Arrest made in 6-year-old girl's slaying
SEATTLE — A 17-year-old boy was arrested Saturday in the death of 6-year-old Jenise Wright, who went missing last week in Washington, authorities say.
The teenager, whose name was not released, will be charged with second degree murder, first degree manslaughter and rape, according to Kitsap County Sheriff's Lt. Earl Smith.
No exact cause of death was immediately released.
Smith said at a news conference Saturday afternoon that deputies and FBI agents arrested the boy at his home without incident. The teen lived in the same Bremerton-area mobile home park as the girl.
Sheriff's Office spokesman Scott Wilson said he wasn't sure if the suspect and Jenise knew each other.
The Washington state crime lab made positive confirmation of the suspect through forensic evidence. Earlier in the week, the sheriff's office had collected DNA cheek swabs from dozens of nearby residents.
The family of Jenise Wright was notified of the arrest about an hour after it took place. A growing memorial at the entrance to the neighborhood includes silver balloons, stuffed animals, lit candles and flowers.
"There's a lot of grief," Wilson told The Seattle Times.
Jenise's body was was discovered near Still Creek mobile home park, where her family last saw her a week ago when she went to bed. She was reported missing the next day, Sunday, launching a search with more than 100 people and 15 agencies, including the FBI.
The Kitsap Sun reports that he says the little girl's mother, Denise Wright, wanted to thank the search and law enforcement personnel who have worked on the case. The girl's father, James Wright, issued a statement through Byron, saying that he hopes "something positive can come from this tragedy."
"She was a happy child, a bright light for those around her," Smith said.
Wilson said searchers were re-canvassing the area where the body was found in search of more clues.
"We're going to be at this. We've been at this since Monday. We're going to continue at this all day, all night, all weekend. We're not giving up," said Wilson. "Nobody's going home."
The FBI's Specialty Search Dogs Unit discovered the body after volunteer canine search teams reported their dogs showed interest in a particular area.
Jenise Wright's father was charged more than a decade ago with molesting two girls, ages 8 and 15, court records show.
Wright, was charged with first-degree child molestation in February 2000, accused of molesting an 8-year-old girl following a New Year's Eve celebration, according to court records. The girl told a detective and case worker that Wright inappropriately touched her.
More than a year later, in June 2001, the charges were amended to include third-degree child molestation after a 15-year-old girl who was babysitting the girl on that same New Year's Eve said that Wright touched her breasts and put his hands down her pants, according to court documents.
In December 2001, Wright pleaded guilty in Whatcom County Superior Court to a misdemeanor assault charge related to the older girl. It was not immediately clear why the molestation charges were dropped.
He eventually pleaded guilty in Whatcom County Superior Court in December 2001 to a misdemeanor assault charge related to the older girl. It was not immediately clear why the molestation charges were dropped. Prosecutors there did not return calls.
A judge in Whatcom County Superior Court sentenced Wright to a year in jail but suspended the entire jail term on the condition that he follow certain conditions, including paying fees.
President Obama's management of border crisis is reasonable, legal
by Linda Kelly
INDIANAPOLIS — Far from today's near-militarized U.S.-Mexico border, rural southwest Indiana recently was ground zero for undocumented children from Mexico and Central America.
From 2004 to 2010, the federal government contracted with a privately owned juvenile detention facility in Vincennes, Indiana, to house immigrant children deemed the most dangerous.
These children arrived at the Southwest Indiana Regional Youth Village after being identified at the border because of tattoos or suspicion of drug use and other offenses in their home countries. Others had caused trouble or run away from less secure facilities in the United States. A few had U.S. juvenile delinquency records.
As the immigration clinic director of Indiana University's McKinney School of Law, I traveled to Vincennes with volunteer law school students to provide legal assistance to these kids.
Funded in part by the federal government, the immigration clinic students and I provided “know your rights” presentations to explain to the children their legal rights and what they could expect in upcoming immigration court proceedings.
Children — like adults — have no legal right to government-funded attorneys in immigration proceedings. As a result, we individually interviewed the children to match strong cases with volunteer attorneys.
We found children fleeing domestic abuse, gang violence and drugs. Some were subject to rape and mistreatment in other U.S. detention facilities.
These children were eligible for asylum and other special visas for abandoned children and victims of crime and human trafficking. Many were reunited with family in the United States based on the Supreme Court guarantee of “least restrictive placement” for children in immigration proceedings. Others went home voluntarily. Some were deported.
At one point, the immigrant children in Vincennes staged a peaceful sit-down to protest detention conditions. The local Knox County SWAT team was called in with riot gear, billy clubs and a police dog. Children were subject to lockdown, solitary confinement and abuse.
When they spoke about the facility's misconduct to IU's law school students, we notified the federal government, which took immediate corrective action. Shortly thereafter, the private facility stopped housing immigrant children.
The federal treatment of today's immigrant children mirrors what happened at Vincennes, although on a much larger scale.
As the U.S. demand for drugs and guns continues, the violence in Central America is increasing. Children are amassing along the border. Volunteer attorneys are being recruited to travel to these sites to deliver “know your rights” presentations and individually screen children. Pro bono and privately paid attorneys are assuming the representation of children reunited with families throughout the country.
U.S. immigration and refugee law protects survivors of violence and persecution. Attorneys, law school clinics and other volunteers are now stepping up and coordinating their services with the federal government.
Certainly, it is not a perfect system. But the Obama administration continues to demonstrate a commitment to protecting undocumented children within today's political and legal limits.
Initial exploration of refugee status for children in Honduras is part of that effort. Individuals fearing persecution throughout the world have had the right to seek refugee status at U.S. embassies after the passage of the Refugee Act of 1980.
This humanitarian legislation also gives the resident discretionary authority to address “unforeseen emergency refugee situations.” These laws are built upon our historical protection of persons and acceptance of international conventions passed in the wake of World War II.
Not every child is entitled to admission. But turning children away at gunpoint is inconsistent with established law and practice. Our youngest immigrants must continue to have their legal rights protected, be provided visas when merited, and be repatriated safely as necessary.
Linda Kelly is the M. Dale Palmer professor of law and the immigration clinic director at Indiana University's Robert H. McKinney School of Law.
Reconstituted child abuse death panel reviews new law
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. —As Florida's wide-ranging new child welfare law takes effect, with more emphasis on reporting child deaths, the panel charged with reviewing those reports is undergoing changes.
The state Child Abuse Death Review Committee, which plays a key role in preventing fatalities from child maltreatment, is now required under the law to "review the facts and circumstances of all deaths of children from birth through age 18 which occur in this state and are reported to the central abuse hotline of the Department of Children and Families."
The law (SB 1666), which went into effect July 1, came after a series of media reports about child deaths due to abuse and neglect. It expands the scope of the state's annual review of child fatalities --- but not as much as many experts recommend.
"Florida has what we consider to be the most restricted criteria in the country in terms of what they review," said Teri Covington, executive director of the Michigan-based National Center for Child Death Review Policy and Practice. "And it's been that way forever."
It's not for lack of trying. Since its first report, in 2000, the Child Abuse Death Review Committee has recommended that the state expand its process to review all child deaths --- not only those verified by the Department of Children and Families.
"Identifying the causes of and developing strategies to reduce avoidable child deaths is the essence of prevention," the committee noted in its 2013 annual report. "Regrettably, the state of Florida has not made much progress in accomplishing this goal."
"When you open it up to allowing reviews of more deaths, you're going to find more child-abuse cases," Covington said. "But you're also going to find more prevention strategies that you can identify in all cases."
For example, the two biggest causes of child deaths in Florida are drowning and what are called "co-sleeping" deaths, in which infants suffocate while sleeping with adults. On the state and national levels, public education campaigns to prevent drowning and co-sleeping deaths grew from the work of death-review panels like Florida's. But critics say the expanded reporting in the new law doesn't go far enough to prevent child deaths. The law's Senate sponsor, Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, said last week she would sponsor a measure in the next legislative session to expand the reporting to include all child fatalities.
Her remarks came as the Child Abuse Death Review Committee held a July 31 conference call to discuss the new law.
The committee was established in 1999 and is housed at the Department of Health. Surgeon General John Armstrong, who serves as secretary of the department, appoints the members for staggered two-year terms. They include medical, legal, law-enforcement and social-services experts.
But the panel has lost many of its most experienced --- and passionate --- members, who were not reappointed over the last two years.
For instance, Armstrong did not reappoint then-committee chairman Terry Thomas of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Thomas, who trains police officers in how to conduct child-abuse investigations; had served on the committee since its first year. Armstrong also did not re-appoint Maj. Connie Shingledecker of the Manatee County Sheriff's Office, one of six sheriff's offices in Florida that conduct their own child protective investigations; she had served on the committee since 2002. Also cycled off were Pam Graham, associate professor of social work at Florida State University, and forensic pathologist Barbara Wolf, the committee's incoming chair.
All four were known for pushing the state to report all child deaths. None would comment.
Covington called their departures a loss of institutional memory for the state.
"A lot of those people have been involved at the national level in our work for a very long time," she said. "I regret we will be losing their perspective at the national level."
NC mother of dead child charged with abuse
ROXBORO, N.C. — The mother of a 2-year-old boy who died Sunday is accused of extreme child abuse, according to WTVD-TV.
Ellen Brittany Green-Allen, 23, is charged with intentional child abuse causing serious physical injury.
Investigators say the case began July 30 when Person County deputies went to a call about a child in cardiac arrest.
“It did not sound right from the beginning. They actually took the child from the residence and met at a convenience store instead of waiting at the residence for the ambulance to arrive,” said Person County Sheriff Dewey Jones.
The toddler – Donte Joseph Diven – was taken to the hospital but never regained consciousness and died August 3.
“At this time, we do not have cause of death. We're still waiting for the medical examiner and also toxicology. There were no physical signs of trauma,” said Sheriff Jones.
But investigators say there was evidence the child was burned with a cigarette at least three times. Prosecutors say they expect to file more charges when the results of the autopsy come back.
“We're understanding that she had two previous kids that were taken away from her by social services. We have been working with social services. They've been involved. We're trying to find the details of all of that,” said Sheriff Jones.
Green-Allen went before a judge in Roxboro Friday. Bond was set at $500,000.
Teachers to learn about child abuse from CYFD, law enforcement
by QCS Staff
Quay County teachers will receive information about their role in identifying, reporting and investigating child abuse and neglect in a two hour workshop Tuesday morning.
The workshop will be conducted by the Quay County Child Wellness team, a joint operation of the Tenth Judicial District Attorney's office, New Mexico State Police, Tucumcari Police, Logan Police, the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department and school districts.
The workshop will start at 8 a.m. Tuesday in the Tucumcari Convention Center. Light snacks and beverages will be served beginning at 7:30 a.m.
Speakers and topics include:
Judy Roybal, CYFD Protective Services: reporting process for child abuse and neglect, recognizing abuse and neglect, sexual abuse and exploitation, and identifying the roles and support for the wellness team.
Tim Lopez and Ronald Reid, CYFD Juvenile Justice Services: collaborative effort to get kids out of juvenile probation and parole and through school, and identifying the roles and support for the wellness team.
Leigh Ana Eugene, Arise Sexual Assault Services: : sexual assault investigations, explaining the investigation process, the teachers' role and whom they work with, identifying roles and support for the wellness team.
State police Lt. Herbert Hinders, Tucumcari Deputy Chief Pete Rivera and Logan Police Chief Bob Gore: Investigation protocol; what should teachers do and not do when sending or receiving information about child abuse and neglect; what went wrong with Omaree Varela, a nine-year-old Albuquerque boy who was beaten to death by his stepfather; when law enforcement officers should get involved and what they can do. Identifying the roles and support for the wellness team.
Hank Baskett and Laura Lucero, Oasis Child Advocacy Center: The function of Oasis, a “safe house” for children allegedly affected by abuse, exploitation or serious crime; where Oasis fits in; and when it gets involved.
District Attorney Tim Rose, NMSP Deputy Chief Jimmy Glasscock and Capt. Matt Broom: the mandated reporting lawand and Gov. Susana Martinez's new directive ordering more state police involvement and cooperation in child abuse and neglect cases.
New school year may mean increase in child abuse or neglect reports
by Community Reports
As summer vacation winds down, the month of August brings the coming of a new school year for many children. Unfortunately, the start of a new academic year can also lead to more child abuse or neglect reports as teachers, staff and other parents notice signs of harm that children suffered over the summer.
Out of more than 160,000 completed reports of child abuse or neglect last year, schools were the second most common source. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services completed 33,146 investigations as a result of reports from school officials, falling just behind reports from medical personnel.
“It's not unusual for there to be a spike in suspected abuse or neglect reports when the school year resumes,” said Debbie Dugger, executive director of CASA Liberty/Chambers Counties. We have had a huge increase of children entering the foster care program this summer in the last 45 days… I need more trained advocates before school even begins so we can tackle the anticipated spike that will occur when school actually does begin. I need more volunteers to become an advocate for a child as soon as possible.”
This increase in reports translates to more children entering the foster care system, and a greater need for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) volunteers from CASA Liberty/Chambers Counties to represent these children.
CASA volunteers are everyday community members that are specially trained and appointed by judges to advocate for children in court. CASA volunteers get to know a child or sibling group and any relevant contacts in the children's lives. They gather information about their physical, emotional and educational needs and strive to help the children move out of the temporary foster care system.
“Imagine how frightening it is for these children to be taken out of their homes and placed sometimes far away from their families,” Dugger said.
In Liberty/Chambers Counties, there are 387 children in the foster care system. CASA Liberty/Chambers Counties has served 136 children this year, but that means that there are still many children without a CASA volunteer to advocate for their needs.
CASA Liberty/Chambers Counties can't help these children without compassionate, dedicated volunteers,” said Dugger. “As the new school year approaches, consider stepping up to be a voice for children in need by becoming a CASA volunteer.”
For more information, visit www.casalctx.org and www.BecomeACASA.org. The next training/information session is an early evening class beginning Aug. 25; the next training during the day begins Sept. 8. Please call 936-334-9000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss the upcoming training.
When Justice is 'Merciful' in Child Abuse Cases
by WRIC Newsroom
Shanesha Taylor walked out of a job interview on March 20 at a Scottsdale, Arizona, insurance company feeling like her luck was about to change.
After months of fruitless job searching and moving her three children from one home to another, she was optimistic that she had found not just a job, but a career that would ground her family. The interview went well, lasting longer than expected. The 35-year-old single mother felt like she had the job "in the bag."
All that changed in an instant as she walked out to the parking lot and saw police around her Dodge Durango, where she had left her two sons during her hour long job interview. A woman on her lunch break had called 911 after hearing a child crying in the hot car.
"I felt lost at that moment, like everything I had built myself up for, everything I was trying to do, had fallen apart," she said. "It went from how am I going to provide for my family to what's going to happen to my family?"
She was arrested on the spot and held in jail for 10 days on two counts of felony child abuse, losing custody of her three children. Her tear-stained face in a mugshot struck a chord among sympathizers nationwide, who thought the actions against her were unjustified given the circumstances.
Supporters coalesced on social media, starting a fundraising campaign to cover her $9,000 bail. It raised more than $110,000 over two months. An online petition asking Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery to dismiss the charges drew more than 58,000 signatures. At one point #isupportshanesha was a trending topic on Twitter.
To many she represented the plight of single and underemployed parents who face tough decisions each day related to child care. Others saw it as evidence that the criminal justice system metes out harsher penalties to African-Americans than other racial groups.
"There's a racial component in this case that can't be ignored," said social justice activist Mariame Kaba, who started the online petition. She also contributed to efforts to keep the case in the public eye through social media and her blog, Prison Culture.
Montgomery said he was unmoved by the public outcry. But further discussion with Taylor's lawyer led to an outcome with which both sides say they are satisfied.
Montgomery agreed to dismiss child abuse charges against Taylor if she successfully completes 25 hours of parenting classes and establishes education and child care trust fund accounts for her children. She also has to complete a substance abuse treatment program -- a standard provision in these types of cases to ensure the children's safety, a county attorney spokesperson said -- even though she has no drug-related criminal record.
Taylor agreed to the conditional plea deal in a July 24 hearing and began her parenting classes in August. The trust funds will be established through donations from the public.
"I realize I made a mistake, but I'm grateful that they took a look at my situation and what I was intending to do that day," Taylor said.
Taylor's lawyer, Benjamin Taylor II (no relation), said the resolution shows that "justice can be merciful." Legal analysts and activists say the tentative resolution of Taylor's case highlights the fluid line between bad parenting and criminal behavior in a moment when several cases involving child welfare are making headlines.
A 'desperate' moment
Taylor said she left her children, ages 6 months and 2 years, in the car "in desperation" after her child care arrangement fell through the morning of the interview. With less than two hours to spare, she found herself faced with two bad options.
"Do you pass up the interview that you know is going to save your family? Do you pass up the interview you know is going to give you a future?" she said. "It's a desperate moment where you decide do I provide for my children? Do I provide home, shelter, food, necessities? Or, do I stay here and do I care for the children?"
Parents across the country face these sorts of tough choices each day with similar consequences.
"Black women are completely seen as potential bad mothers all the time. You have to prove you're not a bad mother. White women get a benefit of the doubt," she said.
Taylor, however, bears no ill will toward the person who called 911 or law enforcement prosecutors. She is grateful the stranger acted on behalf of her children and she is grateful for the possibility of her charges being dropped.
Right now, she is focused on getting back custody of her children, who have been staying with relatives since her arrest. She did not get the job she interviewed for in March, but she looks forward to continuing her job search without felonies hanging over her head.
She hopes the incident raises awareness of the bind single parents find themselves in to find child care and encourages policymakers to come up with solutions.
"They tell you to do right by your children, get a job and depend on the government when you need help. But the reality of the situation is there are so many government programs whose funds are being cut or you're told you don't qualify for them. You could be in the lowest of stations and still not qualify."
Her advice? Look to nonprofits for help.
"What I've found is the nonprofits are picking up where government has gaps. The problem is everything is so segmented, but it's up to you to figure it out so you don't have to make those tough decisions."
Florida mother Nicole Gainey was arrested on a felony child neglect charge in July after police found her 7-year-old son alone in a park less than a mile from her home. Online court records indicate she is still awaiting a preliminary hearing. South Carolina mother Debra Harrell also was arrested in July for leaving her 9-year-old daughter alone in a park while she went to work. That case is pending after she waived her right to a preliminary hearing on one count of unlawful neglect of a child. Strangers also have come to her aid to raise funds online.
A grieving mom's mission to stop hot car deaths
Occasionally, our worst fears are realized. On Monday a 9-year-old Michigan boy was fatally stabbed in a playground, allegedly by a 12-year-old. Local authorities say neither child's parents were present. Jamarion Lawhorn's lawyer entered a not guilty plea on his behalf Tuesday on one count of murder.
But a wide range of possibilities falls between murder and a case like Taylor's, leaving law enforcement and the justice system to determine the level of criminal intent at hand.
Defense lawyer Mark O'Mara worked with Taylor's lawyer to help handle media attention. In a CNN Opinion column, he said his involvement in the case opened his eyes to the number of cases where parents are being arrested for behavior that, "just a generation ago, may have raised eyebrows but would certainly not have risen to the level of criminal charges."
"The truth is that too many parents are finding themselves having to make a desperate choice between providing for their children and caring for their children. Unless you've been put in that situation, I don't think you're entitled to judge."
'Serious risk' in the eye of the beholder
There is no clear line because "parenting is a constant series of decision-making and judgment calls," said New York University family law professor Martin Guggenheim. Parents, especially in the United States, have a lot of freedom when it comes to child-rearing decisions.
"What we're not allowed to do is expose our children to a serious risk of harm," he said.
Often, "serious risk" is in the eye of the beholder.
Instead of having a set of rules to follow, parents are free to make the best calls possible given their circumstances, knowing that they run the risk of losing their children if someone -- a stranger, law enforcement or the courts -- finds those decisions unreasonable after the fact.
"That's the way we do it," Guggenheim said. "What we ought to really be interested in is if this is a mother whom we can trust to raise children well. In this case the answer is unquestionably yes."
Montgomery said his office had an obligation to investigate due to the circumstances under which police were called to the scene. Someone parked near Taylor's vehicle called 911 to report a crying child inside the car, according to a police report. Responding officers found the front door unlocked, the windows rolled down about an inch, and keys in the ignition. Taylor's two sons were "sweating profusely" in the backseat and the 6-month-old was "crying hysterically." The children were taken to the hospital and later reported to have "no medical issues."
When further investigation revealed the situation "was the exception and not the rule" for how Taylor cared for her children, "we were able to look at this as a unique circumstance" and consider a wide range of alternatives to resolve the case, Montgomery said.
"It's always our concern in these types of cases to address underlying circumstances to see the risk going forward."
Taylor's lack of a criminal record or contact with law enforcement related to her children weighed heavily in her favor, he said, along with circumstances showing she was trying to find a job. Knowing that a felony record would seriously hinder her job prospects, Montgomery said he was inclined to give her an opportunity to prove she is a responsible parent.
Extreme cases in which defendants face serious sanctions tend to make headlines, Montgomery said. In reality, his office is constantly seeking alternatives to incarceration -- probation, deferred prosecution and open-ended sentencing -- especially for first- and second-time nonviolent offenders like Taylor in situations where no one was seriously injured. Thousands of child abuse cases result in deferred prosecutions each year, making Taylor's case fairly typical, he said. What makes it unique is the availability of funds from the online campaign to create trust funds.
"I have every expectation that she's going to be successful," Montgomery said of the conditional plea deal.
"We have enough violent and repeat offenders to keep us busy. If we can identify those who do not pose an ongoing threat to the community we're more than happy to give them the opportunity to demonstrate that and move on."
He resists the characterization of the agreement as lenient, and rejects allegations that race played a role in the case.
"As prosecutors we seek to arrive at a just result in resolving a case. Consequently, we do not weigh whether a given outcome is lenient, merciful or a reprieve, but whether it is just," he said. "The decision to prosecute is not based on a person's race, gender or ethnicity but on their underlying conduct and whether there is objective evidence to support a criminal charge. It is a hackneyed criticism that prosecutors overcharge."
'Black women are completely seen as potential bad mothers'
Many still believe that Taylor never should have faced criminal charges. The passerby was right to call 911 and police were right to investigate. But the case should not have ended up in criminal court, Guggenheim said.
Instead, police could have left her with a fine or a warning, given the circumstances, said Kaba, who started the Change.org petition asking to drop the charges. For her, Taylor is another victim of what research suggests is the tendency to charge African-Americans with crimes more often than other racial groups.
Reported child abuse takes sharp drop in Tama County: Why?
by John Speer
Tama County ranked 11th in Iowa in cases of confirmed child abuse in 2012. In 2013, the ranking dropped to 63rd. These numbers come from a recently released report from the Iowa Department of Human Services for the latest statistics.
Even though the number of reported cases dropped by 22 in number from 83 children in 2012 to 61 in 2013, Jana Enfield, executive director of Child Abuse Prevention Services in Marshalltown, cautions the number is still significant.
She points to the figures which show just over 45 percent of the reported number involved children 0-5 years in.
But why the drop?
Enfield said "We may never know." She said the closing of the Tama County Human Services office in Toledo in 2010 and the related drop in direct services may be a factor.
Tama County Attorney Brent Heeren agrees with Enfield the drop may be related to the closing.
In an email response to The Chronicle, Heeren wrote, in part, "We no longer have social workers living in Tama County and the one investigator residing in the county no longer does only Tama County cases. It may be my imagination, but my sense is folks from other counties are less likely to found, confirm, or recommend further investigation in "close call" situations if it will save drive time and the problem or issue is outside "their world"."
The Tama County Human Services Office in Toledo was one of a number ordered closed by then Director Charles Krogmeir and Governor Chet Culver in July, 2010. Tama County is now served from a DHS office in Vinton.
Linda Rosenberger, executive director for Tama County Health and Home Care, did say in an email response to The Chronicle, "It is good news for Tama County."
Her office has been behind several efforts aimed at abuse of children for a number of years.
She wrote, "Our Tama County SKIP (Supporting Kids in Prevention) Coalition is the local community partnership for protecting children, which is a statewide child abuse prevention initiative.
"Since SKIP was initially organized in 2005, we have collaborated with other child service agencies and schools to conduct activities and promote programs which we hope have not only increased community awareness of how to prevent child abuse, but also have strengthened parents and families with skills to reduce the risk of child abuse."
Rosenberger noted Health and Home Care has offered parenting classes in the county for the past six years.
"The participation and responses of the parents attending the classes have been very positive. We hope the SKIP presence in Tama County has contributed to the declining child abuse statistics," she wrote.
Heeren also wrote, "Without checking law enforcement records and somehow comparing them with the child abuse stats, my bet is the closure of IJH is the reason for the drop."
He explained, "Generally if an IJH resident was charged with assault or some other delinquent act, the resident often "countered" with a child abuse allegation."
Heeren noted, "We can talk about the annual loss of $10 million to the Tama-Toledo economy from the state appropriation; but people do not realize how many family members stayed in hotels and ate meals during visits, social workers who traveled to Tama County and ate meals while investigating the constant reports of child abuse by juvenile home residents."
Fact Box Tama County - Confirmed Child Abuse
2011 90 children
2012 83 children
2013 61 children
Percent of confirmedchildren ages 0-5 years
Rate of Child Abuse
2011 Tama County = 22.5/1,000 children; State average = 17.6/1,000 children
2012 Tama County = 20.8/1,000 children; State average = 17.4/1,000 children
2013 Tama County = 14.1/1,000 children; State average = 17.3/1,000 children
Rank in Iowa
2011 Tama County = 25th highest rateof confirmed child abuse
2012 Tama County = 11th highest rateof confirmed child abuse
2013 Tama County = 63rd highest rateof confirmed child abuse
Source: Iowa DHS
Washington man set ablaze by wife over alleged child abuse could face molestation charge
SEATTLE (Reuters) – Detectives in Washington state have recommended a man who was set afire by his wife be charged with first-degree child molestation, police said Friday.
Vincent Phillips, 52, was still hospitalized with severe burns to the face and chest following the July 17 attack.
Phillips' wife, Tatanysha Hedman, 40, told police she doused him with gasoline as he slept and then set him on fire because he had been abusing her 7-year-old daughter, his stepdaughter, authorities said.
Detectives investigating the incident last week recommended charges of child molestation to the King County prosecutor's office, said Renton police spokeswoman Terry Vickers.
Prosecutors said the case was being reviewed.
After the fire attack, Phillips got in his car and drove to a convenience store, yelling “I'm on fire,” KOMO-TV news reported.
Hedman was charged with assault and arson.
Many children don't report sex abuse, task force told
by Bob Mercer
PIERRE | An estimated 80 percent of children who have been sexually abused never tell anyone about it, the chairman of a new South Dakota task force said Tuesday at the panel's first meeting.
“We absolutely don't know what to do and because of that the conversation has never been opened up,” state Sen. Deb Soholt said. “This is not something where there are winners and losers. There are only losers.”
The lawmakers also learned Tuesday that prosecutors dismissed 379 child sex offense charges in fiscal 2014.
Soholt, R-Sioux Falls, was prime sponsor of the law that created the task force during the 2014 legislative session. The legislation was called “Jolene's Law” in recognition of Jolene Loetscher of Sioux Falls, who is one of 15 members of the task force and has spoken publicly about her experience as a victim of child sexual abuse while growing up in Nebraska.
“Hearing the word victim, I'd do anything to take it away,” she said Tuesday.
In 2013, law enforcement handled 2,192 cases involving children and sex abuse that suggests another 8,000 were not addressed, according to Soholt.
In addition, it was reported Tuesday by the state court system's administrator that South Dakota saw a spike in fiscal 2011 in charges alleging sex crimes involving minors, followed by a decline in the following three years.
Greg Sattizahn told the task force that disposition of cases in the past five years appear to be heavy on dismissals but many involve multiple charges.
In fiscal 2014, he said, there were 379 dismissals of charges, while 86 people pleaded guilty, 18 were convicted and seven were acquitted.
“We're not getting a lot of convictions for the charges filed,” Rep. Peggy Gibson, D-Huron, said.
But Sattizahn said prosecutors seemed to win convictions most of the time on the charges they wanted.
“It probably does paint an unfair picture there,” he said of the statistics presented.
Sen. Alan Solano, R-Rapid City, asked Sattizahn to provide the task force with information about unique individuals who were charged and the outcome of their cases.
The first expert to address the task force was one of its members, Dr. Nancy Free, a Sioux Falls-based pediatrician who specializes in child abuse.
“Child sexual abuse is very alive in South Dakota,” she said. “It's almost impossible to find anyone on the planet who's not been impacted by child sexual abuse.”
Free said it's rare for children to tell what happened within proximity of the events and most often disclosure is delayed.
As adults their lives tend to be “much tougher,” she said, and there is “a very strong argument” economically to address child sex abuse.
“If we don't protect our children, we will have chaos,” Free said.
The state law establishing the task force calls for it to complete its work by Jan. 1, 2015, and to deliver a report to the Legislature on the prevalence of child sexual abuse in South Dakota and make policy recommendations.
Soholt said the task force wouldn't be looking at who commits the crimes or how to rehabilitate perpetrators.
Instead, she said, the focus will be on public awareness, prevention and creating opportunities for children to tell their stories to adults, including law enforcement and the courts.
20 years for child sex assault
by Tom LaVenture
LIHUE — A new state law making a 20-year prison sentence mandatory for first-degree sexual assault of a child was handed down for the first time Thursday in 5th Circuit Court.
Joseph Kalani Contrades, 38, of Kapaa, was ordered to serve the 20 years for the continual sexual assault of a girl. Contrades was also familiar with the victim. Under the new law, Contrades may not be released, paroled, or allowed any term of suspended sentence during the period of mandatory minimum prison.
Chief Judge Randal Valenciano said judges have no discretion in these cases. A revised sentencing law passed by the state legislature and signed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie June 14 requires state courts to order the 20-year minimum sentence for convictions of first-degree sexual assault against children.
Valenciano said that what Contrades did on multiple occasions “was really unfortunate,” not only for himself and the victim, but for a community.
“There are so many ramifications,” Valenciano said.
Contrades was arrested Feb. 25 on a charge of first-degree sexual assault. His case went to Family Court on March 3, and was committed to Circuit Court with a waiver of preliminary hearing on March 6.
The criminal complaint charged Contrades with continuous sexual assault of a minor, seven counts of first-degree sexual assault, four counts of third-degree sexual assault, fourth-degree sexual assault, terroristic threat and kidnapping.
Contrades pleaded no contest to three A felony charges, including continuous sexual assault of a minor and two counts of first-degree sexual assault on May 5.
In addition to the mandatory minimum, the charges could have brought a life sentence with the possibility of parole.
Contrades remained incarcerated on $500,000 bail throughout the six months of proceedings.
Had the case gone to trial, the state would have sought an extended sentence with a conviction of multiple felony charges.
County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Melinda Mendes said the victim lived in fear of being alone with Contrades.
“She was lonely, isolated” and victim to acts of “forcible rape,” Mendes added
State Deputy Public Defender John Calma described Contrades as a talented musician with a methamphetamine addiction. He said the defendant was as “high as a kite” when arrested and said he does not recall committing the offenses.
Contrades was a victim of child sexual abuse and didn't share it with anyone until his arrest on these charges, Calma added. He is in counseling at Kauai County Correctional Center, where he mentors youth and leads a Bible study group.
“Although nothing can undo the trauma this predator inflicted on the child he victimized, we are satisfied that he will be spending a lengthy period of time in prison,” said County Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar.
Oakland police crack down on sex trafficking
by Paul Chambers
OAKLAND, Calif. — Oakland is the hub of the west when it comes to child prostitution. That's according to police who are taking a different tactic against those coming to the city to solicit prostitutes.
"They make a choice to come into our city and to exploit women, men, children and that needs to stop," says Lt. Kevin Wiley of Oakland Police.
Wiley leads the department's Special Victims Unit. He says more than 50 percent of the people arrested for soliciting are not from Oakland.
The department is now adding the faces of those charged with soliciting prostitutes to the same site as the pimps.
Wiley says adding the pictures isn't meant to shame those charged. It's just another resource the department will use to deter human trafficking. "When you Goggle their names this website pops up as a link. That's not good so that deterrent needs to get out," says Wiley.
The pictures are up for two weeks. But while it's there the suspect's name, date of birth and where they are from is posted.
Twice a week the department conducts at least one operation to combat human trafficking.
Wednesday night was one of the department's fastest with 11 arrests in a little more than two hours. But with so many females still out on the street, some question why more isn't done.
"Our resources have been exhausted for the night. Between funding and personnel we just can continue on as often as we'd like," says Wiley.
Police say most of the funding for the operations is from grants. Money that's all but gone.
His next step is to explain to the city council the importance of these operations, in hopes that his budget will be increased – saving more young women from a life of crime.
Cops Arrest 500 Johns in Sex Trade Crackdown
by Charlotte Alter
Law enforcement agencies across the country collaborated in a recent series of sex stings that netted the arrests of almost 500 men seeking to buy sex and 14 pimps and traffickers, officials will announce Wednesday.
The police crackdown, part of an annual “National Day of Johns Arrests,” led to more arrests than any previous sex sting of its kind, officials said. Law enforcement agencies in 14 different states collaborated on the sting, which is part of an ongoing national pivot toward fighting the sex trade by punishing johns instead of prostitutes.
“If there was no demand, there would be no prostitution,” Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, whose Chicago office has taken a lead role in organizing the crackdown, told TIME Tuesday ahead of its announcement. “It makes them understand that there are some consequences here. The public still perceives prostitution as a victimless crime, so we're going about it this way to address the problem and raise awareness.”
Officials said 111 prostitutes were recovered during the operation, including 13 juveniles. The crackdown, which ran from July 17 to Aug. 3, led police to multiple cases of abuse. Seattle police recovered a 15-year old girl whose mother was attempting to sell her for sex. Texas law enforcement officials arrested a federal border patrol agent who was trying to buy sex while in full uniform, as well as a man who tried to pick up a prostitute with his infant child in the backseat. Of the 150 johns arrested in the greater Phoenix area, 91 were trying to buy sex off the website Backpage.com
Dart said the “National Day of Johns Arrests” only lasts for 18 days in order to show the scope of the problem, but also because there are practical constraints on resource allocation in different jurisdictions. “Law enforcement agencies have issues that are pulling them in a million different directions,” he said. “This shows what we can do in a narrow window of time, and speaks to the bigger issue of what's happening the rest of the year.”
Dart said 53% of the arrested johns were married and 47% were college graduates. “The idea that these are a bunch of ne'er-do-wells could not be further from the truth,” he said.
The National Day of Johns is part of a national trend toward punishing men who buy sex instead of prostitutes who are sometimes forced to sell it. New York has already announced some measures to punish pimps more than trafficking victims, and to rehabilitate women who have been in the sex trade rather than imprison them. The shift has also gained traction internationally, with Sweden's ban on purchasing sex instead of on selling it has becoming a model across Europe.
14 year-old sex-trafficking-victim-speaks-out
PHOENIX - As I was led into the room to meet a victim of child prostitution, I was surprised to find not a hardened street kid, but a bashful and polite 14-year-old girl.
She is a minor, and a sexual assault victim, so we agreed not to reveal her identity or use her real name. Instead she asked us to call her “Lupita."
Her story reveals the trickery used by sex traffickers to lure children into sex acts with strangers.
“It's sad how these kids are manipulated into this life and it's not just a child that's homeless. Prostitution is no longer on the streets, it's everywhere; in our schools, shopping malls and neighborhoods,” said Lea Benson, President and CEO of Street Light USA in Glendale.
Street Light USA rescues children from the life of sex trafficking,
It was through the court system that Lupita came to them.
Not knowing what to expect, she began to tell me her story.
“I was getting bullied, [they were] saying I was ugly.”
And Lupita believed it. Even though she is a pretty teenager, that wasn't what she saw in the mirror.
Her low self-esteem made her a perfect target for a charming pimp.
“He would say beautiful things to me and I would like that, so I didn't want that to end,” explains Lupita.
Victim advocates tell ABC15 there are two major types of pimps.
The “Gorilla” pimp will strong arm and beat his victims into prostitution, while the “Romeo” pimp swoons his victims by convincing them they are loved so much, they'll do anything for him.
Lupita was lured by a 20-year-old “Romeo," who pretended to care for her and dated her for a month. Once she was in love with him, Romeo made his move.
“He would say, 'Oh here's a friend of mine, he wants to take you with him.' I would say, 'but I don't know him.' And he would say, 'If you love me you would go.' I actually loved him so I went,” said Lupita.
She explains that she is a bit slow, but I saw just a naive child, like any other when it comes to affairs of the heart.
Lupita wasn't sold on the streets. As Benson explained, the teenager was sold within the walls of the apartment complex where she lived.
She knew her new boyfriend was too old for her, but he made her feel loved.
Her parents were clueless as to what was happening to their daughter just feet from their home.
Each time her pimp shared her, Lupita felt violated beyond belief.
“Since the first time I went with the guy, it felt like rape,” Lupita admitted.
Pretty soon the "johns" were stacking up. At first, Lupita didn't want to say how many, but then revealed the truth.
“It would be three guys a day. If I would say no, they would tell the 20-year-old and he would be slapping me.”
Lupita's pimp was going from Romeo to Gorilla, but the young and naive teen still thought it was love.
She soon started realizing what was happening.
“Once I saw him getting money and I'm like, 'What's that money for,' and he said ‘nothing - go inside.'" This was the first time Lupita witnessed money changing hands.
Being only 13, Lupita wasn't familiar with prostitution.
As she struggled to understand what was happening, she didn't think she was being sold, “I thought of it more as lending and borrowing.”
It was on a trip to the dollar store with friends that Lupita saw a street walker, and realized she too was a prostitute.
“She was dancing on the pole and they were like 'Look at that prostitute,' and that's when I knew that he was selling me.”
Lupita eventually ran away from home. Her mother reported her missing.
After police found her, she was taken to a mental hospital where she treated for nightmares and flashbacks from being repeatedly raped.
Benson tells us, many child prostitutes will develop post-traumatic stress syndrome or PTSD.
Lupita graduated from Street Light USA's recovery program and was on her way home after our visit.
She told me, she doesn't know if her pimp still lives close by, because she has never revealed his identity.
But after much counseling, she now knows what he did was wrong, and she has developed a hate for what he did to her.
Benson told ABC15, because of the psychological trauma that victims of prostitution experience, it's common for them to hide the identity of their pimps and johns.
US attorneys holding human trafficking conference
by The Associated Press
FARGO, N.D. (AP) — The top federal prosecutors in the Dakotas say too few people are getting the message that human trafficking and related crimes often involve local victims and are happening in the two states.
U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson from South Dakota and U.S. Attorney Timothy Purdon from North Dakota are sponsoring a three-day conference next week with first responders, prosecutors and others in hopes of raising awareness of the issue and helping to identify victims. Among the features speakers in Elizabeth Smart-Gilmour, who was abducted and held for nine months as a child in 2002.
Johnson said many people believe that human trafficking originates overseas, but many cases involve homegrown victims. He noted that 20 people have been indicted by his office on such charges in the last four years, including three who received life sentences. Those included Brandon Thompson, who authorities say lured underage girls into prostitution with promises of money and security, then used threats of violence when they attempted to flee.
"So often people think of it as international human trafficking and people being shipped here from Bangkok," Johnson said. "The trafficking that we see in the Dakotas works different. ... The victims are our own kids. They come from our communities."
Purdon noted that 11 men who believed they were going to meet a 14-year-old girl for sex were arrested during a recent sting operation in Dickinson.
"That speaks to a level of demand for the trafficking of underage girls," Purdon said. "If you see that level of demand and don't think there's a supply out there to meet that demand, you're living in a dream world."
Also in North Dakota, Dustin Morsette was sentenced to 45 years in prison in a 2012 sex trafficking case. He was accused of recruiting minors and young adults to be part of a gang, and forcing members to engage in sex acts with him and others, and distribute drugs.
The conference will be held in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, starting Tuesday. The opening day will focus on medical professionals talking about how to identify victims and how to talk to them, and working with hospitals, doctors and other medical providers. The seminar includes sessions on human trafficking in western North Dakota's oil patch and a group of truckers who are helping to fight the problem.
"This a real growing threat in the Dakotas," Purdon said. "Some people still don't believe that. There's still a lot of education that needs to be done with the public, and with law enforcement, and with prosecutors."
With body found in missing girl case, focus turns to criminal investigation
by PHUONG LE
SEATTLE — Now that authorities believe they have found the body of a 6-year-old Washington girl who vanished from her home last weekend, they are focusing on a criminal investigation of the death.
A planned autopsy by a forensic pathologist and painstaking examination and mapping of the wooded spot where the body was found are among the tools they will use.
The body believed to be that of Jenise Wright was found Thursday in woods near the Bremerton-area mobile home park where she lived. The FBI's Specialty Search Dogs Unit discovered the body after volunteer canine search teams reported their dogs showed interest in a particular area, Kitsap County sheriff's Deputy Scott Wilson said.
The girl's family was notified.
Formal identification of the body was expected Friday, Wilson said.
In a statement, the sheriff's department said a coroner will make official confirmation of the identity, but "it appears that the body is that of Jenise."
"This is going to be a criminal investigation, there's no doubt about that," Wilson told a news briefing Thursday. Authorities are trying to track down anyone responsible, and they're "not ruling out anything," he said.
Determination of the manner and cause of death is pending, Wilson said, but "we suspect that she just did not go off by herself and fall into some bushes and die."
There have been no arrests in the case, authorities said.
A forensic pathologist under contract to the county will perform the autopsy, Wilson said.
Jenise was last seen when she went to bed Saturday night. Her parents waited a day before calling for help because they say the girl had wandered around the Steele Creek Mobile Home Park on her own in the past. She was outgoing and unafraid to talk to anyone, family said.
Wilson said in an interview Thursday that there were no signs of forced entry at the girl's home and no indication that she was taken from her room.
An FBI evidence research team has finished checking the area where the body was found, and a forensic mapping team from the Washington State Patrol's criminal investigation division planned to map the spot, Wilson said Thursday evening.
The girl's parents are cooperating with authorities, he said.
More than 350 people, including officers from 15 law enforcement agencies, searched for Jenise, going door to door at Steele Creek Mobile Home Park on the west side of Puget Sound, across from Seattle.
They also pulled surveillance video from nearby businesses and checked in with sex offenders in the county.
After the search began, state child welfare workers removed two other children, an 8-year-old boy and 12-year-old girl, from the home.
Jenise Wright's father, James Wright, was charged more than a decade ago with molesting two girls, ages 8 and 15, court records show.
He eventually pleaded guilty in Whatcom County Superior Court in December 2001 to a misdemeanor assault charge related to the older girl. It was not immediately clear why the molestation charges were dropped. Prosecutors there did not return calls.
A judge in Whatcom County Superior Court sentenced Wright to a year in jail but suspended the entire jail term on the condition that he follow certain conditions, including paying fees.
Wilson said at a news briefing Wednesday that authorities were aware of the past charge against the father, but that officers were focused on finding the girl.
1st set of remains ID'd from Florida reform school
by The Associated Press
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — In December 1940, Owen Smith's mother wrote the superintendent of the then-Florida Industrial School for Boys about the welfare of her 14-year-old son, who had been sent there months earlier for being with a friend in a stolen car.
Frances Smith received a letter from superintendent Millard Davidson that said no one knew where Owen was. A month later, the family was summoned to Florida Panhandle school and led to an unmarked grave. Owen was in it, they were told — he had escaped and was found dead under a house. Frances Smith never accepted the story. She waited for him to come home.
On Thursday, University of South Florida researchers said they had identified George Owen Smith as the first of 55 bodies they exhumed from the grounds of the renamed Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, an institution with a troubled history where the facilities were often decrepit and guards were accused of brutality. The researchers were unable to determine how Owen died, and they will probably never know.
Owen was hastily buried in a two-foot grave, lying on his side with his hands over his head, they said. He was unclothed other than a shroud. His family says he will soon be reburied next to his mother and father in the central Florida city of Auburndale.
"This is what we worked for," said his sister, Ovell Krell, now 86. "It was not an easy road."
The identification was made through a DNA sample collected from Krell.
Official records showed 31 burials at the Marianna school between its opening in 1900 and its 2011 closure for budget reasons, but researchers found the remains of 24 additional people between last September and December.
Some former students from the 1950s and 1960s have for at least a decade accused employees and guards at the school of physical and sexual abuse, but the Florida Department of Law Enforcement concluded after an investigation that it couldn't substantiate or dispute the claims because too much time had passed. Many former Dozier inmates from that era call themselves "The White House Boys" after the white building where they say the worst abuse took place.
In 2008, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice held a ceremony to officially "seal" the building and recognize the boys who passed through it. Some of "The White House Boys" were present and media coverage of the event, as well as an order from then-Gov. Charlie Crist, led to the investigation. Researchers, reacting to the allegations, excavated the graveyard at the school.
Krell said her older brother would wear a guitar string around his neck and that the family would sing country-western songs for entertainment. He hadn't been in trouble before the stolen car, she said.
Over the years, the family had kept his wallet, which was displayed at Thursday's press conference.
"It was important to him and I often wondered why he left it," Krell said. The wallet had a Junior G-Man card, which was tied to a popular radio program that featured a former FBI agent.
At its peak in the 1960s, 500 boys were housed at the Dozier school, most of them for minor offenses such as petty theft, truancy or running away from home.
In 1968, when corporal punishment was outlawed at state-run institutions, then-Gov. Claude Kirk visited and found the institution in disrepair with leaky ceilings, holes in walls, cramped sleeping quarters, no heating for the winters and buckets used as toilets.
"If one of your kids were kept in such circumstances," he said then, "you'd be up there with rifles."
Some of the bodies were found under roads or overgrown trees, well away from the white, metal crosses marking the 31 officially recorded graves.
Erin Kimmerle, the lead researcher and an associate anthropology professor, said another body could soon be identified.
Officials have said it's unclear if there are other graves elsewhere on the school site. The team excavated only five of the property's 1,400 acres.
Jerry Cooper, who is head of a White House Boys group, said the circumstances of Owen's disappearance and the way he was buried support their contention of abuse.
"I want an apology from the state for what happened there, but so far no go," said Cooper, who was sent there as a teenager in the early 1960s for riding in a stolen car. He has said he suffered horrible beatings with a leather strap in the White House. "If they apologize, they are admitting guilt and they aren't going to do that."
'Immigration doctor' convicted of sexually assaulting nine-year-old Colorado girl
by Keith Coffman
DENVER (Reuters) - A Colorado man who posed as an immigration doctor to gain access to the home of a Vietnamese family was convicted on Thursday of sexually assaulting a 9-year-old girl inside the residence, prosecutors said.
Kenneth Dean Lee, 57, was found guilty of sexual assault of a child, kidnapping, burglary, criminal impersonation and other charges after a three-day jury trial, Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler said.
In 2010, Lee repeatedly called the suburban Denver home of a Vietnamese immigrant family from a blocked telephone number, asking about the names and ages of people at the residence, authorities said.
He identified himself as a physician from an immigration facility, and offered to give the family's 9-year-old daughter a "check-up," according to Brauchler.
Lee ultimately showed up unannounced at the home, identified himself as the doctor, and sexually assaulted the girl, prosecutors said.
Police were able to track down Lee through phone records, and learned he was on probation in an identity theft case from two years earlier.
Brauchler said in a statement it was "one of the most disturbing cases" he had seen.
"The only outrage greater than this despicable, predatory behavior is that under our Colorado laws, this sexual assaulter is eligible for probation," he said.
Lee is set to be sentenced in November.
Smorgon foundation among those demanding urgency over child abuse recommendations
by Henrietta Cook and Jane Lee
Victim support groups and philanthropists say the Napthine government is taking too long to implement recommendations for preventing child abuse that were made in a state inquiry.
One of Australia's leading philanthropic groups, the Jack and Robert Smorgon Families Foundation, has written to the Premier urging him to implement all recommendations before the November state election.
The foundation's chief executive Andrew Blode warned: "If the Victorian government delays taking action any longer, these same institutions named in the inquiry, which receive in excess of $320 million from DHS to provide community services, would be viewed as a 'betrayal of trust'."
When the Betrayal of Trust report was tabled in November, Premier Denis Napthine said the government would consider all the recommendations “as a matter of urgency.”
But it has implemented only three of the 15 recommendations, with laws for a fourth before Parliament.
The Coalition refuses to commit to a time frame for implementing the rest, which aim to make Victorian schools and non-government organisations more accountable for abuse allegations and to make it easier for victims to claim compensation.
The state inquiry into the handling of child abuse exposed the way churches, children's homes and other non-government organisations had hidden and perpetrated sexual and physical abuse of children over many decades.
Commission of Inquiry Now president Bryan Keon-Cohenrecently wrote to Dr Napthine on behalf of 12 victim support groups, urging him to avoid further delays.
The government has previously said it must be “mindful of the work of the royal commission ... and the intersection of its work with some of the inquiry's recommendations.”
But Dr Keon-Cohen said it could be years before all states and territories agreed on a federal model for victim compensation, with older victims at risk of dying before this happened.
Religious institutions were incapable of “healing themselves” and real reform could not happen without legal force.
“It is an example of victims attempting to achieve closure, justice and support for their suffering, of their hopes being raised and then dashed by government inaction and inability to face tough issues,” he said.
Labor MP Frank McGuire, deputy chair of the inquiry, repeated his calls for urgent action in state Parliament on Tuesday night and said the government should not use the “excuse” of waiting for the royal commission to wind up to “make vulnerable children in Victoria safer”.
He said non-government organisations that receive government funding or assistance needed to be incorporated and properly insured so they can be sued.
Shireen Gunn, manager of the Ballarat Centre Against Sexual Assault, said victims continued to suffer. She knew of at least one who had committed suicide since the inquiry, while others were suicidal, with drugs and alcohol problems and troubled family relationships. Some victims struggled to hold down jobs and continued to negotiate for compensation with the institutions under whose care they were abused.
“It is about ongoing quality of life. It is the difference between barely existing and (knowing) that they are supported through those difficult times.”
The government early this year created new offences for grooming, failure to protect children from abuse and failure to disclose abuse. Laws requiring ministers of religion to get working-with-children checks are before Parliament.
A government spokesman said work was “progressing well” on the recommendations that had not yet been implemented and more laws would be introduced into Parliament this year.
“The government has given priority to those recommendations of the report relating to criminal offences and child safety.”
The committee recommended that the Victorian government consider (items in bold have been implemented already):
1. Making it a crime to fail to report a serious indictable offence involving the abuse of a child
2. Making it a crime for organisations that undertake “relevant wanton or reckless behaviour” regarding known child abuse risks
3. Creating a criminal offence of grooming
4. Requiring publicly funded or tax-exempt non-government organisations to be incorporated and adequately insured
5. Work with the Australian government to require organisations that engage with children to adopt incorporated legal structures
6. Excluding criminal child abuse from the statute of limitations
7. Law reforms to specify there are no time limits on institutional child abuse victims' applications for assistance
8. Reforms to ensure organisations have a legal duty to take reasonable care to prevent criminal child abuse
9. Review the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal's ability to implement a specific scheme for child abuse victims
10. Authorise an independent body to monitor organisations' handling of child abuse allegations
11. Review the Department of Education's procedures for responding to child abuse allegations in all Victorian schools
12. Clarify requirements to ensure religious ministers have a current Working with Children check and create a system for monitoring them
13. Review its funding arrangements with education and community service organisations that work with children to ensure they have a minimum standard for ensuring a child-safe environment
14. Identify an effective approach for supporting peak bodies to build preventative measures in child sectors
15. Ensure that non-government organisations are equipped with high quality information about preventing child abuse
School educates workers on abuse reporting
by Stan Maddux
LAPORTE | Many cases of child abuse get overlooked because far too many people -- including those in positions of authority -- are not sure how to respond to their suspicions.
Efforts are underway in LaPorte to get more administrators, teachers and other employees of the school corporation better educated about the legal obligations all Hoosiers have about reporting sexual abuse and neglect whenever suspected.
"It's best to report to see what the situation is as opposed to a child winding up dead," said Angie Marsh, who conducts forensic interviews of abused children at Dunebrook Center near Michigan City to help gather evidence for prosecuting the perpetrators.
Marsh, along with Sonia Leerkamp, a special prosecutor from Hamilton County, spoke to about 50 people Wednesday at the LaPorte County Public Library about school safety.
The focus was on making more educators aware of their obligation not only to report suspected abuse but they must go directly to law enforcement or child protective services.
By law, going to the principal isn't good enough, Leerkamp said. She said there is an program being developed to educate all school corporation employees about reporting suspected abuse or neglect.
The program should begin soon after the start of the fall semester.
"We want to have it so it's ongoing every year," Leerkamp said.
Under Indiana law, failure to report suspected abuse or neglect is a Class B misdemeanor, which can bring an up to 180 day jail sentence.
Another area of concern involved students especially those in middle school being susceptible for trouble in chat rooms and other forms of social media.
Marsh said many children are not aware what seems an innocent posting of a picture can wind up in the wrong hands with threats of blackmail.
Predators can threaten to post a topless or nude photo, for example, unless a girl being victimized complies with certain demands.
"It's a huge problem," Marsh said.
Chelsea mother who locked son in dog cage sentenced
Court documents say boy left in cage 14 hours each day
CLAREMORE, Okla. —An Oklahoma woman has been sentenced to 22 years in prison on child abuse charges for locking her 4-year-old son in a dog cage.
A district judge in Claremore handed down the punishment Thursday to a 34-year-old Chelsea woman. She pleaded guilty without a sentencing agreement in May to child abuse by injury and child neglect.
Court documents say the boy was held in the cage last year an estimated 14 hours each day.
Her co-defendant and common-law husband was sentenced last month to 27 years in prison for child abuse and sexually abusing a different child.
He told authorities they kept the boy in the cage for discipline and protection.
How Forensic Nurses Help Assault Survivors
by Lisa Esposito
When forensic nurse examiners work with survivors of violence -- sexual assault, child abuse, elder abuse or domestic assault -- they're painstakingly collecting and documenting evidence that can hold up in a potential court case. And they're taking care of a person who's just been traumatized, often by someone they know well. Forensic nursing takes a balance of objectivity, skill and compassion, and it's more than just a job for the professionals who do it.
Experts on the Stand
Whatever type of assault they've endured, survivors' first encounter with law enforcement or medicine "paves the way for their entire future," says Trisha Sheridan, a forensic nurse and clinical assistant professor at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing.
Victims face a higher risk of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, suicide and medical problems in the aftermath, she says, and those who "have a positive experience with someone who's trained to deal with victims of violence" tend to not only have better legal outcomes, but better quality of life than others who receive standard emergency care. But in Texas, especially the more rural areas, forensic nurse examiners are few and far between.
Last year, Texas passed a law requiring emergency department nurses to undergo two hours of training in basic evidence collection, but that's far from enough, Sheridan says. And while most facilities "either have a specific room that's set aside in the ER or special private place for those patients," she says, "without a forensic program or a forensic nurse, it's just an ER bed."
While certified forensic nurse examiners undergo extensive skills training, Sheridan believes graduate programs can move forensic nurses to the next level, with a deeper understanding of the science behind the evidence they're collecting, helping them explain the pathology and ramification of victims' injuries in a courtroom. For instance, she says that information helped the jury "make a better-informed" decision when she testified in two recent cases of strangulation.
Taking On Domestic Violence
Strangulation is one of the most frequent injuries in domestic violence, yet symptoms are subtle and often downplayed, says Heidi Marcozzi, coordinator of the Intimate Partner Violence Program, started last year as a branch of District of Columbia Forensic Nurse Examiners, which also works with victims of sexual assault.
Forensic nurses look not only for bruises and scratches, but less obvious symptoms such as petechiae (small red or purple spots on the skin), voice changes, cough and headaches, Marcozzi says. They ask patients about loss of bowel and bladder function, which is a good indicator that they lost consciousness during the attack.
"Domestic violence is a huge issue" in the nation's capital, Marcozzi says. The program's 30 forensic nurses respond to these calls from MedStar Washington Hospital Center, anytime day or night. Within an hour of getting the call for a domestic violence case, the forensic nurse arrives at the hospital, where ER staff have already made sure the patient is in a quiet, private space rather than the waiting room.
Before the exam, the forensic nurse walks the patient through the whole process. "We see a fair amount of drug-facilitated sexual assaults, so we want to make sure it's very clear that the patient is able to consent," Marcozzi says. "Then we do a medical exam head to toe to make sure they're physically stable." Nurses pays close attention while patients describe the incident and use that account to guide where they collect evidence, including swabs that will later go to the crime lab for analysis.
The FNE photographs any injuries and examines the patient using a high-powered light source that can reveal hard-to-see signs like bruising. The light also helps the nurse locate "foreign secretions ... things will fluoresce under certain wavelengths -- semen, urine, saliva," Marcozzi says.
More Than Just a 'Rape Kit'
Victims of sexual assault go through essentially the same process, with the addition of a pelvic exam, which takes an additional 15 minutes or so. Examiners photograph the genitals for signs of injury, and then collect swabs as indicated. Treatment comes next. If appropriate, patients can receive Plan B emergency contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancy, or medications to protect against HIV and other prevalent sexually transmitted infections.
In sexual assault cases covered by DCFNE, an advocate with Network for Victim Recovery of DC accompanies the nurse to the hospital and helps patients with crisis management, discharge plans, crime victim's compensation and referrals for counseling.
Preventing the Worst
For domestic violence victims, the DCFNE program teams up with Survivors and Advocates for Empowerment, a nonprofit that provides advocacy and crisis intervention, and works to hold offenders accountable. SAFE runs the lethality assessment project for the District of Columbia -- trying to determine which victims are at highest risk for being killed by their abusers.
Advocates evaluate the victim's environment for cues -- such as whether the abuser has easy access to weapons, or even "if there's a child in the home who doesn't belong to him, which, believe it or not, increases the severity of the risk," says Natalia Marlow-Otero, SAFE director.
Of the 5,000 or so domestic violence cases SAFE sees each year, up to 1,900 are deemed high-lethality cases. Isolation is a "huge" factor among the women -- and some men -- who are victims of domestic violence. Isolation and abuse are even more prevalent among immigrant clients, Marlow-Otero says, so SAFE provides an English/Spanish helpline (1-866-962-5048). People can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (1-800-799-SAFE).
Patients Before Police
Assault victims are not required to involve the legal system in their cases. "They have an absolute right to an exam whether they want to tell the police," Marcozzi says.
Sheridan says, "Yes, we want to collect the evidence if there's evidence to collect, we want to work with law enforcement, we want to successfully prosecute the perpetrator. But we don't work for law enforcement -- we're nurses first, and we're trained to treat the patient." In the District of Columbia, there's a 90-day window before an evidence kit is destroyed, although it won't be tested unless the patient decides to make a police report. In Texas, the kit will be held for at least two years.
Reclaiming Your Power
For some survivors, there's another intangible, but important benefit of requesting a forensic exam. "Sexual assault is specifically a crime of power, not sex," Sheridan says. "So if I can return any sense of control to that person, that's more important than anything else."
Marcozzi agrees that undergoing the exam can be empowering in itself. "For many people, it's the first step in their recovery," she says, "to know they were able to go through the process and start healing that way can be good for them."
On a personal level, Marcozzi says, the hardest thing about her job is leaving it behind. "When you hear the stories -- most of us are young women -- you can't help but be a little paranoid. Personally, it's increased my awareness of how I carry myself and interact with the world." In terms of safety advice, she says, "Pair up and look out for your friends is a good overall message."
For her part, Sheridan says that being raised along with three sisters by her mother, as well as seeing women receiving inadequate care after sexual assault, fueled her passion for forensic nursing. "It was a need," she says. "It changes your life. It's not something you go into saying 'yay' -- it's kind of like arming up for battle."
Schoolgirl raped at age of ten by two boys under 13 while they played Xbox becomes victim of online abuse - but police and Facebook refuse to act
by Harriet Arkell
A young girl who was raped by two boys she was playing Xbox with was subjected to a tirade on online abuse accusing her of 'asking for it' and 'lying' about the assaults.
The girl, from Chepstow, south Wales, was just ten when she was raped by boys aged 12 and 13 as they played the Minecraft computer game together.
The boys, who are too young to be named, were sentenced at Newport Crown Court last month, and the girl's 35-year-old mother hoped to rebuild her daughter's shattered life.
But soon after the sentencing - the boys avoided jail because of their age - a family friend of one of the boys wrote on Facebook that the young victim 'asked for it'.
A stream of abuse then followed, with one troller accusing the girl of crying rape when she had consented, and another saying it was her fault.
The girl's mother went to police but they told her they weren't able to help, and told her to talk to Facebook, who told her the comments didn't breach their 'community standards'.
The Facebook page had nearly 200 comments on it by the time the girl's mother contacted the person who set it up and persuaded them to take it down.
Last year she had had to cope with similar harassment after the mother of one of the boys posted the victim's name and address on Facebook. She later took it down after police intervened.
Today the girl's mother spoke of the nightmare she and her daughter have lived through since the boys were arrested over the rape last August.
She told the Sun : 'I thought that after the guilty verdict in court we would get our lives back, but it has got worse.
'It is heart-breaking for my daughter - she is a prisoner here.'
Last month, the boys, who are both now 14 and were found guilty of rape after denying the offence, were given tags for three months and put under a curfew.
They were also given rehabilitation orders with intense supervision.
Judge Ian Murphy told them: 'This is a very serious offence. Had you been adults you would have been looking at a lengthy custodial sentence.'
Today the victims' mother criticised the boys' sentences as 'pathetic', a cause local Conservative MP David Davies has taken up.
He has written to the Attorney General asking for the boys' sentences to be reconsidered.
'I'm absolutely appalled at the way this girl has been treated both in her community and by the judicial system,' Mr Davies said.
And he expressed his disgust at what he called the 'sickening campaign of persecution' the girl and her family had suffered.
A spokesman for Gwent Police said that the online comments about the girl were not criminal so they had no grounds to take action.
They said: 'We endeavour to give victims of crime and their families all the support they need to live their lives safely and securely.
'In this case we were made aware of some comments which appeared on a Facebook page. Officers visited the home of the victim and viewed the comments, which whilst distasteful, were not criminal in nature.
'Officers had no grounds to take formal action and in good faith suggested the victim take the matter up directly with Facebook.
'We continue to support the family, and an officer has been dedicated to discuss and deal with any concerns they may.'
A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service told MailOnline: 'Our case was clear that this was rape and the jury convicted for rape.'
A Facebook spokesman admitted the posts should have been taken down as implying a minor can consent to or ask for sex did breach their standards.
They said: 'We encourage people to report things that they find offensive so we can investigate and remove if it breaks our rules.
'Unfortunately we don't always get it right and on this occasion we should have removed the group. We are sorry for any upset or distress this may have caused.'
Kids' dance contest emcee pleads guilty to federal child pornography charge
LOS ANGELES — A Long Beach man who emceed children's dance contests nationwide is facing a minimum five-year prison term after pleading guilty in federal court Tuesday to receiving child pornography.
Paul Michael Barbour, 33, who previously worked for Cypress-based Kids Artistic Review (KAR), is scheduled to be sentenced October 20, 2014. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California.
The Long Beach man initially fell under suspicion in June after a digital video camera belonging to the defendant was discovered in a dressing room used by young girls taking part in a dance contest at Cypress College. Barbour was originally taken into custody June 1 by detectives with the Cypress Police Department on state charges filed by the Orange County District Attorney's Office accusing him of possession of child pornography and possession of a controlled substance.
On June 26, the U.S. Attorney's Office filed a criminal complaint against Barbour charging him with a federal child pornography violation. The Orange County District Attorney agreed to dismiss the existing state charges to facilitate the federal prosecution and Barbour was remanded to federal custody.
"The mandatory minimum sentences in these cases are significant and with good reason," said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Los Angeles. "Every time a sexually explicit image of a child is downloaded and viewed, that victim is violated yet again."
The charges against Barbour are the result of a probe by the Cypress Police Department and members of the Orange County Child Exploitation Task Force (OCCETF), including HSI. As part of the investigation, authorities executed a search warrant at Barbour's Long Beach residence, seizing a desktop computer. A forensic analysis of that computer resulted in the recovery of well over a thousand images and 10 videos containing children engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
Investigators emphasize there is no evidence indicating the defendant produced any of the material. However, if members of the public have information relevant to the case, they are urged to call the Cypress Police Department at 714-229-3391 or contact the task force at email@example.com.
This investigation was conducted under HSI's Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 10,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.
For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI's Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page.
Abuse survivor's life story laid bare
Katrina breaks the cycle
by Petra Finer
As a scared little girl Katrina Crews was failed by every adult in her life, but she is lucky.
She survived her head being used as a battering ram, having her body beaten and tortured, she survived being told she was worthless and the accompanying sexual abuse.
She survived to tell her story, raise four children and start placing the building blocks for New Zealand's "4thekidz" charity.
"I could've been one of these kids, my name could've been on a list somewhere out there. I faced my mortality as a child more times than I can remember," she said.
"The constant beatings until I couldn't hear properly, followed by the beatings for not listening.
"I was one of the lucky ones, surviving years of brutality, being so afraid that I would be cowered in a corner trembling at raised voices."
At the first opportunity, Crews moved to Australia - an escape from the pain that has haunted her here - and returned last week for the first time in 12 years.
Speaking at the Eltham Community Centre for the third annual meeting of children's charity "4thekidz", Crews exposed her heartache to a room full of like-minded individuals.
The trust's deputy chairwoman, Crews is actively involved in helping change the lives of abused children in Taranaki because she refuses to become one of those adults - the ones who kept on failing her. She calls the adults that knew about her suffering cowards.
Eventually finding herself in foster care for a three-month respite, she learned to love. "It was their act of kindness that taught me that one, ordinary person can change somebody's whole life around," she said.
When her first child was born, Crews was terrified of becoming that monster, one of the people that hurt children or looked the other way.
So she made him a promise and built a new, safe life in Australia.
But Crews, who was raised in the Taranaki/Whanganui area, founded the New Zealand-based charity three years ago.
Working with Stratford's Carolyn Cragg and Tauranga's Suzy Brown, the women started the "Tedz4Kidz" project, gifting teddy bears, blankets, torches and journals to children who have undergone forensic testing.
"4thekidz" has five goals, to place teddy bears in police cars nationwide for the above project, to deliver educational material and mentoring programmes to pregnant teens and vulnerable families, to provide an online service connecting families to the support they need, to provide mobile support for those that can not access traditional supports, and to be involved with developing and providing educational programmes and materials for kindergartens, schools and service providers.
Although Crews planned to return to Australia, she told the gathering that she "will not stop until these goals are achieved".
Cragg was re-elected as chairwoman.
Katrina Crews was elected as the deputy chairwoman, and Angela Adams took up the role of treasurer.
Gov. Cuomo signs law requiring coaches to report signs of child abuse
by Glenn Blain
The sex abuse scandal at Penn State University has led to a new law in New York requiring school athletic coaches to report cases of suspected child abuse to local authorities.
Under the new law, which Gov. Cuomo signed Wednesday, coaches who hold or apply for a temporary coaching licenses or professional coaching certificates will also have to complete two hours of training on how to identify and report signs child abuse and maltreatment.
“This legislation is another step forward in New York's fight against child abuse,” Governor Cuomo said. “With the proper training, and the clear mandate to report suspected instances of abuse, school coaches will play a crucial role in keeping our children safe and out of harm's way.”
Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (D-Westchester) said she introduced the bill after watching the fallout from the 2011 scandal at Penn State in which longtime former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was accused and eventually convicted of abusing several underage boys. The scandal led to the firing of legendary head football coach Joe Paterno for failing to take proper actions to stop Sandusky's abuse.
“When that happened I started thinking through the role of coaches with kids,” Paulin said.
Although state law already required teachers to report signs of abuse, it was unclear on whether coaches faced the same requirement, Paulin said. Many coaches working in school systems across the state are not licensed teachers, so a new law was needed, she added.
“Coaches are in a unique position of trust with their players, and this law will ensure that if a child confides in their coach or the coach observes signs of abuse, they will report it to the authorities,” Paulin said. “This will help protect children from abuse.”
Paulin said the new law, which was adopted by the Senate and Assembly in June, does not cover volunteer coaches.
US Judge Detains Okla. Teen on Child Abuse Charges
by Tim Talley
An Oklahoma teen facing a three-count indictment that accuses him of sexually abusing children at an orphanage in Kenya was ordered by a federal judge Wednesday to be detained until his trial.
The order by U.S. District Judge David Russell reversed a magistrate's order that authorized the conditional release of Matthew Lane Durham, 19, to his family's home in Edmond. In handing down the order, Russell said the charges against Durham "are extremely serious" and that he could not create conditions for his release on bond that would assure the safety of others.
"From the evidence submitted it appears that defendant potentially poses a danger to himself and to others in the community, especially minors, who are ill-equipped to protect themselves," Russell's 11-page order says.
Russell's order comes after Durham was indicted by a federal grand jury that accused him of traveling from Oklahoma City to Kenya to sexually abuse children at the Upendo Children's Home outside Nairobi, which specializes in assisting neglected Kenyan children by providing them with food, housing, clothes and academic and religious instruction.
Durham was also indicted for illicit sexual conduct in foreign places and aggravated sexual abuse. He faces up to life in prison if convicted.
Prosecutors allege that Durham engaged in sex acts with as many as 10 children aged 4 to 10 while volunteering at the orphanage. An affidavit filed in federal court said Durham, who has volunteered with the children's home since June 2012, wrote and signed a statement acknowledging the sexual misconduct. An Upendo official provided the statement to the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, the affidavit says.
But Durham's defense attorney, Stephen Jones, has challenged the credibility of Durham's statements and claims they were coerced by orphanage officials in Kenya who kept him in isolation and confiscated his passport. Jones did not return a telephone call seeking comment about his client's detention.
Russell's order states prosecutors have presented evidence that Durham has struggled with pornography and the desire to touch children for years and the judge expressed concern about the teen's mental health.
Durham, who is scheduled to enter a plea to the charges on Friday, has made statements about being powerless over a demon he has named Luke, Russell's order states. And during a conversation with his father, he did not deny engaging in the alleged activities "but denied remembering having done so," Russell said.
"Furthermore, since his return from Kenya, while living at his parents' home, defendant made threats against the founder of Upendo," the order states. Prosecutors say Durham sent a text message in which he threatened to burn down the house of Upendo's founder.
In ordering Durham's detention, Russell instructed authorities to confine him in a corrections facility separate from people serving sentences or being held in custody pending appeal. Durham was arrested last month and has been held in the Logan County Jail.
Wyoming couple accused of keeping child in a cage
An affidavit reveals the family had at least eight previous contacts with authorities but the child remained at the home.
(Video on site)
by Robert Garrison
LARAMIE, Wyo. - Authorities in Wyoming are pressing felony charges against a man and a woman alleging they kept a 7-year-old child in an outdoor cage.
The child's mother, Jena Harman, and her boyfriend, Alexander Smith, face one count each of child abuse and three counts each of felonious restraint.
The pair were arrested July 24 after Albany County Sheriff's deputies responded to a tip that the child was caged outside a home on Fox Creek Road.
The July 24 visit was not the only time the sheriff's office was called to check on the child. Deputies went to the pair's property on multiple occasions starting in February of this year.
Deputies said the child reported living in the 6-by-6-foot cage on and off for three weeks, taking meals there and sleeping there overnight, even during rainstorms.
The child was not allowed inside the house, according to an arrest affidavit. The victim said Harman would occasionally let the child inside the home when Smith was not around.
The times when the child was allowed inside, the 7-year-old slept on the floor. The victim told deputies that the dog got to sleep on the couch.
Harman and Smith also imposed rules on bathroom use. The child told investigators that peeing outside was allowed, but if the child "has to go poop, [the child] holds on to it, until they can go to town," the affidavit read.
The arrest affidavit said the child was fed at least once a day and had to eat while inside the enclosure. The victim was only let out of the cage for short periods during the day.
The affidavit also detailed instances where child was subjected to other types of abuse. The child was sprayed with a hose by Smith while the victim was inside the enclosure. The 7-year-old also slept outdoors in the cage while it rained.
The cage was constructed of "cattle paneling, wooden snow fence, and plywood covering half of the top of the cage." It was "secured with a metal chain, with a locking carabineer on one end, and a dog leash style latch on the other. A piece of plywood blocked access to the latch end of the chain from inside of the cage."
Deputies say the mother told them the plywood was put on top to give the child shelter from bad weather.
Harman and Smith told deputies that they kept the child in the cage only when the victim misbehaved.
The child's school had complained to the sheriff's office several times - saying the child had come to school with bruises and a limp. But each time, the sheriff's office said the reports were unfounded. At one point, deputies witnessed the kid pulling food out of a garbage can and eating it in front of them.
Neighbors told 9NEWS they saw the abuse firsthand but didn't report it, because they were scared of retribution from the mother's boyfriend.
The Albany County Sheriff's Office said it could not comment and referred all questions to the DA's office. Neither defense attorney was available for comment Tuesday.
Smith faces a circuit court hearing Thursday. The mother already has been bound over to district court. Both were in custody Tuesday.
The child is now in the state's custody.?
Dr. Max Wachtel: Investigators failed child
9NEWS psychologist Dr. Max Wachtel says the Albany County Sheriff's Office should have picked up on the abuse sooner. And he says the child faces a tough future.
"This was an absolute fail on the part of the sheriff's office," Dr. Wachtel said. "They came out eight times in nine months. The kid was starving. The kid missed 18 days of school, and all the sheriff's deputies did was say, 'well, try and get him to come to school.'"
"This kid is going to develop anxiety, depression, anger; that's almost a given," Dr. Wachtel added. "Probably the worst thing is the potential for the child to not be able to relate to other people."
Microsoft tip led police to arrest man over child abuse images
Pennsylvania man allegedly stored abuse images using Microsoft's OneDrive cloud storage and email account
by Samuel Gibbs
A 20-year-old man in Pennsylvania has been charged with receiving and sharing child abuse images after Microsoft tipped off police that he was allegedly storing and sending illegal images using Microsoft services.
Microsoft discovered the image involving a young girl allegedly within the man's cloud storage account.
The man was subsequently caught allegedly attempting to email two illegal images via a Microsoft email account.
Microsoft's digital crimes unit alerted the US National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) which serves as the central reporting authority for suspected child abuse cases.
The agency then liaised with law enforcement leading to his arrest on 31 July, court documents published by The Smoking Gun show.
The court documents explain that the man allegedly acquired the image using Kik Messenger on a mobile device. He is currently held at the Monroe County Correctional Facility, facing five charges related to his alleged possession and distribution of child abuse images, scheduled for a preliminary hearing in Magisterial District Court on 14 August.
“Child pornography violates the law as well as our terms of service, which makes clear that we use automated technologies to detect abusive behaviour that may harm our customers or others,” said Mark Lamb from Microsoft's digital crimes unit.
“In 2009, we helped develop PhotoDNA, a technology to disrupt the spread of exploitative images of children, which we report to the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children as required by law,” he said.
The PhotoDNA scanning software creates a unique signature for each image using data about the pixels of the image. Those signatures can then be tracked and matched, allowing Microsoft as well as Google, Facebook,Twitter and others to detect flagged photos.
No employees of any of the technology companies have to look at the images, solely relying on the “DNA” of the image to compare matches.
The PhotoDNA system is also used to prevent child abuse images appearing in search results.
Google recently tipped off NCMEC to a similar child abuse situation where illegal images were shared via a Gmail account, leading to the arrest of a 41-year-old Texan.
How tech companies are catching wrongdoers
by Rose Powell
Google's controversial email scanning practices netted a child abuser last month, but the internet giant is not the only technology company proactively combating the sharing of child abuse images.
While it is not known exactly what tipped the Google algorithms off to the existence of three pornographic child exploitation images in John Skillern's Gmail, the registered sex offender is now facing new charges in the US.
Both Facebook and Twitter use a photo analysis service called PhotoDNA from Microsoft. The software, launched in 2009, is also used on Microsoft's email service Hotmail (now Outlook), search engine Bing and data storage and sharing service Skydrive.
The image matching technology attaches a unique number (or hashing string) to images identified by peak child abuse prevention groups and recognises matches when uploaded and shared by users, regardless of whether they've been modified or resized.
Groups such as the US's Internet Watch Foundation and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children have flagged almost 100 million images and videos.
Samantha Doerr, former senior manager with Microsoft's digital crimes unit, child sexual exploitation prevention, previously told Fairfax Media the National Centre picks the "worst of the worst pictures on the internet and shares them with internet service providers so they can identify when they are shared again online".
"Technology has enabled a number of amazing things in this world and for people to build communities and share with each other, but also for people to build these [illegal] communities," she said.
"Children are getting younger and younger, about 10 per cent [of images] now is infants and toddlers because they can't tell anyone what is happening to them. And it's getting more and more violent."
Doerr, now a director of public affairs at Microsoft, said all technology companies reported found images as part of a global effort to end child exploitation.
She said the technology had not resulted in lower numbers of images being shared, but did improve authorities' ability to detect images and produced better reporting.
Robert Gellman, a US-based privacy and information consultant, told website Mashable that Google's actions had opened a “whole different can of worms ” beyond the usual privacy concerns that batter the tech giant.
"Drawing a line about email scanning is not simple — no one see to object if email is scanned for malware, but once you move beyond that, it's much more difficult," Gellman said.
"No one defends child porn, but the principle that an email provider will read mail looking for criminal activities is problematic. It raises concerns over what standards apply and which crimes are included."
Judge sets bonds totalling $2.2 million for Bradenton man charged with sexual, child abuse
by Jessica De Leon
MANATEE -- A judge set bonds totaling $2.2 million Wednesday for a Bradenton man charged with 29 counts of sexual abuse, sexual assault and child abuse over the last five years, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.
His girlfriend's bonds in the same case totaled $107,500 for two counts of child abuse and lewd and lascivious exhibition.
Shawn Ussery, 42, and Amy Muse, 37, were arrested Tuesday three days after bonding out on the lesser, original charges in the case.
Investigators from the Manatee County Sheriff's Office say Ussery and Muse knew the two victims. The first victim, now 18 years old, was 13 when the abuse began.
Muse appeared before Judge Gilbert Smith Jr. for a first appearance hearing.
"The defendant allegedly not only subjected (the victim) to harm but actually participated in it," a prosecutor told Gilbert.
Muse was placed on supervised release with the conditions she have no contact with the victims or Ussery, ingest no alcohol or illegal drugs and undergo random urinalysis.
Ussery refused to appear at the hearing.
The State Attorney's Office requested pretrial detention citing the great amount of proof in the case, Ussery's history of failing to appear in court and that he presented a threat to the community.
Gilbert ordered Ussery, if he were to post bond, placed on supervised release, have no contact with the victim or Muse, ingest no alcohol or illegal drugs, observe a curfew of 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. and wear an ankle-monitoring device at his own expense.
In a separate emergency hearing Wednesday afternoon, steps were taken to protect the victims from Ussery and Muse.
The couple was first arrested Friday on the original charges. Investigators learned of the abuse when the first victim spoke out of concern for the other victim, according to arrest warrants.
Muse was aware of the sexual abuse and failed to do anything about it, according to officials.
The abuse occurred at least two to three times a month and as often as several times a week, the warrant states.
While the abuse was under investigation, the first victim went to Ussery and Muse's home July 30 and confronted Ussery. The girl recorded the conversation without law enforcement's prior knowledge, according to officials.
"The defendant stated to the victim: 'Don't put me in prison for loving you,' " according to the arrest report.
On Friday, he was arrested and charged with lewd and lascivious battery.
Muse was first arrested Friday also and charged with domestic battery. Investigators said she became angered by the allegations, slapped the victim several times and squeezed her jaw causing her teeth to grind against her cheeks, according to the warrant.
Both bonded out from the Manatee County jail Saturday. As the investigation continued, detectives reported they learned Ussery had smoked methamphetamine with the second victim three days prior to his first arrest and sexually abused the victim again after bonding out of jail Saturday.
During a forensic interview, the second victim, now 11 years old, told investigators she had been sexually abused since she was 7.
After his second arrest Tuesday, Ussery admitted to smoking methamphetamine and taking the children to a hotel room after his arrest, according to officials.
Muse was also arrested again Tuesday after investigators learned of the additional incidents of abuse.
Ussery is a convicted felon. In January 2011, he was released from a Florida prison after serving one year of a 20-month sentence for charges of grand theft of a motor vehicle, fleeing or eluding a law enforcement officer, two counts of driving with a suspended driver's license for a habitual offender, burglary of an unoccupied structure and grand theft of between $5,000 and $10,000.
His prior charges include battery and giving a false name to law enforcement.
Muse's criminal history includes charges of possession and selling methamphetamine, violation of probation and petty theft.
Father now at halfway house in fatal child abuse case
by Allison Sylte
BOULDER – Five years into a 16 year sentence, the father convicted of neglect in the high-profile death of his infant son is now out of prison and spending his days in a halfway house.
Alex Midyette was convicted of criminally negligent child abuse for the death of his 11-week-old son, Jason, in 2009. That's when his 16 year sentence began.
9Wants to Know has learned that Midyette was handed over to community corrections earlier this year.
A spokesperson for the Department of Corrections said Midyette had to meet a very specific criteria before he could become eligible for a halfway house.
Midyette is currently in a halfway house in Boulder, his hometown.
Alex Midyette and his wife, Molly, were both found guilty in the 2006 death of their son. Alex Midyette was convicted of criminally negligent child abuse resulting in death – the lesser of the two charges he faced.
Molly Midyette was convicted of child abuse resulting in death.
Prior to his death, their son had been brought to the Children's Hospital with at least 20 broken bones and a skull fracture. He died shortly thereafter.
Task force opens study on child sex abuse
by Bob Mercer
PIERRE – An estimated 80 percent children who have been sexually abused never tell anyone about it, the chairman of a new South Dakota task force said Tuesday at the panel's first meeting.
“We absolutely don't know what to do. And because of that, the conversation has never been opened up,” state Sen. Deb Soholt said. “This is not something where there are winners and losers. There are only losers."
Soholt, R-Sioux Falls, was prime sponsor of the state law creating the task force during the 2014 legislative session. The lead House sponsor was House Republican leader David Lust of Rapid City.
The House passed the bill 69-0 and the Senate followed 35-0.
There were 2,192 children whose cases were handled by law enforcement in South Dakota during 2013, according to Soholt, who said that number suggests another 8,000-plus went unaddressed.
The legislation was called “Jolene's Law” in recognition of Jolene Loetscher, of Sioux Falls.
Loetscher has spoken publicly about her experience as a victim and a survivor of child sexual abuse at the ages of 15 and 16 while growing up in Nebraska.
“Hearing the word victim, I'd do anything to take it away,” said Loetscher, who is one of the 15 members of the task force.
The state law calls for the task force to complete its work by Jan. 1 and to deliver a report to the Legislature on the prevalence of child sexual abuse in South Dakota and to make policy recommendations.
Among the four legislators on the task force is Rep. Jenna Haggar, R-Sioux Falls, who said she met Loetscher in 2012, when Haggar was the lead House sponsor on a state law that lengthened the period when child sex abuse can be prosecuted.
The two other lawmakers are Rep. Peggy Gibson, D-Huron, who said her sister and her former husband were victims of sexual abuse as children, and Sen. Alan Solano, R-Rapid City, who was selected as the panel's vice chairman.
“This is really critical work we're embarking on here,” Solano said. “I look forward to helping.”
Soholt said the task force wouldn't be looking at who commits the crimes or how to rehabilitate the perpetrators.
Instead, she said, the focus will be on public awareness, prevention and creating opportunities for children to tell their stories to adults, including law enforcement and courts.
The first expert to address the task force was one of its members, Dr. Nancy Free, a Sioux Falls-based pediatrician who specializes in child abuse. She said child sexual abuse is any sexual activity with a child.
“Child sexual abuse is very alive in South Dakota,” Free said. “It's almost impossible to find anyone on the planet who's not been impacted by child sexual abuse.”
She said it's rare for children to tell what happened within proximity of the events and most often disclosure is delayed.
As adults, their lives tend to be “much tougher,” she said, and there is “a very strong argument” economically to address child sex abuse.
“If we don't protect our children, we will have chaos,” Free said.
Focus on historical sexual abuse ignores today's harsh mental health cuts
Survivors of abuse need good mental health services now, otherwise they are simply being failed all over again
by Clare Allan
There is a sense of national outrage at the seemingly endless stream of revelations concerning the sexual abuse of children by people in the public eye. While such outrage is understandable, I can't help being struck by the simultaneous lack of concern about the cuts to the services and support many survivors of sexual abuse depend on.
Mental health problems are a very common consequence of sexual abuse. An overview of research in this area, conducted by Anne Lazenbatt for the NSPCC suggests that as many as 80% of young adults who have been sexually or physically abused, or both, are found to meet the diagnostic criteria for at least one psychiatric disorder by the time they are 21. By the time they reach their late 20s, they are twice as likely to have attempted suicide as someone who has never been abused.
Around half of people using mental health services report histories of sexual and/or physical abuse and there is masses of research demonstrating the fact that those who have experienced childhood abuse show a greatly increased risk of developing depression, severe anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, drug and alcohol problems, eating disorders, various personality disorders and problems with self-harm. Survivors of childhood sexual abuse very often suffer from feelings of guilt, responsibility and powerlessness and may struggle with interpersonal relationships.
None of which is surprising. But neither does it have to be an inevitable life sentence. With the media focus firmly on celebrity perpetrators, we hear very little of survivors of abuse, other than that their lives have been "ruined" as a consequence of what happened. An expression I loathe precisely because it suggests that there's nothing to be done for them. It seems almost to justify our turning away. Their lives are ruined. End of.
But we know that with appropriate and timely intervention, people can be helped enormously to overcome the legacy of childhood abuse. So it seems deeply ironic, to say the least, that this moment of national outrage at the damage done to our children should coincide with the decimation of the mental health services they need to recover.
Service users (and those unable to access services), mental health professionals, GPs, carers, charities and campaign groups are all warning in the starkest possible terms about the current crisis in mental health services. Mental health services are "a car crash" , according to professor Sue Bailey, outgoing president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. A survey of 500 GPs by the magazine Pulse has found that more than eight out of 10 believed that their local community mental health team could not cope with its caseload. 84% said that they were forced to prescribe "at least sometimes", because their local Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (Iapt) team was unable to help a patient.
According to Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of GPs, "There is an urgent need to reassess the way funding is allocated so that services in the community have adequate resources to deliver more proactive, planned care to patients with mental illness." No kidding. Freedom of Information requests from the shadow public health minister, Luciana Berger, to England's 211 GP-led local NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), reveal that some parts of the NHS spend as little as 6.6% of their budget on mental health despite the fact that mental health problems account for 23% of the national disease burden.
To give just one example of the impact of this on individuals, a friend who suffers from bulimia so severe it has pretty much taken over every aspect of her life, and who also has a history of child sexual abuse, was referred to an eating disorders clinic for treatment 20 months ago. She is still on the waiting list. This sort of delay now seems normal in mental health services. But can you imagine anyone with a physical illness so severe that they cannot work or socialise being expected to wait almost two years for treatment to even begin?
There is nothing wrong with being outraged at the sexual abuse of children, or at the way those meant to protect them, children's homes, hospitals, schools, and so on, failed them and let them down. A public inquiry is important and welcome. But in confining our outrage to the past and ignoring the needs of the present, we are letting survivors down all over again.
Tucker: Time to take domestic violence seriously, close gun loopholes
by Debby Tucker
Last month, in a suburb outside Houston, a man named Ronald Haskell got his hands on a gun and killed a family of four children and two adults. Haskell had a history of domestic violence and had been placed under restraining orders in the year before the shooting.
He had broken into the family's home looking for his ex-wife Melanie Kay Haskell, but instead found her sister, brother-in-law and their four kids. All six family members were killed because a man who never should have had a gun in the first place was armed.
Disturbingly, this story is not unique in our country or in our state. The use of guns in domestic violence cases is epidemic in nature. American women are 11 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than women in other developed countries.
We can do more to protect women from gun violence. That's why I'm joining with domestic violence survivors and advocates in Washington this week to support Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar's Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act. This important bill would close dangerous loopholes that allow domestic abusers and stalkers to get guns.
Current federal law prohibits domestic abusers who abuse their spouses from buying or owning guns, but not those who abuse dating partners. Klobuchar's bill would simply get our gun laws in line with the same “dating partner” definition used in the Violence Against Women Act. The reality is that more women are killed by dating partners than by spouses. Closing this loophole will undoubtedly save lives.
As a longtime advocate, I've learned a great deal about women in abusive relationships. Last month the National Domestic Violence Hotline released the results of a survey that provided a firsthand look at the intersection of firearms and domestic violence.
The findings were startling, but they all too eerily echoed the stories I regularly hear while working to combat the dangers of domestic violence.
Two-thirds of women whose partners had access to a gun believed their partner was capable of killing them. When the abuser has access to firearms, the survey confirmed that victims' fears intensify and the violence escalates.
One woman responded in the survey that her husband sleeps with loaded guns under his pillow. Recently, she woke and heard him release the safety next to her head. He uses his guns regularly to threaten and abuse her. Another respondent said her abuser told their young child he would shoot and kill the entire family.
The individual stories are horrifying, and the statistics paint an equally traumatic picture. A report by Everytown for Gun Safety released this summer found that more than half of women killed with guns in 2011 — at least 53 percent — were killed by intimate partners or family members.
The deadly toll that guns and domestic violence take on our families isn't something we have to live with, and there is plenty of evidence that stronger gun laws make a difference. Sixteen states have taken the important step of requiring background checks on all handgun sales — including sales at gun shows and online, and not just the ones that take place at licensed gun dealers. In those 16 states, 38 percent fewer women are shot to death by current and former intimate partners.
We can respect the Second Amendment and save women's lives at the same time. In fact, this year alone six states — Louisiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Vermont, Washington State and Wisconsin — have done just that. They have all passed crucial bipartisan laws to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers.
Hopefully, our own senators will take on this important fight in Washington as well.
The tragedy outside Houston, and the hundreds of similar tragedies that take place all over the country should compel us to action. It is time to close the loopholes that make it all too easy for domestic abusers to get their hands on guns.
Tucker is the executive director of the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence. She is based in Austin.
Queens Couple Allegedly Starved, Beat Daughter With Baseball Bats, Broom Handles for Years
A Queens couple allegedly beat and starved their now 12-year-old daughter for two years, depriving her of food and water and hitting her with baseball bats and broom handles so severely that in one case, the little girl was found lying in a pool of blood with a wrist cut so deep her tendons were visible, prosecutors say.
Sheetal Ranot, who is the girl's stepmother, was arraigned Aug. 1 on first- and second-degree assault and child endangerment charges. Her husband, Rajesh Ranot, the child's biological father, was arraigned the same day on unlawful imprisonment and lesser assault charges.
Prosecutors allege the Ozone Park duo terrorized the child from December 2012 to July 2014.
According to a criminal complaint, Sheetal Ranot repeatedly hit her stepdaughter, causing bruising and pain, locked her in her bedroom and starved here for extended periods of time during that two-year span. In one case, the 31-year-old woman allegedly kicked the then 10-year-old girl in the face while wearing shoes.
Six months later, Ranot allegedly repeatedly hit the girl with a broken metal broom handle, leaving her with a cut near her knee and a cut so deep on her wrist that her tendons were exposed and she needed to have surgery.
Rajesh Ranot also allegedly starved the girl for years, and prosecutors say he forced her to take cold showers while he beat her with his fists and other household objects, including a baseball bat.
In April, Sheetal Ranot allegedly hit her stepdaughter in the face with a wooden rolling pin. The girl had to be taken to the hospital, and doctors there saw she was painfully thin -- weighing 58 pounds -- and wearing dirty clothes. It wasn't clear if they contacted authorities.
Over the next three weeks, prosecutors allege Rajesh Ranot continued to beat his daughter with a baseball bat. The girl was taken to the emergency room, where doctors noticed various bruises, marks and scars in different stages of healing all over her body. An investigation was launched and the stepmother and father were arrested shortly afterward.
"Despite the bruising and scarring on her body which served as a silent testament to the violence and cruelty she purportedly endured, it is alleged that for a long time this emaciated child was fearful of disclosing the true nature of her injuries or those responsible for her suffering for fear that her younger step-siblings would be taken away by authorities and placed in foster care," Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement. "Fortunately, she found the courage to speak up.”
Administration for Children's Services Commissioner Gladys Carrión, whose agency filed an abuse petition against the couple in family court, said, “I am deeply grateful to the Child Protective Specialists and Investigative Consultants whose diligence and professionalism saved the life of this young girl and ensured that she and her siblings were removed from this home and are now safe from further abuse."
It wasn't clear how many other children were in the home during the period of alleged abuse.
Sheetal Ranot is being held in lieu of $60,000 bail. She's being represented by Queens Law Associates; her lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment.
Rajesh Ranot remains in jail in lieu of $25,000 bail. He is being represented by Legal Aid, which does not comment on pending litigation.
Child was sexually abused at Boys Home of the South
by Kirk Brown
BELTON — A 12-year-old child was sexually abused and tortured by a house parent at the Boys Home of the South, according to a recently filed lawsuit.
The same child also was sexually assaulted by an older boy at the group home, according to the suit, which was filed July 29 in Greenville County.
The Boys Home of the South, which sits on a 127-acre tract off U.S. 25 in Greenville County about 10 miles east of Belton, closed earlier this year. Its closing was dictated under terms of the settlement of a federal lawsuit involving the alleged sexual abuse of an 11-year-old boy.
“The Boys Home of the South was truly a house of horrors,” said Robert Butcher, one of the attorneys who handled the federal suit that was settled in April.
The suit filed last week seeks financial damages related to permanent physical and emotional harm for a child identified only as “John Roe” in court papers. The list of defendants named in the suit includes the South Carolina Department of Social Services, the Boys Home of the South and several of its former staff members.
Department of Social Services spokeswoman Marilyn Matheus issued a response to the suit Tuesday night.
“Making sure our foster children are placed in the best situations possible and in safe and loving environments will always be one of our top priorities,” she said. “The allegations made in this recently filed lawsuit are said to have occurred almost a decade ago and DSS will release its official response when it is completed and submitted to the court.”
According to the suit, the child was removed from his home in 1998 and placed in foster care under the social services department's supervision. The department eventually placed the child at the Boys Home of the South, the suit says.
The suit says the child was sexually attacked by a house parent at the Boys Home of the South on at least seven occasions in 2004 and 2005. According to the suit, the child told staff members at the Boys Home of the South and his state social worker about the attacks.
In an interview Tuesday, Abbeville lawyer Thomas Hite III, who is one of the lawyers representing the child, said the Greenville County Sheriff's Office conducted a criminal investigation of the house parent but no charges were filed.
What happened to the child at the Boys Home of the South is sickening, Hite said. “It gave me nightmares,” he said.
Hite is running as a Democrat for the South Carolina House of Representatives District 11 seat now held by Abbeville Republican Craig Gagnon. The district includes portions of southern Anderson County.
Hite said his involvement with the previous lawsuit involving sexual abuse at the Boys Home of the South contributed to his decision to seek elected office. The need for reforms at the social services department is one of the key issues in his campaign.
“The lack of supervision of DSS and our foster care system has allowed too many children to slip through the cracks and be abused,” said Hite in a statement announcing the filing of the latest lawsuit against the Boys Home of the South. “Lawsuits can shed some light on this abhorrent situation, and can seek redress for some specific case of abuse, but this statewide epidemic can only be addressed by a complete overhaul of our welfare system beginning with the failed leadership in Columbia.”
Hite is not the only Democrat who has seized on problems at the state social services department as a campaign issue. Lillian Koller, who was chosen by Republican Gov. Nikki Haley in 2011 to run the agency, resigned in June after coming under criticism over the deaths of several children and concerns that many of the department's employees were burdened with unmanageable caseloads.
The Democratic Governors Association has been airing a TV ad featuring a former department employee who accuses Haley of protecting her career instead of South Carolina's children. Democrats also are calling attention to a report that aired on ABC World News earlier this week. The report included comments from four unidentified whistle-blowers who said the South Carolina social services department is sending too many foster children back to abusive parents or caregivers.
Salvation Army supports voluntary child sexual abuse compensation plan
Salvation Army submission to inquiry says each institution should be responsible for compensating for its own wrongdoing
by Helen Davidson
The Salvation Army would support compensation schemes for victims of child sexual abuse but “would resist having to contribute” to its funding unless it had some authority over staffing, decision making and the ability to question costs.
In its submission to the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse, the organisation said the establishment and operation of a financial redress scheme should be entirely funded by the Commonwealth, with funds contributed by institutions and offenders only going to abuse survivors.
It also suggested an institution should be given the option to “opt in or out” of the scheme, “as a matter of general principle.”
“Liability for such payments should not be apportioned between institutions,” it read. “Each institution should be responsible for their own wrongdoing. Then, such a scheme could operate on a debt-basis.”
In its submission, the Salvation Army also said it believed any final decision about the amount of compensation to be paid to a victim should be made by the institution, although it would support a national “best practice” protocol.
Financial reparation should be directed to “acknowledge harm and damage,” address the needs of the survivor and cover “reasonable” legal costs. It also warned that there must be equality of redress for victims of abuse in state-run institutions and non-government institutions.
Multiple public hearings have examined shocking cases of abuse of children and a failure by the Salvation Army to adequately respond to complaints. Allegations that abuse victims were punished for reporting were also heard.
In June the Salvation Army issued an apology to victims, saying it was “profoundly sorry” for the abuse suffered by at least 150 children under its care over decades. However the organisation maintained sexual abuse was not widespread within its ranks, submitting that the 157 claims of abuse in four of its homes was a “relatively small number” considering that more than 13,000 children had passed through the homes over 113 years. However counsel assisting the commission Simeon Beckett said it was likely many more people had not reported their abuse.
The royal commission has so far received a record 78 public submissions on the issue of redress, which its chief executive, Philip Reed, said reflected strong community interest in the issue.
“There is a common theme running through the submissions; that appropriate redress schemes may be effective in providing justice to victims of institutional child sexual abuse,” Reed said.
“A number of submissions put forward features for effective redress schemes, and some submissions recommended the establishment of a national redress scheme.”
The Salvation Army called for an external national body to be established to run the scheme to prevent perceptions that any payments were unfair or unequal.
“It considered that guidelines set independently of the institutions may give survivors a sense of relief that the figures ultimately determined in those guidelines have been deemed to be fair and just by the government authority that set them.”
It supported a redress scheme rather than civil litigation but said survivors should have the choice to pursue either.
However it added that claimants should not be allowed to “double dip” by seeking civil damages if they have already gone through the scheme. It also said there should be discussion around a “cap” on payment amounts.
The submission said that redress for individuals should be dealt with on a case by case basis and should allow abuse survivors to choose what sort of redress – financial or otherwise – they wished to seek.
“Fundamentally the Salvation Army considers that any redress scheme, whether internal or external should have as its primary objective the capacity to resolve claims in the best interest of the survivor.”
In another submission the Uniting Church gave support for a national and uniform externally operated scheme, to remove an institution's responsibility for investigating itself. It said state-level redress schemes had been a “bitter experience” for survivors.
“Some of the church's institutions have existing internal procedures to support people who have survived abuse, and many survivors have expressed satisfaction with the hearing and support they received.”
It said an external and transparent process with independent oversight would ensure its church was “fully held to account in a manner that gives the whole community confidence”.
It also raised the prospect of a discussion on compensation payment caps, however in contrast to the Salvation Army's submission, the Uniting Church suggested any redress scheme should involve “universal” participation. It said defining the meaning of “mandatory” inclusion in a scheme would be one of the greatest challenges in operating it.
The Catholic Church, also the subject of numerous public hearings, has not yet provided a submission to the royal commission.
Why child migrants head to the US
For many minors from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, making a dangerous journey north outweighs the risks of staying behind.
by Whitney Eulich
The dramatic increase in unaccompanied child migrants crossing the US-Mexican border this year didn't develop overnight. What can be done to both keep the more than 57,000 migrant children from Central America safe and halt the flow?
WHAT HAPPENED IN CENTRAL AMERICA RECENTLY THAT LED TO THE SURGE OF CHILD MIGRANTS?
El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras have long had high rates of violence, struggling economies, and lack of opportunity, all of which tend to “push” emigration. Over the past decade, the increased presence of street gangs and organized crime have further exacerbated the situation.
“It's not like there was a golden age” in the Northern Triangle, as this region is called, says Dana Frank, an expert on Honduran history at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Civil wars raged across Central America throughout the 1970s and '80s, and economic inequality persists.
These three main countries from which the children are fleeing are among the nations with the top five murder rates in the world (along with Belize and Venezuela), according to the most recent United Nations data. In some cases, such as Guatemala, the homicide rate has actually declined slightly in recent years. But crimes like extortion have become “widespread and intolerable,” says Cynthia Arnson, the Latin America director at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. “Everyone is hit, down to the person at the bottom of the informal economy selling chewing gum.”
There are also “pull” factors drawing migrants to the United States. These include family already residing there and “what appears to be a very deliberate effort by human trafficking rings to spread rumors” about US immigration policy for children, Ms. Arnson says.
WHO ARE THESE CHILDREN AND WHY ARE THEY COMING ONLY TO THE US?
Those counted as child migrants are under the age of 18, and some are coming with children of their own. Many have traversed the porous and increasingly dangerous Guatemalan-Mexican border, ridden deadly freight trains across Mexico, or hired human traffickers to lead them north. All have suffered some kind of trauma, whether it's extreme weather conditions, threats by gangs, hunger, rape, stress, or injury.
Almost half of the children from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico recently interviewed by the United Nations Refugee Agency fled their homes due to violence.
Most of the unaccompanied minors are teens, but those aged 12 and under are part of the fastest growing group crossing the US-Mexican border, according to the Pew Research Center. This cohort more than doubled between 2013 and 2014, reaching 7,461 between October and June this year. Salvador Gutiérrez, an Americas policy officer for the International Organization forMigration says he's heard reports that armed gangs are targeting children more frequently in Northern Triangle nations.
About 36 percent of the unaccompanied children the UN interviewed had at least one parent residing in the US. Not all of the minors cited this as their primary reason for migrating, however.
Furthermore, applications for asylum in neighboring countries such as Costa Rica and Mexico have shot up in recent years. Mr. Gutiérrez estimates the total number of Northern Triangle migrants seeking asylum in other Central American countries has increased seven fold since 2008.
ARE CENTRAL AMERICAN LEADERS OFFERING SOLUTIONS?
Honduras and Guatemala are asking for an increase in US aid for security and development across Central America. Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina said that if the US used just 10 percent of its border budget in Central America – about $2 billion – it could “attack the root of the problem.” The US has invested $800 million in regional defense in all of Central America since 2008, and there are allegations in each Northern Triangle country of corrupt security officials and collusion between the police and criminal gangs.
Central American leaders are also asking the US to treat their young citizens as refugees. Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández called for a “clear” US immigration policy as well as an alternative approach to US drug policy, which he says plays a direct role in the violence in Central America.
WHAT ARE US LEADERS SUGGESTING AS A SOLUTION?
President Obama requested $3.7 billion from Congress to address the immigration crisis. If the package passes, the majority of that money will stay in the US, bolstering law enforcement on the border and social services. About $300 million of that package would go to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. The House of Representatives passed a $694 million border bill Aug. 1, but it is not expected to become law. The Senate began its five-week summer recess without passing its own legislation.
Mexican youths, unlike those from Central America, can be deported on the spot. Some politicians are pushing for a repeal of the 2008 law that slows down deportation for Central American children. Additionally, Mr. Obama said the US would consider a limited refugee program in Central America, which would allow minors to apply for entry before embarking on the dangerous journey north.
WHAT'S AT RISK WHEN DEPORTING THE CHILDREN FROM THE US?
Deportations have already started on a small scale, and Gutiérrez at the IOM worries that Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala won't be able to absorb a larger influx of child migrants. “There won't be room at shelters and there may not be enough food,” he says. He estimates around 13,000 children currently have deportation orders from the US.
For many children, the problems they fled – no income, aggressive gang recruitment, extortion, or threats of violence – still await them back home, with few resources to deal with them. In Guatemala, the government spends a smaller percentage of its gross domestic product on social programs than almost any other nation in the hemisphere. “The priority is to reintegrate these children, but there's a lot of concern over the trauma they have been through,” and if their home countries can provide needed support, Gutiérrez says.
Google defends child porn tip-offs to police
by Robert Macpherson
Google defended its policy of electronically monitoring its users' content for child sexual abuse after it tipped off police in Texas to a child pornography suspect.
Houston restaurant worker John Henry Skillern, 41, was arrested Thursday following a cyber-tip that Google had passed along via the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), based outside Washington.
"He was trying to get around getting caught, he was trying to keep it inside his email," said detective David Nettles of the Houston Metro Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce.
"I can't see that information, I can't see that photo -- but Google can," he told Houston television station KHOU, which first reported the story.
It's common knowledge that the world's leading Internet service, like its rivals, tracks users' online behavior in order to fine-tune its advertising services.
But the Texas case prompted concerns about the degree to which Google might be giving information about its users' conduct to law enforcement agencies.
"The story seems like a simple one with a happy outcome -- a bad man did a crime and got caught," blogged John Hawes, chief of operations at Virus Bulletin, a cyber security consultancy.
"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," he said.
In an email to AFP, a Google spokesperson said Monday: "Sadly, all Internet companies have to deal with child sexual abuse.
"It's why Google actively removes illegal imagery from our services -- including search and Gmail -- and immediately reports abuse to the NCMEC."
The NCMEC operates the CyberTipline, through which Internet service providers can relay information about suspect online child sexual abuse on to police departments.
"Each child sexual abuse image is given a unique digital fingerprint which enables our systems to identify those pictures, including in Gmail," added the spokesperson, who did not disclose technical details about the process.
"It is important to remember that we only use this technology to identify child sexual abuse imagery -- not other email content that could be associated with criminal activity (for example using email to plot a burglary).”
In a separate email to AFP, the NCMEC said federal law requires Internet service providers to report suspected child porn to the CyberTipline.
"NCMEC makes all CyberTipline reports available to appropriate law-enforcement agencies for review and possible investigation," it said.
On its website Monday, KHOU described Skillern as a registered sex offender, convicted 20 years ago of sexually assaulting an eight-year-old boy.
Investigators who raided his home allegedly found child porn on his phone and tablet device, as well as cellphone videos of children visiting the Denny's family restaurant where he worked as a cook.
Skillern has been charged with one count of possession of child pornography and one count of promotion of child pornography. He remains in custody on a $200,000 bond, KHOU said.
Google's online set of "program policies" for its Gmail service, with more than 400 million users worldwide, includes "a zero-tolerance policy against child sexual abuse imagery."
"If we become aware of such content, we will report it to the appropriate authorities and may take disciplinary action, including termination, against the Google accounts of those involved," it states.
Last year, Google's chief legal officer David Drummond, writing in Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper, acknowledged Google had created technology to "trawl" for known images of child sex abuse."
"We can then quickly remove them and report their existence to the authorities," he said.
Newly Released Fantasy Empowers Victims of Child Abuse and Bullying to Seek Assistance
by Peggy McAloon
MENOMONIE, Wis., Aug. 4, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Roughly three million cases of child abuse are reported every year and many more go unreported. A new book has been published to help kids survive and thrive in a world filled with social injustices. The fantasy includes action, adventure, and a touch of magic to help kids understand that abuse and bullying must be reported to a trusted adult or friend.
Elle Burton and the Reflective Portals, written by Peggy McAloon, is about a Wisconsin girl who encounters winged creatures from another dimension. She captures one of the creatures entering Earth through the reflection of a child (reflective portal) in Lake Menomin. She is enticed to help the creatures protect the children of Earth by becoming an Earth Guide.
Will Elle be brave enough to oppose the evil forces that do everything in their power to keep guides like her from offering support to those in need?
This book accomplishes several important goals for child safety:
Provides a story that kids in trouble can relate to outside of classroom instruction on safety.
Gives hope to kids who have recently lost a parent, are keeping their "secret" of abuse, or who are being bullied.
Creates an escape for kids in trouble by providing hope.
Offers role models who are normal kids.
"When people ask me about the book," says author Peggy McAloon, "I tell them it is about the best friend we all dreamed of having as children. My hope is that every child who reads this book will learn to follow Elle's example and 'Have a Kind Heart'." McAloon is also seeking funding to provide the book free of charge to women's shelters in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and beyond.
Author Peggy McAloon is retired from the field of commercial credit, is the author of The Art of Business Credit Investigation, and is a recognized trainer and speaker . Her own journey through child abuse, depression, and a debilitating car accident elevated her desire to help children cope with their challenges in a way that will inspire and empower them.
Co-author Anneka Rogers (twelve) acted as a consultant on the book.
Catherine Gruener M.A., M.A., LCPC, NCC has prepared a two-page discussion sheet based on the story for parents. This is a free download on Peggy's website under the Book Tab. Ms. Gruener is a licensed clinical professional counselor and a nationally certified counselor. She has experience with anxiety, depression, and adjustment issues with adults and children
Elle Burton and the Reflective Portals ( Publisher: Wheatmark, Juvenile Fiction, Trade Paperback & ebook, 6x9 inches, 274 pages, Suggested Retail Price: $13.95 paperback, $2.99 ebook, Author: Peggy McAloon and Anneka Rogers, ISBN: 978-1-62787-056-6 (paperback), ISBN: 978-1-62787-090-0 (ebook), LCCN:2014937880 It is available at online booksellers.
Contact: Peggy McAloon, 715-962-2301, email
3-year-old Colorado girl shot by 5-year-old boy
by The Associated Press
PUEBLO, Colo. – Police say that a 5-year-old playing with a gun shot and injured a 3-year-old girl in Colorado.
The girl was in critical condition but stable condition Monday after the shooting. The Pueblo Chieftain reports that Pueblo police believe two other children were playing with a handgun in the backyard of a home.
Police say a 9-year-old boy got the handgun from the house and that a 5-year-old got the gun and pointed it at the girl. The gender of the 5-year-old was not disclosed.
The mother of the victim was home at the time and has not been identified by police.
The child who shot the 3-year-old will not be charged with a crime. But the gun owner, 22-year-old Adrian Chavez, was arrested and faces child abuse charges.
Parents of bullied Florida girl who killed herself sue school board
by Barbara Liston
ORLANDO Fla. (Reuters) - The parents of a 12-year-old Florida girl who killed herself after being bullied by schoolmates filed a lawsuit Monday accusing the school system of negligence for failing to stop the torment.
Rebecca Sedwick jumped from a silo at an abandoned cement plant in Lakeland, Florida, last September after enduring months of bullying at school and online, even after switching schools, according to police reports.
The lawsuit identifies the primary bully as G.S., whom it accuses of intentional infliction of emotional distress. It also accuses Cemex Construction Materials Florida LLC of negligent maintenance of its abandoned facility.
It said G.S. used social media to tell Sedwick to "drink bleach and die," and to "go kill yourself."
"Defendant G.S.'s outrageous conduct included a Facebook posting by Defendant G.S., subsequent to Plaintiff's decedent taking her own life that stated, "Yes ik [I know] I bullied Rebecca nd [and] she killed herself but IDGAF [I don't give a f**k]," the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit was filed in Polk County, located between Orlando and Tampa, said Matt Morgan, the parents' lawyer.
It seeks a minimum of $15,000 from the Polk County School District for failing to protect Sedwick during the 2012-13 school year at Crystal Lake Middle School.
"Defendant school board knew or should have known that its failure to adequately and expeditiously discipline G.S. for her conduct would result in a further escalating pattern of disruptive and violent behavior which, in turn, would threaten the safety of Crystal Lake students," the lawsuit said.
Laws limiting liability for government agencies would normally cap damages to $200,000. But the lawsuit claims that its charges against the board are not covered by that cap.
G.S., 14, and a 12-year-old girl were arrested in October and charged with felony aggravated stalking in her death. The charges were later dropped.
The parents of G.S. could not be reached for comment.
The sheriff's investigation found Sedwick suffered from family troubles that contributed to her mental state, according to media reports.
Representatives of the school board and Cemex USA said on Monday they have not yet been served with the lawsuit.
(Video is on site)
CALM (Child Abuse Listening Mediation)
by Editor -- Santa Barbara View
Ali Azarvan volunteered for 25 local non profits in May and shares his chronicles:
Before I started my May Days campaign, I reached out to my good buddy, Andrew Firestone, and asked him if he had any local non-profits that he felt strongly about – CALM was one of the first charities he had mentioned. I'm so glad he did. CALM has a simple and important vision – a world where child abuse no longer exists. Obviously, this is a vision that we can (and should) all get behind.
Andrew introduced me to Cecilia Rodriguez (Executive Director) and Lori Goodman (Director of Development) who are both kind, creative, and intelligent women. More importantly (for me), they were both excited about my May Days project – and they set up the most organized and effective day I've had yet. Their idea was to make me a board member for a day – needless to say, I could NOT have been more excited for this adventure.
I first received a tour of their amazing facilities in an awesome location in Santa Barbara – and by “awesome” I mean “I want an office there immediately”! As they were giving me the tour, the first thing that caught my attention was that they have nearly 100 paid staff members! Now I've spent a lot of time with a lot of charities lately – and 100 paid staff is huge. They are obviously doing great work for what is, unfortunately, a prevalent problem. . . even in perfect little Santa Barbara. They also showed me an amazing video, below, that does a great job of encapsulating their mission – check it out if you want a quick and thorough understanding of this amazing charity.
I Will Not Be Silent - video
I then got together in their beautiful conference room with the rest of their board members (an awesome group of people) to meet with Christine Scott-Hudson, CALM's Clinical Art Therapist. She was going to lead us in an art therapy session, just like she does every day with abused children – and, to be totally honest, prior to this experience, I would have thought that art therapy was a little hokie. Not anymore. I'm a believer.
I've been sitting here for the last 45 minutes attempting to “re-create” the experience here in my blog and I just CAN'T DO IT. In my opinion, you have to experience it for yourself. Long story, short- I actually got to witness my subconscious work to solve a problem I'm currently facing while I thought I was just making some irrelevant drawings. It was honestly MIND BLOWING. Very cool stuff and I have no doubt that this therapy is hugely successful for children. Christine is amazing at what she does and her big-heart is apparent the second you meet her – she cares about what she does and it's displayed all the time when she consistently shows up to work on her days off!
I was then lucky enough to listen to 5 of CALM's therapists discuss one case / child that has affected them – a case that has stuck with them over the years. I heard 5 stories that simultaneously brought me sadness, anger, confusion, excitement, hope and, in the end, happiness. I felt like an emotional basket – as a new father, it blows my mind what so many children have to face on a day-to-day basis. But I couldn't be more proud that a local organization just down the road from me is making such strides in eliminating child abuse.
The last part of my day was, by far, the most exciting. I was lucky enough to visit our local SART (Sexual Assault Response Team) house and learn about how CALM is involved with a case immediately after it is reported. There I got to meet SART coordinator, Dianna Dominguez. She is extremely intelligent and has a huge heart. They actually conducted a mock forensic interview with Cecilia playing the role of interviewer (a role she plays in real life about 100 time a year!) and Dianna playing the role of the sexually abused child. We were viewing this all from behind a 1-way mirror. I felt like I was on the set of a TV drama and I can tell you that you could hear a pin drop in that room- it was as though we were actually there watching a very heavy and intense moment in a child's life.
What blew my mind was Cecilia's amazing ability to interview without “leading the witness” – the toughest part of this job is that the interviewer has to assume that everything that takes place in that room will be used in court. So they have to shut off all emotions and they cannot counsel the child. Picture this- a little girl is telling you the most humiliating story about how her step-brother has been sexually abusing her for years. . . she's crying uncontrollably. . . and you can't hug her. You can't tell her it's “going to be ok”. You are relegated to respond with something like “and then what happened?”. Tough stuff. And Cecilia navigates this beautifully.
Final note- as I was walking out, I had a long conversation with Lori Goodman – who had really ensured that this day was perfect for me. We chatted about life and I got a glimpse into why CALM is so effective- It's their staff. In just a short time, I feel like I've known Lori for years. She's good peeps – plain and simple.
To learn more about this awesome charity, please visit their website. -- www.calm4kids.org
Domestic violence refuge provision at crisis point, warn charities
Women's groups say broadscale closure of safe houses putting support for some of most vulnerable people back 40 years
by Sandra Laville
Domestic violence refuges are being closed across the country in a crisis that is putting support for the most vulnerable women and children back 40 years, leading charities have warned.
Specialist safe houses for women and children – which were forged out of the feminist movement in the 1970s – are being forced to shut by some local authorities because they do not take in male victims.
In other areas, refuges are facing closure in favour of preventive work and support in the community or being replaced with accommodation provided by housing associations.
The threat comes from a competitive tendering process being adopted by local authorities, which charities say is weighted towards larger housing associations and businesses and ignores the lessons of four decades about the need to provide specialist, therapeutic support in refuges for women forced to flee for their lives.
The home secretary, Theresa May, recently told a meeting of women's groups in London that there was a great deal of ignorance about the way domestic violence services were commissioned by local authorities. But she has repeatedly refused calls to ringfence funding nationally for women's refuges.
Key concerns raised by women's groups include:
• The breakdown of the national network of refuges through local authorities imposing limits on the numbers of non-local women able to stay in them.
• Time limits on length of stay.
• Funding cuts because refuges do not take men.
• Refuges being shut without alternative accommodation being provided.
In a snapshot of what is happening in England and Wales, the Guardian found that refuges have closed, or are under threat of closure, in Gloucestershire, Cheshire, Devon, Dorset, Sheffield, Nottingham, Somerset, Leeds, Leicestershire and Coventry. Coventry and Wolverhampton are examples of cities where a new focus on providing accommodation for male victims has led to funding being cut for traditional women's refuges.
The change in focus has been devastating for the Haven in Coventry, a charity which has run the city's women's refuges for 43 years, but is fighting for survival after its service was decommissioned by the council in favour of self-contained accommodation units and new accommodation for male victims.
The Wolverhampton Haven, which has run the refuges for 41 years, is having its funding from the city cut by £300,000 and – as it struggles to maintain services – has been forced to reserve some of its places for men, even though it has had no male referrals to the accommodation so far.
Sandra Horley, chief executive of the charity Refuge, said: "We are at crisis point. Refuge provision is under serious threat as a result of ongoing cuts to local funding and poor commissioning practices."
The country was in danger of "returning to the days of Cathy Come Home", Horley said, referring to the BBC TV play that triggered public outrage at homelessness in the mid-1960s.
"Without adequate refuge provision, women experiencing domestic violence will be faced with a stark choice: flee to live rough on the streets or remain with their abuser and risk further violence or even worse. Refuges are so much more than a roof over a head. Lives are transformed – specialist refuge workers support women to stay safe, access health services, legal advocacy and provide immigration advice.
"Refuges also provide peer support – women are able to share their experiences and understand what they have been through. They realise, often for the first time, they are not alone, and they are not to blame for the abuse. Empowering women and children to overcome trauma and rebuild their lives is highly specialist, intensive work – it takes longer than a few weeks."
Horley called for an urgent review of the commissioning process across the country and criticised the focus on male victims as deeply flawed.
"The vast majority of domestic violence is perpetrated by men against women," she said. "Of those who experience four or more incidents … 89% are women."
The closures come despite three parliamentary inquiries, in 1975, 1992 and 2008, concluding that the provision of national refuges must be the priority for any government tackling domestic violence.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Women's Aid, said a dearth of experience on commissioning bodies was putting the system back to when the first domestic violence refuge in the world opened, in Chiswick, west London, in 1971.
"There are areas where there aren't any refuges, other areas are specifying beds must be for local women only and some areas are commissioning so-called refuges which are not refuges," she said. "We thought we had won the argument that refuges need to be a national network but we are having arguments of 40 years ago all over again. There has to be a national network and national funding to support it."
Specialist refuges that take in victims of violence in forced marriages and of female genital mutilation have been particularly affected. This comes as the home affairs select committee report on FGM has called for better services, including refuges, for those at risk.
In Sheffield, the Ashiana refuge for black and minority ethnic women victims has shut after 30 years.
Rachel Mullan-Feroze, of the charity, said: "These women have very specialist needs and need specialist refuges. They have been trafficked, or involved in forced marriages, are victims of FGM, or so-called 'honour' crime. Many of them have unsettled immigration status and all the evidence shows they suffer more severe and enduring violence because they are stuck between abuse and destitution."
But one of the biggest housing association providers in the UK, Home Group, said none of its 23 refuges had been closed.
Rachael Byrne, director of care and support at the association, said: "Local authorities have the unenviable task of coping with shrinking budgets and increased demand for services. We've developed more flexible services, which include floating support for survivors of domestic violence, [many of whom] tell us they do not want or need to upturn their lives by moving into a refuge."
Norman Baker, the crime prevention minister, said: "Decisions regarding the funding of local refuges are matters for local councils. We are helping local councils by drawing together best practice on commissioning."
'I fear what is happening now will mean more women will die'
Chris Collier is almost wistful as she remembers the place of safety for victims of domestic violence which she dedicated so much of her life to.
"Ours was a fabulous refuge," she says. "We had room to take in 100 women and even more children each year. We had a playroom that was Ofsted registered, we had a lovely garden for the children to play in, and we had women on duty 24/7, so it was really safe.
"A refuge shows women they are not alone, and that is a great support system which might persist after a woman has left the refuge. I fear what is happening now will mean more women will die."
After almost 40 years Collier's refuge in Exeter closed in April when the county council decommissioned its services, along with north Devon's second refuge in Barnstaple.
The same has happened in Gloucestershire, Cheshire, Dorset, Somerset, Sheffield, Nottingham, Leeds and Leicestershire, to name just a few. Specialist domestic violence refuges, which were born out of the women's movement 40 years ago are being decommissioned and closed in favour of accommodation provided by housing associations and others, or by nothing at all.
Local authorities are not obliged to put domestic violence services out to tender, but many are doing so increasingly in response to pressure on their budgets and in a desire to focus more prevention measures and early intervention work as part of a government strategy.
Domestic violence protection orders
In Devon the women's groups running the two refuges lost out to a Wiltshire-based firm, Splitz Support Services, which did not provide a refuge in its tendering bid and instead promoted the use of preventative measures like the government's new domestic violence protection orders.
The orders exclude an alleged perpetrator from the women's home for between 48 hours and 28 days and are seen as a way of keeping a victim in her own home.
But Sue Wallis of North Devon Against Domestic Abuse says the orders did not always keep women safe. "We have had cases – including a woman from Wiltshire who was supported by Splitz – who was given one of these orders and the perpetrator came back within 48 hours and broke her back.
"So we have evidence that its not always the answer, it can help and it is another tool, but sometimes a woman needs to leave home quickly for her own safety."
Murdered in their own home
Specialists point out that high-profile cases of women who have been murdered by violent men in recent years have almost all taken place in the women's home – including Rachael Slack and her toddler son, Auden; Maria Stubbings; Casey Brittle; Katie Summers; Clare Wood; and Christine Chambers and her two-year-old daughter, Shania. This is further evidence, specialists add, for continued need for a national network of women's refuges as a place of safety.
Sandra Rudd, president of Chester Women's Aid, believes preventative work with perpetrators is a "complete waste of time" and has not been proven to work.
"I feel we have gone back 30 years. Domestic violence is much more prevalent now than it has ever been yet they are cutting back the places and not only that they are stopping women coming in from other areas. If you flee you need to flee often from your area, from the perpetrator and from his friends. If you stop women from outside using your refuge, then other areas will do the same and the whole network breaks down."
Rudd's refuge in Chester is to close in September, along with those in Ellesmere Port and Northwich, which provided accommodation for 17 women and their children.
Modernising old-fashioned services
Cheshire West and Chester council says it is "modernising old fashioned" services. It plans to replace the refuges with a "hub" offering eight places, and four units in the community for male and female victims. It is not known when this will open.
Access to women from outside the area has been capped at 20%, and the period of time families can stay limited to 12 weeks.
Councillor Brenda Dowding, executive member for adult social care and health at the council, says: "We are trying to move away from reactive services to get more proactive, to see if we can prevent the abuse or at least stop it at the point it is detected. When people have gone into refuges they have been there for quite a long time, and that is not desirable because they can become institutionalised."
Other local authorities which have decommissioned longstanding women's refuges in favour of accommodation provided by housing associations include:
• Leeds, which cut funding for the refuge run by Leeds Women's Aid for 40 years and capped the number of non-local women at 20%
•Wigan, which has a target of six weeks on the period women can stay in its one- and two-bedroom flats
• Nottingham, where the refuge for south Asian and minority ethnic women was closed
• Leicester where a housing association won the tender against the local specialist service which had existed since the 1970s
• Somerset, where Taunton Women's Aid were prevented from bidding to run a refuge it owned and managed for 15 years because it did not have enough resources under the tender criteria.
Problems with tendered support
Evidence from Somerset, however, suggests there can be problems with the handover to housing associations which could put women at more risk. The Taunton contract with a housing association, Chapter 1, was terminated this year after an independent report and unannounced inspections exposed concerns about the way the refuge was being run.
The Guardian understands these included a worrying spike in the number of women who were returning to violent partners because they were not properly supported.
The shift away from providing refuges, traditionally seen as the last sanctuary for women at risk of serious violence or murder, is starkly illustrated in the words of Mike Bedford, domestic violence programme manager for Splitz Support Services.
"We provide domestic violence outreach services, children's services and perpetrator programmes," he says. "My personal view is we shouldn't need refuges anymore, we should be dealing with the cause, which are the men."
Operating in Devon and Wiltshire, Splitz has also won the contract to run domestic violence support provision in Gloucestershire, where three refuges closed as a result.
A spokeswoman for Gloucestershire county council says the contract awarded to Splitz bought support in the community rather than in refuges.
She added: "Where its appropriate its best to support people to stay in their own homes. Where that's not possible we provide a range of accommodation options including temporary accommodation with friends and family and emergency B&B accommodation with support. In the past refuges have not been able to provide support for all victims, particularly male victims."
Long-term care needed
Erin Pizzey, who open the world's first women's refuge in Chiswick, west London, in 1971, says: "The closing down of refuges over the last two years is a source of great worry for me. The majority of women coming into my refuge needed long-term therapeutic care with their children.
"My therapeutic model included long-term shared accommodation for vulnerable mothers and children. That is still needed."
In Barnstaple, with her funding stream cut, Sue Wallis is drawing on the fighting spirit exhibited by Pizzey four decades ago to try and keep her refuge open on its reserves, donations and a small grant from the district council.
"We have gone back to basics here to survive," she says. "Some of the mothers here are little more than children themselves, they have never been parented themselves. They need mothering so they can learn there is a future for themselves which is better than returning to a violent perpetrator. That is what a women's refuge is for."
If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article you can contact Refuge http://refuge.org.uk
Child abuse cases nationwide topped 70,000 mark for first time last year
The number of child abuse cases handled by child consultation centers across the nation in fiscal 2013, which ended March 31, stood at 73,765, topping the 70,000 mark for the first time since the government began compiling data in fiscal 1990, the government said Monday.
The data, released by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, covered cases handled by the 207 child consultation centers which are run by prefectural and major city governments.
Efforts to uncover cases of child abuse seem to have produced an increase in the preliminary data of 10.6 percent from the previous fiscal year, ministry officials said.
In line with a notice in August last year, cases of the siblings of children suspected of being abused are now also looked into, while police have reported more cases of child abuse in relation to domestic violence against their mothers, they said.
Under the 2000 law on the prevention of child abuse, the figures have included children who suffered psychological damage after seeing acts of domestic violence in their homes.
By prefecture, Osaka ranked top among the country's 47 prefectures with the number of child abuse cases standing at 10,716, followed by Kanagawa Prefecture with 9,803, Tokyo with 5,414 and Chiba Prefecture with 5,374.
Heads of child consultation centers filed suits with family courts seeking the suspension of parental rights for up to two years in 23 cases in 16 municipalities, down by four from the previous fiscal year, when the system was launched.
Family courts issued orders to suspend parental rights in 15 of those 23 cases. Of the remaining eight cases, the heads of child consultation centers withdrew their suits in five cases and family courts have yet to issue verdicts in the three others.
The 15 cases in which family courts suspended parental rights included one in which the parents refused to allow a blood transfusion for their child who was suffering from leukemia, and another in which the parents canceled procedures for a kidney transplant for their child who required one.
Others included children who were sexually abused by their fathers or their mothers' boyfriends.
Local child consultation center officials in charge of the matter say a shortage of manpower is a chronic problem in dealing with child abuse cases.
The welfare ministry has a guideline that children's safety should be confirmed within 48 hours of a report on suspected child abuse case, but many at the centers say this is difficult to achieve because of shortages of staff.
Officials of the Shiga Prefectural Government's child consultation center said it takes three hours by car to reach the most remote areas of eight municipalities under its control.
Officials of the Kagoshima Prefectural Government's central child consultation center said that, in many cases, they are unable to confirm the safety of children with only one visit. Their request to increase the number of staff is turned down due to a trend to cut down on the number of civil servants.
In Osaka, where two children died from hunger in 2010, the city government's child consultation center now has two officials on duty every night. “The change is a bigger burden on us, but it's better that we can deal with urgent matters (with increased staff),” one official said.
The number of child counselors deployed at child consultation centers nationwide stood at 2,771 in April 2013, an increase of 1.6 times over 2003, the welfare ministry said.
Keiji Goto, lawyer and the head of nonprofit organization Think Kids, said child consultation centers, municipal governments and police should better coordinate their efforts in sending out staff to each suspected case of child abuse and should frequently visit such families to confirm the safety of children.
“Putting top priority on children's safety is important, by taking children out from their families for temporary care . . . or providing more welfare services for parents as poverty is one of the causes of child abuse,” he said.
The central government provides funds to local governments to hire child counselors according to the population. But the local governments are also free to spend such funds, so they do not necessarily lead to an increase of the number of child counselors, ministry officials said.
Rate of verified child abuse falls sharply in California
by INQUIRER.net US Bureau
DALY CITY, California – Statewide, the rate of substantiated child abuse and neglect cases declined steadily in the last 13 years, consistent with national trends, reports kidsdata.org of the Lucille Packard Foundation for Children's Health.
California's rate of substantiated cases from 1999 to 2013 fell 28 percent, from 12.4 to 8.9 cases per 1,000 children under age 18.
Child welfare experts differ on the reasons for the decline, but researchers note that heightened public awareness and prevention programs, as well as changes in how cases are investigated, may play a role.
Children ages 5 and under make up half of all substantiated cases of child abuse/neglect in California; they comprised 47 percent of all cases in 2013, up from 40 percent in 1998.
In 2013, there were 482,265 allegations of child abuse and neglect in California. Of those cases, 17 percent were substantiated (verified) by the state child welfare system.
Nearly 65 percent of these verified cases were due to general neglect rather than physical injury. Neglect consistently has been the most common type of substantiated case statewide and in nearly all counties for which these data are available.
The percentage that neglect cases comprise has been increasing since 1998. Other types of abuse, such as physical and sexual abuse, account for smaller shares.
Children who are abused or neglected, including those who witness domestic violence, often exhibit emotional, cognitive, and behavioral problems, such as anxiety, depression, suicidal behavior, difficulty in school, use of alcohol and other drugs, and early sexual activity