Waking up to child abuse
by Masami Ito
On the morning of July 30, a 14-year-old boy hanged himself at his home in the city of Nishi-Tokyo, a commuter hub northwest of downtown Tokyo. The teenager, a cheerful member of his junior high school's tennis club, had decided that his life was simply not worth living.
This, however, was only part of the story — the teenager only did what he had been ordered to do by his abusive stepfather. After suffering a severe beating a day earlier, the stepfather reportedly told the teen “to go hang yourself within the next 24 hours.”
Municipal authorities told The Japan Times that the teenager had turned up to class with bruises on his face twice in a six-month period between November 2013 and April this year. The student even told teachers his stepfather had beaten him, and yet neither incident was reported to welfare officials.
The teen didn't attend school at all after June 13, but, still, school administrators only communicated with his mother and stepfather without speaking directly to the student concerned.
“The school should have recognized the bruises as a sign of abuse,” says Tatsuhiko Uchida, an education official at the city of Nishi-Tokyo. “If it had acted accordingly, things may have turned out differently.”
The teenager's suicide comes at a time when there appears to be a growing recognition of the scale of abuse that occurs nationwide.
“Most deaths connected to abuse can be prevented with proper intervention,” says Fujiko Yamada, a specialist in internal medicine and an expert on cases of child abuse. “The fact that children are dying from abuse means that there is something wrong with the system.”
Public discussion of child abuse has been taboo until fairly recently. The government only started to keep a record of the number of abuse cases handled by child consultation centers nationwide in 1990, and it took another decade to codify a law that would prevent abuse.
According to legislation passed in 2000, there are four categories of child abuse: physical, psychological, sexual or neglect. The same legislation also obliges a third party to report any signs of such abuse to welfare authorities.
In August, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry reported that 73,765 cases of abuse were handled by child consultation centers nationwide in fiscal 2013, a figure that topped 70,000 for the first time.
Although dismayed by the record number of cases, Japan Network for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect Chairman Tsuneo Yoshida said it was encouraging that more people were becoming aware of child abuse and reporting such cases. “The media says it's ‘the worst' situation but that is not necessarily the case because this means more children are being rescued,” Yoshida says. “It looks like people's awareness toward child abuse is changing.”
Both Yoshida and Yamada agree that the statistics alone don't reflect the number of actual cases of abuse, because unreported incidents such as the Nishi-Tokyo episode — while extreme — are not uncommon.
Nevertheless, the rise in the number of reported cases of abuse is quite shocking. Health ministry data shows that 1,101 cases of abuse were reported in the first nationwide tally in 1990, and the number has only grown exponentially since then.
Yoshida believes that communities were historically reluctant to get involved in a family's affairs because of the household system that was in place at the time; absolute legal authority used to be given to the head of the household, a system that was abolished after the adoption of the Constitution in 1947.
However, an increase in media coverage over the past decade has made people more aware that child abuse is a crime and that they have a duty to report any suspicions they may have.
“Child abuse is often referred to as ‘murdering the soul,'” Yoshida says. “People are becoming less reluctant to report allegations of child abuse in other people's homes because they are more aware that children's lives depend on it.”
Pediatrician Henry Kempe wrote a paper titled “The Battered Child Syndrome” in 1962 that first defined and identified signs of child abuse. Medical experts, who are often the first to spot cases of abuse, look for telltale signs such as unusual bruises or burns, broken bones that have healed without treatment or patterns of abuse marks. Still, Yamada says some doctors elect not to report suspected cases of abuse and instead simply talk to the parents, believing they can convince them to stop hurting their children.
“We have to step away from the myth that all parents are good and admit that some are abusive,” says Yamada, who is also director of the nonprofit Child Maltreatment Prevention Network. “Most parents are good but we, as a society, need to learn to take initiative and intervene sometimes.”
The education ministry has also compiled a manual for school teachers to help them spot abuse, ranging from obvious external injuries to psychological signs such as violent behavior, the inability to build a stable relationship with an adult, or the hoarding of food or theft.
Yoshida, a professor of child welfare at Surugadai University in Saitama Prefecture, says schools, too, are sometimes reluctant to report signs of abuse to authorities. “Schools are essential (in the battle against child abuse) because they can confirm the safety of a child by his or her attendance,” Yoshida says. “The problem, however, is that they traditionally don't like to let others intervene to resolve issues, be it bullying or child abuse.”
In 2012, 66,701 cases of suspected child abuse were reported to child consultation centers nationwide. Physical violence comprised 35 percent of all cases, while neglect accounted for 29 percent, psychological abuse 33.6 percent and sexual abuse 2.2 percent. According to National Police Agency statistics, 482 arrests were made in 2013 that were related to child abuse allegations. Physical violence accounted for 70 percent of these cases, while sexual assault made up almost 22 percent. Of those arrested, 77 percent were either fathers or father figures.
“That's the thing about parents — you can't choose them,” says Keiko Shindo, head of Survivors and Allies for Education on Incest Abuse. “There were so many times in my life when I wished I had different parents. Society has a fixed image of what families and parents should be like, and we [victims of child abuse] suffered because our reality was so different from that.”
Survivors and Allies for Education on Incest Abuse is a support group for female victims of incest. Founded in 2013, the group hosts sessions twice a month in which around six to eight victims gather in order to “just talk, listen.”
The group is looking to educate the public and share information on incest by streaming videos of members talking about their past. The women talk openly about the sexual abuse they were forced to endure by their fathers, stepfathers, siblings and so on without hiding their faces.
Shindo said the members of the group had mixed emotions about revealing their identities but, in the end, agreed that it was necessary as a part of their healing process as well as a means to reach out to other victims suffering in silence.
“We have spent our whole lives hiding the truth, suppressing our anger and our conflicted emotions,” Shindo says. “We needed a place to speak the truth.”
Shindo was sexually abused as a child, first by her older brother and later by her father. The molestation began when she was just 3 years old, and it continued throughout her junior high school days. In her case, authorities never intervened — the rapes finally stopped after she confided in her mother.
Shindo is now 45 years old. She has found a supportive husband with whom she runs a restaurant in Tokyo. She regularly meets other survivors of sexual abuse and, together, they are trying to rebuild their lives. However, the abuse she suffered as a child has affected her so deeply she has decided that she will refrain from having any children for fear of what she might do to them. She sees a psychiatrist twice a month, is on medication for post-traumatic stress disorder and has been struggling with alcoholism.
Although Shindo has reconciled with her brother, her relationship with her mother is still strained and seeing her mother reminds the Tokyo resident of her past. Her mother has also opposed Shindo's activities with the support group because she thinks others may find out about the family's secret.
Shindo's father, meanwhile, has had a couple of close shaves with death over the past few years, barely surviving a heart attack last summer. “They say everyone is eventually able to forgive, but I don't think that's true,” Shindo says. “There were times when I wanted to kill my father … but now I am just waiting for him to die.”
About 1,500 cases of sexual abuse are reported every year, but Yamada, who has handled hundreds of abuse cases during her career, believes the actual number is at least twice that.
“People want to pretend that sexual abuse doesn't exist here,” Yamada says. “Japanese people say that there is no sexual molestation because we have well-grounded morals toward sex but that is a gross misunderstanding.”
Yamada says Japan is decades behind other countries in codifying legislation to prevent parents from abusing their children. What's more, measures to protect children against sexual abuse are virtually nonexistent. In addition, there is a lack of coordination between the institutions that could help to detect cases of abuse — welfare centers, police, schools and hospitals — and this is putting children's lives in danger. Health ministry statistics show that at least one child dies every week in Japan as a result of child abuse.
From Sept. 14 , Japan is hosting the 20th International Congress on Child Abuse and Neglect in Nagoya. More than 2,000 people from all over the world are expected to gather at the event, which is being hosted in the country for the first time. Jointly organized by the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect and the Japanese Society for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, the four-day conference will hold a series of speeches and symposiums to raise awareness against child abuse.
Yamada, secretary-general of the conference's executive committee, said she hopes the event will be a turning point for Japan to catch up to the rest of the world over measures to prevent child abuse.
“The cooperation between multiple organizations in Japan is not working and that is why so many important lives are being lost,” Yamada says. “Japan is a smart country that can catch up quickly. It needs to take this opportunity to turn it into a child-centered society.”
Charity Gala Supporting Victims Of Domestic Violence Hosted In Downtown LA
LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A celebrity-filled charity gala was hosted by the Face Forward Foundation Saturday evening to help support victims of domestic violence.
This high-profile event was held at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, where a silent auction and honorary awards ceremony was held in an effort to raise over $500,000 in support of victims.
KCAL9's Laurie Perez spoke with celebrities at the gala who addressed recent domestic violence cases that have occurred in the entertainment industry.
The annual gala was held during a time in light of recent media coverage of pro-athletes and celebrities involved in domestic violence.
Boxing champion Floyd Mayweather Jr., who allegedly attacked his ex-fiancee Shantal Jackson in 2011, fought against Marcos Maidana in Las Vegas, Nevada Saturday night.
Jackson attended the charity gala with her attorney Gloria Allred.
“He's fighting for millions of dollars tonight in Las Vegas, that's what Mayweather is doing,” Allred said. “We're here fighting for the right of women to be free from violence against them.”
Last week, a video was leaked to the media of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his then fiancee in an Atlantic City casino elevator that raised controversy.
Rice was released by the Ravens and suspended from the NFL indefinitely as a result of his actions.
“I'm amazed at the level of adulatory we have for sports athletes and stars and what people get away with because they are either popular or powerful,” said Survivor Host Jeff Probst.
Face Forward has offered free reconstruction surgeries for thousands of women and children who have been burned and or disfigured by domestic abuse since 2007.
The foundation's intention is to help victims heal physically and emotionally.
Adult film star Christy Mack told Perez she has had a couple of cosmetic things done already in response to her fight with mixed martial arts fighter Jonathan Koppenhaver known as War Machine.
“I don't think they should be treated any differently than any other person,” said Sugar Shane Mosley, a retired boxer. “They shouldn't put their hands on another person, they shouldn't hit another person.”
According to officials, the foundation also works to help their patients to start a new life and be able to reclaim their confidence that was lost during the unfortunate abuse.
Victor Ortiz assisted the foundation to reveal their new campaign theme. Members of the foundation revealed a new series of ads featuring pro-athletes and other artists will soon be released, all with a tag-line reading “Real men don't hit.”
Rice case prompts national and local discussion: Why abuse?
by Susan Shinn
When the video surfaced of a professional football player punching the woman who is now his wife, it ignited a national conversation on domestic violence.
That discussion is a good thing, says Renee Bradshaw.
“Awareness about domestic violence has changed our community,” she says.
Yet Bradshaw, executive director of the Family Crisis Council, has conversations about domestic violence every day.
She can reel off statistics so quickly that you don't want to think about all the women behind those numbers:
• 1 in 4 women is abused sometime in her life.
• In North Carolina, there have been 43 deaths attributed to domestic violence since January. Of that number, two deaths were in Rowan County.
• According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence's report from June and July, more than 66,000 victims of domestic violence received services in a single day nationwide.
• It takes five to seven times for a woman to leave her abuser.
“I'm a survivor,” Bradshaw says, “and I've only disclosed that recently. I didn't know what domestic violence was. The awareness has increased because people are speaking up.”
Bradshaw says she is asked constantly about victims of domestic violence, “Why did she not leave?” But she says the more important question is, “Why did the abuser abuse?”
“When stuff like this happens, people want to know what to do to stop it,” says Beth Moore, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Rowan. “When families come here with children being abused, we quickly find out that the caregiver is being abused, too.”
At the core of child abuse and domestic violence, Moore says, is an abuse of power.
“Unless somebody helps them, a child cannot walk away,” she says. Moore adds that 99 percent of parents who come to her agency with their children have been abused “in some way, shape or form as a child or as an adult.”
She adds, “What we try to do here is to stop the cycle, so that children don't become adults and get into an abusive relationship.”
No one in any socioeconomic level, Moore says, is immune to child abuse or domestic abuse. “Victims of abuse want so badly for someone to love them. This happens to celebrities, too, even though they may have the means to leave.”
Knight in shining armor
Bradshaw says she wasn't surprised that Janay Rice married her husband after the now well-known instance of abuse took place.
“She blames herself,” Bradshaw says. “This is the guy who swept her off her feet. You think this is the ideal relationship. She thinks he's her knight in shining armor, when he's just the opposite.”
She adds, “It's hard for women to leave. You're with someone who supposedly loves you, you have a roof over your head, and you have your children and friends. How can you just walk away from that? Where are you gonna go?”
The only way that women can leave abusive relationships, Bradshaw says, is if they have options.
“What domestic violence agencies offer is a personalized safety plan,” she says. “There is a crisis line at every shelter. We can give you a safe place to stay, and provide you with a court advocate.”
Bradshaw points to the many agencies in town — the Department of Social Services, Rowan Helping Ministries, Community Care Clinic, Prevent Child Abuse Rowan and local law enforcement — that are working collaboratively to make a difference.
“We have funds from local donors and the United Way to relocate these people,” Bradshaw says.
“How do you encourage someone to be an overcomer?” Moore says. “We encourage and strengthen our clients not to repeat the cycle of violence. That's why all the agencies work so closely together. We all work together to find a solution for these families.”
Besides the secure location that the Family Crisis Council offers, women and families who have been in abusive circumstances may spend time at Rowan Helping Ministries' shelter.
“Folks are referred here from Family Crisis Council for transitional housing,” says Kyna Grubb's RHM's executive director. “They may come and stay here while waiting for space to open at Family Crisis Council.”
She adds, “Renee provides that secure location, but people know where we are. However, we don't give out any information about any of our shelter guests.”
Grubb says that 99 percent of shelter guests have had some type of history of domestic violence. She was surprised to learn from shelter staff that the figure is that high.
Some of the shelter guests, Grubb says, have seen domestic violence in their own homes. They don't know this behavior is not normal. Family Crisis Council has led classes at Rowan Helping Ministries, so guests know what help is available, she adds.
Rowan Helping Ministries is preparing to offer a 10-session class on anger management, for guests with a history of violent behavior, or for those who are struggling with anger.
Grubb agrees with Bradshaw that she has definitely heard more of a mainstream discussion about domestic violence in the community of late.
Bradshaw says she doesn't see much of a correlation when incidents of domestic violence are reported in the media to the number of calls her agency receives.
“But sometimes a light goes off,” she says. “It's not just hitting. It's mental abuse. It's all about the control.”
Bradshaw says that anyone can be an advocate to stop domestic violence.
“Be aware of what's going on around you,” she says. “Listen to what your family members and friends are saying. It's all about support.”
A candlelight vigil to end domestic violence is set for 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 6, on the steps of the county courthouse.
To reach the 24-hour Family Crisis Council's hotline, call 704-636-4718.
Powerful tool vs. domestic violence
by Joe Torre and Esta Soler
As a baseball executive whose mother survived relentless domestic violence, and an advocate who worked for years to pass the Violence Against Women Act, we want to celebrate the 20th anniversary of that life-saving bill, signed into law on September 13, 1994.
This groundbreaking law was the first to put the full force of the federal government into efforts to stop violence against women and help victims. It reshaped our criminal justice system, ushered in training for law enforcement and judges, and enhanced a life-saving national network of services and supports that has saved countless lives. Over time, the law became a catalyst for broader, badly needed change.
In fact, according to the Justice Department, intimate partner violence has dropped 64% since the Violence Against Women Act was passed 20 years ago. Now that's something we can all be proud of.
But frankly, the media paid little attention to the bill that was introduced by then-Senator Joe Biden, and signed into law by President Clinton in 1994. They were too busy clamoring over the story about a high-profile NFL football hero named O.J. Simpson. Simpson had a history of domestic violence and was on trial for the murder of his wife and friend. He was acquitted in that famous trial.
But the Simpson story had a silver lining: It led to tens of thousands of women around the country feeling empowered to reveal their own stories of abuse. And it gave activists an opportunity to rally their communities and demand more services and protections for victims and survivors. It took the topic of domestic violence from the back page to the front page and to the top of the newscast -- everywhere.
It's ironic, then, that 20 years later, the nation would be so laser-focused on the story of another football hero. In this case, it's the story of Baltimore Raven player Ray Rice that is dominating our conversations, and despite the damage done, there is a positive repercussion worth noting: Again, thousands of people are sharing personal statements and encouragements around the issue of domestic violence.
There's even a hashtag campaign, #WhyIStayed. We know from experience, that staying in the public conversation is often the precursor to making true and lasting change. And we're hopeful that the NFL, and other professional sports leagues are recognizing that now is the time for a strong, enforceable policies that will not tolerate domestic violence or sexual assault.
The first Violence Against Women Act didn't do nearly enough for the children who grow up in homes in which there is violence. It didn't do enough to help college students and other victims of rape, stalking and sexual assault. It didn't do enough for minority, immigrant and disabled communities, and populations with special needs. And it didn't do enough to promote prevention.
With each subsequent re-authorization of the law, progress has been made -- but there's much more to do. We're convinced the country can finish the job. Vice President Joe Biden poured his heart and soul into passing the Violence Against Women Act 20 years ago and his commitment has never wavered. He was its proudest champion, winning crucial support on both sides of the political aisle. We still need him, and we still need a bipartisan group of dedicated congressional champions.
Today, we both work with key federal agencies, large philanthropies, leading corporations and other partners that share our mission to finish what the Violence Against Women Act started. We need every one of them.
There's still much too much violence against women, and our nation pays a huge price. We need to continue the progress for adult women, heal kids who are hurt, and show perpetrators that they have to be accountable for their actions. We need to engage the public and make men part of the solution.
Passage of the Violence Against Women Act was a triumph of bipartisanship, and a moment in time when lawmakers had the clarity and courage to recognize that they could make an enormous difference on a problem affecting every community. It was a huge step forward for the country. Twenty years later, we should cherish and take enormous pride in this achievement -- and finish the job.
Plaquemines Parish Sheriff: Family of child sex crimes suspect destroyed evidence
Matthew Todd Wallis released on bond and 'absolved' by church
by Andy Cunningham
BELLE CHASSE, La. —A 30-year-old man was extradited from Utah and brought to Plaquemines Parish to face child sex abuse charges in which authorities said the suspect's family destroyed evidence in the case and a bishop “absolved him of his sins.”
According to a news release from the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff's Office, 30-year-old Matthew Todd Wallis is accused of aggravated incest and oral sexual battery. The alleged crimes happened in 1999-2000 and involved at least one young girl when he lived in Belle Chasse, according to investigators.
The Plaquemines Parish Sheriff's Office believes more victims are possible and are urging them to come forward.
The investigation began in May 2014 when a victim came forward, telling investigators that Wallis abused her at his home in the 100 block of Brentwood Drive when she was between 4 and 5 years old.
“The victim reported that Wallis forced her to perform oral sex on him and that he performed oral sex on her,” the Sheriff's Office said in a news release. “The victim also related that on several occasions, Wallis touched her inappropriately on her genital area and that he made her touch his genital area.”
Several witness were interviews about the allegations and later discovered that Wallis had video-recorded at least one of the sexual acts.
However, that piece of evidence will never be seen.
“When the video was allegedly brought to the attention of Wallis' mother, she reprimanded those who found it and questioned them on why were they in his room and using the camcorder,” the Sheriff's Office said. “Wallis' mother allegedly informed a family member that she burned this particular videotape in order to destroy the evidence and to ‘make this all just go away.'”
Wallis' parents admitted that they destroyed the videotape, authorities said.
According to Commander Eric Becnel, Wallis' parents won't face any charges because "the statute of limitations is six years, so unfortunately, we're unable to charge them with the crimes they are responsible for."
The sexual abuse wasn't all a silent matter, according to investigators.
Investigators learned that about the same time of the tape's destruction, a second victim allegedly came forward and spoke with the bishop of Wallis' church about the matter.
The church was identified by the Sheriff's Office as the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints based in Harvey.
“It is believed that Wallis subsequently met and spoke with the bishop of the church about the alleged crimes and possibly ‘confessed his sins' to the religious leader at the time,” the news release said.
Witnesses told investigators that Wallis allegedly went through a “repentance program” with the church.
When investigators interviewed a bishop of the Harvey-based church who was assigned there during the time period, the leader confirmed his assignment and acknowledged remembering the suspect's family.
However, the bishop said he did not recall being told of the alleged sexual abuse committed by Wallis on either victim.
That's when investigators learned that there was another bishop assigned to the church during the time in question. That bishop is now deceased and is believed to be the one who “absolved Wallis of his sins.”
In early-August, investigators obtained a warrant for Wallis' arrest and discovered he was living in Ogden, Utah.
Wallis was arrested by U.S. marshals and extradited back to Plaquemines Parish.
Wallis did not provide a statement to investigators.
On Wednesday, Wallis appeared in Magistrate Court in the 25th Judicial District Court. His bond was set at $100,000.
Wallis posted bond and was released from custody after the hearing.
Other victims or people with information in this matter are asked to contact PPSO Detective Aaron Verrette at 504-564-2525 or 504-297-5277 or Crimestopppers at 504-822-1111 or toll free at 877-903-STOP.
Sexual abuse victims under the age of 17 have up to 30 years to report a crime once they reach the age of 18.
Human trafficking's dark secrets revealed
by Kristen Mitchell
CLEARWATER — The 17-year-old sex trafficking victim thought her life was over.
Taken from another state, she was trafficked within the Clearwater city limits and rescued by law enforcement authorities. Since then, her life has changed drastically. She returned to the state she came from, where she had a support system. She became sober, started college, has an apartment and is employed.
“She has dreams and aspirations now for her future,” said Clearwater police Detective James McBride, who aided in her recovery. “Now this person, with the help of social services, has done a 360 and is living the dream.”
The girl is only one of countless victims in Florida, which ranks among the top five states for human trafficking cases. Noticing the trend, local authorities formed a team to recover victims and to increase public awareness of what often is called modern-day slavery and how to spot it.
The Clearwater/Tampa Bay Area Human Trafficking Task Force started in 2006 after the U.S. Department of Justice awarded the Clearwater Police Department a three-year, $430,000 grant. McBride, who has been on the task force since its creation, said local police knew about the problem, but not how to solve it. The task force gave them a framework, but for years he said they had no strategy.
“We were completely proactive. In other words, we had to go out and find it, because it's hidden. It's hidden everywhere,” he said.
A large number of immigrants from Hidalgo, Mexico, were settling in Clearwater. As police started to build trust within the community, the residents began coming forward with instances of trafficking.
Over the years, the task force has become more sophisticated, nailing down investigative techniques and informing the community about how to spot suspicious activities, which has increased the number of tips the task force gets. The task force has received more than 150 tips so far this year.
The tips not only are increasing, but the information is better. The tips come from community residents, patrol officers, hospital emergency room employees and Polaris Project, a national hotline organization. Currently, the task force has an $87,000 annual budget from Clearwater police.
People have a better grasp on human trafficking and the signs, which vary depending on the type of crime. Sex trafficking involving minors is the easiest to spot, McBride said, but catching up to adults in a similar situation can be difficult.
Traffickers will use drugs to keep their victims from leaving, getting them addicted so they keep performing commercial sex acts that profit the trafficker. Force, fraud and coercion are used to keep adults against their will, often with threats to have foreign victims deported or to go after their families if they seek help from police. Often foreign victims are recruited in their home countries, and traffickers know where to find a victim's family or the victim if they try to escape.
Some trafficked victims are smuggled into the country illegally, and traffickers can threaten to have them deported if they report abuses. In other cases traffickers will hold a legal victim's identification papers, putting them under the trafficker's control.
Domestic servitude abuse is the most difficult to find, McBride said. Victims used as housekeepers have little contact with the outside world. If brought into the country illegally they essentially don't exist, and if they are legal no one knows where they are.
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center reported more than 82 percent of trafficking victims are female, and about 61 percent are adults.
In recent years the Florida Legislature has enacted stricter laws aimed at human trafficking, such as requiring strip clubs to verify the age and identification of employees and to keep the information on file. The goal is to prevent traffickers from using false employment information for minors or unwilling adults. The statute of limitations on traffickers was eliminated as part of a human trafficking bill signed by the governor in June.
Law enforcement agencies and state prosecutors are required to train employees on human trafficking and investigations. Anyone who goes through the police academy receives eight hours of training on human trafficking, but Clearwater does more.
“We try to update that training and make sure they're getting up-to-date information,” McBride said. “Also, we're trying to get more in-depth training to people to investigate these crimes because you have to have some experience with it — know what you're looking for and how to investigate these because they're a little different than any other type of crime,”
Traffickers often change locations, traveling in and out of jurisdictions daily, blending into the community and using standard transportation that wouldn't raise eyebrows. The task force uses a regional approach, working with other authorities in the Tampa Bay area such as the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, the FBI and Homeland Security.
“This is an international problem, it's a national problem, it's a state problem and it's a local problem. It doesn't matter how rural you are or how big your population is or your city is,” McBride said.
Mike Victor, a detective with the Tampa Police Department who works adult trafficking primarily, said the department stays busy following tips.
Working with the FBI as part of a crimes against children task force, he said officials in the Tampa Bay area are “more aggressive” than most in tackling trafficking crimes.
“Traffickers have been getting slammed in court, which is great,” Victor said.
In July 2012, laws went into effect that made human smuggling a felony and allowed convicted traffickers to be labeled as sex offenders and sexual predators.
Parents should monitor what their children are doing on social media, Victor said, because that is one way traffickers pick up victims.
When victims are recovered, the task force receives help from local agencies such the Salvation Army and physicians and dentists who will provide free care. When victims have been trafficked from another country, international organizations such as World Relief get involved.
A trafficking awareness conference called “Stand Together And Negate Demand” is being held this weekend in Tampa. Workshop topics include exploitation of children, impact of the media and how to get men to stop purchasing sex, along with a prayer walk outside of massage parlors and strip clubs in the Tampa.
Pamela Woody, founder of Tampa Bay Advocates Against Human Trafficking, said immigrant populations are particularly vulnerable, individuals who come to the area for migrant work and are introduced to labor trafficking.
“Where ever there's a possibility to take advantage of a vulnerable person, people take advantage of that,” she said.
Woody said her organization recently provided food and gas cards to a rescued trafficking victim so she could get back to her home. She said police contact the organization when there is a need for victim resources.
McBride said information the task force gets from the Hidalgo immigrant community in Clearwater is based on the trust built between residents and police.
“If they don't have a relationship with law enforcement, they aren't going to report crime,” he said. “It doesn't matter what ethnicity they are.”
Victor agreed, and said trafficking happens across ethnic groups and economic classes.
Finding and recovering victims can be a challenge, but capturing the traffickers is even harder, McBride said. Because many victims are afraid of their traffickers, they can be reluctant to reveal information, fearing retaliation against them their families.
Even then it can take months or years to pin them down. McBride said because of limited resources, they try to focus on what will be best for the community.
“Doing this, I really truly feel like I make a difference in at least one person's life, I really do. And I see the goodness in our community,” he said.
Sex trafficking of children is focus of state law and government forum at McKinney School of Law
INDIANAPOLIS -- Understanding and preventing the sex trafficking of children is the focus of this year's law and state government symposium at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law.
Sex trafficking of children "is a multi-billion-dollar industry where traffickers sell children from our own backyards to people right here in our communities," said Chelsea Shelburne, a McKinney School of Law third-year student and one of two symposium organizers.
The 2014 Program on Law and State Government Fellowship Symposium, "In Our Backyard: State Governments Respond to Sex Trafficking of Children," takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 3:40 p.m. Friday, Sept. 19, at the law school, 530 W. New York St., on the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus.
A panel of prosecutors and law enforcement officers will address intergovernmental collaboration on the criminal prosecutions of sex trafficking and related crimes.
Experts from across the country will explore different state approaches and policies to address justice and recovery for victims of child sex trafficking.
The conference is the work of Shelburne and fellow McKinney School of Law student Carlos Gonzalez as 2014 fellows in the law school's Program on Law and State Government, which fosters study, research and legal education on critical legal and regulatory issues facing state governments. Working with the guidance and assistance of the program director, Law and State Government Fellows conduct research and host an academic event addressing a collaboratively chosen fellowship topic.
During the conference Gonzalez will present his research findings on how state governments and local law enforcement units collaborate on identifying child victims of sex trafficking and prosecuting their offenders.
Shelburne will present her research into how state juvenile justice systems could work better to prevent sex trafficking of children and to prosecute adults who support the industry. Her passion for working on children's issues became focused on sex trafficking during her work with the Indiana Protection for Abused and Trafficked Humans task force as an intern for Judge Marilyn Moores in the Marion County Juvenile Court.
"Sex trafficking of children happens every day all over the country. It's not what it looks like in the movies, and it doesn't just follow major events like the Super Bowl," Shelburne said. "It's important for people to understand what's actually happening in our communities. Traffickers prey on vulnerable children and then pull them into the dangerous and abusive world of commercial sex. The systematic physical and sexual abuse is severely traumatizing, so much so that the victim often refuses to identify as a victim of trafficking."
Symposium presenters also include:
Bridgette Carr, director of the Human Trafficking Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School, who will share her experiences as a lawyer testifying before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
Holly Austin Smith, a survivor of human trafficking and author of "Walking Prey: How America's Youth are Vulnerable to Sex Slavery," who will share her experiences and talk about her fight to change state laws influencing the protection of youth and the prosecution of the criminals who benefit from the sex trafficking industry
The symposium is open to the public. For registration and additional information, including parking and continuing legal education credit instructions, visit the event web page.
Dozens in Md. Juvenile Detention Are Victims of Sex Trafficking
At least 63 girls, some as young as 12 years old, have acknowledged being victims of sex trafficking rings to Maryland investigators while serving recent terms in the state juvenile detention centers since March 2012.
A review of Maryland Department of Juvenile Services records by the News4 I-Team shows the 63 sex trafficking cases reported to state authorities over the past 29 months. The agency began screening its female juvenile inmates for connection to trafficking rings in March 2012. Though none of the girls was placed in detention for trafficking-related criminal activity, the number has alarmed state officials and increased demand for counseling services and post-detention monitoring.
“We have them as young as 12 years of age,” said Department of Juvenile Services Regional Administrator Doug Mohler, who helps oversee the Waxter detention center for girls in Laurel. Each of the 63 girls was recently detained at either Waxter or the state-run youth lockup in Rockville.
“We've clearly seen kids who are victims of abuse,” Mohler said. “We make sure they're getting whatever services they may need.”
The screening process issued by the detention center staff includes a series of questions to girls about their home lives. The agency also performs mental health screenings and substance abuse checks on the girls, to help determine whether they are connected to traffickers.
The youth lockups have limited ability to treat the victims, because the average stay for a female youth inmate is 11 days, state officials said. Charity help group TURNAROUND, a Maryland-based organization, offers the girls rehabilitation and counseling services during and after their detention.
“We have a whole host of offerings for the girls,” TURNAROUND spokeswoman Amelia Rubenstein said. “We give them trauma counseling and find shelter for them.”
Rubenstein said the organization also helps track the girls' social media networks to determine the girls' relationships with known trafficking rings.
Incidents of suspected child sex trafficking have spiked in Maryland, according to a News4 I-Team review of state police records and public reports by nonprofit trafficking investigators.
The increase is impacting communities in Montgomery, Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties.
The I-Team's review found at least 384 young women were suspected by Maryland State Police investigators of being sold for sex since 2012. A large number of them, authorities said, were trafficked on websites. An undercover review by the I-Team found police investigators were able to make contact with young women suspected of being trafficked for sex within a two-hour period on one weekday afternoon near Glen Burnie, Maryland.
Vikings star Adrian Peterson turns himself in
by Greg Botelho
NFL running back Adrian Peterson turned himself in to authorities in Texas early Saturday, the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office said on its website.
His bond amount was set at $15,000, it said.
A grand jury indicted him on a felony charge of injury to a child, spurring the county sheriff's office to issue a warrant for his arrest.
Authorities didn't divulge details Friday about what led to the charge.
But Peterson's lawyer said the "charged conduct involves using a switch to spank his son" -- explaining that his client did so while doling out discipline "much like "he experienced as a child growing up in east Texas."
"Adrian never intended to harm his son and deeply regrets the unintentional injury," Rusty Hardin said
He described him as a loving father.
"(Peterson) will continue to insist on his innocence of any intended wrongdoing," the lawyer said.
Hardin claims that his client has "cooperated fully with authorities and voluntarily testified before the grand jury for several hours."
"Adrian will address the charges with the same respect and responsiveness he has brought to this inquiry from its beginning," the lawyer said.
Right after news broke of the indictment, the Vikings released a statement saying they were "in the process of gathering information regarding the legal situation."
The team came back a short time later to announce that its offensive catalyst has been deactivated for Sunday's game against the New England Patriots.
According to Texas law, a person can be convicted of an injury to a child offense if they are proven to have caused bodily or mental injury "intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or with criminal negligence" or causing such harm by omission. A child, by this definition, must be 14 years old or younger.
The alleged criminal offense took place in Montgomery County, which is north of Houston.
The 29-year-old Peterson grew up in Palestine, Texas, which is 150 miles north of Houston and 100 miles southeast of Dallas.
A running back for the Vikings since 2007, he rushed for 75 yards in his team's season-opening 34-6 rout of the St. Louis Rams.
Last year, his 2-year-old son died after allegedly being abused by another man.
Authorities in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, found that child unresponsive, and later determined he'd suffered injuries to his head consistent with abuse.
News of Peterson's indictment casts another shadow over the NFL, which is reeling from the fallout over then-Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice allegedly punching his then-fiancee Janay Palmer in a casino elevator.
'Shaken Baby Syndrome': Those Who Survive Are 'Horribly Afflicted'
by NBC News
When Jenny and Alan Buchanan became foster parents to Mark in November 2010, the 6-month-old infant was blind, deaf and stiff from cerebral palsy, all the result of abusive head trauma, more commonly known as “shaken baby syndrome.”
He required an 18-hour feeding tube and doctors said he would never walk or talk.
“His doctor said take him home, love him — in three months he won't be here,” said Alan Buchanan, a printer from Colchester, Vermont, who with his wife has two grown daughters and two grandchildren. “We expected to do end-of-life care.”
Mark was taken from his abusive family at 5 weeks old and placed in a pediatric nursing home. He had suffered from three skull fractures, two broken collar bones and a broken toe, some of them older wounds, at the hands of one or both of his parents.
“We don't know which parent and no one was ever charged,” Buchanan, 65, told NBC News.
About 25 percent of the victims of abusive head trauma die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those who survive, like Mark, 80 percent suffer permanent disabilities and brain damage.
One abusive head trauma expert says that not enough attention is being paid to these survivors, who may be in a permanent vegetative state or have lifelong neurological disabilities and seizure disorders. They not only place a heavy burden on the adoptive parents who raise them, but on social services and schools.
“Babies who have significant injury to their brains may never recover,” said Joseph F. Hagan, clinical professor in pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine and the Vermont Children's Hospital.
“The vast majority have cerebral palsy caused by the brain injury and develop floppy spasticity and feeding problems,” he told NBC News. “These are horribly afflicted babies. They may be able to eat and walk, but they are going to have remarkable intellectual impairment.”
“Shaken baby syndrome” was coined in 1984, but the American Academy of Pediatrics changed the terminology to abusive head trauma to broaden medical understanding of how the blunt impact and violent shaking or a combination of the two can cause bleeding within the brain or eyes.
In the classic case, an adult holds the baby around the trunk with chest facing them, putting the thumb over the child's collar bone and fingers along the head or spine, “vigorously shaking back and forth, away from you and back to you,” said Hagan.
The shaking has a whiplash effect on the brain, which is composed mostly of water. It bangs against the skull, killing neurons, breaking blood vessels and causing swelling. When the brain pushes down on the brain stem, breathing can stop. In diagnosing abusive head trauma — something that has raised some controversy — doctors first look for outward signs of trauma. If the fontanel, the soft spot on an infant's skull is “full,” an MRI or CT scan can identify lesions behind the eyes and skull fractures.
“If it's a very ill-appearing baby, it's not hard to make the diagnosis,” said Hagan. “It's just a matter of thinking about it.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, abusive head trauma is the leading cause of child abuse deaths in the United States, taking the lives of more than 1,500 children a year. Babies up to 4 months old are at greatest risk and inconsolable crying is the main trigger.
But Hagan says many cases go unreported, especially when the abusers are not prosecuted. “Most end up being adopted,” said Hagan. “It's very complex to prosecute these parents because it often goes unwitnessed. Unless you get a confession.”
Vermont, where Hagan works, had two high-profile homicide cases in the last year. In Winooski, 14-month-old Peighton Geraw died of head trauma. And in Poultney, 2-year-old Dezirae Sheldon died after her stepfather allegedly squeezed her head so tightly, her skull was cracked. Both children were “known to the system,” according to Hagan, who consults for the state in diagnosing the most difficult cases and co-chairs the Department for Children and Families' citizens advisory committee.
In a recent controversial case of a teenage mother who is fighting a do-not-resuscitate order from child welfare officials, 6-month-old Aleah Peaslee was brain-damaged when her father allegedly violently shook her.
The girl is now in foster care, quadriplegic, on a feeding tube and unable to see or hear.
“In families, you don't always knows what goes on behind closed doors,” Hagan said. While sometimes abusive parents are depressed and may use alcohol and drugs, there is no typical case, according to Hagan.
“It's going to be more frequent when there are more stressors on parents,” he said. “But it can happen to anyone. That's what's troubling.”
Medical experts are doing a better job of diagnosing and reporting abusive head trauma and are now focusing on prevention. Babies tend to cry more in the first three months of life, and parents can snap at the “most unpredictable times when infants are very demanding and the environment is not supportive,” said Hagan.
“Raising babies is hard work,” said Hagan. “I run six marathons and at the end, I need to sit down and drink water and recover. Certain aspects of parenting are hard work, especially infants.
“I say to parents when they get really frustrated — it's OK to let them cry. Take a deep breath, relax, whatever it takes. It's OK to put the baby down and ask for help.”
Often families are distressed emotionally or economically and are having difficulty finding resources. Communities can provide housing options, and pediatricians can ask parents about their moods.
“We know these things make a difference,” said Hagan, who is co-editor of “Bright Futures Guidelines” for the American Pediatric Association.
Unfortunately, the loving care the Buchanans provided for Mark was not enough. They adopted him, despite his health problems, but he died of pneumonia in November 2013, just shy of 4 years old.
“We had never taken on a challenge like this,” said Alan Buchanan, who spent night after night on the sofa cuddling Mark against his chest, even though doctors said the child would never bond. Eventually, he was able to say, “I love you, Papa.”
“A month before Mark died, I had him in the bath and he was moving his arms and legs and started giggling and talking,” he said. He also learned to love massage and music therapy.
“When we went to meet him, I thought, ‘I don't know if we can do this,' but we bonded immediately,” he said. “We miss him, but we are not in any shape to take any more kids.”
His wife, Jenny Buchanan, 62 and a retired bank worker, said she, too, had no regrets. “Once you saw him, your heart would melt,” she told NBC News. “He needed a home, so we stepped up.”
She just wants to prevent other children from suffering Mark's fate.
“A baby won't die from crying — they will cry themselves to sleep,” she said. “Just walk away.”
Battered women need more support
by Patty Sly
The violence we witnessed in the elevator video of Ray Rice and his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer, happens every day in the privacy of homes with no witnesses and no videos. Yet, it is just as real. But the video forces us to face the reality of domestic violence, and affirms the need for two new initiatives in the planning stages locally, as well as education and massive policy and attitudinal changes nationally.
In social media, the question, “Why would a victim stay with her batterer?” is trending, with remarkable firsthand accounts from survivors about the barriers to leaving. Such barriers include wanting to keep the family intact, cultural and religious expectations, financial dependency, isolation, and the abuser's promises to change.
In addition, victims fear their leaving will increase the violence. National data indicate that 70 percent of domestic violence murders happen when the victim leaves, making this a high-risk proposition unless the victims get help from a domestic violence program. Furthermore, research tells us that, in the absence of services, it takes a victim an average of seven attempts before she successfully leaves.
Fortunately, communities across the country have domestic violence service programs. Here in Morris County, Jersey Battered Women's Service provides a full array of services to victims and their children, including safety planning, temporary housing, counseling, and vocational training. And yet we can do better, because despite available services, 40 percent of the murders in Morris are due to domestic violence.
Plans are underway to develop a Morris County Family Justice Center (FJC), a place where victims can talk to an advocate, plan for their safety, and if needed, interview with a police officer, meet with a prosecutor, receive medical assistance, receive information on shelter, and/or get help with transportation — all under one roof.
The model has been identified as a best practice by the U.S. Department of Justice. The outcomes in the FJC model have included: reduced homicides; increased victim safety; increased autonomy and empowerment for victims; reduced fear and anxiety for victims and their children; increased efficiency and coordination among service providers; and reduced recantation and minimization by victims when wrapped in services and support. With the support of the county and the community, this can become a reality here in Morris.
Interestingly, a question not trending on social media is, “Why does a batterer hit his partner?” Domestic violence is not a crime of passion. It is a destructive pattern of power and control that systematically destroys the victim's self-worth and puts her life, and often the lives of her children, in jeopardy. Often, the abusers have a personal history, having been raised in abusive households. JBWS offers services to abusers in a 26-week program, where we help participants examine their use of force and/or abuse in their intimate relationships and learn alternative behaviors.
On the primary prevention front, JBWS educates 8,000 students and 5,000 adults annually. In 2015, we will launch a new initiative to engage men and boys, especially focusing on athletes. Certainly Ray Rice is not the only athlete to be charged with domestic violence. In sports, success is linked to physicality and aggression. But when those “skills” are used off the field, there are disastrous results and we need to help players, coaches and family members make that distinction with clarity.
Thank goodness for the video of the Rice incident. It's what society needed to spark an appropriate level of outrage and force the necessary changes in sports, in the workplace, in our courts, and in our communities. The NFL has the opportunity to set a new course, through substantive policy changes and a change of attitude. Let the NFL be a leader in the sports world. Please join JBWS in our leadership work here in Morris.
For more information about JBWS and our services, please visit www.jbws.org. If you or someone you know needs help, call the 24-hour helpline at 973-267-4763.
Jersey Battered Women's Service
Data Shows Disturbing Trend In Frederick County Child Abuse
by Abby Theodros
FREDERICK COUNTY, Md. - "What we found even surprised us," said Lynn Davis, who has worked on her fair share of child abuse cases as director of the Child Advocacy Center.
According to in-house data aggregated by the CAC, 86 percent of the child abuse cases the non-profit handled between the months of April and August 2014 involved offenders who lived in the same home as the abused. Similarly, 14 percent of offenders were acquaintances to the family.
"I think it is really important to get the message across to so many families who do not realize that this can happen," Davis said.
The Heartly House hotline receives more than 1,000 calls a month from locals in dangerous situations ranging from domestic violence and sex assault to child abuse. Executive director, Inga James, is not surprised by the findings.
"We see a lot of stepparents that are perpetrators, we see a lot of mothers' boyfriends, grandparents and uncles," James said.
Only one case in the five month analysis involved a stranger. The stark contrast between offenders who know the abused children to those who do not is strikingly similar to the national average. According to Child Help, a nationwide non-profit, more than 90 percent of children who have been sexually abused know their perpetrator in some way.
"The ‘stranger danger' myth is just that. It is just a myth. Most children are not sexually assaulted by someone they do not know," James said.
To contact the Child Advocacy Center, call 301-600-1758 or the Heartly House 24-hour crisis hotline at 301-662-8800.
Child sex abuse within families rampant
by Nino Bucci
Victoria Police wants to open a new front in the fight against family violence as frightening new data reveals a 43 per cent jump in child sex abuse cases in the past five years.
Detective Superintendent Rod Jouning, head of the Victoria Police sexual and family violence division, said the true rate of child sex abuse by family members and others known to the victim was horrifying. He said Victoria Police's campaign to tackle family violence had encouraged unprecedented reporting of partner on partner violence, but too many child sex abuse victims were still not coming forward.
"We haven't even scratched the surface," he said. "We never liked talking about family violence, because it happened behind closed doors.
"Here's something else happening behind closed doors, and we've got to talk about it."
The new data, obtained exclusively by The Saturday Age , show that children were the victims in almost three-quarters of sex assault cases and a third of rape cases in Victoria last year. Girls aged 10 to 14 are the most likely to be abused.
Senior police fear the rate of child sexual abuse will match the family violence crisis – which has largely focused on abusive relationships between adults. The crime statistics reveal large increases in offences against children under 10, and sexual assaults by parents. Other revelations uncovered during interviews with police and support services include:
- More children in primary schools – some as young as five – are being counselled after instigating troubling sexualised behaviour against fellow students;
- Increases in men approaching youths online, pretending to be their age and getting them to exchange explicit images, before extorting them for sex; and
- Men committing sexual offences against girls after arranged marriages.
Detective Superintendent Jouning said a community fear of "stranger danger" attacks clouded the fact children were far more often abused by family members or people known to them.
The focus on institutional child sexual assault, including the royal commission, and media attention on infrequent cases involving teachers, community leaders or celebrities also obscured the true picture of offending, he said.
Detective Superintendent Jouning said being sexually assaulted by a family member was no different to someone being abused by a teacher, priest or scout leader. "In fact it's probably worse."
A woman who was abused by her father, mother, and a worker on their farm has spoken publicly for the first time about her ordeal, to urge others to come forward and stop living with their secrets.
"Kate" fears her father may have abused or allowed the abuse of 10 children between the 1960s and 1990s before he took his own life while facing charges.
She approached police three times before they believed she had been abused, but said her ordeal was worth it because she had been able to break free of the control her abusers had over her.
"I've had some silly people say 'Oh just forget about it'," she said. "You're not talking about it for nothing, you're talking about it because it's haunting you, and you need to do something.
"I thought that I must feel guilty, and that's why I shook when I went to the police station, but it wasn't guilt, it was intimidation."
The state government will next week unveil the Dandenong multi-disciplinary centre to tackle sex abuse, which will combine police, Department of Human Services, Centre Against Sexual Assault and Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine staff in the same building for the first time. The Dandenong centre will be the largest in Victoria and the only site with a VIFM presence.
Three centres are already operating with three more expected to open in the next 12 months. While the centres are expected to greatly improve the response to victims they also drive huge increases in reporting.
At the Barwon centre, which opened in 2012, DHS, CASA and police staff said they had all noticed an increase in reporting.
DHS team manager Catherine Porter said more victims were coming through the door because the centre was less intimidating than some DHS offices and police stations.
Barwon CASA counselling and support services coordinator John Blomfield said he was sure the rate of recidivism among sex offenders was higher than reported.
He said an increase in reporting would bring more offenders before police, and paint a clearer picture of their prospects of rehabilitation.
"Where do they go or what do they do?," Mr Blomfield said.
"It's nice to think they don't go on and reoffend, but you'd have to convince me."
Detective Superintendent Jouning said he was concerned that an increase in sex offending could also be driven by the accessibility of more "deviant" pornography, such as rape, bestiality, incest and child exploitation material. He said this material could blur the lines of consent.
"Unless there's screaming and they're yelling 'no', they're not enjoying it. You get that kind of warped thinking.
"It becomes normalised."
Child marriage, sexual abuse with minor girls alarmingly high in India: When will it stop?
by Reetu Sharma
It seems in India, the plight of girls will not get over that easily as the latest UN reports have revealed some shocking facts. The reports have narrated the ordeal of girls in our country and has revealed that in case of child marriage, India stands at number two on the world stage. The reports have also brought to fore that 42% of girls in India are sexually abused before 19.
When will such evils be eradicated from the society and when will India be freed from such problem.
India has second-highest number of child marriages
As per the UN report. the highest rate of child marriage is in Bangladesh (where two out of every three girls marry before age 18), followed by India, Nepal and Afghanistan.
Almost half of all girls in South Asia marry before the age of 18. One in five girls are married before the age of 15. These are the highest rates in the world.
"These figures confirm that child marriage is rooted in gender norms and in expectations about the value and roles of girls," the report added.
In India, 43 percent of women aged 20-24 were first married by the age of 18 between 2005-2013. Girls with no education are 5.5 times more likely to marry or enter into union as those with at least 10 years of education.
On gender-biased sex selection, the report said the practice is more prevalent in the west and northwest part of the country. The child sex ratio, which is the number of girls per 1,000 boys, among children aged 0-4 in India was 924.
On immunisation coverage, it said some countries in South Asia, particularly Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal, have made significant improvements since 1990 but coverage is still far too low in Afghanistan, India and Pakistan.
77 per cent Indian girls endure sexual violence in their teens
In India, 41 per cent of girls aged 15 to 19 years had experienced physical violence since age 15 by their mother or step-mother while 18 per cent had been subjected to physical violence by their fathers and step-fathers.
India also had the third highest number of young homicide victims in 2012. Nearly 9,400 children and adolescents aged 0 to 19 years were killed in India in 2012.
42 per cent of Indian girls are sexually abused before 19
A Unicef report titled 'Hidden in Plain Sight' on violence on children and adolescents across the world has revealed that one in every 50 girls in India is forced to have her first intercourse or other forced sexual acts when she is less than 10 years old.
The report is an outcome of a study of demographic and health surveys conducted between 2005 and 2013.
As per a TOI report, "Some 77% of girls who admitted to have faced sexual violence between 15 and 19 yeas said it is their current husband or the partner who committed the atrocity. More shocking is the fact that the perpetrator in the case of 6% of these girls in this age group was a relative. At least 4% said a friend or an acquaintance targeted them. Only 3% of the girls said a stranger subjected them to forced sex, while 0.4% said it was the father or the stepfather."
Is Indian teen in danger in its own country?
Such evils if not eradicated will push the future of our country in danger and will hamper the growth and development of the nation as the child marriages not only effect the lives of the boy and the girl but also affect the maternal and infant health in a country. At present also a dismal picture of maternal and child health is there in India.
Thus, the policy-makers should take care of these problems also so that the country has an overall development and a better future.
3 babies' bodies found in house full of vermin
by RODRIQUE NGOWI and PHILIP MARCELO
BLACKSTONE, Mass. (AP) — The bodies of three infants were found in a Massachusetts house filled with vermin and piled high with soiled diapers, where four other children were removed by authorities last month, a prosecutor said.
Detectives investigating a case of reckless endangerment of children found the bodies Thursday at the house in Blackstone, about 50 miles southwest of Boston along the Rhode Island border.
Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early Jr. said the house was in "deplorable condition." He said authorities don't know when or how the babies died, or their ages and genders. No criminal charges have been filed in connection with the deaths.
Four other children, including a 6-month-old, were removed from the house in August after a neighbor notified police about their living conditions, Early said. Those children are in state custody.
A woman who lives at the home was arrested on charges related to the living conditions there, according to police. Prosecutors said Erika Murray, 31, would be arraigned Friday on charges including intimidation of a witness. It was not immediately known whether she had an attorney.
Investigators working in the small house were wearing hazardous material suits, and were decontaminated when they left, the prosecutor said.
"The house is filled with vermin," Early said. "We have flies. We have bugs. We have used diapers, in some areas, as much as a foot-and-a-half to 2-feet high. The house is in a deplorable condition."
Early said children, ages 13, 10, 3 and 6 months old were removed from the house Aug. 28. The prosecutor said one of the children in the house approached a neighbor about a child who wouldn't stop crying. Early said the 6-month-old was found covered with feces lying on a bed.
Marilynn Soucy, 68, who lives a few doors down from the house, said in a telephone interview that she was still in shock at the news in the neighborhood where she has lived for 35 years.
"I am so disgusted. It hasn't really registered in my head yet," she said. "My husband and I raised seven children. We have 11 grandchildren and two great grandchildren. I cannot imagine hurting a child."
She said she and her husband, Bob, had rarely seen the couple who lived in the house for at least three years, or their children. She said they occasionally saw the 10-year-old, a boy, playing outside or the woman sit on her porch.
Soucy said she never heard any major complaints about the couple, other than her grandkids noted once that the house smelled bad.
The house, Soucy said, had been renovated extensively before they moved in.
"If we thought kids were being abused or living in squalor we would have said something," she said.
Soucy said the only time there was commotion at the house was when officials removed the children.
The state Department of Children and Families said in a statement Thursday that the children who were living at the home are in state custody. It said the department did not have a case involving the family and that it learned about the situation through a report of possible abuse or neglect.
Early said it's too soon to know if charges will be filed in the infants' deaths, or against whom, because investigators don't even know who was living at the home when they died. It wasn't immediately clear where the children's parents were.
India's law should recognise that men can be raped too
by John Stokes
An article published in India Today on August 14 entitled “Teacher among four booked for sodomy in Muzaffarnagar” is just one more example of a peculiar distinction that has remained firmly ensconced in Indian parlance: the idea that men can be sodomised but not raped.
As Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code stands, rape is something that only a man can do to a woman. There is no room for adult male victims, much less female perpetrators. Although child survivors of both sexes are covered by the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012, current rape laws leave out a large swathe of male victims, who cannot come forward for fear of stigma and a lack of legal recourse.
As a former director of an Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender counselling and sexual health centre in New Delhi, I can attest firsthand to the dozens of such male and transgender survivors in the nation's capital. They have also been well documented in legal cases, such as Naz Foundaiton vs the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi and in reporting by domestic human rights organisations. Why, then, this inertia around a word as antiquated as “sodomy”?
The potential for a change in discourse and in law came in the wake of Nirbhaya's gang-rape in 2012, which saw a heavy increase in national attention directed towards the crime of rape. Then, male rape survivors (I will not say “sodomy” survivors) also began to speak out, including one Chennai-based man whose blog post about his memory of being raped quickly went viral.
In 2013, the Centre passed its stop-gap Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, which substituted “sexual assault” for “rape” and made the crime gender-neutral from the aspect of both perpetrator and victim. Yet this was, in effect, a mixed bag. While the recognition of male victims and female perpetrators was solved, it did not use the word “rape”, which was a significant omission.
A vociferous lobbying force achieved a reversal on both counts that same year with the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act. These groups argued that rape was an explicitly patriarchal crime, directly stemming from the grotesque abuse of male power and privilege.
Thus, for charges to stick, the perpetrator must be male and the victim female. The exception to this rule has been, somewhat oddly, the retaining of gender-neutral language for the perpetrators of gang-rapes only.
I would not so much quibble with the notion that rape is based on power - although I do concur with others who believe that lust and sexual desire do play roles - but rather that the crime of rape is exclusively patriarchal by definition. Even if it were, I would further dispute the idea that crimes of patriarchy affect biological women only.
In understanding what constitutes rape, international law has evolved from viewing it just as penile-vaginal to penile-orifice and then to penetrative-orifice, all within a non-consensual context. By the last legal definition, the physical violation with blunt objects undergone by Nirbhaya at the hands of her gang rapists would be classified as rape.
It would by current Indian legal standards as well. Yet if the setting had been an Indian women's jail and the exact same violation had occurred by fellow prisoners, there would be no rape. To be sure, it would be an assault-based crime of some form, but not rape. This, even though the victim would have been forcefully penetrated in a sexual manner by her assailants.
The same result would also come about if the victim were a child, as the PCSOA would allow for a charge of sexual assault, but not one of penetrative sexual assault, codified as male-only. Many parliamentarians and some activists argue that only members of one sex can rape and only the other can be raped, for rape is only ever patriarchal.
Yet even as parliament declares that women are apparently incapable of committing crimes of power over each other, the Bombay High Court found itself grappling in May with a case involving the alleged molestation of one woman by another. Perhaps the drawbacks of gendered language in the law have become clear. Perhaps not.
With regards to the existence of both male and female survivors, the US's Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta has estimated that 18.3% of American women and 1.4% of American men have experienced rape at some point in their lives. Both percentages are likely to be underestimations due to stigma attached to reporting the crime.
Indian statistics needed
Of those convicted of rape, the US Department of Justice has stated that 99% are men, and 1% are women. Ideally, India would be able to provide its own numbers for statistical comparison. However, given that rape by legal definition cannot be committed against men, there is no good way of determining just how many male survivors exist in India.
In looking at child sexual abuse specifically, the Indian government did find in 2007 that, of surveyed children who reported experiencing severe sexual abuse, including rape or sodomy, 57.3% were boys and 42.7% were girls. More recently, the Delhi-based Centre for Civil Society found that approximately 18% of Indian adult men surveyed reported being coerced or forced to have sex. Of those, 16% claimed a female perpetrator and 2% claimed a male perpetrator.
The only way to bring any form of justice to these male survivors has at times been charges under Section 377 of the IPC, India's recently reinstated anti-sodomy law. Problematically, however, this law both does not consider “sodomy” as actual rape and makes no distinction between consensual and non-consensual sexual acts between two male adults; its conviction statistics tell us very little. For those who were violated in a non-penile manner, not even this recourse exists.
In response to the possibility of making rape a gender-neutral crime, the Centre for Civil Society's Jai Vipra has noted that the opposition has raised two distinct issues: the idea of rape being divorced from female-specific consequences for the survivor and the exploitation of gender-neutral language by men.
In looking at the former, it is obvious enough that, apart from feelings of humiliation and shame experienced by both genders, there are certain burdens placed on female survivors, such as the higher value Indian society places on maintaining female virginity.
Yet by the same token, there are burdens placed on male survivors, such as being perceived as effeminate or perhaps even homosexual, unfortunately taboo topics for men, that would not be equally felt by female survivors.
At a broader level, do not all crimes affect different types of victims in different ways? Yet, with few exceptions, we prosecute based on the sameness of the crime, and not the sameness of the effect. The latter would essentially imply that certain victims matter more than others, flying in the face of equality before the law.
The second critique regarding the abuse of gender neutrality is certainly possible but its probability and effectiveness are suspect. Many, for example, fear the possibility of a male rapist's counter-accusation of, “She raped me!” in response to a female survivor's initial reporting. Again, while this is technically possible, there are a plethora of other counteraccusations that can be, and often are, employed by male rapists, ranging from consensual sex to fabricated allegations.
An accusation of rape by any party must, in any court of law, be supported by proof. For women, a rape kit test can be proof enough. A male's accusation against a woman, whether in response to a woman's accusation or not, would be entirely more difficult to prove and a false accusation risks committing crimes of perjury and giving false statements to police.
It is also important to note that where rape is a gender-neutral crime, this kind of exploitation by men is almost non-existent for the reasons just listed. The survivors who are legally aided by gender-neutrality, however, are substantial.
Finally, while I have spent considerable time advocating making rape a gender-neutral crime, it is important to note what I am not claiming. I am not claiming women and men suffer rape in equal proportions, for that is not the case. I am not claiming that men and women commit rape in equal numbers, for they do not.
I am also not saying that rape is completely separate from an often violent patriarchy, for it is not. Lastly, I am not claiming that feminist groups and others have not done a phenomenal job in keeping rape in the national discourse, for they certainly have.
However, the impulse to view the rape narrative as exclusively that of a man violating a woman does an injustice to those whose own rape stories do not fit the typical mould that is easiest for us to understand. As these survivors have finally found the courage to share their stories with us, legislating on such an impulse is in itself a criminal act.
Children: Silent victims of domestic violence
Focus is on Ray and Janay Rice, but what about their daughter?
by Kelly Wallace
When a case of domestic violence captures the national headlines like the story of fallen NFL star Ray Rice and his wife, Janay, there's a laser focus on the abuser and the victim.
But what about the children?
Ray and Janay Rice have a 2-year-old daughter.
We don't know if she has ever witnessed domestic violence in her household or ever will. What we do know is more than 3 million children have witnessed it in their homes every year, according to estimates. What those children see and hear can have a profound impact on their lives, experts around the country who deal with domestic violence tell CNN.
"It does have effects. No matter how much you believe it is hidden from them or out of sight, children know what is happening and they worry and they stress," said Katie Ray-Jones, president and chief executive officer of the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Ray-Jones points to research that shows that 90% of children in homes where there is domestic violence know it is going on.
"This means these young people are living with the stress and anxiety of their parents hurting each other verbally and physically and carry that when at school, on the playground or at the dinner table."
That stress and anxiety can lead to sadness, confusion, rage, even guilt, said Linda Esposito, a Los Angeles-based psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker who has treated children exposed to domestic violence.
"Some kids blame themselves ... 'Maybe if I was a better kid or a smarter student, my parents wouldn't fight,' " she said they might say.
Boys exposed to domestic violence may channel their feelings through aggressive acts such as fighting, hitting younger siblings and engaging in high-risk behaviors such as using or abusing drugs or joining gangs, according to Esposito, who hosts a blog on psychotherapy called Talk Therapy Biz.
Girls may act out in aggressive ways, too, by becoming sexually promiscuous or using drugs, while other girls may internalize their pain and become depressed, isolated and even injure themselves, she said.
Of course, some women abuse male partners, too, which can have an equally dire impact on family dynamics.
Children who witness domestic violence are also at greater risk of becoming victims themselves, said Liz Roberts, deputy CEO and chief program officer of the group Safe Horizon, which provides support for victims of domestic violence.
The chance of "co-occurrence," where the abuser is hurting his or her partner and the children at the same time, could be as high as 30% to 60%, according to Safe Horizon.
The impact of witnessing domestic violence isn't just felt in childhood. Research has shown that adverse childhood experiences are directly associated with negative outcomes as adults, such as homelessness, unemployment, poverty and chronic health and mental problems, Roberts said.
"Those adverse childhood experiences can include other things, but witnessing domestic violence is a big one, and the more negative experiences you have as a child, the greater risks of those negative outcomes as an adult," she said.
Giving children the best chance for success is a key reason why we need to raise awareness about the impact of domestic violence, experts say, but so is the connection between witnessing domestic violence and becoming an abuser or victim.
"Domestic violence ... is learned behavior, and so we know that one of the reasons that it persists generation after generation is that people learn in their families as children that it is OK," said Roberts, a former therapist who worked with children exposed to violence.
Men who witness violence in childhood are twice as likely to be violent with their partner and also are at risk of abusing their children, said Ray-Jones of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which has a project called Loveisrespect.org aimed at protecting teens and young adults from abuse.
"For boys, there may be identification with the abuser. They may come to believe that's what masculinity looks like. That's what it is," said Roberts of the domestic violence agency Safe Horizon.
"And for girls, it's complicated because of course you identify with your mother. It's difficult to form an identity about yourself that includes a sense that you don't deserve to be treated that way."
Focusing on children, said Esposito, the California psychotherapist, may be our only hope to "end, or at least, ameliorate domestic violence."
"No one is born abusive, and all bullies start out as victims. Children do not have the life experience, or the intellectual and emotional capacities to comprehend why dad beats mom, or vice versa," she said.
Often it is the impact on the children that pushes an abuse victim ultimately to leave the abuser.
"They may put up with abuse believing that it's most important for their child to be raised by both their parents ... and then at some point when the child is affected or is at risk or is harmed that can be a breaking point for many survivors where they say it's one thing for me to go through this, but I'm not going to have my child go through this," Roberts said.
Activist to visit Q-C, pushes for sexual assault awareness
by Deirdre Baker
Erin Merryn was only a few weeks shy of her 6th birthday when she was brutally raped by a neighbor.
More sexual assaults followed that incident and continued for over two years, ending only when her family moved from the neighborhood. A couple of years later, the attacks began again, but this time she was victimized by a relative.
She struggled with the effects of the multiple assaults for years until finally deciding on a way to change the course of her life.
"I made the decision to forgive them," the 29-year-old said by phone from her home in Elgin, Ill. "If I hadn't forgiven them, I would not be able to do what I'm doing now."
Married and the mother of a baby girl, Merryn travels the country — indeed around the world — to promote Erin's Law, legislation that requires age-appropriate education to young students on the topic of sexual assault.
"We know what to do when there is a tornado," Merryn says of safety lessons typically learned in schools. "We know what do when there is a fire. Now we need to educate children about assault, and how to protect themselves."
Rising Up event
Merryn is the featured speaker at the Rising Up Against Sexual Violence luncheon set for Oct. 3 at the Quad-Cities Waterfront Convention Center in Bettendorf. The fourth annual event will benefit SafePath Survivor Resources' sexual violence services, a division of Family Resources in Davenport.
Merryn was chosen a 2012 Woman of the Year by Glamour magazine and was selected one of People Magazine's Heroes Among Us in 2013. She has made several media appearances across the country.
SafePath's sexual violence services include counseling, a crisis hotline, legal and medical advocacy, housing support and community education.
New name for 2014
Formerly called Honor the Women, the Rising Up organization was renamed in part to better include men in its efforts, said Laura Swift, an event coordinator. Men do support the cause and also may be victims of assault, she said.
The Oct. 3 event will be powerful, predicts Nicole Cisne Durbin, the director of the SafePath program at Family Resources. "It really speaks to empowering survivors so they can rise up from the trauma and hurt, and know there are people who will support and help them," she added.
The whole topic of sexual assault is what the expert describes as a "hot-button issue." It's news, covered by the media, every day of the week, and Durbin believes that awareness level is healthy for Americans.
This week, for example, national news about former Baltimore Ravens football player Ray Rice has prompted a national conversation about violence against women, and Durbin hopes that remains a healthy, helpful discussion.
Rice was suspended indefinitely by the National Football League on Monday, after a video surfaced that showed the athlete punching his fiancee, now his wife, in the face while they were in an elevator at an Atlantic City casino before dragging her limp body out of the elevator.
"I hope the victim is not blamed and that we have a healthy conversation on the subject," Durbin said, noting that this is an opportunity to change the way many people think about violence against women.
Most people will not learn how to change unless healthful conversation brings about education and understanding, she contends.
"Think about any other crime. You never blame the victim in a murder, or when someone is killed by a drunk driver," she said, pointing out the absurdity she sees in the culture of blaming rape victims.
Durbin said St. Ambrose University in Davenport particularly has been very proactive this year as far as addressing the issue of violence against women.
"We are working with college officials and in counseling efforts," she said, adding that they talk about victims' rights and offer risk-reduction suggestions.
The goal of the Rising Up event is to give survivors, and non-survivors, the opportunity to consider how they can support, advocate for, and empower adults and children who have lived through sexual violence.
Event sponsors, such as Isle Casino and Hotel in Bettendorf, will be recognized, said Swift, who also chairs the Family Resources committee that organizes the luncheon.
Featured speaker Merryn is the author of three books on the topic of sexual violence, including her latest, "An Unimaginable Act." She will sign copies of the book after the luncheon.
Doors open for the event at 11 a.m. Oct. 3, with the program beginning at noon. There will be a raffle.
IF YOU GO
What : "Rising Up Against Sexual Violence" luncheon (formerly named “Honor the Women”)
When : 11 a.m. Friday, Oct. 3. Lunch begins at noon.
Where : Quad-Cities Waterfront Convention Center, Bettendorf
Keynote presentation : Erin Merryn, Elgin, Ill., author of three books and the force behind Erin's Law
Cost : $30
Registration : Open through Sept. 22. Visit famres.org or call 563-468-2140.
Erin's Law in Iowa
While Erin Merryn has promoted Erin's Law across the nation (and it has become law in Illinois), the legislation has yet to be enacted in Iowa.
Rep. Greg Heartsilll, R-Columbia, was the bill's sponsor this year and said he will take it up again in the 2015 legislative session.
Essentially, the law requires that school districts give age-appropriate child sexual abuse education to elementary school students, schoolteachers, administrators and parents.
Heartsill explained that a committee hearing could not be coordinated with Merryn's schedule, and that is why the bill did not advance in the 2014 Legislature.
He plans to reintroduce the legislation and will work to ensure a hearing date that includes Merryn's testimony. She has testified before state legislatures all over the country.
Heartsill has some experience with this type of legislation: He floor-managed bills in the Iowa House that toughened penalties on human trafficking as well as the topic of prosecuting sexually violent predators.
“I am confident, with Ms. Merryn's personal testimony, that we will be successful in bringing Democrats and Republicans together to get Erin's Law through the Iowa House of Representatives,” he said.
Sixteen states have passed Erin's Law, and it is pending in 13 more. Merryn vows to work on the legislation until it is passed in all 50 states.
Timothy Ray Jones Was Probed Twice for Abuse Before Murder of Kids
by Tracy Connor
T he South Carolina father accused of killing his five kids was investigated twice for child abuse in the months leading up to the horrific crime, most recently after an allegation that he regularly beat one of his sons, state officials revealed Thursday.
Caseworkers noted that Timothy Ray Jones Jr. appeared "overwhelmed" but found no reason to take the children away from the divorced dad, who is now being brought to South Carolina to face murder charges.
Police believe that Jones, 32, a computer engineer who did prison time more than a decade ago, murdered them sometime after Aug. 28. He allegedly drove their remains across three states, dumped the bagged bodies in the Alabama woods, and then went to Mississippi, where he was busted for driving his blood-soaked Cadillac Escalade while high on synthetic marijuana.
Jones arrived at the Lexington County Sheriff's Department on Thursday. His first court appearance will be on Friday at 10 a.m. local time. A coroner was performing autopsies Thursday on the children, identified in court papers as Merah, 8, Elias, 7, Nahtahn, 6, Gabriel, 2 and Abigail, 1.
The South Carolina Department of Social Services case file says the first contact child-welfare workers had with the family was in September 2011 when a complaint for neglect was lodged. In Family Court papers, the mother, Amber Marie Jones, was named as the target of the complaint.
The investigators who visited found the home in a state of disarray. After a series of follow-up visits, the case was closed after Timothy Jones took the children to Mississippi, where his parents live, the documents show. During one of the last contacts, Amber Jones discussed a domestic violence situation with the caseworkers but shrugged off their recommendation she go to a battered-women's shelter.
Family Court records show that as the marriage unraveled, Timothy Jones told a therapist that he believed his wife was having an affair with a 19-year-old neighbor. A custody fight ensued, and the court awarded him physical custody of the children, with visitation for their mother — a scenario endorsed by his therapist, who called him "highly intelligent and responsible."
She noted that he had completed a very challenging undergraduate engineering program. Not mentioned was his conviction in Illinois for a series of crimes — drug possession, check-forgery, car theft — in 2001 that landed him in prison until 2003.
Repeated attempts reach Amber Jones were unsuccessful and she has not spoken publicly about the death of her children or her ex-husband.
The case file shows that after the father returned to South Carolina with the children, he was twice accused of abusing the youngsters.
The first report was filed May 5, and during the subsequent investigation, one of the children told a caseworker that his father spanked him with a belt and made him do exercises as punishment. The caseworkers reported that they didn't see any bruises on the children, who appeared happy, and they found the home cluttered and filled with religious items but not unsafe.
Just two weeks after that case was closed, social services got another report of physical abuse.
"It is reported that Timothy Jones beat his son...leaving extensive bruising," the case file notes. "Reportedly Mr. Jones beats the child often leaving bruising. Mr. Jones does not feed the children adequately...It is reported Mr. Jones does not want to send his children back to public schools because he does not want the school to report the beatings."
The case worker wrote that the children said that while they get spanked, they had no visible injuries. "Dad appears to be overwhelmed as he is unable to maintain the home but the children appear to be clean, groomed, appropriately dressed," the file says. That case was still open when the youngsters were killed.
Matthew Sandusky in Virginia Beach to educate children about sexual abuse
by 13News Now
VIRGINIA BEACH -- Matthew Sandusky, the adopted son of former Penn State assistant football coach and convicted pedophile Jerry Sandusky, was in Virginia Beach Thursday to help raise awareness about sexual abuse.
Matthew Sandusky has partnered with Regina Marsheider and her award-winning Spectrum Puppet program, which educates children about sexual abuse. Sandusky, his wife and four children saw the 'Simon Says' puppet show for the first time at the Virginia Beach Law Enforcement Training Center Thursday.
"In July, after an interview on Oprah Winfrey, I got a call from Regina. I liked what I heard and wanted to support her efforts in child sexual abuse education," said Matthew, who has legally changed his last name for privacy reasons.
During Jerry Sandusky's trial, Matthew gave a statement to local police that his adoptive father started sexually abusing him around age 10.
Matthew tells 13News Now it was the testimony of other victims during the Sandusky trial that convinced him to come forward and talk about being abused.
"They were telling my story," he said. "They are my heroes."
Matthew knows coming forward was the right thing to do, even though, in his words, the family has distanced themselves from him.
Jerry Sandusky was charged with 45 counts of sexual abuse and is serving a 30 to 60 sentence in prison.
Matthew is dedicating his life to sexual abuse awareness and education and has started a non-profit organization called Peaceful Hearts.
Click here for more information on Peaceful Hearts Foundation
Adult Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Training
CAASA (Centers Against Abuse and Sexual Assault) invites area adults to attend a free community training on Thursday, Sept. 25 from 9:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. at the Trinity Lutheran Church located at 230 N. Roosevelt Ave. in Cherokee.
According to CAASA, one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before their eighteenth birthday.
"Darkness to Light Stewards of Children" is a prevention training which empowers and educates adults about how to prevent, recognize and react to child sexual abuse. It is especially helpful for youth who are serving organizations, churches, and parents in that it offers tools to talk to your children about this important topic and also teaches safety measures that one can put into place in their home, organization and community.
For more information, or to register for the training, please contact Kristi Neumann (Sexual Abuse Prevention Education Specialist from CAASA) at firstname.lastname@example.org or 712-732-8120.
Children have a right to be unhappy
It would be easy to have happy children if you give them what they want, but they need to learn to deal with unhappiness and disappointment
by Tim Lott
I have been on holiday, so unfortunately I am rather late to the story that British children are pretty much unhappier than anyone else on the planet. Reports like this come along every couple of years, then are invariably trumpeted by both the right and leftwing press with relish, for different reasons.
Such research polls should be taken with a large bucket of salt as I'm not sure that children are very accurate reporters of their own emotional conditions. I have written before how I think that most children I come across (and having had four, I have met an awful lot of them over the past 20 years) seem pretty damn cheerful, at least compared with the boredom and relative poverty children had to put up with when I was growing up. But I want to question the value of such polls, not so much because of their dubious accuracy, but because they contribute to the assertion that happiness is the proper end of all human life. It is not.
I am sure it is quite easy to have fabulously happy children. Don't make them go to school, let them watch TV when they feel like it, stuff them with cakes and treat them like royalty. Love them and adore them and make them feel good about themselves at all times. Believe me, they will be pretty cheerful. But are those the kind of children we want?
Children have to face challenges, and they have to fail at some of those challenges. They have to learn to deal with unhappiness and disappointment, which they can only do by experiencing unhappiness and disappointment. Hard work is not much fun, but it does produce results. Running for a mile rather than flopping on the sofa is unpleasant in the short term, but beneficial in the long term.
Some measure of pain in life, even early life, is inescapable. Nevertheless, to remove this grit from our children's experience seems to be what so many parents hope for (“just as long as they're happy!”). Of course we want our children to be happy, but perhaps we should ask ourselves why we want them to be happy. The answer, all too often, is because it makes us feel good.
If our children are unhappy, we feel guilty, as if we must and can always protect them. Sometimes we can and should; more often we cannot. The hope that we can always keep our children happy leads to a lot of bad parenting, much of it focused on parents who want to be their children's buddies rather than their parents (because being a parent often means being the one to dole out pain, punishment and moral disapproval).
Of course I recognise that children have acute new challenges in the 21st century. Growing inequalities have led to a sense of hopelessness that I never had growing up in the egalitarian 1970s. The levels of family breakup is agonising, even though it is in some senses a consequence of the freedom we enjoy in this country.
In societies where divorce is more taboo – such as Catholic Romania, which topped this most recent poll of subjective wellbeing among children – kids may have a happier time remaining in a stable family unit, but their parents pay dearly. Perhaps a spouse who suffers abuse has to stay with their husband (or wife) simply out of convention.
Deeper than this is an assumption that we install in our children, the idea that if you are not happy, you are a failure. And this idea, so much part of the zeitgeist that we barely notice it, is one of the main reasons why it's hard to be happy – because we assume that everyone else is and we aren't. It's a lie. As a child you have a right to be unhappy.
In fact, I think the sooner it is incorporated into the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the better.
Why Don't Therapists Talk More About Emotional Neglect?
Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN): A parent's failure to respond enough to a child's emotional needs.
by Jonice Webb
“After reading Running on Empty I told my therapist that I'm pretty sure I was emotionally neglected as a child. He understood what I meant but he never mentioned it again”.
“I've been seeing my therapist for a year and she has never mentioned Emotional Neglect to me.”
“I live in San Francisco. I can't find a therapist who is an expert in Childhood Emotional Neglect!”
Since I first started speaking and writing about Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) in 2012 I've heard the above comments many times, from people all over the world.
Yes. In a way, it is puzzling. CEN is so widespread and causes so much pain. Why don't therapists talk about it more directly and more often? Why aren't there Emotional Neglect specialists? Emotional Neglect articles and workshops?
This is one of the main reasons I wrote Running on Empty and took up the cause of CEN. After talking with other mental health professionals and doing an exhaustive literature search, I could find virtually no research or writings specifically about Emotional Neglect. And I couldn't identify a recognized, accepted, universal term for the concept that meant the same thing to every mental health professional.
It seems that just as an instance of CEN goes unseen and unnoticed, so does the CEN child himself. In a case of parallel process, so does the concept of CEN. But for therapists, the concept is not surprising or new. Remarkably, I think that's part of the reason that therapists don't talk about it. For us, it hides in plain sight.
Here are the main reasons I've identified for the lack of direct attention to Emotional Neglect by mental health professionals:
For therapists, CEN hides in plain sight ... It's so ubiquitous and such an integral part of Attachment Theory (a basic tenet for mental health professionals) that therapists just know it. It's like the blurred backdrop behind the picture. In the mind of a therapist, CEN is not a thing . It just is. So we've never bothered to give it a specific name.
Research ... Therapists don't necessarily think of CEN as the cause of the specific pattern of adult symptoms that I have identified and described in my book, Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect . So as of now, there is no body of literature or research for them to consult. Establishing research data to support the pattern is my next goal. In the meantime, the only source of this full picture is the book, Running on Empty.
Memories ... Most therapists like to deal with memories and facts as much as possible. CEN often offers neither.
Eclipsed and Blurred – “Child Abuse and Neglect" ... When I scoured the professional literature for mentions of Emotional Neglect, I found many references. But it was virtually always as part of this phrase: “child abuse and neglect.” I realized that this phrase has contributed to CEN being so overlooked. Unfortunately, the ubiquitous use of “child abuse and neglect” has taken the concept of Emotional Neglect and thrown it into a pot mixed with three other things which are far more visible and memorable:
Physical abuse: hitting, physical threatening of a child.
Physical neglect: not providing enough food, shelter or warm clothing, for example.
Emotional abuse: actively saying damaging things to a child, calling her names for example.
In this way, I think the phrase “child abuse and neglect,” which is so ubiquitous and useful, has actually done an inordinate amount of untold damage by blurring awareness of CEN.
For me, right now, my goals are unwaveringly clear. I want to make CEN a part of everyday conversation in this world. I want parents to know how to meet their children's emotional needs, and why it matters.
I want every single person to be able talk openly and directly about CEN with his therapist.
I want every therapist to mean the exact same thing when they use or hear the term Childhood Emotional Neglect.
Think of all the children who are, at this very moment, growing up surrounded by Emotional Neglect. And all the adults who are suffering in silence, baffled by their pain.
If I could speak for all the therapists in the world, here is what we would say to them:
Your pain is real. It's not nothing. You have it for a reason. It's not your fault.
You feel invisible, but we see you. You can speak, and we will listen. So stand up and talk. And let us help you heal.
Urban trauma obstructs a school child's ability to learn
by Dale G. Caldwell
Tragically, violence, hunger, homelessness and abuse have become an unfortunate way of life for far too many students living in cities such as Trenton, where the school that I lead is located. Many students hear gunshots on a regular basis in their neighborhoods. Sometimes, they are threatened at gun- or knife-point or deal with the murder of a family member or friend. To make matters worse, these students are frequently forced to skip dinner or have to move from house to house or car to car for shelter at night. Some of them experience unthinkable abuse that causes even greater trauma to their young lives.
Many programs treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in war veterans; society is starting to realize how significant a problem this is for people who have fought for their country. Unfortunately, there are not enough programs to effectively treat this ailment suffered by public school students and their parents.
Public education policy ignores the sad reality that many urban students have great difficulty learning, because they are suffering from a form of ongoing PTSD that I call urban traumatic stress disorder (UTSD). This ailment is caused by violence, hunger, homelessness and abuse in the communities where urban children live.
It is clear that the traumatic experiences that many urban students face is continuous and not “post,” or after the fact. UTSD directly affects the parts of the brain that control emotions and memory. Studies such as the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) research on 17,000 Kaiser Permanente patients clearly indicate that traumatic childhood experiences are a fundamental reason why individuals do poorly in school and suffer later in life. Extensive research has indicated that the hippocampus, the part of the brain involved in memory forming, organizing and storing, and the amygdala, the part of the brain that processes emotions such as anger, fear and pleasure, are extremely sensitive to stress and trauma.
If a child is exposed to prolonged or extreme trauma (which is frequently called “negative neuroinfluence” or “NNI”), the amygdala and hippocampus change in a way that negatively affects a student's emotional stability, memory and ability to learn. The bad news is that a chronic academic achievement gap between urban and suburban students exists because current special-education programs do not provide the social-emotional support systems necessary to address the neurological problems of students with UTSD. These young people, therefore, continue to do poorly in class and distract other students from learning. However, the good news is that “positive neuroinfluence,”or “PNI,” can reverse the changes to the brain caused by severe trauma.
Studies have shown that PNI programs designed to help students improve their ability to manage their emotions and self-esteem can help them significantly increase their academic proficiency. Programs such as Northwestern University's Project Harmony music program (where students learn to play instruments) change the brain in a way that makes it easier for students with NNI to learn. According to Hugh Knowles, professor of neurobiology and physiology and director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern, “musical training has a positive effect on biological processes important for auditory learning, memory and hearing speech … which appear to translate into better language learning results.”
Unfortunately, current public policy does not provide funding for the specialized medical support students with UTSD need to succeed in school. The academic achievement gap will likely widen unless policy makers support the expansion of PNI programs designed to address the social, emotional and learning needs of urban students who have experienced significant trauma in their early lives.
HAVEN, county see effects of childhood trauma
by Nancy Baacke
The information in this column is both adapted and quoted from a Media Release of the Wisconsin Children's Trust Fund and The Wisconsin Child Abuse Prevention Fund, along with findings from the Wisconsin ACE Brief: 2011 and 2012 Data
The Wisconsin Children's Trust Fund and the Child Abuse Prevention Fund of Children's Hospital of Wisconsin recently released the “Wisconsin ACE Brief: 2011 and 2012 Data” which describes the prevalence of adverse childhood experiences in Wisconsin. The brief takes an in-depth look at the correlations between ACE scores and socioeconomic status, race and healthcare coverage.
Adverse childhood experiences are described as traumatic experiences prior to the age of 18.
ACEs include: physical abuse; emotional abuse; sexual abuse; an alcohol or drug abuser in the household; an incarcerated household member; a household member who was chronically depressed, mentally ill, institutionalized or suicidal; violence between adults in the home; and parental separation or divorce.
The original ACE study, which began in 1995, was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente's Health Appraisal Clinic in San Diego, Calif., and was the first study of its kind. It confirmed the correlation between childhood adverse experiences and negative adult health outcomes, including some of the leading causes of death in the United States. In Wisconsin, telephone surveys screening for ACEs began with 4,000 randomly selected adults in 2010, and then were expanded to include 10,000 adults which generated the 2011-2012 results.
The new findings show that ACEs are common among Wisconsin residents, with 58% of the population surveyed having experienced at least one of the above ACEs. Additionally, the data found that individuals on BadgerCare or without health insurance are more than twice as likely to have experienced four or more ACEs. African-Americans were more than twice as likely as other residents to have experienced four or more ACEs.
Thirteen of Wisconsin's 72 counties are in the category with the most number of ACEs because 20% or more of their residents surveyed have ACE scores of four or more. Lincoln County falls within this category.
According to Jennifer Jones, interim executive director of the Children's Trust Fund, “It's imperative that we use these findings to identify policy recommendations aimed at preventing childhood adversity and mitigating the negative outcomes associated with these adversities.”
Wisconsin Child Abuse Prevention Fund Director Jennifer Hammel calls for a twofold approach.
“First, prevent and/or reduce the instances that children are exposed to adverse childhood events,” Hammel said. “And second, begin to intervene with adults so that they can both heal from their adverse childhood experiences and understand what they can do to keep their children from experiencing adverse events.”
If you would like to learn more, go to the Children's Trust Fund website: www.wichildrenstrustfund.org/index.php?section=adverse-childhood
The far-reaching impacts of childhood adversity are often seen by HAVEN staff as we continually work to prevent abuse and also help people heal from it. For more information or to speak with an advocate 24 hours a day, please call 715-536-1300.
Nancy Baacke is community educator for HAVEN Inc. in Merrill.
Stand up against domestic violence, shine the light of hope
by Al Maghazehe
The recently released video showing Ray Rice striking his then-fiancée, rendering her unconscious is, quite frankly, beyond the pale. As a major football fan, I was extremely disappointed in the way the Ravens management and NFL have handled this incident.
I regret now that I wasn't more vocal about my outrage at the time the news was originally announced and I pledge never to stand on the sidelines again.
Now that the entire video has been made public, I must speak out about what I believe was a lenient punishment imposed by the NFL and I call on that organization to adopt a zero-tolerance domestic violence policy that goes beyond the recently revised policy announced late last month.
Football players, who are idolized by our nation's young people, have a responsibility to serve as role models. Repeated incidents of violence against women by professional sports figures send a dangerous message to our youth. It is not acceptable, it should not be treated lightly and our society should not tolerate it. I ask every member of the community to please join me in standing up against domestic violence.
I have the honor of serving as chairman of this year's Womanspace Community of Lights campaign to raise awareness about domestic violence and sexual assault. While the Ray Rice incident has brought the issue of domestic violence to the forefront of our minds this week, Womanspace works 24/7, 365 days a year as a resource to those in our community, mostly women, who are abused. They need and deserve our support.
When I considered accepting the invitation to serve as chairman of the event, I did some research and was astounded to learn that Womanspace serves 11,000 women, children and men from Mercer County each year. I had no idea of the magnitude of the domestic and sexual violence problem in our own community.
Sadly, young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence and sexual assault, and approximately 15.5 million children nationally are exposed to domestic violence each year.
Boys who witness their fathers' abuse of their mothers are more likely to inflict severe violence as adults. Data also suggest that girls who witness maternal abuse may tolerate abuse as adults more than girls who do not. This means we can expect future generations will go through life experiencing the lasting effects of being abused or witnessing abuse of a parent.
As the chief executive officer of a healthcare system, I am well aware of the health issues caused by violence. Abused women often develop post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety. According to some reports, one-third of the children who see their mothers being battered demonstrate significant behavioral and/or emotional problems, including psychosomatic disorders, stuttering, anxiety and fears, sleep disruption, excessive crying and school problems.
There is some evidence that these negative effects may be diminished if the child benefits from intervention by the law and domestic violence programs, such as those offered by Womanspace.
I invite everyone to join me at dusk Mon., Dec. 8 and participate in Communities of Light. Place lighted luminaries out on the street in front of your homes and businesses to shed light on and raise awareness about domestic violence and sexual assault. Luminary kits can be obtained by making a donation to Womanspace (for more information, go to womanspace.org, click the “Get Involved” tab, then click on “Communities of Light”).
During this event and by seeing thousands of people in Mercer County display their candles that night, it is our hope that families who struggle with violence in their homes will see that their community stands with them and will learn that help is available.
Al Maghazehe, Ph.D., FACHE, is president and CEO of Capital Health and chairman of the 2014 Womanspace Community of Lights campaign.
LAPD Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce Arrest Suspect for Sexual Act with Child Under 10 years of age
Long Beach, California -- Los Angeles Police Department Juvenile Division Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) detectives arrested 23-year-old Ryan Booth for 288.7(b) of the California Penal Code Section-Sexual Act with a child under 10 years of age.
On September 5, 2014, detectives from the Los Angeles Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce, along with investigators from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) Investigations group assigned to the Los Angeles Regional Internet Crime Against Children Task Force assisted serving a search warrant at the suspect's resident in Long Beach, California. The Suspect was taken into custody without incident.
The Search warrant was obtained after detectives investigated a lead involving internet postings of an unknown individual soliciting child sexual exploitation material. Investigators identified the suspect as 23-year-old Ryan Booth and discovered he was a contact offender.
The LA ICAC Taskforce is spearheaded by the LAPD with 63 federal and local affiliate agencies that detect and investigate child predators that use the internet as a means to contact children or deal in child pornography. The public is reminded that any suspected inappropriate contact with a minor or knowledge of child pornography on the Internet should be immediately reported to local law enforcement agencies or to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at (800) 843-5678. Reports can also go to www.missingkids.com, and the information will be forwarded to the appropriate law enforcement agency on a nationwide basis. June is Internet Safety Month and parents are encouraged to discuss Internet safety tips with their children.
Anyone with information regarding this case or other information is urged to contact Lieutenant Andrea Grossman at (562) 624-4027. During non-business hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877-LAPD-24-7 (1-877-527-3247). Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477). Tipsters may also contact Crime Stoppers by texting to phone number 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S on most keypads) with a cell phone. All text messages should begin with the letters “LAPD.” Tipsters may also go to www.lapdonline.org, and click on "Anonymous Web Tips.”
Can We Rehabilitate Domestic Abusers Like Ray Rice?
by Rebecca Ruiz
The security footage leaked Monday told an ugly truth we had already imagined: Former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice struck his then-fiancé, Janay, so hard that she fell unconscious onto an elevator floor.
When TMZ aired the previously unseen clip of the February assault at an Atlantic City casino, it sparked outrage — and judgment. The NFL suspended Rice indefinitely and the Ravens cut him from the team. Across the Internet, Rice was cast as a sociopath, and Janay as a victim who made a grave mistake for marrying the man who viciously hit her.
The footage also spawned two Twitter hashtags documenting why domestic violence victims had either stayed with or left their abusers. These confessions were cathartic, describing experiences the public doesn't regularly hear and demonstrating the complexity of living in abusive relationships.
Yet, most voices never considered one of the most taboo questions regarding domestic violence: How do we effectively treat batterers so that fewer women experience the horrors of abuse?
Research shows that domestic violence can be a behavior observed and learned early in childhood, much like substance abuse. One major study of more than 17,000 adults found that 13% had witnessed the violent treatment of their mother as children. Surely, many of those individuals vowed as a result to never strike a loved one, and still others simply weren't able to keep that promise. The question is: Could they have benefited from effective treatment to halt the intergenerational cycle of violence?
We often avoid that question by collectively focusing on a different narrative, one that views perpetrators as unequivocally beyond helping, and considers the women (and men) who try to salvage their relationships and families as not yet ready to accept that truth.
Janay Rice seemed to protest this in an Instagram post published Tuesday morning in which she castigated the media for forcing her to relive a moment she and her husband "regret" everyday. She also tried to redefine the public's perception of her marriage. "Just know we will continue to grow & show the world what real love is!" she wrote.
Some observers were shocked by that sentiment, logically concerned Janay Rice would be subject only to further physical and psychological abuse over time. This is a reasonable assumption- countless women have remained with their abusers only to lose their lives, or children or loved ones after violence turns deadly.
Jacquelyn Campbell, a professor and researcher at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing who has interviewed thousands of domestic violence survivors, told Mashable abusive behavior is a pattern likely to repeat itself without treatment or intervention.
Yet, we commonly dismiss the possibility that some of the men who commit these heinous acts might actually be capable of reformation. Instead, they are typecast uniformly as sociopaths or psychopaths driven by hatred of women. Campbell said, however, that research indicates such men account for a minority of offenders.
To even acknowledge such a restorative approach first appears to undermine hard-fought victories won by advocates who forced American institutions to take domestic violence seriously. Campbell is clear that she makes no apology for abusers. But there is a lingering, real concern:Even if a woman leaves her tormentor, without substantive and effective treatment, he is likely to victimize the next woman who takes her place.
"I really do feel this is a teachable moment for the public to not only understand a little more about how domestic violence happens and how serious it is, and how there is no excuse for that kind of behavior, and how there should be very clear sanctions, but sanctions are not enough." Campbell said. "When someone is abusive toward another person — violent toward a loved one — there are deep and complex reasons for that. That's not to excuse anyone. But ... this kind of human behavior needs some real strategic intervention specifically for domestic violence."
Ray Rice is reportedly undergoing counseling as part of a pre-trial intervention program, but a spokesperson for the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office could not provide Mashable with additional details regarding the nature of his treatment, nor that of similar interventions for domestic violence offenders. ESPN reported that Rice was required to participate in anger management counseling.
There are several challenges in obtaining effective treatment, Campbell said. First, if an abuser is truly sociopathic or psychopathic, sending him to a batterer's group or standard therapy is unlikely to make a difference. Second, those who might benefit from treatment are — like Rice — often mandated by courts to receive anger management counseling, which has not been shown to reduce subsequent acts of domestic violence. Finally, the available treatments that do work are not as effective as researchers would like.
Central among these is the batterers' intervention group. These small gatherings are not therapy, but rather a series of facilitator-led discussions in which men are challenged to rethink their use of control and authority in a relationship.
In a 2004 paper, Julia Babcock, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Houston, analyzed the success of different interventions, including the batterer's group, and found they had a minimal impact in reducing violence over a sustained period of time.
This doesn't mean that all abusers are intrinsically malevolent and cannot be treated, Babcock told Mashable . In fact, she has noted that for as many as 50% of couples, abuse is not necessarily the result of psychosis or a similar condition, but rather violence that erupts when an argument escalates rapidly and the partners remain locked in heated conflict. Babcock is careful to stress that while this insight into behavior is valuable, it could never justify an abuser's actions.
One key to effective treatment for an abuser — even for someone who delivered as vicious a blow as Ray Rice did — may lie in a controversial approach Babcock used to resolve discord amongst couples in which the male partner had been previously violent. In 2011, she published a study in which some of the men were taught how to better listen to their female partners.
A core problem of abusive behavior, Babcock and her co-authors wrote, is that aggressive men not only mirror negative emotions like sadness or anger during an argument, but they respond with "contempt, belligerence or defensiveness," and invalidate a partner's concerns. By marginalizing a woman's deeply held feelings, and responding with physical force, these men create a destructive pattern of violence.
Yet, tackling this dynamic through couples therapy is a contentious approach; the practice has been characterized as placing blame on the victim for her "role" in the argument. Some states have even forbidden the use of couples therapy for domestic violence offenses, according to Babcock. While her study did not measure whether the training reduced future incidents of violence, male participants did demonstrate more positive and less aggressive behavior.
Babcock said the strategy, which would be used in conjunction with legal punishment, needs further testing and wouldn't work for everyone, particularly not for men whose behavior is rooted in a personality disorder as well as feelings of neediness or jealousy. Still, she worries about the characterization of all abusers as evil.
"That scares people away from even trying to fix the problem," she said. "We say, 'They're all psychopathic. Lock them up and throw away the key.' Not every man who has beaten his wife deserves to be treated this way."
This is not a popular viewpoint, and Babcock, who emphasizes that we must hold abusers legally accountable for their actions, has been mocked by peers for her unconventional perspective. But she wonders, "Why are we spending our lives doing this research if we think these guys are a lost cause?"
Jacquelyn Campbell believes it is possible for some abusers who are appropriately punished and treated to learn non-violent behavior patterns. "For [Ray Rice], I hope that he's getting some sort of counseling that will address the complex wellspring of this behavior, because otherwise it will happen again, unfortunately," she said.
She also believes it's possible that a former abuser could forge, with his partner, a relationship in which violence wasn't used as a weapon.
"Ninety percent of the women I have interviewed have said, 'I love him, I want to make this work ... and I just want the hitting to end,'" Campbell said, noting that women stay with abusers for myriad, complicated reasons.
"As a domestic violence advocate and researcher, I want that too. I want us to figure out a way to have the hitting and psychological abuse end."
Joy Taylor shares Domestic Abuse Story in sight of Ray Rice Incident
Our friends over at The Ticket Miami Sports Talk Radio Station posted a great story written by their morning show co host Joy Taylor. She shares great insight on domestic abuse having first hand experience and we commend her bravery for coming forth with her story.
The NFL, Domestic Abuse and My Story
I will never forget the first time I was abused. Everything happened so fast, the attack, the police, my family getting involved, it was the worst night of my life. Until the next time it happened, and the next, and every time after that. When I hear the names that people call Janay Palmer (Rice) I cringe knowing that I was ridiculed the same way. Idiot. Stupid. Weak. I know the judging looks, the shame, the excuses, it seems like it never ends. I also know the pain, the torture and the fear and I am lucky enough to know the relief of being free of an abusive relationship.
It is very easy to judge someone who stays in an abusive relationship, especially if you've never been in one. If you've never woken up next to the person you love only to later go to sleep next to them after being beaten, you might not understand. If you've never been holding hands with them and a minute later had to beg them to stop hitting you, you might not understand. If you've never cried and screamed while they kicked you, as lay on your back in an alley, after they've dragged you by your hair from your car, you probably won't get it. Maybe you've never been thrown around or been choked on the floor while your abuser is on top of you trying with all his might to kill you. If you did, maybe you will understand. Of course there are many out there who have never been abused that do understand, and for those people, I am grateful.
I've heard so many angles on this Ray Rice situation. The amount of ignorance surrounding the story made me angry at first, but now, it just makes me sad. Don't be so presumptuous to assume you know what goes on in their relationship, that this was the first time, or the last.
Don't assume that it is so easy to get up and leave an abuser. You have no idea how compelling the man you love can be on his knees begging and crying for your forgiveness. Reminding you of your beautiful daughter and your family, and all the people and the money and the time and on and on. You love this person, and one night of darkness may not be enough to make you forget that.
Only once you forgive them they turn on you. Convincing you that you brought it on yourself. You had an attitude or you didn't do what he wanted. They degrade you and manipulate. Making you think no one will ever treat you better, they tell you you're unlovable, useless and you believe them. After all, you must be terrible to make someone treat you so horribly.
I am not a weak person. I have endured years of abuse since I was a child. I never thought as an adult I would allow someone to take my power and control me. I defended him and stood by him. I lied for him. I threw out my morals and convictions. I was very blessed to have people around me who were stronger than me. People that pushed me to leave and reminded me every day despite my depression and darkness that I could take control and leave.
Some people are lucky enough to get out at the start. I made the decision to forgive my abuser, and I suffered the consequences. I don't know what happens in the Rice home, I don't know how long the abuse has been going on or if it has continued, but this story is bigger than Ray and Janay.
The NFL let down it's millions of fans in the way they handled this situation. Men and Women. As a survivor of domestic abuse I'm completely disappointed in their lack of a compelling punishment, lack of integrity and lack of compassion towards the victim. They put her in a room with her abuser and demanded she tell her story. They placed blame on her through the Ravens twitter account. They rolled out a weak suspension and then justified it fiercely in interviews and statements. It wasn't until the “truth” was unveiled that they felt compelled to do the right thing. If the NFL had done the right thing from the beginning, they would not be dealing with this public outrage.
There is one good that has come from this terrible story and embarrassing moment for the sport. That some people have learned about the issue of domestic violence and have educated themselves on just how elaborate it is.
If you or someone you know is being abused, please get help. Visit womenindistress.org
Ray Rice Video Causes Huge Spike In Calls To Domestic Violence Hotline
by Laura Bassett
The National Domestic Violence Hotline has seen an 84 percent increase in phone calls in the two days since a video leaked of former NFL player Ray Rice knocking his then-fiancée unconscious in an elevator.
Katie Ray-Jones, the CEO of the hotline, said it normally receives 500 to 600 calls a day from domestic violence victims and their concerned friends or family members. But after the Rice video was circulated online Monday, the hotline received over 1,000 phone calls. The numbers continued to climb on Tuesday.
"We had an outpouring of women saying, 'Oh my god, I didn't realize this happened to other people.' They thought they were living a life that was very unique to them," Ray-Jones told The Huffington Post. "One woman called in who is married to a [mixed martial arts] fighter. She said, 'I just saw that video, and I know my husband could do worse, and I need help."
Ray-Jones said the hotline does not have enough advocates on staff to field the calls, which continue all night long. There are 15 to 18 staff members answering calls during the day and seven or eight overnight, but they were already overwhelmed before the surge of calls began earlier this week. The hotline also has a "relief staff pool," but it doesn't have the financial resources to sustain it for any significant period of time.
"Last year, we didn't answer over 77,000 calls due to lack of resources," Ray-Jones said. "Our advocates were really busy before, so they're definitely feeling the impact of the video now. This is a situation where women are holding longer on the lines and waiting for an advocate to be free. But we don't have the financial resources to bring in more staff, so we're at a place where we're just encouraging advocates to do the best they can."
The National Domestic Violence Hotline receives a large portion of its funding from the federal government, but its budget was cut last year due to the automatic cuts known as sequestration. Congress gave the hotline a funding boost for next year that will go into effect on Oct. 1, however, and that will hopefully provide some relief to the overworked hotline staffers.
The good news, Ray-Jones said, is that the video of the Ray Rice incident is sparking a national conversation about domestic violence and encouraging more women to reach out for help. She hopes the attention on the issue will pressure Congress to give more funding to domestic violence programs and to pass legislation that would take guns out of the hands of domestic abusers.
"We need to take the survivors' voices to the Hill," she said. "This is real. This issue has a face. And people saw a face with Ray Rice and the imagery of what people are experiencing."
Rice, a running back for the Baltimore Ravens, was suspended from the NFL indefinitely on Monday.
Rape Culture in the Alaskan Wilderness
In the tight-knit communities of the far north, there are no roads, no police officers—and higher rates of sexual assault than anywhere else in the United States.
by Sara Bernard
O ne night a few years ago, when Geneva was 13, a man she'd grown up with stumbled into the room she shared with her two sisters in Tanana, Alaska, a tiny village northwest of Fairbanks, and climbed on top of her. He was stumbling drunk and aggressive.
“He tried getting into my clothes,” she recalls. “He tried putting his hands under my shorts and inside my shirt.” She struggled and pushed, but he was years her senior and made of muscle; he pulled her on top of him. She kept pushing and yanking until she suddenly shot backwards and tumbled off the bed. “He was so blacked out, he was like still asleep; his eyes were closed,” she says. “I was watching his face, but his face didn't move at all. His breathing was normal, but his hands…” She pauses, and the word hangs thickly in the air. “His hands felt like he was awake. ”
Afterward, she ran into the living room and burst into tears, stuffing her face into a pillow so her parents wouldn't hear. She didn't tell them, then; she was scared and ashamed. “I guess I just felt like I was dirty. I guess that's what victims feel like. They feel dirty and just want to clean everything off.”
The following summer, Geneva was fast asleep at her family's fish camp downriver, while a group of adults drank and caroused in the next room. She awoke to someone tugging down her pants, reaching between her legs; she struggled and kicked, and he lumbered out of the room.
In fact, Geneva says, she's been grabbed, chased, followed, and molested so much in her short life that she's now made it a habit to lock the bedroom door at night and shove a chair under the knob so no one can come in; she'll wait up, trembling, until everyone at a party is passed out cold before she can comfortably fall asleep. She's learned to avoid being alone with friends' dads, or with grandpas at village potlatches, or with boys at basketball games, who've repeatedly groped her breasts and buttocks. “It's just random, like, you'll think everything's all normal and then you'll feel something on your backside,” she says. “You just freeze.”
Geneva is a tall basketball player with bright eyes, rectangular black-framed glasses, and a wide, eager smile. She has no trouble listing accomplishments and affinities: She's ambidextrous by choice, grew up doing all the rugged outdoor chores men do, raves gleefully over beloved local foods like fried moose heart and walrus in seal oil.
But for years, she felt scared, hypersensitive, and depressed. She never told her parents about the incident; she was too afraid of what would happen, and anyway, when she told one of her sisters, the only response she received was a dry laugh. “It happened to all of us,” her sister had said. “Just leave it alone.”
Growing up in Tanana, a town of 254, the prevalence of this kind of thing was common knowledge, but rarely discussed. Everyone knew the local elder who'd molested and raped his daughters and granddaughters for decades until he was arrested for touching another family's girls; after four years in jail and another half dozen or so at a cabin downriver, he was back on the village tribal council. One of Geneva's great aunts was molested and raped by an uncle for years; dozens of years later, the aunt's grown daughter told her that the same uncle had molested her, too. Sometimes people pressed charges; most of the time, though, nothing happened. “These perverts travel from village to village, from potlatches to dances,” Geneva says. “And then they get drunk and you don't know what they're going to do.”
Then, last year, Geneva joined the Tanana 4-H club, a newly minted outlet for local youth of all ages to gather and play games and craft things like blueberry jam and beaver hats. It's run by Cynthia Erickson, owner of Tanana's general store and native of Ruby, a village 100 miles downriver. Erickson says she started the program because of suicide: Three years ago, there were six in Tanana. At first, she just wanted to give Tanana's kids a place to do things with their hands, to go on field trips, to feel supported. But what began as a diversion quickly became a safe place for kids to share all kinds of traumas they were witnessing and experiencing: sexual and domestic violence, alcohol and drug abuse, death after brutal death. The discussions they'd have were rarely prearranged, Erickson says. Instead, the kids would launch the conversation by saying, “Did you hear what happened?”
Last fall, the group was asked to give a presentation at a statewide conference held by the First Alaskans Institute in Fairbanks. Instead of explaining how they'd come up with their anti-suicide pledge, the kids decided to share the reasons they'd needed one in the first place.
Geneva spoke about her own abuse and described in detail what has been horrifyingly typical for the people around her: A local woman who was gang raped until she could “barely walk.” A young boy who was sexually assaulted by an older man and later killed himself. Tribal elders who commanded respect, but whose behavior didn't. “I'm still young and I'm already sick of it,” she said. “It's happening in his house, in her house, even in your own bed.”
The presentation was met with a standing ovation, and it took the kids nearly two hours to make it from the stage to the back of the conference center, thanks to all the members of the audience who stopped to hug them, weep, pile up cash donations on a scarf on the stage, and tell them how proud they were. In some cases, audience members felt inspired to come out about their own abuse. One grandmother told Erickson she'd been raped and abused for so many years, and she'd held it in for so long, that that was the reason that she'd been so harsh to her children. After the presentation, she called her children and apologized to them.
The impact that Geneva and her peers made at the conference seemed to launch a new era of transparency in Alaska about domestic and sexual violence; the media splash that followed drew a groundswell of support both for the 4-H youth and for recent state efforts to both document and prevent these crimes. But a few months later, when Erickson asked the kids if they thought their presentation had made a difference in Tanana, they all shrugged and made “zero” signs with their hands. Their stories had rocked the small community, too, but the fresh feeling “didn't really stick,” Geneva admits. “It went back like the old way.”
I n its short history as a state, Alaska has earned an unnerving epithet: It is the rape capital of the U.S. At nearly 80 rapes per 100,000, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Report, Alaska's rape rate is almost three times the national average; for child sexual assault, it's nearly six times. And, according to the 2010 Alaska Victimization Survey, the most comprehensive data to date, 59 percent of Alaskan women have been victims of sexual assault, intimate partner violence, or both.
But those numbers, say researchers, just skim the surface. Since sex crimes are generally underreported, and may be particularly underreported in Alaska for cultural reasons. “Those numbers are conservative,” says Ann Rausch, a program coordinator at Alaska's Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. “They're still staggering.”
The causes of the violence are complex and entrenched. Government officials, law enforcement personnel, and victim advocates note the state's surfeit of risk factors, from an abundance of male-dominated industries, like oil drilling and the military, to the state's vast geography, with many communities that have no roads and little law enforcement. “There are so many factors that tip the scale for Alaska,” says Linda Chamberlain, executive director of the Alaska Family Violence Prevention Project. Not the least among them: the lack strong law enforcement presence, or support services of any kind, in remote towns like Tanana. “It's easier for perpetrators to isolate their victims and not get caught. And for people not to get help.”
Some believe that this fact both attracts and encourages criminals. The suspect for a recent rape in southwest hub community of Dillingham, for instance, was a white man who'd just arrived from somewhere in the Lower 48 to take a job at the Wells Fargo in town. “Because it happens in rural Alaska,” one victim advocate cautions, “doesn't mean it's only rural Alaskans who are a part of it.”
It happens at alarming rates in urban Alaska, too. In 2010, Anchorage and Fairbanks had the highest rape rates of all cities in the U.S. Some bars in Anchorage and Fairbanks are known for a prevalence of date rape drugs; others, in Fairbanks, are known for shunning members of the military after too many brutally violent nights. (The U.S. armed forces have their own issues with sexual assault: Investigations across the United States reveal victimhood percentages almost as high as Alaska's; in late 2013, the Alaska National Guard also launched an investigation of widespread sexual assault allegations within its ranks). John Vandervalk, a sex crime detective in the Anchorage Police Department, claims that the city's numbers are high partly because of attrition from villages where there are few or no services to address these kinds of crimes. But while rates of victimization are much higher among Alaska Natives—a survey from 2006 that analyzed law enforcement data in Anchorage found Alaska Native women 9.7 times more likely than other Alaskan women to be victims of sexual assault—anyone who works in Alaska's cities consistently confirms, like Vandervalk, that “this is not an Alaska Native problem. It's a problem that affects all demographics.”
Lawmakers aren't blind to the issue. In 2009, Alaska governor Sean Parnell launched Alaska Men Choose Respect, a statewide prevention initiative that combines pervasive public service announcements and annual rallies with a slew of other incentives, including increased sentencing for sex offenses and mini-grants for violence prevention projects.
But some argue that focusing on a centralized criminal justice system and government-led initiatives can only go so far. In a state where hundreds of roadless communities are scattered across hundreds of thousands of miles, and where the storied rates of violence against women can hit 100 percent in some villages, silence is the norm, and violence is almost expected. (Says detective Vandervalk, “You'll get a Native girl who says, ‘My mom always tells me to wear two pairs of jeans at night to slow him down.'”)
It's only in recent years that some Alaskans have begun to speak publicly about this problem. In many places, silence still endures. But Cynthia Erickson hopes that the “old way” will eventually fade, and that speech, above all else, will empower victims, shame perpetrators, and interrupt the cycle of trauma where it starts: in childhood. “This story of Tanana is absolutely no different than every single one of these villages,” she says. “This is our world. And this is the fight we're fighting—for the children. I don't have time for adults.”
T anana is nestled at the intersection of the Tanana and Yukon Rivers, about 130 miles northwest of Fairbanks, and is one of 165 Alaskan villages off the road system. In good weather, three nine-seater plane flights a day land at Tanana's airport, a slim snowfield with a few blinking lights. In January, temperatures can plunge to 60 or 70 degrees below zero, and the life-giving river is frozen solid. The sky gradually pales around 11 a.m. and darkens again by 3 p.m. in a splash of peach and hot pink. Beat-up trucks hibernate under feet of snow in people's yards. To get around, most residents drive open-air snow machines, staving off the wind chill with the wide earflaps of homemade marten-fur hats (or, in one instance I observed, strips of cardboard and duct tape).
The regular flights are packed with freight, so things like toilet paper and Doritos don't usually have a problem making it in to the Ericksons' general store, though sometimes weather can keep staple items off the shelves for weeks. The day I arrived, it had “warmed up,” as locals like to say, to five degrees below zero. Five o'clock in the evening marks the start of rush hour, and half the town had stopped in the store to pick up tomato sauce, frozen dinners, Gatorade, candy. They asked each other about the day's work, commented on the weather, and gruffly dropped their items one by one on the counter, cheeks red from the cold. A petite teenaged girl with long dark hair and spindly legs waltzed through the pinging entryway wearing only basketball shorts and zebra slippers. (This far north, cold is relative: The previous few days, at 40 below, with powdered-sugar snow so dry and cold it squeaked underfoot, Alaskans had called it “chilly.”)
I first met Erickson and her husband, Dale, at a high school basketball game in Fairbanks, followed by steak salads at Denny's—or, as it's known: “the northernmost Denny's in the world.” In the middle of the game, packed onto narrow bleachers, Erickson launched directly into the litany of abuses she'd witnessed and heard of in Tanana, and precisely what she thinks of those who see violence and do nothing. An older woman a few rungs above us tapped her on the shoulder, and as she turned, her face lit up, recognizing an old friend; they spoke eagerly for most of the rest of the game. On our way out, Erickson ran into a young woman. She put her hand on her shoulder and exclaimed at the teenager's beauty and adulthood, demanding updates. Dale Erickson hung back patiently, until he saw his window: “Quick! Let's get her out of here before she runs into someone else she knows.”
Erickson has a cap of frosted curls, high cheekbones, and gem-like blue eyes. She exudes a fiercely protective maternal energy and has no qualms about the public way she's been going about shifting things in Tanana. “I'm sleeping pretty damn good at night,” she says. If no one will report abuse to the authorities—or if the authorities don't act fast enough—she often leaves anonymous, vaguely threatening notes for people she believes are beating their wives or molesting their relatives. “I just started voicing my opinion in the last couple of years. I don't give a shit anymore,” she said. “I really don't.”
After the 4-H presentation, she told kids to be on guard for backlash. Most of the kids hadn't told their families about the content of their speeches beforehand, and then, thanks to the media blitz that followed, the state of Alaska got an earful. For many families, the sudden publicity felt threatening. Geneva's parents, in particular, resented that she hadn't come to them first; her father called her a few hours afterward and left a dismissive voicemail message. “She's overreacting,” he said. “She just got touched by a couple of drunk people.” When he did reach Erickson, he told her he felt betrayed: Why hadn't his daughter told him? Why had she waited so long to talk about it, and why to the entire state?
The Alaska Federation of Natives asked the Tanana 4-H group to repeat their presentation a few days later, at a second, larger conference. Geneva's father demanded that she change her speech for the second round, offering less detail, and less of her personal experience, because people would be jumping to conclusions, wondering who she meant when she said “it's happening in his house, in her house, even in your own bed.” He feared her words could implicate him.
A Tanana teacher told me he'd known the presentation was going to “stir the pot” before it happened, and that it probably was still “ruffling feathers”; some residents avoided the general store for weeks, sending family members to do the shopping instead, and some still avoid speaking to Erickson. While most adults were outwardly supportive of the kids' courage, a lack of outright retaliation didn't necessarily indicate a truce. For Erickson, evasion can cut as deep. “You can be a bully without saying a word.”
One woman, who briefly described her own experience with sexual abuse—and her daughters', and her sisters', and her friends'—as a matter of course, shook her head and looked away, hands folded, at the mention of Cynthia Erickson. To her, all the publicity following the 4-H group's speeches was an embarrassment; you kept private things private. “You say Cynthia Erickson and my guard goes up,” she said.
W hile few victims deny that sexual assault and domestic violence should be punishable crimes, the public shaming of an elder or father or brother is a big deal in a village where everyone is related—either by blood, or by a lifelong relationship just as binding. “Everybody knows who's doing what,” Erickson told me. “It's common river knowledge. Who's the molester. Who's the abuser.” But families struggle to protect one another and their lives going forward, knowing that anyone they offend will be at the post office the next day, and the day after, and the day after that. Winters are long, brutal, and dark, and in a tight-knit, tiny community, connected to most of its income, medical care, and law enforcement only by airplane, conflicts often simmer in silence. Flights aren't cheap; when tensions build, there's no place to go.
For that reason, family members often blame the victims, or the friends of victims, who attempt to report a crime, out of fear of losing material support, or a vital link in a precarious web of familial structure. When a young man from Tanana was accused of sexually abusing several village children a few years ago, some of his relatives verbally attacked the woman who turned him in, saying, “Shame on you. He had his whole life in front of him and you're going to ruin it.” Even the raffle the 4-H group organized to help fund the trip to Fairbanks for the conference sold very few tickets, one Tanana resident claims, “because it was dealing with hard issues.”
Often, when state troopers—the only police force available for a quarter of Alaska's villages—are called in for a brutal assault case, they'll get on the next available flight, but when they arrive on the scene, no one will talk. Lieutenant Andrew Merrill, a state trooper who lived and worked in Bush Alaska for a dozen years, notes that in many cases, a perpetrator is also “the one that chops wood, hauls the water, hunts the caribou so there's food in the house. So, it's like, ‘Yeah, he punched me, and yeah, I want this to stop, but I also need to survive.'”
It took one woman 30 years to begin speaking about the time she was gang raped in Tanana. She claims that the main perpetrator apologized to her the summer after it happened, and that she “was in no place to accept that. I had a gun and was going to kill him.” But she did nothing. She feared for her children, her family's reputation, her affiliation with the local church. “It was so shameful to me that I didn't dare tell anyone but the doctor,” she says. “I told the doctor and I got an abortion. I thought if I told the cops, then everybody would know. What would people think? So I just suffered with it.”
A friend of Cynthia Erickson's who grew up with her in Ruby, a town of 172, endured brutal beatings by her husband for several decades before she uprooted her life and moved with her children to Fairbanks. She wasn't able to go back to Ruby to visit for many years because “she ‘broke up the family,'” says Erickson. “I'm like, ‘broke up the family'? He beat the shit out of her! But she was looked down on for a long time.”
Geneva, too, has no intention of sending someone who she grew up with to jail—someone she'd trusted, and who she says she now hates, but still, on some level, loves. After the Tanana 4-H group gave its second presentation, the Office of Children's Services was ready, this time, to whisk her offstage. Geneva told investigators what the man had done and they urged her to press charges. “But my first thought was, ‘I can't do that,'” she says. Geneva felt she'd already done enough damage by making a public presentation and mentioning the molestation, even in vague terms; her family began shunning the accused and she felt she'd already, to some degree, destroyed his life. She looked up at the state trooper and said, “You do realize that I grew up with him?” He handed her his card; as soon as they left the room, she tore it up and threw it in the trash.
T he word for “trooper,” according to Lieutenant Andrew Merrill, translates in nearly every Native language in Western Alaska as “‘he who comes and takes away.' That's what we're seen as,” he says, citing both the structure of rural Alaskan law enforcement, and the perception of it: “You call us, we fly in, we do an investigation, we put somebody in handcuffs and we fly away.”
Merrill is now Deputy Director for C Detachment, a state division that's four-fifths the size of Texas, spanning hundreds of thousands of miles between Anchorage and Alaska's western coast. It employs roughly 30 troopers.
Because the area they patrol is so large, and staffing so slim, the amount of time it takes for state troopers to arrive on the scene is anywhere from several hours to several days. And since effectively prosecuting a sexual assault often requires a forensic examination to collect DNA evidence—an exam that typically can only be conducted in full in urban hubs—by the time a victim gets one, if she gets one at all, the 72-hour collection window may have passed.
“In a worst-case scenario,” Merrill says, “we have people collect their own undergarments, use their cell phones to take pictures of the room, talk to a local health aide about collecting urine in a cup.” Troopers will go forward with the investigation, regardless, if the victim wants to press charges, but it's often tougher for district attorneys to build a case. That, and the high numbers of victims who recant their testimony—or refuse to give it in the first place—are a large part of the reason more than half of the reports that reach state troopers never make it to the DA's office.
While the state has made a concerted effort to improve training in sexual assault and domestic violence investigations, Merrill points out that young, inexperienced troopers who've been “chasing broken tail lights” in Anchorage often struggle when sent into Bush Alaska and are tasked with pursuing far more serious crimes. To provide more boots on the ground, governor Parnell's administration has more than doubled the number of Village Public Safety Officers, or first responders, since 2008, with the official goal, says Choose Respect coordinator Katie TePas, of providing some form of local law enforcement for every community that wants one. (VPSOs weren't allowed to carry firearms until this summer, when a new bill passed the state legislature. The bill also and set aside limited funds for firearms training.)
But the jobs are difficult to fill. Officers from outside a village or its surrounding communities can present all kinds of challenges, from housing shortages to high rates of attrition, but hiring from within often forces a cop to choose between his job and his family. “We have VPSOs who quit because they don't want to their uncles, their brothers and sisters,” says Merrill, adding that recently, one VPSO was tasked with arresting her own son.
For now, at least 75 of Alaska's communities have no local police or Village Public Safety Officers, according to an October 2013 report by the Indian Law & Order Commission. The group devoted 60 pages of its nationwide survey to Alaska, calling the state's centralized law enforcement system “unconscionable,” and citing, in particular, the rates of domestic and sexual violence.
But to rely solely on criminal law, says Ginger Baim, former executive director of SAFE, a shelter in Dillingham, is “like going to the emergency room and saying, ‘What have you done to stop accidents?'” The manifestations of sexual and domestic violence in Alaska “are all symptoms of the problem,” she says. “They're not the problem.”
W hen Americans and Russians began showing up in Alaska, they brought with them—as settlers did in the rest of the U.S.—an explosion of disease. In the late 1830s, small pox wiped out a third of the Native population in southern and western Alaska. In 1900, a flu and measles epidemic did the same—or worse, by some estimates. Some villages were decimated; in others, there weren't enough left alive to bury the dead.
Then, shortly after the second pandemic, many Native Alaskan children were shipped off to boarding schools—some as young as 6 years old—and many were beaten, sexually abused, and urged to forget their languages and cultures. In a few villages, multimillion-dollar lawsuits were filed against Catholic priests and church workers for molesting almost an entire generation of Alaska Native children. (The suits were settled in 2007 and 2011.)
Public health nurse Paula Ciniero has worked in 10 villages in the Fort Yukon subregion of the Interior, a vast swathe of land north of Fairbanks, for the past decade. She focuses on various public health needs such as immunizations and tuberculosis testing at local clinics, but she says roughly three quarters of her time these days involves sexual or intimate partner violence. “People get mad at me when I say it's become tradition, but it has,” she says. “We're talking about third-generation violence. That's tradition.”
This is further exacerbated by the fact that traumatic experiences can lead to alcohol and drug abuse, and alcohol and drug abuse can lead to further traumatization. “It's like a circle, you can't take just one; they're all linked together,” says Cynthia Erickson. “You're born, you're molested—kick another domino down.”
Detective Vandervalk, in Anchorage, notes that the average blood alcohol level for a victim at the time of a rape exam is .21—two and a half times the legal limit. “And that's average. We routinely deal with people in the high threes, fours, fives—both on the suspect's side of the house, and on the victim's.” No one's blaming the victims, he insists, but still: “If you make yourself vulnerable by drinking too much and passing out, something bad is going to happen to you sooner or later.“
Ginger Baim, the former SAFE director, claims that almost all sexual assaults that have taken place in Bristol Bay region for the past 25 years are not only facilitated by alcohol, but happen when a victim is passed out cold. Her own assault, when she was a teenager, happened that way—and the man who raped her may also have been affected by fetal alcohol syndrome. “His mother drank every single day she carried him,” she says. “He was born pickled.”
Experts and locals often link Alaska's high rates of suicide with sexual assault, too. Many men were abused as young boys—something that's also, slowly, surfacing. “It's putting a Band-Aid on the hurt,” says Erickson. “That's why there's so much alcohol and drugs. That's why there's so much rape. They don't feel good, they black out, and alcohol and drugs cover the pain. That's why we're so dysfunctional. Nobody's dealing with it.”
T anana's counseling center is a low-slung ranch-style house painted sea green. It lies steps from the village medical clinic, which is right next to the school. Inside, the center is warm and comfortable, with two soft brown couches and several armchairs. Someone's always offering tea or coffee, and one morning, at an AA meeting, there was a pot of moose soup: hunks of shredded meat and carrots suspended in a thick broth.
In the winter, when night falls early, the town's health director, Theresa Marks, hosts a weekly sewing group here. A handful of women drink tea and chat over the dark-season projects they're working on: beaver and marten fur mittens and slippers, crocheted scarves, and elaborate “sun-catchers” crafted with multicolored hollow beads so tiny they have to be picked up with a needle. If women and their families aren't trapping animals, they can purchase them wholesale in town or nearby: polar bear, wolverine, moose. One woman boasts that she snagged an entire moose hide for $100. They dish the latest gossip and share jokes of the day, cackling over the reliable antics of 2-year-olds or the “badass granny” bumper stickers on an older woman's snow machine.
One woman told me that, historically, the kind of sexual abuse and assault so many people were experiencing was huklani , or bad luck, so no one spoke openly. “It was taboo,” she said, “Like, bad, you don't talk like that, you don't say that.” When she tried to say something to her grandmother, once, she was hushed. “You learn not to talk when you're a kid.” But over the last few years, women's groups and regional meetings have increasingly turned into spontaneous talking circles.
Sabrenia Jervsjo, Cynthia Erickson's cousin, works as a rural advocate for the Interior Alaska Center for Nonviolent Living, and she says her job is to encourage just that: Each time she turns up in another village, more people come, and more people talk—more adults, including more men. Public health nurse Paula Ciniero is part of a grant-funded collaborative team that travels statewide, leading workshops on identifying and healing from domestic violence and sexual assault. “We get so much positive feedback,” she says, “Women say to me, ‘Now I know why my parents don't talk. Now I know why my parents have said what they've said.' It's like the light bulb goes on.”
While Erickson claims with a weary laugh that her general store has served as an unofficial talking circle for 28 years, health aides from the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium did organize an official healing workshop in Tanana shortly after the 4-H presentations. And many Tanana residents appreciate the idea, at least, of speaking out. One woman, also a survivor, organized a welcome home pizza lunch immediately after the talks; the adults who attended that day stood and read the kids' own words back to them, and said, “We hear you.”
Erickson gets emails and phone calls every day now, and is constantly fielding requests to bring the 4-H kids to other conferences and gatherings. When visiting Allakaket, population 109, about a hundred miles to the north, a woman dashed across the town hall, cornered her, and begged, almost in tears, “Please, could your kids please come talk to my kids?”
In March, Erickson took a few of the 4-H kids to the Cama-i Dance Festival in Bethel, a southwest hub community halfway across the state, scrounging together the funds through donations of airline miles. The girls who attended gave a short speech, showed the video from their first presentation, and met dozens of other kids who had identical stories to theirs.
The week before, Erickson had won the Doyon Corporation's 2014 Daaga' Community Service Award, and when she got it, she wept—from embarrassment. “My parents, my grandparents, they didn't get awards. They were just called good people.” She looked at the certificate, and said it was a nice frame; she'd rather put a family picture in it. “I'm not gonna sugar coat shit, we've been doing that too long,” she told me. It's taken decades to create all this violence, she said, and the kids' “zero” signs reflect real feeling. Patterns continue, and when it comes to talking circles and workshops and counseling sessions, “the people who really need to be at that aren't at it.”
Geneva says her parents stopped drinking after the presentations—a huge shift, although she claims it was for physical health reasons. She also believes there are fewer people stumbling around the streets of Tanana intoxicated, and fewer parties in the middle of town on weekdays. “I feel like the adults know that the kids are watching them now,” she says. “Kids are little, but they still have smart minds, and know what's going on at all times.”
Geneva used to be painfully shy, but since joining 4-H, she has become more outgoing; She recently became captain of the basketball team, and this spring, she won a medal, ranking her among the tournament's top five players. She wants to be a state trooper, a teacher, or a chef, and plans to go to college in Fairbanks.
But becoming a celebrity, thanks to the presentations, required some adjustment. So many people began dashing up to her at basketball games, telling her how brave she is—it was gratifying, but also a little unsettling. At a recent tournament in Huslia, a village 130 miles to the northwest, a local woman brought her elderly mother up to Geneva, saying, “Mommy, remember? She was one of the 4-H kids from Tanana.”
Every time Geneva is pegged as a hero, she's reminded of the story she told to the world, a story that on most days she'd rather forget. “They come up to me and say they're so proud of me, and I should keep doing what I'm doing,” she says. “But I always have second thoughts.”
A few months ago, Geneva received an email from a national 4-H director, in Washington, D.C., asking her to put in an application to be a Healthy Living Youth Ambassador, one of five teens who'd work alongside 4-H staffers to build and promote wellness programs. Though she says she's not sure she'll apply, she appreciates the offer; it means the world is listening, whether or not she's the one who will keep talking. “I want kids to know that they don't have to follow the path of our parents,” she says. When it comes to this, there are no second thoughts. “I don't want us to be the victims anymore.”
Labor Trafficking Persists Amid Outrage Over Sex Trade
Sex trafficking is the target of increased awareness and enforcement. But other forms of the human trade—which might be more common—are proving hard to publicize or prosecute.
by Hayley Camacho
Human trafficking crimes cover a broad range of horrors. There is the 15-year old girl from China, sold into work bondage by her parents, working 70 hours a week in an upstate New York restaurant. There's the housekeeper from Africa held captive by the family she worked for in Detroit, who made her work for free, verbally abused her and refused to get her medical help. There's the 17- year old victim of convicted sex trafficker Leon Brown in New York who was psychologically coerced and beaten into engaging in acts of prostitution.
Brown was sentenced to 10 year years in state prison for sex trafficking. He was one of a small number of sex traffickers to be prosecuted, despite growing public awareness of the sex trafficking problem.
Labor trafficking, however, is even more rarely prosecuted: Neither the 15-year-old nor the housekeeper from Africa saw their abusers arrested. It enjoys far less publicity—even though some statistics indicate that it, not sex trafficking, is the main form of modern-day slavery.
An overlooked form of trafficking
Since 2000, the federal government and all 50 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws that criminalize the trafficking of persons for labor and commercial sex. The Federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) defines human trafficking as: "Sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; and ... the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery."
A Congressional Research Service report issued for 2013 said that as many as 17,500 people are believed to be trafficked to the United States each year.
To some, the trafficking problem is all but synonymous with sex work. In a speech to the Citizens Crime Commission last September, Jonathan Lippman, the state's chief judge, said: "Though human trafficking includes labor trafficking, the vast majority of the victims--nearly 80 percent--are trafficked for sex."
But Lippman's statistic that 80 percent of trafficking cases involve sex says less than one might think. He means "cases" literally--instances where an arrest has been made or victims have applied for a special victims visa. Since critics contend that law enforcement is skewed to focus on sex trafficking, it's not surprising that most of their cases revolve around it.
Other numbers paint a different picture of the problem.
According to statistics from the Polaris Project, which advocates for and assists trafficking survivors, in FY 2010, 449 federal certifications were issued to adult victims of human trafficking and 92 eligibility letters were issued to child victims. Polaris found that 82 percent of adult victims of trafficking and 56 percent of child victims of trafficking in the United States were labor trafficking victims, not sex trafficking victims.
In December of 2013, City Bar Justice Center's Immigrant Women and Children Project released a special report that analyzed 150 human trafficking cases handled from 2002 through the summer of 2013. Their findings confirm the preponderance of labor trafficking in New York City. Out of the 150 human trafficking cases, 54.6 percent involved labor trafficking and 45.3 percent involved sex trafficking. Domestic work was the most frequently reported form of labor trafficking, representing nearly 80 percent of the cases.
The two forms of trafficking are not entirely separate: Some labor-trafficking victims are forced into sex work to pay off the debts they owe their abuser. But in general, sex trafficking enjoys a far higher profile. Measures to reduce sex trafficking were part of Gov. Cuomo's Women's Equality Agenda last year. Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore talk about sex trafficking.
A few high-profile labor-trafficking cases involving the abuse of domestic workers in New York have been prosecuted. In 2008, international perfume maker Mahender Sabhnani and his wife Varsha were sentenced to prison on charges that included forced labor, conspiracy, involuntary servitude and harboring aliens.
This past March, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District indicted Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade on one count of visa fraud for paying a housekeeper far less than the minimum wage and one count of making false statements in her application for a work visa for that housekeeper. Prosecutors said Khobragade told the U.S. government that she was paying her housekeeper $9.75 an hour, while actually paying her less than $3 an hour and often making her work up to 100 hours a week cooking, cleaning and caring for Khobragade's two children.
In April, the office indicted four individuals on charges of forced labor and visa fraud in connection with their hiring of female dancers in India under the false pretense that they would perform Indian cultural programs in the U.S. Once the victims were in the U.S., the defendants were forced to dance in nightclubs in front of crowds of men all night, seven nights a week.
But these were just two indictments that involved labor out of a string of recent human trafficking indictments, the majority of which involved sex trafficking. The same is true for local prosecutors. In March 2012, the Manhattan District Attorney's Office created a Human Trafficking Program within the Office's Special Victims Bureau. The following year the office announced the sentencing of Norriel Ferguson to one year in jail after pleading guilty to Labor Trafficking for forcing children to sell candy for cash in the transit system. Since then, no other prosecutions for labor trafficking have been announced.
Shortcomings in investigations
Trafficking, whether for sex or labor, is rarely prosecuted. The Department of Justice initiated just 128 federal human trafficking prosecutions in fiscal year 2012, charging 200 defendants, 162 of whom were allegedly engaged predominately in sex trafficking and 38 engaged in labor trafficking. Figures for New York are even more dismal: According to the Division of Criminal Justice Services, in 2013 there were 59 arrests and 12 convictions for sex trafficking in the state, and two arrests and two convictions for labor trafficking.
Lack of awareness among both trafficking victims and law enforcement are the root causes for the lack of human trafficking prosecutions in New York City, experts say. "With trafficking, people are not coming into my office or the police saying, ‘I've been trafficked,'" says Suzanne Tomatore, Project Director of the City Bar Justice Center's Immigrant Women and Children Project, which assists survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking and violent crimes in their immigration matters. "They have a sense that a crime was committed against them and that they've been deceived, manipulated and abused. They come to us for other reasons such as domestic violence or they're trying to get help with immigration status. In talking to them, we identify initial trafficking to the United States. Sometimes our claimants have been in the United States for many years and were trafficked later."
A 2012 study by the Institute on Labor and Justice of Northeastern University and the Justice Policy Center of the Urban Institute analyzed data from 12 U.S. counties in states that had human trafficking laws as of 2007. The data revealed that across the board, police departments lacked an investigative culture around human trafficking. Rather than develop the intelligence protocols for handling trafficking cases, police departments apply standard vice-crime protocols to prostitution cases and label those cases sex trafficking.
That orientation causes police departments to miss the full nature of the trafficking problem. Focusing on sex trafficking as an outgrowth of standard vice-law enforcement "just requires changing the person who was the perpetrator before to be recognized as the victim," says Dr. Amy Farrell, assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice at Northeastern University and one of the authors of the study. "It doesn't means you go out and find all new crimes you've never dealt with before, which is the case oftentimes for labor trafficking."
The study found that another barrier to the development of intelligence protocols for labor trafficking is that law enforcement officials lacked knowledge regarding the broad range of human trafficking cases, at times confusing labor trafficking with a labor dispute. "Law enforcement is really not understanding what labor trafficking is," says Tomatore. "It's very easy for people to get their heads around sex trafficking when that's what we see in the media , movies and TV."
Another obstacle to the prosecution of labor trafficking cases is that investigations often fall in a gap between regulatory agencies and the criminal justice system. "[The Labor Department] says, 'That's not really what we're here to do. We're here to inspect the wage-and-hour violations and we don't want to scare people that we're doing criminal investigations because then people who don't have immigration status will be fearful to talk to us,'" Farrell says. Meanwhile, among police agencies, "We found universally where law enforcement said, ‘We know there's a lot of labor trafficking here but we don't have the cases,'" says Farrell. "We would ask them, ‘Do you plan to go look for any cases?' They simply say, ‘No one calls about these cases.'"
Despite the difficulties in conducting investigations, raising awareness of the problem of human trafficking is an important issue for state DOL. This past spring, it launched a new initiative to partner with businesses and train employees on identifying human trafficking in the labor market. A department spokesperson said the effort has resulting in the agency receiving more reports, and it has referred cases to district attorneys in Manhattan, Albany County, Rockland County, Suffolk County and across the state that led to investigations.
The court's role
Since October of 2013, New York state courts have expanded a policy of diverting individuals arrested and charged with prostitution offenses to a separate court, Human Trafficking Intervention Court, which treats them as sex trafficking victims in need of a wide array of social services instead of jail time.
HTIC is the first state-wide court system in the country established to deal with human trafficking. The court began as pilot projects in Queens, midtown Manhattan and Nassau County and has expanded to all five boroughs as well as Yonkers, Long Island, Syracuse and Buffalo. It handles the cases of individuals charged with prostitution or loitering for the purposes of prostitution. Through the end of December 2013, the court had handled over 2,600 cases.
The court has an array of social service providers who work with charged individuals and provide vocational and educational training, as well as help dealing with domestic violence, sexual assault, substance abuse and mental health issues. In most cases, according to Kate Mogulescu, founder and head of the Legal Aid Society's Trafficking Victims Advocacy Project, it is beneficial to the defendant's case to cooperate with the service providers.
Some wonder if a court setting, however humane and service-oriented, is the best place for the government to help people who, by law, are victims, not criminals. Others feel the court equates prostitution with sex trafficking, and that law enforcement fails to identify and prosecute incidents of labor trafficking, making the problem seem non-existent. "It's already embedded in our law enforcement culture to put resources into anti-prostitution policing," said Mogulescu. "It's an easier bet."
Although the name of the court implies a focus on all types of trafficking, labor trafficking cases are never handled in the court. Instead it seeks to address the social elements that may be compelling sex workers and hopes to reduce repeat offenses.
"Originally, the court in Queens was called Prostitution Diversion Court and I think that was a better name for it," says Tomatore. "They're not handling labor trafficking and they're not handling trafficking holistically. The federal and New York definition of sex trafficking state you have to be coerced into prostitution and not everyone who is going through the HTIC meets that definition."
Hard work ahead
The Northeastern University study concluded that education on the full extent of trafficking is needed to improve law enforcement's response to labor trafficking and advance its prioritization in the local community.
Tomatore, whose organization conducts workshops with the NYPD on trafficking, would like to see training extend beyond the Vice Unit: "They (Vice) have a lot on their plate. I think it would be interesting to see more involvement from different units of NYPD, such as the Special Victims Unit, which deals with crime victims and investigations from a more victim centered approach."
David Beasley, spokesperson for Safe Horizon, which assists trafficking victims and trains law enforcement and government personnel, is optimistic that the NYPD's response to labor trafficking will improve, as it has for other crimes such as domestic violence.
"This is a new movement," he said. "The responses of governmental bodies and law enforcement officials to these crimes is still very much in formation. We're optimistic that we will get trainings out there and we will have our advocates working to make these processes better."
Child abuse task force announces CYFD, APD changes
by Chris McKee
ALBUQUERQUE – The child abuse task force that formed after the death of 9-year old Omaree Varela has finished its work and it's recommending big changes to how the Albuquerque Police Department and the Children, Youth and Families Department work together.
The Omaree Varela case revealed CYFD and APD dropped the ball and didn't help the little boy who police say was killed by his mother. The case lead to one officers firing, another suspended and two others were reprimanded.
One of the biggest changes made Wednesday by the task force is how officers respond to child abuse calls.
“What's different is if I'm a police officer and I get dispatched to one of these difficult cases, I have a resource to contact right then and there, they come to my scene and then they help me make those very important decisions,” said Sisi Miranda, the city's Child Abuse Prevention Task Force coordinator.
When Miranda's referenced “a resource to contact,” she was talking about APD's new “CARE” officers, or “Child Abuse Response Evaluator” officers.
APD says CARE officers will get called out to scenes as “experts” much like social workers. The department says CARE officers will get specialized training in order to more easily recognize signs of child abuse, neglect and sexual assault.
APD Chief Gorden Eden says there are already about 25 CARE officers who have received the training and another 15 or more will get the training soon.
Officers are also now required to make police reports for every child abuse call out as a result of the task force. That includes situations where no one is arrested or no charges are filed. That is a direct change stemming from a case where APD was called out to Omaree Varela's home after a 911 call where his mother and step-father could be heard berating the boy. Even though APD officers responded to the home, they never filed a report.
The city is also touting that APD's Crimes Against Children Unit just moved back in the same building as CYFD investigators so they can work closely together. The two agencies split up in 2007 after APD moved the unit in an effort to begin the city's “Family Advocacy Center.” The city says there wasn't enough office space at the time to house CYFD in the same building.
In addition to all of the changes, officers can now call CYFD and get access to the state's database of referrals for child services.
“The officers know what the historical data is that CYFD has in our in our record upon arriving on scene and that's based on the numbers that we've seen, that is being utilized and is proving to be very effective, CYFD Deputy Secretary Jennifer Padgett said.
In addition to the ability to access CYFD's records, the city says it's also putting about $100,000 into a new shared website they're still building where APD and CYFD can share records.
APD says the new CARE officers will also get a bump in pay along with specialized training.
Father of 5 children expected to be charged in connection with their deaths
by JAY REEVES and BRYNN ANDERSON
CAMDEN, Ala. (AP) — Authorities expect to charge a South Carolina man in connection with the deaths of his five children after he led them to a secluded dirt road in Alabama where their bodies lay wrapped in individual garbage bags.
Timothy Ray Jones Jr. has been charged with child neglect and police expect to lodge additional charges against him, the Lexington County, South Carolina, Sheriff's Department said in a news release.
Jones, 32, is awaiting extradition to South Carolina from Mississippi, where he has been jailed since his arrest Saturday on a drunken-driving charge, Smith County Sheriff Charlie Crumpton said in a statement.
Wilcox County, Alabama, District Attorney Michael Jackson told The Associated Press that Jones is suspected of killing the children in South Carolina before bringing their bodies to Alabama.
Police have not released details on how the children died. Lexington County Coroner Earl Wells was arranging for the children's bodies to be taken back to South Carolina for autopsies and identification Tuesday night, sheriff's officials said.
It also was unclear when the children were killed, how much time passed before their bodies were disposed of, and what motivation Jones might have had to do it.
"This is a very tragic situation," Jackson said. "These kids' lives were snuffed out before they had a chance to enjoy life. Justice will be served."
Jones had joint custody of his children with his ex-wife, police said, and had recently told neighbors he and the kids were going to move out of South Carolina.
Marlene Hyder and her husband, Johnny Hyder, said Jones and his wife moved into a house next to them about seven years ago in Batesburg-Leesville, South Carolina, 25 miles west of Columbia. Two years ago, the wife moved in with a male neighbor and Tim Jones moved away with the children, the Hyders said.
Jones led police to the site where the bodies of the children were found, off a two-lane highway near Camden, Ala., said Alabama Department of Public Safety spokesman Sgt. Steve Jarrett.
Investigators could be seen at the site late Tuesday, working in a clearing at the top of a hill lit by floodlights.
Jones was detained in Smith County, Mississippi, on Saturday after being stopped at a motor vehicle checkpoint near Raleigh, Mississippi, and charged with drunken driving, Crumpton said.
The Smith County sheriff said Jones became agitated when a deputy questioned him about an odor of chemicals coming from the Cadillac Escalade he was driving. The deputy found what were believed to be chemicals used to manufacture methamphetamine and a substance believed to be the street drug Spice, a form of synthetic marijuana, Crumpton said. A sheriff's office investigator was called and found what appeared to be bleach, muriatic acid, blood and possible body fluids, he said.
During a background check, police discovered that Jones was wanted in South Carolina "regarding a welfare concern of his children," who were on a national missing persons list, the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation said in a statement. The children, who ranged from 1 to 8 years old, were reported missing by their mother Sept. 3, authorities said.
Jarrett told a news conference that authorities were not sure why Jones drove through Alabama.
Back in Batesburg-Leesville, South Carolina, Johnny Hyder said that when the Joneses lived next door, the children were often dressed in dirty clothes and were seen home at all hours of the day because Tim Jones had said he didn't believe in the public schools. Hyder said Jones was constantly looking for a reason to argue and often threatened to call the police. He said Jones approached him with a gun on his hip one day and was angry about something, but Hyder couldn't remember what it was. When Hyder said he was going to call police, he said Jones told him it was only a BB gun.
"It wasn't a BB gun," Hyder said. "It was a real gun. I know what one looks like, but I didn't want to cause any more trouble."
Marlene Hyder said Jones threatened to kill one of their dogs when it briefly went onto his property.
"He was a nut," she said.
Marlene Hyder said she also remembered a day when one of the Joneses' younger children came over to the Hyders' house and tried to drink out of one of their outdoor spigots. He was dirty and disheveled and ran back to his house when she tried to speak to him, she said.
A "no trespassing" sign was posted near the driveway of a house where the Hyders said Tim Jones' ex-wife still lived with the other neighbor. Several people were seen walking around the yard, but none responded to questions from a reporter.
Scott “Spider” Johnson's "Dirty Little Secret" Inspires Thousands of Abuse Victims
(Both videos on site....good to watch)
by Ashley Ludwig
Scott “Spider” Johnson is self described as: a biker-less biker. A trucker. A father of a daughter in her 20s. Inside, however, he has kept what he calls a “dirty little secret” since the age of 12. Johnson was molested by someone he trusted, an event that colored his life every day since.
Johnson has become an accidental spokesperson for the millions of sexual abuse and molestation victims out there.
“I have to believe it's all for the greater good,” Johnson states of his growing fan base. “This whole experience has been nothing but positive for me.”
Two years ago, Johnson picked up a black pen, a stack of cards, and filmed a YouTube video of what he coined as his “dirty little secret.”
“I was in a mental prison,” Johnson stated in interview. “I lived with that knowledge every day, and it changed my entire life until I finally found the courage to share my story.”
Over 8 minutes–silent but for the background music–Johnson shared his personal experience of surviving child molestation, a subject that is considered “taboo” in so many circles. Johnson's silent testimony shares how he was molested as a 12-year-old child, by a man who until recently, has remained nameless.
“Over the years, I searched for (the man who molested me) on the internet. I would describe him only as an assistant Boy Scoutmaster, a talented airbrush artist, a Brazilian.” Johnson said in a telephone interview. “Once I found him, I couldn't keep silent anymore. It floored me that he was just living a normal life.”
But even after a thorough internet search, opening an investigation in Garden Grove, California (at the location of the original crime), Johnson states that the sex crimes division was unable to take the case farther. “They said it was my word against his,” Johnson explained. “There were no corroborating witnesses. I went to the Boy Scouts of America, and was told the same thing.” Johnson stated.
At this, his voice broke a bit. “I loved the boy scouts.” Johnson said.
With no chance of legal recourse, Johnson had an epiphany. “I made the video out of sheer frustration. It was consuming me, and wrecking my life. I wanted Ed to know that I knew, and I just started writing cards.”
Those 8 minutes of compelling video are testament of a now grown up man revealing the little boy inside's secrets. Of his skill at playing the saxophone, of his enjoyment of life, ultimately stolen in an instant and told with blunt honesty.
Releasing the video was cathartic for Johnson, but what he did not expect was the enormous outpouring of support that came two years later.
“I had no idea how inspiring my video would be,” stated Johnson. “My size, my (tattooed-biker) look, and what I (wrote down) impacted a lot of people. But the most important was the comments from a young man from New Zealand, who reached out to me after watching it.”
In Johnson's words, the young man was suicidal and saying goodbye to family and friends, on the verge of giving up after carrying a secret of his own.
“I talked to him, that night, and as far as I know, he is still around and with us.” Johnson stated. “It's uplifting that someone didn't follow through with plans for suicide after watching my “Dirty Little Secret” video and realizing that he wasn't alone.”
With his video, Johnson revealed the stress, anxiety, anger, and “mental prison” that victims of sexual molestation often feel have pushed Johnson into the limelight.
“One of my commenter's took a Buddhist angle,” Johnson said, of his growing Facebook fanbase, “asking if I thought 40 years ago that so many would be healed through my testimony, if I would have sacrificed myself willingly, I would still go through it? No question about it. I would say yes. I'll take it.”
Johnson is using his Facebook following to talk with those who are hurting, who are in the midst of sexual abuse or domestic violence, helping victims find their voice.
“I talk over Facebook with adults who have been abused, and even teenagers who are being abused, who break down and tell me what's happening. I encourage everyone to talk about it. To tell someone, to tell everyone until someone listens.”
Citing a case of cousins who went to their family to report on an abusive situation gives Johnson pride in his newly defined mission.
“It's encouraging to know these kids have courage inside of them. I just helped her get past the fear, I'm so sorry they are suffering, but they are the ones who went to their family to fix this horrible, broken part and get their lives back.”
Now, with the support of his followers, Johnson has released a second video and this time, names the perpetrator of his crime.
“It was time to fully address the molestation that I experienced as a 12-year-old boy.” Johnson stated on his Facebook page.
Though the subject matter takes a grim turn, Johnson's full message has finally been released. He states on his new card-relayed message that though naming the abuser could result in defamation of character, “a man has to have character in order to be defamed.”
While he's been asked to join the speaking circuit, Johnson is still weighing his options. He has soda to haul, and people to keep safe on the interstate.
“Everyone has bad things happen. Bad moments in an otherwise good day. I stutter, I was bullied so much that I became the bully. Now, it's time to overcome all of that.” Johnson said. “It's disheartening to think that in a group of 12-year-old kids, several are suffering abuse in silence.”
His Facebook page is ripe with tips on how to avoid abusive situations, as well as survivors helping each other. The comments are flooded with supporters, those who have overcome abuse, those who are still suffering, all giving each other hope.
Johnson encourages all, regardless of age, to speak up about these acts of violence. To speak out, and not carry the damage as he did:
“Kids have a hopelessness and confusion once they've been molested. They wonder, is it my PE teacher? Could my dad do something like that? The pedophiles go free while the kids remain silent with their secrets. And I won't stand for that any longer. I'll help however I can.”
For more information on Scott Johnson's story, follow him on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/spideralamode
To aid his cause, The Rape Victims Compensation Fund, support: http://www.gofundme.com/bc0o1o
More police training urged to combat child abuse
by Rick Nathanson
A task force looking into the death of 9-year-old Omaree Varela last December, allegedly at the hands of his mother, is recommending more intensive training on child abuse for all Albuquerque police cadets and that as many as 40 patrol officers be specially trained as “care officers.”
The task force concluded that multiple opportunities to intervene in the Omaree Varela case were missed because information was not shared among the Albuquerque Police Department, the state Children, Youth and Families Department, the Albuquerque Public Schools and the District Attorney's Office.
“The failure to link the cases most likely resulted in the failure to intervene on his behalf,” according to the Child Abuse Prevention Task Force report, scheduled to be released today. “It appears that each agency received information separately and at different times, with the exception of the District Attorney's Office – which claimed it received no information at all on Omaree.”
The task force was commissioned in February by Mayor Richard Berry following Omaree's death in late December.
The report was prepared by Marie “Sisi” Miranda, a retired commander with APD's Crimes Against Children Unit, who now operates Miranda Investigative Resources.
The report reflects public comments made during a series of community meetings in which an expert panel fielded questions.
Omaree's mother, Synthia Varela-Casaus, is being held in jail on a host of charges in the death of her son, including child abuse resulting in death. Her husband, and Omaree's stepfather, Steven Casaus, has been charged with intentionally or negligently causing the death of the boy by not getting him prompt medical assistance, and with tampering with evidence and bribery of witnesses.
The report's recommendations are aimed at improving communication among the agencies that respond to child abuse cases and improving training for police officers who are often the first to respond to reports of abuse and neglect.
In August, six CYFD investigators and two supervisors moved into the Albuquerque Family Advocacy Center, which already houses APD's Crimes Against Children, Domestic Violence and Child Exploitation units. Locating them in the same building is expected to “improve coordination between CYFD investigators and police,” the report said.
But the report also recommends that APD hire social workers attached to the Crimes Against Children Unit, where they can track and prioritize cases, conduct background checks and ensure that cases are received in the DA's Office.
It also says as many as 40 patrol officers should be trained as “care officers,” specialists in child abuse and neglect investigations. The officers would be placed in all area commands and would be part of the teams that respond to cases involving children, and be in addition to the six officers attached to the Crimes Against Children's Unit.
The Albuquerque Police Academy earlier this year implemented scenario-based training in which officers “role play” scenarios developed by training staff as a way to teach them how to respond in different situations involving children. That training is now required once every two years. The task force recommends it be incorporated into all basic training schedules.
It also said more funding needs to be directed into programs that work with families in crisis to provide intervention before child abuse or neglect occurs.
Field officers responding to calls on child abuse or neglect often are not able to get basic information quickly from CYFD about its prior contacts with the child or family. The best tool for getting that information and relaying it to officers in the field, the report said, is through APD's Real Time Crime Center.
“Decisions will need to be made regarding confidentiality, agreement on what constitutes useful information, and the type of information to be shared without compromising protected information at CYFD,” the report states.
The task force also recommends that APD update its records system software so that important data on child abuse and neglect can be accessed upon request.
The Omaree Varela case already has triggered some changes at the state level. Gov. Susana Martinez ordered the creation of child advocacy centers across the state where case workers, police officers, sexual assault nurse examiners and other specialists can work together under one roof. The first of those child advocacy centers opened in Valencia County last Friday.
State Police and other law enforcement agencies under the governor's direction and CYFD were ordered to cooperate and share information on child abuse cases in a timely fashion. State Police dispatchers can now access the CYFD case history system and relay basic information about a family's previous CYFD contacts to officers in the field.
Task force recommendations
Omaree Varela had been on the radar of the state Children, Youth and Families Department since at least 2009.
By the time Albuquerque police found him cold and unresponsive at a Northeast Heights house last December, CYFD had received nine referrals about the boy and his family, though only two were substantiated.
After his death, the Child Abuse Prevention Task Force was convened to look for ways to improve how child abuse and neglect cases are handled by police and other agencies.
Among the task force's recommendations:
APD should train patrol officers as “care officers” who would be specialists in child abuse and neglect.
Scenario training should be incorporated into all basic training regarding child abuse and neglect.
Social workers should be hired by APD to work with officers to help track and prioritize cases, conduct background checks and ensure that cases are received in the DA's Office.
APD's records management system should be upgraded so data on child abuse and neglect can be extracted; and police should have access to basic information about a family's prior contacts with CYFD.
More funding should be directed into programs that work with families in crisis to provide intervention before child abuse or neglect occurs.
SC to post information on child-abuse deaths
by ANDREW SHAIN
COLUMBIA, SC — As legislative watchdogs prepare to issue an audit of the state Department of Social Services, that agency said Tuesday it will start sharing some information with the public about abused and neglected children who are killed.
The secrecy surrounding child deaths has been questioned by a special state Senate panel that is investigating Social Services. That ongoing investigation has found Social Services suffers high turnover among its caseworkers due, in part, to their heavy caseloads, and the agency does not always have good working relationships with law enforcement.
Amber Gillum, acting director of Social Services, denied the changes announced Tuesday were an attempt to get ahead of a soon-to-be-released audit of that agency by the Legislative Audit Council. Instead, since the June resignation of Social Services director Lillian Koller, Gillum said the agency has worked to put into practice suggestions raised in the Senate hearings and by the public.
Social Services said it would make changes on the same day that Vincent Sheheen, the Democratic candidate for governor, received the endorsement of the S.C. chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. That group's president previously testified before the Senate panel about poor pay and lack of training at Social Services.
“(Sheheen) knows what it means to have someone ... whose health has been jeopardized largely by leadership acts,” said Marjorie Hammock, chairwoman of the association's political action committee.
Hammock said Republican Gov. Nikki Haley's administration has not done enough “to provide quality services to keep people out of harm.”
In posting information about abuse deaths on its website, Social Services, which reports directly to Haley, said it will include: the child's age and gender; description and results of previous abuse investigations; and actions taken by the agency with the child.
Social Services also said it is working to improve its coordination with state and local law enforcement officers by hiring former Newberry Police Chief Jackie Swindler as a liaison.
To retain caseworkers, Social Services is developing pay increases based on merit and seniority. The agency also will offer more chances for promotion and training for caseworkers.
In Richland County, a short-term intervention team of Social Services employees from around the state, which arrived in May to stabilize that troubled office, is staying longer to allow more time for training new caseworkers, agency deputy director Jessica Hanak-Coulter said. Problems at the county became public after the beating death of a 4-year-old autistic boy last year despite Social Services investigations into his care.
Sheheen, a state senator from Camden, was not impressed by the timing of Social Services' announcement of the changes it is making.
“We want changes. Changes have to occur,” he said. “But just ... weeks before an election trotting out things they're going to do – when they should have already done them – seems to me to be pretty hypocritical.”
Inside Homeschooling's Child Abuse Problem
by Josh Israel
This June, a seven-year-old Pennsylvania boy was found by child welfare workers, nearly starved to death and weighing less than 25 pounds. According to police, the child was being denied food, beaten with a belt, and not allowed outside by his mother and grandparents — who are now charged with attempted murder and other offenses. Because the child was homeschooled and enrolled at online charter school, he was largely out of the public view, making detection of the apparent abuse difficult.
While his case was by no means the typical experience of a homeschooler, he is an example of what the Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE) calls “Homeschooling's Invisible Children,” — dozens of abused and neglected kids the group has documented across the country whose parents or guardians have hidden from detection by taking them out of public schools and keeping them at home. According to Rachel Coleman, a homeschool alum and the CRHE's acting executive director, more than 90 of those “invisible children” have died since 2000.
State laws governing homeschool monitoring vary widely. In some states, homeschooled kids must be seen and reviewed annually by a certified educator. In some, parents have sole discretion over their children's education. In most states, anyone with custody can homeschool their kids — even if they have been previously convicted of child abuse or other serious crimes. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Children's Bureau , more than 678,000 children were victims of abuse and neglect nationwide in 2012. The agency does not track statistics about how many of those were homeschoolers. But CRHE, through its own research, has documented hundreds of anecdotal cases.
While no one actually endorses child abuse or neglect, there is disagreement within the homeschooling community about how best to address the problem — and how widespread it is. Coleman's CRHE (a group made up of homeschool alumni that works to promote responsible “child-centered” home education practices and pushes for homeschooling reform) and other child advocates would like to see greater state oversight of homeschooling. But their policy proposals in this area have been met with strong opposition from the most visible organization within the homeschooling movement: Michael Farris' Home School Legal Defense Association.
‘Whispered allegations over the phone'
Since 1983, the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has provided advocacy and legal representation for parents who chose to educate their children at home. Co-founded and chaired by conservative Christian activist Michael Farris, HSLDA helped make homeschooling legal in all 50 states and became, in the words of homeschooling historian and Messiah College associate professor of education Milton Gaither, “pretty much the face of homeschooling.” The organization, based in Purcellville, VA, reported in 2013 that its annual budget is more than $10 million.
In addition to leading the legislative and judicial charge to protect the rights of parents to homeschool, HSLDA has directed a great deal of its attention to keeping the government out of their homes. Reflecting the organization's conservative views, it prefers letting parents make decisions without interference from federal, state, or local officials.
The organization has lobbied for laws to criminalize “knowingly making a false report of child abuse” and requiring “corroborating evidence of the alleged abuse or neglect before a full investigation is conducted” based on anonymous reports. In 2003, Farris wrote in an article that, “The misuse of anonymous tips are well-known. Personal vendettas, neighborhood squabbles, disputes on the Little League field, are turned into maliciously false allegations breathed into a hotline. From my perspective, there is no reason whatsoever in any case, for a report to be anonymous. There is every reason to keep the reports confidential.” He argued that “the welfare of children is absolutely consistent with our constitutional requirements” and that young children “can be traumatized by investigations in ways that are unintended by the social worker.”
“HSLDA will help stop social workers or any other government officials from conducting unwarranted searches in your home,” the group promises on their “ You Can Homeschool” website. HSLDA instructs its members to never let social workers into their house “without a warrant or court order.” In 2011 interview, Farris explained his group's concern:
FARRIS: We also fight government agencies when they do unlawful searches and seizures for child abuse investigations. Homeschoolers, because we're a little different, are subject to these whispered allegations over the phone, whispered rumors: “I think they do this and such.” And they call up child services. So we've gotten to be pretty expert in defending Fourth Amendment rights.”
He observed that often social workers investigating homeschooling families “just think that the normal rules of the fourth amendment don't apply to them,” but noted that over the years, this problem has “dramatically improved.” As homeschooling has become more common, HSLDA says fewer people are incorrectly reporting homeschooling families for “educational neglect and truancy.”
Robert Kunzman, an expert on homeschooling and a professor at the Indiana University Bloomington, wrote in his 2009 book, Write These Laws On Your Children , that HSLDA has long portrayed social workers and child protection agencies as a “dangerous combination of bumbling bureaucracies ignorant of homeschoolers' constitutional rights and devious ideologues intent on removing children from their homes,” though it appears that “the vast majority of homeschoolers never come into contact with these agencies.” Still, he wrote, he can understand why homeschoolers are wary of child protective agencies, acting on anonymous tips, “knocking on your door and demanding to interview your children.”
The fear of anonymous tipsters has been longstanding for HSLDA. In 1996, Farris published a novel called Anonymous Tip, relaying a Kafkaesque tale of a family whose life is uprooted by Child Protective Services after a false report by an anonymous accuser.
Kunzman told ThinkProgress that while he understands how “even the possibility of an overzealous social worker might make me on high alert,” the HSLDA's steady diet of published accounts of harassment and persecution by social workers “rarely seems to be the full story,” and “it's impossible to tell how representative this is of the overall population.”
The organization's position is that child abuse and neglect are very rare. “Statistics show that up to 60 percent of children removed from their homes by social workers were taken away from their parents without probable cause to suspect abuse,” HSLDA asserts, and about “30 percent of reports that are investigated include only one child found to be a victim of abuse or neglect.” HSLDA boasts that it has “represented thousands of families during [child protective services] investigations” and “litigated and won a number of cases” on their behalf.
HSLDA has also opposed efforts to expand the list of people who are designated as “mandatory reporters” (legally required to report suspected child abuse) and to require criminal background checks for parents who intend to homeschool their children.
“The other side of the equation”
Daniel Pollack, a professor at Yeshiva University's school of social work, has written extensively on child abuse and neglect and frequently serves as an expert witness in abuse cases. He told ThinkProgress that, “Without a doubt, there are parents who are removing their children [from public schools], not specifically to abuse them,” but because they “don't want them to appear in school.” If a child is in a school setting, he notes, “teachers, administrators, school nurses, and social workers are in theory looking after [them] in a safe environment.” But, he notes, many parents are “legitimately concerned about their kids being bullied in school,” and it is very difficult to know whether there is more abuse “behind closed doors” in the homeschool environment or in the school setting. According to a U.S. Department of Education survey in the 2008-09 school year, about 1.4 percent of students (ages 12 through 18) reported that were victims of a violent crime, in the previous six months.
In 2010, Laura Brodie wrote in Psychology Today about a fourth-grade boy who would tell his parents every morning that he was “sick to his stomach” and wanted to stay home. Upon further investigation, the parents discovered that classmates regularly bullied him and once even “stuffed him head first into a garbage can.” Despite intervention efforts by the school, the problem persisted. One day, he told his mother his day had gone “great” as he'd been picked on only once. To stop the bullying, the parents took him out of school and homeschooled him for a year. “I'm convinced pulling him out to homeschool (which gave him a break) was the best choice we could have made,” the mother told Brodie. Several other parents of bullied children have also found that for their kids, the home was safer than school.
Pollack's point was echoed by David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. He told ThinkProgress that homeschool kids “may be subject to less bullying and peer victimization, the effects of which can be as toxic and long-term as parental child mistreatment.” Moreover, he noted, “evidence suggests that educators in general are not that good at identifying abuse and neglect and getting it reported,” so more training for all educators and teachers should be the priority.
Linda Spears, vice president for policy and public affairs at the Child Welfare League of America, called bullying “the other side of the equation.” She also told ThinkProgress that while “any time a child is less than visible in the community, that places them at higher risk that harm will happen and go undetected,” there is a similar concern about “other populations, including any child under five [years old, and thus] not in the school system” and kids who are “periodically absent from school for long period of time.” The real question, she said, “is visibility: who sees the child and how often, outside of family,” and “is the child isolated or participating in recreation, church, etc.”
Homeschool alumni speak out
In April of 2013, a former homeschooled student named Libby Anne published a series of blog posts criticizing the Home School Legal Defense Association's handling of the child abuse and neglect issue. “Put simply,” she wrote at the time, “HSLDA is doing everything it can to keep people from reporting child abuse and to inhibit child abuse investigations, has opposed laws against child abuse, and is working to undo compulsory education laws altogether, effectively decriminalizing education neglect.” Her conclusion was that HSLDA's ideal would be for “only those who directly witness child abuse occurring (i.e., not just suspect that it's occurring) and are willing to go on the record and be sued and charged with a crime if their allegations turn out to be unsubstantiated should call in child abuse tips.”
A few weeks later, HSLDA posted on its Facebook page, apparently in response to the blogs, that “HSLDA does not and will not ever condone nor defend child abuse.” The statement noted that the organization “receives hundreds of calls each year from parents who are under investigation by CPS, often based on false, anonymous, trivial, or malicious reports,” most of which are ultimately dismissed as unfounded. But the statement did include a sentence seemingly conceding that some of the group's prior work could be construed to have backed harmful behavior: “To the extent that any statements we may have made could be misunderstood to suggest that we condone the abusive actions of some we repudiate them wholeheartedly and unequivocally.”
Libby Anne responded that HSLDA has not actually defined what child abuse is. “It's easy to speak against something without defining it. Even though HSLDA continually says that it only supports ‘reasonable' corporal punishment, in practice HSLDA [has] a track record of working against bills that would ban excessive corporal punishment.” She pointed to the group's opposition to legislation that would have banned unreasonable corporal punishment and made it a felony in Mississippi to “whip, strike or otherwise abuse any child,” in a way that causes bodily harm to the child, except in cases of self defense. “HSLDA may claim that it does not condone or defend child abuse, but it appears that its words do not match its actions. Words are easy—it's actions that matter,” she wrote.
Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out , a group of former homeschoolers who work within the movement to protect the rights of current homeschool kids, did take action. “We started a social media campaign, hashtag #HSLDAMustAct,” executive director Ryan Stollar told ThinkProgress, “calling on them to launch a public awareness campaign for recognizing child abuse. We created a Change.org petition for parents, homeschoolers, and alumni.” Stollar said HSLDA was not immediately responsive.
In January, the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, the alumni group that oversees the Homeschooling's Invisible Children database, issued a series of policy recommendations for states aimed at protecting the interests of homeschooled students. Among their recommendations were proposals that all parents “convicted of child abuse, sexual offenses, or other crimes that would disqualify them from employment as a school teacher” be barred from homeschooling and that all homeschooled students “should be assessed annually by mandatory reporters.” As of now, according to the group, only Pennsylvania prevents convicted criminals from homeschooling and Arkansas prohibits homeschooling if a registered sex offender lives in the home.
Rita Swan, a longtime advocate for children and president of Children's Healthcare Is a Legal Duty, endorsed the second proposal and told ThinkProgress she'd also “like to see laws requiring everyone called to render aid or assistance to a child to report suspected abuse or neglect” and stronger penalties for failure to report. But HSLDA has opposed CRHE's proposed approaches, objecting to any criminal background check for parents and to an Ohio bill it said would have meant children's services diverting “time and resources away from true child abuse investigations in order to review homeschool plans which they are neither prepared nor qualified to evaluate.”
The CRHE's Rachel Coleman told ThinkProgress that she spoke with Michael Farris about abuse and neglect of homeschooling children late last year and that Farris “expressed concern that if HSLDA couldn't deal with the abuse problem, homeschooling might end up banned.” But, she said, Farris said he preferred “self-policing” rather than regulation: “He said he wanted to change the culture of Christian homeschooling such that people will say something and speak up when they have concerns,” and that “parents are children's first protectors [and] a grandparent or aunt or uncle should step in to protect children if their parents fall down on the job.” Coleman noted that this approach is problematic, as without a child abuse finding by social services, relatives have no legal power to help a child if the parents refuse to let them in.
Jim Mason, senior counsel for HSLDA told ThinkProgress that while he was “not privy to the conversation,” the organization is taking the stories of abuse and neglect seriously. “We are addressing the issue now out of a two-fold concern: we care about children and families; and we wish for homeschooling to thrive in an environment of liberty,” he said, and, the organization does “believe that the homeschooling community is well-suited to address the issues raised by Rachel without further government regulation.”
Earlier this year, HSLDA for the first time posted an “Addressing Child Abuse” section on its website. In it, the organization says: “Addressing child abuse is a vital part of building a stronger, healthier homeschooling culture.” It also claims:
The evidence suggests that abuse in homeschooling families is rarer than in the general population. In 2011 (the last year for which data are available), approximately 4.1% of all children in the U.S. were involved in abuse investigations. The same year, HSLDA assisted less than 1.2% of our member families in child protective services investigations. The vast majority of these investigations were based on accusations that did not rise to the level of abuse or neglect (such as children being seen outside during school hours or a messy home) and closed as unfounded. While this statistic is not comprehensive, it can be seen as an indicator of a generally low rate of abuse among homeschoolers.
Rachel Coleman said that he group has serious concerns with the site's tone. Observing that the HSLDA's claim of a lower abuse rate appears to be solely based on their self-selected membership (HSLDA's membership application form asks if prospective members have a history of child abuse accusations) and notes that since “homeschooled students have fewer contacts with mandatory reporters than other students,” it logically follows that “when they are abused their abuse is less likely to be recognized and reported.”) She fears the organization's repeated insistence that “child abuse is very very rare in homeschooling circles” will suggest “that people should automatically give homeschool families the benefit of the doubt.” By not defining physical abuse or pointing people to state laws and others' definitions, she says, many parents do not know “the line between appropriate discipline and abuse.” Though she notes that the “vast majority” of homeschooling parents are not abusers, she believes greater accountability is needed to protect the children of those who are.
Coleman disputes the argument by Farris and HSLDA that social worker harassment of homeschoolers is a bigger problem than actual abuse: “Yes, there are sometimes social workers who abuse their position, and yes, the system sometimes fails. But like with anything else, this is why accountability is necessary.” The stories Farris cites as outrageous, to Coleman, “tend to be nothing more than social workers doing their jobs — ensuring children are not abused or neglected.”
“HSLDA appears to operate under the assumption that child abuse accusations are de facto false,” Coleman said. “In this context, we have to take the organization's claims about the supposedly high rates of false child abuse reports against homeschooling families with an entire container of salt.”
The HSLDA's Mason reiterated the organization's belief that “abuse and neglect among homeschooling parents is less prevalent than in the population in general.” While the group does not believe “that investigative social workers are motivated by a desire to traumatize children or tear apart families,” he said, the group does believe “that their failure to follow constitutional rules does result in these outcomes in far too many cases.” He pointed to a 2005 law review article by Duke University law professor Doriane Lambelet Coleman which warned caseworker intrusion can case ‘trauma, anxiety, fear, shame, guilt, stigmatization, powerlessness, self-doubt, depression, and isolation.”
While cases like the seven-year-old Pennsylvania boy being starved seem like obvious neglect and abuse, when it comes to child discipline, the line is not always clear. A subset of the religious conservatives in the homeschooling have adopted a controversial corporal-punishment-based approach to child rearing that critics believe straddles or crosses that.
Coleman's understanding of this part of the issue comes not just from her organization's research, but from her own experience. Her parents, she told The Daily Beast last year, were adherents to the teachings of pair of homeschooling pioneers whose strict biblical disciplinary approach has been adopted by many in the movement.
In 1994, two married evangelists named Michael and Debi Pearl published a To Train Up a Child, a book that encourages parents to train children using the “ the same principles the Amish use to train their stubborn mules, the same technique God uses to train His children.”
The book and the Pearls' ministry website encourage parents to homeschool and to discipline children using “biblical chastisement” tactics including whipping children with a switch, belt, or plumbing tube, including infants, to deter future need for discipline. Michael Pearl defends using “a straight slender stick growing on or cut from a tree or bush” to hit children as required by Proverbs 13:24 (“He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”) Their approach is discipline based on “an eye for an eye.”
But some children whose parents have attempted to adopt the Pearls' approach have died as the result of this discipline and their parents were ultimately charged with murder. Rita Swan, of Children's Healthcare Is a Legal Duty, writing about two parents who were reportedly Pearl followers and were convicted of homicide by abuse, noted that the couple prescribe no “limits to punishment and the hitting of children” in their book.
The Pearls have attempted to distance themselves from these deaths, claiming that their instructions were not followed in these cases and are often misunderstood. A representative from the Pearls' ministry sent ThinkProgress a statement Michael Pearl released in 2011, arguing that their book recommends discipline, not abuse. “The book repeated warns parents against abuse and emphasizes the parents' responsibility to love and properly care for their children, which includes training them for success,” he wrote, noting that these parents “chose to ignore (or twist) the contents of the book that could have corrected their poor parenting and prevented the abuse and her death.”
Messiah College's Milton Gaither believes many in the homeschooling movement are “trying to get back to what they would consider and Biblical and early American notion of male headship,” where “there's really no such thing as child abuse.” In their patriarchal worldview, he observed, “A father is like a king. His word is final. It is not the business of government or outsiders to question a father's reign within his own household.” Gaither does not believe that Farris or HSLDA are completely on board with this view, but said “Farris' knee-jerk belief that parental rights trump children's rights” stems from this mindset.
Coleman told ThinkProgress that “in many cases abusive homeschool parents are under the impression that they are simply administering ‘biblical' discipline.” But, she said, this problem “is a lot bigger than just Michael Pearl,” as “many of the child rearing manuals in wide circulation in the Christian homeschooling world” encourage “spanking infants and breaking children's wills.”
Coleman also pointed out that child abuse and neglect of homeschoolers “is not limited to excessive discipline that crosses the line into abuse,” noting: “There are abuse cases where narcissistic homeschool parents severely emotionally abuse their children without ever laying a hand to them” and “homeschooled children who are locked in empty bedrooms and regularly sexually assaulted.”
“A Line in the Sand”
Late last year, Doug Phillips, a prominent homeschooling advocate aligned with the biblical “patriarchy” movement, resigned from his ministry after admitting an “inappropriate” relationship with a woman — soon after, a young former follower filed a lawsuit against him, alleging sexual battery and assault. Phillips has denied her claims.
Farris distanced himself, posting on Facebook that while he had not been aware of any sexual misconduct, he did know that Phillips “was involved in unscriptural views about women in his teaching” and that he wished he had spoken up sooner.
In February, a second significant homeschooling figure named Bill Gothard — reportedly the 2010 recipient of HSLDA's leadership award — was placed on leave by his ministry following allegations of sexual harassment and failure to report child abuse. He too admitted to having “crossed the boundaries of discretion,” but denied some of the claims.
Last month, HSLDA and Farris responded to these incidents with an article in their Home School Court Report magazine, called “A Line in the Sand.” While noting that HSLDA's role is not “to be the police force of the homeschooling movement,” Farris called Gothard and Phillips threats to “the freedom and integrity of the homeschooling movement” and apologized on behalf of his entire organization for “failing to speak up sooner.”
After denouncing the patriarchy movement, Farris also ventured into the issue of biblical child discipline. Without referencing the Pearls by name, he wrote:
The overuse of physical discipline is causing real harm to children. (I am particularly concerned about the overuse of physical discipline with adopted children. Children need to feel loved in any discipline situation. Using spanking for adopted children poses a very high risk of being perceived by the child as an act of hatred instead of loving discipline, no matter what words surround the immediate act.)
He noted that while he does believe that “the Bible encourages spanking as a form of discipline,” but urged “common sense” in determining “at what age we should start, at what age we should stop, or what offenses deserve such discipline.”
Coleman told ThinkProgress that while CRHE is “glad that Farris has finally come out and drawn a line,” the group remains “concerned by both his reluctance to acknowledge his own role in the problem and his continued failure to call out Michael Pearl.” She also noted that HSLDA has yet to change the way it handles abuse cases by its member families or its legislative policy approach: “Self reflection and self policing is not enough. Homeschooled children need legal protections safeguarding both their freedom from abuse and their interest in receiving an education.” Until these change, she said “homeschooling will continue to serve as an easy cover for abusive or neglectful parents.” Asked about the Pearls, HSLDA's Mason responded only that the group “is concerned about those who promote an imbalanced approach to child discipline.”
The blogger who originally called out HSLDA, Libby Anne, told ThinkProgress that HSLDA's latest actions is a “classic deflection.” “My concerns with regards to homeschooling and abuse and neglect have always had more to do with HSLDA's willingness to protect child abusers and its emphasis on parental rights at the expense of children's interests, and this has not been addressed by that organization in any way shape or form,” she said, adding that she worries the organization and others will now claim to have “done their part” while not actually addressing the real concerns.
In the end, CRHE and HSLDA agree that child abuse and neglect represent a serious threat to homeschool students and to the movement as a whole. CRHE and HSLDA just strongly disagree on how to address the problem. And while child-rights advocates agree with CRHE that some additional oversight might help make the invisible abuse victims more visible, the lack of any reliable statistics on abuse within the movement makes solutions difficult.
“Maybe the story is ‘the answer needs to be known. We don't know the answer to the question,'” offered Linda Spears of the Child Welfare League of America. “I don't think there is any one answer; it's complex.”
Ray Rice finally must answer for his actions; when will NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?
by Mike Wise
When the crawl lines of “VIDEO OF NFL PLAYER KNOCKING OUT HIS WIFE” all stop playing on a loop, when the caravans of outrage from domestic violence groups gradually pass — that moment in a week or so when Commissioner Roger Goodell and the Baltimore Ravens can exhale feeling the worst is behind them — there always will be one disturbing fact:
If not for TMZ, Ray Rice would be playing Sept. 21, when the Ravens visit Cleveland.
A man who hit a woman so hard he dropped her like a rag doll and left her lifeless-looking body face down on the elevator floor for several moments — before trying to clear her feet of the elevator door as if she were a cumbersome piece of furniture he was moving — was supposed to go to work like every other American in two weeks' time.
Until Monday, when TMZ produced the sickening images of Rice cold-cocking his fiancee last February in a casino elevator, a two-game punishment seemed enough for the NFL commissioner and the Ravens.
Until Monday afternoon's public scorn and anger, Rice was going to be eligible to play 14 of 16 games this season.
Until current and former NFL players went ballistic over social media, he was free to go.
Even Ray Rice's peers , who often go too far in supporting wayward teammates, understood what Goodell and the team never grasped: The whole my-teammate-is-my-family ethos in sports works only when people conform to society's rules in order to be part of that family. Rice's own peers decided before their direct supervisors that what Ray Rice did to his future wife last February disqualified him from their family. Only then did the team act and void his contract.
Every day in America, three women die from domestic violence. These women are hit, kicked and choked until they do not move. These women are our sisters, mothers, daughters.
Any one of these women could have been Janay Rice.
The fallout from this episode has moved beyond Rice's criminal behavior and onto Goodell's overall fitness to do his job, a shameful Atlantic City district attorney's office apparently more compassionate toward abusers than the abused, and a team so tone-deaf that Monday it still had a tweet on its official account posted from a May news conference that read, “Janay Rice says she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident.”
Ray Rice beat a woman, and for that, he deserves all the public shame and financial loss that comes with it. But at least he is in counseling now, hopefully gleaning the tools and support he will need to ensure he never hits a woman again.
I can't say the same for Goodell, his deputies or Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti and his employees. If anyone needed sensitivity training these past few months, it was this morally inept crew.
This entire episode has taught us about the NFL from beginning to end, how a $9 billion colossus is far more concerned with preserving its image than with the behavior of its employees.
From the moment Goodell wrongly brought the couple together to help decide discipline this past June, in effect letting the perpetrator tell his story in front of his victim, who was pleading for leniency (a major ethical blunder among every domestic violence and law-enforcement agency), to the widely pilloried two-game suspension, to Goodell acknowledging his mistake by imposing tougher suspensions for domestic abuse going forward and through Monday, when nothing happened apart from what was known — except everyone got to see it.
So in case you didn't know what a professional athlete who can push 400 pounds of weight off his rock-hard 212-pound frame looked like when sucker-punching a woman unconscious in an elevator, here's the video, folks.
Basically, by only acting Monday, the NFL said, “You can do anything horrifically imaginable to your spouse, but don't let anyone see it or we will look bad.”
Even if we concede the league was unable to obtain the same video a Web site was able to procure — a stretch of the imagination — we already had video of Rice hauling his out-cold fiancee out of the elevator. How did Goodell and others think she became unconscious?
And there's Bisciotti, whose quote in a Ravens-sponsored blog this past July comes across as almost haunting.
“Is it a flaw for us that we support our players in tough times?” Bischotti said. “If it is, I'm okay with that.”
The article was written by the team's senior vice president of public and community relations Kevin Byrne, under the headline, “I Like Ray Rice.” It went to great pains to paint a man ashamed of himself, trying to resurrect his career and image. Not one single sentence was devoted to Janay Rice.
This is what happens when a league gets comfortable with camouflaging the truth. When you tell concerned mothers their sons are more liable to suffer concussions riding their bikes than playing football, maximizing profits has eclipsed common decency. Under Goodell, the NFL has lost its moral direction.
This country has provided the NFL and its franchises untold billions in public funding, untold billions in federal regulatory protection, and for that, Goodell's league has a responsibility to be of value to the public — to not merely provide the entertainment value modern-day gladiators bring, but also social value.
And on this front, time after time, it has failed. If this were a democracy, Goodell would be voted out of office.
It's beyond comprehension how the NFL fumbled this so badly.
Ray Rice's NFL career may be done because of what we knew way back in February and unfortunately were able to see Monday.
But we also found out something else these past few months: Roger Goodell is not a leader of men. He's an overpaid, tone-deaf functionary whose power now needs to be checked. He needs to go too.
A Punch Is Seen, and a Player Is Out
Ray Rice Cut by Ravens and Suspended by N.F.L.
by KEN BELSON
The National Football League's handling of a domestic violence case is under renewed scrutiny after a graphic video emerged Monday, leading to the termination of the Baltimore Ravens star running back Ray Rice's contract and his suspension from the league.
The video shows Rice punching his fiancée, who is now his wife, in the face, leaving her motionless on the floor of a hotel elevator in Atlantic City in February. He then dragged her unconscious body from the elevator.
Rice was charged with felony assault in March, but his wife, Janay Palmer, declined to testify. The charges were dropped and court-supervised counseling was ordered. Roger Goodell, the N.F.L. commissioner, disciplined Rice in July with a two-game suspension, a penalty that was widely criticized as too lenient.
Previously published video of the altercation was taken from a camera outside the elevator and showed only the moments after Rice hit Palmer. But the emergence of the new video, published by the website TMZ, raised questions about what the N.F.L. knew, and when. A league spokesman said “no one in our office has seen it until today,” but he did not respond to inquiries about whether any of the league's investigators who do not work in the office had previously seen the video.
“What makes the N.F.L. look especially bad in this case is the sense that the only reason they suspended Ray Rice indefinitely was to save face, rather than to actually address or punish the problem at hand,” said S. Adam Brasel, a professor of marketing at Boston College. “Do people think the N.F.L. would have done the same if they got the footage internally rather than having the whole world see it on TMZ?”
The league enjoys unmatched popularity, with soaring TV ratings and billions of dollars in revenue. But it has been tarnished by several embarrassing issues in recent years, including homophobic and racist bullying.
Late last month, after an uproar over his handling of the Rice case, Goodell admitted that he had mishandled the case and announced new, tougher standards for players and league employees who are found to have committed domestic violence.
After saying for weeks that he had acted appropriately by suspending Rice for two games, Goodell said that in the future, any N.F.L. employee, including nonplayers, would be suspended for six games for a first offense of domestic violence and a minimum of a year for a second offense.
In a letter to team owners, he said he took responsibility “both for the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future properly reflect our values. I didn't get it right.”
He did not, however, revisit Rice's suspension — until the video was posted Monday.
The Ravens had not previously disciplined Rice in any public way, and after the episode, the team said on Twitter: “Janay Rice says she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident.” The post was deleted Monday afternoon.
Rice, with his wife at his side, apologized publicly in May. The Ravens' coach, John Harbaugh, said he stood by Rice, his star running back, and Ravens fans gave Rice a loud ovation during a preseason game.
However, Harbaugh said Monday that the new video, which he said he was seeing for the first time, made things different.
“It changed things, of course,” Harbaugh said.
He added, “When someone you care about does wrong, and is faced with the consequences of doing wrong, and rightfully so, it is tough, it is hurtful.”
Goodell, who has wide discretion to penalize players for violating the league's personal conduct policy, was condemned for giving Rice what many considered a light suspension, especially compared with harsher penalties for players who take performance-enhancing drugs. The N.F.L. received hundreds of phone calls in protest, and petitions with tens of thousands of signatures were collected.
The new video led to calls Monday from advocates for victims of domestic violence for Goodell to penalize Rice retroactively. Hours later, the Ravens announced Rice's release on their Twitter account. Soon after, the league said it had indefinitely suspended Rice.
“Commissioner Roger Goodell has announced that based on the new video evidence that became available today, he has imposed an indefinite suspension on Ray Rice,” the N.F.L. said in a statement. Rice will have to apply to be reinstated.
Advocates applauded the actions taken Monday. “The Ravens have sent a strong message against domestic violence,” said Judy Harris Kluger, executive director for Sanctuary for Families, a nonprofit agency in New York that helps victims of domestic violence. “It was impossible to ignore or explain away.”
Over the next three years, Rice, the Ravens' second career leading rusher and a three-time Pro Bowl player, was to receive $9.5 million in salary, $9 million in signing bonuses and an additional $5.2 million in performance bonuses, according to the website Spotrac.com. Contracts often include terms that allow teams to terminate a deal with a player if he acts in a way that is detrimental to the team.
The N.F.L. Players Association did not return calls for comment.
The league may have to overhaul the way it investigates player malfeasance, sports lawyers said Monday. A spokesman for the N.F.L. said in July that Goodell took his cue in the investigation in part from law enforcement officials who had access to more information than the league.
But Goodell has also said that the N.F.L. should be held to a higher standard.
“The N.F.L. is going to have to review its due diligence in this case,” said Mark Conrad, who teaches sports law at Fordham University. “Some have said the league should treat it as a criminal matter, but it's a very public league, and if they want to keep their many constituents happy, they are going to have to find a new way of doing it.”
Rutgers University, where Rice played, also distanced itself from him on Monday, removing a video on the team's website.
The university's athletic director, Julie Hermann, called the TMZ.com video “very disturbing” and said it “serves to reinforce the ongoing need to educate and bring awareness to the issue of domestic violence.”
Domestic abuse survivors share stories in new book
by Nicole O'Reilly
For Janet, putting her story of abuse and survival on paper made her realize a life lesson 50 years in the making — how to let go.
"It was empowering because I don't lay blame anymore and I didn't realize that until I wrote this," she said of her story in "Stories from the Starting Over House."
The collection of stories, poems and artwork are from domestic abuse survivors from Phoenix Place, a support agency and transitional housing centre based out of an older Victorian-style home in Hamilton's core.
The book marks 20 years that Phoenix Place has helped women and their children fleeing domestic abuse. The women are celebrating the book at an official launch on Wednesday night.
Janet, which is not her real name, was abused as a child and had abusive relationships as an adult.
"I just figured that's the way life was," she said.
"Love is a hard thing to explain. People always ask 'Why do you go back?' I think it was … that I loved them or that it was all I truly deserved," she wrote in her story.
In 2006, Janet was living with her youngest son and a partner on an aboriginal reserve in northern Ontario. Her partner began using crack cocaine again, and the abuse got so bad she believed she was going to be killed.
"So I packed up my son and a backpack in my car and came to Hamilton," she said.
Janet ended up at the Native Women's Centre and then found a space at Phoenix Place.
"It was the first place I felt safe," she said.
Since then, her Phoenix Place family has taught her she's strong, she said. They stood with her as she recently fought and beat cancer.
As Janet entered Phoenix Place, Sadie (also not her real name) was on her way out.
In 2005, Sadie fled an abusive marriage, ending up at a shelter in Milton where she was told about Phoenix Place.
She was ashamed, embarrassed, blamed herself. She had no money and ended up in the hospital. But through it all, Sadie said staff and other women from Phoenix Place were always there to help her and her daughter.
"They don't leave you when you leave here, because for a lot of us, it takes time to heal," she said.
Over the last nine years, Sadie has learned a lot about herself.
"The way I ended up in an abusive situation was I didn't have boundaries, and there were things about my own personality that allowed me to be victimized, because I didn't have a lot of inner strength," she said.
In her story, Sadie said that at the beginning of her relationship she "couldn't have been happier."
"My husband was wonderful to me and a great stepfather to my daughter. Slowly, over time, the abuse crept in. … He started conflicts with friends, family and, pretty soon, no one came around and we were isolated. Then the real nasty abuse started," she wrote.
Perhaps the greatest overarching theme in the book is the idea that domestic abuse can happen to anyone, said Phoenix Place CEO Carol Wiggins.
Phoenix Place has five furnished apartments available to women and their children. Wiggins said there is always a wait list. But they also offer support services, including weekly meetings where Janet and Sadie say the women become sisters.
"I've got an extended family here through Phoenix Place," Sadie said.
What: launch event for "Stories from the Starting Over House," a collection of stories, poems and art by survivors of domestic abuse from Phoenix Place.
Where: Workers Arts and Heritage Centre, 51 Stuart St.
When: Sept. 10 from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., with readings at 5, 6 and 7 p.m.
Tickets: $25 per person, which includes a copy of the book. Call 905-527-2238 or buy at the door.
Excerpts from Stories from the Starting Over House:
"It was the first time in my life that I felt safe, the first time I had no one telling me what to do or how to live. I could think on my own and not be afraid anymore," from Janet's story, Love is a Hard Thing to Explain.
"When Emily was nine months old, I was hit so hard in my face, my jaw was broken and so was her crib from my fall. She was taken from me," from Rose's story, Along this Path.
"What I never realized is that the fears I carried from all the years my husband drank were still very much alive inside of me and I had never addressed them. I never took the time to heal myself or to tell him how he had made me feel," from Vivian's story, Stopping the Cycle.
"I like who I am and what I am becoming once again. … Learning about abuse and what other women experience has taught me much. Mostly that we are beautiful, strong, enduring creatures," from Allie's story, How Could This Happen to Me.
Building a National Strategy to End Child Abuse and Neglect Deaths
by Reps. Dave Camp and Sander M. Levin
Each year, more than 1,500 children across the country die as a result of abuse and neglect. This month, the U.S. Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities met in Detroit as part of a multi-state fact-finding mission to develop a national strategy for reducing these tragedies.
The commission, established by Congress through the “Protect Our Kids Act of 2012,” is charged with studying the scope of the problem, identifying what works to protect these kids, and reviewing the impact of current federal and state policy and funding on this problem.
The issue is complex, and it impacts every neighborhood, every community, and every state in our nation. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — the official source of data on this issue — more than 15,000 children died from abuse or neglect between 2001 and 2010; 285 of those deaths occurred in Michigan.
Increasingly, we are learning that these figures, as terrible as they are, may not provide a complete understanding of how many children in the United States die every year due to abuse and neglect.
There are many reasons for this. Federal data are derived from a database that is in turn based on reports from each state's child protective services agency. Relying on data from child welfare agencies alone to count child abuse and neglect fatalities has limitations, since not every death from child abuse or neglect is reported to the child welfare system. Also, even though fatalities are reported to child welfare agencies, some deaths may not be identified as being the result of child abuse or neglect.
Additionally, when data from other sources is provided to child welfare agencies voluntarily, it's not without problems. Such other major data sources — child death certificates, law enforcement data, and data collected by teams that review child deaths — have their own set of problems, due to a lack of consistency in when a death is attributed to abuse and neglect. Doctors, coroners, medical examiners and law enforcement professionals are often not trained to recognize child abuse and neglect, so deaths due to abuse and neglect might not be recognized as such. State child death review programs often do not review all child deaths.
Even when all the data are available, experts in many states may not agree on whether a given death is the result of abuse or neglect. For example, if a 2-year-old dies in a swimming pool, is it neglect if the child was left alone for 2 minutes? 10 minutes? An hour? Does it matter if Child Protective Services had been previously involved with the family? What if the parents had a few drinks the afternoon of the death? Where do we draw the line between an accident and neglect?
To address these problems, Michigan has developed a multi-agency process to identify, count, and report on child abuse fatalities. Our Department of Human Services, led by Director Maura Corrigan, funds the Michigan Child Death Review Program and Citizen Review Panel on Child Fatalities. Together with the Michigan Public Health Institute, these institutions review the circumstances of all child deaths statewide and submit comprehensive case reports that are then forwarded to the national database.
Brown County effort tackles growing child abuse
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin officials are preparing to roll out initiatives this fall in an effort to solve a growing child abuse problem in Brown County.
Twenty-five local social services agencies and organizations teamed up nearly two years ago to address a rise in the volume and severity of abuse cases. The movement, which is spearheaded by Brown County Supervisor Patrick Evans, released a community plan in March that's meant to prevent child abuse.
Five children have died from suspected abuse from their caregivers so far this year. It's the largest number of child abuse-related deaths Brown County has seen in at least five years.
State records show child protection workers are also investigating three other incidents that resulted in serious injuries.
Brown County reported one death and two serious injuries due to child abuse last year.
Child Abuse Prevention Training
MIAMI, OK.--- The Miami Police Department and police chaplains are sponsoring a Child Abuse Prevention Training class for area organizations. The meeting is to help law enforcement groups, community organizations and state agencies, learn how to protect children from abuse and molestation.
"There is no place that I know of on earth that it's protected from. And as a result of this, we're wanting to get information out as how people recognize when someone is being abused," said Albert V. Amos Jr., Miami Police Department Chaplain.
The Child Abuse Prevention Training, or C.A.P.T meeting will be held at the Miami Civic Center on October 27th from 1 p.m. to 5:00 pm. The C.A.P.T program is not limited to just Ottawa County, program sponsors encourage organizations from other counties to attend the training. To find out more information on how to register for the Child Abuse Prevention Training program, click here.
Former 'adoptive parents of year' facing 47 counts of child-abuse
Preliminary hearing starts Tuesday in Jay
by Sheila Stogsdill
JAY – An estranged couple recognized as Adoptive Parents of the Year will be in court Tuesday and Wednesday, Sept. 9 and 10, for their preliminary hearing on 47 counts of child abuse related charges, including failure to seek medical attention after children in their care were bitten several times by a pet monkey and for keeping a child locked in a dog pen.
Deidre Matthews, 46, of Jay is charged in Delaware County District Court with 14 counts of child abuse, eight counts of child neglect, three counts of child abuse by injury, two counts of child endangerment and one count of enabling child abuse. She is in jail in lieu of $100,000 bail.
Jerry Dean Matthews, 63, of Jay is charged with 10 counts of child abuse, seven counts of child neglect, enabling child abuse, child endangerment. He is free on $50,000 bail, court records show.
The preliminary hearing is scheduled to last two days, online record show.
A telephone call to Rogers Hughes, Delaware County assistant district attorney was not returned.
The children, ages 4 through 17, lived in a two-bedroom mobile home in the rural Jay area, which investigators described as “deplorable." The children were placed in state custody in April.
Deidre Matthews is accused of locking the couple's 8-year-old adopted daughter in a black wire dog crate at night because of difficulties controlling the child, according to a probable cause affidavit.
The child was first locked in the dog crate when she was 3-years-old. She was also tied down to her bed by “using straps around her wrists, or handcuffs,” the affidavit states.
Jerry Matthews told investigators he disagreed with the dog cage punishment, but once Deidre Matthews “got something into her mind, there was no reasoning with her, so he just went along with it,” the affidavit states.
Deidre Matthews is also accused of failing to seek medical attention for the two teen daughters, who were bitten by a monkey several times and Deidre sewed up the monkey bite wounds with a household thread and needle, the affidavit states.
At one time there were 20 primates, including spider monkeys, lemurs, and marmosets at the residence. The couple previously kept an assortment of other animals, including miniature horses, alpacas, goats, a buffalo, and raccoons, according to an arrest affidavit.
When the 8-year-old child would find discarded syringes Deidre Matthews used to treat diabetes, the child would pretend to give herself a shot. To punish her, Deidre Matthews would grab the child and repeatedly stab her arm with the needle, the affidavit states.
The child and a 10-year-old male sibling were beaten until they bled and the children were kept out of school if they had visible injuries, the affidavit states.
The affidavit also claims:
· Food and water were withheld for up to two days when the two older teens, then ages 14 and 17, failed to do chores correctly.
· An 8-year-old female child was bitten in the face by a dog and Deidre Matthews tried to sew up the wound at home. The child was eventually taken to a local hospital.
· The two older siblings told investigators Deidre Matthews would warn the children not to tell Department of Human Service investigators about the problems and that Matthews was always present when DHS investigators visited.
The younger teen also said that “DHS workers would always call ahead of time when they were going to come out to the house and Matthews would sometimes have …and… stay up all night cleaning,” the affidavit states.
The Matthews' were recognized as the state Department of Human Services' Adoptive Parents of the Year for northeast Oklahoma in 2006.
Online court records show Deidre Matthews filed for a divorce on Friday, Aug. 29.
Simon Burke on Devil's Playground: 'We couldn't avoid tackling sexual abuse'
Unsettling new Foxtel drama makes for tough watching as it unflinchingly faces child sex abuse within the Catholic church
You've read reports about how the Catholic church covered up evidence involving paedophile priests. You've followed the hearings of the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse, established by Julia Gillard in 2012 following the shocking allegations of a cover-up in NSW.
But nothing can prepare you for watching the grooming and abuse of an innocent 12-year-old boy by a respected school chaplain as it plays out dramatically in front of you.
The cosy chats in the front seats of the car, the secluded spot, the threat of harm to his parents, the gift of a lighter and the unwanted caresses.
If you've struggled to understand how it was that chaplains or parish priests who abused boys for decades were not stopped or why the church covered it up or why the victims took two decades to disclose the offences, a searing new television drama Devil's Playground will bring you closer to an understanding.
Arguably Foxtel's most challenging Australian drama series to date, Devil's Playground is both a sequel to Fred Schepisi's 1976 acclaimed feature film The Devil's Playground and an original work.
The six-part drama from Foxtel, Matchbox Pictures and Screen Australia grew organically from an idea which came unexpectedly to acclaimed actor Simon Burke. Burke played the lead role of 1950s Catholic schoolboy Tom Allen in Schepisi's coming of age film.
“There is a big difference I think between the stuff we see on TV and we read in the papers every few days about institutional child abuse and seeing it imagined,” says Burke. “There's a big difference between reading about those facts and actually sitting with the dramatic characters in a fictional setting.
“It's almost cathartic to get inside the heads of those who have suffered abuse and those who have perpetrated it.”
Now 52, Burke says the story is so confronting, a “tough” friend who is a father to three children had to stop watching it.
Curiously, sexual abuse was not the original idea for the film, and its concurrence with the royal commission is a coincidence.
Three years ago Burke was chatting with Foxtel boss Brian Walsh about the 1976 film when he said half seriously, “Well, that would be a good idea for a television series, you know. What happened to Tom Allen 35 years later?”
And Walsh said: “Yeah, well, pitch it back to me.”
Burke quickly got Schepisi's approval and brought Matchbox on board and began brainstorming a story with a team of writers.
“Really all we had at the end of the movie is Tom runs away at 13 because he can't cope with the strict environment. You've got all this backstory of the character but you can't do much with a backstory that finishes when the character is 13.”
Burke says it seemed too obvious to write a story about sexual abuse and they tried to steer away from the topic until it became clear it couldn't be avoided.
“We set ourselves a difficult challenge of mixing genres,” Burke tells Guardian Australia on the eve of the show's debut on Tuesday.
What ensued was a political thriller, a family drama and a deep exploration of clergy abuse in one small close-knit community in the late 1980s.
The storyline was decided a good year before the former prime minister Julia Gillard announced the royal commission at the end of 2011.
“But in many ways the royal commission hastened the project,” Burke says. “Because it seemed like the whole conversation was gathering momentum and [the funding body] Screen Australia biannual meeting was two weeks away and it pushed us to complete the treatment because this was something that needed to be told dramatically.”
On a personal level the project is an actor's dream. Burke gets to reprise a role which has defined his life, as well as play the role of executive producer on a drama project for the first time.
“All my life as an actor – whatever I've done whether it's been on stage or anything – since I was 13 years old everyone has mentioned that movie.
“Because it's a movie about coming of age and about puberty I've also carried around a whole generation's feelings about puberty.
“When you're middle-aged you do look back and think about who you were then and it's very sweet to come full circle and play a person you played at 13.”
“Even though it's three years in the making, quite honestly I literally pinch myself every day that we're making it – with me in it – and I'm so proud of it.”
Burke says Foxtel is all about pushing the boundaries of their drama productions, ever since the groundbreaking Love My Way in 2005.
“With each foray they push themselves to deliver really high-end stuff like Wentworth, not just in terms of production values but in terms of audience expectations.
“We are the only Australian program on showcase this year but we are alongside shows like Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones.
“HBO has been educating us as an audience; they've been saying, you know what, forget about a 90-minute feature film. If you want to really lose yourself in another world, try eight hours of high-end TV drama.
“I almost think it's a badge of honour for Foxtel. The networks do the big shows like Packed to the Rafters and Offspring brilliantly, the ABC is the home of telling great Australian stories.
“But Foxtel says we are going to go further, we are going to place ourselves in that HBO model where reputation is staked on developing Australian shows that have to sit next to the best in the world.”
Devil's Playground premieres at 8.30pm on 9 September on Showcase on Foxtel
What Happens When You Accuse a Major Hollywood Director of Rape?
by Robert Kolker
He couldn't see past the walls at first, but then the wrought-iron gate swung open and the limo he was riding in pulled past the gate, and Michael Egan got his first view of the M&C estate.
The 12,600-square-foot Spanish Colonial, surrounded by immense columns and gaping bay windows, was previously owned by the rap mogul Suge Knight. Inside was a home theater and more than one aquarium. Outside he could see a Ferrari and Lamborghini, a tennis court, a swimming pool, and a hot tub big enough for a dozen people. To the neighbors, it might have seemed like just another Encino McMansion. To a 16-year-old from Nebraska, it seemed like everything he thought Hollywood would be.
Egan was slim with dark hair, pale skin, and a bright smile. The son of divorced parents, he had been a popular kid who dreamed of being Tom Cruise. He'd attended his first model search when he was 12, an open call at a shopping mall in Omaha, which quickly led to a summer in New York, where he booked dozens of modeling jobs. When, a year later, his manager told his mother, Bonnie Mound, the next step was a move to L.A., neither of them needed convincing. Mound rented an apartment in the Valley and enrolled him in a school designed to accommodate the schedules of working actors.
It was one of his classmates there who, in June 1998, first brought him to the M&C estate, named for two of its occupants, Marc Collins-Rector and Chad Shackley. Those men, along with a third housemate, Brock Pierce, had recently been celebrated in the Los Angeles Times for creating a business that would make TV shows for the internet called Digital Entertainment Network, or DEN. They'd poached their president, David Neuman, from his job running Disney TV. David Geffen had showed interest in the company, socializing at the estate with other investors who, Egan was told, could be very helpful to him in his career. There was Garth Ancier, who at 28 had been the first programmer of Fox television and who would go on to high-level positions at NBC and the WB network. There was Gary Goddard, the director and Broadway producer. And there was the director Bryan Singer, who had just made his name with The Usual Suspects and was about to join the A-list with the X-Men film franchise.
What happened behind the walls of the M&C estate over the next two years is a matter of intense dispute. If you believe Michael Egan, he was groomed to submit to a life of abuse in what was essentially a pedophilic sex den. If you believe the men Egan accused—including Singer, who has been lying low since Egan filed a civil lawsuit against him in late April —he is a shakedown artist, contriving an abuse scandal, staging press conferences, and participating in an upcoming documentary, all in the hopes of a payout. Much of Hollywood has been watching Egan's case unfold all summer, and not only for its lurid details. Was Egan just another Hollywood newcomer who traded sex for entrée into a business famous for allowing that very exchange, or is he the most public example of something more troubling: the industry's rampant sexual abuse?
Egan is standing alone, awaiting my arrival at the baggage claim of McCarran airport in Las Vegas, the city where he's lived since 2002. It's a bright afternoon in June, two months since he held his explosive press conference at the Four Seasons on Wilshire Boulevard, tearful mother on one side, lawyer on the other. Now he's in the middle of the backlash: denials, motions for dismissal, countersuits, anonymous attacks against his character, all of which just make him more eager to tell his story.
“June 23 will be two years of me not having a drink,” he tells me as we walk to his car. He is tan but rail-thin, and a certain jittery frailty comes through as he talks. His manner is like that of a lot of people in the early years of recovery—overcome by the relief they feel in talking at length about what they've been through. Quite often, Egan says, he still feels seized by emotions he can't manage. “These people put so much fear in you when you're a kid. But I still have fear. I had a dream last night that I was walking into a deposition and got shot.” He smiles and shakes his head. “That's sick to think that stuff.”
As I spoke with Egan, both in person in Las Vegas and later over a steady stream of phone calls and emails and texts, his anguish became clear, even if the facts surrounding it remained stubbornly out of reach. Everything he says happened to him has been roundly denied, and every allegation lacks documentation. He was almost certainly taken advantage of (though by whom and to what extent has yet to be proved). It's also true that he had his own motives for insinuating himself into the world of the M&C estate. Soon after he moved to L.A., he endured his first unsuccessful TV-pilot season. On the audition circuit, he ran into the same teenage boys, all as beautiful as he was, at every casting. What he needed were connections. The month he first visited the estate, DEN had premiered its debut program, Chad's World. Practically no one watched the show, but the company payroll was staggering: $12 million in salaries with only one series in production.
After a few visits, DEN's executives offered Egan $600 a week to do odd jobs around the estate. He said yes, and soon found himself embraced by the DEN family. He was given a starring role in a new DEN show called The Royal Standard, directed by Randall Kleiser, who had directed Grease and The Blue Lagoon ; he was paid $1,000 more a week. He hung out at Independence Day producer Dean Devlin's house and did screen tests for Roland Emmerich's movie The Patriot and Freaks and Geeks. Along with the other teenagers he met through DEN, he was a regular at a place called Barfly, where he'd get so drunk he'd throw up. The estate, meanwhile, became famous for its parties, which were stocked with attractive young men. “I've spent some time at the Playboy mansion,” one person connected to DEN said later to the New York Post. “This place makes it look like a trailer.”
The grooming, according to the lawsuit, started almost on day one. Egan remembers being pulled aside by Collins-Rector, Pierce, and Shackley for hourlong one-on-one lectures about how they had gaydar and they knew that Egan really was gay (he says he is not). He remembers the ban on the wearing of clothes in the pool or hot-tub areas. And he remembers being locked inside a gun closet for resisting Collins-Rector's advances. He also remembers the drugs—Valium, Vicodin, Xanax, Percocet, ecstasy, roofies. In the years to come, several other young men would come forward to talk about inappropriate behavior by the executives of DEN. There was a boy named Daniel who, according to a 2007 account of DEN's rise and fall in Radar, wrote a suicide note that his brother intercepted before he could act on it: “I can't go on. I let them use me as a sex tool. I let those assholes do all those terrible things to me. Good-bye.” There are several boys, including Egan, who would recall Collins-Rector aiming a gun at them and threatening to pull the trigger. And there was the boy who, in 2000, filed a lawsuit in New Jersey claiming Collins-Rector repeatedly sexually abused him from 1993 to 1996. Collins-Rector denied those allegations but then settled the suit shortly before leaving the company.
What made Egan's accusations news this spring was that he didn't just name DEN's executives; he named prominent members of the gay Hollywood elite, including Singer. Egan's lawsuit describes an incident in the estate's pool when Egan was 17 years old. Collins-Rector allegedly passed Egan to Singer in the hot tub, where Egan “was made to sit on” Singer's lap; Singer gave him a drink, mentioned finding him a movie role, told him he was sexy, and masturbated and fellated him. When Egan resisted, the complaint reads, Singer forced Egan's “head underwater to make [Egan] perform oral sex upon him. When [Egan] pulled his head out of the water in order to breathe, [Singer] demanded that he continue, which [Egan] refused. [Singer] then forced [Egan] to continue performing oral sex upon him outside of the pool, and subsequently forcibly sodomized” him.
Egan says Singer's behavior continued on trips the whole group took together to the Paul Mitchell estate in Hawaii. One night, the complaint alleges, Egan came across Singer in the pool area, whereupon Singer “put a handful of cocaine” under Egan's nose, then “forced him to inhale it.” Singer entered the pool, where he “nonconsensually masturbated” Egan; pushed his head underwater and made him “orally copulate him”; and eventually brought Egan to his room, where “he again anally raped” him.
Singer's official response to the accusations is that they're fiction. “Bryan never acted inappropriately toward Mr. Egan,” says Singer's lawyer, Marty Singer (no relation). “All of his claims are lies.” The lawyer's statements have consistently addressed just the specific claims in the lawsuit, neither confirming nor denying that Singer and Egan had sex or knew each other; he did not return messages for this story.
On the many nights Egan remembers sleeping over at the M&C estate, he says his mother would call to make sure it was all right, and an adult would come to the phone and assure her all was well. And, in one respect, it was. Suddenly, things were happening for him career-wise. To walk away from M&C would mean telling himself he wasn't cut out for Hollywood. When I ask Egan's mother about that now, she bursts into tears. “We were raised in the Midwest, and we try to find the good in people,” Mound says. “And we went to New York and never had any problems, and he just seemed to be a success. He was just so happy and having so much fun.”
Over lunch, Egan comes back again and again to the notion of grooming—that a 16-year-old boy could be made to go along with almost anything, given the right motivation. “I was never a willing participant in what they did to me,” Egan says. “They ripped in and stole my soul. I became a robot. I had such fear instilled in me I was a nonfunctioning person. I may have become more of a compliant victim, but I was never willing.”
Egan didn't choose the word compliant arbitrarily. The word is commonly used in abuse cases with teenage victims who, unlike toddlers or tweens, may have some degree of agency when interacting sexually with adults. These cases tend to follow a pattern: The abusers engage in a seduction process that normalizes the behavior until the victims go along with it—still victims, but also compliant participants. Legally, if the victim is under the age of consent, proving sexual abuse should be relatively straightforward, but that gray area of compliance often clouds the issue, making juries (and the public) less sympathetic to claims of abuse. Can you be exploited if you consent? What if you only say you were abused years later, after your career has dried up?
Sexual abuse in Hollywood has long been the subject of speculation. “It's common enough that every boy child actor would have met a pedophile in their career at some point,” says Anne Henry, the mother of three child performers and co-founder of the BizParentz Foundation, a group for show-business families. Henry started BizParentz more than a decade ago to help families navigate the industry, but since then she has heard of hundreds of instances in which young actors say they've been harassed or abused.
Every few years, accusations surface in court, most of which fizzle with a plea. The accusers' names are usually not public in these cases, and when actors like Corey Feldman do open up publicly, they don't typically name their abusers. Egan's case is one of the few where both the victim and the accused are publicly known, in part because victims have their own incentives for staying quiet. “When they were on the gravy train and they were the guy's favorite, that was great for six months, two years,” says Kenneth Lanning, an FBI special agent of 30 years, now retired, who has investigated every variety of sexual-abuse case. “Then their careers fall apart. Now the guy's finished with you and not returning your calls. Now you're pissed.”
For nearly two years, Egan was making more money than he knew how to spend, going out to the Palm and taking trips on private jets, and, of course, being promised auditions. Then, one day, one promise didn't pan out. “X-Men was a job that Bryan Singer said he was going to give me,” Egan says. When Egan's DEN co-worker Alex Burton got a part, the role of a mutant named Pyro, and Egan didn't, Egan says he was told it was because Burton was 18, a legal adult, and therefore able to work longer hours and with no supervision on set.
Then, the executives of DEN started pressuring Egan to become legally emancipated from his parents, which would allow him to work under adult work rules. His mother was offered stock in the company in exchange for permission; she declined. By then, it was 1999, and DEN was falling apart. Collins-Rector was facing his first lawsuit for alleged abuse, and DEN's lawyer was asking everyone at the estate, including Egan, to sign nondisclosure agreements in exchange for stock. He didn't sign. He still might not have walked away without the help of two other DEN employees. Alex Burton and Mark Ryan were both older than Egan and determined to call the police. Egan says they forced the issue one night at Egan's house by telling his mother what had been happening. Bonnie Mound was shattered by the news. “I was still petrified,” Egan says, “but I started to get stronger once we were talking through it.”
Mound found the boys a lawyer, Daniel Cherin, who along with law enforcement encouraged the boys to collect more evidence. “So we went back and copied everything in the file cabinet,” Egan says. “We had photos of the drug bags and child pornography in different cabinets, and video of the gun closet they locked me in.” In early 2000, Egan was still sending emails to DEN's executives, asking for money and even looking to hang out. The lawyers for Singer and the other defendants call this evidence of a shakedown; Egan says now it was part of the effort to collect evidence.
Egan's great escape proved anticlimactic. The police and the FBI never charged anyone—Egan and his mother still aren't sure why. “My mom heard from them once or twice, but that's it.” The three boys filed a civil lawsuit in 2000 for sexual abuse against Collins-Rector, Shackley, and Pierce. They did not name Singer, Ancier, Neuman, or Goddard. Egan's lawyer, Cherin, told them he didn't have enough evidence to connect the others to the abuse—at least not like he had on the three men who actually lived at the house. “The system doesn't reward the he-said-she-said scenario,” Cherin tells me. He believed the high-profile targets had the resources to bury them in motions and counter-investigations. “I'm not a daredevil. I don't get paid to take chances.”
While Egan, with his mother's help, worked to litigate against the DEN executives, sitting for depositions and sifting through documents, the defendants fled the country without contesting the suit. The court awarded Egan and his fellow plaintiffs a $4.5 million default judgment, of which Egan says he collected just $25,000. The absence of consequences seemed to confirm everything Collins-Rector and the others had said: They were powerful enough to get away with it; no one would ever believe the boys; everyone who might help him would be too afraid of retribution to come forward. “I was pushed by my mom to talk to the government, to law enforcement. I was scared shitless,” he says. “To see that nothing happened—that if you ever did come out, that law enforcement never did anything, so who could you really trust—that was a hard thing for me to get over.”
He left Hollywood, and after a couple of years with his father in Nebraska, he moved to Las Vegas, working with his brother building theme parks. He married a woman he met there in 2005. But he couldn't seem to put enough distance between him and what had happened at M&C. “I thought I could shove all these feelings down—‘I'm a big man, I can deal with this.' But it was like dealing with a madman in your brain.” He was drinking hard, often alongside the only friend he'd made at DEN, fellow plaintiff Mark Ryan. In 2010, Ryan had an alcohol-withdrawal-induced stroke while trying to sober up; he never fully recovered and relies on a motorized wheelchair, barely able to communicate. “I have a friend who has basically lost his life,” Egan says. “Whenever I think I'm in a bad spot, I think Mark would trade places with me in a second.”
Egan kept drinking for two more years until 2012, when his wife left him. “I loaded my two dogs in my SUV and drove across the country while in withdrawal. I was having flashes in my eyes, I was sweating like a maniac.” Egan joined AA, attending 200 meetings in the first 90 days. Then he finally found another community to envelop him the way that DEN had—not just the recovery community, but the advocacy community for victims of sexual abuse.
In the spring of 2013, a year into Egan's sobriety, his mother passed along a message from BizParents. A production company was planning a documentary about sexual abuse in Hollywood, and they wanted to interview Egan. The documentary is directed by Amy Berg, whose Oscar-nominated 2006 film Deliver Us From Evil examined an infamous California Catholic Church sex-abuse case. While Berg and her team won't comment on the film or even reveal its title, she did tell one reporter in April that Egan will be in it. “It's much bigger than anything about the one case,” she said. “It is a huge problem. It's pervasive in Hollywood, and the time to explore it is now.” Egan, who's seen it, says about a half-dozen other men like him are interviewed, none of whom he knew beforehand.
Egan suddenly felt like he was part of a movement. A producer with Berg's documentary referred Egan to a sexual-abuse survivors' group called the Let Go … Let Peace Come In Foundation, which was started by a sexual-abuse survivor named Peter Pelullo, who offered Egan more affirmation. “God knows how many children this has happened to from this situation in Hollywood,” Pelullo says. The foundation referred Egan to a trauma therapist, whom he still sees. Her most important message, Egan says, was that he wasn't at fault. She explained to him how abusers groom their victims and wrangle compliance.
It was his experience with the survivors' group that made Egan decide he needed to publicly accuse his abusers—all of them. Last fall, he and his mother went lawyer shopping. At least one prominent sexual-abuse litigator turned Egan down: “I believe every word he's saying,” the lawyer told me. “But he's dead on the statute of limitations.” California law allows for accusers age 26 and younger, or three years from the date they discover their trauma. Egan was 31 and had discovered his trauma as early as 2000, as his old lawsuit clearly demonstrated.
Then Egan found Jeffrey Herman, an ambitious lawyer out of Boca Raton who has won tens of millions of dollars in judgments against the Miami Catholic archdiocese and who has used the money to fund long-shot cases, most recently a failed set of claims against Kevin Clash, the voice of Sesame Street' s Elmo. Herman was once barred from practicing law for a year and a half for violating the Florida bar's conflict-of-interest rules when he failed to disclose an investment that competed with a client's business. But he seemed to be the sort of risk-taker Egan needed—a lawyer willing to take on a bumpy case if it meant opening up a new area of litigation.
I visited with Herman at his office in June a week or so before I met Egan. Tan and broad-shouldered, Herman said his investigators spent five months vetting Egan's claims, turning up in the process an unpublished interview Egan gave to a reporter in 2001, in which he explicitly named Ancier, Goddard, Neuman, and Singer as his abusers. The interview helped convince Herman that Egan had a case. His staff also spoke with several men who'd been at the M&C estate. Some were too afraid to be named in the initial complaint, but Egan's friend Mark Ryan, his father Fred tells me, was deposed from his wheelchair in Cincinnati and confirmed the abuse. Herman planned to get around the statute of limitations in California by filing a civil suit in Hawaii, which has a law allowing civil actions in abuse cases where the statute of limitations has expired. The trips to Hawaii, therefore, became the centerpiece of the suit.
Herman told me that he had been looking for a Hollywood case even before Egan came along. “I'm always looking for what the next church is going to be,” Herman said. “Where there's power, there's an abuse of power.” As star clients go, Herman said Egan was no more problematic than any other. “He's lost in a way, because this is really horrific stuff. He's fragile. Yet he's sort of determined now.”
Herman was bracing himself for when, inevitably, the other side would dredge up the many contradictory statements Egan had said over the years and use them against him. “Mike's story is very complex,” he said. “You're going to have these inconsistencies, where his mind is disassociated from some of the abuse.” The most important thing Herman could do to bolster Egan's case, he said, was to turn it into a beacon to draw in others. There's strength in numbers. “The best way to get evidence is, I do a press conference,” he told me. “There's always more victims.”
On April 17, Egan and Herman made their announcement at the Four Seasons, unveiling a lawsuit naming Singer, whose X-Men: Days of Future Past was about to score one of the biggest opening weekends on record. A few days later, Egan and Herman announced similar suits against Ancier, Goddard, and Neuman. “We've alleged that there's a Hollywood sex ring, one of several sex rings,” Herman said. “The door is open now. If these investigations pan out, I will be filing many more cases.”
“The allegations against me are outrageous, vicious, and completely false,” Bryan Singer said in a statement a few days later, promising that “the facts will show this to be the sick, twisted shakedown it is.” Stories soon surfaced of Singer's own parties, stocked, reportedly, with twinks his underlings thought he might like. Several published accounts, most quoting unnamed sources, described how Singer meets most of the younger men he dates through trusted friends who act as intermediaries—or, less charitably, procurers. Yet those who defended Singer painted a picture of the director as anything but predatory, saying he is powerful but cloistered, and, like many A-listers, dependent on friends to introduce him to new men, and that he is scrupulous about the age of his partners. Still others noted how prominent gay men are also often easy targets for these kinds of allegations, which feed into ugly homophobic stereotypes about gay men and pedophilia.
All four of the accused men said they'd never been to Hawaii with Egan, never raped him, never mistreated him. Bryan Singer's lawyer Marty Singer pointed out that his client had never been approached or interviewed by the FBI back when Egan filed his first lawsuit, nor was he named in that lawsuit. He accused Herman of grandstanding, “using these lawsuits as an opportunity to promote himself and his law firm,” and added that his “reputation as an attorney leaves a lot to be desired,” noting the harsh wording of Herman's suspension from the Florida bar for “engaging in misconduct involving fraud, deceit, and misrepresentation.”
Then came the counteroffensive: leaks to the media of emails from Egan to DEN asking for money. The media got hold of a deposition by Egan from the earlier litigation in which Egan said he'd never left the continental United States with anyone he was accusing of abuse. Now that the case hanged on the Hawaii trip, this statement was especially problematic. Herman, who claimed to have witnesses placing Singer in Hawaii with Egan, responded by saying he wasn't “sure how [Egan] interpreted the ‘continental United States.'”
Herman soon found another client, a British national, a few years younger than Egan, who filed a similar complaint against Singer and Goddard. In response, Singer's lawyer accused Herman of fabricating the substance of the new claim, and threatened to seek sanctions against him “for his reckless, unethical behavior.”
In late June, Egan went to a Goo Goo Dolls concert at the Red Rock Hotel and Casino, where, he says, a stranger cornered him in the restroom, blocking the exit for more than a minute. “He told me, ‘You need to go away! You need to go away! This is going to get intense!'” Then he served Egan with a civil suit filed by Garth Ancier, who was suing Egan, Herman, and his Hawaii co-counsel Mark Gallagher for malicious prosecution. The next day, Egan filed a police report for harassment.
Still, between the attention and the coming documentary, Egan felt unburdened for the first time in years: “I already think whatever happens with the case, whatever legal strategies we have to do, I feel already we've won.”
Just days later, Egan called me in a panic. His lawyer wanted him to settle with Singer, and Egan was appalled. “I would look like a complete liar if I came out and said the things he wants me to say!”
The details trickled out in the weeks that followed. Five more alleged victims of Singer's had come forward to Herman, and at least some of them had accusations within the statute of limitations. Under the proposed settlement, those five accusers would split the lion's share of the settlement, which one source close to the case says amounted to $20 million. Egan would get a mere $100,000.
The money bothered him, but the confidentiality demands of the settlement bothered him more. For Egan, being silenced by his own lawyer felt like a new betrayal. “I look at what Jeff did to me as no better than the pedophiles,” he said.
Egan refused to sign, and soon after, Herman dropped him as a client, applying to withdraw as counsel in all four of Egan's lawsuits. Herman hired his own attorney to represent him in Ancier's malicious prosecution lawsuit; he declined to comment any further for this story, and he has yet to send Egan the bulk of his case file. In late August, adrift without a lawyer or most of the documents from his own case, Egan temporarily pulled the plug on his lawsuits. The court dismissed his claim against Singer without prejudice, which would allow him to refile should he find a new lawyer. “Herman's created such a mess for me that nobody wants to touch it,” Egan said during another anguished phone call. “In all honesty, based on what Herman's done, I'm looking to sue Herman. I just think to myself, How does he put his head on the pillow at night knowing what he did to me? ”
Egan has run into difficulties in bringing his case to the court of public opinion as well. The Amy Berg documentary, which he hoped would bolster his claims, has been slow to find distribution. While this fall's DOC NYC festival has accepted the film, discussions with Mark Cuban's Magnolia Pictures went nowhere. One source who's seen the film says it's emotionally powerful, with several shocking moments, but that the subject is too ripped-from-the-headlines for theaters, and perhaps better for TV or Netflix. Donna Daniels, a spokesperson for Amy Berg, says the filmmakers have “made the decision to self-distribute.”
What hurt Egan the most, perhaps, was that he'd ever thought this could have turned out any other way. He'd been warned by everyone, starting with three of his old DEN co-workers, whom Herman's investigators had approached. “They told me, ‘Mike, we don't want to get involved. You'll never beat these people, they have too much power.' I've tried to help the cause and all that. But I think, Man, I should have listened to them. ”
There is just one sign that Egan isn't merely shouting into the wind. In late August, an NYPD spokesman confirmed to BuzzFeed that this spring, a man in his 20s filed a forcible-sexual-assault criminal complaint against Singer for an incident he said took place in New York in March of last year. The complaint was filed just a few weeks after Egan went public, which could be an odd bit of vindication. “At the very beginning of all this,” Egan said the last time I spoke with him, “my mom said to me, ‘If you had the choice to take millions of dollars or see these people go to jail, what do you choose?' And I said, ‘Send them to jail.'”
Not that he has high hopes that that will actually happen: No charges have been filed yet, and Marty Singer responded that his client “did not engage in any criminal or inappropriate behavior with anyone in New York or elsewhere.” Meanwhile, after briefly falling out of consideration, Bryan Singer is the top choice to direct the next X-Men movie.
Child deaths from suspected abuse hit 5-year high
by Adam Rodewald
Brown County officials are investigating the deaths of five children suspected to be caused by abuse from their caregivers so far in 2014.
Child protection workers are also looking into serious injuries inflicted on three others from possible abuse, according to state records.
That's the highest number of egregious incidents to occur in a single year in Brown County in at least five years, a rate that concerns officials and advocates trying to reverse the trend.
"There are some people who are just evil to the point where they're abusing and killing a child. That's something no task force will ever be able to stop," said Brown County Supervisor Patrick Evans, who is spearheading the movement to address the growing issue.
A wide swathe of local social services agencies banded together almost two years ago with the mission of halting a steady rise in the volume and severity of abuse cases. They released an action plan in March and are rolling out the first initiatives this fall.
The sudden spike in severe cases at the onset of their effort "is most certainly concerning," Evans said.
Child protection departments are required by law to publish notices when a child is killed or seriously injured as the result of suspected abuse or neglect.
Brown County has published eight notices so far this year, although state records indicate abuse has been unsubstantiated in one of those cases. Only Milwaukee County has had more incidents.
Last year, Brown County reported one child was killed and two were seriously injured from substantiated abuse. County officials investigated a fourth incident, the death of a 2-month-old boy, in which they were unable to substantiate abuse .
Little information is available about the 2014 incidents. One case involved 9-year-old Ashwaubenon boy with autism killed by his mother, who committed suicide, on Jan. 21, according to a state report. On July 12, a 1-month-old girl died from "unsafe sleeping conditions" in Green Bay, according to the county medical examiner's office.
Another incident, involving a 5-month-old boy who died in June, was ruled as death by natural causes, according to the medical examiner's office. An abuse determination has not been released by child protection workers.
No other information has been released about the other incidents, which are still under investigation.
"Each incident is a tragedy, and the conduct of the adults in those situations is deplorable," Brown County Human Services Executive Director Jeremy Kral said.
The number of abuse and neglect cases in the county reached a five-year high in 2013 when social workers investigated 1,501 cases involving 2,331 children, according to the state Department of Children and Families. That's a 59 percent increase in investigations over 2009.
The trend has continued into 2014. The county had already investigated 919 reports as of the end of July.
The community plan released by Evans' task force in March focuses largely on prevention efforts, noting an estimated 1,300 to 1,500 area families are at risk of abusing or neglecting their kids but never get help.
That estimate is based on the number of referrals social workers dismiss every year because they don't meet the legal standard to be formally investigated.
"We're really hoping we're going to bend this curve," Kral said.
Kral's department is also refocusing on prevention. The county was recently approved for an expansion of community service programs, including ones teaching parenting skills and job training.
Next year the department also will implement an alternative response program, which allows child protection workers to provide services to families without substantiating abuse or identifying an abuser. The goal of the program is to partner with families in less severe cases to fix underlying problems that could lead to more serious abuse or neglect, Kral said.
"What we know is when children are harmed the adult involved is typically overwhelmed in their situation with a multitude of stresses. Anything we can do to intervene early and alleviate some of those stresses is what our goal is as a department," Kral said.
WHO TO CALL
To report abuse or neglect, contact your local child protective services office or police at or by calling:
County | Business hours | After hours
Brown | (920) 448-6000 | (920) 448-3200
Door | (920) 746-2300 | (920) 746-2400
Kewaunee | (920) 388-3777 | (920) 388-3100
Marinette | (715) 732-7700 | (715) 732-7600
Oconto | (920) 834-7000 | (920) 834-6900
Shawano | (715) 526-4700 | (715) 526-3111
— U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Wisconsin Department of Children and Families
Look the monster of child abuse in the eye
by MICHAEL OVERALL
One young victim describes lying in the bath and fixating on cracks in the wall, imagining the pipes and wires and cobwebs hidden behind them. If he concentrated hard enough on the cracks, he could almost forget what his abuser's hands were doing under the water.
The audience, watching this excruciating testimony on video in the auditorium of a local Catholic school, looks for a distraction, too. Some people reach for their cell phones with a sudden, urgent need to check emails. Others begin to count ceiling tiles or become inordinately fascinated by their own shoelaces. A few step out to find the restrooms, rushing to get there but in no particular hurry to come back.
The moderator had warned us before the training session started. “Some of this won't be easy to hear.”
Not some of it. All of it. But listen we must.
Part of the church's response to the sex abuse scandals more than a decade ago, the VIRTUS program teaches parents, faculty and school volunteers how to recognize warning signs and minimize the risks to children. Since the Diocese of Tulsa implemented the program in 2003, more than 10,000 people from across northeastern Oklahoma have attended a training session.
And surely not one of them particularly enjoyed it. If the experience doesn't turn your stomach a little, there's something seriously wrong with you. But to solve the problem of child sex abuse, we must first confront it. Look the monster in the eye, so to speak.
Evil loves darkness, the scriptures say. Shed some light and it scurries for cover. And that means listening not only to the victims but also to the perpetrators, not to sympathize with them but to understand their methods.
The VIRTUS videos include at least two convicted abusers who describe — with bone-chilling detachment and no sign of remorse — how they honed their “skills” and refined their tactics, getting away with it time and time again, for years. They groomed victims patiently, testing boundaries and winning trust, not just with the children but with the parents. They planted suggestions, made the victims think it was their idea. Like they're to blame.
“I was very manipulative,” one abuser says with a nauseating hint of pride.
Sex abuse, of course, is not a uniquely Catholic problem. It can happen anywhere to anybody. In schools, both public and private. In homes, rich and poor. To families, devout or secular.
Our only defense is vigilance. And VIRTUS offers ways to stay alert.
“Know the warning signs” to recognize an inappropriate relationship with a child before it becomes abusive.
“Control access” to children's programs to make sure known abusers never have the opportunity to approach new victims.
“Monitor all programs” in such a way that adults don't spend time alone with children in areas where abuse could go undetected.
And “be aware” of any changes to child's mood or behavior. Teach children what is and what isn't appropriate. And, most importantly, listen to them.
We'd rather not hear it, of course. But we have to.
Ex-Cop Charged For Alleged Sexual Abuse Of Children In Flint, Michigan
by The Associated Press
FLINT, Mich. (AP) — Authorities are asking people to step forward if they believe they were assaulted as children by a Flint police sergeant who is charged with sexual misconduct while on duty in the 1990s.
Lawrence Woods, now 66 and retired, appeared in court Friday on charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. He was returned to jail without bond.
"There were incidents inside the police department and out on the street in police vehicles and on city property," Sgt. Karl Petrich said.
Searches at four homes where Woods has lived or stayed revealed hundreds of images of child pornography taken by him, Petrich said.
Two women claim Woods sexually assaulted them when they were minors, but police are looking for more potential victims, Petrich said.
"We understand the allegations are very serious," defense attorney Frank Manley told The Flint Journal. "Obviously, we are in the initial portion of our investigation, but we expect to have a successful outcome."
A hearing to determine if there's probable cause to send Woods to trial is set for Oct. 2. If convicted, the mandatory minimum sentence would be 25 years in prison.
The Journal reported that Woods joined the Flint department in 1975, although the year of his retirement was not immediately known. He was honored by a homeowners association in 1986 for capturing burglary suspects while working as a part-time security guard.
Women say they suffered sexual abuse by soldiers and police officers while in children's homes in Northern Ireland in the 70s
MP seeks probe into disturbing new allegations
by Liam Clarke
A group of women have come forward with allegations they were abused by members of the security forces while staying at several Northern Ireland care homes in the early days of the Troubles.
The Home Office in London has been asked to investigate claims that figures from the police and Army were involved in abusing the young people while they were residents in Lissue Children's Hospital in Lisburn and a second one in east Antrim.
East Belfast MP Naomi Long raised the issue with the Home Office after hearing the claims of the abuse against "young and vulnerable girls" while at the homes in the 1970s.
Her concerns come on the back of claims of a security force cover-up of the routine abuse of young victims at the Kincora Boys' Home in east Belfast.
Ms Long, a member of the Alliance Party, made the decision after meeting Colin Wallace, a former military intelligence officer and whistleblower whose career suffered after he tried to alert the Press to Kincora in the 1970s. The MP has also met two separate groups of victims.
Peter Robinson, the First Minister, has already called for abuse at Kincora in east Belfast to be included in a UK-wide inquiry. Mrs Long's claims go further and will add to the pressure. She is seeking to raise them in an adjournment debate in the Commons.
She raised her concerns in a letter to Keith Vaz MP, the chair of Westminster's Home Affairs Committee, which she copied to Theresa May, the Home Secretary.
She told Mr Vaz: "Aside from Kincora, which I have referred to previously, I have also met recently with a group of women who have alleged that they were sexually abused by members of the security forces in Lissue Children's Hospital in Lisburn." Ms Long also voiced similar concerns about the east Antrim home.
"These allegations are of an extremely sensitive nature but involve the security forces and others in the abuse of young and vulnerable girls," she said.
Ms Long (below) added: "I do not believe abuse which took place in Northern Ireland involved only victims and perpetrators from Northern Ireland.
"There have been suggestions of children being moved between different locations where abuse took place and also perpetrators – largely members of the security forces and senior public figures – who visited several homes and locations of abuse.
"For example, I recently met with former Army captain Colin Wallace, who informed me that he was aware of boys being brought from different children's homes to be abused in Kincora. I believe, like Colin, that it is essential to look at this from a UK-wide perspective."
She continued: "This reiterates the seriousness of all these allegations and the need to fully investigate all allegations in order to uncover the truth for survivors of abuse, and also to safeguard against potential future abuse."
A second group of women who claimed to have been abused when staying at three other homes in Northern Ireland were brought to see Ms Long by retired solicitor Pádraigín Drinan.
"They told me that when they escaped from the homes they were staying in, it would be reported and they were often sexually assaulted by the Army or police if they found them.
"One woman said a nun had told her, 'That is what you can expect if you run away'. One assault took place in Liverpool. This happened in the early 70s," Ms Drinan told the Belfast Telegraph.
Mrs Long said that she believed that at best a blind eye was turned to child abuse at Kincora by the intelligence agencies and at worst it was used to blackmail or control agents like William McGrath, a Kincora housefather found to have raped boys in his care.
Ms Long said: "The allegations are twofold. The first is that the security services knew of the abuse and actively prevented the police and the Army from properly investigating it. The second allegation is that they actually used the abuse as a way to trap people and have information on them that could be used as leverage.
"This would mean that they actively permitted the abuse to continue because doing so served political or intelligence motives of their own."
Ms Long said meeting victims had been harrowing and that she believed the present generation of politicians owed it to them to give them the proper hearing which had been denied before.
She stated: "My fear with Kincora is that if we don't include it in the inquiry now, we will never know, because sadly many of the people who were victims of the abuse have died already and others are in ill-health.
"We are already reaching the point where the people who perpetrated the abuse are also much older and dying too. There will never be any justice unless we get it now."