from Marci A. Hamilton - SOL-reform.com - Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law
'SVU' Explores Sex Abuse in Hollywood
by Allison Leotta
Novelist, Former Federal Sex-Crimes Prosecutor
Tonight's SVU shone a light on the darkest corner of Hollywood's casting couch, where kids vying for roles are sexually abused and passed around by moguls and producers.
In the wake of a hit-and-run, Nick arrests Tensley Evans, a beautiful but troubled starlet resembling Lindsey Lohan. When she falsely accuses Nick of propositioning her, SVU gets involved. Dashcam video exonerates poor Nick, but car trouble is just the tip of Tensley's iceberg.
While in rehab, she performed oral sex on a 15-year-old boy. Tensley, who's in her 20s, is charged with statutory rape (although the boy protests, "It was the best experience of my life!"). But our SVU experts are familiar with "the short path between victim and suspect." Turns out, Tensley molests others because she was molested.
A powerful producer named Adam auditioned her on the proverbial casting couch when she was 13. Then he passed her around to his friends, coercing her to have sex with them too. Adam did this to a bunch of kids, even procuring underwater sex acts, which led to one girl's death in a swimming pool.
Our detectives wants to prosecute Adam, but he's wily. The statute of limitations has run on his older rapes. And in recent years, he only made movies -- and "auditioned" girls -- in states where the age of consent is 16 and "mistake of age" is a defense.
Although Adam thoroughly researched states' law, he forgot to consider the feds. He went to Canada to have sex with a pretty 16-year-old actress, confident because the age of consent in Canada is 16. But U.S. federal law makes it a crime to travel to another country for the purpose of having sex with a person under 18. Adam is finally arrested and hauled away by the U.S. Marshals.
Tensley does a glowing (but premature) victory lap on Hoda Kotb's talk show.
What They Got Right:
No one's exactly sure how Lindsey got to where she is, but sex abuse in Hollywood is a real and serious problem. Corey Feldman, a child actor who, as an adult, revealed that he had been repeatedly sexually abused by powerful men in the industry, reportedly said, "I can tell you that the No. 1 problem in Hollywood was and is and always will be pedophilia ... It's the big secret."
Alison Arngrim, a former Little House on the Prairie star, agreed: "This has been going on for a very long time," she said. "It was the gossip back in the '80s. People said, 'Oh yeah, the Coreys, everyone's had them.' People talked about it like it was not a big deal... The word was that they were given drugs and being used for sex. It was awful -- these were kids, they weren't 18 yet."
Hollywood, with its glittering promise of fame and fortune held in the hands of a few powerful men, is ripe for corruption when eager young kids come looking to make their way.
Speaking of corrupt patriarchal organizations, SVU was correct about what's holding up the expansion of statutes of limitation for sexual assault. Although many reformers advocate longer periods, the Catholic Church has spent a small fortune trying to keep state legislatures from expanding the time in which past sex crimes can be prosecuted.
Dashcam footage has been providing incredible evidence in jurisdictions around the country. Sometimes, like tonight, it can exonerate a cop who's falsely accused. And sometimes, it can do the opposite. Check out this chilling video of a cop shooting an unarmed man during a traffic stop.
This episode authentically portrayed the different attitudes about sex with a 15-year-old girl versus a 15-year-old boy. For her, it's a traumatic crime. For him, it's a Facebook brag. Is the difference in biology or in how we're socialized? Whatever the answer, it's the same crime under the law.
Traveling to another country for the purpose of having sex with a person under 18-years-old is a federal crime. SVU presented an interesting legal issue, where the foreign country's laws allowed consent at 16. But the American sex tourism prohibitions would trump. Nice legal research, SVU! And nice plot twist. Getting Adam -- who murdered a girl -- on an iffy traveler's case is kind of like getting Al Capone for tax evasion.
What They Got Wrong:
Maybe Olivia was distracted by all the baby gear and nanny-planning, but there's no way she should have assigned Nick to investigate Tensley's case. Tensley accused him of misconduct! He has every reason to want to send her to jail. Somebody teach that baby to say, "Conflict of interest, Mama."
In the final scene, Tensley sat on Hoda's spotless white couch, all apple-cheeked and rehabilitated -- but she's still being prosecuted. Adam's arrest didn't make her legal woes disappear. She's still on the hook for having sex with that 15-year-old boy -- the only thing that's changed for her, legally, is that she may present the evidence of Adam's abuse as mitigation for her actions at her own sentencing hearing.
Adam's wily plan for abusing young actresses was pretty far-fetched. Sex abuse in Hollywood is a crime of opportunity. I've never heard of a producer filming movies in specific locations in order cherry pick their statutory rape laws. First off, he'd have to hire a lawyer to do a 50-state survey, and that would be expensive and ... awkward. Second, what if you need a tropical harbor scene? Adam's not going to find that in Montana.
Finally, it was a bit insincere for SVU to condemn a culture that exploits teenage actresses in wet bikinis, while delivering for your viewing pleasure a bunch of teenage actresses in wet bikinis. When will Ice-T have a scene in a Speedo?
Shelters too often home for Tucson's abused kids
by Patty Machel
Abused and neglected children in Pima County are placed in group homes and emergency shelters rather than foster families at the highest rate in Arizona and more than twice the national average.
Group care, where several children live in a home run by a staff, should be used only for children who need therapy or rehabilitation, said Tracey Feild, director of the Annie E. Casey Foundation's Child Welfare Strategy Group.
“You can paint the walls as brightly as you want, but it's not a family and it's not a home,” Feild said. “If they don't need therapy, they shouldn't be in a group home. They should be with a family.”
Putting a child in a group home should be temporary — a transition to returning home or to foster care, for example. But in Arizona, records show that 90 percent of children and teens in group care aren't there because they need these extra services — they're there because of the state's critical shortage of foster homes.
As of May 2014, an average of 2,101 children and teens were being placed in group care each month statewide, with only 10 percent in therapeutic group homes or residential treatment. Pima County, as of March, had 741 licensed foster families with 1,709 total beds — and 3,356 children in out-of-home care, state records show.
Some relief could be coming. The Arizona Department of Child Safety in August asked for greater flexibility with its foster-care funds from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the waiver was approved last week.
ADCS Director Charles Flanagan applied for the waiver in order to reduce the state's reliance on group homes and shelters. He'll do that by focusing on recruiting and retaining more foster families, he said, as well as improving services that help children stay home while the family gets help.
Keeping more children and teens out of group care would be a critical step for Arizona, experts say.
A glance through just about any scholarly piece on the topic shows the disturbing variety of things that can, and do, happen to children at higher rates in group homes: sexual abuse, sex trafficking, physical or emotional abuse by staffers or other children.
Studies have also shown a higher risk for delinquency as well as over-reliance on psychotropic medication to keep children from acting out.
Pima County leads the state in group placement, with 31 percent of children here winding up in group care the first time they are taken into state custody. In Maricopa County, the rate is close to 20 percent, and in Pinal County, it's about 12 percent, records show.
Nationally, the average number of displaced children in group care is 15 percent, the Casey Foundation reports.
“There are plenty of states that have gotten that number down much lower, and plenty are at 5, 6, 7 percent,” Feild said.
Of those children in group care statewide as of May, 8 percent were younger than a year old, 11 percent were ages 1 to 5, 20 percent were ages 6 to 12, and 50 percent were ages 13 to 17.
When a state relies on group care at such high rates, Feild said, it's usually because it has “greatly underinvested in their foster-care system or their kinship care.”
That's what happened in Arizona, where a lack of foster homes has led to a reliance on group care.
Crushing workloads for child-welfare workers coupled with a stressed system often result in foster parents and adoptive parents being poorly supported and taken for granted, said Flanagan, who has headed the child-welfare agency for less than a year.
“We're all focused on producing better outcomes. Is it fast enough for me? No,” Flanagan said.
System failed molested group-home girl, suit says
by Emily Bregel
A 10-year-old girl was molested after she was the only girl placed in a Tucson group home that also housed an older boy with a history of sexual issues, her mother alleges in a lawsuit filed last week.
The girl was placed in a group home run by Gap Ministries, which police reports show has a history of abuse between the children in its care.
Her mother, whom the Star is not identifying because she and her children share the same last name, says her two kids were placed in the group home in August 2013, a year after she lost custody for exposing them to a potentially dangerous family member.
She said the group home's failure to supervise and promptly report her daughter's molestation by a 13-year-old boy — who also was in CPS custody and living in the home — led to continued abuse by the boy.
She says the group home didn't call police to report the suspected abuse and the boy wasn't removed from the home until the mother called police herself, more than a week after the home knew about the abuse. During that time the girl was molested at least once more, her mother said.
She regained custody of her daughter and 8-year-old son in March. Her daughter, now 11, is still dealing with the trauma, she said.
“She has a lot of nightmares,” her mother said.
Gap Ministries officials would not discuss the lawsuit with the Star or answer questions about the supervision of children in its group homes.
“Due to the sensitivity and the nature of the issue, we are not able to make a comment. We really need to respect the privacy and honor those that are involved in this issue,” said Greg Ayers, Gap Ministries founder and president, in a voice mail.
The faith-based Gap Ministries runs 13 homes, known as Splash Houses, throughout Pima County. Most are licensed to house up to 10 children, ages birth to 17, and are staffed by two full-time, live-in house parents. Most of the homes can also house two additional children of staff members.
The mother and attorney Lynne Cadigan filed the complaint against the state, the group home and various employees in Pima County Superior Court on Wednesday.
DETAILS OF THE CASE
The mother said her daughter told her during a Sept. 28, 2013, visit that an older boy at the group home had touched her sexually. She reported the abuse on Sept. 30 by emailing her daughter's CPS caseworker and calling the CPS hotline. Emails show that the girl's therapist from Las Familias also notified the girl's CPS caseworker, Erika Tabarez, of the abuse on Oct. 1.
The group home leaders later told police they took steps to keep the two children apart, including putting a chime on the boy's door so they would know if he left his room and assigning a staff member to stay with him at all times, the police report shows. But in one instance, the boy molested the girl again late at night when he asked to use the bathroom and the staff member assigned to him was off-duty, the police report says.
When the mother heard from her daughter that the abuse was continuing, she called police on Oct. 8, 2013. An officer visited the group home and told house manager Francisco Contreras that he should have called authorities as soon as he learned of any suspected abuse, the police report said. Contreras said he'd only been working there a few months and was following the group home's protocol, which was to call the home's crisis manager, the police report said.
The accused molester was arrested on charges of class-3 sexual assault. He entered a plea agreement in the Pima County Juvenile Court, and was sentenced to sex offender therapy and 18 months on probation, his delinquency file shows.
The lawsuit also alleges that the victim's brother, who was placed in the same home, endured physical and emotional abuse from two older boys in the home, including his sister's molestor. CPS and group home leaders did not protect him, the complaint said.
“As a result of the defendants' gross negligence and deliberate indifference to the welfare of the children they had the duty to protect, the plaintiff children have suffered severe emotional distress and physical harm,” the complaint says.
The mother says that because her daughter had been a victim of sexual abuse in the past, CPS should not have placed her in a group home where she would be the only girl and would be living with an older boy in counseling for sexual issues.
While no state law explicitly prohibits such placement, CPS is supposed to ensure children are in safe and appropriate placements, said Cadigan, the attorney representing the mother and her children.
“Any social worker will tell you that children should not be placed in a situation like that,” she said.
Named among defendants in the suit are Charles Flanagan, head of the newly formed Department of Child Safety; the Department of Economic Security, which had oversight of Child Protective Services at the time the abuse took place; Gap Ministries; Greg and Pam Ayers; the house parent and his supervisor; and the victim's CPS caseworker.
The suit also names the state of Arizona as a defendant in hopes of forcing the state to enact stronger protections for children in CPS custody, Cadigan said.
“We want state to have more stringent regulations so this doesn't happen again,” she said.
This is not the first time Gap Ministries has been accused of failing to respond to a report of sexual abuse. A 2006 lawsuit filed by former employees alleged the home refused to investigate a local doctor's suspicion that a child in their custody likely had been sexually abused in the past.
The couple, Douglas and Janet Davis, cared for six siblings at a Splash House in 2004 and 2005. The lawsuit said the group home's administrators resisted investigating the suspected abuse, which raised red flags for the couple, prompting them to resign and seek a foster care license to keep custody of “the children they had come to love.”
The couple said the group homes' leaders then “voiced a number of false and defamatory statements” about the pair, including that Douglas Davis had killed someone, and accused them of child abuse — allegations a state investigation later discredited. Also, the group home refused to let the couple visit the children while they were seeking custody of them, the lawsuit said. The couple ultimately did get licensed as foster parents for the children.
The attorney involved in that case, Joane Hallinan, said she could not discuss any details because, when the case was settled, she signed a confidentiality agreement.
CONFUSION OVER RULES
Confusion over mandatory reporting rules is widespread, even among state child welfare workers, said Sgt. Gerard Moretz, supervisor of the Pima County Sheriff's Department's Crimes Against Children Unit.
A common misperception is that calling the state Department of Child Safety hotline to report abuse is enough. Suspected abuse by a parent, guardian or custodian can be reported to police or the DCS, but suspected abuse by anyone else — such as a sibling, peer or a sports coach — must be reported to the police, Moretz said. That law went into effect in 2003 to deal with reports of abuse that fell between the cracks at the state level, Moretz said.
Local group-home managers say abuse between troubled children living in congregate care can happen even at the most well-run facilities.
“Even with the best of supervision, sometimes incidents can happen,” said Susie Huhn, executive director of Casa de los Niños, which offers foster care and prevention services and a crisis shelter for children. “But there are precautions agencies need to take, particularly when there is knowledge of kids' behavioral concerns.”
Failing to properly supervise makes abuse much more likely, said Moretz, of the Sheriff's Department.
“The problem I've seen over and over again is that children are going into these environments and the supervision isn't adequate to keep them from abusing one another. That's really the heart of the matter,” he said.The repeated abuse between Gap Ministries' wards suggests a fundamental problem with the homes' setup, Moretz said. He said in his two years with the Crime Against Children Unit, police have been called to Splash Houses for sexual abuse between children about 30 times.
Most of the abuse incidents occurred overnight, which could indicate inadequate supervision during those hours, he said.
“It only takes a few seconds to abuse somebody,” he said.
State licensing rules say that for every 10 children over age 12, a group home must have one paid staff member in the home while the children are asleep, though the staff member doesn't have to be awake.
But Moretz added, “There were some instances where the kids' behavior was so impulsive and so instantaneous, that even reasonable steps taken to prevent something would not have worked.”
Gap Ministries has been receptive to suggestions of how to prevent abuse in the future, Moretz said.
“What they're doing is providing a place for kids that otherwise wouldn't have a place,” he said. “They understand that many of the kids they are serving bring with them this terrible baggage,” he said.
The kids in their care are vulnerable to being abused and to abusing one another, he said. “My thought is, if you know that going into it, you probably better work out the logistics and not stumble along, hoping for the best.”
The Arizona Department of Child Safety has not responded to an Aug. 28 public records request from the Star seeking complaints or disciplinary actions taken against the home since it opened in 2000.
In fiscal year 2014 Gap Ministries received $4.7 million from the Arizona Department of Child Safety to house children in its 13 group homes. Its residential-style homes are licensed to care for up to 130 children at a time and house about 350 children annually, its website says.
In 2012, the nonprofit's president, Greg Ayers, and his wife Pam, co-founders of the nonprofit, earned $111,000 and $112,000, respectively, said the nonprofit's 990 tax form.
FAILURE TO REPORT
While abuse in congregate care can be unavoidable, failure to report it immediately is unacceptable, said Kathy Rau, executive director of the Southern Arizona Children's Advocacy Center.
When children are abused in state custody, “what is the message we're sending that child? You're not safe at your home, you're not safe with the state,” Rau said.
For mandatory reporters like group home staff, teachers and doctors, failure to report abuse of a minor is a class-1 misdemeanor and failure to report a sex crime is a Class 6 felony, Rau said.
Failing to help children who perpetuate the abuse — which typically stems from their own victimization — not only harms the victim, but the juvenile offender. Getting those children help before they become adults can help them avoid the label of sex offender and jail time, and instead provide rehabilitative services through juvenile court, Rau said.
“A lot of times, children that perpetrate on other children have issues that have not been reported,” she said. “This is their way of acting out. We need to be able to provide services for those kids before they get too old and are in the adult system, and there aren't those opportunities to get help.”
The obligation to report applies when a mandatory reporter has a “reasonable belief” that a minor has been victimized, she said. Proof is not required.
“That is a very low standard. We're not asking people to investigate,” she said. “If a reasonable person would believe a child has been a victim, that's as far as you need to go.”
Sometimes foster parents or group homes are reluctant to report abuse committed by one of their charges. They worry if they're not 100 percent sure the abuse is taking place, they could unnecessarily get the police involved in a vulnerable child's life.
Rau understands that. But, she said, “You have to think about which is the lesser of two evils. What if something horrendous is going on and you don't report it and now it continues? Which way are you going to be able to sleep at night?”
Parents need to talk about bullying
by Karen Thomas
October is National Bullying Prevention Month. It's a good time for parents to talk to their children about bullying.
Parents should address the topic so children know what to do if it does happen to them and understand that it is not acceptable behavior.
Bullying can come in many forms, including physical or emotional abuse, damage to a child's property, spreading malicious rumors, name calling or forcing a child to do something he or she doesn't want to do.
Both boys and girls are bullied but usually it happens in different ways. Boys are more likely to bully on a one-to-one basis using physical intimidation, whereas girls are more likely to bully in groups and use psychological intimidation such as excluding others from groups and spreading rumors.
It's important to stop bullying not only because it's an unacceptable behavior, but also because children who are consistently bullied can have emotional problems and perform poorly in school. And of course, if the bullying is physical, it can have harmful effects on a child's body.
There are a number of things a parent can do to prevent bullying. First, be aware of your school district's bullying policy. Second, if your child is being bullied, don't ignore the problem and don't advise your child to ignore the bully. Instead, provide an open atmosphere in your household for your children to talk to you about bullying. Listen and understand. Stay calm and give your child plenty of time to tell you how he or she feels. Experts advise parents to avoid blaming your child for being bullied. Do not encourage your child to retaliate if he's experiencing bullying. That only teaches the youth that bullying is acceptable behavior.
If your child is being bullied, work with school personnel such as a teacher, guidance counselor, or principal to solve the problem. When discussing the situation with school officials, remain calm and be proactive. Ask them about their monitoring procedures for bullying behaviors. You also may want to keep records of any bullying incidents as well as communication you've had with the school.
At home, encourage good social skills and behavior with your child. Build your child's resiliency through his participation in hobbies, extra-curricular activities and friendships with students who do not bully. Praise your child for accomplishments which boosts self-esteem and helps to create a confident, assertive child who will be less likely to be the target of a bully. Most importantly, make sure your child has a safe home environment and knows how to seek help from an adult if he or she encounters hostile classmates or peers.
For more tips to help you talk to your child about school, relationships and bullying, download the KnowBullying app by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at http://1.usa.gov/1sAeJPH. The app is a great resource for bullying prevention information including ideas for talking to kids about bullying.
KAREN THOMAS is a family and consumer sciences educator for Penn State Extension in Lackawanna County.
Breaking the cycle of violent relationships
by Nick Bechtel
MARION – Whenever Tonia showed signs of leaving her boyfriend in Florida, it never ended well.
She said her off-and-on partner of five years would always yell, threaten and try to control her, but it was when she tried to run from the abusive relationship that he became most violent.
“When I came up here, my jaw had been cracked,” she said. “When I bite down, I could feel it.”
The one time she managed to leave, Tonia began a relationship with another man in Florida. She returned to her first partner after the new boyfriend stabbed her six times, she said.
It was the lesser of two evils.
“Everything had to be his way,” Tonia said. “If it didn't go like he thought it should have, it was my fault, even if it wasn't.”
Tonia's way out of the cycle of domestic violence has taken five years, and after a year at Turning Point she is preparing to face life outside of Marion's shelter.
“It's hard, you know,” she said with nervous laughter. “You're going to a new place with new people and you're unsure. You so used to what you're used to. Everything is so different you're just scared of it. Your whole world is changed.”
It's rare to find someone who is willing to talk about their domestic violence, even from someone who agreed to speak anonymously like Tonia.
“Victims don't want to talk about it because it's embarrassing,” said Paula Roller, executive director at Turning Point. “They take the onus on themselves that they must be doing something wrong.”
Roller had no issue calling Tonia's two boyfriends and the hundreds of other domestic violence abusers evil.
“Working here, I've lost my innocence,” she said. “I didn't know one human being could do that to another.
“I didn't believe in evil until I came here.”
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence estimates that 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by a partner each year.
“Physical abuse is used as the overall threat, but it may be verbal, psychological or emotion abuse,” Roller said. “At the end of the day, as it goes on in this unhealthy relationship, it ratchets up to physical violence because you have to use heavier-handed tactics to keep control.”
Tonia, tired of the controlling ways, turned to Turning Point for support and help. She shared her story hoping others in dangerous relationships will seek help and break the cycle of abuse.
“Don't be afraid to step outside the box,” she said. “I think that's the hardest part for everybody — trying something new. No matter how afraid you are, just do it because it can be beneficial.”
Turning Point Turns 35
Outside one of the oldest and largest rural shelters in Ohio, several dozen colorful shirts hang from a clothesline.
“We have many, many shirts,” Roller said. “Hundreds. So we put a little piece of it out every year.”
The display is a part of the Clothesline Project, a national movement to raise awareness for violence against women.
Roller said each color represents a different victim of domestic violence, with the colors representing a different type of abuse. Red, pink and orange are displayed for survivors of rape and sexual assault. Blue and green hang for the victims of incest and sexual abuse. White shifts represent women who died because of violence.
The shirts will hang outside all October for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It's a sad, but necessary, reminder of the clientele the facility supports every day.
According to their annual report, Turning Point has housed 105 women, 113 children and six men between July 2013 and June 2014. The average length of stay per client was over two months.
The center has handled 945 crisis calls — about five every two days — reporting domestic violence. Nearly two-thirds of those calls were from Marion County.
Since 1979, the shelter facility has offered refuge to residents in Crawford, Delaware, Marion, Morrow, Union and Wyandot counties facing violence at home.
“When that family came to the shelter, there was still no law against domestic violence or child abuse,” Roller said. “That's hard to imagine.”
Financially, Turning Point is operating in the red this year. The report lists operating expenses at $853,000, with financial support and revenue just shy of $797,000.
“Owning and operating your own shelter is kind of like owning and operating your own hospital,” Roller said. “It's very expensive. Whether we're full or whether we're empty, we're staffed, stocked and ready to go.”
She hopes to get the facility back in the black by the end of January when more funding becomes available. Turning Point is funded through the United Way, government funds, contributions and grants, marriage license fees and mental health boards.
A Silent Crime?
Domestic violence is considered “one of the most chronically under reported crimes” according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
“Less than 10 percent of all victims contact law enforcement,” Roller said. “Most people don't want to get involved with law enforcement.”
Between May and September, the Marion Police Department responded to 818 domestic-related calls to service. About one in nine of those wound up being considered domestic violence or a protection order issue, according to police.
Detective Scott Sterling said victims are often uncooperative in domestic violence cases, but it's not necessarily the fault of the victim.
“In the heat of the moment, this (an arrest) is what they want,” he said. “But after a couple of days, when the prosecutor starts calling them, they start backtracking. That's why we try to get them locked into a statement.”
Sterling said the role of police at a domestic scene is to find the “primary aggressor” and take action to protect the safety of everyone involved.
Sterling said most domestic cases handled by local police are repeat offenders or people with pending domestic-related cases. Those with a history of violence are charged with felonies, while most first-time offenders receive misdemeanor charges.
Roller said a stigma exists surrounding women in violent situations, asking why they do not leave a dangerous environment.
“Nobody ever asks me why doesn't he stop,” she said. “That should be the question. It is not her responsibility to get out of the house any more than it is his responsibility to stop the behavior.”
Although women are the most common victims of domestic violence, men are also subjective to domestic abuse from women. Same-sex couples are not immune either.
“Domestic violence is an equal-opportunity crime,” Roller said. “It happens to anybody: any socioeconomic level, any race, color or creed. It just happens.”
Talking to Kids
Local experts in the domestic violence field blame the rise in instances on a society that grows more abusive.
“We see violence everywhere,” Roller said. “Whether it's in TV shows, movies, kid's games, violence is everywhere.”
“It's just the way society is now,” Sterling said in agreement. “It's a violent society.”
One solution, according to Roller, is to educate the next generation on the signs and dangers of domestic abuse.
“We've got to get to the young people if we want to change the culture,” she said.
Turning Point's education efforts address this need. Coordinator Joyce Johnston speaks to classes in Marion and neighboring counties about dangers of dating violence. She discusses signs of physical, verbal, sexual and emotional abuse with middle and high school students.
Between 160 and 240 teenage girls are believed to be victims of dating violence in Marion County every year according to the Ohio Family Violence Prevention Project. Girls ages 15 to 19 are as much as four times more likely to be a victim of dating violence than injured in a motor vehicle crash.
Roller also said parents should talk to their children about the dangers of sexting, adding that Ohio is working to change the laws relating to “the new phenomenon.”
New York's trafficking courts save lives
The new courts give victims new hope
by Judy Harris Kluger
Anyone who thinks that prostitution is a victimless crime or a chosen "profession" needs a history lesson.
In a new report issued by the Red Umbrella Project, dangerous misconceptions provide the foundation for deeply flawed analysis. The report analyzes the first year of operation of New York's Human Trafficking Intervention Courts, yet myopically fails to recognize the revolutionary approach the courts represent. The report does not to take into account the precedent of the prior system, the reality of the harms caused by prostitution and the numerous successes of these trailblazing courts.
As a judge who presided over these cases in the late 1980s and 1990s, I know this history only too well. Visibly battered young women and transgender people, many homeless, appeared before me. They were often represented by defense attorneys who had not interviewed their clients. Alleged "prostitutes," unlike any other category of defendants, were routinely lined up in front of the court in a dehumanizing and disrespectful parade that invited snickers and leers from the gallery. Court dispositions for repeat offenders usually included lectures, fines, and jail time.
But that was not the only sentence. Upon release, many of these individuals were immediately returned to the brutality and abuse imposed by their pimps and traffickers.
As I moved up in the court system, I never forgot the searing images of these vulnerable people and the feeling that our justice system was only deepening their oppression. Until Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman instituted the Human Trafficking Intervention Courts that I helped to implement last year, people arrested for prostitution, most bearing the physical and emotional scars of trafficking, were wrongly viewed and treated as criminals in our courts. Today, thanks to the Intervention Courts, these individuals receive a wide range of life-changing legal and social services that help them escape the violence and degradation of prostitution and trafficking.
The notion that most people affirmatively choose prostitution as a preferred way of life is pure fantasy. As I learned both in the court house and at Sanctuary for Families, those who appear before the courts as prostitution defendants typically entered this "profession" between the ages of 12 and 14. Their average age of mortality is 34 years old. Between 65 and 96 percent are sexually assaulted as children; 60 to 75 percent have been raped by pimps and sex purchasers, and between 70 and 95 percent have been physically assaulted during the course of their "work."
They are often poor, homeless immigrants, sometimes undocumented, and many brought here under false pretenses. Survivors tell us that it is a lack of choice that drives them into prostitution.
Under New York's new judicial model, the court now recognizes that almost all of these prostitution defendants are victims or at risk of human trafficking. Judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers work together to link victims with the services they need to transform and save their lives. Services include access to workforce training, where they may acquire skills to cease the exploitation and earn a living wage. To date, more than 4,200 people have had their cases heard by the courts, including foreign-born defendants who receive immigration assistance in a new pilot program in Queens - an outgrowth of the Intervention Courts.
There is now widespread agreement in the justice system that victims of prostitution should not be criminalized. And much more must be done.
Human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar criminal industry second only to drug trafficking. Enforcement at the federal, state, and local levels must focus on the demand side of this brutal industry. Known as the Nordic model, this strategy does not criminalize those in prostitution, but rather holds the pimps and purchasers criminally accountable for their roles in the sex trade and human trafficking. At Sanctuary for Families, we strongly endorse this model.
The Human Trafficking Intervention Courts offer an unprecedented lifeline to many. As Judge Lippman said when he announced the new courts, "For most of our history, trafficking victims had an entirely negative place in our culture. They were thought of not as victims, but as criminals, addicts, delinquents, incorrigible and profit-driven. We have come to recognize that the vast majority of children and adults charged with prostitution offenses are commercially exploited or at risk of exploitation. With this Human Trafficking Intervention Initiative, we are taking a giant leap forward toward solving this vast and critical problem."
Kluger is executive director of Sanctuary for Families, New York's leading service provider and advocate for survivors of domestic violence, sex trafficking and related forms of gender violence. She served as a New York State Supreme Court Judge for 25 years.
Study says home least safe place for women
by Bridget Ortigo
The day domestic violence survivor Kleva George escaped her abusive relationship, she said she felt the weight of the world lifted off her shoulders.
“I remember the day I left and I walked out of that house and down the road and threw my hands in the air. I just felt such freedom like I'd never felt before,” George said.
The product of an unstable childhood — her mother committed suicide when she was 12 — George said she made a series of choices that left her in a volatile situation.
She said it's hard to get out of a violent relationship, and many people suffer added guilt for staying.
“It's so hard to pull yourself out of it,” the Longview resident said Wednesday. “There's no quick fix. I remember getting told so many times, ‘You must like it (since) you keep staying,' but that's not true. Victims are already as down and low as they can get. They need help, not blame and criticism.”
October is national Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the East Texas Women's Center has several events and new programs planned to bring awareness to the issue.
The recent uproar involving former Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice and his wife, Janay Palmer, have brought national attention to domestic violence.
Many comments in the media placed blame on Palmer for staying with, and later marrying, Rice.
Officials at the women's center and George say relationships are complicated, and blame should never be placed on the victim.
“There are worries like finances, where are they going to live, usually children are involved,” said Shannon Trest, Women's Center of East Texas executive director. “There are just so many factors, and most of these couples (involved in domestic violence) have been together for quite a while.”
The most dangerous place for a woman in the United States is in her own home, according to a report from the Texas Council on Family Violence.
The council's report shows 119 women in Texas were killed as a result of domestic violence in 2013. Three of those women lived in the six-county East Texas region that the Women's Center serves.
This year, the number of fatalities in the region has doubled, with six women having been killed by their partners, the report said. And of the 119 women killed in Texas this past year, 76 percent were killed in their homes.
Trest said the center serves about 200 women each month either through outreach programs or through anonymous hotline calls.
“You just feel like you're not worthy of anything or anyone else. They just beat you down mentally and physically over time,” George said. “And you can't help the abuser. You can't fix them by being their victim.”
George knows all about the cycle of frustration, guilt and fear of living with an abuser after being married to a husband she says abused her for 13 years.
“When I was 12 years old, my mother committed suicide. I was out on my own and ended up getting married at 14 and divorced by 16,” said George, who is now the manager at Hope's Closet Store No. 2, one of four retail stores that serve as a source of funding for the women's center.
“I was a child raising myself. At 18, I met an older man, and he started out being so caring and sweet to me. But soon he turned on me, and I was beaten severely by him over the years, given broken bones and even ran over by a vehicle at one point. He crushed my ankle.”
George said she finally got to the point where she was retaliating and knew she had to get out.
“Unfortunately, I didn't know what to do from there or where to go, so I turned to a life of drugs and prostitution.”
George said the women's center has many programs for women and children caught in abusive relationships.
“There's the hotline, they offer counseling, shelter, food, resources,” George said. “There's so many more options nowadays for victims.”
Trest and women's center Director of Programs and Services Brooke King said prevention is key.
“We need to do a lot more prevention work,” Trest said. “Families want to stay together. We want to work with the batterer and the survivor and give everyone tools for healthier and safer lives.”
One of the newest programs in place to help prevent domestic violence deaths in Gregg County is the Battering Intervention and Prevention Programs, or BIPP.
“It's a 26-week course that holds the perpetrator accountable,” Trest said. “We're about four weeks into the program here in Gregg County.”
King said abusers can change, but only if they truly desire to do so.
“It's up to the individual person,” King said. “If they recognize their behavior is ineffective and inappropriate, they can make a choice. It doesn't have to be ‘Once a hitter, always a hitter.' ”
Trest said there have been some statewide success stories through the new batterer program, but since the first course hasn't finished in Gregg County, it's too soon to evaluate local data.
Trest and King said the women's center provides help and resources to victims.
“Whatever they want or need or feel comfortable with, we're here for them,” Trest said. “If they want to call the hotline, we can talk about options. If they want to come to the center, they can talk to a counselor. We can provide shelter for however long they need.”
Trest said some women come for a couple of days, others a little longer.
“Sometimes they just need a respite,” Trest said. “We're here to offer options while they figure out what they want. We will help with whatever they choose. We are here to assist people in achieving the goals they set for themselves.”
Trest likened the center to a Global Positioning System.
“The victim is the driver, the center is the GPS,” Trest said. “The victim punches in where they want to go, and we'll get you there. If it doesn't work out the way they want it to, or thought it would, we'll recalculate. Our goal is to empower people to make decisions for themselves.”
King said every woman's case and needs are different.
“These relationships are complicated,” Trest said. “One formula might not work for another victim.”
The center also helps the women with their children's needs.
“The women and their children stay together in the shelter,” Trest said. “They stay until they have met the goals they've set for themselves.”
Trest said there is a relationship quiz the center recommends women take if they feel they might be in a potentially abusive relationship.
“If you recognize you're being isolated, always being put down, doesn't let you control finances or make any decisions, these are all signs of a potential batterer,” Trest said.
King said it can sometimes be hard for family members to intervene or recognize abuse.
“The important thing is to not make the victim feel worse,” King said. “The victim already knows it's bad. Just express concern, open the dialogue and let them know they're not alone.”
King said relationships almost never start out violent.
“In my 10 years of working at the center, I can count on one hand and not use all of my fingers how many times a victim's relationship initially started off violent. These take time. It's usually six to nine months before things start to change.”
King said by that time, the couples have deep emotional involvement, they're married or they have children.
“If you think about someone you care deeply about, it's impossible to turn your feelings off. It's not different in these relationships except they tend to be explosive.”
The Women's Center works with several local schools and alternative schools for prevention programs, Trest said.
“We usually start about the middle school age,” Trest said. “We go into the schools and teach them about what a healthy relationship looks like. We tell them how people don't deserve to be abused. Unfortunately, not all kids have great role models.”
The center is also part of a new fatality review team that's made up of the Gregg County Sheriff's Office, Longview Police Department, Gregg County District Attorney's Office, Good Shepherd Medical Center and Texas Department of Public Safety.
“This is a coordinated effort between several agencies to look at adjudicated cases where a domestic violence fatality occurred,” Trest said. “The team will review the case and find out what led up to the fatality. It's not to place blame on any one person or agency but to what an agency could have done to prevent the fatality.”
The team will begin reviewing cases in January.
“We will decide as a team, ‘Where are our deficits when working with victims?' ” Trest said. “Then we will hopefully implement a pretty swift remedy.”
The center is sponsoring “Light the Night” from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 21 to honor victims of domestic violence from this past year.
The center is also “Painting the Town Purple” for October to raise awareness of domestic violence since purple has been the designated color of the cause.
The city of Longview has replaced several of its street lamps with purple bulbs on Tyler Street in honor of the cause.
“This is a very important initiative, and we don't want domestic violence happening in our city,” City Councilwoman Kristen Ishihara said Thursday. “We need to have open dialogue about this issue. Many of us are blessed to not deal with this, but we need to be aware to help others and offer resources.”
Ishihara is also a member of the Zonta Club of Longview and said the group focuses heavily on stopping violence against women.
“We have a program this month to discuss the impact of domestic violence and the psychological effect it has on women,” Ishihara said.
Trest said domestic violence doesn't just affect the couple involved: bystanders and children are often found to be victims as well.
The center's data show 186 children and adults in the state lost a parent as a result of a femicide in 2013. Of those, 55 children watched their mother's murder by a partner or former partner.
George advises victims in a violent relationship to seek help.
“Nobody has a right to treat you like that,” George said. “Go to your higher power. You can get strength to take yourself out of a situation. Reach inside yourself and find the strength to get out. Nobody should be in your face telling you you're not worthy. That's not true.”
George told victims to call the center's hotline that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“Don't say ‘It can't happen to me,' because it can happen to you,” George said. “Rise above the person that's doing that to you because they're pretty low down. It won't be hard to rise above that person. Don't let them bring you down to their level, and you can't rise them up to yours.”
If you go
What: Light the Night Honoring Texas Victims
When: 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 21
Where: Teague Park Amphitheater, American Legion Boulevard, Longview
Information: Contact Dawn Griffin 903-295-7846 or Dawn@wc-et.org
Paint the Town Purple effort
What: East Texas Women's Center is raising awareness for domestic violence by “Painting the Town Purple”
How: Any Longview residents or businesses can replace outside lighting with purple bulbs, allow all staff to wear purple one day or paint nails/color hair purple.
When: The whole month of October. All participants will be recognized by the women's center on Oct. 21 at Light the Night.
For information or to receive free purple bulbs, contact Dawn Griffin at (903) 295-7846 or firstname.lastname@example.org
New Gregg County programs to help prevent domestic violence
Fatality Review Team- Starting in January of 2015, members of the Gregg County Sheriff's Office, Longview Police Department, Gregg County District Attorney's Office, Texas Department of Public Safety, Good Shepherd Medical Center and the East Texas Women's Center will review adjudicated cases with a domestic violence fatality to refine and coordinate an intervention effort with the purpose of improving services and decreasing the incidence of preventable adult deaths.
Battering Intervention and Prevention Programs or BIPP -A 26 week course for the batterer of help and change based on accountability. There are many individuals who have battered those who love them the most, but there are only a few that have the courage to admit they have a problem and take responsibility for choosing non-violence in the future. An accredited program aproved by the Texas Council on Family Violence.
If you need help
East Texas Women's Center has four locations: Main office is at 1011 Wal St,, Suite 101 in Longview, (903) 295-7846. Harrison County office is at 2109 Victory Drive in Marshall, (903) 934-9661. Upshur County office is at 100 Jefferson St. No. 7 Roberts Building in Gilmer, (903) 680-2441. Rusk County office is at 1773 U. S. 79 South Suite B in Henderson, (903) 657-7363.
Hope's Closet (Women's Center retail and donation center) has four locations: 1011 Wal St. Suite 100 in Longview, (903) 295-2585; 2409 Gilmer Road in Longview, (903) 248-3248; 1015 Kilgore Plaza in Kilgore, (903) 983-0002; and 214 East End Blvd. in Marshall, (903) 927-0004.
Domestic violence hotline numbers: National hotline, 1-800-799-7233; National Sexual Assault hotline, 1-800-656-4673; National Teen Dating Abuse hotline, 1-866-331-9474; local domestic violence hotline, 1-800-441-5555. All calls are confidential.
Texas domestic violence
One hundred and 19 women were killed by a partner in 2013. That compares with 114 in 2012 and 102 in 2011.
Ten of those 119 deaths were in 13 East Texas counties.
Three women were killed in 2013 in the six-county area represented by the Women's Center of East Texas.
Six women have been killed in 2014 in that six-county area.
Seventeen bystanders, including five children, were killed in 2013 as a result of domestic violence.
Centers work to end domestic violence; survivor shares her story
by Devan Chavez
CEDAR CITY — October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, and women's shelters, crisis centers and domestic violence survivors are speaking out to help raise awareness and education about the signs and signals indicating a dangerous situation.
Domestic violence is important for communities to acknowledge because domestic violence can be prevented, Cindy Baldwin, executive director of Canyon Creek Women's Crisis Center in Cedar City, said.
“Domestic violence is not something without a cure, it is a learned behavior,” Baldwin said. “Through education, prevention and raising awareness, I truly believe that we can minimize it in our communities.”
The CCWCC first began as an emergency shelter, giving refuge to those who needed immediate help, Baldwin said. It has since grown to not only include shelter, but also to provide support groups, community education and a mobile crisis team.
CCWCC is not the only Southern Utah outlet offing these services. The Dove Center in St. George offers similar options to men and women suffering from the effects of domestic violence.
The Dove Center is where Tracy — whose name has been changed in this article to protect her privacy and ensure her safety — said she found help after she fled from her husband after years of abuse.
Throughout 28 years of marriage, Tracy said, her husband began to progress in his abuse. It started with controlling where she was going and who she was talking to, and escalated into verbal abuse. At one point she could hardly go a day without being called stupid or worthless.
“There were many days waking up and looking down the hall and asking myself, ‘what kind of day will this be?'” Tracy said.
The abuse did take a physical form as time went on, Tracy said. While her husband never hit or punched her, he would often shove her, throw things and threaten to shoot her.
Eventually, Tracy said, she could not take it anymore, and she made a plan to flee from her husband. One night when things were getting bad, she decided enough was enough.
“… I left my (ex-husband) after a very volatile evening,” Tracy said. “I have never looked back.”
Once out of the danger zone, Tracy said some of her friends and family were not as supportive about her situation as she had hoped. Their actions and words only seemed to pull her down more until she found help in a different way.
This, Tracy said, was when she found her saving grace.
“A family member phoned me one day and said to look into a women's shelter in my state, so that is how I found the Dove Center,” Tracy said. “I was unaware of their existence before then.”
Tracy began attending group therapy sessions with other survivors in the area – a decision that, she said, has benefited her in many ways.
“Group-therapy saved my sanity,” Tracy said. “… In group you are not judged.”
Tracy has since moved on to not only attending these group sessions, but also offering her time to better help others going through similar problems. Tracy said she has done this by volunteering as a victims advocate for hospital calls and assisting the Dove Center in any other way she can.
“My legacy is to always express hope to victims at their worse time of grief,” Tracy said. “If you give them hope then you may succeed in moving them forward to continue being productive people in the world.”
Raising awareness, education and prevention
Domestic violence is something that affects society as a whole, Georgia Thompson, interim director of the Center for Women and Families at Southern Utah University, said. People sometimes don't want to admit how real the problem can be.
“People often like to think (domestic violence) is something that happens to a faraway person,” Thompson said, “but this is something that happens in this community.”
Often times, violence isn't something that is constant, Thompson said. A relationship can have periods of violence and then transition into a “honeymoon phase” where the aggressor apologizes over and over, promising to never hurt them again.
“The victim of abuse often thinks this phase will last,” Thompson said. “It's something they hold on to because it is something they can live with.”
Domestic violence relationships are usually all about control, Thompson said. Red flags in a relationship can be monitoring of phone calls, restriction of funds and the isolation of the victim from friends and family.
It is important to know that domestic violence may not always be something easily identified, Tracy said. Often times, abuse can go on for years and no one could have any idea.
“A victim could be anyone,” Tracy said. “My closest friends never knew what I was going through. It could be happening right next door.”
According to documents provided by CCWCC, the center assisted a total of 812 clients in its 2014 fiscal year. This included 93 women given refuge at the adult shelter and 88 children at the children's shelter.
Education in domestic violence is not only for adults, but can be for children as well, Baldwin said. One of the programs currently in place through CCWCC helps educate high school students about the importance of healthy relationships.
Starting this education young is important, Baldwin said, because it can help both girls and boys learn what a healthy relationship looks like. This can help combat any negative relationship aspects these youth may have previously thought to be normal.
“Statistically, children are much more likely to become victims or perpetrators if they grow up in a home that is exposed to domestic violence,” Baldwin said. “That's why a big part of our mission is to raise prevention and awareness.”
A child who has witnessed violence occur at such a level where it seems normal may begin to think acting out with violence is alright, Thompson said. This can create a cycle where generation after generation thinks that this is acceptable behavior.
Thompson also said events such as those during Domestic Violence Awareness Month can help raise awareness and educate those who may not know
On Saturday, Thompson said, Cedar City community members would attend the Take a Step Against Domestic Violence event. The event began at 9 a.m. with a walk, beginning at the Bicentennial skate park and end at the Piute Tribe Building at 440 North Paiute Drive.
Following the walk, lunch will be provided and Donna Kelly, Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Research Presenter with the Attorney Generals Office, will give a presentation on domestic violence and how it can be identified and prevented. All are welcome to attend.
Options for those experiencing domestic violence
Emergency shelter, Baldwin said, is offered to women and children who may be at risk and who need immediate housing. These individuals can stay in the shelter for up to 90 days. Men who may need a similar service can call CCWCC for assistance.
A newer addition to the center is the 24-hour mobile crisis team, Baldwin said. This team not only works with individuals over the phone, but also responds to the scene of domestic violence along with authorities.
“They also respond to the hospital to support victims of domestic violence and sexual assault,” Baldwin said. “There is a lot of correlation between domestic violence and sexual assault, so we are a dual agency.”
Like the support groups Tracy attended at the Dove Center, CCWCC also provides free group-support sessions that are open for the community to attend free of charge. More information on both the Dove Center and CCWCC group sessions can be obtained by contacting the centers.
If a person comes to you saying they have suffered from domestic violence, Tracy said, it is important to show your support to them.
“If anyone has a victim approach them for help the best advice is to listen and direct them to their nearest shelter for professional help,” Tracy said. “No matter how many times the victim may return to their abuser. Never shut the doors on a victim.”
More information on the services available to survivors of domestic violence and those currently suffering from it can contact the centers directly. In an immediately dangerous emergency situation, call 911 for help.
Sex trafficking "massive problem" in DC
by Mola Lenghi
Andrea Powell has been trying to save a complete stranger for three years.
"She was 17 when she was first being sold on backpage.com," said Powell, co-founder and executive director of Fair Girls, a group dedicated to saving and empowering victims of sex trafficking.
Powell believes the young woman she has seen time and time again in sex ads on backpage.com is stuck in a sex trafficking ring.
"Often times you see multiple ads over and over and over again and it's really hard when you don't find that person, when you don't know where they are," said Powell.
Powell and her Fair Girls staff constantly browse online ads, looking for red flags that a young girl is being exploited and sold for sex against her will.
"Sex trafficking in particular in the District of Columbia is a massive problem," said Powell.
Friday night, Fair Girls converted a DC motel room into an exhibit of graphic ads, pictures and excerpts of direct accounts from victims - young girls lured into the trafficking. The items were posted all over the motel room walls for effect. They then invited the public into the room to get a sense of what the victims go through.
Below are several victim testimonies:
"My aunt was trading me for sex for drugs. Nobody knew in school. I was already an abused child taken out of my mothers home."
"After years in foster care, I didn't think anyone would want to take care of me unless they were paid. So when my pimp expected me to make money to support the family it made sense to me."
"No one every asked me about my life, about prostitution, being beaten, raped or kidnapped. How could I get out? I was just a whore, a criminal. No one ever treated me like a person."
On average, the young women Fair Girls serves are between 16 to 18-years-old.
"The average number of years they've been exploited is four, which makes them 12 to 14-years-old when they're sold into exploitation," explained Powell.
Many are run away from abusive foster care situations and find someone who claims they can help.
"They're offered love and protection and support -- all the things they're not getting at home," she said.
Instead, they're enslaved, exploited and sold. According to Powell, the average victim is sold three to five times per night. For some girls, the nightmare lasts for years.
"What they're told over and over again is that if you tell anyone, they're not going to believe you, they're going to call you a prostitute and they're going to put you in jail," said Powell.
Meanwhile, pimps can make more than $10,000 a week. Powell says backpage.Com made more than $40 million from 2012-13 selling sex ads, though not all trafficking.
Many children Fair Girls serves were sold on the website, which she said has between 200 to 400 sex ads.
"Everyone who's involved in this situation is profiting and making money except for the victims and they're the ones left with exploitation, STDs, unwanted pregnancies and a lifetime of trauma," said Powell.
Meanwhile, the many of the child victims are arrested.
Fair Girls hopes D.C. City Council passes a bill, one Councilmember Tommy Wells appears to be on the verge of proposing, that would ensure child victims would receive support services, like Fair Girls, instead of arresting them for prostitution. Also under the bill, police would be required to intensively search for all missing children -- which is not the case now.
"We just shouldn't simply be arresting children who are being sold for sex in the city," said Powell.
How ordinary people here can help end sex trafficking
by Alex Pence
As many of us sit in our homes and read today's paper, an issue like human trafficking can seem overwhelming, distant, and faceless. It is a global crisis and a problem even right here in Wisconsin. Nonetheless, “What can I do about it?” is an extremely challenging question.
Today, the United Nations estimates 27 million people are victims of human trafficking, many of them women and girls held captive in commercial sexual exploitation. This occurs through force or fraud, by no choice of their own. It is modern-day slavery. It is the second largest criminal industry in the world, behind the illegal drug trade. And its profits are increasing. A bag of meth can only be used once. A human body can be sold 10 times per day.
In Wisconsin in 2013, 100 children were rescued from 100 suspected traffickers in a nationwide FBI-coordinated investigation and sting operation. Wisconsin's numbers were among the highest of all the states that took part in this sting. About 80 percent of all human trafficking in Wisconsin is sex trafficking, and a favored route for traffickers to transport victims is along the I-94 corridor from Detroit through Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and, since the oil boom, to North Dakota.
So what can we do about it? The Aruna Project seeks to combat sex trafficking in a location of severe need, while empowering people right here in Madison with a specific opportunity to help.
The Aruna Project focuses its work in one of South Asia's largest red light districts, where 15,000 sex workers are held captive within an area about the size Madison's isthmus. They rescue women and children, and rehabilitate them through counseling, literacy classes, and skill and trade development, with the end goal of helping them to sustain lifelong freedom through employment supported by holistic care.
Additionally, they seek to mobilize ordinary people across America to join the abolitionist movement through awareness and fundraising races. Everyone can do something to combat sex trafficking, no matter where they live. It starts with ordinary people in ordinary places willing to move in the same direction together. With this purpose I invite you to join hundreds of others running together, for freedom. Madison's first Aruna 5K Run for Their Freedom will be Saturday, Oct. 18, at 9 a.m. Vilas Park.
When you participate in the Aruna 5K, you run or walk for an exploited woman by name to raise awareness of her need and raise money to help bring and sustain her freedom. Participation is free, but fundraising is encouraged. Because the event costs have been covered by our local business sponsors — the major sponsors are Metcalfe's, Harbor Athletic Club and Lock'n'Charge Technologies — all the money raised by participants will directly support the Aruna Project's work bringing freedom to the enslaved.
Together, we can make a difference, one life at a time. Join us and Run for Their Freedom.
To register for the race or sponsor other runners, please visit ArunaProject.com.
Alex Pence, of Madison, is race director for the Aruna 5K Run for Their Freedom.
How to Spot a Trafficking Victim at an Airport
Sex trafficking is a big business in the U.S. How come more people don't notice it?
by Belinda Luscombe
Every time a new horror story about sex trafficking pops up on our radars, about women held for years against their will, or forced to be child brides, or ensnared in a prostitution ring, the same question also surfaces: why didn't anyone notice anything?
One of the reasons sex trafficking is frequently overlooked is that it's hiding in plain sight. Victims are not always bundled across borders in cars vans with blacked out windows or transported in shipping containers. Sometimes they're simply brought in with thousands of other international travelers on an airplane, and forced to service johns at a local hotel.
Law enforcement authorities are beginning to work together with businesses—particularly hotels and airlines—to spot people who are being moved around against their will. While many of their techniques are proprietary, and the companies don't want to say too much about them, there are a few measures that anyone might use.
Delta airline employees are now being trained to ask certain questions at check-in, Letty Ashworth, general manager of global diversity for Delta, told a packed Concordia Summit symposium on human trafficking in New York City on Sept. 29. They're told to carefully watch for anyone whose documents are not in their own possession. “If for instance you are at a gate and there is an unaccompanied minor, do they know the name of the person they're traveling with, or where they're going?” she said.
Crewmembers also watch for unusual activity on a plane, such as when kids don't answer questions or avoid eye contact when addressed. Other telltale signs might be bruising or other wounds, or a ravenous appetite. (Insert your favorite “you'd have to be starving to eat airline food” joke here. Or actually, don't.)
Don't expect trafficking victims to be foreign: 83% of people forced into prostitution in the U.S. are from the U.S. They're often runaways and sometimes have been at the mercy of their traffickers for so long they see themselves not as women being pimped out for sex but as girlfriends helping their boyfriend pay the bills. “We've had women testify on behalf of their abuser, that they loved them and were not there against their will,” even though they had been severely abused, said Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance at the event. He's seen at least one woman tattooed with a barcode by her trafficker, as a mark of ownership.
Vance's office is also working with hotels to prosecute sex traffickers. One of the big red flags is people who have a pattern of frequently booking a series of hotel rooms on a credit card then paying in cash. Because sex trafficking spikes around the Super Bowl, hotel employees are being asked to be particularly vigilant during that time. And the NFL has been asked to only host the Super Bowl in states that have robust anti-trafficking laws.
The response that trafficking activists are hoping for is similar to the response for suspected acts of terror: “If you see something say something.” Vance is a bit more circumspect. “First people have to decide they care about it,” he said in an interview. “Unless you acknowledge that it happens and are prepared to talk about it it's not going to change. It all starts at the grass roots. We had 3,500 homeless kids come to New York City last year; they're a target for traffickers. It has to start from people understanding these aren't kids in Africa. These are our kids.”
Paedophile caught with homemade child abuse themed BOARD GAME under his bed
by Jack Crone
A convicted paedphile who was once filmed having sex with a 12-year-old boy has been jailed for a third time after police found a sickening child-abuse themed board game under his bed.
Paul Emsley, 47, was caught when police visiting his home discovered a stash of child porn images along with the game - which involved participants pretending to be children and performing sex acts on each other.
Officers also found drug paraphernalia in every room and a camera and video-enabled mobile phone, which Emsley was barred from possessing under the terms of a lifetime sexual offences prevention order (SOPO).
Emsley, formerly of Padiham, Lancashire, was jailed for 45 months in 1999 after having sex with a young boy before threatening to kill him if he told anyone what happened.
He was jailed again for two-and-a-half years in 2012 for breaching the SOPO, after he was caught downloading hundreds of child porn images at his home.
And in 2013 he was fined by magistrates for possession of a video or camera-enabled mobile phone, Burnley Crown Court heard.
In the most recent incident, police visited the 47-year-old's home on May 10 on a matter unrelated to his SOPO.
There they found a phone capable of taking videos and Emsley's sick collection of child pornography.
The court heard that the stash included 24 images on a CD and seven images on a VHS tape - with the banned images interspersed with legal homosexual pornography.
Six or seven of the illegal images were classed as category A - the most serious kind - and depicted penetrative sex involving children.
Judge Jonathan Gibson sentenced Emsley to 18 months in prison for one count of making indecent images, and two months for the second count, to run consecutively.
He also revoked the earlier SOPO, and issued Emsley with a fresh order. He is now prevented from having any unsupervised contact with a boy under 16 years old or living in a house with a boy aged under 16.
Emsley is also prohibited from possessing a computer or device capable of searching the internet, unless the device is surrendered to the police or probation service for inspection, and on the condition that he does not clear the search history on the device.
Emsley had earlier admitted to breaching his sexual offences prevention order and two charges of making indecent images.
Judge Gibson said Emsley had 'expressed some insight and some ambition to a future that does not involve the activity that has brought [him] time and time again before the courts'.
ICE expands reach of smartphone app designed to locate child predators and rescue their victims
WASHINGTON — The first U.S. federal law enforcement app designed to seek the public's help with fugitive and unknown suspected child predators is now available for Android smartphones, and in Spanish for both Apple and Android versions.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) launched the initial Operation Predator app for Apple products in September 2013. Within 36 hours of its launch, the app helped HSI special agents apprehend a suspect. The latest versions of the app are expected to significantly increase public outreach to help locate child predators and rescue their victims.
"This app is one piece of our commitment to ensuring child predators have absolutely nowhere to hide," said Acting ICE Director Thomas Winkowski.
The Spanish language versions of the app are built-in to the iOS and Android applications and require no additional downloads. Users who already have the iOS version simply need to update the app or download it fresh from the Apple Store or iTunes.
ICE's predator app allows users:
to receive alerts in their smartphones about wanted predators,
to share the information with friends via email and social media tools,
to provide information to HSI by calling or submitting an online tip, and
to view news about arrests and prosecutions of child predators.
The app also provides additional resources about HSI and its global partners in the fight against child exploitation.
The iOS version of the app can be downloaded from Apple's App Store and iTunes; the Android version is available on the Google Play store.
The first ICE app released in 2013 received honorable mention for "Best App" in PR News' 2014 Social Media Icon Awards June 2 in New York City. It was one of eight award finalists. The iOS version of the Predator app has been downloaded more than 93,400 times since its initial launch in 2013.
HSI requests anyone with information about the fugitives profiled in the app to contact the agency in one of two ways, which can both be done through the app:
Call the HSI Tip Line, which is staffed 24-hours a day: 866-347-2423 from the United States and Canada, or 802-872-6199 from anywhere in the world, or;
Complete an online tip form at www.ice.gov/tips
Members of the public should not attempt to personally apprehend suspects.
Operation Predator is an HSI-led, 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 producing and distributing online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking 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 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.
What About the Girls?
by Marian Wright Edelman
During the most critical period of Jessica's childhood, adults who could have intervened to protect her from abuse let her down over and over. As a child she was sexually abused in her home and ended up living with her grandmother for a time. At age 11 she became a victim to child sex trafficking when she fell into the clutches of a local pimp. She was never treated as a victim or a sexual assault survivor, even by the police. At school she was stalked and sexually harassed by a school administrator known to pay for sex. Jessica was sold for sex by her pimp for the next several years until she finally found a way out through The Mary Magdalene Project, a local social service agency. She often called herself a "prostitute," but through her healing and advocacy work Jessica now knows how important language is and understands she was sexually exploited.
When Tanisha was in junior high she got into a fight at school. Instead of the argument being mediated or the discipline handled by the school, she was funneled into Los Angeles County's juvenile justice system and given probation for getting into the fight. While on probation Tanisha, who had to rely on public transportation, was occasionally late for school which led to truancy tickets which were considered a probation violation. As a result Tanisha was arrested and detained at a juvenile detention center. When she arrived she was scared and depressed, but rather than providing her help from mental health professionals, she says detention officers placed her in "the box," or solitary confinement, for days. Cold, hungry, and extremely frightened, it took her a very long time to heal.
Today Tanisha is a 20-year-old student and advocate for other young people in the juvenile justice system through the Youth Justice Coalition, and Jessica is a 29-year-old Los Angeles County probation consultant with the Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Unit. Jessica is now a mother and is featured in a powerful mural on Los Angeles' Skid Row as a survivor of sex trafficking. Both survivors spoke at a Los Angeles town hall co-organized by the Children's Defense Fund-California, Public Counsel, Youth Justice Coalition, and UCLA Law School and focused on five critical areas where girls of color face disproportionate risks: school push-out, foster care and dependency, criminalization and incarceration, sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children, and gender-specific burdens.
Though national focus is often on the racially biased ways boys of color are treated, girls of color face many of the same risks from the cradle through adulthood which impact their life chances for success. Like boys, girls of color who enter the juvenile justice, child welfare, education, and other systems often arrive traumatized and experience more trauma from the way they are treated inside systems.
A recent report by the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, Inc. and the National Women's Law Center, Unlocking Opportunity for African American Girls: A Call to Action for Educational Equity, details the barriers to educational success for these girls: stereotyping and perception; under-resourced schools; unequal access to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning opportunities; overly punitive school discipline practices; the challenges of early pregnancy and parenting; and discrimination from school personnel. It also highlights sexual harassment, violence, and trauma and their harmful impact.
The level of gender-based violence girls experience and the way supposed "child-serving" systems treat girls of color compounds the harms they face. Systems often fail to see them as trauma survivors -- treating them instead as complicit in their victimhood, threatening, or unable to be rehabilitated. The story of mass incarceration and racial inequality is incomplete without understanding and acknowledging gender-based violence and the gender-specific burdens girls of color face as they attempt to survive these systems and succeed.
When Boko Haram kidnapped 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria earlier this year, it sparked international outrage and calls for United States military intervention. But girls are at risk right here at home too, begging the question -- where is the outrage for them? In 2010 the homicide rate among Black girls and women ages 10-24 was higher than for any other group of females and higher than that for White and Asian men. The firearm death rate for Black girls and women ages 10-24 from 2008-10 was more than 6.5 times higher than for White girls and women. Black girls experience sexual violence at higher rates than their White and Latina counterparts, and intimate partner homicide is the leading cause of death among Black women between the ages of 15-35. The commercial sexual exploitation of children like Jessica is a $32 billion global industry involving over 100,000 U.S. children, mostly girls, whose average age of entry is 12-14 years old. The Human Trafficking Reporting System reports that 94 percent of confirmed victims of sex trafficking between January 2008 and June 2010 were female, and 40 percent were Black.
Girls of color experience the highest rates of criminalization and incarceration and are disproportionately represented in the juvenile justice system. Like Tanisha, many girls are detained because of laws criminalizing probation violations or "status" offenses like truancy that would not be considered illegal for an adult but result in their being sent to juvenile detention centers in cities and towns across the country with no attention to their underlying health, emotional, educational, and economic needs.
Black girls also have some of the highest school suspension and expulsion rates. According to the U.S. Department of Education, Black girls like Tanisha represent less than 17 percent of all female students but make up 31 percent of girls referred to law enforcement by schools and about 43 percent of girls who experience school-related arrests. Even the very youngest girls are at risk -- girls like 6-year-old Salecia Johnson, who in 2012 was handcuffed and arrested at her Georgia elementary school for throwing a tantrum in her kindergarten classroom. Despite all this, gender-informed interventions are still a rarity in places like our juvenile justice systems--which further prevents girls from getting the help they need and deserve.
We need to wake up and realize all children, especially those of color -- girls and boys -- need adults to stop criminalizing them and recognize the special risks facing our girls. They need us to stand up, speak up, and protect them right now.
It Happens More Than You Know: 10 Celebrities Who Are Victims Of Domestic Violence
by Marlo Thomas
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and this year we hardly need to be reminded about the urgency of this ongoing issue. It was just a month ago that, in a leaked elevator security video, Baltimore Raven Ray Rice publicly exposed the ugly brutality of domestic violence, triggering a national conversation about this dangerous problem, its unsettling prevalence among professional athletes, and the insidious way it continues to thrive in millions of American homes.
Within days of the breaking scandal, I interviewed domestic violence expert Dr. Jill Murray, who talked about the self-deception (or as she called it, “silly-woman-thinking”), that often lies at the heart of domestic violence. Her comments were eye-opening.
“Feelings of love can be anything,” she said, “depending on what you want them to be. But if you think about love as a behavior, then you cannot stay in an abusive relationship. You can't say, 'He cheats on me, therefore he loves me. He hits me, therefore he loves me. He calls me names, therefore he loves me.' Just look at his behavior, and that will tell you what love is."
Although the Rice story has begun to fade from the news, the dialogue about domestic violence needs to continue. That's the most important thing about any kind of activism -- it can't be held hostage to the 24-hour news cycle. So this week on “Mondays With Marlo,” I spoke with Brian Martin, the founder of Children of Domestic Violence and author of Invincible: The 10 Lies You Learn Growing Up with Domestic Violence, and the Truths to Set You Free. A survivor of childhood household violence himself, Brian reveals the often secret world of domestically abused children (more than 15 million in this country), and explains how many of them grow up to be ongoing victims -- or even perpetrators -- of adult domestic violence. The interview is both heartbreaking and hopeful, and I hope you'll watch it.
When the Rice scandal first broke, I was concerned that attention was focusing more on his fame as a football hero and the responsibilities of the NFL than on the issue itself, and, in the process, turning a blind eye to the far greater number of ordinary households that suffer from domestic violence. But celebrity exposure can also be used as a productive tool, shining a spotlight on the darker corners of life many of us don't like to talk about.
So in recognition of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I've assembled this slide show (below) of some familiar faces who have experienced their own encounters with violence in the home -- including, among others, Halle Berry, Charlize Theron and Tina Turner. I hope their stories will serve as inspiration for women who are suffering at this moment with such a crisis in their lives -- and as motivation for all of us to address this problem head-on.
National Domestic Violence Hotline
Claiming ‘Domestic Violence Programs Don't Work' Doesn't Work
by Claire Tighe
In the wake of the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson scandals, advocates are working with the NFL to develop domestic violence awareness and prevention training for the league's players. Although the progress they are hoping to make is highly necessary, some critics are still questioning whether such programs are even worth the effort.
On Monday, NBC News published a piece inspired by those burgeoning initiatives by Senior Writer Tony Dokoupil, called “Why Domestic Violence Prevention Programs Don't Work.” Dokoupil suggested that the lack of consensus among social scientists about the causes of abuse, and the current gap in evidence-informed prevention plans, renders domestic violence programming an essentially toothless endeavor.
It is true that at present, there is an enduring need for data surrounding the effectiveness of what Dokoupil called “a blend of treatment for abusers and education for men and boys.” But this is far from a reason to give up on the programs altogether. Furthermore, Dokoupil largely lumped together intervention for convicted batterers with prevention programs aimed at youth and families—two very different strategies that employ very different techniques. In doing so, he created an excuse to overlook domestic violence incidents as one-time, freak occurrences rather than the result of ongoing, cyclical patterns of behavior that constitute a complex interpersonal, community, and cultural problem.
Dokoupil started with hard data, discussing the decreasing frequency of domestic abuse since the passing of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994. “Rates of domestic violence fell by more than 50 percent between 1995 and 2004, according to Department of Justice figures,” he wrote, then noted that the frequency plateaued after 2005. This stall came with a shift in advocacy efforts from hotlines and shelters to more abuser-focused programming, noted Dokoupil; he did not explain whether he suspected that the stagnancy had caused the move, or vice-versa.
But the data he referenced is only one piece of a complex puzzle. First of all, those statistics are based solely on reported incidents of domestic violence, which, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, “is one of the most chronically underreported crimes.” So the rate that Dokoupil cited—that “one in three women will experience physical abuse at the hands of their partner”—is likely much higher, and probably always has been. A plummeting frequency over a 19-year span, then, may not be representative of the actual numbers of domestic abuse incidents in the United States. Nor, for that matter, is the leveling-off in reported violence rates indubitably tied to a greater concentration on abuser-centric education, as opposed to a complicated blend of societal factors.
Furthermore, Dokoupil only discussed physical abuse, playing into the misconception that domestic violence solely happens when someone hits, slaps, or punches their partner. In reality, however, partner abuse is a matrix of controlling actions that can include physical, financial, emotional, verbal, and/or sexual harm. Moreover, it is conscious and repeated behavior, forming an ongoing cycle—of incidents followed by apologies—that abusers repeat to their advantage.
In other words, a single physical attack rarely happens without prior context. So Dokoupil had a point in raising concerns over giving convicted physical batterers just “a little counseling” once their violence has finally been noted and penalized. As he pointed out about intervention for such abusers, “Some programs have been shown to change the way men view women, but few, if any, have proven to change abusive behavior—and none have been shown to work in hard cases or over the long term.”
Convicted batterers have learned to normalize and get away with their conduct. Thus, it would only make sense that many either do not complete intervention programs or fail to change their ways after doing so. But the admitted difficulty in overcoming years of abusive learned behavior is certainly no reason for advocates to stay passive. Even if interventions have mixed results, continuing them keeps abusers accountable to their actions and draws attention to their missteps, an important effort in a society that otherwise fails to do so.
For that matter, violence intervention, which Dokoupil appears to have used as a stand-in for all programs, is just a small facet of the movement. The focus has not “shifted,” as Dokoupil claimed, from hotlines and shelters to intervention. Rather, it has expanded to encompass those and more, reflecting the fact that domestic abuse can only be stopped if it is understood as a broader problem. To address one aspect—as Dokoupil overwhelmingly did—would be to ignore the larger picture.
Furthermore, Dokoupil overlooked the one common factor in many abusers' pasts: witnessing or experiencing violence as children. He argued, “Even among boys who grow up seeing violence, most do not go on to hit women.” In fact, research shows that “witnessing violence between one's parents or caretakers is the strongest risk factor of transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next.” Young boys who see domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their partners and children when they grow up.
Here, then, is where domestic violence primary prevention, which Dokoupil mostly discounted, comes in. There is a clear distinction between working to intervene with convicted batterers who have already committed abuse and stopping violence before it begins. True prevention involves working with entire families and communities to open up conversations about the abuse they may have experienced.
And these prevention efforts have proved to be effective. For example, a counseling approach called child-parent psychotherapy—in which a counselor works with the non-offending caregiver and their children during the crucial point of adolescent development between the ages of 0 and 5—has resulted in “ significant” reductions of children's post-traumatic stress and social-emotional dysfunction, both of which can lead to violent behavior as adults.
Additionally, individual counseling for abuse survivors and their children can increase knowledge of healthy ways to manage emotion, respond to crisis, and interact with their loved ones, helping them to develop positive, non-violent interpersonal skills in the long-term. To that end, one of the most important efforts in initial domestic violence prevention is conducting education training for youth and their supporters (caregivers, teachers, doctors, nurses, clergy, and police officers, to name a few).
The only mention that Dokoupil made of programs like these, however, was a quick gloss over an initiative sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, currently amassing data on violence prevention for youth in four U.S. cities. Although Dokoupil implied that no aspect of the program is currently evidence-based, part of the initiative includes a curriculum called Safe Dates, which is both informed and supported by collected statistics. After completing the program, which is targeted toward adolescents in high-risk urban areas to help them identify dating violence before it begins, students demonstrated decreases in psychological and sexual aggression, increased endorsement for healthy dating norms, and increased use of positive communication skills in their relationships.
Overall, Dokoupil's argument hinged on the fact that there is no cut-and-dried, unmistakably effective way to approach any kind of domestic violence prevention. But I am not sure there should be, as the needs of every community are different. Experiences with and knowledge of domestic abuse may differ between learning cohorts, after all, and education should change depending on whether the program is offered to children or adults. One evidence-based, “proven-to-be-effective” curriculum may not have the same impact for one group of people as it would on another.
Sure, the need for evidence-based approaches is still a big one. At present, many direct service providers face barriers to evaluating their programs, mostly because the need for their work is so great that they tend to prioritize serving clients and their families instead. But a lack of conclusive evidence on some strategies to prevent domestic abuse does not mean that “no one knows what works.” And it certainly does not mean there is no way to stop domestic violence, or that it is time to throw in the towel on the existing efforts. Domestic violence prevention programs can work, and can continue to do so—if we give them the space and attention they deserve.
CAN Council works to empower communities to keep children safe
by Natalie Tucker
Child sexual abuse scandals are disturbing at many levels. Some cases, such as the Penn State child sexual abuse scandal, remind us that a trusted individual within the community can abuse many people and manage to evade detection over a long period of time. The fact that many survivors of such abuse suffer from a variety of disorders that can last into their adulthood is cause for concern.
As a result, many adults are thinking differently about youth caretaking norms and are wondering how to be proactive in regard to sexual abuse prevention. On one hand, parents want to know how to effectively screen both individuals and youth-serving organizations. On the other, people who serve youth — such as coaches, childcare providers and churches — want to provide a safe environment for children, volunteers, and staff.
Recently I spoke with Suzanne Greenburg and Emily Yeager of CAN Council Great Lakes Bay Region to find out how to empower our community to collaborate regarding this matter. Greenberg, president and CEO, and Yeager, donor relations and public awareness specialist, stated that there are many resources available to assist those who are interested. The following nonprofit resources will be of interest to those who would like to know more about protecting children and creating healthy child-serving environments.
Parents for Megan's Law (www.parentsformeganslaw.org) is named after 7-year-old Megan Konka, who was lured in a repeat offender's home with the promise of a puppy, and then assaulted and murdered. The primary message of this nonprofit is that, while protection does not mean being afraid to trust other people, it is necessary to take the time to model healthy boundaries to your child. Their website offers advocacy, statistical information and helpful resources for victims of crimes such as sexual abuse, rape, human trafficking, domestic violence and terrorism. Their 24-hour hotline can be reached at 1-888-ASK-PFML.
The goal of the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs (www.wcsap.org) is to foster collaboration between agencies who work to end sexual violence. This organization offers articles and resources for understanding the role of power in sex crimes, advocating for survivors and learning how to be proactive in terms of prevention. Their website offers access to professional publications specific to various types of abuse and prevention, such as male sexual abuse, elder assault, posttraumatic stress disorder, and working through trauma. Visitors also have an option of joining an email list.
Darkness to Light (www.d2l.org) works to empower those who want to prevent childhood sexual abuse. Their website features testimonies from a diverse pool of men and women who were abused. This, combined with statistical information, dismisses the stereotype that such crimes are typically perpetuated by complete strangers. Prevention programs are listed, and website visitors can participate in a community blog.
Kidpower (www.kidpower.org) is an international organization that has been working to empower families and communities to come up with fun and practical ways to keep children safe. They have been working toward this goal for 25 years. Dozens of online articles and resources center on teaching adults how to be in charge of child safety by fostering awareness, communication and boundaries. Online visitors have the option of subscribing to a free email newsletter.
Positive Coaching Alliance (www.positivecoach.org), a nonprofit organization, works to develop “Better Athletes, Better People” by training youth and high school sports coaches, parents, organizers and student-athletes how to offer a positive, character-building environment for youth. This includes the organization's sex-abuse prevention videos and other resources that were developed in conjunction with Kidpower. These resources are available at www.positivecoach.org/our-tools/child-abuse-prevention/
The CAN Council Great Lakes Bay Region works throughout the year to help local communities create a safer environment for children. You can learn more about their programs at www.cancouncil.org
Reports of Witchcraft-Related Child Abuse On the Rise in London
by Alexander Smith
London — Kevani Kanda was just six years old when her family accused her of being a witch. She was being molested by a relative and the trauma made her wet the bed and sleepwalk.
But instead of trying to find out what was wrong, Kanda's family were convinced she was possessed by an evil spirit. For the next five years, she was starved, forced to eat her own vomit, beaten repeatedly and given suppositories containing spices to "get rid of the evil spirits." And the torture occurred in a London suburb.
"I never told anyone what was happening to me because to me it was normal," the 25-year-old Christian told NBC News. "That was my normal world back then and unfortunately my teachers did not pick up on the fact I was being horrendously abused."
Kanda isn't alone. London's Metropolitan Police announced this week that reports of abuse where the child is accused of being a witch or possessed by an evil spirit are on the rise. Fourteen years after the force recorded its first allegation of such an incident, there have been at least 27 cases during in 2014 alone.
Most of the cases involve pastors or religious leaders in African communities who have incorporated elements of witchcraft or spirit possession into their version of fundamentalist Christianity. These beliefs are widely held in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Kanda was born.
In the Congolese capital Kinshasa, fundamentalist sects take money from families to rid their children of evil spirits. In the city of 10 million, more than 20,000 young people are thought to be living on the streets, many of whom have been shunned as witches by their families, according to research by charity War Child. Kanda said a cousin in her homeland is currently living on the streets with her baby after being shunned in this way by the family.
British authorities acknowledge they have been slow to react but say it is clear the issue is widespread in many religious communities in London.
These "rogue pastors" often tell families that a period of bad luck or even an illness has been caused by that child being possessed. What motivates these religious leaders? "Power, money, greed and control," Kanda said. "A lot of these people who go to church are vulnerable and they are looking for something to hold onto."
"Some of the people who do this are gangsters," added Bob Pull, a communities consultant with the London-based Churches' Child Protection Advisory Service charity. "They are making money out of the worries that people have."
Kanda returned to the Congo for a BBC documentary last year and was shocked by what was considered acceptable in mainstream society. Asked how far the abuse went, she said: "How far can your imagination go? I witnessed a four-year-old old boy brought to the church by his mother because he was playing too rough with his brother. The pastor told her [the behavior] was the result of him being possessed and that he was a witch."
The boy endured a four-day "deliverance," Kanda said, in which he was starved, forced to drink hot palm oil and prevented from using the bathroom. "The adults were actually laughing," Kanda said. "They were stepping on his little body, his stomach, saying they were stepping on the spirits."
In the past decade and a half, London's most high-profile cases have been linked to Christian groups with roots in Western and Sub-Saharan Africa. But cases involving other faiths, such as Islam and Hinduism, have emerged more recently as authorities have delved deeper.
"To most people accusations of witchcraft may seem so bizarre that they say, 'It can't possibly be happening,'" Detective Superintendent Terry Sharpe said. "But the more you come to learn about the cultures and beliefs of other communities, particularly as now they're moving all around the world, the more people learn about it and have the confidence to report it."
Sharpe is head of the Metropolitan Police's Project Violet, the team tasked with tackling this form of abuse. He said authorities have little idea about how many cases continue to go unpunished.
The 27 cases already reported this year are "purely scratching the surface," according to the CCPAS' Pull.
"Here in London, on an approximation there will be one million people attending church on a Sunday ... and within that there are an unknown number of these churches have no child safeguarding policies or procedures," Pull said. Figures by the London Church Census in 2012 suggest that number is closer to 720,000. But the figures highlight the challenges facing authorities.
Sharpe and others acknowledge part of the problem with trying to combat abuse linked to witchcraft has been that officers have been wary of being branded racist in the past. The Metropolitan Police has endured a strained relationship with London's black and ethnic minority communities and Sharpe said there had been some initial concerns about the "sensitivity in confronting various faiths."
"To a certain extent professionals are quite scared to address these issues within their practical work," said Mor Dioum, director of the Victoria Climbié Foundation. "Often it's a fear of being accused of being racist or being ignorant of this type of abuse. But the approach must be this, and this is the VCF's position, no culture or religion must be allowed to override the protection of that child."
Sharpe added: "As far as I'm concerned we must not hide behind [fears of racism accusations] — child abuse is child abuse."
Dioum's organization is named after 8-year-old Victoria Climbié, whose guardians tortured and killed her in 2010 after claiming she was possessed by a demon. The Ivory Coast-born girl was burned with cigarettes and forced to sleep in a sealed garbage bag in the bath until she eventually died.
Another high-profile case in London was that of 15-year-old Kristy Bamu, who was drowned in the bath on Christmas Day 2010 by his Congo-born sister and her boyfriend who claimed he was possessed.
These cases were key in bringing the faith-based abuse into the public consciousness. But Sharpe is adamant that police will not wait for another brutal slaying to ramp up their response.
"We can't wait for another homicide so that awareness is raised again," he said. "We need to be doing something to ensure that the warning signs are picked up earlier."
Kanda is optimistic that "it's a problem that can be dealt with, but it's not a solution that's going to come today or tomorrow."
She added: "What has happened to me has not happened in vain. I have a platform to tell people my story so we can work together to do something about it."
State to pay record settlement in child abuse case
by Susannah Frame
A judgment filed today with the Clark County Superior Court outlines a record-setting settlement reached between the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) and five siblings who were beaten and starved for nearly a decade inside their Vancouver home at the hands of their parents.
The state of Washington will pay the children a total of $9.75 million to settle a lawsuit filed on behalf of the children in 2013. The suit alleged that DSHS social workers and their supervisors did not follow state policy or law when they received dozens of warnings that the children (now between the ages of 13 and 19) were in harm's way.
"I think the taxpayers should be upset when they hear a number like this ($9.75 million). The state is paying this amount because these kids deserve it. But the question is, how did we get to this point? There are caseworkers here who just simply aren't doing their jobs. And if the state is allowed to just cover up these things by paying off settlements, DSHS is never going to learn," said plaintiff's attorney David P. Moody.
The parents -- Sandra and Jeff Weller -- were sentenced last March to 20 years in prison each after being found guilty of 14 counts of abuse. Clark County Superior Court Judge Barbara Johnson, citing the severity of the crimes, leveled prison sentences that were double the standard penalty.
During the Wellers' trial, the couple's oldest son, now 19, testified that his father beat the children with a long, blood-stained board at the direction of Sandra Weller.
State records cited in the children's claim show that the DSHS office in Vancouver received more than 80 warnings about their abuse and neglect over an eight-year period, yet social workers did little to nothing to investigate.
The public tips to CPS, known as referrals, were either taken as information only, or when they were investigated, the social workers deemed them unfounded or inconclusive. At no point did CPS employees forward the allegations of abuse and neglect to local law enforcement.
"Time and time again they received the warnings and simply entered a passage in the computer and went home for the day, nothing was done," said Moody.
In a statement to KING 5, DSHS said it "settled this case because the standard of practice did not rise to the level needed to protect these children from harm."
The agency noted that the "abuse in this case occurred prior to October 2011, and our practice has improved significantly since then. We take lessons learned from cases such as this to make better decisions when we respond to child safety concerns." (Read the full statement below.)
Warnings received by state
Records show that Child Protective Services in Vancouver began receiving tips about the Weller children's treatment in 2003 -- 8 years before any action was taken. Here is a sample of the referrals based on available records:
* 1/7/2003: An unidentified caller reports suspicions of physical neglect.
* 12/4/03: An unidentified caller reports that Sandra Weller is physically neglecting and abusing her children.
* 4/7/04: A relative reports he s concerned for the children based on their mother s parenting.
* 4/9/04: A relative reports the mother is emotionally abusing the children and requests CPS ask for a welfare check by Vancouver Police.
* 6/15/04: An unidentified caller reports that Jeff Weller is physically abusing his children.
* 7/24/04: An unidentified caller accuses the mother of physical neglect and sexual abuse.
* 8/1/04: An unidentified caller suspects the mother of physical neglect and abuse.
* 9/27/04: An unidentified caller is concerned food is being withheld from the children, that food is locked up in the home, and that the mother locks children in their rooms for two days.
* 1/3/05 and 1/8/05: An unidentified caller reports the mother is physically neglecting her children.
* 3/4/05: An unidentified caller reports the mother is physically neglecting her children.
* 5/5/05: A relative calls with concerns about the children and the CPS investigation. He s told the case is closed and the social worker will not be calling him back.
* 5/11/05: A school nurse calls with concerns about the children's hunger and the mother's emotional abuse of the children. She reports that Sandra Weller chastised the children in public, calling them "criminals, con artists, thieves ... who ruined her life, (are) wrecking her marriage and her house."
* 5/13/05: A school secretary calls with concerns of mental abuse. She reports the mother accused her daughter of stealing $400 worth of meat and refuses to pack a lunch for the child because "she will hog it down and stash it up (her) sleeve for later."
* 9/6/05: A medical professional calls with concerns of emotional abuse. She reports that Sandra Weller described her daughter as being a monster and evil and does not exhibit any type of nurturing toward the child.
* 9/7/05: A medical professional reports concerns that one of the children has not put on any weight in a year and that the child is 10 but appears to be only 5 years old.
* 2/5/06: An unidentified caller reports the mother is physically neglecting her children.
* 2/10/06: A teacher calls with extreme concerns that the children are not fed at home and that the mother calls the children stupid, retarded, thieves. The teacher reports he is "100% convinced" the children are not safe at home.
* 2/13/06: A teacher reports the mother has stated several times that she'd love to get rid (of her two adopted children) but that she gets the adoption support (money) and she needs it.
* 7/17/06: An unidentified caller reports the mother is physically neglecting her children.
* 12/31/07: A child specialist reports that the children complain of receiving very little food, that this has been a long time concern and that the parents placed a lock on their refrigerator door.
* 1/4/08: The youngest child, 9-years-old at the time, tells a social worker he had to stand in the corner for a couple of days as punishment, that he is hit with a belt for lying, and that he goes without food. The social worker writes in his report that he told the child he didn't believe him and that the child is manipulative.
On October 4, 2011, the oldest daughter, 16 at the time, took the step that led to the children's rescue. She left a scribbled note in her counselor's office begging for help.
She wrote, "I need you to call CPS. ... Me and (my brother) are being beat with a board about three and a half feet long. ... (Our parents) have promised (the board) to us after we leave your office because our room in not clean. ... PLEASE HELP!!"
Two days later CPS and police officers went to the home, a typical-looking house on a quiet cul-de-sac. There, they found signs everywhere of abuse and starvation:
* The 16-year old twins appeared emaciated.
* The oldest girl was bald, most likely from malnutrition.
* The refrigerator was sealed with a bike lock, and the pantry was padlocked. Both were amply stocked with food.
* The children had used knives to open cans of food they were able to obtain. Empty cans were found in the children's bedrooms, as well as a hole in one wall that the children created to secretly pass food to each other.
* Cameras, alarms and locks were on the children's doors and windows.
* A 42-inch board was found and identified by police as a weapon used for beatings. One end of it was stained with dried blood.
Attorneys for the children say each of them is incredibly damaged by the abuse they suffered or were forced to watch. The settlement money is to be used for therapy and other resources to help them recover from the years of trauma. The children are currently living with different relatives or living on their own with the support of family and friends.
Full statement from DSHS
The Department of Social and Health Services settled this case because the standard of practice did not rise to the level needed to protect these children from harm. They were subjected to horrific criminal abuse at the hands of their parents, who are serving lengthy prison sentences.
The abuse in this case occurred prior to October 2011, and our practice has improved significantly since then. We take lessons learned from cases such as this to make better decisions when we respond to child safety concerns.
In an average year, Child Protective Services receives about 100,000 calls reporting suspected abuse and neglect, resulting in about 50,000 investigations. We strive each day to achieve the best possible outcomes for children. Since this case, DSHS has processed nearly 400,000 intake calls, resulting in more than 160,000 investigations, despite smaller budgets over the past seven years.
Gov. Jay Inslee expects, as do we, new policies and programs, such as Family Assessment Response (which works with families to build on strengths they need to keep their children safe) will reduce risks to, and better protect, children.
Further, DSHS settles cases at levels that will help the children build better lives through treatment, education and other future needs; not to compensate them for the agonies caused by the perpetrators, in this case, the parents who harmed their children.
Psychological Child Abuse Damage May Surpass Effects Of Physical, Sexual Abuse
by Chris Weller
Sexual torture and physical violence aren't the only forms of abuse that leave children with lifelong scars. A new study finds psychological abuse can leave the same impressions, if not deeper ones, because of the inherent difficulties that come with treating invisible wounds.
Despite society's changing attitudes toward mental health, as depression is largely considered more than extreme sadness and schizophrenics have been relieved of the myth that they have multiple personalities, mental health is a challenge. Kids that come to their doctors with bruises and complaints of aggressive touching have a far easier time getting help than kids who may seem withdrawn or tend to cry more often. Even on a macro scale, it's easy to understand why.
“Psychological abuse isn't considered a serious social taboo like physical and sexual child abuse,” said the study's lead author Dr. Joseph Spinazzola, of the Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute, in a statement. Parents can't hit their kids, but they can yell at them. They can insult them and they can dismiss them with a sharp tongue. But where we draw the line between firm parenting tactics and abuse remains blurry.
In their latest study, Spinazzola and his research team wanted to see if they could use hard facts to sharpen that line. Using data from a popular national registry on childhood abuse, they analyzed cases from 5,616 youths with lifetime histories of one or more of three types of abuse: physical abuse, sexual abuse, and psychological abuse, which included forms of emotional abuse and neglect.
Most of the children (62 percent) had endured a second or third form of abuse in addition to psychological abuse. Nearly a quarter (24 percent) had endured only psychological abuse, which the team described as some combination of bullying, terrorizing, coercive control, severe insults, debasement, threats, overwhelming demands, shunning, and isolation. Overwhelmingly, the kids who had been psychologically abused suffered mental illness, from anxiety and low self-esteem, to depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and thoughts of suicide. Kids in this category, more than any other form of abuse, showed signs of substance abuse, social attachment problems, and general anxiety disorder.
While unsurprising to the researchers, who have spent entire careers developing an appreciation and respect for the brain's refusal to let negatives experiences fade, the team hopes the findings can kickstart some awareness among the general public. Physical and sexual abuse are noticeable, so they get mainstream attention. Psychological abuse is covert, residing only in the mind, where trauma accumulates over time like an overstuffed closet, until one day it bursts.
"Child protective service case workers may have a harder time recognizing and substantiating emotional neglect and abuse because there are no physical wounds," Spinazzola said. Instead, they listen for clues. They ask probing questions that are designed to draw sensitive information from the child without implicating Mommy or Daddy as the bad guy. Maybe the child has developed new aggressive tendencies at school, or has suddenly started lashing out at the babysitter. Each insight builds a case.
With more than three million cases of maltreatment occurring annually, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recognized psychological maltreatment of children as perhaps “the most challenging and prevalent form of child abuse and neglect.” But that doesn't mean the challenge is insurmountable. The real hurdle, as Spinazzola sees it, is one of awareness. The more parents are educated about what constitutes abuse, based on the lasting effects their behavior has on the child, the more likely they are to quit that behavior, he says.
“We need public awareness initiatives,” he said, “to help people understand just how harmful psychological maltreatment is for children and adolescents."
7 high school players face sexual assault charges over alleged locker room hazing
by Ben Brumfield
(Video on site)
It may have been endured as an ugly rite of passage for rookie football players to ascend to the ranks of gridiron warriors, but when upperclassmen allegedly sexually hazed freshmen in a New Jersey high school locker room, it crossed a legal line.
Seven of them now face charges as of Friday, and police have taken six into custody. Prosecutors are not naming them because they're juveniles.
And at Sayreville War Memorial High School, proud of its state champion team's years of gridiron triumphs, shame has emptied the bleachers, silenced the cheers and snuffed out the floodlights. The superintendent has halted this year's football season, ostensibly assured of the allegations.
"There were incidents of harassment, intimidation that took place on a pervasive level, in which the players knew, tolerated and in general accepted," Superintendent Richard Labbe said.
It may have gone on for up to a year.
Jeers, harassment, attacks
Cloistered in the dressing room, older players allegedly flipped off the lights, and filled the room with jeers as they accosted and sexually harassed their younger targets.
They penetrated at least one of them, prosecutors allege.
Officials have not disclosed details, but a Sports Illustrated article indicated that it likely did not involve intercourse.
Three are accused of aggravated sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact, conspiracy to commit aggravated criminal sexual contact, criminal restraint, and hazing for engaging in an act of sexual penetration.
One of the three, plus four more players face counts of aggravated assault, conspiracy, aggravated criminal sexual contact, hazing and riot for allegedly participating in the attack of other victims, Middlesex County prosecutors said.
The Sayreville Bombers, who took the state championship three out of the past four years, had launched into a promising season this year.
Now parents used to applauding their sons' conquests on the field are upset they have been benched for the duration.
"I've never seen so much dedication out of my son, and I want him to play the rest of this season," a mother said at a school meeting to the roar of applause. Despondent players vented frustration over not being able to finish what they so confidently started.
They are at odds with parents and players who broke the allegations. That group is less vocal and has declined to be interviewed on camera, afraid to voice grievances out loud.
The despair haunting school hallways has infected the surrounding working class neighborhood, turning into the fear of jail time.
Gainesville organization to treat adult male survivors of child sexual abuse
GAINESVILLE - The Children's Center for Hope and Healing recently received funding from United Way of Hall County to provide treatment to adult male survivors of child sexual abuse.
Officials say the new service is free and confidential and will be provided by licensed male counselors who have specialized training in trauma issues.
Children's Center for Hope and Healing, an organization that is dedicated to ending the cycle of child sexual abuse and formerly known as the Family Relations Program, has been operating in Gainesville since 1984.
To make an appointment via phone call (770) 532-6530, or through the website, www.hopeandhealingga.org
‘Darkness to Light' training educates on the child sexual abuse ‘epidemic'
by Dana McKenzie
Three years ago, my friend Lane Olives and I sat in the training room at the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy (GCCA) for the first time. Lane had been a supporter of the center for several years, and convinced me and a few other moms to go to a “Darkness To Light” training session at the center.
I was a bit anxious about the information I was about to learn – child sexual abuse is an uncomfortable topic, and one that I never felt I needed to learn about.
We have all heard stories in the news, but I never felt this was something that would touch me or my family. My kids were in pre-school, and were officially away from me for longer periods of time, interacting with other adults and kids. I wanted to feel more educated and empowered with regard to their safety when they were with others, and I felt this was a good place to start.
The “Darkness to Light” training is aimed at anyone who interacts with children – parents, family members, caregivers, coaches, educators or anyone who spends time with kids. It is now a two-hour, video-based facilitator-led course, and includes insight from experts in the field as well as personal testimony of survivors.
The statistics are probably the most shocking and scary part of the training. One in every 10 children will be sexually molested before the age of 18. There are approximately 39 million survivors of child sexual abuse in the U.S. Each year more than 30,000 cases of child abuse and neglect are reported in Georgia alone.
We learned it's not a case of “stranger danger” that we have all taught our kids to be aware of, but instead, 90 percent of all child sexual abuse cases are committed by trusted friends or relatives. Yes, 90 percent.
As moms, Lane and I learned how to talk to our kids about this issue in an appropriate way: no keeping secrets; what is suitable contact; how to say “no” and tell an adult when something happens; and who is or isn't allowed to see or touch your private parts. We also learned the importance of asking our school/church/camp/teams about their policies on protecting children while in their care, and interactions between children and adults and about other safeguards.
We both came away feeling more educated on the statistics, warning signs, and empowered on how to keep our children a little safer when they are away from our watchful (and now suspicious!) eyes.
The more Lane and I talked about the issue with others, the more personal experiences were revealed from those in our circle of friends. I was shocked when one sweet friend shared a story of her 4-year-old son who was caught in a situation with his sitter, a teenager who was their best friend's son. The stories snowballed from there: the cousin, the step-brother, aunt, mom, etc. who were victims. Gone was the idea that it didn't happen in our world.
GCCA lead prevention trainer and Brookhaven resident Nikki Berger says it well. “We should want every environment that our children step in to be a protected one.” Yes, more of that please.
And here's more good news: every fourth Wednesday of the month, the training is held at GCCA and is open to the community. And, if there is a group that wants training, GCCA can travel and will bring the course to you. The training is free – the “leave behind” materials for each participant are only $15 per person.
By the end of our session, Lane and I were convinced that this is an epidemic. I wonder why more of us aren't talking about it. It's a sad and uncomfortable topic, but it's happening everywhere and to our most vulnerable.
Usually, the “mom groups” are the first to discuss our children's troubling topics, but the moms I know don't really talk about this stuff. The statistics are shocking, and one case is one too many. It's up to us to learn more and do better.
Dana McKenzie of Buckhead has been a volunteer with the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy for the last few years. She and Lane Olives of Brookhaven co-chair the 2014 Cheer for Children gala, the organization's largest annual fundraiser, which is scheduled for
Protecting the whole family: Shelter provides a safe haven for pets as well as domestic violence
by John Osborne
Oftentimes, dogs are a woman's best friend, too. Sometimes their only friend.
In that spirit, The Shelter for Abused Women & Children in Naples allows victims of domestic violence to bring their pets along to provide emotional support and ensure the safety of the animals themselves, said residential supervisor Carol Drouin, who's worked at the shelter for the past 18 years.
In fact, Drouin said, the shelter encourages it.
"Accepting pets is important because all members of the family unit deserve respect and a lot of pets are also subjected to cruelty and abuse," she said. "A lot of times, abusing an animal is just another form of control for the abuser."
And such a sad fact of life could wind up putting a domestic violence victim between a rock and a hard place, Drouin said.
"When I started working at the shelter in 1996, women would call for shelter for themselves, their children and their pets," she said. "We were unable to accept pets at the time (so) survivors would not come to the shelter and would either opt to stay in their home to protect their animals or live in their cars — if they had one. Either way, this was dangerous (and) this is what led us to opening a kennel in our new facility. This gives survivors the opportunity to come and not have to leave their beloved pet behind."
Since the kennel's opening, Drouin said the shelter has hosted dogs, cats, chinchillas, rabbits, lizards, bearded dragons, fish, birds, guinea pigs and snakes.
At the moment, it's providing safe haven for 21 adults, 24 children and five dogs, including "Angel," a 4-month-old boxer-terrier mix who's quick to make friends with humans (especially children) and even quicker with unlimited pink-tongued kisses.
"She's just an absolutely beautiful baby girl," Drouin said while cradling Angel in her arms and receiving a face full of doggie smooches in return.
Drouin said Angel came to the shelter with her owner due to the fact that her home's abuser targeted the puppy as a way to control Angel's owner and get the woman to "obey."
"Our survivor told us in our initial assessment that the puppy had been left outside overnight tied on a short rope to a tree," Drouin said. "The abuser had kicked the little pup and would withhold food as a means of punishment."
After Angel and her owner had been admitted to the shelter, Drouin said, "our new puppy appeared lethargic and had cuts on her legs. The next day, our veterinarian came in to check on her. Luckily, she did not have anything life-threatening and was treated for her existing problems."
While Angel's wounds were being attended to, Drouin said the dog's owner was able to move into an apartment at the shelter.
"Keeping pets and their owners together brings normalcy to families, and what we also see is that animals are therapeutic to their owners and others," Drouin said. "Pets bring joy, and it's documented that petting an animal leads to a drop in blood pressure."
It's exactly those sorts of benefits that have led the New York City-based AKC Humane Fund to fund the animal program in Naples and at similar shelters around the country, said AKC Humane Fund Vice President Gina DiNardo.
"The women's shelter grant program is something we're very proud of at AKC Humane Fund," DiNardo said. "Dogs are our passion, and as any pet owner will tell you, that animal becomes part of the family. It's also been documented that nearly half of abused women with pets delayed leaving an abusive situation because of concern for their pet's life."
So, DiNardo continued, keeping pets and their owners together makes perfect sense.
"We know that women entering domestic violence shelters are facing extremely difficult life issues, and leaving their pet behind shouldn't be one of them," she said. "That is why we feel these grants are so important: we're able to help a shelter provide for these animals and give some peace of mind to domestic abuse victims."
But it's not just women being served at the shelter, Drouin said, since domestic violence isn't a one-way gender street.
"We actually get quite a few men as well," she said. "And we do have repeat residents, too, since it takes the average person seven times to leave an abuser."
No matter how many times it takes, however, Drouin said help would always be available to domestic violence victims and their pets at The Shelter for Abused Women & Children.
"We do not limit the number of times someone can enter shelter," she said. "Sometimes residents come back having the same abuser, or they find themselves in another abusive relationship."
For more information, visit www.naplesshelter.org
Confidential 24-hour crisis hotline: (239) 775-1101.
2013 COLLIER COUNTY DOMESTIC VIOLENCE STATISTICS:
• 1,427 reported domestic violence offenses
• 3 murders
• 34 forcible rapes
• 241 aggravated assaults
• 2 stalkings
• 4 aggravated stalkings
• 1,114 simple assaults
• 18 threats/intimidation
U.S. DOMESTIC VIOLENCE FACTS:
• 1 in 4 women will experience violence during her lifetime
• 1 in 7 men will experience violence during his lifetime
• 3 women per day will die at the hands of their current or former husbands or boyfriends
• 15.5 million children live in families in which partner violence has occurred at least once during the past year
• 1 in 5 female high school students are physically/sexually abused by a boyfriend
2013-14 SHELTER FOR ABUSED WOMEN & CHILDREN REFERENCE SHEET:
• 253 adults sheltered
• 229 children sheltered
• Average length of stay: 32 days
• 67 pets sheltered
• 16,513 nights of shelter provided
• 2,891 kennel nights provided
(SOURCE: THE SHELTER FOR ABUSED WOMEN & CHILDREN)
Take Back the Night stands up to abuse
by Kyle Halter
The 24th annual Fox Valley Take Back the Night raised awareness about sexual assault, illuminated allies, support survivors and remembered those whose lives were lost to violence on Wednesday at Reeve Memorial Ballroom`.
This year's march included a childhood sexual abuse survivor speaker and the Voices of Men. At the event, they advocated that people take a pledge to break the cycle of violence.
It also honored voices that had a powerful impact on the campaign against domestic violence and sexual assault. This year's speakers included Bryan Wright, the prevention advocate for the Christine Ann Center, and Andrew Nett, prevention educator for Reach Counseling Services.
Wright shared an anecdotal story called “Mouse and the Mouse Trap.” The story's lesson was victims should not wait until something gets to a certain point before that person takes action and a stance. Wright said he wants to make sure victims' voices that night are heard and do not go unnoticed.
Nett said Wright's story was important because it showed that it is not only the victim's problem, but is everybody's problem.
Campus Victim Advocate and Take Back the Night co-chair Kathleen Huskey said it is the entire community's responsibility to end violence.
“Responsibility cannot fall on victims themselves to end violence,” Huskey said. “We need lawmakers, teachers, parents, children, adults, police, etc. to end violence. Everyone must stand together if we are to reach our goal of ending violence.”
UWO student Andrea Anderson agreed that the message of this event is to create awareness about sexual violence and assault, not just in the community, but everywhere in the world.
“I do think the community has a responsibility to end sexual violence because people need to take care of each other,” Anderson said. “You know one person can be responsible for themselves, but it's nice to have the help of other people to watch out for one another, especially with your friends and family members as well.”
Karen Salm Bednarek, one of the survivors who spoke Wednesday, said it is difficult for a victim to tell a friend or family member because he or she may express disbelief or might isolate himself or herself from the victim. Bednarek said it was even harder for her because the abusers got to know her family.
“It's sad but true,” Bednarek said. “It's hard for people to take. This is what is happening: we need to have this out, it needs to be vocal.”
Bednarek said it could be damaging to the victim when people don't believe him or her or isolate the victim.
“This safezone that we create for these people,” Bednarek said. “It's all because it's so damaging. We can't tell people. People don't believe you when you tell an adult. That can damage you even more.”
Huskey said she hopes this event brings light to this often-silent crime. She hopes the campus will be more aware of the issues happening on campus itself as well as the community that surrounds it.
Huskey said the event was meaningful to her because she is passionate about women's rights. She is also passionate about educating the community about dating and sexual violence as well as standing with survivors and victims in their healing process.
“If more people are aware of what sexual violence and dating/domestic violence is they are more likely to notice when it is happening,” Huskey said. “If we can bring awareness about these issues, we hope to be able to prevent them from happening.”
The UW Oshkosh Women's Center, University Police, Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services, Reach Counseling Services, UW Oshkosh Counseling Center, Campus Relationship for Relationship Education, Harbor House Domestic Abuse Programs, Reach Counseling Services, UW Oshkosh ROTC, and the Oshkosh Police Department were all there to sponsor the event.
At the event, students and community members volunteered, served as advocates and educated others on these issues. Ashley Neuhaus, UWO student and CARE member was there to do just that.
“I think it's really important to be a part of events that help with empowerment of others and involve the community at large,” Neuhaus said. “I really think this event, bringing in the community, is meant to let survivors know that they're not alone and be empowered by whatever does tonight.”
To Catch a Rapist: Houston Leads on Testing Old Rape Kits
For years, Texas cops left nearly 20,000 rape kits untested while perpetrators went free. Now some agencies are confronting that injustice.
by Emily DePrang
Wesley Bernard Gordon got nine free years. Houston cops had already seen plenty of Gordon, who kicked off his adult rap sheet with a weapons charge three weeks after he turned 18. By the time he was 30, Gordon had been charged with assault, burglary, car theft, marijuana possession, evading arrest and credit card abuse, pleading guilty several times. He was unquestionably a criminal. But his record did not, at the time, suggest he was a sexual predator.
Then he broke into an apartment in south-central Houston. It was Friday, Aug. 8, 2003, and Gordon found Pearl (not her real name) sitting at her dining room table paying bills. Pearl was 77 years old and legally blind. “He followed me home from the grocery store,” Pearl says. “I didn't even see him. He was waiting just inside the door. When I got up, he grabbed me from behind.” Gordon dragged Pearl to her bedroom, punched her in the face and raped her as she prayed to survive. Then, according to court records, he stole her purse and the contents of her coin jar and piggy bank.
When Gordon left, Pearl did what about 725 Houstonians do every year and countless more do not: She reported the rape to police. Then she went to Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital, where a specially trained nurse examined her and completed a sexual assault evidence collection kit, also known as a rape kit. Court documents show the finished kit contained swabs of Pearl's vagina, anus, and the inside of her cheek, along with samples of her blood and saliva. These were enclosed in a sturdy white cardboard box, about the size of a children's shoebox, sealed with red tape that said “EVIDENCE,” and delivered to the Houston Police Department (HPD).
There, the box was mislabeled and forgotten. The swabs and samples of Pearl's violated body sat in the HPD property room with thousands of others like them, untested and gathering dust, for almost a decade.
Pearl's was one of more than 6,660 sexual assault kits that Houston police declined to analyze until recently. Like most victims, Pearl thought police had done everything possible to catch her rapist, including having her kit analyzed at the time of the attack. In fact, she didn't know her kit hadn't been tested until the Observer told her during a recent interview. “I just assumed he eluded them for that long,” she says. “In nine years, I'm sure he was doing that to other people.”
What happened to Pearl's kit isn't unusual—in Houston or anywhere else. Though the technology to analyze DNA has been around for decades, hundreds of thousands of sexual assault kits all over the country went untested because investigators didn't consider them important. Many times, officers shelved the evidence and blamed, disbelieved or otherwise alienated victims, then closed their cases.
Victims' rights advocates call this a second betrayal. It takes courage, hours after an assault, to let a stranger examine your body, to treat it as the crime scene it has become, inspecting, probing and swabbing it precisely where it has just been trespassed. People do this because they believe it will help convict the person who hurt them. But in Texas, thousands of times, the kits were shelved instead.
Texas is still trying to figure out how often that happened. In 2011, lawmakers passed a bill by state Sen. Wendy Davis requiring every law enforcement agency to tally and report its untested sexual assault kits. The bill also mandated that law enforcement agencies submit kits to a crime lab within 30 days. At the time, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) estimated up to 20,000 kits like Pearl's might be warehoused all over the state. Now, that number is looking low. As of July, only 146 of Texas's 2,647 law enforcement agencies had reported their totals, but the statewide count of untested rape kits was already nearly 19,000.
That includes the major cities—Dallas (4,144), San Antonio (2,077), Fort Worth (1,018) and Austin (407). Houston alone contributed almost one-third of the outstanding kits. But seven of the 20 biggest cities in Texas, including Arlington, Laredo, Plano, Irving and Brownsville, have yet to report. Their tallies—along with those of the 2,500 other missing agencies of assorted sizes—will likely boost the state's total beyond the estimated 20,000.
One of the reasons Houston has so many kits is that its police department never threw any away. Its oldest kits date back to 1982, three years before the advent of DNA testing, when kits were useful only for crude evaluations such as matching blood type. Retaining that evidence preserved a chance for future justice, but it also made Houston look terrible when untested-kit numbers were made public. /donate/
The other thing Houston's giant tally doesn't reflect is that, over the past few years, the city has transformed from a scandal-plagued example of how not to handle rape evidence to a national leader in tackling the problem of untested kits. That's largely thanks to a groundbreaking collaboration between the Houston Police Department and a host of local entities that serve sexual assault survivors. Fostered by a national grant, the group has spent three years investigating how so many untested kits accumulated and, based on its findings, making changes to keep such injustices from ever happening again.
But while studying how to set things right, Houston also began to realize just how wrong it had gone.
Using $4.4 million in grants and city funds, HPD tested or outsourced the testing of all its kits. That process, only recently completed, has already led to more than 20 arrests.
One of those was Wesley Bernard Gordon. Pearl was right—in the nine years after raping her, Gordon allegedly committed four other sexual assaults, including the rape of a homeless woman. Had police bothered to test Pearl's rape kit soon after the attack, it's possible those assaults would have never occurred. Instead, Gordon was free until recently, when HPD finally tested Pearl's kit. In September 2013, a full decade after Pearl gave police the evidence that could definitively identify her rapist, a jury sentenced Gordon to life in prison.
The first U.S. conviction based on DNA evidence was of a Florida rapist in 1987. Initially, DNA was only useful when law enforcement had a known suspect, but that changed in 1994 when Congress established a national database of genetic material. Texas founded its own just a year later, as did every state, eventually, and together these databases seeded what would become CODIS: the Combined DNA Index System.
CODIS was a game-changer. Originally populated with samples from crime scenes, unidentified human remains and convicted offenders, the national database let police link cases to suspects even with no other information. Soon, several states including Texas passed laws extending mandatory DNA collection to include people arrested for or charged with certain crimes. By 2010, CODIS had cataloged the DNA of more than 8.7 million people.
After the database was born, demand for DNA analysis exploded, and crime labs couldn't keep up. In 2001, victims' rights groups warned of growing backlogs of forensic evidence at labs around the country. Three years later, a hounded Congress dedicated hundreds of millions of dollars to eliminating the backlogs.
The trouble is, demand for DNA testing in many places continued to outstrip growth in crime-lab capacity. Backlogs, once cleared, would quickly form again. In 2009, a CBS News investigation found that rape kits in Alabama and Illinois took, on average, six months to process. In Missouri, the wait was almost a year.
These kits—the ones submitted by law enforcement to crime labs for analysis but not returned for more than 30 days—are what the National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the Department of Justice, considers “backlogged.”
But that's not what happened in Texas.
Rather, most of the 19,000 kits reported (so far) never saw the inside of a lab because a sexual assault investigator made the decision not to have them tested. Victims who endure DNA collection may understandably assume it will be analyzed as part of the investigative process, but until recently, law enforcement officers could choose whether to test a kit. Often, they chose not to.
This was by no means limited to Texas. A 2011 survey by the National Institute of Justice found that, on average, nearly one in five recent unsolved rape cases nationally contain forensic evidence for which police never requested analysis.
The language used to talk about untested kits can obscure this deliberateness. If only for brevity, law enforcement and victims' rights advocates alike have embraced the term “backlog” to describe all untested kits, but this can wrongly suggest that testing was attempted or intended. The term “backlog” implies the problem was simply a lack of resources instead of a conscious decision by police not to test. Similarly, untested kits are usually described as having been “discovered,” often “discovered in a warehouse,” as if evidence for thousands of sexual assault cases had been misplaced. That's misleading, too.
“I think on some level jurisdictions love to use the word ‘discovered,'” says Sarah Tofte, vice president of policy and advocacy for the national Joyful Heart Foundation, “because that makes them feel, in a way, a little bit better, and maybe look a little less culpable.” The Joyful Heart Foundation runs the website EndtheBacklog.org, a clearinghouse for information on the quest to test all kits. Tofte says, “I think when people hear, ‘Oh, they discovered a backlog,' they imagine there was some abandoned meat locker somewhere in a field, and they opened it and said, ‘Oh my gosh! There are all these untested rape kits! We had no idea.' But yes, jurisdictions know. They know because it's their policy. If their policy is, ‘Don't send everything to the lab,' there shouldn't be a surprise when there's a backlog.”
Beyond the presence or absence of a test-all-kits policy, sexual assault investigators have historically had little codified guidance on when to submit a kit to the lab. This latitude allowed prejudices and misconceptions about sexual assault to interfere with justice.
Tofte says that while expense plays a role—kits can cost $1,000 to test, and Houston takes in about 1,000 kits a year—that's not the bottom line. “The real driver behind why some jurisdictions have accumulated such a large number of untested kits,” Tofte says, “is that, if you're not serious about a case, you're not going to have the rape kit tested. … When you're getting to look at some of the case files that are connected to the backlogs, what you see is usually very dismissive attitudes by law enforcement. Usually, very little investigation is done. The case files consist of maybe one or two pages at most, and what they consist of is the initial interview by the detective with the victim and that's it. … What you see is this incredible scrutiny on the victim's credibility, the victim's background, socioeconomic status. You see a lot of, ‘Hey, as a detective, do I believe this person? Do I think this person is really worth moving this case forward?'”
Houston had this problem. That was one of the main findings of the interdisciplinary group that's been studying Houston's untested kits for three years, though the group's members wouldn't put it so bluntly. “It's not that we were doing bad,” explains HPD Assistant Chief Mary Lentschke. “But we wanted to do better.”
In 2010—before Davis' bill—HPD, on its own initiative, had already implemented a test-all-kits policy. Then it successfully applied for a competitive grant from the National Institute of Justice. The grant, awarded just to Houston and Detroit, provided funds for the city not only to inventory its kits, but to study why so many went untested for so long, and to institute reforms. This wasn't a secretive internal probe, either. Since early 2011, guided by the grant, HPD has hosted regular meetings of a diverse team of researchers, victims' advocates, health care workers, forensic scientists, prosecutors and police brass, all dedicated to improving their response to sexual-assault survivors in Houston. When the grant ends in October, the group plans to continue its work independently.
Before sitting down together as part of the straightforwardly named Sexual Assault Kit Action-Research Task Force, many of these parties hadn't previously communicated, let alone collaborated. Others, like victims' rights advocates and some HPD investigators, were downright adversarial. As part of the group's research, social scientists surveyed the attitudes of people in the justice system toward victims' rights advocates and found that investigators in HPD's Adult Sex Crimes Unit were particularly averse to outside meddling. One investigator told the group's researchers, “…[Advocates] lead the woman to believe things that aren't true.” Another complained, “[Advocates] have an agenda and take the woman's side immediately.”
Undeterred, HPD moved forward with a plan to add a “justice advocate” to the Adult Sex Crimes Unit: a master's-level social worker charged with improving investigators' interactions with victims. The advocate, Emily Burton-Blank, was installed within earshot of investigators—a major breach of traditional police insularity—and investigators were required to involve her when contacting victims prone to dropping out of the process, such as people who are homeless or suffering from mental illness.
"Where we saw a large issue was the fact that a lot of people were dropping out of the system shortly after reporting [their rapes],” says HPD Assistant Chief Lentschke. “So we looked at that. How can we keep them in longer? Emily [the advocate] is a living, breathing idea. She's done magnificent. And the investigators who were so anti-advocate … now they absolutely love her. That's a huge turnaround.”
Sonia Corrales, chief program officer for the Houston Area Women's Center, agrees. “Whenever we send a survivor [to HPD],” she says, “we know that when they talk to Emily, they're getting really great service.”
The justice advocate position was originally slated to last less than a year and be funded only through the grant, but HPD officials quickly found the results so impressive that they made the position permanent and committed to hiring more advocates in the future.
It's one of several steps HPD has taken to improve its treatment of sexual-assault survivors. New policies now require investigators to go into the field to investigate assaults rather than closing cases if victims fail to return phone calls or respond to a letter. The adult unit recently set aside a private room in which to take victims' statements rather than interviewing them in the open, surrounded by other staff and ringing phones. And investigators have gotten new training, including education on the neurobiology of trauma so they can better recognize and respond to it.
But most important, HPD leadership has committed to ending the culture of victim blaming.
The change HPD made, explains Captain Jennifer Evans, who heads the Special Victims Division, “wasn't so much of how to do an investigation, because our investigators did good investigations. It wasn't that. It was how you interacted with the victim. How you gave feedback to what they were telling you. We just try to tell the [investigators], just go with, ‘They're telling the truth. Let's take it from there.' Because so many times, people—all of us, not just investigators—are skeptical or whatever. [We tell them], ‘Let that go. We expect you to be a professional, be compassionate and give them resources. Try to contact them. Put them in touch with help.' It wasn't so much how to do investigations, it was changing the mindset.”
“You know, when you're trying to turn a ship a little bit, and change that culture a little bit, it takes a lot,” says Assistant Chief Lentschke. “Trying to change that direction takes support from within the organization. It takes constant messaging, constant explanation of the expectations, and then you've got to have the oversight to make sure your investigators are doing those things and taking the time. So this is ongoing. By no means when this grant ends are we done. … We still have a long way to go. So this is a constant. We're not going to have a nice, neat conclusion for you. But I can tell you, the ship is turning.”
While HPD acknowledges its history of victim blaming, lack of investigator interest is not among the reasons listed by the research group for why so many kits went untested. Rather, the group reports that investigators declined to analyze kits because the suspect was known to the victim, consent was at issue, the suspect was arrested and charged using other evidence, or the victim couldn't be located or wasn't willing to prosecute.
None of those is a good excuse, says Tofte: “What we've learned, especially over the last five or six years, is how incredibly valuable DNA testing can be in all kinds of cases. I think police have a lot of misconceptions about serial rapists, [thinking], ‘Oh, they just rape strangers.' And oftentimes they're raping acquaintances as well and setting up a pattern, but it's going undetected because no one sends in the evidence for testing to connect the cases.”
Corrales is among those who believe all kits should be tested on principle. When survivors go to the hospital and endure evidence collection, she says, “they're under the impression that somebody is going to do something with that kit. And they deserve that. They deserve for the kit to be tested, and to be informed of what happens with that kit, whether it gets prosecuted or not, whether the statute of limitations has passed—survivors deserve to know.”
All of HPD's old rape kits have now been tested and, as of mid-August, almost 2,500 eligible DNA samples had been uploaded to CODIS. Staggeringly, 933 of those—more than one-third—were “hits,” meaning they matched a known offender already in the database.
That doesn't mean these were all serial rapists. Authorities are required to collect DNA samples from all felons, meaning many people have CODIS offender profiles because of drug convictions or other nonviolent crimes. Also, Texas and 29 other states take DNA from anyone formally charged with—or, in some cases, merely arrested for—certain felonies, so not everyone in CODIS has been convicted of a crime. Finally, a rape kit going untested doesn't mean the rapist went free. If police declined to test the kit because the attacker's identity was known, a CODIS hit may just confirm they got the right guy. As of June, 83 of the CODIS hits in Houston were such arrest confirmations. HPD has also stated that none of the results suggests a wrongful conviction.
Another 34 kits had what are called case-to-case matches. That means the DNA found in the rape kit matched DNA already uploaded from evidence taken in a different unsolved crime—another rape kit, perhaps, or blood from a break-in—but for which there's no suspect yet. If the offender is later convicted of any felony, his DNA will link him to the previous crimes.
That said, Houston's recently tested kits have certainly delivered forensic evidence that could have been used sooner, as demonstrated by the 20 new arrests. Some hits have resulted in new charges but not a new arrest because the suspect was already incarcerated for a different crime, such as in the case of Roland Ali Westbrooks. He raped a 16-year-old girl in her bed in 1995, but HPD didn't test the kit until 2011, when Westbrooks was already in prison for a rape committed in 1997.
It's possible Westbrooks couldn't have been identified by testing the kit in 1995, when the DNA database was only a year old and not very well-populated. But if HPD had tested its older kits sooner, his victim would at least know her attacker was locked away. That's important, says Annette Burrhus-Clay, executive director of the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault. “They would have had the peace of mind of knowing that person's sitting in jail for something, instead of worrying that person's coming back to get them,” she says.
HPD says it doesn't know how many of the CODIS hits can be linked to offenders convicted of previous sex crimes or how many suspects were linked to more than one kit. But it has identified at least one possible serial rapist. In April, Herman Ray Whitfield Jr. was charged with four counts of aggravated sexual assault for three rapes allegedly committed from 1992 to 1994 and one in 2008. Whitfield was sentenced to 30 years in prison for kidnapping in 1994 but was paroled in 2006. If HPD had tested its kits sooner, Whitfield would likely not have been released. One of the victims was only 12 years old.
HPD has assigned a special unit to pursue cases with CODIS hits and has committed to reviewing every case that had an untested kit, even if the results provided no new evidence. Investigators are attempting to contact all victims whose evidence yielded a CODIS hit and pursue prosecution if possible. HPD also set up a hotline for victims to find out if their kits were among the untested and learn about the results.
Captain Evans says these efforts, both to use the new evidence and to change HPD's culture, are having an impact. “One of the things that [the group's researchers] said was that survivors complained about their initial contact with law enforcement, that they didn't feel they were believed and [police] were rude and judgmental,” Evans says. “However, they felt that the second time they were contacted”—that is, after their kit was tested and had a CODIS hit—“the officers were sensitive, compassionate and cared. One [victim] did say that the officer said, ‘I'm sorry this happened to you. I'm sorry it wasn't taken care of before. But I'm here now. Let's do what we can.' She really felt that that was huge to her, to acknowledge that.”
While Houston is confronting its rape kit problem, many other cities in Texas and nationwide are not. It's difficult to estimate how many untested kits Texas will turn out to have. Some cities that have completed their audits found tiny numbers of untested kits relative to their size, such as El Paso—its 27 untested kits amount to about four per 100,000 residents. Others found the opposite. Amarillo is one-third the size of El Paso but reported 952 untested kits, or about five per 1,000 residents—more than 100 times El Paso's ratio.
That doesn't necessarily mean El Paso was 100 times more diligent than Amarillo about testing rape kits, though. Law enforcement agencies have had wildly varying policies about when and how long to keep evidence; some kits may simply have been thrown away. Not until Davis' bill were practices for keeping and managing sexual assault kits standardized. Now police are required to test kits within 30 days of receipt, compare the results with state and national DNA databases, and keep the kits for at least two years. Agencies were also supposed to submit all their untested kits dating from 1996 or later to DPS or another crime lab by April 2012, but clearly that hasn't happened. Without the kits, DPS couldn't meet the other deadline set by Davis' bill—to have all the old evidence analyzed by September of this year.
There are two major problems with Davis' bill, says Burrhus-Clay of the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault: money and enforcement. The Legislature dedicated $11 million for the effort, but at $1,000 per test, that's not likely to be enough. “One of the things that was missing from the bill is the fact that there was no penalty for not participating in the audit,” Burrhus-Clay says. With only 146 agencies reporting, she says, “That's giving us a better picture but certainly not the full picture. But at the same time, I don't necessarily advocate for something that's punitive for these departments, because it's a matter of resources. We can't put the hammer down on these departments and then not give them the resources with which to comply. At some point, we're going to realize that $11 million, while incredibly generous and certainly a nice place to start, may not be adequate.” But again, the Legislature needs cities to complete their test audits to know how much money to appropriate. “Until we get all that data,” she says, “you're kind of guessing at how big the problem is and how much money and time it will take.”
The other crucial piece of this search for tardy justice is likely impossible to legislate: a commitment to investigation. Law enforcement agencies can be forced to test their kits but not to change the culture that left them untested in the first place. “They didn't really believe they needed to test all these kits,” Tofte says. “So if that's their posture going into it and nothing really changes their mind, and they're not even really examining the leads they're getting, you're probably not going to get the depth of reform you need to make a difference. If you don't do anything with the leads you get, you might as well have not tested the kit.”
That's why Tofte says examples like Houston and Detroit are so important. “You have very powerful data that I think really started to turn the tide,” Tofte says. The number of CODIS hits “really got other police and prosecutors thinking, ‘Oh my gosh. Those results are pretty astounding.' … You see a little bit more of jurisdictions generating [reform] themselves, not having to have a lot of outside pressure.”
HPD's reforms, and the models offered by their success, will unquestionably benefit future victims. And Texas, being one of the first states to mandate timely testing of all sexual assault kits, seems unlikely to allow vast stores of evidence to go unanalyzed again. This is all to the good. But for victims whose rapists remained free for years, even as the evidence to convict them sat on a shelf in police custody, no apology is enough.
Child Abuse Reporting Rules at Odds with Client Confidentiality
Gideon, The Connecticut Law Tribune
Child abuse is a terrible thing. There is no dispute that in the hierarchy of most despicable crimes, the abuse—physical or sexual—of a child takes one of the top three spots. If the investigation, prosecution and punishment of child abuse were a policy that could be realized without coming into conflict with other important policies, this column would end here. Clearly it does not.
There is an untenable conflict between the law on mandated reporting of suspected child abuse and the constitutional right to zealous, conflict-free representation of children and adults accused of crimes. The legislature had an opportunity to rectify this last session, but failed to do so. It should not be so remiss again.
John Henry Wigmore, in his seminal "Treatise on the Anglo-American System of Evidence in Trials at Common Law," wrote that the importance of the social policy of attorney-client privilege has never been disputed. He wrote that by the end of the 18th century, the justification for the attorney-client privilege focused on the importance of providing an opportunity for a frank discussion between the client and the attorney. The risk of not having such a privilege is that clients would not feel free to provide all the information relevant to their legal conundrum and would this hinder attorneys from providing adequate representation. This would, in turn, diminish the ability of the court system to do justice.
This is why every professional conduct code for attorneys involves rules on confidentiality and delineates a strict set of circumstances under which attorneys can reveal information that would expose a client to criminal prosecution. While attorneys thus far have escaped the reach of the child abuse reporting laws, another integral member of the defense team has not: the social worker.
The social worker is a critical component of any individual's defense because people charged with crimes involving the abuse of children typically aren't evil people who do it for the sport. It is far more likely that the abuser himself has been abused or has mild to severe mental health issues and may come already diagnosed with a disorder. Many of them are low-functioning and have mild-to-moderate mental retardation or are on the cusp of such a diagnosis. Even those that the public might label as sociopathic have a diagnosis and require understanding and counseling. Sadly, a large number of them are also children themselves, stuck in an uncooperative juvenile system.
The defense attorney's job isn't limited to defending the accused at trial: It also involves investigating and providing mitigating information to help put the offenses and the individual who is alleged to have committed those offenses in context and thus negotiate a just and fair resolution. Lawyers, being lawyers, aren't social workers or equipped with mental health training. Which is why every public defender office in the state employs one or more social workers.
The social workers can't do this job, however, if there is a legislated divide between them and their client. Connecticut General Statute 17a-101a—the mandated reporter statute—does just that. Not only does it set an extremely low bar for the reporting of child abuse—"reasonable cause to suspect or believe that any child under the age of 18 years has been abused or neglected...or (3) is placed at imminent risk of serious harm"—it also includes any social worker as a mandated reporter.
This means that if a social worker, while fulfilling the constitutional duty of providing effective representation of an individual accused of a crime, learns of information that merely causes her to suspect that a child under 18 has at any point in the past, no matter how remote, been "abused" or "neglected," that social worker must destroy that confidential relationship, must violate the individual's right to conflict-free representation and essentially become an agent of the government in an instant.
The U.S. Supreme Court just granted certiorari in a case that implicates these very concerns. In Ohio v. Clark, the court will decide whether being a mandated reporter—a teacher in that case—makes a person a law enforcement agent, thus rendering any statements made to them testimonial. If the court rules that mandated reporters do become agents of the state, then the already fraught reputation of public defenders will take a further hit. Clients are loathe to trust us public defenders because we are "paid by the state" and we only do this job while waiting to become prosecutors. Imagine if our social workers have to testify against our clients?
Last year, Chief Public Defender Susan Storey eloquently explained these problems to the legislature in written testimony submitted. Language that would have solved this problem was added to a bill and passed out of the Judiciary Committee, but mysteriously removed from the final language that gained passage in the legislature.
Whether that was the result of scared legislators or intervention by the Department of the Children and Families, I do not know. What I do know is that now, in our criminal and juvenile courts, every person accused of a crime will receive cautious representation. Attorneys will be hesitant to involve social workers. Clients with mental health issues may have to make the difficult choice of being frank in an effort to seek treatment but exposing themselves to potential further criminal charges, or being circumspect and not getting the help they deserve.
This is to say nothing of the horrors in juvenile court where delinquents are mere children who come from messy homes and complicated backgrounds. Making public defender social workers mandated reporters does nothing to help children in difficult situations and serves only to further mistrust and perpetuate the chaos and disaster in their lives.
As Storey suggested in her testimony, public defender social workers should fall under the umbrella of the attorney-client privilege and the same standard for disclosure of confidential information that applies to attorneys should apply to social workers.
The policy interest in having any social worker report any suspected abuse cannot be so rigid as to not accommodate the defendant's right to conflict-free representation.
Gideon is the pseudonym of a Connecticut public defender. In his spare time he also blogs at apublicdefender.com. Everything in his columns are his personal opinion only and should not be mistaken for those of the Division of Public Defender Services. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
Investigators attend child abuse training
by TRAVIS M. WHITEHEAD
OLMITO — Kimberly Treviño said she is interested in new updates on child abuse laws, so she can make better decisions.
Trevino, a supervisor for Child Protective Services in Brownsville, was one of about 30 people from law enforcement organizations and CPS offices who on Wednesday began three days of training at the Cameron County Sheriff's Office.
The Advanced Child Abuse Investigation Training is being taught by Katie Alexander from the Texas Municipal Police Association. It is supported by the Children's Justice Act through the Texas Center for Judiciary.
One of the issues Alexander addressed was the importance of law enforcement and CPS to work together on child abuse cases.
“One may think the other one is taking care of it or they don't want to share information about what they are trying to do,” she said.
The importance of working child abuse cases more diligently was highlighted by the death of 2-year-old Colton Turner in September. Several employees of the Travis County CPS in Austin were fired as a result of the death for lack of proper oversight.
Alexander said that she's recently seen an increase in child abuse service personnel attending her training sessions “because they are seeing the disconnect.”
Wednesday's session included an exercise to assemble a puzzle with some missing pieces.
“They realized they don't have the pieces,” she said. “They realized they needed to work together to multi-task for the child.”
Local agencies that attended included police departments of San Benito, La Feria and Brownsville, and the Cameron County Sheriff's Office.
The training, which ends Friday, will also talk about changes in some laws.
The wording of harassment laws has been interchanged with stalking laws, Alexander said.
A person can now be accused of stalking if he or she wants the victim to fear bodily injury or death. The perpetrator can also be charged with stalking if the victim fears he or she is in danger of being injured or killed, and the law also gives victims the right to break an apartment lease, Alexander said.
She added that there are now stiffer penalties for first-time child abuse offenders as well.
Watching for signs of sexual abuse
by Lauren Johnson
“There are a lot of different components to sexually offending on a child, but one that is most significant, and the one that we see all the time is grooming."
Erica Kallin is the Canyon County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney. She sees far too many cases of child sex abuse, all with a common thread.
"Grooming of the parent, grooming of the child. When we're talking about grooming of the child themselves, what we're talking about is essentially gaining the childs trust. Getting that child to a position where that child is not likely to tell if that touching begins," Kallin says.
Kallin wants to make sure that people know the warning signs to help stop the suffering.
"There is, in one way or another, grooming in every single case that we have," Kallin says. "It's manipulation of the child and manipulation of the family in order to accomplish their sexual gratification."
A sexual assault survivor is sharing her story to help inspire others to step forward and know what to look for.
18-year-old Kamiley was abused by her adoptive father for years before she told someone.
"Grabbed me, and he took me to the bedroom, and he started to try to kiss me, and this is when I was about, turning seven years old."
"He spoiled me, I guess you would say,” Kamiley says. “Bought me a lot of things so I would be closer to him, like he was trying to buy my love."
It's not just children who are groomed by predators either.
"We also see grooming of the parents, and what we're talking about with grooming of the parents is again, gaining that parent's trust, getting it to the point that if the child tells, everyone is going to say, ‘Wait a minute, this is that nice guy who bought us groceries, this is the nice guy who babysat our kids, this is our nice uncle who always showed that child affection... so obviously that child's lying," says Kallin.
She says parents need to talk openly with children and let them know they can share.
"Nothing that you can tell mom, or that you can tell dad that is going to make me mad, that is going to make me upset, that is going to make me not love you."
Kamiley finally did tell and is working to heal. She has a message for those being abused.
“That they're strong. That they're more powerful than their perpetrator, they don't have to be in this situation anymore, your words are stronger than what he is doing to you. You can get justice."
More Charges of Sexual Abuse for Couple Accused of Kidnapping Two Amish Sisters
by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
ALBANY — A couple accused of kidnapping and sexually abusing two young Amish sisters in August in upstate New York are facing additional federal charges involving more child victims, prosecutors said on Wednesday.
The case against the couple, Stephen Howells and Nicole Vaisey, now involves six victims, said Richard S. Hartunian, the United States attorney for the Northern District of New York.
Mr. Howells and Ms. Vaisey, who live in Hermon, N.Y., had previously been charged with crimes against three children, including the Amish girls.
The new 21-count indictment had not been filed as of early Wednesday evening, so details were not available. But Mr. Hartunian said the couple was charged with sexually exploiting three children from September 2013 to August 2014, and that Mr. Howells is additionally charged with six counts involving four children at other times.
Mr. Howells is also charged with five counts of possessing child pornography, including images and videos of children under the age of 12.
The couple had previously pleaded not guilty. Ms. Vaisey's lawyer, Bradford Riendeau, declined to comment on Wednesday because he had not seen the superseding indictment. He has said that Ms. Vaisey, 25, was controlled by Mr. Howells, 39, in a dominant-submissive relationship. Mr. Howells's lawyer could not be reached for comment.
The Amish girls, who were 7 and 12, were abducted from their family farm stand in Oswegatchie, near the Canadian border.
The abduction touched off an enormous search, but the authorities were hampered by a lack of photos of the girls. The Amish typically avoid modern technology, and the family had to work with a sketch artist.
The authorities said the girls were shackled and sexually abused, then released the next day, about 20 miles from home.
The original federal indictment said another girl, now about 8 years old, was also sexually abused by the couple. No information was initially available about the other three children.
Grant applicants sought for child sexual abuse prevention campaign
by SARAH ELMS
TRAVERSE CITY — Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation officials set aside grant money to develop a community awareness and engagement plan to prevent child sexual abuse, and they're looking for an organization to spearhead the effort.
The initiative aims to eliminate child sexual abuse by creating a broader understanding of the issue and teaching people how they can prevent it, said Steve Wade, the foundation's director of donor relations.
"We need the conversation about our children being in danger and about what we can do to protect them being top of mind for everyone in the community," Wade said. "Whether kids are part of your day-to-day life or not, we want everyone to be aware of these issues."
Foundation officials are soliciting proposals from local nonprofits who want to lead a community awareness campaign. The deadline to submit proposals is Friday.
Big Ten Conference member schools designated funds to promote child safety and fight child sexual abuse, and Michigan State University selected the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation as stewards of $343,000.
A portion of the money was awarded to the Traverse Bay Children's Advocacy Center to use in a training program that teaches adults how to recognize signs of child sexual abuse. The other portion will go toward the awareness campaign.
"A handful will say 'We want to be trained,' but if everybody in the community is aware of it and talking about it, then as a community we will understand child sexual abuse," Wade said. "And if we understand it we will be able to better protect our children going forward."
Interested organizations can contact Wade at 231-935-4066 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Officials hope to award the grant by the end of the year, Wade said.
Celebrities Who Were Victims Of Child Sexual Abuse: Impact It Has On The Child; Warning Signs That Parents Should Look For
by Sarah Thomas
Child sexual abuse is only growing day by day. According to the Child Maltreatment 2012 report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Children's Bureau, there were 62,936 cases of child sexual abuse reported. This was in 2012. National statistics about sexual assault revealed further horrifying facts, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused as minors, that is before they turn 18.
Most often, people are unaware of what is considered as child sexual abuse. It is not just sexual intercourse but all sexual activity that include touching the child and also those sexual offences that are done without touching the child. The American Humane Association that works towards the protection of children from abuse and neglect listed a range of sexual offences that are considered as child sexual abuse. Sexual acts that involve physical contact such as fondling, touching the child's sexual organs or making the child touch the adult's sexual organs, sexual intercourse or even penetrating the child's vagina with a "penis or any other object" deliberately for sexual pleasure are considered as child sexual abuse.
Even if the child is subjected to perverted behavior, such as exposing him or her to porn or sexual intercourse, exposing the child to masturbation or masturbating in front of the child are also child sexual offences. The more known forms of sexual abuse are forced prostitution, forced sexual intercourse or using the child in any form of pornography.
Psychological impact on the child
Studies show that most of the time the offender is a person whom the child knows and trusts. Esther Deblinger, PhD, a member of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, told WebMD that there is a common notion of child sexual abusers being old men or strangers, but most often, it is family members and those whom the children trust. Deblinger is the developer of a treatment methof for childhood sexual abuse. Though there are a lot of statistics on the number of children being sexually abused, the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center states that 60 per cent of the cases go unreported. Even as the children grow up, they refuse to talk about as it leaves a lasting impact on their minds. Though the physical scars may heal, mentally they are scarred for life.
Even celebrities who were sexually abused have admitted to have had lasting, horrifying impacts of the incidents. Actress Julianne Hough, who was sexually abused as a child, told ABC News that celebrities are thought to have everything from wealth to health, "But most of them have traveled bumpy roads." Ashley Judd, Oprah Winfrey, Pamela Anderson, Tyler Perry, Teri Hatcher and Gabriel Byrne are some of the celebrities sexually abused as children.
Tyler Perry admitted to have been abused by many, both men and women. He tried committing suicide at the age of 11 and said that he thought he would die before he grew up. He said that he knew he had been changed due to it.
Child sexual abuse impacts the child to a great degre, and the trauma continues as the child grows up as well. The Rape Abuse and Incest National Network states that the children may exhibit aggressive behaviour; they experience low self esteem, fear, depression and they constantly blame themselves. They are left enormously guilt-ridden and since most often the abuser is a person they know, they would find it hard to trust anyone else. The study, Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Rape Victimization: Findings From the National Violence Against Women Survey by the U.S. Department of Justice found that children abused are twice as likely to be abused again. They have constant flashbacks of the incident and the memory haunts them for life. As they grow they may exhibit tendencies of harming themselves or may get into drugs and alcohol.
Looking for signs of child sexual abuse
Parents or the child's caretakers can protect the child from these incidents. WebMD states that children must be taught the good and bad touch and must develop a close bond with the child so that the child feels confident and secure to share these incidents with them. The parent must be able to detect the signs of abuse. Lucy Berliner, director of the Harborview Center for Sexual Assault & Traumatic Stress in Seattle, Washington, told WebMD that parents must keep a close watch of the child's behaviour, and if the child's behaviour is unusual or abnormal, she suggested that parents must check the reasons.
If their behaviour towards an individual is different such as they show signs of being uncomfortable or is scared then these are signs, she said. The American Humane Association lists the signs of sexual abuse in children of different age groups, ranging from three to those in their teen years. They are found here.
The ‘Unseen Wounds' of Child Emotional Abuse
New research suggests it is just as toxic as sexual abuse.
by Tom Jacobs
As recent reports regarding actor Stephen Collins remind us, accusations of child sexual abuse reliably produce a reaction of intense horror. But a new study suggests that, if we are to seriously address the mistreatment of children and the long-term damage it creates, we need to broaden our focus.
In an article entitled “Unseen Wounds , ” a team of researchers argues that childhood emotional abuse—a problem far more widespread than sexual molestation—is linked to just as much suffering and problematic behavior as the victims grow into adolescents.
In a large sample, “psychologically mistreated youth exhibited equivalent or greater baseline levels of behavioral problems, symptoms, and disorders compared with physically or sexually abused youth on most indicators,” writes the researchers, led by Joseph Spinazzola of the Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute in Brookline, Massachusetts.
The combination of emotional abuse and/or neglect with physical or sexual abuse appears to be particularly toxic, as it was “linked to the exacerbation of most outcomes,” they write in the journal Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice and Policy. Psychological abuse, the researchers add, can be viewed as “a formidable form of trauma in its own right.”
The researchers analyzed data on 5,616 youngsters (42 percent boys) from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network core data set. All had been exposed to one or more forms of trauma and had sought treatment in one of the network's 56 centers.
All underwent a detailed assessment, including a trauma history profile that noted whether they had suffered one or more of the following: Physical abuse/maltreatment, “defined as an actual or attempted caregiver infliction of physical pain or bodily injury;” sexual abuse/maltreatment, “defined as actual or attempted sexual molestation, exploitation, or coercion by a caregiver;” or emotional abuse/psychological maltreatment.
The latter included exposure to one or more abusive behaviors such as bullying, terrorizing, coercive control, severe insults, debasement, or threats—on the “neglect” side of the spectrum—shunning or isolation.
Sixty-two percent of the children had experienced some form of emotional abuse, “with nearly one-quarter of maltreatment cases comprised exclusively of psychological maltreatment.” If you think those latter kids got off easy compared to those who were physically or sexually abused, think again.
While being careful not to claim causality, the researchers report “the predictive potency of psychological maltreatment appears to be at least on par with physical or sexual abuse across a broad range of adverse outcomes.”
They found that emotional abuse or neglect was “the strongest predictor of substance abuse, raising the question of whether substance abuse may serve as an associated coping mechanism.”
Turning to behavioral problems, including self-injury and criminal activity, they found psychological maltreatment “exhibited a strong association comparable to that of physical abuse, and greater than that of sexual abuse.”
In addition, those who had suffered psychological maltreatment reported PTSD symptoms as frequently as those in the physical abuse and sexual abuse groups.
Spinazzola and his colleagues argue these results have important public-policy implications. “Given its predictive potency and widespread prevalence,” they write, “efforts to increase recognition of psychological maltreatment as a potentially formidable type of maltreatment in its own right should be at the forefront of mental health and social-service training efforts.”
Emotional abuse and neglect of children “can be elusive and insidious, and its very nature allows it to hide in plain sight,” they write. “The comparatively covert nature of psychological maltreatment can thus lead investigators to focus on more ‘tangible' forms of maltreatment, as well as to adopt an apathetic or helpless outlook regarding how best to intervene.”
Clearly, a shift in attitude is desperately needed.
Why isn`t action demanded on rampant child sexual abuse in White communities in Australia?
Because of the amount of discussion and public debate focusing on Aboriginal Culture being responsible for child and sexual abuse I wanted to write this week on non-Indigenous `White` Australian communities. I started by researching a number of stories over the last week that showed examples of sexual abuse within their culture.
by Dr Woolombi Waters
The outcome is disturbing to say the least. It doesn't take long to uncover deep-seated endemic problems situated within White Australian society when it comes to child sexual abuse.
One example of how such sexual abuse is embedded within White non-Indigenous culture is in the way many social commentators and popular media have described such high profile court cases such as Robert Hughes and Rolf Harris, both non-Indigenous White men working in the entertainment industry, as “witch hunts”.
One article describes these cases as “old retired entertainers get ruinous persecutions and rare convictions for groping willing groupie fans in the 1960s to 1980s.”
Then there was this article: “This was the rolling sexual liberation time before the feminist sex repression backlash. Britain's Sun newspaper had sexy topless 15-year-olds on page 3, like Samantha Fox. In Germany, one could legally buy creepy nudist magazines with nude children of all ages. Playboys and rock stars had their stables of 14-year-old groupies who flew with them around the world. Child porn was legal in most of the world.” (Keir Starmer)
It reminds you of the old saying “those who point their fingers and scream the loudest are generally the most guilty”.
The most comprehensive study on sexual activity amongst Australian teenagers is the Secondary Students and Sexual Health National Survey of Australian Secondary Students, by La Trobe University.
Now I am focusing on students within Grade 10 as many of these students remain under the age of consent at only 15 years of age.
The survey shows even though 15 years is below the legal age, experience of sexual touching within males was 63.5 per cent and females were 59.6 per cent with a total 61.3 per cent having experienced sexual touching by the end of Grade 10.
Those who have had sexual intercourse with at least one partner totalled 45.3 per cent within males, and females who had experienced sexual intercourse with at least one partner was 53.3 per cent. That is over 50 per cent of all Australian girls have had sexual intercourse before the end of Grade 10 with many of these girls under age. Why is there no intervention or scrutiny in these White non-Indigenous communities?
Only 6.5 per cent of boys and 4.2 per cent of girls had stated they had not had sexual intercourse of any kind within these White non-Indigenous communities.
The problem is that as Aboriginal people we are continually judged on issues of race and persecuted through racially-based assumptions made against us. Within the non-Indigenous communities when identifying such statistical information within their own White communities it is not seen as sexual abuse but instead it is written off as changing trends in adolescent sexuality.
I then found this article from the March 3 edition of The Australian Woman's Weekly titled: “Why girls are having sex at 12” where its states teenage girls are under more pressure to have sex than ever before “so it's time to stop judging and start helping them”, wrote Jordan Baker.
Now I understand the article does not state non-Indigenous but having seen this publication over the last 30 years print little to no articles on Aboriginal people, other than about Cathy Freeman after she won an Olympic gold medal, it's fair to say this is a non-Indigenous magazine written for a mostly non-Indigenous audience.
The article goes on to state even girls as young as 12 years of age within the White non-Indigenous community are shaving their pubic hair.
“Everyone shaves. Everything,” 16-year-old Anne is quoted as saying in the article. “If you've left it, you are classified as disgusting. You'd be embarrassed for the rest of your life. Boys would pay you out, call you hairy. People start shaving in Year 7 (that's about 12 years of age).”
The article also states amongst non-Indigenous White Australians oral sex doesn't count as sex; that sending nude pictures via text or Facebook is now considered flirting; that boys as young as 12 are regularly watching porn and demand from their sexual encounters what they see online – hairless bodies, “girl-on-girl action” and much, much more.
They are learning their sex education from the internet, with porn more accessible than ever before. Yet these lessons are a dangerous mix of misinformation and distorted images of sexuality, which is contributing to behaviour that can leave young women with deep psychological and physical scars.
Dolly magazine's Youth Monitor found 56 per cent of teens first had sex between 13 and 15 years of age, a figure backed up by an Australian study that found the age of girls' first sexual experience ranged from 11 to 17 years with a median age of 14.
The main reasons given by the article was (non-Indigenous White) children as young as 12 are regularly too drunk or high at social gatherings and pressure from a partner as alcohol (consumption) has gone up over time, too and it's intimately connected to their sexual behaviour.”
Rates of sexually transmitted diseases are rising, especially among 15 to 19-year-olds. In 2008 slightly more than 25 per cent of all chlamydia infections were in the 15 to 19-year-old age group and girls were diagnosed at three times the rate of boys within non-Indigenous White communities.
These are just the statistics. The anecdotal evidence is more frightening. Michael Grose, a Doctor and specialist in youth sexuality says there is a casual attitude to oral sex. “I've heard stories from teachers of oral sex occurring at school,” he says.
“My generation went behind the shed and had a smoke. It's been put to me that oral sex at school is like smoking. That's extreme but I think extremes explain the norm.”
This doesn't sound unusual to 16-year-old Anne either. “Oral sex happens a lot. It's before losing your virginity,” she tells The Women's Weekly . “I had a 16th birthday party and apparently two people were doing it on my front lawn.”
The situation is so dire that sex education expert Debbie Ollis last month called for all students to receive porn education at school. This is what the White non-Indigenous community has come to even as they continue to point the finger at our own Aboriginal community!
Research shows most children within the non-Indigenous White community have viewed explicit pornographic content online before their 11th birthday.
It is clear sexuality and abuse of under-age girls within non-Indigenous White Australia is out of control and yet there is little to no publicity on how the sexuality of children, particularly young girls within the non-Indigenous community is embedded deeply within White culture and their communities.
Just walk into family stores like K-Mart and Target and you will see padded bras for 10-year-olds, tube tops and high cut pants and low cut jeans for girls under 12 years of age. These are department stores run by non-Indigenous White people exploiting underage sexuality for profit.
Traditionally when parents would sleep in on a Saturday Australian kids as young as five or six years of age would watch cartoons until their parents woke up. Now while parents are sleeping non-Indigenous White-controlled television networks are showing music videos early on a Saturday morning of woman often surrounded by a number of half-naked men with their bodies oiled, singing about sex and who has the largest penis often referred to as a “big Banana” or an “Anaconda”. Kids from white non-Indigenous families these days are practicing twerking rather than playing tag out in the backyard.
Only last week a story broke within the White non-Indigenous community concerning a non-Indigenous White Australian, Thomas James Johnson who went to court after sharing with an exotic masseuse sexual images of girls aged between 5 and 9 and how he later tried to lure the woman into a threesome with himself and a 12-year-old girl. The story received very little public attention.
Where were Andrew Bolt and all his mates demanding Johnson get serious jail time, for white Australia to clean up its filthy act, for government to “intervene” into the lives of these white people? Well, he was nowhere to be seen or heard. He is only interested in this sort of stuff if he can tie it to our Mob and our Culture.
District Court judge Rosemary Davey said Johnson openly chatted with the woman about the origin of the child pornography. “You said the photos were obtained from single mothers who were paid to provide their daughters for the images,” Judge Davey said.
Should we begin to state alleged numbers here as non-Indigenous journalists do within stories about our mob? What we do know is this child abuse demonstrated by Johnson is systematic involving a number of single parent families and yes he is trafficking in images of child pornography having shared them with others.
Johnson, aged 37, later phoned the masseuse and propositioned her to have a “threesome” with him and a 12-year-old girl after which the woman called police. So pornographic images of children between 5 and 9 years old was not enough to call the police, it was not until she was asked to get physically involved the masseuse decided to call the police.
It makes you wonder just how many cases of child pornography occur within the White non-Indigenous community that go unreported.
Detectives found numerous (again why no alleged numbers as there would be if this article was about our mob?) child exploitation images on Johnson's laptop computer dating back a decade.
I looked up the definition of numerous and it stated the following: “great in number; many: “she had complained to the council on numerous occasions” synonyms: many, a lot of, a great many, very many, countless, scores of, innumerable; More…”
So we could easily allege there were at least thousands of images of child pornography (which is quite a conservative amount) collected over a decade as there are no alleged numbers or estimates as we see with reporting that occurs against our mob.
Judge Davey rejected Johnson's claims he had no sexual interest in children and had only accessed the depraved material to find out if he was sexually aroused when viewing the pornography.
“I doubt that you have truthfully explained your motivation for your offending … you must have had an interest in children in such sexual and degrading positions,” she said.
“While you may not have touched a child on any occasion … the user of this material is complicit in the abuse of children,” she said.
Who says that Johnson may not have ever touched a child? Our people are certainly not given anywhere near the same grace as a non-Indigenous White man who confesses to paying for images of child pornography from single mothers struggling with their own forms of abuse and who tries to arrange a threesome with a 12-year-old girl.
Judge Davey suspended Johnson's sentence of two years and two months on the condition he enter into a three-year good behaviour bond and take part in a sexual offenders treatment program.
So after all the evidence and having a decade of child porn collected on his phone from ages ranging between 5 and 9 years and in attempting to arrange a threesome with a 12-year-old girl this whitefella doesn't get any jail time and there is no public awareness or scrutiny of the case.
And yet via spurious association, we as Blackfella's are labelled as child molesters through public media campaigns of racial bigotry. Where is the justice?
Dr Woolombi Waters is a Kamilaroi language speaker and writer and is a lecturer at Griffith University. He writes a weekly column for the National Indigenous Times.
Labor Dept. says 168 million children worldwide are laborers, 85 million in hazardous jobs
by TOM RAUM
WASHINGTON — The Labor Department reported Tuesday that about 168 million children, aged 5 to 7, worked last year as laborers around the world, about half of them in hazardous jobs.
The report on child labor in 140 countries called this an improvement from previous years. But while the decline is a move in the right direction, 10 percent of the world's children still are being forced to work rather than go to school, the department said.
Labor Secretary Thomas Perez says the world needs to do more to address the issue. The report doesn't include the United States or countries in Western Europe.
"This report shines a light on the estimated 168 million children around the world who toil in the shadows - crawling underground in mine shafts, sewing in textile factories or serving in households as domestic workers," Perez said. "We are seeing more countries take action to address the issue, but the world can and must do more to accelerate these efforts. When children are learning rather than working, families flourish, economies grow and nations prosper."
Of the 168 million child laborers, 85 million of them work at hazardous jobs, the agency said.
"We are seeing more countries take actions to address the issue, but the world can and must do more to accelerate these efforts," Perez told reporters in releasing the 958-page report.
The report is done annually under terms of a trade law passed in 2000 that requires the agency to determine which countries are eligible for trade benefits from the United States. These benefits are denied to countries with the worst child-labor practices.
The countries topping the list for "significant advancement" from previous years included: Albania, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ivory Coast, Ecuador, El Salvador, Peru, Philippines, South Africa, Tunisia and Uganda.
The countries at the bottom of the list with "no advancement" in child-labor practices included: British Virgin Islands, Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, Cook Islands, Eritrea, the Falkland Islands, Montserrat and Norfolk Island.
"This is not a 'gotcha' exercise. We hope we can make progress," Perez said. Childhood is supposed to be a time of "wonder, adventure and possibility," he said.
Verizon presents grant to “End Domestic Abuse WI,” Packers collecting no-longer-used wireless phones
by Katie DeLong
GREEN BAY (WITI) — Verizon Wireless presented a $100,000 HopeLine grant to End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin on Tuesday, October 7th at the Wise Women Gathering Place in Green Bay, while also announcing the continuation of “Protection is the Name of the Game,” — its long-running HopeLine collection with the Green Bay Packers.
The $100,000 grant from HopeLine will be used to further expand End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin's work addressing teen dating violence across Wisconsin. As part of the statewide coalition for local domestic violence service providers, End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin supports the work of more than 75 local programs. That includes Wise Women Gathering Place in Green Bay, which serves more than 50 middle and high school students from the Oneida Nation community with after-school programming each week. In Wisconsin, local domestic violence service providers are critical to providing outreach to teens to stop violence before it happens.
“We are so grateful that Verizon Wireless is investing in this issue of domestic violence,” said Alice Skenandore, executive director, Wise Women Gathering Place. “Wise Women Gathering Place is also grateful for our ongoing relationship with End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin and the support they have provided over the past years.”
According to End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, teen dating violence is more common than most realize. Eighty-one percent of parents don't believe it is an issue in the lives of their teens, yet one in three adolescents will be affected by dating violence and 1.5 million high-school aged teens experience some form of physical violence from a dating partner each year. Furthermore, violent behavior typically begins between the ages of 12 and 18.
“Educating youth and teens about healthy relationships is essential to preventing violence from happening in the first place,” said Patti Seger, executive director, End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin . “ If we fail to prevent domestic violence today amongst our young people, a certain percentage of them will be the victims of tomorrow.”
Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews joined leadership from the three organizations to encourage Packers fans to participate in the 2014 continuation of the Green Bay Packers “Protection is the Name of the Game” partnership with Verizon.
All fans are encouraged to donate their no-longer-used wireless phones at special collection stations located around Lambeau Field before the game between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears on Sunday night, November 9th. All donations go directly to HopeLine from Verizon, to provide funding for organizations like End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin and the Wise Women Gathering Place. These funds help the organizations continue serving survivors of domestic abuse and educating children and young adults to make decisions and develop relationships based on respect.
“Domestic violence is a silent epidemic that has a widespread impact on the community,” said Brian Pascoe, region president for Verizon Wireless. “Together, we have an opportunity to lead and take a stand that will make a difference. Packers fans have always joined us in supporting the HopeLine program, and we have no doubt they will continue to stand with us and the organizations who serve our community.”
Additionally, for the second consecutive year, Verizon is partnering with Bellin Health locations in northeast Wisconsin to set up HopeLine collection stations. Those not attending the game at Lambeau Field may still participate by donating their no-longer-used wireless phones at Bellin Health and Verizon Wireless locations through the month of October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. And, throughout the year devices are accepted in stores, as well as in the Atrium (near Guest Services desk) at Lambeau Field.
Verizon is committed to helping the nearly one in four women, one in seven men and more than 3 million children in the United States affected by domestic violence each year. Through its HopeLine program, Verizon has donated more than 180,000 phone to survivors of domestic violence, and awarded more than $21 million in cash grants to its partner agencies.
Child sex abuse victims face hurdles seeking redress in court
by Tomohiro Osaki
To many survivors of childhood molestation in Japan, seeking retribution from their abusers has been unimaginably difficult.
By the time they are mentally and financially ready to confront their tormentors, the time for pursuing legal action has often long expired. Unlike in some other countries, courts in Japan do not suspend statutes of limitations or extend them so that sexual abuse victims can file lawsuits when, later in life, they come to grips with their suffering.
In that sense, a recent ruling handed down by the Sapporo High Court is no doubt a rarity. It declared a rape victim in her 40s eligible for ¥20 million in compensation, overturning a lower court decision that the statute of limitations in connection with the abuse she was seeking damages for had expired years earlier.
“The ruling is wonderful,” said her lead lawyer, Toko Teramachi, who asked that her client remain anonymous to protect her privacy.
In Japan, where rapists, for example, often pay out modest sums to compensate their victims in a bid for leniency, restitution of ¥20 million for sexual abuse is virtually unheard of, as it is almost equal to the level paid for cases involving death, Teramachi said.
“We believe the ruling shows the high court's realization that sexual abuse amounts to what is called ‘murder of one's soul' because the victims are often so spiritually damaged that their lives are completely altered thereafter,” the lawyer said.
That said, the ruling is applicable to the woman's case only and doesn't serve as a game-changing precedent for similar victims in the future. Rather, experts say, it underlines the need for Japan to consider granting sex abuse victims longer statutes of limitations to make their pursuit of justice easier.
Changing the way accused sex offenders are handled is a hot topic for the fledgling leadership of Justice Minister Midori Matsushima, who has repeatedly pledged to penalize rapists more harshly since taking up the ministry's top post on Sept. 3.
The rape victim in question, a native of the Hokkaido city of Kushiro, filed a lawsuit against her uncle in April 2011, alleging that he had routinely molested and raped her between 1978 and 1983, from the age of 3 until she was 8.
She “would have preferred to file a criminal complaint” but couldn't because the statute of limitations for rape only lasts 10 years, Teramachi said. Meanwhile, the Civil Code stipulates that a person forfeits the right to sue somebody 20 years after the damages were inflicted.
In the woman's case, it is believed she began to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in 1983 — the last year of her abuse — and depression in 2006, but all the while she was plagued by a host of maladies, ranging from insomnia to eating disorders.
The Kushiro District Court ruled against the woman's suit in April 2013 on the grounds that her 20-year statute of limitations, assuming her PTSD started in 1983, had run out by the time she sued her accused tormentor in 2011.
The court's rationale was that 1983, when her PTSD started, is the only possible starting point for the statute because the disorder manifested itself in all the symptoms of psychological and physical illness that afflicted the plaintiff, including her depression, which started in 2006.
The Sapporo High Court rejected this logic. It said PTSD and depression should be treated separately. Although the statute had run out on the PTSD component of her suffering, she could still be compensated for her depression, which started only five years before the suit was filed, the high court said.
The woman was fortunate in the sense that the depression began to manifest itself after so many years, allowing the court flexibility in determining when the statute of limitations in her situation dated from.
Most adult women who seek restitution from their aggressors aren't granted this flexibility, as they come forward too late.
Lawyer Teramachi said it is virtually impossible for rape victims to pursue legal action against their alleged abusers while they are still minors.
Young children often do not understand what is happening during the time they are being sexually abused — it usually is not until a few years later that they become aware that they were victimized. Many who are struck by this realization suffer humiliation and the misguided notion that they have been “tainted” and often opt to keep their feelings bottled up, Teramachi said.
Coming forward becomes even more difficult if the abuser happens to be a relative, she said. Many child victims refrain from accusing kin of molestation out of fear that doing so will cause irreparable family discord, as was the case with the Kushiro woman.
“Even if they do confide to their parents what they have experienced, the parents sometimes decide to turn a blind eye to what is happening, because to them, the alleged abusers could be their own son, or brother,” Teramachi said.
It is not until well into adulthood that many victims make the correlation between the sexual abuse they suffered and their various physical and mental disorders, and this awareness often does not occur until they are in their 30s, she said.
Japan should learn from other nations in giving sexual abuse victims more leeway to contemplate a lawsuit, experts argue.
In the United States, for example, nearly every state suspends the statute of limitations for civil action when victims are minors. Many states have also adopted additional extensions for cases involving sexual abuse of children, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
After being rocked in 2010 by a litany of sexual abuse claims involving members of orders within the Roman Catholic Church, Germany, too, has now extended the start of its statute of limitations on civil child abuse cases from three to 30 years after a victim's 21st birthday.
“Since the discovery of sex abuses is often delayed, I think Japan should introduce special exemptions to the statutes of limitations like (the U.S and Germany) did. It's very problematic that you have to ask for the courts' judgment just to figure out when (a statute) started,” said Katsumi Matsumoto, a professor of civil law studies at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto.
Minister Matsushima has repeatedly vowed to stiffen the penalties for sexual offenders, criticizing the judiciary for belittling the gravity of rape.
Under current law, she said, rapists who either injured or killed their victims can get away with a minimum sentence of five years, whereas thieves who injure their victims face a minimum sentence of six years. Merely a month into her appointment, Matsushima is already on her way to set up a panel of experts tasked with debating harsher punishment for sexual offenders.
Although hailing such comments as a major shift in the government's stance, in that it will bolster how the nation heeds the cries of sexual abuse victims if reforms are carried out, experts emphasize that toughening penalties alone misses the point.
“Criminal proceedings are essentially about authorities punishing criminals and restoring peace to society. They aren't much about the victims themselves,” Matsumoto of Ritsumeikan University said.
“Rather than focusing on punishing the offenders, more should be done to facilitate victims' rights to claim compensation in civil lawsuits, such as by addressing the problem of (statutes of limitations),” Matsumoto said.
Ritual child abuse linked to witchcraft on the rise in the UK: Drownings and rape part of 'hidden crimes to drive out the devil'
by Harriet Arkell
Detectives are reporting a massive rise in the number of reported child abuse linked to witchcraft, they said today.
Scotland Yard has received 27 allegations of ritual child abuse this year alone - a dramatic increase on a decade ago, when just two such cases were reported to police in the whole of 2004.
Examples of the faith-based abuse include a child being dunked in a bath to 'wash away evil spirits', children being raped, and a pastor swinging a child around banging its head to 'drive out the devil'.
Now teachers, social workers and doctors are to be taught to spot the signs of the abuse in a drive to tackle the growing problem across Britain.
Last month police were called to a leisure centre in south London after residents reported a string of dawn 'child exorcisms' in which adults surrounded a toddler chanting 'Get the demon out'.
A number of child killings have been linked to these beliefs, including the murder of Kristy Bamu, 15, who was tortured and drowned by his sister and her boyfriend in 2010; and the death of Victoria Climbie.
The number of cases of ritualistic or faith-based abuse of children reported to Scotland Yard has increased year-on-year over the past decade. But detectives believe the number of reports is just the tip of the iceberg, with many more such cases being kept secret among communities.
Police and child protection experts have now created a training film for all front-line professionals who work with children to teach them how to recognise the signs that a child may be suffering, or likely to suffer harm from witchcraft.
The DVD will be launched at a conference on the subject in London today, organised by the Met police and the Churches' Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS), before being distributed to those in the force area who work with children who may be affected.
Detective Superintendent Terry Sharpe, head of the Met's Project Violet which tackles faith-based child abuse, said: 'Abuse linked to belief is a horrific crime which is condemned by people of all cultures, communities and faiths.
'Families or carers genuinely believe that the victim has been completely taken over by the devil or an evil spirit, which is often supported by someone who within the community has portrayed themselves as an authority on faith and belief.'
'But regardless of the beliefs of the abusers, child abuse is child abuse and it is important that professional are clear about the signs to look for.'
At the event at City Hall, detectives will debate with teachers, social workers and healthcare professionals to discuss how to tackle what is now a growing problem in Britain.
In 2004 just two such cases were reported to Scotland Yard. By 2009 it had risen to seven, and by 2012 it had risen again to 19.
Among this year's 27 reports of such abuse, cases included a child forced to drink unknown substances to 'rid them of evil spirits' and parents removing their children from school and taking them abroad to attend an 'exorcism' ceremony.
One case has already resulted in an arrest for rape, and another in a charge of rape being brought.
Previous cases dealt with by Scotland Yard include a child having chillies rubbed into its eyes to 'remove an evil spirit' and being cut with a knife for the same reason.
Simon Bass from the Churches' Child Protection Advisory Service said: 'We are not remotely surprised that the Metropolitan Police alone has already received 27 referrals of this type this year - or three a month.
'We are pleased that the Metropolitan Police has undertaken such great work in this area, but we are convinced that this form of abuse is hidden, and that the statutory agencies across the UK are facing similar situations.'
Abuse survivor Kevani Kanda said: 'Mass migration has made this a pervasive problem worldwide, and it is not confined to cities or areas where there are large migrant communities.
'Belief-related abuse can result in significant physical and emotional harm, neglect, sexual abuse and even death.'
'7th Heaven' star Stephen Collins exposed himself to young girls, report says
by Leora Arnowitz
NEW YORK – Stephen Collins, who played the beloved father and pastor on the family-friendly series "7th Heaven," has reportedly been caught on tape admitting he molested three young girls.
"There is a formal complaint on file and the incident is being investigated by the Manhattan Special Victims Squad," a New York law enforcement source told FOX411. Collins owned an apartment on New York City's Upper East Side in the 1990s. The property was sold in 1997.
In a tape posted on TMZ, a man who the site claims is Collins is heard telling his therapist and wife about the incidents. TMZ reports Collins' wife, Faye Grant, secretly recorded the tape to use in their divorce proceedings.
"I woke up today to learn that an extremely private recording I handed over to the authorities in 2012 per their request in connection with a criminal investigation was recently disseminated to the press," Grant told E! News. "I had no involvement whatsoever with the release of the tape to the media."
The man on the tape is heard recalling a time when he exposed himself to a 10-year-old girl.
“…There was one instance, where… there was one moment of touching,” the man says.
Click here to listen to the disturbing tape
The man then admits that he had similar incidents with two other young girls, including one who was “The niece of someone that lived across the way.”
He said he saw that woman about 15 years ago and tried to make amends for his actions.
Collins' agent declined FOX411's request for comment.
Collins was reportedly set to appear in the upcoming flick "Ted 2," but Entertainment Weekly reports he was fired Tuesday amid the controversy. The Screen Actor's Guild has also accepted his resignation for their board, according to TMZ.
Aside from his leading role in “7th Heaven,” Collins has appeared on “Revolution” and “The Fosters.” He has also had guest spots on “Scandal,” “The Office” and a bunch of other big-name shows.
“7th Heaven” originally ran 1996 to 2007. The show still lives on in syndication. In addition to Collins, it starred celebs like Jessica Biel, Catherine Hicks and Beverley Mitchell.
Mother, boyfriend killed 13-year-old disabled boy by placing alcohol in his IV bag
by Daily Digest News
According to a report from The Associated Press, a 38-year-old woman and her 38-year-old boyfriend killed her disabled 13-year-old son by placing alcohol in his IV bag.
Melissa Robitille and Walter Richter III were reportedly charged with second-degree murder on Tuesday.
Citing police, The AP notes that Robitille's son, Isaac Robitille, had several disabilities that necessitated the help of caretakers, as well as IV tubes.
Robitille and Richter, who originally reported Isaac's death to authorities at the end of August, were taken into custody on Tuesday and charged with second-degree murder after authorities discovered that the 13 year old had a BAC of .146 when he died, Reuters reports.
According to WCAX, authorities believe that Robitille and Richter deliberately added alcohol to Isaac's IV bag.
“The Vermont Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) reported the cause of death as ‘Semi-Lobar Holoprosencephaly with a contributory cause of death as Alcohol' and the manner of death as ‘Homicide,'” a statement from the Vermont State Police read.
The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism points out that alcohol poisoning takes place when there is so much alcohol in the bloodstream that areas of the brain managing basic life-supporting functions (breathing, heart rate and temperature control) start to shutdown.
Authorities do not know at this point when the couple will be arraigned, but they are currently jailed at the Northeast Correctional Complex in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, the Burlington Free Press reports.
“Once Robitille and Richter are processed, an update will be issued which will include information regarding bail, lodging, and arraignment,” the VSP statement noted.
CASA helping stop ‘circle of violence'
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month
by Nicole Cooke
One in three women in the U.S. will become a victim of sexual or domestic abuse. In 2013, Citizens Against Spouse Abuse Inc. served 1,669 survivors of sexual or domestic abuse, provided free therapy for 139 people, and 209 children resided in the shelter.
CASA serves as an advocate for survivors of sexual or domestic abuse, providing a 24-hour crisis hotline, temporary safe shelter, case management, therapy, and several other services. Its mission is “to empower domestic and sexual violence survivors to regain control of their lives through education, advocacy, and coordination of community resources.”
Those services are made possible by donations, grants, and funding from the Sedalia-Pettis County United Way. As a member agency, CASA receives funding from SPCUW, which staff uses primarily for therapy for victims of abuse who seek help at CASA.
“It's local dollars going to local programs, and that to me, right there, is is vitally important because any of the United Way funded agencies really need local support and these dollars are coming from the community and going right back into the community to help people in this area,” said CASA Director Lori Haney.
“Specifically what United Way dollars means to CASA, it means our therapy programs and our children's programs. Those United Way dollars help us support free therapy for survivors as well as provide residential and non-residential services for our child survivor, whether they be secondary or primary victims of abuse.”
While CASA helps victims create their own goals and plans once they have chosen to receive help, a lot of focus is put on the younger generation. Children who grow up in abusive homes are 1500 percent more likely to become victims of abuse or perpetrators of abuse in adulthood.
“That's one of the reasons CASA has really tried to invest a lot of our work in children in our community,” Haney said. “By all means we're going to continue to advocate and serve individuals who have recently been victims of abuse or currently are, but the one thing we're really trying to do, especially in light of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, is to bring awareness that these children that are living in these homes where abuse is present, are really at great risk of becoming our victims or our perpetrators someday. They could potentially become CASA clients in the future. What we really try to do is end this violence against women and girls, and men and boys. Part of that is investing in that next generation.”
Haney said prevention through education has been a big push for CASA the last few years. Advocates with the organization give presentations on teen dating violence each year at Whittier High School and Smith-Cotton High School in October during Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Court Advocate Amanda Davis said as the years have progressed, the atmosphere at Whitter has turned into a roundtable discussion each time she visits, and the students are becoming more comfortable with talking to her about issues.
“There was a boy that came up to us at the high school and said, ‘Man I'm so glad you guys are here. I see this in my mom every day,'” Davis said. “We gave him pamphlets and cards, and I came back later and did another presentation in a health class and he was in there again. He was upset, kind of mad, because he gave all the information to mom and mom didn't do anything about it.
“We tell the children we're there to help stop the circle of violence,” she continued. “If we can educate them when they're young, we can help them have a healthy, successful relationship.”
Both Davis and Haney said both adults and adolescents alike are surprised to learn about emotional abuse, a type of abuse that is often overlooked but can lead to a more dangerous situation.
“(At a recent presentation), a little girl was very quiet, and finally she came up to me and she said ‘Is it abuse when after we get in a fight I'm in the shower crying and he doesn't acknowledge my feelings, that I'm hurt and crying in the shower.' She basically asked me if that's a type of abuse,” Davis said. “I asked what they were fighting about, she wouldn't really tell me that, but basically he wasn't tuned to her emotions and she didn't realize that was a form of domestic violence.”
“That emotional abuse is an early red flag,” Haney added. “Being able to identify that, a lot of the indicators of those early red flags really do center on the emotional, psychological affects of abuse.”
Davis said “jaws drop” when she tells students that if a partner constantly asks to see one's phone or computer, it's also red flag for abuse. It can be a sign of mistrust, cyberbullying, or stalking behavior.
“Those are early signs of controlling and isolating behavior early on in a relationship,” Haney said.
As part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, CASA is placing plastic purple pumpkins in businesses and offices all across Sedalia as a visual representation of awareness. Each pumpkin is filled with candy and information about CASA and sexual and domestic abuse. CASA will also be hosting a glow light vigil from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Oct. 16 on the east side of the Pettis County Courthouse lawn.
“Sadly domestic and sexual violence are really prevalent in this country and Pettis County is not immune to that,” Haney said. “To talk to any law enforcement officer in this community or in any community across the country, that is the No. 1 call they receive. It does exist. I think especially in light of everything with the NFL, there's been a resurgence in the conversation of why these victims stay or why they go back. That right there, part of that is education and awareness — it's not always as simple to leave. I think if leaving and being safe was the only hurdle our survivors faced, we wouldn't need CASA.”
For more information about CASA, or to receive help from domestic or sexual abuse, call 827-5555, the organization's 24-hour crisis hotline.
Will Supreme Court muzzle teachers in child abuse trials?
by Daniel Leddy
Child-abuse allegations are among the most serious matters handled by the nation's courts. When true, they mean that a parent, or other person legally responsible for the care of a child, has compromised his well-being and maybe even a child's life in a very significant way. When false, they place the accused individual at risk of losing his most precious possession in the entire world.
Although the consequences of an incorrect verdict are often catastrophic, separating fact from fiction can be especially difficult in child-abuse cases, particularly when the youngster involved is of tender years.
Most parents will say that none of this has any particular relevance for them. They love their children dearly, care for them zealously, and, if it came right down to it, they'd give their own lives to save their children's. So accusations of child abuse? No way that's happening to them.
But it does happen. Indeed, the risk is ever-present. Allegations of child abuse, often of a sexual nature, are being made with increasing frequency in custody and visitation disputes. The one charge guaranteed to shake up the playing field, it's become an attractive tactic for unscrupulous litigants driven to win at any cost.
False accusations can also come from disgruntled relatives, troublesome neighbors, vindictive baby-sitters, sincere, but mistaken, school personnel, and well-intentioned passersby who misconstrue an innocent happening as an ominous one. Then, of course, there are instances where a generally good parent does an uncharacteristically bad thing in the sight of someone who feels duty-bound to report it.
On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal arising out of Ohio which, depending on how it's resolved, could eliminate a critically important method of proving child abuse. To understand the enormity of what's at stake, consider the following hypothetical case.
A mother drops off her 3-year-old daughter at preschool. The child has an ugly lump on her forehead and a black-and-blue area near her left eye. The mother explains that the preceding day, she stumbled as she was carrying a load of laundry up the stairs from the basement. Desperately trying to steady herself, she inadvertently slammed into her daughter who was following closely behind, and knocked the child down the stairs. She immediately brought her daughter to the pediatrician, the mother says, and was assured that the little girl would be fine.
After she departs, the teacher reports the child's injury to her supervisor. She, in turn, sits down with the youngster and asks her how she was injured. Initially, the little girl replies that she fell. After being prodded for more details, however, the child says: "Mommy got mad at me, and she yelled at me, and she hit me in the face, and she pushed me down the stairs."
A couple of hours later, the mother is informed that her daughter has been taken into custody by the child protective service. So, too, has her 7-year-old son who, the agency maintains, is at risk because of the mother's abuse of her daughter. Facing felony charges now, the mother is allowed to see her children only for short visits, supervised by agency personnel, once a week.
In most states, the little girl's statement to the preschool supervisor would be admissible in evidence against her mother at trial, even if the child herself were deemed too young and immature to testify. This is because teachers, and similar "mandated reporters," are widely viewed as people who question children for the purpose of protecting them from abuse, not collecting evidence against their abusers.
'Agents of the state'
The Ohio Supreme Court has taken a contrary position, however, ruling last year in a 4-3 decision that teachers, by reason of their mandated-reporting obligation, are also agents of the state. They thus have a dual purpose in questioning children, the court said, one of which is to gather information for use by law enforcement.
Based on this rationale, the majority concluded that permitting them to testify about what a child tells them, when the child doesn't testify, violates the defendant's Sixth Amendment right to confront and cross-examine his accusers.
In a scathing dissent, Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor warned that Ohio's deviation from well-established legal practice will make proving abuse much more difficult and endanger countless children's lives. The majority, on the other hand, scoffed at her "rant" and its "parade of horribles."
Some will argue that how one resolves this legal issue depends upon whether one's focus is on the rights of the alleged perpetrator or the interests of the allegedly abused child. This may sound simplistic, but in this complex area of the law it may also be true.
There certainly is a reasonable chance that the U.S. Supreme Court will uphold the decision of the Ohio Supreme Court, and ban teachers across the nation from testifying about allegations of abuse made by young children to them.
Such a seismic change in child-protective law would tip the scales in favor of accused parents and against kids who've confided to their teachers that they've been abused. It would, therefore, make reaching the correct verdict in child abuse cases even more difficult than it is right now.
Child abuse deaths continue
by The Courier-Journal
Child abuse and neglect continue to claim lives of too many of the state's youngest residents despite increased efforts to identify what puts children at risk and an ambitious effort to eradicate child abuse in the region.
In Kentucky, 12 children died and another 29 were severely injured from abuse or neglect over the past year, according to a report released this month by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
While the overall numbers of deaths and near-deaths from abuse and neglect were fewer than the previous year, the report cites this dismal fact: "In the past five years, there have been 350 fatalities and near fatalities due to abuse and neglect."
Parents are most often the perpetrators, abusive head trauma is the most frequent injury and battered children with multiple injuries account for 38 percent of the deaths and injuries. Such children are beaten, starved, shot or otherwise harmed by those entrusted with their care.
Small children, those age four or younger, are most likely to die or suffer the most serious injuries from abuse.
These grim statistics are found in the latest "Child Abuse and Neglect Annual Report of Fatalities and Near Fatalities" released each September by the cabinet. It measures abuse deaths and injuries for the fiscal year that ended June 30.
The report includes this interesting finding: 28 of the children killed or nearly killed in the past year had already come to the attention of state social service officials at least once.
• Seven had been reported once before.
• Five had twice been reported to the cabinet previously.
• Six children had been reported 3 to 5 times. Five had been reported 6 to 9 times.
• And five had been reported 10 or more times .
This not only raises the question of whether state social service officials missed red flags before a serious injury or death. It indicates someone in the community or family knew about potential harm to a child and reported it.
The ongoing Face It campaign to end child abuse deaths and injuries, led by Kosair Charities, has pointed out that child abuse is everyone's problem and it won't end until everyone joins the effort to prevent and end it.
While it is the legal obligation of the cabinet to investigate, and the duty of the justice system to act against abusers, it is the responsibility, by Kentucky law, of anyone who suspects child abuse to report it to authorities.
Don't look away or assume someone else will report it. Don't let up if a problem you see does not appear to have been addressed. A child's life could depend on it.
The cabinet has provided a detailed report on the tragic outcome for children last year who suffered abuse and neglect.
It should serve as a guide for how everyone involved in the struggle can do better.
Take a minute to show your support for child sexual abuse survivors
by Matthew Sandusky
As Centre County, Pennsylvania is once again faced with the horrors of child sexual abuse, we are given another opportunity to make a difference. I ask that we not lose focus of the real victims in the Lee case.
The harsh reality is that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused by their 18th birthday.
Lets take an important step in supporting victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. We must let them know they are not alone and that we support them.
Child sexual abuse is an epidemic and a public health problem. 90 percent of all child sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone the child knows, loves and cares about. This adds to the feelings of shame, guilt, and loneliness.
Being with others who have been through it helps, as does a society who supports victims and survivors of child sexual abuse.
As a society we are clearly creating the right kind of environment for abuse to occur. We must change that and we must do better.
The silence is truly deafening. Increasing the shame and guilt felt by survivors is a blanket of silence of public dialogue. For a problem of such epidemic proportions, the lack of public dialogue is truly profound because child sexual abuse is cloaked in secrecy and we choose to keep it there.
Peaceful Hearts Foundation supports all survivors and victims of child sexual abuse, along with their families and loved ones. We have recently launched an awareness campaign aimed at starting the public dialogue and giving survivors an outward sign of support.
We want to create an avenue to encourage open dialogue in communities about ways to prevent and support child sexual abuse. We all have an obligation to support and do what we can to help protect children and support survivors. Survivors and victims should never have to feel alone. We ask that you print a poster and display it in your home or office window.
By doing something as simple as displaying our sign will forever change lives of those hurting.
It will help lead to the path of healing and start the conversation about how we end this epidemic. There are approximately 60 million survivors of child sexual abuse in the United States. How great would it be if every one of those survivors saw a sign of support hanging in their hometown? Help us make that happen.
Please take an important step and visit our website to print out a poster from the PDF we have listed.
Then print a poster from the pdf we have listed. Then proudly display it in your windows and start the conversation that will lead to healing for both survivors and non-survivors. Together we will make a difference and we will be helping each other. Please extend your hand and help. Peaceful Hearts Foundation has extended ours, we need you to do the same.
Matthew Sandusky is the executive director of the Peaceful Hearts Foundation.
Delaware mother charged after 4-year-old brings heroin to daycare
by Fox News
Delaware State Police say they have arrested the mother of a 4-year-old girl after the child allegedly brought heroin to a daycare center and started to pass it out to other classmates.
Ashley Tull, 30, of Selbyville, Del., was charged with maintaining a drug property and three counts of endangering the welfare of a child.
Authorities told WTXF that troopers and medical personnel responded to the daycare shortly before noon Monday after workers saw some of the children with small bags of an unknown substance. Investigators said the substance was tested at the police station and determined to be heroin.
Police said the girl inadvertently brought the bags of heroin in a backpack that Tull had given her after the girl's regular backpack was ruined by a family pet Sunday night, according to police. Authorities said the child thought the packets were candy and began passing them out to other students
Several children were taken to area hospitals as a precautionary measure and were released after being examined. A total of 249 bags of heroin weighing 3.735 grams was located in the backpack, according to Delaware State Police.
Tull, who has a 9-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl, that live with her in addition to the 4-year-old, was released on $6,000 bail. Authorities say a no contact order was issued, and the children are currently in the custody of a relative.
Bill to Equip Child Protective Services
by Melanie Blow
Like most children's advocates, I'm happy about the passage of Sen. Tim Kennedy's bill to equip Child Protective Services workers with more information when they respond to new reports. This will keep endangered children safer.
But it breaks my heart that we accept the inevitability of child abuse. We can prevent so much of it. CPS helps abused children. That's important. But preventing the abuse from starting is also important. The Adverse Childhood Experience study shows that when children are beaten, raped or neglected or witness the same happening to their mother, they live shorter, sicker lives. A 19-year-old who commits suicide or overdoses on heroin isn't classed as a child abuse fatality, but statistically, those outcomes are much more likely to befall abused children than those who weren't abused.
It's easy to predict if a new mother is likely to abuse her child. By working with her, it's easy to help her bond properly with her baby, raise the baby without abuse and give her the skills she needs to tackle her own life issues. Healthy Families NY does this in Erie County. Giving every new mother access to this program would slash the new cases of child abuse in the county.
Research shows 40 percent of child murders happen in families experiencing domestic violence. These are the families least likely to respond to Healthy Families NY, largely because the mother lives in constant fear and under constant control of her partner. But there are best practices called the Quincy Solution that slash the incidence of domestic violence, including murders.
These best practices include a zero-tolerance policy for domestic violence at all levels, practices that make it easier for victims to leave and an integrated community response.
About 20 percent of American children are sexually abused before their 18th birthday. While sexual abuse rarely results in direct fatalities, it often results in drug-addicted, mentally ill young parents who struggle not to abuse their own children. New York's laws against child sexual abuse are largely unenforceable due to a statute of limitations on the crime. If our laws can't protect children, we must equip the community to do so. We can do this by making comprehensive education about child sexual abuse available to every parent who wants it, and requiring professionals who work with children to do so.
Erie County right now is considering a plan that will do these three things. It will take leadership, bridge-building and cooperation between different layers of state and county government. But it will save lives, stop children suffering and save taxpayers' money.
Melanie Blow is New York project director for the Stop Abuse Campaign, dedicated to preventing domestic violence and child abuse.
Mother hopes Destiny's Law will stop child abuse
by Staff Report
The Springfield man convicted of shaking and causing brain damage to a 16-month-old infant eight years ago is scheduled today to be released from state prison after serving eight years.
For the Springfield mother of the infant, who is now 9, it's too soon and she hopes a proposed state law in the honor of her daughter, Destiny Shepherd, is passed to keep people who commit such crimes in prison longer.
“It's hard to believe he's getting out of prison. I don't know how I will handle it. It's too early,” said Randi Shepherd on Sunday, the eve of Terrance King's release from prison.
King, the boyfriend of Randi Shepherd's mother in 2006, was convicted of felonious assault and child endangering and sentenced to eight years.. According to court records, he shook and threw Destiny against the wall of a New Carlisle apartment, injuring the infant as her mother was away at the grocery store to get milk.
Destiny was on life support with a skull fracture, retinal bleeding and abdominal injuries. After two weeks in a coma, Destiny finally woke up a totally different child, her mother said.
The beating caused severe brain damage to Destiny.
Under a proposed law introduced by state Rep. Bob Hackett, R-London, the penalty for people convicted of assaulting a child would be increased to 18 years in prison. The proposal, which is being called Destiny's Law, recently passed a Senate committee and will be considered by the House and Senate later this fall.
Randi Shepherd said her daughter started having seizures last month after going five years without having them. She said her daughter now functions at a younger age.
“She's doing amazing for what happened to her eight years ago, but these seizures are still scary,” Randi Shepherd said.
She said her focus is now getting the proposed law passed.
“It's in Destiny's honor, but I hope it will stop people from committing such terrible crimes,” she said.
Kids Protecting Kifds, Teen Sisters Need Help
October is Sexual Assault Awareness month. Two local teens are healing with their own abuse, by helping other victims.
Carissa and Christy Miller were sexually abused by a male relative for several years.
Carissa Miller says, " Child sexual abuse is a violation of your innocence and the person who you are. I will show that I won't let get in my way."
Both sisters use music as an outlet. Carissa graduated high school this year as a leader in the band. Her younger sister, Christy is the captain of the color guard. Their perpetrator was convicted and sentenced in 2008. That same year, the girls started Kids Protecting Kids.
The non-profit offers support for local victims and spreads awareness about child sexual assault.
Carissa Miller says, " I would have spoken up sooner if I knew there were resources out there to save me from what was happening."
The Miller's says they found support through Tennessee's Sexual Assault Center, Bikers Against Child Abuse and their family.
Crystal Miller says, "Finding out that my children had been sexually abused it destroyed me inside as a mother. I felt like I had failed like I hadn't protected them."
Crystal Miller continues to stand by her daughters, who are part of the 63% of victims who suffer at the hand of a family member ( National Center for Victims of Crime.) Her daughters are now wanting to expand by starting a camp.
Carissa Miller says, "The ultimate goal of the camp is to have a place where sexually abused victims can go and they can feel safe and find their passion."
A local attorney offered to help take the girls group to the next level free of charge.
Crystal Miller says, " I think it's a very worthy cause. I no longer consider them victims, they're survivors. They are some of the strongest people I know."
Carissa Miller says, Not enough is being done to help these children, so I want to be there to change that" Sexual abuse is everyone's problem ."
The group is in need of assistance with volunteers, a board members, a camp location and donations. Click the links for more information on the non-profit and how to help.
CLICK HERE: Find out about Carissa and Christy's younger brother with autism and how he is finding a way to help others and fight bullying.
Widespread sexual abuse in Rotherham has caused outrage – but little action
While the alleged abusers still walk free, many victims lack support, legal help, and even police protection from the men they have accused
by Samira Ahmed
If political outrage were currency, Rotherham would be overflowing with cash, action and initiatives to help the survivors. But as I found when I went to make a BBC film about the role of “political correctness” in the child sex-abuse scandal there, it's not.
As I write, the police have yet to arrest any of the alleged abusers of the women I met. All have reported them. There is no organised support for any of the survivors or their families. The Rotherham Women's Counselling Service, which offers specialised support to sexual abuse survivors, has a six-month waiting list.
There is no organised campaign for compensation. It is pure chance whether these young women have a decent lawyer to fight their case or not. Many don't. Some are being threatened anew by their former abusers for speaking out. They compare stories on the phone about who received protection measures from the police after seeking help – and who has been denied them.
Many are still struggling with the council. Holly Archer is 17 now. She was abused from the age of 13 by five men, after the council placed her in foster care – the abusers were all white, incidentally – and the council never tried to stop it. She is trying to get her baby back from the council, which wants to have him adopted. Her mother, Joanne Turner, only found out that Holly's foster carer had given her the morning-after pill during our interview. Joanne is full of the strength, protective anger and regret of a mother betrayed; she had only sought council help to stop her daughter going off the rails. She struggled to challenge the council when she realised that no one was stopping these men taking her daughter off for sex. “It's not a topic they choose to discuss,” she told me. “‘That's Holly's decision to make'. They've said that since she were 11 or 12 … They condoned it.”
Meeting women like Holly and Joanne, it feels as if they've come through a war. In some cases, they're still in it. Survivors, only in their late teens or 20s now, were numbed by alcohol and drugs through it all. I felt guilty asking them to re-tell their experiences again.
A macho and bullying deal-making culture seemed evident in claims made to me and my producer, Sam Wichelow, that accused councillors and officials of mediating handovers of abducted girls from British Pakistani abusers. A lot of official energy seems to be focused on protecting the citadel of the council and South Yorkshire police. Jessica (not her real name) said police officers called her “whore”, “bitch” and “mistress”. She was 13.
And the dirtiest secret behind it all? Widespread, normalised domestic violence. It was how these young girls were controlled by their rapists – white and Asian. One British Pakistani woman told the Inside Out team it was her community's “deep dark secret”. This is the community where many of these abusers grew up, and in some cases kept traditional wives while abusing white girls outside.
White adult survivors of sexual abuse in their own homes in the 60s and 70s are coming forward too. I met one who had reported it to police and teachers as a child, and was treated as a troublemaker, not a victim, just like the young women now.
Outrage is cheap. If national politicians really want to make an honest reckoning, they need to make connections: between the things that they say outrage them – like domestic violence and sexual abuse and the treatment of “hard-working” working-class families by officials – and the impact of cuts to legal aid and domestic violence refuges and independent support services.
I was humbled by the bravery of the women of Rotherham I met who are speaking out. But frankly, they've been speaking out for years and the people who run things have just not listened. What evidence do we have that anyone's really listening now?
• Samira Ahmed's special report on Rotherham is on BBC1 HD tonight (6 October) at 7.30pm.
• Donations can be made to the Rotherham Women's Counselling service at www.rwcs.org.uk.
'Honour' killings in Britain: Culture of shame masks violence against women
by Juliet Spare
Sexual and physical abuse of women in ethnic faith-based communities is hugely under-reported in Britain. A culture of honour and shame exists which is so powerful it stops victims from speaking out, leaving them more vulnerable to abuse. This has led to fears that concerns about upsetting or offending Britain's diverse communities have taken priority over the safety of women and girls. VoR's Juliet Spare has this special report.
Forced marriages, and ‘honour'-based violent crimes remain largely hidden within Britain's multicultural society.
An ‘honour' killing is the most extreme form of ‘honour'-based violence, where usually a daughter or wife is thought to have brought shame upon a family and is killed to restore the family ‘honour'. Women can become targets of ‘honour'-based violence for choosing their own husband, leaving an arranged marriage, becoming the subject of gossip or becoming ‘westernised'. The consequences are forcing marriage, rape or other forms of violence including kidnap and false imprisonment and acid attacks. Domestic abuse or disownment is often seen as a lesser response.
Amy Kaur grew up in a strict Indian family in England where she was forced into an arranged marriage at 21. She was physically and sexually abused and beaten by her husband on many occasions. The marriage finished when her husband left her after trying to frame her for attempted murder.
“Well, it was called an arranged marriage but I had no choice when my parents said yes to him; I had to agree. I didn't like him but I had to agree. I was too scared to say no. There's no ‘honour' in arranged marriages. I think it should be called dishonourable because it's not about the happiness of the girls; it's not about happiness even of the boys. Nowadays they get to go out and have girlfriends when they go to university and they get bullied and forced into marriages as well, it's on both sides. Where's the ‘honour' in that?”
Amy's parents forced her to marry again. When Amy was raped she turned to her family for help. But instead of helping her, Amy's family disowned her.
“I was sexually abused – raped - twice in my life. I didn't tell anyone the first time. The second time, on the day I told them, I was disowned by my family, they didn't want to hear my story and the people who had done it to me had come up with a different story to tell my family and that story was believed over mine. I got disowned instead. You just feel dirty, it's a shame how strangers can be believed over you. You get called every name under the sun."
In 2008 Amy was suffering with severe depression and was sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
“And you think you've worked through it, but then it comes and bites you on the bum about 20 years later – and it did. I thought I was strong. In 2010 I was sectioned for the second time. But I've survived and I've got a voice now. I'm still disowned but I think with a family like that, do I need them around me? I don't think so."
Culture of shame
After London, the West Midlands has the largest proportion of forced marriage cases. A new report examining why victims from South Asian communities in Coventry do not disclose or report their abuse revealed that many victims are silenced by a culture of honour and shame. Fear of further retribution prevents them from reporting the crime. They fear they will be cut off from their community.
Dr Manjit Rehal is an outreach worker at Coventry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre, CRASAC, psychologist and author of the report The Price of Honour.
“I belong to this community, I know from the fact these things are happening, but some of the experiences really shocked me," she said. "Where parents should love their children unconditionally, but for the sake of ‘honour' they say they can leave their children but not their community.
“British children are born and brought up here; they are brought up with their British friends and other children, and they want to know about this British culture. But when they go home they have a different culture. I feel sorry for other children, they live in a confusing world; the outside world is different and when they come home it's different. They have to put a mask on and I think they should have the freedom of whatever their rights are, that's the frightening thing.
“They are juggling in-between this freedom and this culture and that culture. When they go home they know they have to obey because they have to come home. They have to put this mask on and shut their mouth for their ‘honour' and shame."
'Honour' crimes going unrecorded
Last year the government's Forced Marriage Unit dealt with 1,302 cases. Women from South East Asian backgrounds made up for 63 percent of all reported cases. Forty-eight percent were of university age between 18 and 25. More than 80 percent of the cases involved women, the rest were men. Pakistan (43 percent) and Bangladesh (11 percent) were the most common countries where victims of forced marriages were from.
However, police forces across the country are failing to record ‘honour'-based violent crimes, making it difficult to ascertain how many forced marriages are taking place. In 2011, the Iranian and Kurdish Women's Rights Organisation sent Freedom of Information requests to all 52 police forces in the UK asking how many incidents of ‘honour' based violence they had recorded. Only 39 forces responded, with a total of 2,823 incidents.
Political correctness prioritised over women's safety
Diana Nammi, executive director of the Iranian and Kurdish Women's Rights Organisation, says political correctness takes precedent over the safety of vulnerable women.
“Political correctness has become a huge problem in tackling the crime as it should be tackled. We have had many cases when the government, or an organisation, and especially the police and education departments have rejected our offer to work on a case to support it or raise awareness within schools or train teachers on this issue.
“All the time they say the community will be upset. The government should hear the voices of vulnerable girls and women – those people who will be upset in the community of course will be the ones practicing it.
“Organisations say that if we talk about ‘honour' based violence or female genital mutilation or forced marriage, that we are stigmatising a community. Our view is that practicing forced marriage and ‘honour' based violence allows just as much stigmatisation of any community - so it's upside down.”
The Iranian and Kurdish Women's Rights Organisation is awaiting responses from all police forces for the most recent ‘honour'-based violence figures.
According to the United Nations, 5,000 women and girls worldwide are killed each year by members of their own family. It's thought 12 ‘honour' killings - which are usually premeditated murders - take place per year in the UK.
A film called Banaz: A Love Story was released two years ago. It tells the true story of Banaz Mahmod who was born in Iraq and moved to England with her family when she was ten years old. At 17 she was forced to marry a man ten years her senior. The marriage turned violent and Banaz fell in love with someone else and wanted a divorce. Her family found this behaviour to be shameful.
The film shows footage of Banaz telling officers at a police station that ‘if anything happens to me, it's them.' Banaz went to the police five times. On the orders of her father and uncle, Banaz was strangled with a bootlace by two cousins at her home in south London and stuffed into a suitcase and transported to the Midlands. Her remains were discovered in a shallow grave in Birmingham.
Her father Mahmod Mahmod and her uncle Ari Mahmod were jailed for life in 2007. Her two cousins were jailed for a minimum of 21 years for killing their relative.
A report published last September looked at the sexual exploitation of Asian and Muslim girls and young women in the UK. The Muslim Women's Network felt that the media in Britain were only concentrating on the sexual abuse and exploitation of white girls and the issue had become a religious and race matter – not one centred on abuse. By ignoring all of the other victims of sexual exploitation, the Muslim Women's Network were concerned that victims were becoming even more vulnerable because perpetrators knew no one was looking for them.
The Unheard Voices report suggested there was a tendency among families and communities to blame the victims rather than the male offenders. It also found that preserving the ‘honour' of the community was prioritised over the safety of vulnerable girls.
Mandy Sanghara, a human rights campaigner and government advisor on forced marriage, works with vulnerable adults who have suffered long-term sexual and violent abuse in the name of ‘honour'.
“When a child is being forced into a marriage there are some motivating factors. It's about having ‘honour' and keeping face in the community and not bringing shame. Sometimes it's for immigration, or promises to marry a cousin, and families feel like they can't go back on their word. For deaf or disabled people they want to get rid of the stigma of disability and they want to have a carer for the person and they don't see that they're breaking the law. This is the problem and what I have to say is actually forcing someone into a marriage against their will is not a religious practice, it is a cultural practice, and professionals need to be aware of the difference between religious and cultural practices”.
"Ticking time bomb" in Britain
Forced marriage became a criminal offence in England and Wales in June 2014. Scotland criminalised it on September 30. The legislation protects people in England, Wales and Scotland and applies to British citizens overseas who are at risk of being forced to marry someone against their will. The maximum penalty for the offence is seven years in jail.
The new criminal offence works in conjunction with the existing Forced Marriage Protection Orders which allow victims to choose between a civil or criminal option to pursue perpetrators. Mandy Sanghara welcomes the legislation but warns that the situation in Britain is explosive.
“We're sitting on a ticking time bomb. I left school in the 80s and a lot of my South Asian friends were going through school and they all knew their families would find them someone. They knew they were going to go through an arranged marriage, like a rite of passage.
“Many young children from many different backgrounds are really struggling and it's about their identity. Temples and mosques are out of touch with young people. It's a very sad place for young people in the UK. It's about families allowing children to have a bit of freedom. You only have to turn on the TV and people are almost wearing absolutely nothing.
"Children are sexualised very early on and children are really confused and parents are trying to hold on to their culture and their religion. People who are born and raised in the UK in their 40 and 50s are still forcing their children into marriage. I really struggle as an individual about people my own age, second, third generation who are still taking their children abroad to get married. Abuse is real - it happens and we need to be clear that it's about protection not political correctness.”
The price of 'honour'
Sexual violence devastates the lives of victims, survivors and their families, often instilling fear within a community. Many women and girls suffer in silence and they live in fear that if they disclose their abuse they will bring shame and dishonour on the family. Many survivors face being disowned by their family and kicked out of home, like Amy, who paid the price for her freedom, but doesn't regret it.
“The freedom you get and the strength you get and the freedom to live your life the way you want to and to raise your kids when you have them in your own way is better than anything else. I don't have to answer to anybody; I live my life the way I want to.
"I've raised my girls how I wan't them to be raised and no one can turn round and have my girls having arranged marriages. They pick and choose because when I said it, yes I meant it. And my girls know that. Yes it is a hard journey but I didn't know at the time there is so much help out there. I didn't know at the time, I wish I had known”.
It's hoped the report, The Price of Honour, which focuses on sexual violence suffered by South Asian women in Coventry will eventually lead to changes in attitudes within Britain's ethnic communities where the voice of a victim is never heard.
If you've been affected by any of the issues discussed help can be found at:
Use of seclusion, restraint in Ohio schools quantified
by Jennifer Smith Richards
More than one-third of Ohio's public schools physically restrained at least one student last school year, according to preliminary data collected by the state. About 13 percent of public schools isolated children in seclusion rooms last year, the early numbers show.
Columbus schools accounted for more than 1 in 4 of all incidents of restraint and nearly 1 in 5 incidents of seclusion, far above what any other district reported.
This is the first-ever comprehensive look at seclusion and restraint in Ohio's public schools. Early last year, the State Board of Education passed rules to prohibit schools from using seclusion rooms or physical restraint as a punishment for children or as a convenience for staff members . The policy also required the Ohio Department of Education to collect aggregate data about seclusion and restraint beginning last school year.
Before, some districts considered the information private. Seclusion rooms often are stripped-down, closet-like rooms meant to be a place for violent students to calm down.
Dispatch special report | Locked Away: ‘ Seclusion rooms' in Ohio schools
Some school districts and charters did not provide any data by the July 31 deadline, but 690 districts had responded by last week. There are 610 districts and about 350 charters statewide. The department extended the deadline to Tuesday in an effort to collect more.
A Dispatch analysis of the data collected so far shows that, statewide, about 2,000 students were physically restrained in more than 7,000 incidents last school year. Roughly 900 children were secluded more than 3,000 times. Analysis showed they overwhelmingly were special-needs students. Most often, they had autism or an emotional or behavioral disorder. And students in lower grades — kindergarten through sixth — are restrained and secluded more often than older students.
Seclusion rooms, under the new rules, are to be used only when a child poses an imminent physical threat. Some advocates for those with special needs pushed for Ohio to ban seclusion and restraint in schools, saying it isn't necessary to lay hands on a student if staff members are well-trained in using other interventions.
“To have such young children in such high numbers being restrained and secluded really raises questions about whether people really understand what positive interventions are,” said Michael Kirkman, executive director of Disability Rights Ohio, a federally designated legal advocate for Ohioans with disabilities. “Everybody should care about it — it could happen to your kid.”
Among the data reported so far, some districts stand out. Columbus City Schools accounted for 2,188 of the 7,217 incidents in which schools restrained children last school year. The district put children in seclusion rooms 541 times. Columbus is the state's largest school district with about 50,000 kids and, unlike other districts, operates two schools that serve exclusively students with severe emotional or behavioral disorders. (Cleveland schools, the next-closest in size, has not reported numbers yet. Cincinnati schools reported only one restraint and no seclusions.)
“We counted even if it was for 10 seconds, or 30 seconds,” said Keisha Fletcher-Bates, who oversees academics for Columbus students with special needs. Because the record-keeping was robust, staff members quickly could spot whether children were being restrained or secluded too often and try new ways to help them function.
Columbus has “respite” rooms in a dozen of its 113 schools, including the two that serve students with behavioral disorders, though six of those schools closed or converted their rooms into storage areas this school year. Westerville uses three “time away” rooms in two of its 21 schools.
In Columbus, children were physically restrained at a rate of 8.6 per 1,000 students. Rates of seclusion were 3.5 per 1,000. The next-highest rates among the 15 districts in Franklin County, plus nearby large districts Olentangy and Pickerington, that reported were in Worthington.
Most of the students Worthington reported were restrained or secluded had autism. Twenty-seven children were restrained 110 times, an average of four times each. Sixteen children there were secluded 77 times, an average of five times each.
“We've seen an increase in the number of students who require specific intensive interventions,” said Shirley Hamilton, the district's director of pupil services. “We use it as a last resort when there's an imminent danger to self or others. We try lots of other things before we get to that last resort.”
Districts say the needs of the students they serve are great, and growing. The students with the most-severe behavioral issues account for many of the incidents, often being restrained or secluded several times each.
In Westerville, the district had 80 incidents of seclusion involving 19 students last school year. That means that, on average, each of those students was put in seclusion four times.
“We have 2,021 special-education students, which is the ninth-largest enrollment in the state. Of that population of students, 167 have significant mental-health issues,” said Greg Viebranz, spokesman for Westerville schools.
The Olentangy district, which has about 18,000 students, reported 75 incidents of seclusion last year of only nine students. That means each of those children, on average, was secluded at least eight times. That district also had 205 incidents of physical restraint affecting 21 children — an average of nearly 10 restraints per child.
“Every child is different. Each requires different levels of both behavioral and academic support. Because of this, it is difficult to make generalizations about or to conclude what an average special-needs student is solely based on the data,” said Chris Ondrus, Olentangy's director of pupil services, in an email.
The Education Department is pushing for more widespread use of positive interventions, such as learning to anticipate outbursts and redirecting the student to calming activities. While the department hasn't analyzed the new seclusion and restraint data, officials say there's reason to believe that incidents will decrease.
“Obviously, we'd like to see that there's no need for restraint or seclusion. But by implementing these positive behavioral reinforcements, you should be able to limit the number of times you need to use restraint and seclusion,” said spokesman John Charlton. “There's a move toward prevention.”
Some question whether schools, including some in Columbus, have mastered prevention. There have been complaints of abuse in seclusion rooms in Columbus.
In 2012, a boy with autism at Eastmoor Academy spent large portions of his school days in a seclusion room, where his mother said he became frightened, soiled himself and later got an infection. The mother filed a complaint with the federal Office of Civil Rights, which last year ordered the district to stop using the seclusion room at Eastmoor. The district entered into an agreement with the federal office to provide that student compensatory education because he'd spent so much time in seclusion.
Push grows to include voices of Nebraska children in welfare hearings
by Martha Stoddard
LINCOLN — The courtroom can get crowded at a typical child welfare hearing.
There's the judge, the court staff, the county attorney, the case manager, one or both parents, attorneys for the parents, the child's guardian ad litem, potentially the court-appointed special advocate volunteer, the foster parents and a therapist or other service provider.
But there's one person missing at most child welfare hearings: the child whose fate is being decided.
Some Nebraska child and legal advocates think the situation should change.
Vicky Weisz, director of the Nebraska Court Improvement Project, said children benefit and the court process benefits from having youngsters attend and take part in child welfare hearings.
“All the studies have shown that children want to have their voices heard,” she said. “Children as young as 8, they wanted to know what was going on.”
But for children who can't be in court, a court questionnaire aimed at teenagers and preteens and a new form for younger children offer ways to make their voices heard.
Weisz said the push to involve children in court hearings started about 10 years ago, when former foster children's groups began calling for “nothing about us without us.”
The American Bar Association threw its support behind the idea and launched a project encouraging children to be included in court hearings.
More recently, the Nebraska Supreme Court's Through the Eyes of the Child Initiative included presentations about children in court in its regional conferences. Attendees at the eastern Nebraska conference, held in Lincoln, expressed interest in the idea.
But only a couple of hands went up when the presenter asked how many of the assembled judges, attorneys and others regularly included children in their child welfare proceedings.
Sarpy County Juvenile Judge Robert O'Neal said he believes teenagers should come to hearings 99 percent of the time.
However, he said, logistical problems can create barriers. Someone has to make arrangements with foster parents and schools and get the child transported to court.
That might not happen unless the child's guardian ad litem or CASA volunteer or some other party pushes for it, he said.
Others expressed concern about having youngsters present when the courtroom discussion turns to the parents' problems or brings up painful topics.
Weisz did a study that found those fears may be overblown.
The report, published three years ago in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect, compared the reactions of children who attended court hearings with those who did not. The children ranged in age from 8 to 18.
Weisz found no evidence of harm to the children who went to the hearings. Even those who were emotional during the hearings said later they were glad they had attended.
“I think in our worry about seeing them cry, we don't realize they need to know,” she said. “Most of these kids say there's little that has happened that they don't already know because they've lived it.”
The children who went to hearings reported more trust in the process and in those making decisions for them, according to the report. And they overwhelmingly said they believed that children should be able to go to court.
Jennie Cole Mossman, a therapist who now works for the Court Improvement Project, said her experience in counseling foster children backs the study findings.
Children who did not go to court often felt out of the loop, a concern they ended up having to address in therapy, she said.
In some cases, children wound up with faulty ideas about what was happening with their family because they had to rely on secondhand information.
“Sometimes it's better to have an answer than to make up an answer,” she said. “Kids think it's their fault.”
Even having young children come to court can be valuable, Mossman said.
“I think it reminds everyone in the court why they are there,” she said.
The youth questionnaire or young child form can be useful as a backup or supplement to having the child in court, Weisz said.
Project Everlast, a foster youth advocacy group, created the questionnaire four years ago to give foster teens and pre-teens a chance to describe their lives and wishes to the court.
Questions range from whether youths are satisfied with their current placement to plans for the future and how the judge or others could help them realize those plans.
The Court Improvement Project developed the young child form recently.
The form has space for elementary-age children, with the help of an adult, to list their top three wishes, the things they do or don't like about school, who they talk to when they are upset and more.
The form also tells children that, while the judge wants to hear from them, the judge can't always get them what they ask for.
American College of Pediatrics debunks the myth of “safe sex”
by Lauren Enriquez
Late last month, the journal Pediatrics, published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, released a policy statement entitled Contraception for Adolescents . The statement is an update to the Academy's 2007 statement on the same topic. The update “provides the pediatrician with a description and rationale for best practices in counseling and prescribing contraception for adolescents,” according to the journal article. The abstract says:
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that pediatricians develop a working knowledge of contraception to help adolescents reduce risks of and negative health consequences related to unintended pregnancy.
The American Academy of Pediatrics seems to have taken the same position of organizations like Planned Parenthood: that teens are going to have sex, so it may as well be so-called “safe sex.”
Subsequently, the American College of Pediatrics issued a press release entitled, Promoting the Myth of Safe Sex. The statement is a direct response to the Academy's journal publication. Many individuals, including those at the American College of Pediatrics, are concerned by this mindset's blindness to the consequent dangers that this behavior can have on adolescents, whose health they are committed to. The College's press release states:
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), in its policy statement Contraception for Adolescents, promotes the myth of “safe sex” while ignoring the dire consequences that early sexual activity can have upon young people.
The College goes on to enumerate the negative effects associated with early sexual experience, and notes that concrete evidence supports the benefit of encouraging teens to delay this exploration until marriage:
Even when contraception is used, early sexual debut has been associated with negative consequences including multiple sexual partners, sexually transmitted infections (STI), increased likelihood of psychological injury (feelings of regret, depression, suicidal attempts), greater substance abuse, and lower academic achievement. Delaying sexual activity, ideally until marriage, has been associated with improved emotional and physical health, higher achievement, and a more stable marriage.
Groups like Planned Parenthood profit from the obfuscation of this message, however. The organization encourages teens to explore early, dangerous, and violating sexual experiences, which in turn necessitates the sale of a legion of contraceptives. And when those fail (and they do), the sale of abortions, which will in turn lead to even greater emotional and physical trauma in the adolescents they claim to care about.
In an email, the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists praised the College's press release, agreeing that the policy statement by the AAP was “shortsighted” and ignorant of many important facts regarding the relationship between pediatricians and contraceptives:
This shortsighted statement from the AAP neglects the fact that pediatricians are not trained in the placement of IUDs, nor the surgical management of complications when the IUD perforates the child's uterus. Neither does the AAP address the issue of long term bone loss seen in teens who use contraceptive injections or implants. The AAP also neglects to address the fact that neither of their suggested contraceptive options protect the girl-child from sexually transmitted diseases. Even worse, the child is encouraged to make a decision with significant health implications in the absence of her parents.