death to insure that factually similar causes of neglect will be verified as neglect regardless of where they occur,” the panel wrote.
The training of those who classify the cases is crucial to whether or not they're reported, said Maj. Connie Shingledecker of the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.
For instance, the two biggest causes of child deaths in Florida are drowning and what are called “co-sleeping” deaths, in which babies suffocate while sleeping with adults. Drowning and co-sleeping deaths are often accidental, but they can also be the result of impairment due to substance abuse by a parent — and Shingledecker said not all law-enforcement agencies are reporting them that way.
“They haven't been trained to recognize the death is a result of neglect, so they don't call it in,” she said.
Another example, Shingledecker said, is a murder-suicide in which a man kills his wife and children.
“Those oftentimes do not get called in to the hotline, because it's a murder — it's not a child-abuse case,” she said. “But you have no idea until you call it in and let them look at it what systems touch the lives of those families.”
South Dakota task force to study child sex abuse
by The Associated Press
PIERRE — A South Dakota task force will study the sexual abuse of children and recommend ways to address the issue.
Jolene's Law Task Force will meet starting Aug. 5 and will file a report to the Legislature in January. The task force plans to suggest ways the state could increase awareness and improve its policies for dealing with child sex abuse. The task force was created by state legislation earlier this year.
The August meeting will be open to the public.
The group is named after Jolene Loetscher of Sioux Falls, a victim of sexual abuse as a teenager who has talked publicly about her story. The Associated Press generally does not name victims of sexual abuse but is naming Loetscher because she has come forward and spoken publicly.
The Art of Coming Completely Undone
by Jean-Paul Bedard
I'm sure you've been in a room full of people when someone brings up the topic of cancer. You may have noticed the word "cancer" is whispered, said almost under the breath. It's a frightening word that no one likes to talk about. It's something we choose not to think about because we are all vulnerable to it touching our lives. It is with almost superstitious fear that we hesitantly broach the topic lest we invite it into our own life. But the reality is that we do talk about it. We raise money to find a cure, we honor those who have battled through it, and we seem to do everything within our means to banish it from our society.
That being said, there is another disease eating away at the fabric of our families, our communities, and our countries. It's something that no one is immune from. Next time you find yourself sitting on a bus, sitting in a crowded movie theatre, sitting amongst your neighbors, or even gathering with family, look carefully at the many faces, and realize that a staggering number of those individuals carry a secret that eats away at their lives like a cancer. Yet, it's a topic that few have the courage to give a voice to -- childhood sexual abuse.
I'm someone's son, someone's husband, someone's father, and possibly your neighbor. I'm also a member of a taboo society no one likes to talk about -- one that includes one in three girls and one in six boys. At the age of nine, sexual abuse entered my life for the first time, and for almost the next four decades, I sat amongst you feeling alone, ashamed, dirty, and less than. If I wasn't willing to talk about what happened to me, how could I expect that society at large would engage in a dialogue about what's happening to an alarming number our kids?
I won't begin to bore you with the train wreck that served as a metaphor for my adolescence and most of my adult life. I did everything possible to cut away that ugly "stowaway" buried deep inside me, but ironically it oozed out in my addictions, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Four months ago, with the help of my wife and therapy team, I did something I never imagined I could do -- I walked into the police station and made a video deposition against one of the men who sexually abused me when I was a trusting child. If truth be told, my voice in that deposition was a shaky truncated whisper, but I now realize that I added my faint whisper to a chorus of whispers finally coming to life in the air around me. When I climbed the stairs to the second floor of the police station and entered the claustrophobic video recording room, I knew that my life would never be the same again. I also knew that the road ahead would not be smooth, and that my resolve would be tested. Yesterday, after a long conversation with the investigating officer about the procedural hurdles before me, I felt gutted, afraid, and alone. I know that I have only two options -- face this head on, or bury it and permit this to steal the rest of my life. After a day of much soul-searching, I've come up with three guiding principles to help me push through this terminal discomfort.
1. I need to step back to move forward.
I've never subscribed to the belief that it's better to leave the past in the past, and simply move on. Yes, our past is indeed a minefield, but within that minefield lies an abundant orchard waiting to be harvested. I know there are parts of me I need to reconnect with and bring forward into a better place today. Inspirational speaker Iyanla Vanzant articulates this perfectly:
Until you heal the wounds of your past, you are going to bleed. You can bandage the bleeding with food, with alcohol, with drugs, with work, with cigarettes, with sex. But eventually, it will all ooze through and stain your life. You must find the strength to open the wounds. Stick your hands inside, pull out the core of pain that is holding you in your past, the memories, and make peace with them.
2. If I wait for all the pieces to fall into place, I'll only end up falling to pieces.
Last year when I first disclosed to my wife that I was a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, we quickly realized that this was a problem that we were ill-equipped to handle, so we started looking for professionals and resources to help us get through this together. It didn't take long to discover that childhood sexual abuse resources are primarily allocated to children, and to a much lesser extent, women. When it comes to treating men who are seeking help, there is very little available. This harsh reality has fuelled my desire to become a full-time advocate for adult male survivors of childhood sexual abuse. At this point, I'm struggling with what this "mission" should look like, but in so doing, I risk being overwhelmed and not taking any action at all. I'm reminded of a quote I heard recently: "It is easier to act yourself into a new way of thinking than think yourself into a new way of acting."
3. Whenever my spirits waiver, I need to remind myself of these essential truths:
If I exercise my body, I exorcise my mind. My running and my yoga practice help clear my mind, and that opens the space I need to process adversity.
Passion is contagious. By lending my voice to this issue and advocating for a serious public discourse, I act as a beacon for other men, women, and children to find their voice and their way through this pain.
It doesn't require a doctorate degree, it just requires "me". I've been attending Alcoholic Anonymous meetings now for more than 17 years, and I believe AA's success lies in its core belief that healing comes from the simplicity of one alcoholic talking to another. I want to be perfectly clear that I'm not discounting the role of treatment professionals and therapists, especially considering I've found much relief in them, but I don't care how long you've been in school, until you've experienced the terror and confusion of a child who has been sexually abused, you will never understand what it feels like to be a foreigner in your own body.
Like a lotus flower, beauty can appear from a murky place. Many of us harbour a part of us that we believe is ugly or broken in some way. In truth, that piece of us that we hide from the light, may in fact be the most beautiful part of us.
I'd like to leave you with a precious reminder from Cynthia Occelli:
For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn't understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-656-HOPE for the National Sexual Assault Hotline.
A survivor's story: Trapped in a subculture of child abuse
by Laurence Cawley
With numerous inquiries into alleged child abuse either up and running or poised to begin, is there a risk the individual voices of victims might get lost? One survivor believes so. This is his story.
"I was trafficked to Wrexham, Cornwall, Plymouth and London and forced to perform sex acts on men there."
The person making the claim - we will call him Michael - was at the time a young teenager in the care of Suffolk County Council.
Now in his late 30s, and still living in Suffolk, Michael's is a case which demonstrates the great difficulty survivors face in trying to get their voices heard.
He told the authorities about the abuse 20 years ago. He claims nothing was done. He raised them again with both Suffolk Police and the county council again last year.
Michael claims again, nothing has been done. Worse still, he maintains the authorities have actively worked to discredit him in order to ignore his claims.
His allegations against the police and the county council have been put in detail to both organisations by the BBC. Suffolk Police said it would not comment on individual cases and the council said an investigation was under way.
His account of abuse spans several years at different locations. On the surface these episodes of abuse might appear unrelated, but Michael believes they were connected in that an abuser who knew an abuser knew an abuser. And he was effectively passed along that chain.
"It wasn't quite a paedophile ring," says Michael. "More an affiliation of abusers who all knew each other."
The physical and sexual abuse, Michael says, began at the hands of his sister when he was aged between three and four and continued later when a boyfriend of his mother allegedly seriously sexually assaulted him.
He was taken into local authority care aged 13 to be housed at a now-closed adolescent unit in Suffolk where, after refusing to perform a sex act on a visitor, he was locked in a cupboard for 32 hours. On finally being released, he was sexually assaulted.
He was then moved to a children's home - again, now closed - where, he says, a number of adults, including uniformed police officers, abused children.
He told of one man who gave sweets or cigarettes to children who masturbated him.
Young people were taken from both the unit and children's home to north London to perform oral sex and were anally raped by men.
Children who refused, he says, were beaten.
In 1992 he was moved to the Stowmarket home of a single male foster carer where he was to remain for about six months.
The abuse started on the fourth night and escalated, says Michael, from being asked to perform sex acts (to then being told he was dirty and threatened about reporting the abuse) to rape.
It did not end there.
Michael was taken on "trips away" to Plymouth, Portsmouth, Wrexham, Cornwall and Islington, where he would be expected to perform sex acts for other abusers.
Occasionally, the children were given a little money - usually a £10 note.
"You'd find yourself thinking, at least I got a 'tenner' for it," says Michael.
An assessment of his foster carer's suitability for the role was carried out by the local authority and has been seen by the BBC.
It tells how the foster carer's "major source of fulfilment and satisfaction has been with young people" and that children "should have some responsibility and would want to give them this within the household regime". It also mentions how he had given up "often two evenings per week" to help out a school currently under at the centre of a separate major investigation into child sex abuse.
This foster carer was later - after caring for Michael - convicted of sexually abusing another boy.
On leaving Stowmarket, Michael describes living in "slave" conditions on a country estate in Suffolk where he came into contact with the now dead Peter Righton, a consultant to the National Children's Bureau who was eventually unmasked as a paedophile. Righton repeatedly sexually abused him, Michael claims.
Michael claims a senior police officer had visited the estate to raise concerns about Righton's presence there. Suffolk Police would not respond to this allegation or say whether there had been any investigation into alleged activities at the estate.
The abuse largely stopped after he left care - though Michael says he was occasionally taken to parties, where he would be paid to commit sex acts.
But he tells how men at these parties would demand "fresh flesh" and how some who had already abused him lost interest in him.
Looking back at the abuse he suffered, Michael says: "It was just horrendous.
"Society needs to be more proactive with these things."
He says the council "conspired" to have him "declared mentally ill, and have consistently ignored my complaints of historic sexual abuse."
This, he claims, has enabled "other agencies to ignore complaints I have made".
He has formal complaints lodged against both Suffolk Police and the county council.
Council documents seen by the BBC do indeed refer to Michael having a "dissociative personality disorder" and makes various other suggestions about his mental health - but this is contradicted by a consultant psychiatrist who assessed Michael late last year.
This psychiatrist, who works for the Norfolk and Suffolk Mental Health Trust, said "no history of mental illness has been found" and that Michael "showed no features of mental illness".
The confidential council documents also mention Michael was arrested on suspicion of rape and murder in 1994 - he was found to have had nothing to do with either crime.
A spokesman for the authority said: "We are aware of this complaint which, like any, we take very seriously.
"In terms of the allegations of historical abuse, we have advised the complainant to contact the police and have appointed an independent advocate to support him.
"In addition, we are also investigating related practice issues. We are currently awaiting the outcome of that investigation."
The allegations were also put to Suffolk police which said: "Suffolk Constabulary takes all allegations of sexual assault seriously and the allegations are always fully investigated, however we are not able to comment on individual cases."
Michael, who is currently in contact with the Met Police, said he is not seeking any compensation in relation to his allegations or complaints against the authorities.
He does, however, want an apology and those involved held accountable.
Deborah Dennis, spokeswoman for the charity Stop it Now, which campaigns to prevent child sexual abuse, said: "Extreme cases such as this, which involve organised abuse, do happen but, thankfully, they are rare. Far more often abuse happens at home either by the family members of the abused or someone else very close to the victim.
"Often we think abuse only happens in big cities. It doesn't. In this case it is Suffolk. Any area can be affected by sexual abuse and exploitation."
Child abuse investigations
The Metropolitan Police's Operation Fernbridge, which is investigating allegations of a network of abusers in the late 1970s and 1980s at the former Elm Guest House in Barnes, south-west London - the scene of alleged parties involving MPs and other members of the establishment
Greater Manchester Police are conducting a new investigation into allegations of abuse by Cyril Smith in Rochdale, including at Knowl View, a children's home which closed in 1994
28 NHS hospitals have published reports on allegations involving the late BBC DJ and presenter Jimmy Savile. Four other hospitals are due to report in the autumn. A former judge is also looking into whether culture and practice at the BBC enabled Savile to carry out the sexual abuse of children
Operation Yewtree - set up following Savile's death in 2011 - has seen a string of high-profile entertainers being prosecuted for alleged sex crimes
And local authorities have been instructed to investigate claims that Savile abused children at 21 children's homes and schools in England in the 1960s, 70s and 80s
Operation Cayacos, which is among numerous other ongoing historical child abuse investigations around the UK, is investigating allegations of a paedophile ring linked to Peter Righton, a founding member of the Paedophile Information Exchange, a group that campaigned to make sex between adults and children legal
Child sex abuse training proposed to Solano area leaders
by Richard Bammer
Both survivors of child sexual abuse, two Vacaville women will propose child sexual abuse prevention training for area residents on Aug. 28, it has been announced.
Their free presentation, which is expected to attract city and county leaders, educators, and law enforcement officials, among others, will be 1 to 3 p.m. at the Solano County Events Center, 610 Texas St., Fairfield.
"We're not selling this training — we're just advocating it," said Christina Baird, author of "How Far Will I Run" and a member of the Vacaville's Community Services Commission. "If you have your own training, that's fine."
She said the training is for any person or organization that interacts with children.
"We're just hoping for the awareness," she said, alluding to her co-presenter, Hazel Payne, a former Miss Vacaville.
In a written statement, Baird, who owns a public relations and marketing company, said, "Our goal is to educate these adults on how to implement effective prevention policies, recognize the signs of sexual abuse in children and respond responsibly if abuse occurs."
She said that, over the years, the frequency of child abuse, as reported, has declined, from one in four children in 1984 to one in 10 in more recent times.
There's No Such Thing as an Adverse Childhood
by Will Meecham, MD, MA
Adverse (ad'v?rs,'adv?rs/adjective): preventing success or development; harmful; unfavorable.
Definitions matter, because the words we apply to our lives influence whether we feel hopeful or discouraged.
Can a childhood be adverse? Events during childhood can certainly be harmful and unfavorable. And yes, painful formative experiences often limit success and development along conventional avenues. In my own case early loss, trauma, and neglect contributed to unsustainable career choices, nervous breakdowns, conflicted relationships, substance abuse issues, medical problems, and so on.
But let's look at this another way. What if we define success as overcoming obstacles? What if we define development as adapting to circumstances? Then any childhood that is survived provides an exemplar of success and development.
It's vital to think in terms of early adversity, because it explains so many of the problems faced by those who experienced it. But we should avoid clinging to the notion of having come from an adverse childhood , from one that prevents success.
It's tricky. On the one hand, knowing that childhood hardship correlates with later addiction, mental illness, health problems, domestic uproar, etc., can relieve us of shame about adult difficulties. On the other, it can drain us of hope. Doesn't scientific research (the ACE study, for instance) prove that we're doomed?
No. It proves we're at high risk. It proves we have work to do. But statistical risk is not the same as unalterable fate. It's vital to remember we can learn to cope with the vulnerabilities handed to us by our past. After all, in making it to adulthood we learned tactics that helped ensure survival. We might have grown hypersensitive–the better to detect threats. We might have begun to distrust others–the better to avoid predation. We might have become withdrawn–the better to protect ourselves from hazards.
The ability to shape response to circumstance remains with us. True, habits of behavior that saved the child often fail the adult, and habits can be difficult to break. But both neuroscientific research and effective psychological treatments (such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – CBT and Acceptance & Commitment Therapy – ACT) demonstrate our lifelong capacity for growth and maturation.
When I was a young adult in the 1980's, the thinking was different. Back then, no one talked (or knew) about neuroplasticity – the ability of the nervous system to repair and reshape itself. As a neuroscience graduate student, I was under the impression that the brain was a biological computer with an architecture determined by genetics and upbringing, neither of which could be changed. I sought therapy to cope with what the past had done to me but did not expect to correct the damage.
From a psychological standpoint, we live in a much more hopeful era. We now know that our nervous systems continually update their pathways in response to behavior and experience. We can heal and we can grow. Yes, some deeply conditioned responses may prove difficult to fully overcome. But progress is not only possible: it's inevitable, provided we apply ourselves.
Stroke and accident victims must work hard to rehabilitate after brain insults, but they are much less likely now than formerly to require longterm institutional care. Neural restructuring follows proper therapy, leading to functional gains.
Similarly, survivors of childhood adversity must work hard to build skillful behavior patterns, but they are much less likely now than formerly to remain bound by unhealthy and constricted lifestyles. Behavioral restructuring follows proper therapy, leading to psychological gains. We can learn to dampen emotional reactivity, develop mindfulness, and act in ways that promote physical, emotional, and social well-being. Most importantly, we can gain the courage and discernment needed to protect ourselves when necessary, and to open ourselves when desirable.
Let us define success as growing and maturing, as recognizing that all humans are vulnerable, that all face challenges, and that all can learn. Let us define it, in other words, as becoming more insightful and compassionate versions of our adaptable, capable selves. With such a definition no childhood, no matter how punishing, can prevent us from succeeding. No childhood, in other words, is truly adverse.
After a traumatic upbringing, Will Meecham, MD, MA studied ecology, biophysics, neuroscience, medicine, ophthalmology, and reconstructive surgery. In 2000, neck disease prevented him from continuing to work as an oculoplastic surgeon. He spent many years in emotional, intellectual, and spiritual exploration, investigating how people cope with childhood trauma, adult disappointment, and emotional distress. He now devotes his time to writing and speaking about overcoming the effects of childhood adversity. More of Dr. Meecham's writings can be viewed at WillSpirit.com.
Google tips off cops after spotting child abuse images in email
by John Hawes
A 41-year-old resident of Houston, Texas has been arrested after Google tipped off police that they had spotted child abuse images in his emails.
John Henry Skillern, a registered sex offender with a sexual assault charge dating back to 1994, was picked up on Tuesday, July 29th and later charged with one count of possession of child pornography and one count of promotion of child pornography.
A search of his home and equipment uncovered further images of child abuse, emails and text messages discussing his pedophilic tendencies, and even cell-phone videos of children visiting the branch of Denny's in Pasadena, Tx., where Skillern worked as a cook.
He is now being held in custody on a $200,000 bond.
The investigation was apparently sparked by a tip-off sent by Google to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, after explicit images of a child were detected in an email he was sending.
The story seems like a simple one with a happy outcome - a bad man did a crime and got caught.
However, there will of course be some who see it as yet another sign of how the twin Big Brothers of state agencies and corporate behemoths have nothing better to do than delve into the private lives of all and sundry, looking for dirt.
Google has a long-running and often controversial relationship with the privacy of its users, in the past receiving criticism for its unclear and confusing privacy policies, data-slurping StreetView cars and leaky Google Drive services.
It's been ordered to give people the option to have references to them ignored by its search engine, and most recently the Italian government demanded more openness about what will be done with people's data once they've given it up to Google's multi-tentacled services.
Email services in particular are seen as a sensitive area where people might expect some privacy, but Google's business model relies on crunching everything we do in order to push the right advertising in our direction, and email is a great source of personal info on those who use it.
Google's been sued for probing intrusively into student Gmail accounts, but at the same time US law has found Gmail accounts to be fair game for police investigation, provided a warrant is granted, and the FBI can get their hands on much more data on Google's users should they want to.
A year ago Google's attitude to the privacy of email users everywhere was apparently questioned.
We all like to get things for free, and like other "free" online providers, Google takes advantage of that, giving us all sorts of services in return for all the personal info we care to hand over. Exactly what is then done with that data is something we have very little control over.
So whenever we hear of something being spotted in (what we think is) our private stuff and reported, we find it worrying, even if it's something entirely proper and innocuous.
On the other hand though, at least some people expect the Googles of the world to be stepping in more and more to prevent any kind of nastiness, impropriety or fraud on the internet.
This is particularly the case in the area of child abuse, exemplified by UK Prime Minister David Cameron's crusade to persuade Google to implement more filters to remove child sex images from searches.
At the time this proposal was widely ridiculed, mainly on the grounds that pedophiles operate in sophisticated and well-hidden gangs who would never consider using Google.
In this case, where a man seems to have been caught simply because he was using Gmail, that claim seems proven to be not entirely accurate. Not everyone involved in this sort of nastiness is a criminal genius, fortunately.
When it comes down to it, we just need to be more aware of how the world works, and to act accordingly.
If you want your information kept private, just don't hand it over to a free service which makes money leveraging that kind of info.
If you want to use free services, just don't use them for anything you wouldn't want the entire world knowing about.
If you feel you want to commit crimes against children, just don't - get some psychological help instead.
Poll: Americans cool to border-crossing children
by The Associated Press
Americans are wary of granting refugee status to children crossing the U.S. border to flee strife-torn countries in Central America, and most in an Associated Press-GfK poll say the U.S. does not have a moral obligation to accept asylum seekers generally.
The new poll found 53 percent of Americans believe the United States has no moral obligation to offer asylum to people who escape violence or political persecution, while 44 percent believe it has that responsibility.
And more than half, 52 percent, say children who say they are fleeing gang violence in Central America should not be treated as refugees, while 46 percent say they should.
The responses expose a partisan rift, with 70 percent of Republicans saying Central American children should not be treated as refugees compared with 62 percent of Democrats who believe they should. On whether the United States has an obligation to accept people fleeing violence or political persecution, 66 percent of Republicans say it does not and 57 percent of Democrats say it does.
Jerry Benzie, a 27-year-old Republican from Ebensburg, Pennsylvania, 90 miles east of Pittsburgh, was initially sympathetic to the plight of children seeking shelter in the U.S. from violence at home. But his views changed as he grew convinced Central American governments could do more to slow the tide of northbound immigrants, and thought Mexico wasn't doing enough to prevent them from passing through that country on their way to the U.S.
Benzie said he worries the children will strain public schools and other services.
“How do you differentiate between the children who are truly fleeing violence and dangers and those whose parents may just see an opportunity for them in our country and are pushing them to go?” said Benzie, who works in the information technology industry. “It's going to take a toll on our economy because it's going to lead to higher taxes. Our citizens are going to suffer.”
To qualify for asylum, applicants must prove they suffered persecution or have a well-founded fear of persecution on grounds of race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group or political opinion. A refugee must demonstrate the same but, unlike an asylum seeker, seeks protection while still outside the United States.
Americans who are closely following news about the wave of unaccompanied children crossing the border illegally in South Texas are less receptive, with only four in ten saying they should qualify as refugees. Among those who say they aren't paying as much attention, roughly half believe they should be treated as refugees.
White House officials said last week they were considering a pilot program to grant refugee status to young people from Honduras. They suggested the plan, which could be expanded to Guatemala and El Salvador, involves screening youths in their home countries.
President Barack Obama played down the idea after meeting in Washington last week with his Central American counterparts, saying it would affect only a small number of people.
The poll was taken as Congress neared its August recess amid wide disagreement over how to address what Obama has called a humanitarian crisis. The Border Patrol detained more than 57,000 unaccompanied children from October through June, the vast majority from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
Americans with children under 18 are evenly split on whether the children crossing the border should be treated as refugees, with 49 percent taking each side. Those without young children tilt against refugee status, 53 percent to 45 percent.
Paula Stapleton, who is raising boys, ages 9 and 3, in Clinton, Arkansas, supports asylum or refugee status for children, but not for their parents or adults who come alone. She worries that children who are turned back to their home countries will end up in gangs, making the problem worse.
“The United States is a big enough country to take in children and give them a chance,” said Stapleton, 33, a political independent. “It can't take everybody, but we can take their children.”
Among Hispanics, 66 percent say children crossing the border who claim they are fleeing gang violence should be treated as refugees. Slightly fewer, 54 percent, said they see a moral obligation to accept people fleeing violence or persecution.
Mercedes Brand, a naturalized U.S. citizen in suburban New Jersey who emigrated from Peru 45 years ago, is in the minority among Hispanics. The youngest of her four U.S.-born children is saddled with college debt and she worries that the United States can't take care of its own, let alone newcomers.
“This country is built with immigrants, but those immigrants who came from Europe and all over the world didn't demand all the things that they are demanding now,” said Brand, a 60-year-old Democrat who works as a Spanish interpreter for a health care provider. “When my grandchildren are old enough to collect Social Security, there may not be enough money. There may not be enough for me.”
The AP-GfK Poll was conducted July 24-28 using KnowledgePanel, GfK's probability-based online panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. It involved online interviews with 1,044 adults, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points for all respondents. The margin of sampling error is larger for subgroups.
Respondents were first selected randomly using phone or mail survey methods, and were later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn't otherwise have access to the Internet were provided with the ability to access the Internet at no cost to them.
Save Our Girls USA: Healing, empowerment and survival
Women who escaped ‘the life' work to help others and prevent new victims
by Charlene Muhammad
LOS ANGELES (FinalCall.com) - When Audrey Morrissey tells teenage girls to avoid strangers and the pitfalls of persuasive boyfriends and fancy cars, she speaks from firsthand knowledge. Her boyfriend lured her into commercial sex trafficking at 16.
The survivor-advocate was 30-years-old when she finally exited the life, armed with an understanding of why the crisis persists today and pathways to heal, restore and empower young victims.
“The problem of child sex trafficking persists because of the demand. As with anything else, remove the demand for it and it wouldn't exist,” stated Ms. Morrissey, associate director of My Life My Choice, a Boston non-profit, which works to prevent commercial sexual exploitation of adolescent girls. They work to keep the girls out of strip clubs, massage parlors and other so-called legitimate businesses used to hide and facilitate prostitution.
“It's that attitude of it's a victimless crime. ‘She does it because she likes it,' and that's why it continues to happen. It is still a profitable multi-billion dollar, and I don't even like to use the word business , but it is raking in billions of dollars and it's always about the demand,” Ms. Morrissey said.
The sex industry has a tremendous and awful impact on victims' bodies, minds and spirits, she continued.
“A lot of girls will say even after becoming adult women in healthy relationships, they don't even like having sex because of that lifestyle. It really comes from feeling where your body has shut down but it comes from a lot of dissociative disorders,” she said.
Girls learn to leave rooms mentally while physically present, and can't bring their minds back with their bodies, Ms. Morrissey said.
In addition, she said, many suffer bi-polar and post-traumatic stress disorder, akin to someone who's gone to battle in war.
She encourages victims to take advantage of therapy. “I tell them as a survivor, if you want what I have, that's how I got it and so they're more open to listen to it. That's what makes the survivor so powerful in this work because they know if somebody has been there, then they're not playing.”
People who haven't been in the life, considered “non-survivors,” can also help, she said. “Confirm you don't know what we've been through, but here's what I know: ‘I'm not open for anyone who harms children and I believe that no adult should sell a child, take advantage of a child, and I believe that children should have a right to their childhood and for that reason and that reason alone I know I don't have to have been there.' ”
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families, the physical and mental impact of sex trafficking of children can include sleeping disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS, pelvic pain, rectal trauma and urinary difficulties, depression, fear, anxiety and mood changes.
Escape and empowerment
Survivor advocate and author Jennifer Jackson turned to drugs and alcohol to escape the pain and shame of child molestation at age 5 and rape at 12 in Oakland. She was forced into prostitution in Los Angeles County.
She shares her healing process in two books, “The Streets My Cradle” and “Don't Ignore My Child's Cries.” At 12, she thought she was in a girlfriend/boyfriend relationship and attention and affection of a 21-year-old “suitor” showered on her were genuine. But a brutal sexual experience landed her in street life and unleashed a monster inside, she said. By ages 11 and 12, she turned to heroin and alcohol for consolation.
“All the time I was getting high and working the streets, the youngest little girl I saw out there was 10-years-old. It looked like she was playing house in her mother's heels,” Ms. Jackson recalled. “It was painful to see these little girls out there. It was painful to hear them say, ‘When I grow up I want to be just like you. You look so pretty!'
“I would tell them no! No! No! You do not want to be like me. The glamor, fancy dress, jewelry, fancy cars, it hides the horror.”
Her healing began when she stopped caring about others' opinions. “I stopped accepting what people said about me as being true. I stopped contributing to my death,” she told The Final Call.
In the end, she feels God brought her through it all and when she shares her story and the stories of women found in dumpsters with their throats slit, people get it. She's been sober since 2005 and out of the life of prostitution.
“I've had girls come up and say thank you. One girl was in school and she got her baby back. She has her own apartment. There are so many stories from girls I talked to,” Ms. Jackson continued.
She talks to girls about how the meager $10.65 an hour she earned after leaving the life seemed like so little but was priceless. It helped to restore her self-respect, self-esteem and self-confidence.
“I was a community organizer and it felt good to help others. I got rid of all the excuses to get loaded and to return to the streets, and I got therapy,” Ms. Jackson said. “I did not care! I told them somebody's going to earn their money because I'm going to get better.”
No end in sight?
Ms. Morrissey is not sure child sex trafficking will ever end. She will keep working because she does not want others to suffer the experience and abuse. She advocates for strict laws and maximum punishment, such as 25 years in prison for people who traffic children.
Education is key to empowering victims, she said.
Also remind youth of the first lessons from their mothers, to stay away from strangers, but also understand a lot of times the pimp isn't a stranger. “While the girls understand that, the point is he wasn't a stranger. He's my boyfriend. Even today I'm sure parents are saying stay away from strangers, so what we're doing today with a 10-week curriculum is educating them around the realities of being in the life,” Ms. Morrissey said.
My Life My Choice's prevention program includes explaining how pimps recruit. Mentors teach girls average age 12 and up about self-esteem and substance abuse, and real life survivors share their journeys and victimization as teens, what made them vulnerable, their entry into the life, and how they became surviving, successful women.
“The multi-millionaire (in sex trafficking) is not the stereotypical Black pimp,” Ms. Morrissey insisted. “He's normally White, owns a penthouse and some sort of large corporation. He's a strip club owner.”
“People still will say, ‘That's the oldest profession in the world. It's not going anywhere,' but it's actually the oldest oppression,” she said.
Baby steps to healing
“If a girl decides she wants to testify, I let her make that decision and I will support her, but if her decision is ‘thank God I'm out and that's all I care about. I'm afraid for my life,' I support that,” Ms. Morrissey told The Final Call.
Non-sex industry survivors can't understand the life of sex trafficked minors, pimps and legions of girls is like family, dysfunctional or not, advocates said.
“When you've been in the life, in a sense in that hustle world, you've also been part of the game, like, ‘I'm not snitching.' So the ones that do make it out, that's good enough for them and they're not playing the rest of the game,” Ms. Morrissey said.
“It's a journey. Let's keep it real. I've been doing this for 12 years. People have just started honestly embracing this issue and understanding that these are victims. We just got the language right over the last four or five years.”
She sees using terms like sex trafficking, sexual abuse of children and child rape as important. There is nothing glamorous or redeeming, no fantasy about these terms.
Twenty-five-years ago, police would get a husband beating wife call. Once at the home, they'd tell the husband take a walk. Go cool off. “Back in the day it was called marriage. It was nobody's business, but changes didn't come along until first of all we had to change the language,” she noted.
The chances of healing and survival are better if advocates can get victims out at younger ages so they don't become adult women in the sex industry, Ms. Morrissey said.
She encourages advocates who work with children to ask these questions: Have you ever traded sex for money, food, shelter or clothing? List the things you have done on a simple spreadsheet and start counting them, she said.
“At My Life My Choice we service about 75-80 girls per year and that's only because they only have four or five mentors but once two more are hired, the numbers will increase. Every time we hire new mentors, we're full after a couple of months,” she said.
Nicole Johnson, a special agent with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, educates families and communities on elements of human sex trafficking. Part of the problem is common misconceptions about human sex trafficking, such as beliefs that the girls could just walk away.
“Why don't they run because they're walking the streets right now? They could just step off the corner, walk down the street and nobody would know? That's the psychological and emotional abuse we're coming to realize are in place. We're realizing that that's not always true,” Agent Johnson said during a sex trafficking forum in Los Angeles.
Another justification is the girls get paid for “working” seven days a week, 18 hours a day in hotels—but it's still not right, she said.
Another challenge is traffickers or pimps may show great generosity to the victims so the girls often fall deeply in love with them. The girls have a connection with pimps and a lot of times don't realize they're victims—they think they are in love. They think these pimps are their boyfriends, but it doesn't mean she's not a victim, Agent Johnson stressed.
The ultimate goal is to successfully prosecute cases, she said but she can partner with counselors, community-based organizations and churches to get girls services and what they need, which is a lot.
One victim was trafficked for eight years, moving from motel to motel to motel. She now has an apartment where she has a cleaning regimen. She has to pay her bills on time. She has to take a bus to go to work. She has to have skills she's never had to have, said Agent Johnson.
And that's where people can help restore and empower victims, through providing services crucial to transforming the girls' mindset, which is to be a survivor, not just a victim, advocates say.
“These girls and victims need serious help. They need counseling. They need life skills. They need job skills. Some of these girls don't even know how to get on a bus to go to the job they just got. They don't know how to cook and clean,” said Agent Johnson.
Lebanon opens resource center for child abuse victims
by John Latimer
Victims of child abuse in Lebanon County and the law enforcement officials who defend them have a new tool which will help the children recover and improve the likelihood their tormentors are punished.
On Tuesday, county officials joined with representatives from social service agencies and area health care systems to officially open the PinnacleHealth Children's Resource Center at 618 Cornwall Road.
Located in an office donated by Good Samaritan Hospital, the facility is a satellite of PinnacleHealth's Resource Center in Harrisburg and, like that one, will serve as a one-stop-shop where child abuse victims will receive care and provide testimony that can be used to prosecute their attackers," said the facility's manager Lynn Carson.
"Our purpose is to help children and their families during a very vulnerable and emotionally difficult time," she said. "Our staff has been specially trained to work with abuse victims. We are able to provide medical care and exams with compassion as well as to provide documentation of suspected abuse to the local District Attorney's office. This allows children to receive the treatment that they require and to enable law enforcement officials to seek out abusers to prevent abuse in the future."
The opening of the local office is the result of a lengthy collaborative effort of the Sexual Assault Resource and Counseling Center, Children & Youth Services, the Office of the Lebanon County District Attorney, PinnacleHealth System and Good Samaritan Health System.
Having a Children's Resource Center in Lebanon means victims of child abuse and their families will no longer have to travel to Harrisburg for the services, or tell their story repeatedly to doctors, counselors, and law enforcement officials here, said District Attorney David Arnold in remarks at the morning ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Repeatedly telling of the abuse is not only traumatic for the child, Arnold explained, but it often results in slightly different versions, which defense attorneys are quick to discredit, sometimes leading to acquittals for their clients.
"Before you know it, you have four or five interviews with a child about a very very traumatic experience," he said. "Let's think about that. Try to tell a story four or five times that was so difficult to get through in the first place. You can be 100 percent truthful and you can't repeat it the same way each time. It is not possible."
With the Resource Center that will no longer be an issue, Arnold said. Now, after undergoing a physical exam at the facility, the child will provide video-recorded testimony to a specially-trained interviewer, while local law officials and child advocates watch from another room. "We've got a multi-disciplinary team put together: prosecutors, law enforcement, medical providers, Children and Youth, mental health services, SARCC, everybody working together with really one common goal," he said. "And our goal is to provide the best possible service for our abused children and to provide the most effective and efficient prosecution of our criminals who are abusing the children."
The Resource Center will be open two days a week, at the outset, and will be managed by members of PinnacleHealth's Harrisburg office. Also providing medical assistance and laboratory support at no cost will be staff from GSH.
The opening of the local office is a dream that SARCC President and CEO Jenny Murphy-Shifflet has held for a long time.
"SARCC has tried for probably 12 years to bring this program into the community because we've seen the impact it has had on our children and our families heading to Harrisburg," she said. "From somebody who has been through these exams with children, I know how awful they can go and I know how well they can go. The folks at PinnacleHealth Children's Resource Center do an exemplary job."
Two important things helped make the localChildren's Resource Center a reality, Murphy-Shifflet said. The first was a survey conducted two years ago with help from a class of Lebanon Valley College students.
"In that study the need was clearly established by law enforcement and other gatekeepers for this program here in this community," she said. "So we started gathering all those people together to figure out how do we go about doing this
The second crucial element that brought the facility to Lebanon was Children and Youth Services obtaining a $40,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare's Office of Children, Youth, and Families, that was matched with $10,000 by the county commissioners.
The money was used for start-up costs that included purchasing furniture and giving the office a face-lift by painting walls in the meeting rooms and examination room in soft, pastel colors, and decorating them with paintings of butterflies to enforce the uplifting, anonymous quote that greets visitors at the entrance:
"Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it turned into a butterfly."
Access to PinnacleHealth Children's Resource Center will be made by referrals from Lebanon County Children and Youth Services or law enforcement officials. If you have been a victim of abuse, a family member of an abused child, or you suspect that child abuse has occurred, you can call your local police or the Pennsylvania ChildLine at800-932-0313. ChildLine is available 24 hours daily and trained staff will connect victims and families to local services and law enforcement authorities.
South Dakota task force to study child sex abuse
by Josh Chilson
PIERRE - A South Dakota task force will study the sexual abuse of children and recommend ways to address the issue.
Jolene's Law Task Force will meet starting Aug. 5 and will file a report to the Legislature in January. The task force plans to suggest ways the state could increase awareness and improve its policies for dealing with child sex abuse. The task force was created by state legislation earlier this year.
The August meeting will be open to the public.
The group is named after Jolene Loetscher of Sioux Falls, a victim of sexual abuse as a teenager who has talked publicly about her story. The Associated Press generally does not name victims of sexual abuse but is naming Loetscher because she has come forward and spoken publicly.
Why sexual abuse victims have trouble coming forward
by Ashton Pellom
CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - For the past week and a half, WBTV has been covering the Gary Goins sex abuse trial and we've heard testimony from all three accusers who say they were initially too scared to go to police or their parents for help.
WBTV knows many of you ask why, so we spoke with advocates at Safe Alliance. They provide counseling and other services to sexual abuse victims here in Charlotte and they told us how difficult it is for these victims to come forward.
"I was scared to tell anybody. I didn't know who would believe me or what someone would say," said one accuser in the Goins trial.
It's testimony like this in the Goins trial that Safe Alliance victim's advocate Cori Goldstein hears all too often, sexual abuse victims not willing to come forward.
"There's the emotional impact of they might feel like they're at fault or they might feel that they're embarrassed or ashamed. They might be thinking ahead to how is this going to impact their family and I think the biggest is if they'll be believed," said Goldstein.
According to Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina, in 90% of sexual assault cases, the victim and their family know and trust the abuser.
All three accusers in the Goins trial testified they had close relationships with the former East Gaston High wrestling coach, which made it even harder to tell someone.
"I thought about just coming forward, but at the same time I was confused about what was going on. I just keeps eating at you and eating at you and eating at you," another accuser in the Goins trial told jurors.
Goldstein believes when more victims come out and are seen in the media, the more likely it will give others the motivation to seek help.
"It takes a lot of courage for someone to report sexual assault, so I think seeing someone out there that has faced that situation and come forward, I think that can be inspiring to other survivors," said Goldstein.
Goldstein says the best advice she can give someone out there who's a victim of sexual abuse is to talk to someone they trust.
She says parents can also play a role by keeping an open dialogue with children and letting them know they can talk to you about anything.
"It's not necessarily taking away a memory away by speaking out and getting services to get help, but it's having someone help you create a new way to move forward in life," said Goldstein.
Advocates at Safe Alliance say it's important for victims to come forward because child sexual abuse is a direct source of a number of problems including excessive drug and alcohol use, suicidal thoughts and eating disorders.
To find out more about Safe Alliance and their services, click here.
Two-month-old baby left in hot minivan for hour at pediatrics clinicb
by John Luciew
The irony smacks you right in the face with this story: A 2-month-old baby girl was hospitalized yesterday after being left in a hot minivan for about an hour, according to media reports. But the real kicker is where it happened: outside a pediatrics clinic in Florida.
The story comes from WFTV, which reported that the forgetful mother told police she was inside the clinic with another of her children, a 9-year-old, when she realized she had left her baby daughter inside the minivan.
The woman then rushed the infant into the Avalon Park clinic, where doctors were able to stabilize the girl, according to the TV station.
The sheriff's office Child Abuse Unit is investigating, WFTV states. There was no indication late yesterday whether the mother would be charged, however.
Reports WFTV: "As of Tuesday night, the mother's minivan was still parked outside of the clinic. A sun visor placed behind the windshield was clearly visible."
Trafficking bust reveals worries over missing kids
by ERIC TUCKER
WASHINGTON (AP) -- When FBI agents and police officers fanned out across the country last month in a weeklong effort to rescue child sex trafficking victims, they pulled minors as young as 11 from hotel rooms, truck stops and homes.
Among the 168 juveniles recovered was a population that child welfare advocates say especially concerns them: children who were never reported missing in the first place.
Advocates say the roundup reinforces the need for a standardized, nationwide approach to report children as missing, especially those absent from state foster care systems who are seen as most vulnerable to abuse.
Concerns over unaccounted-for children aren't new, but they're receiving fresh attention amid heightened awareness of child sex trafficking. State and federal efforts are underway to streamline how police are alerted when kids go missing.
National Center for Missing & Exploited Children partners with Nixle to assist law enforcement
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) has joined forces with public safety notification provider Nixle to help law enforcement reunite missing children with their families. Since launching the venture, NCMEC has provided support to law enforcement in nearly 90 cases nationwide -- cases that may not have been brought to NCMEC's attention at all or as quickly without Nixle's participation.
Nixle enables more than 7,000 police, fire, and emergency management agencies to send text, email, and phone alerts to their residents through a secure network. Those alerts are directly monitored by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children for any cases involving missing or exploited children. When a relevant alert is found, NCMEC reaches out to law enforcement to offer its resources and support.
"The use of technology to provide alerts about a missing child is an invaluable timesaver, especially given the need to act quickly in these cases," said John Bischoff, NCMEC executive director, Missing Children Division. "Nixle plays an instrumental role in that alerting process, which is key to finding missing children and bringing them home safely."
NCMEC has provided support to law enforcement on 88 cases as a result of Nixle alerts. Of those, 82 have been resolved. Nixle's network of municipal, county, and state police departments helps those organizations collaborate locally and, in the case of NCMEC, nationally. At a time when public safety budgets and staff continue to be stretched, interagency cooperation and teamwork is important to keeping people safe.
"Nixle is in the business of safety," explains CEO Eric Liu. "Whenever we can help agencies work together to safeguard our communities, we've done our job. We are proud to partner with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children to help protect our most valuable asset, our children."
Founded in 2007, San Francisco-based Nixle builds technologies that enable effective communication and collaboration between more than 7,000 public safety agencies, their school districts, and the communities they serve. Nixle's secure platform of text message, email, and voice notifications connects residents to their local leaders so important and relevant information can be shared. Additionally, Nixle helps mobilize those communities to take an active role in public safety, with the goal of helping government agencies engage their citizens successfully.
Predator tried to blend in with West Village ‘weirdos'
by Antonio Antenucci , Priscilla DeGregory , Selim Algar and Jamie Schram
He was the predator among us.
Fugitive child molester Charles Mozdir lived as “John Smith'' for at least a year and a half in the heart of Greenwich Village, posing as just another quirky, shaggy-haired denizen amid the tourist-filled boutiques and seedy sex shops.
The one-time baby-faced California native settled in the Village with his black lab, Lucky, and grew a “ZZ Top'' beard because he knew the area “is notorious for weirdos,'' a law- enforcement source told The Post Tuesday.
The 32-year-old pervert told a bald-faced lie as he passed himself off as a normal, reliable tenant while renting his pad at 621 E. 11th St., according to his roommate.
“He gave me a fake name, a fake identity,” the roommate, who asked that his name not be used, told The Post.
“He was a little unshaven, but I wasn't renting out the apartment based on appearance.”
The roommate said he had no clue the man staying in his apartment was on the lam for his depraved past.
“I was shocked when I heard what had happened, that he was living this kind of double life,” the roommate said. “I feel terrible about the family back in California, what they must have gone through. I am close to tears just thinking about that.”
Mozdir arrived with one piece of his past, a black Labrador retriever named Lucky.
“Well, he's mine now,” the roommate said as the walked Lucky. “Fortunately, I like the dog. He's a good dog.”
The fugitive also got the perfect job for his cover by selling a sob story to the owner of a bong shop, Smoking Culture NYC on West Fourth Street near Jones Street. He claimed he was stranded in the city without dough, sources said.
After that, “he just looked like a regular tattooed guy you see in the neighborhood,'' shop neighbor Orlando Dole, 57, said of Mozdir, who was killed in a shootout Monday that left three officers wounded.
Natasha Challapally, who lives on the same East 11th Street block as Mozdir did, noted, “He had a confident stride — he seemed like a New Yorker.''
While hiding from authorities on a 2012 child-assault rap in Coronado, Calif., Mozdir crafted a daily routine that allowed him to easily blend in with the West Village crowd around the smoke shop.
Always pleasant, he bought his morning coffee at the Dunkin' Donuts on Christopher Street, lunch at a local Subway sandwich shop, and groceries at the Gourmet Garage on Seventh Avenue — typically milk, baguettes, eggs, pastries and coffee.
“He would say, ‘Good morning' and ‘Thank you.' He was very polite,” recalled a 41-year-old cashier at Gourmet Garage. “When I saw his face in the paper, I was like, ‘Oh, my God!'”
But the dark side of the fiend would sometimes surface.
A Village drug dealer, “CW,” said he would see Mozdir hanging out with transvestites, heading into gay peep shows and clubs, and scoring cocaine off the street.
Gregory Niazov, a barber who owns Village Cuts adjacent to the smoke shop, said that when Mozdir worked next door, he would regularly close the store's blinds even during business hours and sit on the couch with his dog.
“I asked [once] if I could use his computer and he said, ‘No, no! Don't touch it!''' Niazov recalled.
Mozdir — who fancied himself an artist specializing in glass-blowing — was obsessed with Lucky, sources said. He mentioned the dog in sick, online postings about bestiality.
Mozdir had been on the run since skipping out on $1 million bail after molesting the 7-year-old son of a close friend — one of at least two child-sex raps against him.
The hunt for him had stretched from Mexico — where his dad has lived for years — to Georgia to Florida, with no luck.
A disgusted gal pal in Florida finally dropped the dime on Mozdir after an episode about him aired Sunday on CNN's “The Hunt.''
A team of eight US marshals and an NYPD detective — all with the New York-New Jersey Regional Fugitive Task Force — tracked him down to the smoke shop on Monday.
During a scuffle, Detective Mario Muniz was struck by three bullets and was heard screaming, “I'm shot! I'm shot!'' sources said. Two marshals were also shot, and Mozdir was killed.
Muniz is set to leave Bellevue Hospital Wednesday. The marshals, Pat Lin and Ryan Westfield, were released Tuesday.
Life in New York might have been getting to Mozdir.
Niazov, the barber, said Mozdir recently had lost his wallet with $1,000 in it.
“He said he lost it at a bar. He was crying, saying, ‘I just got paid, and I needed that money for rent. I don't know what I'm going to do,' ” Niazov recalled.
House clears child abuse prevention bill
by Cristina Marcos
The House on Monday cleared legislation to reauthorize the Victims of Child Abuse Act for the president's signature.
Passed by voice vote, the measure, S. 1799, would authorize $15 million annually through fiscal 2018 for child abuse prevention programs, including grants to train attorney prosecuting cases and develop investigations.
"S. 1799 would reauthorize an important tool in our ongoing fight against child abuse," said Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.).
The measure would require the Department of Justice's inspector general to conduct audits of grant recipients. Any grant recipients that run into problems during the audits would not be able to receive grant funding for two years.
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) said the measure was necessary to help children who are victims of abuse.
"As a country and as a people, we have a constitutional, statutory and moral obligation to provide them with the protections and resources that they need," said Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.).
The Senate passed the bill by unanimous consent in June.
State steps up child abuse investigations
by JAMES LOEWENSTEIN
TOWANDA - State legislation passed in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse case will cause a "huge" increase in the workload at Bradford County Children & Youth Services, with no additional government funding being provided to complete the extra duties, the director of Bradford County Human Services said.
As a result of the legislation, the state this year began to require that Bradford County Children & Youth Services expand the types of people that it investigates for child abuse, Bradford County Human Services Director Bill Blevins said.
In the past, Bradford County Children & Youth Services had only investigated child abuse cases, such as sexual or physical abuse, if they involved parents, caregivers, or household members, Elly Smith, director of Bradford County Children & Youth Services, said.
"If it did not involve a caregiver, it was (only) a police investigation," she said.
As a result of new state regulations, Bradford County Children & Youth Services will also be investigating child abuse that involves "just about any relative," including cousins, aunts and uncles, as well as ex-household members, ex-paramours and ex-stepparents, Smith said.
Police also investigate child abuse cases, if they involve serious physical abuse or sexual abuse, she said.
The expanded role of Bradford County Children & Youth Services will also impact local schools, she said.
For example, in the past, if a teacher or bus driver allegedly injured a child, the school district would conduct an internal investigation, and, if the matter was serious enough, the police would be called in, Smith said.
Now, Children & Youth Services will also be involved in such an investigation, she said.
Under new state regulations, Bradford County Children & Youth Services must initiate its investigations of certain child abuse cases more quickly, Blevins said.
While the state is still implementing its new mandates, it is apparent they will cause a "huge" increase in workload at Bradford County Children & Youth Services, Blevins said.
"We'll have to do more with less," Blevins said.
Smith said it is too early to say exactly how much of an increase in the workload there will be.
Despite the increased workload, state funding for Bradford County Children & Youth Services, which is the agency's main source of funding, was cut this year, Smith said at a public hearing on Monday on the agency's plans for the coming year.
The state is providing $3,877,221 in funding for Bradford County Children & Youth Services for the 2014-15 fiscal year, which is $8,000 less than the state provided the previous year, Smith said.
"The state's expectation is that the county (will provide the $8,000 that the state is no longer providing)," Blevins said. "Whether the county does that is up to the county commissioners."
In an interview, Bradford County Commissioner Daryl Miller said it is too early to determine the effects of the new state legislation on the day-to-day operations of Bradford County Children & Youth Services.
Those impacts, and what needs to be done to address them, will be discussed later this year when the county formulates its budget for 2015, he said.
The question of whether the county will provide the additional $8,000 will also be part of those discussions, Miller said.
Miller said he believes the commissioners could wait until those budget discussions to decide whether to provide the additional $8,000, since the state's 2014-15 fiscal year doesn't end until June 30, 2015.
NJ trails nation in validating child abuse claims
by Dino Flammia
Of the nearly 93,000 child abuse and neglect claims made in New Jersey during 2012, the most recent year for which state data are available, about 10 percent were ruled as valid complaints.
The state's substantiation rate, which is 8 percent lower than the national average, has been a concern of child advocates for nearly a decade. State officials, meanwhile, claim these numbers fail to produce “meaningful information.”
Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey, said it's hard to draw solid conclusions from the data, but the information raises some questions.
Taking an optimistic approach, Zalkind said the numbers could mean that a large volume of incoming complaints simply don't count as abuse and neglect. On the other hand, the low rate could mean that investigations are not as thorough as they should be, or that the standard for deciding what is maltreatment is very rigid.
“It might leave children at risk,” she said.
In the meantime, “routine” abuse reporters such as doctors and teachers are getting frustrated by the low percentage of substantiated cases, Zalkind suggested.
“If they make an allegation that they don't feel has been investigated, it's much harder to pick up the phone the next time and make a report,” she said.
In an emailed response, the state Department of Children and Families said comparing state child abuse complaint substantiation rates is an invalid comparison, as each state uses different standards.
More eyes needed on cases of multiple child abuse reports
The number of children in the custody of the Kansas Department for Children and Families is at record levels at a time when some child advocates say the state is too slow to remove children from homes where they are abused and neglected.
Reading between the lines could lead one to the conclusion that although the number of children in the state's care is at a record high, the number should be much higher still.
On the other hand, families have complained to this newspaper in the past that the state is too quick to remove children from their homes and, once taken into state custody, it is a long and arduous task to get them back. It's difficult to write about those incidents because, due to the reluctance of state officials to discuss specific cases, the newspaper hears only one side of the story.
But according to a recent story published in The Topeka Capital-Journal and at CJOnline, prosecutors who get a child-in-need-of-care case sometimes are surprised that the child's case had been investigated numerous times and someone each time had found the complaint of abuse or neglect to be unsubstantiated.
Such was the case of a 14-year-old girl who finally was removed from her home after nine reports of neglect and abuse, eight of which were determined unsubstantiated. The girl weighed 66 pounds when she was removed from the home.
Records show 94.8 percent of child-in-need-of-care investigations in 2009 resulted in a finding of “unsubstantiated.” For 2013, 93.5 percent of such cases resulted in a finding of “unsubstantiated.” That really isn't much change, although a spokeswoman for the Department of Children and Families says in child-in-need-of-care cases a substantiated claim isn't necessary to temporarily remove a child from a dangerous situation.
It's important to remember that behind the numbers — the children in state custody and the percent of unsubstantiated investigations — are children, many of whom need help through no fault of their own. Those who should be in their home should be there. Those who need help should get it.
Does the state sometimes act too quickly, as some parents have told this newspaper? Does the state sometimes act too slowly? Knowing that no system is perfect, common sense tells us the answer to both questions is yes.
The real question is how to improve the system so it gets better results. We're not suggesting that isn't the goal of the Kansas Department for Children and Families, but we will suggest that more eyes on a case that involves more than one complaint might be helpful. Regardless of how many different people have investigated a child's case, a lot of smoke usually indicates a fire somewhere.
The royal commission into child sexual abuse needs more time to do its job
Many individuals have found the pluck to speak truth to power, but 3,000 remain on a waiting list to give evidence. We must make time for them to share their stories
by Clair Moore
In November 2012 Julia Gillard, Jenny Macklin and Nicola Roxon announced the establishment of the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse.
The Labor government believed that heartbreaking allegations of child sexual abuse justified a royal commission. We also believed that the government must do everything it can to make sure what has happened in the past is never allowed to happen again.
Since it was established in January of last year, the royal commission has interviewed over 1,600 survivors of child sexual abuse, and received a similar number of written accounts of abuse. It made clear in its interim report out last month that if its reporting date is not extended by two years, then many survivors will be denied the opportunity to report their experiences, in particular those from vulnerable and hard-to-reach groups.
We are still waiting for the Abbott government to respond to that request.
In its interim report, the royal commission said this extension is essential for it to complete the public hearings to fulfilling its terms of reference. I am not surprised – the inquiry opened a floodgate. Courage begets courage. Initial public and private hearings encouraged others to come out of the silence. Around 3,000 people are on a waiting list to give evidence in closed session.
Bearing witness to so many cases of alleged abuse and getting a national perspective of such a complex part of Australia's history is huge. A comparable Irish Commission took nine years to conduct its inquiry.
Claims of sexual, physical and emotional abuse against vulnerable children and young people and a failure to report them to authorities have attracted widespread condemnation, as they should.
Heart-wrenching testimonials reveal themes of repeated abuse, multiple perpetrators and barriers to reporting the abuse. The royal commission's work has reminded us about fundamental power dynamics. All abuse, and its cover-up, is about power – the powerful against the powerless. Many individuals have found the pluck to speak truth to power and challenge the actions of those in authority.
We have learnt that institutions put under the spotlight have been shown, too often, to have hierarchical and secretive cultures of suffering that used power over others in ways that did damage, running counter to organisational missions to do good. Some of the stories are not decades old, but very recent and the ripple effects do not go away. When a child is abused, including while in the care of an institution, the impact can be devastating and profound. It can leave a legacy of trauma and distrust of authority for successive generations.
Because of the ground-breaking work of the commission to date, governments, institutions and the public can no longer claim ignorance about the effect of sexual abuse and the extent to which it impacts on sufferers' lives and their families.
In order to really address cultural problems and prevent the abuse we've been made aware of, the commission needs more time to do vital work to inform public policy. Now that commissioners are fully aware of the sheer scale of the problem, we must trust their judgement and grant them the resources and time needed to get on with the job, and do so comprehensively.
While the royal commission does not have the power to provide compensation or initiate prosecutions, it can refer cases to police with a view to their further investigation and prosecution. To address systemic issues and help change what are sick cultures and society-wide attitudes, commissioners must be well equipped to fulfil the terms of reference, identify best practices and recommend the laws, policies, practices and systems that will effectively prevent, or when it occurs, respond to the sexual abuse crimes against children in institutions.
As the inquiry moves to Tasmania for the first time, one expects others to come forward. Still, hearings cast light on many past failures but do not, on their own, deliver better policy in keeping with its terms of reference.
People are our best assets. Labor's primary interest is not just seeing that people are heard, healed and empowered, but that sound policy is developed to prevent the damage done to too many people over a long time. The Abbott government has already cut funding for this royal commission.
It is essential that the government commit the additional funding the commission needs to complete its important work. If it isn't, thousands of stories will remain unheard and justice will slip further away. No one wants shortcuts into matters as important as these.
There's a gender gap in bullying—watch it widen as kids grow up
by Steven Rich
Every other year, the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights is required to collect data on “key education and civil rights issues in our nation's public schools.” A few years ago, the survey grew to include reports of bullying and harassment.
An analysis of the 2011-2012 school year data show that disparities between bullying and harassment on the basis of sex increase between boys and girls as they progress through school. While girls at every level are harassed on the basis of their sex at a higher rate than boys, the disparities increase with age.
“Harassment or bullying on the basis of sex is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, such as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature,” according to a Department of Education definition. “Harassment or bullying on the basis of sex also includes gender-based, nonsexual harassing conduct, such as harassment based on gender stereotyping. This conduct can be carried out by school employees, other students, and non-employee third parties. Both male and female students can be victims of sexual harassment, and the harasser and the victim can be of the same sex.”
M iddle school is where the most reports of bullying or harassment are made for both genders. However, in a traditional high school (grades 9-12), reports of harassment are up to 56 percent higher for girls than their male counterparts, up from 34 percent in middle school (grades 6-8) and 20 percent in elementary school (grades 1-5).
The data is self-reported and likely understates the problem. Since the bullying and harassment question is new to the survey, the Office for Civil Rights reports that it's hard for some schools to provide accurate data.
For example, of the nearly 3,900 public schools in Florida, there were only 606 incidents in the data. Vermont, which has 295 public schools, reported 709 incidents over the same year.
There's also the issue of under-reporting among students. Many students never come forward to report being bullied for fear that it may make things worse.
The next collection, which took place this last school year, will likely be out in two years and will hopefully refine results as schools get used to the reporting requirements.
Prevent Child Abuse expands its efforts
by Susan Shinn
Thanks to two generous local grants, Prevent Child Abuse Rowan has hired two part-time employees, enabling the agency to serve more families than ever.
Executive director Beth Moore, who has been in her current position for five months, is still working to build awareness about the agency.
“I'm doing a lot of relationship building,” says Moore, 32. “I'm not from the area, but I'm working hard to learn the area.”
Along with added administrative duties, Moore still does all of the interviewing for suspected child abuse cases.
Thanks to Moore's efforts, the agency has doubled its caseload in the past year. Year-to-date, its total caseload is 111, versus 54 this time last year. Moore knows that cases that are reported are only a fraction of what's actually taking place in the community.
“We are trying to help as many children as possible,” she says.
This spring, Prevent Child Abuse Rowan received a $25,000 grant from the Woodson Foundation for a part-time in-house therapist, updated therapy room and supplies, and a $20,000 grant from the Robertson Family Foundation to fund a part-time prevention and education coordinator.
The agency's employees now include Moore, Cassandra Rankin, family advocate; Devon Grant, education and prevention coordinator; Erin Messmer, licensed professional counselor; and Matt Freeze, director of development. Moore and Rankin's salaries are paid by federal grants, and renewal is not guaranteed. Freeze's salary is covered by donations.
“Once kids come here and divulge information, I want to be able to work them into therapy immediately,” Moore says. The in-house therapist position now makes that possible.
As far as the second position, Moore says, “We really felt like the next-best thing we can do is to get ahead of abuse before it starts.”
Moore is exploring the possibility of doing child abuse prevention programs in schools, as well as for churches and day care centers.
Prevent Child Abuse Rowan was formed in 2001, and its offices are now housed in the Terrie Hess House on Woodson Street, just across from Salisbury Pediatrics. Dr. Kathleen Russo, a pediatrician with the practice, volunteers her time with the agency, which she helped found in 2005.
“These cases can be extremely difficult, but my job is to help the child and family,” Russo says. “I can do that best by approaching every case without any preconceived ideas or thoughts. Everyone has to be neutral and try obtain the facts. Medically, I look at the entire child, all aspects of their health including social, physical and emotional state. I do an interview with the child, perform a complete head-to-toe examination, review their pediatric health history, perform laboratory testing if necessary as well treatment. Usually, a mental health referral is then made.”
Moore is proud of the fact that the house is a non-traumatic, child-friendly, homey environment. The lobby is decorated in bright colors, with a big-screen television, books, dolls and comfy sofas and chairs.
“When the kids say they don't want to leave, we know we've done our job,” Moore says.
Every child who visits receives a blanket, stuffed animal and book to take home. Moore is always looking for donations of these items.
“We really need to reach out now,” Moore says, because she needs twice as many donations as she did last year.
During their visits, the children are also given snacks — juice boxes, cookies, crackers, and the like — and Moore's pantry is a bit sparse at the moment.
Moore does whatever she can to help children learn to cope when they return to their homes — whether that's giving them a blanket or a basketball or an item that interests them.
“Our goal is to ensure that each child has a happy and healthy childhood,” Moore says. “We want to turn a traumatized victim into an empowered survivor.”
Moore interviews children between ages 3 and 18, as well as young adults who may have developmental delays. Those interviews are taped for law enforcement, and are admissible in court when the child testifies. Abuse, she says, cuts across every racial and socioeconomic boundary.
“Nobody is immune to this,” she says. “We get very affluent people in our community, and we get people who've had rough lives. We see all types. Our goal is to stop the cycle of child abuse.”
She continues, “Children don't know it's bad, or it's the only positive affect they've ever had, and they think that's what they're supposed to do.”
The agency works with families until their cases go to court, which can sometimes take several years. This is a comfort to Det. Sara Benfield.
“I really do try to be there for families and the kids I come in contact with,” says Benfield, a member of the Sheriff Office's Special Victims Unit. “But there's always another case. The Terrie Hess House has more capacity to continue support on that emotional level. It's frustrating because you don't forget about those people. You don't.”
The agency's services are free to families.
“We see every child, regardless of the situation,” Moore says.
Although the agency is not associated with the court system, local law enforcement or the Department of Social Services, these groups work in concert.
“They have all been so wonderful, so supportive of us,” Moore says. “It's hard. They don't get paid very much and they work long hours. They're just amazing people, and we could not do it without them. The district attorney, the sheriff, the police chiefs — they're all behind us, and that means the world to us.”
A multidisciplinary team — comprised of members from all these agencies — meet once a month to go through cases together. That way, Moore says, fewer children fall through the cracks.
Paxton Butler agrees. Butler serves as the assistant district attorney for Rowan County, and represents that office in cases.
“It's a tremendous asset for us,” he says of Prevent Child Abuse Rowan. “It allows us all to work together. We are of the same mind about what's going on in a case. The sharing of information allows for better interviews, better follow-up with victims, and ultimately, better results.
“It really makes cases stronger from beginning to end. It's a tremendous tool.”
Butler likes the fact that children are interviewed at the Terrie Hess House.
“It's so much better for the children,” he notes. “Children don't belong at the courthouse or the police station. Everything there is designed to be intimidating. It lets us get to the truth much more efficiently.”
“For some kids,” she says, “that's a huge, safe haven for them. We don't have the facilities to make them feel comfortable, in talking about something that's so uncomfortable.”
More than anything else, Butler says, a victim's testimony is captured in that moment — and preserved. Child abuse cases can take years to go to court.
“You can see that small little face on the screen,” Butler says. “It makes a big difference, it truly does.”
Even though many of these cases don't go to trial, Butler says, the taped testimonies are powerful tools in his arsenal.
“If you can get a plea that's appropriate, you can save that child from going to trial,” he says. “That's a great result.”
For more information about Prevent Child Abuse Rowan, call 704-639-1700 or visit www.preventchildabuserowan.org. A list of the agency's current needs is available here.
Breaking the Silence
by T.J. Parker
EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) - Silence takes place in moments we can't bear. For Heather Falls, the silence was brought on by moments of fear.
When Heather was six, she was molested by a person she says know one would've thought.
"He was my stepfather," said Heather.
The molestation lasted into her teens.
It wouldn't be until she was 21-years-old when she would say something to someone. That someone was a therapist who called the police.
In 2008 her step father, Terry Garrett, was charged with four counts of child molestation. A guilty plea was accepted and he was sentenced to 18 years in prison.
Heather says she was promised he would serve at least half, but that was a promise she says wasn't kept.
"To find out that he had served just shy of five years that was like a shocker itself," said Heather. "That was like a total punch in the face. What do you mean he's out?"
Garrett spent five years at Newcastle Correctional Facility.
The department of corrections says he received an Associates degree, Bachelors degree, two vocational degrees, and earned good time credit.
Together it knocked off three-and-a-half years.
The D.O.C says it wasn't a discretionary move, but the law in Indiana allowed for it.
Vanderburgh County Prosecutor Mike Perry remembers the case. His big thing is these offenders are getting something out of their time in prison while the victims aren't.
"Our victims have to deal with what happened to them on a daily basis while these people are bettering themselves at the expense of the taxpayers," said Perry.
During Garrett's time at Newcastle, the law at the time said every day an inmate behaves they get a day off their sentence.
"In my opinion, they dropped the ball on this one because a molester in my opinion is one of the worst of the worst and he should've done his full sentence," said Perry.
Heather says she is moving forward and trying to speak out on behalf of others who have gone through what she has.
"I'm not a victim, but I am a survivor and in order to survive you have to overcome," said Heather.
We tried reaching out to Terry Garrett for a comment, but was unsuccessful.
Mike Perry gave some warning signs on how to know if someone could be a victim of sexual abuse.
One of them is if you see your child spending an abnormal amount of time with an adult other than a parent, look in to that.
If an adult figure is buying gifts, taking children on trips, that's another warning sign.
Perry also says a lot of time the offender is someone that's either a relative or a very close friend of the family.
Brainwashed, torn from her parents and abused from the age of four: Religious sex cult survivor tells her harrowing story
by Naomi Greenaway
Growing up inside The Children of God cult, Natacha Tormey was sexually abused, made to live in a compound and taught to fear the outside world.
At the age of 18 she escaped and now, eleven years later, she feels strong enough to tell her story.
'I was sexually abused from the age of four - on several occasions,' the cult survivor revealed as she poured her heart out to Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford on ITV's This Morning.
'It was a very sexualised environment. It started out innocently with the idea that anything done in love is OK, but it became more bizarre where husband and wives were expected to share their partners with others.
'Then it went one step further with flirty fishing - where women were told to use their bodies to win men (converts) to God, often in return for a donation.'
'I often saw adults doing things in the same room as me,' she revealed.
'I have very few happy childhood memories. The brief moments spent with my family, were few and far between,' said Natacha, who was forced to live in a compound with 150 other members in a variety of communes across South East Asia, East Africa and Europe.
'I have 12 siblings but we certainly weren't at the beach every day - we were behind high walls in a compound,' she recalled.
To make money, the cult would send the children out to beg. 'We'd go out fundraising and do shows. But we were taught to fear outside world,' said Natacha, whose parents are French-born.
'We were told there were two types of people - the nasty people were goats and nice people were sheep.
'But they told us that the majority had turned away from God and that we were the army of the end time.'
The cult's leader, David Berg, predicted that the world would come to an end at the end of the millennium, but died in 1994 before witnessing his prediction fail.
'They trained us to be elite soldiers who would be fighting the anti-christ. They told us we'd be blessed with lightning bolts from our eyes and have the ability to knock people dead with the touch of our hand. These were all the gifts we were meant to receive,' she said.
It's been 11 years since Natacha managed to escape from the cult and she's now happily married and been living in the UK for five years.
'I'm in contact with my parents and siblings,' she said. 'My parents left a couple of years ago.'
How does she have a normal relationship with them, given so much of her suffering was due to their decisions, she was asked.
'It's difficult - I went through many years of bitterness and hatred,' she admitted. 'But it's the understanding that they were victims in some sort of way too.
'That doesn't excuse everything but my main opinion now is that to hate and to be bitter would only make me unhappy and I'm not going to let the cult do that to me anymore so at some point for your own sanity you have to let go.'
The cult, which has now changed its name to The Family International, has denied any allegations of institutionalised abuse.
In a statement, read by This Morning's Eamonn Holmes, the cult said it had apolologised on a number of occasions to anyone who felt they were a victim of abuse.
The statement also expressed a 'zero tolerance' for abuse and said the cult permanently expelled any members who violated the policy.
Natacha did not comment, but responded to the statement with a wry smile.
The cult survivor has now documented the full story of her childhood in a book 'Born into the Children of God: My life in a religious sex cult and my struggle for survival on the outside'.
'It's been amazing and cathartic,' said Natacha. 'It's the final step in my healing process, to not feel I have to hide or feel shame about my past and trying to turn it into something good and encouraging for other people.'
Fugitive's girlfriend called cops on him
by Jamie Schram, Selim Algar and Larry Celona
A fugitive pedophile opened fire on officers in a Greenwich Village smoke shop Monday, wounding an NYPD detective and two US marshals before they shot him dead.
Authorities tracked Charles Mozdir — who had been on the lam since 2012 — to the West Fourth Street store after his girlfriend dropped a dime on him, sources told The Post.
The woman saw a segment about the child molester on John Walsh's TV show “The Hunt'' on Sunday night — and was so disgusted that she contacted authorities and gave them his cellphone number, they said.
Investigators narrowed down his phone's “pings'' to the heart of the Village, and a New York-New Jersey Regional Fugitive Task Force member spotted Mozdir on Monday afternoon.
Mozdir, 32, was working behind the counter of the bong-peddling Smoking Culture NYC store at 177 W. Fourth St. at around 1:10 p.m. when the officers rushed in.
But the tattooed pervert — who had grown long hair and a beard to disguise himself — pulled out his .32-caliber revolver and shot at them, cops said.
He got off about four rounds, hitting newly minted Detective Mario Muniz twice in his bulletproof vest and once below it, in his lower abdomen. The vest saved the life of 45-year-old Queens dad of three.
“I heard the screaming,'' said tattoo artist Dong Hwan Kim, 30, who works nearby. “[The detective] came out holding his belly. Other guys were holding it, too.”
The two US marshals, Pat Lin and Ryan Westfield, 34, also were wounded — one in his elbow, the other in his buttocks.
But they still got off about 10 shots at Mozdir, hitting him seven or eight times and killing him.
“I was in my apartment, and I heard, ‘Bang! Bang! Bang!'?” said an 85-year-old building resident who gave only his first name, Leo.
“I said, ‘Gee, it's late for the Fourth of July.'?”
Michael Brandow, 54, a writer who lives above The Slaughtered Lamb pub across the street, heard cops yelling, “Get off the street!''
“I thought it was a movie or ‘NYPD Blue,'?'' he said. “It kinda made me sick when I realized it wasn't a TV show.”
Mozdir was loaded to kill.
“He had 20 additional rounds of ammunition in his pocket,” said NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton at Bellevue Hospital, after visiting the wounded officers.
One bullet caused serious injury to Muniz, who needed surgery Monday night but still managed to speak afterward to his mother, Carmen.
“I told him I love him, I love him — and he said he loved me too,” she said of their conversation at Bellevue. “He's stable, and the doctors all said he is doing great.”
She her son, the father of two boys and a girl, had been helping care for her since she suffered a heart attack.
“As a mother, I was always afraid of something happening,” she said.
Westfield's neighbors in Livingston, NJ, said they were pulling for the hero, whom they' often see walking his two boxers.
“We hope he's home soon,” said next-door neighbor Grace Marinello, 61.
Mozdir had been the target of a nationwide manhunt after a family friend accused him of molesting her son while the child lay sick in bed in Coronado, Calif., in June 2012.
It was the second such case against him, investigators said, and they discovered child porn and bestiality videos in his home.
They found his vehicle abandoned, its license plates ripped off and a container of gas inside, in Darien, Ga., later that June.
Acting on a tip that he might have fled to Mexico, authorities searched Baja California but found nothing.
They knew he had extensive search-and-rescue training, was capable of living off of the land and was familiar with firearms. He had at least one gun registered to him and another in his possession.
It turned out he had been hiding in Key West, Fla. He moved to Manhattan months ago, sources said.
Authorities got a tip that he was working in a restaurant in New York after CNN's “The Hunt” aired an episode about him on July 20, sources said. But the lead went nowhere.
The show then aired the episode again Sunday, and afterward, Mozdir's gal pal called authorities.
Mozdir had gone from a clean-cut, baby-faced man to a grizzly, long-haired oaf, and by the time the task force found him, “he looked nothing like his picture on TV,'' a source said.
An undercover cop spotted him in the store, then called for backup before trying to nab him.
Three teenage girls said they saw Mozdir last week staring at them as they waited on line to get into a local swimming pool. He was wearing Army-fatigue pants, a white T-shirt and dark glasses, they said.
“He just stopped and stared with his hands in his pockets,” said Shavonnie Moorer, 16.
Her friend Laneasia Holmes, also 16, added, “We were really scared until we went inside.”
But a neighbor who frequents the shop described Mozdir as seemingly “a good person,” adding, “He always said hi to me, and when I brought my daughter in, he'd say hi to her.”
Fears can be inherited through smell
Mouse study explains how specific fears can be inherited from parental figures, even when mother and child aren't related
by Arielle Duhaime-Ross
When researchers look at trauma, they don't just look at the lives of those who experience traumatic events. Often, they turn their attention to offspring, because numerous studies, some conducted on the children of Holocaust survivors, have shown that parents can pass symptoms of trauma onto their kids. This is called "intergenerational trauma," and although it's been described in academic literature, researchers still don't fully understand how it occurs. One idea is that symptoms like anxiety and depression can be passed down through changes in gene expression in sperm. But what of specific fears, like a fear of dentists? How do they make their way into the psyche?
According to a new study, published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , the mechanism might be scent — at least when the fear occurs in mice. "We found that the mother that expresses fear in the presence of their newborn pups passes her fear to her pups through scent," says Jacek Debiec, a psychiatrist at The University of Michigan and a co-author of the study. "And these fears are long-lasting."
In the study, Debiec and his team exposed adult female mice to the smell of peppermint, a "neutral" scent, while giving them mild electric shocks. This produced long-term fear response in the female mice that researchers were then able to trigger using peppermint. Then, the researchers matched the mice with males who hadn't undergone the fear conditioning, so they could mate.
The peppermint triggered a fear response in the pups too
"Once the pups were born, we exposed them and their mothers to the peppermint odor," Debiec says. The fear that the mothers expressed in the presence of the pups helped the newborns learn to fear peppermint as well. And eventually, Debiec says, "it also triggered fear in the pups when the mother wasn't around."
But that experiment alone wasn't enough to explain how the mothers were transmitting fears onto their pups. So, the researchers separated the mothers from their pups so that only their scent could reach the pups. This made sense, because newborn mice are "underdevelopped" compared to human babies, Debiec says, meaning their eyes and ears aren't fully functional. And the experiment worked: the pups learned to fear peppermint even when they couldn't see or hear their mothers — and even after they were weaned.
"Once they learned the fear response through scent, the pups avoided the peppermint odor," Debiec says, or froze in fear. Moreover, to make sure that changes in gene expression in the mother weren't contributing to the fear transmission, the researchers used foster mothers. Even when the mothers weren't related to the pups, the results were unchanged.
Even when the mothers weren't related to the pups, the results were unchanged
"Newborns don't really make much of their own experience in their surrounding environments," Debiec says. "But fear responses can still be passed down." This might seem like a huge disadvantage for the pups, but it's actually considered a fairly efficient way of learning about the world. "It's ecologically important that pups acquire information about fears outside of the nest before by being exposed to [the mother's] fear before they leave it," he says. The problem only arises when this also applies to things like PTSD or a fear of dentists, Debiec says, "because it's exaggerated."
The researchers think that the association between the fear response and the peppermint occurs through elevated blood corticosterone, a hormone that's equivalent to human cortisol. "We found that exposure to the frightened mom significantly elevated these levels," Debiec says.
It's too early to know how this experiment applies to humans, because it's still unclear to what extent humans use chemicals to communicate with each other. And conducting a similar study in humans isn't feasible because the ethics behind it would be extremely questionable. Still, Debiec says, the idea that a mother can pass her fears down to her offspring in a long-term fashion is important.
"Learning is usually short-lived in human and non-human infants; it's what we can ‘infantile amnesia,'" Debiec says. As a result, newborn mice rarely remember what they learn when they're in a pre-weaning state. But, similar to fears that arise after a child experiences abuse, the fear response triggered by the peppermint persisted — something that Debiec says points to how powerful parental influence can be.
Rachel Yehuda, a psychiatrist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York who did not participate in the study, told The Verge in an email that Debiec's findings are "very interesting," but she didn't find them altogether surprising. "Those of us who have studied populations such as adult children of Holocaust survivors have seen evidence of, and have attempted to describe, this kind of transmission in the clinical arena," she said. Still, she said, the study is valuable because it includes the type of molecular analysis that would not be possible in living human brains.
"It took the field a while to even believe this was a legitimate phenomenon," Yahuda said, but the science of intergenerational transmission is now increasingly accepted. This is a good thing, she said, because identifying the brain changes that result from such transmission could play a crucial role in helping people understand the impact of parental experiences. "Your fears are not only a response to your personal challenges," Yahuda said, "but those that your parents had as well."
Shining a brighter light on child sexual abuse in Delaware
by Beau Biden
Nothing is more important than keeping our kids safe. It's why I first ran for attorney general, and it is something that we have focused on every day in the Department of Justice.
In the 20 years since the federal Violence Against Women Act became law and started shining a bright light on domestic violence, rates of domestic violence have been reduced by more than half. We must shine an even brighter light on child sexual abuse.
No one likes talking about pedophilia and predators who want to hurt our kids, but we have no choice. Children cannot protect themselves, and very young children, who are often the target of predators, in many cases are unable to speak for themselves. As adults, we all have a responsibility to protect children and take action when we believe a child is being abused. Delaware law, in fact, requires any adult or organization who "knows or in good faith suspects" that a child is being abused to immediately call the state's Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-292-9582. Failure to report child abuse can result in significant penalties.
Simply having a reporting law on the books is not enough – we have to make Delaware adults aware of the law and, just as importantly, educate adults about the signs of abuse. That's why, in 2011, my office partnered with Prevent Child Abuse Delaware and the YMCA to bring the Darkness to Light Foundation's "Stewards of Children" program to Delaware.
"Stewards of Children" training sessions teach adults how to spot the signs of child abuse and the importance of immediately reporting the abuse to authorities. So far, nearly 14,000 Delawareans have received this training, and we will be training thousands more. Getting more adults to go through the "Stewards of Children" training is the single biggest step we can take to protect more kids from abuse in Delaware.
"Stewards of Children" does not pull any punches; it may make you uncomfortable. But you will better understand, after receiving this training, how often child abuse occurs in our communities and how critically important it is to report child sexual abuse.
The training includes a video with testimony from survivors, including former Miss America Marilyn Van Derbur. Marilyn reveals the abuse she suffered at the hands of her father and recounts an opportunity her mother had to catch her father molesting her and end her trauma. Instead of intervening, Marilyn's mother ignored the abuse she knew was happening – "I believe she made a choice, and she didn't chose me," Marilyn says in the video. One of the reasons that child sexual abuse is so under-reported is that, in cases like Marilyn's, it is so hard for a person to believe that a child they love is being abused by a person they also love.
The bright light we are shining on child abuse in Delaware is producing results. Reports of suspected child abuse to our Child Abuse Hotline have increased substantially – the hotline received 17,232 calls in fiscal year 2013, more than double the 8,512 received in fiscal year 2008. When we first brought "Stewards of Children" training to Delaware, statistics showed that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys would be abused, but only 10 percent of child victims would report their abuse. The Darkness to Light Foundation now estimates that 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused – still far too many – and the vast majority of abuse cases still will not be reported to authorities.
Over the past seven and a half years, we have taken many important additional steps to strengthen the fight to protect kids and give law enforcement more tools to stop predators, such as:
• Creating the Child Predator Task Force in 2007, putting police and prosecutors side-by-side to track down the worst of society. The Task Force is closing in on 200 convictions, and through its work, 120 children have been rescued from abusive situations;
• Imposing tough new mandatory prison sentences for those who deal in child pornography, because trading in child pornography magnifies the harm suffered by children;
• Creating the Child Victims Unit in my office last year to focus solely on cases that involve child deaths or life-threatening injuries to children;
• Changing state law in 2012 to establish the specific crime of child abuse and better protect the youngest children and children with disabilities from abuse;
• Tightening Delaware law this year to target predators who solicit young victims online. The first arrests made using the new law occurred this past week and included one defendant who allegedly traveled from New Jersey to Dover to meet and assault a child he met online (fortunately, the defendant actually met an undercover police officer posing as a child).
These tools will be most effective when combined with the thousands of Delawareans who are watching out for kids and reporting suspected abuse.
Even in tough budget years, such as this one, we need to make sure the necessary resources are available to act on reported cases of abuse and track down predators. The Joint Finance Committee this year appropriated funds to add a second prosecutor to our Child Predator Task Force. And, I am supporting Sen. Chris Coons' legislation that reauthorizes the federal Victims of Child Abuse Act that restores funding for Child Advocacy Centers, which are critical partners to law enforcement in the effort to help abused kids talk about their abuse to authorities.
We have seen the progress that can be made when society commits to shining a bright light on a crime like domestic violence, and we are seeing the beginning of what can be accomplished if we continue shining that bright light on child abuse.
As adults, we have a legal and moral obligation to stand up and speak out for children who are being abused – they cannot speak for themselves. Learn to spot the signs of child abuse by enrolling in the "Stewards of Children Training." Again, if you suspect a child is being abused, call the Delaware Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-292-9582.
Beau Biden is Delaware's attorney general.
Child abuse reporting steadily increasing in midstate
by Ben Allen
(Harrisburg) -- Across 15 midstate counties, child abuse reports have steadily increased in the past five years, though the increases vary throughout the midstate.
In Lebanon County, child abuse reports increased by 46 cases between 2009 and 2013.
Over the same time span, York County went from 1,093 to 1,320, and Lancaster County surged from 803 in 2009 to 1,117. In Berks, reports skyrocketed about 30 percent over that time frame.
Abuse reports in Perry fell by 12 in five years, and Cumberland and Union Counties saw decreases of just a handful of reports.
Todd Lloyd, Child Welfare Policy Director at the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, says the Jerry Sandusky case raised awareness.
"This is why I think some of the recent high profile cases that have been noted in the media and people have been hearing about this, the more I think they're recognizing what abuse is and becoming more willing to report it."
"Honestly, I think we are a long way away from people over-reporting. We still see instances here of under-reporting. We go out to do training at places where you would think this is commonly understood," says Deborah Harrison, Executive Director of York County Children's Advocacy Center.
She says educating the public about the issue is important because some people may not report abuse because they don't recognize it.
Harrison says employees in many child care centers often don't fully understand the law, and she often has to explain it's against state law for a superior to interfere with reporting child abuse.
She and other advocates say reporting starts an investigation and doesn't necessarily implicate anyone.
"[Filing a report] will provide an opportunity to provide services to families that maybe aren't getting them today. And the hope then would be that we're actually reducing instances of child abuse. We're actually preventing the abuse from ever occurring," says Lloyd at the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children.
He says taking that step, whether anonymously or not, can give groups the power to go in and address the problem.
Wendy Hoverter, the Administrator for Cumberland County's Children and Youth Services, echoes Lloyd.
"There's a lot of prevention we can do with that family. There's a lot of services we can offer to prevent the next injury from being worse. They're really aiding efforts in prevention."
The percentage of reports that have been substantiated by investigators has generally held steady across the midstate over the past five years.
A new, expanded definition of child abuse takes effect soon in the commonwealth.
Starting December 31st, child abuse will be bodily injury, plain and simple.
Currently, the definition requires severe pain or impairment of a child's functioning.
Experts say because of the change, the number of reports from 2014 and earlier should not be compared to previous numbers after this year.
Under other approved legislation, mandated reporters will also have to inform law enforcement about a problem, not just their supervisors.
Meanwhile, a recent survey found that few in Pennsylvania think child abuse is a "serious problem."
Is Ranch Life A Form Of Child Abuse? This Farm Girl Responds.
by Amanda Radke
A few weeks ago, I sat in the doctor's office with my 6-week-old daughter, Scarlett, and watched as her pediatrician walked her through the various tests to check her development during her well-baby appointment. Admittedly, I was a little nervous for this appointment, but I had good reason -- she was going to get three routine shots that day, and this first-time mama wasn't quite sure how her little princess would take it.
When her doctor noticed my admittedly very protective, watchful eye as she held my baby, she reminded me that I couldn't treat Scarlett like a delicate flower her whole life.
“You'll have to toughen her up, Amanda,” she advised me. “Let Dad rough-house with her. Let her get into scrapes. She can't be a princess forever.”
Then, I reminded her that Scarlett was going to grow up to be a tough farm girl, and I highly doubted she would be treated like a porcelain doll for too long.
“Oh, well that changes everything,” the doctor said.
You bet it does! Growing up as a farm kid myself, it didn't matter that I was a girl when it came time for doing hard work, and it will be the same when Scarlett gets big enough to help outside, too. Ranch kids develop a strong work ethic, sense of responsibility, appreciation for land and animals, and an understanding of where their food comes from that would be hard to teach anyplace else. I feel lucky and blessed to have grown up that way, and I'm excited to pass those lessons on to my daughter, as well.
But would some see this manual labor as a form of child abuse?
That's exactly what Emily Jackson, blogger at “A Farm Girl's Fight,” discovered one day when she came across another online commentator who wrote, “Farmers are awful people who often take advantage of underage children, often their own, forcing them into a life of work and learning of inhumane ways."
Jackson responded with a very good blog post entitled, “Farms: The Abuse Of Children.” Here is an excerpt:
The daunting task of feeding calves EVERY SINGLE night taught me responsibility.
The unforgiving smell of manure on my tennis shoes in math class taught me humility.
The field full of hay bales that had to be loaded on a trailer then unloaded in a barn taught me work ethic.
The stubbornness of cattle not wanting to move pens taught me the value of team work.
Newborn calves born in the snow who just didn't want to eat taught me gentle patience.
Sorting 2,000-lb. bulls before I got into kindergarten taught me courage.
And, at the end of the day, the sunset beaming streams of warmth down on a green field full of cows taught me happiness.
Jackson echoes my sentiments about having to work on a farm as a little girl when she writes, “In any light, however, my conclusion is this: yes, as a child I was forced to work on my family's farm. Looking back, I wouldn't have it any other way. And one day I hope to raise my children the exact same way.”
What are your thoughts about kids helping on the farm? At what age is it appropriate to have them start helping with different tasks on the ranch? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below.
Questions linger after missing teen returns home
by Lynn Tuohy
NORTH CONWAY, N.H. (AP) — Since 15-year-old Abigail Hernandez returned home last week, her photo has been taken off the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's website. The missing-person posters that hung in her hometown for nine months are now scrawled with "Found." Her mother says she and her family are "the happiest people on earth."
But investigators are left with questions about how and why Abby vanished after leaving her high school in Conway on Oct. 9 and who may have helped conceal her for so long. Law enforcement officers have repeatedly asked for the public's help but have revealed very little.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young, who heads the criminal bureau, said law enforcement is still devoting a tremendous amount of time and resources to unravel the mystery.
Based on Abby's description, authorities released a sketch of the man she says drove her away last October year, but they're still trying to determine whether she went willingly or was coerced.
"We continue to say we have a number of questions we don't have answers to," Young said.
Young won't comment on Abby's degree of cooperation into the investigation.
Abby's family released a statement Friday night, saying she has been undergoing medical treatment.
"Right now, Abby is resting, extremely tired and in deteriorated health, and has lost a lot of weight," they said in the statement, obtained by the Boston Globe. "She is working to build her strength back and we hope soon she will be back on solid foods."
Police revealed several months ago that Abby had written home to her mother during her disappearance. When the letter surfaced, FBI Special Agent In Charge Kieran Ramsey said Abby could have run away willingly or someone could could still be coercing her into staying away from home.
Bob Lowery, vice president of the missing-children division at the NCMEC, said Abby's return after such a long disappearance is "unusual but not unprecedented."
"Realistically, the longer children are gone, the likelihood they're going to be found diminishes," Lowery said.
In 2012, NCMEC took on 10,689 missing-children cases and helped resolve all but 81 of them. In most instances, the child was unharmed.
In Abby's case, there must be a lot going on behind the scenes that the public doesn't know about, said Albert "Buzz" Scherr, who teaches criminal law at the University of New Hampshire School of Law.
"You never get cases like this where you're at the end game of the case, and it's completely unclear what happened," Scherr said.
Potential criminal charges in the case could include kidnapping, impeding an investigation or hindering apprehension or prosecution "if there are people out there who knew more than what they told police to cover for Abby," Scherr said.
Young said investigators had no evidence of foul play but worked countless hours to find Abby because "she went dark."
"A child cannot do this on their own with this level of sophistication to stay off the grid," Young said last week. "Especially a child of this age — they live through phones and social media."
At the request of colleagues at the Massachusetts-based Mission for the Missing organization, retired New Hampshire State Police Lt. John Healy examined letters and other written statements issued over the past nine months by Abby's parents, who live apart.
"In none of the letters did I detect any sense of fear or desperation," Healy said. "My sense is they strongly suspected she was gone voluntarily. Law enforcement obviously couldn't reach the same conclusion and say, 'We're done with this.'"
Exclusive: Feds Struggling to Cope With Medical ‘Breakdown' at the Border
by Jim Avila
The federal government is so overwhelmed by the current tide of migrants crossing the border It can't provide basic medical screening to all of the children before transporting them – often by air – to longer-term holding facilities across the country, ABC News has learned.
The director of refugee health in the federal Health and Human Services Department “has identified a breakdown of the medical screening processes at the Nogales, Arizona, facility,” according to an internal Department of Defense memo reviewed by ABC News. The “breakdown” a systemic failure of the handoff of these children between CBP and HHS.
Inside the government, officials are sounding alarms, fearing that they and their teams who come in contact with the sick children face potential exposure to infectious diseases from chicken pox to influenza, including rare cases of H1N1, more commonly called swine flu.
Two unaccompanied children were flown from Nogales to California despite having 101-degree fevers and flu-like symptoms, according to the Department of Defense memo. Those children had to be hospitalized.
The memo said pointedly that officials in charge of moving the immigrants from Border Patrol processing centers to Health and Human Services facilities are “putting sick [fevers and coughing] unaccompanied children on airplanes inbound for [Naval Base Ventura County] in addition to the chicken pox and coxsackie virus cases.”
The document said three other kids were in the ICU at local hospitals in California, and two of them were diagnosed with strep pneumonia.
Less than a week later, that same Ventura Naval Base suffered an outbreak of pneumonia and influenza among the unaccompanied minors inside the shelter.
“Preliminary reports indicate that several unaccompanied minors in the shelter had become ill with what appears to be pneumonia and influenza,” according to a statement from the Administration for Children and Families at Health and Human Services.
HHS told ABC News the children were supposed to be screened for sickness before leaving the Border Patrol screening centers.
“When the children arrive at U.S. border stations,” the ACF statement read, “they are screened for health problems and given medical treatment if needed.”
But, according to the memo ABC News reviewed, “Curi Kim [the HHS director of the Division of Refugee Health] has identified a breakdown of the medical screening processes at the Nogales, Arizona, facility. The [unaccompanied children] were initially screened and cleared upon entry into that facility with no fever or significant symptoms. They were not however re-screened and cleared for travel and placement at a temporary shelter.”
While confirming to ABC News the outbreak occurred, HHS would not respond to inquiries about the DOD memo showing sick children were knowingly sent to Naval Base Ventura prior to the outbreak.
“My biggest concerns are with the health of these children,” said Richard Besser, ABC News' chief health and medical editor. “They are victims going through incredibly stressful circumstances and some will have health issues that need to be treated. Some come from countries that don't vaccinate against pneumonia or meningitis. They need those vaccines. Some come from countries where it is flu season. They need that vaccine, too. The big health risks are among these children, not to our communities.”
Once kids are in HHS custody they receive exams and vaccinations, and are screened for tuberculosis, according to ACF, but more serious illnesses such as meningitis and polio are of little concern for causing an outbreak.
“Children from this region of the world participate in comprehensive childhood vaccination programs, similar to the United States, and are generally well protected from most vaccine-preventable diseases,” ACF said in a statement.
Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras each have rates of vaccination against preventable illnesses such as polio, tuberculosis, measles and pertussis consistent with the United States, according to the World Health Organization.
Immigration crisis: Tuberculosis spreading at camps
by Todd Starnes
Are the thousands of illegal immigrant kids housed in detention facilities happy and well fed -- or are they living in disease-infested compounds shrouded in secrecy?
Well, it depends on who you ask.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) seems to think the children coming across the southern border are remarkably healthy. It's a sentiment shared by BCFS -- the Texas-based agency formerly known as Baptist Child & Family Services contracted to run camps at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio and Fort Sill in Oklahoma.
More than 7,000 children have been processed through the two camps, according to a BCFS official. They allege that only 119 children have been treated for lice, 22 for scabies, and one for the H1N1 Flu. BCFS says the most common illnesses seen at Lackland are fever, headache, upper respiratory cold and ingrown toenails.
However, at least a half dozen anonymous sources, including nurses and health care providers who worked at Lackland, allege that the government is covering up what they believe to be a very serious health threat.
Several of my sources tell me that tuberculosis has become a dangerous issue at both the border and the camps.
"The amount of tuberculosis is astonishing," one health care provider told me. "The nurses are telling us the kids are really sick. The tuberculosis is definitely there."
Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner David Lakey, M.D. says state health officials have seen only three cases of tuberculosis, the Associated Press reports. One of my sources with close ties to the Texas HHS tells me all three cases were reported in Austin.
However, nurses at Lackland in San Antonio, said they know of at least four teenagers in their camp who have tuberculosis.
"The nurses are telling us the kids are really sick," the source told me. "The tuberculosis is definitely there."
My source said there are children showing classic tuberculosis symptoms -- spitting up blood, a constant cough and chest pain.
BCFS officials deny that any child at Lackland has been diagnosed with TB and the state health commissoner downplayed the health threat. While confirming their had been three cases of TB, Lakey said it was not unusual, the Associated Press reported.
Dr. Marc Siegel, a professor of medicine at New York University's Langone Medical Center and a Fox News A Team medical contributor, said tuberculosis appears to be spreading through several counties in southern Texas. He told me that some counties are reporting twice the usual average number of cases.
"Some of the tuberculosis that comes from Central America is drug resistant," he told me. "It's not easier to spread but it is harder to treat. I'm concerned about that."
And while, TB is not that easy to spread, he warned that all those children living in close quarters could be a ticking time bomb.
"It is a disease that needs to be carefully monitored and screened for -- something that is not possible under the current circumstances," Siegel said.
HHS released a statement neither confirming nor denying what the nurses are telling me: "When unaccompanied children come into the Department of Health and Human Services program, they are given a well-child exam and given all needed childhood vaccinations to protect against communicable diseases,” the statement read. “They are also screened for tuberculosis, and receive a mental health exam. If children are determined to have any communicable disease or have been exposed to a communicable disease, they are placed in a program or facility that has the capacity to quarantine."
This is the same HHS that previously denied there were any cases of scabies. They make it sound as if there are very few health problems among the illegals. They even downplay the lice epidemic -- just 119 “officially confirmed” cases.
“They are lying,” one nurse told me. “We treated that many kids with lice on a given day. We would put 20 kids in front of us – 10 in each row. You could see the bugs crawling through their hair.”
Another former staff member told me it was like working in a giant emergency room.
“They had children in the infirmary that had been there several days,” the former staffer told me. “You were on your feet nonstop. They had chicken pox, measles, and there was a concern strep was spreading.”
BCFS denied any of the children had the measles. They said public health authorities “have inspected our facility and had access to freely converse with our medical staff and children.”
Health care providers tell me the Lackland facility is like a giant orphanage. And while lice and scabies abound -- they warn that the bigger problem lurking is tuberculosis.
"Lice and scabies are fixable," a nurse said. "TB is the real problem here."
It's impossible to know the full extent of the communicable diseases that have come and are coming across the border. Nurses and other care givers tell me they've been told to keep their mouths shut. Those caught divulging information are subject to immediate dismissal -- and all my sources said they were told they could also be arrested.
BCFS won't even allow random inspections of their facilities by the media or members of Congress.
Oklahoma Rep. Jim Bridenstein was denied access last week to the HHS facility at Fort Sill – another facility run by BCFS.
“There is no excuse for denying a federal representative from Oklahoma access to a federal facility in Oklahoma where unaccompanied children are being held,” the congressman said in a statement.
Bridenstein said he was told that unannounced visitors are not allowed – even if they are elected officials – and that he would have to make an appointment to visit the facility.
“What are they trying to hide?” he asked. “Do they not want the children to speak with members of Congress?”
He was told to come back for a pre-arranged and heavily scripted dog-and-pony-show tours -- but those events were fact-free fact-finding missions. I'd say the congressman has a better chance of getting into GITMO.
BCFS blames HHS for the shroud of secrecy. Sources within the organization tell me they've been ordered not to talk to the media and not to let anyone inside the camps.
In spite of everything my sources are telling, a BCFS representative describes the facility at Lackland as a place where children are happy, well-fed and engaged in daily activities.
Meanwhile, several San Antonio pastors who dropped by unannounced at the Lackland camp, have shared with me a rather unsettling discovery. The ministers told me the facility was under heavy guard from security personnel.
To be honest, we have no idea what's going on at that fenced facility but I have a feeling it's not good.
Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary, heard on hundreds of radio stations. Sign up for his American Dispatch newsletter, be sure to join his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter. His latest book is "God Less America."
Will Immigrants Make You Sick?
by Peter Lipson
The current immigration “problem” has got people fired up. Protesters are yelling at buses full of American kids, accusing undocumented child immigrants of every imaginable ill deed, from stealing jobs to using scarce resources to spreading disease.
The first two can be argued, the last not so much. Travelers from abroad can bring in some unpleasant illnesses whether or not they are immigrants. The actual risk is has been mendaciously bantered about by some politicians.
Two factors have already lowered borders that once held back the spread of some infections: rapid global travel and trade, and climate change. Global travel helped spread the HIV virus, and trade brought West Nile virus to the U.S.. Trade can also spread food-borne illnesses like infectious diarrhea, but so can domestic foods. Few would argue that travel and trade should be eliminated as a method of disease control, although we can certainly develop precautions based on experience. Climate change is helping nasty diseases such as Dengue Fever and Chikengunya make their way into the U.S., and other than closing the borders completely it's not clear to me how halting immigrant children at the border helps mitigate the danger.
Screening immigrants for vaccine-preventable diseases is a good policy and allows for vaccination for susceptible people, however many recent outbreaks of diseases like measles and mumps have been imported by Americans traveling abroad and returning to communities with poor vaccination rates. Vaccination of Americans is a priority for both domestic and imported risks.
Dr. Marc Siegel's piece on the Fox News website is typical of the hyperbolic and frankly incorrect, ignorant, and inflammatory rhetoric from the right. He harkens back to the early 20th century when immigrants where excluded from the country for medical reasons. No doubt many of these were good choices, but disease was an excuse often used by nativists and eugenicists to exclude ethnic groups they disliked. The Johnson Immigration Act of 1924 leveled fines against steamship lines that allowed in
any alien afflicted with idiocy, insanity, imbecility, feeble-mindedness, epilepsy, constitutional psychopathic inferiority, chronic alcoholism, tuberculosis in any form, or a loathsome or dangerous contagious disease.
That's pretty broad and open to a lot of subjective judgement.
Siegel calls out some specific diseases he thinks Central American immigrant children are importing. Scabies is an unpleasant skin disease caused by small mites that burrow into the skin. It's relatively common in the US, especially among people living in crowded and un-hygeinic conditions, but it is not confined to any particular socio-economic class. It requires prolonged skin-to-skin contact for transmission, but can also be transmitted from inanimate objects. The mites can only live for a few days off the body, so object-to-person transmission (“fomites”) is not very efficient.
He also calls out drug-resistant tuberculosis. This dangerous disease is thankfully still relatively rare in the US. Imported cases are a concern, but Central America is not a hotbed of T B.
Scabies and TB are most efficiently spread in crowded conditions, like those immigrants are held in if not sent out into the general population. Keeping immigrants confined increases the risk of these diseases.
Siegal also mentions a few vanishingly rare diseases such as Hansen's Disease (leprosy), another not-easily spread infection.
Ignorant and/or mendacious accusations like these inflame fears and hatred but do little to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Most of these diseases are social, not individual problems and require social solutions. One of these is to completely close our borders to immigration, travel and trade. Since this is insane, a better policy is to screen recent immigrants for important contagious diseases and see that they get vaccinations and proper treatment, including, if needed, isolation from crowded centers. Educating and vaccinating our own people is also essential.
Disease is a lousy excuse for excluding whole classes of people entering the US and fanning those flames simply incites fear and hatred.
Immigration Advocate: Sick Children Not Receiving Medicine At Detention Center
ARTESIA, N.M. (AP) — Immigration advocates who were allowed to visit a New Mexico detention center say women there are complaining that children aren't getting proper medical care and people are being deported before they can see a lawyer.
Officials with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have not responded to emails and phone calls seeking comment on the allegations, which echo complaints advocates have been voicing for weeks about the treatment of people accused of crossing into the country illegally to escape drug gangs and poverty in Central America
Tannia Esparza, executive director of Young Women United, says the women she visited in Artesia Tuesday told her children with coughs and diarrhea aren't receiving medicine. She also says women told her pregnant detainees were targeted for swift deportation.
Esparza visited the Artesia complex Tuesday with representatives of other groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the New Mexico Immigration Law Center.