Carmel clinic could improve futures of abused children
by Brian Eason
The mistrust. The anxiety. And — most of all — the shame.
"It's always in there," Gibbons said. "When you're a child you're so helpless. You feel shame even though you shouldn't feel ashamed. … You feel bad about that even though it's not your fault."
Starting soon, others may have the lifeline she didn't. Chaucie's Place, a Carmel nonprofit focused on child sexual abuse prevention, is partnering with Aspire Indiana to open a clinic that will provide therapy and treatment to survivors of molestation.
Toby Stark, executive director of Chaucie's Place, says the one-of-a-kind facility will fill a need that has long gone unserved. For four years, she has fielded calls from people looking for help that they can't get from a general therapist.
"There really has been no place for them to go," Stark said.
So, the idea was born. Chaucie's would join with Aspire, a nonprofit community mental health center, to fill the need. Aspire will provide a therapist who specializes in trauma, while Chaucie's will provide a safe place that abuse victims already know and trust.
The organization was founded in 2001 in honor of Chaucie Quillen, a stand-out student who was sexually abused by her father and later committed suicide. It has since become an area leader in advocating for abuse victims through outreach and education, but has lacked the resources to provide a treatment facility.
The official opening, at Chaucie's building, 4607 E. 106th St., is to be determined based on how quickly the therapist can build up a sufficient clientele to support the new venture.
Stark is sure the demand is there. "One in 10 children are sexually abused, and 90 percent of those children are abused by someone they know, love or trust," she said. "That tracks across every community, every ZIP code, every neighborhood."
More often than not, the abusers are people the children know and trust. And the effects of violating that trust can be devastating.
For Gibbons, the trauma of her father, now deceased, manifested itself in a struggle to maintain healthy relationships. Trusting people became a challenge; trusting the right people was just as difficult.
"There's issues with relationships and trusting other people and not feeling safe, but at the same time you're vulnerable because you may trust the wrong people," said Gibbons, an attorney and Carmel resident. "There's a higher incidence of sexual assault for people who have been abused as children because they don't have healthy boundaries. They have boundaries that have been crossed that shouldn't have been crossed."
At the new clinic, the therapist will work with survivors to rebuild those boundaries, and their self-esteem in the hope of preventing them from becoming a repeat victim.
"By addressing some of these issues through therapy you get greater resiliency, particularly with kids," said Trusa Grosso, senior director of outpatient services at Aspire Indiana. For adults, "it's a way of coming to terms with what happened to you … so you're not walking around with scarlet letter."
Now married with a child, Gibbons has been doing outreach of her own, speaking at Chaucie's Place events so others won't feel the isolation that she did.
It isn't until she's asked if this sort of therapy would have helped her that she breaks down completely.
"I think it would've made a huge difference because," she said, her voice choking back tears, "I never really dealt with it."
Chaucie's Place is partnering with Aspire Indiana to open a clinic that will offer therapy for those of all ages who were sexually abused as children.
To schedule an appointment, call Aspire Indiana at (877) 574-1254 and mention Chaucie's Place, or go to www.aspireindiana.org
Why? Child sex abuse victim's story answers the question
by Howard Frank
This is the story of a woman who survived unspeakable sexual abuse as a young child. Now 40, she lives a normal, if unremarkable, life.
She's referred to as "Katrina," which is not her real name.
Some of the language is graphic because the abuse was graphic, and there was no other way to accurately describe the acts that were committed.
Yet it's not the physical elements that drive this story. It's the emotional components, especially in addressing the greatest mystery of all — why Katrina allowed the abuse to last so long.
Despite her pain, Katrina wanted to publicly share her story so others may avoid the fate she suffered and to encourage other abuse victims to get the help they need.
Katrina sat on her stepfather's lap.
He'd rubbed the 9-year-old's thigh at first. Over time, his hand wandered to her inner thigh. Then it would go to parts he shouldn't be touching.
"It was like this very slow seduction that started off like that," Katrina recalled.
Katrina suffered from years of sexual abuse in her own home. Now 40, she has made the transition from victim to survivor. Katrina wants to share her story so other children, family members, friends or teachers might see the signs of abuse and step in to stop it before it does irreversible harm.
Katrina remembers her stepfather's contact first began with a touch to her bottom: not a pat, but more of a caress. It was subtle for a young girl. He'd also give her a kiss on the lips that lasted a little longer than a parental kiss.
Yet the seeds of her childhood of sexual abuse were planted years before the touching began.
Katrina's parents divorced when she was about 3. She remembered an argument between her parents while she, her mother and brother, three years older, sat in their AMC Gremlin during one of their frequent escapes from his angry outbursts.
"He slammed the passenger door so hard it shattered the window and splattered glass all over the seat and my mother."
It's a 36-year-old slice of memory that she can't forget.
"It's weird — you have those clips, clips of moments in time. There are times I have trouble finding my way back home, but I can vividly remember moments in time," Katrina said.
Katrina's mother married Katrina's stepfather when she was about 4. He never touched Katrina inappropriately, as far as she could remember, until she was 9.
Abuse began slowly
After turning 9, and home alone with her stepfather, the abuse slowly built.
"Eventually he would rub my breasts on the outside of my shirt while I was sitting on his lap, and then it was the touching of the stomach and his hand would move up and under my shirt and rub my breasts," Katrina said.
Katrina's mother once told her she never wanted a girl and focused her affection on her brother.
"My mother didn't pay much attention to me at that time, so this was great. This was love. I was OK with it. I thought it was OK. It was attention. I didn't know it wasn't OK," she said.
At certain times she said it felt good physically. Later on, she became very confused by that physical reaction. But for an attention-starved 9-year-old, she was never repulsed by it.
The abuse only happened when the two were alone at home.
The abuse deepens
But for her stepfather, an adult controlling a young girl's mind and emotions, it was a carefully crafted plan to break down barriers, gain her trust and create an emotional dependency.
And as her dependency grew, so did his brazenness.
Her stepfather went from a hand under her shirt to putting his hand down her pants. Then her stepfather began making her touch him. Yet, during all this time, Katrina was feeling loved. She was getting attention from a parent. It didn't feel wrong to her, and she told no one.
But an escalation in her stepfather's abuse began to change her thinking.
When Katrina was 11, he began coming into her room in the middle of the night with people home. She'd pretend she was asleep sometimes and began sleeping in her closet so he'd think she was at a neighbor's house.
During the time Katrina's stepfather was sexually abusing the preteen, he became violent toward the rest of the family. Katrina's mother squared the blame for the violence directly on Katrina.
"My mother used to say stuff like, he paid too much attention to me," she said.
Her stepfather drank a lot and began hitting her brother. The brother, mother and Katrina often fled to a motel or a friend's house because of the violence directed at her mother and brother.
At times, he'd threaten them with a shotgun from the porch.
Meanwhile, Katrina realized something wasn't right in her relationship with her stepfather. It came from her mother's comments about Katrina getting her stepfather's attention. "The light bulb started going off over my head."
Katrina was 12 at that point.
She had never said anything to anyone, although she was beginning to understand there was something wrong with what was happening. Yet she hadn't stopped it. Why?
"Probably because it was the only attention I was getting," she said.
The final straw
Katrina's brother, then 15, had been living with his natural father — he had had enough of his stepfather's beatings. Her brother came to her house one day to bring Katrina to see their natural father. She didn't want to go.
"I was angry at my brother that he didn't originally bring me with him to my dad's and that he didn't know what was going on in our home," Katrina said. "I was mad at my mother because nobody protected me."
Her stewing anger finally boiled over.
"Words began flying, and I blurted it out: 'He's touching me.'"
Her brother heard it.
"I can picture his face vividly. He had this look of horror and confusion, disbelief, stunned. It was like someone came out from the blue and slapped him in the face."
Monroe County Children and Youth got involved, and her stepfather was arrested. He was taken to jail. Katrina remembers testifying at his preliminary hearing in a magisterial court, where charges were remanded to the Monroe County Court of Common Pleas, where a trial, if it were to take place, would be held.
"I remember this one moment," Katrina said. "Prior to going to the (next) hearing, we were at my house.
"My mother was very angry at me. I was sitting in this brown recliner chair that we had, and she was just standing, towering over me, screaming at me, shaking her finger over at me. She looked at me and said, 'You bitch. You've destroyed everything and everyone's lives around you.'
"I think I was in my late 20s before I realized I was not responsible for what happened around me. I still take on so much crap, because I still feel I have to be responsible for everything to make it right."
Her mother told her between his preliminary hearing and his next appearance that Katrina's stepfather was "just drunk" and that he would never harm her.
"To me," Katrina said, "that meant she acknowledged he did it. Then she'd deny he did it and called me a liar and I only did it because I was mad."
Katrina's mother tried talking her out of testifying, promising her daughter that if she didn't testify, she'd never bring him home again.
So Katrina didn't testify at the preliminary hearing. Prosecutors dropped the charges, and the stepfather's record was expunged.
He lived in a hotel near the family and started visiting their home, Katrina said, He just kind of moved in without ceremony. "He was just there again," she said.
Katrina was 13. Very shortly after he returned, the abuse began again.
He'd show her pornographic magazines. He'd use condoms and destroy them in a burn barrel. He would ask her: "Does it feel good?"
He was often drunk, and she remembered doing shots of cheap wine with him. He'd give her cigarettes, and she started smoking because, as he said, she was a woman now since she was having sex with him.
"He'd tell me, don't tell anyone because no one would believe me. And the irony was, he was right," Katrina said.
Katrina didn't resist her stepfather's advances. She just went along with it.
Yet she tried to avoid him by staying away from home, going to her friend's house, going on sleep-overs at friends and sleeping in her own closet.
Meanwhile, Katrina was thinking, here we go again, I guess I have to put up with this.
"I was slowly dying inside. The times he did that, I went somewhere else in my mind, just to ignore what was going on physically."
She didn't want to make waves anymore because of what her mother said about her destroying everybody's life and that no one was going to believe her if she had said anything.
After all, she was just 13.
"At one time, I loaded one of his handguns that I took from the top of the cabinet in the kitchen," she said. "I sat with the gun in my mouth for a good hour."
The muzzle felt cold in her mouth. It had a bitter, metallic taste, like the taste of blood you sometimes get when you brush your teeth.
The second round of abuse lasted a year, until Katrina began ninth grade in the Pocono Mountain School District.
"On the first day of school, my best friend asked me, 'What's the matter?' And I told her that (my stepfather) was doing it again but worse."
Katrina's friend went home that day and spoke to her parents, who called Children and Youth. The agency came to the school the next day. Katrina went home with her friend that day. Her friend's parents became foster parents for Katrina for six months.
The family took her in. Katrina went there on just the second day of school with only the clothes on her back and nothing else.
The next day when they came in to school, Katrina's friend apologized profusely. She said she'd wrestled with it before telling her mom, who could have let Katrina go into emergency foster care but instead took her in.
Katrina named her oldest daughter after the friend who she confided in and saved her.
Katrina's stepfather was never charged with sexually abusing Katrina.
Prosecutors told her she wouldn't make a credible witness after he moved back into the family's home. Maybe it was because Katrina hadn't testified during the first go-round.
Maybe it was because medical exams the second time around didn't show any trauma.
"I was stunned at that," Katrina said. "That my mom said I destroyed everything and that she lied to me about not bringing him back into our home."
Katrina said that while in foster care she was required to have regular visitation with her mother, who'd go to court to get Katrina back into her home. "She'd tell the judge she was going to throw my stepfather out of her home," she said. "She accused me of making it all up."
Katrina spent her years between 14 to 18 in eight foster homes and her natural dad's.
Why so many? "Because every time I messed up, I made them move me," Katrina said. "Because I was embarrassed that I screwed up. I strived to be the perfect child so everyone would love me."
Katrina's stepfather died in 2013. It unleashed a wave of anger she apparently carried deep beneath an even temperament all these years.
Katrina is 40 now. She's been married for 12 years and has two daughters. One is 21 with a 2-month-old child and the other is 17.
She has a regular job, many friends and is well socialized. Her demeanor doesn't reveal any of the struggles she's survived. Her voice is calm and her hands lay flat on the table, not fussing with each other or some invisible set of drums.
Her affect is somewhat narrow, though. Some might interpret it as protective. She can meet someone and carry on a conversation but never go beyond chit chat.
She says the chaos of her early life — the abuse and moving from home to home — has made her a control freak. And she refers to herself as the "queen of compartmentalizing," perhaps another way to deal with the difficulties in life.
"In my child rearing, I took the approach, if my kids were going to hate me it was because I love them too much and not because I threw them away."
Katrina still stays in touch with her last foster family.
"When I refer to my biological mother, I say 'mother,' but when I talk about my foster parents, I call her 'mom.'"
As for others who may be facing the same kind of abuse, Katrina says to believe in yourself.
"I never felt that I was worth the air that I breathed. Now I realized I always was. Tell somebody. People care about you. Above all, get help. Talk to friends, teachers. People you trust. If they are not there for you, move on to somebody else who will listen."
IF YOU NEED HELP
Monroe County Children and Youth 24-Hour Emergency Number: 570-420-3590
Childline (Pennsylvania Child Abuse Hotline): 1-800-932-0313
Advocate is unrelenting voice against child abuse
by Gary A. Harki
NORFOLK -- Last month, Betty Wade Coyle hosted a gathering for a group few would consider throwing a birthday party for - the Eastern Regional Child Fatality Review Team.
The group studies each child death investigated by a social services agency in Hampton Roads with the hope of preventing similar deaths in the future. Coyle helped found the team 20 years ago.
She invited its members - social workers, doctors, medical examiners and others - to the West Ghent home where she raised her own two children.
Coyle retired last year as executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Hampton Roads - now called Champions for Children - but remains active in a long list of organizations dedicated to preventing child abuse.
She occupies a unique space in that world. She does not work for a local government or the state, and she is not bound by the same rules as hospital or government employees.
She can say exactly what she believes to all of those groups without fear of repercussions.
Coyle trains her intense focus on the gap between services and parents - the gap where children who die of abuse fall, said Linda Bryant, deputy attorney general for public safety and enforcement. Until early this year, Bryant worked as a deputy commonwealth's attorney in Norfolk; that's where she met Coyle.
Coyle looks beyond the sadness and tragedy of individual cases.
"It's anything but dramatic," Bryant said. "She's interested in 'How do we make things better? How do we move the system forward?' "
In the YWCA office building on Colley Avenue, about 20 binders sit in boxes.
Newspaper accounts of horrors fill those books - how children died, where, when and who killed them.
In some ways, the stories represent Coyle's life's work. She started keeping the binders to help her remember the cases and to guide the Child Fatality Review Team, her proudest accomplishment.
Closely cut blond hair and glasses frame Coyle's birdlike features. When she picks up a black binder, it looks oversized in her hands.
Team members serve as advocates for the living children who remain in danger of abuse.
Measuring the number of children with social services contacts can be difficult. Social workers face pressure to keep down the number of children in foster care, likewise with open investigations of abuse.
Counting child-abuse deaths is an imperfect measure, Coyle said, but it's the best available to serve as a benchmark for how social-services programs for kids are doing overall.
Coyle said she decided to start the team after going to a National Conference on Child Abuse in the early '90s. At the time, child fatality review teams were a new concept, and few existed around the country.
She became convinced that the region needed such a team to better prevent child abuse and neglect. For a long time, it was the only such team in the state.
In 2013, at least 12 children died of abuse or neglect in the district that includes Hampton Roads. The average is 13 child deaths per year over the two decades the team has been counting.
Some things have gotten better, Coyle said, but some have gotten worse. Better parenting programs exist, but families receive fewer resources.
"Everything social services does is too little, too late," Coyle said. "We don't do enough to protect babies, and we don't value babies to ensure they are born perfect and can start as best they can start."
She doubts that she could have been a social worker herself. Coyle earned a master's degree in sociology from the College of William & Mary in 1974. She worked in a number of positions as a consultant and professor at Old Dominion University before becoming executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Hampton Roads in 1990.
She got involved in the work, she says, because she loves little kids, and it was a place a sociologist could make an impact.
Social workers want to help, she said. But by the time a case reaches them, what their agencies have to offer is often not enough, she said.
Further, Coyle argued, social workers face a moral dilemma. Agency mandates can run counter to the best interests of the children social workers try to protect, she said.
"The national focus has turned from child safety to reunification of the family," she said. "Efforts to unify families take years and an inordinate amount of resources, and often social workers can know upfront that it's unfixable."
Coyle works to help children by improving a flawed system, said Dr. Michelle Clayton, a pediatrician with Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters.
"She has this unbelievable memory and this ability to connect dots in a way not many people can," Clayton said. "She gets upset, but then she is spurred to action, to asking, 'How can we prevent this from happening again?' "
Coyle commands conversations about child abuse with abundant knowledge of caseload numbers and policies, statistics and legislation. Seldom does she veer to a specific child, a specific death.
When she does, her quiet, high voice unleashes a stream of profanities.
"When I get emotional or upset, I do start cursing," she said. "That's a part of it that I have less control over. You're passionate, you want to do something about this."
Coyle argues that society undervalues children. She points to what she says are underfunded schools and social-services agencies in support of her belief, as well as to the lack of volunteers and attention to those issues.
"I want all children to be planned, wanted and loved," she said. "To me, these dead children are unwanted children."
Surprises in global perceptions of child abuse
A Unicef report, the largest survey ever on violence against children, reveals unexpected attitudes that justify such abuse. Exposing these perceptions is half way to ending – and changing – them.
When the United Nations set out to compile data on the extent of violence affecting children worldwide, it made a wise choice. It decided to go beyond simply tallying up such violence. It also probed the perceptions often used by individuals to justify violent acts on society's most innocent.
Insights on these “attitudes,” published last week in a UN report entitled “Hidden in Plain Sight,” revealed a few surprises:
Globally, nearly half of adolescent girls say a husband is justified in hitting or beating his wife under certain circumstances, such as arguing with her husband, neglecting the children, or burning the food. In nearly half of the countries, a larger proportion of girls than boys believe that wife-beating is sometimes justified. In a few countries, twice as many girls believe this.
Only about one in five adults say physical punishment is necessary to raise or educate a child. That holds about equally for mothers and fathers. Yet 6 in 10 children between the ages of 2 and 14 are subjected to corporal punishment by their caregivers on a regular basis.
For teenage girls who were sexually and/or physically abused, nearly half never told anyone about it, likely out of fear or shame. Their silence may help explain why 1 in 10 girls have experienced serious sexual violence, according to the report by Unicef, the UN children's agency.
These figures help highlight the “hidden attitudes and social norms that may perpetuate violence against children,” the report states.
Yet just as easily, attitudes can change. The report cites at least one example, Finland, in which adult acceptance of corporal punishment fell from 47 per cent in 1981 to 17 per cent in 2012.
A key to reducing violence against children is to uncover these ways of thinking and erode their acceptance. This survey, the largest compilation of statistics on the topic, goes a long way to do that.
“All children have the right to protection from violence, regardless of the nature or severity of the act: a slap by a parent, emotional humiliation inflicted by a peer, the unwanted sexual advances of a boyfriend, physical assault by a stranger,” the report states.
It lays a few action steps for individuals to take:
1. Support positive parent-child interactions.
2. Help children protect themselves by developing critical thinking and the ability to communicate effectively.
3. Shift social norms that justify violence affecting children.
And, of course, more surveys on such attitudes are needed. Government programs can help. But half the battle is exposing the thoughts of perpetrators and their enablers – and then changing them. A global effort to do so has only begun.
Prevention urged against child abuse
Officials tout hotline, help from local programs
by Joseph Dits
SOUTH BEND — Be vigilant. That's what advocates for troubled children and a local Indiana Department of Child Services official urged in a news conference today in the wake of four felony charges filed Monday against a 21-year-old woman in the death of her son and the severe injury of her daughter, both toddlers.
“If you see something is not right, it doesn't add up, call the hotline,” said James Pippin, manager of the DCS region covering St. Joseph, Elkhart, Marshall and Kosciusko counties.
The state hotline, 800-800-5556, will take anonymous calls to report any kind of suspected child abuse or neglect and to answer questions.
Nyesha Crockett, 21, was charged this week with murder, battery, aggravated battery and neglect of a dependent in connection with her son's death on Monday afternoon and her daughter's severe injury in February.
“I have children that live in this county,” Pippin said of his own family. “So I want to make sure my agency is doing everything it can to protect children.”
Among the resources the officials highlighted, a program called Gear-Up just became available in Pittman's region last month. It's aimed at stemming the accidental death of children who roll over in their sleep and suffocate, often when they sleep with their parents. The program, which is open to anyone who inquires, sends a representative into the family's home to do an assessment and provide a range of safety equipment from baby locks to bike helmets and cribs for safe sleeping, then helps to install them, said Paige Hamilton, who coordinates that as part of the nonprofit SCAN (Stop Child Abuse and Neglect).
To inquire, contact 888-722-3678 or Lmartin@lssin.org
Also, you can sign up to volunteer as a Court Appointed Special Advocate, serving as an advocate in the courts to represent a child in foster care. In St. Joseph County, only 35 percent of foster kids have CASA's, limited by the number of volunteers, said local Director Brenda Matuszkiewicz. That leaves 428 foster kids who don't have a CASA.
The next eight-week training course will begin Tuesday.
Inquire at 574-233-CASA or sjccasa.org
Learn more about the efforts of Prevent Child Abuse in St. Joseph County at 574-210-9713 or pcasjc.org
Drew Carey Offers $10,000 Reward to Catch Teens Responsible for ‘Horrendous' Ice Bucket Challenge Prank
by Greg Gilman
“Price Is Right” host Drew Carey wants to catch a group of Ohio teenagers responsible for a “horrendous” ALS Ice Bucket Challenge prank on an autistic boy, and is willing to chip in a $10,000 toward a reward fund.
“WTF? Just saw this. Horrendous. These kids should be arrested and expelled,” Carey tweeted after reading a Cleveland.com report about a group of Bay Village High School students who tricked a 14-year-old special needs student into dumping a bucket full of urine, spit and feces on his head.
“If the Bay Village PD wants to start a reward fund to find who did this, contact me. I'll donate $10k,” Carey added.
Both the police department and Bay Village school district are eager to discipline the teens responsible for filming the prank Police Chief Mark Spaetzel called “reprehensible.”
Investigators are reviewing a copy of the video, which the attackers recorded on the victim's phone and then posted to social media.
Carey, a comedian and former sitcom star, grew up in the Cleveland area, and is willing to offer his $10,000 to an autism charity if the teenagers responsible for the prank are found without any monetary incentive.
Kearns mom charged with attempted murder for allegedly putting newborn in trash
Charges: Woman discarded baby because she didn't want parents to 'freak out'
by Pat Reavy
KEARNS — A mother who allegedly put her newborn infant in a trash can because she didn't want her was charged with attempted murder Friday.
The first-degree felony was filed against Alicia Marie Englert, 23, of Kearns, in 3rd District Court.
The newborn girl was found by a neighbor in an outside trash can, with trash on top of her, on Aug. 26. The neighbor heard noises she thought were coming from a cat. Instead, the neighbor found a child inside the trash can born just two days earlier.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said Englert gave birth at midnight inside a bathroom toilet in her house, 5313 S. 5420 West, on Aug. 24, and then essentially ignored the child.
"The defendant admitted to detectives that she wanted the baby's death to occur because 'I don't want it,'" charging documents state. "The defendant said she provided no care to the baby from the time of birth."
Gill said after the baby was born, Englert wrapped her in a blanket and went to bed. She later left the newborn on her bedroom floor for a day while she went to work. The baby was not fed or cared for during that time, Gill said.
Englert lives with her parents. Gill said her bedroom is in the basement and the infant apparently was not detected by anyone else in the house. Gill declined to speculate Friday whether investigators believe someone else may have been aware of the pregnancy.
About 5:45 a.m. on Aug. 26, Englert placed the infant in her neighbor's trash can, placed the trash she had removed on top of her, and then went to work, according to charging documents.
"She admitted she knew that not providing any care for the baby and discarding the baby in a garbage can was wrong, but said she didn't want her parents to 'freak out' or to know that she'd been pregnant and delivered a baby," the charges state.
Based on the totality of the situation, Gill said, he believes attempted murder is the appropriate charge.
"We're looking at what the facts and the evidence are. We have a child who is compromised, who is not taken care of who is not fed, who is in a compromised capacity and the child is put in a garbage can and not having been fed since the time the child was born. And so based on all of the totality of the information that has been presented, and the admissions that have been subsequently been made, that warrants the filing of the charges that we have," he said.
The baby was originally taken to Pioneer Valley Hospital where doctors determined she suffered from "hypothermia, severe respiratory distress, a bleeding disorder caused by critical illness, a blood-borne infection, and cardiovascular insufficiency requiring mechanical ventilation," according to court records. The newborn was then transferred to Primary Children's Hospital.
The baby remained hospitalized Friday but had been upgraded to fair condition, Unified police announced. The child is in state custody, but a spokeswoman with the Division of Child and Family Services said the agency is not allowed to comment on the baby's current situation, stating only that "our hope is the child improves and is able to quickly be living in a safe, permanent home."
As of Friday, Gill said investigators had not identified who the child's father is.
Englert claimed to investigators that she did not know she was pregnant, Gill said. But investigators spoke to a 7-Eleven clerk who worked near Englert's home and claimed that she had conversations with Englert about her pregnancy in July.
"The defendant told (the clerk) that her due date was in August and had additional conversation about pregnancy and delivery" with the clerk, according to court documents.
Speaking to reporters before his daughter was charged, Robert Englert, Alicia's father, said his daughter has "special needs" and did not understand her actions.
"She doesn't process things correctly," he said. "She didn't know what to do. She was confused. She was scared."
He said the family never knew she was pregnant or that she had given birth until her arrest. He said his daughter "complained of bad cramps" two days before the baby was discovered and left a bloody "mess" in an upstairs bathroom.
Gill said issues of possible mental illness will be addressed "as we go forward." For now, he said based on the facts of the case, those issues are not relevant to the charge that was filed.
Englert remained in the Salt Lake County Jail Friday. Bail was raised to $500,000.
According to court documents, she will be represented in court by Melissa Fulkerson and Susanne Gustin. If convicted, she faces a potential sentence of three years to life in prison.
Maine mom fights state over no-resuscitation order
by David Sharp
PORTLAND, Maine — A teenage mother is fighting a do-not-resuscitate order imposed on her brain-damaged daughter, saying she should be responsible for medical decisions. Child welfare officials who intervened after the baby was severely injured say life-saving measures in the event she stops breathing would only prolong her suffering.
The mother, Virginia Trask, originally agreed to the do-not-resuscitate order. At one point, the infant was removed from life support and placed in her arms to die, then opened her eyes and began breathing.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Maine and Christian Civic League of Maine are joining the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal group, in supporting the 18-year-old mother's request to lift the judge-approved order.
‘‘Everyone deserves a fighting chance to live,'' said Steve Aden of Alliance Defending Freedom, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief. ‘‘All she's doing is fighting for her baby.''
Maine's Supreme Judicial Court will hear arguments this month.
The case is unusual. Art Caplan, of the division of medical ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center, said he had never heard of another case of a do-not-resuscitate order imposed against a mother's wishes.
‘‘It could set some precedent for setting parental rights in some pretty horrible circumstances,'' he said. ‘‘It could set some precedent with regards to medical authority.''
Aleah Peaslee was 6 months old in December when she was shaken by her father at their Augusta home while the mother was at work, prosecutors said. The girl, now in foster care, suffered profound injuries that have left her a spastic quadriplegic who cannot see or hear and who relies on a feeding tube for nutrition.
She will never advance beyond an ‘‘an early infantile level,'' cannot suck or swallow, and exhibits a high-pitched ‘‘neurological cry'' that suggests she is in pain, according to court papers. Her brain injuries are so severe that she will suffer a premature death, state attorneys said. Her foster mother observed, ‘‘She's just miserable.''
The father, Kevin Peaslee, 22, is set for trial in October on charges of aggravated assault.
State child welfare officials believe the do-not-resuscitate order is appropriate, given the extent of injuries to the girl, who stopped breathing and suffered from oxygen starvation after being violently shaken, according to court filings. If she stops breathing, life-saving procedures would only increase the severe pain she is already experiencing, state officials contend.
Trask thinks the do-not-resuscitate order amounts to a wrongful termination of her parental rights. She is fighting to make decisions for her child..
Scott Hess, Trask's attorney, said the case involves ‘‘a very important legal issue for all parents. My client is very brave for standing up for her rights and those of her child,'' he said.
However, a state judge who gave child welfare officials authority to make medical decisions noted that the mother has visited her daughter ‘‘only a handful of times.'' The judge found that ‘‘neither parent can be counted on to be physically or emotionally available to make the necessary informed decision when needed.''
The judge noted a potential conflict of interest regarding the father, who is no longer involved in the decision-making. Charges against him could be upgraded to manslaughter or murder if Aleah dies, and the mother previously expressed an interest with reuniting with him, court documents said.
One in 10 girls raped or sexually abused before they reach the age of 20 says global report
About 120 million girls have experienced sexual abuse before turning 20, UN report shows
by Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith
A UN report showing the shocking levels of sexual abuse experienced by children across the globe has shown that 120 million girls have been raped or sexually assaulted by the time they reach the age of 20, amounting to just over one in 10.
The report draws on data from 190 countries and shows that the most common perpetrators of sexual violence against girls are current or former husbands, partners or boyfriends.
The report, which uses Unicef data, stressed that boys experience sexual violence too, but to a lesser extent than girls. It is one of the most comprehensive reports of the global experiences of violence against children, and notes that while people are increasingly recognising the impact of these actions, the acts themselves mostly go under-reported and undocumented.
The report comes at a time when the UK is dealing with its own uncomfortable revelations of child abuse, the latest of which uncovered the sexual exploitation of 1,400 children in Rotherham over the course of 16 years.
Unicef said that in addition to sexual violence, the use of physical violence is also widespread and that 95,000 children and adolescents aged between 0 and 19 were killed in 2012 alone.
It meant that one in five victims of murder and manslaughter worldwide were children under the age of 20.
The report also covered violence against children in care, finding that six in 10 children aged between two and 14 had been subjected to physical punishment by carers.
This data shows that violence “cuts across boundaries of age, geography, religion, ethnicity and income brackets,” Unicef's executive director said.
"It occurs in places where children should be safe, their homes, schools and communities.
"Increasingly, it happens over the internet, and it's perpetrated by family members and teachers, neighbours and strangers and other children.''
Evidence on rampant violence against children ‘compels us to act'
Violence against children is universal – so prevalent and deeply ingrained in societies it is often unseen and accepted as the norm – according to new, unprecedented data presented by the United Nations today.
A new UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) report, Hidden in plain sight: A statistical analysis of violence against children, draws on data from 190 countries in order to shed light on a largely undocumented issue.
The report found that about two thirds of children worldwide between ages 2 and 14 (almost 1 billion) are subjected to physical punishment by their caregivers on a regular basis. And yet, only about one third of adults worldwide believe that physical punishment of some kind is necessary to properly raise or educate a child.
Susan Bissell, the Chief of Child Protection at UNICEF said in interview that the data essentials show that “if there is one common aspect of human society right now, it is the fact that tremendous violence is committed against children.”
“It is important that we don't simply go away with the message that violence is everywhere, we live in a horrific world; but in fact to say, there are tried, true, measured, evaluated solutions,” she said.
While the data focuses on physical, emotional and sexual violence in settings children should feel safe; their communities, schools and homes, there is a fundamental limitation to document violence against children.
The data includes new figures on violent discipline - the most common form of violence against children as well as violence against girls - widespread rates of physical and sexual abuse. It also takes a look at homicide rates - a leading cause of death among adolescent boys.
In fact, one fifth of homicide victims globally are children and adolescents under the age of 20, resulting in about 95,000 deaths in 2012, and slightly more than 1 in 3 students between the ages of 13 and 15 worldwide are regularly bullied in school.
“Violence begets violence. We know a child experiencing abuse is more likely to see violence as normal, even acceptable and more likely to perpetuate violence against his or her own children in the future,” UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said.
Perceptions on violence including shocking figures on children's views and reluctance to report abuse was also reported. Hence, changing attitudes with respect to violence against children starts with knowledge. The report is an opportunity to go into the public domain, and say “now you have to do something,” noted Ms. Bissell.
“Social change, attitudes towards boys and girls and then gender attitudes take a long time to change, but we can see more rapid change than ever before, not least with the advent of social media and the use of more innovative and creative approaches,” Ms. Bissell said.
The effects of violence against children can last a lifetime, as exposure to violence can alter a child's brain development damaging their physical, mental and emotional health. Violence is also passed down from one generation to the next. But violence is not inevitable; it can be prevented.
“Violence against children occurs every day, everywhere [but] it is not inevitable. It is preventable — if we refuse to let violence remain in the shadows,” Mr. Lake said. “The evidence in this report compels us to act — for the sake of those individual children and the future strength of societies around the world.”
UNICEF points to six strategies to enable society as a whole, from families to Governments, to prevent and reduce violence against children. They include supporting parents and equipping children with life skills; changing attitudes; strengthening judicial, criminal and social systems and services; and generating evidence and awareness about violence and its human and socio-economic costs, in order to change attitudes and norms.
Child abuse survivors hoping to thrive with self-help group
by Gary Kean
When she lived in Ontario, Mary Keefe had a lot of difficulty trying to find the right support group to help her deal with her past.
A survivor of child abuse who has called Corner Brook home for years now, Keefe recently found an international organization that seemed to fit the bill.
Now, she is helping to organize a local chapter of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse, an international self-help group for adults who have survived neglect, physical, sexual or emotional abuse when they were children.
The group is planning an open session for adult survivors in Corner Brook next week. Keefe declined to make public the exact time and location of the meeting, asking anyone interested in participating to get in touch with the group for those details.
Space is limited and, so far, Keefe said around eight people have come forward to self-identify as a child abuse survivor interested in being part of the group. After the open session, it will be up to each participant to decide if they want to stay with the group, which will then become a closed group.
The reason for that is Keefe believes participants will become more comfortable with one another as time goes on and be more willing to open up during their weekly discussions.
If there is enough interest, or more people come forward after the group is closed, consideration will be given to starting another group.
Keefe declined to discuss the abuse she experienced as a child, saying she didn't want the focus to be on her or her story. The broad-based approach of the methods prescribed by the Adult Survivors of Child Abuse, she said, emphasize the fact every person's story is equally important and valid, regardless of the facts and sensitivities involved with it.
“Sometimes, it's difficult to pigeon-hole one type of abuse versus another,” said Keefe. “Or, perhaps you're in the process of recovering memories and you're not entirely sure what happened to you as a child.”
Keefe and another facilitator have done some web-based training on the Adult Survivors of Child Abuse program and will use materials, including the “From Survivor to Thriver” manual for the group's sessions.
The self-help group is in no way meant to replace the professional help some people may require to deal with their past, but Keefe said it can be complementary to their healing. If it comes to light during the sessions that someone does need more professional help, Keefe hopes the group can encourage that and point the person in the right direction.
'From Survivor to Thrilver'
Adult Survivors of Child Abuse self-help-group:
— Anyone who self-identifies as an adult survivor of child abuse is welcome to attend, regardless of your story, or where you are in the healing process.
— Participants must be age 17 or older.
— For more information, or to register (spaces are limited): email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (709) 639-8522
— For information about the ASCA program: http://www.ascasupport.org/index.php
Bellingham dance performance explores child abuse and community care
by Pam Kuntz
My 6-year-old dance partner Reyna said, “I have an idea. What if you do what I am doing but with more jumps and while moving around me?” I learned quickly that her ideas would generate interesting, challenging and seemingly impossible movement that we otherwise wouldn't have discovered. She and I danced together for a solid hour, no breaks, trying everything we could possibly imagine, while auditioning one another to see if we wanted to work together for the next eight weeks. I am happy to report that we both made the cut. Reyna is one of 10 community members participating in “Hide and Seek,” Kuntz and Company's next dance/theater work opening Oct. 17 at the Firehouse Performing Arts Center in Fairhaven.
For this project, we have engaged in conversations with a broad cross-section of community members including a foster mom, a staff member at Brigid Collins, a leader in the Bellingham School District, a pediatrician and many others, to learn about how we are caring for, or not caring for, the children in our community. These conversations included discussions about parenting, child abuse, adoption, education, lawsuits and the system. But more importantly, we heard remarkable stories about acts of caring for children as well as heartbreaking stories of not caring for children. Going back and listening to all the conversations over and over again I started hearing some common themes emerge.
I'll come back to this later, let me jump back in time for a moment. We weren't even sure if we should make this piece. We were headed straight for our next project about faith, when Alan Stein, a board member at Brigid Collins (and a regular audience member at Kuntz and Company performances) contacted me and asked for a meeting. He and I met for coffee one September morning in the fall of 2013 and he pitched his idea to me — a piece about caring for children. By the end of our meeting I was intrigued, not only by his passion and commitment to caring for the children in our community, but by the idea itself.
However, I must admit that I was terrified by it. I have two young children. I don't even watch the nightly news. How in the world could I possibly work on a piece that included investigating at topic as emotionally charged as abuse? Several artists with whom I collaborate were equally intrigued and equally hesitant.
But, here we are. We obviously made it past our initial concerns and are well on our way in creating this work. Why?
Our collective hesitation became the very reason we decided to make the piece. If we struggle to even talk about it, then we obviously need to make a piece about it.
Now, back to where I left off regarding the common themes in the conversations. You probably already guessed one ... no one wants to hear about it, no one wants to talk about it — the “it” being child abuse in all its forms of physical, sexual, emotional maltreatment or neglect. But balancing these are other compelling themes including the progress we've made as a community in helping children, and that caring for children is the job of the community as a whole. And finally, another powerful theme is how one person can make a significant difference in the life of a child.
Coming into this project, as is usually the case, I had no idea what to expect. We are now just over half way through our creative process and this is about the time when I say to my husband, “Oh man, what have I done? How on earth is this going to come together to be anything worth watching?” I haven't said this yet. I have a feeling this time around I won't.
All of us involved are learning a great deal through this journey. Exploring something we don't even want to talk about is really just the beginning. We get to investigate, collaborate, and create with a 6-year-old. Honestly, I can't think of a better way for all of us to learn about caring for children.
‘Hide and Seek'
What: Six performances of “Hide and Seek,” supported in part by a grant from the Whatcom Community Foundation, a grant from the Washington State Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as Brigid Collins Family Support Center and the Leopold Retirement Residence.
When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 17, 18, 24, 25; 5 p.m. Oct. 19 and 26.
Where: Firehouse Performing Arts Center, 1314 Harris Ave.
Tickets: $15, available at Village Books in Fairhaven, online at kuntzandco.org, and at the door. Pay what you can admission is available at the door the evening of the performance.
More information: kuntzandco.org or call 360-510-4711.
Changes aim to improve reliability of child abuse registry
by Charles “Chip” Farrar
Some time between the births of Mary's two children, she slipped into the snares of heroin abuse. Fortunately, her mother and stepfather welcomed the three of them into their home in hopes that they could care for the children while she got the help she needed. When the situation instead deteriorated, Child Protective Services was forced to intervene. It conducted an investigation and had Mary removed from her children.
The obvious temporary solution was to have the little ones remain with their grandmother, right? Wrong. When CPS did its investigations, it found, to the grandmother's horror, that her name appeared in the State of Michigan Central Registry for Child Abuse and Neglect. This was apparently due to an administrative confusion with a perpetrator whose name and address were similar.
Over the next several weeks, the confusion was cleared up and Mary's mother's name was duly expunged from the registry. The problem, however, was that CPS had to make an immediate emergency decision regarding the children's temporary placement. As long as the grandmother's name was on the registry, she was legally ineligible to have them in her home. And by the time of the expungement, the children were already getting accustomed to their new foster home. At this point, CPS judged, perhaps understandably, that it would not be in the children's best interests to move them again — even back to what had been their real home.
Like every other state in the nation, Michigan has a procedure for maintaining records of child abuse and neglect. Like the vast majority of other states, Michigan authorizes the use of a statewide central child abuse registry. It is a critical component of the Michigan Child Protection Law, the goals of which include protecting children from abuse and providing supportive services to families. Accordingly, the law mandates the reporting — and recording — of individuals suspected of neglecting or abusing children.
The benefit of this system should be clear, at least in its intention. Indeed, it must be agreed that schools, churches, day care providers, and organizations overseeing foster care and adoption, must have a means to screen out candidates who might be unsafe with children.
The problem is that the recording mechanism has effectively served as a dragnet, entangling individuals whose actions were unreliably reported (possibly by mistake, or else, as part of unseemly blackmail campaigns) alongside with actual abusers. This is so because of two ill-crafted features of the law.
One is that the criteria for registry eligibility is established solely by CPS categorizations. The result is that upon completion of an internal investigation of a report of abuse or neglect — and possibly without any consultation with the police or legal community — CPS often decides that, although its findings do meet certain departmental criteria, the case lacks merit to go forward. Nonetheless, the individual's name may be placed on the registry and remain there for the rest of his or her life.
The other is that CPS is not required to notify the individual. While it's true that in egregious cases (as when the individual is made subject to official criminal or child protective court actions), he or she may be well aware of his or her placement on the registry, in many others, there is no notification. While the law does establish an administrative process for expungement from the registry, this is obviously a useless remedy if you don't know your name is on it in the first place. By the time you are notified, either by a humiliating termination from your employment or, as in the case of Mary's mother, the nightmarish family separation, it will likely be far too late to repair the damage.
Renowned Jackson-based child welfare lawyer Elizabeth Warner got it right when she stated that the child abuse registry is the state's “biggest civil rights violation.” One suspects that the reason this has been allowed to stand unchallenged is political. After all, the community of alleged child abusers is not exactly a constituency whose rights public officials are rushing to champion.
This is why we all should celebrate Public Act 30 2014. Effective Sept. 7, this law will require that individuals placed on the registry be notified via registered or certified mail with explanations both of the reason they are being placed and the nature of the appeal process. Reasonably, it also sets a time limit within which an individual so notified must exercise his or her right to request an expungement hearing. Absent a showing of “good cause,” he or she must file this request no later than 180 days after having been notified.
It is disappointing that the new law doesn't also address the other major flaw in the registry: that the individual's name can still be listed by virtue of CPS investigation alone. These authors find this to an unnecessarily prophylactic protection of children at the expense of the civil rights of the individuals accused. While we urge lawmakers to enact legislation that respects these civil rights without compromising child protection, we also encourage readers to support those legislators who voted in favor of Public Act 30.
It's certainly a step in the right direction.
Charles “Chip” Farrar is a Waterford attorney.
Texas schools now required to provide child sexual abuse prevention, response training
According to the Texas Education Agency (TEA), in compliance with recent Texas legislation, district and charter schools within the state are required to provide all employees with prevention and recognition training concerning child sexual abuse and other forms of child maltreatment.
Statistics for child sexual abuse are staggering. In the United States alone, 400,000 children born this year will be sexually abused before the age of 18. Studies show that school personnel identify 52 percent of child abuse cases classified as causing harm to the child – more than any other profession or organization.
Through grant funding, Darkness to Light's award-winning Stewards of Children child sexual abuse prevention program is offered free of charge to all Texas faculty and employees. The TEA has listed Stewards of Children as an approved solution, and the program is eligible for continuing professional education (CPE) credits.
Many Texas school employees have already taken Stewards of Children. On Aug. 21, 2013, the city of Houston trained 600 public school teachers – the largest single-day training of its kind. Other districts have also taken a lead in child sexual abuse prevention. According to Dr. Debra Jordan, a Region 5 junior high principal, “Stewards of Children provides educators with proactive tools that enable them to recognize the warning signs and to implement preventative best practices.”
Darkness to Light President and CEO Jolie Logan talks about the organization's role in this trailblazing effort to protect children: “School employees interact with thousands of children throughout their careers, making them ideally situated to significantly reduce the prevalence of child sexual abuse. We applaud the TEA and the state of Texas for taking a leadership role by not only making abuse prevention and response training a requirement, but a priority. We are proud to be part of this initiative.”
If you are a Texas district or charter school interested in learning more about this initiative or training for your staff, visit www.D2L.org/TXEd
Disturbance at facility where 33 teens escaped
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A disturbance broke out late Wednesday night at the same Nashville juvenile detention center where more than 30 teens escaped earlier this week.
Roughly 20 teens - some of whom were involved in Monday night's massive breakout form the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center - were roaming the campus early Thursday, refusing to return to their dorms, Tennessee Department of Children's Services spokesman Rob Johnson said.
Police formed a ring around the center's perimeter fence and none of the teens have escaped the facility, Johnson said.
Authorities were still trying early Thursday to convince the teens to return to their dorms, Johnson said, adding that staff members were still inside the detention center and were safe.
"Right now, it's kind of a fluid, active situation," Johnson said.
Johnson said he was unaware of any injuries.
At one point, reports CBS affiliate WTVF-TV, several teens could be seen on the roof of one building, with metal objects and rocks. Some were also spotted on the ground, with baseball bats and metal pipes.
Twenty-one teens were in custody several hours after the trouble erupted, the station says. Local police were outside, and Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers were inside, searching for more of the teens who were involved.
Thirty-three teens escaped from the detention center Monday night, WTVF says. Officials said they had kicked out metal panels under the windows in common areas of their dorms to reach the courtyard and slipped out under a weak spot in the perimeter fence. Six of them remained at large early Thursday.
The detention center has a long history of violence, allegations of sexual abuse and previous efforts to escape. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice ranked Woodland Hills as 13th in the country among juvenile facilities where there had been reports of sexual abuse by staffers.
HAMILTON: Working to end child sex abuse
by Jennifer Kohlhepp
HAMILTON — About one in 10 youths will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday, meaning 400,000 children born in the United States this year will become victims unless something is done to stop it, according to statistics compiled by Darkness to Light.
The Hamilton Area YMCA strongly believes that if childhood sexual abuse can be prevented, it can be stopped and that through awareness and education, adults can protect children. Taking a proactive role to help keep kids safe from sexual abuse, the YMCA has partnered with Darkness to Light to provide free Stewards of Children training to adults, according to Jill Makkay, spokesperson for the Hamilton Area YMCA.
"The New Jersey YMCA State Alliance, which includes 40 local YMCAs, have joined forces with Darkness to Light, a nationally recognized nonprofit organization and creators of the award-winning Stewards of Children child sexual abuse prevention curriculum," Ms. Makkay said. "Through the initiative, the YMCA is offering Stewards of Children child sexual abuse prevention training to adults in the community. The Hamilton Area YMCA knew this partnership was ideal in raising awareness and taking steps to preventing child sexual abuse."
Darkness to Light, which is based in South Carolina, created Stewards of Children, a training program that teaches adults how to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. The program is designed for parents, individuals concerned about the safety of children and groups that serve youth.
Stewards of Children is an evidence-informed training program that is proven to increase awareness of the prevalence, consequences and circumstances of child sexual abuse and positively change child protective behaviors, policies and procedures. The program includes commentary from sexual abuse survivors, experts in the field and other concerned adults; an interactive workbook designed to facilitate discussion, reinforce key concepts and serve as a resource guide and personal action plan for protecting children; and interactive discussions about important issues in sexual abuse prevention and how they affect communities and youth serving organizations.
"We believe this training is important for adults in our community and our staff members so they are better educated in the facts about child sexual abuse," Ms. Makkay said. "Knowing the facts surrounding child sexual abuse is an important step in prevention. Once the Stewards of Children training is completed, adults and staff members will be versed in minimizing opportunity, the ability to talk openly and responsibly with children, recognize the signs of abuse to protect children, and how to respond to suspicions or reports of sexual abuse."
The Hamilton Area YMCA has set a goal of training 5 percent of the adult population in Mercer County in the Stewards of Children training over the next five years. Concerned citizens can take the training course online or at the YMCA, where school staff members, nonprofit organizations, businesses, emergency medical technicians, firefighters, police, government officials and others can also schedule a training session.
"The two-hour Stewards of Children online training course is free for all New Jersey residents through December 2014," Ms. Makkay said. "We encourage everyone to take the training course, especially those who work in school settings — youth sports organizations, faith centers and nonprofit organizations. The online training course consists of a personal prevention plan, frequently asked questions on child sexual abuse and scenarios to practice the knowledge learned. A certificate is provided with the successful completion."
Stewards of Children has trained 531,000 adults since its inception, according to Darkness to Light.The ultimate mission of Darkness to Light, to end childhood sexual abuse, can only be accomplished by sharing the solution of prevention, awareness and education with more and more people. This, in turn, builds momentum and over time, changes the way the nation and culture cares for, protects and nurtures children. Being an active participant in the mission to end childhood sexual abuse is one of the most rewarding things someone could do, according to Darkness to Light.
For questions or more information, email stewards@D2L.org . For an in-person training for a group at the Hamilton Area YMCA, contact Jill Makkay at 609-581-9622 ext. 122 or email@example.com. Find the online training at www.d2l.org/site/c.4dICIJOkGcISE/b.6143709/k.3D5F/Child
Survivor: 'I was trafficked through airports in this country'
Human trafficking training hosted at Sacramento International
(Video on site)
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KCRA) —About 120 employees of the Sacramento International Airport attended a training seminar Wednesday about human trafficking and the use of airports to move victims around the country
The employees included workers from airlines, firefighters, food services and Transportation Security Administration agents.
Volunteer organizations, led by Airline Ambassadors, and a woman who survived being a human slave spoke to the group.
The ambassadors are former flight attendants now devoted to helping exploited children.
The experts explained how traffickers use airports despite heavy security, surveillance cameras and thousands of people in close proximity.
"Traffickers move their victims frequently, often using the speed and convenience of normal air travel," said Nancy Rivard, president of Airline Ambassadors. "They move victims to keep then powerless."
Rivard said children are not required to have identification to fly, and when traveling with an adult, are never questioned.
In some cases, she said, criminals have dressed young girls as athletes posing as a team heading to competition.
Former victim Liz Williamson said she was sold into human slavery by her parents at the age of 6.
"As a survivor, I can tell you that I was trafficked through airports in this country and in other countries," she said. "And the reality is that most people would not have noticed, and would not have known the questions to ask."
Employees were told to watch for several indicators including people not in control of their travel documents, unsure of their destinations and under the control of a companion.
Rivard said the victims, often children and teens, may appear frightened, ashamed or nervous.
"If they are under the control of someone else, that's the key," Rivard said. "If they have wounds or bruises or signs of physical abuse or if they eat ravenously – like they have not eaten for a long time, [it's a signal]."
Rivard said she was impressed by the leadership at Sacramento International, which invited victim organizations and law enforcement to make a presentation.
"I've made presentations at 25 airports and this is the first time the airport called us," she said.
Safe Alliance recruiting rape crisis companions
Safe Alliance's Sexual Trauma Resource Center (STRC) is seeking volunteers to serve as rape crisis companions (RCC) in the Charlotte, Lake Norman, Cabarrus and Union County offices. Sexual violence is one of the most under-reported hidden crimes in America. Safe Alliance is looking for caring individuals to serve as a comforting voice to survivors of sexual assault while providing crisis intervention, support, advocacy and information to children and adults in-person and at local hospitals.
Rape crisis companions receive free training from Safe Alliance that involves completing a 20-hour program. Successful volunteers must exhibit cultural competencies and the ability to work with diverse populations. Training sessions begin Sept. 11 in the Charlotte office located at 601 East 5th St.
Rape crisis companions promote the well-being and adjustment of child and adult survivors of sexual assault by providing crisis intervention services; provide emotional support to survivors of sexual assault via hotline response and hospital accompaniment; and complete documentation and adhere to HIPAA guidelines as outlined in training.
Volunteers must be 18 years or older; have the ability to listen and communicate with empathy and maintain a non-judgmental attitude; have access to a telephone and transportation to area hospitals; and must clear a criminal background check.
Anyone interested in becoming a companion or receiving further information should contact Heather Chavis, sexual trauma resource center volunteer coordinator at 704-367-2758 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Safe Alliance supports victims of domestic and sexual violence and child abuse and helps people build safe, healthy relationships. It does this through a continuum of shelter, counseling, legal and advocacy services serving more than 20,000 people a year in Mecklenburg, Cabarrus, Union and south Iredell counties while reaching 20,000 more through advocacy and education.
Tester Begins Hearings on Sex Trafficking in Indian Country
by Suzetter Brewer
As the trafficking of Native women and girls becomes more prevalent in an expanding radius around the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota, politicians and indigenous leaders are seeking to protect these young victims—and help the survivors heal.
“Human trafficking is a serious issue afflicting our region and much of Indian country. Tribes from Washington State to New York have felt its terrible impact,” said Montana Senator Jon Tester during opening remarks at a listening session he held at Ft. Peck Community College on August 28. “Montana and North Dakota have been especially hard-hit by increases in crime, including human trafficking, due to the explosive influx of people and resources following the oil and gas boom in the Bakken.”
The listening session was aimed at gathering more information from tribal leaders and local law enforcement regarding the spike in sex trafficking of underage girls, as well as other related crimes that have increased since the oil boom began in the Bakken region. Also among the panelists at Thursday's session was United States Attorney Mike Cotter, who appeared at the event to voice the growing alarm shared by he and his colleagues in Montana, the Dakotas and Wyoming, about the exploding industry of human trafficking involving mostly Native girls aged 12 to 14 who are being sold for sex.
“If you look around the rural regions of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming, you would not expect to find 12-14 year old girls sold for sex on the Internet, or lured by an adult for sex or forced into a life of servitude by predators to sell their bodies to strangers,” Cotter told the audience of about 100 tribal leaders, community members and law enforcement. “It is hard to imagine but it is here in our region, and this corruption occurs with too much frequency and is more prevalent than one would imagine.”
Cotter underscored the fact that human trafficking is a global, national and regional problem that has snared millions of men, women and children into being trafficked for labor and commercial sex. Situated on the energy-rich Williston Basin, the Bakken Oil Patch is located in North Dakota. Since the energy boom in that state began, crime rates in the multi-state region have also spiked, including sexual violence, domestic violence, multiple murders and an increase in the use of meth and other drugs.
"We're dealing with drug cartels, we're dealing with people who don't come to the door with a shotgun, they come to the door with a sub-machine gun,” said Tester. “And it's very different. A lot of law enforcement agencies have seen a real uptick in crime, but haven't seen an uptick in police officers or staffing or training.”
Typically, traffickers target mostly young girls who average between 12 and 14 years in age and are usually from low-income homes where one or both parents are absent. Additionally, many of the girls are already victims of child abuse and neglect, and many are struggling with drug and alcohol abuse. In South Dakota alone, Tester said, at least half of the sex trafficking victims are Native girls. Many of the girls, he said, are lured during times of vulnerability, when they may be homeless or struggling in other ways.
Wall of Silence
by Morning Star
Many of the names of alleged paedophile politicians are known, but the new inquiry must end a decades-old coverup, warns Steven Walker
The inquiry into paedophile MPs — relaunched years after the Labour MP Tom Watson demanded it — has been forced upon the political Establishment amid fears of a further drop in its already low public esteem due to the emergence of horrific details of MPs' crimes against children.
But the efforts of the Establishment to stem this tide of revelations doesn't stop, they just take new forms. By widening the scope of the inquiry and taking advantage of recent events in Rotherham, an opportunity has been seized to obscure the evidence of decades of covering up paedophile MPs' sordid actions in a spider's web of dodgy connections.
Together with campaigning website www.no2abuse.com, the Morning Star has collated evidence from court reports and other sources to detail the numbers of suspected paedophile politicians identified so far. Those convicted or named as suspects in paedophile assaults against young children include three ex-Cabinet ministers, two peers, 16 MPs, one MEP, three general election candidates and 30 local councillors.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the quantity of compelling evidence of organised sexual abuse by politicians of vulnerable working-class children placed in local authority children's homes. So it is worth spelling out what the effects are of being abducted, tortured, drugged, and violently sexually assaulted by adult men.
Bear in mind these children were already suffering psychological pain after being removed from homes where they witnessed domestic violence or were themselves abused sexually, physically or emotionally, or where parents could not cope with their own mental health problems or drug and alcohol misuse.
These children were fragile, nervous, young, innocent little people who craved attention, security and love. What they got was the attention of predatory paedophiles, some organised into paedophile rings including MPs and peers who saw their chance to prey on the weak and vulnerable using their power and prestige to impress and then to cover-up their heinous crimes.
For victims the result is a lifetime of growing up with feelings of shame, low self-esteem, guilt, rage, self-harm and the use of alcohol and drugs to blot out the physical and psychological pain. Many survivors have endured decades of mental health problems and been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
But the real impact of the launch of a new inquiry has been to distract attention away from paedophiles operating within Parliament. No fewer than 16 MPs, most now deceased, have now been publicly named as alleged paedophiles.
They include Liberal MP Cyril Smith, and several senior Tories who were close to Margaret Thatcher, including her parliamentary private secretary Peter Morrison (died 1995), the late deputy chairman of the Scottish Conservatives Alistair Smith (died 2012) and the Scottish solicitor general Nicholas Fairbairn (died 1995).
Also recently mentioned are former Tory ministers Sir Rhodes Boyson and Sir Keith Joseph, as well as former Labour MP George Thomas and an unnamed Labour peer.
A year ago, just after announcing that the Metropolitan Police were about to arrest a former Tory Cabinet minister, Commander Peter Spindler, who had been leading the police criminal investigation into organised paedophiles, was taken off the investigation and moved sideways to another job.
He had been investigating the sexual abuse of young children from a council children's home in Richmond on Thames, where children were procured and taken to a hotel frequented by paedophile Cyril Smith and other MPs.
The suggestion is that powerful figures had complained about Spindler's work in pursuing three major paedophile investigations and he had to be stopped.
This is the Establishment at work. It includes the links between Freemasonry, Parliament and the police which together form a well-known and formidable triangle of power. Many paedophile investigations have been undertaken by the Met yet none succeeded in convicting an MP.
A convicted paedophile, Michael McAuliffe, recently claimed he is able to provide information about child abuse and parliamentary paedophile rings.
James Bourne-Arton QC, defending McAuliffe in a current court case, succeeded in getting his hearing adjourned for police investigations to be made into his claims. Bradford Crown Court was told McAuliffe “has information [related to] the abuse covered up in the 1970s in Westminster.”
The late solicitor general for Scotland, Nicholas Fairbairn, who was appointed by Margaret Thatcher, was a regular visitor at the notorious Elm Guest House where paedophile MP and Freemason Cyril Smith abused small children.
In 2000 the daughter of a Scottish lawyer alleged Fairbairn was part of a paedophile ring. Susie Henderson, who until recently had not revealed her identity, told the Daily Mail last month: “I told the police about him in 2000, I told them what Fairbairn was. But they wanted me to go away.”
In addition to that report, police are also investigating historical sex abuse allegations made against Labour peer Lord Tonypandy, the former MP George Thomas, involving a nine-year-old boy who says he was raped. South Wales police confirmed they were looking into the claims, which date back to the 1960s and 1970s.
Anthony Gilberthorpe attended Tory Party conferences starting in 1978 when he was 17. He claimed he was “manipulated and groomed” to procure underage boys for private sex parties on the orders of senior figures in Margaret Thatcher's government.
He alleges boys as young as 15 were plied with alcohol and cocaine before they had sex with powerful politicians. Those he named include Dr Alistair Smith, Rhodes Boyson, Keith Joseph and Michael Havers.
Anthony Atkinson, the son of former Conservative MP David Atkinson, has also reported that he believes his father was a “prolific sexual predator” who he fears might have been linked to a Westminster paedophile ring.
The link in the chain with MI5 is now becoming clearer. Geoffrey Prime was a Soviet spy for 20 years until the early 1980s. He was a GCHQ employee and a member of the Paedophile Information Exchange finally convicted for sexual assault of three children in 1982.
So we know that at least two paedophiles were spies, Prime and Sir Peter Hayman from MI6, lending credence to the link between paedophiles and the Secret Intelligence Service.
This link raises questions about the potential for blackmail, leaking of state secrets and the Establishment's efforts to ensure evidence disappeared.
A former army intelligence officer has said he was ordered to stop investigating allegations of child sexual abuse at the Kincora boys' home in the 1970s.
Brian Gemmell said a senior MI5 officer told him to stop looking into claims of abuse at the home in East Belfast because people of the “highest profile” were involved in paedophile activity. Gemmell presented a report on the allegations to the police in 1975 but nothing happened.
The new inquiry has a huge number of obstacles already in its way. It has been widened in order to obscure the activity of paedophile MPs and timed to last well beyond the next general election.
The inquiry team will find an audit trail that has been shredded or seized by local councils, the police, the Home Office and MI5.
Many of the paedophile MPs and peers are now dead. And the prospects of unwittingly disrupting or prejudicing current police prosecutions is strong, thus jeopardising the prospects of justice for victims.
Steven Walker is the author of The Social Worker's Guide to Child and Adolescent Mental Health
Another symptom of the Sandusky case: Reports of educator sexual abuse in Pa. skyrocket
by Anna Orso
Much has changed in Pennsylvania since allegations that school officials at Penn State didn't do enough to stop a child predator gripped the state and much of the nation.
A handful of legislation has been passed that lawmakers believe makes the reporting process more streamlined and educators feel more comfortable about coming forward with a complaint against a co-worker.
One of the most quantifiable changes in sexual misconduct in the state since the scandal broke is the number of cases of abuse reported to the Department of Education: Last year, more than half of the teachers who had discipline imposed by the department were accused of some type of sexual misconduct.
In the immediate aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky case, 563 complaints against educators were filed in 2012 with the Department of Education, compared with 256 in 2011. Of those 563 complaints filed in 2012, 52 percent were cases involving sexual misconduct.
It's hard to say whether the change in numbers comes from more comfort in reporting because of the new laws, or whether it's from a fear of not reporting. Administrators in the Penn State case accused of not reporting are facing jail time and awaiting trial.
Shane Crosby, a former assistant general counsel for the Department of Education, said in July that the department acknowledges the uptick in reports "after the situation with Sandusky."
The case opened the eyes of the state to just how child abuse can slip through the cracks. Prosecutors with the Office of the Attorney General allege a 2001 eyewitness account of sexual abuse at the hands of Sandusky was never forwarded to police.
Sandusky, 70, a former Penn State defensive coordinator, is serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence after being convicted in June 2012 of sexually abusing 10 boys between 1994 and 2008.
In many ways, the scandal increased awareness of sexual abuse and misconduct across the state, showing many in the industry that predators can be hidden in plain sight.
Crosby said new regulations put in place in February in the wake of the case eliminate the statute of limitations on filing a complaint of sexual abuse against an educator and expanded the mandatory reporting obligations that administrators have.
In addition, administrators now must report to the Department of Education any time a termination for cause occurs and any time there is a resignation that comes after any allegations of misconduct, whether those allegations are made locally or to the state.
One bill also updated the department's policies about how licensed educators are disciplined, and what they're disciplined for. It now includes grooming behaviors, such as constantly texting a student outside of school.
Crosby said the previous law might have led to underreporting because of unclear language about what educators were and were not required to report.
In cases of sexual misconduct, the old law stipulated administrators must report to the department any time there is "reasonable cause" to believe an educator committed sexual misconduct or exploitation.
The problem is, with more than 500 school districts, "reasonable cause" can take on more than 500 different meanings.
The new law was clarified, according to Crosby, to now read that all allegations of sexual abuse or sexual misconduct must be reported to the department. That report may not necessarily trigger a full-blown investigation, but it brings the matter to the attention of state authorities who can start the review process.
While the Sandusky scandal brought on a package of more than 15 new child abuse-related bills, advocates say much more needs to be done, said Chester Kent, a former superintendent and educational consultant in more than 120 court cases in federal and state court involving teacher sexual misconduct.
Kent said the process of reporting concerns regarding sexual misconduct to the department could be streamlined to encourage mandatory reporters to go directly to police with allegations.
But he also said legislation that has been on the table in Pennsylvania for years that would keep school districts from allowing predators to quietly resign needs to be passed.
Child abuse at the hands of educators: Tips on how to recognize, report it
by Anna Orso
This week, PennLive has published a series of stories about sexual abuse, misconduct and exploitation at the hands of people whom parents are supposed to trust — educators.
And while this news organization has laid out how to recognize and report child abuse before, it bears repeating.
"We just need to be vigilant," said Terri Miller, president of Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct and Exploitation. "Vigilance is key, and reporting suspicion is the key to stopping the abuse from escalating and stopping the abuse altogether, because grooming is obvious if you know what to look for."
Here are a few tips from the some of the nation's leading experts, including Miller and Charol Shakeshaft, a Virginia Commonwealth University professor known for her research on sexual abuse of children by school employees:
The follow signs don't necessarily mean abuse is certainly occurring, but could raise red flags:
A teacher spending an inordinate amount of time with a child.
A teacher is devoting his or her attention to one particular child or that child is gravitating toward him or her.
A child is enrolling in a class or participating in an extracurricular activity to be with a specific teacher.
Any kind of gift-giving from teacher to student.
A teacher giving a student a ride anywhere, for any reason.
What parents can look for in their child:
Becoming detached from his friends or isolated from his family;
Depression and violent mood swings;
Quick change in how a child feels about a particular class or teacher, like going from loving a certain teacher to hating him, or vice versa;
Sleep or eating disorders;
Drug or alcohol abuse in teenagers;
Incessant cellphone use or social media presence.
Where to go if you suspect abuse:
Many experts recommend going directly to local law enforcement agencies if you have a suspicion about child abuse. Most agencies, district attorneys offices and child protective centers have sexual abuse investigators and victims' advocates available for support.
You can also contact:
National ChildHelp: 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) or visit www.childhelp.org
PA ChildLine: 1-800-932-0313, a 24/7 intake unit that fields reports of child abuse
Dauphin County Child Abuse reporting line: 717-780-7200
Cumberland County Children and Youth Services: 717-240-6120
Is county under reporting child abuse?
by Rob Ireland
ELKHORN — Despite only two reports being filed since January 2013, a county official says the health and human services department is complying with a state law that requires public disclosure of child deaths, serious injuries or egregious incidents.
In 2009, the Wisconsin legislature passed a law that requires child welfare agencies to publicly disclose incidents when children die, are seriously injured or involved in an “egregious incident.” Those reports are publicly posted on the Wisconsin Children and Families (DCF) website.
Dr. David Thompson, who is the deputy director of the department of health and human services, said that his department has abided by the law. When asked questions regarding specific cases that weren't reported, Thompson said state law prohibits him from commenting. However, he added that Child Protective Services (CPS) doesn't necessarily have contact with every child whose death or abuse enters the public eye.
“We are a child abuse investigation agency. We do the best we can. We are not perfect, but we certainly aspire to be,” Thompson said. “When we are asked questions like this we are prohibited from giving the kind of information that you would like to have and that would perhaps make our agency look better.”
In the case of Michael and Carrie Donahue, who are accused of multiple accounts of abuse, court documents are clear that CPS was involved in the case, but the public disclosure was never filed. The Donahues are accused of locking their child in his bedroom and depriving him of food for days on end.
“It would be inappropriate of me to comment on a specific case,” Thompson said. “I can tell you in general that when we receive a report, we look at the information that's in the report and we make a decision based on the information that is known to us at the time. We make our decision based on that information.”
Joe Scialfa, the communications director for DCF, stated that under state law an egregious incident is defined as “an incident of suspected abuse or neglect...involving significant violence, torture, multiple victims, the use of inappropriate or cruel restraints, exposure of a child to a dangerous situation, or other similar, aggravated circumstances.”
A serious injury is defined as a “serious or critical condition, as determined by a physician, as a result of any suspected abuse or neglect.”
In an email, Scialfa declined to answer questions regarding specific cases that weren't reported in Walworth County, and he responded “We cannot comment on why specific cases were deemed not to fit the criteria for a public notification.”
The first report filed with DCF in Walworth County since January 2013 was on July 10. County officials filed egregious abuse or neglect disclosure for an incident involving a 2-month-old child. On Aug. 18, the Walworth County District Attorney's Office filed a felony child abuse charge against Jonathan Patrick Foreman.
When taken to the hospital, Foreman's child was diagnosed with a humeral spiral fracture and 11 rib fractures, which were in various stages of healing indicating that the injuries occurred at different times.
Another report was filed on Aug. 26 for an incident that reportedly occurred on June 27 involving the egregious abuse or neglect of an 11-year-old boy. The report filed on Aug. 26 was filed two business days after the Regional News contacted Thompson regarding the public disclosures.
Previous criticism of public disclosure
On Aug. 1, 2012, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published an article about Martin and Kathleen O'Brien, a Bloomfield couple who face numerous felony and misdemeanor charges related to the alleged abuse of their adopted children.
“The Walworth County Department of Health and Human Services did not file an egregious incident report in the O'Brien case until the Journal Sentinel contacted the state Department of Children and Families, which ordered the county to do so,” the article states.
Prior to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article running, the county had filed one other public disclosure in 2012. After the article ran, four unrelated disclosures were filed.
Should incidents have been disclosed?
When asked about criminal child abuse cases that weren't reported, Thompson stated that “not every case that you find in the criminal justice system was reported to us,” Thompson said.
“I'm in a tough situation because I can't comment on a specific case, but I'm telling you in general that if a case is reported to us,” Thompson said. “We look at it carefully. We make a decision based on the information available to us.”
The Regional News reviewed the criminal complaints in felony child abuse cases that were filed in Walworth County since 2012.
A number of the complaints, or the court files, clearly outlines CPS' involvement, but reports were never filed with the state.
* In September 2013, a CPS employee set up an interview for a 13-year-old boy at the Walworth County Tree House. The boy told forensic interviewers that his alcoholic mother was a “very violent drinker” and would have him blow into her Ignition Interlock device so she could drive her car. His sister, an 8-year-old girl, reported her intoxicated mother seriously burned her feet while starting an outdoor fire.
* CPS worker called the East Troy police to assist with a potential child abuse case. The child had suffered petechial bruising, which a doctor said is consistent with suffocation and choking, but said impact to the face couldn't be ruled out as a possible cause. A relative was charged with child abuse.
* In another incident, on June 6, 2013, CPS was involved into an investigation where a mother knocked out her 5-year-old son's tooth.
There are numerous other cases where defendants were ordered to abide by Child in Need of Protection or Services (CHIPS) orders or rules set forth by the county's health and human services department.
* On March 17, a doctor at the Wisconsin Children's Hospital treated a 4-year-old girl for a fractured skull. Her father, a Bloomfield man, was charged with child abuse. As a bond condition, the defendant in the case was court-ordered to follow any requests by the HHS.
* On Aug. 21, 2013, a Delavan woman was sentenced to two years of probation for striking an 8-year-old autistic boy with a belt. A condition of her probation was to comply with HHS orders in the CHIPS case.
* In February, in the village of Bloomfield, police arrested a woman who allegedly hit a 10-year-old in the back with a spatula until the spatula broke. The woman, whose case is still pending, has a bond condition that prevents her from having contact with her child without the permission of HHS.
* In May 2013, a Whitewater man was arrested after his 21-month child was taken to Froedtert Hospital, Wauwatosa. The man told police that his baby fell off a high chair. However, a doctor who specializes in child abuse said the extensive bruising was caused by a slap to the face and either pinching or impact to the ear. As a bond condition, he was ordered to comply with any CHIPS orders.
In June 2013, a Whitewater couple pleaded guilty to a felony child abuse charge. A child told police that his stepmother hit him like “King Kong.” The man was accused of striking another child with a wooden spoon. As part of potty training, the man also would force the child to take cold showers after accidents. He also would not allow her to wear clothes for days after an accident. As part of their probation, the couple was ordered to comply with “conditions set forth by HHS and CHIPS orders.”
Underage Gymnast Turns Celebrity Photo Scandal into Child Abuse Case
by Kelli Serio
The celebrity photo scandal has taken a shocking turn after lawyers for Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney demanded the removal of their 18-year-old client's nude photos from various pornography websites, claiming that she was underage at the time they were taken.
Maroney, who originally denied her identity in the photos, was one of the youngest victims targeted in the hacking incident. Her legal team is looking to slap child abuse charges on anyone who has posted or shared explicit photos of the teenager.
In addition, anyone who is caught downloading or viewing sexual images of a minor can be found guilty of child abuse under U.S. and U.K. law.
The hackers could now face charges for distributing child pornograpy in addition to federal charges including identity theft and accessing a protected computer without the proper authority.
Porn.com was reportedly issued a letter from Maroney's attorney stating the circumstances, and they removed the images immediately.
Approximately 400 personal photos were leaked onto various media platforms of more than 100 celebrities. The alleged attackers are speculated to be associated with a gang that has widespread content distribution.
It has been confirmed that the FBI is involved and has been working vigilantly on the case.
"The FBI is aware of the allegations concerning computer intrusions and the unlawful release of material involving high profile individuals and is addressing the matter," said an FBI spokeswoman on Monday.
Years later, three watch as abuser is sentenced to prison
Former church youth leader is sentenced to 16 years for child sexual abuse in 1990s
by Jonathan Pitts
Three men who were sexually abused by a church youth-ministry leader years ago experienced a measure of justice Wednesday as they confronted their abuser in court, read emotion-charged statements about how his crimes have damaged their lives, and heard a judge sentence him to 16 years in prison.
Jediah Tanguay, 33; Benjamin Tanguay, 31; and Roger Robbins, 30, were minors in the 1990s when Raymond Fernandez, then a longtime youth leader at Greater Grace World Outreach Church in East Baltimore, has admitted he molested them.
Fernandez, 50, of Nottingham in Baltimore County, pleaded guilty in May to three counts of child sexual abuse, one in relation to each victim. The Baltimore County state's attorney dropped six counts in exchange for his plea.
His conviction came after Jediah Tanguay engaged Fernandez in a telephone conversation last year, an exchange in which Fernandez admitted the sexual abuse as a Baltimore County police detective listened in, tape recorder running.
The defendant showed no emotion as Baltimore County Circuit Judge Jan M. Alexander announced his penalty: 30 years in prison with 14 suspended and a lifetime obligation to register as a sex offender. Fernandez will not be eligible for parole until 2024.
Just before his sentencing, Fernandez briefly apologized to the victims. "I take full responsibility," he said.
A red-eyed Jediah Tanguay later sounded like a man who had laid down a burden.
"It feels really peaceful — that's the only emotion I can really sort out for you right now," he said as his wife, Sarah, stood with him outside the courtroom.
County police have asked that any other victims come forward. Church officials, who have said they knew nothing of the abuse until it came to light last year, issued a statement Wednesday applauding the three men for their courage.
Jediah Tanguay's interaction with Fernandez began in 1987, when Fernandez was the assistant coach of the then 7-year-old's soccer team at Greater Grace Christian Academy, a K-12 private school affiliated with the church.
"He [later] told me he first 'noticed' me when I was seven," Tanguay said in his victim statement, relating how Fernandez "spent years" cultivating their friendship by giving him permission to attend exclusive events, inviting him to Fernandez's house to watch movies and taking him out for ice cream, often alone and usually unsupervised by other adults.
Tanguay's parents, Donald and Janet Tanguay — who belonged to Greater Grace in New England long before the church moved to Moravia Park Drive in Baltimore during the 1980s — said they had always trusted Fernandez.
"We thought you were investing in our kids. We didn't know you were scheming and conniving to end up with your victims alone. … You're a sick man," Janet Tanguay told Fernandez in her victim-impact statement.
Jediah Tanguay said Fernandez would single out some boys for special attention, inviting them to his house and taking them on trips.
"It was all done with such patience, structure and tact that it left me confused, believing the harm I felt was my own," he said in his statement. "It wasn't that Ray was so bad that made this all so difficult. It was that he was so good at making you feel so special … and most importantly, at getting what he wanted."
Tanguay cited "hundreds of occasions" when Fernandez slipped his hand under Tanguay's clothing, all the while pretending he was doing nothing out of the ordinary.
Fernandez pleaded guilty to one such incident. On a May evening in 1997, Fernandez parked with Jediah in front of the youth's home in Nottingham and engaged him in something like a father-son talk, according to a police report last year.
When he hugged the then 16-year-old, then slid his hand down the boy's pants, Jediah hit him and tried to flee the car, the police report said, but Fernandez sat on him and subdued him.
"For 20 years, I was convinced this was a good man with a big problem," Jediah Tanguay said.
It wasn't until last year that Jediah learned that Fernandez had also molested his brother during roughly the same period.
Benjamin Tanguay told a hushed court that when he was 11, in 1994, Fernandez began inviting him into the snack bar he operated on the Greater Grace World Outreach campus in East Baltimore, promising him free candy, then closing the door and abusing him.
"I was always told never to take candy from strangers. Nobody ever told me not to take candy from a youth leader. Nobody told me I shouldn't take candy from you , Ray," he said.
"All alone, in that snack bar, I'd think, 'If somebody could open that door, they would see who you really were,'" he added as Fernandez sat expressionless a few feet away.
When his turn came, Robbins recalled that when he was in his early to mid teens, his mother was diagnosed with an illness that greatly stressed his family. He said Fernandez, his coach and mentor, used his grief as a pretext for offering comfort.
He described one time when Fernandez, offering hugs, went much further.
"He said we should pray. He started rubbing my back. He slid his hand down my pants. I felt so dirty," Robbins said.
In an interview, Jediah Tanguay said he and his wife had moved to Zambia in 2010 as missionaries for Greater Grace when he began to question his inexplicable bouts of sadness. He dove into a book he'd downloaded, "The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse." The author "gave a name to everything I'd been feeling for years," he said.
After he and his family moved back to Baltimore last year, he got counseling. Last summer, he ran into Fernandez at a function on the Greater Grace campus.
Fernandez left his longtime position in the youth ministry in 2003, but continued teaching computer science at the school through 2004. At the church function last year, Tanguay confronted him. Fernandez admitted to molesting him, Tanguay said, claiming he had sought help in the years since and regretted his actions.
Within weeks, Tanguay agreed to make the surreptitious recording as the detective, a member of the county's Special Victims Unit, listened in.
The three victims all said they didn't realize until last year that Fernandez had preyed on anyone else. Once they compared notes, Benjamin Tanguay and Robbins decided to give their own statements to police.
During his summation, assistant state's attorney Keith Pion described the defendant's behavior as "shocking and disgusting." Judge Alexander called Fernandez a "callous, calculating, manipulative, destructive, non-caring individual."
As the hearing ended, the victims and their families flooded into a hallway, where they exchanged embraces.
Sarah Tanguay said she was proud of her husband. A police officer hugged Janet Tanguay, the victims' mother, in thanks for a victim statement she made.
Donald Tanguay, their father, said he wishes he had spoken to his children about sexual abuse before it was too late, but he never spotted the signs. He mentioned a nonprofit, Race Against Abuse of Children Everywhere, whose website, raace.org, helps parents find the words to talk to their kids about child sexual abuse, which it describes as an epidemic.
"Don't learn about this subject the way I did," he said, choking back tears.
(From April, 2014)
Mom tells how 'monster' in her own home exploited young daughter
ORLANDO, Fla. — 9 Investigates and Channel 9's Vanessa Welch secured a rare interview with a woman whose fiancé was creating child porn inside their home -- and using her own daughter.
Welch discovered the man's crimes were part of a larger network operating in central Florida. The local mother, Erica Ebersole, told Welch she wanted to share her story to alert other parents.
Ebersole and her fiancé, William Osman, were planning a spring wedding in Orlando. She said she had no idea the father of her baby girl was keeping a dark secret until police showed up at her door last fall.
Ebersole told 9 Investigates Osman acted like a great father when they were together. But investigators said the exploitation of her daughter started two days after Christmas in 2012 when the little girl was still a baby.
Osman, 33, admitted to taking sexual pictures with the 1-year-old and sharing them with other men, according to federal court documents.
He pleaded guilty to having, producing and distributing child porn.
“Anybody who could do that is a monster,” Ebersole told Welch.
Some may find it hard to believe Ebersole didn't know what was going on, but people who investigate these crimes said this happens frequently.
“The mothers are always the last to know," said Brevard County Agent Mike Spadafora.
Spadafora caught on to Osman when he found pornographic images on another suspect's phone. He said trading child porn can easily progress to sexual abuse. He should know: As a head investigator of child sex crimes he has seen disturbing trends in the lurid, online world.
"The ages of the children are getting younger, and the sex acts are getting more brutal,” Spadafora said.
Ebersole said Osman was alone with their daughter every Wednesday for about two hours when she went to the doctor's office.
"The only times he would do this was times that I was away," Ebersole said.
At first, she thought he was the perfect father, but looking back, she was suspicious of the way he always kept his cellphone so private.
"He had locks and locks on his phone," Ebersole said. "It even took police a while to get through the locks."
Osman is accused of using his phone to trade child porn with another man, Michael Glascock, who was indicted by a federal grand jury on eight sexual exploitation charges.
Glascock is still in federal custody and his case is still working its way through the court system.
Forensic investigators with the Brevard County Sheriff's Office extracted videos, pictures and text messages from his phone, which led them to 50 other suspects and helped them save 14 children from a life of abuse, including Ebersole's daughter.
"There is a big word out there, 'stranger danger,' but in all reality, most children are being abused by a known person in their own life," Spadafora said.
"A person living two separate lives," Ebersole said. "It was all a lie. Nothing I knew about him was real."
Osman is set to be sentenced in federal court on May 29. Ebersole will be there to make a statement, and she intends to ask that he get the maximum 70 years in prison.
(Sentencing for the above crime...)
Man who sexually abused 1-year-old sentenced to 60 years in prison
A man was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison on charges of producing, distributing and possessing child pornography, said Department of Justice officials Wednesday.
William Osman, 34, of Orlando was also ordered to serve a life term of supervised release and to register as a sex offender upon completion of his sentence, officials said.
On Feb. 28, Osman pleaded guilty to the charges and he was sentenced on Aug. 29.
According to court documents, beginning in December 2012, Osman sexually abused his 1-year-old child and took pictures of the abuse with his cellphone.
Over a period of several months, authorities said Osman continued to record his abuse of the child. In September 2013, Osman traded some of the images of child pornography he had produced using his infant child with another man in Brevard County, who was recording the abuse of his 3-year-old child, authorities said.
The two met when the Brevard County man responded to a personal ad Osman had placed on Craigslist. Court documents state that the pair soon began discussing the abuse of their children, specifically mentioning their interest in having a "baby orgy."
Officials said on Oct. 15, 2013, agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) executed a search warrant at Osman's home in Orange County. Authorities said they found the images Osman had produced using his child and the images the man from Brevard County had sent of his infant child.
Investigators said they also found 194 movies and 588 images of child pornography on Osman's media storage devices.
"Protecting our children from these crimes is one of HSI's top priorities," said special agent Susan L. McCormick. "This sentencing should serve as a stark reminder to the serious nature of crimes against children."
Project Safe Childhood is a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse.
For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov
Sentence in child sexual assault case could top 500 years
by Edith Brady
BLOOMINGTON — A Bellflower man is eligible for 525 years in prison when he is sentenced on multiple sexual assault charges involving two minor boys.
Michael Hubbard, 28, pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of criminal sexual assault involving a minor over the age of 13, and seven counts of predatory criminal sexual assault of a boy who was under 13 at the time of illegal sexual activity that authorities said took place between Aug. 1, 2012, and Dec. 5, 2013.
Hubbard also pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated child pornography related to videos seized by police during a search of his Bellflower home. The videos depicted the two minors engaging in sex with each other and with Hubbard, according to Assistant State's Attorney Adam Ghrist.
Forty-two additional charges were dismissed in the plea agreement.
Associate Judge Casey Costigan told Hubbard that each of the 10 charges he admitted to carry consecutive sentences with a total range of 250 to 550 years.
Hubbard showed no reaction to the news that means a life sentence when it is imposed at a Nov. 6 hearing.
The sentence could set a new record for McLean County set by the 375-year term given former Bloomington police office Jeff Pelo, who was convicted in 2008 of sexually assaulting four women and stalking a fifth before he was arrested.
Ghrist read a lengthy statement of the facts the case against Hubbard, starting with a Dec. 9 interview of the younger victim at the Children's Advocacy Center. The child had earlier disclosed allegations of sexual abuse to school staff.
The second minor came forward the following day, confirming that both boys had been to Hubbard's home multiple times and engaged in sexual activity that was videotaped.
The mother of one of the victims told McLean County Sheriff's detectives that Hubbard bought the boys gifts and took them out for pizza during their overnight visits.
Girl, 5, trapped in washing machine on high speed
by Drew Karedes
PASADENA, Texas — A 5-year-old girl was airlifted to the hospital Tuesday after police say she was found locked in an operating washing machine.
The child was reportedly trapped in the washing machine on high speed for several minutes at the Le's Washateria at about 6:15 p.m. before anyone noticed.
Police said a woman had tried to use that same machine moments earlier and told a manager it wasn't working properly. She then got a refund and moved to another machine.
It's still unclear how the girl ended up in the washer. Detectives are also still trying to figure out when it began working.
"She was tumbling pretty fast in there," said Vance Mitchell with Pasadena Police. "One person walked by and said they saw something flopping around in there. They thought it was just a dress or something because it was moving pretty fast."
Police haven't said where the girl's parents were or who was watching her.
Royal Commission Into Child Sex Abuse Gets Extension, More Funding
Activist Asks For Investigation Into Alleged Chabad Abuse Coverups
The Australian government has extended the working time of the royal commission investigating child sex abuse in religious institutions and has given the commission $126 million dollars of new funding – more than the commission asked for – to continue its work. The Jewish anti-abuse organization Tzedek wants some of that money to be used to investigate Chabad.
The Age reports:
The government's decision to give an extra $126 million and a two-year extension to the royal commission into child sex abuse will allow more survivors to tell their stories, advocates say.
Attorney-General George Brandis on Tuesday announced the government would allocate the extra funds needed by the commission to complete its historic inquiry.
Senator Brandis also announced he had been asked to extend the commission's reporting deadline to December 15, 2017.
In its interim report in June, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse said it would need a two-year extension on its 2015 deadline and $104 million to finish its work.…
The soon to be outgoing CEO and founder of Tzedek, Manny Waks, who was abused at Chabad's Yeshivah Centre in Melbourne by Samuel David Cyprys, a Chabad hasid. Cyprys was a known pedophile when Chabad's Yeshivah Centre knowing that hired him to be its head of security and teach karate and martial arts to young students. Cyprys had a key to every door and lock in the complex and free movement throughout it.
When students and parents began complaining that Cyprys had molested or raped kids, Chabad allegedly covered it up and told parents that reporting such alleged crimes was mesirah (informing) – a serious crime in halakha that is strictly forbidden by Jewish law and which is severely punished, nowadays often with communal shunning but historically by death – and Cyprys continued to abuse kids.
Waks and other victims went to police as adults and Cyprys was convicted on (and pleaded guilty to other) multiple rape and abuse charges earlier this year. He has since been accused of sexually assaulting an 18-year-old fellow inmate.
On behalf of Tzedek, Waks – Cyprys' most public victim – issued the following statement today on the news that the Royal Commission had ben extended and given more funds to continue its work:
Tzedek welcomes today's announcement by the Australian Government to extend the Royal Commission by an additional two years, and to provide it with the necessary resources to adequately complete their important task.
We hope and expect that the Royal Commission will now have sufficient capacity to hold a public hearing into a Jewish community institution in Australia. Sadly there have been numerous Jewish institutions implicated in this ongoing scandal and the Royal Commission provides the opportunity to examine what precisely has transpired, which is critical for the sake of justice and accountability, and for the prevention of these cases from recurring. Due to the sheer volume of confirmed incidents of child sexual abuse at the Yeshivah Centre in Melbourne – including allegations of cover-ups and intimidation of victims – it would seem appropriate that this institution is closely examined and ultimately held to full account for any misconduct.
We would like to take this opportunity to encourage all victims and survivors of institutional abuse and their families to engage in this unique process by sharing their experience with the Royal Commission. The feedback from all those who have already participated in this process has been extremely positive – I can personally attest to the professionalism and sensitivity in which the Royal Commission engages with victims and survivors. As a Royal Commission-funded support service, Tzedek is in a position to assist, support and advise, just as we have already done so with dozens of other victims.
Cyprys was not the only peophile working at Chabad's Yeshivah Centre.
Rabbi David Kramer taught there and abused kids there. Chabad again allegedly tried to stop parents from reporting the abuse to police and when it became clear that was no longer likely possible, Chabad helped Kramer flee the country. He allegedly went on abuse kids in Israel before moving to the US, sexually abusing a kid in St. Louis, and being reported to police by a non-Chabad rabbi.
Kramer was convicted, served a prison sentence, and was then deported to Australia to stand trial for the Chabad sex abuse there. He pleaded guilty.
And there are allegedly several other pedophiles in the Chabad community in Melbourne, but so far alleged victims have not pressed charges.
That may be in part because Chabad members and community leaders have harassed and persecuted the victims whose names are known to them and the families of those victims. Most of this abuse has been heaped on Manny Waks and his family and has draw extensive coverage in the Australian media.
Mothers of children sent off to Australia were told they were dead, inquiry hears
by Deborah McAleese
Mothers of child migrants who were transported from Northern Ireland care homes to Australia without parental consent, were told their children had died, the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry has heard.
Other mothers who returned to an institution to see their child were told their son or daughter had been adopted by a family in the UK.
Figures show 131 children, some as young as five, were sent to Australia between 1938 and 1956 from voluntary institutions or state bodies in Northern Ireland, it was revealed yesterday during the opening day of the HIA inquiry's second series of public hearings at Banbridge Courthouse.
The great majority of those children, 111, came from four homes run by the Sisters of Nazareth in Northern Ireland.
Others were sent from training schools, local authorities or voluntary homes.
In Australia, the children endured "shocking physical, sexual and emotional abuse" from which many never recovered, Dr Margaret Humphreys, the social worker who uncovered the child migrants scandal in the 1980s, told the inquiry.
A member of the public broke down and wept during yesterday's hearing as Dr Humphreys –whose life story was portrayed in the film Oranges and Sunshine – said that none of the parents had been told their children were in Australia.
"Some mothers were told their children had died. Others were told their children had been adopted.
"None were told their children were sent to Australia.
"Mothers often say they went to see their children only to find they had gone," said Dr Humphreys, who is director of the Child Migrants Trust, which co-ordinates searches for lost children and lost parents.
"The impact of loss of family and the trauma of institutional abuse for Northern Irish child migrants has been catastrophic," Dr Humphreys added.
The experiences of 50 of these child migrants are to be examined by the HIA inquiry over the next few weeks.
They will give evidence via video-link from Australia.
It is believed that this is the first judicial inquiry in the UK to consider the issue of child migration to Australia.
One child migrant, who died before he could sign his testimony, told members of the inquiry team who travelled to Australia as part of their investigations of the terrible effects his exportation had on him throughout his life.
In his testimony, which was read during yesterday's hearing, he said: "My life in institutions has had a profound impact on me.
"I have always wondered what it would be like to have a family – a mother, a father, brothers and sisters.
"I never got the chance to find out because we were sent to Australia. We were exported to Australia like little baby convicts."
The man added: "I cannot get over the fact I was taken away from a family I never got the chance to know.
"I was treated like an object, taken from one place to another.
"I found it very hard to show affection to my children when they were young. I have had a nightmare every night of my life. I relive my past and I am happy when daylight comes."
Senior Counsel to the inquiry, Christine Smith QC, said that many of the child migrants sent from Northern Ireland claimed to have experienced severe physical, sexual and emotional abuse when they arrived at the institutions in Australia.
She said the children were mostly under the age of 12, with the majority under eight and some as young as five.
Many of those the inquiry had spoken to had lost all contact with their parents and siblings.
Miss Smith said that for some, they had been reunited with their families later in life, but for others, it was "too late". Their parents had either died or the reunions were "unsuccessful".
"I was beaten by nuns so many times. They used a big stick like a curtain rod and swiped at my hands. They told me I was a lazy, stupid cow, just like my mother. I remember crying myself to sleep with the pain and loneliness."
Scarred lives... seven harrowing testimonies
Patrick was 10 years old when he was sent to Australia from St Joseph's Catholic children's home, Termonbacca, in 1947. He began the search for his mother as soon as he left institutional care. He returned to Ireland twice to visit Termonbacca and Nazareth House to request documentation in a bid to find his mother. He received no information to help him. Patrick persisted, and in 2008 Nazareth House finally handed over documentation with his mother's name and address. She had never moved from the Co Fermanagh home where she was born, had never married and had no other children. But he never got to meet his mother. She had died in 1999 — 40 years after Patrick began his search.
“My life in institutions has had a profound impact on me. I have always wondered what it would be like to have a family – a mother, a father, brothers and sisters. I never got the chance to find out because we were sent to Australia. We were exported to Australia like little baby convicts”.
The man added: “I cannot get over the fact I was taken away from a family I never got the chance to know. I was treated like an object, taken from one place to another. I found it very hard to show affection to my children when they were young. I have had a nightmare every night of my life. I relive my past and I am happy when daylight comes.”
“I was 10. Our clothes and everything we had from home were taken from us. The only contact we had from anyone was from angry shouting men.”
“I was eight. I remember the heat, the flies and the smells. It was overpowering and frightening. Never for a moment did I believe this was going to be a holiday. I missed home.”
“I was beaten by nuns so many times, They used a big stick like a curtain rod and swiped at my hands. They used to come up from behind and box my ears. They told me I was a lazy, stupid cow, just like my mother. I remember crying myself to sleep with the pain and loneliness of it all.”
“I have been left with chronic anxiety and a lot of anger. I don't really know what love is.”
“Constantly I recall being told that I was there because nobody wanted me.”
Rotherham councillors 'were told abuse information was confidential'
Councillor Ken Wyatt says he knew grooming was taking place but was told discussing it could disrupt police inquiries
by Helen Pidd
Councillors in Rotherham were told at a seminar in 2005 not to publicly discuss information about the town's child sexual exploitation problem because it was "confidential" and could jeopardise police investigations, according to one councillor present at the time.
Prof Alexis Jay's report on the 1,400 children failed by the council and agencies said that such "explicit content" about the issue was given to 30 councillors at the seminar that "few members or senior officers could say 'we didn't know'."
On Wednesday, one councillor, Ken Wyatt, was asked by a member of the public at an emotional council meeting why he and colleagues did not act following the seminar.
Wyatt acknowledged that he knew then that grooming was happening, both locally and nationally, and councillors were told that "steps were being taken to deal with it". But he insisted: "It was not at the scale we have subsequently found out."
He said "we were told to treat it as very confidential" and that talking about it publicly "could disrupt inquiries" then being made by the police.
He added: "We were told it was an incredibly difficult area to work in, incredibly difficult to get convictions."
His response did not go down well with his questioner, who said: "Our children were at risk. Our children were being raped. Our children were being abused. And you are telling me as a borough councillor, bare-faced telling me that you weren't allowed to say anything?"
The deputy council leader, Paul Lakin, apologised again for what happened in the town at the beginning of a packed meeting of the council's ruling Labour cabinet.
He said: "We have all been appalled by the terrible contents of this report.
"It is with a deep sense of regret that we are here today to discuss how, in the past, as a council, we badly let down young people and families we were here to protect."
Martin Kimber, Rotherham's chief executive, said the council had gone through a list of all current employees who were criticised by any of Jay's interviewees. As a result, two individuals had been asked "further relevant questions as to their knowledge of child sexual exploitation", he told the meeting.
The council had no power to question former employees, he added.
The public questions were continually interrupted by shouts from the galleries and interjections from Ukip councillors in the chamber.
Calls for the councillors to resign were greeted with applause.
Last week's report by Jay outlined details of exploitation over a 16-year period with examples of girls who were raped, trafficked, threatened with extreme violence and ignored by the statutory authorities.
The Jay report sparked a wave of criticism of police, councillors and local authority officials but only the council leader, Roger Stone, has resigned in its wake.
The home secretary, Theresa May, told MPs on Tuesday that the communities secretary, Eric Pickles, was "minded" to commission an independent investigation into Rotherham borough council following concerns of "inadequate scrutiny by councillors, institutionalised political correctness and covering up of information and the failure to take action against gross misconduct".
The council was under Labour control throughout the period in question, and the party has now suspended the authority's former leader, Stone, and ex-deputy leader, Jahangir Akhtar, as well as serving councillors Gwendoline Ann Russell, who chairs the town's looked-after children scrutiny panel, and Shaukat Ali, a former mayor.
A report prepared for the meeting on Wednesday by the council chief executive, Martin Kimber, said: "The [Jay] report is critical of past actions in a number of areas, but at the core is poor political and managerial leadership.
"The report indicates: 'By 2005 it is hard to believe that any senior officers or members, from the leader and chief executive downwards, were not aware of the issue.'
"It is clear from the report that at this time some senior officers responsible for safeguarding simply did not do their jobs effectively."
The South Yorkshire chief constable, David Crompton, revealed on Tuesday that 12 new victims of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham had come forward since the publication of last week's report.
Crompton told the House of Commons home affairs committee that he had 62 officers dedicated to dealing with child sex abuse, compared with just three in 2010 and eight in 2012.
His comments came after he announced an independent inquiry by an external police force into South Yorkshire police's handling of sex abuse complaints over many years.
The committee chairman, Keith Vaz, told members that South Yorkshire's embattled police and crime commissioner (PCC), Shaun Wright, had agreed to give evidence.
Wright was a Rotherham councillor for more than a decade before his election as PCC and, between 2005 and 2010, he was the cabinet member responsible for children's services.
He has resisted top-level calls for his resignation, including from the prime minister, David Cameron, May and the Labour leader, Ed Miliband.
Wright will face a no-confidence vote on Wednesday afternoon at a meeting of Labour-run Sheffield city council – the largest local authority in South Yorkshire.
The vote was proposed by Sheffield Lib Dems.
Colin Ross, leader of the Lib Dem Group, said on Tuesday: "Sheffield city council needs to show that it takes its responsibility to protect vulnerable young people extremely seriously. While Shaun Wright remains in post, local people cannot have confidence in the police to carry out this role.
"If this vote goes through tomorrow, I do not see how Shaun Wright can remain in post. His position will be untenable."
Exercising Restraint in Schools
by Bill Lichtenstein
In 2012, I wrote an article for the Sunday New York Times that exposed the use of physical restraints and seclusion rooms with kids in schools across the country.
I learned about these practices, which at the time seemed almost unimaginable to me and many other parents, when I discovered that our 5 year-old daughter had been locked almost daily, over a three-month period, in a seclusion room, which had previously been a teacher's phone booth, and was later used as a mop closet, in the basement stairwell at her school in Lexington, MA.
In the two years since my Times story, the controversy surrounding the use of physical restraints and seclusion rooms in schools has exploded and resonated across the country from Hawaii to Massachusetts, fueled by a powerful combination of concerned parents and enterprising journalists intent on exposing these practices when and where they occur. Meanwhile, many schools have publicly denied their existence, in some cases despite incontrovertible evidence, and parents can find themselves being intimidated or even publicly attacked for speaking out.
For two years, I've witnessed the evolution of this story as a journalist, and at the same time the issue has affected me as a parent whose child was subjected to these damaging practices. As increasing numbers of parents are becoming concerned about the use of restraints and seclusion rooms in schools attended by their kids, and as a national mobilization of concerned parents and others is underway seeking to pass national legislation to curtail these practices, it seemed like a good time to take a look at the issue from a parent's perspective.
Specifically, how widespread are the use of restraints and seclusion? Are they needed? What do parents face when they challenge their schools or speak out about their use? And how can parents and other concerned members of the public get involved with national efforts to insure that all kids are kept safe in school?
What exactly is restraint and seclusion in schools? Is it like a student getting a "time out?"
According to the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce, which is working to ban these practices:
"Seclusion means involuntarily isolating a student in an area by himself or herself [from which the student is physically prevented from leaving.] . . . This includes putting children in dark, small rooms as punishment." This is different than a "time out" in which a student is separated from others to allow him or her a chance to calm down.
Restraint according to the Committee means "restricting a student's freedom of movement [including immobilizing a student's torso, arms, legs or head]. Restraint can become fatal when it prevents a child's ability to breathe. In some of the cases examined in [a 2009 Government Accountability Office] report, ropes, duct tape, chairs with straps and bungee cords were used to restrain or isolate young children."
How widespread are these practices and what kids are involved?
A 2009 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that 20 students had died while in seclusion rooms; countless others as young as three and four years old have been injured and traumatized. One young teen in Georgia hung himself in a seclusion room while staff sat outside the locked door; a seven year-old died face down in physical restraint; and a young teen was suffocated face down in restraint by his teacher twice his size.
According to the advocacy group TASH, recent reports indicate that the shoes of an 8 year-old with Down Syndrome were duct-taped so tightly that she could not walk and her ankles were bruised; a 10 year-old with autism was pinned face down after getting upset over a puzzle; and a child with Cerebral Palsy severed her finger when she was confined in seclusion. Parents often are not told by schools about restraint or seclusion, or they learn about it long after it has occurred.
Federal data released in March from the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights documents the extent of restraint and seclusion, finding more than 267,000 incidents reported nationwide in the 2012 school year alone. According to a recent statement from Rep. George Miller of the House Education and Workforce Committee, "while that number is alarming in itself, what's even more concerning is the fact that many of our largest school districts failed to report on their use of seclusion and restraint at all --indicating that the actual rate of use is likely much higher."
Also alarming, according to Miller, is that "despite the fact that special needs students comprise only 12 percent of the total student population, this data shows that nearly 60 percent of all incidents of seclusion or involuntary confinement involve students with physical, emotional, or intellectual disabilities, and that these students make up 75 percent of those subjected to restraints."
Additionally, their use is disproportionate by race: African-American students comprise only 19 percent of all students with disabilities, but they make up 36 percent of students with disabilities subjected to mechanical restraint.
The Department of Education Office for Civil Rights tracked the use of restraints and seclusion state by state and school district by school district and found: "in Nevada, Florida, and Wyoming, students with disabilities . . . represent less than 15% of students enrolled in the state, but more than 90% of the students who were physically restrained in the state. Nevada (96%), Florida (95%), and Wyoming (93%) reported the highest percentages of physically retrained students with disabilities. . ."
But aren't restraint and seclusion sometimes needed? How else can schools handle kids, especially those who can be difficult and get out of control?
The short answer is, as experts will tell you, that physical restraints and seclusion rooms don't work as ways of helping students learn and practice self-control, and that according to research there are behavioral techniques of working with kids that do work, as well as teaching kids self-regulation, how to negotiate and how to communicate more effectively.
The U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, wrote to schools nationally in 2012 saying, "there continues to be no evidence that using restraint or seclusion is effective in reducing the occurrence of the problem behaviors that frequently precipitate the use of such techniques." Furthermore, Duncan stressed that "any behavioral intervention must be consistent with the child's rights to be treated with dignity and to be free from abuse."
According to TASH, there are "evidence-based positive behavioral interventions and supports [that have been] shown to greatly diminish and even eliminate the need to use restraint and seclusion." As an example, Dr. Michael George, director of Lehigh University's Centennial School, an alternative school in Pennsylvania that targets students with aggressive behavioral issues, told the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions that when he arrived at the school, "the use of physical restraint was commonplace." George said he closed the school's two seclusion rooms, and cut restraint and seclusion use from over 1,000 occurrences per year to less than ten through the use of positive intervention plans. "We have the technical knowledge necessary . . . to end the overreliance of seclusion and physical restraint," he said.
Joe Ryan seconds Dr. George. Dr. Ryan is a Professor of Special Education at Clemson University and a national expert on working with students with emotional and behavioral disorders. "It simply defies logic," said Ryan, "that with the current emphasis on implementing evidence-based practices in classrooms, many schools have elected to embrace seclusion and restraint while ignoring safer research based practices for managing aggressive behaviors."
The impact on parents who find their children have been subjected to restraints and seclusion can be devastating.
Robert Ernst was subjected to a seclusion room as a first grader in Lexington, MA. Robert, who's now 19, told his story recently in Washington, DC, at an event held for the introduction of federal legislation that would curb these practices.
"I was in first grade and I was taken by my special education teachers to a seclusion room for acting out in class," said Robert. "I was dragged down the hallway of the school by my wrists, and thrown into a windowless, padded concrete room by myself, complexly unsupervised for up to a half hour at a time . . . At the time this was extremely terrifying."
His mother, Wendy Ernst, recalls what it was like to try and advocate for Robert:
"It was a difficult time because the school didn't want to listen to any other perspectives about what they might be able to do," said Wendy. They were insistent that it was the only thing that would work. It made you feel frustrated that they couldn't come up with something else as this was obviously harming your child. It was like torture."
When asked what advice she had for parents dealing with these issues, Wendy Ernst responded: "Tell them to stand up for your child. Believe your child. And insist on having reports in writing . . . They can't say they didn't do that. Because it's in writing." Wendy added that restraint and seclusion are "too often is the first response, when it should only be used as a last resort when someone is in imminent danger."
What about parents who speak up? What are the risks involved for parents who can find themselves being singled out for speaking about these issues publicly and trying to help their children?
All too often the response of school districts when confronted about the use of restraints and seclusion is to deny, minimize and blame.
In Hawaii, in early 2013, Hawaii News Now reported that the families of six disabled students had come forward with allegations of abuse by school staff. Cell phone images of one student being held down by the neck were released, and a lawsuit alleged that another student was forced to eat food she had thrown up. According to the news organization: "At the time of the allegations, the state said its own investigation had uncovered no evidence of abuse and that the women who made the initial claims were lying. Earlier this year, an administrative law judge ruled the students had been physically and emotionally abused by school staffers and suggested that the state had botched its investigation into the abuse."
As a result of the actions of the parents and news coverage, a state bill that prohibits the use of seclusion and physical restraint on students in public schools, and protects some of Hawaii's most vulnerable students, was signed into law by Governor Neil Abercrombie.
In Lexington, MA, a survey of parents of kids with special needs found that of 61 parents commenting on their communications with the school, 23 of them (37%) indicated that they felt intimidation and the fear of reduction of services, or not receiving the services their children need, as reasons for not feeling comfortable raising questions and concerns.
One Lexington parent stated in the report, "I am afraid of being considered a trouble maker and then my child's services will suffer." Another parent commented, "There is retaliation for raising concerns in the form of delayed meetings, limiting access to teachers, and even filing false child abuse reports."
Keeping All Students Safe Act
To curtail the use of restraint and seclusion in schools across the country, Senator Tom Harkin and Rep. George Miller have introduced the federal Keeping All Students Safe Act.
"These harmful practices, referred to as seclusion and restraint, are commonly used as disciplinary measures, most frequently on students of color and those with disabilities," wrote Rep. George Miller regarding the bill, which would ban restraint and seclusion except in cases where the student or others are in imminent danger.
"There's a patchwork of largely lackluster state laws and regulations that leaves thousands of students vulnerable to abuse each school year," said Miller in a recent letter. "Despite federal laws limiting use of seclusion and restraint in hospitals, psychiatric facilities, community-based facilities, and even prisons, no such federal law exists to restrict this abuse in schools. Few states provide protections for all children by law, and many states have weak legal protections or no protections at all."
Opposition to the legislation comes from the American Association of School Administrators which objects to the requirement that restraint can only be used to avoid serious bodily injury since, according to the AASA, it would be impossible for school staff to make a determination about whether the risk of injury in a crisis situation could lead to serious bodily injury. The AASA is also arguing that the data collection provisions of the act as well the demands on staff training will be both burdensome and costly for school districts.
But Sen. Tom Harkin rejects these reasons for allowing these practices to continue.
"These old myths, these old ways of treating people have got to go by the wayside," Harkin said at the Feb. 12 press conference introducing the Keeping All Students Safe Act. "You have to wonder how many young lives have been so severely damaged that they cannot be fully included members of our society."
Harkin compared the seclusion rooms he has seen in schools to a recent trip he took to Cuba.
"You know what that reminds me of, folks?" said Senator Harkin, gesturing to the photograph of a school isolation room. "You know where I was last Saturday? I was in Guantanamo, Cuba . . . We went and saw the cells where the keep the most dangerous terrorists in the world. And you know what their cells look like? Like that. And that's where they're putting our kids, in schools."
Prevention begins with a willingness to talk
by Leanne McGrath
More than 1,800 people have taken training classes that focus on protecting children from sexual abuse.
The free course is run by SCARS (Saving Children and Revealing Secrets), a charity that aims to reduce the risk of youngsters being molested and tries to be a voice for victims and their families.
“People don't want to think about sexual abuse or think it can't happen to their child but we can't stop something we don't talk about,” said SCARS founder Debi Ray-Rivers. “Doing nothing is a choice.”
Mrs Ray-Rivers, a survivor of sexual abuse, is extremely passionate about protecting children.
Also the executive director of the charity, which launched in 2011, she said SCARS' mission was to shed light on this “dark subject through awareness, one adult at a time”.
“Prevention is key and SCARS champions the message of prevention in the community,” she added.
“We are the voice for sexually abused children.
“Keeping children safe is an adult's responsibility and adults need to understand that perpetrators groom victims and look for vulnerable children. If they think a child will tell, they won't touch them.”
SCARS is determined to end the silence, secrets and shame that surround sexual abuse.
“Parents need to know how to have conversations with children about their bodies and boundaries,” Mrs Ray-Rivers said.
“Tell children that no one has the right to touch or view their private parts, or be asked to touch or view others. And have conversations with siblings about appropriate viewing and touching.
“Children need to know they can tell a trusted adult if it happens.”
Mrs Ray-Rivers said most abusers were someone the child knew, and that only about 10 percent of predators were strangers.
“It's usually someone they know, love and trust,” she added. “Between 30 and 40 percent are family members. An abuser knows that once they have a child's trust, a child can be manipulated into abuse and silence.”
Research in the US has found that about 88 percent of abuse is never reported. But SCARS hopes its efforts will contribute to more victims coming forward in Bermuda.
“We live in a small community and people don't want their personal business exposed,” Mrs Ray-Rivers said. “But families and adults need to recognise that the shame rests with the perpetrator, not the victim or their family.”
Among SCARS' resources is the award-winning Darkness to Light Stewards of Children training programme. The charity started running free classes in May 2012 and since then 1,800 people have taken the course — with another batch attending last Saturday.
Teachers have taken part, as have police officers, charities, church groups, sports organisations, support agencies, Government staff and prosecutors.
The US prevention programme teaches adults how to prevent, recognise and react responsibly to child sexual abuse.
“Parents and members of the community who are concerned about youngsters' safety would richly benefit from this thought-provoking course,” Mrs Ray-Rivers said.
“SCARS can't force organisations to do the training, but we'd like it to be a mandatory programme for an organisation working with children.”
SCARS other resources include the SAFE — SCARS Arms Families through Education — programme, which offers information such as sex-abuse statistics, warning signs, information about protecting children on the internet, and questions to ask when enrolling a child in a camp or programme.
“These include asking if the organisation has a policy on staff's one-on-one interaction with children,” Mrs Ray-Rivers said.
SCARS also has a library of books that can be loaned free of charge for parents to read with their children, while their website has information about awareness, prevention and healing.
There are also details of who to contact should you discover or suspect abuse — the police and Child and Family Services should be notified immediately.
SCARS is full of praise for their staff and the team at the Department of Public Prosecutions, and emphasises that victims should not be afraid to come forward.
The charity supports the creation of a public sex offender's register, so that members of the community will know if a child abuser is living among them.
“If your organisation is entrusted with the care of children, SCARS strongly recommends that you find out if a volunteer or potential employee has a conviction for a sex offence by contacting the police,” Mrs Ray-Rivers said.
The charity also advocates more help for offenders while they are in prison.
“Psychologists specifically trained in working with sex offenders should be sent into prisons before offenders are released,” Mrs Ray-Rivers said. “Offenders are manipulative by nature and can possibly manipulate the system.”
SCARS would like the courts to allow victims to give evidence via video-link or from behind a screen rather than in open court facing their alleged attacker.
“SCARS' long-term goal is a child advocacy centre but it will take a lot of money,” Ms Ray-Rivers said. “This could provide a nurturing, safe environment for victims and families.”
Mrs Ray-Rivers is hopeful the charity can now reach even more people in the community.
“Victims need to know that what's happened to them was not their fault, they did nothing wrong,” she said. “Tell children you are proud of them for telling, reinforce that they did not cause this. Start early and talk often about body safety to children.”
Bermuda Police Inspector Mark Clarke encouraged victims and their families to come forward.
“Sexual assaults are traumatic experiences that affect all genres within the community,” he said. “Historically, two-thirds of all sexual assaults involve victims under the age of 16. Bermuda as a jurisdiction experiences a similar ratio.
“Treating victims with dignity, without prejudice, fear of ridicule, and increased public awareness via education has assisted with the ease of reporting.”
A spokeswoman for the Department of Child and Family Services said it was seeing more young people coming forward to report being molested.
“Some of this speaking up can be credited to SCARS because of their educational outreach and training,” she said.
The department, whose staff have had SCARS training, said there were 136 reported cases of sexual abuse in 2011, 106 in 2012 and 126 last year, and that it liaised with the police to conduct joint forensic interviews, support the family and refer the child for trauma counselling.
“We liaise with any services that are required to support the families, such as financial, medical or the Witness Care Unit,” the spokeswoman said.
“The social worker will attend court to ensure that the child is supported when they testify.
“The department also supports parents and children should the children experience behavioural challenges as a result of the trauma of the victimisation.
“It is important for every organisation to have a sexual/child abuse component included in their employee orientation manual.
“This is a training the we encourage.”
The department said compulsory background checks were necessary for those who work with children, but that a public sex offender register was “a complex issue for Bermuda for a number of reasons”.
“In some instances members of the public have demonstrated that they are not supportive of the victims,” the spokeswoman said.
“Often the information that is disclosed would identify the victim and we have seen children ostracised and harassed by members of the community in various forms, such as through cyber bullying and Facebook.”
SCARS' training programmes and resources are free to the public thanks to generous sponsorship from corporate donors including Argus, Bank of Bermuda Foundation, Catlin, Hiscox, RenRe, Oil Insurance and Oil Casualty Insurance, Arch Re and kind-hearted community donors.
'My father molested my sister and hung me by the neck with a rope for fun'
Inspiring abuse survivor is running a marathon every day before work for 365 days to stop this happening to others
by Caroline Mcguire
Running a marathon is a momentous effort for most people - a once-in-a-lifetime event to tick off the bucket list.
But for Rob Young, 31, from Richmond, south London, it's a daily occurrence. He gets up at 2.45am every morning to run a whole marathon course around Richmond Park before he starts his working day as the manager of a specialist car parts company.
What makes this all the more impressive is that Rob has had to overcome an incredibly abusive childhood with a father who beat him regularly, followed by a period in care homes, in order to get to this place.
Until the age of six, Rob lived in Yorkshire with his mother and sister under his father's reign of terror - not even the family dog was safe from the daily violent outbursts, which saw his sister sexually abused and him thrown down stairs in a suitcase.
He said: 'As a young child I was witness to some terrible things, which most people would find hard to imagine or understand.
'I was beaten pretty much every day, with anything that easily came to my father's hand.
'It could be a slipper, a stick or a plank of wood, today I still have quite a number of scars on my body from these beatings.
'Sometimes my father would zip me into a suitcase and push me down the stairs, this was one of the milder things I had to endure, though.
'The worst thing was being dangled over the banister at the top of the stairs by one leg - he used to tell me that if I made any noise at all or if I cried he would drop me.'
The breaking point came one evening when Rob was six years old - his father returned home and started a bout of violence that ended with Rob being hung with a rope.
He said: 'He tied a rope around my neck from which he hung me on an old-fashioned coat hanger near the front door.
'I remember the feeling of having no air to breathe and I struggled as my father held my legs, it became very scary until he decided to let me down.'
Rob's mother decided that enough was enough and fled the family home with her two children in tow.
Sadly, she was unable to care for them and while Rob's sister was sent to live with an aunt, he was put in a care home.
What followed was an incredibly tough few years, as he struggled to make his voice heard among hundreds of other lost children while being passed from care home to care home.
Rob said: 'That was very difficult, because I was lumped in there with a lot of other children, very troubled children who were often a lot older than me, who bullied each other and who are from very disruptive backgrounds.
'The people who work in these places often don't know how to cope and many also just see it as a job.
'The reason that a lot of these children behave the way they do is because the only way to get attention is by acting up - by getting into trouble - that's the only way anyone will ever notice you.
'I was like that too for a while, but then I remember the moment that I switched – I must have been about eight or nine years old and someone said to me: "You're going to turn out just like your dad."
'It was like a switch flipped in my head, I thought: "I'm not going to be like him, I'm never going to end up like that."
'From then on I just decided to throw myself into school and sport.
'Around that time I had just started going to school properly, I hadn't been sent that often until then, and I really enjoyed all of the sports lessons.'
The real moment of change in Rob's life came when he was around 11 years old and he was fostered by the deputy headmaster of a top private school.
From that day, he was given a second chance at life - learning behavioural and academic skills that would help him to pave his way through life.
He said: 'When I was in year seven, this wonderful man – a head teacher of a private school - came and took me in.
'He totally changed my life.
'He taught me everything; from how to set a table, to how to eat a six-course meal, to holding an adult conversation and helped me to get all of my exams, which include good GCSEs and A-Levels.
'I think of him as my real father.'
'To this day I believe he enabled me to be the person I am today - all my best aspects derived from his tutorage.'
Fast-forward more than a decade and Rob lives in Richmond with his fiancée Joanna Hanasz, 26, and his son Alexander-Lui Julian Young, 21 months.
He also has a five-year-old daughter called Olivia from a previous relationship.
After landing on his feet, the 31-year-old made a decision earlier this year to give something back to children who find themselves in the situation he was once in.
While watching television with Joanna one evening, Rob decided to take on the humongous challenge of completing 267 marathons in 265 days.
So every morning he gets out of bed at 2.45am and heads down to the marathon track at Richmond park to run 26.2 miles before heading back home to shower and change before work.
He said: 'People tell me that I should probably start eating a certain diet - really healthy food, but to be honest, eating what I fancy has worked for me so far.
'I just eat anything I can get my hands on really - I really like chocolate eclairs, I love Doritos, cakes, biscuits, lots of pasta, I'll have anything really.
'I eat my recommended 2,500 calories a day and then I also have the 4,000 calories that you should eat when doing a marathon.'
And the most galling part for anybody who as ever limped through a marathon, wondering if they'll ever manage to make the finishing line, is that Rob quite literally takes them in his stride these days.
He said: 'They say that you have to slow down your time drastically if you are doing back-to-back marathons, so I have slowed my time to four hours.
'But four hours means that I am pretty much walking over the finish line and can go and play a game of football straight afterwards.
'I take part in official marathons regularly as well as doing the Richmond course and I like to sing and dance to encourage other marathon runners when I'm doing those, because that keeps spirits up when people are flagging.
'I also pick up a few bottles of water at the water stations and then carry them round to other runners.'
And while Rob is planning on slowing down the number of marathons he takes part in once he reaches his 367 mark, he has also jokingly tried to convince his fiancée that they should get married during one.
He said: 'I did suggest to my partner that we should get married and then run a marathon, then everyone from the wedding party could run with us and we could stop for a drink and photos at the different drinks stations and have a party afterwards.'
But saving that, his main aim is just to raise as much money as possible for charity.
He said: 'If I can help young people in similar situations and encourage them to make peace with their pasts, then I feel something good has come out of all I have had to endure.'
MarathonManUK Rob Young is running a marathon a day for a year to raise money for the NSPCC and Dreams Come True.
To donate please visit http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/runfordreamscometrueandnspcc
South Bend mom charged after baby dies — has history of abuse
Micahyah Crockett, an 11-month-old boy severely injured in what police suspect was a horrific act of abuse this weekend, has died in the hospital. His mother, Nyesha Crockett, has been charged in the death.
Nyesha told police she used a shirt to smother the baby — that she threw him on the ground and kicked and struck him.
Metro Homicide says Nyesha sent text messages to the father: "Come get him before I hurt him,” “Good luck with everything,” “I hope you find your son,” and “OK, think I won't?”
Police say Alaiyah Crockett is another baby Nyesha abused on Feb 1, 2014 — the girl was 14 months old at the time. That baby is now in a "vegetative state."
Alaiyah's injury was originally considered an accident. Micahyah's death puts the incident in a new light.
For the death of Micahyah and the abuse of Alaiyah, Nyesha Crockett has been charged with Battery, Murder, Aggravated Battery and Neglect of a Dependent.
Tim Corbett with St. Joseph County Metro Homicide says, "If this ever comes about again where somebody can't handle their child, call us. We'll come get the child. We'll take that child away from you and do whatever we can. This is not the answer, killing a baby."
SUNDAY NIGHT UPDATE: We now know the name of a South Bend woman accused of abusing her child — injuring him to the point where he is now in extremely critical condition.
Nyesha Crockett is being held on multiple felony battery charges. The mother was arrested Sunday, and her son remains in the hospital.
The boy at the heart of the child abuse investigation is 11-month-old Micahyah.
This tragic case played out last night at a house in the 100 block of North Sadie Street.
Neighbors and relatives tell us that baby Micahyah even stopped breathing.
“I was terrified,” said neighbor Shanning Bell. “I went over there. I saw everybody crying. I went in the house and the baby was pale and blue and breathless.”
Tequilla Woodard is a cousin of the baby's father.
"To do that to a child, like a baby, a 1-year-old at that…I don't understand," she says.
Lashanda Bell reflected on the situation in her neighborhood as well.
“I am not sure what went on inside there,” said Bell. “It's sad. It was a happy and joyful baby.”
We are still trying to learn more about Nyesha Crockett, the mother charged in the case. Metro Homicide Commander Tim Corbett says more details on her past may be coming out later this week .
Even though Metro Homicide is involved, at last report Corbett says the baby is still alive. But once again, he describes the child's condition as "extremely critical. "
In the meantime Nyesha Crockett sits in jail. No bond for her has been set.
Death on Tarpon Street: Family's cycle of violence, child abuse, drugs
KISSIMMEE — Sixteen-month-old Avahya Martin spent her last hours alive in a Tarpon Street home where police say her father swung the 23-pound toddler like a baseball bat and slammed her against a hard surface.
The 23-year-old father, Anthony Martin, then waited 16 hours to seek medical care for Avahya at Florida Hospital Kissimmee less than a mile away, according to court documents.
She was pronounced dead shortly after being carried into the emergency room around dawn on May 23.
Martin was arrested three weeks later. He remains jailed without bail on murder and aggravated-child-abuse charges, adding to an already lengthy rap sheet.
And the 16-month-old's death on Tarpon Street continues her family's cycle of violence and child abuse in this Kissimmee neighborhood that extends more than two decades.
Child-welfare experts agree that children exposed to repeated violence often develop emotional problems and grow up to abuse their own children. Or, in Avahya's case, never get a chance to grow up at all.
"Actually, sadly enough, this is something we see every day," said Carol Wick, director of Harbor House of Central Florida, an independent shelter for domestic-violence victims. "Here in Orlando we have one of the highest removal rates in the state because they can't get the battering to stop. … We've seen generations of families come through Harbor House."
Harbor House and DCF are working on a new program, Family Violence Threatens the Child, to target at-risk families and communities.
In Orange County, there were 5,108 reports of family violence investigated from January 2013 through July 2014, resulting in 257 cases where children were removed from the home, according to the state Department of Children and Families.
"It's learned behavior, even if you don't grow up watching it in your family," Wick said.
In the past four years, an average of 450 children have died from reported abuse or neglect in Florida, according to DCF.
Avahya, who officials say was not under DCF supervision, could now become another child-abuse statistic.
'I raised them the best I could'
Martin grew up in his great-grandmother's home at 310 Tarpon St., three houses away from where cops say Avahya suffered the injuries that led to her death.
The 922-square-foot Tarpon Street house with one bathroom was purchased 40 years ago by Martin's great-grandmother, Margaret Bowens, the family's 76-year-old matriarch.
Since 1990, records show police have responded to 310 Tarpon St. more than 350 times for fights, shooting deaths, fires, stabbings, child neglect and domestic violence.
On a recent Wednesday morning, Bowens sat in front of her home reflecting on the decades of hardship.
"I've had a lot of pain over the years. I really have. I've had pain I couldn't handle and I turn it over to the Lord. That's all I've got is God," Bowens said. "It's not the neighborhood. I've lived here 40 years and it's not the neighborhood."
Through the years, 310 Tarpon St. has been called home by Bowens' children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.
"I raised them the best I could. What happened just happened," Bowens said. "The mamas were young and didn't know nothing about raising babies so I raised them."
Back in the 1960s before she devoted her life to God, Bowens said she was stopped once for drinking and driving but never broke the law again. The same is not true for family.
Of all her great-grandchildren, she said, Martin showed great promise despite not graduating from Osceola High School.
"I don't believe he killed that baby," said Bowens, who describes Martin as quiet and respectful. "And nobody can convince me he did."
Police said Avahya had arrived for a two-day visit with Martin, who shared a house three doors away with three women and their children. Avahya's 18-year-old mother, Takita Tillman, had dropped the toddler off so she could study for a high school test, according to police. Tillman declined to comment.
Mother of seven, arrested more than 30 times
Bowens' granddaughter, Nakiysha "Goldie" Hazley, gave birth to the first of her seven children at age 15.
Martin was the second of her first three boys she had with a man deported to Jamaica in the early 1990s, Hazley said.
Since her son's arrest, Hazley has spoken to Martin by phone at the Osceola County Jail. He won't say anything about Avahya's death during the tape-recorded calls, she said.
But Hazley said it doesn't seem possible that Martin could hurt the "sweet little girl" who never cried.
"He was the only one I breast fed," Hazley said. "He was the most promising one to me. He made it all the way to the 12th grade."
Court records show Hazley introduced Martin to an early life of crime.
When Martin was 11 years old, she took him shoplifting in 2002 at the Premium Outlet Mall in Orlando. Her son stood by and watched Hazley stuff clothing under her skirt. She was eventually convicted of petty theft and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, records show.
It was just one of Hazley's 30-plus arrests, which include charges of stabbing, drug-related crimes and cruelty to a child, records show. During DCF's visits to Tarpon Street, signs of neglect and abuse were found, records show.
Court and prison records also show Hazley lost custody more than once of six of her seven children, including one born in prison, while she served three sentences between 2004 and 2010.
Records also show DCF stepped in when a newborn son in 2003 tested positive for cocaine.
By 2009, Hazley lost custody of her four minor children, who were placed in the care of Bowens.
In December 2012, Hazley stabbed her then-18-year-old daughter Angelique during an argument about a cellphone. Rushed to nearby Florida Hospital Kissimmee, the teen was admitted after a doctor told police "the stab caused one of Angelique's lungs to collapse."
When police searched the Tarpon Street house, they found crack cocaine, glass pipes with burned ends and plastic bags filled with an unidentified white powder. DCF stepped in again and removed all of the minor children who had been returned to Hazley's custody.
"I didn't mean to do that," she said of stabbing her daughter. "I went and got help and they put me on medicine. I still take it every day."
Family tradition on Tarpon Street
Sent to prison the year he turned 18 for dealing cocaine, Martin followed a family tradition.
At least seven relatives, including his mother and an older brother, served time in prison for selling the drug, according to records.
His younger brother, Antwan Martin, might have been the eighth but died shortly before being sentenced. Arrested more than 20 times, the 18-year-old was gunned down outside the family's Tarpon Street home in 2010.
"We never found out who did it," said Hazley.
That same year, a cousin was sentenced to 25 years for fatally shooting a drug dealer steps from the front door. An uncle stabbed three times and beaten with a club in the front yard only told police that the attackers "would have to answer to the Lord."
Arrest reports show the residents of 310 Tarpon St. never said much to police who responded there 359 times since July 1990.
"Cops get frustrated by calls for service requiring an emergency response, and when you arrive the victim or people in need don't want to cooperate," said Kissimmee police Chief Lee Massie. "That's what we get paid to do, but every time we respond, we're not able to respond somewhere else."
Sex-Trafficking Lures Increasing In Denver, Officials Say
Denver has evolved into a breeding ground, officials say, for sex-traffickers who lure young runaways, often in exchange for drugs, into the underground business.
“We see more and more minors that are being trafficked into the commercial sex industry,” said Sgt. Dan Steele of the Denver police and the Rocky Mountain Innocence Lost Task Force.
In June, the FBI announced it had recovered 18 child victims of sex-trafficking in Colorado during an annual operation called “Cross Country.” Nationwide, 168 victims were rescued and 281 alleged pimps were arrested.
Tom Ravenelle with the FBI said he's seeing more print and online advertisements — chock-full of keywords like “4-20 friendly” — that attract young girls.
“We're dealing with people who are pimping these girls who are sometimes gang-related. These are people with low morals,” he said.
Steele watches for what he calls “markers” along the 16th Street Mall or truck stops that indicate a girl may be in danger of being lured.
“If you're running away from home, you're thereby homeless and you're putting yourself in a situation where, if you're homeless, you have to survive. And you're going to do what you need to do to survive,” he said.
A former prostitute who said she traded sex for marijuana talked to CBS4 anonymously about her experience.
“It is so sad,” she said. “I know there are so many young runaways down there and they don't have anything and these men come along.”
Others, she said, have traded for harder drugs, including heroine, meth and crack.
“I traded for marijuana because that was my vice,” she said. “I needed to escape.”
She ran away when she was 17, fell into prostitution, bartered sex for drugs and didn't escape the industry for more than two decades.
“I was very young and naive,” she said. The pimps are very dangerous, too: “They'll hurt you. They'll beat you. You don't have any choice.”
Several nonprofit organizations in the Denver area help teens flee and survive sex-trafficking. One of those organizations is Streets Hope.
She said she's gained strength, wisdom and a compassionate heart to help others.
Only after she was nearly murdered in front of her children did she seek charges against her abuser. She's now helping other girls survive and avoid sex-trafficking.
“I just really recommend people, parents especially, really keep a better eye on their children,” she said, and especially advocates addressing children: “Kids, it's not as bad at home. Really it's not. It's so easy-peasy at home. It's so hard on the streets.”
Bills fight sex trafficking one small step at a time
by Matthew Fleming
In the war against sex trafficking, every little bit helps.
More help is about to come to California from a few bills moving through the state legislature, backed by Los Angeles County, which will make modest, yet noticeable changes in sex-trafficking enforcement.
One bill adds human-trafficking to the list of wiretappable crimes. Another increases penalties for johns – customers buying girls who are often forced into the sex trade at age 13, or younger. The third allows the district attorney to consolidate cases from several areas into one location, as pimps move the girls around, chasing the money.
These bills provide small but powerful weapons in a complex battle.
“There's so many areas that you have to go after that you have to take it one piece at a time,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe.
SB 1388, sponsored by congressional candidate and state Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Redondo Beach, on behalf of the county, goes after johns – applying simple economic theory.
“Supply and demand,” said Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Jane Creighton. “There's probably always going to be supply, so we have to start attacking demand.”
Existing law essentially gives a slap on the wrist to the johns. This bill increases the fine, and could impose a mandatory two days in jail in cases involving a minor. While two days may seem relatively negligible, there's a catch.
“If someone has to do mandatory time, now you have to explain to your wife, you have to explain it to your employer, where you were for two days,” said Creighton.
Going after the johns marks a shift in enforcement, which has historically focused on prostitution as a crime. But as the girls have gotten younger, it has forced everyone to take another look at what's really happening.
Now, the girls are seen as victims.
“I've been police chief in Long Beach for nearly five years,” said Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell, who is also a candidate for Los Angeles County sheriff. “And like all police departments, we would go after the girls. But a lot of these girls start around 12 years old, so we started looking at it differently.”
A recent decrease in violent crime coincides with an increase in lower-risk, higher-reward criminal activity like pimping, said McDonnell. Many individual gang members aspire to running a stable of four or five girls, which could bring in $600,000 to $800,000 a year.
“And they'll go out every day for their pimps,” said McDonnell, “because they know if they fight back, they'll get beat, or worse, tortured.”
Like any entrepreneur, pimps will go where the money is, so the girls are often on a never-ending roadshow – from city to city and county to county, depending on the market, and depending on if the pimp is chasing a large event, where lots of johns would be looking to buy sex.
For the girls, constant traveling only intensifies their trauma. If they do come forward, the last thing they need is to go to testify in every jurisdiction.
SB 939, sponsored by state Sen. Marty Block (D-San Diego) also received support from Los Angeles County. This bill makes it so that these cases can be prosecuted in one court, an attempt at giving a little peace to the girls and encouraging others to step forward.
“It really does help reduce stress on the victims,” said Creighton. “People are more likely to cooperate with law enforcement. The criminal proceedings can be somewhat arduous, so you try to help ease the stress to the victims and also centralize the prosecution. Isn't it best to keep all the cases together in one county?”
SB 955, sponsored on the county's behalf by state Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), adds human trafficking to the list of offenses that allow for wiretaps. Getting enough support has proven difficult, but it affords tremendous benefits to police.
“Every time you talk about wiretapping, people go nuts about personal freedoms,” said Knabe. “To allow (wiretapping) for sex trafficking is absolutely huge. Because of social media, because of cellphones and the way they operate, it's a huge advancement to really get to the pimps and bosses, and how they run the girls through different houses (and places).”
Gov. Jerry Brown has already signed SB 939, but the bills for increased penalties and wiretapping have not yet been signed. The governor's office won't comment on pending legislation, but neither received a single “no” vote in either chamber of the legislature.
After that, increased public awareness is the most important step, according to McDonnell. Residents are encouraged to call and report tips. Although police would prefer as much information as possible, citizens can make anonymous tips.
For Creighton, the focus has to be on the girls. Giving the girls counseling and other services can help them stay off the streets, she said. The pimps are preying on the vulnerable.
“A girl came to me the other day who was 13,” said Creighton. “She got raped by a family member who then turned her out on the street. She's been on the street for years. So you have to help them out. You can't just put them back into the system and figure that everything is going to be OK – because it's not.”
Keeping the focus on the johns will help, said Knabe. Although he wished the Lieu bill went further, this is a good start.
“The pimps are the scumbags who put these girls through absolute hell,” said Knabe. “But if they didn't have johns willing to buy young girls, they wouldn't have a market.”
Human trafficking talk informs locals
by Minza Khan
Isolated, young and vulnerable, moneyless, no form of communication, and bound to their abuser.
This is a glimpse of the life human trafficking victims have to endure. The youngest human trafficking victim filed in the Houston area is only 8 years old while the average age is 12.
Locals gathered Aug. 20 at the EMS Facility to learn about issues ranging from human trafficking to smuggling. Human trafficking investigator Tonya Ward shared statistics along with her thoughts on information about the issue.
“I don't like to go off of what I've been told because a lot of the stuff we hear and read today aren't necessarily correct,” Ward said. “What I'm giving you is first-hand knowledge of what we have been experiencing.”
According to the statistics provided at the session, human trafficking is a $32 billion industry. Some indications to identify a trafficked victim include: not communicating freely, having physical or non-physical restraints, branded or tattooed with a logo indicating who her “owner” or “pimp” is, and will likely be from a low-income family background.
The list, however, is not limited to these few indicators. Ward then spoke of a rescued lady found on FM 1960.
“She was being pimped out by six juvenile males. He brother is chemical engineer for NASA, her father is doctor, and she herself has a doctorates.”
Ward went on to explain the link between smuggling and human trafficking.
“Smuggling is something someone chooses to bring into the United States. Once they get them here they call their family asking for a certain amount of money,” Ward said. “While the family is trying to come up with the amount of money they are asking for, they are forcing them to work for them in their choice. At that point it becomes trafficking.”
The hour-long information session was open to comments and questions. In response to a question regarding what action locals can take when they see signs of suspicious activity, Ward said her best advice is to call 911 for emergencies.
Love146, Home of Hope-Texas, and Redeemed Ministries, which are all organizations involved in stopping human trafficking were also present to share information on how locals can get involved in resolving the issue locally.
Lauri Nevius, director of operations and advocacy for Redeemed Ministries became a part of the Love146 task force to combat the issue locally.
“They help you gather people in your community to really understand the issues and what you as a group can do about it,” Nevius said. “There's one here in Spring and Cypress. They gather monthly to learn about the issue.”
Love146's main purpose is to get into schools to raise awareness with students. They meet with students who at risk of being trafficked or have already been trafficked. Then then allow those students to identify the abuser through human resources and help them out of the dire situation.
Redeemed Ministries provides aftercare for local women who have been trafficked to women 18 years or older. They offer care need to help victims transition from being trafficked into independent living.
“When you're about 20 and have been trafficked, you haven't finished your college degree. Your options don't just become limited, there are almost none,” Nevius said. “We provide a one year program through our safe house where we take them in and begin the appealing process to have them transition from a traumatized to independent women. She has been sexually victimized as a child. That trauma hits deep. Her concept of love and trust has been affected greatly.”
The organization provides a seven-week program through the Harris County jail. According to Evans, a majority of trafficked women are brainwashed into thinking this is the life they want to live. The program helps them prepare for the real world from writing a resume to breaking the sex trafficking cycle. Another speaker asked locals to raise private funding to create a boys home as well since 20 percent of victims are boys.
Redeemed Ministries expects to expand its facility to help more women in the area. To make a donation visit redeemedministries.com or love146.org
Redeemed Ministries is set to host an orientation Sept. 13 for a two-hour session on sex trafficking to provide information and training. Expect more human trafficking prevention events this month posted on justcausehouston.org
Cops Arrest 500 Johns in Sex Trade Crackdown
111 prostitution victims recovered
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.
Kansas uses rigorous evidence standard for child abuse, neglect
U.S. HHS: No other states require such high standard
by Deb Gruver
WICHITA — Kansas is the only state in the country that requires clear and convincing evidence to substantiate an allegation of child abuse or neglect.
That standard could be putting children at risk, some in the child welfare field say, The Wichita Eagle reported.
When the Kansas Department for Children and Families substantiates abuse or neglect, it places the perpetrator on a registry that bans him or her from living, working or regularly volunteering in a child-care facility — including foster homes — regulated by the state Department of Health and Environment.
No other state requires such a high burden of proof, according to “Child Maltreatment 2012,” a study by the Administration for Children and Families, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
A survey of states found that most use a preponderance of evidence, a less rigorous standard in which evidence shows it is more likely than not that abuse or neglect occurred.
Kansas used a preponderance of evidence standard until 2004. Since then, it has required clear and convincing evidence that an alleged perpetrator's actions or inactions meet the legal definition of abuse or neglect.
“It is concerning,” Diana Schunn, executive director of the Child Advocacy Center of Sedgwick County, said of the higher standard now in place.
“It seems odd to me that all of the investigation and services that are done are focused on the child and when we get to the finding, that focuses on the offender and not so much on the safety of the child,” she said.
Brian Dempsey, director of protection and prevention services for the state department, said the department doesn't require a substantiated finding to request a child's removal or to offer services to families.
“Another state may substantiate for the purpose of removing a child from a home or prohibiting someone from fostering children,” said spokeswoman Theresa Freed of state's department for children and families. “Our effort is for the purpose of prohibiting the person from working in a licensed child care facility. It can't be said enough, so the public understands, recommending a child be removed from a home is not the same as substantiating.”
But because the state's children and families department substantiates so few cases — about 6 percent of all reports of child abuse and neglect — for the purpose of putting people on the registry, the state “could ultimately put children's safety at risk — not intentionally,” Schunn said.
The Kansas Department for Children and Families makes a finding for every report of child abuse and neglect that is assigned to social workers. The finding either is substantiated or unsubstantiated.
The department used to have three categories of findings — unsubstantiated, substantiated and validated.
The “validated” finding, which was used from 1997 to 2004, meant the incident was severe enough to add the perpetrator's name to the registry. Substantiated meant that the evidence showed the incident occurred but wasn't severe enough to place the person on the registry.
Schunn said she wishes Kansas still had validated as a finding.
“To me, the general public has a presumption that it's unfounded,” she said of reports of child abuse deemed unsubstantiated by the DCF.
She said she would support a lower standard of evidence to substantiate a case and another option, such as validated.
“It gives a more accurate and clear depiction from a public's eye of what the abuse situation is in Kansas,” she said.
The state switched to a clear and convincing evidence standard in 2004 to be more consistent with state law, Dempsey said.
“We wanted to ensure that we met an appropriate burden of proof before placing someone on the central registry,” he said.
In 2012, Pennsylvania was the only other state using the clear and convincing evidence standard. But that state's legislature amended the law, effective at the end of this year, to make “substantial” evidence the standard in child abuse cases.
Virginia used a clear and convincing evidence standard until the ‘90s and used three categories of findings — unfounded, founded and reason to suspect, Virginia Department of Social Services spokeswoman Patrice Hagan said in an email.
The reason to suspect finding was “used when we didn't have the clear and convincing evidence to say founded but we still suspected a problem,” said child protective services policy specialist Mary Walter.
When the state took away that option, Virginia moved to a less rigorous standard of evidence to protect children.
“We had to eliminate by regulation the reason to suspect finding,” Walter said. The state then asked, “Is this the evidentiary standard we want to maintain?”
The clear and convincing evidence standard, Walter said, “is a more rigorous standard, and it's more difficult to reach that.”
Linda Spears, vice president of policy and public affairs for the Child Welfare League of America, said of the clear and convincing evidence standard: “I never thought there was a reason to have it to begin with.”
It could, potentially, put children at risk, she said.
Rep. Connie O'Brien, R-Tonganoxie, is chairwoman of the House Children and Seniors Committee. She said she hears more from people upset that their children have been taken away than she does from people upset about the standard the Kansas Department for Children and Families uses to substantiate cases.
“But I'd almost rather err on the side of the kids since that baby died in Wichita,” she said.
Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita and the ranking minority member of the Health and Human Services Committee, said it's time for the state to take a critical look at its child welfare policies.
“I've done every job in child in need of care except for being a judge,” said Ward, a lawyer. “I think on a lot of levels we should have a conversation about how we are dealing with abused and neglected child in our state. We are getting stories and stories about children falling through the cracks. Have we created a law that makes it difficult to protect children?”
Ward said the state must balance the protection of children and the rights of alleged perpetrators.
Being on the state's central registry is a “pretty big scarlet A,” he said, alluding to Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel “The Scarlet Letter.”
“I think it's a very delicate and complicated issue. There's no easy answer,” he said
Giving the (polished) finger: Male celebrities paint their nails in new campaign against child abuse
by Lillian Radulova
Men across the country will be sporting a colourful look on their fingernails for the first two weeks of September as the the Polished Man campaign kicks off to raise awareness of violence against children.
Participants, who will wear nail polish on one of their fingers, include AFL player Chris Judd, Logie award winner Gyton Grantley from Underbelly, Aria award winner Dan Sultan and Tripple M's Anthony 'Lehmo' Lehmann.
Grantley, who began to show his support a little earlier than required, told Daily Mail Australia: 'I'm already sporting a nice kind of pink with blue sparkles on top'.
'I've been wearing it everyday and that's the great thing about the campaign - you don't often see nail polish on a man and it definitely prompts the question of why you're wearing it from others and that results in the exclamation of why and really brings the campaign to life.'
The campaign is largely focused on getting men to participate as approximately 90 per cent of all violence committed against children is perpetrated by men.
As a result, the campaign aims to encourage men to challenge their mates on 'what it means to be a man' and to not accept violence, as well as painting one fingernail to represent the one-in-five children globally who experience violence.
The idea sprung from the founder and CEO of social change advocacy group YGAP, Elliot Costello, who met 10-year-old Thea while in Phnom Penh, Cambodia last year.
Thea suffered physical and sexual abuse at the hands of a paedophile for two years while at a 'safe house' where she was taken after her father passed away.
She was eventually rescued by Hagar International and upon meeting Mr Costello who was working alongside the organisation, built a strong relationship with him.
The inspiration for the Polished Man campaign came the day before Elliot left Cambodia, when Thea drew a love heart on his hand and painted his fingernails.
Grantley revealed that his decision to become an ambassador for the campaign came from his exposure to similar experiences.
'I've done charity work in Thailand for World Vision and I've also worked in the slums of Nairobi in Kenya for Oasis Africa, so I've done work for children over there and seen quite in depth some of the experiences they've been through,' Grantley said.
'More importantly it's in our own backyard and basically one in 29 children, or one kid in every class is being abused and we might not be aware of it or know it.
'What's important is to raise more awareness and encourage more conversations amongst ourselves, to bring the subject more light.'
One group of men who are proud to be displaying their colourful fingernails over the next fortnight are the mechanics from Heritage Motors in Maitland.
The Service Operations Manager, Rob Reeve, told Daily Mail Australia that everyone from the salesmen to the tow-truck drivers have painted their nails bright pink and purple.
'Matt the tow-truck driver came up with the idea to get involved and it just snowballed from there and everyone got involved - the salesmen, all the service staff, the whole dealership got behind it,' he said.
'They are all young fellas and they just want to say not to that sort of behaviour.'
The Motor group kicked off the event by throwing a barbecue for staff and clients in which the proceeds were donated to the charity.
'I think once they started to do it everyone was egging each other on and they seemed to enjoy it actually, I'm a bit worried,' Mr Reeve jested.
He added: 'I was serving on the front counter and I've only got one nail done and someone noticed and said "did you bruise it?"
' I tell them the reason why and they get involved. It becomes a focus and talking point for people and it has certainly boosted the awareness around people so far because they've asked a lot of questions.'
Funds raised during the Polished Man campaign will contribute to preventative measures to address violence against children.
Child abuse inquiry: Northern Ireland children sent to Australia 'faced sexual and physical violence'
Children from Northern Ireland who were sent to Australia shortly after the Second World War faced grave sexual and physical violence after arrival in institutions, witnesses have told a public inquiry.
Survivors have given graphic details of their ordeals while aged as young as five, according to the chairman of the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry established by ministers in Belfast.
Approximately 130 young children in the care of religious voluntary institutions or state bodies became child migrants, most in the decade after the war.
The experiences of around 50 of them will be examined in person or via video- link and their statements furnished to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Australia.
Inquiry chairman Sir Anthony Hart said: "In their witness statements, many of those who will give evidence describe their experiences after they arrived in Australia in shocking terms, setting out in graphic detail their descriptions of the severe hardships, and grave sexual and physical violence, to which they say they were subjected as children in the institutions to which they were sent in Australia."
The inquiry is limited to what happened to children in institutions in Northern Ireland and does not have the power to investigate what befell migrants in Australian institutions.
Sir Anthony added: "That does not mean that their accounts of their experiences in Australia will be swept under the carpet. I want to assure them that will not be the case."
More than 1,000 children from the UK were sent to Australia in the 1940s and 1950s, most by religious orders, like the Catholic Sisters of Mercy and the Christian Brothers, which ran care homes.
Some were orphans, but others were not and in some cases the children were told they had no living relatives to ensure they did not try to return, survivors have said.
A team of experts from the inquiry has travelled to Australia to take submissions from some of those affected.
The treatment of young people, orphaned or taken away from their unmarried mothers, in houses run by nuns, brothers or the state is a key concern of the retired High Court judge's inquiry which is being held in Banbridge, Co Down, and was ordered by ministers in the devolved power-sharing Executive at Stormont.
The panel is considering cases between 1922, the foundation of Northern Ireland, and 1995.
Documentation examined by the inquiry has revealed that between 1946 and 1956 children were sent from various institutions in Northern Ireland to institutions in Australia as part of a UK government policy of child migration.
Their evidence is expected to last three weeks.
The panel has to decide whether children might have been physically or sexually abused or emotionally harmed through humiliation. Harm may also include simple neglect, not feeding or clothing people properly.
The inquiry has heard a litany of allegations from former residents at Londonderry homes run by Sisters of Nazareth nuns, including that children were made to eat their own vomit and bathe in disinfectant.
They claimed they were beaten for bedwetting and had soiled sheets placed on their heads to humiliate them, witnesses told public hearings earlier this year.
Feminism pushed child abuse reform: report
The crime of child sexual abuse has been denied, marginalised and "discovered and rediscovered" at various stages throughout Australia's history, a new report says.
The report, commissioned by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse, found broader social awareness of child sexual abuse emerged in the 1960s because of the efforts of feminist groups.
Prior to women's rights advocates challenging government responses to sexual violence, psychoanalysts and other theorists downplayed the significance of sexual abuse on children and officials downplayed its prevalence and impact.
Between the late 1800s and 1960s "child sexual abuse was denied or minimised by academics, psychoanalysts and the broader community as the fantasies of disturbed individuals or the result of sexually promiscuous or aggressive children," the report said.
The report, prepared by the Australian Institute of Criminology, found that the greatest period of reform in Australia's child abuse laws occurred after the 1970s.
"Feminist groups contradicted historical understandings of child sexual abuse as infrequent acts perpetrated by sexual deviants," the report said.
"These groups sought to raise awareness and understanding of sexual violence, and were openly critical of government and criminal justice system responses to victims of violence."
Prior to the late 1800s, the report found, only a small number of offences criminalised sexual contact between children - then defined as under 10 or 13 years of age - and adults.
Attitudes to child sexual abuse have evolved considerably in the past century.
Child protection laws began not as government initiatives but as a result of social pressure and campaigns by activists.
One influential event, the report said, was the case of "Mary Ellen", who was found badly beaten in her home in New York in 1873.
Police were unable to intervene and the social worker involved sought help from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which succeeded in court in getting Mary Ellen removed from her abusive mother and in having her mother charged with assault.
"As an issue of social and political importance, child sexual abuse has been, at various stages throughout Australia's history, marginalised, denied, `discovered' and `rediscovered'," the report says.
Royal Commission chief executive officer Philip Reed said the report, and a second one looking at the development of relevant legislation, would assist the commission and other organisations working in the area of child sexual abuse.
"Both of these reports will contribute to the Royal Commission's understanding of the historical context of child sexual abuse in Australia and the development of relevant legislation," Mr Reed said.
Touring for child abuse awareness
by Anny Sivilay
Author and businessman, Rodney Timms, is on a tour of all 77 Oklahoma counties to bring awareness to a cause that is near and dear to his heart – child abuse.
As part of his state tour, Timms is working with local law enforcement, Department of Human Services, and courthouses, in an effort to help people realize the severity of child abuse and the type of effect abuse produces in an individual.
Timms also hands out copies of his book, My Three Angels, an autobiography about the first 16 years of his life, living with child abuse.
“Our laws in this state aren't tough enough,” Timms said about child abuse. “I'm trying to make people understand what abuse does.”
Timms said that by working with local law enforcement and the courthouse, it paints an image of what can happen to individuals who abuse children.
He added that growing up was difficult for him but he overcame it and is now along with his son owns a business called Western Flyer Xpress.
“Prisons are filled with abused people,” Timms said, explaining that mental health problems caused by child abuse and can be reasons why some people end up in prison.
Timms said there is an estimated 12 million cases of child abuse in the United States, but only about one-third of then get reported, and less than one percent make it to court.
He challenges all Oklahomans to get involved and make a difference in the life of a child, even just one.
Timms was presented the Marion Jacewitz award in 2012. The award is for work in child abuse prevention. He also works with the Oklahoman Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) and Childhelp USA, to raise awareness and support prevention efforts.
As the the owner of Western Flyer Xpress, an Oklahoma City-based national trucking company, each unit has the Childhelp USA National Child Abuse hotline number printed on its back. His business consists of more than 450 employees, 400 trucks, and 900 trailers.
His second book, My Three Angels, is published by Tate Publishing. Timm's first book is Calling All Hearts. Timms is currently writing his third book, Contract Killer: The Making of a Murderer.
Rotherham sex abuse is not an isolated incident
Similar abuse is taking place across the country, warns the Labour MP for Rochdale, who helped expose the Cyril Smith sex scandal
by Simon Danczuk
The ball bounces high in the shadows off the gable end and a handful of kids chase it down the road. Under the stairway to the flats nearby, half a dozen teenage girls lie sprawled on the concrete, sheltering from the slate-grey drizzle. They watch the ball ping back up the street, strung out in the fading evening light, as the acrid smell of cannabis hangs overhead. Further down the road, a group of lads in hoodies mill around the off-licence asking passers-by if they can buy a few cans of strong lager for them.
It's a scene you'll find in many parts of northern England and one I'm all too familiar with. Even now, when I see the boredom and despair in kids' eyes out on the streets, the same feeling comes back to me. Growing up in a single-parent family near Burnley, drinking at 14 and hanging around off-licences asking grown-ups to buy me a drink, just as I see in Rochdale now, I knew about the vulnerability of kids roaming the streets with nothing to do. There were dangers then, but now it's worse. For gangs of men looking to groom kids to be violently abused, they're easy prey.
Scenes like this are not far from Rochdale Council's new £50?million offices. But when I spoke to child-protection bosses in the wake of Rochdale's grooming scandal a few years ago, where young girls had been continually raped by gangs of men, I may as well have been in a foreign country. Despite talking about a reality that existed a few minutes' drive from their offices, there was no awareness of what life was like for these kids. No connection, no empathy. The head of the Rochdale Safeguarding Children Board told me they needed to take “a deeper dive into the theory” to understand the problem. The director of children's services implied to me that young girls who were being raped were “making lifestyle choices”. She later admitted to an incredulous home affairs select committee that she'd never met any of the victims.
The impression I got was that they viewed these girls as an astronomer would look through a telescope at planets. Their lives were so far from the girls' experiences that to them, they might as well have been a remote dot.
The Rochdale grooming scandal would have never come to light had it not been for the fantastic health care workers who helped these young girls. They listened, they understood and they cared. They were steeped in working-class community values, not remote theory. One of them in particular tried desperately hard to get the police and social services to listen to the girls and take action, but to no avail.
The problem then, as now in Rotherham, was a middle-class management in children's services that simply didn't want to know and didn't care. The author of the Rotherham report, Prof Alexis Jay, said last week that a group of senior managers held a view that couldn't be challenged. This despotic approach is ruining social work and failing families. Where once there was a fair representation of working-class social workers who could listen and relate to all manner of challenging families, the profession is now stuffed with textbook professionals bereft of emotional intelligence and incapable of relating to troubled kids. And for the good ones still left, they're all too often forced to adopt foolish practices that fly in the face of common sense.
Sit before children's services managers and you're likely to hear endless waffle about guidelines, policies, procedures, strategy and thresholds. But they won't mention the kids. Worse still, management never refers to practitioners or seeks advice from those at the coalface. Experience has no currency. Cold, remote theory rules. In the wake of the Rochdale grooming scandal, a Serious Case Review was critical of the health workers whose outreach work had uncovered an endemic child abuse problem. Amazingly, they were criticised for having the wrong qualifications.
Once you start heading down this road, where management exists in a bubble and an organisation's values come from textbooks rather than the people they serve, then you end up with situations like Rotherham. Where political correctness and cultural sensitivity are more important than child rape. Managers become more interested in ticking boxes in diversity training than protecting children. And social-work bosses ban families from looking after children because they're members of Ukip and not sufficiently versed in multiculturalism.
This is dogma for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Common sense is not on the menu.
The collapse of the banks a few years back was brought about by bad management and the cult of leadership. The leaders of these banks not only followed a tick-box culture that allowed them to avoid their responsibilities, but also had no concept of the values within their organisation and didn't even understand their own complex financial instruments.
In many areas of social work, the same tick-box culture, lack of values and a failure to have the remotest understanding of the complex lives of those being dealt with is bringing about a similar collapse. And like the banks, it will have far-reaching consequences for society.
We're also starting to see a worrying cult of leadership.Highly paid managers are seemingly untouchable and distant from front-line workers. The rise of the unsackable, unaccountable and unapologetic public-sector manager is a trend that will only see services continue to deteriorate. And let's be clear about what that means. It won't be just missed targets or a poor Ofsted rating. We're storing up huge social costs.
Think of the 1,400 children abused in Rotherham. They were beaten, had guns pointed at their heads, were routinely gang raped, had petrol poured over them and were threatened with being set alight. What do you think happens to these kids?
They don't tend to end up in nice jobs, washing their cars in the suburban sunshine on a Sunday morning. They grow up angry, resentful and lost to society. The Prime Minister talks about sending in welfare squads to tackle “problem families”, but what about the lost generation that's being created now by allowing children to be abused on an industrial level?
I've sat before these people and listened to their stories. I remember every one. Some have managed to turn their lives around, and these stories are inspirational. But, for most, the burden of abuse is too heavy to bear. Kids who walk through the fire of extreme abuse make very different choices to the rest of us. They end up joining the Foreign Legion, committing violent crimes, taking drugs or sleeping on the streets. When I looked at the criminal record of one victim and asked why he couldn't stay on the straight and narrow, he told me it was safer in prison.
For most, they struggle to make relationships and the human cost is massive. “I don't have friends, I prefer to be on my own because I don't trust people,” one sexually abused man told me. He'd made a living over the past 20 years working with the travelling community on the margins of society. These were the only people who didn't judge him, he said.
But talking to bosses in children's services and the multitude of highly paid professionals running our protective agencies, you'll never get any real understanding of the depth or complexity of the people they're dealing with. It's become a cold science where the hard work of gaining trust, taking a human approach and supporting people has been replaced with a detached, long-lens view. And it's not just management that has this view. At one point last year, I made a complaint on behalf of one of the Rochdale grooming victims as a social worker kept appearing outside her house, peering through the window. Is that the “help” a survivor of sexual abuse needs?
This dearth of understanding does not only relate to victims. Too little is known about the perpetrators of these crimes and too frequently I get the impression that politically correct reasons prevent authorities from trying to find out more or challenge these people.
Some are poor men from rural Kashmiri communities, or second- or third-generation Kashmiris or Pakistanis who have developed or inherited an openly violent misogyny. I visited one abuser in prison – he'd attacked a female prostitute with a hammer and was clearly mentally ill. I asked the family about his wife, who'd come over from Kashmir two years before and spoke no English, only to be told that she knew he was in prison but wasn't aware of the crimes he'd committed.
I've also had family members come to my surgery asking me to make representations on behalf of brothers who have been found guilty of child sex abuse. When I refuse, I frequently receive a tirade of abuse. “These girls are prostitutes,” one man shouted at me, and warned that I would pay a heavy price for not supporting him. He'd get thousands of people not to vote for me.
As a Labour politician, it can be difficult challenging some of these issues, but you can't ignore child abuse and violent misogyny. Three years ago, former home secretary Jack Straw said some Pakistani men see white girls as “easy meat” for abuse. He was accused of perpetuating racist attitudes. Like all political parties, the Labour Party is a broad church. But I fear too many hold the view expressed by former Rotherham MP, Denis MacShane, last week. He avoided child abuse in his constituency, he told the BBC, because he was “a Guardian-reading liberal Leftie” and didn't want to “rock the multicultural community boat”.
Last week I received a text message from a current Labour MP saying she was disappointed by my views on this issue. I was only elected in 2010 and already I've found that politicians are sometimes discouraged from exploring and investigating complex issues because they're expected to stay tethered to a dominant ideology and not stray far from the stock replies to difficult questions. This does nothing to strengthen democracy. It weakens it, and creates cynicism. The public want to see matters like this discussed and they want politicians to come up with answers, not just endless hand-wringing.
I'm in no doubt that Rotherham is not an isolated case, and the same kind of abuse is happening right now in towns and cities across the country. As shocking as the Rotherham report is, the fallout out from this type of abuse and the long-term social consequences are even more horrifying.
Far too many people are sliding into an underclass as a result of violent abuse that fails to register with protective agencies. Inquiries, reports and media scrutiny are only the beginning of the change we need. If we're going to save a lost generation from having childhood innocence ripped from them, then we need to stop obsessing about multiculturalism and reform children's services now.