Veteran “HEROs” join ICE efforts to bring child predators to justice
WASHINGTON — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) today announced the graduation of 13 American veterans from a special program designed to allow wounded, ill or injured warriors the chance to continue serving their country on a new battlefield – the fight against child predators.
ICE Deputy Director Daniel Ragsdale today joined U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), Chief of Transition Initiatives, Lieutenant Colonel Kimberly Moros and National Association to Protect Children (PROTECT) Executive Director Grier Weeks at a swearing in ceremony for 13 veterans – many of whom were wounded in the line of duty – as part of the second graduating class of Human Exploitation Rescue Operative Corps, or HERO Corps.
The 13 “HEROs” are participating in a one-year program, first announced last year, to work with ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) offices across the country where they will assist special agents with criminal investigations involving child pornography and online sexual exploitation. The HERO Corps program was developed jointly by ICE HSI, the Department of Defense and the National Association to Protect Children.
“Bringing child predators to justice is one of ICE's highest priorities, and it takes a special kind of person to be able to do that job,” said ICE Deputy Director Daniel Ragsdale. “There are few people better able to stand and guard the most vulnerable among us than America's veterans. ICE is proud to be able to offer these exceptional individuals the opportunity to continue to serve their country in a fight that needs experienced and capable warriors.”
“After the success of our first class, demand for HEROs is exploding among state and local law enforcement,” said Grier Weeks of PROTECT. “These agencies recognize the unique value of counter-child-exploitation operatives who are highly trained by both the U.S. military and ICE. With Congress' help, we'll expand the program in 2015.”
"The HERO Corps partnership between government and non-government entities provides a unique opportunity to assist our wounded, ill or injured veterans in transition into a career field that allows them to continue to serve and protect one of our nation's greatest assets – our children,” said Lt. Col. Kimberly Moros.
After completion of the training, HERO Corps participants will be based at HSI offices in Tampa, Florida, Kansas City, New York City, Atlanta, Fairfax and Norfolk, Virginia, Knoxville and Memphis, Tennessee, Long Beach, California, Charlotte, North Carolina, Dallas and Reno, Nevada. They will work under the direct supervision of HSI special agents, conducting computer forensic exams, assisting with criminal investigations and helping to identify and rescue child victims.
The HEROs have just completed eight weeks of training in computer forensic analysis and digital evidence collection at HSI's Cyber Crimes Center in Fairfax, Virginia in order to help identify and rescue child victims of sexual abuse and online sexual exploitation.
Prior to that, they attended three weeks of intensive training at the Weiss Child Rescue and Protection Technology Center in Houston, Texas, where they learned about specialized software, hardware and investigative protocols that help law enforcement detect and interdict child sexual exploitation and abuse.
In fiscal year 2014, more than 2,300 child predators were arrested by HSI on criminal charges related to the online sexual exploitation of children. Since 2003, HSI has initiated more than 30,000 cases and arrested more than 10,000 individuals for these types of crimes.
The next recruitment period for the program is expected to begin early next year. Anyone interested in learning more about the program or applying, should visit ICE.gov for more information. All applicants are interviewed and vetted to ensure a good fit with the HERO Corps.
The HERO program is made possible by a five-year $10 million initiative funded by the private sector that underwrites training, logistics and equipment.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline 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.
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.
Help is out there
by Jill Keppeler
While the decision to get out of an abusive relationship is a complicated one, once someone has made that decision, there are resources.
Each of the advocates interviewed for this story emphasized the importance of a plan and of being aware of what's available before victims take that step to leave.
“The risk of lethality doing this without a safety plan or support ... the risk is significant,” said Mary Brennan-Taylor, vice president of programs at YWCA of Niagara. According to the YWCA, 83 percent of domestic violence homicides occur when an abuse victim is in the process of leaving that relationship, something with which Susan LaRose of the Niagara County Sheriff's Department domestic violence intervention program concurred.
“That's when most victims are killed, when leaving the relationship, or they've made a mention of it,” she said. “You need a plan. You can't just get out without a plan. It looks so easy to the outside, but it's a process.”
The YWCA's domestic violence hotline (433-6716) can be reached 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and doesn't commit the caller to any particular course of action, Brennan-Taylor said. There's no charge.
“The first step might just be making that first call,” she said. “But they have to seek us out. They have to take the first step.”
The YWCA of Niagara and YWCA of the Tonawandas offer services including counseling, advocacy, a safe house, transitional housing, support groups for adults and children, outreach and supervised visitation and offender accountability programs.
“Many times the victim is isolated so much, she doesn't even know services are out there,” said Karrie Gebhardt, director of the Passage program for Family and Children's Service of Niagara.
The Passage program, part of Family and Children's Service of Niagara, has been helping domestic violence victims and survivors for more than 30 years. It has offices in Niagara Falls and Lockport and provides another free 24/7 hotline (285-6984). Its 15-bed shelter, located in a confidential location, is fully staffed at all times. It also provides counseling and advocacy, as well as support groups for women and children.
Audit questions child abuse recurrence rate
A state audit of the Niagara County Office of Child Protective Services found about 14 percent of child abuse cases resulted in a recurrent incident of abuse, more than twice the national average.
County officials responding to the audit disputed the state's methodology for counting recurrent abuse cases but state auditors recommended CPS case workers should perform follow-up investigations where circumstances such as persistent drug or alcohol use or mental health problems make it more likely abuse will happen again.
"Between March 2008 and September 2012, the county's average number of indicated cases was 425 with a rate of child abuse and neglect recurrence averaging 14.5 percent," the comptroller's report states.
The national average for recurrence is 5.4 percent in child abuse cases, auditors noted.
"We found the county does not track or analyze its recurrence cases," the audit states. "Doing so could help develop a better understanding of why the recurrence occurred or what historically has or has not worked to prevent recurrence. We encourage the county, when a recurrence occurs, to re-examine the case and the actions taken and consider what might have prevented the recurrence."
Auditors also noted the county's CPS department does not track statistics that would help in this effort.
In his response to the audit, Niagara County Manager Jeffrey Glatz said case workers and managers routinely re-examine difficult cases but such work isn't being properly documented in case files.
"I know in speaking with our Director of Services this type of re-examination takes place on a regular basis when subsequent reports involving the same allegations come in on a particular family," Glatz wrote. "These discussions, generally between a case worker and supervisor, may need to be identified more clearly or labeled in the progress reports."
Responding to Glatz, auditors said they found "no evidence that re-examinations occurred."
Glatz also noted the state's social services department counts abuse incidents more loosely than other states, which is why county departments across New York show recurrence rates much higher than the national average. Glatz said New York is the only state in the nation with a double-digit recurrence rate due to its counting method.
He said the state considers any call to the statewide child abuse hotline an incident of abuse, though many of those calls do not rise to the level of child abuse requiring corrective action by a CPS case worker.
In Pennsylvania, what used to be considered corporal punishment is now child abuse
by Frank P. Cervone
The latest debate over corporal punishment continues, having been set off by NFL star Adrian Peterson beating his 4-year-old son with a tree branch to the point of bleeding and bruising, reportedly for pushing a cousin off a motorbike video game. Mr. Peterson was charged criminally with child abuse in Texas, where the incident occurred.
From the enactment of the first child protection laws in the United States in the 1960s and '70s, lawmakers have carved out a corporal-punishment exception for parental supervision, control and discipline of children. But where is the line between corporal punishment and child abuse? And which of these are crimes? I don't think the line is so hard to find.
Fortunately, the law in Pennsylvania is becoming clearer. With recent amendments to the definition of child abuse, there are some specific types of harm for which there is now an explicit line that cannot be crossed. For the first time in Pennsylvania history, corporal punishment of very young children has been declared child abuse per se, including forcefully shaking, slapping or otherwise striking a child under one year of age.
Other changes to the Child Protective Services Law address kicking, biting, throwing, burning, stabbing or cutting a child of any age in a manner that endangers the child, as well as interfering with the breathing of a child — think of the cases in which a caregiver taped a child's mouth shut or “washed” the child's mouth with soap. Unreasonably restraining or confining a child, such as by locking a child in a closet or bathroom, or leaving a child in a car while you go shopping or gambling, are now explicitly listed as child-abuse offenses.
Next, we ask whether there is an injury or pain that crosses the line. Injuries include bleeding, broken bones, contusions and other impairments of physical condition. The Peterson case, in which reports indicate that the child suffered cuts and bleeding to his buttocks, inner thighs and scrotum, would likely be both child abuse and a crime in Pennsylvania, and probably in Texas, too.
The subjective assessment of pain remains controversial, especially when there is little or no bruising. In a change that will go into effect at the end of 2014, Pennsylvania authorities moved the legal pain threshold from “severe pain” to “substantial pain.” This is in response to numerous cases that were dismissed despite reports from examining physicians who believed children had experienced painful abuse.
While more cases will likely be accepted by authorities under this lower standard, investigators will still need to make a judgment about the pain that the child endured, which may be problematic if the child is nonverbal or the injury has healed. Other states have eliminated the pain threshold entirely from their definitions of physical abuse, focusing instead on the perpetrator's actions and the child's injuries.
Was the injury inflicted by another person, and was it accidental? A child who falls from a swing and breaks an ankle has not been abused, all agree. But what about the child who was struck in the eye by the buckle of the belt her parent swung at the child's rear to discipline her?
Following some back-and-forth decisions by the courts on cases like this, the law has been updated to include both intentional and reckless acts. The civil definition of child abuse is now consistent with the traditional culpability framework of both criminal and personal-injury law: We are responsible for the foreseeable consequences of our actions.
Finally, child-welfare investigators and criminal-court judges must ask whether the parental discipline is reasonable. Mostly these inquiries focus on the degree of injury rather than the implement. Whether with a belt strap, electric cord or tree branch, whipping a child remains shocking to many of us but acceptable under the law, unless to the point of bleeding, a lasting bruise or scar, or (when the legal change takes effect) substantial pain. The diversity of public response to the Peterson case — from dismay at the abuse to defense of the beating to outrage at the prosecution — suggests that we have not yet found consensus on what discipline is reasonable.
The law could go further here and bar all implements in the infliction of corporal punishment — but then parents would have to use their hands, which perhaps feels too close, too personal, too impactful. Is a tree branch somehow better?
Should we continue to exercise discipline of children through punishment to the body? I think not. There are other ways to teach. Timeouts, deprivations of privileges, and even conversation have proven records of success at changing a child's future behavior. By contrast, what many kids are learning from being beaten is that physical force is the way adults respond.
If we want to teach justice and fairness, we might examine the child's offense and the outcome that the parent is seeking. Does the punishment fit the crime? While the law is beginning to catch up, we have a ways to go.
Frank P. Cervone is executive director of the Support Center for Child Advocates in Philadelphia (email@example.com).
Mission Kids marks 5 years helping abuse victims in Montgomery County
by Dan Clark
East Norriton -- When Mission Kids first opened in 2009, Abbie Newman thought once the organization was fully operational, it would see 250 to 300 children a year regarding sexual abuse.
Five years later, Newman, who is executive director of the nonprofit corporation, said the staff at Mission Kids is on track to interview 500 children victims of abuse.
“We are pretty much double where we thought we were going to be at five years,” Newman said Friday. “With more awareness of child abuse and more headlines in the news, I think those numbers are going to keep going up.”
Newman said the rise in the number of victims coming forward does not speak to a rise in child abuse, but a rise in awareness and a willingness to seek help.
“It means that people have more of an awareness that it's happening,” she said. “That's terrific because the reports can be made, perpetrators and abusers can be appropriately punished and, most importantly, the child and family members can get appropriate treatment so they can heal.”
Much of the rise in awareness is due to the Mission Kids itself, according to Newman.
“We try to be out in the community,” she said. “We have many community partners, we have a Facebook page, we do press releases, we do mental health education programs and all of that is to help contribute to the awareness.”
Since opening five years ago, Mission Kids has helped provide education on child abuse to the public, moved into a larger building to accommodate its growing staff and helped other counties develop child advocacy care centers.
Newman said only 21 counties in Pennsylvania, including Montgomery County, have child advocacy centers. She said she acted as the mentor for the child advocacy center in Centre County, where the Jerry Sandusky case arose.
Before Mission Kids, victims of abuse in Montgomery County were often brought in to a police station several times and were made to relive the horrors of their abuse over and over again.
“When there was a report of child abuse, the child would have to go to many different individuals, sometimes many times to be interviewed and spoken to about what happened to them,” Newman said.
She explained the child would first have to speak with an officer at the police station, where children don't often feel comfortable.
“The police who would interview them — regardless of whatever good intentions they had — often would be very intimidating to a child,” Newman said. “Also to try to make sure that their case would be stronger, they would actually do an interrogation or cross-examination technique but what that has the effect of doing is shutting the child down and making them feel like they are somehow at fault.”
The system was reinforcing the child's fears, Newman said. District Attorney Risa Ferman agreed.
“For too many years in the past, the justice system traumatized children reporting abuse by forcing them to repeatedly recount the horrors of their abuse,” Ferman wrote in an email. “When we opened the doors at Mission Kids five years ago that re-victimization stopped. Now Mission Kids is an integral part of our community response to child abuse with a focus on protecting our most vulnerable victims and helping them find a path to healing. Helping kids heal and find justice ? there's nothing more important a prosecutor can do.”
Now, Newman said, after a complaint is made, all of the professionals involved in the investigation are called to Mission Kids, where a forensic interviewer speaks to the victim and investigators watch the interview in a nearby room through closed-circuit television.
“By doing it that way, the professionals get what they need for their investigation, but the questions are asked in a neutral, nonleading fashion, age-appropriate, by a trained forensic interviewer whose only job is to speak to these kids and ask them questions,” Newman said.
The interview is often critical for keeping victims out of court, Newman said. If a case goes to trial, the victim will likely have to testify; however, after defense attorneys and defendants see the recorded interview at Mission Kids, they are often left asking for plea deals, she said.
When the interview is done, Mission Kids offers referrals to services the victims' families or the victim's may need.
In the future, Newman would like to expand Mission Kids' mental health education program.
“We would like to have more mental health therapy started at Mission Kids in terms of things like support groups,” she said.
Considering the number of children coming in for forensic interviews, Newman said, the group might also need to look for a larger space.
Looking for a more efficient way to operate, Newman said she would like Mission Kids to work under a co-located model.
“What a co-located model is where you have all of the partner agencies living under the Mission Kids' roof,” she said. “So that there is a constant exchange of information between the police, the district attorney's office, social workers, mental health therapists, advocates to help the child, and the family, heal to get through the system. If you can get everybody under one roof, that constant flow of information just increases and that's what makes the investigation and the healing for the child and the family at its best.”
Newman said Mission Kids has started moving towards that model with a retired county detective working there part-time, along with a retired assistant district attorney who also works part-time.
“We're looking forward in 2015 to hopefully have somebody from the Office of Children and Youth on site. I would like to make it so we have everybody here all the time,” Newman said.
One of the challenges with a co-located model, according to Newman, is finding a way to not usurp an investigation from an individual police department.
“That's what makes Montgomery County pretty unique in that we have so many different police departments,” she said.
In Philadelphia, by contrast, there is one police department with one special victims unit, which allows the city's advocacy center to operate under the co-located model.
“So to put that unit under one-roof, logistically is a little easier,” Newman said.
In its five years of operation, Mission Kids has helped the public understand the problems associated with child abuse, Newman said.
“It is hopefully changing from the last great taboo to the next real piece of information that people are becoming aware of and lessening the stigma that has gone along with child sexual abuse,” she said. “Because that is the only way that children and families can heal and it's really the only way to prevent child abuse.”
Preventing sexual abuse in the classroom
by Patrick Price
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- The conversation may be hard to hear.
"You look at your child," said Ebony Harvey, an alleged sexual abuse victim. "Now, you imagine that child... being penetrated by a grown man and his penis in their mouth."
But every detail describes a journey into darkness and a struggle to get back to the light.
"30 years of suffering," said another alleged victim. "Nobody cared. Nobody listened."
Eyes were fixed on Linda Martin and Ebony Harvey and ears were open.
"To feel my body ripped the way it was at 13," Martin said. "It was dark, he shoved me in a room, turned off the lights."
They're using their rock bottoms as a stepping stone for hope for other children.
"By the time you put sex and abuse together, we are way too late," said Bobbie Lee, a child advocate.
Catching it early is Lee's life goal. She's making sure kids know it's okay to speak up and it's okay to come forward.
"Anything unwanted, anything that makes you feel uncomfortable in that way," she said.
But it goes beyond sex. It all includes sexual comments, a certain stare, and a simple touch.
"I was in the gym and coach so and so brushed up against me," she said.
It's called the "grooming stage" -- trying to establish an emotional connection with that child to lower the child's inhibitions.
"Sometimes sex doesn't happen for six months to a year," she said.
As each day goes by, it's one day closer to sex and one day closer to the darkness.
"We have to protect our children," said a victim.
Which, they say, starts before the abuse even begins.
A 'Walking Dead' Star Helped Bring Down a Colombian Sex-Trafficking Ring
by Jordan Valinsky
F ans of Laurie Holden might recognize her from her roles in The Walking Dead and The Shield , but she's also an international badass. When she's not fighting zombies as Andrea on AMC's beloved zombie saga, she's fighting child sex trafficking.
Holden is part of Operation Underground Railroad, a volunteer organization that aims to hunt down and arrest child sex traffickers. The group recently traveled to Cartagena, Colombia, where it aided authorities in breaking up a major sex-trafficking ring that used drugs to force underage boys and girls into prostitution. The operation resulted in the arrest of 11 Colombians and one person whose nationality has not been released in the cities of Armenia, Cartagena and Medellin and the rescue of 55 sex-trafficking victims, one just 11 years old.
The organization, described as a "ragtag group of volunteers" that includes actors, filmmakers and CrossFit instructors (and a Romney), is led by Tim Ballard, a former CIA agent and former Department of Homeland Security investigator who specializes in child-sex-trafficking cases.
"We are not a government agency," the group's website said. "We are a non-profit organization that relies one hundred percent on donation to save them. And we do it because no child should be a sex slave."
The group worked for months to conduct a massive sting operation in coordination with Colombian and U.S. officials. Ballard told an alleged sex trafficker named Marcus Bronschidle that he was looking to hire a score of underage prostitutes for a "bachelor party" in the northern coastal town of Cartagena.
"The cover was meant to lure the sex traffickers into a setup so that Ballard and his team could rescue the girls, many of whom were under 18," ABC News reported. The alleged traffickers didn't know it was also a bust that was being videotaped by a group of filmmakers.
Ballard decorated the mansion with balloons "like a teenager's birthday party" so the criminals wouldn't expect anything. With the police hiding in the bushes, the team had to catch the traffickers exchanging money for the girls on tape so they could be prosecuted.
"It's going to be about $200 to $300 for the evening, for a child," Ballard is heard saying on tape.
It worked. Voice of America reports the group helped rescue 55 minors and arrested 12 people during Saturday's sting. Police say one of the 11-year-old girls in the group was being sold for $11,000.
All the victims are now in the care of Colombia's child protection agency. The Colombian defendants face between five and 20 years imprisonment if convicted.
"I spent 12 years as a special agent, undercover operative for the United States government, doing this, and learned how to do it," says Ballard said. "The problem was that the vast majority of the kids that we would identify, we couldn't save."
In this case, Ballard, Holden and the other volunteers in Operation Underground Railroad made a real difference.
Williamson Co. to open shelter for sex trafficking victims
WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas -- As sex trafficking continues to grow within the United States, an Austin-based safe house for victims is planning to expand. The nonprofit Key 2 Free will soon add a new shelter in Williamson County.
"It's right here in not only our own country, but in our state, and have to do something about it," said Key 2 Free co-founder Amy Davis.
Davis started the organization last year with five other women. It's offered a place to stay and support services to dozens of sex trafficking survivors in the time since.
Due to the high stakes in this line of work, Key 2 Free's co-founders won't give out the location of their new safe house. They said it's for safety reasons.
The department of justice estimates each year as many as 300,000 children nationwide are the victims of what they call commercial sexual exploitation: underage prostitution.
Toni McKinley was just 15 years old when a pimp began selling her. But she was much younger when the abuse began.
"You feel like all your options are out, no one is going to accept you for what's happened to you, no one is going to believe you," McKinley said.
Decades after escaping that lifestyle, McKinley helps counsel Key 2 Free's survivors.
"They're a lot like kids despite their age," she said. "If they're 25, 26 you're really dealing with a 14-year-old girl almost, and so how can you expect a 14-year-old girl to live on her own?"
The abuse often starts at home. Seventy percent of child sex trafficking victims experienced physical or sexual abuse within the confines of their own homes.
As Central Texas grows, investigators are seeing more and more sex trafficking. Round Rock police detective Tim Chancellor says at times, victims don't want to talk.
"There's some reluctance from time to time on the part of the victim to cooperate with law enforcement because, of course, they're afraid that they're getting themselves into trouble," Chancellor said.
Key 2 Free is hosting a sex trafficking awareness conference on Saturday. Registration information is available on the organization's website thekey2free.org.
Full-ride scholarship for sex trafficking victims in the works at Christian college
by Samantha Watkins
Victims of sex trafficking will have a chance to get a college education for free, thanks to a new scholarship fund at Point Loma Nazarene University that appears to be the first of its kind in the country.
Beauty for Ashes, named after a verse in the book of Isaiah, is scheduled to launch a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo Oct. 30 with a goal to raise $40,000 in 40 days.
The school also plans to provide ongoing support for Beauty for Ashes through a donation page. The fund was started with the idea that it may need to be endowed, so that the scholarship can survive off of interest.
“The crowd fund is a public platform, a way to get the word out about what we're up to, to a wide audience. It's as much about friend raising as fund raising,” sociology professor Jamie Gates, director of the school's Center for Justice & Reconciliation, told The College Fix by email.
The fund is intended to pay for one sex trafficking victim to attend the school, which costs $30,800 in tuition and $9,600 for room and board per year.
“In practice, the fund will be used to support each applicant across all four years at PLNU; we want to remain faithful until completion,” said Gates.
San Diego, where PLNU is based, is allegedly a hotbed of sex trafficking, identified as one of the FBI's “high intensity child prostitution areas.”
“Aside from a deep faith in Christ and a loving Christian congregation to surround them, there may be no more important long-term intervention for the rehabilitation of survivors of human trafficking than the loving, academically challenging and carefully mentored environment of a Christian university education,” according to the Beauty for Ashes donation page.
It tells prospective donors their pledges will “launch many passionate young people into meaningful careers that tackle modern slavery with wisdom and mentorship.”
Sex trafficking victims applying for the scholarship must be referred or endorsed by one of the 15 local nonprofits that PLNU and Beauty for Ashes work with. Those include the Salvation Army's Door of Hope, Interfaith Center for Worker Justice and Hidden Treasures.
Gates said that leaders of these organizations are excited about the new fund and partnership with PLNU, which will give survivors their next step in their recovery process.
At the moment “there is at least one, and maybe more, woman in the application process” for the scholarship, Kim Berry Jones, an alumna who's heading up the crowdfunding campaign, told The Fix by email.
“We are working with an admissions staff person to make sure these candidates get the support they need during the process,” she said.
Beauty for Ashes leaders acknowledge that scholarship recipients' success will depend on their hard work and determination, though the school will pair those recipients with student mentors on campus.
“The last thing we would want is to set someone up for failure,” so the school will work on a case-by-case basis “on having the right supports on campus” to help recipients, whether it's academic support, the Wellness Center or resident advisers, Gates said. Anonymity will be the “default” for recipients, but they will also be given the opportunity to share their story as a “survivor advocate.”
If a survivor has children, Beauty for Ashes will work with the previous organization that helped the victim to see if there are options for childcare.
There's a possibility that the school's Early Childhood Learning Center could work with the survivor, Gates said. “Knowing my colleagues, I would imagine our staff at the ECLC bending over backwards to making room for those needs.”
Generate Hope, which offers a recovery program for sex trafficking victims, supports the Beauty for Ashes fund. That group “tells us regularly that survivors tell them that going to college is one of their dreams,” said crowdfunding leader Jones, who is also a volunteer mentor at Generate Hope.
Leaders hope that Beauty for Ashes will be able to fund more than one victim's education per year.
“Long term we'll continue to rely on the generosity of those that believe in supporting survivors to a PLNU education,” said Gates. “We believe our students, alumni, staff, faculty, administrators, friends and others of good conscience are up to the task.”
In Oregon, Gangs Take Over as Sex Trafficking Goes Offline
by Lee van der Voo
PORTLAND —This river city along Interstate 5 has long had a reputation as a hotspot for child sex trafficking, even after a 2010 report to Congress made it clear that Seattle and other American cities are just as bad and that sex with children is a burgeoning American pastime.
It's a sad truth many communities have yet to embrace. But consider the numbers:
Police say escort ads for young women are a good barometer of the size of a trafficking market in any town — women billed as young but legal who often turn out to be minors. The Portland metro area, population 2.3 million, saw 377 total listings for escorts in a recent week on the web site Backpage. Seattle, with a metro-area population of 3.5 million, had 523 — roughly the same rate per capita. In Atlanta, where the population is three times larger, there were more than 1,100 listings.
Lots is happening in Portland to combat the problem of children being forced into the sex trade – usually by pimps who first present themselves as boyfriends. In Portland, authorities have learned lessons that are important for Seattle and other cities along I-5 corridor, which enables sex trafficking to stretch to Southern California:
Trafficking of minors for sex increasingly is handled by gangs rather than individual pimps.
These gangs who previously squared off over riskier crimes like drug dealing are cooperating to help each other evade police as prostituting minors becomes a larger and safer staple of their income stream.
The gangs and others prostituting girls – 96 percent were female in a 2013 Portland study – are learning to promote their victims via word of mouth, phones, sex parties, and publications handed out on the street rather than the more-easily-traceable internet channels of, say, five years ago.
Much of this activity is occurring around concerts and major sporting events such as the Super Bowl – anywhere large congregations of men are expected.
As the deputy sheriff heading the Human Trafficking Task Force in Multnomah County, Ore., Keith Bickford is acutely aware of these trends. And he's grateful to have a special helper, a woman who works as an advance guard at concerts and sporting events. When she gets there, she snaps up magazines and brochures from the sex trade.
Among the latest was a tabloid-sized glossy, a barely dressed girl on the cover poised over a line of cocaine.
Inside, these publications typically feature photos of so-called “models.” Police are particularly interested in the ones that show only the girls' bodies from the neck down – they are often underage. So investigators scour the booklets looking for tattoos and other telltale markings that might help them find kids trafficked for sex, many of whom may travel through the Portland area on their way to and from Seattle.
“A lot of the traffickers trade girls or send girls up there or back down here for business. Concerts, wherever they can make the money,” Bickford said.
The newer marketing methods, and the practice of moving the children between cities from one event to the next to evade detection, which InvestigateWest reported in 2010, make it tougher for police to track offenders and the kids they lord over.
The number of children exploited commercially for sex is unknowable, according to a 2010 U.S. Department of Justice report. Lured at first by attention, gifts and professions of friendship and love, many are normal children smitten with what looks like courtship, the report said. Others already are endangered runaways badly in need of shelter and food.
Pimps' initial kindness and permissiveness make them infinitely likeable at first. Their youthful recruits don't have to mind bedtimes, keep curfews or worry about whether to go to school or do homework. But by the time the children in their charge are trafficked for sex, pimps' kindness has malevolently evolved into violence, intimidation and psychological manipulation. Drugs and alcohol are frequently employed to keep child sex workers compliant, converting healthy kids into addicts or worsening problems for youths already tripped up by the lure.
“If you're being a good parent, you're going to be saying no to things,” Bickford said. “One thing a trafficker has that is an ace in a hole is that they can say yes to anything.”
Portland has aggressively sought to combat the problem.
Here, a 2013 study commissioned by U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall found 459 children had been identified as sex trafficking victims by the Oregon Department of Human Services and the nonprofit Sexual Assault Resource Center (SARC) over four years. The average age was 15 and a half. The youngest child was eight. Astonishingly, one in six already had given birth to her own child. African Americans were overrepresented. And about one-fifth came from families with a history of sexual exploitation.
But the statistic that most alarmed police was this one: nearly half had a connection to a gang.
“Just about every gang, especially the bigger gangs in the Portland area, have quite a business going. And it's kind of a scary situation, but a lot of them are actually working together,” said Bickford. “When gangs start to work together and not worry about territory and things like that, it's quite a concern.”
Pimps' best weapon is control. They determine when their charges eat and sleep, how they spend money, where they go and who they see. They teach children to lie about their age, equip them with fake IDs, and poison them against police. According to Sgt. Mike Geiger of the Portland Police Bureau, “this control factor is greatly increased with the advent of gangs” where crossing a pimp and crossing the gang are one in the same. “It raises the level of danger for these young people,” he said, if they try to leave.
For officers fighting the trend, this presents a dilemma. Children who are rescued from the trade often are placed into foster homes, back with parents, or in treatment facilities designed to treat addiction or other problems. They are not certain they are safe from their former overlords in these places, and often they aren't. Rather than compel the children to testify against their pimps, authorities' inclination is to leave them be until they are ready to “disclose” – meaning testify. If that never happens, so be it. The child is rescued.
“Really what I want out of it at the end of the day is that she's no longer exploited,” said Geiger. “If we take care of the person first, the reality is they get to a place of healing much more quickly.”
To make that happen more, law enforcement offices in Portland, including the sheriff's office, police bureau, and the FBI, which operates one of 66 national task forces on child sexual exploitation out of Portland, are working in tandem with social service providers and the juvenile justice system to get children to safety before prosecuting pimps. They collaborate through a Multnomah County steering committee that allows them to trade information. A full-time specialist aids the collaboration effort, which includes a hotline where people can leave tips about kids in trouble.
“A lot of the calls we go out on, we don't have a kid sitting in somebody's office saying, ‘Hey I'm trafficked,'” said Kirby Crawford, a child welfare specialist who works on the hotline. “Some of the (referrals) we get are from people who are just seeing things that are just not adding up.” A child found in a hotel room with a guy, drugs, money, and a ringing phone, for example. Or a girl on the run who returns with her hair and nails done and a cell phone her parents didn't know she had. Because the trafficked children tend to know one another, contact with one helps police and social service workers keep tabs on others. This way, “Multnomah County is doing a really good job taking a look at the issue… from a systemic point of view,” said Crawford.
For those victims who do come forward, Marshall, the U.S. attorney, has aggressively prosecuted sex trafficking crimes, aiming for severe penalties. Under Marshall, the Portland U.S. Attorney's Office has become the third most prolific nationally in securing indictments for trafficking children and adults for sex.
Geiger says despite Portland's reputation, Seattle and other cities have some serious self-examination to do.
He resists efforts to define the scope of the problem in Portland versus other cities.
“When a community can label it as ‘Portland's problem,' then we don't have to face ourselves,” Geiger said. “What we should be saying instead is yes, that's right, Portland has a very difficult problem that they've been battling with and trying to deal with.
“Turns out, so do we.”
Former football player tells of the night he was allegedly raped by his teammate
by Aisha Dow
The burly young Victorian footballer sits hunched and crying in the bath as his mother scrubs frantically to remove the words "whore" and "slut", which have been scrawled upon his naked body in lipstick.
It has been years since Ben, 21, has cried. But today the tears wiggle down his face and into the stained bathwater, as the Warrandyte seconds player heaves and sobs like a child.
The night before the biological science student had been staying at a teammate's house when he says he was repeatedly attacked by a group of older players.
He would recall being woken by a sudden blaze of the bedroom light and remember the laughing men ripping off his underpants, pinning him down and drawing on him.
At first he brushed off their behaviour as "just the stuff that footy club boys do". Then he says one of them did something unthinkable.
Ben's story, told here for the first time, is one of the few reported cases of alleged adult male rape within an Australian sporting club.
But it is certainly not unique.
Sexual assault agencies are aware of other similar cases where young men have been abused by teammates – when humiliating practical jokes between friends have crossed the line into criminal assault.
The evening started like any other boozy night out with footy boys. It was about a month after the end of the 2003 season. The Warrandyte Bloods reserves side had finished third on the ladder, but were booted from the finals series in the first round by Upper Ferntree Gully.
At closing time at the Grand Hotel, Ben remembers being repeatedly asked by an older player – his alleged rapist – to go back to another player's house with about 12 other people. "In the end I thought why not," Ben says.
By the time he got back to the share house, Ben was feeling "pretty blotto" and decided to go to bed. In the small spare room he stripped down to his underpants, crawled under the covers and fell asleep.
Before this night, the part-time courier had witnessed and heard stories about the extreme behaviour of a handful of players at the club, who he said would try to shove soap up people's bums in the showers and, during one end-of season trip, bake faeces in the oven.
Another Warrandyte player who spoke to The Age says a "ringleader" of one group of older reserves players was a 32-year-old serving police officer.
At first, Ben says he "wasn't that worried", as a group of about four men, including the policeman, stormed into his room, wrote on him and ripped off his jocks before they returned, presumably, to keep drinking.
Wanting to sleep in peace, Ben said he got up and tried to barricade the door with a vacuum cleaner and other things stored nearby.
But the tactic was ineffective. Suddenly, sickeningly, he remembers being woken by a horrible painful sensation of something inside him. When he opened his eyes, he says, he saw a large carrot lying between his legs, and the grinning policeman running out of the room.
He could hear laughing and feel a sticky cream - Vaseline - around his anus. The lubricant was also on the carrot and smeared on the bed. He was sure he'd been penetrated.
The last time Ben had cried was when he was 14 at his grandmother's funeral, but that night the tears came in a tidal wave. "I felt so degraded, so worthless," remembers Ben. "I couldn't hold myself together, it was like a steam train had hit me."
Ben says some in the group tried to console him, while his alleged attacker said something like "I just went over the top mate, I shouldn't have done it". But another bloke just laughed and called him "carrot arse".
The Centre Against Sexual Assaults' Carolyn Worth says she is aware of other alleged cases in which where a male victim, who had typically passed out, had something inserted into his anus by a friend or teammate.
"You don't hear them everyday but every now and again one turns up," she said.
Australian experts believe that male-to-male abuse within sporting clubs could be as prevalent as in other masculine environments, such as the military, where crimes have been well documented.
Late last year it was alleged that sailors on an Australian navy frigate used to intercept asylum seekers were involved in a hazing ritual in which young men were anally penetrated with pens and other objects on their birthdays.
Meanwhile, a young able seaman told a Sydney court martial in September that he had been brutally raped with a rubber chicken in front of 30 other crewmates while onboard HMAS Newcastle in 2011.
Sexual assaults linked to team bonding also regularly make headlines in the United States. In Vermont, high school football players reportedly sexually assaulted younger players with broomsticks or pool cues.
Australian research has shown that only about 35 per cent of recent sexual assault victims report the crime to police. Ms Worth said the proportion of silent victims could be even higher for male victims assaulted by their sporting teammates.
Men who have been raped typically stayed silent, Ms Worth says, because they feel humiliated and worried what people will think of them. "Then there's the perception that this is not something that happens to 'real blokes' – it happens to girls."
Yet, Dr Michael Flood, an expert in gender issues, says there has been a long history of men being "initiated" into workplaces through practices that involve peoples' genitals or bodies. Dr Flood, who has worked on studies for the AFL, said sometimes these rituals slide into sexual assault.
The term "hazing" is most often used to describe college initiations in the United States, he says. In Australia and the Australian Defence Force in particular, acts commonly involving "physically stressful and ritualistic practices" have been better known as bastardisation.
Catharine Lumby, who has worked with the National Rugby League as a gender adviser , says "male-dominated bonding cultures" such as the military, sporting groups and university colleges have a lot of positive elements. But some men in these groups will deal with their insecurity and anger by projecting their frustrations on others, she says.
"By degrading other people they demonstrate that they're men. It's important for them in those scenarios that they have other people to witness it," Professor Lumby said.
Gary Foster, manager of male sexual abuse support group Living Well, says sporting clubs involved in sexual abuse often try to protect their image, instead of attempting to hold alleged offenders to account. In some cases, he says, it is the victim that ended up being blamed, for breaking a team's code of silence.
Shortly after Ben was allegedly raped, depression and drug abuse made their appearance in his life. In early March 2004, the young man turned up at a pre-season training session slurring his words, after downing six beers and multiple Valium tablets. Later that evening he fronted up to the club's board and told the group he had been raped.
Former Warrandyte Football Club president Phil Treeby says the club's management looked into the incident immediately. He says they spoke to a number of witnesses who confirmed Ben's version of events. Although Mr Treeby said the policeman would not speak to the club about the allegation, a decision was made by the club's committee to ban him.
Yet despite this action, Ben said he was facing pressure to keep quiet about what had happened from some of his teammates. One player suggested that Ben was masturbating on the night (which Ben denies) or that "if you go to the police that is what people are going to say." Another dismissed Ben's terrible nightmares about being raped by denying it, saying: "you weren't raped – maybe you're just gay".
It was Ben's parents who finally called the police. The matter was investigated by the Ethical Standards Department because the alleged offender was a serving police officer.
Rape charges were laid in 2005, but the policeman was acquitted when he stood trial in 2006. Retired Victoria Police detective Chris Gawne investigated the case and says the jury at the trial did not accept that there was sufficient evidence "beyond reasonable doubt" to convicted the alleged offender.
"It is difficult to get a conviction against a serving police officer. Apart from whatever evidence issues there may be ...there is an added issue that juries are reluctant to convict a serving police office," he says. "The community don't want to think that a police officer would do such a thing, that they would commit a criminal offence."
The former Ethical Standards Department detective says that in his experience it is always difficult to get sufficient evidence in a sexual assault investigation and there are often confusing issues around consent.
"But this case was completely different," he says. "Consent was never an issue, it was a matter of whether the complainant was mistaken about penetration taking place."
The alleged offender, who remains in the force, did not respond to The Sunday Age's opportunity to comment.
In 2008,a Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal - where rulings are determind by a magistrate, not a jury - concluded that Ben had been a victim of the "criminal act" of sexual penetration of a person on October 4, 2003. They awarded him $16,600.
Jill Duncan from a Centre Against Sexual Assault says male rape "really rocks people's souls".
"When the people who have done that are known and trusted and you might have looked up to them, there's a huge betrayal of ordinary human values."
Male sexual assault expert Sarah Crome says men who had been sexually assaulted as adults tend to experience similar effects as female survivors, including psychiatric disorders and relationship and behavioural problems.
"Self harming and compulsive behaviour including self-mutilation, reckless behaviour like driving dangerously, drug and alcohol abuse and work addiction are widespread complaints. Suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts are not uncommon," she says.
Dr Flood said men who had been sexually abused in hazing rituals were also likely to be dealing with some distinct troubles. "Being assaulted by peers as part of behaviour that is semi-public and condoned would add to the trauma and distress of the experience," he said.
Eleven years after his alleged assault, Ben is outwardly doing well. He has bought a second home, finished university, begun a professional career and, more recently, became engaged. But internally, he often struggles with depression.
There was the day he drove up an outback road, with a rope in the back of his ute and sat under a tree and contemplated his future.
"I have had a suicide attempt on pills, before throwing my fingers down my throat, and then sat listening to [my fiance] weep while speaking to the poisons information line," he says.
Ben says he has also stitched his own arms up after self harming.
Former players at Warrandyte Football Club who have spoken to The Age have mixed views over whether the club culture at the time could have contributed to the alleged rape of a young man.
The club president at the time denies the incident was linked to the culture of the group, but says unsavoury personalities were no longer tolerated at Warrandyte. .
"He wouldn't find friends at our club as it is today," Mr Treeby said.
He said what happened to Ben was extra impetus for the club to approach AFL Victoria for access to respect and responsibility training, commencing the program in 2011.
"Do the guys do stupid things sometimes?" he said. "While someone might have too much to drink or someone might get a tattoo with poor spelling, we've gone on quite a journey since then with the other players."
This year a group of footballers in the same suburban league were fined and ordered to do community service after it emerged they ran naked around the oval as self-punishment for losing a game of indoor Olympics.
Eastern Football League chief executive Phil Murton said a group of 10 to 15 adult East Burwood Rams players had made a "spur-of-the-moment decision" to run a lap of the ground in "various states of undress."
"The players chose the penalty and participated voluntarily, while some chose not to do so," Mr Murton said
Dr Foster said sporting leagues should have a "zero tolerance" towards demeaning behaviour, because by accepting hazing and other humiliating pranks, there was a danger serious crimes could be committed.
"When you start to step towards any process when you're demeaning of someone else, if you're using force, you've started on this path," he said.
"Someone might take the extra step."
Ben said he had experienced the worst of what can happen when men made a sport of humiliating their mates.
"What I do understand is that breeds of culture of 'What's next? What's next?'."
"That's the reason I wanted to tell my story. Bad acts breed worse acts – and this act affected me greatly and still does."
Need assistance? Contact the 24-hour Sexual Assault Crisis Line on 1800 806 292 or 1800 737 732.
LAPD Seeks Additional Victims of Sexual Predator
Los Angeles -- Traffic school instructor sexually batters students during driving sessions and investigators believe there could be more victims.
On October 13, 2014, 70-year-old driving and traffic school instructor Jorge Ernesto Ubillus was arrested on a sexual battery misdemeanor warrant. The warrant was based on sexual battery cases spanning from July 2014 to August 13, 2014. The incidents occurred while he was teaching his student to drive as well as in his office located in the 5400 block of Santa Monica Boulevard.
LAPD detectives are encouraging additional victims or anyone with any information regarding these crimes to come forward.
Anyone with information about this case is urged to contact the Operations-West Bureau Detective Aldegarie at 213-473-0439. During non-business hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877-LAPD-24-7. Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477). Tipsters may also contact Crime Stoppers by texting to phone number 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S on most keypads) with a cell phone. All text messages should begin with the letters “LAPD.” Tipsters may also go to LAPDOnline.org, click on "webtips" and follow the prompts.
"48 Hours" tale of child abuse leads to Utah
“48 Hours” (Saturday, 10 p.m., CBS/Ch. 2)
by Scott D. Pierce
Kristen Cunnane tells the story of how she was sexually abused by two of her middle school teachers on "48 Hours." Courtesy CBS News
The upcoming edition of “48 Hours” (Saturday, 10 p.m., CBS/Ch. 2) tells a tale of sexual abuse and courage that plucks the abuser from her Utah home and sends her to prison.
And the woman at the center of the story, Cal-Berkeley assistant swim coach Kristen Cunnane, is nothing short of heroic. She went very public with the story of how she had been repeatedly raped by her middle-school gym teacher, Julie Correa, in Moraga, Calif.
“Isn't it amazing that she came forward?” said CBS correspondent Tracy Smith. “She said, ‘I want to go public. I want my name to be out there.' ”
Cunnane was also abused by a second teacher. And by coming forward, she prompted other former students to join her — and an investigation revealed that school district personnel violated the law by failing to report the abuse to police.
“If she hadn't come forward, I don't know that it would have ever been unmasked,” Smith said.
The story detours to Utah, where Correa, her husband and two sons were living near Salt Lake City when Cunnane went to police with her story in 2010.
“She was out of teaching,” Smith said. “She was very active in her sons' sports teams, but she was basically a stay-at-home mom.”
It's “tragic” for Correa's family. “I mean, those poor boys. You have to feel for them,” Smith said. “But at the same time, as Kristen says, even though she feels for the family, she also feels she can't let that stop her from bringing her abuser to justice.”
The “48 Hours” report features recordings of phone conversations between Cunnane and Correa; video of police going to Correa's Utah home and interviewing her; and video of police interrogating Correa.
“She was also pretty forthcoming in those interviews,” Smith said. Correa “talked about the relationship fairly openly.”
It's a very powerful report that Smith said she found “humbling” to work on.
“You can't help but think, ‘What would I do if I was in her shoes?' ” Smith said. “I don't know if I would have the strength to do that.”
Among the things Smith found “challenging” about the story is “that when you bring these things up … people snicker,” she said. But viewers will see a young woman who didn't want to be identified and “how this has destroyed her life. It is the farthest thing from funny.”
“Same with Kristen. She can't go to her childhood home [where she was raped repeatedly].”
Smith said she hopes the report prompts parents to “take this issue seriously” and “recognize what's an inappropriate relationship” between their children and educators.
“And everybody we talked to said, ‘Please, just check your kids' cellphones.' I think so much of this today starts with text messages, with sexting. We have to be vigilant with that sort of stuff in our kids' lives.”
Sex offender registry serves public safety purpose
Sheriff said any changes will come from state legislators
by Randy M. Cauthron
Each month, in conjunction with area media, the Clay County Sheriff's Office releases the updated sex offender registry list for the county as a public awareness tool. Currently, there are 15 residents or workers within the Clay County borders on the registry.
Sheriff Randy Krukow explained the purpose of the registry and warned that everyone named on the list are not necessarily immediate risks to reoffend.
"It (the registry) is maintained by the state. We have to do the mandatory registering and mandatory reporting to the schools and public through the media," Krukow shared. "The state of Iowa does all of the classification."
The state Legislature established the rules and guidelines governing Iowa sex crime designations. The Department of Criminal Investigations makes the determinations with regards to the classifying of guilty offenders then county law enforcement is charged with making certain those on the list comply with the rules.
"They have to come in at certain times to verify their information," Krukow said."Anytime there's a change in their information -- change of address, change of job, change of phone number -- they have to come in and report it."
He continued, "Even if they're living in O'Brien County and working here, they still have to come in and register here."
Locally, administrators within the sheriff's office make the updates to the statewide registry.
Krukow said a wide variety of convictions -- ranging from indecent exposure to sexual assault and rape -- can land a guilty person on the registry. He also noted viewing or disseminating child pornography, sexting and in certain circumstances, inappropriate photos can result in a listing on the registry.
Because of the broad range of crimes, the classifications are broken into three tiers. Those in the third tier are regarded as more likely to reoffend and some are even subject to restrictions that require them to live a designated distance from schools and daycare providers. Offenders in the second tier are a moderate risk while tier one offenders are less of a public threat.
"Back when they first passed this law, everybody fell into one category. The Sheriff's Association was part of going in and seeking a classification system," Krukow said.
Those in the public seeking additional information on individuals identified in the registry can request to find out if the person is subject to the 2,000-foot rule.
"Our deputies watch the people on this list. They go out and physically check on them ... Sometimes even the state office or U.S. Marshals will come in and do an audit on our list. We've got a pretty good track record, and if there are violations, we don't hesitate to file on them," Krukow said. "But as long as they comply, we don't have a problem with them. If they're working and doing what they're supposed to be doing, complying with the rules, there's no reason for us to have to follow up with most of them."
He cautioned the public, "It's against the law to stalk and harass them."
Krukow said the classifications have helped but for those who still think the rules on the registry list should be modified to further separate the high-risk from the low-risk offenders, they should become engaged with their legislators.
"The Legislature needs to take a look at it, have some hearings and see if there's any room for improvement. Things change, people change, times change. It never hurts to review," he said. "On the flip side, people get really concerned and they have a right to be. You can see both sides."
He added, "In the meantime, the law is the law and we have to follow the law so we will continue to publish the list and make sure those people are registering."
Forensic samples can now be kept for a year in sex attack cases
by Eilish O'Regan
Victims of rape and sexual assault, who are examined and treated after the attack, are to be given the option for the first time of preserving valuable forensic samples for a year.
It means if they feel too traumatised to make a formal complaint to the gardai at the time of the attack, but later change their mind, vital evidence is available to the investigation.
The service is due to be provided by the country's Sexual Assault Treatment Units from the beginning of next year and will give the victims of attack the benefit of time if they want to make a formal complaint later.
The option is contained in new national guidelines on the referral and clinical examination of women and men who seek help at the units after an attack. It will mean that units will have to upgrade their facilities and this is expected at the beginning of next year.
Dr Maeve Eogan of the sexual assault unit in the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin said victims currently can choose to go directly to the gardai who bring them to one of the units. They receive comprehensive medical psychological and forensic care. Injuries are documented and forensic samples taken.
The other option is that they have a health check at the unit but do not report to gardai. In this case, the absence of gardai means forensic samples cannot be taken. The existing options are still likely to be those chosen by the majority.
The existing "all or nothing" approach may lead to victims who are in acute trauma to decide not to report the incident which they can later regret.
The new option , which will be available to everyone over the age of 18, allows for the collection and preservation of evidentially valuable forensic samples, said the guidelines. The best time to take samples is within 72 hours of the incident. The samples can be stored for a year or more.
Last year 677 women and men accessed one of the six units around the country after suffering sexual violence. The Rape Crisis Network of Ireland said its support accompanies 494 of these victims to the units last year .
A spokeswoman said that 95pc of the victims were female and the age range was from teenagers to 65. "For survivors the fact that we are there at the unit, working as part of the team with an Garda Siochana, the SAFE (Sexual Assault Forensic Examination) nurses, doctors and nurses is incredibly important."
A national 24 -hour helpline at 1 800 77 88 88 is available for victims of adult sexual violence and adult victims of childhood sexual abuse.
In 2009 the calls to the helpline reached an all time high due to the publication of the Ryan and Murphy Reports.
Last year they reached another record.
There were 3,928 first time callers and the number of repeat contacts in 2013 at 4,955, was the highest in nine years, according to the latest figures.
Of the 284 who were attending the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre for therapy for the first time, just one third reported to gardai.
The Power of Presence
by Ellen Magnis -- Chief of External Affairs, Dallas Children's Advocacy Center
Thich Nhat Hanh, global spiritual leader, poet and peace activist, is 88 years old this month. I was honored to spend a week with him and his monastics last year at a monastery in Mississippi. Thay ("teacher"), as he is lovingly called, emanates tenderness. He exudes a deep peace and receptivity. Most memorably for anyone who has been near him, he is abundantly and intensely present.
Thay's teachings are simple. He notes that the most powerful gift we can give to another person is our presence. To deepen and heal our relationships he guides us to say (to ourselves) as we sit with our loved ones, "Darling, I am here for you. Darling, I know you suffer, and I am here for you."
In our Children's Advocacy Center, forensic interviewers and therapists demonstrate this deep presence with the children we serve. Each day, interviewers sit with young clients, most of whom are 9-10 year-old girls disclosing sexual abuse at the hands of someone they know and trust. Interviewers work to lift the burden of shame and secrecy from these children, obtaining vital information that is used in criminal investigations, all the while doing so in a non-leading, calm manner. This occurs while law enforcement professionals and others observe from a separate room, so as not to overwhelm children in their often-fragile states.
How we respond to an accidental or partial disclosure of abuse is critical. In addition to sexual abuse, children may disclose extensive physical abuse or traumatic neglect, or they may tell gruesome details of a homicide that happened before their young eyes. The stories are often steely, capable of shaking interviewers to their cores. Sometimes children and youth tell a little bit about their trauma and watch with acuity for any hint of disgust, judgment or distress before moving on to the deeper depravity they have experienced. Interviewers are trained not to react with surprise or shock, understanding that these children must feel free to tell their stories. Interviewers know that everything they do or say must be defendable in court.
Therapists listen and observe; they are fully present as children transform from victims to survivors. They gently guide and support traumatized children through a process to re-frame their experiences, to help them understand that the events they have experienced are not "who they are," that what has happened is a chapter in their book of life, but not the whole story.
But what about those of us who aren't trained as interviewers or therapists? For those who are teachers and parents? What happens if a child discloses abuse to us? How would we respond, and what would we do next? We all need to take a lesson here. Education specialists in our agency routinely teach parents and those who work with children about how to remain very calm if a child tiptoes into disclosing abuse and about what actions to take following a disclosure. We talk about the honor of that trust, and the gift of presence we can bring in response. "Thank you so much for telling me," we advise adults to say, "Tell me as much as you like." No judgment. No horror. Only presence. "I am here for you."
We also encourage parents who have a history of unresolved childhood trauma to seek care, to heal their own wounded parts as the greatest gift they can give their own children. For how can we be fully present for our children if we are consumed by our past? Thich Nhat Hanh suggests that we learn to hold our own suffering as we would a crying child: compassionately, lovingly, with a soothing gentleness. He urges us not to deny our suffering, but to hold it tenderly, looking deeply into it, consoling it. By doing so, he says, we can find our way to happiness.
There is nothing easy about this work, nothing easy about healing our own wounds or about gently supporting children as they grieve their sorrows. But we must. Failure to heal culminates in a host of adverse outcomes, including teen pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse, and health risks related to elevated cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic syndrome.
Pinch and Haddas say that the gift of presence is making ourselves vulnerable to share the human condition, to quietly acknowledge the suffering of others as a way to bring healing to our world:
Suffering has a cry and that cry is: be. Be with me.
Be, not do. Be, even in silence. Just be.
Middlesex County leaders say ‘enough' to child sexual abuse
The movement to prevent child sexual abuse got a significant boost today as county leaders from education, youth-serving organizations, law enforcement, municipalities, the faith community, private citizens and legislators came together to form the Middlesex County Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Partnership.
This latest coalition joins the efforts of the Enough Abuse Campaign, a community mobilization and citizen education effort now operating in several other communities across the state.
Jetta Bernier, whose organization MassKids directs the campaign, said, “The powerful force created today by the deep commitment and resolve of these leaders will surely outmatch those who would sexually abuse and exploit our children in the places they live and learn and play. By pairing the formidable energy of this group with the campaign's tested tools and strategies, we are confident that thousands of Middlesex County adults will mobilize to get educated about the issue and then take specific actions to prevent it.”
Rep. Ken Gordon, convener of the meeting, who has provided leadership on the issue on Beacon Hill, pledged his support for new legislative efforts to address the issue in the upcoming 2015 Legislative Session, including addressing educator sexual misconduct and abuse — a problem that according to the U.S. Department of Education is affecting 10 percent or 4.5 million school children from K-12th grade. Rep. Tom Stanley pledged to engage a broad range of Waltham leaders and citizens in the Middlesex County effort.
Woburn Police Chief Bob Ferrullo and Burlington Police Chief Mike Kent expressed their full support of the effort as a way to to reduce the all-too-regular flow of sexual abuse cases their departments investigate. Woburn City Council President Richard Haggerty and Burlington Board of Health representative Maribeth Welch urged municipalities to participate in the effort since so many support a range of sports and other youth recreational activities that can serve as covers for those who would abuse.
Burlington Superintendent of Schools Eric Conti committed to taking the campaign's prevention message to other superintendents in the county, and Reading citizen and teacher Ann-Marie Dowling spoke of the need to educate parents and caregivers of children with physical, emotional and developmental disabilities who are at even greater risk of sexual abuse than their non-disabled peers.
Jodi Crowley, a leader with the North Suburban and Greater Boston YMCAs, pledged to work actively on the new partnership to further meet the Y's comprehensive child protection goals. Suzanne Sege with the Domestic Violence Services Network, which serves 13 Middlesex County communities, and Melissa Gopnik with the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, which also serves the county, spoke about the need to address child sexual abuse as part of the larger effort to prevent adult sexual assault and domestic violence.
Adrianne Simeone, a Burlington mother of three young children, made an impassioned plea for community-wide education for both parents and professionals, including pediatricians, who must take more seriously their role in protecting children. Rev. Richard Weisenbach, pastor of the First Congregational Church in Woburn, and Malden resident Paul Kellen and Winchester resident Frances Shawcross, both with Voice of the Faithful, spoke about the critical role of the faith community in addressing the issue.
The partnership will meet again Nov. 14 and in the interim will work to identify and recruit volunteers to become certified Enough Abuse Campaign trainers. A two-day Training of Trainers is being planned for early December so that the full effort to educate community parents, youth and professionals can begin in earnest in early 2015. Meanwhile, legislative proposals are being drafted now that will be presented to the partnership for their review later this year in preparation for the new legislative session in January.
Partnership members expressed gratitude to the Cummings Foundation for their leadership in supporting the effort to bring the Enough Abuse Campaign to Middlesex County.
Learn how to detect and prevent child sexual assault at Project Self-Sufficiency training session
by Warren Reporter
Teens and adults are invited to learn how to detect and prevent child sexual assault at free training session on Wednesday, Nov. 12, from 10 a.m. to noon or from 6-8 p.m.
The workshop will be offered by the Enough Abuse Campaign, a cooperative effort of Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey, Project Self-Sufficiency and the Sussex Warren Partnership to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse.
The community-wide education initiative aims to mobilize adults and communities to prevent child sexual assault by increasing awareness of the warning signs displayed by predators and as well as victims. Educators are particularly interested in training middle and high school youth, their parents, teachers, administrators, coaches and other youth-serving professionals on how to recognize and prevent child sexual abuse.
Project Self-Sufficiency is located at 127 Mill St. in Newton. Participation is free and open to anyone interested in stemming the tide of child sexual assault, but advance registration is required.
To register, or to find out more about the Enough Abuse campaign, call Project Self-Sufficiency, 973-940-3500.
Possibility Nigeria's abducted girls will go free renews optimism in Chibok
by The Associated Press
ABUJA, Nigeria -- Community leaders in the hometown of more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls are cautiously optimistic about news of a ceasefire with the Islamic extremists who abducted their daughters six months ago.
Bana Lawan, chairman of Chibok Local Government Area, says there will be no celebration until they see the girls, "and then we will know it is true."
Community leader Pogu Bitrus says "people rejoiced, but with caution."
He said many residents are skeptical of the army's announcement Friday that Boko Haram extremists have agreed to an immediate ceasefire.
Some reports say the truce includes an agreement to free the 219 girls missing from Chibok town.
Government spokesman Mike Omeri says only that they are "inching closer to the release of the Chibok girls."
Several young men charged in recorded rape of teen boy that left 'life-threatening' injuries
Three adults and two minors were arrested in the sexual assault of a 15-year-old boy last weekend in Hopkinsville, Ky. The charges range from first-degree sodomy to distrusting material depicting the sexual performance of a minor.
by Michael Walsh
A group of young men in Kentucky face sexual assault charges in the rape of a 15-year-old boy that was recorded on video and distributed last weekend, according to local media.
Sam Miller, 18, of Hopkinsville, became the fifth suspect arrested in the case on Wednesday and his bail was set at $1 million, reported The Leaf-Chronicle.
On Sunday morning, the 15-year-old victim was rushed to Gateway Medical Center in Clarksville for "life-threatening" injuries after being attacked at a home in Hopkinsville, authorities said.
Earlier this week, as the victim received treatment, two men and two teen boys were arrested in connection with the sexual assault: Tyler Riess Perry, 19; Dayton Ross Jones, 20; and two 17-year-old males, according to the broadsheet.
Perry and Jones were booked without incident into Christian County Jail.
Miller, Perry and Jones were charged with first-degree sodomy, promoting the sex performance of a minor and using a minor in sex performance, WPSD reported.
In addition, Jones and Miller face a charge for allegedly distributing material that depicts the sexual performance of a minor.
Authorities are expected to make more arrests as the investigation proceeds.
Community response urgent to stop partner violence
by Darlene Thomas
Intimate-partner violence is in the news. Our friends and families are having conversations about barriers to leaving, reasons for staying and abuser accountability.
These dialogues are timely because October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. I can attest to the devastating effects this crime has on the safety, health and quality of life in our communities. The solution requires a community-based response.
I have witnessed meaningful social change as an advocate for more than 25 years. The Violence Against Women Act and Victims of Crime Act spurred the shift by providing protection and funding. This historic legislation, coupled with a more recent focus on prevention, is working. A recent report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics finds the overall rate of intimate-partner violence declined from 1994 to 2010.
Yet there is still much work to be done. Last year more than 4,000 calls for information and support were placed to our 24-hour hotline. Advocates helped nearly 5,000 individuals in courts and support groups and 215 adults and children found safety at our emergency shelter. At any given time, about half of our shelter residents are children.
Abuse escalates without support and advocacy for victims. Individuals, especially those with children, must navigate complex barriers to access these services. Poverty is among the most prevalent of obstacles. After safety is established, a long and often difficult healing journey begins. In addition to the physical wounds, survivors suffer from asthma, anxiety, depression, heart disease and a host of other health ailments at a rate higher than those who have not been abused.
People often ask me, "Why does a person stay?"
The short answer is the power and control exerted by the abuser. Very purposeful isolation, emotional manipulation and lack of access to earned income create barriers to leaving.
Although well-meaning, asking why someone stays sidesteps abuser accountability and community responsibility. More purposeful discussion happens when I pose other questions: Why does the abuser abuse? What barriers do victims face to leaving? Why is it so difficult to get help?
Complex questions require creative solutions. The Mary Byron Project recently presented GreenHouse17 with the national Celebrating Solutions Award for our integration of agricultural programming with traditional victim services.
The farm we operate on the 40-acre property surrounding our emergency shelter provides a source of nature-based healing, field-to-table meals and workplace skills development for survivors of intimate-partner abuse. This approach also has been recognized by the Kentucky Nonprofit Network and Center for Nonprofit Excellence.
These best-practice services are strengthened when each of us demonstrates intolerance for violence and embraces the needs of survivors. Look to our Facebook page, Twitter feed and website to follow the campaign "17 Days/17 Ways to Help End Intimate Partner Abuse."?
Ending child abuse everyone's responsibility
by Anne Rector
Adults often tell children when bullying happens they should intervene. Yet when these same adults witness bullying among adult peers, they don't intervene; “I didn't hear. I didn't see. They didn't mean it.” Such, ‘hear no evil, see no evil' approaches encourage abuse and teach children never to take a stand.
For years I enjoyed an annual event, wonderful times of laughter and friendship. Lamenting relations with a child, a mother wondered how to deflect anger being directed at her.
“Try not to let (her/him) get a rise out of you,” I offered, “Do your best not to show you're upset.”
The woman beside us disagreed; “Cuff ‘er/‘im in the head, that's what I did with…” she named her own offspring (no longer a minor).
When the first mother didn't respond to the urging of violence against her child, I did.
“You don't hit a kid, let alone cuff her/him in the head. You do that,” I insisted, “You've lost control.”
The woman advocating violence stammered, “Well, uh… I only did it once.”
Yeah. That's why they've recommended assault; they felt so bad doing it ‘once' they've encouraged another to become violent so she can feel that bad too.
I reminded them we knew child violence and understood its harmful impact. The hitter's reply; “Didn't affect me.” Sure it did. Someone harmed them as a child and in turn, they hit the next generation; perpetuating the cycle of abuse.
“You don't cuff children in the head,” I repeated.
Frustratingly, I stood alone.
I stopped socializing with the aggressor. Inciting child violence wasn't the first boundary of appropriate behaviour crossed, not nearly. But what happened the following year was bewildering.
A friend asked if I was attending the annual gathering – she'd been invited. I never got a call. As the date drew near it wasn't the woman advocating child violence shunned socially, nope, it was me, who defended the kids.
Child abuse supported and enabled.
Subconsciously we befriend those with experiences resembling ours. If we came from alcoholic homes, we gravitate to children of alcoholics. If we experienced childhood violence, we become friends with others from childhood violence. And one in two women will suffer sexual assault.
Some abuse survivors feel their past was nothing to complain about, and that's entirely their right and their choice. But what seems to determine mature response to abuse is whether we understand past patterns of violence and how they impacted us. Those who don't understand remain wounded, passing the abuse on.
So I was incredibly heartened to hear a television sports anchor recently admit some of the things his loving mother had done were simply wrong. That's what news reports of child violence dramatically demonstrate – we're supposed to learn better.
Many times I've stood up to abuse while others defended it so the very dynamics connecting us can also pull us apart. And when someone who'd defended abuse in childhood couldn't' stop defending that child-abusive friend I recognized a survival response to trauma.
Trouble is it also ensures the awful continues.
Choosing to live beyond fear, I've both confronted and forgiven, but I find I'm most resented when objecting to abuse by those still caught up in unhealthy dynamics from their past. Proving that dealing with our issues doesn't mean those around us ever will… perhaps the hardest truth to accept of all.
October is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Act to prevent it, or seek help to learn how. It is everyone's responsibility.
Gathering shines light on domestic abuse
by Theresa Churchill
DECATUR – Illumination from this year's candlelight service for Domestic Violence Awareness Month shone brightest on Dominic Bradley and all other children who fall victim to the abuse of adults.
But the December death of a 2-year-old by the hand of his mother's boyfriend was not the only one mourned by more than 100 people gathered Thursday evening in Prairie Avenue Christian Church.
Janice Cole, 53, intentionally run over by an SUV in August, was also remembered.
Referring to a decision by the NFL's Baltimore Ravens to terminate the contract of Ray Rice because of domestic violence charges against him, Teri Ducy, director of Dove Inc.'s domestic violence program, said such crimes are committed “right here in our community, every single day.”
Claudia Quigg, executive director of Baby TALK and the featured speaker, took a stand against spanking and against exposing young children to violence of any kind, even on TV.
“Research teaches us that experiences in the early years of life design the architecture of the human brain,” Quigg said. “A child who experiences dependable care and affection wires his brain for building trusting relationships and for learning.
“(In) a child who experiences abuse or neglect … the architecture of his brain supports defense and survival, and he is less available for learning and relationships.”
Quigg also stressed that parents need support in raising a child, and no one should have to go it alone.
As part of the ceremony's celebration of survivors and the people who work to put an end to domestic violence, Ducy gave awards to Dove volunteer Ecila Deransburg-Cook, who provides free monthly massages to shelter residents and staff; Ha Ho, co-director of the East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center in Urbana, for translation services; and attorney Naeem Nulwala of Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation.
Cole's relatives were among those who attended Thursday's service, but for Dominic there was Renee Hutchinson, the Decatur woman who organized a prayer service for the boy in August with the help of his aunt Jennifer Tarragano of Decatur, Ala. Tarragano said Dominic never had a funeral or a memorial service.
“That little boy didn't have people looking out for him when he was here,” said Hutchison, whose adopted son, 8, survived being shaken as an infant. “Dominic deserves to be remembered.”
How States Can Help End Trafficking
by Nancy K. Kaufman
The idea of trafficking in humans calls up images of the slave trade in the 17th and 18th century, of immigrants lured into forced labor and prostitution during the great wave of immigration and the early twentieth century and of mobsters violating the Mann Act, which forbids taking persons across state lines for the purpose of prostitution.
Sadly, trafficking in human beings is not yesterday's news. Worldwide, it is estimated that more persons are held as slaves today than at the peak of the slave trade. In the US, efforts to address trafficking have intensified in the last two decades. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 was the first comprehensive federal law to address trafficking in persons. It defines sex trafficking as the "recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act," if the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud or coercion, or if the person induced to perform such an act is less than 18 years old. Sex and labor trafficking are often intertwined. Men, women and children brought to the US for slave labor are frequently sexually exploited and assaulted along their journey.
Spurred by the 2000 law and by advocacy groups, federal government departments have collaborated to develop strategies to end trafficking and aid its victims. The State Department has worked to end trafficking internationally and promote aid to its victims and punishment for its perpetrators. Since President Obama issued the groundbreaking executive order, "Strengthening Protections Against Trafficking in Persons in Federal Contracts," his administration has implemented new rules to enforce it.
Still much remains to be done to combat trafficking, particularly on the state level. Trafficking has been documented in every state, and a few state and local governments have completely overhauled how trafficking is prosecuted and how women forced to engage in sex for money by pimps or abductors are treated by the criminal justice and social service systems. But anti-trafficking programs and legal reforms must be accelerated. States are on the front line of the struggle against trafficking, and three pieces of legislation that states could enact would help immensely.
A "safe harbor" law would require minor children who engage in prostitution at the behest of an adult to be treated as victims, not criminals. When such children are granted immunity from prosecution, threatening victims with prosecution should they contact police -- an important tool used by traffickers -- is no longer useful. States should treat those under 18 as victims of abuse and neglect, and provide them the services they need. Such social services should address the unique circumstances of each case and not stigmatize those trapped by trafficking.
Another reform of state law would help those who have been trafficked, but who as adults were held legally responsible for their crimes. Often trafficking survivors have multiple arrests for prostitution before their trafficking status becomes apparent. With a criminal record, it is often hard for survivors to move forward with their lives -- their past may be behind them, but their record follows them wherever they go. Those convicted of nonviolent offenses while trafficked should be able to appeal to have their convictions vacated so that they can make a new life -- obtain legitimate employment, pursue education, retain immigrant visas and seek loans to finance cars, education and the like. Fourteen states now have such laws. As a New York judge observed in one case, "Victims of sex trafficking ... are blocked from decent jobs and other prospects of rebuilding their lives. Even after they escape from sex trafficking, the criminal record victimizes them for life."
A third change in state laws is a simple one: requiring certain business establishments to post the hotline maintained by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline (1-888-373-7888). The hotline is a significant resource connecting callers to law enforcement, social services and information about the crime of human trafficking. Operated by a nonprofit organization and funded by the US Department of Health and Human Services, it is toll-free, staffed 24/7, confidential and anonymous. It can assist victims of trafficking as well as those calling with tips for law enforcement. Twenty-two states have passed such legislation. Examples of where posting hotline information should be mandatory include massage parlors, spas or any similar establishment; sexually oriented businesses; anywhere with a liquor license; transportation hubs such as airports, bus stations and truck stops; hospitals; and large farms employing migrant labor, as well schools and job centers.
States can and should step up. Ending the scourge of trafficking requires not just the federal government, but a strong state response to those who traffic in humans and the survivors. Trafficking victims are often invisible and uniquely silenced. For those who wonder what they can do help, working to pass such laws is key to helping trafficking survivors find the help they need and the justice they deserve.
Travis Co. prosecutes less than half of child abuse cases
by Tom Miller
AUSTIN -- Child Protective Services confirmed 233 victims of sexual abuse and 418 victims of physical abuse last year in Travis County, yet the district attorney's office prosecuted just a fraction of the cases.
"What CPS may determine as a reason to believe child abuse has occurred, they're not necessarily looking at it from a beyond a reasonable doubt standard," said Mindy Montford, a former Travis County district attorney.
Montford said when that's taken into account, guilt becomes much harder to prove. As a result, last year, the district attorney's office prosecuted only 42 cases of injury to a child and 121 cases of physical abuse.
"Often times, in child abuse cases, you're just not going to have DNA, and that is very hard at trial for prosecutors to overcome that burden," Montford said.
Both the district attorney's office and CPS declined an on-camera interview, but CPS confirmed cases to the appropriate law enforcement agency, however often those departments are unable to prove the allegations.
"A report that says, '5-year-old observed with bruises on his back,' so there's no allegation of a crime, and just the information that a 5-year-old has a bruise, so that is one that we wouldn't turn in," said Lt. Justin Newsom with the Austin Police Department.
In the case of Colton Turner, found buried in a shallow grave in South Austin in September, CPS sent Austin, Lakeway and Cedar Park police, along with the Travis County Sheriff's Office, notifications regarding the 2-year-old.
APD did not say whether it ever received any notification about Turner from CPS, but it did say it didn't receive anything worth investigating.
"There are no offense reports in the Austin Police Department's system in which it's alleged Colton Turner was abused," Newsom said.
Only Lakeway police confirmed an investigation, but later closed the case, saying detectives found no evidence of a crime.
In total, CPS confirmed more than 2,600 cases of child abuse or neglect last year. The vast majority, more than 2,100, are neglect cases, which prosecutors say often do not meet criminal offense criteria.
New Advocacy Center Aims to Improve Legal Process for Child Abuse Victims
by Rose Lee
CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A new nonprofit organization in Franklin County wants to improve the legal process that suspected child abuse victims go through after crimes are reported.
Over The Rainbow Children's Advocacy Center provides a central location for children who are victims of crime, or are witnesses to crime, to speak with officials. That includes law enforcement officials, medical examiners, advocates, mental health providers, forensic interviewers and prosecutors.
"Before [the center was established], a child could go to five or six different physical places, including a hospital, children and youth, a police department,” said Matt Fogal, Franklin County district attorney and Over the Rainbow board president. “Now, they can go to one place and everyone who needs to deal with the case officially comes here."
The center, which is still preparing to open, is specifically tailored for kids and teens.
"We want this to be as anxiety-free, as trouble-free as it can be for the child,” Fogal said.
Inside the center, there is a forensic medical exam room and a place where officials involved in the case can remotely watch forensic interviews. The technology available limits the number of people a child abuse victim must speak with, and the atmosphere of the center aims to be kid-friendly.
"I want the community to know, this belongs to them,” said Dianne Kelso, executive director of Over the Rainbow. “This is their center on behalf of the children."
The center is expected to open later this year. Board members say they are in need of supplies and appreciate any support from community members.
Donations can be sent to:
Over The Rainbow Franklin County Children's Advocacy Center
1461 S. Main St.
Chambersburg, PA 17201
Concerns about child abuse and daycare providers
by Mark Roper
The Iowa daycare provider charged with killing a toddler in her care has been sentenced to 100 years in prison.
Rochelle Sapp, 34, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment resulting in death Thursday morning.
Autumn Elgersma, 3, died of blunt force trauma she suffered at Sapp's Orange City daycare.
Her sentencing comes a day after we learned a day care provider in Brandon is facing felony child abuse charges for injuries to a 15-month-old boy.
It's just the latest report of daycare abuse.
KSFY News looked into what's being done to keep kids safe at daycare.
Whether a parent is looking at in-home daycare or a center, the first thing anyone should do is be prepared.
Take along a list of questions so you can find the best daycare provider for your kids.
Finding a child daycare provider, especially for new parents, can be a stressful time.
Afterall, they're putting their child in someone else's hands.
There are a lot of questions parents should ask, and things to look for when choosing a place to take care of your kids.
Helpline Child Coordinator Jamie Butler said "I always suggest to go into the daycare and ask the provider if they can see every area of the house that the child would have access to, so that they know what they are getting in to. I really encourage them to ask some questions as well. Sit down with the provider. Let them know you're going to ask some questions and interview them, just like you would for a job."
"We can go through the steps and talk about that, so they're a little less overwhelmed about what they need to do, about finding quality daycare. That's kind of what I'm there for. It's not only to provide them with a list of referrals, but also to educate them on finding quality child care, with the tour, with the interview, and also keeping close contact and a positive relationship with that provider," Butler said.
The Helpline Center has an interview form that you can take with you when meeting with different providers.
If you're calling the DHS hotline to report child abuse, prepare to wait
by Randy Ellis
People calling an Oklahoma DHS hotline sometimes must wait more than two hours to report allegations of child abuse, according to a new monitoring report released Wednesday.
The Department of Human Services also has 1,254 child abuse and neglect investigations that are overdue — including 211 that have been overdue for more than six months.
These are just two of many areas where the agency has fallen short in its efforts to implement reforms agreed upon as part of a January 2012 settlement to a federal class-action lawsuit. The report comes from the third in a series released by three experts assigned to monitor compliance with the agreement.
Marcia Robinson Lowry, an attorney for the New York-based children's advocacy group that sued DHS over its child welfare efforts, blasted the agency for failing to meet reform goals of the state's Pinnacle Plan.
“Now, two years into the implementation of the Pinnacle Plan, and with additional resources from the Legislature, this agency continues to fail children, with inexcusable examples of mismanagement and resulting harm to children,” Lowry said in a news release.
Tulsa attorney Fred Dorwart, who assisted the New York organization Children's Rights in the lawsuit, said the settlement gives the three expert monitors, called co-neutrals, powers to enforce agreed upon reforms.
“The facts provided in this report cry out for the co-neutrals to exercise that authority and for the federal court to enforce their orders if the department continues to fail,” Dorwart said.
Agency cites progress
DHS issued its own statement Wednesday, accentuating some of the positive findings of the monitors and promising to continue working to comply fully with the agreement.
“While we still have a long way to go before we can be completely satisfied with our services, we are making progress to make this system better for kids and families,” said DHS Director Ed Lake. “We have increased in-home services to families in lieu of foster care. When children must be removed from their homes, the majority are placed with relatives or people the children know. Younger children are being kept out of shelters. Our workers are making required visits to the children in their caseloads and kids are moving less frequently between placements.”
A huge influx of abused and neglected children taken into state custody and DHS staffing shortages are contributing to many of the agency's problems.
The number of children in DHS custody has grown from 7,970 in 2010 to 11,573 earlier this year, an increase of more than 45 percent.
Long delays on hotline
Meanwhile, 33 of the 72 positions assigned to operate the child abuse hotline were vacant as of June. The agency has been trying hard to fill those positions, an agency spokeswoman said.
“The dearth of staff support has, at times, caused unacceptably long delays — on some days in excess of two hours — for callers trying to report allegations of child abuse and neglect,” the monitors reported.
Staffing problems were evident in other areas as well.
The agency experienced a 40 percent turnover in new child welfare workers last fiscal year — a problem driven in part by excessively high caseloads, the report said.
“DHS has not come close to meeting is target outcome of 90 percent of caseload carrying staff at manageable caseloads by the target date of June 30, 2014,” the monitors said.
Only 27.8 percent of caseworkers had caseloads that complied with the agreed upon standards at the end of June, the report said.
Other major shortcomings cited in the report include:
The agency only approved 764 new foster homes in fiscal year 2014, falling far short of its goal of 1,197 new homes at a time when the demand for new foster homes is increasing.
The agency has a goal of decreasing shelter use for all age groups but has failed to meet that goal for older children. The number of children between ages 6 and 12 in shelters has increased by 11 percent and the number of children over age 13 has increased by 21 percent.
DHS' performance in achieving permanent placements for children in its custody has declined.
The agency has fallen short of meeting its targets despite receiving more than $93 million in new money from state lawmakers to fund the first first three years of the five-year reform plan, the report noted.
The monitors did praise the agency's performance in some areas, however.
The agency has achieved dramatic declines in the number of nights that children under age 6 have been required to stay in shelters, the report said.
The agency also has “substantially strengthened the training and performance of its Office of Client Advocacy, which investigates allegations of child abuse and neglect in group homes, shelters and residential treatment facilities.
DHS caseworkers also made 118,824 out of 123,343 required visits with children last fiscal year, a compliance rate of 96.3 percent. Primary caseworkers made 76 percent of the visits, a significant improvement from the 51.2 percent of visits made by primary caseworkers when improvement goals were established.
DHS officials say they have made progress, even in some areas where they are drawing criticism.
While the agency was criticized for placing more older children in shelters, there were also more older children placed outside of shelters, said Sheree Powell, spokeswoman for the agency. The huge increase in children taken into state custody explains the simultaneous increase in both numbers.
And while there is currently a 1,254 case backlog in child abuse and neglect investigations, that number has been reduced considerably from the 3,600 case backlog a year ago, she said.
The agency has added 772 child welfare specialists and assistants since 2012, decreased the average number of times children have been required to relocate between foster homes and granted granted two pay raises to child welfare specialists and two rate increases to foster parents in 2014, Powell said.
“We are absolutely committed to implementing the Pinnacle Plan in order to improve the way we care for the children in our custody,” Lake said. “We have a myriad of efforts underway, which are already showing positive results.”
UK builds child sexual abuse image database
by Mark Ward
The UK is creating a national database of images of child sexual abuse seized during police raids on paedophiles and sites that trade in the content.
The Child Abuse Image Database (CAID) will help UK police forces co-ordinate investigations into abuse.
Huge growth in the number of abuse images circulating online means forces need help analysing what they seize.
The database is part of a massive international effort to classify images and track down victims.
The need for CAID has arisen because such action against abusers and websites often leaves police forces needing to categorise hundreds of thousands and sometimes millions of images.
Many of these images will have been seen before as the trade in abuse content has led to them being duplicated many times. This can make it difficult for investigators to pick out novel images that could lead them to victims that have not been seen before.
In a statement, policing minister Mike Penning said CAID was "a watershed moment in this government's drive to stamp out the despicable crime of online child sexual exploitation".
"The outcomes will be life-changing, and in some cases life-saving," he said. "That is how important this database is."
The CAID database is also part of a larger international effort called Project Vic that seeks to classify images held by forces around the world.
Richard Brown from the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, which is helping co-ordinate Project Vic, said the two initiatives were using the same protocols to ensure images could be swapped back and forth easily.
Seven other countries were already helping with Project Vic and more were expected to sign up soon, he said.
"It is groundbreaking for law enforcement, tool providers, non-profits and industry to all stand together and agree on the need to standardize the approach to such egregious crimes," Mr Brown told the BBC.
CAID is being built by tech firms NetClean, Hubstream and L-3 ASA and is set to be working by the end of 2014.
As well as improving collaboration among police forces, it is hoped that the database will save forces more than £7.5m by cutting the time it takes to conduct investigations.
HSI, Colombian authorities rescue 55 sex trafficking victims, all minors
Victims as young as 11 years old
BOGOTA, Colombia — An international undercover law enforcement operation culminated Saturday with the arrests of 12 individuals involved in sex trafficking and the rescue of 55 sex trafficking victims, all minors.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Attaché Office in Colombia and the Colombian Attorney General's Technical Investigative Corps Transnational Criminal Investigative Unit (CTI TCIU) conducted the operation that was carried out simultaneously in Cartagena, Medellin and Armenia, all Colombian cities.
Eleven Colombian citizens face charges for human trafficking of minors, pimping and pandering. Details regarding the remaining individual are not being disclosed pending the completion of the investigation.
Individuals arrested in Armenia include: Erwin Rene Ordonez-Ortiz, Javier Giovanny Aguirre-Garcia and Lina Maria Gonzalez-Henao. Cartagena arrests include: Horacia Rebolledo Pacheco, Kelly Johana Suarez Moy, Eduardo Ortega, Juan Manuel Oquendo Sierra and Samuel David Olave Martinez. Four individuals – Veronica Builes-Bonet, Luisa Fernanda Velasquez, Alexander Alberto Villegas and a non-disclosed individual – were arrested in Medellin.
The Colombian Attorney General's Office is prosecuting the Colombian nationals. If convicted, the defendants face between five and 20 years imprisonment.
The rescued victims are all Colombian minors, some as young as 11 years old. They are in the care of Bienestar Familiar (Colombia's Child Protective Services). Eighty-five percent of those rescued were females. Some of the victims were allegedly drugged with ecstasy and cocaine.
During the takedown, one 11-year-old girl broke down in tears thanking the officials who rescued her. She was allegedly sold for $1,000 in U.S. currency since she was a virgin.
"It's unconscionable that people engage in the sexual trafficking of innocent children," said HSI Colombia Attaché Luis Sierra. "Through this successful bilateral operation, the U.S. and Colombia are sending a clear message that we will go to any length to identify and catch the monsters that exploit our vulnerable children."
Breaking Chains and Underground Railroad, both U.S. nonprofit organizations dedicated to eradicating the sexual exploitation of children, assisted with this case. The Colombian Navy and Coast Guard also participated.
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.
From the FBI
Sex Trafficker Receives 40-Year Sentence
Texas Man Found Young Victims Through Social Media Sites
It is yet another example of how social media can be dangerous for young people. Recently, a Houston man was sentenced to 40 years in prison on child sex trafficking charges after identifying and contacting young girls through social media platforms and then luring them into prostitution.
Back in 2012, 20-year-old Tevon Harris—aka “Da Kidd” or “King Kidd”—didn't have a legitimate job. He lived on and off with his mother but mostly moved from one motel room to the next. And he was very good at manipulating people. Harris trolled social media websites looking for vulnerable young girls he could sexually exploit. Online, he complimented them. He offered them modeling jobs. And he promised them lots of money.
Some agreed to meet with him, and he would go and pick them up. But what waited for them was not the glamorous modeling world. It was a nightmarish world of motel rooms, forced sexual encounters—with Harris himself and then with paying customers—and other degrading and violent acts.
Harris used violence and intimidation to keep the girls cooperative. He took their wallets and their cell phones, cutting off their communication with the outside world. In one instance, he deprived a victim of food for four days because he thought she wasn't serving a client well enough. He also supplied her with marijuana and alcohol. Another victim was beaten with a towel rack torn from a motel room wall when Harris found her using a phone to call her mother for help. And he helped himself to all the money paid by customers.
Using photos he took or occasionally pilfered from the victims' own social media pages, Harris advertised the girls' services on various Internet websites.
The case was investigated by the FBI's Child Exploitation Task Force in Houston, one of many child-focused task forces that we participate in around the country, working side by side with our partner agencies to investigate individuals and criminal enterprises responsible for victimizing young people. The Houston task force works closely with the Houston Police Department—in particular, its Vice and Juvenile Sex Crimes Divisions—and it was Houston uniformed officers who recovered one of Harris' victims and subsequently notified the task force.
The task force collected enough evidence to convince Harris to plead guilty. There was also enough evidence to prompt the judge to order that—after serving his 40-year sentence—Harris spend the rest of his life on supervised release. He's also required to register as a sex offender.
The dangers and pitfalls of social media cannot be overstated, especially for young people. Here are a few tips on how to stay safe online:
Only “friend” and connect to people online that you know personally.
Set your social media security settings so that only confirmed friends and connections can see what you are posting.
Never post a picture of yourself or write anything on social media sites—or in e-mails and text messages—that you wouldn't want the world to see.
Be wary of giving anyone you meet through social media your phone number, e-mail address, or home address. Use common sense.
And most importantly, be aware that anyone you meet online may not be who they say they are.
Bill would close NJ child abuse disclosure loophole
by Kevin McArdle
Religious organizations in New Jersey may have child abusers working or volunteering for them and not be aware of it, according to one state lawmaker.
Currently, the New Jersey Department of Children and Families (DCF) is authorized to relay information about people with a history of child abuse or neglect to law enforcement agencies, physicians, daycare centers, but not religious groups. A bill recently approved by the Assembly Women and Children Committee seeks to correct what the sponsor called, “an oversight.”
“Right now, religious institutions aren't afforded that same level of information. It seems pretty straight forward that this is something we want to correct,” said Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-Mount Laurel) . “When we put children in someone's care we have to go the extra mile to make sure that those who have them in their care are folks that we would find suitable and upstanding.”
It was a recent court case that made Singleton aware of the situation. The case involved a man who had been found guilty of abusing and neglecting his two children who later applied for a job as a youth pastor. The Division of Child Protection and Permanency asked the courts to allow the information to be released to the church. Permission was granted, but the appellate division reversed the decision in April.
“My bill would allow DCF to inform religious institutions and permit the institutions to request that DCF conduct a check of its child abuse records to determine whether or not a current or prospective employee or volunteer for that matter who has access to kids has any substantiated claims against them,” Singleton explained.
The bill applies to child abuse or neglect of any kind that has been substantiated and is on file in DCF's records Singleton said.
John Grisham: sentences too harsh for viewing child abuse images
Best-selling crime author blasts US justice system, saying ‘jails are full of 60-year-old white men who never harmed anybody'
Press Association -- The Guardian
Top-selling author John Grisham says people who look at child abuse images “probably had too much to drink” and should be given lighter prison sentences.
The novelist, 59, criticised the length of imprisonment imposed on offenders who download images of children being sexually abused. He also revealed that one of his friends had been caught in a sting.
The writer made the comments during an interview in which he blasted the US justice system and the high number of serving convicts.
“We have prisons now filled with guys my age. Sixty-year-old white men in prison who have never harmed anybody, would never touch a child,” he told the UK's Telegraph newspaper. “But they got online one night and started surfing around, probably had too much to drink or whatever, and pushed the wrong buttons, went too far and got into child porn.”
Grisham said too many people were being jailed for crimes such as minor drugs charges and white collar crime. He added that judges had “gone crazy” during the past 30 years.
The author of legal thrillers such as The Firm and A Time To Kill, who has sold more than 275m books during his 25-year career, added that his friend from law school had been jailed for three years for viewing child abuse images in Canada.
He said the site was labelled “16-year-old wannabe hookers” and that his friend's drinking had been out of control at the time.
Grisham said the US had “gone nuts” on incarceration and criticised the number of people being prosecuted as sex offenders. “I have no sympathy for real paedophiles. God, please lock those people up. But so many of these guys do not deserve harsh prison sentences, and that's what they're getting,” he said.
Asked about the fact that viewing such content fuels abuse of youngsters to create the images, Grisham insisted that sentences should be lower for people who only downloaded it.
Child sex abuse victim testifies: 'I thought it was normal'
by Thyrie Bland
BAY MINETTE, Alabama -- A 16-year-old girl described in graphic detail for a jury Wednesday how she was sexually abused by relatives and a friend of her family.
"It was normal," the girl said during her nearly hour-long testimony Wednesday morning. "They (did) it all the time and a lot. I thought that it was normal."
The victim testified in the trial of William "Billy" Brownlee, 50, of Eight Mile. Brownlee, a friend of the girl's family, is accused of sexually abusing her.
The girl is related to Brittney Wood, the Mobile County woman who has been missing since 2012. Eleven people -- members of Wood's family and friends of her family members -- have been arrested in a child sex abuse investigation.
The trial started Tuesday in Baldwin County Circuit Court Judge Jody Bishop's courtroom. The prosecution called five witnesses to testify Wednesday before resting its case. The defense rested without calling any witnesses.
When the trial resumes at 9 a.m. Thursday, the prosecution and defense will make their closing arguments.
Part of Brownlee's defense is that he was forced by a relative of the girl to have sex with her. He also alleged in a video played during the trial that he was raped by members of the girl's family when he was a child.
"I think it was compelling stuff to tell you the truth," Thomas Pilcher, Brownlee's attorney, said of the video."He obviously broke down in there when he was talking about the things that happened in his childhood."
Brownlee was indicted in 2012 on second-degree sodomy and second-degree sexual abuse charges. He is accused of performing a sex act on the girl when she was 12 or 13 years old and while one of her relatives watched.
The victim described that incident to the jury. She also talked about several other occasions in which she alleged Brownlee sexually abused her.
The victim said two of her relatives and Brownlee were present during one of the incidents. She said she thinks one of her relatives taped what happened.
The girl also told the jury about a time when Brownlee walked up to her, touched her breasts and kissed her neck.
"I just kind of nudged him away," she said.
Brownlee: 'They all raped me'
Brownlee did not testify in his own defense. The jury did hear from him in two, hour-long recordings.
One of the recordings was a July 22, 2012, interview with two Baldwin County Sheriff's Office investigators. The other was a video of an Aug. 31, 2012, interview Brownlee did with a Mobile Police Department polygrapher.
In the first interview, Brownlee was asked about allegations that he had sexually abused the victim and her sister. He denied the allegations throughout the video.
"They would have to be lying because I never touched one of those of girls," he said.
Brownlee admitted to sexual contact with the victim in the second interview, but said he was forced to do it by a relative of the girl.
He also said the relative and other relatives of the victim sexually assaulted him when he was a boy.
Brownlee's voice cracked, and he started to cry as as he described what happened to him.
"His brother raped me," Brownlee said. "He raped me. His other brother raped me. They all raped me."
Brownlee was asked in the video about having sex with the victim's underage sister at a hotel.
Brownlee admitted to having sex with the girl, but he said at the time he thought she was 21 years old.
Brownlee also described seeing video of several of members of the victim's relatives having sex with each other.
The victim's 19-year-old sister also testified Wednesday. She said a relative took her to the hotel to see Brownlee when she was an eighth-grader.
She said she thought the relative was taking her to get a hamster. She said she was forced to have sex with Brownlee in the hotel room as her relative watched.
Another woman testified Wednesday that when she was 12 years old Brownlee tried to have sex with her. She said she told him to stop after he started touching her.
The woman, who is now 23 years old, said what happened to her was reported to police. She said the last thing she heard about the case was there was not enough evidence to proceed.
Baldwin County Assistant District Attorney Teresa Heinz said she thinks things have gone well for the prosecution during the trial. She said the victim and the other women who testified were truthful about the things that happened to them.
"This was a difficult process for them," Heinz said. "It's bad enough to have had these things happen to you, but to have to stand up in front of a room full of strangers and the person who did them to you and talk about it is beyond hard."
Anniston mother charged with not reporting sexual abuse of 5-year-old
by William Thornton
ANNISTON, Alabama -- Calhoun County authorities have arrested an Anniston woman on sexual abuse charges after they say she failed to report a man was abusing her five-year-old daughter.
Sheriff Larry Amerson said Brittany Day was arrested Friday on charges of sexual abuse of a child under the age of 12. She was released on $7,500 bond, and faces an Oct. 30 court date.
Day's arrest comes about a week after David Anthony Williams, 21, was charged with first degree rape and sodomy involving the five-year-old.
Amerson said investigators were approached by the girl's family after the child reported inappropriate contact between Williams and the girl. Amerson said the girl told them the man told her it was "a game."
Day's arrest came after investigators learned the child told Day on several occasions the abuse was occurring, and the mother did not report it to authorities or prevent any contact between the child and Williams, Amerson said.
"In my time as sheriff, we've not had something like this before," he said.
The Calhoun-Cleburne Children's Center, District Attorney's Office, and the Department of Human Resources assisted in the investigation.
Commercial sexual exploitation survivor speaks out
by Natalie Potts
CHATTANOOGA, TN -- It's taken several decades for Commercial Sexual Exploitation Survivor Kate Price to find the courage to share her story. The guest speaker for UTC's second annual Take Back the Night Movement will take the stage before others taking a stand against sexual violence across the Tennessee Valley, Wednesday.
Kate Price speaks with Channel 3 about sexual violence and the shame victims often feel.
"You did nothing wrong, it took me so many decades to figure that out and I knew that in my brain, but to really feel that in your heart is something very different that you did nothing wrong," said Price.
For her, the sexual and physical abuse started at age 6.
"People suspected something was wrong and they said nothing," said Price.
Statistics show people know this is happening and say nothing, It's estimated that more than half of violent sexual crimes against men, women, and children go unreported.
"My exploitation was family controlled. No one stood up for me . So I confronted my exploiter, he was telling me I was special this was happening to me. Only special little girls get to go to adult parties," said Price.
Cassie Nice with UTC Women's Center tells Channel 3 about one in every four college age women will become a victim of attempted or completed sexual assault in their lifetime. Their event, Take Back The Night is a movement to put an end to sexual violence.
"Chattanooga is a big hub for sex trafficking because of where we are located and I don't think people realize the amount of individuals that are trafficked through our area," said Nice.
Price says she hopes her story will help other victims break their silence.
"Every 2-minutes a person in America is sexually assaulted... that's a public health epidemic," said Price.
"There are so many victims out there that we do not know about and that's really what we want to do with this movement 'Take Back The Night' is to say it's okay to share your story and what happened to you is not your fault it's never the victim's fault," said Nice.
All proceeds from the movement will go to help Chattanooga Crisis Center Partnership for Families, Children and Adults.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with domestic, or sexual violence call our area Family Violence/ Sexual Assault Hotline 423-755-2700.
At 3, She Was Raped in Delhi and Testified. At 5, Surgeries Continue
by Sunetra Choudhury
New Delhi -- She was three when she was raped and made to testify in court against her attacker, who was then let off on grounds that the child's account was "unreliable".
In a landmark judgement this week, the Delhi High Court criticized the trial court and convicted the rapist. The child, now five, didn't need to go to court this time.
Court papers call her "Baby N" but to lawyers who fought her case, she is "Amal" or hope. Her cheerful manner betrays nothing of a crime so brutal that she had to go through three reconstructive surgeries, with a fourth on the way.
"She identified him, she is the one who took the police to the jungle and found his clothes," said her mother.
But the judge asked the three-year-old - "Gudiya tum jhoot bol rahi ho (child, you are lying, right?") True or not?" When her mother asked the judge to see the evidence, she was told, "Don't interrupt."
Amal's mother earns 200 rupees a day and has battled alone after she was abandoned by her family. The 25-year-old was so desperate that she left her daughter in an orphanage for six months, believing she would recover faster there.
She hopes when the rapist is sentenced on October 27, she can return with Amal to their home in West Delhi, which they left in a hurry after the attacker was freed.
Amal's story is a textbook case of what goes wrong in a rape trial. She was let down by a fast track court set up for quicker justice in a massive overhaul of laws after the 2012 gang-rape.
On Monday, High Court judges Mukta Gupta and Pradeep Nandrajog noted how Amal had taken the witness stand and pointed at her rapist, and how she was questioned like an adult witness.
The trial court called her 'untrustworthy' as she couldn't describe the incident clearly and explain why she went with the man.
The high court judges observed, "A three-year-old is not accountable for how she accompanied the accused to a secluded spot."
Swathi Sukumar, one of Amal's lawyers, said, "What's amazing in amal's case is that usually rape victims are too traumatised but she was able to identify the rapist and lead them to evidence."
Testimony underway in Solebury School sex abuse scandal
by Matt Coughlin
A Bucks County grand jury is investigating decades-old claims of child sex abuse by former faculty at the Solebury School.
School head Thomas Wilschutz issued two letters to the school community acknowledging some former faculty and staff sexually abused students in the 1950s through the 1970s. The letters were posted to the school website and mailed to alumni. In the first, Wilschutz acknowledged the abuse. In the second, he disclosed a sexual relationship between Robert Shaw, the school's founder, and an unidentified student.
Carole Trickett says she is that student. Trickett is one of two former Solebury School graduates who say they'll be speaking to the grand jury that has been empaneled on this issue. Trickett, 77, of Maine, said she's scheduled to testify in November.
Trickett said she was 14 when Shaw, then 51 or 52, began a sexual relationship with her. She still has a note she said proves school officials knew about the relationship. Trickett said she knows Shaw, who died in 1982, was inappropriate with other students.
The Bucks County District Attorney's Office declined to comment on the grand jury. Attorneys, court employees and jurors are prevented by law from revealing the existence of a grand jury or of any of its proceedings. Witnesses are not, however.
In a statement to the newspaper, Wilschutz said: “With respect to your inquiry regarding a grand jury, you really need to check with the district attorney's office on that question. I do not have any direct knowledge that such a step has been taken and to the best of my knowledge no one at Solebury School has been contacted regarding this matter.”
Trickett said years after Shaw's death, in the 1990s, she contacted the school and was told by a now-retired headmaster: “Can't you tell yourself you were just a kid and forget it?”
What she didn't know then was the school was in the process of settling a civil lawsuit involving an affair between a music teacher in his mid-20s and a 15-year-old girl. The teacher, charged with sex crimes and sent to state prison, gave her drugs and encouraged her to have sex with others.
In recent years, Trickett said she repeatedly contacted Wilschutz about the abuse, leading up to his letters to the school community in July and September.
Peter Robbins, a member of the class of 1969, said he was shocked by the allegations against Shaw — but not by the allegations of sex abuse at the school.
Robbins, 63, of Albany, New York, said he's testifying before the grand jury Thursday and will tell jury members he was raped by a teacher and others, that the school knew about it and nothing was done.
Robbins said a teacher and one of the teacher's friends took him to a home off campus in 1968. He said he was drugged and awoke to find himself bleeding. He fled the home and went to the school's headmaster, who told him he'd probably been raped.
The headmaster took Robbins to be treated for his injuries and, Robbins said, he knew what had happened. But the teacher kept teaching at the school.
“For many, many, many years, I believed it was my fault, that I did something that made them do this to me,” Robbins said. “It's something that stays with you forever, something you learn to live with.”
After he graduated, Robbins said he moved as far away from the school as he could. He became a teacher, he said, because he wanted to make sure what happened to him didn't happen to anyone else.
“I want to hold the school responsible,” Robbins said. “They got away with it and apparently I'm not the only one it happened to and nothing was done. They might as well have hung a sign that said ‘If you are a pedophile come here, you will get away with it.'”
Criminal charges and civil lawsuits are not likely in the cases of Robbins or Trickett because the statutes of limitations ran out a long time ago, according to state law.
Yeshiva University law professor Marci A. Hamilton said a prosecutor can bring criminal charges as of result of claims by alumni who graduated in 1995 or later. For a civil claim against the school to proceed, the plaintiff would have to be from the class of 2000 or a later class.
Hamilton, a Washington Crossing resident who has been following the Solebury School case, specializes in statutes of limitations and child protection laws and advocates for extending legal timelines.
In 2007, in the wake of a grand jury report on child sexual abuse in the Philadelphia Archdiocese, state law expanded the statute of limitations.
According to Hamilton, a prosecutor could pursue a criminal case if the sexual abuse victim hadn't turned 30 by Jan. 27, 2007. And that victim has until his or her 50th birthday to report the crime.
Pursuing a civil claim against the school would follow a different legal timeline.
In 2002, Pennsylvania expanded the eligibility to file a civil suit in sex abuse cases after a series of coverups were documented by The Boston Globe. As a result, if someone turned 20 on or after Aug. 26, 2002, that person would have until age 30 to file a civil suit against a perpetrator of child abuse.
In the Solebury School case, she said, a victim who graduated in 2000 or later would be legally able to file a civil suit.
There is no legal remedy for allegations by victims who fall outside the statute of limitations, Hamilton said.
“The impact of not being able to obtain justice — they never get that moment where society says to them: This is not your fault,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton said survivors of child abuse experience shame and guilt. According to her experience, the average survivor reaches his or her early 40s before making allegations.
But, she said, there are some cases where people haven't come forward until their 80s and others where kids have reported being abused.
There's a lot of embarrassment and humiliation felt by victims, Hamilton said, and usually they're dealing with someone — a parent, a teacher or another adult — who they love and they don't know how to process the abuse.
Trickett said she knows there won't be any charges in her case and no lawsuit. She said she does know there are allegations of abuse in 2005 that could lead to charges. And she said she's glad for that victim. But there are more than just charges and lawsuits to be considered, she said.
“We can hold the school responsible for a crime that was covered up for decades — that needs to be known,” Trickett said. “We were dishonored as children. Now they can show us some honor.”
5 teens charged in urine-laced 'Ice Bucket Challenge' prank on autistic boy: Justice?
by John Luciew
The five suburban teens involved are described by Ohio law enforcement officials as friends who regularly hang out and, at times, engage in "distasteful" and "sophomoric" pranks.
But their alleged action plan to dump a bucket of urine, water and tobacco spit on an autistic 15-year-old boy who thought he was participating in the ice-bucket challenge for ALS charity clearly crossed the line into criminal activity, according to Cuyahoga County Prosecutors.
"This incident is clearly different. It crossed a moral and legal line, and even the five alleged perpetrators understand that and have expressed regret," Assistant County Prosecutor Duane Deskins, who heads the office's Juvenile Division, said in a release quoted by our sister website, Cleveland.com.
With that, prosecutor's office filed juvenile charges in the case, which drew national attention and ignited rallies in the local community.
According to the Associated Press, three of the teens face juvenile charges of delinquency, assault and disorderly conduct. They will be asked to go with their parents to the Bay Village police station to be booked. The other two teens were charged with disorderly conduct and will be sent summonses to appear in court, AP wrote.
All the teens, including the victim, are from Bay Village near Cleveland and attend Bay High School.
Background according to AP: The encounter occurred on Aug. 18 at the home of one of the suspects, authorities said. It was reported to police on Sept. 3 after the victim's mother found a video of it on her son's cellphone.
The woman urged the media to share the video widely, and celebrities including Cleveland native Drew Carey offered reward money to catch whoever was involved — although authorities said they knew who dumped the bucket on the teen.
Rotherham abuse victim starts campaign for counselling services funding
This victim of the Rotherham child sex scandal was raped and abused for two years, made pregnant twice and tried to kill herself – but is still on a waiting list for counselling.
Now Jessica has issued a heartbreaking plea for more money for therapy services to help abuse victims.
Jessica – not her real name – has written to Justice Secretary Chris Grayling calling for more cash to be available.
And she has launched an online petition, with the help of The Star, to try to increase pressure on the Government to release funding to help child sexual exploitation victims.
Jessica tells the Justice Secretary how she:
Was abused aged 14 by one man for two years
Became pregnant twice, aged just 14 and 15
Suffered depression and attempted suicide
Has never had counselling
Jessica's plea comes after the Jay Report revealed at least 1,400 children had been victims of abuse in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013.
Her petition reads: “In the wake of the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal, detailed in Professor Alexis Jay's report, we call for more funding to be made available for counselling services for abuse victims.
“Victims of serious sexual abuse in Rotherham who have suffered from depression and attempted suicide are on waiting lists for services because of the limited funding available to counselling groups. This petition calls for the Government to make a commitment to increase funding for such specialist services, to ensure there is structured help and support for victims to allow them to rebuild their lives.”
Jessica, now 29, was abused from the age of 14 by one man for around two years, with attempts by her parents to get the police to stop the abuse going ignored.
She became pregnant twice – first having an abortion, then a baby boy at 16 – suffered depression, and made a suicide attempt, but is still on a waiting list for counselling because of the high demand for services.
Jessica said in her letter: “I want to raise awareness for victims and survivors like myself to help prevent this happening to anyone else.
“I believe if I'd had the correct support and counselling when I was a child it would have helped me and my son have a more stable and structured life. I am currently on the waiting list to receive counselling so I am writing to you to ask you to put more funding into the help and support of abuse victims and help them to build a future.
“I feel not enough is being done, not just in Rotherham but around the country. If our authorities are seen to be taking things more seriously more victims will come forward and have faith they will be listened to and helped.”
She said she has struggled in her adult life with coming to terms with what she went through as a teenager.
She said: “I had a bad time and I tried to kill myself. I felt really dirty. I just felt I was below everybody and not worthy. I got diagnosed with depression and put on medication.”
Jessica's main abuser met her just after her 14th birthday and – despite being known to the police and social services – was able to have a sexual relationship with her for two years.
Her parents told the police within days of the abuse starting, but were told there was nothing officers would do to stop the relationship.
Her parents placed her in care in an attempt to protect her – but her contact with the abuser continued and Jessica claims he even went on a holiday with her and her foster carers to Skegness.
The relationship became violent and Jessica said she ‘lost count' of how many times she was attacked as she tried to sever contact with the man – who has never been arrested in connection with her case.
Jessica says she hopes organisations such as Rotherham Women's Counselling Service, which has seven part-time counsellors and two student placements, can be provided with more Government funding.
The organisation relies on grants to survive, and its funding from the Ministry of Justice due to ended.
It also received Lottery funding, which runs until 2017, and money from the Police and Crime Commissioner's office, which is available until March.
It has no money from the NHS, despite 30 per cent of its referrals coming from the health service.
Rotherham Council does not fund the organisation, but is due to agree a £20,000 grant for more specialist counselling.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said the Government ‘is working' to increase the money it provides to victims' services and hopes to double the £50m it spends.
He said: “This government agrees that victims of heinous crimes like rape and sexual abuse should receive the specialist support they need to help them cope and recover. That's why we delivered on the pledge to put rape support centres on a more secure financial footing as well as help establish 15 new ones. There are 84 female rape support centres across England and Wales, with two to follow.
“We are also working to double the £50m we have historically provided to a wide range of victims' services.
“This year more money than ever before is being spent to support victims, much of which is allocated to Police and Crime Commissioners so they can ensure local services meet local need.”
Sex Trafficking Victims: Doctors Who Did Abortions On Us Were Also Clients
by Carole Novielli
A new report on Sex Trafficking has revealed that many women who are victims of Human Trafficking have also had several abortions at Planned Parenthood and abortion facilities.
The authors interviewed several survivors of sex trafficking who stated that many of their pregnancies were forcibly aborted at abortion clinics and some of the doctors may have been clients of their pimps.
In the report entitled, Health Consequences of Sex Trafficking, published by the Annals of Health Law, it reads, “the prevalence of forced abortions is an especially disturbing trend in sex trafficking…The survivors in this study reported that they often did not freely choose the abortions they had while being trafficked.”
One survivor stated, “I was under serious pressure from my pimps to abort the babies.”
The report notes that survivors had “significant contact with clinical treatment facilities, most notable Planned Parenthood.”
Survivors also stated that they received birth control and other medical services from providers who knew they were being controlled by a pimp.
Perhaps the most disturbing fact is that even though abortion is supposed to be about choice many of these survivors were given forced abortions at majority Planned Parenthood and abortion clinics where the doctors may have been sex trafficking clients.
Roughly two-thirds of survivors who specified a location for their abortions, identified a clinic as the site of their abortion.
Mark Crutcher, president of the national pro-life group, Life Dynamics says that abortion clinics covering for forced abortions is nothing new, “Over the years, we have acquired tape recordings of National Abortion Federation (NAF) conventions in which discussions about women being forced to have abortions were held. The prevailing attitude expressed in these sessions may best be described as one of “convenient indifference.” Attendees will acknowledge the problem's existence and talk about it in disapproving tones, while making it clear that they feel no obligation to let it influence the way they deal with these women. Their philosophical position seems to be that, even if a woman chooses to have an abortion she doesn't want because of threats from others, it remains within the “pro-choice” purview since she was still the one who ultimately made the decision. In fact, on the NAF tapes mentioned above, some abortion clinic employees can be heard paraphrasing this very argument and using it to justify their habit of looking the other way. It is a truly bizarre rationalization analogous to saying that women who submit to sexual relations at the point of a gun are not really being raped since, technically, they are consenting.”
Another concerning fact is that survivors identified some of these abortion doctors as clients:
According to the report one survivor described her situation, “I got pregnant six times and had six abortions during this time. Several of them were from a doctor who was a client- he did them back door- I came in the back door after hours and paid them off the books. This kept my name off any records…At least one of my abortions was from Planned Parenthood because they didn't ask any questions.”
This news is disturbing. Are abortion and Planned Parenthood doctors who are seeing minor girls for abortions also clients of sex traffickers? Planned Parenthood gets half a billion federal dollars in tax monies and this is something which should seriously be investigated.
Covering for Child Sexual Abuse:
We know that many victims of sex trafficking are minor children so the fact that survivors are reporting that their abortion doctors may also be clients is something we cannot take lightly.
In fact, Life Dynamics, has been exposing how child rapists use abortion to cover their crimes.
They have recently posted summaries of 60 criminal cases where hiding of sexual abuse occurred. The report they titled, The Cover-Up of Child Sexual Abuse is very damming of the abortion and Planned Parenthood industry.
Mark Crutcher, president of Life Dynamics makes it clear that the failure of abortion facilities to report suspected child abuse is causing children to be repeatedly raped, sometimes for years after their abortions, “In almost every case of adult men having sex with minor girls, the perpetrators are aware that the relationship is illegal and could land them in prison,” Crutcher says, “They also know that one of the most likely ways for them to get caught is for their victims to become pregnant. When that happens, their back up plan is inevitably going to involve abortion. As a result, there is no place within the medical community where underage victims of sexual abuse are more likely to be found than at abortion clinics. The question is: how are these girls dealt with when they show up at those clinics?”
Crutcher continues, “It is important to understand that mandatory reporters are neither obligated nor authorized to investigate these incidents. Whatever conclusions they might reach about the legality or illegality of a child's sexual activity has no bearing on their obligations as mandatory reporters. If they are presented with evidence of sexual activity by a patient who, by reason of her age, cannot legally consent to sexual activity, their only duty is to report to the authorities. The responsibility for determining whether a criminal act has or has not occurred belongs only to the state.”
In a press released issued at the time the group published their report, Crutcher states, “ it is almost universally accepted that sexual predators who target children almost never stop on their own. Instead, they continue until they are stopped by someone else. In reading the cases you will see incident after incident in which girls continued to be raped and sexually abused – sometimes for years – after the abortion clinic where they were taken ignored the state's mandatory reporting law. But once the situation was eventually revealed to the authorities, the perpetrator was arrested and the abuse ended immediately. This illustrates why compliance with these laws is such an indispensable tool for dealing with our national epidemic of older males sexually exploiting underage girls.”
You can read the entire report here.
Brookline Interactive event shows teens, parents how to talk about dating violence
by Weiwen Zhao
Brookline High School senior Gavin Hui knows how challenging it is to talk about teen dating violence with his peers.
“To be honest, it is really hard to really talk to your friends about their relationship, because you don't want to be the person who is detecting what they should be doing,” said Hui, 18, a member of the Steps to Success program. “Because it's their relationship and they should have the control over what they do.”
On Thursday, Oct. 9, Hui was one of five panelists for the “Purple Tie Event” hosted by the Brookline Interactive Group, which featured conversations about healthy relationships and domestic abuse prevention. Proceeds from the event were donated to the Jennifer A. Lynch Committee Against Domestic Violence.
One of the main topics of the night was how to deal with teen dating violence and how to begin a conversation with teens.
“I think it has to start much earlier than people think it has to start,” said Michelle Cove, one of the panelists. “Even when my daughter was 7 years old…and she was watching [Disney movies]…we started right away. What's this relationship with the prince? How can you tell one prince from the other prince? What do you think about how the princess reacted?”
Cove is the executive director and founder of MEDIAGIRLS, a non-profit program that teaches middle school girls to analyze female images in mainstream media, and empowers them to create healthier ones. One of the most important things to do when speaking to youth, Cove said, is to talk without judgment, which means to approach with questions, and let children explore and say what they think.
“Often if you do that, they will come back and say, ‘What do you think?'” she said.
According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, more than one in three women have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. And approximately 7 million women are raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former intimate partner each year.
About 15.5 million children are exposed to domestic violence every year, and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence and sexual assault.
Lovern Gordon, president of Love Life Now Foundation, has hosted workshops on teen dating violence and has encountered the challenge of encouraging teenagers to talk about their situation openly. However, she said, as the conversation progresses, hands are raised.
And eventually, someone will ask a question like, “Well, what if a girlfriend of mine is experiencing this?” or “What if a guy friend of mine is doing this?”
“More often than not, they are talking about themselves,” said Gordon.
Gordon, 37, was a witness of domestic violence in her childhood, and then a victim in her early 20s. Three years ago, she founded the Love Life Now Foundation to improve the lives of victims and survivors of domestic violence.
Gordon said in an interview after the panel that it's important to “[meet teens] where they are at,” such as handing out flyers at basketball games.
She said those who get the flyers may not be victims of abuse themselves, but they can pass on the information to others who are going through an abusive relationship.
“So when they are ready to make the decision to leave or seek help, [the flyer] is there,” she said.
For parents, talking with their kids about a potentially dangerous relationship could also be a tough conversation. Hui said if a parent is close to the child, sometimes the child wants space and doesn't want to talk about deep and personal topics. But if the parent is detached from his or her child, the existing distance will make the conversation harder.
After the panel, Gordon provided some tips to the parents, such as don't come to your kids in a blaming way, and don't point the finger.
Without proper guidance, many teens chose to stay in abusive relationships, according to Gordon. However, when they decide to leave, no matter whether male or female, it could be the most dangerous moment.
“Because that means to the abuser that they are losing control,” said Gordon. “And that's what abuse is all about, having control and power over someone else.”
Besides teens, Brookline adults who are in an abusive relationship can look for help at the Victim & Witness Unit of the Norfolk District Attorney Office, which helps victims whose partners are being prosecuted in the criminal court system, and helps other victims get out of dangerous situations.
“For some people, it might be enough to change your locks or to tell your neighbors that you have a restraining order,” said Pamela Friedman, the director of the unit. “For some people, it may be that there is nothing in the community that can keep you safe, and that you might need to go and stay with a friend, or have a friend stay with you.”
For more information on how to approach such a conversation, you can visit the website loveisrespect.org. Parents are also encouraged to go to their child's school, and find out what resources are available to them through guidance.
If a parent feels uncomfortable having this conversation directly with their child, they can ask the guidance counselor at the school to do so, no matter whether there is something going wrong or not.
“There are a number of ways to come at it, but you have to come at it,” said Gordon.
Judy Finnigan and Ched Evans Row: Six Rape Myths Exposed
by Lydia Smith
The row presenter Judy Finnigan is embroiled in is not an unusual story. A celebrity says something inappropriate on television, the Twittersphere bubbles over with outrage, they apologise. And the dispute blows over until the next time.
During an appearance on ITV's Loose Women, while discussing the case of footballer Ched Evans – who is being released after serving over two years for raping a woman in a hotel room – Finnigan said the rape was "not violent" and "did not cause any bodily harm" to the victim.
"The rape - and I am not, please, by any means minimising any kind of rape - but the rape was not violent, he didn't cause any bodily harm to the person," she said. "It was unpleasant, in a hotel room I believe, and she had far too much to drink."
It took seconds for her comments to set alight social media, with Twitter users calling her "disgusting" and criticising her for suggesting rapes are excusable. Finnigan has now apologised for causing any offence, saying she was not attempting to "minimise the terrible ordeal".
The statistics around rape and sexual violence are difficult to comprehend. Approximately 85,000 women are raped on average in England and Wales every year, and more than 400,000 women are sexually assaulted each year. One in five women will experience some form of sexual violence after the age of 16. And with these numbers in mind, it is time the myths surrounding rape are debunked.
Myth: Women shouldn't go out alone, as they are most likely to be raped by strangers in dark alleyways
Fact: Only 10% of rapes are committed by "strangers". The overwhelming majority of attacks are carried out by someone the survivor has previously known and trusted. People are raped in their homes, workplaces and other settings where they have previously felt safe.
According to Rape Crisis, the myth that rape is most commonly perpetrated by strangers can make the majority of survivors less likely to report to the police or confide in others – for the fear of not being believed, a sense of self-shame or mixed feelings about getting the perpetrator into trouble.
Myth: She was drunk, took drugs, wore tight clothes, worked in the sex industry, she was asking for it
Fact: Having non-consensual sex with someone is rape. If a person is unconscious or has had their judgement impaired by alcohol or drugs, legally they are unable to give consent.
Rapists use a variety of excuses to try to discredit the women they rape and to justify their crimes. 100% of the responsibility of the act lies with the perpetrator.
By referring to the clothes the woman was wearing, how she was behaving, whether she was drunk or on drugs, the implication is that some women are more "innocent" than others, more worthy of sympathy or to blame for the attack. There is no other crime in which so much effort is expended to make the victim appear responsible.
Myth: Rape is about sex
Fact: Rape is about control and has nothing to do with sex. Perpetrators seek control to the point where they choose to violate another person, exercising and demonstrating power over an individual.
This is why rape is used as a weapon of war. Wartime sexual violence committed by combatants during armed conflict or military occupation frequently take place, particularly in the context of ethnic conflict – where the phenomenon has broad sociological motives.
Most recently, Human Rights Watch reported that rape was commonly used as a weapon against Yazidi women and children detained by Isis (now known as Islamic State) in Iraq.
Myth: The woman did not fight back, therefore it could not have been rape
Fact: Perpetrators who rape or sexually assault others will often use weapons or threats of violence to intimidate their victims. A lack of visible evidence does not mean that a woman has not been raped.
Faced with the reality of rape, victims make split second decisions to minimise the harm inflicted on them. The fear of further violence often limits an individual's physical resistance, and many women have described feeling paralysed with shock or fear.
Myth: Men do not get raped
Fact: Masculine gender socialisation suggests that men, even the young, cannot be victims of rape. This is not true. Around 9,000 victims of rape in the UK are thought to be men, a number likely to be lower than the reality due to under-reporting.
The British Crime Survey estimates that up to 15% of the adult population of the UK have been sexually abused in childhood. This includes 11% of young men.
Research on male rape only appeared less than 30 years ago, mostly focused on male children. Due to the stigma surrounding the issue, fewer than one in 10 men-on-men rapes are reported. Survivors UK provides support for victims of male rape.
Myth: Women often lie about being sexually assaulted
Fact: Deciding whether or not to report a rape or sexual assault is difficult, and it is estimated that only 15% of the women raped every year in England and Wales report to the police. One of the reasons is the fear of not being believed.
In March 2013, the Crown Prosecution Service published a survey confirming that false rape reports are "very rare" and suggesting they could make up less than 1% of all reports.
For advice and support on rape, called Rape Crisis on 0808 802 9999.
Fontana nanny cam arrest turns focus on signs of child abuse
by Miriam Hernandez
(Disturbing video on site)
A Yucaipa woman hired as a nanny was caught on camera allegedly abusing two year-old twins she was supposed to be caring for.
The mother of the children who were abused spoke exclusively to Eyewitness News. An expert says the twins may have been traumatized and afraid to sleep when the nanny was in the house.
"She was nice, we did a trial period, she was good with my older kids," said the mother, who did not want to be identified.
And there are times in the footage where nanny Dana Cash does seem nice. In one instant, for example, the 34-year-old is seen hugging the 1-year-old boy. But then in another shot, with the boy's twin sister, her patience seems to break. Cash is seen putting her hand over the mouth of the 1-year-old girl and shaking her.
The mother says Cash had a clean record, according to her research on the website care.com . So what can a parent do to find a responsible care provider or detect behavior that could be harming your child?
Vonda Dennis is a certified specialist in parenthood and childcare, and trains women who will be teaching childcare. One sign of a good nanny, she says, is a background in early childhood education.
"That kind of shows of something about what your field of study is, actually where your love and your passion lies," Dennis said.
In regards to installing a nanny camera, she says, too late, your child has already been traumatized. While the footage might provide evidence for prosecution, she says it's better to watch for changes in your child's behavior, anything unusual happening that doesn't seem good.
"Any excessive crying, if that's not what the child normally does, their aggression or if they draw away," Dennis said.
In this case, it was the twins' 8-year-old brother seen in the video who told his mom about this particular incident. But the mother tells Eyewitness News it took hours of tedious scrolling through the video to find it and other questionable acts.
She says she realized too late, the babies had been showing signs of distress, but she thought it was just a phase.
"They had been getting up at night, been crying more, you know, in the evening when we were with them, and just more restless," she said. But after Cash left, the twins are now "back to their happy selves," the mother said. "We realize now that it was probably her."
Dennis says another reason to tune into your child is that while nanny cams may fail, your instincts won't.
"We must look to our children for the answers, they are there," Dennis said.
Cash was arrested by San Bernardino County Sheriff's deputies on Oct. 2 on suspicion of child abuse. She is now out on bail. The case remains under investigation.
Scott claim of fewer child abuse deaths questioned
by BRENDAN FARRINGTON and KELLI KENNEDY
MIAMI -- Republican Gov. Rick Scott repeatedly tells voters that abused and neglected children are safer under his leadership than when his Democratic opponent Charlie Crist was governor, but an Associated Press examination of that claim shows that campaign claim may be an exaggeration.
Scott says deaths among children who have come to the Department of Children and Families' attention have plummeted from 97 in 2009 to 36 last year, but child welfare experts say any drop is attributed to the way DCF responds to abuse reports and changes to what is considered a death caused by neglect or abuse. The result artificially reduces the number of child deaths compared to Crist's 2007-11 term.
"It's amazing how this works, isn't it? You just change how you do things and you can make it appear ... like things have improved," said Pam Graham, who was on the state's child abuse death review team until December and who is a professor at Florida State University's College of Social Work.
Three times during a debate last Friday, Scott said 97 children with a DCF history died of abuse in 2009. But the state's Child Abuse Death Review Team, which is independent of DCF and often highly critical of the agency, says only 69 children fell into that category that year. Scott's staff said the 97 figure came from a private company hired by DCF and the Scott administration that examined child deaths between 2007 and 2013. The administration says the company's analysis is based on updated data.
After the debate, Scott's campaign issued a release saying child abuse deaths have declined dramatically since he took office in 2011. But the governor and his team omitted a crucial point: Child welfare officials no longer count children who drown or infants and toddlers who die because a sleeping parent rolls onto them, saying there had to be a caregiver's willful act for the death to be considered abuse or neglect. The new standard meant many deaths weren't counted, even when there was evidence that parental drug use contributed.
The result made it appear there were fewer deaths. The change came under Crist but has affected the numbers since Scott took office.
The effect was immediate and the number of verified child abuse and neglect deaths dropped 30 percent under Crist, from 197 to 136 between 2009 and 2010, according to a tally by the state Department of Health. In the three years since Scott took office, the figures dropped to 130, 129 and 112, according to state data. This includes verified abuse and neglect deaths where the family had no history with DCF.
Crist said Scott's use of the death figures to score political points is "unconscionable."
"These children aren't political pawns to be played with," Crist said in a telephone interview. "I don't think anybody would expect anyone in political office to utilize the fate of children under the care of an agency for political gain."
Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said the governor "has laid out a clear plan to protect Florida's children and keep our reforms at DCF moving forward," including additional supervision and risk detection methods. Amid growing scrutiny of DCF this year, Scott and the Republican-led Legislature overhauled the child welfare system, dedicating roughly $18.5 million to hire nearly 200 new investigators.
But it's difficult to say whether children have been safer under the Scott or Crist administration. DCF has had a troubled history for decades.
Graham believes it's misleading to say children are safer under Scott's leadership.
"When you look at the overall number of kids that die, it really hasn't gone down that much," she said.
Graham said DCF is screening out a higher percentage of calls to the state child abuse hotline under Scott, which means both fewer investigations and fewer deaths ultimately categorized as abuse.
Advocates are angry that child abuse deaths are being politicized, especially since several gruesome child deaths made national headlines on Scott's watch including a recent tragedy in Bell, Florida. Don Spirit fatally shot his six grandchildren and his daughter before killing himself. Records show DCF had been called 18 times to investigate the family over several years, both under Scott and Crist.
George Sheldon, who was Crist's DCF secretary, said he and his predecessor decided that more cases should be sent to the child death review team, including drowning and co-sleeping deaths. This year the Legislature mandated that the review team examine all suspicious deaths.
"To not see the broader picture is in essence just hiding the real problem, which is we could do more. If you're going to spend your time saying there were fewer deaths, then you're ignoring the bigger problem. New deaths are occurring," Graham said.
Denmark's Bestiality Problem: It's Legal
Amazingly, the Danes, Finns, Hungarians and Swedes currently say it's legal to have sex with animals as long as the animals are not hurt. But … how would you know?
ROME, Italy — Soon there will be one less place in Europe where people can fornicate with animals—legally anyway. A new law on the table in Denmark proposes to make sex with animals, known as zoophilia, illegal. The Danish law currently states that humans can have sex with animals as long as the animal doesn't suffer, which begs the question: how would one know if an animal enjoyed human sex?
“I propose a change in the law on protection of animals to state explicitly that sexual relations with animals are no longer permitted, Denmark's agriculture minister, Dan Jorgensen, said in a statement. “Animals have to be treated with respect and care and they have a right to special protection because they cannot say no.”
If the law passes in Denmark, only Finland, Hungary and Sweden will remain lawless when it comes to Lassie. A similar law was shelved several years ago by the Danish parliament, but Jorgensen hopes his country will adopt the animal cruelty measure this time around, especially considering Denmark's controversial record on animal rights. The country recently was embroiled in an international scandal when zookeepers in Copenhagen slaughtered a baby giraffe named Marius that wasn't compatible with the genetic makeup of other animals in the zoo. Despite offers from zoos around the world to take the animal, the Danes shot the giraffe with a bolt gun and fed it to the lions in front of zoo visitors, including children.
Jorgenson is apparently more concerned that by not reigning in Denmark's animal sex laws, the country could become the wild west of animal sex tourism. A report in the Independent newspaper states that there has been “a rise in the underground animal sex tourism in Denmark,” which we assume does not mean underground animals such as gophers, moles and prairie dogs.
Denmark already has a handful of animal brothels which, according to Ice News, a site specialized in Nordic reporting, charge between $85 and $170 depending on the animal of choice. “When the rules have been tightened in the rest of Europe, there's a risk that Denmark will be considered a refuge for people with this proclivity,” the minister said, according to AFP. “That's why I want to send a clear signal that Denmark is not a refuge for people who want to sexually exploit animals.”
Danish news sources have quoted a recent Gallup poll, which found that just 76 percent of the Danish population support the new law, which implies that 24 percent of the population would like freedom of movement when it comes to pursuing beasts for pleasure. In a Vice Video aptly called “Animal Fuckers” one unnamed man explains what turns him on in the animal kingdom. “I'm into human females. I'm into horse females,” he says. “I'm asexual towards rats. I'm a bit voyeuristic about dogs and women.”
According to a landmark study called “Characteristics of Juvenile Offenders Admitting to Sexual Activity With Nonhuman Animals”, there is often a correlation between sexual abuse against animals and sexual violence against humans. “Studies of adult sex offenders appear to support the co-occurrence of sexual offenses against humans and animals among some offenders,” the authors write. “The data suggests that juvenile animal offenders should be considered a sub-group of sex offenders in that 23 of 24 juveniles (96 percent) who admitted to bestiality also admitted to sexual offenses against humans.”
In October, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation turned animal cruelty, including sex with animals, into what it calls a “top-tier felony,” with known offenders kept on a registry similar to sex offenders.
People who literally love their animals have been tied to a series of side crimes. In August, a woman in New Mexico tried to kill her roommates after they witnessed her having sex with a dog and admitting to having sex “multiple times” with both roommates' dogs. In September, a priest who was convicted of 24 counts of pedophila against Inuit people in Nanavut, Canada, had a bestiality record as well.
The animal rights group Occupy for Animals, which has a collection of truly disturbing stories and photos about animal rape, is petitioning the European Union to require all European nations to adopt laws against all zoophilic behavior. With the exception of Denmark, Finland, Hungary and Sweden, all European Union countries have some sort of animal protection laws on their books, even if they stipulate that sex with animals is illegal only if there is injury to the animal.
“While the world looks upon Europe and especially upon the E.U. as a model in terms of civilization, a simple search on the internet about animal rape cases that had been reported in Europe—ranging from raped dogs to horses— brings many shocking search results,” the group says in an open letter to the European parliament. “Sexual abuse of animals is one of the most trivial and obscene expressions of human behavior, one of the sickest practices that can be thought of and we believe it is truly deplorable that there are no E.U.-laws in place that prohibit and severely punish such sadistic behavior in order to protect defenseless animals.”
Amendment 2 offers special help for child abuse victims
Law enforcement authorities say they need more tools to fight child sexual abuse and help put sexual predators behind bars.
Amendment 2, which will be on Missouri election ballot Nov. 4, gives prosecutors and law enforcement officers the help they need.
The proposal would amend the state constitution to give judges the discretion to allow previous acts of sexual violence against minors to be disclosed in court. The federal government and nearly all other states allow juries to learn whether a defendant in a child sexual abuse case may have been accused of similar crimes in the past.
The only reason Missouri doesn't is because the state Supreme Court struck down a law in 2007 that allowed evidence of past sexual crimes to be used against people facing sex-related charges involving victims younger than 14.
“Evidence of a defendant's prior criminal acts, when admitted purely to demonstrate the defendant's criminal propensity, violates one of the constitutional protections vital to the integrity of our criminal justice system,” the court ruled.
Amendment 2 has been narrowly tailored to require a judge's permission to admit evidence of prior relevant criminal acts, even if a defendant was not charged. It also stipulates that it can be used only in child sex abuse cases.
In most criminal cases, admitting evidence in prior cases that did not result in charges would be considered unfairly prejudicial. But in child sexual abuse prosecutions, there are significant reasons to allow such evidence to be admitted.
• The crimes are nearly always committed in secret, and only the victim and the perpetrator know what happened. There are usually no other witnesses available to help a prosecutor make his case.
• Victims are often too young, too immature or too traumatized to provide compelling testimony.
• The crime is frequently reported long after physical evidence has disappeared or deteriorated.
• Past victims often come forward once a prosecution is underway.
The Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, the Missouri Police Chiefs Association and the Missouri Sheriffs Association are among the groups that support the amendment.
Even if just one part of this problem was improved by allowing the admissibility of such evidence — that young children could be spared the trauma of having to relive their abuse in a courtroom — it would be reason enough to recommend supporting Amendment 2.
The rest of what the amendment does provides even more reason to merit a yes vote. Those who commit crimes in secret against society's most vulnerable victims should not be able to keep their past a secret. This amendment seeks to level the playing field for prosecutors. Vote Yes on Amendment 2.
Two proposals dealing with child abuse on different paths
by Ben Allen and Radio Pennsylvania
A proposal sponsored by a midstate lawmaker aims to toughen up penalties for child endangerment.
Republican Representative Rob Kauffman's legislation would upgrade the crime to a felony if it puts the child at risk of death or serious injury .
Kauffman, who represents parts of Cumberland and Franklin counties, says a case in his district convinced him such a law is needed.
"And this gives us an opportunity to enact greater penalties and put folks in jail for a longer period of time and help protect our children here in the Commonwealth," he says.
Kauffman's plan sits in a House committee, with just a handful of session days left.
Meanwhile, a measure to make it easier to conduct investigations into potential child predators is sitting on the governor's desk.
It empowers the state Attorney General or district attorneys to get the names of those linked to internet accounts that may be connected to a current investigation.
Child Advocacy Center leads the way in fight against child abuse
by Annie Blackburn
The Lincoln County Coalition against Child Abuse and Child Advocacy Center, like so many of the non-profits of Lincoln County, was born out of tragic necessity. It began in 1992 when Melinda Houser, who now works with the Cooperative Extension, and Ola Mae Foster saw a desperate need in the community when it came to serving neglected and abused children.
Staffed completely by volunteers, what would later become the Lincoln County Coalition against Child Abuse started as education classes. Foster, Houser and various other accredited volunteers traveled to schools, churches, businesses and other parts of the community to educate about recognizing child abuse. When it became time to hire a permanent director, Kathy Vinzant — now director of the United Way — stepped in. Following in her footsteps, Cathy Davis, now of the Lincoln Cultural Center, took them helm as well. The current executive director is Sherry Reinhardt, who took over the operation in 2009.
The organization's mission is a sensitive one that everyone agrees takes a special person to handle.
“'I don't see how you do that,' is the most often asked question,” Reinhardt said. “How can I not, now that I know what's at stake and now that I've seen what can be?”
Nationally, one in four girls are sexually abused before 18. One out of every six boys are sexually abused. One out of every five children are solicited for sex on the internet. National statistics are one thing, but the numbers that come out of Lincoln County are the most staggering.
“If child abuse were put in terms of cancer, it would be considered an epidemic,” Reinhardt said.
In 2013, the Lincoln County Department of Social Services reported a total of 1,813 cases of child abuse. This number does not include the cases in which law enforcement were involved, only the number of cases that were reported and investigated by the Department of Social Services. The LCCAA and the Child Advocacy center come in when a multi-disciplinary team is required. According to Reinhardt, there are 14 organizations that will assist with investigations into child abuse, including the district attorney, law enforcement, mental health organizations, the school system, local hospitals and the guardian ad litem. Each of the entities work together in their own special forte in an effort to, first and foremost, make the child feel safe, but to also facilitate the best possible outcome, to provide therapy and to hold those responsible for the abuse accountable.
“It's so much less traumatic on the child and the family this way,” Reinhardt said. “It's a win-win because (families) couldn't navigate through all of those systems.”
The only cases that are actually brought to the Child Advocacy Center are cases that deal with severe physical abuse or sexual abuse of a child.
So far, in 2014, there have been 150 of these cases. A full figure will be available in January.
The advocacy center is fully accredited through the state and on a national level and is one of only 30 such centers in North Carolina that focus solely on child abuse. Every case is entered into a national database. Should the child move to a different state and require assistance, information on their previous case is available. This helps to streamline resources and to help maintain accreditation.
The outcomes of abuse cases vary, but Reinhardt said that even among the dark clouds of abuse, there are silver linings for all involved, even the children.
“We follow the lives of these children,” Reinhardt said. “(During and after therapy) all the sudden they come out of special help classes and they graduate or they send us wedding invitations. One particular case, there was a girl that was abused and she disclosed it. It was hard for her to do and she was ready to take her life. She was a cutter. Now she is doing well. She graduated and is actually going into law enforcement. We continue to follow her and she comes to see us. You would be amazed at the amount of children that come to see us. That's the part of the job that you live for.”
Reinhardt said that while the job may seem stressful to people on the outside looking in, it is truly the most rewarding. The small advocacy center offers all of its services for free. One of the biggest blessings, she said, are the volunteers.
“You can imagine, having meetings and a busy day, and all of the sudden, an angel comes along and sweeps for you,” Reinhardt said.
Volunteer opportunities at the advocacy center are available for anyone looking to make a difference. Interested parties must submit an application and are subject to a background check. Volunteers can learn to teach awareness classes, help clean the center or assist in fundraising.
“We run off grants and donations so fundraising is always needed,” Reinhardt said.
The greatest need at the moment is for another physician. The center currently has one doctor to conduct forensic assessments.
“It's not hard to become one of our doctors,” Reinhardt said. “It's two hours a month to do a forensic assessment. If there is a physician that wants to make a difference, we will gladly get them trained and credentialed.”
For more information on the Lincoln County Coalition against Child Abuse and the Child Advocacy Center, call (704) 736-8456.
Task force assails child protection for meager follow-up
by Brandon Stahl
Task force looks at lack of follow-up from child protection services
A task force examining Minnesota's child protection system spent its first meeting Monday discussing what critics say is its chief failing: a general reluctance to investigate reports of child abuse and neglect.
The task force was created by Gov. Mark Dayton last month, in the wake of a Star Tribune report about a 4-year-old Pope County boy who was killed by his stepmother despite repeated warnings to child protection.
Dayton, who appeared at Monday's meeting, urged the group to respond to the “significant increase in the number and severity of child abuse” with recommendations to the Legislature on how to improve the child protection system, which lawmakers could take up in 2015.
The Star Tribune has found that Minnesota screens out 71 percent of all abuse reports — one of the highest rates in the country — and investigates only 7 percent of all reports. The remaining cases are referred to “family assessment,” a less confrontational approach intended to keep families together.
Some task force members questioned how a Legislative Auditor's report released in 2012 could say that child protection agencies make decisions in a “reasonable and deliberative manner,” despite those same agencies not responding to most of the reports they receive.
Leaders of child protection agencies and the Department of Human Services have cited the report as evidence that the screening process works.
But Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles told the task force that the report did not examine the effectiveness of the screening decisions. The audit did suggest that DHS clarify screening guidelines because they could be confusing.
Task force members also questioned a new law, passed by the Legislature this year at DHS' urging, that made it more difficult for agencies to investigate maltreatment cases. The law prohibited child protection agencies from considering rejected reports when considering whether a new report has merit.
Call for repeal
DHS Commissioner Lucinda Jesson, co-chair of the task force, has said the law codified what child protection workers were already doing. But many legislators who voted for the bill said they did not know what they were voting for, and now say they want it repealed.
Task force member Dr. Mark Hudson, a child abuse specialist and medical director of the Midwest Children's Resource Center, said many child protection workers do consider a family's history of abuse when determining what to do with a new report.
“Why are we taking away a tool that they were already using?” Hudson said.
When the screening law was passed, Cletus Maychrzak, a member of the Hennepin County Child Protection Citizen Review Panel, said he was “horrified.”
“It was amazing to me that we would codify something that says you can't look at prior history,” Maychrzak said. “I think that is horrible.”
Task force members said they would like to see more transparency and funding for the child protection system, better training for social workers and consideration of the long-term health damage from abuse and neglect. Other members also said they want to examine the use of family assessment in the state.
As reported by the Star Tribune on Sunday, the use of family assessment, where social workers do not investigate whether abuse happened, has become the predominant method for handling cases across the state. Thousands of children considered high-risk for abuse have been funneled into family assessment, a program originally intended for less serious neglect.
“There has been a shift of too many cases going to family assessment,” said task force member and Nicollet County Attorney Michelle Fischer.
Two task force members who are social service directors said that the best way to improve the state's child protection system is to build on its current strengths.
Judith Brumfield, Scott County director of health and human services, cautioned the task force that the decisions made by child protection agencies are never easy and often result in angry parents.
“The most impactful thing that the government does is interfere with how a parent raises their children,” she said.
The next meeting will be held at 11 a.m. on Oct. 22 at Duluth City Hall.
Child abuse mandatory sentences rejected
CHILD sex offenders shouldn't face mandatory minimum sentences in NSW, a parliamentary inquiry has recommended.
AFTER a year of public hearings and submissions, the inquiry said on Tuesday that child sexual assault cases were "highly complex" and judges should be allowed to apply their discretion when determining sentences.
The committee was particularly concerned that mandatory sentencing may result in fewer guilty pleas.
"Providing incentives for guilty pleas in child sexual assault cases can assist child victims by ensuring convictions and minimising the trauma of participation in otherwise lengthy trial processes," the report said.
The committee also recommended that the maximum jail term for sexual intercourse with a child under 10 years be increased from 25 years to life imprisonment.
Currently, a maximum jail term for life only applies to offences of aggravated sexual intercourse with a child under 10 years.
The committee said the change would reflect the "heinous nature of these offences".
We Need to Make It Easier for Pedophiles To Seek Help
All too often, our attention, resources and shock are focused on what happens after a crime is committed—we need to be asking how we can prevent child sex abuse
by Elizabeth Letourneau
I don't know Stephen Collins. Or his wife. Or their therapist.
All three are embroiled in a child sexual abuse investigation that has likely taken on added significance given the release of an audiotape in which Mr. Collins appears to admit to illegal sexual behavior against three girls. The revelation was shocking, and it leads to a familiar set of questions.
To me, one stands out: How could this have been prevented?
As a public, we're always shocked to learn that an apparently upstanding citizen has molested children. The news flies in the face of our collective perception that sex offenders are monsters. But there are two problems with this perception.
It blinds us to warning signs when a potential offender is someone we know, love or respect—someone who is patently not a monster: The teenage boy who prefers the company of little kids to peers. The step-father who insists on putting the girls to bed by himself. The pediatrician who asks parents to “wait outside.”
And the idea that all sex offenders are monsters, and monsters are unpredictable, draws resources and political attention away from effective prevention efforts. We spend far more to address sex crimes after they happen.
In a case in which I served as an expert witness, “Tommy,” age 12, was convicted of sexually abusing his younger cousin. He spent five years in a juvenile prison— about $50,000 per year, to the cost of taxpayers—and another five years in a sex offender civil commitment program— another $63,000 a year. Never mind the court costs. By the time Tommy was released, his home state had “invested” over half a million dollars in him. By comparison, the priciest violence prevention programs rarely cost more than $10,000 per family.
Yet we don't have prevention programs that target adolescents at risk of sexually abusing children, even though they account for more than 50% of cases. All the emphasis is on after-the-fact policies. We must treat victims. We must detect and stop offenders. But if we really want to reduce harm, we need a stronger culture of avoiding the problem to begin with.
In my 25 years of research on sex-offender assessment, treatment and policy, I've met hundreds of offenders and reviewed the records of thousands of boys and men charged with sex crimes. But until last year, I'd never spoken with a non-offending pedophile. And until I did, I really did not recognize their existence. They were largely invisible, because the stigma and risk of coming forward to ask for help was simply too great.
Everyone loses when we ignore this group of non-offenders. I've spoken to young men who were horrified to realize they were attracted to younger children in adolescence, and that they were not growing out of their attraction. They described appalling childhoods, living in self-imposed isolation for fear of being discovered and labeled a pedophile. Several expressed self-loathing. Many considered suicide. As adolescents, they wanted help controlling their sexual impulses, but had nowhere to turn for help.
In Germany, where therapy is confidential (and where recording conversations without peoples' knowledge or consent is illegal), thousands have reached out to the Prevention Project Dunkelfeld, which specifically targets men and adolescent boys —both ones who have acted on their impulses and ones who haven't—attracted to children.
In the U.S., the stigma of pedophilia and the fear of criminal consequences is so great that non-offending pedophiles rarely seek help. Those who do may be turned away by professionals who are untrained or unwilling to help. These adults and adolescents are left to struggle on their own. Many – too many – do not succeed.
The best prevention programs focus on the individuals at highest risk of offending. But to get those individuals into an intervention, we must destigmatize the act of asking for help. The problem behavior must remain stigmatized, of course. But the act of asking for help should be met with encouragement and effective professional interventions.
When we hear about the next supposedly upstanding citizen offending against children, we'll still ask how it happened. But it's so much more effective to ask how we could have stopped it from happening in the first place. We will have that answer only when we insist on reasonable resources to develop a culture of prevention.
Elizabeth J. Letourneau is Director of the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse and Associate Professor, Department of Mental Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Former Miss America and sexual abuse victim to speak at the Wheeler
by Andre Salvail
A former Miss America who survived sexual abuse as a youth — and has been speaking about the issue for the past few decades — will be featured at the Wheeler Opera House this week.
Marilyn Van Derbur, 77, is a Denver native who was crowned Miss America in 1958 when she was a 20-year-old student at the University of Colorado. Her presentation, which is free and open to the public, will be held at the Wheeler at 6 p.m. Thursday. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.
“I feel richly blessed that I have been in a position to educate families and serve as a role model for survivors,” Van Derbur said. “I will talk about how to keep children safe. I will tell parents about the conversations they need to have with their children. Parents are not having those conversations.”
The common perception of a Miss America winner is that of a beautiful, shapely, talented woman living in a fairy-tale world. But when Van Derbur was 39, her life began to implode.
According to Van Derbur, her father abused her more than 600 times from age 5 to 18. As a young adult, working as a motivational speaker, she buried those memories. They were triggered when her daughter, Jennifer, turned 5.
Van Derbur said her body “suddenly went into physical paralysis.” She was hospitalized for weeks, and when her doctors could find nothing physically wrong, she went to the Mayo Clinic, but the famed health care facility also found no answers.
Although neither Van Derbur, the doctors nor the clinic understood the connection, her body went into physical paralysis over feelings related to the sexual abuse as her conscious mind struggled to suppress them. Her paralysis spells would last several hours, continuing almost daily for 12 years.
She said during that time, she and her husband, Larry, wondered whether she would ever snap out of the despair. After being hospitalized in a psychiatric ward at age 50, Van Derbur pleaded with therapists to find a woman who had survived the brutal healing process to find peace. She said she believed that if she could talk to one woman who had survived sexual abuse, she also would be able to do so.
“I could not find a woman who had survived and was healing,” she said. “People just seemed to stuck in the trauma and the depression. And Larry said to me, ‘Role model for yourself.'”
After turning 51, Van Derbur said, she began to see the light at the end of her agonizing journey. She knew she had to make the recovery process easier for others. She went to the Kempe Center, a foundation specializing in child abuse and neglect, to explore the creation of an adult survivor program. The Van Derbur family would later contribute $250,000 to fund the program.
Soon after the creation of the program, word got around that she had been abused as a child. A couple of stories appeared in The Denver Post.
“It was my worst nightmare come true,” she said. “I felt it was the end of my life. It was just really overwhelming.”
But the publicity turned out to be a blessing in disguise, Van Derbur said, because women starting coming forward to share their stories with her while beginning their own paths to recovery.
Based on that response, she had a sudden change of mind with regard to keeping her story private.
“I called the newspapers, I called the television stations, and I said, ‘Let's get to work.' And I will continue to educate in whatever ways I can, to my last breath.”
Within weeks, more than 3,000 men and women came forward in the greater Denver area in search of help and support. Because the Kempe Center could not help the massive amount of people who were coming forward, Van Derbur immediately founded an organization called Survivor United Network.
As many as 500 people relied on the network each week, participating in 35 different support groups. All services were provided at no cost to participants, she said.
Van Derbur said that because she realized how important it was to help survivors overcome shame, large meetings were held — usually around 1,000 people attended — where one by one, survivors would stand and speak their names. Actress-comedienne Roseanne Arnold was among those who went to Denver to break their silence.
Following a June 1991 People Magazine cover story with the headline “Miss America Overcomes Shame,” there was a national outpouring of support. Soon, Van Derbur was asked to testify at congressional hearings and to address medical conferences nationwide.
To date, Van Derbur has spoken in more than 500 cities. She said she never leaves the room until the men and women in attendance have personally said everything they want and need to say to her.
“It is not unusual for people to line up for two to three hours to speak words they have never spoken. The healing that takes place during this time is often life-changing for survivors,” she said.
In 2012, Van Derbur authored an award-winning book, “Miss America By Day,” an account of her life and experiences. It has a five-star rating from reviewers on Amazon.com.
Though the Wheeler event is free, donations to the River Bridge Regional Center — a nonprofit child-advocacy center in Glenwood Springs that specializes in the prevention, assessment, treatment and investigation of child abuse — will be accepted.
Love Crimes: When the Abused Believe It's for Their Own Good
by Priyanka Parshad
One of the most nurturing, compassionate women I know is also an abused wife who once shared her biggest regret. Did she regret staying with her abusive husband? No. The most regretful day of her life was when she phoned the police after he physically assaulted her yet again.
“I ruined his life,” she said. “It's the biggest mistake I ever made.” Immune to any reason, she pressed on, blaming herself for the “humiliation he had to endure” at anger management classes, the draining of her family's resources on lawyer fees and the indelible black mark “she caused” on his otherwise spotless veneer.
After Ray Rice was let go from the Baltimore Ravens for brutally knocking his wife, Janay, unconscious in an elevator, she released this statement: “To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret every day is a horrible thing.”
The use of “we” signals that she also must carry similar regret. Although, in her case, she wasn't the one who chose to involve police, she likely feels that she was responsible for provoking him. After all, “If it weren't for you making me angry, I wouldn't have to hurt you!” is a common refrain of abusers.
Also in the middle of this nightmare is their 2-year-old daughter, Rayven. Though victims do their best to protect children from witnessing abuse, research shows that most children are aware of the violence and that those who actually witness it are in immediate danger of getting physically hurt. Oftentimes witnessing abuse is just as harmful as experiencing it. The official diagnostic criteria of post-traumatic stress disorder has been updated to include those who are aware of the occurrence of traumatic events to a close family member.
The ramifications of child abuse include emotional, psychological, cognitive, social and behavioral problems. However, putting an abuser behind bars can mean that the family doesn't have enough money to survive, which unfortunately means that shielding children from the psychological consequences of abuse takes a back seat in favor of protection from economic hardship.
Growing up in an abusive household also creates the potential for intergenerational continuation of violence. This is apparent in the other headline-grabbing controversy in the NFL: the allegations of child abuse against the Minnesota Vikings' Adrian Peterson.
In contrast to the outright public condemnation of Ray Rice, the mixed response to the Peterson case is puzzling. Peterson repeatedly beat his 4-year-old child with a tree branch until he bled, yet many are coming to his defense. Peterson said he disciplined his son the way he was disciplined as a child. If that is the case, the sad reality is that he, too, was a victim of child abuse.
Children are at the complete mercy of their parents. The U.S. Children's Bureau reports that in 2012, 62 percent of reported cases of abuse are screened for investigation and of those, only 18 percent are substantiated. Of the confirmed cases, 39 percent of children are removed from the household and put into foster care. Fifty-one percent of children in foster care return to their homes, thus very few permanently escape abusive households.
What's more, removal from the household doesn't always repair the impact of abuse. I know a survivor who, decades after leaving home, worried that she would model her mother's abusive behavior or unknowingly tolerate abusive behavior from a future spouse. She now struggles with how to relate to her mother. “I know my mom would sometimes injure me and verbally berate me, but she was immature and didn't know that it was abuse,” she says, when I inquire why she still has a relationship with her mother. “And it's not like she behaves that way anymore, she's a different person.”
But I wonder: Did she stop abusing because she changed or because she no longer has the opportunity to abuse? Once children grow into independent adults and leave the household, their parents are no longer in a position to exert power and administer abuse. At what point does someone label his or her parent a monster? There is no set number of beatings, injuries or emotional wounds that define when the line gets crossed.
Abusive parents whose children are able to thrive give themselves a “Get out of jail free” card by pointing to their “discipline” as the reason for their child's success. Peterson subscribes to this falsehood: “I have always believed that the way my parents disciplined me has a great deal to do with the success I have enjoyed as a man.” This justification adds insult to literal injury because, according to the U.S. Children's Bureau, an abused child's ability to thrive is attributable to the existence of a mixture of individual, community or family protective factors (i.e. positive attachment, self-esteem, intelligence, emotion regulation, humor and independence).
Whether Peterson's parents brainwashed him or he is trying to justify his own abusive behavior remains to be seen. What is for certain, though, is that the infamous cycle of violence continues to play out: Peterson's parents abused him “for his own good,” and he has gone on to repeat history with his child — excuses and stick in hand.
Shared secrets reveal much
As boys, they felt trapped by a revered priest's abuse at St. John's School for the Deaf. As men, they learn weren't alone.
by Mary Zahn
Thirteen-year-old Arthur Budzinski hid under his bed, crying. Born to hearing parents who did not speak sign language, he could not tell them of the terror he faced back at St. John's School for the Deaf in St. Francis.
It was 1962. When the truth was told decades later, they all would weep.
Arthur's story and those of dozens of other adolescent deaf boys who attended the Roman Catholic boarding school hides in the shadows of a snapshot of the school's basketball team:
Eleven boys are dressed in their uniforms; half kneel and half stand. Next to them in a long, black clerical gown, holding a basketball is Father Lawrence Murphy, the long-revered, charismatic director of the school.
Of the 11, five of them would be molested by Murphy.
Sometimes it was during confession, and often it was in the dead of night.
"Being deaf, I felt stuck," Gary Smith, 55, said. "I was alone, and I felt stuck."
Murphy's victims are now middle-aged and are coming forward to ask the Archdiocese of Milwaukee to compensate them for their suffering. The Journal Sentinel recently interviewed eight of them. It took them weeks to decide whether to tell their stories. Their continuing fear, shame and anger are testament to the power Murphy still wields over some of them, eight years after his death.
"Many say ‘Oh, forget it, it's in the past,' some are upset, some don't care and some are still very angry but are afraid to come forward," said Budzinski, 57, who lives in West Allis. "The whole situation has torn the deaf community apart and continues to divide them.
"We want to hold the church accountable and force the church to acknowledge that this was not just a handful of children who were abused."
How many deaf children Murphy molested remains unknown. He was at St. John's for 24 years. The victims who have come forward, who said they saw many of their classmates being abused, think he molested more than 100 boys. Murphy admitted to molesting at least 30, according to Alisa Cohen-Stein, a clinical social worker in the Chicago area who has worked with several of Murphy's victims. She said she was told of Murphy's admission by an employee of the archdiocese.
He never apologized.
The stories of the survivors also give a rare glimpse into the isolation of Milwaukee's deaf community from 1950 into the 1970s. Devices that enable deaf people to use the telephone were not widely available; closed captioning of television programs had not begun; and many people who hear considered deaf people to be mentally retarded.
Murphy, who was fluent in sign language, became a key link to the hearing world for the many deaf children who, like Budzinski, were unable to talk with their hearing parents.
"Back then there was no way to communicate," said his mother, Irene Budzinski, 89. "I never learned sign language. When you had a deaf child, the public health nurse would say, ‘Send them to some school.' We were looking for a good place.
"Who would think any harm would come to a young child?"
Steve Geier, 55, of Madison, who became deaf after a high fever, remembered being left at St. John's at age 8 as his mother and father walked back to the car. His mother, he said, had tears running down her face.
"Here is my mom and dad, talk, talk, talk, talk, and I am looking at them," he said. "My suitcase gets put down, and my mom and dad said we have to go home. So I go running after them. They said ‘No, you stay here.' It was confusing, and I cried."
Murphy would console him.
The Milwaukee Archdiocese has acknowledged that Murphy abused boys at the school, which was at 3680 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. in St. Francis, but has provided few details. The residential school closed in 1983 for financial reasons.
The archdiocese denied requests for church records regarding Murphy's offenses, citing victim confidentiality.
"We firmly believe that these individuals have suffered so desperately in their lives that it is far more appropriate to listen to them — hear their stories of pain, grief and suffering — than it is to dig through our records for arcane facts and data, which we believe must be held in confidence," Kathleen Hohl, communications director for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, wrote in her response to the newspaper.
Two of Murphy's victims recently received $100,000 and $200,000 in compensation through an archdiocese-sponsored mediation program for sexual abuse victims. As part of that agreement, they had to agree not to sue the church.
Pending state legislation would allow victims of clergy sexual abuse to bring civil suits against religious organizations within a one-year window, with the dates to be determined, regardless of when the abuse occurred and past statutes of limitation. In a civil court, a plaintiff could compel the religious organization to produce any documents it might have relating to the case, regardless of whether the accused clergy member is able to participate in the organization's defense.
"I still have nightmares," said Gary Smith, who lives near San Antonio.
A pillar of deaf culture
Few reminders are left that St. John's School for the Deaf was once the lifeblood and pride of Milwaukee's close-knit deaf community.
A worn concrete pillar with a faded angel holding a scroll remains at the beginning of the circular drive to the brick and concrete buildings, now a St. Francis elementary school and recreational facility. In the gymnasium where the St. John's boys basketball team won many victories as cheerleaders roused the crowd, a round green marker in the middle of the floor still boasts "St. John's."
Students, parents and friends of the deaf community toiled over picnics, candy sales and athletic events for years to scrape together enough money for these buildings. They were erected in the mid-1960s to replace the crumbling originals that were built in the late 1800s, when the school was known as St. John's Institute for Deaf Mutes. Enrollment ranged from 82 students in 1949 to a high of 161 in 1968.
At the center of the building frenzy was Murphy, a gregarious Irishman, short in stature with a smile that could melt ice. Yearbook photos and newspaper clippings show him as a whirlwind of activity, accepting thousands of dollars for the school from civic groups, coaching basketball and giving speeches all over town about deafness and why people should contribute to St. John's.
But it was Murphy's ability to speak American Sign Language so gracefully and beautifully that sealed his closeness to the deaf community. Parents and students loved to see him sign the Sunday Mass, which was described by some as truly spiritual.
When Murphy arrived at the school in 1950, newly ordained, Sister Mary Claude Telderer had worked there for seven years.
"He was very beloved," Telderer, 83, said. "The children just loved him. For his birthday every kid got a bag of treats, and we had a movie, and that was big stuff. He would come around to the classrooms. He would come in, and he would make you feel like a million dollars.
"Never in my wildest imagination did I think the children were in danger."
Murphy's well-connected friends contributed basketballs and baseballs and supported his push to replace the old, castle-like buildings. He established an athletic program and an alumni association.
"He has taught us about faith, love, service and loyalty," the seniors wrote in the 1971 yearbook, which was dedicated to Murphy.
By all accounts, Murphy was enthusiastic and patient with the children.
"He was a wonderful teacher," said Gary Smith, echoing what the other victims said. "We loved him."
The men's stories are similar. Murphy would call them to his bedroom in the school, or visit them in their dorm beds late at night, masturbate them and leave. Sometimes he would go on to other boys. Often he would say nothing. Sometimes when the boys saw him molesting other boys in the dorm room, they would cover their heads with their blankets, hug themselves tightly and weep. At times, he would take their confession in a second-floor walk-in closet in the boy's dorm and molest them.
"Murphy was so powerful, and it was so hard," said Geier who was molested when he was in seventh grade and said he saw more than a dozen other boys molested. "You couldn't get out. It was like a prison. I felt so confused. Here I had Father Murphy touching me. I would be like, ‘God, what's right?' "
Geier said the boys received no sex education and had no idea what was happening to them. Some, he said, believed it must be all right because it was being done by a priest. After he resisted one of Murphy's advances, Geier said, Murphy refused to allow him to go with a group of boys to get ice cream across the street.
During one interview, Budzinski began to get tears in his eyes as he recounted seeing Pat Cave being molested in his dorm room bed. Cave, 57, who lives in Seattle, said he thought he was the only one molested until 2004, when he shared his experience with Budzinski.
Cave added that his older brother, who also attended St. John's, often would be called to Murphy's office at night and be gone for long periods. They never discussed why. His brother died in a motorcycle accident at age 21.
‘I never told anyone'
For James Smith, 62, of Orange City, Fla., the memories are intense. He began to shake and cry as he recalled one incident after another.
"I would be playing baseball, and the boys would come and say, ‘Father Murphy wants you to come and see him,' " Smith said. "I would refuse to go, and pretty soon I was dragged into his office and molested again.
"I never told anyone. I thought I was alone."
Like other victims, Joe Daniels, 58, of Union Grove was not believed when he tried to quietly tell family members and other adults about the molestations when he was in his 20s.
"It was an awful thing," Daniels said. "I felt anger and shame."
"Some of them are still really, really afraid," said Cohen-Stein, the therapist who has worked with victims of Murphy. "They feel their entire life revolves around this lie — their identity, their feelings toward hearing people and about themselves.
"One person actually said: ‘I would have to rebuild myself if I started talking about this. I would fall apart because all of the threads are so tangled.' "
ABOUT THE SERIES
People in the deaf community were interviewed with the assistance of Mala Boyce, 49, a certified interpreter fluent in American Sign Language, who works in the Wisconsin and Illinois court systems. Boyce, whose parents were both deaf, learned sign language as a child.
Most of the deaf people who were interviewed have access to a video relay system, which allows deaf people to talk directly to one another, much like videoconferencing. A hearing person can use the system through a video relay operator, who translates between English and American Sign Language. Some interviews were done using this technology.
Interviews also were done via e-mail and through a TTY operator, a special public telephone operator who places a call and translates.
Ruth Ward, a researcher in the Journal Sentinel's News Information Center, also contributed to this report.
Adrian Peterson pleads ‘not guilty' to a felony child abuse charge
by Marissa Payne
Suspended Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has pleaded “not guilty” to a felony child abuse charge, Bloomberg reports. Peterson made his plea in writing Oct. 8 after his initial appearance in a Montgomery County, Texas, district court, but the plea only became pubic on Monday.
Peterson, who had been expected to plead not guilty, is scheduled to appear in court next on Nov. 12. His trial tentatively has been set for Dec. 1. However, prosecutors have asked that Peterson be taken into custody now for admitting to marijuana use. Peterson, who is free on bond, had to submit to drug tests as one of the conditions.
Peterson, who was charged with reckless or negligent injury to a child in September, has not played since the Vikings benched him after the allegations surfaced. On Sept. 17, Peterson agreed to be put on the NFL's exempt commissioner's list, where he can still collect his $11.75 million salary even if he cannot participate in team activities.
If convicted, Peterson could face six months to two years in prison, but probation is also a possibility. Although it is unlikely Peterson's football career would resume as it was should he be found guilty, if he does find his way back into the league, he would then face an NFL-imposed punishment— which, at a minimum, would span six weeks.
Domestic violence advocates urge ongoing dialogue in Arlington
by Spencer Buell
ARLINGTON -- On a table near the entrance of Arlington Town Hall sit pamphlets, bookmarks, fliers and a yellow-and-purple sign on an easel.
"Be an UPSTANDER," the sign reads. "Stand Up against DOMESTIC VIOLENCE."
There is also a photo of the late Mei Kum Jones, an Arlington resident who, along with her twin babies Colt and Cameron, was murdered last November by her husband before he killed himself. The tragedy renewed efforts to spread awareness about resources.
The table is just one of many ways advocates in Arlington are reaching out to women who may be in danger, said Elaine Shea, who formerly led First Step, a local support group.
"I think this has to be ongoing," Shea said. "We have to keep people aware of it."
In addition to a panel discussion and other public displays, the emphasis in Arlington is on safe, discrete ways to reach women in unsafe relationships, she said.
For example, there are plans to partner with Cut it Out, a program that trains hairdressers to point women toward domestic violence resources if a client mentions she is being abused at home.
And the pocket-sized pamphlets in Town Hall are also being distributed in women's public restrooms, providing details about the physical, emotional and financial abuse many endure, advising women to make "safety plans" and highlighting available resources.
"If a woman who is going through this sees this on the bathroom counter, she could easily stick it in her pocketbook without her partner's knowledge," Shea said. "So it's a safe way to spread awareness."
Although domestic violence has historically been swept under the rug, awareness advocates say they're beginning to see a change.
"The outcry and response to the most recent incident of domestic violence by Ray Rice has been encouraging because it demonstrates how far we've come since 40 years ago, when we didn't have a dialogue about it in any way," said Toni Troop, a spokeswoman for Jane Doe Inc., a statewide coalition against domestic violence.
Having a public dialogue, advocates say, is an important step toward ending domestic violence. Working toward that goal, they are observing October as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Domestic violence has been in the spotlight in recent weeks, as the NFL drew heavy criticism over its handling of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who was caught on a security camera knocking his then fiancée unconscious in the elevator of an Atlantic City casino.
Another high-profile domestic violence case emerged last summer, when Jared Remy, the son of Red Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy, murdered his girlfriend, Jennifer Martel.
Despite an increasing willingness to have a public dialogue, Troop says domestic violence is still pervasive and underreported. Some surveys show up to one in three women and one in five men has experienced violence, sexual assault or stalking at the hand of a romantic partner.
"Domestic and sexual violence happen at epidemic proportions in communities throughout the commonwealth," she said. "No one is immune and we all have a role to play."
And the problem goes beyond having an unhealthy relationship, Troop said.
"Domestic violence is when one person in that relationship is using power over someone else to control them, intimidate them and frighten them," she said.
The website janedoe.org provides a list of resources and hotlines throughout Massachusetts. Jane Doe Inc.'s 24-hour hotline is 877-785-2020.
Programs involved with Jane Doe Inc., such as HAWC, provide confidential counseling, shelters and advocacy, including in hospitals and courthouses.
"Their primary function is to really facilitate what the client needs at the moment," Whittaker-Velsaquez said. "Court is one of most challenging systems. The advocates help fill out affidavits or will go with you before the judge. It's really a support system."
Uncle from hell!
Raped, abused and infected with HIV by my father's brother
by Janet Silvera
WESTERN BUREAU: For more than three years, starting when she was just passed 12 years old, Ashley was raped by her uncle every night except when she was menstruating.
Her abuse continued until she turned 16. By age 21, Ashley, who has become known as the 'Diary Girl', was diagnosed as HIV-positive, harbouring thoughts of suicide too often to mention.
Ashley's memoir has been chronicled in a book titled "I am Free Now - Diaries of a Survivor of Child Rape and Sexual Abuse", released yesterday by Eve for Life, a non-governmental organisation supporting women and children living with HIV.
"I considered suicide several times, but decided I couldn't give up," Ashley told The Sunday Gleaner as she relived a nightmare that saw her being burnt with cigarette butts between her legs whenever she refused to open them.
Although now free from her uncle, the questions in her eyes are apparent, obviously asking whether she would ever be free. After all, her punishment for being born was a death sentence given by an unconstitutional 'court', presided over by an uncle, "who would burn my legs to get inside me".
Twelve years after her first ordeal, she still has sleepless nights.
Given away by a disabled mother and a father who thought he was helping out a situation, at age 12, Ashley started living with her grandmother, two uncles and her grandmother's boyfriend in a one-bedroom house in St James.
Three beds in one room, her bed became her uncle's sex nest.
"I felt like the whole of me was coming out the first time my uncle had sex with me. It hurt badly," she penned in one of 12 diaries. Whenever she tried to refuse his advances, she was beaten.
Penning her ordeal in her diaries became an escape route, where she recorded her thoughts and feelings as a means of coping with the violation and pain she was experiencing daily.
"I often asked God why He never sent someone to help me," she said.
When her grandmother woke up one night and saw her son on top of Ashley, the young girl was convinced she would now receive some help, but that was wishful thinking on her part.
"My grandmother did nothing about it, even after promising to report the incident to the police," said Ashley.
Instead, she was told by her grandmother to wear shorts when going to bed. "When I did, my uncle would use a pair of scissors to cut them off," remembered Ashley.
At times during the interview, the young victim seemed uncomfortable, sometimes lost, once actually admitting that when she first went to Eve for Life and told her story, she felt sorry she had done it.
"I had gone to Family Court before and became frustrated and had stopped going. I had gone to Victim Support at Overton Plaza (Montego Bay), and each time I went there, I would have to repeat my story over and over again to the same officer I had told it to three months before," lamented Ashley.
After a while, she became disheartened and hopeless. It was not until she went to Eve for Life that her life changed, she said.
Victim Support was not the only place she sought help. While attending primary school, Ashley confided in a guidance counsellor, who reported the abuse to an agency with responsibility for looking into sexual abuse of minors.
After going to court month after month, she said somehow the case was dropped because the case worker moved to another parish.
"I really had no support. My school friends are the ones who went to court with me, and after a while I, too, gave up."
She kept her pain bottled up inside until a session at Eve for Life.
"I was there listening to the other people telling their stories and decided to reveal mine. I had really given up, and was not ever going to tell my story again. I had left it in the hands of God."
Looking back, Ashley said she remained her uncle's sex slave for more than three years. The experience became so painful that night-time became her enemy.
"Falling asleep was very hard. At times, I got terrible nightmares that made me jump out of bed and cry uncontrollably."
In order to find solace, she would tell herself that her uncle may have invaded her personal space like no one ever did; took her body without respecting the word 'no'; changed her whole life, but she was not broken.
"I have come to understand that a part of me died at age 12. The events caused a permanent loss in my life."
Each time she takes a shower, she sees her uncle taking the shower with her.
"The burns are still on my body as well."
Ashley was eventually removed from the house of abuse by a cousin at age 16.
Two years ago, she did a blood test out of curiosity and found out she was HIV-positive. She spent three months living in denial. This was the ultimate. Raped, abused and given a death sentence as a reward.
"I was in dis-belief. The rape and abuse left such a scar on my life. I never had sex with another man," she told The Sunday Gleaner , stating that up to the time of the test results, the only man to penetrate her was her uncle.
"It took me months to return to the doctor to do a second test because I was in disbelief."
Of course, the second test was positive; "having gone through so much already, I felt it was now time to go".
The suicide thoughts were stronger than ever, but she said the doctor who dealt with her gave her hope.
However, reaching home and getting into her room was another matter.
"I stayed locked in for three days, hardly eating any food as I thought about my fate."
It took her three months to accept the fact, and shortly after, she went on medication.
Throughout her life, Ashley wanted to be a nurse; having HIV has placed a spoke in those wheels. She is now a social worker, who says she is now focusing on "me".
Speaking about her personal hell, she says, has helped others. "I want to let them know how to face these challenges when they come and that they should not be afraid to tell somebody."
Today, she seems to have forgiven her grandmother, who she says was defending her son, an abuser she feels suffers mental illness.
Asked if she would go back to the authorities to have them place her uncle and grandmother in jail, her response was: "I would really have to think about it. I kinda forget about him. I am focusing on myself and what I want to do and what I want to offer others through my diaries."
She still receives counselling. When she gets nightmares, her uncle is always having sex with her.
Neither Ashley's father nor mother know of the abuse she went through.
"I can't tell my father because he would probably kill his brother and his young child is five years old. I couldn't bear to see him go to prison."
She said in the case of her mother, it is even worse.
"My mother is crippled from the waist down. There is nothing she could do to help me."
Ashley is one of 13 young women featured by Eve for Life as it tries to sensitise the nation on the struggles that young adults are subjected to.
Mom Charged In Alleged Horrific Child Abuse Case
by Mary Robb Jackson
CROSS CREEK TOWNSHIP (KDKA) – A Washington County woman is facing a list of charges related to the alleged disturbing abuse of her adopted daughter.
According to the criminal complaint, Rana L. Cooper, 46, was charged on Monday.
The arrest came after police were notified in May by Washington County Children and Youth Services.
Cooper is accused of forcing the child to eat used cat litter, attempting to gouge the girl's eyes out and trying to sew her mouth shut.
The complaint also claims Cooper choked the child until she blacked out on two occasions.
She is also accused of striking the girl in the face with a belt buckle and causing hearing loss by shoving a Q-tip in her ear.
Cooper allegedly forced the child to run her finger along the rim of the toilet and eat what was on her finger.
The girl told police she was only allowed to eat one time per day, but only after the rest of the family had finished their meal.
However, the woman's 24-year-old son Ronnie says the allegations aren't true.
“Nothing, none of that happened,” he said. “Like, I'm here every day, like, none of these are true.”
Cooper is facing a long list of charges including, endangering the welfare of a child and simple assault.
Children's advocate urges change in sexual abuse misconceptions
CHILDREN'S Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison has cited the need for a change in the misconception of sexual abuse that exists in sections of the society.
This, so as to, among other things, enable persons committing this illicit act, particularly against girls, to be arrested and prosecuted.
Speaking at a special forum hosted by the United Nations office in Jamaica at the Knutsford Court Hotel last Friday to mark International Day for the Girl Child, Gordon Harrison lamented that, invariably, persons standing trial on sexual abuse charges are freed because of how the incident is viewed, particularly by some jury members empanelled for the matter.
"I have... prosecuted persons, and heard from members of the jury at the end of the prosecution that they believed the witness (who they thought) was quite convincing. But (that they felt) it really was just sex, (which) really doesn't have a long-term effect on anyone (and) doesn't take a life as murder does. (Further that) it would be a shame if a man were to be held accountable and found guilty of having sex with a child under 16 years. That to me speaks of a very deep cultural issue that we have which is causing a very negative impact on how we treat with this issue," she said.
Gordon Harrison argued that this perception is unacceptable, adding that "we need to get that message out there that it is not, in fact, okay, and it is, in fact, a big deal."
"Psychologists will tell you that it is not just a little sex (and that) it is not true that sex does not cause long- lasting harm. Because if you look, particularly, at the developing brain of a teenager, it can seriously cause alterations to the neural pathways that will continue to influence how that teenager relates and has relationships long into adulthood," she said, while reminding her audience that it is a criminal offence to engage in sexual relationships with persons under 16 years old.
As it relates to incest, Gordon Harrison contended that "we still have a real problem in Jamaica".
"We still have men who are of the view that if they stick around and stand up to their responsibilities of caring for their children (particularly the girls), then they are entitled to be the first one to 'usher' that child into womanhood. And the most important way they see of expressing this 'ushering' is through sexual contact," she said.
As such, Gordon Harrison said discussions emphasising how wrong these acts are and the negative effects they will have on children, are crucial in addressing these problems. She is also reminding young girls of how powerful they are and how sacred their bodies are.
"It is not a negotiating tool, whereby if somebody makes you feel special, you give it up. It is an inappropriate way of thinking about self and it does not attach the level of self-worth that we, as people and as females, have," she said.
In the meantime, Gordon Harrison said sexual reproductive health and responsible behaviour are issues which must be dealt with by everyone.
"We need to embrace it not just as a human rights issue but also as a developmental and social issue that will affect us one way or the other. We need to recognise that we do have a problem and we need to create effective strategies that can address this in a meaningful and sustainable way," she said.
Citing the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) 2003 Children in Focus Report, Gordon Harrison said it indicated that girls born to teenage mothers are 83 per cent more likely to follow suit.
"That's a startling reality. But it is a reality that can, perhaps be linked to the social learning theory in which psychologists posit that we in fact live what we do learn," she said.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) 2013 State of the World Population report indicated that Jamaica has the fourth highest incidence of adolescent pregnancy in the Caribbean.
According to the report, 18 per cent of live births in Jamaica are to teenage mothers, with rural teen mothers accounting for 74 for every 1,000 births and the Kingston Metropolitan Area showing a lower number of 51 per 1,000 births.
Of every 1,000 babies born in Jamaica, 108 are born to teenage mothers, with girls, aged 10 to 19 years accounting for 25 per cent of these.
Globally, about 19 per cent of young women in developing countries become pregnant before age 18. Girls under 15 account for two million of the 7.3 million births that occur to adolescent girls under 18 every year in developing countries globally.
The forum sought to: strengthen awareness of adolescent pregnancy in Jamaica; sensitise policymakers of priority areas of the Integrated Strategic Plan for the reduction of adolescent pregnancy in the Caribbean and advocate for the inclusion of adolescent pregnancy as a priority issue in the post 2015 negotiations.
International Day of the Girl Child was observed on October 11 under the theme: 'Empowering Adolescent Girls, Ending the Cycle of Violence'.
Listen carefully to stories of domestic violence
by Barbara Gilin
When we hear about victims physically abused by a partner, many of us say, "I would never stay with someone who abused me." However, until we walk in the shoes of those who are in relationships marked by violence, it is very difficult to understand the circumstances of a relationship with an abusive partner.
But remaining aware and trying to understand is important during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, especially after the recent stories out of the NFL. Whether such stories are part of the daily headlines or not, we know that 39 percent of female homicides were committed by an intimate partner in 2010.
After 35 years of counseling survivors of intimate partner violence, I have learned some of the reasons women decide to stay with their partners. Almost every survivor I have seen says she is "not your typical battered woman," usually because she fears the judgment of those who believe there are quick and easy answers to her problem. Many survivors have also said that they "would never stay" with an abusive partner. But they do. So when someone reveals that she is in an abusive relationship, it is critically important to try to be nonjudgmental and understand the reasons why she has stayed.
Many women assume responsibility for their partners' mistreatment of them, a belief that causes them to isolate from friends, family, and others. In the words of one survivor, she did not want others to see her husband as a "total bad guy" because she still saw him as "someone who has many good parts." She, like many others, alternated between emotions - knowing that what he was doing was not her fault and, at other times, believing that she "must have done something wrong" for him to treat her that way. By the time many survivors seek help, they acknowledge that their partners' negative beliefs about them outweigh anyone else's positive beliefs.
Explanations of why survivors of abuse have such difficulty leaving their relationships often fall into one of three categories: love, hope, and fear.
In spite of physical and emotional abuse, many survivors truly do love their partners and do not want to hurt them by leaving, particularly when the abuser has a history of being neglected or abused as a child. Additionally, an episode of abuse is typically followed by a "honeymoon period," when the abusive partner displays the kind of loving attention that serves to restore hope that the episode of abusive behavior is an aberration and will not continue. It can take a long time of repeating this cycle before the outlook of hope vanishes.
As the years go on, the role of fear cannot be emphasized enough. Survivors usually live with a barrage of threats from the abuser, such as: the threat of further abuse or death, taking the children away, killing himself if the partner leaves, and threatening to harm loved ones. The majority of homicides occur after the partner has finally indicated that she is leaving the relationship.
As a counselor, I have also been a witness to the failures of law enforcement and the criminal justice system to keep victims safe, the lack of shelter resources, the impact of financial dependence on the abuser, the grief of breaking up a family, and the toll of isolation from family and friends.
The belief that there is an easy way out for survivors only makes them feel more alone and more hopeless. I have heard many of them say that the judgments they received from others were sometimes as hard as the judgments they heard from their abusers.
This is a complex issue. Those who are being harmed deserve to have us listen carefully to their stories and to be as interested in understanding why their partners harm them as we are in understanding why they stay.
Barbara Gilin is a clinical associate professor in the Center for Social Work Education at Widener University (firstname.lastname@example.org). For more information, call the Philadelphia Domestic Violence Hotline at 866-723-3014.