District man pleads guilty to taking a 9-year-old girl to his government office to have sex
GREENBELT, Md. — A Washington, D.C., man pleaded guilty Friday to transporting a minor to engage in sex. The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore and the U.S. Park Police.
Kevin Robinson, 53, of Washington, D.C., admitted to transporting a minor to his government office to engage in sex.
According to his plea agreement, on Oct. 8, 2013, Robinson drove a 9-year-old girl and her parents to their home from a dental appointment, and dropped the parents off. Robinson then drove with the girl and other passengers to his girlfriend's house, where he dropped off the other passengers. Robinson drove the girl to the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC) in Greenbelt, Maryland, where he worked.
They entered his office and the girl began playing games on Robinson's computer. Robinson then told the victim to remove her clothes. Robinson licked the victim's chest and bit her breast, cutting the skin and causing a mark. Robinson attempted to have sex with her and the victim told him to stop. The victim put her clothes back on and they left BARC.
Once in his vehicle, Robinson told the victim to perform oral sex, which she did. Robinson then drove the victim back home. The victim told her parents what happened and the parents called the police. The victim was taken to the hospital and a DNA analysis identified Robinson's saliva on the victim's breast.
Robinson and the government have agreed that if the court accepts the plea agreement, Robinson will be sentenced to between 144 to 210 months in prison followed by a lifetime of supervised release. As part of his plea agreement, Robinson must register as a sex offender.
U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus has scheduled sentencing for Jan. 14, 2015.
This investigation was conducted under HSI's Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 10,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2013, more than 2,000 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.
For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI's Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page.
HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.
Plan to use teen as bait leads to rape at school, suit alleges
by CNN Wire
It's an unimaginable horror. A 14-year-old girl with special needs allegedly was raped at school after a teacher's aide persuaded her to act as bait to catch an accused sexual predator, a fellow student.
“It has essentially devastated her life,” attorney Eric Artrip — who represents the girl and her father — said of the alleged January 2010 incident.
The Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education filed an amicus brief Wednesday supporting her family's federal lawsuit against the Madison County School Board in Alabama.
An amicus brief is a legal argument offered to the court by someone who is not a party to the case. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta will decide whether to accept the argument.
“School administrators knew the student's extensive history of sexual and violent misconduct and were alerted to the substantial risk he posed” to other students, according to the brief.
About a week before the alleged rape, Sparkman Middle School vice principals Jeanne Dunaway and Teresa Terrell received a complaint that the boy had touched a female student inappropriately and was assigned in-school suspension, according to federal attorneys.
A few days later, June Simpson, a teacher's aide at the Huntsville-area school, told the principal, Ronnie Blair, that the boy had “repeatedly tried to convince girls to have sex with him in the boys' bathroom on the special needs students' corridor” and had actually had sex with one student, according to the brief.
The boy and his alleged sexual partner denied having sex in the bathroom, but Simpson recommended the boy be “constantly monitored,” according to the brief. Blair said the boy could not be punished because he had not been “caught in the act,” the brief reads.
School policy requires allegations of student-on-student misconduct be substantiated.
Trying to “catch him in the act”
On January 22, 2010, the boy approached a 14-year-old girl with special needs who had already declined his “recent, repeated propositions” for sex, according to the brief.
“She was not physically or mentally handicapped, although she does qualify for special education classes,” Artrip told CNN.
When the girl told Simpson, she encouraged the girl to “meet (the boy) in the bathroom where teachers could be positioned to ‘catch him in the act' before anything happened,” according to the brief.
The girl initially refused, but then agreed, according to Artrip.
Simpson and the girl went to Dunaway's office to explain the plan. Dunaway “did not respond with any advice or directive,” according to the brief.
“If this was problematic for the administration it would have been better to express that on the front end instead of the back end,” said attorney McGriff Belser III, who represents Simpson.
The girl left Dunaway's office, found the boy in the hallway, and “agreed to meet for sex,” according to the brief.
“Something went wrong,” said Artrip.
Instead of meeting in the boys' bathroom on the special needs students' corridor, the boy told the girl to meet him in the sixth-grade boys' bathroom, in another part of the school, according to the brief.
“No teachers were in the bathroom to intervene,” the brief reads.
“She stalled for time. She continually tried to fight him off but ultimately was anally raped by this young man,” Artrip told CNN.
“It was evident that this had been a severe trauma for her,” said Artrip.
Police were called and the girl was taken to the National Children's' Advocacy Center in Huntsville, where a rape kit was taken, Artrip told CNN.
Medical personnel found evidence of trauma “consistent with (the girl) being sodomized.” The boy claimed he had only kissed her, according to the brief.
Attorneys: Boy had a long history of serious misconduct
The girl was uncommunicative after the incident, Artrip said. The district attorney in Madison County investigated the incident, but with a victim who was unable or unwilling to talk about the incident, the office didn't think they had a good case, and did not pursue it.
Even after viewing photographs of the girl's injuries, vice principal Terrell “testified that she didn't know whether (the girl) had consented to the assault,” according to the brief.
The school listed the alleged rape as “inappropriate touching a female in boys' bathroom,” on the student's computerized disciplinary report. He was suspended for five days and sent to an alternative school, but later returned to Sparkman after about 20 days, according to the brief.
Vice principal Dunaway testified that the girl was responsible for herself once she entered the bathroom, according the brief.
DoJ and DoE attorneys claim the boy had a long history of sexual and other misconduct in school and Sparkman Middle School administrators knew it. Several pages of the 126-page brief detail years of disciplinary problems.
The boy had been involved in 15 violent or sex-related proven incidents of misconduct before the alleged rape, according to the brief.
Federal attorneys say details about the severity of the incidents are unavailable because school administrators shredded the boy's disciplinary files.
The girl's father filed the federal lawsuit in October 2010 against the boy, the three administrators, the teacher's aide and the Madison County School Board.
“We felt, (that) the teacher putting her into this position, because of the policy as interpreted by the school board and the principal, violated Title IX,” Artrip told CNN.
Title IX is a federal law aimed at ending sexual discrimination in education. In part, it dictates how schools that receive federal funds must respond to claims of sexual harassment.
In 2010, a district court judge allowed the father's claims of state violations, including negligence, against Simpson and Dunaway, while dropping the boy from the lawsuit because he was a minor. The judge tossed out the federal claims — that the school district violated Title IX and that Simpson and school administrators deprived the girl of her civil rights.
Both sides have appealed.
Fighting for a jury trial
According to the rare amicus brief, written in part by an attorney with the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, the school, in its capacity as a recipient of federal funds is “liable for [its] deliberate indifference to known acts of peer sexual harassment.”
On the same day the federal brief was submitted, the Women's Law Center, joined by 32 national and local organizations, submitted a joint brief supporting the family's lawsuit. Earlier this month, the National Women's Law Center and Artrip submitted a joint brief to the Eleventh Circuit.
Artrip told CNN his client deserves her day in court and a jury should weigh in on the Madison County District's requirement of substantiation of allegations of student-on-student misconduct.
“We hope that the attention that this case is getting will spur a movement on these kinds of policies so that a girl can simply report sexual harassment without having a need to bring a witness with her or roll up her shirt and show bruises,” Artrip told CNN.
The girl was withdrawn from Sparkman Middle School and underwent extensive counseling. She went to live with her mother in North Carolina, but her mother died soon after. Instead of moving back to Huntsville, she and her brother were placed with Child Protective Services in North Carolina, the attorney said.
Geraldine Tibbs, the head of public relations for the Madison County Board of Education, said the board and school officials “are confident that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals will rule in favor of the Board and the administrators.”
“Our attorneys recommend that we not discuss ongoing litigation,” she said.
Ronnie Blair and Teresa Terrell are still principal and vice principal at Sparkman Middle School.
Jeanne Dunaway is now principal at Madison County Elementary School.
June Simpson resigned shortly after the incident.
“My client has gone from being a teacher's aide to being a scapegoat,” said Simpson's attorney.
When asked why his client thought it was a good idea to use a special needs teen as bait to catch a suspected attacker, Besler told CNN, “I don't personally think it is a good idea. The events of this case have shown us that it was not.”
'Why is child sexual abuse awareness stuck in the 1950s?'
by Dan Hillman
Margaret Hoelzer is a two-time U.S. Olympic athlete in swimming, and a child sexual abuse survivor.
I was in the audience as she spoke to a group of child advocates – professionals who, like our employees at Child Enrichment, work with child victims of abuse every day. Margaret informed us and motivated us in many ways that day, but one particular thing she said has really bothered me, and I can't shake it, because I too cannot understand. She asked, “Why is child sexual abuse awareness stuck in the 1950s?”...
SHE ALREADY HAD spoken about her abuse and how well her family handled it, and how a grand jury chose not to bring charges against the alleged perpetrator, and how difficult it was to deal with all of the stigma and pressure – besides the abuse.
“How can you do something like that to a child and have nothing happen? No community service. No fine. Nothing?” Margaret asked. “Now that I'm older … I realize that's not how it is. A lack of evidence is just a lack of evidence.”
Estimates are that 90 percent of child sexual abuse goes unreported, and if Child Enrichment's statistics are typical, only 10 percent of the reported cases are criminally prosecuted. We surmise that there are hundreds of thousands of sexual predators out there seeking children for sexual gratification.
Margaret turned her experience into motivation. She told us about standing on the pool's edge, looking down the line of competitors whom she would swim against in a minute, and she said to herself: None of these people are as strong as I, none survived what I survived! And she won almost every time she raced.
THEN SHE TOLD US about her grandmother who was diagnosed with breast cancer in the 1950s, and who died of the disease at a young age. Her grandmother couldn't talk about it to anyone. Even conversations with her doctor and her husband were short and not repeated. She was alone with her cancer – just like most of the child victims of sexual abuse are alone with their abuse and torture.
“Why?” Margaret asked. “How long will it take for child sexual abuse awareness to get to where breast cancer awareness is today? Will it take six decades? Will we ever have an awareness campaign with ribbons and with men and women talking about child sexual abuse with the goal of eradicating it?”
Other than her parents, Margaret Hoelzer never told anyone about her abuse. After setting world records and winning Olympic medals, she thought, I need to tell about this. Maybe it will help a child recover, or prevent another victim.
She also wondered: What if no one cares?
Margaret told us, “I've learned what sexual abuse does. It undermines people's value. It undermines self-confidence. It just attacked my self-esteem. My first lesson, that not all people are good, that adults don't always have your best interests at heart? Yeah, I learned that at 5 years old.”
So how long will it take for child sexual abuse to achieve a level of awareness and prevention efforts such as breast cancer?
I DO NOT UNDERSTAND why so few other people want to understand child maltreatment. Yet, most everyone is quick to say: Children are our future! As a society, we seem to tolerate the brutal images of animal maltreatment and foreign child malnourishment and poverty, but when it comes to our child citizens, we don't seem to want to know.
I am very, very happy about the government-funded attack on child-sex trafficking by both the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But why not confront child sexual abuse? The only answer I come up with is a bad one: Children are considered property, and unless the sexual abuse is witnessed by an adult, or captured on video, we as individuals and as a society just don't want to know about the torture and exploitation of children within families.
If the alleged perpetrator is a stranger, OK, we are all over it. If the alleged perpetrator is a parent, relative or even someone trusted by the family – as the vast majority of child sexual abuse cases are – we don't handle it well.
Child Enrichment's mission is to serve the abandoned, abused, neglected and sexually abused children of the region, and to bring resolution of child sexual abuse cases through collaboration with key partner agencies; provide a safe and compassionate environment that puts the well-being of the child first; help children become survivors and to recover from the trauma of abuse; and to break the cycle of abuse through training, education and prevention.
LAST YEAR, CHILD Enrichment served 676 children from Richmond, Columbia and Burke counties. Most of these children were victims of child sexual abuse, and the others had experienced severe neglect or physical abuse. If only child advocates work to help these children, we never will achieve the goals of prevention and protecting children from sexual abuse.
Your help is needed. You can help the child victims today who need our counseling and court advocacy services, and you can become aware yourself and help to promote and spread that awareness. Please support Child Enrichment, and learn more about child abuse prevention.
You also can volunteer; donate to our annual fund-raising campaign; attend or sponsor a fund-raising event such as Art of Chocolate, which will be Oct. 10 this year; or simply tell others about our work. Go to www.ChildEnrichment.org.
LET'S MOVE THIS issue forward and help the millions of children affected by child sexual abuse. Darkness to Light, the child abuse prevention program, reported that there are 39 million adult survivors of child sexual abuse. For those of you on Facebook, please “like” Child Enrichment Inc., and Cookin' for Kids, and share our posts when you can. You can help bring awareness to child sexual abuse and help to prevent it – and we all can help to protect children from it. Everyone can do something to protect children.
(The writer is executive director of Child Enrichment Inc., the Child Advocacy Center and CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) for abused children in Augusta.)
11 child suicides so far this year, a record in Franklin County
by Josh Jarman
More children have killed themselves in Franklin County this year than ever before.
If that sounds familiar, it should. This is the second time in two years that The Dispatch has reported that fact.
But few answers were found to tackle the problem after nine central Ohio teens took their lives in 2012.
So far this year, Franklin County Coroner Jan Gorniak has investigated the deaths of 11 juveniles that she determined to be suicides. A 12th case is pending as she waits for drug tests to help determine whether the death was accidental or intentional.
All were younger than 18. The youngest was 11. The most recent death was Thursday, when a 13-year-old Columbus girl hanged herself, Gorniak said.
Parents, mental-health experts and school officials all say the deaths should be a wake-up call and that previous attempts to raise an alarm about the problem have led to too little action. What the community can do to stop it, however, is not an easy question to answer.
“I think education and awareness are important,” said Mary Brennen-Hofmann, suicide-prevention coordinator at North Central Mental Health Services, which operates the local suicide-prevention hotline.
In 25 years of working in the field of suicide prevention, Brennen-Hofmann said she has seen the stigma attached to talking about mental illness and suicide diminish. It still exists, however, and helps to further isolate young people who are battling depression, she said.
That's why it's important to teach young people to reach out to one another, and to adults, when they are experiencing suicidal thoughts, and to help them build resilience and conflict-resolution skills at a young age, she said.
In almost every case, a person considering suicide exhibits some warning sign or makes some statement that in hindsight was a cry for help, Brennen-Hofmann said. Without education and open dialogue, it can be hard for adults or friends to read those signs, she said, and harder still for them to know where to turn for help. And suicide is still a subject many don't want to talk about.
“I think there's a misconception out there that if we talk about it, we put the thought in their minds,” state Rep. Marlene Anielski said.
Anielski, a Republican from Walton Hills, a northeastern Ohio village, knows the pain of losing a child to suicide. Her son, Joseph, took his life in 2010 at age 18.
She has been one of the leading crusaders for suicide prevention at the statehouse since and sponsored a bill in 2012 to make suicide-awareness and prevention training available to public schoolteachers. House Bill 543, which took effect in March last year, added suicide awareness to subjects teachers must study during state-mandated in-service training.
That training is limited to four hours of study every five years, however, and must also cover topics such as child-abuse prevention, substance abuse, school safety, bullying and dating violence.
Franklinton resident Denise Meine-Graham said that's not enough. Meine-Graham, who lost her 19-year-old son, Drey, to suicide in 2012, said suicide-awareness training for school officials should take place every year.
“I don't want to discount what (Anielski)'s done; what she's done is huge,” she said, but “it can't be four hours every five years.”
Meine-Graham helped start a local LOSS Team, which stands for Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors. It consists of volunteers who go to the scenes of suicides and offer their support to the parents, friends and loved ones.
She said it took her more than a year after her son's death to try to find out what help there was for suicide survivors locally. She's trying to reduce that wait for help for others.
“You don't get over the death of a child, the suicide of your child. It's with you forever,” Meine-Graham said.
She said the group also wants to help ease the grief because research has found that a person's risk for suicide increases after someone he or she knows commits suicide. A friend of Drey's committed suicide in 2011, she said, and she didn't realize how profoundly it had affected Drey until after he took his own life.
Meine-Graham said she would like to see more young people, such as her son's friends, speak to schoolchildren about the pain of loss that follows a suicide and that it's OK to talk to someone about how they're feeling.
Tracey Johnson, the president of the Columbus Education Association, the union that represents Columbus teachers, said teachers would welcome more training in suicide awareness and prevention, but it has to be offered and they have to be given the time to take the training.
“Anything we can do to save the life of a child — let's do it,” Johnson said.
Gorniak first sought to raise public awareness of teen suicide in 2012, when her office investigated nine such deaths. That was three times as many as the year before, and as many as the previous five years combined.
The numbers dipped in 2013, but Gorniak also investigated her youngest suicide-related death that year — an 8-year-old girl who hanged herself in her home.
For a while, the 2012 deaths sparked a community conversation. A task force was formed; people looked for answers. That task force was disbanded after some said it was duplicating the efforts of existing organizations.
Gorniak said frank talk about teen suicide has since subsided in Franklin County. Now, she says, not enough is being done.
Gorniak said everyone in central Ohio who interacts with children — teachers, coaches, school-lunch workers, pediatricians, nurses and school counselors — should know what signs to look for, what questions to ask and who to turn to for help if they suspect a child is considering hurting himself or herself.
“If we don't talk about it, how do we break the cycle?” Gorniak said. “It has to be a continuing topic of conversation.”
The more of these signs a person shows, the greater his or her risk of committing suicide:
Talking about wanting to die
Looking for a way to kill himself or herself
Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
Talking about being a burden to others
Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
Acting anxious, agitated or reckless
Sleeping too little or too much
Changing diet, including a lack of appetite
Dropping concern about personal hygiene
Withdrawing or feeling isolated
Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
Displaying extreme mood swings
Previously attempting suicide
Having experienced a friend's or relative's suicide
What to do
Do not leave the person alone.
Remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental-health professional.
Other resources include the local 24-hour suicide hotline at 614-221-5445; a teen suicide hot line at 614-294-3300; Netcare at 614-276-2273; and Nationwide Children's Hospital Behavioral Health department at 614-355-8080.
Sources: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, ADAMH Board of Franklin County, North Central Mental Health Services, Nationwide Children's Hospital
SAVE continues helping domestic violence victims
by Chris De Benedetti
FREMONT -- The NFL's recent scandals instantly launched the issue of domestic violence into the national spotlight.
That problem, however, is nothing new to Safe Alternatives to Violent Environments, a Fremont nonprofit group that has helped victims of domestic violence for nearly 40 years.
The organization -- known as SAVE -- began expanding its services this year, well before pro athletes put off-field violence on the front page.
SAVE also doubled the size of its facility to 4,000 square feet and added an "Empowerment Center," where people escaping abusive spouses or parents can stop by anytime for help.
The new center has four counseling rooms, where crisis counselors immediately help walk-in visitors, said Tina Fernandez, a SAVE employee. It also features an area specifically for teenagers and young adults who are survivors of violence, as well as a "life-skills learning lab" to help clients write résumés and cover letters as they seek housing and employment.
SAVE offers classes on everything from Internet privacy and technology safety to boosting self-esteem, Fernandez said.
"We're trying to empower those we serve so they feel they're regaining their independence," she said. "That's what we find works best for domestic violence victims."
SAVE has an annual operating budget of about $1.4 million, Fernandez said. It employs nearly 25 people and has dozens of volunteers and interns. Some are former clients who have become advocates who tell the public how SAVE helped free them from physical, verbal or emotional abuse.
Carrie Blake, a Fremont schoolteacher and parent, said she is a former client who escaped an abusive husband.
She now helps others do the same.
"I see myself transitioning from a (domestic violence) survivor to an advocate, to tell my story to help other women," she said.
Blake also tells SAVE's story, noting that its legal advice was invaluable while going through child-custody battles.
"In eight years, I was in court 45 times, with 400 filings," she said. "SAVE helped me fill out forms each time."
Although Blake succeeded in leaving an abusive spouse, she said she understands why Janay Rice has stayed with her husband, NFL star Ray Rice, who was videotaped punching his wife in an elevator.
"Unless you've been through it yourself, you can't understand the fear that an abusive person puts you in. " Blake said. "It's so subtle, it slowly happens, and then you're terrified. You're basically trapped until you're ready to leave."
Domestic violence is all about power and control, which is partly why encouraging clients' independence is so important, Fernandez said."We don't tell a client what to do because they might have longtime patterns of a partner telling them what to do," she said. "We try to be there for them, give them information, listen to them as they cry, and say, yeah, we have room in the shelter for you until we find you a place of your own."
If you go
SAVE's 12th annual breakfast fundraiser will run 7:30 to 9 a.m. Friday at the DoubleTree by Hilton Newark-Fremont hotel, 39900 Balentine Drive, Newark. For tickets or details, call 510-574-2250 or go to www.SAVE-DV.org. SAVE's 24-hour crisis hotline is 510-794-6055.
Abuse survivors name St. John's Abbey in nuisance claim
by John Croman
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A group of clergy abuse survivors Thursday filed a public nuisance lawsuit against St. John's Abbey and the Diocese of St. Cloud, claiming those organizations aren't doing enough to police priests who've been credibly accused of abuse.
Two of those plaintiffs, John and Al Vogel, became victims in the early 1970's, and were part of a lawsuit that was settled in 2002. At the time their attorney, Jeff Anderson, and their father, Raymond, celebrated the settlement.
"It helps me a great deal, the factor, the safety for the children," Raymond Vogel told KARE in 2002. Vogel, who has since died, worked at St. John's Abbey for 40 years and knew the priests his son's accused.
But 12 years later John and Al Vogel were once again standing before the camera in the St. Paul law offices of Attorney Jeff Anderson, saying St. John's and the Diocese weren't taking all the steps necessary to reign in credibly accused violators.
"The deceit continues. Promises continue to be broken," John Vogel, who now lives in Texas, told reporters."
Al said promises were made in the 2002 settlement weren't being taken seriously the Abbey and the Diocese.
"They told us they were going to take care of the family and do what's right. That has not happened at all," Al Vogel asserted.
The priests who abused the Vogel brothers. Richard Eckroth and Cosmas Dahlheimer are no longer threats to anyone.
Father Richard Eckroth has advanced dementia and is in a nursing home, according to a spokesperson for St.John's Abbey. Father Cosmas Dahlheimer is now dead.
But Anderson's public nuisance lawsuit claims that other credibly accused clergy need to be on a shorter leash. He gave the example of Father James Thoennes, who is on the Diocese' list of credibly accused priests and works part-time for the Diocese.
In a Sept. 9 deposition, taken as part of a different sexual abuse case, Thoennes said he must get permission from the Diocese if he leaves the St.Cloud metro area, but he can travel freely inside the area without seeking permission from superiors.
"I can go to St. Joe and St. Johns," he said during excerpt of the videotaped deposition shared with reporters at Anderson's press conference.
Anderson's legal team contends that statement runs counter to reassurances offered by St, Cloud Bishop Donald Kettler, during an taped interview with the Saint Cloud Times editorial board earlier this year.
"We constantly taking care in observing that he follows all of these, that he's not in contact with any, any young people," Kettler said to the newspaper's board.
Mike Bryant, the attorney who conducted the Thoennes' deposition, said that's too long of a leash for someone who admitted improper sexual contact with minors during the same deposition.
"As you saw he can go to St. Cloud, he can go to the City of Saint John, he can go to Saint Joseph; there's kids in those places!" Bryant said.
The Diocese of St. Cloud issued said that Thoennes meets quarterly with a review panel that reviews his activities and readjusts his restrictions when necessary.
"Thoennes does not have faculties to serve publicly as a priest and currently lives in St. Cloud under restrictions," the statement from the Diocese read.
"He is not allowed to have contact with minors unless another adult is present. He must receive permission to travel outside the immediate St. Cloud area."
The statement went on to say Bishop Kettler is committed to transparency and bringing healing to victims of clergy abuse.
The Abbey issued statement, which read, in part, "It is especially dismaying that today's news conference was promoted with the claim that these incidents are evidence of a 'clear and present danger.' That claim is absurd and represents fear-mongering at its worst."
The Ray Rice Assault Can Be Our Turning Point
Source: Womens eNews
Subhead: Here are four things you need to know about domestic violence and four things you can do about it. As the NFL shapes league policy on domestic violence and sex assault it's a good time to focus on the facts and how to bring about change. Byline: Maile Zambuto
It's been almost two weeks since the NFL decided to suspend Ray Rice indefinitely and the Baltimore Ravens terminated his five-year contract for domestic violence committed against his then-fiancé, as shown in graphic detail in a recently released video of the crime.
In the meantime, Arizona Cardinals backup running back Jonathan Dwyer was arrested in connection with domestic abuse allegations and deactivated after news of the arrest, CNN reported Sept. 18. The two victims are a 27-year-old woman and an 18-month-old child, police said.
In addition, a dozen other players with domestic violence arrests are still suiting up every week, according to a USA Today database that tracks players' arrests since 2000.
Last week, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell named NFL executive Anna Isaacson to take over the newly formed job of vice president of social responsibility. As The Los Angeles Times reported on Sept. 15, he also named three advisors to help shape league policies on domestic violence and sexual assault: Lisa Friel, former prosecutor with the Manhattan District Attorney; Rita Smith, former executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence; and Jane Randel, co-founder of NO MORE, a national movement to end domestic violence and sexual assault. These three women are deeply committed and qualified, and I am beyond hopeful--and eager--for the leadership and expertise they will bring.
These initial reforms are welcome, but as people search for answers, Rice has continued to be celebrated by many, his behavior excused and that of his then-fiancé questioned and doubted.
We've heard these victim-blaming excuses and myths time and time again: that she was "asking for it." Or that "it's her fault." Or that because a victim of domestic violence didn't leave her abusive partner, that she wasn't doing everything she knew how to do to be safe.
So as these conversations about where to go next are happening, we must ensure that they are happening with a foundation of knowledge about the issue of domestic violence and our culture that has blamed survivors for violence perpetrated against them for far too long.
Let's Start With the Facts
1 in 4 women suffer severe physical violence from an intimate partner during their lifetimes-- 12 million women every year. That means that on Feb. 15, 2014, the same day as Rice's assault, this was one of 32,877 instances of abuse.
In most cases, a video doesn't exist. And it shouldn't need to. Domestic violence encompasses sexual, emotional, economic and psychological violence. Physical scars are only one part of what survivors may be left with following violence and abuse.
Domestic violence is an intentional act. It is rooted in power and control--the desire for one partner to dominate and/or exercise control over another. An act of violence is not an act of blind anger, an anger management issue; it's a tactic utilized by an abuser as an attempt to feel powerful at the expense of others. And it's a learned behavior, meaning that abusers see violence practiced in society, or practice it themselves, and come to understand that it is a means of maintaining power and control.
The reasons someone remains in a domestic violence situation are complex and can be quite literally life and death. Our focus shouldn't be on why survivors stay, but why abusers don't stop their violent behavior. Just because some survivors don't leave their abusers--or don't come forward in the first place--doesn't mean the abuse didn't happen. Thousands of women die annually from domestic violence, many while attempting to leave the relationship. It is her choice to leave, and only she knows the safest moment to do so. It is our role to support her in this process.
What We Can Do
Support survivors. This takes the form of bearing witness to someone's story, of believing her or him without judgment. It also takes the form of being an active, engaged community member. Help dispel the myths that blame survivors and excuse perpetrators.
Learn these facts. Share them widely. Domestic violence--any kind of violence and abuse--is difficult to talk about, but we still need to break the silence. Nearly 64 percent of Americans say that if we talk more about domestic violence and sexual assault, it would make it easier to help someone. This is a significant opportunity to open the door to these conversations.
Join the movement to say NO MORE to domestic violence and sexual assault. NO MORE is a transformative movement that seeks to unite our entire society around the commitment to end--yes, end--domestic violence and sexual assault. The celebrity-driven PSA campaign provides powerful examples of the victim-blaming myths and excuses we so often hear, and the NO MORE symbol brings recognition to these issues and offers a beacon of hope. Share the campaign.
Engage men to be part of the solution. For the men in our community, we encourage you to stand up and be part of the solution. Take the pledge to say NO MORE and encourage other men to do the same. Talk with men and boys in your life about healthy relationships and the importance of respect.
For their part, law enforcement agencies and prosecutors must treat domestic violence as seriously as other crimes. The Atlantic City police and prosecutor's response to the Rice case raises questions about how the criminal justice system approaches domestic violence--something the state of New Jersey is currently investigating as part of its review of the case.
As for what the NFL can do, the potential is great. With annual revenues near $10 billion, it is the largest and most popular sports league in the U.S. with an audience of 64 percent of American adults. Stadiums fill with hundreds of thousands each week during the season and 33 million people participate in fantasy football.
It is my sincerest hope that the NFL's most recent decision and their commitment to do better by domestic violence survivors--by all of us who expect more--will be a turning point in how they and other influential institutions prevent and respond to domestic violence. Because there's so much more to do and, indeed, groundbreaking things are possible.
For all of us, let's take this moment to be part of the change. Join us by supporting survivors, learning the facts and saying NO MORE. Together, we can end this violence.
A final and important note: For those who have personally experienced or been affected by violence, we know the coverage of this story is virtually impossible to ignore. As we are inundated with news and information, some of it graphic and possibly triggering, we invite you to visit www.joyfulheartfoundation.org for information on self-care and mitigating additional trauma.
Maile Zambuto is CEO of the Joyful Heart Foundation. She has been working in the field of victim assistance, raising critical funds and much needed awareness, for over 20 years. The mission of the Joyful Heart Foundation is to heal, educate and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, and to shed light into the darkness surrounding these issues.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell addresses domestic violence, child abuse — but his apologies fall flat for women's advocates, former players
Breaking his silence after more than a week, Goodell talked about recent off-field issues of Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and others, reiterating that he 'got it wrong' first time around. In a glaring omission, Goodell never specifically said he was sorry for the women and children who have been abused by some of the NFL's biggest players.
by Kerry Burke, Barry Paddock, Corky Siemaszko
We waited 10 days for this?
Breaking his silence after more than a week, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell apologized Friday for the woeful way the league handles abuse cases and promised they would do better.
Goodell apologized for not cracking down on woman-beating football players like Ray Rice. And he apologized for letting down the NFL.
But in a glaring omission, Goodell never specifically said he was sorry to the women and children who have been battered and bruised by some of the NFL's biggest players.
That did not go unnoticed.
"It's a horrible response," said Raquel Singh, executive director of Voices of Women Organizing Project, an advocacy group for abused women. "The NFL has essentially re-victimized the victims by trying to smooth it over and not expressly giving their apologies to the victims."
Singh said “the whole incident was a debacle, in how the NFL handled it.”
“It's just getting worse and worse and worse in their handling of it and understanding the cycles of violence."
Former NFL players also piled on the criticism for Goodell's poor performance.
We need someone to go up there and be a leader,” former New England Patriots great Tedy Bruschi said on ESPN. “And that wasn't done.”
Chris Kluwe, the outspoken former Minnesota Vikings punter, tweeted that Goodell's press conference was “a big ol steaming pile of ‘Don't blame me, we're changing things'."
And ex-Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb noticed that Goodell was sticking to his story that he never saw the video footage of Rice socking his fiancee before TMZ.com slapped it on the web.
“Watching Roger Goodells presser made me feel like he's still dancing around the fact that the tape was sent and received,” McNabb tweeted. “Feel the same way?”
It was the first time Goodell spoke about the scandal since his Sept. 9 interview with CBS News, during which he punted when asked why he needed to see video of Rice knocking out his fiancée to ban the Baltimore Ravens running back from the NFL.
This time, Goodell began with a mea culpa for fumbling the Rice scandal — and for the other incidents of NFL players abusing loved ones that have bubbled up in its wake.
“Over the past several weeks, we have all seen too much of the NFL doing wrong,” he said. “That starts with me. I got it wrong in the handling of the Ray Rice matter. I'm sorry for that. Now I will get it right.”
Among other things, Goodell said “we will implement new conduct policies” for both players and owners that will be in place by the time the Super Bowl kicks off Feb. 1.
“The same mistakes can never be repeated,” the commissioner said. “We will get out house in order first. We will do more.”
Goodell said former FBI director Robert Mueller is already investigating his actions — and those of the NFL.
“I promise you any shortcomings he finds will be addressed,” Goodell said. “I don't expect anyone to take my word.”
Goodell insisted that Mueller would be impartial, even though he is a partner in a law firm that has represented Washington pro-football team owner Dan Snyder and helped negotiate the NFL's Sunday Ticket package on DirecTV.
When asked if he would resign, Goodell said no, “because I have acknowledged my mistake.”
Asked if he personally had ever been involved in an abuse case, Goodell answered, “I have not.” And when asked whether the NFL has lost any sponsors as a result of the scandals, he replied, “I don't believe so.”
Goodell's press conference was interrupted briefly when a Howard Stern flunky who tried to interrupt was hauled off by security guards. “Don't put me in the elevator,” he yelled.
“I had nothing to do with that,” the commissioner deadpanned.
But when a Daily News reporter asked Goodell waited he waited 10 days to speak, his handlers swept him away.
Goodell first caught flak in July when he suspended Rice for just two games after initial footage of the Feb. 15 beatdown at an Atlantic City casino elevator emerged.
It only showed the aftermath of the assault, when Rice dragged an unconscious Janay Palmer out of the elevator by her ankles.
It wasn't until the second video hit the Internet that the Ravens cut Rice, and Goodell suspended him indefinitely.
The NFL Players union has appealed the suspension, claiming that Rice has been punished twice for the same offense.
And Goodell has left open the possibility that Rice might be able to return to the NFL — to the dismay of many women's rights organizations and football fans.
Promises, promises... Roger Goodell's plan of action:
Formation of a personal conduct committee to establish procedures on how to handle behavior problems, in place before the Super Bowl.
Education sessions on domestic violence and sexual assault for all NFL and team personnel starting in the next 30 days.
Financial, operational and promotional support to the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center from the NFL.
A complete review of existing NFL programs to “enhance and improve” them and then “do more.”
Don't turn a blind eye to child abuse or neglect
by Yvonne Abraham
How is it possible that Erika Murray's oldest children went to school, had friends, and saw relatives, yet nobody raised the alarm about the horrors filling their Blackstone home?
Marie Spadaro has some idea.
Spadaro's childhood started conventionally enough. Her mother was a nurse, her father a bus driver. She and her younger sister were well cared for in their neat, gray-shingled cape in Centerville.
It all went to hell the summer before Spadaro turned 11, when she found her mother on the floor, in seizures. Doctors removed a brain tumor, leaving her mother with impaired judgment and impulse control, and dependent on sedatives. Her father, who had broken his hip and quit work years earlier, was also heavily medicated. Depressed, and with strained finances, her parents mixed alcohol with the drugs, descending into addiction.
The girls were on their own. Laundry piled up, as did dishes, garbage, and pet feces.
“That combination of the unwashed people and the unwashed pets and the food that may be halfway round the bend,” recalled Spadaro, now 48. “You learn to function with the smell, but I don't think you ever stop noticing it.”
She did what many kids do in these situations: She became the parent, at 11. She remembers trying to clear some of the mess away, hauling trash to the garage, and cleaning up after the beagle. For meals, she warmed frozen pizza in a toaster oven. She did laundry so that she and her sister — several years younger — would look presentable.
“I tried to keep things as best I could, but I could not be in charge of two parents, a younger sibling, and the pet,” she said.
For three years, none of the many adults in their lives came to their rescue. Maybe little Marie's attempts to hold back chaos fooled them. Maybe they didn't want the responsibility of acknowledging what was right before their eyes. Spadaro's teachers had to know something was terribly wrong, she said. Her grades slipped. Some days, she was so overwhelmed she skipped classes to practice clarinet for hours in the band room. She was not behaving normally, but she was not disruptive: “The last thing I wanted to do was draw attention to myself.” That was easier for everyone.
Three years after the spiral began, her mother's family took the girls in. Spadaro does not know why they decided to intervene then, and not sooner.
Up to that point, she and her sister had been utterly alone, just as Erika Murray's older children appear to have been. Those children — now 10 and 13 — were dealing with far more horrifying circumstances: the squalor in their home unimaginable; a 5-month-old and a 3-year-old profoundly neglected; the remains of three infants hidden away; vermin and the stench of dead animals everywhere. Still, when those kids went out into the world, nobody sensed their suffering.
Several times, though, neighbors complained about pets being mistreated at the home. There was only one call about the children, found to be unsubstantiated. How those kids must have envied the dogs.
Their own father, who lived in the house, did nothing to help them, but, inexplicably, has not yet been charged in the case. He claims to have been unaware of the hell they were living in. That cannot be true.
Here is the most generous explanation: That neighbors and teachers and parents of friends had some concerns about the kids' well-being, but didn't want to interfere. As the debate over NFL player Adrian Peterson whipping his 4-year-old bloody shows, many are loath to cross that line, even when confronted with clear abuse.
These crimes against innocence will stay with the Murray children forever, just as the unthinkable burden Spadaro carried has stayed with her. Now an English teacher and the mother of two young boys, she sees it in herself, in her protectiveness, her obsession with order, her heavy reliance on air fresheners. She is grateful for her rescue, but angry, too.
“Sometimes I wonder, ‘Why did you wait so long?'” she said. “Why did we have to go through this much?”
No, all spaking is not child abuse
by Gil Smart
I was 12, maybe 13 years old, and developing a smart-aleck teenaged mouth. Impossible to imagine, right?
One particular day I decided to lip off to my mother. I forget what the issue was, I don't remember exactly what I said, but I do remember how I said it — I was demeaning, dismissive, maybe even used a touch of profanity. Then I stalked out.
Dad tracked me down alongside the house. “Don't you ever talk to your mother that way again,” he said. Then: Blammo. Back into the bricks I flew. And that was that.
To my recollection, he never hit me before or afterward — which made it worse. “I must have done something really wrong,” I remember thinking. And I also remember thinking, “Maybe I shouldn't do that again.”
The incident didn't exactly prevent me from talking back in the future. But never again did I go that far. I'd learned that there was a line — and what happened when I crossed it.
Sometimes this is the best you can hope for in disciplining a child. Sure, ideally we want to show a kid the error of their ways, make them understand why they were wrong and how to do the right thing in the future.
But this assumes that all kids are angels in waiting, that no child ever really misbehaves on purpose. My experience, both as a kid and as a parent, is that this isn't true. So sometimes you just need to send an unambiguous message: Knock it off. This behavior isn't OK and will stop now.
There are a lot of ways to go about that. Corporal punishment is one way, but it's increasingly socially unacceptable. Sometimes, for good reason.
Which brings us to the case of Adrian Peterson , running back for the Minnesota Vikings, recently indicted for beating his 4-year-old son with a switch, leaving major welts. Peterson acknowledged he'd hit the child too hard — he said he didn't realize the extent of the harm because the boy never cried. But he showed no remorse for the “switching,” noting that it's how he was raised. And he turned out pretty well, he believes, because he was raised that way.
What Peterson did is terrifying. The idea of a 6-foot-1, 235-pound professional athlete — described by at least one commentator as pound-for-pound the strongest man in the NFL — whaling on a little boy with a stick seems monstrous.
Yet at the same time, the case unleashed a torrent of invective from those who insist that all corporal punishment is tantamount to child abuse. Typical was a piece by William Saletan on Slate.com in which he spoke of how he — who, like Peterson, grew up in East Texas — was once paddled in school by the principal. He doesn't remember the offense; he remembers being paddled, and how angry it made him:
“I can tell you what kids learn from being hit. They don't learn whatever you're telling them while you're hitting them. They learn about hitting, and about you. When violence is the medium, violence is the message.”
Look, this isn't to defend what Peterson did, but this runs counter to my own, lived experience, where the message was: There are boundaries, and if you cross them, you'll be sorry. And you know what? Being told, “Now young man, you go sit in that chair and think about what you've done” just wouldn't have sent the same message.
I'm not advocating spanking, but I simply don't consider a measured swat on the butt to be the same as child abuse. I think there's probably a reason that generations of Americans grew up with the maxim, “Spare the rod, spoil the child” — and the reason wasn't that their parents were mindless barbarians.
We consider modern parenting to be morally superior, but has it produced better kids, better behavior? I'd ask those who have viewed several generations of children whether today's kids are more polite, more respectful, more disciplined than their predecessors.
Or is the opposite true? Are products of permissive parenting more narcissistic, more entitled?
Your mileage will vary on this; I know plenty of nice kids whose parents, to my knowledge, would never spank their kids. I'm sure there are plenty of spoiled brats out there who weren't spared the rod.
But modern parenting seems rooted in the idea that consequences for inappropriate behavior must never exceed the timeout, perhaps grounding or losing “screen” privileges. Yet as we all know, there's no shortage of significant consequences out there in the real world, consequences rarely confined to, “You sit there and think about what you did.”
We can debate whether a swat on the butt and a gruff “Knock it off” is an appropriate way to teach a lesson. I'm just not sure having a kid sit sullenly in an armchair, waiting for a timer to go off, is going to be any more effective.
High-profile child abuse case focuses attention on discipline
by Eric Schwartzberg
The recent arrest of Minnesota Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson on child abuse charges has sparked a national conversation on the difference between discipline and child abuse.
The question of what, if anything, is too much when it comes to disciplining one's child is something not everyone considers daily or agrees on. Some local residents say a smack across a child's rear end is the threshold for what is acceptable child discipline.
“I believe it is called for sometimes,” said Mandy Haynes of Hamilton. “Not all kids respond to time out or grounding. It is not abuse if you bust their butts, contrary to what some people say. If it causes bodily harm or trauma, then you can say ‘Abuse.'”
Susan Shern-Macke of Ross Twp. said she goes by what her parents did.
“A spanking with your hand on the butt never hurt anyone,” she said.
Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said his office must deal with on a regular basis those who do harm their children in the form of thrashings with belts and belt buckles, cigarette burns or slappings that leave welts.
While many parents feel the need to hit when children are out of control, “there needs to be some kind of restraint,” Gmoser said.
“Unconscionable brutality is something that I won't tolerate in this office, and we don't,” Gmoser said. “Where it can be real serious is where, instead of a swat, we see somebody grabbing a child, especially an infant, by an arm or a leg and yanking that child in such a manner that it will actually break bones, and we do see that from time to time.”
In such cases, the prosecutor's office relies on a medical support group at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center to review those issues and share their advice and counsel when it comes to the severity of each injury, Gmoser said.
Also helpful to his office are the determinations made by emergency room doctors and pediatricians, who are “very tuned into child abuse,” Gmoser said.
“There's always a medical component beyond the expertise of a lawyer to make these judgments,” he said.
The reasoning by parents that hitting a child with their hands or with an object is just the way they were raised is something Gmoser said he has heard for years.
“It is commonplace because we know that from sexual abuse that is often times handed down generationally, so that a person who is an abuser … we often find the abuser himself or herself has been abused,” he said. “The same can be said for physical abuse. When the tradition of a family is that the switch comes out to teach manners and proper conduct, that is something that is transferred onto the next generation.”
Gmoser said that as a prosecutor he is happy to see the attention being given to domestic violence cases because he has been dealing with it every week since he took office in early 2011.
“I guess it takes a pro football player to take a stick to his kid to bring national attention to it, and now we're hearing the mantra of ‘We've got to get it right,'” Gmoser said. “Well, hell, we've been trying to get it right with the cases that we've had for years, and it doesn't get that much attention unless somebody really is crippled or killed, then obviously it's a big news item. Now, with the NFL involved, it really highlights it.”
The biggest obstacle to prosecuting people for child abuse is the lack of reporting of the crime, he said.
“There's a certain element of shame in households with respect to the abuse that they bring on their children and they don't want people to know,” he said. “They want to keep it secret. They don't want to disclose it. We sometimes don't see this until the child goes to school and the welts are seen by a school counselor.”
Mothers and fathers don't want to report the other spouse for fear that “bad things are going to happen,” Gmoser said.
“They're certainly educated enough to know that what just happened to Johnny or Sally might have been a crime and they don't want to see dad or mom hauled away and the legal fees, media attention and neighborhood scorn and all of the other negative attributes of this,” he said. “They feel that they can solve the problem, they can calm the anger, but then the anger comes back next time.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents not spank their children, according to Dr. Robert Sege, a member of AAP's Committee on Childhood Abuse and Neglect and a professor of pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine.
“There are a lot more effective alternatives that allow parents to teach their children right from wrong without hitting them,” Sege said. “We know that physical punishment of any sort has the potential to break down the trust between the parent and child.”
Sege said that AAP knows from surveys and from its own clinical experience that despite that advice, many parents will still spank their children.
“The place where we draw the line is that children should never be physically injured or made to fear for their lives or well being,” Sege said. “That physically injured part includes being beaten to the point where the children have bruises or the skin is broken. That's obviously a situation that's intolerable. In all states in the country, that's considered child abuse.”
The NFL's Peterson allegedly used a thin tree branch, referred to by many as a “switch,” to discipline his son in Texas, “a part of the country where corporal punishment is quite frequent and quite acceptable,” Sege said. “Even in the schools in Texas.”
Peterson isn't the only NFL star accused of lashing out at his child. During a domestic dispute with his wife, Arizona Cardinals backup running back Jonathan Dwyer allegedly hurled a shoe at his 17-month-old son, hitting him in the stomach.
While the physical dangers of child abuse may be apparent, the psychological dangers are more complicated than a wound with which to deal.
“Children are supposed to trust their parents,” Sege said. “Usually they do, and when their parents hit them, particularly when they're young, like four, it's a little difficult for them to understand what's going on, so it decreases their trust.”
The second issue, Sege said, is that children do love their parents and, as a result, tend to copy them.
“What the research has shown is that the children who are subject to physical punishment at home are often the same children who are quite aggressive with their playmates at school later and have other issues,” he said. “In fact, parents often will spank their children or otherwise hit them out of love, they want them to do the right thing, but it turns out to be counterproductive. We often see kind of a vicious cycle.”
There are indicators that suggest that children whose parents primarily used corporal punishment when they were young have more mental and physical health problems when they reach adulthood, Sege said.
Rather than hitting, a more effective way of disciplining children includes time outs for younger children and removing privileges from older children.
“The most powerful thing a parent can do is tell their children what behavior is expected, and when they do the right thing, look at them, give them a thumbs up, give them a kiss, give them a smile,” he said. “Because the children really want to please their parents, and parents who do these things consistently have many less discipline problems.”
The fact that such high-profile cases are controversial, and many are so horrified by what they're seeing, to the point the NFL has been forced by public opinion to act, “represents a major change over the past generation in how Americans feel and accept the way that children are treated,” Sege said.
PEI Kids' Program for Child Victims of Sexual Abuse Will Benefit from Six Recent Grants
by Diane Blaszka
Lawrenceville, NJ, September 18, 2014: For the past 29 years, nonprofit PEI Kids has been working with Mercer County families, communities and schools to keep children safe. Six recent grants from the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, AMC Theatres (AMC Cares Charitable Grant Fund), athenahealth Inc., Arbonne Charitable Foundation, the Robert and Joan Dircks Foundation, and the Lawrence Township Community Foundation will specifically aid the Lawrenceville-based organization's efforts to provide free professional counseling to local child victims of sexual abuse and their supportive family members.
PEI Kids Crisis Intervention for Child Victims of Sexual Abuse program provides immediate counseling services and support groups for more than 250 child victims and nearly 300 family members annually. Licensed counselors who specialize in Trauma-Focused Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy focus on helping the victims and families process and cope with the after effects of the abuse, and ultimately heal.
According to Dr. Juanita Johnson Brooks, who has managed the program since 1995, “Reported cases of child sexual abuse in Mercer County average about four per week, and nearly all victims are referred to PEI Kids. Immediate counseling is critical because the negative effects of abuse can be very damaging to a child and family's future. Thankfully, the overwhelming majority of PEI Kids' young clients leave our program with strengthened coping skills and vastly reported reductions in such symptoms as nightmares, anxiety and depression.”
Dr. Brooks credits ongoing support from The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey with providing depression screening and treatment for her young clients, while funds from the Arbonne Charitable Foundation will help finance family support groups. The Lawrence Township Community Foundation grant will specifically help PEI Kids treat children who are Lawrence residents. Grants from AMC, athenahealth Inc. and the Robert and Joan Dircks Foundation, which are all new donors to PEI Kids this year, will benefit the overall crisis counseling program.
As part of its Prevention and Education efforts, PEI Kids also works as the lead agency for the Greater Mercer Coalition to Prevent Child Abuse, which offers community workshops throughout the County to educate adults on how to prevent, recognize, report and respond to child sexual abuse.
About PEI Kids
Serving the Greater Mercer County, NJ, community for the past 29 years, PEI Kids addresses many of the most pressing issues affecting children, including child assault and sexual abuse, bullying, gang culture and cyber violence. With a mission dedicated to promoting and maintaining a safe environment for all children, its services include programs relating to personal safety; child sexual abuse; school safety and bullying; anger management; gang prevention; and the overall well-being of the child and family.
PEI Kids is also the lead agency of the Greater Mercer Coalition to Prevent Child Abuse and provides client services to foster care children and their biological families. To learn more about PEI Kids' many programs, workshops and services, and how you can support its efforts, please call 609-695-3739 or visit www.peikids.org . All calls regarding possible abuse are confidential.
Working to end child sex abuse
by Jennifer Kohlhepp
HAMILTON — About one in 10 youths will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday, meaning 400,000 children born in the United States this year will become victims unless something is done to stop it, according to statistics compiled by Darkness to Light.
The Hamilton Area YMCA strongly believes that if childhood sexual abuse can be prevented, it can be stopped and that through awareness and education, adults can protect children. Taking a proactive role to help keep kids safe from sexual abuse, the YMCA has partnered with Darkness to Light to provide free Stewards of Children training to adults, according to Jill Makkay, spokesperson for the Hamilton Area YMCA.
"The New Jersey YMCA State Alliance, which includes 40 local YMCAs, have joined forces with Darkness to Light, a nationally recognized nonprofit organization and creators of the award-winning Stewards of Children child sexual abuse prevention curriculum," Ms. Makkay said. "Through the initiative, the YMCA is offering Stewards of Children child sexual abuse prevention training to adults in the community. The Hamilton Area YMCA knew this partnership was ideal in raising awareness and taking steps to preventing child sexual abuse."
Darkness to Light, which is based in South Carolina, created Stewards of Children, a training program that teaches adults how to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. The program is designed for parents, individuals concerned about the safety of children and groups that serve youth.
Stewards of Children is an evidence-informed training program that is proven to increase awareness of the prevalence, consequences and circumstances of child sexual abuse and positively change child protective behaviors, policies and procedures. The program includes commentary from sexual abuse survivors, experts in the field and other concerned adults; an interactive workbook designed to facilitate discussion, reinforce key concepts and serve as a resource guide and personal action plan for protecting children; and interactive discussions about important issues in sexual abuse prevention and how they affect communities and youth serving organizations.
"We believe this training is important for adults in our community and our staff members so they are better educated in the facts about child sexual abuse," Ms. Makkay said. "Knowing the facts surrounding child sexual abuse is an important step in prevention. Once the Stewards of Children training is completed, adults and staff members will be versed in minimizing opportunity, the ability to talk openly and responsibly with children, recognize the signs of abuse to protect children, and how to respond to suspicions or reports of sexual abuse."
The Hamilton Area YMCA has set a goal of training 5 percent of the adult population in Mercer County in the Stewards of Children training over the next five years. Concerned citizens can take the training course online or at the YMCA, where school staff members, nonprofit organizations, businesses, emergency medical technicians, firefighters, police, government officials and others can also schedule a training session.
"The two-hour Stewards of Children online training course is free for all New Jersey residents through December 2014," Ms. Makkay said. "We encourage everyone to take the training course, especially those who work in school settings — youth sports organizations, faith centers and nonprofit organizations. The online training course consists of a personal prevention plan, frequently asked questions on child sexual abuse and scenarios to practice the knowledge learned. A certificate is provided with the successful completion."
Stewards of Children has trained over 700,000 adults since its inception, according to Darkness to Light.The ultimate mission of Darkness to Light, to end childhood sexual abuse, can only be accomplished by sharing the solution of prevention, awareness and education with more and more people. This, in turn, builds momentum and over time, changes the way the nation and culture cares for, protects and nurtures children. Being an active participant in the mission to end childhood sexual abuse is one of the most rewarding things someone could do, according to Darkness to Light.
For questions or more information, email stewards@D2L.org. For an in-person training for a group at the Hamilton Area YMCA, contact Jill Makkay at 609-581-9622 ext. 122 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Find the online training at www.d2l.org/site/c.4dICIJOkGcISE/b.6143709/k.3D5F/Child
Letter to the Editor
To the editor:
Recent articles in the Hunterdon County Democrat over the last several weeks regarding the questionable interactions between a former Warren County sheriff and young boys that have now led to his indictment on three counts each of aggravated sexual assault and sexual assault were deeply disturbing and has prompted me to write this letter.
I'd like to alert the community to the Hunterdon County Ys efforts to educate adults about this important topic. The statistics of child sexual abuse are alarming.
One in 10 children are sexually abused before their 18th birthday.
There are 42 million adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse walking among us.
In 90 percent of cases, the child knows and trusts the abuser.
Children are victims of 70 percent of all reported sexual assaults.
One in 5 children are sexually assaulted while on the Internet.
Survivors of child sexual abuse have a higher likelihood of psychological disorders, excessive drug and alcohol use, eating disorders, suicidal tendencies, and violence.
As we have seen in recent news too close to home, the impact is life-long and devastating.
As part of the New Jersey YMCA State Alliance, the Hunterdon County YMCA has joined forces with Darkness to Light, a nationally recognized nonprofit organization and creator of the award-winning Stewards of Children child sexual abuse prevention curriculum.
Stewards of Children is the only evidence-based training available nationally that is proven to increase knowledge and change child protective behavior. Our Y is working with community partners in order to keep our children safe. When adults actively seek to make a difference, a cultural change can occur. Were working to shift from a norm where child sexual abuse is kept in fear and denial and children are easy targets, to a community where every child is protected through a community of trained and aware adults.
Our goal is simple: to train 5 percent of our adult community. Thats 4,500 people by the end of 2015. The training teaches the steps to preventing abuse, recognizing warning signs, and reacting responsibly when abuse occurs.
Social responsibility is one of the Y's key areas of focus, particularly when it relates to the health and welfare of children. We are committed to developing community-based solutions that unite people to participate in and work for positive social change. To that end, our YMCA has trained more than 400 adults in the last 12 months, including our entire staff of more than 300. We, along with our community partners, are offering a variety of classes and opportunities to take these trainings, including a free, on-line, class made possible by a grant to the Y.
Child sexual abuse is a devastating experience that has lifelong repercussions for its victims. I hope you will join us in this critically important effort. Together we can make a difference in the life of a child and the health of our community. Please look at our website, www.hcymca.org to find more information about this program, the free online training and the availability of classes.
Hope to see you at the Y
BRUCE B. BLACK, PRESIDENT AND CEO
Inspired Minds Kansas City helps troubled teens in Johnson County and the urban core
by CINDY HOEDEL
What is Teen Chat like?
Teen Chat is pandemonium (laughs). Especially when we were up to 23 kids. It jumped from seven kids the first week to 13 to 23. I started out serving chips and cookies but quickly realized the kids were hungry, so now I buy really big pizzas from Costco. That comes out of my own pocket, not any foundation money.
As far as topics, I ask the kids what they want to talk about. They have said sexism, racism, STDs, peer pressure, all kinds of things. Last week they wanted to talk about safe sex. It happened to be all guys that night, so we talked about how to treat a girlfriend. The week before we talked about careers and college, how to take the ACT, where you can find practice ACTs.
Why did you start Inspired Minds Kansas City?
I found out a young girl at Cristo Rey High School who had been sexually abused had to take three buses to come see me. I thought, “Enough.” No one should have to work that hard to get mental health services.
So I started looking for ways to open an office in the urban core. I am talking with the junior college system to get an office at 18th and Prospect to do individual psychotherapy. In the meantime, the Kansas City Public Library has a health and wellness initiative in place at the Bluford branch, and I am the mental health component of that. In September we are going to start a group for survivors of domestic violence and also a group for adults on stress relief.
How are the people you see with mental health issues in Prairie Village different or the same as people with mental health issues in the urban core?
They are the same in that you can have a Mission Hills kid be molested by their father and have an alcoholic mother. The difference is, in the urban core I see more economic impoverishment and relational impoverishment.
What do you mean by relational impoverishment?
A lot of the kids I see here — and this is true of the adults here, too — don't have enough healthy, stable adults in their life. I don't see much of that in Prairie Village. Relational impoverishment makes everything else more difficult, but it also makes my work very rewarding because the kids respond so strongly to me, because I care. I get a lot of spontaneous hugs.
What surprised you about the kids here?
They all want to get out of the urban core. That surprised me. Another thing is how smart the kids are, considering the challenges of the school system. Two of them, identical twins, walk from here to the Writers Place in Westport (about three miles). Both of the kids have won poetry awards, and I'm sure their IQs are higher than mine.
Another surprise was, you hear about poor kids being raised by single moms, but a lot of the kids I see are being raised by single dads because the moms are drug addicts.
What is your best advice for laypeople about how to engage with that kid in the community or at school or in the extended family that is difficult for whatever reason?
The best thing to do, if it is appropriate for the kid to be in a car with you, is to drive the kid somewhere to get a soda or something. Kids talk better in a car because they don't have to look at you. It's the same way guys communicate in a bar — they sit side by side and look straight ahead, whereas women will turn to face each other fully. If it isn't appropriate to be in a car, you can take a walk side by side or sit on a bench.
The other thing I have found is that difficult kids don't feel cared for and don't feel listened to. So if you approach them and just show interest, that can change everything.
Leslie A. Abbey of Prairie Village is a licensed clinical social worker and founder of Inspired Minds Kansas City, imkc.org . In July, Abbey began leading Teen Chat discussion groups for urban youths on Monday evenings at the Lucile H. Bluford Branch of the Kansas City Public Library, kclibrary.org/bluford. This conversation took place at the library.
Canadian-born Carrie Bailee suffered so much physical and sexual abuse as a girl that she was granted a special visa to live in Australia.
Now she's turning her attention to helping other victims.
by Deborah Snow
There is something peculiar about the few family photos Carrie Bailee has kept from her childhood years. In all the pictures that used to feature both her adoptive parents, the image of her father has been excised - as if her mother, who wielded the scissors, wanted to erase any visual evidence that the man she married ever existed. Bailee, now 38, never reveals her father's name, but he is a huge, threatening presence in a book to be published on October 1.
Flying On Broken Wings (Affirm Press) is a shattering account of the physical and sexual abuse she endured at his hands between the ages of four and 14, in a small town on an island off the Canadian eastern seaboard. Her mother had been brutally beaten by her husband from early in the marriage, and divorced him when Bailee was seven. But that made the child even more vulnerable during the access visits she made to her father's house every fortnight. "[My mother] was no longer his prisoner," Bailee writes. "That became the role I took on - every other weekend."
Like many children, Bailee didn't speak up, shamed and manipulated into believing the abuse was her fault. Her mother didn't learn the truth until her daughter was well into her teens. In early adulthood, Bailee started writing a private memoir, but only recently became determined to publish her story.
That decision, she says, was sparked in part by the anger that swept over her after two notorious rape and murder cases in 2012: that of Jill Meagher, slaughtered in a Melbourne laneway, and Indian woman Jyoti Singh Pandey, violated and beaten by five men on a Delhi bus before dying an agonising death in hospital days later.
"I was gutted. Obviously it's happened a million times, but Jill Meagher's death really affected me. And then when Jyoti Singh Pandey died from [gang rape] injuries, I got in touch with anger I didn't even know I had in me," she says.
Bailee's story seems so far off the scale of human depravity that at times it is hard to suspend disbelief. The netherworld she describes swarms with horrors: young children sold for sex, children coerced into acting out the fantasies of organised paedophile rings, bestiality, bondage and ritual humiliation.
As I sit opposite her in the pale, echoing interior of the Melbourne photo studio where she has reluctantly agreed to an interview, her low voice frequently trails off when we touch on sensitive details. Bailee, a slight, olive-skinned woman with a mane of tawny hair, has brought three companions along for support: two from the office of her publisher, and one, a former counsellor of Bailee's. The women cluster protectively nearby, heading off questions they judge too intrusive. There is a reason for this. Bailee has at times suffered flashbacks, episodes that invade the present and sometimes drag her back so deeply into her dark past that they leave her bleeding on the floor as she physically re-enacts, and mentally re-experiences, the horrors inflicted on her. A psychiatrist who treated her describes it as "significant dissociative functioning as part of severe post-traumatic stress".
As I sit opposite her in the pale, echoing interior of the Melbourne photo studio where she has reluctantly agreed to an interview, her low voice frequently trails off when we touch on sensitive details. Bailee, a slight, olive-skinned woman with a mane of tawny hair, has brought three companions along for support: two from the office of her publisher, and one, a former counsellor of Bailee's. The women cluster protectively nearby, heading off questions they judge too intrusive. There is a reason for this. Bailee has at times suffered flashbacks, episodes that invade the present and sometimes drag her back so deeply into her dark past that they leave her bleeding on the floor as she physically re-enacts, and mentally re-experiences, the horrors inflicted on her. A psychiatrist who treated her describes it as "significant dissociative functioning as part of severe post-traumatic stress".
There is an unspoken sense that the wrong question could cause the thin ice beneath this interview to crack. "I have my good days, probably more good than bad, but I have my bad days still," says Bailee. "And I will likely always be affected and impacted by what happened to me."
Bailee was four when her father first inflicted sexual violence on her small body. With her mother away receiving treatment for breast cancer, he caught her naked in the garden one sweltering afternoon, talking over the fence to some local boys who'd conned her into taking her swimsuit off. Convulsed with anger, he dragged her into the house, marched her to the bathroom, and plunged her into a scalding bath, using a toothbrush to scrub "in the places the soap wouldn't reach".
Four years later the things he did to her body went from the "imaginable", as she puts it, to the "unspeakable". One rainy afternoon, as he sat drinking Scotch and dozing in front of the TV, eight-year-old Bailee slipped out to the kitchen to amuse herself, jumping a skipping rope which she'd tied around the chairs.
Abruptly, he stormed in and dragged her to the bedroom, where he used the skipping rope to tie her to the headboard before raping her for the first time. "The punishment I received that day changed my life forever," she writes. "Unable to move, I remained where he left me - on his bed, lying in my own blood ... My only crystal-clear recollection remains the ferocity of the pain ripping through my body".
The following year, the unspeakable became the utterly depraved when he started selling her to other men. Sometimes he would wake her in the middle of the night and put her in someone's car. Or she would find herself in a trailer park, with a stranger.
I ask if he was literally taking money from these men, and she replies, "Yes, sometimes, sometimes." But it's obvious this line of questioning is causing significant unease. One of the guardian angels tells her, "You don't have to talk about this", and asks if she wants water, or a walk outside. After a moment she collects herself. Gingerly, we press on.
Bailee had a younger sister, Jillian, who was spared most of the abuse because she learnt to feign sickness to avoid access visits. That left the older sister to bear the brunt of her father's increasingly sadistic demands. One recurring motif in the book is a basement with 12 steps leading down to it. It's a walk, Bailee writes, that "I will remember for the rest of my life".
"I knew that once I got to the 12th step, it would be too late. Then my pants were being forcefully ripped down. I tried my hardest to keep them on. But being nine years old, the battle wasn't mine to win."
There were other children in the basement on occasion, she says, "more men than children", and each child had a script they would be forced to act out. There were cameras. To this day she cannot stand the smell of a polaroid.
She writes of having little memory of the years between nine and 11. But there are vignettes of chilling clarity. "I shook with terror and tried to prepare myself for the pain I was about to receive" she writes of one occasion. "As with the children I saw in the pictures on the back of the room's door, their terror and mine would be remembered for years to come."
She tells me she learnt to absent herself in spirit from what was happening to her body. "In the basement it was horrible, because there was nothing, and it was terrifying, there was nowhere to go," she says. "But in another room down there, there was a window. You couldn't see much, but you could see sky. I had to practise appreciating one thing, a point of light. If I didn't have it, I created it. That got my mind away from what was happening; my body had to stay, but my mind sure didn't."
One of the most sickening episodes in Bailee's account is her father's implied sexual abuse of her beloved pet dog, Toby, which she was forced to watch, and abet. "What my father had done to my dog I had never imagined possible," she writes. "As the witness to a crime of such appalling horror, I knew there was nothing he could not, and would not, do to me."
Throughout the book, Bailee walks a carefully drawn line between allusion and description. "The world doesn't have to know everything" she says. "I don't want it to be voyeuristic. People say, 'oh my god, this was horrific' or whatever, and I'm like, "Im so sorry that my lived experience was so traumatiising for you to read about', but I was very careful how I wrote it... Its like witnessing a train wreck, but you can turn away at the moment of impact. Where I am explicit is where I describe what the abuse did to the child. Because people have to know that, the first time a child is interfered with, their life is never the same again."
When Bailee was 14, two events finally pulled her free from her father. He shocked her out of years of silence by branding the underside of her left breast with a curling iron. And she finally began to open up to Sheila, a counsellor in Canada. Sheila informed the police and also Bailee's mother, who could no longer avoid seeing the horror that had been under her nose for years.
Her mother died a few years ago and Bailee is very protective of her memory, describing her "dignity and integrity". Nonetheless, she found it hard to forgive what seems to have been the older woman's almost wilful blindness: "I hated her for a long time, probably till I was about 25 [after Bailee's two daughters were born]. I realised she just did the best she could. I think she wasn't able to see because she was so damaged herself."
Her feelings about her father - the man she describes as a monster - are much more profoundly conflicted. After hearing of his death a decade ago, she felt a burden lift, but was shocked to find herself mourning the father-daughter relationship she never had. "I don't know if I ever hated him, you know. I hated me, and that I was so unlovable. It was only later I realised ... he was just incapable of loving me because he hated himself so much. He was raped when he was a boy by two priests, and I often think, 'Well, had that not happened to him, maybe what he did to me wouldn't have happened.' It doesn't justify it. We all have the power to choose at the end of the day ... and he didn't exercise that."
How was it that no one outside the family saw, for years, any evidence of what was going on? "I was physically showing signs where you couldn't see it," she replies. "If he hit me, it was always in the back of my head, where it was not going to leave a mark."
Yet she now finds it extraordinary that no one during her primary or junior high school years got anywhere near the truth. One of two teachers twigged something might be amiss - then put it down to the emotional effects of her parents' divorce.
"I would sit there in class and pull my eyelashes out," she recalls. "You know, that's weird. I'd walk along this chicken-wire fence at school, with my shoulder pressed on it. I would walk really slowly all the way up and turn and go all the way back ... If I saw a kid doing stuff like that, not engaging, not playing with anybody, I would think, 'What's going on with you?'"
We should never be afraid to push for answers, she says. "Don't be scared to ask why. Why did this little happy kid go from that, to withdrawn and angry."
As for the silence of the victim, she talks of fear, and also of the desperate misplaced loyalty of a child who did not want to hurt anyone's feelings. She was afraid, too, for her sister and her mother. In the storage area below her father's house was a mound of earth. "That's where the last little girl who told is buried," he would say to her.
But worse than the fear was the shame. "It's a shameful secret that you'd rather die with than have people know. Because I thought I was so bad, I couldn't let anybody know how bad I was. The paedophile is relying on that, manipulating you, threatening you, because if they get found out they are in big trouble. But they don't tell you that; they say you are in big trouble."
Bailee's confessions to the Canadian counsellor triggered a chaotic series of events. She suffered a breakdown and was briefly locked in a psychiatric ward. At 15, she ran away, attempted suicide more than once, and spent time in a shelter for homeless teens. It was there that a 17-year-old prostitute introduced her to Terrence, a smooth-talking West Indian 10 years her senior.
At first, he showered her with attention and compliments. "I thought, 'He is going to protect me, he is gonna make me safe,' " Bailee recalls. But the careful grooming soon gave way to brutality and she was recruited into his stable of teen prostitutes, even after she'd witnessed him raping and beating another of the girls.
How could she not have run at that point, after all her father had inflicted on her? "I think because" - she pauses, trying to make sense of it - "it just validated my worst fear that this is all you are good for. That this is what men do."
It's a pattern that would not surprise many of those who've worked with survivors of child sexual abuse. Bessel van der Kolk, an American psychiatrist who specialises in trauma, observes that "many traumatised people expose themselves, seemingly compulsively, to situations reminiscent of the original trauma".
By the time she'd turned 16, Bailee had moved from the shelter into the home of a friend of a friend, a single mother she names only as Tami, who was the first person to openly show her affection. (Her adoptive mother had been almost pathologically undemonstrative.) Yet despite this safe haven, Bailee took years to fully escape Terrence's clutches. She says he pimped her from 16 to 17, 'then tried again from 18 to 19. "Shame disconnects you from love," she says. "From giving it and receiving it ... my trust was shattered. I hated myself. I viewed myself as unworthy, unlovable and undeserving of connection and belonging."
Tami finally wrenched her away after seeing burns on Bailee's body. Whether Terrence couldn't spell or just ran out of room, Bailee doesn't know, but his parting gift was the letters WHOR branded by cigarettes across her chest. Bailee tried to attend college but had trouble coping because of flashbacks. In September 1996, one month shy of her 21st birthday, she fled to Australia, picking it as "the furthest place I could possibly get to".
In Canada, Bailee felt that she'd been hiding from two different circles: her father's and Terrence's. In Australia, she felt the freedom of not knowing anyone, not fearing recognition by nameless men who'd once forced themselves on her body. "It was amazing. Because I wasn't looking over my shoulder."
Yet grim fortune followed her here, too. Within a few weeks of landing in Australia she was raped on board a ship in Sydney Harbour. Her attacker was charged, but found not guilty. The police who had helped prosecute that case encouraged her to co-operate with Canadian authorities to try to bring her father and his collaborators to justice, but she couldn't face the prospect of returning.
She moved to Melbourne, but eventually faced the risk of deportation because she'd overstayed her visa. Then, in September 1998, workers at the women's refuge where she was staying put her in touch with psychiatrist Helen Driscoll, one of Australia's leading trauma experts. Driscoll came up with a plan to have Bailee seek refugee status based on her fear of being tracked down by her abusers if she returned to Canada.
Driscoll gave powerful evidence to the Refugee Review Tribunal, as did Bailee herself, and her mother, who wrote a brave letter in which she finally divulged her former husband's background as an abused child himself. Driscoll told the tribunal that staff at the centre where Bailee had been staying had witnessed her "extreme" flashbacks. "They have described to me that Carrie is like a terrorised young child being orally raped and sexually assaulted in a basement by men," the psychiatrist said.
She added that if Bailee was returned to her country of birth, she would never heal. "Like other young adults who have survived sadistic abuses involving a perpetrator group engaged in the making of depraved child pornography, the global fear is all-encompassing. Carrie cannot know who all the perpetrators are. She fears coming into contact with an abuser through any male in her country of origin."
Bailee used simpler words in her plea to the panel: "I know that Canada is not looked upon as a war-torn country. But I've been at war since the day I was born."
The ruling, when it came, was not favourable. Tribunal members said they accepted her evidence "in its entirety", but that there was no recognised refugee category that would cover her case. In desperation, Driscoll contacted the office of then independent senator Brian Harradine, whose staff at that time included Melinda Tankard Reist, later a prominent anti-pornography campaigner and advocate for girls' welfare.
Between them, Tankard Reist and Harradine pushed the case before then immigration minister Philip Ruddock who, after several agonising months, gave Bailee (then pregnant with her first child) a special humanitarian visa to live in Australia permanently.
These days, Bailee is experimenting with spoken- word poetry as a way of sharing her experiences, and sometimes joins Tankard Reist in talks to schoolgirls, urging them to speak up if they know or suspect something is amiss.
"What excites me, more than the book, more than anything else, is just seeking how these girls respond to my courage and then realising how contagious that is" she says.
She does not want to be seen as a victim. She feels she has found her strength, and her voice.
I raise with Driscoll and Tankard Reist - and with Bailee herself - some elements of her story that have troubled me. Bailee will not entrust me with her father's name, her true surname (Bailee is a pseudonym) or the name of the town she grew up in, even though I promise not to publish these. "I don't know you," she says. "I don't want to be tracked. I'm just protecting myself ... It is not something I have made up."
I confess struggling to understand how, as a nine-year-old, she could have - as described in her book - knifed a German shepherd dog lunging at her in a basement, using a steak knife she had concealed in her clothing. I mention this story to several medical people including my GP, who does not dismiss it. The GP has worked with troubled adolescent girls for years and tells me, "Imagine what you think is the worst going on out there - and you haven't even got near the bottom of the pit."
Tankard Reist says what happened to Bailee is "far beyond the realm of ordinary human experience, most of us would have no idea. I find her story compelling - and consistent with what has happened to other survivors of child sex abuse around the world."
Driscoll, who worked with Bailee intensively, says everything in the book is consistent with what she told her in treatment over the years. "Sadly" she tells me in an email, "Carrie's personal abuse history is not new. What is different is her ability and courage to write this account, with the purpose of adding to social awareness, enable change, and to encourage others who are suffering; that a life of purpose and meaning with positive human connectedness can be made."
Bailee says she's now in a better place than she's ever been. She remains on amicable terms with Chris, the man she married once she settled in Australia but from whom she is now separated. Her oldest daughter, aged 15, has encouraged her to publish her story. "I want survivors to connect with me, have compassion for themselves and see it wasn't their shame," she says. "You step out of that victim mentality and you can go on to flourish."
Bailee has become an ambassador for the Gatehouse Young Women's Project in Melbourne, which works with girls and young women at high risk of sexual exploitation. Some, says project director Sally Tonkin, have histories not dissimilar to Carrie's, having been passed around circles of men from early in their teens. Many young women traumatised in this way do not survive, she adds, describing Bailee as "quite unique".
"To have someone like Carrie come along, and for her to so bravely share her story, it just gives so much hope to the women who we work with and it gives hope to us workers," Tonkin says. "They look to someone who has walked that path ahead of them. Her lived experience and her bravery is invaluable to us."
Bailee has a term to describe the people who picked her up over the years when she fell - people like Sheila, Tami, Helen Driscoll, Natasha and others who became "points of light" for her. "I just want to be that point of light for people, too," she says.
San Diego helps victims of domestic violence
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) - Much attention has been focused on domestic violence, but most of the news coverage and conferences have focused on the abusers and their punishments. One group that has been overshadowed are the victims of domestic violence.
While most talk about the problem, it's also a good time to reach out to those who have suffered from abuse.
Here in San Diego, there is help waiting for the victims of domestic violence. Lieutenant Misty Cedrun works for the San Diego Family Justice Center.
Inside the building, doors are locked and fully alarmed to protect the victims.
The first step is to create a safe place to have a face to face conversation in a private room with a counselor.
Rooms are designed to be cozy to help a nervous individual relax.
A victim in imminent danger may be referred to a shelter, but in many cases, the victim needs other services. Time with a mental health counselor or filing for a restraining order, for example.
Someone who isn't fluent in English can still tell their story, a special phone line connects the victim to a translator.
The center also has an exam room to treat those with injuries, a place to meet with attorneys, and police detectives. County prosecutors also have offices in the same building.
The center provides a playroom to keep children safe and busy while the mom gets the help she needs.
Some non-profit groups collaborate with the center, giving women looking for a fresh start some job counseling and boost in self-esteem.
In 2013, more than 8,000 adults and children came through the center doors seeking help.
The center is a place where no one is shammed or turned away.
While on many days, the rooms can be filled up with those who come in desperation and fear, Lieutenant Cedrun says, it's also a sign of hope.
There are now more than 80 family justice centers or with similar models in 80 cities across the country.
San Diego's center was the first in 2002, and it provided the model for others.
October is domestic violence awareness month, and the people at the Family Justice Center in San Diego invite any member of the public to take a tour.
The Center for Hope and Strength is one of the center's partners, and will be sponsoring a fundraiser on October 3, on Shelter Island.
It's a fashion show that features ten survivors of domestic violence.
A local philanthropic group is also announcing a $100,000 grant to provide therapy for victims of domestic violence.
NFL teaming up with domestic violence hotline
NEW YORK -- Roger Goodell will make his first public statements in more than a week about the rash of NFL players involved in domestic violence when he holds a news conference Friday.
The NFL commissioner will address the league's personal conduct policy. The league has faced increasing criticism it has not acted quickly or emphatically enough concerning the domestic abuse cases.
His last public appearance was at a high school in North Carolina on Sept. 10.
The commissioner and some NFL teams have been heavily criticized for lenient or delayed punishment of Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and other players involved in recent domestic violence cases. Less than three weeks into the season, five such cases have made headlines, the others involving Greg Hardy, Ray McDonald and Jonathan Dwyer.
Vikings star running back Peterson, Carolina defensive end Hardy and Arizona running back Dwyer are on a special commissioner's exemption list and are being paid while they go through the legal process. McDonald, a defensive end for San Francisco, continues to practice and play while being investigated on suspicion of domestic violence.
As these cases have come to light, such groups as the National Organization of Women and league partners and sponsors have come down hard on the NFL to be more responsive in dealing with them. Congress also is watching to see how the NFL reacts.
In response to the criticism, the NFL announced it is partnering with a domestic violence hotline and a sexual violence resource center.
Goodell sent a memo to the clubs late Thursday announcing the partnerships. The league will provide financial, operational and promotional support to the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
"These commitments will enable both the hotline and NSVRC to help more people affected by domestic violence and sexual assault," Goodell said in the memo.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline provides domestic violence victims and survivors access to a national network of resources and shelters. It is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week in 170 languages. Goodell noted that the hotline received 84 percent more calls from Sept. 8-15, and the organization said more than 50 percent of those calls went unanswered because of lack of staff.
"The hotline will add 25 full-time advocates over the next few weeks that will result in an additional 750 calls a day being answered," he said.
NSVRC supports sexual violence coalitions across the United States. The NFL's initial support will be directed toward state coalitions to provide additional resources to sexual assault hotlines.
On Thursday, the White House Thursday sternly told the NFL that "it's important that the league get a handle" on players who commit child abuse and domestic violence and that the league must "have a zero tolerance" regarding those issues.
On Monday, the NFL tapped three experts in domestic violence to serve as senior advisers to the league. Goodell said Lisa Friel, Jane Randel and Rita Smith will "help lead and shape the NFL's policies and programs relating to domestic violence and sexual assault."
Monday's memo also said that Anna Isaacson, currently the NFL's vice president of community affairs and philanthropy, will become its vice president of social responsibility.
Twitter Thinks Teacher Accused of Sexual Assault is “Cool”
by Kelsey Miller
On Wednesday night, a language-arts teacher at Columbia High School in Maplewood, NJ was arrested and charged with multiple accounts of aggravated sexual assault and child welfare endangerment involving three fifteen-year-old students. When the story broke, local residents launched a Twitter conversation about the case, cracking jokes about how funny and ridiculous the whole thing was. After all, Nicole Dufault was a woman, and the students in question were male.
Dufault allegedly assaulted the students many times over the course of the 2013-2014 school year as well as the summer. She's been accused of forcing oral sex and intercourse on the boys, both on school property and in her car. Using the #FreeMsDufault hashtag, @WatAbt_Pat tweeted, "She was cool as hell." Said @DevonSeventyOne: "I wish she coulda topped me, too."
Apparently, this must be said: Rape is rape. No matter the gender of the aggressor or the survivor. The response to Dufault's case is just the latest example of cultural disregard and disbelief around cases of female sexual predators and male assault victims. And, before you roll your eyes, while women do remain the overwhelming target of sexual assault, it's been estimated that one out of six males are sexually abused or assaulted by the age of 18 — and that's not counting all the assaults that go unreported.
Deputy Defines Child Abuse
by Aubry Killion
FORT SMITH -- The Minnesota Viking's Adrian Peterson being charged with child abuse made international headlines.
But when does disciplining a child turn into abuse?
“We get that question a lot from parents,” said Sebastian County Deputy Lt. Philip Pevehouse, “It's the result of the injuries and that's usually the line.”
Pevehouse said his department sees up to 12 cases of child abuse a month, and there are signs one can look out for that classify it as abuse.
“Bruising, whelping, red marks that don't go away very easily,” Pevehouse said.
Ashley Ahlert is the Advancement Coordinator for the Children`s Emergency Shelter in Fort Smith.
“For the whole state, over 7,700 children entered the foster care population in 2013 due to maltreatment and abuse,” Ahlert said.
Which is why the shelter is open to kids in need, considering Sebastian County comes in at the highest in the state, according to Ahlert.
Pevehouse said the repercussions for child abuse shouldn't be taken lightly.
“It could lead to second degree battery,” Pevehouse said, “If the victim is under the age of 12, it doesn't even fool around with third degree battery which is a misdemeanor. It goes automatically to second degree.”
“'Bruises tell a lot but what you can`t see is the abuse on the inside,” Ahlert said.
Pevehouse said a charge of second degree battery is a felony.
For more on how you can get a child help click here.
Launch of the “It's On Us” Public Awareness Campaign to Help Prevent Campus Sexual Assault
Since the beginning of this Administration, the President and Vice President have made it a priority to root out sexual violence wherever it exists, especially in our nation's schools. In April 2011, Vice President Biden and the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, introduced comprehensive guidance to help colleges and universities nationwide better understand their obligations under federal civil rights laws to prevent and respond to sexual assault on campus.
Building on those efforts, in January 2014, the President and Vice President established the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. The Task Force has since worked to assist schools in preventing sexual assault and to provide practical tools to help. Today's announcement is a critical part of the Administration's work to prevent sexual assault, but it is not the final step. Our efforts to improve enforcement, transparency, and accountability will continue.
Launching “It's On Us”
In April, after 27 listening sessions with stakeholders across the country, the Task Force launched the 1is2many PSA aimed at spreading the word that one victim is too many and released the “Not Alone” report to help empower and equip student and administrative bodies to better understand and more effectively tackle the issue. The report included action steps, recommendations, and best practices in four key areas:
(1) Identifying the scope of the problem through campus climate surveys
(2) Preventing campus sexual assault and engaging men
(3) Helping schools respond effectively when a student is assaulted
(4) Improving, and making more transparent, the federal government's enforcement efforts
Today, to advance the goal of preventing sexual assault, the President and Vice President will unveil a new public awareness and education campaign: “It's On Us.” The campaign seeks to engage college students and all members of campus communities in preventing sexual assault in the first place. The campaign is being launched in partnership with the Center for American Progress' Generation Progress, along with student body leadership from nearly 200 colleges and universities across the country, collegiate sports organizations such as the NCAA, and private companies that have strong connections with students at colleges and universities.
“It's On Us” aims to fundamentally shift the way we think about sexual assault, by inspiring everyone to see it as their responsibility to do something, big or small, to prevent it. The campaign reflects the belief that sexual assault isn't just an issue involving a crime committed by a perpetrator against a victim, but one in which the rest of us also have a role to play. We are committed to creating an environment - be it a dorm room, a party, a bar or club, or the greater college campus - where sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported. This effort will support student-led efforts already underway across the country, and will focus particularly on motivating college men to get involved.
Most men are not comfortable with violence against women, but often don't speak out because they believe that other men accept this behavior. By getting men involved, we can change this way of thinking and create new social norms. Research shows that bystander intervention can be an effective way of stopping sexual assault before it happens, as bystanders play a key role in preventing, discouraging, and/or intervening when an act of violence has the potential to occur. As the latest CDC report on preventing campus sexual violence shows, wide-ranging, population-based strategies like bystander intervention – which address individual, community, campus, and societal-level factors – have the greatest potential to effect positive and meaningful change. Bystander education and training aims to heighten awareness, challenge social norms, decrease misperceptions about sexual assault, and provide skills that increase one's confidence to intervene effectively.
Ongoing Task Force Efforts
“It's On Us” is a critical step forward in the Administration's multipronged approach to combat sexual assault that includes improved enforcement of federal laws and practical help for schools. This campaign will complement efforts schools should be undertaking to hold perpetrators accountable and assist students who have experienced sexual assault. As part of this ongoing approach, on Friday the Task Force also will release three new best practices documents that can help colleges and universities improve their response to sexual assault. These documents, which will be posted on NotAlone.gov, will provide sample policy language to help schools strengthen the role of Title IX coordinators; provide interim and supportive measures for victims; and, define prohibited conduct in their sexual misconduct policies. The Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women will also award over $6 million to 18 colleges with grants to develop comprehensive campus sexual assault prevention and response programs.
We know that prevention efforts must also begin early. The Task Force is working to identify how its recommendations apply to K-12 schools, and has kicked off a series of listening sessions to engage stakeholders in this conversation. The Department of Education continues to work with school districts, colleges and universities to improve the response to sexual assault including through comprehensive remedies requiring schools to conduct climate surveys, train students and employees, and provide prompt and equitable relief to victims.
We also recognize that many organizations, schools and campus communities have their own campaigns to raise awareness, both about sexual assault generally and more specifically in college. “It's On Us” will focus on empowering these current efforts and energizing new ones, by giving student bodies the tools they need to organize and spread the word, from the ground up. Going forward, we will work closely with all stakeholders to use effective organizing tools and creative outreach to engage all Americans in ending sexual assault.
“It's On Us” Partners
In order to launch this public-private partnership, we have supported the engagement of a broad range of “It's On Us” partners, including media platforms, the college sports community, student leaders, athletes, celebrities, and other stakeholders. “It's On Us” partners have signed a memorandum of understanding with the Center for American Progress to be a part of the “It's On Us” campaign through Generation Progress. “It's On Us” partners will support the campaign in a number a ways, including but not limited to:
Working in coordination with Generation Progress to promote “It's On Us”content, using the brand and logo with their own. This includes using media space online, on television, and on other platforms to spread the word about “It's On Us” .
Player or personality media and social media commitments. This includes working with the talent that “It's On Us” Partners have on staff and through affiliations in order to integrate “It's On Us” into content and to spread the word using different personalities' platforms.
Creating original content for their audience promoting it through their own platforms and talent. “ It's On Us” encourages campaign partners with their own effective ways of creating content that breaks through with college students to do what they do best: communicate with, engage, and mobilize campus communities to act.
Examples of commitments being announced by “It's On Us” partners today include:
Student body leaders at colleges and universities: Across the country student leaders from nearly 200 colleges and universities have committed to being part of “It's On Us” to bring this campaign to their campuses and take action. A list of the schools those student leaders represent is available here .
NCAA: The NCAA will support “It's On Us” with its 1,100 member schools through resources on NCAA.org; coverage of the campaign in its award-winning quarterly magazine, Champion; activities during the National Week of Action in November; and a half-day session on sexual assault and violence prevention at the Association's annual convention in January. College sports fans will see “It's On Us” PSAs in-venue at NCAA championship events and ongoing engagement on social media.
Electronic Arts: Electronic Arts, a leading video gaming company, has lined up a major presence across social media channels and online platforms to carry the “It's On Us” message to fans and players of EA's games. The social network channels of 16 EA franchises and properties, totaling more than 30 different channels across Facebook, Twitter and more, will post visual assets, messaging and links directing fans to “Take the Pledge” and support “It's On Us.” EA brands and franchises including EA and EA SPORTS, Dragon Age, The Sims, and many more will reach a fan base of millions today with the message of “It's On Us.”
PVBLIC: PVBLIC Foundation, an in-kind grant making organization that harnesses the power of media assets to drive social impact, aggregated pledges of donated advertising space from leading media companies in support of “It's On Us”. As strategic media outreach partner for the campaign, PVBLIC secured over 1 new billion media impressions nationwide through key partnerships including Lamar, Screenvision, Zoom Media, Verifone and Conversant. PVBLIC has delivered advertising across the country and on nearly 700 college and university campuses in the form of bus shelters, billboards, magazines, taxi screens, movie theater ads, online advertising and more.
Mekanism: Working closely with “It's On Us” stakeholders and partners, Mekanism, an advertising agency that specializes in reaching millennials, developed the “It's On Us” campaign's concept, creative, and design. Mekanism focused on developing a campaign that would enable the audience to immediately get involved and participate. They worked with The Mill and Park Pictures on the campaigns PSA's, and with 14Four to develop the website.
AAUW: The American Association of University Women has been leading the fight for education and equity for women and girls since 1881. AAUW advocates for stronger policies, funds campus-based projects, conducts groundbreaking research, supports legal action, sponsors fellowships, and trains the next generation of leaders--on campus and off. Building on current organizing efforts around campus sexual assault, AAUW will work with it's over 900 college/university partners to spread the word about “It's On Us”. Coordinating AAUW branches and student chapters on the ground, AAUW will harness the energy of the movement in their work towards successful implementation of the Campus SaVE Act (2013).
Viacom: Viacom will promote and amplify the message of the “It's On Us” campaign through a variety of their online properties including MTV,VH1, BET and CMT. They will be changing its avatars on its Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and other social media channels to the “It's On Us” badge, as well as promoting the PSA through those channels. MTV will be using their Look Different brand to engage with their audiences on this campaign through a variety of online and on-air platforms. Additionally, CMT will be playing a large role in ongoing efforts by featuring stories about the campaign on their homepage, as the lead story in their November CMT One Country Newsletter, and on their social media platforms.
Participant Media: Participant Media is providing on-air and online support for ‘It's On Us' campaign. Pivot, Participant's TV network targeting Millennials, is airing PSA's daily through the end of the campaign, and as a featured topic on its nightly news show, TakePart Live. Additionally, TakePart.com will promote the campaign with editorial content, social media, and email to illuminate the issue and connect its millions of readers with the opportunity to pledge support through its Take Action Platform.
“It's On Us” partners include, American Association of University Women, Athletic Coast Conference, Atlantic 10, Big Ten, Big Twelve, Clear Channel – iHeart Radio, College Humor, Conversant Media, Electronic Arts, Everfi, Generation Progress, Mekanism, Men Can Stop Rape, Participant Media, Microsoft – Bing, NCAA, National Campus Leadership Council, Newsweek, National Women's Law Center, On Campus Media, Only With Consent, Our Time, Pac 12, Park Pictures, PVBLIC, RAINN, SB Nation, The Mill, Tumblr, Ultraviolet, USA Characters Unite, United States Olympic Committee, Verifone Media and Viacom, which includes VH1, MTV, BET, CMT, and Spike.
If you or someone you know is in need of support, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673, visit here to chat live.
NFL fallout: Alabama lawmakers call for removal of federal judge charged with domestic violence
by Lindsey Bever
Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens. Greg Hardy of the Carolina Panthers. Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings. In the past several weeks, the National Football League has benched players in response to domestic abuse allegations. Now, some of Alabama's top political figures are demanding the same for a U.S. District Court judge.
More than a month after Judge Mark E. Fuller of the Middle District of Alabama was arrested and charged with battery, local lawmakers are pushing for his resignation. Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.) tweeted he had “violated the public trust,” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said he had “lost the confidence of his colleagues” and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said he “can no longer effectively serve in his position and should step down.”
Sewell released a statement on Wednesday comparing Fuller's fate to that of the NFL players who are accused of the same crime: “If an NFL player can lose his job because of domestic violence then a federal judge should definitely not be allowed to keep his life-time appointment to the federal bench. It is my hope that Judge Fuller would spare us the expense and further public humiliation by doing the right thing and resigning.”
Sewell's full statement is here.
Fuller, appointed by President George W. Bush in 2002, was arrested Aug. 9 after his wife, Kelli, called 911 from a Ritz-Carlton in downtown Atlanta. She told police that Fuller was drunk and that he had pulled her hair, hit her and kicked her and threw her down after the two started arguing about his alleged affair with a law clerk, according to the Associated Press.
Fuller claimed he was defending himself after his wife threw a glass at him. He was charged with misdemeanor battery and accepted a plea deal without a jail term.
On Thursday, Fuller's attorney, Barry Ragsdale, declined comment on the statements from legislators. Ragsdale said Fuller is working through the federal court systems' complaint process, which was initiated by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals following his arrest, according to the AP.
Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.), whose father is a senior judge on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, said in a statement that Fuller's disciplinary process is ongoing and Congress maintains the power to impeach members of the judicial branch for misconduct, according to AL.com.
“Ultimately, the Constitution empowers Congress to impeach members of the Judicial Branch for misconduct,” she said. “Congress enacted a statutory process by which the federal judiciary investigates instances of misconduct that could warrant disciplinary action, including removal from office. It is important to allow that process to move forward, ensure all involved are afforded due process, and evaluate what recommendations are made. I will be monitoring those proceedings closely.”
Should you blow the whistle on child sexual abuse?
According to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, which was passed in 2012, any person who knows of an instance of child sexual abuse must report it to the police, and can face punitive action for not doing so. While this has been welcomed as a vital step towards addressing the problem of child sexual abuse, recent research shows that compulsory reporting may have complications of its own.
by Shreya Sen
One day, as you're playing with your best friend's son, a child you've known since he was a mere tadpole in your friend's belly, you notice something's wrong. The normally hyperactive boy is listless and withdrawn, and won't respond when you ask him what's wrong. When you next see him, he's the same, but this time when no one's around he tells you something you aren't prepared for: a member of his family has been touching him inappropriately. You know you have to do something, but what that is is still unclear: do you betray his confidence and tell his parents? Should you attempt to make sure he has access to a counselor and therapy? Or do you pick the uneasy, but possibly necessary, option of going to the police? You ask a lawyer friend about your options and learn that, by law, you are expected to report the incident to the police or risk punitive action.
In 2012, the Indian government passed the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act – an important legal document welcomed by activists as an important step in directing social and judicial focus towards the issue of child sexual abuse. But the one clause in the Act that remains a controversial topic is that of having mandatory reporting of child abuse. As the POCSO Act is the most significant piece of jurisdiction passed in prevention of child sexual abuse, it is important to view this clause and its impact through a critical lens.
Section 19 of the Act requires that an offence under the Act – or the apprehension that an offense under the Act is likely to be committed – be reported to a Special Juvenile Police Unit or the local police. Section 21 of the Act makes the failure to report or record such a case punishable by six months imprisonment or a fine, or both. Although this does not apply to children, the responsibility falls to anyone a child may have confided in or knows that a child may have been sexually abused – whether they're a social worker, a teacher, a neighbor, a family friend, or a neighbor.
The concept of mandatory reporting originated in the USA, and the first laws on the subject were drafted in 1963. The USA has evolved a strong and well-established culture of mandated reporting (albeit amidst controversy), and it has become an important feature in the child abuse laws of that country. In a way, mandatory reporting facilitates the early reporting of child abuse, and sends a strong message that abuse is not acceptable. However, the act of reporting is a very personal one, and the feelings of the survivor as well as the ethical dilemma of the person reporting the abuse are at its core.
I work for an organization that works towards capacity building and consciousness raising about the issue of child sexual abuse. We felt that since the primary benefactors of our work and of the POCSO Act are survivors of sexual abuse, the most important way of assessing the possible impact of mandatory reporting was to ask them how they felt about it.
Around six months ago, we set about interviewing adult survivors of child sexual abuse – having coped with the trauma of abuse as children, they were perhaps more able to make sense of the abuse and its impact in hindsight, and more able to express their feelings about it with some distance. We used an online form with a qualitative, open-ended set of questions, and called for interviews by posting on relevant discussion forums on various social media platforms. Of course it meant that this restricted the sample group to only people affluent and educated enough to access social media forums and respond to a questionnaire in English. But we felt it gave people the choice and autonomy to come forward to answer these questions, if they felt ready for it, rather than seeking out survivors for personal interviews. We took no personal details, ensuring complete anonymity, and provided our respondents with helplines if they experienced triggers or required counseling. Of our 64 participants, two identified as male and 62 as female.
The results, when they came in, were eye-opening. Twenty-four of the participants – 37.5 percent – said that they agreed that reporting sexual abuse of children should be mandatory, but the remaining 40 stated that they were uncomfortable with the idea.
Of the other findings of our survey, three trends were extremely significant. First, we found that most of the respondents of the survey were not able to disclose the abuse to anyone during the abuse or soon after the abuse. The fear of being stigmatized or experiencing a backlash was particularly strong. Most survivors took time to make sense of what had happened, to find the words to describe the event and to work up the courage to talk to someone about it. Guilt and shame were two significant obstructions to disclosure – while these were apparent in almost all of the respondents' narratives, eight of the respondents said they were sure the abuse was their fault. Some of the respondents didn't feel like they had access to a support system, and didn't believe they could get help even if they asked for it. Others were in denial about what had happened, or had repressed the memories of abuse. If the abuser shared a close relationship with the respondent, or had threatened them, this played a role in their decision to talk about the abuse.
Second, the reactions received after talking about the abuse for the first time had a major impact on the survivors' healing processes. On a personal level, children reporting abuse have to revisit the trauma and deal with the consequences of their revelations. Only 17 respondents received unambiguous, positive and supportive responses upon disclosure. Some reported that their parents hadn't done enough to make them feel believed or safe, and others said their complaints were brushed aside. One of the respondents wrote: “I assumed they [my parents] would protect me from it. They brushed it off by explaining how I was misunderstanding what was happening, and it was nothing serious. The reaction made me feel desperate and helpless. I had no more hope from anyone else.” The responses the survivors had received after speaking about their abuse had influenced they way they felt about their abusers and themselves.
The main reason that respondents supported mandatory reporting seemed to primarily be to reclaim control by shifting the blame on to the abuser, when it had been projected on to them instead by a culture of victim-blaming. They also seemed to feel that mandatory reporting would put the onus of ensuring justice for the survivor on the responsible adult stakeholders. A vital aspect for several participants was that even if the adults they confided in did not believe the child or were dismissive of the child's disclosure, they would have to, by law, report the abuser. They also believed that mandatory reporting would make adults primarily responsible for holding the perpetrator accountable. If children were scared to take action, adults would be forced to do it on their behalf.
But the third aspect of the findings we found noteworthy was that every single one of the respondents, even those who supported mandatory reporting, said they didn't want the police to be the first level of intervention in cases of child sexual abuse. Most participants described their social environments as being “patriarchal”, “misogynistic” or “insensitive”, and were wary of the stigma and blame that they would have to deal with if their abuse was exposed. For some others, it was more important to move on and focus on healing themselves rather than putting their abusers behind bars.
A Human Rights Watch report titled ‘Breaking the Silence: Child Sexual Abuse in India' published in 2013 documented cases of child sexual abuse in India in various contexts. The way the justice system functions is a key deterrent to the reporting of abuse, according to the report, which says many survivors who do report abuse are “mistreated a second time by a criminal justice system that often does not want to hear or believe their accounts or take serious action against the perpetrators.” The report also establishes that most police officers lack the skill, training and sensitivity to handle cases of sexual violence.
Interestingly, all participants in our survey stated categorically that if a child disclosed a case of ongoing or past abuse to them, they would not report the abuse without the child's consent. Most said they would consider reporting the abuse if that was the only way to stop it, but it would be a last resort, only after other forms of help, such as including the family, contacting NGOs and talking to therapists had failed. One respondent said: “If a child reported abuse to me, my immediate instinctive response would be to look for at least one adult in its proximity a) to whom it may be comfortable talking about it b) who would have an active hand in altering the circumstances under which the child faces abuse […] I would want to report it to the police and thereby make it public only after ascertaining the child had enough of a distance and dissociation from it. If that distance isn't possible, at the cost of the abuser probably staying at large, I wouldn't be too easy about reporting charges. What followed would probably scar the child equally if not more than the abuse.”
This may largely have to do with perceptions: in most cases, the respondents were not speaking about dealing with the police from personal experience. It's clear that there's plenty of work to be done not just to sensitize police, but also to spread awareness about the training police undergo and the work they do to aid survivors. The POCSO Act does provide for child-friendly investigations, but the lack of awareness about the conditions of the Act and fear of the police system is a clear deterrent to reporting.
There's also the legal process to worry about: the gamut of lawyers, interrogations and court appearances that can easily traumatize survivors. One of the respondents wrote about how her parents went to register a complaint upon her disclosure and how she was made to identify her abuser from amongst a number of suspects. She recalled how she was not only petrified at having to see her abuser again, but she was also dealing with extreme anxiety at the possibility of identifying the wrong person and getting him arrested.
From the narratives of our respondents, the understanding that each case of abuse takes place in its own specific context was re-affirmed. Reporting abuse cannot be made mandatory as a blanket law without taking into account these specificities. The decision to report is contextual and almost entirely based on the environment, both immediate and social, of the survivor. Our approach has to extend to a more holistic and targeted approach towards prevention and intervention – legal action is not enough. Police, doctors, teachers, parents and other responsible stakeholders, need to be sensitized. Safety education programs need to be conducted for children, and alongside the law, there has to be a greater emphasis on therapeutic intervention with survivors and their trusted adults.
Mandatory reporting of sexual abuse shouldn't prevent survivors from seeking help, and it shouldn't make it difficult for them to disclose their abuse to a trusted adult. In the end, it's important to remember that the focus must be on the child and what is best for them.
Shreya Sen works as a researcher with Arpan, an NGO that works towards the prevention of child sexual abuse through training and capacity building and providing therapeutic intervention for survivors. This article is part of their research on how survivors of child sexual abuse perceive mandatory reporting.
'When I First Started Having Panic Attacks, I Thought I Had A Brain Tumor'
by C David Moody, Jr.
C. David Moody, Jr., 58, a childhood sexual abuse survivor, lives with panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), in Lithonia, Georgia.
I was about 9 or 10 when I was abused, and it happened twice. It was sexual acts. He was a fill-in babysitter for his mother, but my mother had an inkling something was going on, and removed him. It was 1965 or 1966 -- you didn't talk about this kind of thing. I was fortunate in that we moved in 1970. When you don't have to see that person anymore, it's easy to bury it. I learned how powerful the mind is. I didn't forget, I just put it away in the back of my mind for over 20 years.
I never said a thing to anyone until I told my wife. I kept it quiet for 26 years. I told her near the end of 1991 or the very beginning of 1992. We had found out a family member on her side had been sexually abused, and I just blurted out it had happened to me too. That's all I said. I had no plans of ever saying anything. Over the next month or two, I started feeling like I just wasn't in control.
I was driving to the gym one day, and I had a panic attack. I called the ambulance from the car. My doctor gave me some pills to take and said I was under stress. A month or so later, I was out of town by myself, and I had a real bad one. I got the shakes, the panic feeling, uncontrollable crying, and this sense of doom and gloom like the world was coming to an end. The first thing I did was I went and got a bunch of tests because I thought I had a brain tumor or something. It wasn't until I was talking to a psychologist friend that I ever put the panic attacks and the abuse together. It was probably two years before I really understood how to handle the panic attacks and the triggers. For a while, I was afraid to drive by myself because the first one happened when I was in my car.
When I first started having panic attacks, I thought I was losing my mind. People are always telling you, "It's just in your head, let it go," but it's not that easy. I don't tell people that; it has made me more compassionate over time.
I got good, good counseling, got on the right medicine, and it took time and patience and learning. You've got to have a desire yourself to want to get better. I'd always been very happy, very outgoing. I wanted to continue to be a happy person. I saw the wear and tear it was putting on my kids. I didn't want to live the rest of my life with no "umph."
I had to forgive. I couldn't be in the same room with him, but I've had to forgive him. This has been a 22-year journey. Part of the reason it took so long is that you don't see many role models who have gone through the steps. You hear about survivors of childhood sexual abuse doing great things, but you never hear the in-between, nobody really talks about the journey. There is really nowhere to realize you're not weird.
In 2010, I went to the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy and took a tour with my wife. I broke down crying. It was tears of sadness that we even have to have something like this, but tears of joy that we do have something like this. Children are resilient, but we forget that they become adults. I started a blog , originally to tell the story of my contractor business, but I realized I couldn't tell my true story if I don't talk about [my past].
I beat myself up for years saying I let this guy get away and hurt other people. I realized that one of my issues is that I never got closure. I told myself I was letting my abuser win as long as I didn't get better. I said to myself he wasn't going to win twice. Even though it was bad, it is such a small portion of my entire life. I can't let it become the majority.
Magazines always show sexual abuse victims as sad, like we have no life. I want to put a different face on it. Yes, it's horrible. Yes, I will live with panic attacks and PTSD forever. But I wanted survivors to know we can still thrive and have a great life. We don't have to live in shame, we don't have to live in fear. Some people will never speak up about it, but I want to give hope to the hopeless and a voice to those who still suffer in silence.
The responses I've received from telling people about my panic attacks and PTSD have been phenomenally positive. I found out there are so many people suffering. I don't want people to think that once we've been a victim, we have to be a victim forever. We're actually much stronger than people realize -- even ourselves sometimes. The most important thing to me is being positive. The last thing we need is to suffer more. It's not an easy journey, but it's a doable journey.
As told to Sarah Klein. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Spanking isn't child abuse; it's common sense
by Ruben Navarrette
So now we're having a debate about spanking.
Seriously? There is a lot of misplaced outrage from folks who are taking recent stories about the misconduct of professional athletes and shoehorning them into a crusade against child abuse.
I'm against child abuse. Who isn't? But I'm not against spanking. I have my reasons, and we'll get to them.
First, let's deal with the misplaced outrage. Why don't the folks who are worked up over the fact that Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was indicted last week on a felony charge of child abuse just say what's really on their mind? On the heels of the Ray Rice story, where a videotape was recently released showing the suspended Baltimore Ravens running back hitting and knocking unconscious his then fiancée (now his wife) in a hotel elevator, there are those who want to tie these two stories together under the template that some of the violence of the NFL may be spilling out onto players' personal lives and the rest of society.
If that's the assertion, then let's have that discussion.
But let's not mix all that noise together with the more important debate over spanking children. We have to get this right, and -- as the parent of three young children, ages 5, 6, and 7, who has been to more than his share of picnics, birthday parties, and little league games -- I can see firsthand we're getting it wrong.
I remember seeing one hapless father chasing after his son, trying to get the boy to listen and pleading: "You need to respect me." The lad ignored him.
When did parents become such wimps?
My dad didn't roll like that. And neither did his father, a Mexican immigrant who -- along with my equally strong and no-nonsense grandmother -- raised five boys from the 1930s to the 1950s with nary an incident. There were no disturbances, no gangs, no police. Later, I teased one of my uncles about that, suggesting they must have had a lot of respect for law or order.
"Heck no," he said. "We were all terrified of the old man."
Fear is essential to respect. Children won't do what we tell them to do, unless -- at some level -- they fear the consequences that will come from not doing it. Punishment isn't a bad word. It's a life lesson. It's the way the world works, and, as parents, it's our job to prepare our kids to enter a world where they learn bad behavior has consequences.
Too many parents today are falling down on the job. The problem isn't that too many kids get spanked. It's that some kids who need a spanking might never get one.
Ten years ago, the problem was that too many parents eager to be their child's BFF (Best Friend Forever) were losing the battle to discipline their children, instill values, influence behavior and teach right from wrong.
Today, in many homes, the battle is over and the kids won. In some cases, the parents -- already stressed from long days at work and having no desire to spend precious hours at home squabbling with children -- simply surrendered. They gave up on raising children in exchange for peace and quiet on the home front.
Now the kids run things. These pint-sized CEOs of the household tell their parents what to do, instead of the other way around. If mom and dad forget their place in the new world order, junior will simply throw a few verbal daggers and scream: "You're so mean! I hate you!"
The correct response should be: "I can live with that. Now go to your room!"
I'm not telling anything you don't already know. If it's not happening in your house, it's happening in your brother's or cousin's or neighbor's.
So let me put in a good word for spanking as an acceptable and sometimes necessary form of disciplining a child, as long as you follow the rules. Here are three: Never use a belt or other foreign object, just the palm on your hand; never hit a child on his bare bottom, only through clothing; and only give them one swat, where you maintain control of your emotions.
This is a sensitive subject around my house. My wife and I disagree about spanking. She thinks you should never use violence to discipline a child. But the result of that is my kids sometimes torment mommy to test their boundaries. They want to see just what they can get away with and how far they can push before she cracks and loses her cool. It's excruciating to watch.
Too many kids in America don't respect their parents -- that's the real threat. They turn on the television and see shows where the kids run things and the parents are bumbling idiots. In fact, many kids don't fear any kind of authority, and this will not serve them well later in life. That's the real sin that many parents commit, neglecting their duty to raise good kids who grow up into respectful and responsible adults.
Spanking isn't child abuse. It's common sense. And that's something that every parent needs -- but, as you already know, not every parent has.
When does physical punishment become child abuse? Experts weigh in
by Jed Lipinski
Is it OK to spank your kids when they misbehave? What about whipping them on the bottom with a belt? At what point does physical discipline end and child abuse begin?
These are some of the questions people around the country are asking in the wake of the child abuse case against NFL star Adrian Peterson, who is accused of repeatedly whipping his 4-year-old son with a switch in Texas.
Peterson faces up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine if convicted. In a statement issued Monday, he denied that he is a child abuser and said he "did not intend" to cause his son injury.
This statement struck a chord with Dr. Neha Mehta, medical director of the Audrey Hepburn CARE Center at Children's Hospital in New Orleans. In her experience, the overwhelming number of child abuse cases the hospital sees were unintended.
"In most cases, the parent is not intentionally trying harm their child," she said by phone. "But in the heat of the moment, out of frustration or a lack of response from the child, parents can injure their child without knowing it's happening."
The definition of discipline is broad and often subjectively defined, experts say. That makes it difficult for some parents to know when the line between punishment and abuse has been crossed.
Spanking, for instance, continues to be a widely practiced method of disciplining children in the U.S. But according to a mounting body of evidence, spanking has been shown to produce harmful effects.
"The American Academy of Pediatricians strongly opposes striking children for any reason," said Stacie LeBlanc, the executive director of the New Orleans Children's Advocacy Center. "There are at least 25 studies out there showing that spanking is not only ineffective, it can also cause psychological and emotional harm."
A recent study published by Cornell University concluded that spanking increases child aggression and is associated with less compliance over time. "In fact," the researchers wrote, "spanking teaches children only to behave when the threat of physical punishment is present."
In this way, spanking increases the risk of child abuse. If a parent comes to rely on spanking as a disciplinary measure, the researchers wrote, they are more likely to spank their child when upset or frustrated.
Despite increased awareness, child abuse continues to be a major problem in this country. Each year, 3 million cases of child abuse are reported here, according to the website Childhelp.org. Between four and seven children die each day around the country from child abuse or neglect, one of the worst records among industrialized nations.
In New Orleans, cases of child abuse appear to be on the rise. So far this year, said LeBlanc, twice as many children came to Children Advocacy Services for medical evaluations related to child abuse compared to the same period last year.
To help reduce such incidents, members of Prevent Child Abuse Louisiana will be standing outside the Superdome this Sunday, when the Vikings play the Saints. Before and after the game, members will hand out material on alternative forms of discipline, like grounding and establishing clear boundaries.
Following the allegations against Peterson, the Vikings on Wednesday barred him from all team activities, meaning he will not be present at the game. But Amanda Bronson, the executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Louisiana, said her organization's presence will be symbolically important.
"In thinking about parenting, it can help to use football as a model," Bronson said. "When a rule is broken, the whistle is blown and a penalty is announced. Refs don't hit the players, the players generally accept the consequences, and everyone keeps on playing."
Training available for Colorado child abuse mandatory reporters
by The Denver Post
Coloradans whose profession requires them by law to report suspected child abuse — from firefighters to registered dieticians to veterinarians — now can take an online training course, state officials announced Thursday.
Workers in nearly 40 professions must report suspected child abuse or neglect under Colorado law. These include teachers, doctors and law-enforcement officers, as well as animal control officers and psychotherapists.
A recent state child-welfare department survey found that 79 percent of so-called "mandatory reporters" knew they were required to report abuse or neglect. But half of them could not remember if they had ever received training about where or how.
The new online training is one of several child-welfare reforms put in place in the last two years. Colorado also is revamping its reporting system with a statewide hotline and improved training for workers who screen abuse and neglect calls, as well as a public service campaign.
About 2,000 people already have taken the mandatory reporter training, but there are tens of thousands of mandatory reporters in Colorado. Mandatory reporters who complete the online training will receive a certificate to share with their employers.
"Keeping kids safe isn't just government's responsibility. It is a shared responsibility for all of us," said Reggie Bicha, executive director of the Colorado Department of Human Services.
In Colorado, about 10 percent of calls to report child abuse come from mandatory reporters. The rest are from other members of the public.
Many of the child welfare reforms follow a 2012 Denver Post investigation that found 40 percent of kids who die of abuse and neglect in this state had caregivers who were known to child-protection workers before their deaths.
"We have a commitment and duty to protect our most precious resource," Gov. John Hickenlooper said.
The state partnered with The Kempe Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect to develop the web-based training, which instructs professionals about what constitutes abuse and neglect and where to report suspicions.
Are you a mandatory reporter?
|Physician or surgeon, including a physician in training
Child health associate
Medical examiner or coroner
Registered nurse or licensed practical nurse
Christian science practitioner
Public or private school official or employee
Social workers, child-care providers and child-care employees
Mental health professional
Commercial film and photographic print processor
Licensed professional counselors
Licensed marriage and family therapists
Worker in the state department of human services
Juvenile parole and probation officers
Child and family investigators
Officers and agents of the state bureau of animal protection, and animal control officers
Child protection ombudsman
Director, coach, assistant coach, or athletic program personnel employed by a private sports organization or program.
Psychologists, marriage and family therapists, licensed professional counselor candidates
Emergency medical service providers
Hitting Your Kids is Legal in All 50 States
by Denver Nicks
Most Americans can agree that Adrian Peterson crossed the line when he whipped his four-year-old son with a switch and left cuts and welts on the boy's legs. But the line for what constitutes illegal behavior when it comes to parents striking their children is subject to different rules throughout the country.
Peterson seems to have genuinely believed at the time that he was not abusing his son. After all, it is legal to hit a child in all fifty U.S. states and the District of Columbia. States differ widely about what precisely is allowed.
In Delaware, for example, state law forbids a parent from hitting a child with a closed fist. But in Oklahoma, no such explicit prohibition exists. There, the law permits a parent to hit a child with a switch provided that the parent only uses “ordinary force.”
Much depends on the discretion of prosecutors. Both Arizona and Alabama allow the use of “reasonable and appropriate physical force,” but what is “reasonable and appropriate” in each state depends on existing case law and the interpretation of judges. The fact that Louisiana makes no mention of spanking but allows “reasonable discipline” that doesn't “seriously endanger” the health of a child.
“It's a very complex subject,” Director of the American Bar Association's Center on Children and the Law Howard Davidson told TIME. “I personally favor parents knowing what the law says in terms of what they can and can't do and just saying ‘reasonable' doesn't provide a lot of guidance,” he said.
In Texas, corporal punishment becomes child abuse when it “results in substantial harm to a child.” As a practical matter in Texas, that means a physical injury that leaves a mark, like bleeding and bruising, as Peterson apparently did.
The law in that state is clearer than some others about when a spanking becomes child abuse. That standard—when a swat leaves a mark—is common among many states but what exactly a “mark” is doesn't always mean the same thing. In Maine, for instance, corporal punishment is lawful if it results “in no more than transient discomfort or minor temporary marks.” Georgia simply forbids any “physical injury,” but here again, what that means is largely at the discretion of judges and prosecutors.
Some, like Deb Sandek, program director with the Center for Effective Discipline, argue, not without evidence, that corporal punishment of any kind causes psychological trauma in children and should be banned entirely. “There are effective discipline strategies that teach children right from wrong,” she said. “Why not go in a more proactive strategy and help children learn to problem solve and handle conflict without aggression?”
Around the world 39 countries, including Malta, Bolivia, and Brazil this year, have banned corporal punishment of children.
But any such national ban would go against the grain of public opinion today: four out of five Americans believe spanking children is sometimes appropriate, according to a 2013 poll from the Nielsen-owned market research firm Harris Interactive. Barring a major shift in public opinion or judicial interpretation, on corporal punishment of children we'll be grappling with the devil in the details for some time yet.
Mississippi officers searching for 4 missing girls
by Emily Wagster Pettus
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi authorities are searching for four girls last seen with their mother and stepfather who are charged with mistreating the girls.
Canton Assistant Police Chief Juan Cloy said Thursday that the girls, ages 1 to 6, had been put into state protective custody. But the mother and stepfather are believed to have taken them after getting out of jail.
He says law enforcement officers believe the children might be in danger from their stepfather, 24-year-old Fernando Coria-Pelay, who was charged with felony child abuse in May.
Clay says the girls' mother, 28-year-old Sonia Elisabeth Coronado, was charged with felony child neglect.
The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation on Sept. 12 issued a missing and endangered child alert for 6-year-old Kimberly Elizabeth Gomez-Coronado, 5-year-old Jackelyn Belinda Gomez-Coronado, 2-year-old Evelin Fernanda Coria-Coronado and 1-year-old Mendy Coria-Coronado.
Florida grandfather kills 6 grandchildren, his daughter and himself
by The Associated Press
BELL, Fla. -- A once-convicted felon killed six of his grandchildren, including an infant, his adult daughter and himself in a shooting at the man's home in a small North Florida town Thursday, a sheriff said.
Gilchrist County Sheriff Robert Schultz at a news conference identified the shooter as 51-year-old Don Spirit. He would not say if the woman killed was the mother of any of the two boys and four girls, some of whom spent a lot of time at the rural home.
Schultz said a deputy who arrived after Spirit called 911 to say he might harm himself and others made contact with the man, who then committed suicide. Authorities then found the other seven bodies.
At a later news conference, Schultz released the names of the victims. They were Sarah Lorraine Spirit, 28; Kaleb Kuhlmann, 11; Kylie Kuhlmann, 9; Johnathon Kuhlmann, 8; Destiny Stewart, 5; Brandon Stewart, 4; and Alanna Stewart, who was born in June.
Schultz said Spirit was the only suspect and that some people were left alive at the home. Schultz also said Spirit had a criminal history. According to the Florida Department of Corrections website, Spirit was released from prison in February 2006 for a gun charge.
According to an online story in 2003 by the Orlando Sentinel, a 40-year-old Don Spirit pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in the fatal shooting of his 8-year-old son, Kyle, in a 2001 hunting accident. He was sentenced to three years in prison and was emotional about the shooting at his hearing.
The story said that on a walk through the woods with Kyle and an older son, Spirit pointed out rust on the muzzle of his rifle. The rifle fired, hitting Kyle in the head, according to the Osceola County Sheriff's Office. Spirit was convicted in 1998 for felony possession of marijuana, according to a charging affidavit.
Schultz wouldn't say if a weapon was recovered or what sort was used. He didn't have a motive but said deputies had been to the home in the past for various reasons.
"There's still a lot of unanswered questions. There's going to be questions that we're never going to get answered," he said.
He wouldn't divulge where exactly the victims were found, though he said, "They were certainly all over on the property."
Police had cordoned off the length of a dirt road leading to the home near Bell, a town of just 350 people about 30 miles west of Gainesville.
"Keep this community in your prayers," Schultz said. "Tomorrow's going to be a hard day in Gilchrest County."
Bell resident Daniel Barry was trying to absorb the loss in the rural community west of I-75.
"It's tragic, the kids. Even if there were family problems, why involve the kids?" he said outside a convenience store. "It's enough that he took his daughter's life, but his grandkids, too? It's surreal."
Man urged victim to kill self via webcam
by The Associated Press
BILLINGS, Montana (AP) — A Montana man in prison for raping a girl starting when she was 12 is now charged with trying to persuade her to kill herself by cutting her wrists and taking prescription medication while he watched on a webcam.
Michael John Morlan, 21, was out on bail on the rape charges when he spoke with the then-15-year-old girl via Skype last September and told her to commit suicide while he watched to make sure she was doing it right, charging documents said.
The girl told investigators that when she started crying, Morlan told her to stop wasting air and get it over with, The Billings Gazette reports.
The teen said Morlan repeatedly told her to kill herself. When she started cutting her wrists, he told her to cut deeper and then told her to take a handful of antidepressants, court records said.
She took the pills then panicked, disconnected the call and went to her parents for help, prosecutors said.
Morlan is serving a seven-year prison sentence for raping the girl.
He was charged with two felony counts of sexual intercourse without consent in the fall of 2012. Prosecutors alleged he had a sexual relationship with the girl from April 2011 — when she was 12 — through July 2012.
He pleaded guilty to the rape charges in November. District Judge Randal Spaulding sentenced him to 15 years in prison with eight suspended and added five years after revoking Morlan's suspended sentence from a 2009 drug distribution case.
Morlan is scheduled to be arraigned Monday on the new charges — aiding or soliciting suicide, intimidation and tampering with witnesses or informants. He is expected to appear from prison via video.
County officials say Morlan does not have an attorney for the latest charges.
Aiding or soliciting suicide carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
A childhood shaped in violence
Recently, a hashtag titled “#WhyIStayed” trended on Twitter.
The hashtag's purpose was to bring awareness and put a face to victims of domestic violence.
My personal tweet read, “I didn't know I could leave, I didn't think anyone cared.”
I am a survivor of child abuse and neglect.
This topic is difficult for me to write about because it triggers many bad memories from my childhood.
It is also something personal but I feel it is important to talk about.
There is an ongoing debate about the difference between spanking and abusing a child.
My personal experience with child abuse was more a form of control, which showed that simple disciplining of a child could lead to something a lot worse.
I cannot speak on the subject of raising children because I am not a parent.
But I can remember the exact moment when being spanked turned into a beating and me hiding under my bed from my abuser.
Whether it is physical, mental or emotional abuse, according to dosomething.org, most children become victims of abuse and neglect at 18 months or younger.
More than likely, these childrens' parents believe it is their right to hit and even beat their children to earn respect.
Now that I am an adult, I have absolutely zero respect for my abuser and I know a lot of my issues are connected to the abuse .
Dosomething.org states that 80 percent of 21 year olds who were abused as children met the criteria for at least one psychological disorder.
For me, it is depression, anxiety and a definite lack of self-esteem.
According to childhelp.org, there are more than 3 million reports of child abuse in the U.S. involving more than 6 million children, since a report can involve more than one child.
Amongst industrialized countries, the U.S. has one of the worst records when it comes to this topic.
Humanium is an international child sponsorship, non-governmental organization dedicated to stopping violations of childrens' rights throughout the world.
Their website states that the League of Nations, now the U.N., adopted the Declaration of the Right's of Children on Sept. 16, 1924.
Commonly known as the Geneva Declaration, it was the first time specific rights for children were recognized.
The international treaty also detailed the responsibilities of adults.
Every time I think back to my childhood, I am utterly disgusted by the way I was treated.
And what makes my situation worse is the fact I was a ward of the state living with a legal guardian.
Basically, my abuser was not my actual parent.
Growing up, I felt like no one cared about me, especially since my mom died when I was five years old and I never knew my dad.
I felt as though I somehow deserved the treatment I received.
Every day I was physically abused, told I was worthless and had many racist words said to me.
I am honestly amazed I am alive and not mentally deranged.
Everyone has a story.
I want everyone to stop putting the blame on the victim when it comes to topics like abuse, domestic violence and rape.
Everyone has some sort of history that shapes who they are as adults.
My experience has made me a strong and cautious person.
I escaped my living situation and I am still working on “fixing” the 16 years of abuse I experienced.
It takes a lot for me to trust people, especially men, but I am constantly surrounding myself with people who love and care about me.
For those who and survived child abuse, in any form, you are capable of doing so many great things.
Your abuser does not dictate how you live your life.
The only person stopping you from doing good in life is yourself.
Newschannel5's holds town hall meeting on domestic violence
by Michael Baldwin
CLEVELAND - A crowed room approaching nearly 100 people gathered at the Newschannel5's studios on Wednesday to discuss a topic that has surrounded news headlines the past few weeks: Domestic violence.
Prompted by the brutal beating caught on video between Ray Rice and then finance turned wife Janay Rice, Newschannel5 felt a town hall discussion of such an important topic was necessary.
“Domestic violence is a pattern of cohersive behavior,” said Linda Johanek, CEO of the Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center in Cleveland.
She explained to the audience the many forms the abusive behavior can take. “It's physical, violent, financial, sexual, emotional, verbal, and psychological.”
The town hall was moderated by Newschannel5 anchor Danita Harris and featured six panelist from educators to survivors of abuse.
Harris gave each a chance to tell their story including that of Quiana Rivers. She met her abuser at the age of 15.
Rivers told an emotional story of the pain she went through while they were together.
“Before I became an adult he had manipulated me and molded me into what he wanted,” said Rivers. The relationship lead to, “emotional, verbal and psychological abuse,” for the 15 years they were together she said.
The abuse included, “getting hit with a car, him kicking me down the stairs, throwing me up against a table and strangulation.”
The night also featured Cleveland native Beverly Gooden. She started the hashtag that went viral on twitter #WhyIStayed. She told the room of her own experience with abuse.
“My ex-husband would choke me, slap me, push me around, bite me.” She even said her ex-husband tried to push her out of a moving car. Her hashtag had many asking why she didn't leave.
Johanek explained that leaving an abusive relationship is not as easy as some make it out to be. “There are a lot of people who say, ‘if that happened to me I would leave after the first slap,'” Johanek explained. “A lot of victims and a lot of victims we work with say that they once said that, but once your caught in this web it's really difficult because the number one reason woman stay is fear,” she continued.
The U.S. Justice Department released numbers, which said in 2012, there were nearly 665,000 victims of domestic violence. The department said that works out to about 75 women an hour.
70 percent of those cases don't end in prosecution because the victims choose not to press charges.
“We see so many reasons why victims come in and recant what they say,” said Cynthia Oliver, a detective with the Cleveland Police Department. “Sometimes they come in and say, ‘I didn't call the police or this didn't happen or I tripped and fell,'” she continued.
If you are in an abusive relationship there is help for you.
You can call the Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center at 216-391-HELP. You can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.
The Unadulterated Facts About Molestation
by Lisa Pecchenino
Editor's Note: Warning. Child molestation and sexual abuse is a difficult subject to talk about. As difficult as it is we hope that not only parents read this, but also encourage their kids to read it and discuss it afterwards. Some of the names have been changed to protect the identity of these brave individuals in our community who want to share their story and perhaps help someone along the way.
Silvia is 55; she was seven when her older brother molested her.
She started her story by saying, “Everyone should know there is life after bad things happen.” With a shy smile on her face she added, “What doesn't kill us, makes us stronger.”
“I even attempted suicide several times; my parents never had a clue,” explaining how she had taken a bottle of pain pills in one attempt. She shook her head and went on to say how lucky she was that they only made her sleep for three straight days.
“My parents didn't even think that was weird, when I got up and went to take a shower on the forth morning they acted like nothing had gone on at all.”
Silvia advises that anyone who has been molested or is being molested should get help, speak up, and if they can find the courage, to face their attacker.
She talks about how she didn't want to tell her parents. It might upset them or make them look bad. They passed away never knowing what a monster their son was. After they passed, she didn't want all the drama it would cause with her family. She never said any thing and never saw or talked to her brother again.
The worse part was yet to come. She discovered years later when her brother died that he had been running a children's ministry for several years. With his death it was discovered that many of the children in his ministry had been molested over the years. In addition, it was discovered that his son was also molesting children. She figured it was because more than likely, his own father had molested him.
“And the circle continues,” she added with a sad look on her face.
Silvia has forgiven and moved on with her life a long time ago but she still carries the guilt of knowing that had she spoken up she could have saved others from expiring the same horror she did. It is something she struggles with everyday to forgive herself for.
Today Silvia is a freelance writer that works closely with Homeland Security. She said there was one more thing she wanted to caution parents on, kids using social networks.
“Parents should be aware of who their children are talking to and they need to monitor their children's social networks closely.” She said.
She shared a story about a recent operation. The FBI was able to rescue 168 children who were lured into sex trafficking by people and friends on the Internet.
The last thing Silvia said before the interview was over is, “I will never be a victim again.”
Molestation is a devastating crime whose victims are those least able to protect themselves or speak out and whose perpetrators are most likely to be repeat offenders. Many victims feel guilt and shame.
Unfortunately, child sexual abuse is also a significantly under-reported crime. Most perpetrators of child molestation, incest and child rape are never identified and caught. The almost 90,000 cases of child sexual abuse reported each year fall far short of the actual number. Abuse frequently goes unreported because victims are afraid to tell anyone what has happened.
Child sexual abuse usually involves coercion and occasionally violence. Perpetrators offer attention and gifts to manipulate or threaten the child and in addition to sometimes behaving aggressively. Sexual abuse involves many forms of sexual exploitation of children under the age of 18 by a perpetrator whether that individual is an adult, teen, or another child.
The National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC), defines child sexual abuse as a crime which “encompasses different types of sexual activity, including voyeurism, sexual dialogue, fondling, touching of the genitals, vaginal, anal, or oral rape and forcing children to participate in pornography or prostitution.”
Girls are the victims of incest or intra-family sexual abuse much more than boys. Between 33-50 percent of perpetrators who sexually abuse girls are family members. Intra-family abuse seems to continue for a longer period of time, and has been found to have a more serious and lasting consequences.
Everyone needs to be aware that perpetrators come from every age group, gender, race, ethnicity, educational and socio-economic backgrounds. Though the majority are men, women also sexually abuse children. Both boys and girls are most vulnerable to abuse between the ages of seven and thirteen.
Despite what children are taught, “stranger danger” is a misnomer for the vast majority of child sexual abuse offenders. Most child victims are abused by someone they know and trust. The results of a three-state study of reported rape survivors under age 12 revealed the following about their offenders that 96 percent were known to their victims, 50 percent were acquaintances or friends, 20 percent were fathers or siblings, 16 percent were relatives, and four percent were strangers. Think about that, only four percent are strangers. It gives a new insight to “stranger danger.”
Sexual Assaults Reported to Law Enforcement
67 percent were under age of 18
34 percent were under age of 12
14 percent were under age of six
40% of children are abused by family members
60% are abused by people the family trusts
40% are abused by older or larger children
One in five children are sexually solicited on the Internet
Youth are 2.5 times more likely to be raped than adults
9% of 10-17 year-olds receive sexual requests on the Internet
Remember this is only the numbers of reported cases.
Ask Mary Jo
You're pregnant, now what?
Q.I'm pregnant. I'm sure you've heard that once or twice. The problem isn't just that I'm young (I'm in 10th grade). The real problem is my stepmom doesn't believe me when I tell her I was raped. She said I went with this guy and it was my fault. But I didn't want to have sex. She said if I was raped I would have had bruises or something. OK, so I didn't fight back. But, I didn't say yes. I did say no. For real, I was yelling, but no one was around. I was just so scared. He was all mean and strong and pushed me down. Afterwards he said nice things like we should do that again. I was just crazy to get away from him, and I walked home and then pretended it never happened. Until I missed my period. Should I try to talk to my dad? Since I'm pregnant, he hardly even looks at me. I've never even had a boyfriend, and he knows that. I don't want to cause trouble, and the guy's gone now anyway because he moved schools. I don't think he's a bad guy, but I do think he's messed up about women. I thought about abortion but changed my mind. I can't do that, and now it's too late anyway. So, there's these two things. I'm scared to death about labor. I hate pain. And I kind of want to tell someone at school about the rape, but I'm scared my stepmom will get real mad at me. I haven't told an adult yet. My friends are standing by me, but other kids at school who don't really know me call me names and stare. I don't care. Most of the time. But, I have this friend who is a peer educator with you, and she said I should do something about it because he might hurt another girl. What if I told my guidance counselor? That kind of scares me. My friend told me to Facebook message you and said that you're for real and I should ask you. So I did. If you answer me I want to say thanks!
Mary Jo's response: I believe you. Blaming you for a rape isn't OK. No person should be forced into anything sexual without consent. Not fighting back physically is actually smart; with some rapists physical resistance can make the attack more violent. The fact that there were no bruises has nothing to do with whether or not a person was raped. This was not your fault. You were not to blame.
I see four areas where support would make your life easier. The first deals with the trauma of the rape. Counseling is really, really important. A trained therapist can help you deal with what happened. Denial means you put the assault out of your mind as if it never happened. The pregnancy made it impossible to continue pretending. Meeting with a counselor doesn't mean there's something wrong with you. It means you need some help to deal with sexual violence. I know young women like you who have moved on with their lives and now have healthy relationships with partners who care for their children. You deserve happiness.
I'd like to meet with you in person as soon as you're able. And yes, I think talking with your dad would be smart, as long as you feel safe doing so. I can help you talk with him. Sometimes a person outside the family can buffer a tough conversation. I wouldn't judge your stepmom. I'd simply try to teach your dad about sexual assault. If he's interested, a good website for dealing with rape is the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network at https://www.rainn.org .
Do you have another family member you can trust? A grandparent, older sibling, aunt or uncle could bring you to our office or help you talk with your dad. I'll meet with you alone and then with your dad or trusted adult. If you agree, then we can all talk together. I won't ask you to talk about anything you don't want to share.
Let's discuss with whom you should share this situation. You could share with your school guidance counselor, of course. Whether or not your stepmom is angry, you have the right to seek help. It might be wise to line up family support before you talk to someone else.
Second, you have the legal right to press charges. When we meet we can discuss the how and why of doing so. If you “cause trouble” for him, that's OK. Your peer educator friend is correct. When survivors of sexual assault have the courage to share they might stop another person from being raped. You don't need to face this alone. There are wonderful professionals who can help you with legal issues.
You didn't mention the young man's age. Statutory rape in Pennsylvania occurs when two people have sex and one is less than 16 (the age of consent in Pennsylvania) and the other person is four or more years older. If he was over four years older than you, the sex would be considered rape even if you had said yes.
Third, my staff are trained to help prepare young mothers for labor, birth and parenting. Our program is totally free. All you need do is connect with us. Our office number is 724-222-2311, or I can register you for the program. We'll need parental consent, so that will give me a chance to talk with your dad. We will help you understand what's happening. We'll teach you ways to cope during labor and birth. Giving birth after sexual trauma can be challenging – your health care provider needs to know your history. We can help you disclose (tell) your doctor. You should be treated with care and respect.
It may sound strange, but your body knows how to give birth. You will find the strength to have your baby, but you won't be alone. A doula is a person who stays with a woman throughout her labor. I've been a doula to hundreds of young women. We can prepare a family member or friend to be with you in labor, but if you have no one you can trust, we will go with you.
Fourth, I'd like to spend some time with you and talk about your sexual health. You may not be interested in a relationship right now, but the trauma of sexual assault could follow you. I want you to have a healthy relationship someday.
Finally, I'm so happy you contacted me. Thank you for the compliment. Being told I'm “for real” is a nice gift.
Let's meet this week. Both you and your peer educator friend have my cell number. Please don't hesitate to use it. You may give it to your dad. Please take care of you and your baby.
Peer Educator response:
I told her to connect with you. I've been talking with her ever since I found out she was pregnant. I made her doctor's appointment for her. I love being a peer educator. I'm happy I'm her friend.
Time to stop playing games with child abuse
by CHRISTOPHER SUPRUN
Four children will die. They will die today, like they did yesterday and like they will tomorrow.
The children are not dying of cancer or heart disease; they are dying at the hands of loved ones who are abusing them. You guessed it. I am talking about the Adrian Peterson abuse situation.
Adrian Peterson tells us he is just raising his children like his parents raised him. Wrong. He isn't raising children at all. He tells us he is just disciplining his kids. He isn't.
Study after study tells us he is slowing the cognitive development of his own children. That's right. Peterson is increasing the likelihood of anxiety, depression and antisocial behavior. Another worrying statistic: Children who get “whooped” — Peterson's description — are nine times more likely to become involved in criminal activity.
Adrian Peterson said he hit his child with a tree branch “10 to 15” times. However, he said, he doesn't “ever count how many pops I give my kids.” Look at his son's leg. It has at least that many marks where the switch caught his thigh. Use your senses and let's consider this 4-year-old — a 4-year-old who was beaten by a man who is 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds.
The police report notes defensive wounds to the hands. I wonder how able this child was to defend himself against a guy who rushes through 300-pound giants.
I won't attack the game, but we need to realize that if the players cannot control their impulses at home, they need to find a new line of work. I hate to interrupt this young man's ability to carry a ball down the field just to save the life of his child, but let's consider his child for a second.
Take a look at the pictures of his child. If you can stomach it, take a look. Take a second and let the images sink in. Now, what would you do if you sent your child to a friend's house and he came back with those injuries? Would it be acceptable for your neighbor to “whoop” your child like that if he got out of line? Peterson did that to his own son.
Listen to his son. He didn't want to talk to the police because he was “afraid of Daddy Peterson.” Forget the statistics for a moment about learning difficulties. Forget about long- term psychological issues. This child is afraid of his own father.
Yes, I am silly enough to think the National Football League should clean up its act. They should suspend Mr. Peterson for a year and make him complete a parenting program. Yes, I am silly enough to think that the NFL should keep this man from his profession.
Of course, for now, things appear headed in the opposite direction for Peterson. The Minnesota Vikings reinstated him on Monday, a day after they lost 30-7 to the New England Patriots without their star back.
“I understand that this is a very difficult thing to handle,” said Rick Spielman, the general manager. “Whether it's an abusive situation or not, or whether he went too far disciplining, we feel very strongly that that is the court's decision to make.”
Right now, the league is lost. It's lost like a child afraid of his or her own parent, and that should scare every fan and every family.
Maybe we should stop playing games until we learn how to deal with abuse.
Four children will die today, just as four died yesterday. Let's make it the last day.
Death at a Parent's Hand
A federal report released in April, uing data from 2012, says:
1,640 children died from abuse and neglect nationwide that year, 2.2 for every 100,000 children in America. That's 4.5 children killed per day.
50 percent of deaths reported as unintentional are later reclassified as due to maltreatment.
Of all children who died from neglect and abuse:
77 percent are age 3 or younger.
80 percent suffer at the hands of their parents.
South Ogden police seeking information in sex abuse case
SOUTH OGDEN - A Utah man is suspected of child sexual abuse in Louisiana.
Matthew Todd Wallis, currently of South Ogden, Utah is believed to have committed the crimes of aggravated incest and oral sexual battery, during of 1999-2000, when he lived Belle Chasse, Louisiana.
Wallis' arrest is the result of an investigation by the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff's Office Sex Crimes Unit.
The PPSO believes there may be additional victims out there and are urging them to come forward so Wallis can be brought to justice.
Investigators say Wallis allegedly abused a relative when she was about 4 or 5 years old.
On September 8, Wallis was extradited back to Plaquemines Parish and booked into jail in Louisiana.
The South Ogden Police Department is also asking for the public's assistance with any information that may be pertinent to this investigation, and above all are seeking anyone who may have fallen victim to Matthew Todd Wallis in any manner regardless of time frame.
South Carolina Father Arrested for Killing 5 Children Feared they Would Kill Him
by Vishakha Sonawane
The South Carolina father arrested for killing his 5 children said he feared that the kids would murder him; the court documents released Wednesday state.
The 28-page arrest warrant obtained by WIS read that Timothy Ray Jones Jr. told the investigators that he believed his children would "kill him, chop him up, and feed him to the dogs." The confession was apparently made by him to the police Aug. 28 near Walmart in Lexington County. He then told them that he forced his children, aged between 1 and 8, to the backseat of his car, reports the New York Daily News.
However, 6 days later the mother of the children reported them missing from Jones' Lexington County home. Authorities at traffic checkpoint stopped Jones in Raleigh, Mississippi, Sept. 6. The investigators had found "a large amount of blood and hand written notes with directions to kill and mutilate bodies" inside the SUV, Lexington County sheriff's deputies stated, reports NBC News. Three days after the arrest he led police to Oak Hill, Alabama, where he dumped their bodies.
"The defendant was subsequently located in Mississippi without the children and no ability to confirm their well being. The suspect's vehicle contained a large amount on blood and hand written notes with directions to kill and mutilate bodies," the warrant stated, reports WCNC.com.
The prosecutors did not say whether they planned to seek the death penalty for Jones, who is detained in South Carolina Department of Corrections after waiving his right to a first court appearance last week due to "intense media scrutiny."
Adrian Peterson Deactivated, Ordered To Keep Away From Team As Vikings Place Him On Exempt List
by Ed Mazza
The Minnesota Vikings have placed star running back Adrian Peterson on the Exempt/Commissioner's Permission list, essentially deactivating him, and ordered him to keep away from all team activities until the legal proceedings against him in a child injury case have been resolved.
The statement issued early Wednesday morning is a complete reversal from earlier in the week, when the team said Peterson would continue to practice with the team and play.
"After giving the situation additional thought, we have decided this is the appropriate course of action for the organization and for Adrian," the statement signed by team owners Zygi and Mark Wilf said.
"We want to be clear: we have a strong stance regarding the protection and welfare of children, and we want to be sure we get this right," the two wrote. "At the same time we want to express our support for Adrian and acknowledge his seven-plus years of outstanding commitment to this organization and this community."
The pair went on to say that they "will support Adrian during this legal and personal process."
Peterson was indicted on Friday in a child injury case in which he's accused of using a stick to discipline his son. He was released on a $15,000 bond.
While he was deactivated prior to Sunday's game, the team reinstated him on Monday.
The Vikings and the NFL have since come under heavy pressure from both sponsors and political figures to suspend Peterson. On Tuesday, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said the team should suspend Peterson. Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) issued a similar statement.
In addition, the Radisson hotel chain suspended its partnership with the team, and Nike removed Peterson jerseys from stores in the Minneapolis area .
Anheuser-Busch, a major NFL sponsor, said it was "disappointed and increasingly concerned by the recent incidents that have overshadowed the NFL season," likely referring to both the Peterson incident as well as the Ray Rice domestic abuse allegations.
We are not yet satisfied with the league's handling of behaviors that so clearly go against our own company culture and moral code," the statement said.
Other sponsors released similar statements.
Peterson's agent told the Associated Press that being placed on the exempt list was "the best possible outcome given the circumstances."
"Adrian understands the gravity of the situation and this enables him to take care of his personal situation," Ben Dogra, told AP. "We fully support Adrian and he looks forward to watching his teammates and coaches being successful during his absence."
Below is the full text of the statement released by the team early Wednesday:
Eden Prairie, MN (September 17, 2014) – This has been an ongoing and deliberate process since last Friday's news. In conversations with the NFL over the last two days, the Vikings advised the League of the team's decision to revisit the situation regarding Adrian Peterson. In response, the League informed the team of the option to place Adrian on the Exempt/Commissioner's Permission list, which will require that Adrian remain away from all team activities while allowing him to take care of his personal situation until the legal proceedings are resolved. After giving the situation additional thought, we have decided this is the appropriate course of action for the organization and for Adrian.
We are always focused on trying to make the right decision as an organization. We embrace our role - and the responsibilities that go with it – as a leader in the community, as a business partner and as an organization that can build bridges with our fans and positively impact this great region. We appreciate and value the input we have received from our fans, our partners and the community.
While we were trying to make a balanced decision yesterday, after further reflection we have concluded that this resolution is best for the Vikings and for Adrian. We want to be clear: we have a strong stance regarding the protection and welfare of children, and we want to be sure we get this right. At the same time we want to express our support for Adrian and acknowledge his seven-plus years of outstanding commitment to this organization and this community. Adrian emphasized his desire to avoid further distraction to his teammates and coaches while focusing on his current situation; this resolution accomplishes these objectives as well.
We will support Adrian during this legal and personal process, but we firmly believe and realize this is the right decision. We hope that all of our fans can respect the process that we have gone through to reach this final decision. -- Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf
Texas set to execute woman convicted of starving 9-year-old
by Brendan O'Brien
"A woman convicted of the 2004 starving death of a 9-year-old boy is scheduled to die on Wednesday by lethal injection at a Texas state prison, authorities said.
Lisa Ann Coleman, 38, would be the second woman executed in the United States this year and the 15th since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.
Coleman is scheduled to be put to death after 6 p.m. Central Time (7 p.m. EDT) at the state's death chamber in Huntsville. She would also be the 517th prisoner put to death in Texas, the most of any state since 1976.
Investigators were called to Coleman's house in July 2004, where they found Davontae Williams dead with a disfigured ear, swollen hands and ligature marks on his wrists and ankles, according to court records.
An autopsy determined that Williams, son of Coleman's long-time girlfriend, Marcella Williams, had died from malnutrition and pneumonia and weighed just 35 pounds, court records said.
He had been beaten with a golf club and bound by an extension cord, investigators found. His body also showed signs of having been treated with over-the-counter medications, ointments, creams and bandages, court records said.
There was evidence that suggested he was fed chicken noodle soup and Pedialyte before he died, but a doctor testified that the food he received was "inadequate ... too late, and possibly too much," court records said.
Coleman was convicted of capital murder by a jury in 2006 and sentenced to death. Williams also was convicted of capital murder. Williams was sentenced to life in prison and is eligible for parole in 30 years, according to prison records.
A painful night for foster parents
by Steve Duin
We are surrounded by colorful flash cards: "Oral intercourse" in rose, "Adult takes pornographic pictures of child" in lime, "Sensual kissing of child" in peach. We've been asked to rank the 13 cards from least intrusive to most intrusive on the appalling spectrum of sexual abuse, and a woman at the table, anxious to help, tells us that seeing her brother abused long ago was far more painful than viewing those tortured photographs.
We are met by scenarios: Your foster daughter, 5, and your birth son, 6, have been unusually quiet in the family room for the past 15 minutes. When you open the door to check on them, you find the two kids naked under the ping-pong table. What do you think you've seen, and what would you say to them?
"Wait until your mommy gets home," one man sighs, shaking his head.
We are -- on a Thursday night at the Department of Human Services' training center on Southeast 122 nd -- in a room with several prospective foster parents, waiting for a child to be placed in their care, and a half-dozen couples who need immediate certification because a niece or nephew is no longer safe with Auntie Joyce and Uncle Bill.
It is more than just another training session. "Tonight's class is a heavy class," Melissa Masserant, the DHS instructor, warns us. Three hours on child sex abuse. "If any of this becomes overwhelming, and you just need a break, that's fine.
"Deep breathing helps."
Nineteen people are on hand. They will eventually turn to the stranger next to them, and yell, "Breasts!" or "Masturbation!" so they might grow more comfortable calling things what they are.
Some arrive with Subway sandwiches for dinner, some with Skittles or a Red Bull, but everyone stops eating when the video on domestic violence starts, and a survivor describes what it's like to wake up in the night to find her child's head on her chest, desperate to make sure Mom is still breathing.
This is the sixth of eight training sessions for Ben and Maile Sand. Ben is the CEO of the Portland Leadership Foundation. He oversees Embrace Oregon, an effort by the city's evangelical churches to supply DHS with additional foster families -- 84 to date.
"There's tension in the room every time," Ben tells me. "The element of surprise is that you don't know what people are walking in with that night. Everyone in the room is dealing with trauma."
Much of that trauma is packaged with the child who is already living with them or soon will be. Eighty-five percent of the children in the DHS system have been sexually abused, says Massarent, who has worked with children and families for 24 years:
"Often times, foster families are the first to hear a disclosure ... because the child finally feels safe."
Thus, the 19 people in the room need to understand normal childhood sexual development and the signs of abuse. They need encouragement in talking openly, at the proper time, with kids about sex and love and birth control.
They need to recognize grooming behavior, and the flash cards in a child's past.
We watch two videos featuring Oprah Winfrey, who was raped by a relative when she was nine. We are handed a questionnaire. True or False? Sexual abuse of children usually occurs when children are not taught to avoid strangers.
And -- False: 85 percent of abusers are someone the child loves and trusts -- we are warned about the ghosts in the room.
"If you were sexually abused," Masserant says, "this topic can trigger the memory of your own abuse. You're going to be on your own emotional roller coaster rather than helping the child navigate theirs."
The class runs late. One couple lingers behind. They are in their mid-20s, and they have said little over the three hours. I don't know what they walked in with, but they know I'm a reporter. I'm thinking they might have a story to share about the child they have or the child they're waiting for. I'm thinking that until the very moment they lean into Masserant, and the woman begins to cry.
I slip away quietly. There is little traffic on Southeast 122nd, and the lights are still ablaze at the Peep Hole Adult Super Store, adding to the loneliness.
Lowering Sexual Assault on College Campuses and in the Military Starts in Elementary School
by Mike Domitrz
As the brother of a sexual assault survivor, seeing the mainstream media, the federal government, and the public at large begin to engage in a conversation on sexual assault and rape is encouraging. Everyday we see new ideas and proposed guidelines aimed at preventing this horrible crime. Our society finally appears willing to confront this issue beyond saying "No Means No" and "Don't Rape." But are we approaching this problem from the wrong angle? It is not our universities, nor our military that has an exclusive problem with this issue... it is our society in general.
Most young adults learn about dating, intimacy and sexual decision-making way before they arrive on a college campus or enlist in the military.
If our society desires to lower sexual assault on college campuses and in our military, we must be more proactive at younger ages -- transforming the way individuals view intimacy and relationships. We need to teach respect for one's self and one's partner. Believing each person deserves to be given a choice before sexual activity occurs is an essential act of respect and affection. For this reason, teaching specific how-to skills on consent must happen before dating habits are developed.
This transformation does not need to be a herculean effort. By simply asking a partner "May I kiss you?" and honoring the answer, we are showing partners that we value their boundaries, and most importantly we are giving them a choice in the situation. Every person deserves for each sexual experience to be consensual (requested, freely given, and wanted between two people of legal age and sound mind).
Our country needs to take early steps in teaching our youth that healthy intimacy requires a strong desire from both parties. There has to be complete clarity about the age of consent -- for both people to be of an age to fully comprehend their choices, to be able to verbally communicate likes and dislikes, be of sound mind, and to honor the answer of their partner when they do request intimacy.
Ask Moms and Dads, "Do you hope that when your child gets to the point in life when he/she is going to be sexually active, that your child will always have a choice before a partner ever touches him/her sexually?" Every parent I've ever met around the world adamantly answers either, "Yes" or "Of course!!"
Yet how do most people currently choose whether to keep sexually touching a partner? Sadly by "Going for it" -- assuming what the partner wants and then engaging in the sexual contact without ever asking first. "Going for it" is an act of arrogance and an abuse of power over another person.
Regardless of what dating books try to teach, people cannot guarantee they are accurately reading the precise detailed thoughts inside the mind of a partner. "Asking First" is the only approach that seeks to find out first. "Asking First" is an act of respect and confidence. The person asking discovers what the partner wants, honors the partner's boundaries, and respects whatever response is given.
For those who say, "Asking seems awkward," those individuals are proving how we have failed to give people the confidence to talk about their sexual wants, dislikes and boundaries. Before ever engaging in sexual activity, every person should be able to comfortably state what he/she wants.
Also, we must address the connection between alcohol consumption and sexual assault. This topic has been the elephant in the room among recent discussions on sexual assault. The focus has been wrongly placed on telling people how "Not To" be a victim instead of teaching everyone to stop the predator. Statements to college students like "If you get drunk, you are putting yourself at risk for rape" only result in survivors being unfairly and incorrectly blamed for the actions of a rapist.
Our educational system has failed to teach bystanders to take an active role in protecting each other from sexual predators. The sexual predator is the one at the bar looking to find a person who is not of sound mind with the one goal of engaging in sexual activity with that person. Teaching students bystander intervention techniques increases the chances of preventing such a crime from happening, and empowers students to defend those who are not of sound mind - to stop the predator . These specific skills must be taught prior to children seeing friends in these situations (at least as early as 5th and 6th grade).
The language society uses to refer to this crime is causing further harm. Calling an alcohol-facilitated sexual assault a "drunk hookup" or "being taken advantage of" is a passive acceptance of sexual assault, it minimizes the trauma of the crime, and results in few people doing anything to intervene when it occurs. Being sexually active with a partner who is not of sound mind is rape/sexual assault!
Instilling these reforms in society ensures that students are taught the foundational concepts of a healthy approach to dating with an emphasis on consent and respect for your partner. While legislation in California (SB 967) addressing "Affirmative Consent" is a good start for campuses, society needs to ask why such legislation doesn't exist for K12 education.
If we really want to reduce sexual assault in the military and on college campuses, the lessons of respect, consent and bystander intervention need to be instilled in elementary education through high school.
The national conversation on this topic is only beginning. My hope is that we as a society can use this moment to reflect on how we can transform our culture for the better, and truly put an end to this crime.
Child Specialists: Education Key in Curbing Child Abuse
by Mitch Goulding
Melanie Chasteen works at the Center for Child Protection, an agency on the frontlines of child abuse investigations in Travis County.
Her group handled nearly 2,200 cases of child abuse and neglect last year. That figure is actually down almost 500 from just one year before.
She says public awareness plays the biggest role in bringing those numbers down.
"Learn about the signs and symptoms,” she said. “Learn how to report suspected abuse or neglect.
Lori Seems Martin of Austin Children Services says another big part is making sure struggling parents aren't afraid to ask for support.
"Stressors such as financial struggles or substance abuse or mental health or domestic violence in the family, any one of those on top of normal childhood behavior can be really challenging,” she said. “Being able to ask for help is a key element.
"Because the sooner someone gets help, the more likely they are to break the cycle of abuse.
"If a parent, if they were abused, or if they grew up with somebody constantly yelling at them, they may think that that's normal and not realize that it's not or that it's normal for somebody to push you," Chasteen said.
The state runs a social services hotline which can be accessed by dialing 2-1-1. That number can connect families with resources that include housing, child care, food and financial assistance.
Austin Children's Services also offers a program called Project HOPES, which works with families under stress to prevent child abuse.
Powerful Photos of Child Sex Abuse Survivors
by Lorena Ros
Lorena Ros, a Spain-based photojournalist, has been documenting abuse of power in various countries around the world. Her first book, Unspoken , a testimony in pictures and words of adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, brings her home to a widespread human tragedy that has rarely been photographed.
In the car, on our way to the train-station, my aunt asked me if I had mentioned anything to my mother about the ‘incident…' I was shocked. It was something that had remained unspoken for years and I had blocked it out of my mind. My uncle and my aunt were afraid that “the secret” was about to be revealed to the family and they were trying to persuade me to be silent – as I had been for the last 30 years…
It was the summer of 2000 – a bomb was about to go off in my life, a bomb that would forever change my relationship with my family, relationships within the family itself and, of course, the rest of my life.
Five years later, I was selected as a participant of the World Press Master class and asked to develop an essay around the concept “Ordinary”. I decided to photograph survivors of Child Sexual Abuse, starting with my own city. Over the years I had focused on stories related to “the abuse of power”- it was a recurrent subject -In my stories I was seeking the truth; there was a story that was very close to us and widespread and yet hardly documented – it was very much a taboo subject.
In 2008, Raquel's photograph was part of an exhibit in Barcelona (she was abused by her father for years, her mother never believed her and she was forced to leave home.) Raquel hadn't spoken to her mother in years but invited her for coffee that evening. And without telling her where they were going, brought her to the exhibition. When Raquel's mother saw and heard other similar stories, it changed both their lives for ever.
As I begun my work on child sex abuse, what first struck me was how vulnerable and fearless my subjects were. Opening their lives, talking about it, was the only way, I realized to fight child sexual abuse.
As I met more and more ‘survivors', I felt that my essay on ‘Ordinary,' could, should be a longer-term project, perhaps even a book. Through bearing witness, I was also telling my own story – something which I had never done publicly.
It has been an eight-year journey of growth both as a photographer and as a woman. A journey of self-discovery. Through the survivors I've photographed, I found the courage to confront my own ghosts and tell my own story. I realized that I was not alone. It was my life and my work coming together. It has been an often a painful exercise in honesty, a cathartic process of knowing who I am; to understand why I was drawn to the subjects I was drawn to over the years.
In many ways, Unspoken , my first book has helped me to understand Who I am? Why I take pictures and why I do it well.
Cannon Falls Boy Fights Lasting Effects of Shaken Baby Syndrome
by Todd Wilson
Shaken Baby Syndrome or SBS, is the leading cause of child abuse in the U.S. but is 100 percent preventable.
Penny Robinson's 11-year-old son Gage is a survivor of Shaken Baby Syndrome. His abuser was his biological father.
"He pretty much received damage pretty evenly throughout his entire brain. And then he had retinal hemorrhaging behind the eyes and stuff that it affected his vision," Robinson said.
The injuries led to multiple surgeries and years of therapy for speech, vision and physical skills.
"It's a rough ride but we get through it. We have huge support through family and friends," she said.
As many as four children a day experience severe or deadly head injuries from child abuse, according to estimates from the CDC and Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance.
"They can have cognitive deficits, learning disabilities, they may have behavioral issues," Sara Schlegelmilch of the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance said.
Those injuries can come from Shaken Baby Syndrome or when an adult shakes the child so hard that the brain hits the skull multiple times causing permanent damage.
"One to four months is generally the highest range when a child suffers from a shaken baby syndrome but it can be up to a year," Schlegelmilch said.
The Minnesota Department of Health reports 552 cases of SBS from 1999-2012 from the ages of 0-4. In more than half of those cases the child was younger than 1 year old.
Robinson says she struggles to forgive Gage's dad.
"The man that was supposed to love and protect him would do this to his child," Robinson said.
Her focus is taking care of her child.
Experts warn parents about prevalence of child sex abuse
by Wilford Shamlin III
Experts at Monday's kickoff for a new public awareness campaign said child sexual abuse is linked to negative health problems that reduces the quality of life for its survivors.
The opening town hall event, “Parents In The Know,” was held at CBS-3/The CW studios in Center City, highlighting the long-term effects of sexual abuse, which local medical experts said goes often unreported.
Dr. Maria McColgan, children's doctor and medical director at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children, said children who fall prey to sexual abuse often seek health care on a recurring basis, becoming “super-utilizers” of professional medical care.
“That's the important piece we want people to understand,” Houser said.
McColgan shared statistics on the prevalence of sexual abuse: one in four girls, one in six boys and one in four college-age women are victims. Experts at Monday's panel discussion said many survivors never seek treatment for sexual abuse, and it manifests itself in other ways, through alcohol and drug abuse, suicidal thoughts, and increased indulgence in sexual behavior.
Child sex abuse has remained a social taboo, triggering shame and embarrassment among family members who may choose to avoid discussions that could help children from becoming targets. Workshop sessions scheduled Oct. 11 and 18 at Intercultural Family Services, 2317 S. 23rd St., and Oct. 25 and Nov. 1 at the Boys & Girls Club of Chester, 201 E. 7th St., Chester, are intended to arm families with information they need to stay on the alert for child sex abuse.
The special program will teach how to promote safe and respectful behaviors, red flag behavior in adults, how to hold age-appropriate talks with your child about their sexual development and strategies for preventing sexual abuse.
The workshops will start with opening remarks and a panel discussion featuring health care experts, followed by a question and answer session. The education program is co-sponsored by AmeriHealth Caritas; Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, and Women Organized Against Rape.
Sexual abuse was defined as exploiting power or position of trust. It also includes inappropriately touching someone but also includes interactions that do not the physical act of touching, Houser said.
“Sexual abuse is the number-one under-reported crime in the United States,” Houser said.
A caring adult can go a long way toward buffering the effects of abusive behavior and helping a child bounce back, McColgan said.
Typically, predators use a position of authority or familiarity with a youngster to carry out inappropriate behavior in secret and use their influence to keep an impressionable child from reporting the abuse.
Kristen Houser, vice president of public relations at the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, said, “It's a continuum of activities that children should not be exposed to.”
The person may act and appear in a trustworthy manner before engaging in inappropriate and possibly criminal behavior. A fear of being perceived as a homosexual may discourage boys, in particular, from reporting sexual abuse. Humiliation, shame, and fear often keep survivors from reporting abuse at the hands of relatives or their spouse or significant other.
Other panelists included Dr. Ralph Riviello, professor and vice-chair of clinical operations department at Drexel University College of Emergency Medicine; and Maria Pajil-Battle, senior vice president of community investment at AmeriHealth Caritas, and Carole Johnson, executive director of Women Organized Against Rape.
Adrian Peterson Facing New Abuse Allegations Involving a Second Child
by Polly Mosendz
Rusty Hardin, famed sports attorney, told Ian Rapoport that the charges reported this evening date back to 2013. At that time, "no action was taken." Hardin explained, "There was an adult witness in the car and she flatly denied that Adrian caused any injury to the boy." The Vikings offered this statement, "We were made aware of an allegation from 2013 in which authorities took no action against Adrian."
Just hours after being allowed to rejoin his team, NFL superstar Adrian Peterson is facing new accusations of abusing children. Peterson was arrested over the weekend following a grand jury indictment for allegedly beating his four-year-old son with a switch. After missing one game, the Minnesota Vikings have let the former MVP running back onto the team, and he is set to play on Sunday.
On Monday evening, however, KHOU, the local CBS affiliate in Houston, Texas reported that Peterson may be implicated in a second domestic abuse incident. According to their report, Peterson was investigated by Child Protective Services in another incident involving another one of his sons, who is also four-years-old. The network displayed text messages between Peterson and the child's mother in which the mother questioned a scar that appeared on their son. She asked what Peterson hit the young boy with, and Peterson neglected to reply, but made it clear that he punished the child because he was cursing at a sibling. One of the messages from Peterson reads: "Be still n take ya whooping he would have saved the scare (scar). He aight (all right)"
CBS also obtained an image of the child with Band-Aids covering a wound. Other pictures taken later show a scar over the boy's eye. No charges were filed and it's unclear how the CPS case was resolved.
Denver DHS placed child with sex offender father now under investigation for sex assault of son
DDHS documents suggest warning signs ignored
by John Ferrugia, Sandra Barry
DENVER - A months-long CALL7 investigation into failures by Denver's Department of Human Services has uncovered a heinous case of child abuse that occurred despite warning signs apparently ignored by the department.
In October 2010, the department placed Tiercel Duerson's son in his custody. Duerson had served time for sexually abusing the boy's sibling in 2005 and completed parole and treatment just two months prior to the placement.
DDHS had removed the boy and his siblings from their mother's home months before, when he was 12 and was showing signs of mental illness. Regina Garcia admits at the time, she couldn't control her son, and was neglecting him, as well as the rest of her children.
"He was being abusive toward his sisters. He kept telling me he was hearing voices," she said. "He started getting into drugs and drinking, and I tried my hardest with him."
The department initially sent Garcia's son for mental health treatment at Shiloh House, and started looking for a placement for his youngest sister.
"They didn't give her to your former husband?" CALL7 Investigator John Ferrugia asked Garcia.
"No, no," she said. Garcia said her youngest daughter's caseworker knew Duerson was a convicted sex offender.
"And she wasn't going to give your daughter to him," Ferrugia said.
"No," said Garcia.
Yet Duerson's sex abuse conviction did not deter her son's caseworker.
"They decided for him to be with his dad," Garcia said. "I was saying I didn't think it was a good idea for them to put him with his dad, knowing he's a sex offender."
Garcia said her older daughter, a victim of Duerson's abuse, echoed her concerns in a meeting with DDHS.
"That he would be better off with Mom, because Dad is a child molestor, is what she said," said Garcia.
But Garcia said DDHS employees didn't listen.
"They're like, 'Well, he only did it one time, and he preferred little girls,'" she said.
"That's what they told you?" Ferrugia asked?
"Yeah," Garcia said.
Garcia's son spent more than a year placed in his father's home, until November 2011. Internal DDHS records and juvenile court reports obtained through Garcia show the department was repeatedly notified of safety concerns during that time.
Department documents show in March of 2011, an employee at the boy's school reported he was "fearful," afraid that Duerson was "going to go back to his old ways," and believed his father was "back to using drugs and alcohol."
Yet DDHS told the judge overseeing the boy's case that his "family reports that [he] is growing into a happy and health teenage … [he] continues to flourish in Mr. Duerson's home."
The boy also reported his father hit him "with a mop or broom stick" because he didn't finish his chores.
And his mother reported that, when he arrived for his visits with her, her son "often smells bad and his clothing is unclean."
Even more concerning, in August, the caseworker herself reported she had not been able to contact Duerson, and didn't see his son for a month prior, writing, "Mr. Duerson's communication with this worker has subsided. This worker went a period of time not being able to contact Mr. Duerson and this worker was unable to complete a face to face contact with [Duerson's son] for the month of July."
Yet the boy remained in his care.
Dr. Jerry Yager, PsyD, is the Director of Programs for the Denver Child Advocacy Center and has worked with child victims of trauma and abuse for three decades.
Yager was not involved in the case of Garcia's son, but said whenever a child is placed in the home a convicted sex offender, a high level of supervision is essential.
"It was a high-risk placement to begin with, and so immediately, it should have said there's a red flag here," Yager said. "Anything that would occur, like missed appointments, not following through on calls, a report from a school that something is not -- should trigger a red flag that this child is in a high-risk situation, we need to respond to that. In this case it didn't."
In fact, it wasn't until another county received reports of abuse of other children then living in Duerson's home, and removed them, that DDHS finally removed Duerson's son. Duerson again went to jail for child abuse.
"The father's predation involved him compelling both of his sons in the home, an older son and a younger son to both perform sex acts with the father and to perform sex acts with each other," said Jordan Factor, an attorney with Denver law firm Allen & Vellone, who is representing Garcia and her son in a federal lawsuit against DDHS.
Factor said the department violated the boy's right to be kept safe from harm.
"Here we have a man who committed sexual assaults on one of his children and had completed his probation two months earlier and was now being given another one of his children to have in his home," said Factor. "That's outrageous."
Duerson's son was sent to mental health treatment and therapy, and was finally able to share only this year the full extent of the abuse. Now 17 years old, he has walked away from his mental health program and is on the run, occasionally contacting his mother from an anonymous phone number.
"He tells me, 'I'm okay. Don't worry about me,'' said Garcia. "I says, 'Son, you need to turn yourself in and do the right thing. I want you home.'"
Duerson is already in jail for failure to register as a sex offender and is now the subject of an active criminal investigation by the Wheat Ridge Police Department. An internal DDHS report from May shows his son's complaint of sexual abuse was confirmed by the department, and names Duerson as the perpetrator.
"The system's not doing their job, they're saying they're protecting kids when they're not," said Garcia.
Officials at DDHS did not address specifics in the case, instead providing details on the department's standard policy for parents who have sexual offenses on their record. A written statement did not say whether DDHS had followed that policy in this case.
The DDHS caseworker and supervisor responsible for placing Duerson's son in his home are still with the department, and still making decisions about child placement. Sources familiar with DHS caseloads say the caseworker currently has a full caseload, and still reports to the same supervisor, along with four other caseworkers.
‘My mom was wrong': Emotional Cris Carter condemns child abuse
by Mark W. Sanchez
After Adrian Peterson was indicted on a charge of injury to a child, many have justified Peterson's alleged physical disciplining of his son as good, hard-nosed parenting.
Cris Carter is not one of those apologists.
The Hall of Famer used ESPN's “NFL Countdown” Sunday morning to deliver some harsh truth about child abuse, personalizing the issue and giving a face to the victims.
“People believe in disciplining their children,” Carter said, teeming with emotion. “… My mom did the best job she could, raising seven children by herself. But there are thousands of things I have learned since then, and my mom was wrong. This is the 21st century. My mom was wrong. She did the best she could, but she was wrong.”
Uninterrupted by a stunned panel of analysts surrounding him, the former Viking great was visibly upset, but continued:
“I promised my kids I won't teach that mess to them,” Carter said. “You can't bend a kid to make them do what you want.”
Carter saved perhaps his most resonant and affecting point for the conclusion of his monologue, when he praised the Vikings' immediate deactivating of Peterson. According to Carter, taking him away from the game is the only way to get through to the star running back.
“The only thing I'm proud about is the team that I played for, they did the right thing. Take him off the field,” Carter said. “… As a man, that's the only thing we really respect. We don't respect no women. We don't respect no kids. The only thing Roger [Goodell] can do, take him off the field.”
A good whuppin'? Adrian Peterson child abuse case revives debate
by DeNeen L. Brown
Editor's note: On Friday, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson turned himself in on charges of child abuse, accused of injuring his four-year-old son as he whipped him with a small tree branch, commonly called a “switch.” Peterson acknowledged that he had spanked the boy because he had misbehaved, but said he did not intend to hurt the child. The case reminded She The People of this story from 1998 by Washington Post writer DeNeen L. Brown, which explores the debate around spanking, especially within the African American community.
She remembers the sting of the switch beating out the rhythm of her father's words against her bare legs. She prayed that the sentence would be short because with each word, with each syllable, the stick whipped the air and fell.
I (WHACK!) told (WHACK!) you (WHACK!) to (WHACK!) stay (WHACK!) in (WHACK!) the (WHACK!) yard!
The stings swelled into welts that she nursed along with deeper hurts.
If I told you once, I told you a million times. When I tell you something, you better listen to me. Now stop all that cryin'. Stop! Do you want some more? Well, you better stop all that cryin'.
TuSheena Watson came of age in the 1970s, in a house where there was no debate about whether beatings were fair. The whuppin's were promised and always came. The infraction and its connection to the punishment were clear. Her father and mother never heard of such things as a “timeout.” There was no talking, no talking back, no questioning authority and no analyzing disobedience. Going to your room meant nothing, because she had no room of her own. The beatings were plain and sufficient, and today the memories of them are seared in her mind, but “they were a good thing,” she now declares as the parent of two children.
“My mother and my daddy would beat us, all 10 of us. The switch, they would pull the leaves off. You are crying before they come to you. And they used to give the neighborhood permission to whip you. They would whip you, then tell you to shut up. `Shut up before I give you something to cry for.' You already did. You just beat me to death, now you're going to tell me to shut up. How can I shut up?”
She is living it again, sitting in a job-training classroom in Prince George's County. Hair pulled back from her face, clad in T-shirt and jeans, she looks young. Back in New Jersey she was the baby girl of the family, but now, at 32, she is on the other side of the switch. She knows the trials of controlling her daughters. She swears by spanking.
Go outside and pick me a switch. And don't pick a small one either.
That command, for many, is part of being black in America — part of a cultural tradition that sought to steel black children for the world, forge their characters, help prepare them for the pure meanness that waited out there, just because of the color of their skin. Many black parents who whipped felt more was at stake if they did not scourge their children.
Don't get it wrong. The wielding of the switch and the belt and the wooden spoon is not a practice unique to
black people. Most races spank their children, especially Southern whites who are fundamentalist Christians. But the stories of beatings done in the name of love, beatings that were endured by many — not all — black parents, are like a familiar song. There are some bad associations with slavery. There are some good associations with survival.
Many black parents see what is happening now — the dope, the guns, the gangs — and they wonder what went wrong. When they came up, it didn't matter what socioeconomic class, a whuppin' was a whuppin' — and it seemed that adults were in control. Now, old people are locked in their houses even in the middle of the day, scared to go outside, scared of the young boys up the street. When did the old people, who would switch you all the way home if you did wrong, fold up their chairs and go inside? Maybe when the whuppin's stopped, the control stopped.
There was a ritual to whuppin's, and many of that generation talk with a kind of bravado about this rite of passage to adulthood. They tell tales of out-of-body experiences, of spiritual epiphanies, of praying to God, of the art of tearful fakery, of agonizing defiance against belts, of loyalty among siblings and not breaking rank, of the time so bad a parent broke a switch on a child's soft flesh. And they speak always of the wrong they committed and why they deserved it.
Spankings make up neighborhood legends and family folklore, comical and sincere. They connect folks, haunt them, set them up to wrestle over what they will do with their own children.
The questions are clear, the answers are not. Will the tradition continue? Will the law allow it? Should it continue? At what cost?
When she hung up from talking to the fifth-grade teacher, Armender Banks was sputtering with rage. For eight months, the tension had been building. Her 10-year-old daughter, Maria, had been “in a little rebellious mode.” She had been grounded. Television had been forbidden. Her bicycle confiscated. Extra book reports assigned. “I guess she thought she was grown,” Banks remembers. “We kept asking her, `What's wrong? Why are you acting this way?' “
On the afternoon of Feb. 9, Maria's teacher from Assumption Catholic School in Peekskill, N.Y., called. “Didn't you get the slips I sent home telling you about her behavior?”
There had been three — and neither Banks, a nurse, nor her husband, the Rev. Henry Banks, pastor of a small, nondenominational congregation, had seen any of them. Maria had forged her father's and mother's signatures. That evening, when Henry Banks came home, his wife was waiting in the kitchen to report Maria's latest infraction.
She pointed upstairs: “Get her!”
Henry Banks, who has a soft, caring face and graying hair, didn't like the idea of spanking his youngest daughter. But a God-fearing man has to do what a God-fearing man believes God tells him to do. Proverbs 19:18: Chasten thy son while there is still hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.
He loves Maria. He paid for her to go to parochial school when they could barely afford it. He paid for her to have a private tutor to help her with homework. He taught her the ways of the Lord and explained to her what could keep her from going to Hell. Her soul was his responsibility.
On his way upstairs, he counted the commandments the child had broken.
One: “Thou shalt honor thy mother and father.” Her behavior was out of control and there was no honor. Two: “Thou shalt not steal.” By forging their signatures, she had stolen “the integrity of our names.” Three: “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” She had lied to her teachers and told untruths to her parents. Four: “Thou shalt not kill.” She had kicked another girl at the tutorial center. Any violence against humanity breaks this commandment.
“My daughter knows the commandments,” Henry Banks said. “We have taught her and she still disobeyed.” He was not angry. The Lord says not to hit in anger. He was hurt. When he climbed the walnut staircase and turned to his left, Maria was waiting. The father told Maria to take her clothes off and prepare for her “strikes.”
There would be seven, two for each commandment she broke. The final strike would be spared because God says have mercy.
“Get on your knees,” he said, without raising his voice, “in a praying position.” The little girl, who still wears pigtails, knelt beside her white canopy bed.
“She had on her panties and training bra,” her mother recalls.
Her father lifted his belt and it came down on her seven times. She yelled and she covered her bottom to break the strikes, but her hands did no good to ease the pain. The belt whipped her arms. She cried. The welts began to swell.
Proverbs 20:30: “The blueness of a wound cleanses away evil.”
The old people in the neighborhood used to say: “The police department finishes raising other people's kids.” Another way of saying: If you don't raise your kids right, you'll lose them to the street corner.
As the debate rages across the country over whether to spank — as some Christian groups advocate the Bible-sanctioned striking of children, as the American Psychological Association releases its limited blessings on spankings, and more books and chapters are published — conversations in beauty shops, churches, living rooms and around kitchen tables start to sound like this:
“Kids these days just don't know how good they got it. . . . I remember my daddy's belt. . . . Look at them acting up. . . . They could use a good whuppin'.”
“It is a cultural thing,” says Russell Adams, chairman of the Department of Afro-American Studies at Howard University. “There is almost a masochistic celebration that it happened, that it was good for me. They say it like an ordeal righteously survived. You get this kind of amen to the old days.” You know this is gonna hurt me more than it hurts you . . .
The whuppin' ritual has certain theatrical elements.
First, the anticipation: “Oooooh, you gonna git it! Wait until your father gets home.”
Then, the interrogation: “Did you do that? No? Well, you are lying because so and so said they saw you.” Then there is the recital of the law of the house, the neighborhood, the universe: “Now you know better. How many times did I tell you not to . . . ?”
The next stage is the laying on of hands: In some families, the child is held, often producing a hopping dance around the pole that is the parent. In other families, the command is to freeze.
“You were supposed to stand there with your hands raised up in the air,” Adams recalls. “We called that the crucifixion position.”
The next thing is the art of the preemptive wail, often followed by: “I haven't hit you yet!” Or: “Quit all that crying.” Or: “I'm going to give you something to really cry about.”
Cunning children always learn fast how much noise to make to receive mercy.
Adams: “There is always the outcry, `Mama, you are killing me!' The crying is supposed to be a sign you got to me. You almost try to make the whipper feel wrong.”
Proverbs 13:24: He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes. Henry Banks is sitting at his dining room table in his Victorian house in Peekskill, a small riverfront town. White, ruffled curtains cover the window. A white lace tablecloth protects the table. A worn King James Bible in big print sits before him.
His is not a dusty Bible. The scriptures are highlighted in blue, orange, yellow. Some are underlined in blue ink and red ink, indicating he has read them over and over again, consuming the Holy Writ, turning the meanings of the words over in his head.
Banks, 59, has been a minister for 15 years. Ordained by the Disciples of Christ in Brooklyn, he heads the Church in the Wilderness, whose 27-member congregation meets every Sunday right here in his living room. Spanking is a commandment, he says, not a choice.
He's reading from the Good Book now.
“In the Old Testament, if a child is disobedient, he could be taken by his elders and stoned.” He is pointing to Deuteronomy 21, verses 18 through 23.
“It is not that easy to spank, believe me. But God tells you how, where and how many strikes. This is not something you play with.”
He is flipping through Proverbs, stops at 13:24 and reads slowly. He that spareth the rod . . .
This is a sermon he has preached many times.
The day after the seven lashes, Maria went to school. She wanted her teacher to know what had happened after that phone call — the impact of her words.
Maria asked her teacher for an ice pack.
The teacher sent the child to the nurse's office. The nurse called Westchester County Child Protective Services, and an hour later, social workers came to the school and drove Maria away.
“If we didn't believe there was a God, I would be in my grave,” her mother says now, recounting that awful time in February.
“For seven days,” says Henry Banks, “we didn't know where she was. It was pure torture. They incarcerated my daughter.”
The Bankses found a lawyer though the 700 Club, a Christian television ministry. And they took the agency to court. Reveal Maria's whereabouts, the parents demanded.
Armender Banks begins to cry, remembering how she could barely hold on during the separation from her daughter. “They are nothing but the Devil,” she says. “It's a horrible thing.”
“It's very evil,” her husband concurs. “Once they get a child into that system, you can't do anything.” The authorities made it clear: Maria could not go home until her parents promised never again to spank her.
They refused. They were answering to a higher authority.
Ultimately, spanking is about control. Not just controlling your child, but running your household as you see fit –no matter what the nanny-state social planners and the supposed child-rearing experts have to say. But increasingly, parents who favor spanking are clashing with the law.
In Minneapolis, police are investigating the case of a 12-year-old girl who was whipped in church, in the presence of her congregation after she was suspended from school. In Florida, a pastor was arrested on child abuse charges after he spanked a 5-year-old child for refusing to eat a strawberry.
Any number of psychiatrists and pediatricians and social workers can be mustered to support either side.
“There is absolutely never any reason to hit a child or adolescent,” writes Irwin A. Hyman in his 1997 book, “The Case Against Spanking: How to Discipline Your Child Without Hitting.” Hyman is leading a national campaign to make spanking not only illegal in all public schools but at home as well.
“Every state I know of doesn't allow foster parents to hit children,” notes Hyman, a psychology professor at Temple University and director of the National Center for the Study of Corporal Punishment and Alternatives.
“The only place you can legally hit kids is in schools and in the home.”
The debate on spanking escalated in the late 1970s as a number of states outlawed corporal punishment in public schools. Some states still allow, and even encourage, corporal punishment in schools, including Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas, Alabama and Kentucky. A number of private and parochial schools also continue to spank.
In the past decade, advocates for spanking seem to have gained ground among parents — although earlier this year the American Academy of Pediatrics declared that spanking was “no more effective” than other forms of discipline and that corporal punishment has “negative consequences.” Conversely, the American Psychological Association, which has opposed corporal punishment in schools since 1974, recently decided not to condemn spanking in every circumstance.
Some academics believe that the history of spanking among blacks can be directly tied to slavery. Adams, the
Howard professor, argues that whippings — as an act of brutal control by white owners — spread into the black
culture on these shores.
“There is not a record in African culture of the kind of body attack that whipping represents,” he says. “The maintenance of order by physical coercion is rare in Africa.”
The custom may be connected to a desire by some blacks to be like the majority culture: “We have imitations, just as we have imitations with hot combs, from those who wanted to look Caucasian. I grew up at a time when people wore clothespins on their noses to make them smaller. We would go to the movies to see Hopalong
Cassidy and come back and compress our lips to make them smaller.”
Blacks and others who endorse spankings might be suppressing or rationalizing their pain, some psychologists suggest.
“Most of us must admit that the most indelible and most unpleasant childhood memories are those of being hurt by our parents. Some people find the memory of such events so unpleasant they pretend that they were trivial, even funny. You'll notice that they smile when they describe what was done to them. It is shame, not pleasure, that makes them smile,” writes Jordan Riak, who heads Project NoSpank, a California advocacy group. Gary Ezzo teaches that a swat here and there on a child's backside to prevent a dangerous situation is not child abuse. He's the co-author of “On Becoming Babywise,” one of the top-selling books on child-rearing, and a franchiser of sorts when it comes to discipline. During the last 10 years, more than 1.5 million parents — most of them white — have used the Ezzo program in churches and Sunday school classes across the country. “Spanking is not a cure-all,” says Ezzo, who has been portrayed in the media — unfairly, he believes — as a pro-spanking spokesman. “While 85 to 90 percent of parents may be spanking, we in no way are saying they are all doing it correctly.
“We teach never to use a wooden spoon, never to use a father's belt. . . . We teach never to slap a child in the face, never to spank them on bare skin. . . . The dignity of the child must always be preserved during any type of punishment. You should never ridicule a child, never attack their dignity as a human being.”
Ordinarily, juvenile cases are sealed by state law, but because Henry and Armender Banks made their case public, Westchester County prosecutor Alan D. Scheinkman will give the official side of the story:
“The school nurse observed the child and found reason to think there are reasonable grounds for child abuse. .
. . It was unrefuted testimony that the child was hit with a plastic belt that caused bruising and swelling.” According to Scheinkman, the Bankses initially agreed to allow Maria to stay with a “third party” while an investigation was conducted, but the “parents did not honor that agreement. And because the parents violated the agreement, that effected a removal of the child from the home, which is allowed under state law.” Removing a child from her home is not something county officials do lightly. Ted Salem, an associate commissioner in the county's department of social services, says officials may investigate 5,000 reports of child
abuse and maltreatment any given year. “We will probably remove fewer than 250 children.”
Was Maria's whipping excessive enough to qualify as child abuse?”
“The department has never brought a case against somebody based on a slap on the wrist,” answers Salem. Scheinkman says the law respects the rights of parents to raise their children. “The law becomes involved whenever a parent crosses the line.”
In a red brick building in Seat Pleasant, Md., several women in their twenties and thirties are gathered to receive lessons in what social service bureaucrats call “life skills.” This particular program will help them find jobs. They are doing double duty: Raising children on their own and trying to pay the bills. Keeping their kids in line is important.
Seated at a table at the side of the classroom, their teacher, Carol McCreary-Maddox, invites a discussion on how they intend to control their children while they juggle.
TuSheena Watson is remembering her parents' house in New Jersey:
“They beat us for what we did — wrong things, for wrongdoing. And I appreciate it. I appreciated it then and I appreciate it now more than ever. And I know my other brothers and sisters do as well . . .
“When they took us anywhere, we were like soldiers, we were in line, respectful — and because of that I know right now to this day that's why all the 10 of us had never been in trouble and incarcerated or any of the bad things.”
A woman named Beverly begs to differ. “My mother beat us and three are incarcerated and one is dead,” she says of her siblings. “When they got out of the house, they broke all the rules.”
Beverly is 34 now. She has three boys — 12, 8 and 3 months. She hated getting spanked by her mother. She believes discipline must be unwavering, but she is resolved not to spank her own kids.
“I don't see how it helped me — not that it hurt me, but it didn't help me,” she says. “Her spanking me . . . well, we called it beating when I was growing up because that's what they were, a beating. All it did was make me scared to come to her with things.
“I don't beat my boys because I don't want them to feel like they have to beat a person in order to communicate with them, or to get them to do what they feel they should be doing.”
So how does she punish her older sons? For misbehaving in school last year, 8-year-old Jocque was confined to the house all summer. Totally grounded. He couldn't go outside to play. No matter what, he had to stay inside.
McCreary-Maddox tells Beverly that some people might say confining a child to the house all summer is a more severe form of child abuse. She believes that a spanking provides an immediate lesson about what is right and what is wrong. “Kids need to know what the limits are. You don't want a child growing up to think they can get anything they want and all that will happen is a good stern talking to.”
McCreary-Maddox has three children, ages 20, 17 and 12. She loves them all, and she has spanked them all –just as she was spanked as a child. She favored a wooden spoon. “Belts leave marks. I think there may have been a time when I used a belt, but suppose the buckle hits and they are scratched. That is not what you were intending to do.”
Her 12-year-old, Allyssa, sits still in the campaign office where her mother volunteers after class. The ponytailed girl freely offers this opinion: “I find it unfair when parents are allowed to hit when they get mad, but we aren't able to do anything. Getting a spanking only makes me madder.” She is remembering the last one.
“I kicked this boy and I got suspended. She said go up to the room and I got a spanking. It didn't really hurt, but I cried before she hit me.
“My cousin told me to say `Kunta Kinte,' ” a reference to the scene in “Roots” in which a white slave owner tries to beat Kunta Kinte's name out of him. “He did it when he was getting a whipping and his mother started laughing.”
That tactic didn't work for Allyssa. Her mother still gave her the spoon.
Proverbs 23:13-14: Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.
Henry Banks presses those words on the thin pages of his Bible. The rod, he says, “that is like a belt, or a switch.”
After a series of court hearings and 28 days in which Maria was kept from them, the Bankses finally agreed they would not spank the girl. A judge agreed to return Maria to her home and scheduled the whole case for dismissal in December — if the parents abide by that promise until the hearing.
Banks says he had no problem agreeing because the judge understood the Bible, and further understood that spankings are not done spontaneously.
“Spanking is not the first thing,” the pastor says. “It is the last thing you do.”
Besides, Banks says, Maria is now 11 and soon she will reach her age of reason — 13 — at which point, he says, the Bible commands him not to spank.
Since Maria came home, there have been no major problems. She hasn't had a need to be spanked, her parents say.
“She is scared she could be taken,” Armender Banks says.
Maria takes a seat in the corner of the living room. Her parents tell her it's okay to talk about what happened to her. She is reluctant at first. She doesn't want to discuss the time she spent in foster care.
“That's in the past,” she says. “It was bad. I didn't like it. There was a lot of cursing, drinking and piercing.” “Piercing?” her mother asks.
“Yeah, piercing body parts,” Maria says. “They tried to pierce me.”
“You see what can happen when a child is out of her household.”
Maria says she doesn't even think much about the spanking that started this whole story. She fidgets and recites the Bible: ” `Spare the rod, spoil the child.' That means give your children spankings. . . . They spank me because they love me.”
Maria asks to be excused. She is tall for her age, but inside she is still a child. It's a Saturday; she wants to play.
She chases a friend into the kitchen and they beg for sodas, then run upstairs to watch television.
A few minutes pass and they run back downstairs, now wanting to walk to the riverfront for a festival. After a series of nos, then maybes, Armender and Henry Banks relent.
“But be back before the sun goes down.”
The parents keep talking, the daylight fades and Armender checks her watch: 8:45 p.m.
“The sun been done gone down,” she says. “Where is Maria?”
The mother climbs in her van, drives to the riverfront and scans the crowd. Neither the girl nor her friend is there.
“Maybe they already walked home,” Armender says.
She drives home and opens the screen door. The house is dark. Her husband comes in. He has not seen Maria either. It is pitch black in the foothills of the mountain-ringed town. Worry creases their faces.
This would be the perfect scenario for a spanking. But they are under court order.
They get back in the van. “Maria is going to be grounded for this,” says Armender, now riding in the passenger seat.
A block from the house, Henry Banks lowers his window. Two figures are walking slowly up the street.
“There she is.” He stops the van.
“You were supposed to be back before dark,” Armender says. “Get in the van.” “But we were walking back,” Maria pleads.
The father will hear no excuses.
“The next time you ask to go somewhere the answer is an automatic no,” he says.
He wheels the van slowly up a hill, his wife at his side, his daughter sitting in the seat behind him. He is still the father. He is still the man in charge of his household. But not totally. The child has disobeyed in a blatant, dangerous way. He thinks of the time she left the yard when she was 3 and her mother burned her legs up with a switch. After that, she never left the yard without permission again.
You can see the frustration in his face. He knows that girl could have used a good spanking.
Ray Rice Revulsion: How the media have let abusive athletes get away with it
by Howard Kurtz
Ray Rice, sad to say, is not alone.
The ex-Ravens star who is now, quite deservedly, the poster boy for a battering spouse is one of a long line of professional athletes who have engaged in violence and gotten away with a wrist slap or no punishment at all.
Where, you might ask, have the media been?
Why is the national press only now focusing on these other cases as they search for sidebar stories during the furor over Rice punching Janay in an elevator?
Rice, too, would have been coddled with that measly two-game suspension had TMZ not obtained the awful video (see my “MediaBuzz” interview with TMZ founder Harvey Levin here).
But there's a rogues' gallery out there in the sports world. Take Greg Hardy of the Carolina Panthers, who was all set to play yesterday until the NFL team deactivated him at the last moment.
A North Carolina judge found Hardy guilty of assaulting his former girlfriend in May. He is alleged to have pulled her hair, slammed a toilet seat on her arm and put his hands around her neck. Hardy is appealing, but neither the league nor the Panthers have seen fit to make him sit out a single game.
Here, as noted by Time, is the complaint by Hardy's accuser.
“I have bruises from head to toe, including my head, neck, back, shoulders arms, legs, elbow and feet. Hardy pulled me from the tub by my hair, screaming at me that he was going to kill me, break my arms and other threats that I completely believe. He drug me across the bathroom and out into the bedroom. Hardy choked me with both hands around my throat while I was lying on the floor. Hardy picked me up over his head and threw me onto a couch covered in assault rifles and/or shotguns. I landed on those weapons. Hardy bragged that all of those assault rifles were loaded. Landing on those weapons bruised [my] neck and back.”
And here's what the woman said in court: “He looked me in my eyes and he told me he was going to kill me. I was so scared I wanted to die. When he loosened his grip slightly, I said just,`Do it. Kill me.'”
And the team was okay with this guy representing the state of North Carolina on the playing field?
Of course, there's no video of Greg Hardy doing what he is alleged to have done. So he skates. No suspension.
Maybe you've seen the footage of Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, choking back tears as he disputes that the team has been “too slow” to deal with the problem and declares: “I stand firmly against domestic violence, plain and simple.” Except he doesn't. It's just words. He hasn't done a thing.
The New York Times begins a piece with three sickening paragraphs about three different cases:
“Brett Myers, a pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, was charged with assaulting his wife on a Boston street in 2006 after witnesses said he struck her in the face and pulled her hair. The Phillies put him on the mound as their starting pitcher about 36 hours later.
“Last October, the goaltender Semyon Varlamov of the National Hockey League's Colorado Avalanche was arrested after his girlfriend told the police he had kicked her to the floor and stomped on her chest. After spending the night in jail, Varlamov was back in goal the next game.
“In late August, defensive lineman Ray McDonald of the National Football League's San Francisco 49ers was arrested after an altercation with his pregnant fiancée, who the police said had visible injuries. He started in the 49ers' season-opening victory Sunday.”
This, ladies and gentlemen, is par for the course.
Perhaps the media reflect the sports world, which in turn reflects society, when it comes to men beating up women. That is, we focus on a couple of high-profile cases and minimize or ignore the rest. No video, no problem.
If Chris Brown beats up Rihanna, everyone chatters about it for awhile and then moves on. His career is hardly derailed. ( I have to praise CBS Sports President Sean McManus for yanking Rihanna as the entertainment in Thursday night's NFL game, and substituting a panel discussion about the Rice case and domestic violence.)
In the end, maybe professional sports are different, hewing to Vince Lombardi's famous line about “winning isn't everything, it's the only thing.” Ray Rice was worth $10 million a year to the Baltimore Ravens because of his football skills. If he punched his girlfriend's lights out, well, everyone makes mistakes. She forgave him, didn't she? Let's get him back on the field as soon as possible and move on.
Only this time we all got to see the punch and the way she collapsed to the ground. And we're not moving on.
Why We're So Hard on Janay Rice and Celebrity Survivors of Abuse
Why do we watch a celebrity beat up his girlfriend? More interesting is how we watch: critical, prejudiced, with an eye to acquitting abusers and re-victimizing survivors.
by Amy Zimmerman
It starts with a link. “Ray Rice Elevator Knockout: Fiancée Takes Crushing Punch,” “Rihanna Bloodied, Beaten, Bitten by Chris Brown,” “Christy Mack Severely Beaten By War Machine.” A celebrity has been brutally assaulted by her famous partner? Of course we have to look. Of course we have to share. Of course we have to comment.
The worldwide statistics for intimate partner violence are one in four. That adds up to an unfathomable number of police reports, graphic images, and horrific surveillance videos—the kind that never find their way on to TMZ. And then there's the silence of those who, for various reasons such as health and safety concerns, will never report their partner's abusive behavior. These victims are your friends, your neighbors, your co-workers. The NFL is not the only organization that employs and protects abusers. Janay Rice is not the only woman to have stayed.
It's not hard to explain why instances of celebrity abuse dominate the news cycle for weeks, while the underlying trends of domestic abuse are largely under-discussed and tacitly accepted as the norm. Stars belong to us. Their bodies are sites for conversation, dissection, and condemnation: she's had plastic surgery, she hasn't lost the baby weight, she looks like a prude, she looks like a slut.
As perverse as our societal urge to watch a video of Ray Rice beating up his girlfriend is, our celebrity-obsessed culture encourages this sort of un-examined voyeurism. More interesting than why we watch is how we watch: critical, prejudiced, with an eye towards acquitting abusers and re-victimizing survivors.
From Janay Rice to Christy Mack to Rihanna, our obsession with celebrity victims has reached an all-time high. In analyzing these women's stories, eagerly sniffing for traces of dishonesty or guilt, we often end up concluding that the survivor was asking for it. A wealthy, powerful woman who was assaulted by her partner ultimately becomes suspect—how did she not know this was going to happen? What did she do to trigger the attack? Why didn't she leave that man? Obviously, the majority of victims of intimate partner violence aren't celebrities—but these cases still offer a powerful window into the criticism we level against survivors, as well as the shocking lack of blame we squarely place on their abusers.
For a man who has been accused of sexual assault, celebrity affords certain privileges. A famous football player like Ray Rice has a legion of supporters who desperately want to believe he is a good man who made a mistake—these are the fans who decried Rice's NFL suspension as well as the Baltimore Ravens itself as an organization, which tweeted back in May that “Janay Rice says she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident.”
These are men and women who want to retain faith in an idol, who just want to forgive and forget. A quick scroll through TMZ reveals a plethora of enablers, speaking out in postings like “Baltimore Ravens Players—We Won't Abandon Ray Rice,” “Dean Cain—I'm rooting for Ray Rice…He's Not A Terrible Person,” and “MTV Star Big Black Defends Ray Rice…His Wife Forgave Him, We Should Too.”
Even if we take the huge leap of faith of assuming that TMZ's motive behind releasing the video of Ray Rice beating his then fiancée unconscious in a casino elevator was justice, not page views, this veneer of good intentions is easily rendered transparent by their insistence on publishing these flimsy defenses alongside footage of the brutal attack.
This immensely private, not to mention criminal, case of assault shouldn't have been offered up in its entirety to the court of public opinion in the first place. No casual clicker should have access to this footage, let alone feel entitled to render some sort of verdict. That being said, as we are clearly passed the point of this private matter being made public, it's obvious that this video is already enough of a conviction. By offering up apologists without any sort of editorializing, websites like TMZ are reinforcing the myth that there are two sides to every story of domestic abuse—that Ray Rice's life has somehow been unfairly ruined by his own hideously abusive crime.
This persistent trend of bemoaning the “life ruining” consequences of intimate partner violence accusations, no matter how blatant the crime, is as entrenched as it is unsubstantiated. If the future careers and good reputations of poor (but clearly not innocent) male celebrities is truly a concern, then why did the NFL initially choose to only suspend Ray Rice for two games, despite recent allegations by law enforcement officials that the organization had access to the entirety of the video footage at the time of their ruling? Why did they only punish Rice indefinitely when the full weight of public opinion forced them to increase their sanctions—proving that this major American institution does not deem intimate partner violence in and of itself to be a grave or fire-able offense?
The common narrative is not one of abusers losing their livelihoods—rather, at least in these high-profile celebrity cases, the exact opposite seems to be the case. Charlie Sheen, Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Nicolas Cage, Eminem, and Sean Connery are just a handful of an elite group of mega-famous abusers—men who by all accounts are hardly living paycheck by paycheck, or facing any substantive, daily consequences for their crimes.
Meanwhile, the celebrities who were the victims of these crimes, as opposed to the abusers, are paradoxically run through the ringer, constantly re-victimized through ignorant questions, victim-blaming comments, all-around privacy invasion and, last but certainly not least, an unavoidable and inextricable link to a crime they did not deserve and never asked for. While the simple fact of being a male celebrity seems to allow many abusers to receive comments of encouragement and sympathy, being a female celebrity and victim allows for no such privileges. Instead, these women are constantly policed, seemingly to ensure that they don't receive an ounce of undeserved assistance or pity.
At first, it might seem like only anonymous trolls would be insensitive enough to insist that Janay's loyalty to her husband means that all future abuse is warranted. However, even reputable news sources and well meaning celebrities are guilty of implying that she should have known better. Evelyn Lozada, former wife of the Miami Dolphins' Chad Johnson, left her husband just weeks after they were married when his behavior turned abusive. Commenting on the Ray Rice incident, Lozada tweeted that, “I just want women to love themselves enough to leave.”
What's so concerning is the way this opinion is framed through articles that praise Lozada as Janay Rice's counterpart, noting that, “she is a great model for those who have been abused.” Time and time again, we see women being asked to ace some arbitrary test in order to be deemed model victims. While the public seems reticent to admit that celebrities can be abusers, they're all too quick to deny stars the moniker of victim.
It seems that, in the eyes of the Internet, not all abuse is truly abuse; some of it is deserved, and we should reserve all of our sympathy for true survivors. But what makes a victim not a “real” victim? In the case of Janay Rice, it's her decision to stay with and marry her abuser. Instead of honing in on the question of why men hit, we find ourselves asking why women stay—as if this personal decision makes one's abuse, and all subsequent abuse, somehow deserved or invalid. When public figures like Fox News host Brian Kilmeade criticize women like Janay Rice for not leaving their abusive husbands, saying they send a “terrible message,” they are actively feeding a system that funnels blame away from abusers and on to the victims themselves.
Rihanna is just another high-profile example of a woman who was denied her “true victim” status on account of reuniting with her abuser, Chris Brown; never mind the shocking statistic that leaving an abusive relationship increases a woman's risk of being killed by her abuser by 75 percent, or that among African-American women killed by a partner, almost half were killed while in the process of cutting off that relationship.
But staying with your abuser isn't the only way to undermine the legitimacy of your attack. Just ask Rihanna again, or Christy Mack, two celebrities who were deemed unsuitable victims due to their alleged sexual promiscuity. When the Rihanna incident first leaked in 2009, online trolls alleged that the abuse was “caused” by Rihanna giving Chris Brown an STI. One commenter wrote that this unsubstantiated rumor clearly meant that “Rihanna had what was coming to her.”
Similarly, in her piece on the August attack of adult entertainment star Christy Mack by her ex-boyfriend Jonathan Koppenhaver, Samantha Allen noted that, “The boundaries between pornography and reality are strategically dismantled in order to dismiss her real-life experiences of abuse by equating them with her staged performances on-camera.” In other words, people believe that Mack's work as a porn star somehow leads to attack, or at least renders her an unsympathetic victim. According to one Twitter user featured in the article, “You could have easily prevented this—your lifestyle leaves you open to violence and other abuse.”
Of course, it's easier to distance oneself from a victim by condemning her choices than to admit that intimate partner violence and sexual assault could happen to anyone, regardless of the decisions that they make. The fact that a woman could make all the “right” choices and still find herself victimized is part of the terrifying nature of these crimes—as is our shared societal culpability in creating a culture in which abusers are exonerated and victims are punished in their stead.
We live in a world in which we accuse celebrity victims of ruining their own lives, and then proceed to actually do so by limiting their freedom, privacy, autonomy, and voice. We live in a world where these highlighted cases, replete with victim blaming, abuser acquittal, and institutional ignorance, are an unfathomable fraction of the millions of abuses that men and women face worldwide.
The stories we hear, from the condemnation of Janay Rice for staying with her husband to the slut shaming of Christy Mack to the refusal to release Rihanna from her unwanted role as the celebrity face of domestic abuse, aren't half as scary as the silence—the stories that are being repressed, the women who are being gagged, and the voices that will never be heard.
Interrupting the cycle of violence
by Chuck Jordan and Lynn Jones
A 50-year-old survivor of strangulation has visited court multiple times for emergency protective orders against her husband. She has been issued several as the assaults have escalated, but never follows through pursuing a permanent order.
The fianceé of a prominent pro athlete is knocked unconscious in a publicly reviewed video, but ultimately marries her abuser.
A young Hispanic mom in Tulsa with two kids files for a protective order but returns to her husband, and is subsequently murdered.
What do these women have in common? Abusive relationships, and a single question: Why didn't she just leave?
There is no one who has seen the video of Ray Rice delivering the knock-out punch to his then pregnant fianceé who is not electrified by the event. It was horrible to watch second hand. Imagine how it felt to be the one experiencing it in person.
Picture that, and worse happening every day in families around our community. More than 4,000 protective orders were issued in Tulsa County last year. Oklahoma is ranked third in number of women killed by men, according to the recently released Violence Policy Center (Washington, D.C.) report for 2012.
In the 2013 report released by the Oklahoma Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board, out of 88 victims, women and men of all ages, only five accessed any type of victim services before they were murdered.
Family violence is a horrendous societal problem that degrades the physical and emotional health of the family and the entire community and affects both for generations to come. As a community, we have to stand together in a non-yielding posture of zero tolerance.
We know that it takes many resources for survivors to make the decision to leave – money, housing, jobs, child care. We understand not wanting to move your child to a new school, or how difficult it may be for a vulnerable adult to find services geared to special needs.
In Tulsa County, we have not only taken a stand against accepting the status quo — with law enforcement including city police departments, Sheriff Stanley Glanz, the state District Court, District Attorney Tim Harris, the city of Tulsa, Tulsa County, DVIS/Call Rape, RSVP, Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry, the YWCA, Legal Aid Services and other related organizations – but have also taken positive steps to make sure the many resources needed to keep victims and families safe are available and offenders held accountable.
Since 2006, Tulsa's Family Safety Center has provided protection, hope and healing to our most vulnerable citizens by offering many resources under one roof.
Of the 2,400 individuals who visited the FSC for services in 2013 or were helped by our High Lethality Rapid Intervention Team, not a single person was murdered. This collaboration of integrated services is only the tip of the iceberg in addressing this issue.
New statewide legislation, based on successful trials by the Tulsa, Broken Arrow and Oklahoma City police departments, will require all peace officers responding to 911 domestic violence calls to conduct onsite danger assessments, and to provide immediate resource information. The district attorney's office uses evidence-based prosecution to try cases in which the victim might be unwilling or unable to participate.
The district court is re-organizing misdemeanor domestic violence dockets to streamline processes for victims and to better monitor offenders in collaboration between the justice system and our local community to effectively respond to domestic violence and enhance victim and child safety.
It will be less stressful for families, more economical for the courts, and more effective in holding offenders accountable.
Tulsa is serious about breaking the cycle of violence that leads children to become adults who batter or remain victims. The dialogue needs to continue with much insight and input from survivors, advocates, law enforcement, the judiciary, our fellow citizens and the philanthropic community in addressing this subject.
Unlike the NFL, we don't have the luxury of waiting to review tapes to make our decisions on the health and safety of our citizens. Domestic violence needs our immediate attention to prevent further victimizations, which we know can include death.
If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, come to the Family Safety Center (600 Civic Center). Let's not wait to see it on social media to determine the extent of “the damage.” You don't have to stay in an abusive relationship; you don't have to die before anyone cares.
Lynn Jones, a retired TPD major, is chairwoman of the board of directors of the Family Safety Center. TPD Chief Chuck Jordan is chairman of the leadership council of agency and government chief executives partnering in the Family Safety Center.
Is it a crime to raise a killer?
by Lisa Belkin
Anthony Pasquale stops to visit his daughter at the Cedar Green Cemetery every morning, then returns once or twice more during the day.
He sits on the small white bench and faces the polished granite headstone, etched with a hologram of Autumn on one side and the things she loved on the other — bicycles, soccer balls, cheerleading, skateboards.
From where he sits he can see the middle school, where his 12-year-old girl was a student, and next to that the high school, where the 15-year-old boy who killed her was one, too.
When school is in session, Pasquale has even glimpsed a classmate peering out of the ground-floor science-lab windows, which look directly onto Autumn's grave.
That's how things work in a small town like Clayton, New Jersey, where everyone knows everyone else, where lives and stories intertwine.
“Because it's a small town — that's why we live here,“ says Anthony Pasquale. But it was also why Autumn died.
“She trusted him because she thought everyone was raised the way she was,” he says of her attacker.
“That everyone could be trusted. That all parents taught kids right from wrong.”
It has been nearly two years since Autumn went missing and Justin Robinson went to jail, pleading guilty to strangling her after she stopped by his house to trade parts for her brand-new bicycle.
In that time her parents have learned that the stages of grief now include another step — finding someone to blame.
It's a stage well known to parents wrenched by a particular kind of loss, a kind arguably more common and certainly more public of late — losing children at the hands of other children.
And it is raising questions with few answers in the existing legal system.
“Where were their parents?” grieving families asked after high school shootings such as Columbine and Newtown, Isla Vista and Troutdale.
“Where were the parents?” asks Anthony Pasquale, sitting in the back booth of the Liberty Diner in Clayton, where his coffee is on the house now, because, as is the case everywhere else in town, everyone knows who he is.
“Parenting comes with responsibilities, and one of those is to raise your kids right, to pay attention and know when they're a danger to someone else. That's a parent's job.”
To fail at that job is a crime, he believes. He's recently taken his certainty to court, suing Justin Robinson's parents for, essentially, being bad parents.
He has also turned to Change.org and the New Jersey Legislature, advocating for “Autumn's Law,” which would punish such parenting with prison.
“Parents who ignore the warning signs of their children's propensity toward violence are direct contributors to their minor children's murders,” his petition reads.
“If the minor who murdered my daughter was properly treated, parented, disciplined and supervised my daughter would probably be alive today.”
Or, as his lawyer put it, “If you're going to raise a murderer, you're going to take responsibility.”
It is a controversial point of view, rooted in society's ever-changing expectations of parenting — and the increasing impulse to right wrongs with lawsuits.
Are today's parents too lenient, creating a generation of undisciplined kids? Or too hovering, creating fragile, dependent children?
Are parents too quick to blame their children's quirks and missteps on “issues”? Or is our mental health system not equipped to respond to the rising need of families for help?
What is a parent's responsibility for and toward a child as he gets older? Is it bad parenting to insist on knowing everything about your children? Or bad parenting not to?
Raised in Clayton himself since he was in kindergarten, Anthony Pasquale trusted that the town was perfectly safe.
As a postal carrier for more than 15 years (occasionally walking the route that included the home of his daughter's killer), he knew it as a place where people kept their doors unlocked, where children headed for the park by themselves for the afternoon, where there hadn't been a murder for more than a decade.
Even with all that, he had very strict rules for his three children.
Autumn was the middle child, the tomboy, the risk taker who practiced wheelies and jumps on a bike ramp she built in the bank parking lot, and she knew her father's rules by heart.
“No further than Jim's Pizza going south on Delsea Drive,” Anthony would tell her, “and no further north than the Heritage” convenience store on the other end of Delsea, which was the only road in town with a traffic light.
In the days before she died, Autumn roamed that square mile on a brand-new Odyssey BMX motocross bicycle, white with a white seat and black guns, white handgrips and silver rims — a bike all of Clayton would soon come to know well.
It was an early birthday present from her father, given to her before the start of school, though she wouldn't turn 13 until October 29.
“BMX for life,” she wrote in celebration on her Facebook page, and Anthony still saves the reply she sent when he texted her a picture of the find on eBay, a BuyItNow for $200.
“OMGGGG. Dad, I love you. I can't believe it,” she wrote.
Saturday, October 20, 2012, was homecoming day in Clayton. AJ Pasquale, a year and a half older than Autumn, was playing defensive end at the Clayton Clippers football game.
Natalie Pasquale, a year and a half younger than Autumn, was heading to the parade with a friend.
Autumn planned to “ride around for a while,” her father remembers, and yes, she said, she knew the rules.
“Be careful, and I love you,” Anthony would remember saying. “I love you, too” is the last thing she would say back.
Anita Robinson Saunders was also raised in Clayton. She graduated from high school there in 1986 and married Alonzo Robinson several years later.
For a time she was employed by a funeral home, while her husband worked as a truck driver.
Together they lived in the 800-square-foot bungalow on East Clayton Avenue, painted white with burgundy shutters, that Anita had inherited from her grandmother.
Justin, their youngest, was born with a cleft lip, repaired by surgery but leaving a scar.
Alonzo and Anita divorced in 2005, amid allegations of domestic abuse. She stayed in the house while he moved a few towns away and, by his own account to newspapers after Autumn's murder, rarely saw his children, leaving Anita to raise Justin and his two older brothers as a single mum.
Anita Saunders refused several requests to be interviewed for this story. She at first agreed to talk to this reporter in order to clarify what she said were misperceptions and mistakes in local news coverage of the case.
But her lawyer, Anthony Quasti, then advised her not to have any contact with the media while lawsuits against her were pending.
“It can't help our case to make our defense plan public,” he said.
Alonzo Robinson does not appear to be represented by an attorney and could not be reached for comment.
Public documents and accounts from people familiar with Anita's story seem to show that Justin was struggling and that his mother and the Clayton school system were trying to help him.
A report from a court-appointed psychologist submitted by his lawyers at his sentencing hearing described him as having a “low IQ” and having been diagnosed with “attention deficit, hyperactivity disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, generalised anxiety disorder, and somatic symptom disorder.”
The Clayton School District said it could not release Justin's records for privacy reasons, but his mother told the court that he was a special education student.
Neighbours and fellow students told the local newspaper that he had been sent to a school for students with learning and emotional challenges in another New Jersey town for a year but had returned to Clayton High School that fall.
By Anita's description, Justin was trying to overcome and succeed. “Justin did the best he could to adjust to school and those around him in light of his disability, his learning disability,” she said at his sentencing hearing.
“He was determined to be independent. He got a job cutting grass with a friend whose family owned a landscaping business. He also cut our next-door neighbour's lawn who happened to be his math teacher. “
It was the system, she said, that failed him: “I believe that even though he is a special education student,” she said, “Justin was not given the type and amount of help that he needed.”
However hard he was trying, and whatever help he was getting, though, he was also getting into trouble.
As he reached his teens he became known to local law enforcement. “The police knew him by name,” Anthony Pasquale's lawyer, Kathleen Bonczyk, said in an interview with Yahoo News.
A printout of police logs of visits to the Robinson house, several sources close to the investigation say, goes back ten years.
The estimated 700 pages of documents include reports of domestic abuse between Alonzo and Anita, as well as accusations against their sons of such things as bullying, shoplifting and theft.
He seems to have had a particular interest in BMX bicycles and their parts.
A friend of Autumn's who played football with Justin was quoted in the New York Times as saying that when his own bike was stolen two years earlier, “I went to Justin, and went in his backyard, and took it back. I knew he had it.”
However, his lawyers would stress at his sentencing hearing, Justin was never convicted of any crime.
Though they were three grades apart at school, Autumn knew Justin from the season when Justin was on the town football team with AJ and Autumn was a cheerleader.
She probably also knew him from the year that her grandmother, Mary Pasquale, who had worked at the Clayton Middle School for 22 years, had taught Justin in her class.
And she apparently knew him from Facebook. A few days before Autumn disappeared they appear to have had this exchange on Justin's page, after Justin posted a photo of a black BMX.
“Is that ur bike?” Autumn wrote beneath the photo. “Yeupp,” Justin answered.
“Thts sexy,” Autumn wrote.
Another friend jumped in and said, “no its not” — it is unclear whether he was refuting the appeal of the bike or the fact that it belonged to Justin. Replied Justin: “yes. Cme 2 my house.”
Autumn did. She pedaled out of the driveway of her West High Street home at about 12.30pm that Saturday afternoon, wearing navy blue sweatpants, a yellow T-shirt that said “Clayton Soccer” and bright blue high-top sneakers.
She had her backpack with her, too, a light gray one with the word “Reckless” on the front pocket.
She sent a chatty, unremarkable text to one friend at 1.30pm and another at 2.27pm, the police would later say.
At about 2.45pm, Justin would eventually tell police, she found her way to his home at 312 East Clayton Ave — down the block and around the corner from the Pasquales, it was a total of 14 houses away from her own, well within the protective limits set by her father.
Anthony watched AJ play football until early afternoon, then came home and fixed Natalie some lunch and took photos of his son with his date before the homecoming dance that night.
“The kids were in and out, I was in and out, it was a regular Saturday,” he says. He first realised something was wrong at 8 pm, when Autumn missed her curfew.
When she hadn't replied to texts or phone calls by 9.30pm, Anthony called the police.
He also called his ex-wife Jennifer Cornwell, who lived in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, with her husband. (The Pasquale children lived with Anthony during the school year and with their mother during the summer. Cornwell did not return several requests for comment.)
Over the next two days, 100 police officers from 20 agencies would participate in the search, first of the eight square miles of Clayton, then widening to the surrounding towns.
“I thought maybe she'd been hit by a car and was lying hurt somewhere, maybe hit her head in the woods and couldn't call,” Anthony said in one of several interviews with Yahoo News for this article.
“Then I thought maybe some outsider who'd come for the game was responsible. I didn't ever think it was someone in my neighbourhood.”
As word spread, 2500 volunteers joined the search and 11,000 people signed onto a “Find Autumn Pasquale” Facebook page.
There were helicopters, K-9 dogs, specially trained horses, and four-wheel ATVs.
Looking pale and exhausted, Autumn's divorced parents appeared at a press conference and offered a reward — $5000 from the family and $5000 from the police department.
Donations poured in, eventually increasing that figure tenfold. A message was put on the school district phone tree describing Autumn and asking anyone with information to contact the police.
Among the 1400 homes on the call list was Justin Robinson's.
Justin was also among the scores of Clayton residents who were interviewed by the dozens of detectives on the case.
At first he was not considered a suspect, but sometime on Monday his mother, Anita, who had also attended the Clayton homecoming game that Saturday afternoon, came to police and said she had found some unsettling writings on Justin's Facebook page.
The Clayton Police Department has never confirmed exactly which messages she brought to their attention, but there were several possibilities.
In addition to the conversation about the bike, which became public when neighbours provided screenshots to the Star Ledger newspaper, there was the exchange printed by several news organisations, in which Justin appears to have simply written the word “Autumn” on AJ's Facebook page.
Underneath that someone asked, “Why post her name then nothing else?” To that Justin answered: “It was an accident the cop waz here & my brother did it.” (It is unclear whether the “it” was the writing of “Autumn” or the crime itself.)
Then, on his own wall, Justin wrote “might be moving,” followed by an emoticon of a frowning face.
By Monday evening a search was under way in and around Anita's home, where she now lived with Justin, her two older sons, and her husband, Richard Saunders, whom she'd married just a few weeks earlier.
At about 10pm that night police found Autumn's battered body stuffed into a large blue recycling container behind the abandoned and boarded-up house next door.
“Like she was thrown out with the trash,” her father says. “When I see blue recycle bins I cry,” said her grandmother.
Word spread and by dawn a crowd had gathered. Among the onlookers was Justin's father, Alonzo Robinson, who gave a few interviews to waiting reporters.
Yes, his sons were known for stealing bikes in the neighbourhood, he said, adding that police had told him a stockpile of bike parts had been found in the basement of his former home.
“I think someone wanted the girl's bicycle,” he is quoted as saying. “Maybe she wanted her bike and resisted, and one of them snatched her off a bike.”
Late in the morning a detective walked out of the Robinson house wheeling Autumn's white Odyssey BMX.
There was, reportedly, “a collective gasp” from watching neighbours.
Speaking on behalf of the family at a press conference that afternoon Autumn's uncle, Paul Spadafore, would say, “There is evil everywhere, even in the small town of Clayton.”
Jesse Pomeroy, the “Boston Boy Fiend,” was 14 years old in 1874 when he was arrested for murdering a four-year-old, just because, and hiding the body in his mother's basement.
George Junius Stinney Jr was also 14 in 1944, when he was convicted of battering two younger girls to death with a large railroad spike in a South Carolina ravine (a conviction that many now attribute to racism rather than actual guilt).
Leslie Van Houten, the youngest convicted member of the Charles Manson family, was 19 during the summer of the murders of Sharon Tate and Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, 45 years ago this month.
Fifteen-year-old Willie Bosket is the reason most states now allow juveniles to be tried as adults, because he stabbed and shot with impunity all through his teens in 1970s New York City.
Brenda Ann Spencer was 16 when she shot up a San Diego school in 1979 because, she explained, “I don't like Mondays; this livens up the day.”
Who or what was blamed for these horrors? Satan. Lack of church attendance. Homosexuality. LSD. Violent films. Violent music lyrics. Violent video games.
No one sued any of these teenagers' parents, even in cases where there was some pretty bad parenting involved.
Only recently have parents been sued for murders committed by their children.
The first high-profile lawsuits came after the spate of shootings at the turn of this newest century: In 1997 in Pearl, Mississippi, after 16-year-old Luke Woodham stabbed his mother to death, then shot nine fellow students; in West Paducah, Kentucky, the same year, after three girls were killed by 14-year-old Michael Carneal at a prayer meeting before school; in Jonesboro, Arkansas, a year later, after 11-year-old Andrew Golden and 13-year-old Mitchell Johnson pulled the school fire alarm and opened fire on students as they exited.
Most famously, after Columbine, lawsuits flew between parents of the dead and those of the shooters, including one brought by high-profile lawyer Geoffrey Fieger (previously best known for defending Jack Kevorkian) seeking $250 million in damages and aiming to prove, he said, that if parents had been paying more attention that massacre never would have happened.
This new pointing of legal fingers at Mum and Dad was not due to any change in the actual law.
Tort law, before Columbine and still today, consistently makes it difficult to hold parents responsible for the actions of their teens.
While parents have a clear legal obligation to care for their children, and can be punished for not doing so, they are not expected to control them.
“Unless you can show that a parent forced or encouraged the child to commit the crime, courts don't blame parents,” says Naomi Cahn, who teaches family law at George Washington University.
Agrees Martin Guggenheim, a professor at the NYU School of Law, specialising in parental rights: “The law says broadly that I don't owe my neighbours very much when taking care of my own children. That's the way it's been forever. That's the way it should be. The world is not better off if we impose on parents this extra fear of being made bankrupt or imprisoned because of their child's misconduct.”
There is often a gap between law and culture, however, and the new reflex to blame (and sue) parents reflects changes in what society thinks of parents and parenting.
The past 15 years have seen “intensive parenting” become the norm — rooted in the assumption that a “good” parent is constantly present and wary.
The Internet provides a ready lens through which others freely scrutinise and judge parents they have never met.
Parental acts that would have been unremarkable not long ago — leaving a child to play in the park for the afternoon while Mum is at work, for instance — are now reason to call the police.
And overindulgence is labeled “the Affluenza Defense,” used to persuade at least one judge to sentence a teen to time away from his parents, rather than jail, after he drove drunk and killed four people.
“As parents assert more control over their children we criticise that, because it doesn't seem good for the children, but we also come to expect it,” Cahn says.
“Have we come to the point where it's a crime not to be a helicopter parent?”
All of the plaintiffs in these suits said that they hoped to use the legal system to send the message that parents are responsible when their children kill.
Yet none of the most publicised of these lawsuits accomplished that goal.
In the Columbine case, the families of more than 30 of those killed and injured eventually settled for a total of $2.53 million between them, most of it from the homeowners insurance of shooters Eric Harris's and Dylan Klebold's parents.
In Jonesboro, the attorney representing the parents of the victims has gotten few real answers and no money for his clients.
And in Paducah, the parents of the victims agreed to settle with the shooter for $42 million (money all parties agree he does not have), but that was after a judge removed his parents as defendants in the case.
This hasn't stopped subsequent waves of families from going to court.
Most recently, for instance, in Geauga County, Ohio, the family of the student who killed three at Chardon High School two years ago settled with the victims' families for $899,000 each, nearly half of which will go to lawyers.
“It has become routine to sue after a juvenile commits a murder,” Guggenheim says.
“Lawyers bring these cases because that's how they make money. Suing a parent for an act of negligence in the home very commonly brings in the insurance company, and they often settle because it's cheaper to pay some money than to defend a case.”
Such settlements, he says, “don't answer the philosophical question that drives them, of what the parent's responsibility is.”
Which may be why those survivor families who want to face that question more directly have been turning elsewhere.
After Newtown, not a single lawsuit was filed by a parent against a parent, despite the fact that Adam Lanza's father is a relatively wealthy man.
Yes, there was chatter online and on talk radio blaming Lanza's mother Nancy for teaching her son to shoot, but it was guns rather than parenting that became the focus of public conversation.
After Isla Vista, in turn, Elliot Rodger's father came forward with profound apologies that he could not stop his son in time, though it seemed clear he had frantically tried.
There the focus became the mental health system and the obstacles faced by the parent of a deeply troubled child.
Does this mean that the impulse to blame parents has abated?
Not at all, says Michael Breen, the lawyer who brought the lawsuits in Paducah and is now representing a man who was run over by a golf cart driven by a 14-year-old whose parents “should have known that there was a 16-year-old age limit.”
A judge ruled that the lawsuit naming those parents could proceed, which Breen considers progress.
“Maybe we were reaching too far too soon” with the school shooting cases, he says now.
“Judges are human, and most of them are parents with families. It's a substantial bar before they start putting parents on trial for bad parenting.”
But the bringing of cases, even in the face of rejection by the court, he says, has value.
“Law is slow to change and likes to move incrementally,” he says.
“The judiciary will wait to see whether factual circumstances keep repeating themselves. If that keeps happening you will see judges start accepting something they were previously unwilling to recognise. I think that's what's going on with parental liability. We will reach critical mass so that at some point the courts will be more amenable to lawsuits like that.”
After denial comes anger, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote, and once Autumn's body was identified, and Justin Robinson was charged with strangling her to death, there was rage enough to go around.
First, Autumn's parents blamed Justin and hoped the 15-year-old would be tried as an adult and given the death penalty. (One of Justin's older brothers was also arrested, but charges were downgraded to obstruction of justice and he was released.)
Next they blamed police and local prosecutors, for what they saw as too slow a response to Autumn's disappearance. (When the family filed a tort claim notice, warning they might sue the Gloucester County prosecutor, the case was handed off to the prosecutor in the neighbouring county of Camden.)
And for a brief while they even turned on each other. Autumn's mother sued Anthony, accusing him of shutting her out of decisions about how the upwards of $100,000 donated in Autumn's name would be used. (They quickly settled out of court.)
Gradually, however, they came to focus their anger on Justin's parents.
It rankled them that Justin's father publicly equated his loss with theirs, telling reporters that, as a fellow parent, “I wouldn't mind going to see [Anthony and Jennifer]. Not right now but maybe in the future.”
It puzzled them that Justin's mother used her Facebook page to declare that she was also a victim here.
“Its times like this when u see who are genuine, who is not,” Anita Saunders wrote. “Those of you who really know me know what kind of parent I am. So interesting to hear and see how ppl are judgmental. SIN is sin, it doesn't come in levels. Let he who goes without sin cast the first stone. Nobody on here can bend.”
And it stunned them to learn, first through local word of mouth and then through court hearings and subpoenaed records, that Justin was known to be “a time bomb,” in the words of Anthony's attorney Kathleen Bonczyk.
To the Pasquales' surprise and disappointment, Justin did not face the death penalty. He was sentenced as an adult, then sent to a juvenile facility under a plea deal.
Pleading guilty to aggravated manslaughter, first degree, he admitted to luring Autumn to his house and then strangling her.
He was sentenced to 17 years, of which 85 percent must be served before he is eligible for parole, meaning he could be out of jail by the time he is 30.
Anthony, in turn, reluctantly accepted what prosecutors told him — that Justin's age and his diagnosis of learning disabilities meant it would be nearly impossible to try him in adult court, and that conviction as a juvenile would limit his sentence to seven years.
That assumes he was in fact convicted, which, given a lack of material evidence, was far from guaranteed.
Anthony was left frustrated, however, not as much by the sentence as by the lack of answers.
He expected closure at sentencing and found that mostly what he had were questions.
Who was this young man who had killed his daughter? Why had he done it? Could someone have stopped him before he crossed Autumn's path?
He remembers the exact moment when his attention turned to Justin's parents. At the final sentencing hearing, on September 12, 2013, he listened as those who represented Justin, and those who raised him, asked the judge for leniency.
“My Justin is not a monster,” his mother said. “He is now a 16-year-old boy who was born with a physical deformity and who is emotionally and developmentally disabled. He is a respectful, loving child with a sense of humor and we love him. “
Then she said: “No one knows what happened on that day of the accident. The accident has been mischaracterised.”
The idea that the murder of his little girl could be dismissed as “the accident” had Anthony's attention. He listened with rising anger as Justin's attorney rose to speak.
She went into more detail about the disabilities to which Anita and the court-appointed psychologist had referred. Then she added this:
“There was significant history as outlined in [Justin's psychiatric report] of domestic violence in his household when he was young. Justin also suffered abuse, physical abuse, by his father. This was learned behavior, Your Honor. Justin saw his father strangle his mother on more than one occasion. Justin has inappropriate responses to stressors as a result of his disabilities.”
“My light bulb went off so fast when I heard that,” Anthony remembers. “My lawyer was next to me and I said, ‘We have to do something about that.' If it was a learned behavior, then teach a different behavior. If you taught your son to kill, then you need to be punished, too.”
From that moment came a lawsuit — one similar to those brought after the school shootings, but more sweeping.
While the Columbine cases were based on the premise that the parents should have noticed — that there were bombs being built in the garage near Columbine, that there were guns hidden in a backpack in Paducah — the Pasquale suit says that Anita should have known.
Good parents should have known that Justin was “possibly engaging in the theft of bicycles” and that he “posed a risk to third parties,” it says.
Good parents should have realised that the domestic violence he saw as a child would teach him to be violent himself.
Good parents should have recognised that his emotional, psychological and developmental problems meant he needed “proper treatment and proper supervision,” which, the suit alleges, he did not get.
His parents should have predicted what he was capable of, because, the suit concludes, it was their parenting that created a child who could kill.
“How was my client's daughter murdered?” asks Bonczyk. “Justin witnessed abuse, and among those things he witnessed was his father strangling his mother.
‘Learned behavior,' his own lawyer called it. If a woman [i.e., Autumn] does not do what you want this is how you respond."
(Anita's attorney filed a response to the lawsuit that says his client “is not guilty of any negligence, wrongdoing, or misconduct.” He filed a notice of cross claims against Anita's ex-husband and against Justin, warning that she will hold them responsible for any damages levied against her in the Pasquale lawsuit. Alonzo reportedly did not respond to either lawsuit.)
In addition to his civil suit, Anthony is urging a change in criminal law.
Dubbed "Autumn's Law," at the moment it is just an idea — a Change.org petition, which currently falls 12,000 signatures short of its 20,000 goal.
Its point is simple: If parents knew they would go to jail for their parenting, Anthony says, they would do a better job.
The questions raised by that belief — Is it a crime to parent a criminal? Does Anita deserve punishment or sympathy? Do we blame the parents? — have set off a heated debate in Clayton and its neighbouring towns, on local newspaper websites and in downtown stores.
There is support for Anthony and anger at the Robinsons. But there are also those who point out that Anthony is criticising Anita for not supervising her 15-year-old son, yet he didn't know where his 12-year-old daughter was for most of the day.
Many give credit to Anita for leading investigators to Justin's incriminatory Facebook posts. “I'm gonna guess she did her best to steer these two in the right direction and outside influences got the best of them,” wrote Felonousjoe in the comments of local ABC affiliate website.
“I don't know if I'd ever give my daughter up if she'd done something bad; this woman is much stronger than me and probably will spend the rest of her life blaming herself.”
And they conclude that it is very hard to be a modern parent. “I understand the parents of the child who was killed are in pain but punishing a mother who is also grieving a loss of a child whom she turned in is not the answer,” a reader with the screen name Blackstripes wrote on Dailynews.com.
“Some children are just bad and they come in all colors and races. The families need to find some peace and let go of the anger.”
Anthony says he is trying. He has retired from his job as a mail carrier in order to spend all of his time with his surviving children.
He finds comfort in the reminders around town of his daughter — a portion of the county bike trail is being named for her, along with the local soccer field.
Her intramural team, the Clayton Comets, has renamed itself Autumn's Angels, and the Board of Ed has retired her number until the year she would have graduated from high school.
October 29, her birthday, has been declared “Autumn Pasquale Day” in Clayton.
But there are other reminders, too, that are far from comforting. Because it is a small town Anthony finds himself driving by the Robinson home too often and doesn't understand why Justin's family stays.
In fact, Anita has been quoted as saying that she would like to move but can't afford to, so she remains living in a murder scene, where, she said, paintballs have been shot at her house, tires have been slashed and a brick was once thrown through the car window.
On the other hand, she said, there have also been cookies from neighbours and notes of support.
Anthony has also thought of leaving but is determined to stay where he is.
“This is my hometown,” he says. “It's the only place Autumn ever lived. This is our home. I want my children to grow up here, like I did.”
Political Correctness and Bureaucracy to Blame for Child Abuse, Claims Senior Policewoman
by Donna Rachel Edmunds
A senior police officer with the Greater Manchester Police in the United Kingdom has blamed a target-driven culture and political correctness for the lack of police response to the abuse suffered by young girls at the hands of Asian sex gangs in Rochdale.
Speaking to the Mail on Sunday, retired Detective Inspector Merial Buglass said she had had “many sleepless nights” knowing that the abuse was ongoing but lacking permission from her superiors to investigate further. She says that the culture within the force was driven by meeting Home Office targets, and also that senior management were more concerned about political correctness than stopping the abuse.
“Management appeared not to be interested, they were only interested in targets, it was a completely target-driven culture,” she said. “The main priorities were acquisitive crime – robbery, burglary and car theft. Money was being piled into [the investigation of] these crimes.
“They didn't want to class the abuse as Asian on white girls. They didn't want to cause a fuss. I took the view that this wasn't about racism, it was about child abuse – but political correctness and cultural sensitivities were important to management.”
In April 2010, whilst in her role as head of Rochdale Police's public protection unit, Ms Buglass compiled a report detailing how predominantly white children, some as young as 12, were being groomed by gangs of Asian men as sex-slaves, and were violently abused. It has since emerged that some of the girls who were attacked in Rochdale between 1997 and 2013 were murdered at the hands of the men. The report included the details of 35 children, ten perpetrators and a further 40 suspects, and contained a plea for more resources to be granted to further investigate the heinous crimes.
The day after the report was filed, Buglass met with Superintendent Martin Greenhalgh. During the meeting, she alleges he essentially told her “If I choose to investigate it, we will,” and that she replied “This is huge, there are massive threats and it will come back to bite us if you don't do something!”
Yet she was told to focus on domestic crime instead because it “featured on performance targets.” Frustrated, Buglass took the report higher and was promised resources, but it took a further eight months, during which she was aware that children were being abused, before those resources were forthcoming “and then [the investigation] was taken away from me”.
Greater Manchester Police yesterday released a statement conceding that it “recognised that it could have done more to support the victims of child sexual exploitation in Rochdale”. It continued “Since 2010 we have moved considerable resources into child protection and the investigation of sexual exploitation. We have learned from what happened.” The force claims that it came under pressure from the Home Office five years ago to cut acquisitive crimes such as car theft and burglary, although the targets were removed in 2012.
Commenting on the scandal, Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk said “The scandal of how police and other agencies failed children being raped on an industrial scale is getting worse every week. Police leadership have completely lost touch with ordinary people's values.”
In 2012, nine men from Oldham and Rochdale were convicted of running a child sexual exploitation ring and were sentenced to between four and 19 years for their parts in the crimes. However, it is now clear that many responsible have still not be brought to justice. The police now say that they are planning to arrest hundreds of suspects in a “day of reckoning.”
Ms Buglass told reporters “I had many sleepless nights over this. We tried our best but the fact is the police failed those girls. I could not have been more vocal about the threats and risks... but I was appalled at the response.”
Before defamation trial of sex abuse activist, a timely twist
Paul Kendrick's relentless allegations of molestation by a Haiti orphanage founder got him nowhere, except taken to court. Then, a break – the surprise arrest of his target.
by Scott Dolan
Freeport resident Paul Kendrick has been so dogged in spreading his often unwelcome message about victims of child sex abuse that his past efforts have gotten him banned from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland and threatened with formal rebuke from the Roman Catholic Church.
That didn't stop him.
If anything, Kendrick's message has become even more insistent in the past few years as he focused on an American man who founded an orphanage decades ago for impoverished boys in Haiti. Kendrick has accused the man, whom he has never met, of raping many youths in his care.
Since 2011, Kendrick has made those accusations against 62-year-old Michael Geilenfeld in a torrent of letters, hundreds of emails, Web postings and radio broadcasts. He made so many allegations that the orphanage founder and an American nonprofit organization that raises money to fund his Haitian efforts, Hearts with Haiti, sued Kendrick for defamation last year in federal court.
But Kendrick, scheduled to defend himself against the charge at a U.S. District Court trial in Portland starting Oct. 7, is far from deterred. He feels encouraged.
This month, the Haitian National Police arrested Geilenfeld on charges of indecent assault and conspiracy, dramatically cuffing him at the orphanage in Port-au-Prince and hauling him away in the bed of a pickup truck. Haitian media outlets had been notified ahead of time and were there to document the arrest.
Kendrick, 64, said he sees the upcoming trial as the best stage for delivering the message he wants heard. He plans to call as defense witnesses seven adult men who were once boyhood residents at the Haitian orphanage to testify against Geilenfeld, offering them an American forum to speak where their words could hold far more impact than in their homeland of Haiti.
“Finally, the opportunity for these victims, in the safety of a United States courthouse,” to talk about the abuse and their suffering, Kendrick said.
WHY HE BECAME VOCAL ADVOCATE
Kendrick, a financial adviser at RBC Wealth Management, sat for an hour-long interview at his downtown Portland office last week to talk about the upcoming trial, Geilenfeld's arrest in Haiti, and what led him to become such a vocal advocate for child victims of sex abuse.
He wasn't always like this – protesting outside churches, inundating missionary groups with letters accusing them of funding child molestation, and acting as a thorn in the bishop's side.
Kendrick, a devout Roman Catholic, is deeply committed to institutions of Jesuit education. He graduated from Cheverus High School in Portland in 1968 and from Fairfield University, a Jesuit school in Connecticut, in 1972.
As a successful investment adviser, he gave generously to Cheverus until the late 1990s, when a member of his family asked him “Why?”
Until then, Kendrick was unaware of an investigation into child sex abuse at his cherished high school. The Cheverus investigation led to two teachers, including a Jesuit priest, being removed from the school after complaints they sexually abused students there in the 1970s and 1980s.
Around the same time, in the early 2000s, the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal began coming to light. Thousands of priests and members of Roman Catholic orders came under investigation for sexually abusing children over decades. Investigators found that in many cases when the church was made aware of the allegations, it deliberately moved accused priests to different parishes rather than remove them.
In response to the scandal, Kendrick helped found a Roman Catholic Church reform group based in Massachusetts, called Voices of the Faithful, in 2002.
“We stood in front of the churches. We were spit at,” Kendrick said. “Millions of Catholics failed to stand up and demand redress.”
After years of protests, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland obtained a criminal trespass order against Kendrick in 2008 that barred him from the cathedral, the chancery and the bishop's residence. He also was served an order to cease and desist from harassing then-Portland Bishop Richard Malone.
Dave Guthro, the diocese's spokesman, did not return a phone message last week seeking comment about Kendrick.
Kendrick first visited Haiti in 2003 and has gone back numerous times since. He initially became an advocate for sex abuse victims at a school in northern Haiti before becoming concerned about the orphanage in Port-au-Prince, St. Joseph's Home for Boys, that Geilenfeld founded in 1985.
“Homosexuality is taboo in Haiti,” Kendrick said. “If a child goes to his parents and said, ‘The teacher abused me,' the child could be ostracized from the family. If it's been difficult for victims (in the United States) to come forward, it's nearly impossible in Haiti.”
The American founder of the school in northern Haiti, Douglas Perlitz of Colorado, was ultimately sentenced in federal court in Connecticut to nearly 20 years in prison for sexually abusing at least eight minor victims over the course of a decade in Haiti. Fairfield University, which helped fund Perlitz's school, reached a $12 million settlement with lawyers representing 24 boys from the school. Other civil suits remain pending.
DID HE INFLUENCE SUSPECT'S ARREST?
Geilenfeld's arrest Sept. 5 in Haiti has cast uncertainty on whether his defamation case against Kendrick can go to trial Oct. 7 as planned.
Geilenfeld's attorney in the defamation case, Peter DeTroy III, has called the timing of Geilenfeld's arrest a month before the scheduled trial “suspicious.”
“If he's in jail, we obviously have an impasse in the ability of the case going forward,” DeTroy said last week.
Attorneys on both sides of the Portland case spoke Friday with U.S. District Judge John A. Woodcock Jr. in a phone conference, and the trial date was left unchanged for now.
DeTroy said he has been unable to get any information from Haitian authorities about Geilenfeld and whether the charges against him in Haiti are legitimate and whether Geilenfeld will be released from custody.
“Who knows what will happen?” DeTroy said, noting that the Haitian criminal justice system lacks the due process of the American system.
Haiti has ranked for the past several years as one of the most corrupt governments in the world, according to surveys conducted by Transparency International.
Kendrick said DeTroy's comment that the timing of Geilenfeld's arrest was “suspicious” is misleading. Kendrick said there is no way that he could have, all the way from Maine, influenced whether the Haitian government arrested Geilenfeld.
“It's just not possible,” Kendrick said. “To say those kinds of things is to denigrate Haitian law enforcement.”
But Kendrick admitted that his efforts, working with a Haitian journalist and political activist, Cyrus Sibert, at least indirectly led to Geilenfeld's arrest.
In an email last week, Sibert said he learned of “inappropriate” and “lewd” conduct by Geilenfeld at the orphanage. “People who visited Saint Joseph's put me in touch with alleged victims. I saw documents and I heard testimonies of multiple scandals at different point(s) in time over 30 years, accusing (Michael) Geilenfeld of child abuses.”
Kendrick and Sibert have interviewed former residents of Geilenfeld's orphanage. They reached out to a Haitian attorney, Emmanuel Fleurant, who sued Geilenfeld in Haitian courts and presented their findings to Haitian prosecutors, Kendrick said.
“Our advocacy has, of course, brought this situation with Geilenfeld to all sorts of places in Haiti, but they've had to at least take a second look,” he said.
Kendrick said that although he and Sibert have been trying for years to have Geilenfeld arrested and charged with child sex abuse, he didn't know ahead of time that it was actually going to happen.
As the defamation case nears, both he and Sibert have continued to email accusations against Geilenfeld and post them publicly online.
The federal judge in Portland has scheduled a sanctions hearing Sept. 25 to determine whether Kendrick should be penalized for broadcasting confidential and “highly sensitive” court documents online in violation of the court's order.
“When the victims testify, and they're the most important ones here in my mind, I will have done everything I can to help them,” Kendrick said. “I have acted in good faith. I believe these men, and I want them to get a measure of justice that has never come through.”