National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

child abuse trauma prevention, intervention & recovery


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EDITOR'S NOTE: Every day we bring you articles from local newspapers, web sites and other sources that constitute but a small percentage of the information available to those who are interested in the issues of child abuse and recovery from it.

We present articles such as this simply as a convenience to our readership ...
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Here are a few recent stories related to the kinds of issues we cover on the web site. They'll represent a small percentage of the information available to us, the public, as we fight to provide meaningful recovery services and help for those who've suffered child abuse. We'll add to and update this page regularly.

We'll also present stories about the criminals and criminal acts that impact our communities all across the nation. The few we place on this page are the tip of the iceberg, and we ask you to check your local newspapers and law enforcement sites. Stay aware. Every extra set of "eyes and ears" makes a big difference.
Recent News - News from other times

November, 2014 - Week 1
MJ Goyings
Many, many thanks to our very own "MJ" for
providing us the majority of the daily research
that appears on the LACP and NAASCA web sites.
Ms. Goyings is a Registered Nurse and lives in Ohio.


Lessons from child abuse deaths go unheeded in Minnesota

by Brandon Stahl

The deaths of 56 children from maltreatment in Minnesota since 2005 should guide changes in child protection. But the system too often fails to learn from the past.

Minnesota was supposed to learn from Cottrell Short's death.

He was 19 months old when he died in February 2012 from beatings and untreated wounds in a squalid house in St. Bonifacius. His troubled family was well known to Hennepin County social workers, yet Cottrell suffered through what the medical examiner called the worst case of child abuse the office had ever seen.

State law requires local and state social workers to review the circumstances of Cottrell's death, as they must any time a maltreated child in Minnesota dies or suffers a near fatal injury. The purpose of these “child mortality reviews” is to find out what went wrong and recommend any changes that could prevent future harm.

It took nearly three years for Hennepin County to conduct that review after Cottrell's death. It was completed a few weeks ago, only after repeated inquiries from the Star Tribune. The conclusion: No recommendations for any changes to the child welfare system.

A Star Tribune examination of state and county records shows little evidence that the mortality reviews are stopping child protection failures. The reviews often take years to complete — and sometimes do not occur at all. What's more, findings from such reviews are frequently sealed off from public scrutiny, despite a federal law requiring more disclosure.

Fifty-six children in Minnesota have died of maltreatment since 2005, despite counties knowing the child was at risk or the caretaker was dangerous, records show. Dr. Mark Hudson, a member of the state mortality review panel and a child abuse specialist with the Midwest Children's Resource Center, said the volume and number of those deadly abuse cases raise significant questions about whether the panels are effective.

“The same problems are continuing,” Hudson said. “We're making recommendations, but I don't see anything changing.”

In response to the death of 4-year-old Eric Dean after 15 reports of suspected abuse, a case reported by the Star Tribune in August, Gov. Mark Dayton convened a task force to recommend changes to the child protection system. Dayton has described Eric's death as a “colossal failure.” But Pope County's mortality review recommended two policy changes and found no shortcomings with county social workers.

Counties conduct the first mortality reviews and send their findings to a state panel.

Department of Human Services Deputy Commissioner Chuck Johnson defended the child mortality panels as effective in identifying patterns of child deaths, such as from unsafe sleeping practices.

Still, Johnson said there are “multiple ways” that the process can improve, possibly by providing more oversight of counties and sharing the recommendations more widely with social workers and the public.

For now, some state panel members say the process is not fulfilling its mission.

“We should be using the mortality review as a place to present to the community what they ought to be doing to prevent injury and death to vulnerable children,” said Esther Wattenberg, a University of Minnesota child welfare professor. “I don't think we do enough with prevention.”

The same conclusions

When a county's child protection agency fails to prevent a death, the reason is often “obvious,” said William Pinsonnault, a former social services director for Carlton and Anoka counties.

“Ninety percent of the time, a county should have intervened more strongly, or they should have monitored the family longer,” he said. “That means lowering caseloads for child protection workers, and lowering the threshold for legal intervention.”

A Star Tribune analysis of 32 county mortality review findings since 2005 shows that child protection agencies only twice reached that conclusion.

State law requires that county mortality reviews in child abuse cases be completed within 60 days, unless a criminal charge or a lawsuit is pending. Review teams are often composed of child protection supervisors and workers who handled the case, as well as physicians and law enforcement officials. The state has told counties that they should assess the effectiveness of child protection, determine if the death or near fatal injury could have been prevented, and develop changes to reduce the number of those types of cases.


United Kingdom

We panic about child abuse, then tell 13-year-olds how to have sex

by Peter Hitchens

The mystery of sex education is that parents put up with it at all. It began about 50 years ago, on the pretext that it would reduce unmarried teen pregnancies and sexual diseases. Every time these problems got worse, the answer was more sex education, more explicit than before.

Since then, unmarried pregnancies have become pretty much normal, and sexual diseases – and the ‘use' of pornography – are an epidemic.

It is only thanks to frantic free handouts of ‘morning after' pills and an abortion massacre that the number of teenage mothers has finally begun to level off after decades in which it zoomed upwards across the graph paper.

In a normal, reasonable society, a failure as big as this would cause a change of mind. Not here.

If you try to question sex education, you are screamed at by fanatics. This is because it isn't, and never has been, what it claims to be. Sex education is propaganda for the permissive society. It was invented by the communist George Lukacs, schools commissar during the insane Hungarian Soviet Republic in 1919, to debauch the morals of Christian schoolgirls.

It works by breaking taboos and by portraying actions as normal that would once have been seen as wrong. Last week we learned that the Government has officially endorsed material which says sex at 13, ‘for those of similar age and developmental ability', is normal.

This is, no doubt, a point of view. In a free society, people are entitled to hold it, even if it is rather creepy. But do you want your child's school to endorse it? And how does it square with our incessant frenzied panic about child sex abuse?

If we are so keen on the innocence of the young – and I very much think we should be – then surely this sort of radical propaganda is deeply dangerous. We do not give schools this huge power over the minds of the young for such a purpose.

How odd it is that we teach 13-year-olds to go forth and multiply, but can't somehow teach them their times tables. Shouldn't it be the other way round?


United Kingdom

Are you missing the signs of emotional abuse?

Consider whether behaviour suggests neglect, NSPCC urges

by Helen Ward

Teachers may be mistaking the signs of emotional abuse in children for conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, research commissioned by children's charity the NSPCC warns.

School staff are ideally placed to spot emotional abuse and neglect by parents as they have regular contact with children, Dr Sabine Maguire of Cardiff University, one of the researchers, told a conference in London this week. But it could sometimes be difficult to identify victims because there were no physical signs, she added.

“We suspect that teachers cope with these children on a day-to-day basis,” Dr Maguire said. ”We want to help them understand why children behave in a particular way. If a child is acting up and problems escalate, it may be that they are desperate to have friends and to be loved because they are lacking love and affection at home.”

The research identifies links between emotional maltreatment and poorer standards of behaviour and low self-esteem in primary-aged children. It also establishes a clear link between neglect and lower attainment in literacy and numeracy.

Using the findings, the NSPCC has put together a guide for teachers listing signs that could indicate a child is being persistently criticised, scapegoated or ignored at home. These include impulsiveness and other behaviours such as aggression or being unusually withdrawn. Such children may find it difficult to maintain friendships and may experience more mood swings than expected for their age.

“When trying to explore why a child is showing these behaviours, emotional maltreatment is one possible explanation,” Dr Maguire said. “It is just like having a case of a high temperature – you look for a range of causes. If you are looking at why a child is behaving a certain way, you must consider emotional maltreatment along with other causes.”

Delegates at the conference, organised by the NSPCC, heard that physical neglect – the failure to provide children with adequate clothing, food or bedding – was the most common form of abuse in the UK. Emotional neglect concerns the relationship between child and parent and is harder for outsiders to spot, especially as there may be no single incident that prompts a child to speak out or adults to intervene.

The NSPCC estimates that one in 14 children have experienced emotional abuse by a parent or guardian. Almost a third of children (16,000) identified on child protection registers as at risk of harm are in need of protection from emotional abuse.

Lisa Valla, headteacher of London Colney Primary School in Hertfordshire, said the NSPCC guide would give staff the confidence to raise concerns. “It will help all staff to be able to identify those behaviours and know that the cause may be a number of things – but one of those things may be emotional abuse or neglect,” she added.

Joanne Hensman, a drama therapist at Midfield Primary School in Orpington, Kent, said: “What's helpful about this is having those indicators, and having the language to go to social services and say this is why this is not acceptable, this is why it's important to deal with this now and not wait for the ‘terrible thing' to happen.”

NSPCC advice

If you think a child is at risk:

•  Keep a written record of your observations, concerns and any conversations you have with the child.

•  Neglect rarely happens in isolation, so consider whether other types of abuse may be occurring in the home.

•  Speak to a senior colleague or someone who knows the child. Set out who needs to take what action and by when.

•  Find out who has spoken to the child. Or, if you can do this in an appropriate way, speak to the child yourself. Ask about their self-image, their relationship with their parents and their friendships.

•  Make sure the child understands that you may have to report your concerns.

•  Talk to other professionals who may have contact with the child.

Download the guide


For thousands of migrant children, hell is between Guatemala and the U.S.

by Natalia Sayed

The first day was hard. I was 11 years old. They took me to a big house and gave me a room to myself. When I looked at the walls I saw obscene drawings and phrases pleading for help," said Noemi, a Guatemalan forced into prostitution as a child in a town in the southern part of the country.

The painfully cruel memory did not stop Noemi, who preferred not to reveal her last name, from repeating the tragedy with her own daughter, whom she exploited sexually at the age of 12, then sold into prostitution two years later in the United States.

The child, now a 20-year-old woman, was rescued six months ago from a brothel in Chicago, after which her mother lost track of her. She repented selling her and reported her missing to Guatemalan authorities, who found her in the northern United States.

"Despite the professional care she receives, she is not recovering from the trauma of so much physical and emotional abuse," Clara Reyes of the National Council of Guatemalan Migrant Care, or Conamigua, told Efe in a statement.

A total of 68,541 minors from Mexico and Central America were detained between October 2013 and September 2014 by U.S. authorities while trying to cross the border illegally, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The number is almost 50 percent more than in the previous fiscal year, and out of the total number, 14,000 were Guatemalans.

Authorities have no statistics about how many minors making that trek fell into the hands of people traffickers, sexual exploiters and drug rings in Mexico.

Amabilia Catalan suffered a terrifying experience when she was exploited by her husband and mother-in-law in Los Angeles before being rescued by the authorities.

Seated at the foot of her bed in Jocotenango, a town 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Guatemala City, the woman told Efe that she also suffered physical abuse from her own mother "from the time I can remember."

At age 14 she emigrated illegally to the United States with her fiance, 23, to find their American dream of a "better life," leaving a months-old baby daughter in the care of her mother. She never got the little girl back.

Between ages 23 and 32, the Guatemalan suffered physical abuse and was forced by her captors into prostitution.

"On a good day I served 30 men. On bad days, about nine," she recalled.

After beating her countless times, for which she was occasionally hospitalized, and an attempted homicide, her husband was arrested and sentenced to jail in the United States.

Today a jobless Amabilia lives with her two children in Guatemala City. About her long, painful past she asked in tears, "Why did all that happen to me?"

"I want my daughter to have another life. That's why I take her to and from school. She'll be better than me," the woman said in the small room where she survives with her two children.



Domestic violence, rape closer to us than we think

by Katie Cunningham

I wanted to share my thoughts with you about a subject that is very near to my heart because of our line of work.

With the increased attention to this subject, because of recent allegations against NFL players and famous athletes, I felt compelled to give my two cents.

It's difficult to watch video evidence and listen to some of the statements made by domestic abuse and rape victims. For most of us, it sticks with us no matter where you are in life. People often think, “What is wrong with this world today?” or “What is the world coming to?”

What I want to make especially clear is that domestic violence and rape have been a problem for A LONG TIME! Only recently has it gotten the huge media attention because it involves high profile athletes.

Wake up citizens! This happens on a daily … no wait, hourly, if not by-the-minute basis, and it is likely happening to people around you. We like to believe the best in people and see people's good-hearted nature, rather than focus on some major red flags.

The recent media coverage on these incidents is only the tip of the iceberg. According to FBI statistics, 84,376 forcible rapes were reported in 2012, which is a small increase from 2011. Regarding offenses against family and children, the Bureau of Justice documents that 107,018 offenses were reported nationally in 2012.

Those numbers are hard to swallow, right? Well, let me throw this at you: Domestic violence and rapes are chronically unreported. Only a quarter of physical assaults, a fifth of rapes and only half of stalking incidents are reported.

Now that I have your attention, it's important to know that not all domestic abuse is physical. Emotional abuse can be just as detrimental to someone as physical abuse, which is why it's imperative that we watch out for one another. Changes in behavior in those closest to us should alert us that something is wrong. Predominant aggressors crave control and will attempt to control every aspect of their victim's life, including: jobs, friends, family, finances, clothing, etc.

Throughout my career, I've noticed that many times aggressors will start with emotional abuse and slowly move into physical abuse. This could eventually have fatal consequences if someone doesn't intervene to see that the behavior is corrected. When you're an active party within the relationship, it's sometimes difficult to see the detrimental effects; therefore, friends and family closest to these victims should voice their concern.

From a law enforcement standpoint, I am proud to say that we tenaciously investigate claims of domestic abuse and rape. Montana law states that a person is guilty of Partner Family Member Assault if injury is purposefully and knowingly inflicted on a partner or family member. It also states that a person is guilty of the same crime when causing a reasonable apprehension of bodily injury to a partner or family member. This means the physical assault doesn't have to actually have to take place if the victim was placed in reasonable fear of a pending assault (MCA 45-5-206).

What is equally as important is that we have services available locally to help people in crisis and guide them through the process which would be daunting and frightening on one's own. These professionals work day and night to ensure the comfort of the victims and have a wide variety of resources available to them to help with housing, finances, child care, etc. Victim witness can be reached at 406-315-1111 and are located at 401 3rd Ave. N. The Mercy Home can also be reached at 406-452-1315, if after hours you can reach someone at its 24-hour line at 406-453-1018 or walk-ins can be taken at the YWCA.

It's time that we wake up and realize that these crimes happen here in our Great Falls neighborhoods and are likely a lot closer to us than we would think. Watch out for one another and take a stand if you see something that alarms you. We, as a police agency, would rather have citizens call with suspicions than hesitate and not call at all.

Remember, not all abuse is visible. Let's watch out for each other out there!



Coping with Abuse

by Dr. David Schopick

If you have been abused, or are suffering from abuse, know this: healing can take place. It will take work and it requires trust, which can be a very difficult thing to achieve once you have been abused. Abuse has a way of interfering with a person's ability to trust, but learning to trust again is one of the first steps on the road to recovery.

Finding a therapist or counselor who is experienced in dealing with abuse is key. Once you have found a therapist, it may take time for you to feel comfortable enough to share your experiences, but a good therapist will guide you in a way that helps you make progress.

Abandoning secrets

Why is therapy important? Abuse is built around secrets. Don't tell what's happening to you. Don't tell who is doing it. Don't let on that anything is wrong. If keeping secrets is the hallmark of a dysfunctional or abusive home, then sharing secrets, opening all the locked doors, letting all the monsters out of the darkness, is the hallmark of psychotherapy.

There are many ways to think about psychotherapy and the process of recovery. Therapists, researchers and people in treatment have many different theories about how the healing actually takes place. I believe that sharing our secret monsters is a key way that therapy helps to generate healing. Talking about the monsters takes away their power and has a therapeutic effect. In fact, I use the word “monster” deliberately as I encourage my patients to see their abuse as a monster on their shoulder, always there, always controlling them. Our job as therapists is to help patients identify the monsters then banish them once and for all. Monsters like dark, secret places so we get rid of them by bringing them into the open, into the light.

Secrets are a way that your inner self keeps you weighed down with all those huge monsters that you have lived with for so long. Secrets are like monster blackmail. Every time you recall the abuse your inner monster punishes you. It urges you not to tell anyone about what has happened: “If people ever find out, they'll hate you!” says the monster. “They will see you as damaged!” Secrets foster feelings of fear, anger, loneliness and suspicion.

For you to be well again, the secrets must come out. The reality is the shame and guilt are not yours; they do not belong to you. They belong to the abuser.

During psychotherapy, all the secrets and secret monsters can come out, be closely examined, and healed. This is where you sort out the shame, guilt and terror that may have plagued you since the abuse.

Uncovering feelings and emotions

Therapy is a safe place where you can experience emotion. This may sound simplistic, but it is true. Many abuse victims say they have never felt safe anywhere because of what happened to them. For abuse victims, the therapist's office is a place where they can feel safe, maybe for the first time in their lives.

Experiencing emotion is essential to restructuring your view of yourself. In our culture, emotional release is generally viewed as a sign of weakness. However, in therapy we learn that releasing anger, rage, grief, pain, loss and fear, as well as joy and pleasure, are necessary steps toward self-knowledge and growth.

In therapy, you become the master instead of the monster being the master. By releasing the monster inside, you can look at it, describe it, name it and finally move beyond it.

The goal of therapy is to learn new ways to relate to yourself and to others. An important step in this goal is learning to communicate your needs, feelings, wishes and fears more effectively. In therapy, anger is not acted out, but is instead expressed, understood and worked through. The goal is to bring everything, all the monsters, feelings and experiences into the light. Hiding your feelings during treatment will only undermine your therapy. Hiding your feelings is like keeping secrets; it may be something you learned to do as you were growing up, but just like secrets, it can poison a relationship.

Building a new life means building a new foundation of trust and communication. It means taking the monster off of your shoulder, putting it on the table between you and your therapist, and saying “What have we got here?” And that's when the healing begins.

The next article will focus on techniques for coping with the pain and flashbacks caused by abuse, including ways to de-stress and relax.

In addition to more than 25 years of experience in private practice, Dr. David Schopick is also the author of “Safe at Last: A Handbook for Recovery from Abuse” which highlights the use of “monster therapy.” He is a psychiatrist in private practice in Portsmouth, NH. He is Board Certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in adult, adolescent and child psychiatry and has been serving patients in the Greater Seacoast area and beyond for more than 22 years. For more information, call (603) 431-5411 or visit


Millions of children trapped in orphanages have families - JK Rowling charity

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation

by Kieran Guilbert

LONDON, Nov 9 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Millions of poor, disabled and trafficked children worldwide are trapped in institutions and orphanages despite having a living parent or relative, according to a children's charity founded by author J.K Rowling.

In a report released on Sunday, the charity Lumos said that of eight million children living in so-called 'orphanages', more than 80 percent are not orphans, and could be reunited with their families given the right support.

Lumos chief executive Georgette Mulheir said because institutions run to routines, the children come second, and demonstrate "delays in all areas of development".

"In poor-standard institutions children may even fail to sit, stand, walk and talk by the age of four," Mulheir said in a statement as the report was launched.

"The resulting lack of emotional and physical contact, regular stimulation and interaction leads to significant impairment of brain development among infants raised in institutions."

Lumos found that children in institutions are ten times more likely to be involved in prostitution, 40 times more likely to have a criminal record and 500 times more likely to commit suicide.


The Global Picture of Children in Institutions report found that as many as 95 percent of the 800,000 children living in orphanages in Russia have a living parent.

In Indonesia, 94 percent of an estimated 500,000 in institutions are not orphans, and 80 percent of the 30,000 children in orphanages in Haiti have living family members.

Poverty is the main reason children are sent to institutions, the report found.

In some countries, poor parents are offered money to give up children and corrupt organisations benefit from donations to their orphanage or through child trafficking. Disability is also a common reason for children to be left in institutions.

Mulheir said the charity wanted to challenge a decades-old belief that "orphanages are good for children".

"This may be a difficult message for staff who work, often voluntarily, in orphanages, as well as the millions of concerned citizens who donate to charities supporting them," she said.

"However, our case, simply, is that there is a better way."

Lumos called for community services to help families care for their children at home, and family-based alternatives for children who cannot be cared for by their parents, including relatives, foster care and adoption.

The report was accompanied by the release of a short film by Lumos, "Behind the Walls", which shows footage of a child walking through an abandoned and derelict orphanage.

In the film, J.K. Rowling says: "This is a massive global problem - eight million children trapped in institutions around the globe. But it's a problem we can solve. I think all of us want to think that we've helped give the next generation the best possible start in life."



Inside a batterer's mind, his victim's soul

by Jessica Ravitz

He's nothing like I imagined. His demeanor is gentle, his smile and handshake warm, his words friendly and measured. He asks permission before taking a bite of his takeout salad.

Where's the batterer I've come to meet? The man who grabbed, pushed and punched a woman he claimed to love? The one I've enlisted to help me understand: Why do some men do this? How can they be stopped?

"Dylan" is Ivy League-educated, a self-professed nerd who was raised by loving parents with advanced degrees. He grew up in a beautiful home in a tony Atlanta suburb. He enjoyed every privilege a boy could want. He vacationed in places like Cairo, London and Paris before he could even shave.

He defies the stereotypical image of a batterer I have in mind. I'm ashamed of my own naiveté. Lesson one: Just because he had it so good doesn't mean he wasn't capable of becoming brutal.

Dylan has met me after work in a quiet office outside Atlanta. He's asked that I change his name and hide his identity to protect him and his victim. In exchange, he has agreed to take me back to a time he'd rather forget. He will map out how he became an abuser. And how, some 10 years later, he became a new person, the man he wanted to be.

Going inside the mind of a batterer, I'll learn, means examining much more than the images we hold onto. The story of suspended NFL running back Ray Rice, and other abusers, doesn't end with a knock-out punch in an elevator or an attack never seen on video. Nor do these tragedies begin there.

Power and control

Dylan's parents weren't perfect. Neither were friends who he idolized. Not many people are.

Scene one: His mother and father argued. The abuse was verbal, sometimes physical. Twice he watched his father push his mother.

Scene two: He was sitting on a bus in the high school parking lot. He watched out the window as an upperclassman he respected struck his girlfriend. Hard. She was the sort of girl Dylan dreamed of dating someday. He gawked with others as she cowered and bled.

At home and at school, no one talked about what Dylan saw. Love between a man and a woman, as far as he could tell, was allowed to look this way.

Now, in his mid-30s, Dylan has a tool for identifying what he witnessed -- and how he acted himself.

"Have you ever seen the power and control wheel?" he asks me.

I have no idea what this means. He pulls out a sheet with a round diagram.

It shows tactics a man might use to gain leverage in a relationship, ways he may behave before resorting to physical or sexual violence. These are the less obvious, but insidious, means by which men keep women down. Red flags Dylan couldn't identify back then.

Minimizing. Coercion. Male privilege. At first, the language sounds like over-intellectualized psychobabble. But soon I realize that the wheel represents everything I'd like to caution my nieces about before they go out into the world.

Dylan was in college when he met his first girlfriend. Early on, without even knowing her friends, he told her he didn't like them. Isolation. Controlling who she sees.

When she came to his room later at night than he wanted, he locked the door -- something he never did otherwise -- and made her knock. He took his time answering to remind her who was boss. Male privilege. Acting like the "master of the castle."

Fast forward to after college. He was living with a new girlfriend, "Isabelle," in Atlanta. She might have had the better job, but he was the one who could drive. She has a disability and depended on him to get to work. He didn't let her forget it. Threats. Making her feel guilty. The cloud of economic abuse; she could lose her job.

His boss treated him like an idiot, but Dylan felt he had to take it. Out in the world, it seemed like people walked all over him. So at home, Dylan exerted power in the only place he felt he could. He was making more money by then, he says, and had earned the right to "act like a man." More male privilege. Defining their roles.

He criticized how she did her hair, what she wore, even the way she filled the dishwasher. Emotional abuse. Making her feel small and humiliated.

You see how this works, right? He kept the wheel well-oiled, and it would eventually spin out of control.

Smarter than this

It's one thing to hear his story, but what about hers? Once I learned he was still in touch with Isabelle, I told Dylan I wanted to give voice to her perspective, too. It seemed only fair, I said. He didn't think she'd be interested in talking, but he agreed to reach out to her for me. A week later, Isabelle and I first communicated.

She was eager to speak, but only if I used a pseudonym. She doesn't want her past to define her present or future.

Growing up thousands of miles from Dylan, Isabelle watched her father suppress her mother. He degraded her with his words and threw things to intimidate her. Even though her mother would later find the strength to leave, Isabelle learned early about submission.

Today, she seems self-aware and certainly no pushover as we share chips and salsa in a small Mexican joint. Thinking back to how her relationship with Dylan unfolded, she says she should have seen what was coming.

She'd taken to going away on weekends to escape him. She pleaded with him to move out of her house, but he wouldn't budge. He used her inability to drive against her -- even though she'd managed just fine before he came along.

He isolated her from friends and family. Too ashamed to admit how unhappy and worried she was, she isolated herself further. He put her down in public and made her feel like a child. She was embarrassed. After all, she had a master's degree. She was smarter than this.

Still, for so long, she hungered for what they had when the relationship was good.

"I wanted him to come back to me as I remembered him," she says. "I lived for those moments when he would show up."

When she changed the radio station in the car without asking, he says he gave her a push and yelled about wanting to be respected.

She remembers him pinning her against the door in the moving car and worried that if it opened she'd be a goner.

When she once called him an asshole, he grabbed her arm: "If you want to call me an asshole, I'll show you an asshole," he says.

It was a Sunday morning, when he crossed the line for the last time.

This is how Dylan recalls it: She'd been up late talking on the phone with a male friend, and Dylan decided she was cheating. He ripped up some of her favorite photographs. He called her a bitch and a whore. He took a vase of flowers -- "they were irises," he says, thinking back a decade -- and dumped it over her head. He threatened to break her cell phone. And then, he unleashed his remaining rage with a punch to her chest.

"In that moment," he says, "I realized what I'd done."

He picked up the flowers and poured on the apologies. He left to give her space. He was at his parents' house when the sheriff's deputy drove up and served him a temporary restraining order.

Dylan never fought it. That last punch was a jolt to him, too. He'd assaulted his girlfriend of more than four years on, of all days, Father's Day.

"I will not bring a child into this," he remembers thinking. "I was very clear that I needed to find a new way to move in the world because the way I was moving wasn't working and wasn't healthy."

When he stood before the court, he quickly agreed to stay away from her for a year. He didn't want her to have to sit on a stand and recount all he'd done.

He says he wanted to protect her feelings. But to be honest, Dylan didn't want to hear it.

'Lucky to be alive'

The story she tells is less sanitized and more haunting. Isabelle says on the day of "the incident," she thought she'd die.

She hadn't been on the phone late at night, as he remembers it. No, she'd escaped to a hotel to crash with visiting friends and had stayed up late with them.

Back home that Sunday morning, Isabelle was jolted awake from a nap when he grabbed her. "He called me a whore," she says, and began "ragdolling me around the house."

That vase of flowers he spilled over her? He intended to break it over her head, she believes, but she was able to push his arm away. He tried to snap her cell phone in two and asked her which half she'd want.

She tried to close a door between them, which only enraged him further: "Never shut the door on me!" Then came that punch to her chest, which sent her 5-foot-4, 110-pound frame flying into a heap of laundry on the floor.

The world, she says, fell silent. And then "the universe said just play dead, and so I did."

He was sufficiently freaked out and backed off long enough for her to crawl into the bathroom and lock herself inside.

He peppered her with apologies through the door. He offered her Advil. She laughs at the absurdity of that suggestion. As if Advil could make things better?

"You need to leave," she says she told him. "And I suggest you take an overnight bag."

She's grateful there was no weapon in the house.

A friend came over to help her. She called a locksmith to change the locks before she left the house. She wore a turtleneck to hide the growing bruises. She pretended she was OK. But in the restaurant where the two friends went, Isabelle could barely breathe.

Her friend took her to the hospital, where "the doctor said, 'I don't know how you're alive.' " One inch to the left, she was told, and the direct blow to her chest could have killed her.

"I'm very lucky," she says. "I have angels on my shoulders."

Owning what he'd done

Dylan promised the court he'd stay away. No contact. No phone calls. No showing up at her door. He paid restitution, covering some expenses such as the cost of changing the locks in her house.

He then set out to change himself.

He camped out in the self-help section of Barnes & Noble. He armed himself with books, including "Anger Management for Dummies."

When books could only take him so far, he sought out more and came across Men Stopping Violence, a national training institute committed to creating safer communities for women and girls.

The 32-year-old organization conducts trainings in churches, corporations, community groups, government agencies and schools. The primary aim is prevention, to help society understand and change the social norms that create violent men -- and thereby prevent the abuse of women from even starting.

Only a small fraction of batterers get busted, explains MSV Executive Director Ulester Douglas. It's better to engage all men before they abuse -- whether they are black, white, rich, poor, young or old.

"If we rely only on intervention, we miss the mark," Douglas says. "Prevention is what we need, and this must be a systemic approach."

But there is an intervention arm of MSV, and Dylan signed up for its 24-week educational course to learn alternatives to controlling and abusive behavior.

The Atlanta-area course, which teaches about 220 men a year, draws those who've been sent under court order and men, like Dylan, who self-enroll -- oftentimes because they feel they have too much to lose. Maybe a wife has threatened to leave unless they get help. Or protective services has required their attendance before they can see their children again.

Dylan learned to let go of his definition of manhood, the image society drills into boys. It says tears are for sissies, vulnerability is a sign of weakness. It teaches that the only manly emotions are anger and rage.

He owned what he'd done and who he'd become. Only then could he change.

He found out how to be intentional and thoughtful. He became versed in what Men Stopping Violence calls "The Arc of Choice," a path lined with "speed bumps" to stop knee-jerk attacks -- verbal or otherwise. He learned to take deep breaths and think about his choices. He learned to honor his true emotions and not hide behind others. He learned to listen to his body and catch himself before acting. He learned to, as he put it, "center myself in a spirit of patience, respect, peace, love and empathy for what the other person is feeling."

'It has to be hopeful'

Today Dylan sees himself as a better man. He went on to work in the field of social justice, dedicating his time to the protection of women. And he volunteers with Men Stopping Violence.

He says he's had healthy relationships and is in one now.

He calls Isabelle his best friend.

That gives her pause. She cares for him deeply, sees him as a sort of brother and believes that he's grown and changed. She doesn't believe for a second that he would hurt another woman. But best friend? Sometimes she feels that way; other times she struggles to go that far.

"I forgave that day because I choose to forgive," she says. "But some of my life got stolen."

She's proud of his success, the career he's built, but knows -- in some ways -- she paid for it. He wouldn't be doing what he's doing, after all, if he hadn't abused her and found his way to Men Stopping Violence.

For her, the ripple effects still linger. Call it PTSD.

If a man takes her arm unexpectedly, she flinches. A critical comment, no matter how small, can set her back to a different time. A scream, even at a television during a football game, might leave her rattled.

While he can cut out the ugly details of the past, she doesn't feel she can. This old relationship still shapes how she relates to men, no matter all the therapy she's had.

Her radar is on for bad things to come, and sometimes she worries that she'll miss the signs. When a man says something nice to her, she may wonder if she's being manipulated. She doesn't love as freely.

But she also emerged on the other side empowered in new ways. She isn't afraid to stand up for herself. She's strong enough to know she'd rather be alone than mistreated.

Isabelle is only willing to share her part of the journey because she wants women to see their value. She wants to give hope to those in unhealthy or dangerous relationships.

"I want our story to encourage women to get out -- and men to get help," she says. "It has to be hopeful. Otherwise I'd rather keep this chapter in the past."

She knows there are those who can't understand the friendship she's built with Dylan. Cutting ties, though, isn't easy when there's history.

Isabelle will be the first to admit that letting Dylan into her life was a gamble. But she chooses to see the good in him. And she knows he's unusual.

He's taken responsibility. He's accountable. He is so in tune with the patterns of men that she benefits from his advice. "It's like getting counseling without paying for it," she says. And she's not afraid to dole out her own feedback to keep him in line.

"I found my voice," she says, "and he learned to listen."

Glimmer of understanding

The story of Dylan and Isabelle moves me. It also terrifies me.

They are beyond unique; that's clear. I mean, how many men who've battered really go on to build a career dedicated to protecting women? How many women who've been abused can safely befriend their abuser?

I lose sleep wondering if it's too good to be true.

It's a Friday afternoon when I stroll in to the DeKalb County Courthouse for a reality check. Around me are men who've recently been arrested for misdemeanor charges related to domestic violence.

They are only here because the court made them show up at this afternoon class as a condition for bond. No one is happy to be here. Some are outwardly mad.

What about when you've got a woman beating on you?

What if a girl likes it and puts up with it?

I don't like the idea of getting locked up for something I didn't do. What if she wanted to get me in trouble and knew if she called the cops the system would be on her side?

These questions are tossed at the facilitators of "Tactics & Choices," offered by Men Stopping Violence. They have a little more than three hours to engage men, shift thinking and, hopefully, protect women. If they're lucky, some of these men will later land in their 24-week course, the type that helped Dylan.

"I know we don't live with angels. I know we don't live with saints," a teacher says. "But the only person in the world I can control is myself."

The conversation is steered toward the importance of building partnerships based on respect and equality. Men are reminded that if a relationship isn't healthy for them, they should get out. This talk about equality, though, doesn't fly with everyone.

If I make more money, then I have the last word.

We are designed to fill certain roles in relationships. It's biblical.

Why is man's role being so feminized? In a minute, we're all going to be wearing dresses.

I want to learn how to be successful in a relationship without being sensitive.

"I want you to hear this: The world is changing," warns an instructor. "Begin to change your thinking, renew your mind, grow into a new possibility."

During the last hour of the course, as instructors guide the men through exercises, I see a few light bulbs go off -- but I wonder, once they leave the room and return to their environments, will the glimmer of understanding fade?

Can they, like Dylan, give change a chance? Or will they walk the path they've already traveled and abuse again? And, most pressing to me, how many Isabelles will suffer in their wakes?


Domestic violence: your questions answered

The Guardian and the Women's Information Service, WISE, tackle your questions on everything from how you can help to the often forgotten male victims of domestic violence.

Last month, during domestic violence awareness month, we ran a series of stories about the difficulties that abused women face at home and at work. Readers brought us their questions. The Guardian partnered with the Women's Information Service, WISE, to answer your questions on the topic. WISE is a regional organization that has been working to end domestic and sexual violence and stalking for over 40 years. Below are the reader questions and answers from Peggy O'Neil, executive director at WISE.

What would make it easier for victims to seek help?

First, connect with your local domestic violence program and get involved. There is an international network of program. Check out to find the one nearest your home. Ask how you can help the program and support victims in your own community.

Educate yourself and others – read the series of articles that the Guardian has produced this week, watch Private Violence (and any number of other documentaries and films about the culture of violence), attend trainings and events put on by your local programs, and share what you've learned with others. Help raise the community dialogue about domestic violence and the impact it has on the world. Isolation and silence breed domestic violence. Become and stay informed.

Before you speak, think: “Would a victim feel blamed by this?” When you become known as someone who is safe to confide in, survivors will reach out to you and share their private violence.

Always ask a survivor what they need and what is safe for them and their children and then trust them. Survivors are the experts on their life and their situation. Don't assume that you know what other people need, or that your own experiences or strategies will safely or effectively translate to other people's lives.

Miller/Private Violence

Why is it so difficult to leave? Why do victims stay?

The thing that I did not know that was so revealing to me was that anywhere between 50% and 75% of domestic violence homicides happen at the point of separation or after [the victim] has already left [her abuser]. ... It was always that she had tried to leave. She had done exactly what we think they're supposed to do and she dies. And her children die.” - Cynthia Hill

‘Why doesn't she just leave' is a question that is often asked.

As with anything – if it were that simple, it would have already been done. For domestic violence victims, ‘just leaving' is complex, unsafe and can be fatal. According to the United States Institute for Justice: “One in five women killed or severely injured by an intimate partner had no warning: the fatal or life-threatening incident was the first physical violence they had experienced from their partner. A woman's attempt to leave an abuser was the precipitating factor in 45% of the murders of women by their intimate partners.”

Leaving an abusive relationship isn't easy, for many reasons. Here are 50 reasons why victims stay. Please take a few minutes to peruse the list and ask yourself, how hard would it be for you to leave?

If you experienced police intervention (eg a neighbour called the police in response to hearing/seeing domestic violence), did it help improve your situation in any way?

This is a really important question.

The first thing is that law enforcement is limited in their possible response based on whether or not a documented crime has occurred. This means generally that police have very few options to help survivors until a crime has occurred, and that standard is usually physical violence. We know that so much of domestic violence is manipulation, coercion, and does not leave physical wounds, and so the criminal justice system very often is unable to provide meaningful redress. Furthermore, often when police do intervene, the perpetrator may make bail and be free later that night and even more determined to prove who is in control. They may be unable to provide actual safety for survivors, so often survivors may decide that they are safer not involving law enforcement.

It's important to acknowledge that while many of us assume that justice systems will be just, all systems were created by people who have their own biases. Domestic and sexual violence are still dramatically misunderstood, and people unfamiliar with the issues can make assumptions that dramatically undermine their efficacy to redress the crimes.

What do you think of the current practice of treating domestic violence as a one-way street and focusing exclusively on male abusers/female victims?

These questions about gender come up often, and most recently developed into the popular and interesting #NotAllMen #YesAllWomen conversations on Twitter and beyond. Domestic and sexual violence impact everyone and the root causes of violence produce negative effects for men, women, children, and people who live outside of the binary. Everyone is affected, so everyone must be part of the solution.

Overwhelmingly these crimes are perpetrated by men - three quarters the perpetrators of family violence are men- and against women, who are 86% victims of abuse by partners. This is not to say that other variations of the experience don't exist, just that at most they make up 10% of the issue at hand – not insignificant, but the imbalance is notable.

Having said that – men are experiencing violence. In the United States one in 71 men are sexually assaulted as adults, compared to one in five women. Children suffer far more: one in six boys and one in five girls, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This means that there are huge numbers of boys who have suffered in silence, often unable to reach out at all because of the stigma around sexual assault generally and male victims specifically. Crises like the Catholic Church sexual abuse and Penn State only further illustrate this point.

There is help for men who have been abused – first and foremost the crisis centers across the country that support survivors should be support all survivors – men who have experienced violence, men who are impacted by the violence perpetrated on their loved ones, and women/child survivors. There is also online support, including developed specifically for men who experienced abuse as children.For more information, The National Center Against Domestic Violence has a fact sheet on male victims.

Ellen Pence, a major force in developing responses to domestic violence, spoke at length about women's use of violence.


Private Violence: up to 75% of abused women who are murdered are killed after they leave their partners

by Jana Kasperkevic

There is a toxic question that surrounds abused women: “why didn't she just leave him?”

The answer, too often, is that many women that do leave get killed.

“The thing that I did not know that was so revealing to me was that anywhere between 50% and 75% of domestic violence homicides happen at the point of separation or after [the victim] has already left [her abuser],” says Cynthia Hill, director of HBO's Private Violence .

“When I met Kit Gruelle, she would always point out: ‘Estranged husband. Ex-husband. Ex-boyfriend. Estranged boyfriend.' It was always that she had tried to leave. She had done exactly what we think they're supposed to do and she dies. And her children die.”

Gruelle, the center of Hill's documentary, is a survivor of domestic violence herself, and is now an advocate for battered and broken women. It's a job that requires constant vigilance. About one in four women will at one point in their lives be beaten or abused by someone they know. Each year about 4,000 women die because of domestic violence.

Hill focused her documentary on Gruelle, giving the audience an insider's look on what happens to victims of domestic violence, why they stay and why they leave.

The Guardian sat down with Gruelle to talk about her journey, abusers and their tactics and the habit of blaming the victims, instead of their abusers. Below is an edited transcript of our conversation.

In the documentary, you mention that you have been previously abused by your husband. How did you transition to becoming an advocate who helps domestic violence victims?

A lot of the women who do this, certainly not all but a lot, have had a personal experience with it. For myself, I just felt very lucky that I survived and then took my sons out of the North Carolina mountains and down to the Chapel Hill area. A few years later, I saw an ad to become an advocate, went to the training, and it was just like finding a glove that fit perfectly. It was my calling. Understanding intimate abusive relationships was critically important.

But for me politically, it was also about understanding that the systems that battered women have to turn to oftentimes are just as oppressive as the abuser himself. I like taking on oppressive systems and trying to level the playing field a little bit. So it just worked.

I remembered the things that happened and that did not happen when I was going through it. I just wanted to make sure that everyone out there who is potentially a first responder to domestic violence victims – which is essentially everyone, but key people like law enforcement officers and healthcare providers and clergy – had some degree of understanding of how to listen to a battered woman. She's the expert on what's happening in her relationship.

There's a scene in the movie where you're training some first responders how to handle a domestic violence case. You emphasise that an abuser can exercise control over a victim with just one look. Why is this kind of training necessary?

Law enforcement officers have to fine tune their antennae for the behaviours that might not exactly constitute an arrestable offence, but that should indicate to that officer how much danger she is in.

Because the reality of it is, for abusers, it's almost like they have a toolbox and in that toolbox they have a variety of tactics – everything from a dozen red roses and “Oh, baby” and a night out on the town to threats to a gun. He will use any one of the tactics that he feels he needs to use to make sure that his position of power and dominance is maintained in the relationship.

An abuser has his toolbox. Is there a toolbox for domestic violence survivors? Are there certain skills that they have to learn?

They need to understand early on what to look for. Every single woman I have ever worked with, for the last now, close to 30 years, has always said to me: “He was the nicest guy I ever met when we first got together.”

We need to teach girls and young women to look for the warning signs and to know what they are early on and to be clear that jealousy and love aren't the same thing. That when he starts to do things to make her feel controlled, telling her that she can't hang out with her friends any more, [those are the warning signs].

Maybe he wants to be with her all the time and doesn't want her to see her family or whatever. If she fine-tunes her own antenna, and then learns early on that she can't fix him, that if he is someone invested in controlling her or other women that there's nothing she can do to change that. Then maybe women won't find themselves partnered with these guys, who see them as property and not as women.

I have been thinking about this lately. Abusers have enormous egos, an enormous need to be the centre of attention. They have a sense of entitlement. They expect everything is going to go their way all the time, and when it doesn't, they reach for their toolbox.

I got this visual the other day that the man in an abusive relationship is the centre of that particular universe and women become satellites – just sort of rotating around him. It's not a good relationship. Relationships, the ones that I have seen that are good, long-term, healthy relationships, they're based on a fundamental sense of respect and equality. Period.

One of the tools in the abuser's toolbox can be money and access to it. Women often don't have the financial resources to leave.

This is one of the reasons why domestic violence programmws are so vital and the work that the advocates do is so important, because the advocates listen to her, find out what the needs are and then do whatever they can to help her access the resources that she needs to get out if she thinks that getting out is what she should do. Many battered women stay, because they think: “If I leave, I'm going to die.”

The other side of the resources issue is we tend to focus on - or frame battered women as being women with little to no access to finance. But there's the other side of the coin and that's women who are married to wealthy, powerful men.

Abuse happens at every socioeconomic level, and yet in the documentary a psychology professors writes on your report that that is not the case.

I can't tell you how angry I was when I read that across the bottom of that page. Because over the years I've worked with women who are married to PhDs, who are heads of research and development at big companies, who are doctors, lawyers, professors, you name it. And sometimes the wives are doctors, lawyers and professors. But what people don't understand is that what the offender wants to do more than anything else is get inside her head. Once he is inside her head, then he is the one that's running the show, which again goes back to the tactics.

If she becomes afraid that if she doesn't do things according to his dictates then there'll be consequences, if she has been conditioned, then he has effectively inhabited her brain and now she is not thinking for herself. And I've seen that happen with women who are educated, smart, competent women, which is why this kind of violence is so insidious. It doesn't come in like a tsunami. It comes in like constant [seemingly] gentle waves.

Throughout the documentary we see you clipping out newspaper articles on domestic violence. Why?

One of the things that I find the most annoying is our determination to blame women for male violence.

We don't do it with any other crime. Say a bank has been robbed in your community. Maybe the bank has been robbed four or five times already. And the 911 call goes out. Law enforcement comes out. They interview the witnesses. They dust for prints. They do an investigation. When they are done with the investigation, they don't go to the bank president and say:

“Why did you keep all that money here? We've already been out here four or five times. Do you like getting robbed? I can't believe you are still doing business here. Why haven't you moved your bank?”

We have to start asking better questions. Rather than “why doesn't she just leave”, it's “why does he abuse her” and “why does society drive the getaway car”.

There were some disappointing moments in the documentary where the justice system, and its many loopholes, don't protect the victims of domestic violence. What would you like to see change in that area?

In America, we have got kind of a one-note-Charlie response – it's either nothing or jail. Slap on the wrist or jail.

There's a program in Tel Aviv, Israel, which I would love to see come to the US.

What they've decided in Tel Aviv a number of years ago is that telling women and children who had been abused that they then had to go into a shelter and leave behind their family, their friends, their schools, their jobs, their pets, everything they knew and hide out is wrong. Because on one hand, it's saying to her: “OK, you have to reconfigure your life because of this violence.” And it's saying to him: “We are going to expect that women are going to reconfigure their lives.”

Imagine if rather than calling shelters, shelters, which is kind of a warm, cosy term, we called them refugee camps?

Right, that's kind of what they are.

That's exactly what they are. They are refugee camps. And what they did in Tel Aviv is rather than have women and children flee to a shelter – and they still have shelters there – they said, “No, we are going to build a facility to send abusers to.” And men go there for four months stay. It's much more appropriate response. It's a strong political statement, because what they are saying Tel Aviv is: “We are not going to sanction his violence. We are going to as society hold him accountable.”

Janay Rice, the wife of NFL player Ray Rice, suffered graphic abuse in a surveillance video that started a national conversation on spousal abuse. Do you think that now this incident will drive conversation? That something might change in the way we approach domestic violence?

I think it will. Thank God, Janay Rice is OK. And by OK, I mean she is not dead, because he could've killed her. I am very thankful that that didn't happen.

It will be interesting over the months ahead to see what happens with them. For me and for those of us who do this work, we think it would be incredible if he would accept responsibility for what he did, number one. Number two, get the kind of counselling that abusive men need to get. Then, number three, if he would go public with it. If he would say: “This is what I have learned about men's violence against women. I have a daughter and I have a wife that I love, and I am committed to doing my part to stopping men's violence against women and here's how I am going to do it. I am going to do it by talking about what I've learned.”

With him being an NFL player or a former NFL player, I think it could be huge. The same thing for Janay, I think if she decided that she wanted to sort of step out from underneath the waterfall that she has found herself under and start to understand the social pressures that she has had to deal with, and articulate those in a way that was meaningful to women and girls across the country, I think it could be huge.


United Kingdom

Child abusers filmed murder, claims charity

CHILDREN in Scotland have been the victims of evil ritual abuse including rape, murder and even the production of so-called ‘snuff films', two leading charities claimed last night.

by Paula Murray

One veteran campaigner said he had even heard of babies being born and never registered, so the innocent youngsters would not be missed when they were eventually killed by secret paedophile networks.

The existence of such terrifying ‘cults' practising the ritual abuse of children is said to have gone unchecked in Scotland for decades, with those victims who do come forward facing scepticism and outright disbelief.

Although many of the vile incidents are said to have taken place some years ago, experts are sure that an unknown number of ritual abuse rings are still in operation today.

Last night, Police Scotland said they were taking the allegations “incredibly seriously” and would investigate any complaints made to them.

The claims are certain to put the Scottish Government under intense pressure to finally announce a public inquiry into historic child sexual abuse – with Scotland now the only part of the UK without such a review.

Education Secretary Michael Russell is due to make a statement to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday in response to growing calls from survivors, charities, lawyers, politicians and human rights groups.

The disturbing claims of ‘snuff films' and widespread ritual abuse came to light during a lengthy investigation by this newspaper and were made independently of each other by two charities operating in different parts of Scotland.

Break the Silence is an award-winning charity based in Kilmarnock which has helped some 2,800 childhood abuse victims in North and East Ayrshire alone over the past decade, working with the two councils and NHS Ayrshire and Arran.

Founder Kate Short, who sits on the Holyrood committee on adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, said the level of depravity experienced by some of their clients – most of whom are now aged 30 to 55 – was “unbelievable”.

She said: “We hear of ritual abuse, it's not common but we have had quite a lot of people that have been abused as part of a cult or a paedophile ring.

“In the worst cases they have been forced to watch the making of snuff movies.

"It's the extreme, barbaric type of terror that can lead to serious personal disorder.

“Often it is siblings who are forced to have sex with one another in front of the paedophiles or on the ceremonial altar.

"There are animals involved, it is vile.

“Sadly many of these victims lack the confidence to engage the authorities because they think no-one will believe them.

"They are controlled by fear.

“The cults and rituals involve all sorts of people and many are often upstanding members of society or possibly in positions of authority or power.

“Their victims are so brainwashed they don't dare to speak against them which makes it near impossible to see any prosecutions let alone convictions.

“And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

"We are contacted almost on a weekly basis. This is something that's been going on forever and I can't see it ever stopping.

“I don't think the authorities that could stop it really believe the extent of it or even that it does exist.”

Ms Short said survivors often suppressed their memories of such harrowing childhood events and therefore the specific details are vague, meaning they can be written off as suffering from of ‘False Memory Syndrome' or mental illness.

Many abuse survivors also lead chaotic adult lives involving problems with drink, drugs or crime, making them even less likely to be believed.

However, the astonishing claims were supported by another reputable charity, Izzy's Promise, based in Dundee.

Project co-ordinator Joseph Lumbasi said that while ritual abuse did occur in immigrant communities, the overwhelming majority of cases involved white Scottish perpetrators and victims.

He said: “Actually 80 per cent of those who contact us are born and brought up right here in Scotland.

“We've dealt with people who have been involved in gang rape ceremonies, animal slaughters and all sorts of things in secret places.

“People who talk to us are relating us their experiences from when they were maybe just eight, nine or ten – kids really.

“There are stories of girls being forced to conceive and then their babies are aborted for sacrifices. Children are born that are never registered. It is not impossible, they never come up. There is pornography, sick films. Horrific things are happening and nobody is getting caught.

“But all these incidents are so well orchestrated it is near impossible to find anyone to corroborate with your story or to find evidence.

“The leaders are very clever and very powerful. The victims are moved from place to place at such rate they lose track of where they are. They may be drugged or controlled by fear. Their recollections of what has taken place, when and where are muddled.

“But it is happening here, in Scotland, as we speak and must be exposed.”

Mr Lumbasi also said that few victims reported their claims to the police because they lived in such fear of their abusers, even many years later, and also because they were concerned at being named as accomplices.

He added: “In most cases, we can't blame the police for not taking action. If they have no actual evidence such as names, times or places to go with, what can they do?”

Many of the crimes reported to Izzy's Promise are said to have taken place within families or religious groups, where any attempt to expose the abuse was portrayed as “disloyalty”.

Mr Lumbasi continued: “I recently spoke with a lady from near here who couldn't stop crying. She had been through it all and said she couldn't live with the things she'd done.

“She was telling about everything that had happened to her, drugs, abuse, watching others being abused, sacrifices, animal sacrifices, being raped, being forced to conceive and then abort the child for sacrifice.

“At one point she says she may have killed a young child because she was forced to strangle the child. She doesn't know if it is a real memory or a planted one.

“That's the sort of power the perpetrators have on their victims.”

There has never been a proven example of a snuff film – where a person is murdered on camera – being made in Britain, although there have been an isolated number of cases where perverts have been caught with such footage made abroad.

Over the years there have been a number of high profile ritual abuse cases in Scotland, including a major police investigation in Ayrshire into an alleged Satanic sex ring involving 70 adults and children.

It began after eight siblings were taken into care in 1990 with a sheriff saying there was evidence of "sinister elements of sadism, ritualism and torture".

The youngsters were reunited with their parents five years later after the allegations were proved to be unfounded, following a pattern set by similar cases in Orkney, Cleveland and Rochdale where social workers were said to have been over-zealous.

In 2002, a young woman named Laurie Matthew wrote a book called Where Angels Fear which claimed to identify areas across Dundee, Angus and Perthshire where ritual abuse of children was said to have taken place.

Scottish Labour's justice spokesman, Graeme Pearson MSP, who has been campaigning for the government inquiry into historic abuse, said: "Theresa May has apologised this week to survivors for resignations relating to her Public Inquiry into historical child abuse.

“Meanwhile the Scottish Government continues duck and weave on the issue, refusing our demands to hold a public inquiry to enable us all to know what is the situation here in Scotland, and how can we protect vulnerable young people in our care today.

“Survivors have bravely fought for years to be heard and Scottish Labour has supported their calls for an inquiry. The SNP declare they stand for social justice in Scotland – if so why don't they initiate a public inquiry now into historical child abuse?

“The buck has been repeatedly passed in Scotland between Mr Macaskill, Mr Russell and Ms Cunningham in the Scottish government. The time for justice is now. It is time someone in government acted in this matter.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said they worked continuously with law enforcement, local government and children's charities to ensure those to prey on children are targeted.

She added they also supported those who had “fallen victim to what is a despicable crime” and continued: “The Education Secretary will update Parliament on this extensive and wide-reaching work and will also provide an update on the Scottish Government's recent response to the InterAction process to ensure we properly acknowledge and support the survivors of historic abuse in care institutions. Of course, if anyone has any evidence of abuse, or any other criminal behaviour, they should report this to the police to make appropriate investigations.”

Last night Police Scotland said it took all allegations of abuse “incredibly seriously” and a spokesman added: “If anyone has any concerns they should contact us on 101.”



Gurnee-based Zacharias Center provides haven for sexual abuse survivors

by Gregory Trotter

One summer afternoon, the couple got a call saying that their teenage daughter had been sexually assaulted while jogging on a public trail.

When they got to the hospital, they could see their daughter as she was being examined but couldn't yet touch or hug her. Officials at the hospital told the mother to restrain the urge to wipe the dirt and gravel from her daughter's face.

"Your child becomes a crime scene," said the mother, sitting beside her husband during a recent interview at the Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center in Gurnee.

The Tribune is withholding the couple's names to protect their daughter's identity.

"So you're there in the hospital, there's police, and of course you have no clue how to deal with all this," the father said. "And all of the sudden, there's a woman there who's from the Zacharias Center."

Survivors of sexual abuse come to the center in a variety of ways — through the emergency room, through schools or via referral from other organizations. Sometimes, they just walk through the front doors, said Executive Director Amy Junge.

The center gives free counseling and therapy services to victims and their families, both children and adults. It also staffs a 24-hour crisis hotline and holds prevention, outreach and advocacy programs.

The Zacharias Center is one of the agencies chosen this year for the Chicago Tribune Holiday Giving series, a campaign of Chicago Tribune Charities, a McCormick Foundation Fund.

Next summer, the Lake County nonprofit plans to open a second location in Skokie, funded in part through a $1 million grant from the North Suburban Healthcare Foundation, according to Stephanie Garrity, the Zacharias Center's director of stewardship and development.

Although the center already offers some services in Skokie, the new facility will broaden the organization's impact, Junge said.

"Being able to have a physical space in Skokie is really critical," she said.

Formerly known as LaCASA, the Zacharias Center has been in its current location in Gurnee for about 17 years, according to Garrity. The center's atmosphere is part of what makes Zacharias unique, Junge said.

Walking through the halls on a recent afternoon, Junge and Garrity pointed out building features such as wide hallways and large windows that allow plenty of natural light. They're intended to create a bright, safe haven for sexual assault victims.

Soft light from stylish fixtures on the wall provide a warm glow. Toys and stuffed animals fill rooms for children; an art therapy room doubles as a place for mindfulness training.

The center's soothing aesthetic is important for staff as well as the clients, Junge and Garrity said.

"This is heavy work, for everyone," Garrity said.

The work, though, helps thousands. In fiscal 2014, the center served about 45,000 people, according to its records, including more than 31,000 reached through prevention education.

About 940 people were served through counseling, crisis intervention and the hotline, according to the center's numbers.

About 14 percent of the sexual assault survivors were male; about 41 percent were children, its data show.

"More often than not, when people come here in crisis, they come as adults for something that happened in childhood," Junge said.

Fundraising can be a challenge given the sensitive nature of the mission, she said. Rarely do survivors want to speak publicly about their experiences.

Over the years, the center has made a point of diversifying the source of its funding, Junge said. In fiscal 2013, about 60 percent of the organization's $1.7 million in revenue came from public donations, according to the most recent financial report provided to the state, and about 28 percent came from government grants.

The parents of the young woman attacked while jogging say that however the center gets its funding, it has proved an invaluable resource in navigating the arduous journey toward healing.

Their daughter went on to graduate from college and is working in her chosen field. The family has not allowed the incident to define their lives, her parents said, though it felt for a time like it did.

"If this place wasn't here, I don't know where we would have gone," the mother said. "I don't know who would have come to us."



Seminar: Costs of child abuse are high


SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — Abused children pay a high price for their pain, with scars that follow them throughout their lives.

The continued suffering throughout their lives costs the U.S. economy $5.8 trillion, economist Ray Perryman said Friday at the 11th annual Seminar in Forensic Sciences, held at the Isla Grande Beach Resort, sponsored by Valley Baptist Health System and Child Abuse Education Program of South Texas.

Perryman is president and CEO of the Perryman Group, an economic research and analysis company in Waco.

His presentation was titled “Economic Costs of Child Abuse.”

Perryman's presentation was based on a report called “An Assessment of the Economic Cost of Child Maltreatment,” in which he said all forms of abuse — physical, sexual, psychological — have lasting effects in every aspect of victims' lives, including their mental and physical health, their productivity, and their family lives.

Victims often earn less than non-victims, and that ripples through the economy. Many turn to crime, which also places a burden on the nation's finances.

“If someone earns $10,000 a year less, they're going to spend less, the company that hires them produces less,” Perryman said. There are also costs associated with spending on counseling and other social services, health care for children and adults, and added costs of education. Children who are abused have greater difficulty not only in their professional lives but also in education. They often spend more trying to attain an education.

Each first occurrence of child abuse costs the U.S. economy about $1.8 million in spending, $800,000 in gross product and $500,000 in personal income, says the report.

He said 3.3 million children a year become new victims of child abuse, which also includes neglect.

“Every year we don't solve the problem we add that much more cost to productivity,” he said. “More resources need to be devoted to prevention.”

Child safety specialist for Child Protective Services Robert Rosetti said he wasn't surprised by Perryman's findings.

“The effect of maltreatment of children is something that goes on for a lifetime,” Rosetti said.

One way to protect a child from being abused by a sexual predator is to give that child the attention and support he or she needs, Rosetti said.

“Sometimes predators are some of the most nurturing people in that child's life,” Rosetti said. “They look for loners, children with low self-esteem that are lost in the crowd.”

Velma Schmidt, a licensed professional counselor in Edinburg, said she could see an accurate estimate of the economic loss.

“The impact on the family is also a big part of that impact, especially when you have a family because of the trouble of financial burdens,” she said.



198 Dispatched calls to locations in Smyrna involving child abuse / neglect in 2013

In conjunction with the Child Advocacy Center of Rutherford and Cannon Counties, the Smyrna Police Department joins other law enforcement agencies and social organizations in participating in "19 Days of Activism for the Prevention of Abuse and Violence Against Children and Youth" through November 19th.

In 2013 there were 198 dispatched calls from dispatchers to Smyrna Police Officers involving suspected child abuse or neglect. That is an average of almost 2 a day. This year the rate of dispatched calls are similar and have the same average as last year. Therefore the Smyrna Police Department is hoping to impact that number and make more people aware of the signs of child and sexual abuse of our children.

Shirley Key, the Community Services Coordinator for the Smyrna Police Department, will be conducting Darkness To Light training in our community. The first training will be conducted on November 13th from 5:00pm until 7:00pm at Lancaster Christian Academy located at 150 Soccer Way in Smyrna. The second training will be conducted November 25th at the Tennessee Rehabilitation Center located at 460 9th Avenue here in Smyrna. Darkness to Light programs raise awareness of the prevalence and consequences of child sexual abuse by educating adults about the steps they can take to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to the reality of child sexual abuse. These programs are open to the public and those adults responsible for the care and supervision of children are encouraged to attend. If there is any organization in Smyrna that would like to receive this training, they may contact Shirley Key at 615-459-6644 and Mrs. Key will be glad to assist them in this.

The time for that training is from 1:00pm until 3:00pm.

From the Smyrna Police Department:

The Smyrna Police Department takes their duty very seriously in being a voice for the kids of Smyrna that are victims and we hope to impact these numbers more and more. State law requires an adult to call the Department of Children's Services about any suspected child abuse. Their number is 615-217-8900.



Utah dad saves 5-year-old daughter from kidnapper

Father hears noises, gets up to see man carrying his little girl out the front door. Screaming dad runs after man, and the intruder hands over the daughter without a fight, police said.

by Deborah Hastings

A Utah father saved his young daughter from being kidnapped after he was awakened by a strange noise, police said.

Bolting out of bed, the dad saw a man carrying his 5-year-old daughter across the front yard early Friday morning.

Screaming, the dad raced outside and demanded his daughter back.

The little girl was handed over without a fight, police said.

Troy Morley, of Roy, Utah, was arrested a short time later, after search dogs led officers to a house two blocks away where the suspect was hiding out, according to Sandy Police Sgt. Dean Carriger.

The suspect had entered the home through an unlocked door, and was rummaging through the basement when he discovered the girl's bedroom, Carriger said.

The abductor picked up the child and carried her upstairs, where he walked out the front door.

The noises woke the girls' parents and sent her dad running.

“It obviously was a very scary, traumatic situation,” Carriger said. “The sanctity of our home is huge and for somebody to enter that and grab your child, it's got to be one of the worse nightmares a parent can face.

“If those parents were not awakened to go out and investigate, he could have easily left undetected with the girl,” Carriger said.

Morley has been charged with child kidnapping, burglary, trespassing and resisting arrest.

Sandy is a suburb outside Salt Lake City, In 2002, Amy Smart was abducted from her Salt Lake City bedroom and held captive for nine months.



Lorinda Bailey gets 90 days for abuse after pleading guilty to neglecting sons in feces-filled home

4 children found malnourished, not toilet trained Team

DENVER - Lorinda Bailey, a woman accused of neglecting her four sons in a filthy Denver apartment, was sentenced on Friday to 90 days in the Denver jail and five years of probation.

Bailey, 36, pleaded guilty in August to her second offense of child abuse. She told the judge that she did the best she could and didn't want to lose her children, the Denver Post reported.

Prosecutors had argued for the maximum of seven years in prison. However, the judge, noting information he had from pre-sentence reports, declined a prison term for Bailey.

Instead, the judge sentenced her to probation and ordered her to attend a community mental health program, a peer-mentoring program and to not to have any contact with her children while she's on probation.

She was led from the courtroom in handcuffs to begin serving her jail sentence immediately.

Police say Bailey and the boys' father, Wayne Sperling, kept their sons in an apartment filled with cat feces and flies.

When authorities found the children in October 2013, the boys, ages 2, 4, 5 and 6, were severely malnourished and could only communicate with each other in grunts, investigators said.

Authorities say the children were not toilet trained.

Prosecutors say it was one of the worst child abuse cases they had ever seen, but the children were not seriously physically injured.

Sperling faces a court hearing next week.

This isn't the first time the pair has been accused of child abuse.

Sperling and Bailey faced three charges of misdemeanor child abuse in 2006. Then, in 2009, they both pleaded guilty to misdemeanor child abuse.


Sibling sexual assault is epidemic. No wonder Lena Dunham caused an uproar.

Children are more likely to be abused by their siblings than their parents.

by John V. Caffaro

John V. Caffaro is a distinguished professor at the California School of Professional Psychology, Los Angeles. He is the author of Sibling Abuse Trauma.

Passages in Lena Dunham's new memoir, “Not That Kind of Girl,” have ignited national debate over a topic our society rarely discusses — sibling sexual abuse. The actress recounted using candy to bribe her younger sister into giving her long kisses and noted an instance when she touched and looked into her infant sibling's vagina. Some have condemned Dunham's actions as abusive, while others – including Dunham herself — have dismissed it as normal sexual exploration.

Drawing a conclusion about Dunham's interactions with her sister is impossible without much more contextual information about her family. But, in general, the topic of sibling sexual abuse is more common than many realize and deserves much more discussion than it has received. Sibling sexual abuse is the most closely kept secret in the field of family violence. More than one in three cases of sexual assault against children in the U.S. are committed by other minors. Siblings often are the perpetrators. In fact, estimates suggest that sibling sexual abuse is far more common than parent-child abuse. A 2002 study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that at least 2.3 percent of children have been sexually victimized by a sibling. By comparison, 0.12 percent are sexually abused by an adult family member.

To be clear, sexual curiosity in children is normal. All children explore their bodies and may engage in visual or even manual exploration of a sibling at times. This is one way that children discover sexual differences between boys' and girls' anatomies. Even siblings of the same gender become curious about variations in shapes and sizes of their sex organs. Two small children exploring each other's bodies does not predestine them to a life of emotional suffering.

But the fact that some sexual contact between siblings is normal has allowed society to ignore a lot of unhealthy behavior. Sexual activity between children long has been regarded as harmless. Some evidence also suggests that parents are significantly more likely to blame and doubt their child when she or he was sexually abused by a minor than by an adult. Because children rarely report sibling sexual assault and because parents frequently overlook it, research is scarce and estimates of its prevalence likely are conservative. This underreporting has hindered psychologists in developing universal criteria to differentiate abusive sexual contact from normal sexual exploration.

I began treating adult survivors of sibling sexual abuse in 1990 and, based on my initial research, I published an early definition of sibling sexual abuse that has been widely adopted by other psychologists. I believe sibling sexual behavior becomes abusive when:

•  the victim is not developmentally prepared for it,

•  the behavior is repeated,

•  or the interaction doesn't reflect normal curiosity for the perpetrator's age.

Other researchers have developed different criteria. Some draw the line when the interaction includes oral-genital contact or intercourse. Others believe coercion is the difference between natural curiosity and abuse. Sexual abuse frequently includes coercion by older or more powerful brothers or sisters. For instance, one of my adult male clients was introduced to sex by his adolescent sister when he was 9. Intensely stimulated by the sexual contact, he begged for sex while his sister would hold out contingent on certain behavior, vaguely defined as “being a good boy.” He felt implicated as a co-conspirator because he remembered desiring the sexual contact.

Whether both siblings consented to the behavior may not matter, as sibling sexual abuse can be based on fear, as well. That was the case with another client, whose older brother began sexually abusing her when she was 6. Initially, she looked up to him because he taught her how to ride a bike and tie her shoes, and he served as her companion and protector. But he also would become fiercely angry and cruel. After one argument, he pulled the heads off her dolls and put them in her school backpack. After the abuse began, he would tell her she was “only good for one thing.” Sometimes he used physical force and the threat of violence to emphasize his dominance and keep her quiet.

Some psychologists believe sexual contact between siblings is abusive when there is a large age difference between the children. Victims of sibling abuse are an average of 9 years old when the assaults begin, while offenders average 15 years old. Age differences can be compounded by gender. Girls are less likely to be sexually abused by a sister than by a brother. For example, my initial research included qualitative interviews with 29 adults who had experienced sibling sexual abuse as children. Eighteen were women who had been sexually abused by their brothers. Only two women had experienced sister–sister sexual abuse. But sexual interaction between siblings can be harmful even when they are very close in age or of the same gender. Differences in their sizes, strengths, intelligence, and developmental stages can influence the power dynamic.

While our society widely condemns sexual abuse of children as a devastating crime, it does not appreciate that much of that abuse is perpetrated by other children. Too many victims are made to suffer alone, convinced by siblings that they were complicit in the behavior or that their parents won't believe them if they tell. Most victims don't reveal the abuse until they are adults and have endured serious, long-term effects. To protect them, adults must start talking about sibling sexual abuse, recognizing it when it occurs and taking action to end it. Sexualized activity kept secret because of fear, coercion, or threat should not be considered harmless sex play.



What we aren't talking about when we talk about #beenrapedneverreported

It's a powerful hashtag that sparked a global discussion but much of the coverage leaves one thing out: male victims of sexual assault

by Ashley Csanady

In the wake of the Jian Ghomeshi allegations, two Canadian journalists sparked a global conversation about sexual assault on Twitter, but one already-marginalized group is being left out of the discourse.

Many publications have — rightly — lauded Montreal Gazette justice reporter Sue Montgomery and former Toronto Star reporter Antonia Zerbisias for inspiring women to share their stories.

Headline after headline says we're finally having the conversation that so many female victims need.

But what about male victims of sexual assault? A few have chimed in on Twitter, but their voices aren't as widely retweeted, repeated or parsed by traditional media. (Props to the Huffington Post, which devoted its homepage to the hashtag, for including men off the bat.)

One man who weighed in has become a public advocate for victims of childhood sexual abuse, and while he wanted to ensure male victims were included, he also didn't want to draw attention away from the necessary debate about violence against women in our society.

“I feel so hesitant to add my voice to it because I see this as being a potential tipping point in Canada for women to start coming forward and saying ‘Hey, enough! This happened to me.' I'm really cognizant that any male input in that might sabotage that; so I'm of two minds as to whether or not I should even be chiming in,” Jean-Paul Bédard. But he also wanted to share his experience in solidarity with all victims, and also to help address the specific stigmas that male victims face.

As both a survivor of sexual assault as a child and rape at the age of 12, he blogs about the issue and has started a campaign through his website He even ran the Boston Marathon — twice in a row! — this year to raise funds and awareness.

“Of all the male victims of other men, there's this added dimension of sexual identity that comes into play,” Bédard said in an interview. “I think (the number of male survivors) need to be talked about more often.”

“There's enough stigma that I think we could maybe approach it just from that stigma, pain and healing approach rather than this gender approach that really hasn't worked,” he said, adding that women do need to feel safe discussing sexual assault, especially around men because they are the majority of perpetrators of such violence against both genders.

Yes, women are more likely to be victims of sexual assault. And yes, men are the large majority of perpetrators, against both genders and all ages. But that's not always the case, and pre-pubescent boys are especially vulnerable: 15 per cent of all sexual assault victims in Canada are boys under 16.

About one in three Canadian women will experience some form of sexual violence before the age of 18, research suggest s; for boys, it's about one in six, and some estimates go as high as one in five.

“Most research suggests that 10 to 20 per cent of all males will experience some form of sexual abuse or sexual assault at some point in their lives,” according to a post titled, “Guys are sexually assaulted too” on the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services.

“The majority of survivors are women, but what we need to be focusing on in terms of male survivors is letting men know that this can happen to them in the first place,” Joe McGuire, a sexual assault educator with Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse, said in an interview.

Male victims face the same stigmas as female victims, but they also encounter very different societal expectations.

There are many myths about male victims of sexual assault — from the fact that an erection does not equal consent to the sexual identity questions that arise from male-on-male sexual violence to the stigma of men reporting female-on-male rape. Just think of all the movies and TV shows that employ the trope of female-on-male sexual violence as funny. Imagine if some of those iconic scenes depicted men doing that to women.

“There are different barriers for men (reporting sexual assault), they're not more serious or less serious,” said McGuire, adding that could be that they don't consider what happened to be assault or they worry they'll be seen as less of a man for coming forward because it's a women's problem.

There's a societal narrative that men and teen boys are rampant, always-on sexual creatures. McGuire said media coverage of adult female teachers sexually assaulting teenage students is often referred to as a relationship but it's actually “textbook child sexual abuse… but the media seems to again that idea that men having sex is so innate that we think oh it can't be that bad because he's a guy.”

“I think pop culture and especially movies contribute to that stereotype and that myth in a really big way,” McGuire said. “The root cause of a lot of this assault in based in harmful traditional notions of masculinity.”

Tackling some of those toxic societal tropes could reduce all forms of sexual violence against all genders, so no one feels the need, decades hence, to say they've #beenrapedneverreported.



Child abuse: Strangers don't pose biggest danger

Experts say most victims know their offenders


BEND, Ore. -- We set out to uncover the dangers of having your child in day care, but upon investigating that story, we stumbled upon a whole other set of circumstances posing a risk to your kids. We found that registered sex offender lists aren't the problem.

It's not a subject most people want to talk about, or even hear about, but parole officers, medical directors and child abuse prevention experts tell us it's not the known sex offenders we should watch out for.

"It would be very naive to think the only people who are a danger to your children are already on sex offender lists," says Dr. Deanna St. Germain.

St. Germain, the medical director at the KIDS Center in Bend, tells us children usually know their sexual abusers -- and they're not strangers, and they aren't people that jump out of the bushes.

KIDS Center officials say 82 percent of kids know their offenders, and most of them are in their families.

We're told these predators are usually hiding behind familial names.

"The majority of what we see are family members -- uncles, grandfathers, fathers, stepfathers, moms and significant others," St. Germain says.

We're told they're often opportunistic, and they're capable of having normal relationships with adults -- but they have access to your kids. And they have a need, and they want to fill that need.

Experts say the perpetrator will groom the family as much as they will groom the child, often presenting themselves as a resource. Those who abuse can be helpful by volunteering their time, and they can be ingratiating and personable and often charismatic.

The physical grooming starts early, and it starts slowly.

And experts also warn that abuse doesn't always feel bad to the child.

"An unwanted or scary or out-of-the-blue place -- the body still responds with pleasure," St. Germain said. "That can be very confusing for kids, and make it very difficult for them to talk about it, because, 'It felt good, but I don't really think he is supposed to be doing that.'"

Abusers often will exploit a child's curiosity. They might show them a photograph of someone with their clothes off. They might let them watch an R-rated movie that has a scene that's not appropriate for that aged child, but the child then has a curiosity about it and they engage them that way.

Some of the signs of abuse include: nervousness around adults or one in particular, aggression, passivity or over-compliance, sudden changes in personality, inability to stay awake or concentrate, not wanting to go home or to a particular place, low self-esteem, unexplained bruises or injuries, or poor hygiene.

The KIDS Center says parents don't realize how common child sex abuse is. According to data from the national nonprofit Darkness to Light, one in 10 children is sexually abused -- and 90 percent know their abuser.

The KIDS Center says parents should minimize the opportunity by eliminating or reducing one-on-one situations, talk about boundaries with your children, know the signs of abuse, plus react responsibly to suspicions or reports of abuse, and keep in mind that predators exist in families, not just on sex offender lists.

If you'd like to join the fight against child sex abuse, the KIDS Center offers a program called Darkness to Light, which empowers adults to help prevent child sex abuse.

Visit to learn more.



Conference aims to raise awareness on child abuse cases

by Stacey Welsh

EL PASO, Texas -- As recent cases of severe child abuse affect the Borderland, law enforcement officials and children's advocacy groups gather to discuss how they handle cases of child abuse, and how more cases could be reported.

The Southwest Regional Crimes Against Children Conference has been going on for the past 16 years. The Advocacy Center for the Children of El Paso said more than 2,000 cases of child abuse happen in El Paso County every year.

However, the center's director said there could be 10 un-reported cases of child abuse for each one of those reported cases.

"When it comes to sexual abuse of a child, it's usually a family member who is victimizing the child. For the child to come forth and actually make an outcry that this is happening to them, it's very very difficult," executive director for the Advocacy Center for the Children of El Paso Susan Oliva said.

Earlier this week, El Paso County sheriff's deputies arrested Arturo Montes for alleged abuse that lead to his infant step-son's death. Montes reportedly waited about an hour to call 911 for medical assistance, after he said he witnessed the 7-month-old ingesting water in a bath tub.

Also just this week, El Paso Police officers arrested Aaron Flores after he was accused of forcing a 7-year-old girl to perform oral sex on him. Police also said he took a video of that abuse with his cell phone.

The Advocacy Center said it handles cases that involve sexual or physical abuse. Oliva also said the center relies on the public to help prevent these cases by keeping an eye out for possible signs of abuse.

"It could be abuse if you see bruising of a child, injuries of a child and if something doesn't make sense if you ask a child what happened," Oliva said.

Cases like these would go to local law enforcement for an investigation into who would face charges. The Advocacy Center said Child Protective Services would first look to place a child abuse victim with another family member. If that option is not available, the child could go into foster care.

Oliva said teachers often report possible child abuse.

The El Paso FBI office said it investigates cases of child abuse when there is a possibility of child trafficking involved.

The local office also travels to 17 other West Texas counties for investigations.

"We work on cases that come into the area, that travel through the area or involve a resident in the area. We also work international cases, cases that might cross the border into Mexico or other countries where there's child sex-trafficking going on," El Paso FBI Special Agent Doug Lindquist said.

Lindquist is the special agent in charge of the El Paso field office. He said his office wants to increase awareness of possible sex-trafficking cases. He said signs could include a sudden burst of activity in an abandoned house. He also said child traffickers often pay with cash to house victims in hotels.

"Maybe a hotel cleaning staff or a hotel manager might see some signs such as increased signs of personal hygiene items. You might see condoms, baby wipes, baby oil, maybe those types of things that facilitate multiple sexual encounters," Lindquist said.

He said this industry is unfortunately becoming more popular.

"There's a lot of money to be made. Anytime there's money to be made, that's going to draw a certain element. It doesn't require a high level of skill. It really is an abusive situation," Lindquist said.

The Advocacy Center said people can report child abuse cases by calling 911. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children also suggests reporting possible online child predators, or other suspicious activity online by going to



Child abuse, neglect cases rise in Elkhart County after four years of decline

A family services expert thinks the increase stems from more reporting rather than more abuse and neglect happening. In Elkhart County, child welfare officials are receiving far more reports and increasingly determining abuse and neglect can't be substantiated.

by Jeff Parrott

Last spring when Stephanie Ankrom was having trouble with 3-year-old daughter Madison's behavior, especially getting her ready for preschool in the morning, she reached out for help.

Hoping to learn new techniques to deal with Madison's sensory issues, the Elkhart mother of three signed up for a parenting class at Child and Parent Services of Elkhart County. After finishing the 12-week class, Ankrom felt better prepared and less likely to lose her temper.

“It just kind of helped with the understanding of sensory children, how to handle their tantrums,” said Ankrom, whose 2-year-old son, Jaxon, also has sensory issues. “I knew I had anger issues. We weren't thinking logically when we did disciplining. It was just, 'Go to your room, get away from me, I don't want to see you.' Now it's, 'Why are you upset? Talk to me. Explain to me what's going on.' It's a lot more calm.”

There might be a growing need for such self-awareness in Elkhart County. After four straight years of declines, the county's child abuse and neglect rate spiked last year.

Still, a leading local child welfare advocate said there's no reason for alarm. Candy Yoder, CEO of CAPS, the Elkhart-based nonprofit, said she thinks last year's increase reflects better awareness among school officials of detecting and reporting abuse and neglect, rather than more abuse and neglect happening. She was encouraged that Elkhart County's rate is still well below the statewide rate.

Indeed, child welfare officials had substantiated fewer abuse and neglect cases in Elkhart County over the past five years than in all but one of a group of comparable Indiana counties, according to an Elkhart Truth computer-assisted data analysis.

First, the recent uptick in substantiated abuse and neglect cases. The county had 9.2 children abused or neglected per 1,000 children in 2013, up 37 percent from 2012, marking the highest rate since 2009's 10.6 children, according to data from the Kids Count Data Center.

Yoder said in the fall of 2010, her agency partnered with the county prosecutor and Department of Child Services to begin training school administrators, nurses and counselors on detecting and reporting abuse and neglect. Because national research has found that only about half of abuse and neglect cases are reported, Yoder said she expected Elkhart County's school outreach effort to result in more reports. Apparently it's taken a few years for that heightened awareness to affect the data, she said, noting it's measured in fiscal years that run from July 1 through June 30 — for example, fiscal 2013 started on July 1, 2012.

“I would hope to see, honestly, the number increase a little bit, telling us that more people are reporting,” she said. “If only half have been reported, then we're not there yet.”

James Pippen, DCS regional manager for Elkhart, St. Joseph, Marshall and Kosciusko counties, said he wasn't sure what to make of Elkhart County's increase last year, but he seemed doubtful of Yoder's explanation.

“For it to be a one-year spike like that, I'm not sure it could be attributed to that,” Pippen said. “That's sharp. You're talking a one-third increase.”

Attributing the increase to heightened awareness might make sense if the rate was gradually increasing each year, but instead it decreased in Elkhart County each year before rising sharply in 2013, he said.

“I'm not sure,” Pippen said, “but I can't see anything that's gone on in Elkhart County to have caused a spike.”

Differing standards?

Elkhart County's data show dramatic increases in the number of abuse and neglect cases investigated — though not necessarily substantiated — by authorities. In 2010, 2,504 abuse and neglect cases were investigated. The number dipped to 2,327 in 2011, then rose to 2,898 in 2012 and 3,985 in 2013. Through September of this year, there had been 3,395 investigations. If that pace continues through the end of 2014, there will be 4,527 investigations this year, an 81 percent increase from 2010.

Those are cases investigated by DCS. The percentage of cases in which DCS investigators substantiated that abuse or neglect occurred has been decreasing, especially in abuse cases.

The county's neglect substantiation rate decreased from 14 percent in 2010 to 11 percent in 2011, rose to 13 percent in 2012, then fell to 12 percent in 2013 and 9 percent this year through September.

Its abuse substantiation rate plummeted from 19 percent in 2010 to 12 percent in 2011, 10 percent in 2012, 7 percent in 2013 and 7 percent through September 2014.

The county's substantiation rate for sexual abuse has been cut in half, from 34 percent in 2010 to 17 percent so far this year.

“I've been paying attention to what percentage of reports get opened to services, and it's a really low percentage,“ Yoder said. “The community is concerned about children and is making reports. The community's level of concern is higher than what the department's standards of care are. I can understand this too because we, as a society, believe that parents, that families have a right to privacy and to raise their families in the way that they feel is appropriate. This would tell me that there's some disconnect between what the community feels is appropriate and what the state has determined is appropriate.”

Are state standards too low?

“I would question that, whether they might be, based on this,” Yoder said.

Pippen said the agency's standards have not changed over time.

“To make the generalization that DCS doesn't have the same level of concern as the community, that's an over-generalization,” he said.

Pippen said the increased reports that have resulted from the centralized intake system, with its easy-to-remember hotline number, have generated more reports that don't meet the state's criteria for abuse and neglect.

“We're getting involved in more situations, but the situations we're getting involved in might not have abuse and neglect in them,” he said.

But Pippen noted he would rather err on the side of caution.

“I don't want to come across as saying the public needs to stop making reports,” he said. “They're our eyes and ears in the community and we need their information to go out and see if abuse and neglect is occuring.”

Elkhart County faring better than most

Despite 2013's increase, Elkhart County's abuse and neglect rate decreased 14 percent from 2008 to 2013, while the state's rate, encompassing 92 counties of widely varying demographics, increased 13 percent. That state rate includes, at the lowest end, Hamilton County — an affluent northern Indianapolis suburban area with a median annual household income of $84,821, and an average 2009-2013 abuse/neglect rate of 2.7 cases per 1,000 children.

On the other end of the spectrum, Fayette County, a small rural county between Indianapolis and Cincinnati, had a median household income of $36,602 and a five-year average abuse/neglect rate of 17.6.

Elkhart County's abuse/neglect statistics are even more impressive when stacked against comparable Indiana counties. From 2009 through 2013, Elkhart County's average abuse/neglect rate was 8.7 cases per 1,000 children. That was second-lowest among the nine Indiana counties with populations larger than 100,000 (Elkhart County's 2013 population was 200,563) and whose median annual household incomes ranged from $40,000 to $50,000 (Elkhart County's averaged $46,712 from 2008 through 2012, the most recent figures available).

Of those nine counties, only Lake County in northwest Indiana, population 491,456 with a median household income of $49,315, posted a lower five-year average abuse/neglect rate of 6.9.

Yoder said the numbers reflect how Elkhart County governmental agencies and nonprofit groups work together to support families.

”Our whole nonprofit community is very collaborative and that's unique in our county,“ she said. ”We work really well to identify gaps in services, to engage our families in other services that are needed. I hear that from other people who have moved into this community and worked elsewhere, or who already work in multiple communities.“

For example, Bashor Children's Home has an internal training program for emerging leaders in its organization and opened it up to any nonprofit in the community.

In another example, a children's round table convened monthly by Magistrate Deborah Domine, gathers representatives from governmental agencies and nonprofits. Several initiatives have spawned from that effort, including a Boys and Girls Club program that assigns case workers to youth accused of misbehavior, providing them with services instead of placing them in juvenile detention.

“Difficult kids are more likely to be abused and abused children are more likely to act out behaviorally, so it's a cycle,” Yoder said. “Most parents are desperate to get things back on track. By the time kids get to be teenagers and they're getting kicked out of places, parents are at the end of their rope. They're saying, ‘I've done everything I can. I'm just pissed at this point. I'm tired. I'm exhausted. I can't do any more.'”



Child Abuse Reporting System Gets Needed Funding in Los Angeles

by Christie Renick

A little over a year after the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office presented the Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection with an overview of the county's underutilized $2 million child abuse cross-reporting system, the county's Board of Supervisors voted yesterday to release over $1.2 million dollars to support the use of that system.

The Electronic Suspected Child Abuse Reporting System (E-SCARS) was launched in 2009, the result of years of collaboration between the District Attorney, Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, and the Department of Children & Families.

As The Chronicle reported in February of this year, E-SCARS had not received the funding needed to allow proper auditing by the District Attorney's office, or ongoing system maintenance or upgrades, nor had it been mandated that the county's 43 different law enforcement agencies utilize the system.

The funds approved yesterday include $467,000 for the office of District Attorney Jackie Lacey to hire the staff it needs to oversee and audit the use of E-SCARS. It also includes $764,000 for system maintenance and upgrades through the Department of Children & Family Services, which historically has been the agency designated to perform these tasks.

Lacey requested the additional funds from the board of supervisors last spring. The Blue Ribbon Commission reported that the E-SCARS unit at Lacey's office is severely understaffed, unable to thoroughly audit E-SCARS reports as it is mandated to do, and that the E-SCARS system was crippled by a lack of basic systems and upgrades, including Windows compatibility.

While this increase in funding may improve system function and auditing, what remains unaddressed is the mandated use of E-SCARS by all county law enforcement agencies. E-SCARS provides a direct line between law enforcement and the Department of Children & Family Services, allowing the two agencies to cross-report allegations and investigations of child abuse almost instantaneously. However, use of the system is optional for the various law enforcement agencies in the county.



Best Prevention for Child Sexual Abuse Is Open Communication

Nonprofit Launches #KeepKidsSafe Campaign to Get Families Talking

SEATTLE, Nov. 5, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The statistics are hard to believe. An estimated one in four girls and one in six boys is sexually abused before the age of 18*. "Child sexual abuse is pervasive, but hidden," says Joan Cole Duffell, Executive Director of Seattle-based nonprofit Committee for Children. "Yet research shows that the best way to protect children from sexual abuse is to bring it out of the shadows. If we can break the taboo of talking about it, we will take away the offenders' best defense: secrecy." Toward that end, Committee for Children is launching a six-week campaign this week called #KeepKidsSafe to:

•  Educate parents and caregivers about the importance of starting conversations with their children about sexual abuse

•  Model how to start those conversations

•  Encourage people to share what they learn with everyone they know

A series of short videos, articles, and online resources will be available to the public for free at For 35 years, Committee for Children has been researching how to protect children and promote their well-being. "We've learned that people have a hard time talking about child sexual abuse, so much so that it is vastly unreported—and yet mental health and child protection professionals agree that it's common and represents a serious national problem," says Duffell. "This campaign helps parents see that this is a basic safety conversation, not a discussion about sexuality. We want to make it easier for people to talk with their kids in a straightforward way—just like we talk about safely crossing the street or the importance of wearing a bike helmet."

Director of the University of New Hampshire's Crimes against Children Research Center David Finkelhor, Ph.D., who has been studying child victimization, child maltreatment, and family violence since 1977, says, "Many people fear that talking about child sexual abuse might unnecessarily frighten children, but research suggests that's not the case." He says some evaluation research indicates that children who are informed about child sexual abuse may be more likely to identify dangerous situations, refuse an abuser's approach, summon help, and disclose victimization attempts.

Just as public awareness campaigns helped to educate people and make it okay to talk about breast cancer, prostate cancer, and AIDS, Committee for Children hopes to educate people about child sexual abuse and how to prevent it so that, together, we can #KeepKidsSafe.

*ACF (Administration for Children and Families). (2012). Child maltreatment 2012 . Retrieved from

About Committee for Children

Seattle-based nonprofit Committee for Children's research-based educational programs, including the award-winning Second Step program, teach social-emotional skills to prevent bullying, violence, and abuse and improve academics. Their curricula are used in over 26,000 schools across the United States and around the world. To learn more, go to:

A photo accompanying this release is available at:

Allison Wedell Schumacher
Committee for Children
206-438-6432 (o)
206-778-2537 (c)



How Mike Tyson's Shocking Revelation of Child Sex Abuse Can Help Strengthen Black Communities

by Jeannine Amber

Boxing legend Mike Tyson stunned the world with a completely different show of strength last week when he revealed that as a child he had been the victim of sexual abuse.

The shocking admission came during an interview on SiriusXM's Opie with Jim Norton show. Tyson was promoting his new animated series, Mike Tyson Mysteries , which air Mondays on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim.

According to Tyson, 48, he was abused by an older man who “grabbed me off the street…This guy bullied me, sexually abused me and stuff.” Tyson says he ran away and never saw the man again.

When Tyson mentioned the abuse as part of a larger discussion about inner demons, the radio hosts were clearly stunned. One person can be heard muttering “awkward.”

But according to famed gospel singer Darwin Hobbs, himself a survivor of child sex abuse, honesty like Tyson's is an essential tool in combatting child sexual abuse and the stigma associated with it.

“Victims feel isolated,” explains Hobbs, who endured years of molestation at the hands of his stepfather. “Victims think, ‘this has only happened to me.' In addition, there is also a burden of shame and guilt. Especially in the Black community, there can be a preconceived notion that people who are abused are weird, or strange.

“People may also talk about your sexuality, assuming that if you were sexually abused you must be gay,” he continues. “There is so much stigma, that's why people don't talk about it.”

Hobbs, whose next album, “Praise and Worship,” will be released in 2015, works with his wife, Traci, as a facilitator for Dark to Light (, an organization aimed at ending child sex abuse. Hobbs leads workshops around the country, training adults to prevent, recognize and react to instances of child abuse.

Hobbs and Tyson are not the only Black male celebrities who have come forward with stories of sexual trauma. Tyler Perry and, more recently, former NBA star Keyon Dooling have also shared their torment.

Last month, Dooling, who played 12 seasons in the NBA with seven different teams, released his memoir, What's Driving You? How I Overcame Abuse and Learned to Lead in the NBA . The former point guard told the Daily News that real healing comes from letting go of secrets and getting into therapy.

“I want to let [survivors] know there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” says Dooling, 34. “I believe you have to seek healing through mental wellness, therapy, support.”

Dooling's organization,, offers assistance for survivors.

Hobbs says Tyson's revelation may prompt others to seek the help they need.

“There is so much stigma around sexual abuse. But when someone like Tyson, a strong Black man, reveals it's happened to him, it really helps reduce this notion that you are counted out if you are an abuse victim,” he says. “And even more important, it empowers people to come forward.”

According to Darkness to Light, as many as 400,000 babies born in the U.S. this year will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday “unless we do something to stop it.” Adult survivors of child abuse have increased risk of anxiety, depression, substance abuse and social isolation.

“This is going on in our communities, and every time we speak about it we are bringing it into the light, which actually strengthens our communities,” Hobbs says. “Once there is an understanding about the impact and nature of abuse, it actually helps prevent the abuse from happening in the first place.”

If you have been the victim of sexual abuse, there is help. Contact National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE(4673)



'Coming Out'

A Victim of Child Abuse Speaks Out

by Anju

How does one write a story? I am not out to write fiction nor an autobiography. There are snippets that flash through my mind from time to time, plaguing and torturing me, refusing me peace of mind. As I grow older, I feel a constant rage for not having done anything about it. Rage for keeping it bottled up. Anger for letting the injustice simply pass by unaddressed, unpunished, unaccounted for.

A person who is passionate about social justice and human rights, whose religion is honesty, equality and humanity, whose straightforwardness makes others weary, I have deprived myself of the fairness of support for the horrific experiences that I have gone through as a child. What made me put this aside despite its torturous reminder? I was mute then, but why have I been silent as an adult?

People talk about 'coming out' when it is about sexual orientation or a condition that indicates deviation from the social norm. Does one 'come out' if one is sexually abused? Sexually abused as a child for that matter? Half a century of my life has passed by. Why am I coming out with this now?

I have two wonderful daughters with whom I can open up even about the most personal issues of my life. They seem to like hearing my stories. They have a healthy respect for my family, the openness in my upbringing. I was born in a privileged family and blessed with a relatively smooth life. But whose life has only the good without the bad? Which life is a bed of roses without the thorns? I have shared these snippets with my children. Not to seek compassion, but to tell them why they need to be alert in life, beware the injustice that goes on in people's lives without anyone knowing or lifting a finger about it. Sharing these dark snippets with them during a visit in a beautiful, serene, picturesque setting of mountains and lakes started me thinking. The decision to record this string of random yet persistent incidents came to me while flying through the clouds with my young one sitting next to me. My daughters unknowingly inspired me to document these scraps of horrific memories with the hope that it will bring some constructive awareness of an issue about which we continue to remain naive.
Dreaded Afternoon Naps

Back from school. Lunch over. Adults retired to their rooms for siesta. My quiet, reserved, grandfather resting in his room. My aunt, exhausted after work, retired to her room engrossed in her book or taking a nap. Another aunt also resting in her room downstairs. Cousins scattered around. My father is at work. The unemployed, alcoholic devil is trusted by the other adults to take me to one of the many rooms in the large house for my afternoon nap. The game starts. I pretend to fall asleep. The devil starts to stroke me. He takes my hand between his legs. I feel it through his clothing. He brings his finger between my thighs. I control my breathing, try to breathe as if sleeping. Am I doing it right? I change the pace of my breathing to indicate deep sleep. Of course, he was not fooled. He knew I was awake. What went on in my mind during those moments? Why can't I remember? I was a thin waif of a girl. So thin and bony, that my cousins used to count the knots of my spine. Why did he do this to me? Perhaps even the most educated people in Bangladesh were not aware of the word paedophile. But didn't even the concept, the idea exist then? How could they not know what was going on in the next room? Did they not once take a shorter nap or come to the room for something and discover what was going on? Why was I not protected?

Blotching Memory
So, how did I behave when I woke up from my 'naps'? How could I go about with any normalcy? I couldn't. I hardly ever spoke for one. I was an introvert lacking social skills. I was a slow eater and could hardly eat enough. I showed very little scholastic aptitude in the early years till my teens. I continued to have low concentration level and poor memory as an adult. My biological mother had passed away when I was two days old. The only person with whom I could totally relax, be playful, was Abba. I shared almost everything with him, even as an adult, but not this. What was I protecting him from?

“My Father Does it, Why Can't I”
At one stage, we were sixteen family members staying at my grandfather's house. This meant we had to share rooms. We female cousins shared a room. The double panelled bedroom doors used to be closed at nights, but not always locked. I would be half awake knowing that a male figure would sneak into the room, lift my clothing and I would curl up tightly tucking in the covers around me. The figure once whispered “my father does it, why can't I”, not as a question but a statement. Many years later I reflected on the atrocity of this mind. A person, who was not only aware of the abuse that was going on, did nothing to stop it but actually used the knowledge to justify his own attempted abuse. 'Attempted', as they remained failed attempts but revolting nevertheless

Horror of Privacy
My father was allotted a beautiful double-storied house with a fantastic garden. We moved out of my grandfather's to this wonderful house, joined by three maternal cousins. Now we were four children, my parents and domestic help. It was a big house. My two male cousins shared one room, my female cousin and I one. My father used to feel very proud that we had our own rooms. We treasured the privacy.
My parents were professionals who left the house in the morning and came home late afternoon. My two male cousins and I would be back from school by lunch time. The routine after returning from school was to hit the shower and then lunch after which we would retire to our rooms. The domestic help would take their lunch and rest in their quarters. Our bedroom was attached to a veranda, which was accessed from the main hall upstairs, but also had a connecting door to our room. The devil knew our routine. He would appear at the house in the afternoons. The moment I heard the door bell, I would lock both doors of my bedroom, taking recourse to 'sleep'. No amount of knocks on the door could wake me up. He would wait in the veranda. The privacy that I would enjoy in my own bedroom would be tarnished these particular afternoons. I had to pretend, I had to protect myself. Our new house granted me protection.

On Constant Watch
It was not only the father who recognised the opportunities of finding unprotected children in a large, silent house. The son understood too. I wonder why their visits never coincided. He would attempt to touch or make inappropriate gestures even in front of the others. This meant I had to stay alert even when others were around. The father did it secretively while the son would show a damn care attitude about it. Being on constant watch, month after month, year after year took its toll on this mute, mouse like teenager. The mental torture persists to this day.

“Loving Uncle”
The devil finally moved out of my grandfather's house. This meant I could safely visit my grandfather's house without having to be on guard in case I find myself alone with the creep. But I had to face a different challenge, a constant reminder by my aunt about my lack of gratitude for not visiting my “loving uncle” who had showered so much love and affection on me, who cared so much for me. If she only knew what he cared for and why he was so “nice” with all the girl children!

Finally, this coming out is a little different from the usual kind. It is generally related to a situation where a person steps out of the norm by choice. In my case, an injustice was thrust upon me. I did not choose to be sexually abused. Yet, I kept it buried inside me and suffered as a result of it. My coming out, however, has the same goal as of the other ones: to open up about a stigma. To make people aware of a world that we tend to carefully avoid, a problem that needs our full attention for our children to grow up in a safe environment, without having to look over their shoulders for possible sexual menace. It is also time to send a message to those repulsive creatures that we will no longer remain silent.



PA prosecutor: Boy's beating death ‘just evilness'

Authorities say a Pennsylvania couple struck a 3-year-old boy with a frying pan, laughed as they hung him upside down and beat him, and eventually inflicted so many injuries that he died in what a prosecutor described as an “unspeakable act of depravity.”

Jillian Tait, 31, and Gary Lee Fellenbaum, 23, were charged Thursday with murder in the death of Tait's son, Scott McMillan, and aggravated assault in the beating of his older brother.

Tait and Fellenbaum went car shopping, bought pizza and engaged in sexual activity as the boy lay dying Tuesday after weeks of escalating abuse that ended in three days of systematic torture, officials said.

Investigators found no evidence that drugs or alcohol were involved.

“This is just evilness,” said Chester County District Attorney Thomas Hogan said. “It is an unspeakable act of depravity.”

The couple met working at Wal-Mart and last month moved in together, along with Fellenbaum's estranged wife. They lived with three children — Tait's 6- and 3-year-old sons and the Fellenbaums' 11-month-old daughter — in a mobile home park near Coatesville, about 35 miles northwest of Philadelphia.

The three adults told authorities that Scott McMillan had been whipped with a metal rod, punched and hit with blunt and sharp objects, and taped to a chair and beaten, police said in affidavits. The boy's dead body was covered in bruises, lacerations and puncture wounds.

“During one incident,” the affidavits say, “Gary hung Scott and (his older brother) up by their feet one at a time and beat the boys while they were hanging upside down. Jillian stated that she and Gary were laughing during the incident.”

Hogan called the case “an American horror story.” He said late Thursday he had not yet been notified of the couple having obtained lawyers.

Fellenbaum's 21-year-old estranged wife, Amber Fellenbaum, was charged with child endangerment for allegedly failing to help the boy. She ultimately called 911 Tuesday night, authorities said. By then, Scott had been unresponsive for hours and had been put in a shower for more than 30 minutes by his mother and her boyfriend, investigators said.

When the boy failed to awaken, they placed him on an uninflated air mattress and went shopping, authorities said. The couple returned with a pizza and, after eating, took a nap and engaged in sexual activity, according to Tait's statement to police. Tait said she then checked on Scott and yelled for someone to call 911 because he wasn't breathing.

Gary Fellenbaum severely beat the boy for refusing to eat toast both Monday and Tuesday morning, authorities said. The “discipline” included throwing him against a wall, knocking him off a chair with a punch and then taping him to the chair to keep him upright for more beatings, police said.

The couple allowed Scott's brother to hit him as well, according to the affidavit. But the older boy also showed signs of abuse, authorities said.

“It is going to take us years to put him back together again physically and mentally,” Hogan said.

There was no evidence the infant was harmed, authorities said. She and the 6-year-old were placed in the custody of relatives, the prosecutor said.

Tait and Fellenbaum were being held without bail after their arraignments Thursday. They are scheduled for a preliminary hearing Nov. 14.

Amber Fellenbaum was being held on $500,000 bail. No attorney was listed in court records.


New Zealand

She Was Sexually Abused For Years, But Her Mum Refused to Believe Her

by Chloe Johnson

A few months ago I shared my experience of sexual harassment and why I understand how difficult it is for victims to speak out.

The revelation came after entertainer Rolf Harris was convicted of multiple indecent assault charges against young girls, most of whom only felt safe speaking out years after the assault took place.

I was heartened and humbled by the support that rolled in from friends, family, former colleagues and even strangers. However one person's message, in particular, has stuck with me.

It was from a girl I went to high school with. We were friendly towards each other but we weren't exactly friends who hung out at the weekend or visited each others' houses.

At school she was a fairly timid, but lovely girl. She didn't have trouble making friends and she loved sport. This showed through her achievements in soccer, cricket, netball and squash.

What I didn't know was that she was a victim of sexual assault.

I felt sick to my stomach after she messaged me knowing that while I partied with friends or played silly buggers in class, she had been raped and was dealing with years of sexual abuse.

Just like the boys in the New Zealand Roast Busters case, who police have decided not to prosecute due to lack of evidence, her abusers have never been held accountable.

Just like the 25 girls who declined to make a formal complaint, she never went to police -- a decision she regrets.

Now she wants people to know what she went through in a bid to encourage and urge other survivors to speak up.

To protect her identity, I have chosen to call her Mindy.

When Mindy was a little girl, she had always admired her older brother. He was the only male in her life that she felt absolutely safe to be around. He would protect her from anyone or anything that tried to harm her. And then one day, when she was 8 years old, her world came crashing down in an instant. Her brother sexually abused her.

Feeling confused, broken and distraught, she told the one person who should've believed her -- her mum. Instead, Mindy was told to stop being silly and stop making up stories. Mindy believes her mum was trying to keep shame and negative attention away from the family.

When she was 11 years old, her brother apologized and admitted he may have done it because he had been sexually abused by their uncle.

"I said I forgave him, shyly smiled and gave him an awkward hug," Mindy says.

"Although I wanted so much to really forgive my brother, I just couldn't get rid of the recurring nightmares and flashbacks that had been brought back to life that made me so reserved and scared of older guys.

"Ever since that moment, I have been struggling with anxiety and depression every day of my life."

Sadly the sexual torment didn't stop there for Mindy. At aged 15, her male friend (or so she thought), drugged her. As the drugs kicked in, she was stuck in a paralytic state while the "friend" raped her and encouraged his mate to join in.

"I wanted to tell someone about it, but because of my mum's reaction to my brother, I told no-one. At that point I was hysterical, feeling so alone and frustrated that I was the victim but made to feel like a criminal talking about it."

Mindy was fed-up with having to keep silent. She felt like she was going to explode with mixed emotions so right before the end of year exams, she reluctantly confided in a teacher.

A meeting was set up between Child, Youth and Family, and her mum who said she still didn't believe her and threatened to send her to a mental institution if she ever "made up stories again." Oddly, Mindy was given the choice to see a male school counsellor. Her progress at school had severely declined and she failed most of her exams.

"I then told my closest mates and became a bit slutty as I just figured that I might as well give what the guys want so they won't have to abuse me."

Ten years later, while living in Australia, it happened again. Mindy woke to a friend of a friend forcing himself on her.

"His body weight was on me and his hand was around my throat while the other hand was between my legs. I managed to fight him off for an exhausting, frightening and the longest four hours of my life.

"At one point I thought to myself 'why don't I just give in and it'll all be over in 5 minutes' but then the other part of me didn't want to be a victim again."

Mindy says her dad, who was a severe alcoholic, finally believed her story earlier this year when he found a poem she had written about her brother. He was devastated, but to her surprise, he was very supportive.

Despite being silenced for so many years, Mindy finally reached out for help to friends, professionals and even strangers on the internet. Since then, her mental health and overall well-being has improved and she is now "chasing my dreams."

However, the release of the Roast Busters report yesterday caused Mindy's anger and frustration to boil over.

"The guys get to boast about their actions and get away scot free while the girls get a life-time sentence. It affects all areas of their life, their self-confidence, trust, relationships, self-worth, dignity and more often than not, it puts them on the path to self-destruction."

During Operation Clover, the investigation into the Roast Busters case, 25 girls declined to make formal statements but were believed to have been victims of sexual offending.

Acting Deputy Commissioner Grant Nicholls said all sexual offending in New Zealand was "grossly under-reported."

"I am committed to ensuring that victims of all ages have trust in police and they can be assured their complaint will be thoroughly and professionally investigated," he says.

I understand it is not through the fault of the police that there wasn't enough evidence. But how can victims have confidence in the system when a prosecution couldn't even been made against the Roast Buster boys? Is it likely that victims will want to go through an emotional, traumatic police investigation when they could be told "sorry not enough evidence."

Then there are people who scoff at stories like Mindy's and disregard victims' cries for help, which makes it even harder for them to speak out.

One in three girls in New Zealand will be exposed to an unwanted sexual experience by the age of 16. One in five women in New Zealand will be subjected to sexual assault as an adult. However, only 9 per cent of incidents of sexual violence are reported to police. And of the cases that do make it to court, only 13 percent will result in a conviction.

These statistics are disturbing and New Zealand needs to change its attitude towards sexual abuse. No matter how big or small the abuse is, it's wrong and victims need to feel supported in speaking up as well as getting the justice they deserve.

If you, or someone you know, has been a victim of sexual abuse and wants to speak to someone, please contact a sexual support centre near you.


United Kingdom

How one man left the misery of childhood abuse behind

As a small child, Andrew Ravensdale was sexually abused by his own mother, as well as witnessing the abuse of his two brothers, one of whom later killed himself. In a rare interview, he talked to VoR's Alice Lagnado about how he set himself free from his childhood trauma and went on to change the lives of people with severe mental illness.

Andrew Ravensdale endured sexual abuse at the hands of his mother when he was a small child growing up in Cornwall. Later, as a confused but exceptionally bright young man, he got into Cambridge to read English – yet could only cope, after his childhood experiences, by drinking and taking hard drugs to flatten out his pain. In his 40s he sought treatment, and eventually started working for MIND, the mental health charity, as a Community Advocate, working with people who were severely mentally ill.

“I would describe myself as a lucky man and a happy man,” he told me in one of our first correspondences, and he did manage to find an escape from his childhood that other people with similar experiences never do.

In person, Ravensdale is intelligent, reflective, and caring in a practical, unfussy way. He has a strong physical presence, tallish, with a white beard, lively eyes, and a manner verging on the distinguished, his seriousness is tempered by occasional bursts of sophisticated theatrical wit. He's now 66, and has left MIND for the time being, but still takes a strong interest in mental health debates.

Not everyone who has experienced sexual abuse in childhood will freely talk about it, and men can be especially reticent. It's not easy for Ravensdale to talk about either; he hardly ever speaks out about what happened to him. “I have told a number of people different things. I have never told anybody everything. It seems too much. Yet somehow I live with it,” he explains, in one of our early conversations.

Life-threatening 'accidents'

When we finally met, I started by asking him how the abuse began. “It started when my brother [Louis] and I were both under five; he was about 16 months older than me,” says Ravensdale. His father was out a lot, which is when the abuse took place. “Memory is not great at that age, so I'm sure there are things I don't remember. Whether it started with my brother or me I'm not completely sure, but I know my brother was badly physically abused.

“My mother used to stage life-threatening accidents for him. She would tell the story years later, word for word, it would be the same every time. She would tell them at teatime, cute little childhood stories. They were, in fact, attempts by her to murder him and conceal that she'd done that.

“I witnessed one of these. She stuck his fingers in an old-fashioned electric socket. You can tell how small his hand was. You can also tell her state of mind, because she didn't appreciate that she would be electrocuted at the same time.

“There were several other incidents, and it wasn't until many years later that I remembered the one I had witnessed, and realised that these were cover stories, and that she had repeatedly tried to kill him. The first one was when he was a babe-in-arms, and she capsized a canoe on the river. He only survived because he floated to the surface on a cushion.”

Did his mother say anything during these incidents? “ She said a lot during the incident with the electric socket. She was saying, 'You're a bad boy, you're playing near electricity, it's dangerous, you have to be punished.'

“She was really in very strange state of mind, I need to emphasise that. She would not have been responsible for her actions, I'm quite clear. But I would have been three or four when I witnessed this. She was yelling at me the whole time. There were, literally, blue spots coming out of her hair.

“We were both screaming. What she wanted me to do was go round and turn off the switch. I couldn't understand. I wasn't allowed to turn off switches. I remember what I did – I got hold of the door frame and kicked it as hard as I could, which is what I used to do at that age when I was really frustrated.

“The scariest thing, and again, I didn't remember this for years and years and years, is when her personality changed back. We were out in the hall with our little coats on, and we were going to go to the clinic, and she was leaning over my brother and saying, 'Are you all right, dear?' - that was chilling.”

“It started, with me, being drawn into exciting games, based on my mother's fantasies. They had a lot to do with her grandfather, who abused her when she was a child. She got hold of stories of abuse that don't make sense in her family history. Her family are from the mining villages in Cornwall and conditions three or four generations ago there were dire. Mexican miners would send sailing ships to little Cornish ports and fill them up with unemployed miners. My grandparents were respectable petit bourgeois, but there's a dark past to it. The games eventually led to full-blown incest.

“If you can imagine that – an adult woman and a boy under five, and also try to imagine that the woman in question is the boy's mother. Pretty difficult to think about. I find it difficult to think about.”

“I don't like to call it rape because it wasn't. There's a word 'grooming' that people use, there's a manipulation, a conditioning, a suggestion. A psychological process. And I won't call it sex because it isn't. It's just a gross caricature.”

There were other incidents. Ravensdale remembered one in particular when he had gone down to Cornwall as a young man with the intention of committing suicide. He found the den in the woods near their family home where he had played as a child, and subsequently remembered spending the whole night there after his mother had locked him out of the house. He was four years old at the time.

After the age of five, the abuse stopped. Ravensdale's mother did not abuse her daughter, with whom she bonded better.

Despite all this, Ravensdale does not see his mother as a bad person. “She wasn't evil. She really was not in her right mind when she was doing these things,” he says. “She was way more than ill. I've seen her psychotic, I've seen personality change, I've seen hysterical rage – major indicators of something very badly wrong.

“I do know, though forgive me if I don't go into details here, of at least one occasion when she committed incest with me and she was delusional - she believed I was her grandfather, and I was abusing her. So in a sense she was re-enacting, re-experienced what had happened to her.”

Illness as a mask for mental health problems

His mother did not go to work; she was an invalid, and though she was diagnosed eventually with leukaemia, Ravensdale says that her illness was also a way to mask mental health problems. “In her parents' generation, being an invalid was quite a good cover for chronic mental illness,” he says.

“Madness would have been a huge shame. This was a long time ago … what you were afraid of [then] is that they would lock you up and throw away the key,” he says.

“Remember, up until the mid-1950s, young women who were abused and had babies could be confined in effect for life as 'moral idiots.' That's within living memory.”

Yet Ravensdale insists being taken into care would have been detrimental for him and his siblings.

“I'm quite clear: we were all better off with no intervention,” he says. “We were better off staying in a psychologically and emotionally abusive environment than being in care. After the gross physical and sexual abuse had stopped, there would have been absolutely no benefit, no merit in any intervention from outside with my mother. There would have been no point. There would have been nothing anyone could have done for her [at that time]; it would have made no difference to us.”

Ravensdale's brother Louis, the one who had his fingers stuck in the socket as a boy, grew up nevertheless to have a busy, committed life. He was a bus inspector and elected branch secretary of his union, as well as being active in the Labour Party. But he was also very paranoid and violent in his youth. In 1984, he shot himself. Ravensdale thinks he probably had a personality disorder.

His other brother, Mark, suffers from serious mental illness. He has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, which has meant that he has had to stop work, though he previously worked for many years as a van driver and then a systems analyst. His sister Joanna, a teacher, went to Australia with her husband and is happy there, says Ravensdale. They have two children and two grandchildren.

Impact on a young life

The abuse had a profound effect on Ravensdale, too. When he arrived at Cambridge he was already taking heroin; he attempted suicide in his second year, after which he “flounced out” of his second-year exams.

“I was reading English and was particularly interested in the novel. Since I had no sense of cause and effect and no insight into human feelings they remained somewhat mysterious, ” he says.

He got a 2:1, which to him was a great disappointment, and spent the next few years drifting in and out of jobs in English teaching, publishing and sales and dipping in and out of relationships, still taking drugs, drinking, and unable to manage money. “I would never accept I was mentally ill - I was always afraid that I was mad.”

In his 30s, he had several breakdowns - what might now be called brief psychotic episodes - during which he dissociated strongly and had involuntary memories of childhood trauma. Finally, in his mid-40s, he accepted that he was ill and needed help – but it wasn't easy. A good GP helped; psychotherapy was of little use. He finally got a diagnosis when he was in his 50s and later a referral to the Maudsley Hospital's traumatic stress service, which helped significantly. “It completely changed the frame of mind I was in,” he says.

But this all took time and effort – and, worryingly, would therefore be beyond the possibility of some people who are severely mentally ill.

“One of the things I have learned is that the way the mental health services work is not the way the general public think it works,” says Ravensdale. “No one comes looking for you. No one is eager to give you the service you want. It's very reluctant, very grudging. People don't want to take on difficult cases. People don't want to solve problems. They want to keep themselves out of trouble.” Ravensdale puts this partly down to rivalry within different NHS services, and also because people with mental illness will only normally see a junior psychiatrist who will stay in that job for just six months at a time due to the way the system works. “You have to fight really hard to get a proper review from a consultant,” he says.

“I am frustrated by warring tribes in mental health. If a childhood sexual abuse survivor has symptoms they need to see a clinical psychologist. Psychiatrists and counsellors need to get that.”

'Nowadays we understand more, but care less'

There's also an enormous stigma attached to sexual abuse in childhood. “This is quite inconsistent,” Ravensdale points out, “because [with] the fuss in the media about the high-profile exposes, the fuss about the abductions and about the social worker scandals, you would assume that we all have a positive attitude.

“We don't. We actually treat the kids quite badly. Kids are often bullied at school. One very small example: other parents don't want their kids to go round their [the abused children's] houses because they might 'catch something'. There's a fear of contamination that suggests to me that we haven't quite got away from the notion of taboo … The taboo is very powerful.”

Attitudes in British society towards people with mental illness are less benevolent than we might think, Ravensdale says, drawing on his own experience and his time with MIND. He lists some of the ways in which people will dismiss mentally ill people.

“They're poor, they're losers, they're skivers, 'they could get jobs if they wanted to,' 'they don't really want to get well,' if they're mentally ill then they're dangerous, 'we need to stay away from these people, we're paying social workers and nurses and psychiatrists to look after these people, they shouldn't be bothering us, they shouldn't be on the street like that.'

“I'm exaggerating a little, but there's an awful lot of blame and real fear, and the fear is often to do with ignorance.”

Research has shown that every generation since the war is more individualistic and more materialistic, Ravensdale notes. “We don't care,” he says bluntly. He puts it down in part to the end of the old industrial working class, the move into offices and the adoption of more middle-class values, and the loss of solidarity and a sense of community. “It's a particular stage of late capitalism, if you like.

“We perhaps understand a lot more, but we care a lot less.”

He also says that childhood sexual abuse is on a continuum with other abuse, including bullying at work, domestic violence, and more. “It is on a continuum with abuse in the community and in the workplace. It is on a continuum with people trafficking and human rights abuse,” he says. “It isn't going to stop.” Current economic problems, he says, will only worsen abuse of all kinds.

At MIND he worked with people with severe mental illness, who had usually been hospitalised at least once because they were a danger to themselves or others. A few were very dangerous. He would help them to navigate hospital visits, psychiatric assessments, complicated benefit forms and housing difficulties.

His work showed him that there are constructive things that other people can do to help.

“In almost every case, you can do something,” he says. “You can stop them from being evicted; I did a lot of welfare rights work. The [benefits] system is bewildering, it's far too complex, and the people processing the forms are paid about £12,000 a year, they're pretty resentful – it all goes wrong.

“And if you're anxious, this is very difficult to cope with. There were also hidden problems with literacy, learning difficulties, undiagnosed autism – you name it, it was there. If someone says, 'we'll sort this,' that can make a huge difference.

“A lot of what I was doing was trying to reduce the level of anxiety to the point where people could go on functioning, because if they're not functioning they're not doing other things, they're not paying the rent, they're not eating and so on.”

He urges people to look out for a neighbour or friend who may be ill, to help out, and not to ignore.

Meanwhile this courageous man is now writing his first novel. He emphasises to me once more that he does not see his life in dark colours. “I am one of the lucky ones. I not only survived. I help others.

“I am very grateful.”


Adrian Peterson Sentenced to Probation in Child Abuse Case

Plus 80 Hours of Community Service


Adrian Peterson has been sentenced to probation in his child abuse case -- and will be subjected to random drug tests.

The Minnesota Vikings player just appeared in a Texas courtroom where a judge signed off on his plea deal ... in which the original felony child abuse charge was reduced to misdemeanor domestic violence in exchange for a no contest plea.

Peterson was also sentenced to 80 hours of community service and ordered to pay a $4,000 fine.

After the hearing, Peterson addressed the media, saying, "I want to say I truly regret this incident. I take full responsibility for my actions. I love my son, more than anyone of you could even imagine."



Child Abuse Still Dominates Lubbock's United Way Report


LUBBOCK -- Child abuse continues to be among the dominant problems in the Lubbock area according to numbers released Tuesday by the United Way of Lubbock. In its 16th Annual Community Status Report, the United Way quoted official sources as saying Lubbock County had 18.9 confirmed child abuse/neglect victims for every 100,000 people in 2013. The state average was 9.3.

“Out of a child population of 71,582, the number of completed investigations for abuse/neglect was 2,426,” the United Way said. “Of these, 754 [were] ‘Confirmed Abuse/Neglect Investigations.'”

Some investigations involved multiple children as victims. The number of children identified in confirmed cases of abuse or neglect was 1,354.

The local rate had improved from a high of 24.2 in 2008.

Lubbock County still lagged behind Texas and the United States for per capita income and people below the poverty rate. However, the percent of adolescent mothers has been cut in half from 1999 to 2012. Lubbock County had 4.3 percent of all live births to adolescent mothers in 2012 - which is still above the statewide average of 3.5 percent.

The number of low birth-weight babies has declined steadily in Lubbock County for several years, and so has the number of deaths from heart disease.

The rate of violent crime, including rape, aggravated assault, and robbery, is higher in Lubbock County than the rest of Texas according to the latest Community Status Report.

The United Way of Lubbock said it uses the report to ensure money it collects from local donors goes to the most pressing needs.

“The report also helps numerous organizations make better funding decisions by providing a clearer picture of overall community needs,” the United Way said. “It has become the authority for accurate data that nonprofits throughout the region rely upon when developing grant proposals.”



Missouri voters approve child abuse proposal

Constitutional Amendment 2 faced no organized opposition

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri voters have approved a constitutional amendment allowing previous allegations of criminal acts to be used against people facing sex-related charges involving victims under 18 years old.

Constitutional Amendment 2 had faced no organized opposition in Tuesday's election. It was supported by prosecutors and sheriffs.

Previous crimes and allegations of criminal acts generally can't be used against defendants in court. The amendment creates an exception for potential child sex abuse cases.

Some prosecutors and law enforcement officials say the measure could help convict sex offenders. But at least one prominent defense attorney said it could lead to more wrongful convictions against innocent defendants.

Missouri will be one of 12 states that allow prior criminal allegations to be used in child sex abuse cases.



Adults can learn what to do when they suspect child sexual abuse in Rutherford County

Rutherford County Sheriff's Detective Andrea Knox reacts and investigates when a child has been sexually abused.

Instead of just reacting, Detective Knox now prevents child sexual abuse by teaching adults the Darkness to Light program sponsored by the Child Advocacy Center of Rutherford and Cannon Counties. Since children cannot be responsible for sexual advances by an adult, D2L website states the program instructs adults to "prevent, recognize and react responsible to child sexual abuse."

"Sexual abuse is such a heinous crime," Detective Knox said. "It's done in the dark behind closed doors."

To bring awareness, the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office joins other Rutherford and Cannon County agencies and the Women's World Summit Foundation's "19 Days of Activism for the Prevention of Abuse and Violence Against Children and Youth."

"I'm just passionate about protecting children," Detective Knox said. "As one person, there's only so much I can do to get the message out to protect children who are vulnerable. If parents, caregivers and teachers are made aware of the warning signs, they could more easily recognize a child who has been sexually abused."

Detective Knox particularly warns about the grooming process, defined as behaviors a potential abuser will use to test a potential victim. The potential abuser will see how far the child can be pushed to comply with the wants, wishes and desires of the abuser.

"It's building a relationship of trust but the underlying motive is deviate sexual behavior that can lead to a child being abused," Detective Knox said as she shook her head and tears formed in her eyes. "It hurts."

Some signs of abused children include:

•  Changing their personality.

•  Wearing additional clothes to conceal their body.

•  Adopting different mannerisms.

Detective Knox said parents and any adult who supervises, works with or bears responsibility for children should attend the D2L training. They will learn ways to protect themselves and protect the child.

For example, tutors should keep doors open when working with children. Adults working with children should use their voice to praise children, not their hands.

During the D2L classes, many adults re-live the personal accounts of themselves or friends and want to tell their story. Many adults want to know how to respond when a child tells them they have a secret and don't want to tell.

Adults should tell the child to confide the secret to get something done. State law mandates calling the Department of Children's Service at 217-8900 about any suspected child abuses. The call may be anonymous.


Lisa Marchesoni
Public information officer
Rutherford County Sheriff's Office



Close to Home: Breaking the cycle of child abuse

by Robin Bowen

The violent disciplining of children is a form of abuse. It is a devastating betrayal of the nurturing/protective role that belongs to parents and caregivers.

Consequences of any form of child abuse — physical, sexual and emotional abuse, neglect and endangering environments — are serious and pervasive. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention reports that “maltreatment and neglect” by family increase the likelihood of delinquency and violence in teens.

Along with other adverse childhood experiences, child abuse has proven links to severe health problems and lower socioeconomic circumstances in adulthood. Corporal discipline doesn't work. Studies show that parents who routinely utilize corporal punishment find that the problem behavior re-occurs within minutes following a spanking.

The recent coverage of NFL running back Adrian Peterson's alleged abuse of his 4-year-old son raises the issue of how we parent our children. As Peterson stated, “I was disciplining my son in the same manner that I was as a child.” Parenting styles are generational. But they don't have to be destiny. We can choose to raise our children differently than we were raised. But how?

Child Parent Institute has been serving Sonoma County families since 1978. Our mission is to end child abuse and strengthen the health of children, parents and families. CPI's continuum of services includes children's counseling, parent education and support (including family resource assistance), and a non-public school (New Directions) providing adolescent special education/mental health services. We advocate for policies that support families and protect children. All of our work aims to build the five protective factors proven to reduce the incidence of child abuse:

Parental resilience: The ability to manage and recover from the challenges that arise in every family's life.

Social connections: A network of caring people who provide emotional support, help solve problems, and give concrete assistance.

Concrete support in times of need: Help in meeting basic needs like food, shelter, clothing, and health care during hard times.

Knowledge of parenting and child development: Information about child development and appropriate expectations for children's behavior helps parents see their children in a positive light and promote their healthy development. It is important to note: Parents who experienced harsh discipline or other negative childhood experiences may need extra help to change the parenting patterns they learned as a children.

Social and emotional competence of children: A child's ability to interact positively with others, self-regulate behavior, and communicate feelings.

CPI's parent support services help parents build these five protective factors within families by providing parent education and connecting families in crisis with concrete supports to fill basic needs. One key service is our Triple P — Positive Parenting Program. Triple P is very useful for any parent who wants to improve their parenting skills; it is a powerful tool to break the cycle of intergenerational child abuse.

Triple P offers clear, simple strategies tailored to individual family situations and geared to different levels of parenting proficiency. Triple P enables parents to deal with challenging child behaviors and misbehavior without using corporal punishment. Outcomes of this program has shown that children behave better, lowering the need — and desire — for parents to use harsh punishment. CPI provides Triple P both in parents homes or in classes. Last year, 851 parents participated in Positive Parenting Programs through CPI.

If help is not available when needed, the cycle of abuse continues and more children become its victims. CPI's counseling services have provided therapy for child victims of abuse since 1986 and is the state-designated provider of intervention for children traumatized by abuse in Sonoma County.

Last year, CPI provided 8,052 hours of therapy to 325 children. We serve children birth through 18 years who have experienced physical, sexual or emotional abuse or neglect; have witnessed family or community violence; or live in endangering environments, such as with parental substance abuse.

These are complex cases often involving multi-generational trauma and abuse. Both the children and caregivers need specialized therapy to reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress.

Additionally, CPI advocates for the health and safety of children and families and provides a forum for community members to learn more about child abuse prevention efforts. These activities are initiated through our local child abuse council, Prevent Child Abuse-Sonoma County. Anyone interested in this work is invited to join us.

Contact CPI at 585-6108.



Troubled youth - early identification

by David Gannon

Children of today now love luxury, have bad manners and contempt for authority. They show disrespect for their elders. They are now the tyrants not the servants of their household. They contradict their parents and tyrannize their teachers.”

This statement may sound familiar. It is attributed to the great philosopher, Socrates, circa 469-399 B.C. Apparently we have always been concerned about the lack of respect for traditions, values, and people shown by young people. However the level of acting out, disrespect for rules and laws, and disregard for authority in the 21st century has become increasingly concerning. Hard data is difficult to find therefore it is uncertain if there are more troubled youth or if the behavior just seems to be more intense and dangerous. School shootings that began at Columbine 15 years ago may have marked the beginning of young alienated students using violence to express their feelings of injustice and mistreatment. The behavior of most troubled youth is not as extreme as this but more likely to take the form of anger and acting out against people and destruction of property in the home, schools, and community. Teachers at all levels will attest to the fact that they are spending increasing amounts of classroom time addressing the behavior of students who are disruptive and not following the rules of the school and classroom.

While much of the focus and research has been on troubled teens the seeds for problems have been sown when children are young. Children can begin struggling mentally and emotionally with issues involving identity, gender, friendships, school performance, self-confidence and family relationships by the time they reach elementary school. This can be a normal part of growth and development and most young people will work through these issues without long-lasting problems. Other children begin to have difficulties very early in life and continue this throughout their lifetimes.

Troubled children are often a product of an unstable environment in the home, school, or community. Children living in homes where there is substance abuse by adults, unpredictable and inconsistent rules and standards, violence, harsh discipline, an absent parent, and lack of parental supervision and guidance are much more likely to start showing behavior and emotional problems very early in life. Early life trauma in the form of abuse and neglect can increase the stress response of children and their emotional reactivity. Most parents try their best to provide support and supervision to children but some become overwhelmed with the stress of limited finances, needing to work when children are at home, and few other resources. These parents may have experienced the same conditions themselves when they were children.

Children need anchors and predictability at many points in their lives even though they may sometimes resist and protest rules and limits. They need firm but fair discipline. Troubled children are often without such anchors and therefore make up their own rules and standards or adopt the standards of the peer group or local gang. They become lost and alienated from themselves, their family, and the community. They may struggle even more if there are personal factors such as lower cognitive ability, difficult temperament, poor social skills or poor emotional regulation.

The goal in helping these troubled children is early identification and treatment. Some are easily identified due to the extent and frequency of their acting out behavior. These children resist the structure of classrooms and rules and often have difficulty getting along with peers. They may impulsively show rage, throw objects, hit and push other children and even hit the teacher. It is not unusual for them to steal from the other children. The teacher is drawn into trying to deal with these children who are creating chaos in the school and classroom and who seem to be dedicated to getting into a power struggle with all authority figures. These children often see themselves as victims of an unjust system.

Other troubled children are more difficult to identify. They are isolated, withdrawn and quiet; cause no problems for teachers or parents; and have become nearly invisible. On the surface they appear to be just quiet or shy but some are masking their inability to fit in, emotionally cope, and adjust to life. These children have few friends and tend to blend into the background. Sometimes these children “act-in” with self-harm or suicidal behavior.

Ultimately both types of children become increasingly alienated as they grow. They become the fringe of society as young adults, unemployed and unemployable, school dropouts, and destined for future criminal activity, and incarceration. These children can be identified and helped as early as preschool age when they begin to first show signs of difficulty.

Parents, schools and communities don't have to wait until children grow into troubled teens to take action. Programs and services are available in many communities to help. Counseling through the school counseling programs, specialized classrooms, a spectrum of community counseling services with children and families including parent education, mentoring programs, a collaborative Family Court, and finally family support through such organizations as the local Jobs and Family Services programs and churches can all play a part in helping to rescue these children.

Tips for parents:

1. If you are not sure of indicators that a child is experiencing excessive behavioral/emotional problems talk to a pediatrician, school counselor, the teacher or the school psychologist.

2. If problems continue get an evaluation done through a local mental health center or children's hospital.

3. Be involved and work with the teachers, counselors, school psychologists, and mental health professionals to develop and work on a plan to assist the child as soon as problems are identified.

David Gannon, Ph.D., Psychological and Family Consultants, Canton, Ohio.


Margaret Cho Urges Women to #TellYourStory About Violence


Actress and comedian Margaret Cho is urging women to come forward about rape and abuse on social media, using the hashtag, #TellYourStory.

Cho, who has been outspoken about political and social issues in the past, said in a tweet late Monday that she is a victim of both rape and child abuse.

Fans retweeted her messages on Twitter and shared their own experiences with rape and child or domestic abuse, urging other women to add their stories to the conversation.

Cho declined an interview request with ABC News through her publicist.

Cho applauded the women who recently came forward with allegations of being sexually assaulted by Jian Ghomeshi, the former Canadian Broadcast Corp. radio host, adding that her family is Canadian.

Ghomeshi is under investigation by police after three women filed complaints, The Associated Press reported. Ghomeshi, who was fired by the CBC when the allegations surfaced, has defended himself in a Facebook post, claiming he's only guilty of consensual "rough sex" and is the victim of an angry ex-girlfriend.

After more allegations surfaced, he said he would confront them "directly" but would not discuss the case with the media, according to the AP.

"I am so proud of the women of Canada," Cho wrote on Twitter. "They're a great example for the entire world. Come forward. Tell what happened. We are not afraid."



My Turn: Support children and celebrate their strengths


Whether children are sexually abused or exposed to domestic violence between family members, the long-term impacts to their well-being are staggering.

Children who have experienced trauma or who have been exposed to domestic violence often experience physical and emotional stress as a result. For example, children may become anxious or depressed or use drugs or alcohol. Trauma can impair a child's learning and thus impact their school performance.

Children who are harmed or exposed to domestic violence may learn the wrong lessons about relationships and can repeat what they have witnessed in their family with their peers or in dating relationships. Parents know this reality: Children listen and learn.

In Alaska, we are making significant strides to protect children and help them heal. Through funds from Gov. Sean Parnell's “Choose Respect” initiative, Alaska is now a ChildFirst state.

ChildFirst is a forensic interviewing protocol which brings the field into the classroom and greatly enhances the education of front-line child abuse professionals.

“The ChildFirst model was selected because it fits the culture and children of the state and has been proven to be more conducive to holding individuals accountable for the crimes they commit against children,” according to a news release from Alaska Children's Alliance.

Bringing ChildFirst to Alaska was the result of a multi-year effort by many committed advocates, including the Alaska Children's Alliance and child advocacy centers across the state.

We have an incredibly strong team of trainers who model the multidisciplinary approach to forensic interviewing and best practices in child maltreatment. Specifically, the ChildFirst training is designed for investigative teams of law enforcement officers, social workers, prosecutors, child protection attorneys and forensic interviewers.

The University of Alaska Anchorage's Child Welfare Academy is proud to be part of the ChildFirst training. Together, we are part of helping children grow, thrive and succeed in positive ways despite the harm inflicted on them.

In addition to ChildFirst, since 2012 the Child Welfare Academy has been partnering with the Office of Children's Services on Strengthening Families Alaska. Through new Choose Respect initiatives, funds we are able to expand our efforts in western and northern Alaska.

We are drawing attention to the five protective factors that, if present in families, will greatly reduce the likelihood of child maltreatment within those families. The protective factors include: parental resilience, social connections, concrete supports in times of need, knowledge of parenting and child development, and children's social and emotional development.

Each of us as individuals and community members can be part of the protective network for children and parents. I encourage every Alaskan to support children in your community, celebrate their strengths and share your pride with them.

We at the Child Welfare Academy applaud our non-profit partners and the Choose Respect initiative for being part of creating safety for children and a foundation for a healthy future.

Tammy Sandoval is director of Child Welfare Academy at the University of Alaska Anchorage


Parenting Survivors of Childhood Abuse Need a Voice

by Dawn Daum

I am a mom, and I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Once being a survivor started to interfere with my ability to be a "normal" mom, I started paying more attention to how and why the two identities were connected. I searched for information and personal stories, documenting other parent's struggle as a survivor. I found nothing.

I knew in my heart that I wasn't alone in this difficult journey. I became determined to use my own personal experiences to both connect with other survivors and bring more awareness to the effects childhood abuse can have in every avenue of one's adult life -- especially parenting.

I'm starting to realize, through research and personal observation, that trauma stemming from childhood abuse is rarely seen as an indicator, or even a link to, mental and physical challenges we struggle with as adults, partners and parents because too often, the abuse is kept hidden for fear of judgment and blame, leaving the negative energy and unresolved pain to manifest in detrimental emotional and physical symptoms.

In a study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, an online medical journal, an association was made between childhood sexual abuse (CSA) and the lifetime diagnosis of anxiety, depression, eating disorders, PTSD, sleep disorders and suicide attempts. Also associated with CSA were medical conditions such as gastrointestinal disorders, chronic pelvic pain, psychogenetic seizures and non-specific chronic pain.

Survivors need to be invited to talk about it. It is reported that only 5% of patients report childhood sexual abuse to their physicians. Yes, there is a standard, single box we can check on the initial medical history screening we all do, but if only 5% of patients are reporting it and yet, over 42 million people have experienced childhood sexual abuse in America, the system is broken.

Would it be so hard to just ask the patient? To kindly look a person in the eyes and let them know that if they were violated as a child, it is necessary to have that kind of information, in order to holistically treat them? How can something so important to a persons overall well-being not be taken into consideration?

David Spiegal, M.D. concludes in his research published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, that "while our genetic code itself may not change [due to trauma based PTSD], it's relative expression does, and this tendency for our genes to be differentially productive can be heritable." He also concludes science is showing us that altered gene expression "only occurs when the parental generation is symptomatic." Breaking the cycle has to start with us -- the parenting survivors. Not only so we can authentically experience loving and protecting our children, but more so to avoid inflicting them with our own unresolved pain.

The residual effects of sexual and physical abuse are a cancer to our body, mind and spirit. They infest dieseases of our brains and wreck havoc on our physical beings. Triggers arise when one becomes a parent that increase the stress and shame plaguing survivors. The effects penetrate through generations and the cycle just continues.

I'm at a place where I am fed up and determined to do something about it, as much as one survivor can do for another. Thankfully, Joyelle Brandt felt the same way, and told me so in a response to my initial post on the topic of being a parent and a survivor. Since connecting, Joyelle and I have put our hearts and souls in to creating an anthology. A project to fill a void. A mission to let parents know, that they are not alone when they are triggered by the people they love the most.

The upcoming anthology, Trigger Points: An Abuse Survivors Experience of Parenting, is now open for submissions. You'll find everything you need to know about submitting a essay on our Facebook page , along with contact information and a chance to get to know myself and Joyelle a little more.

As survivors, the one good thing we do know is that we are, as a group, incredibly strong people. We have lived through more suffering than most, and still we keep going. We are determined to give our children a better life than we had, and together, we can do that.


by Dawn Daum - Woman. Writer. Mother. Advocate. Survivor. ...and is always the one to laugh, in the most uncomfortable of situation

Co-authored by Joyelle Brandt. Joyelle Brandt is the author/illustrator of the alphabet book Princess Monsters from A to Z. Joyelle has a penchant for dark chocolate and feathered earrings. When she isn't playing with her two sons, she is usually covered in paint in her kitchen art studio, creating new monsters.


Understanding and surviving child abuse

by Shari Botwin

We hear plenty about crimes of violence against women and children, especially when celebrities are involved. But we rarely hear the stories from the victims' point of view. What happens to them? What's involved in recovery? Is it even possible to live a full life?

According to the national organization Childhelp, 80 percent of people 21 and over who were abused as children develop psychological disorders, and two-thirds of people in treatment for alcohol or drug abuse survived abuse.

I am a survivor of childhood abuse. I am also a licensed clinical social worker who counsels adult survivors of trauma and abuse. For the last 18 years, I have been treating people recovering from eating disorders. Almost 80 percent of my patients report acts of physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse by a caretaker or authority figure in childhood.

The shame that comes with being in an abusive situation in childhood is indescribable. For years, I walked around feeling worthless and hopeless. I wanted to disappear. I thought anything bad that happened was my fault. I didn't trust friends, adults, or authority figures. I survived by dancing, writing, and attaching to mother figures who would boost my self-worth. I used symptoms of an eating disorder to numb the pain and distract from my reality.

When I entered my early 20s, I was diagnosed with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Once I became independent, I wanted to reclaim my right to live a full life. I got myself into therapy, having no idea of all the layers of shame, guilt, and fear I would uncover.

So many victims of abuse stay silent. The fear of being disbelieved or the shame that comes with admitting to being a victim keeps many people from even acknowledging their abuse. It is so important for people to understand that speaking out is not the problem; the abuse is the problem.

Survivors are protective of their perpetrators or anyone else linked to their abuse. Other people are put ahead of the abuse, and then the cycle of self-destruction (eating disorders, alcoholism, sexual promiscuity) takes hold and continues throughout a lifetime. I have met many patients who could not maintain relationships with friends, bosses, or partners because of the impact of their abuse.

To live fully, survivors need to understand their experience. I spent years in therapy telling my story, followed by years of allowing myself to grieve all that was lost. Around the age of 35, my life began coming together, and the shame that came with my abuse finally dissipated. I began to accept and understand my experience and the impact my abuse had on me. Finding loving relationships is all I ever needed and wanted.

Allowing myself to become a mom has been a lifesaver. It was not until I became a parent that I fully understood how vulnerable I had been as a child. I could finally let go of the shame and feelings of fault about my abuse. I could finally value my body and my life, and my fear of repeating the cycle of abuse lessened once my baby arrived.

Abuse is awful and should never happen. However, when survivors allow themselves to break the silence and own their experience, there is so much hope for them.

When sexual-abuse or domestic-violence scandals fade from the headlines, there is little thought given to the aftermath of trauma or the hope that comes from being in recovery. More people stepping forward and breaking their silence would be proof that recovery is possible and that survivors can live full lives. Even someone who has experienced trauma can be a good parent and be in a safe and healthy partnership.

I mourn for my childhood, but despair no longer consumes me. I know who I am and where I come from. If I start to feel isolated as a parent, I choose to ask for help and know I cannot be perfect. I tell myself every day that as long as my son knows he is loved, he will be OK. I am healed by watching him feel safe and happy.

Many survivors of abuse could give themselves the gift of living fully. They must understand that the abuse was not their fault and find the words to tell their story.


North Carolina

9 Investigates: Gaps in laws could lead to unreported child sex abuse

by Blake Hanson

CHARLOTTE — A wrestling coach. An elementary school teacher. A middle school coach. All local authority figures charged or convicted of sex crimes against children in the past five months.

An Eyewitness News investigation found gaps in laws for reporting child sex abuse, which might result in even more cases staying hidden.

"I believe that you have the obligation to report if you are aware, you could be saving a life," said a woman who was a victim of child sexual abuse. She agreed to speak with Eyewitness News under the condition we not use her name.

"It's just something that you cover up and hide deep in your mind," she said.

Seth Langson, an attorney who represents child sexual abuse victims, said he has a solution that would decrease the number of incidents.

North Carolina's mandatory reporting laws only explicitly requires abuse by a parent, guardian, custodian or caretaker to be reported.

"If someone is abused by clergy, uncle, other family member, soccer coach? That doesn't have to be reported," said Langson.

Further adding to issues, there are no criminal penalties for not reporting. In several other states it is a misdemeanor if you fail to report. Florida went as far as to make it a felony.

"We have a number of [gaps]," said Langson.

Locally, several areas have seen improvements in handling of child sexual abuse cases.

In Iredell County, the conviction rate went from 20-percent to 90-percent since the opening of it's Child Advocacy Center, Dove House.

While prosecuting cases has improved, the rate at which children are sexually abuse is still high. Nationally, one in four girls and one in six boys is sexually abused before the age of 18.

"These people have to have access to your children to assault them," said Lt. Bill Hamby, with the Iredell County Special Victims Unit.

Hamby said the suspects tend to be drawn to authority positions.

"It used to be stranger danger, stranger danger, look for the guy behind the bushes in the trench coat," said Hamby. "Those people do exist and they're very dangerous. But chances are the person who is going to molest you kid or has molested your child, you've probably eaten dinner with."

Victims Eyewitness News talked with hope law enforcement, and lawmakers will continue to work to improve prevention, and prosecution of child sexual abuse cases.

"At this point, there's kind of an anger at the injustice that I wasn't protected by the adults in my home," the victim told us. "That I wasn't protected by the system and that the perpetrators basically are living their lives."


National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673)

Hotline Info:

The local hotline is 704-332-2513.



Child abuse reports: Behind the numbers

by Barbara Grijalva

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -- Arizona has a big problem: child abuse cases are piling up.

Lauren Miller, 22, was sentenced to eight months in jail on Monday, Nov. 3. She pleaded guilty to three counts of child abuse after police found a 2-year-old girl tied up in a blanket and left alone at a preschool in Mesa.

In a separate case, Erinn Gillis was arrested within the same week in the Phoenix area. She's accused of beating her 10-year old daughter with an extension cord because she got in trouble at school.

Juan Garcia pleaded guilty on Nov. 3 to child abuse to charges of killing his live-in girlfriend's 2-year-old son. Police said he grabbed the child by the throat and slammed his head into a wall. Police said the boy's mother did nothing to stop it. She was charged with abuse, too.

Cases like these are all too common.

Arizona's child abuse rates continue to rise and that spike abuse cases is what led the governor to order a total revamping of the system and the creation of the new Department of Child Safety.

Arizona has a record high:16,000 children in and out of home care, including foster care. On top of that, there is a shortage of foster families.

Things are changing slowly, but as community providers such as Casa de los Ninos have seen, after years of neglect it will take time to turn around Arizona's system that protects children.

Some believe it could take years.

Care providers have seen the result of massive budget cuts to the child welfare system since 2009: the social and emotional damage to children and their families.

The newly- created DCS is just starting to tackle the massive child abuse and neglect problem. So, more children are starting to enter the system, but then it bottlenecks.

“They're coming into the system quicker and the system has been so overburdened for so long, without proper staff-- not just for DCS, but then you've got the courts, and then you've got the community providers that provide all the services to families,” Casa de los Ninos CEO Susie Huhn said. “There's a huge capacity buildup. So they're not also leaving the system in high enough rates as well.”

Huhn said for the system to work to protect children, the state will have to invest in three things. First is the need for upfront services to support families in crisis. The state also needs to help children in the system, move through it more quickly and back to their families, if possible. Then, Huhn said for those children who can't go home, they must be moved faster to a permanent home.



Oklahoma lawmakers launch study on requiring child sex abuse education in schools

by Erielle Reshef

OKLAHOMA CITY — Lawmakers are studying an option to require schools to educate students pre-K to 12th grade about sexual abuse.

Erin Merryn, an outspoken national advocate and victim of child sex abuse, is the driving force behind Erin's Law. The initiative has passed in 19 states.

Now a new mom, Merryn told KOCO's Erielle Reshef her mission has taken on new meaning.

“When I was a 6-year-old sleeping at my best friend's house, I was sexually abused for the very first time. She had an uncle living in the home. I woke up one night to this man abusing me,” she revealed.

Merryn kept her abuse quiet for years, but she's breaking her silence, speaking out across the country and in Oklahoma.

“We mandated it to teach tornado drills, bus drills, and fire drills. If we're teaching kids how to run from a burning building and protect themselves from a tornado, why aren't we teaching kids how to protect themselves from abuse and to tell,” she said.

Erin's law requires states to mandate child sex abuse education in schools.

“Where's the one other place kids spend most of their time? In school,” Merryn said.

Though some expressed concerns that the content is too mature, Merryn stressed that the curricula takes age into account.

“Erin's law requires age appropriate personal body safety taught to kids pre-K to 12th grade. Basically teaching kids the areas covered by your swimsuit, if anyone ever touches you there, you report it, you don't keep it a secret.”

Merryn said sexual assault is a silent and growing problem.

“That father that's abusing their child, that step parent is not going to say, "Go on and tell your teacher about what I did to you last night.' As I tell lawmakers, the only people who should be voting against this bill are the sex offenders themselves.”

State Senator Wayne Shaw is holding Oklahoma's interim study on Erin's Law. He said addressing the problem of child sexual abuse is essential, but there are questions that parents, lawmakers and educators will want answered.

He worried parents may feel it is their job to talk about this subject with their children, and that teachers have enough on their plates with general instruction.

We want to know what you think. Join the conversation on the KOCO Facebook Page.

Coming up this week on KOCO 5 News in the Morning, Erielle will breakdown the statistics of child abuse in Oklahoma and what DHS says is the gravest threat to Oklahoma children.


Hollywood Sex Abuse Doc 'An Open Secret' Cancels First Screening

Doc NYC has canceled a scheduled critics' showing at the request of the movie's rights holder, Esponda Productions

The first press screening of Amy Berg's An Open Secret, a documentary about child sexual abuse and exploitation in Hollywood, has been canceled at the request of the film's rights holder.

The screening had been scheduled for Tuesday morning in New York City by Doc NYC, the film festival that has slated the film's world premiere for Nov. 14. It would have been the first look at the potentially controversial movie, which the festival describes on its website as “a sobering look at the lives of children who were exploited and assaulted by some of Hollywood's most powerful players.”

It is unclear whether the film will still screen at the festival itself. "We're still hopeful that the rights-holder, Esponda Productions, will deliver the film in time for the public screening. At this point, the screening is sold out, said festival spokesperson Susan Norget.

In a brief statement announcing the cancellation, the festival said, “Doc NYC regrets to announce that tomorrow's [Nov. 4] press screening of An Open Secret is canceled at the request of the film's rights-holder, Esponda Productions.”

"I'm proud of the film that I made and the cut that I delivered to Esponda Productions," Berg said in a statement of her own. "I had hoped that Doc NYC would give the victims the opportunity for their story to at long last be told and am disappointed in Esponda Productions' decision to cancel the Doc NYC screening of an An Open Secret ."

Esponda produced the film in association with Berg's production company, Disarming Films. The sudden cancelation suggests that Berg and Esponda, headed by Matthew Valentinas and Gabe Hoffman, who served as executive producers, are no longer in agreement about the final shape of the film. Valentinas and Hoffman could not be immediately reached for comment.

The film reportedly looks at the sexual exploitation of younger men by powerful figures in Hollywood. In part, it focuses on the Digital Entertainment Network, an Internet startup formed in the late '90s by Marc Collins-Rector, who in 2004 pleaded guilty to charges of child enticement. The film also is expected to cover the allegations raised by Michael Egan against director Bryan Singer and other Hollywood figures earlier this year; in August, Egan dropped his lawsuit against Singer, who had said, "The facts will show this to be the sick, twisted shakedown it is," as well as the suits that he had filed.

In the current issue of Elle magazine, Valentinas, an entertainment attorney, says that he and Hoffman, who is a partner in a hedge fund, were looking to produce a documentary when Valentinas heard actor Corey Feldman talk about exploitation he had encountered early in his career. "It's not that Hollywood pedophiles are any different than the ones in a small town, Valentinas told the magazine. "But what they have to use is, instead of taking a kid out for ice cream, they're taking a kid on a jet to a movie premiere in London." Valentinas then approached Berg, an Oscar nominee for the 2006 feature documentary Deliver Us From Evil , which looked at sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, about directing An Open Secret , which the filmmaker has been working on for the past two years.

Future public screenings of An Open Secret are also in question. Berg, who has not yet found a distributor for the film, told Elle that she planned to release the film herself at the ArcLight Cinemas in Hollywood on Nov. 7, but a spokesperson for the theater said that the film is not currently slated to show there. The film also hasn't been submitted for consideration for the Academy Award for best feature documentary and was not on the list of 134 docs that are under consideration, which the Academy released last week.


The Hard Lesson About Child Sexual Abuse That We All Need to Learn From Honey Boo Boo

Child molestation isn't a punch line to a ‘You might be a redneck' joke. It transcends class, and every victim deserves respect, not ridicule.

by Holly Eagleson -- Regular TakePart contributor Holly Eagleson writes about social issues, culture, lifestyle, and food for Redbook , Marie Claire , Glamour , and others.

TLC's Here Comes Honey Boo Boo was always one of those TV shows that elicited a distinct “this won't end well” feeling—not just because its child star, Alana “Honey Boo Boo” Thompson, had a monstrous appetite for Mountain Dew, Red Bull, and fame. Any time a family lacking significant means and education is thrust into the morass that is reality TV, you know a train wreck is imminent.

The grim end came a lot sooner than we expected. After recent allegations that Thompson's mother, June “Mama June” Shannon, resumed seeing her convicted sex offender ex-boyfriend Mark McDaniel, TLC canceled the series.

The couple's reunion also led Shannon's eldest daughter, 20-year-old Anna "Chickadee" Cardwell, to publicly report that McDaniel molested her when she was eight years old. (Though the alleged abuse was reported to the authorities at the time, McDaniel's incarceration was the result of a guilty plea to another charge of aggravated child molestation. He served 10 years in prison for that conviction.)

The terms of McDaniel's release apparently don't prohibit him from being around children when other adults are present. That doesn't mean it's not a shockingly terrible idea to let your kid hang out near a convicted sex offender. Yet it has happened, according to a photo TMZ published from September that shows McDaniel with his hand on nine-year-old Alana. Mama June's own mother, Sandra Hale, who helped Cardwell report her abuse to the authorities, says that Georgia Child Protective Services has been notified and are investigating any contact McDaniel has had with Thompson or her 14-year-old sister, Lauryn “Pumpkin” Shannon.

Whispers of child abuse circling celebrities, even the marginally famous, are hardly new. What's made this case so different from other high-profile incidents is the almost universal public support of Cardwell. That's a blessing—so often in stories where the accused are celebrities, they're rife with victim blaming or abuser apologia, from R. Kelly (Those girls were old enough to know better) to Woody Allen (His ex poisoned the kid against him).

But this embrace of the victim has an antipode: the widespread castigation of Mama June. Well-deserved though it may be, the ire has been loaded with plenty of “no surprise—they're hicks.” That's disturbing on multiple levels.

First, Americans have long used white, poor Southern folk as a source of entertainment and endless self-aggrandizement. Networks such as TLC have played to this by refining and peddling a specific redneck pathology, one so popular that it can't only be consumed by the people it exploits.

As Buzzfeed recently observed about cable hits like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and MTV's Buckwild , “The shows are cheap to produce and give a viewer an addictive mix of schadenfreude, existential horror, and anthropological fascination—a feeling of “I might have it bad right now, but at least I'm not a pregnant teenager crying in a Burger King parking lot in Georgia or a pageant mom hot-gluing rhinestones on my four-year-old in the lobby of an Alabama Hotel Marriott.”

Every time a tabloid headline offers up tacky or criminal behavior on the part of redneck reality stars, it provides confirmation and comfort that we're nothing like those yokels. June Shannon is a convenient receptacle for this superior attitude. She's a spectacle of consumption and exhibition, a woman who rivals Kris Jenner in her willingness to pimp out her family for the cameras. You can even make a case that she's done half the grooming work for predators already by allowing her youngest, Alana, to compete in pageants that sexualize toddlers.

Then there's McDaniel, the vaguely creepy, middle-aged man who looks like the type Law & Order SVU would call up when casting for Perp #3 in a lineup. Together with Shannon, they reinforce some insidious ideas about what negligent parents and predators should look like.

“People do rely on certain visual stereotypes when they assess [the] risk of child sexual abuse,” says Lisa M. Jones, research professor of psychology at the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. “Some of the problems we have in identifying risky situations and intervening early is that people can get lulled into the idea that we would know someone is at risk just by how they look or where they come from.”

The notion that molestation is the mien of strictly “trashy” marginalized people is not only insulting to victims, it's a dangerous fallacy that makes us lose perspective on the real risk that other kids face. Research shows that molestation of children is not isolated to poor communities. “Although we know there are some risk factors for child sexual abuse that may correlate with situations of poverty, we know that it happens at absolutely every socioeconomic level,” says Jones.

In fact, sexual abuse and assault of minors is a fairly widespread problem. A recent study from the Journal of Adolescent Health reported that 26.6 percent of 17-year-old girls had experienced sexual abuse or sexual assault in their lifetimes, with 5.1 percent of boys reporting the same. Those numbers are thought to be on the low end, as sexual abuse is highly underreported by children.

Not all children have an equal amount of risk though. For instance, kids from families that are in turbulent, stressful situations where there's less supervision are particularly vulnerable. But all families go though their own crises, and few parents can possibly monitor their kids 24/7, especially working single moms.

That's why it's so risky to paint Mama June and her ilk as a sideshow when they represent a good chunk of America. Remember, there was a time when she was simply a working mother trying to make ends meet. As Anna Cardwell told People magazine, she reported the abuse to her mother by saying, “You were never there to see it. You were always at work." What employed parent, whether in the South Bronx or Orange County, hasn't had to make some tough decisions about leaving their kid with a boyfriend or neighbor?

“What people don't realize is that there are predatory men within the ranks of academia, high society, blue collar policing—every system,” says Roger Canaff, a former special victims prosecutor and legal expert. “They look for victims differently based on the circumstances and the advantages that are around them.”

Pedophiles are also skilled at ingratiating themselves in families with the express purpose of getting access to the kids. “There are offenders who openly say ‘I had no interest in the mom; she could have looked like Sophia Loren, but that's not what I wanted,' ” Canaff says. “They say 'I wanted the child, and I got to the child through the mom by making her feel special and meeting whatever emotional needs she had.' ”

Tongue cluckers can label Mama June as a hideous parent with too many boyfriends and too many children by too many different fathers. But holding her at an arm's length out of disgust detracts from a conversation we should all have about how predatory offenders operate. “There has to be a focus on the fact that the vast majority of people who sexually molest children get into the child's life by invitation, whether they're priests or piano teachers,” says Canaff.

Ironically, this case may end up as one where fame makes a hideous family situation slightly less toxic. Without the attention of the TMZ s of the world, who would be hounding Shannon's family and stealthily shooting pics of McDaniel in the presence of kids?

The story may also offer insight into the dysfunctional reactions within many families when abuse is revealed. Here's what Cardwell told People about disclosing the abuse to June Shannon: "A week or so after it happened, I talked to Mama and she was upset, crying and saying, ‘I don't believe you. I don't believe you. Why would you do this to me?' “

“That's by far the most damaging and unfortunate response that a victim of child sex abuse can hear,” says Canaff. But Cardwell showed uncommon persistence in going to her grandmother, who eventually took action. “Anna deserves a tremendous amount of credit and sympathy,” says Canaff.

June Shannon appears to merit little of either. But before we write her off as a human garbage, don't forget she's also a mom who gave birth to two extraordinary girls. One commands the spotlight with outrageous quips and belly jiggles. The other shines it on her most intimate wounds to protect others. They're both owed our empathy and protection.



Cops: Woman says she tossed boy, 6, from bridge

NEWPORT, Ore. -- A boy's body was found late Monday night after a woman earlier reported throwing her 6-year-old son off the Yaquina Bay Bridge in Oregon, said Newport Police Chief Mark Miranda.

CBS Portland, Oregon affiliate KOIN-TV reports the boy was indeed her son, according to police.

Detectives questioned the woman who made the 911 call Monday evening, then charged Jillian Meredith McCabe, 34, with aggravated murder, KOIN says.

The Coast Guard and Lincoln County authorities searched for hours after the call came in about 6:25 p.m. Monday, Miranda said. Officers found a woman at the scene.

Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg said he understood the body was found floating near a marina.

The Coast Guard dispatched two boats and a helicopter to search the water.

The county sheriff's marine patrol and county search and rescue teams were also involved.

In May 2009, a woman tossed her two young children off a bridge in Portland, killing her 4-year-old son. A daughter, then 7 years old, survived. Amanda Stott-Smith was sentenced in 2010 to at least 35 years in prison.

The Yaquina Bay arched bridge, one of the most famous on the Oregon coast, opened in 1936. It's listed on the National Register of Historic Places.



Angry Father Invited His Daughter's Rapist For Dinner Then Tortured Him To Death

A furious father in India reportedly invited his 14-year-old daughter's alleged rapist over for dinner, then painfully tortured him to death after he ate.

The 45-year-old married man thought nothing of the kind dinner invite extended to him by his neighbor. But he didn't bank on what was to come following the Friday night meal in the Khajuri Khas area in the Northeast of Delhi.

Following the reportedly gruesome murder, which the angry father carried out following the meal he had cooked, he went to the local police station and turned himself in, offering the police a detailed account of how he had tortured his dinner guest.

The father, who apparently burned the man's genitals with heated tongs before strangling him slowly to death, told police that the rapist, a medicine supplier, raped his 14-year-old daughter two months ago, but he didn't tell the police due to not wanting a bad name for his daughter in the community.

A police officer who dealt with the incident spoke to India Express, "The father called the medicine supplier over to his house saying he wanted to discuss some issue. He served him dinner. After the meal, the father overpowered the man and tied him to a chair. He got heated tongs and burned the supplier's genitals before strangling him to death. He came to the police station and surrendered himself.”

The officer continued, “Based on his statement, we sent a team to the spot and recovered the body. It has been sent for a post-mortem examination and his family has been informed. A case of murder has been registered and the 36-year-old man was arrested.”

The suspect of the murder also told police that around two months ago, while he was away on business, the man knocked at his door looking for him, When he realised that his friend wasn't home but that his young daughter was home alone, he allegedly raped her.



Inside Out: teaching kids about sexual assault

by Karen Mansfield

As a school nurse in the Trinity Area School District, Bea Bebout has dealt with asthma, allergies, head lice and scraped knees.

But in the more than a decade Bebout has been a nurse, she's also encountered children who were sexually abused.

“There are so many children who are abused. Unfortunately, you can't always count on the adults that are in their lives to say that this was inappropriate. A lot of times the thought is, ‘We're going to sweep this under the rug.'”

In the wake of high-profile cases like former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky, there is an increase in the number of school districts that are introducing sexual abuse prevention programs.

Trinity Area and Washington school districts implemented “Inside Out: Your Body Is Amazing Inside and Out and Belongs Only To You,” a body-positive, empowering child abuse prevention program that provides elementary school children with ways to recognize and report sexual abuse.

Inside Out was designed by Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski, founder and director of Washington Health System Teen Outreach and Academy for Adolescent Health in Washington, who thinks other child abuse prevention programs that stress concepts like “stranger danger” and “good touch, bad touch,” or refer to body parts as “privates” miss the mark.

“An overwhelming number of children are abused by people they know; less than 7 percent of kids are hurt by strangers. Any program that gives children the feeling that it's their responsibility to stop the predator is not right, because children don't have that kind of power. The power is in the hands of the abuser,” said Podgurski, “and the last thing you want to do if a child is in that situation is to add guilt to that, like, ‘I shouldn't have been alone with my stepdad.' I want to empower them, I want them to know their body is theirs and they have ownership of self. And that's one of the things that's chipped away at by an abuser.”

It's likely we all know someone who's experienced child sexual abuse.

An estimated one in four girls and one in six boys in the United States is sexually abused, and children with disabilities are at a higher risk. Of every 100 incidents of child sexual abuse, it's estimated 10 to 18 are reported to authorities.

Julie Fuerst, a guidance counselor at Washington School District, where 30 students participated in the program in 2013, believes the district is being proactive in addressing an uncomfortable topic.

“The Jerry Sandusky case revolved around a subject that people are generally uncomfortable with or perhaps afraid to talk about and put it out into the open. The case demanded our society's attention and in doing so raised our awareness,” said Fuerst. “The Inside Out program provides children with the knowledge they need to protect themselves and seek help from child predators. As educational professionals it is our duty to keep our children safe even when we are not present to protect them.”

Inside Out is taught to fourth-graders in three to four sessions, and it is an opt-in program.

Dr. Roberta DiLorenzo, superintendent of Washington School District, said the Inside Out program allows students to learn about themselves physically, socially and emotionally.

“In today's world, so much information or misinformation is accessible. We want to assure that our students are armed with the truth and accurate information,” said DiLorenzo.

That's important when considering an estimated 34 percent of abusers are family members and 59 percent are acquaintances. Nearly 95 percent of offenders are male.

It's an enormous problem, with no easy solution.

“I don't know that you can prevent abuse on a child, because predators are pretty clever. But what you can give a child is the language to disclose and the ability to know that it's OK to disclose so they know they're not alone,” said Podgurski.

Inside Out was illustrated by local artist Alice Burroughs, whose artwork emphasizes diversity – one of Podgurski's messages is that everyone is different and everyone is a person of worth – and includes pictures of children of different ethnicity and physical abilities.

It is being translated into Spanish by a graduate student from Hunter College, which will make it more accessible to other communities.

Podgurski, who conducted focus groups with third- and fourth-graders, their parents, adolescent and adult sexual abuse survivors and child protection services workers for Inside Out, is also working on an Inside Out program for adults with intellectual disabilities.

“This one means a lot to me,” said Podgurski of Inside Out.



Switzerland Regrets a Cruel History

Time is running out for thousands of Swiss citizens who were forcibly taken from their parents and sent to farms for years of servitude under a wayward government welfare policy that lasted for generations. A petition campaign that would put the compensation issue to a national referendum and authorize payments to 10,000 or so aging verdingkinder — “contract children” — has collected the necessary 100,000 signatures.

Whether the government will ultimately approve is an open question. But the travails of the survivors — including stories of routine beatings, deprivation, sexual abuse and forced sterilization — have startled a Swiss public that, for the most part, was unaware of a practice abandoned decades ago.

Swiss historians estimate that, since the middle of the 19th century, hundreds of thousands of poor youngsters were taken from impoverished urban parents whom the state had officially declared to be dysfunctional and shipped off to willing farmers needing cheap labor.

The program died out 40 years ago with the rise of mechanized farming and, in 1971, the extension of the right to vote to Swiss women. The dark chapter was slipping from history until a series of books, documentaries and a museum put a spotlight on the program.

Last year, the government apologized after decades of silence about the scope and inhumanity of the policy. “We could not continue to look away because that is exactly what we already did for far too long,” the justice minister, Simonetta Sommaruga, declared in proclaiming “a day of confession ... and a call against suppression and forgetting.”

The proposed restitution would compensate an estimated 10,000 adults. Proponents note other nations have engaged in social engineering — the “stolen generations” of Australian Aborigines are cited along with the “orphan trains” of poor urban American children shipped out for rural adoption. While there were undoubtedly positive outcomes for some, the fundamental injustice of breaking up families without recourse is a blot on Swiss history.



Grant to Aid Study of Long-Term Impact of Sexual Abuse

by Sean Smith

A National Institutes of Health grant will support research by School of Social Work Assistant Professor Scott Easton on middle-aged and older men who are coping with the effects of sexual abuse they endured in childhood.

The one-year $156,500 R03 Small Research Grant from the NIH National Institute on Aging will illuminate the experiences of a population that, amidst the growing awareness of child sexual abuse, has been generally overlooked, said Easton.

“Statistics have shown about 15 percent of adult men report a history of child sexual abuse,” said Easton, who in 2010 conducted one of the largest studies to date on this population. “These men – stigmatized, vulnerable and largely hidden – are at risk for depression, anxiety, PTSD, personality disorders, substance abuse and other psychiatric illnesses.

“Yet we know little about them and how they have dealt with the trauma they suffered as children. Why have some men demonstrated resilience while others have had great difficulty? And based on the experiences of those who have coped well, can we design evidence-informed interventions and treatments for those in the vulnerable group?”

Easton said his earlier work, which involved collecting data at one point in time from nearly 500 male survivors of child sexual abuse, was useful in identifying risk and protective factors for mental health issues. The new grant, he said, will broaden the scope of that previous study by incorporating a life course perspective, using data collected at several points in time and capitalizing on population-based sampling.

“Despite more public awareness of child sexual abuse, stigma still isolates men, and serves as a barrier to disclosure and seeking assistance,” said Easton. “The hope is we can develop knowledge and improve practice, thereby helping survivors reach more of their human potential.”

Dean of Social Work Alberto Godenzi said Easton's grant, along with the K01 Mentored Research Scientist Development Award given recently by the Centers for Disease Control to Assistant Professor Erika Sabbath [see] – the first such grant awarded to a SSW faculty member – points to a promising trend for the school: “We are taking important steps towards our strategic goal of increasing the percentage of federally funded research projects.”



Virginia Mother Facing Child Abuse Charges For Hanging Toddler From A Planter Hook, Posting It On Facebook

(Picture on site)

Social media is definitely beneficial when it comes to networking and sharing information. However, there are also cases when the use of social media can land you in hot water.

A young Virginia mother is now facing child abuse charges for posting a relatively disturbing image on Facebook. According to CBS-6 News, a picture of a 14-month old toddler began circulating on Facebook earlier this week. Although many posts tend to go viral on the popular social media network, this particular picture was relatively disturbing for most viewers. The little boy could be seen hanging by his T-shirt from a nail on a door frame. Of course, the small child was crying, most likely out of fear and discomfort.

Viewers were definitely appalled by the image and several people took the initiative to post the picture on the Spotsylvania County Sheriff's Office Facebook page. The police department immediately began investigating to pinpoint the origin of the photo, which was said to have been taken between Sept. 1 and 10. So, on Thursday Oct. 30, the toddler's mother, Alexis Breeden, turned herself in to authorities. The 18-year-old mother now faces child abuse charges. Authorities have also stated that the father will not be charged, reports Crime Feed.

Sgt. James Konicki with the Spotsylvania County Sheriff's Office released a statement in reference to the shocking incident, the child's current state and Breeden's arrest.

“We had it assigned to a criminal investigation detective through the child victim unit. When she responded, she did an investigation and found that it wasn't a nail, it was actually a planter hook that the child was hanging from. But the child was absolutely fine. The baby's father and mother had an argument and in retaliation the father posted this on Facebook to get the mother in trouble.”

Breeden definitely isn't happy with the negative response she's received. So, she took to Facebook with another post to verbal express her disdain for all of the scrutiny.

“The cops came to my house twice last night and saw that he was fine. They think this was immature and dumb of me but he saw I was playing and no one needs to know everything going on because some of you aren't parents and no one knows the full story. Mind your own f****** business.”

While she insists the public has blown the incident out of proportion, her criminal history has raised eyebrows. CBS-86 reports Breeden recently pled guilty to assault and battery against a family member. She was ordered to complete anger management classes and complete a mental health evaluation. She is also scheduled to appear in court this month for another charge. She reportedly faces another charge for violating a court order.



Close to Home: Breaking the cycle of child abuse


The violent disciplining of children is a form of abuse. It is a devastating betrayal of the nurturing/protective role that belongs to parents and caregivers.

Consequences of any form of child abuse — physical, sexual and emotional abuse, neglect and endangering environments — are serious and pervasive. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention reports that “maltreatment and neglect” by family increase the likelihood of delinquency and violence in teens.

Along with other adverse childhood experiences, child abuse has proven links to severe health problems and lower socioeconomic circumstances in adulthood. Corporal discipline doesn't work. Studies show that parents who routinely utilize corporal punishment find that the problem behavior re-occurs within minutes following a spanking.

The recent coverage of NFL running back Adrian Peterson's alleged abuse of his 4-year-old son raises the issue of how we parent our children. As Peterson stated, “I was disciplining my son in the same manner that I was as a child.” Parenting styles are generational. But they don't have to be destiny. We can choose to raise our children differently than we were raised. But how?

Child Parent Institute has been serving Sonoma County families since 1978. Our mission is to end child abuse and strengthen the health of children, parents and families. CPI's continuum of services includes children's counseling, parent education and support (including family resource assistance), and a non-public school (New Directions) providing adolescent special education/mental health services. We advocate for policies that support families and protect children. All of our work aims to build the five protective factors proven to reduce the incidence of child abuse:

Parental resilience: The ability to manage and recover from the challenges that arise in every family's life.

Social connections: A network of caring people who provide emotional support, help solve problems, and give concrete assistance.

Concrete support in times of need: Help in meeting basic needs like food, shelter, clothing, and health care during hard times.

Knowledge of parenting and child development: Information about child development and appropriate expectations for children's behavior helps parents see their children in a positive light and promote their healthy development. It is important to note: Parents who experienced harsh discipline or other negative childhood experiences may need extra help to change the parenting patterns they learned as a children.

Social and emotional competence of children: A child's ability to interact positively with others, self-regulate behavior, and communicate feelings.

CPI's parent support services help parents build these five protective factors within families by providing parent education and connecting families in crisis with concrete supports to fill basic needs. One key service is our Triple P — Positive Parenting Program. Triple P is very useful for any parent who wants to improve their parenting skills; it is a powerful tool to break the cycle of intergenerational child abuse.

Triple P offers clear, simple strategies tailored to individual family situations and geared to different levels of parenting proficiency. Triple P enables parents to deal with challenging child behaviors and misbehavior without using corporal punishment. Outcomes of this program has shown that children behave better, lowering the need — and desire — for parents to use harsh punishment. CPI provides Triple P both in parents homes or in classes. Last year, 851 parents participated in Positive Parenting Programs through CPI.

If help is not available when needed, the cycle of abuse continues and more children become its victims. CPI's counseling services have provided therapy for child victims of abuse since 1986 and is the state-designated provider of intervention for children traumatized by abuse in Sonoma County.

Last year, CPI provided 8,052 hours of therapy to 325 children. We serve children birth through 18 years who have experienced physical, sexual or emotional abuse or neglect; have witnessed family or community violence; or live in endangering environments, such as with parental substance abuse.

These are complex cases often involving multi-generational trauma and abuse. Both the children and caregivers need specialized therapy to reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress.

Additionally, CPI advocates for the health and safety of children and families and provides a forum for community members to learn more about child abuse prevention efforts. These activities are initiated through our local child abuse council, Prevent Child Abuse-Sonoma County. Anyone interested in this work is invited to join us.

Contact CPI at 585-6108.


United Kingdom

MPs and VIPs 'child abuse ring' at luxury flats near Parliament investigated by detectives

by Keir Mudie, Nick Dorman, Mark Conrad

A new police probe has been launched into ­allegations of historic child sex abuse by MPs and other VIPs at a complex of luxury flats in the shadow of Westminster.

Detectives are probing chilling claims of “abuse parties” at ­upmarket Dolphin Square, where many Members of Parliament had their London homes.

The fresh investigation follows startling allegations ­published in the Sunday People in July.

And it comes as Home Secretary Theresa May's inquiry into claims of a cover-up of Establishment child sex abuse faltered when its chairman quit.

Mrs May came under pressure from abuse victims as lawyer Fiona Woolf stepped down following a Home Office attempt to play down her links to Leon Brittan, the former Home Secretary at the centre of whitewash claims.

Tonight a man who says he was raped as a boy at Dolphin Square said: “The fiasco over Fiona Woolf and the cover-up inquiry has caused people to lose faith, but at least this shows the police inquiry is moving in the right direction.”

The Met launched the fresh investigation after the Sunday People revealed two separate accounts from men who say they suffered sex abuse as boys at the flats more than 30 years ago.

One of the alleged victims, known as Nick to protect his ­identity, has since spoken to Met officers over his ordeal at the plush estate of 1,250 flats in Pimlico, Central London.

At one point the flats were home to up to 70 MPs and around 10 lords.

Nick told Exaro, the investigative website, officers “are very serious” about probing his allegations that two former Conservative MPs – ­including an ex-cabinet minister – and other VIPs sexually abused him as a boy at Dolphin Square and other locations.

Nick told how the two well-known ­politicians raped and physically beat him after he was forced to drink ­alcohol. He ­recalled being taken to Dolphin Square around ten times, from age 11, over a period of two to three years either side of 1980.

He and another man gave ­accounts of how MPs and other prominent people sexually ­assaulted them at abuse parties at Dolphin Square and elsewhere. The officer in charge of Fairbank and linked operations contacted Exaro to ask whether the two men would speak to him and his team at the Met.

Nick agreed despite remaining fearful of his alleged abusers.

He said the Met took a detailed statement from him under Operation Midland.

It is understood Midland is one of at least eight operations under the Fairbank umbrella, the ­overarching probe into historic ­allegations of child sex abuse by Establishment figures.

Nick said: “The police contacted you to ask whether we would come forward to them.

“That is something that I gave serious consideration to, given whom the people are. And the fear that was instilled in me as a child is still very much there, and is part of me.

“But I decided that I would speak to the police.”

Following a meeting with two detectives, lengthy interviews took place to take formal witness ­statements from Nick.

We are not naming either of the former MPs for legal reasons.

Nick said that his father, who also sexually abused him, supplied him to the paedophile network.

Today Nick tells how the ex-minister was “sadistic”, while the second former MP was ­especially violent towards boys.

Nick added: “They were so ­powerful that they were often blasé about their identities.”

Nick explained he recognised Elm Guest House in Barnes, south-west London, as a result of Press coverage on the paedophile brothel frequented by MPs and other prominent people.

He remembers being kept ­waiting in a car outside while other boys were dropped off at the ­property, but he does not think that he was ever abused there.

Under Operation Fairbank, the Met launched an investigation into Elm Guest House.

It formally became a full ­criminal case, Operation Fernbridge, which has been ­investigating the guest house and related issues. The second alleged victim, previously interviewed by Operation Fernbridge, told Exaro that he would not talk to the police.

Nick said of the first MP: “He was nasty, cruel, sadistic and hateful.”

The ex-minister treated boys with “complete contempt”, sexually abusing him “probably every time I was there”, he said. “He would treat me like I was not even human.”

Nick also spoke of how a second ex-MP was ­especially violent towards boys. The MP liked to cut them with a knife.

Nick said: “We never spoke back to them, or attempted to fight them off. You could not. They would punish you all the more for it.”

The accounts from Nick and the other man are remarkably similar.

They may have met as boys as they were trafficked around the VIP party-circuit in London to be sexually abused.

Nick went on: “Some were quite open about who they were. Some were not. Very powerful individuals. Some very nasty ­individuals. Just with one thing on their mind.

“You got to know them over a number of years. Some, I knew very well at the time, but did not know exactly who they were or what they did, and it is later on that I have been able to put names to faces.

“It usually followed a similar type of pattern. So we, all the boys, would be asked to do ­various things or perform or follow their orders, do whatever they wanted us to do. Then, there might be a break.

“And then there would be more private time, as they call it – one-to-one time.” He said the ex-minister sexually abused him on more than a dozen occasions over a few years.

The ex-minister told him his first name, although only after a year of knowing him.

Nick said: “It was only later in my adult life that I then knew who it was.”

The senior politician would slap him before and during abuse, said Nick, although he was “not as forceful” as some others.

Nick said that he saw the ex-minister abuse other boys probably more than a dozen times.

The ex-minister encouraged other abusers to cut boys but did not do it himself. The second
ex-MP did cut boys “without hesitation”.

Nick said that both politicians were among those who raped him over a filled bath while holding his head beneath the water.

He added: “I and other boys lived through it. It was part of my life for a long time.

“Unfortunately, these things occur across society. It knows no bounds, it crosses all social and community groups, and I and others lived through it. It was our world at the time.

“I hope that they will start making arrests.”



Investigators unraveling twisted Alabama family's group sex ring with children

Eight family members and three family friends of 19-year-old Brittney Wood have been charged with conducting an incestuous sex ring that shared children for group sex. Wood was last seen on May 30, 2012 and is presumed dead.

by The Associated Press

BAY MINETTE, Ala. - By most accounts, 19-year-old Brittney Wood was with uncle Donnie Holland the night of May 30, 2012, the last time anyone saw her. Holland - who was under investigation for horrific sex crimes at the time - died from a bullet within days in what was ruled a suicide.

The investigation that followed has publicly unraveled what authorities describe as a dark, twisted tale of perversion in the working-class neighborhoods and piney backwoods of coastal Alabama.

Eight of Woods' adult relatives and three family friends have been charged with dozens of felonies in two counties as the alleged members of an incestuous ring that authorities say shared children for group sex. Holland was the leader, prosecutors say, of what has been described as the largest sex ring ever uncovered in Alabama. Wood was a victim and likely key witness.

"Brittney could have been huge," said prosecutor Teresa Heinz. "She could have corroborated so many things."

Wood is presumed dead, but authorities haven't found a trace of her and no one is charged in her disappearance.

Even without Wood to testify, two of her uncles and an older brother already have pleaded guilty to sex charges, and jurors this month convicted a friend of Holland's of multiple sex charges in the first trial. Others - including the missing teen's mother, Chessie Wood, and two aunts - await trial.

Chessie Wood denies committing any crime, but says some of her closest relatives are guilty of abusing children, including of abusing her daughter.

"There are innocent people in this and there are guilty people in this," Wood, 39, said in an interview. "I don't know how the judicial system is going to figure it all out because they're not the sharpest tools in the shed."

Chessie Wood, accused of having sex with a young female relative, said she had no idea what was going on in the family until after her daughter's disappearance.

"The No. 1 thing here is to find Brittney. The No. 2 thing is to get all these sick (people) off the streets," she said.

Authorities are making plea-bargain offers and getting ready for more trials, but questions persist. Perhaps most troubling, why didn't child welfare workers pursue charges following what prosecutors describe as multiple complaints about sexual abuse within the family going back at least six years?

"You'd be surprised how many of them had prior allegations. Nothing happened," said Heinz, an assistant district attorney in Baldwin County. "You have to wonder what wouldn't have happened to these children if something had been done. And Brittney might still be alive."

The case is so big officials don't know exactly how many kids inside and outside the family might have been victimized; estimates range from 11 to 16 children who were as young as 3 or 4 when they were first molested or made to watch adult relatives during drug-fueled orgies. The children of the suspects have all been placed in foster care or with relatives who weren't involved in the crimes.

Brittney Wood isn't the alleged victim in any of the cases filed so far; each involved other young people, mostly within her family. But the investigation mushroomed only after she was reported missing and her uncle Donnie had died.

Authorities believe group sex and child sexual abuse went on for three generations in two families that merged when Holland married Wendy Wood, Chessie Woods' sister.

"Donnie was the manager. He'd say, 'I've got this child and this adult, come on over,'" said Mobile County Assistant District Attorney Nicki Patterson.

Brittney Wood, meanwhile, led a life that was troubled long before folks on the Alabama coast came to know her smile because of missing persons fliers posted in store windows and shared on social media.

The single mother of a daughter born when she was 17, Wood was molested as a child by a step-grandfather who went to prison for the crime, said Patterson. Before she went missing, Patterson said, Wood was using drugs and had a gun for personal protection while bouncing between relatives' homes; others often cared for her daughter.

A relative reported Holland for allegedly abusing one of the family girls in February 2012, authorities said, and word spread through the clan. Private Facebook messages provided to The Associated Press by Stephanie Hanke, Brittney Wood's stepmother, show that a female relative informed Wood about being raped by three male relatives on May 27, just three days before Wood vanished.

The night of the disappearance, cellphone records and witness accounts indicate Wood left west Mobile with Holland and crossed Mobile Bay into Baldwin County, where Holland was found two days later inside his SUV by his wife and one of her friends. He had been shot in the rear of his head behind an ear, which authorities considered an odd spot for a self-inflicted wound.

Holland was scheduled to be questioned about allegations of sexual abuse the very day he was found in the car on an isolated dirt road.

Wood's cellphone battery was in the vehicle with Holland, but there was no sign of the teen. Her gun was there as well, it was the only gun in the car. Holland never regained consciousness and died several days later.

After Holland died, relatives and police wondered about Wood.

"We didn't even realize she was missing until after they found him shot," said Hanke.

Searches for the teen began and the sex abuse probe picked up, too. Two of Woods's uncles, Dustin Kent and Scott Wood, were arrested within three weeks and later pleaded guilty to rape and sodomy. Aunts and family friends were eventually charged.

This month, family friend Billy Brownlee, 50, was convicted in Baldwin County on charges of sexually abusing a girl in the Holland family when she was about 12. Brownlee claimed Donnie Holland forced him into the acts against his will, but jurors needed only 20 minutes to return a guilty verdict.

Donnie Holland's 35-year-old wife, Wendy, is set for trial in early December in what could be a key prosecution. Court records show she has pleaded not guilty, and Heinz said she shows no interest in a plea agreement.

Still, authorities wonder how child sexual abuse could go on for years between so many people without anyone being charged until 2012. One girl accused an uncle of sexually abusing her as early as 2008, Heinz said, but welfare workers found the complaint unsubstantiated.

"You look at these reports and wonder, 'Why? How did it not go anywhere?'" said Heinz.

Barry Spear, a spokesman for the Alabama Department of Human Resources, said privacy statutes prevent the agency from commenting.

"I can't even say whether we're had any involvement with this family at all," Spear said.


Mike Tyson Opens Up About Being Sexual Assaulted as a Child

by Jason St. Amand

(Video of interview on site)

Former boxing champ Mike Tyson revealed Wednesday in an interview on SiriusXM Opie's Radio show that he was molested when he was 7 years old, the New York Daily News reports.

The athlete opened up about the abuse when talking about his childhood and what made him a good boxer, saying a man pulled him off the street when he was a child.

"These guys bullied me and sexually abused me," Tyson said.

Jim Norton, the show's co-host, asked Tyson, 48, if the abuse occurred one time or if it continued.

"No, one time," Tyson said. "Never seen him again....snatched me off the street."

"He abused you and just let you go or did you escape?" Norton asked.

"Well, I ran," Tyson said.

While some men in the interview seemed uncomfortable, host Opie Hughes said "awwwkward" at one point, Tyson said he is not embarrassed or ashamed by the incident.

Though Tyson hasn't professionally boxed since 2005, his rep said the athlete is "in a good place in his life with sobriety, family and career."