Newtown (Sandy Hook) Connecticut
New Report on Lanza: Parental Denial, Breakdowns, Missed Opportunities
by Alaine Griffin, Josh Kovner
In February 2007, Yale clinicians identified in Adam Lanza what they believed were profound emotional disabilities and offered him treatment that they said could give him relief for the first time in his troubled life.
But Adam was angry and anxious, and he didn't want to go. His mother, Nancy Lanza, constantly placating her son, was inclined to pull away from the treatment, prompting a psychiatric nurse to reach out to his father, Peter Lanza, in an urgent email.
"I told Adam he has a biological disorder that can be helped with medication. I told him what the medicines are and why they can work. I told him he's living in a box right now and the box will only get smaller over time if he doesn't get some treatment."
Nancy Lanza rejected the Yale doctors' plan. Adam was 14.
Six years later, Adam, now an emaciated recluse and fixated with mass killers, murdered his mother and massacred 20 children and six educators before turning a gun on himself at the elementary school he once attended in the Sandy Hook section of Newtown.
A report released Friday by the Office of the Child Advocate pointed to the Yale episode as one of dozens of red flags, squandered opportunities, blatant family denial and disturbing failures by pediatricians, educators and mental health professionals to see a complete picture of Adam Lanza's "crippling" social and emotional disabilities.
Although the report does not draw a line between the events in Adam Lanza's young life and the massacre, it points out repeated examples in which the profound anxiety and rage simmering inside Lanza was not explored in favor of attempts to manage his symptoms.
For example, at the apex of Adam's increasing phobias and problems coping with middle school, he went to a pediatrician and was repeatedly prescribed a lotion to soothe hands rubbed raw by excessive washing and a laxative to ease constipation brought on by a dangerous loss of weight. Yet, the authors note, there was no effort during these visits to address the underlying causes. A visit to a hospital emergency room was cut short before there was a chance for clinicians to explore Adam's problems at greater depth and schedule him for long-term treatment because Nancy Lanza said that being at the hospital was making Adam anxious.
"This shooting could have been stopped at any point along the trajectory of [Adam Lanza's] life," said Scarlett Lewis, whose son Jesse was one of the first-graders killed in classrooms in the Sandy Hook Elementary School. "Red flags were evident, yet procedures were not in place to effectively deal with the issues. This is a systemic concern."
The child advocate's mandate was to scour Adam Lanza's life for warning signs, lapses and communication breakdowns that could lead to reform in Connecticut's school and mental health systems. The report's authors offer dozens of recommendations that they hope will make children and families safer and mental health treatment more effective. Thousands of pages of records were subpoenaed in the 22-month probe, which included consulting with experts ranging from FBI profilers to child psychiatrists.
The 112-page report reserves some of its most searing criticism for what the authors see as efforts by his parents and school personnel to control his superficial symptoms and appease him to "get through the day" rather than having specialists treat his serious conditions.
At times, the report said, school officials in Newtown failed to comply with legal requirements in their handling of Adam. They also point to a chronic lack of communication and coordination among the various players involved with Adam's education and treatment, inside and outside of Newtown.
"The lack of sustained, expert-driven and well-coordinated mental health treatment, and medical and educational planning, ultimately enabled his progressive deterioration," the report said.
Among the troubling omissions cited in the report, the authors reveal that Adam never underwent a neurological examination despite reported seizures and a diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression. Adam was repeatedly pulled from special education programs, therapy and schools at various times and was in the state's little-known homebound program with minimal oversight by school officials.
Even Adam's own stunningly violent and graphic school writings about homicide, gunplay and war, including a comic book called "The Big Book Of Granny" and seventh-grade war essays, failed to trigger psychiatric treatment.
The report also traces his descent after high school into a stew of depression, isolation and suicidal thoughts, spending months in his bedroom with blacked-out windows, communicating in cyberspace with fellow connoisseurs of mass murder.
He also spent those days planning the attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School, which he might have chosen because he could overpower the children and anticipated little resistance. The report said that Adam visited the school's website "on numerous occasions" and studied the school's security procedures.
"The attack on Sandy Hook Elementary appears to have been a purposefully thought-out and planned attack. [Adam Lanza] did not just 'snap,'" wrote Sarah Healy Eagan, the state child advocate; Faith Vos Winkel, the office's principal child fatality investigator; and other authors of the report.
The authors acknowledged that the report does not delve into the issue of high-capacity assault weapons, but said that Adam Lanza's access to guns, which began at age 5, had a role in the tragedy, along with his deteriorating mental and physical health and his increased isolation.
Joseph V. Erardi Jr., Newtown's superintendent of schools, said his thoughts after reading the child advocate's report were with "the victims' parents and the families who live every day with this horrific tragedy. In addition, my initial reflection includes the hundreds of students, staff, parents, first responders and community members who witnessed and experienced 12/14."
Erardi said Friday that school administrators "will meet with staff on Monday to debrief from the report and make decisions at that point going forward."
Adam Lanza's earliest years in his family's hometown of Kingston, N.H., were marked by developmental issues and an immediate reliance on his mother. He did not sleep well, avoided hugs and kisses, and had problems communicating, often making up his own language that only his mother could understand.
During a developmental assessment in a Birth-to-Three program, a provider wrote that Adam "fell well below expectations in social-personal development" and that he could not understand any of the boy's language, relying on his mother to serve as interpreter during testing.
Early on, in what would become a recurring theme throughout much of his schooling, Adam's ability to perform well academically led to the perception that he did not need special education or additional therapy.
The report said that "neither the parents nor the educational system persevered to ensure that he received neurological follow-up, a comprehensive psychological evaluation or evaluation of his behavioral and sensory processing challenges." Such follow-up early on "might have clarified and deepened the understanding of his needs," the report said.
When he did receive special attention, the focus was on his difficulties forming words rather than his more serious inability to communicate with others.
In what could be the most glaring omission in this chapter of Adam's life, the records of his preschool life in Kingston were apparently never transferred to his new school, Sandy Hook Elementary School.
For several years afterward, individual education plans that should have addressed his serious underlying disabilities consistently failed to include that information.
Protected From Stress
By the time the family moved to Newtown in 1998, Nancy and Peter Lanza's marriage was crumbling. Peter Lanza admitted to the authors of the report that he was a "weekend father," and that his wife referred to him as a "workaholic" at his job with General Electric in Stamford. They separated in 2002 when Adam was 9, and divorced seven years later.
Nancy developed a preoccupation with her own health, telling friends in emails that she suffered from a potentially terminal disease and that she did not have long to live. She said she worried about the future of Adam and his older brother, Ryan.
But the authors, in investigating her medical records, found no evidence that Nancy was suffering from a terminal illness. The report suggests that Adam might have been affected by his mother's preoccupation with her own health.
The authors describe a symbiotic relationship between mother and son, with Nancy going to excessive lengths to protect him from stress, which had the damaging effect of isolating him from the outside world. She treated him as a close confidant, but "that may have been well beyond his relatively immature emotional capacities," the authors said.
Adam also played the role of counselor to his mother, part of a "dynamic of mutual dependency," the authors wrote. They cite a 2008 email from Adam to his mother as an example. After Nancy had revealed to him that she thought she had wasted her life, Adam wrote:
"You do not seem to understand that I was attempting to comfort you with what I consider to be a maxim with which to live. You unfortunately probably still do not understand what I mean. As a disclaimer: I type nothing in this that is in a tone that is condescending, vindictive, malicious, snide, malignant, or any synonym that you can think of. I mean well.
"If you believe that you wasted your life, as you seem to have insinuated, you will gain nothing from regretting it and will only depress yourself; you cannot change anything from the past. There is something I can assure you of that will always be true: It does not matter if you live for the next one year … or even 100 years, the day before you die, you will regret ever worrying about your life instead of thinking of what you want to do.
"I am glad that I was born, and I appreciate your having taken care of me."
Although Nancy obviously loved her son and was dedicated to him, her "hypervigilance" and habit of micromanaging his life, coupled with her rejection of psychiatric advice for Adam and her objections to putting him on medication, might have unwittingly sabotaged opportunities for her son to get better, the report found.
The report also raises the question of what role the Lanza family's socioeconomic status in the community played in how school and health care professionals responded to Nancy Lanza's ability to care and meet Adam's needs.
Nancy Lanza lived with Adam in an affluent neighborhood in the east end of town. She did not have a job but, in 2012, according to divorce records on file at Superior Court, received $289,800 in alimony from Peter Lanza.
"Is the community more reluctant to intervene and more likely to provide deference to the parental judgment and decision-making of white, affluent parents than those caregivers who are poor or minority?" the report asked. Would Nancy Lanza's reluctance to keep him in school or maintain a treatment program "have gone under the radar if he were a child of color?"
In Adam's two most significant opportunities for meaningful psychiatric treatment — an evaluation at the Danbury Hospital emergency room in September 2005, and a complete work-up by clinicians at the Yale Child Study Center in New Haven the following year — Nancy rejected expert advice in both cases and further isolated her son by keeping him at home and away from school.
At Danbury Hospital, she declined an extensive medical evaluation and psychiatric examination for Adam, who was suffering from overwhelming anxiety. Instead, she asked for a note excusing him from school indefinitely. When she didn't get her wish, she took Adam home.
At Yale in October 2006, a psychiatrist examined Adam at Peter Lanza's urging. The doctor noted Adam's "accelerating" social withdrawal and concluded that Adam suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder and severe social disabilities and would benefit from intensive therapy. The psychiatric nurse at the center reached similar conclusions about what the clinicians were calling an "increasingly constricted social and educational world."
But Nancy pulled Adam out of treatment at the Yale center, saying that the diagnosis "didn't fit" and that her son didn't want to go to the sessions. The authors noted that a clinical report by the Yale team apparently never made it to Newtown High School and that Adam's educational planning at the school lacked any connection to the Yale findings.
"If there is a single document that is most prescient regarding [Adam's] deterioration," the authors wrote, "it is the October 2006 report from the Yale Child Study Center — an evaluation that so dramatically states the high stakes presented by [Adam's] disabilities and the need for meaningful and immediate intervention."
Nancy relied heavily on the advice of a psychiatrist who, in contrast with other clinicians, said that Adam would benefit from being away from school. It was the psychiatrist who said that Adam was a candidate for the homebound program, in which students who are medically or emotionally unable to attend school are tutored at home.
The report was highly critical of this move, stating that there was no evidence that the school had a treatment or education plan for Adam, and that there was no record that he even received the 10 hours a week of tutoring required.
"In the face of disabilities that were so significant as to apparently justify [Adam's] lack of attendance for the entire school year it does not appear that anyone questioned why, if he was so debilitated, he was never hospitalized or referred for specialized educational placement," the report said. "On a number of levels and on numerous occasions, the district did not follow appropriate procedures, monitor [Adam's] individual education plan … for goals and objectives, or document attempts to follow up with providers or the family regarding psychiatric or pediatric care."
Lewis, Jesse's mother, said that a deeper focus on the underlying conditions could have averted tragedy.
"Incorporating social and emotional learning into schools, including character values, emotional intelligence, moral awareness, mindfulness and compassion, has been scientifically proven to reduce behavioral issues and anxiety and increase academic performance and general well-being," Lewis said. "I am confident if [Adam Lanza] had this kind of learning in his educational experience the tragedy would have never occurred."
As mental health professionals worked to understand Adam's disabilities, the report said that Adam's disturbingly violent writings as a young boy might have provided clues.
A comic book he wrote with a fifth-grade classmate called "The Big Book of Granny," which chronicles the evil adventures of a homicidal, gun-toting grandmother, and essays he wrote about "battles, destruction and war" during a short stint in the seventh grade at St. Rose of Lima School in Newtown, showed that Adam was "deeply troubled by feelings of rage, hate and (at least unconscious) murderous impulses."
Although the report states that the comic book was a school creative-writing assignment, the authors of the report said it was unclear whether the book was handed in to a teacher or whether any school officials ever reviewed it.
"If it had been carefully reviewed by school staff, it would have suggested the need for a referral to a child psychiatrist or other mental health professional for evaluation," the report said.
The St. Rose of Lima teacher said that Adam was not like the other seventh-grade boys.
Adam's "level of violence was disturbing. I remember showing the writings to the principal at the time," the teacher told the report's authors. Adam's "creative writing was so graphic that it could not be shared."
Nancy Lanza and the school later reached a mutual decision that Adam should leave the parochial school.
After spending eighth grade in the homebound program, Adam returned to school as a freshman at Newtown High School. His two years there, before his mother abruptly withdrew him, were marked by some social progress and an effort by teachers and administrators to accommodate him in mainstream classes.
"The educational team felt they were 'thinking outside the box' for Adam, and making deliberate and well-intended efforts" to meet his needs "through careful and extensive partnership with his mother," the report said.
But the partnership was a "strategy of habituation, or even of appeasement, without a skilled, therapeutic, expert-driven approach that would help [Adam] adapt to the world." The report said that the educational team went to great lengths to "adapt the world to" Adam, rather than help Adam "adapt to the world."
After leaving high school, he took classes at two local colleges but his increasing social phobias, declining physical health, and an argument with his father about his course load, drove him back home — to a period of unparalleled isolation.
He lived a solitary life in his room, spending hours on the computer. He cut off communication with his father and brother, and remained house-bound for months at a time, Nancy reported to her friends at a local bar-restaurant.
His only diversion from this reclusive lifestyle was a passion for Dance Dance Revolution, in which the player dances in response to video cues.
Adam would dance "maniacally" for many hours at a time in the lobby of a local theater, neglecting to eat and stopping only to wipe off his dripping perspiration.
The theater manager "had to eventually unplug the game" to get Adam to leave, because Adam "could become so lost in the activity that he would not respond to communication," the report said.
Last Dark Days
Back home, in cyberspace, Adam shared dark obsessions about mass killings with a small community of like-minded murder enthusiasts.
In an email that he sent to one of his cyber friends three days before the Dec. 14, 2012, massacre, he mentioned a half-dozen mass killings and opined that "the mystery to me isn't how there are massacres, but, rather, how there aren't 100,000 of them every year."
At that point, Adam was 6 feet tall and weighed 112 pounds, "to the point of malnutrition" and brain damage, the authors state.
Nancy's main focus during this time was her planned purchase of a recreational vehicle and a move with Adam to Washington state, in addition to her "spending a lot of time in a local restaurant and bar" where she would often stay late with friends, the report said.
The authors surmised that Adam was stressed by the planned move.
Just days before the shooting, Adam injured his head the night before Nancy Lanza was to travel to New Hampshire. His mother, in a text message, described the wound as "bloody, bloody, bloody." The incident, however, did not cause her to change her trip plans. She returned on Dec. 13, 2012.
In the end, Adam alone was responsible for his actions, the authors state, adding that the vast majority of people with psychological and developmental illnesses do not commit violent crime.
In Adam's case, his "severe and deteriorating … mental-health problems were combined with an atypical preoccupation with violence … that appeared to be exacerbated by access to a segment of the cyber world in which mass violence was a dominant theme … Combined with access to deadly weapons, this proved a recipe for mass murder."
Cost of child abuse is high, economically and physically
by M. Ray Perryman
As horrific and unimaginable as it sounds, child maltreatment is pervasive in the United States and ranks as one of the nation's most pressing public health and social concerns. While many incidents no doubt go unreported, reliable survey evidence suggests that more than 13 percent of U.S. children are subject to abuse or neglect by a caregiver each year. It impacts children irrespective of age, gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. The physical and emotional consequences to the victims often persist throughout their lives and represent a truly incalculable and often irreparable harm.
This fact alone should be sufficient justification for a massive national effort to both address the underlying causes and minimize the impacts on the victims. In reality, however, budget constraints and changing priorities have led to reduced funding to the agencies confronting the issue and fewer public resources for prevention, investigation, and amelioration.
In addition to the very real effects on the individuals involved, child maltreatment also imposes substantial economic costs which can be quantified in a comprehensive manner. When properly measured, every year that the situation is allowed to persist at current levels drains literally trillions of dollars in long-term business activity. Viewed from this perspective, there is a compelling case for the investment of public, private, and philanthropic resources into a multi-faceted attack on child maltreatment for pecuniary reasons that go beyond the obvious affront to human dignity and opportunity.
The Perryman Group recently completed a study in order to provide a perspective on the economic costs of child maltreatment. The full report (provided as a public service) is available for free download on our website (www.perrymangroup.com).
Extensive prior research has quantified the direct social costs (health care, social welfare, juvenile and adult crime, and education costs) stemming from child maltreatment. We compiled and analyzed these reports, updating and refining the estimates and expanding them to reflect the full costs as the various direct effects work their way through the economy. Our study thus integrates findings from prior studies with a dynamic impact modeling process in order to more fully capture the overall social costs as they ripple through the economy.
As an initial phase of this analysis, we first updated and refined available 2012 data regarding the numbers of cases reported to various child protective services agencies to 2014 based on recent trends and child population estimates. The results indicate that more than 3.3 million children age 17 or younger were maltreated for the first time in 2014. A second, survey-based approach produced virtually identical results.
Note that this figure reflects only first-time victims (as appropriate for an “incidence” approach such as we performed); the actual number of children affected by abuse is much higher. An incidence approach measures the economic consequences of child maltreatment in a given year (2014) as they are manifested over the life cycle of the affected individuals. It is an approach commonly used in health-related studies and is appropriate for policy evaluation.
Following the general pattern in other major studies of the topic, the direct social costs identified for the non-fatal victims included incremental expenses for health care (childhood and adult), social welfare services, criminal justice (juvenile and adult), and education. For fatal cases, health costs were also considered. In addition, productivity and lifetime earnings are affected. These costs total hundreds of thousands of dollars per victim. In addition, these effects also lead to a reduction in earnings as work ability, productivity, and education levels are negatively affected. This loss, in turn, has ripple effects throughout the economy.
The Perryman Group estimates that each individual occurrence of first-time child maltreatment costs the US economy about $1.8 million in total expenditures, $800,000 in gross product and $500,000 in personal income. These amounts reflect the lifetime economic losses stemming from incidences of child maltreatment occurring in 2014. The values are given in constant (2014) dollars and are discounted at a 3 percent real (inflation-adjusted) rate. They are also fully adjusted for (1) the likelihood of substitution among workers (which reduces the amount reflected in individual losses), (2) the production losses associated with a reduced supply of labor, and (3) the spinoff effects on suppliers and consumer spending of the reduced productive capacity. The assumptions, prior studies, and methods we used are spelled out in the full report.
When the millions of individual cases are considered, the overall economic cost of first-time child maltreatment in the United States can be measured. We found that the total economic cost of child maltreatment occurring in 2014 includes almost $5.9 trillion in lifetime spending, $2.7 trillion in lost gross domestic product, and 27.9 million person-years of employment. Economic costs of child maltreatment are naturally highest in the most populous states, with job losses (person-years over the lifetime of the first-time victims in 2014) stemming from child maltreatment ranging from 26,700 in Hawaii to almost 3.5 million in California.
There is not an easy solution to the problem of child maltreatment, but the economic losses clearly support additional investment aimed at dealing with the underlying causes. The horrific physical and mental costs to children are reason enough, but there is also compelling economic justification.
M. Ray Perryman is President and Chief Executive Officer of The Perryman Group (www.perrymangroup.com). He also serves as Institute Distinguished Professor of Economic Theory and Method at the International Institute for Advanced Studies.
Parents culprits in most child abuse cases
One out five girls and one out ten boys are victims of sexual abuse before the age of 18, but only one of three cases is taken to court, according to the “International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children.”
Child abuse is a worldwide phenomenon and a disturbing problem about which authorities have kept silent for years.
Nowadays, civil society organizations and governments play a very important and active role in the promotion of respect of children.
In 2000, the “Women's World Summit Foundation - women and children first” launched the World Day for the Prevention of Child Abuse, honored every year on November 19.
In Greece alone there have been 629 complaints of serious cases of child abuse from the beginning of 2014 through October, according to the non-profit voluntary organization “The Smile of the Child.”
Most of the time, the perpetrators are the parents themselves, the organization said.
As the economic crisis has stricken Greek families, it has had serious consequences for the welfare of children and their access to essential goods and services.
“The economic crisis plays an important role in abuse cases,” Panagiotis Pardalis, press officer at the non-profit organization “The Smile of the Child,” told Anadolu Agency.
In fact, the crisis has worsened the problem, he insisted.
Child abuse has many forms, Pardalis said, but the four basic types that have been recorded are: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional and psychological abuse and neglect.
Out of the 629 complaints of child abuse that were recorded by the organization through its helpline, 98.5 percent were anonymous and only 1.5 percent gave names.
In 45 percent of these cases, the children were younger than six years old, and in 91 percent of the cases, the children needed immediate removal from their families.
Out of this 91 percent, 17 children, or 11 percent of them, are now living in houses belonging to the organization.
Sadly, the lack of hosting facilities leads to the “abandonment” of these children in children's hospitals for weeks, months, even years, in some cases, if no solution is found.
The lack of hosting for these children thus creates another challenge for society.
However, the data above refer to the numerical depiction of incidents handled by the organization and does not depict the actual dimension of child abuse cases in Greece.
Pardalis stressed out that the child abuse cases are much more, but fear and emotional stress or indifference many times prevents people from reporting cases of abuse.
The Smile of the Child's main concern is “defending children's rights, by providing services to children on a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year basis, working for their physical, mental, and psychological stability.”
For that reason the organization has created a 24/7 helpline in order to help and protect children's rights.
In cooperation with 130 organizations from around the world, The Smile of the Child is campaigning in order to inform, and mobilize people and society against the child abuse phenomenon.
Bill Cosby's legacy, recast: Accusers speak in detail about sexual-assault allegations
by Manuel Roig-Franzia, Scott Higham, Paul Farhi and Mary Pat Flaherty
They didn't see a comedian. They saw the “king of the world.”
Long before there was a Dr. Cliff Huxtable, before rumpled sweaters and a collective anointing as America's dad, Bill Cosby was magnified a hundredfold in the eyes of the young models and actresses he pulled into his orbit. For them, he embodied the hippest of the 1960s and '70s Hollywood scene, a mega-star with the power to make somebodies out of nobodies.
He partied with Hugh Hefner and was a regular at the magazine mogul's Playboy Mansion bacchanals. He co-owned a restaurant and hit the hottest clubs. He sizzled.
Those wild, largely forgotten days clash with the avuncular image that has been Cosby's most enduring impression on American culture. And they have been jarringly cast in a wholly different light as a torrent of women have told — and in some cases retold — graphic, highly detailed stories of alleged abuse by Cosby.
Sixteen women have publicly stated that Cosby, now 77, sexually assaulted them, with 12 saying he drugged them first and another saying he tried to drug her. The Washington Post has interviewed five of those women, including a former Playboy Playmate who has never spoken publicly about her allegations. The women agreed to speak on the record and to have their identities revealed. The Post also has reviewed court records that shed light on the accusations of a former director of women's basketball operations at Temple University who assembled 13 “Jane Doe” accusers in 2005 to testify on her behalf about their allegations against Cosby.
The accusations, some of which Cosby has denied and others he has declined to discuss, span the arc of the comedy legend's career, from his pioneering years as the first black star of a network television drama in 1965 to the mid-2000s, when Cosby was firmly entrenched as an elder statesman of the entertainment industry, a scolding public conscience of the African American community and a philanthropist. They also span a monumental generational shift in perceptions — from the sexually unrestrained '60s to an era when the idea of date rape is well understood.
The saga of the abuse allegations is set in locales that speak to Cosby's wealth and fame: a Hollywood-studio bungalow, a chauffeured limousine, luxury hotels, a New York City brownstone. But it also stretches into unexpected places, such as an obscure Denver talent agency that referred two of Cosby's future accusers to the star for mentoring.
The allegations are strung together by perceptible patterns that appear and reappear with remarkable consistency: mostly young, white women without family nearby; drugs offered as palliatives; resistance and pursuit; accusers worrying that no one would believe them; lifelong trauma. There is also a pattern of intense response by Cosby's team of attorneys and publicists, who have used the media and the courts to attack the credibility of his accusers.
Martin Singer, an attorney for Cosby, issued a statement Friday defending his client and assailing the news media.
“The new, never-before-heard claims from women who have come forward in the past two weeks with unsubstantiated, fantastical stories about things they say occurred 30, 40, or even 50 years ago have escalated far past the point of absurdity,” he said. “These brand new claims about alleged decades-old events are becoming increasingly ridiculous, and it is completely illogical that so many people would have said nothing, done nothing, and made no reports to law enforcement or asserted civil claims if they thought they had been assaulted over a span of so many years.
“Lawsuits are filed against people in the public eye every day. There has never been a shortage of lawyers willing to represent people with claims against rich, powerful men, so it makes no sense that not one of these new women who just came forward for the first time now ever asserted a legal claim back at the time they allege they had been sexually assaulted.
“This situation is an unprecedented example of the media's breakneck rush to run stories without any corroboration or adherence to traditional journalistic standards. Over and over again, we have refuted these new unsubstantiated stories with documentary evidence, only to have a new uncorroborated story crop up out of the woodwork. When will it end? It is long past time for this media vilification of Mr. Cosby to stop.”
During an interview on Friday with Florida Today, Cosby said: “I know people are tired of me not saying anything, but a guy doesn't have to answer to innuendos. People should fact-check. People shouldn't have to go through that and shouldn't answer to innuendos.”
If his accusers are to be believed, the earliest allegations against Cosby remained hidden for decades, private artifacts of an era when women were less likely to publicly accuse men they knew of sexual misdeeds and society was less likely to believe them. But they have flared periodically throughout the past nine years, both because of changing attitudes and, particularly over the past month, because of social media's ability to transform a story into a viral phenomenon almost impossible to suppress or control.
The allegations represent a stunning reshaping of Cosby's legacy. Cosby built his fame on a family-friendly comedic persona. He has lectured black youths about proper behavior. He has been honored with a Presidential Medal of Freedom and been lauded for making the largest donation ever by an African American to a historically black college, Spelman College in Atlanta.
But since the avalanche of accusations this month, there has been mostly thundering silence from his longtime allies. An exception is Weldon Latham, a prominent Washington attorney and Cosby friend. He noted in an interview with The Post that his friend has never been charged with a crime and wondered whether “some of the women coming out now, seem to be making it up.”
“What you're hearing is clearly not the entire truth, and how much of it is true, you have no idea,” Latham said.
“I'm pained,” said Virginia Ali, owner of Ben's Chili Bowl on U Street in Washington, which Cosby has frequented since he was 21. “He has been part of the family for many, many years. I've always found him a very kind, generous person. I like to say he shares his humanity.”
The influential producers of “The Cosby Show,” the '80s sitcom that made Cosby famous as a family man, issued a brief statement. “These recent news reports are beyond our knowledge or comprehension,” Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner said Thursday.
Cosby was on the verge of what appeared to be a comeback this year, but projects scheduled for NBC and Netflix have been postponed or canceled in the fallout. Several of Cosby's upcoming comedy shows have been canceled, but when he took the stage Friday in Melbourne, Fla., he received a standing ovation from the sold-out crowd.
Americans who sat in front of their television sets on Sept. 15, 1965, had never seen anything like Alexander Scott, the jet-setting international spy. Black stars had appeared on their screens before but never in a leading role, and this one happened to be a 28-year-old comic who just three years earlier had dropped out of Temple University.
The reaction to Cosby's breakthrough as a co-star appearing on equal footing with a white actor, Robert Culp, reflected a nation still haltingly emerging from its segregationist past. Some Southern television stations banned the program because of Cosby's prominent role, but much of the nation embraced it, making “I Spy” a hit.
“At Howard University, we used to go wild when we saw a soul brother with a gun allowed to shoot back,” Latham once said.
The Hollywood establishment went wild, too, awarding lead-actor Emmys to Cosby in all three seasons that the program aired.
Soon he would have his own program (“The Bill Cosby Show”) and all the trappings that went along with it, including his own Hollywood-studio bungalow. A teenage comedy writer named Joan Tarshis was more than thrilled to get an invite to that private hideaway in 1969.
Tarshis was only 19, but she had already written monologues for Godfrey Cambridge, one of a handful of nationally prominent black comedians in the mid- and late-1960s, she said in an interview with The Post. But getting to hang out with Cosby was almost like taking an express elevator to the penthouse without stopping at the upper floors.
Cosby was a familiar face on the party circuit, knocking around with Hefner, author Shel Silverstein and John Dante, the second-in-command at Playboy, according to “Mr. Playboy: Hugh Hefner and the American Dream,” by Steven Watts.
“Hef and his three buddies loved to fly up to [Playboy's resort on Wisconsin's Lake Geneva], catch a show, and throw a party for the Bunnies and performers,” Watts wrote.
Cosby was also hitting it big with comedy records, though in hindsight one of his riffs seems particularly insensitive. On his 1969 record, “It's True! It's True!,” Cosby joked about drugging women with Spanish Fly, a purported aphrodisiac. Cosby tells the story of a character who convinced him of its powers by recounting how he had slipped some into the drink of a woman named “Crazy Mary.” After that, Cosby said, he'd “go to a party, see five girls standing alone” and think, “Boy, if I had a whole jug of Spanish Fly I'd light that corner up over there.” The audience roars with laughter.
At a lunch at Cosby's bungalow, Tarshis recalled, he urged her to mix a beer with her bloody mary.
“We call that a redeye,” she said he told her.
Cosby invited her to the set of his new show, and then went back to his bungalow to work on some jokes about earthquakes, since Los Angeles had recently been hit by tremors.
“I said, ‘Sure!'” recalled Tarshis, who first disclosed her accusations this month in a column for the Web site Hollywood Elsewhere. “I mean, I had written for Godfrey Cambridge and now I was going to write for Bill Cosby!”
In the bungalow, Tarshis said, Cosby made her another redeye. “I don't know what was in that drink, but it knocked me out. The next thing I remember after having that drink was waking up on his couch,” she said. “I was really foggy. He was trying to take my underwear off.”
She tried to talk her way out of an unwanted sexual encounter, she said. She made up a story about having a genital infection.
“‘If you have sex with me, your wife will know,'” she recalled telling him. “He didn't miss a beat. He knew exactly how to respond. He made me give him oral sex. It was pretty horrible.”
She told no one. Instead, she went home to Brooklyn.
A few weeks later, Cosby called her house and spoke to her mother, who had no idea what had allegedly happened on that couch in the bungalow, Tarshis said. Cosby told Tarshis's mother that he wanted to take her daughter to the Westbury Music Fair on Long Island to hear him deliver a monologue to which Tarshis had made a small writing contribution.
“She was over the moon,” Tarshis said of her mother. “She was so excited.”
Looking back through the prism of four decades, Tarshis, now 66, wonders why she went. “I didn't know how to handle it,” she said. “I thought, ‘Okay, I'm going to be in a theater. It's going to be safe.' I didn't see any way out.”
A limousine picked her up at her mother's and took her to Cosby's New York hotel room at the Sherry-Netherland, Tarshis recalled. Tarshis — who has acknowledged having a drinking problem but says she has been sober since 1988 — remembered being “nervous and uncomfortable.” She had a drink with him to calm down because she was so uneasy about being in his presence after the first alleged assault, she said. By the time they got to the theater, she was feeling so unsteady that she had to leave, she said. She asked the limousine driver to take her back to the car. She lay down.
“The next thing I know, I'm in his hotel room, in his bed, naked,” Tarshis said.
She said she believed he had sexually assaulted her.
“My first thought was, ‘How do I get out of here?'?” she said. “Also, ‘How do I get out of here safely?' I didn't want to aggravate him. I didn't know what he'd do.”
John Milward, a freelance reporter and author, confirmed that Tarshis told him about her Cosby allegations in the early 1980s, though he never wrote about them. And, Tarshis said, she never contacted the police.
“Who was going to believe me?” she said. “If he was a regular joe, I might have done something.”
One of Cosby's attorneys, John Schmitt, issued a statement this past week saying that repeating old allegations “does not make them true.”
She wanted an adventure. With high school graduation behind her, Linda Traitz and a group of friends left Miami Beach in 1969 to see what it would be like to live in California.
She took a job as a waitress. It wasn't about the job; it was about the place, a place filled with stars, a place that glittered.
Traitz worked at Cafe Figaro, a West Hollywood spot that was notable, in part, because of Cosby, who co-owned it and made it his hangout for business meetings.
“I was young and star-struck,” Traitz, now 63, recalled in an interview with The Post.
Traitz's year of adventure coincided with Cosby's emergence as a solo phenomenon. He was no longer Culp's co-star or merely a clever comic; he was showing he could do it all: conceive, write and act. NBC debuted an animated TV movie version of his brainchild, “Fat Albert.” His situation comedy, “The Bill Cosby Show,” launched, and he was about to win his fourth Emmy for a television special he headlined. He even did a Crest toothpaste ad. Everything he touched glistened.
In the midst of all that, Traitz said, Cosby chatted her up one day at his restaurant and offered a ride home. She could not have imagined saying anything but yes.
The minutiae of that day are carved into her mind. She even remembers what she was wearing: a long “hippie days” peasant skirt. She climbed into Cosby's Rolls Royce and he suggested they drive out to the beach, Traitz recalled. Once they parked at the beach, he opened a briefcase, she said.
“It had assorted sections in it, with pills and tablets in it, different colors arranged and assorted into compartments,” she recalled. “He offered me pills and said it would help me to relax, and I kept refusing but he kept offering.”
Cosby “lunged” at her, she said, “grabbed my chest, grabbed me in the front all over.”
“I was crying and horrified,” she said. She broke free, she said, and tumbled out of the car. She ran down the beach with Cosby in pursuit, but she tripped on that long peasant skirt and fell onto the sand, she said.
Cosby agreed to take her home. Her skirt was torn. Walking back to the car, they passed a block filled with shops. Cosby bought her a new skirt, she said.
They rode in silence. “He froze me out,” she said. He never tried anything again, she said, but Traitz could not keep the incident to herself. She told her co-workers and her family what happened at the time. She decided not to go to the police.
“It was a different time,” her brother, Jim Traitz, told The Post. “We all also knew this was a really big guy with a big PR operation and lawyers, and that he could crush us — that he would crush us — and her.”
Life has not been easy for Linda Traitz, who has a history of drug addiction. In the past decade, she has amassed a criminal record with multiple convictions, mostly related to prescription drugs, according to Florida court records. She received a five-year prison term, serving from 2008 to 2012.
“I know there will be people who are going to say: ‘You have a drug problem. Why should we believe you?'?” she said of her decision to go public now.
Just as the allegations against Cosby span generational shifts in attitudes about what constitutes out-of-bounds behavior, they also span historic shifts in how information is disseminated. At the time when Traitz alleges Cosby assaulted her, there was no such thing as social media.
But this month, two events compelled her to make a public statement. First, the comedian Hannibal Buress touched off a social-media frenzy by asking an audience at one of his shows to Google “Bill Cosby rapist.” Then, on Nov. 13, The Post published a first-person account by another accuser, Barbara Bowman. Traitz, furious about the attacks on Bowman and other Cosby accusers, posted her story on Facebook.
Singer, Cosby's attorney, called Traitz “the latest example of people coming out of the woodwork with unsubstantiated or fabricated stories about my client.”
He added, “There was no briefcase of drugs and the story is absurd.”
Victoria Valentino was living what appeared to be a version of the Hollywood dream. Playboy magazine picked her as Playmate of the Month for September 1963 when she was just 19. The next year, she helped open the original Playboy Club as a bunny on the Sunset Strip on New Year's Eve
But by the end of the decade, she had drifted away from those glitzy heights, she recalled in an interview with The Post. In September 1969, her 6-year-old son, Tony, had drowned in a swimming pool. She battled a deep depression, she recalled.
Francesca Emerson, a fellow Playboy bunny who befriended Valentino at the Playboy Club, sensed her despondency. Emerson, who is black, said she was one of the first “chocolate Bunnies” of the 1960s and had trained Valentino in her role as a “Bunny instructor.”
Emerson had a plan to lift Valentino's spirits. “I want you to meet my friend, Bill Cosby,” she said.
Emerson and Cosby had hit it off at the Playboy Club. “He always gave me $100 tips, and he tried to get me to come down to the studio to read for his show, but I was always so nervous.”
After Emerson lost her job at the club in 1968, she said, a chauffeur arrived at her home and handed her an envelope. Inside was $1,000 and a note. “This is for you so you don't have to do anything you don't want to do. Love, Cos,” Emerson said it read.
“That's the Bill Cosby I knew,” Emerson said. “He was a perfect gentleman.”
She said she introduced her “stunning” friend Valentino to Cosby in January 1970 at Cafe Figaro. Weeks later, she said, she met Cosby there again. Valentino said she was with her friend and roommate at the time, an aspiring actress named Meg Foster. She said Cosby offered to pay for massages for the women at a local spa and then sent a limousine to pick them up for dinner.
Valentino said they had dinner at a restaurant called Sneaky Pete's. They ordered steaks and wine, and toward the end of dinner, Valentino said, Cosby offered her and Foster red pills.
“He was trying to cheer me up, and he stuck a pill in my mouth,” she said. “He said, ‘This will make us all feel better.'?”
She and Foster each took a pill, and Cosby did, too, she said.
“We were slurring words. I couldn't function,” she recalled, adding that Cosby said he would take them home but instead drove them to an apartment in the hills above the Chateau Marmont hotel. Valentino said Cosby wanted to show them some memorabilia from “I Spy.”
Once inside, Valentino said, Foster passed out. The room was spinning, and Valentino said she remembered feeling as if she was going to throw up. She said she saw Cosby sitting in a love seat near Foster and she noticed that he had an erection.
“I reached out, grabbing him, trying to get his attention, trying to distract him,” Valentino said. “He came over to me and sat down on the love seat and opened his fly and grabbed my head and pushed my head down. And then he turned me over. It was like a waking nightmare.”
She protested but could not stop him, she said. Cosby slipped out alone, telling Valentino to call a cab if she wanted to go home, she said.
Valentino said she never called the police. “What kind of credibility did I have?” she said. “In those days, it was always the rape victim who wound up being victimized. You didn't want to go to the police. That's the last thing you wanted to do back then.”
She was too embarrassed to tell most of her friends, but she did tell Emerson — the woman who had introduced her to Cosby.
Emerson, who lives in Australia, confirmed Valentino's recollection in an interview with The Post.
“I remember she said that he had drugged her and she came to and he was trying to rape Meg and she pulled him off,” Emerson said. “But I feel devastated that I didn't do anything or say anything.”
Foster, an actress known for roles in TV shows such as “Cagney and Lacey” and movies including “The Osterman Weekend,” declined an interview request.
In 1996, Valentino was contacted by another former Playboy Playmate, Charlotte Kemp, Miss December 1982, who said she was writing a book called “Centerfold Memories,” which is due out in February.
In an interview, Kemp — whose real last name is Helmkamp — said she videotaped an interview with Valentino during which she talked about her alleged encounter with Cosby. Helmkamp said the account she gave matches the account Valentino provided to The Post.
Valentino, now 71, said she decided to come forward after seeing Bowman's allegations in The Post.
“Every time I hear his name mentioned and see him getting an honorary doctorate and see him as this father figure, it makes me nauseated,” Valentino said. “It's so humiliating. Forty-four years later it makes me feel shameful.”
When contacted by The Post about Valentino's allegations, Cosby's attorney responded by issuing the broad denial to the recent accusations.
He liked to watch her brush her hair, Tamara Green recalled. Cosby would sit and watch her pull the brush through her long, thick blond locks as she sang lyrics made famous by the sultry, smoky-voiced jazz great Julie London.
“You need to be taught. You need to be groomed,” Green remembered him telling her.
Green was in her early 20s when she met Cosby through a mutual friend, a Los Angeles doctor, she said. “He was king of the world,” Green said in an interview with The Post. “Full of himself. ‘I Spy.' Man about town.”
When Green met Cosby — in 1969 or 1970, she said — she was doing some modeling and singing. Los Angeles felt like the host of one long, awesome party. Knowing Cosby made it even more awesome.
“We slept all day and were up all night,” Green said.
It was a “very hippie-dippy, very free-love” time, Green said. The big shots in her circle of celebrity friends kept “stables of girls,” Green said. “They had a total disrespect for the girls.” Green did not want to be Cosby's girl.
Green went to work for Cosby in the early 1970s, she said. She was supposed to be raising money from investors for a new club Cosby intended to open.
She called Cosby one day to say she was feeling sick and was going to go home. He told her she would feel better if she ate something and invited her to join him at Cafe Figaro, she said. When she arrived, he gave her some red and gray pills, saying they were over-the-counter decongestants, she recalled.
Cosby drove Green to her apartment and she started to feel woozy, she said. “I remember him being all smarmy: ‘Let me help you take off all your clothes,'” she recalled.
“I couldn't control my body. I couldn't run,” Green recalled. “... He was naked. I was naked on my bed. His hands were all over me.”
Cosby penetrated her vagina with his fingers and fondled his penis in front of her, Green said. She screamed in protest, she said. “You're going to have to kill me,” she remembers telling him. But he would not stop, she said, until she managed to upend a table lamp.
Cosby tossed down two $100 bills as he left, a gesture that Green took as a deep insult, she said. She did not think of herself as a girl who could be bought, but she felt helpless to do anything. She feared Cosby's power. But there was another thing that she fretted about. Her young brother was dying from cystic fibrosis, and the day after the alleged incident, Cosby visited him at the children's hospital where he was being treated, showing up with gifts and entertaining the other young patients, Green said. Her brother adored the star, and knowing Cosby gave him a certain cachet in the hospital ward and garnered him extra attention from nurses in his final days, she said. She worried about jeopardizing all that.
Green, now 66, went on to become an attorney and got married. She is retired in Southern California, where she grapples with Parkinson's disease and with the echoes of that long-ago alleged incident. She said she is forever checking the perimeter of her home. She still sleeps in her clothes.
Another Cosby attorney, Walter M. Phillips Jr., called Green's allegations “absolutely false.”
“Mr. Cosby does not know the name Tamara Green or Tamara Lucier [her maiden name] and the incident she describes did not happen,” Phillips said in a statement issued this past week. He said it was “irresponsible” to publish an “uncorroborated story of an incident that is alleged to have happened thirty years ago.”
Cosby's legal team has also questioned Green's credibility because her law license was suspended in 2004. Green said that the suspension resuresulted from an overdraft related to her depositing a retainer check in the wrong account and that her license was reinstated.
Cosby's team has also used legal-ethics issues to question the credibility of a more recent accuser who is now a lawyer — Louisa Moritz, an actress who appeared in the film “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.” On Thursday, Moritz told the Web site TMZ that Cosby forced her to have oral sex in a dressing room of “The Tonight Show” in 1971. Singer, Cosby's attorney, questioned her credibility because she had been disciplined by the California State Bar last year in a dispute over a legal fee.
In 1971, seven years after their wedding, Cosby's wife, Camille, remained committed to making their marriage work despite the distractions of Hollywood. They had met on a blind date at a bowling alley in the spring of 1963. He was a 25-year-old comedian who was in Washington for a gig at the Shadows, a small club in Georgetown. She was a teenage University of Maryland student.
The parents of Camille Hanks worried she was too young. But the couple — whose early dates often ended at Ben's Chili Bowl — began a long-distance relationship when Cosby returned to New York. The next year, Camille dropped out of college and her parents reluctantly gave their blessing to their 19-year-old daughter's marriage.
The ceremony, performed by Father Carl Dianda, was held in a large multipurpose hall at a Catholic church in Olney, Md.
“They were well matched,” Dianda, who had three premarital meetings in the rectory with the young couple, said in an interview with The Post. “She was one of the most beautiful in that parish,” Dianda said, recalling that Cosby introduced himself to the priest by handing him one of his comedic records.
Their move to Los Angeles as Cosby's career rocketed in the mid- and late-1960s required adjustments. “All of a sudden we were successful people,” Camille Cosby recalled in an interview with Stephanie Stokes Oliver of Essence. “All of a sudden we had money coming in, and it changed our lives.”
It's unclear how much Camille knew about her husband's activities during the Los Angeles years. Six of the sexual-abuse allegations against Cosby date to that period — Tarshis, Traitz, Green, Valentino and two other women: Carla Ferrigno, the future wife of “Incredible Hulk” star Lou Ferrigno, told KFI Radio that Cosby tried to assault her at his house in 1967. And Kristina Ruehli, now a 71-year-old grandmother of eight, told Philadelphia Magazine that she believes Cosby drugged her two years earlier and forced her to perform oral sex on him when she awoke.
By 1971, the couple decided they needed to make a change. Camille would move with their three children to Shelburne Falls, Mass., and Cosby would shuttle between Los Angeles, where he would continue working, and the new family home. Camille wanted to extract her family from the toxic Hollywood culture that she felt had facilitated her husband's “selfish” behavior, according to a biography of Cosby by former Newsweek managing editor Mark Whitaker that was published this month.
The move gave Cosby an opportunity to live a kind of double life, Whitaker writes. In the East, Cosby was a family man studying for his PhD at the University of Massachusetts, raising money for Temple University scholarships and making a documentary about convicts seeking redemption. In the West, he could revel in “self-indulgence,” Whitaker writes. Later, Cosby would have a long run of comedy shows in Las Vegas, still far from his family. “After his second show was done, he could often be found playing blackjack or craps into the wee hours, betting thousands of dollars as well-liquored men and flirtatious women egged him on,” Whitaker wrote.
With his wife more than 3,000 miles away, Cosby began an affair with Shawn Berkes, a secretary he met at a Los Angeles nightclub. Berkes later confronted Cosby and said that she had given birth to his child.
The timing of that confrontation seems to coincide with a “turning point” at the 10-year mark in the Cosby marriage that was mentioned many years later by Camille Cosby in an interview. She told Oprah Winfrey that she and her husband had weathered some “selfish” behavior but opted to recommit to their relationship.
In a court case more than two decades after Cosby's affair, he testified that he paid $100,000 to keep his extramarital relationship secret. Berkes's daughter — Autumn Jackson, who was by then an adult — would serve a prison term for extortion. Camille Cosby made it clear in her Winfrey interview that she was aware of the affair long before the extortion attempt.
By the 1970s, Cosby's career had slowed. His 1972 comedy-variety show lasted one season, and by 1974 he was turning to corporate advertising deals, including one that would define him almost as much as any television role he had played: serving as a television spokesman for Jell-O.
With his career in a lull, Cosby renewed his pledges to his family. When he turned 40 in 1977, he vowed to “cut back” his “playboy ways,” according to the Whitaker biography. He would focus on his family and children.
Throughout Cosby's 1989 book, “Love and Marriage,” he paints his wife as ruler of the roost, and has said he modeled the TV character of Clair Huxtable on Camille, who was also a graceful mother of five. But unlike Clair, a successful lawyer, for many years Camille did not have a career outside the home.
Their family life, however, was not the stuff of television sitcoms. Erinn Cosby, the family's second-oldest daughter, was estranged from her father in the late 1980s. Bill Cosby told the Los Angeles Times: “She can't come here. She's not a person you can trust.” The family blamed the separation on drugs, which Erinn later denied.
Jo Farrell pursued clients so relentlessly that she became known as the “Red-headed Barracuda.” She operated her JF Images talent agency far from Hollywood in Denver, but she wielded such clout that she could make or break careers.
Farrell plays one of the more unusual roles in the decades-long drama of Cosby and his accusers. She referred two women to Cosby who later alleged he sexually abused them: Barbara Bowman and Beth Ferrier.
Farrell is now 83 and suffering from dementia and Alzheimer's, according to her daughter, Kathleen, who said in a recent interview with The Post that her mother retired five years ago and knew nothing about the claims of sexual abuse until they appeared in People magazine in 2006. “It's mind-boggling,” Jo Farrell told the magazine at the time. “I don't set up interviews in bars. Here I am pulled in on this, and it makes me sad because my reputation has always been golden in this city.”
Farrell's relationship to Cosby dates back decades. She first met him at the Turn of the Century nightclub, which was near her talent agency. Kathleen Farrell said Cosby worked with a number of the agency's young female clients through the years, taking them on outings and asking them to auditions. She said she had heard allegations that other men — photographers and bookers — had abused actresses. But she said her mother never mentioned any complaints about Cosby. If she had heard complaints, she said, her mother would have severed her relationship with Cosby “to protect the girls.”
“Nobody ever addressed with her that there was an issue,” Kathleen Farrell said. “She's a mother hen; she would have addressed it.”
Farrell discovered Bowman, then 13, at a 1980 beauty pageant.
“She pulled me over and said, ‘What's your name?'?” Bowman, now 47, recalled in an interview. “She said I looked like a movie star. That was quite a compliment for a scrawny little kid trying to make it. .?.?. I was feeling really glamorous.”
She said Cosby came to town in 1984 and Farrell took Bowman, now 17, to a comedy club for an audition. Bowman said she prepared a monologue and performed before one of the most famous comedians in the country in a small conference room tucked away inside the comedy club.
But she made an impression. Both Farrell and Cosby gushed that she was destined for big things in the business and advised that she move to New York, where she could hone her craft. Cosby also brought her to the New York set of “The Cosby Show.”
“That was the bait: the promise of an audition, being seen and adored by a big name,” Bowman said. “And he enjoyed knowing that people knew he was the one who was discovering hot new talent.
She said she was “terrified” of Cosby and Farrell. “They isolated me and made me totally dependent on them,” she said.
At the time, Cosby was in the process of becoming the biggest television star in the world. “The Cosby Show” had debuted the year before, introducing viewers to his career-defining role as Cliff Huxtable.
“At a time when the situation comedy was supposed to be moribund on television, ‘The Cosby Show' has leapt to No. 1 in a single season,” New York Times critic John J. Connor wrote in May 1985. “At a time when blacks were once again being considered ratings liabilities by benighted television executives, the middle-class Huxtables have become the most popular family in the United States. And at a time when so many comedians are toppling into a kind of smutty permissiveness, Mr. Cosby is making the nation laugh by paring ordinary life to its extraordinary essentials. It is indeed a truly nice development.”
Bowman said she saw an entirely different persona from the one Cosby played on television. Once, while at his brownstone in New York City, she said she blacked out after one glass of wine and awoke to find herself wearing nothing but her underpants and a man's T-shirt.
In another alleged incident in Atlantic City, she said Cosby pinned her down on a hotel bed while she screamed for help and he struggled to pull down his pants.
“I furiously tried to wrestle from his grasp until he eventually gave up,” she said in an interview with The Post.
Cosby called her “a baby,” Bowman said, then he told her to go home to Denver.
At first, Bowman said she was in denial that the alleged assaults had taken place. She then convinced herself that she did what she needed to do to make it in the entertainment business. She said she also became financially dependent on Cosby and her agent.
“They were subsidizing me in New York until I started booking jobs,” she said.
When asked why she did not come forward sooner, Bowman said she did not think anyone would believe her.
Cosby's attorneys had previously called her claims “absolutely untrue.”
In the years after the alleged assault of Bowman, Cosby rose to heights that were almost unimaginable. In 1987, “The Cosby Show” went into syndication, and within five years it had pulled in $1 billion in syndication fees, with hundreds of millions reportedly going to Cosby.
By 1992, Camille had earned a doctorate in education. She would go on to produce an award-winning play and co-found a project to preserve African American history. Still, her professional interests melded with her husband's. Much of Camille's work stems from research for her dissertation, which focused on the impact negative images of black people on television have on the self-perception of young blacks.
The rest of the decade would produce some of the most painful moments for Cosby and his family. In 1997, he endured the revelation of his long-secret affair with Berkes, whose name was then Shawn Upshaw. But his world was shaken by the murder of his 28-year-old son, Ennis Cosby, during an attempted robbery on a Los Angeles freeway in January 1997.
Camille Cosby paired those two signal moments in a poignant and sometimes biting editorial published by USA Today in 1997.
Less than a month after her son's death, she wrote, “Ennis William Cosby did not have a mother. I was a nonentity, an un-person. Yet, when my husband made his more than famous confession to the public about a brief 1970s liaison, my name was printed everywhere. Suddenly, I became well known; not as an intelligent person, but for reasons obviously undesirable.”
Of her marriage, she wrote: “Bill and I were very young when we married; he was 26, I was 19. We had to mature, we had to learn the definition of unselfish love, and we did. When we committed to each other wholeheartedly years ago, our marriage became healthy and solid. Also, we blossomed as individuals. Our marriage encompasses mutual love, respect, trust and communication. Sound relationships must have positive reciprocity; they can't be one-sided and strong.”
Andrea Constand was stressed. She held down a big job at Temple University as operations director of the women's basketball team. But she wanted career advice, according to court documents in a 2005 civil suit that Constand filed against Cosby. She decided to confide in a man who had not only become her close friend but was also Temple royalty.
Cosby had attended Temple before dropping out in the early 1960s to pursue his comedy career, but he had remained in close contact with his hometown university, serving on the board of trustees since the early 1980s.
Constand became friends with Cosby a year after her arrival on the Philadelphia campus in 2001. They sometimes dined alone together, according to court records.
In January 2004, the records state, Cosby invited her to his home in suburban Philadelphia. Constand alleges that Cosby offered her three blue pills. He said they were an herbal medication and would relax her, according to her court filing; she hesitated but finally took his advice.
Within a short period of time, her “knees began to shake, her limbs felt immobile, she felt dizzy and weak, and she began to feel only barely conscious,” Constand's attorneys wrote.
Constand accused Cosby of leading her to a sofa, then touching “her breasts and vaginal area.” She said he “rubbed his penis against her hand, and digitally penetrated her,” the court records state.
All the while, she “remained in a semi-conscious state,” her attorneys wrote.
Constand said she lost consciousness afterward until 4 a.m., when she awoke “feeling raw in and around her vaginal area,” the court records state. Also, “her clothes and undergarments were in disarray,” according to the records.
When she awoke, there was Cosby, she said. He was in his bathrobe, the court records state. She said she left.
According to court records, Cosby said he and Constand spent time together, but his attorneys denied the claims that he drugged and assaulted her. He said he had merely given her 1 1 / 2 tablets of Benadryl, an over-the-counter antihistamine.
In Cosby's account of his evening with Constand during the court case, he denied appearing in only his bathrobe and he said he gave her a “homemade blueberry muffin and a cup of hot tea,” according to court records.
Constand, now 41, went on to leave her job at Temple, moving back to her native Canada. One year later, in January 2005, she filed a complaint against Cosby with a police department in Ontario.
That complaint was followed by a criminal inquiry in Montgomery County, Pa. Law enforcement officials interviewed Constand and Cosby.
“I thought, in my gut, that she was telling the truth,” Bruce L. Castor Jr., the Montgomery County district attorney at the time, said in a recent interview with The Post. “I was absolutely certain that she believed that Cosby had taken advantage of her, but there were not enough details.”
Castor lacked physical evidence, and he thought any possible case would be hampered by the long delay in filing a complaint. In February 2005, he announced that he would not be prosecuting Cosby.
After the 2005 criminal case was resolved, Cosby resumed a tough-love tour he had put on hold when news of Constand's allegations broke. The national tour consisted of free speeches where large audiences gathered to hear Cosby speak about the failures of black parents and black youths. He had been ridiculing African American politicians, accusing them of too often blaming “systematic racism” for his community's problems.
But the next month, Cosby's own actions were again scrutinized. And this time, it would not be just one woman pointing a finger at him. Constand's civil lawsuit, filed in March 2005, would eventually include 13 Jane Does who agreed to testify against Cosby. The women came from points across the country: Ventura, Calif.; Monument, Colo.; Spring Hill, Fla.
Green, the onetime model who had said Cosby had drugged her in the early 1970s, had offered to testify without maintaining anonymity. All told, Green said she has spoken with 20 accusers; all of them, she said, asserted that they had been drugged by the comedian.
Constand's attorneys were spotting patterns, too. In their court filings, they asserted that a common theme among the Jane Does was that “they were victimized after being conned by the Cosby image.”
In court documents, Cosby's attorneys said their client “vigorously denies” her allegations that he “drugged her and sexually assaulted her” and “adamantly denies engaging in sexual misconduct.”
In November 2006, Constand and Cosby reached an undisclosed settlement. Constand and her attorney declined to be interviewed for this article.
Constand's settlement largely made the Cosby story go away. There would be isolated reports, but the image of Cosby as an accused sex offender seemed destined to be relegated to a historical footnote until the jokes by Buress — a popular but hardly A-list 31-year-old comedian — went viral this month.
Since then, the names of nine more accusers have surfaced, including the model Janice Dickinson, who told “Entertainment Tonight” that Cosby drugged and raped her in Lake Tahoe in 1982. To back up her accusation, she produced Polaroids of Cosby in a checkered robe.
Cosby's attorneys rushed to keep pace with the allegations, repeatedly saying they had no merit. “Janice Dickinson's story accusing Bill Cosby of rape is a complete lie,” Singer said in a statement.
Three of the women who spoke to The Post — Traitz, Tarshis and Valentino — also made their first widely distributed public statements about the allegations this month.
At the two university campuses most associated with Cosby, there was a pinched terseness from administrators. Temple would say only that Cosby remained on its board. Two weeks after Buress's comedy routine reignited the sex-allegations controversy, a Temple student, Grace Holleran, published an editorial in the school newspaper calling on university officials to stop supporting Cosby. The university “seems to be banking on Cosby's star power, remembering him for his colorful sweaters and Pudding Pops as it fails to acknowledge his muddy backstory,” Holleran wrote.
At Spelman College — where Cosby made history in 1988 with a $20 million donation, the largest by an African American to a historically black college — the president's office would not say whether the endowed professorship named for Cosby and his wife would continue.
The educator who holds that endowed chair at Spelman predicted in an interview that the sexual-assault allegations ultimately would not define Cosby.
“I'm not worried about being the Cosby chair,” said Aku Kadogo, Spelman's Cosby Endowed Professor in the Arts. “It's not a worry to me. It's a difficult time for him. But it ain't the end of the world. If Hillary can run for president — she went through all that rigmarole. People forget easily.”
But, in the universe of Bill Cosby, it has become clear that not everyone forgets.
No Wonder Cosby's Keeping Quiet: He Could Still Be Prosecuted
Rape is not as clear cut as conservatives or liberals suppose; laws on rape vary widely from state to state, and often reflect a dark legacy of racism and sexism.
by Jay Michaelson
As rape accusations swirl around one of America's most beloved father figures, Bill Cosby, there are more questions than answers. First and foremost, of course, is whether he did it or not—and whether we'll ever know for sure. Perhaps equally important are the many questions being asked about gender, race, and why some voices are listened to more than others.
But what about the legal consequences? Could Dr. Huxtable spend his last years in jail as a sex offender? Are there statutes of limitations for these crimes, which in some cases are alleged to have taken place decades ago?
And, especially in the context of 2014's spate of sexual assault scandals on college campuses and in football leagues, where do Cosby's alleged offenses fall within the often ambiguous laws regarding rape and sexual assault?
On both the left and the right, sexual assault seems simple. Yes means yes and no means no. Or, boys will be boys and only some rape is “really” rape. But the legal foundation beneath Cosby's accusers is a quagmire of historical accident, and a tangle of dark historic ghosts.
Conservatives have already opined that the accusations are not of what Paul Ryan might call "forcible rape." (CNN's Don Lemon, no right winger, mansplained to one of Cosby's accusers that there are “ways to not have oral sex.” Lemon later apologized. According to seven women who have come forward (sixteen have accused Cosby of sexual assault but not all have made the details public), Cosby's alleged M.O. involves drugging his victims and then having sex with them. Odious but not quite the “classic” case of rape. Besides , some have already hinted, weren't they asking for it by hanging out with him in the first place?
The trouble is, as all of these question marks suggest, that there is no “classic” case of rape. America's laws regarding sexual assault are a complicated patchwork that varies from state to state.
First, contrary to some reports, not all of Cosby's accusers claims are blocked by the statute of limitations. For example, the conduct alleged by Andrea Constand—who sued Cosby in 2005 for assault and battery, and in 2006 for defamation after Cosby's representatives said she was just trying to extort money— took place in 2004. Pennsylvania, where the assault is alleged to have taken place, has a 12-year statute of limitations on sexual assault.
That means Cosby could still be charged.
But he probably won't be. Even in 2005, the district attorney investigating the case said he lacked the evidence to prosecute—even though (as he now says) he found Constand credible. That is all the more true today, not just for Constand's case but for the others as well. After 10 or more years, there's unlikely to be any physical evidence, unless it was collected at the time. And without physical evidence, cases often come down to “he said/she said.” That is hard to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, especially when the defendant is “America's Dad.”
This might be why Cosby is keeping mum on the accusations, despite the obvious public relations disaster. If he were to confess, he could well be prosecuted for his crimes.
Cosby's other accusers allege conduct in California, New York, and New Jersey. This is where it gets complicated. Each of the states has totally different criminal statutes—different crimes, different elements, different sentences. Each has different evidentiary burdens to be met. Conceivably, Cosby could confess to having assaulted Tamara Green , or Joan Tarshis in 1960s-70s Los Angeles, where the statute of limitations has expired. But then, that confession could be used against him in Pennsylvania, where it hasn't.
Likewise, the same conduct might be rape in New York (which has three degrees of rape, three degrees of criminal sexual acts, and a half dozen other sex crimes) and barred by the statute of limitations (which runs two to five years) might be mere “unlawful sexual intercourse” in California , but not barred by the statute of limitations (which runs five to 10 years). It's a legal thicket.
Why are the laws so different from one another? The reason is that, contrary to conservative claims that rape is rape only when it's “forcible rape” and we all know it when we see it, in fact the definitions of rape and sexual assault are moving targets that change over time. Different jurisdictions have evolved differently, at different points in history. There is simply no timeless definition of what rape is.
Indeed, conservatives arguing for “traditional” definitions of sexual assault might be dismayed to learn how awful those definitions are.
In the Bible, when women were considered the property of their fathers (before marriage) or husbands (afterward), rape was considered a crime against the woman's “owner,” not the woman herself. If a man raped a married woman, he had to compensate her husband. (This is at least better than the Code of Hammurabi, which considered the rape victim an adulteress.) If he raped a virgin, he had to marry her and compensate her father. (Deuteronomy 22:28-29)
“Traditional values” indeed.
This “tradition” endured into 18th and 19th century America. As devastatingly chronicled in Estelle Freedman's Redefining Rape: Sexual Violence in the Age of Suffrage and Segregation (reviewed here last year), white men could own black and female bodies. Freedman notes that fathers of victims could still sue rapists for financial compensation due to lost income, and that slave-owners could buy female slaves for sexual purposes. The evidentiary rules for conviction were nearly impossible to meet.
The results were horrifying. Women could hardly ever prove their innocence; they had to have a record of perfect chastity, and the age of consent was as low as 10. They had to show almost total resistance throughout the entire encounter.
Unless, of course, the aggressor was black. White women were lower status than white men, but they were higher status than black men. Thus, during Jim Crow, black men were routinely hanged, castrated, and lynched for alleged sexual assaults against white women. Deep racist myths of animalistic, libidinous black men—think Birth of a Nation —fueled this fire, even as white men had been legally raping black women for a hundred years.
So let's work this out for a moment. Conservative advocates of limiting convictions to cases of “forcible rape” often rely on “traditional values.” But under those same traditional values, Cosby's mostly-white accusers would surely prevail over an African American defendant. Traditional values in cases like his involve lynching.
Of course, if Cosby were white, then he'd prevail easily over these unchaste women accusing him of misconduct. So maybe that's the conservative argument: subtract traditional racism (of course!), but keep traditional sexism. Or something.
As complex as a case like Cosby's would be, it reflects the haphazard way in which our laws have evolved—a process haunted by the past and yet still very much ongoing today.
Woman on polygamy show 'My Five Wives' accuses father of abuse
by The Associated Press
A woman featured in a reality TV show about a polygamous family is going public about sex abuse she claims she suffered as a child in hopes of changing a culture of secrecy plaguing plural families in Utah.
Rosemary Williams of "My Five Wives" on TLC says she was molested more than two decades ago by her father, Lynn A. Thompson and published her claims in a blog. He is the leader of the one of largest organized polygamy groups in Utah, the Apostolic United Brethren, or AUB.
The AUB is estimated to be the second-largest polygamist church in Utah behind Warren Jeffs' Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on the Utah-Arizona border. Unlike Jeffs' group, which has been plagued for years by allegations of abuse and child brides, the Apostolic United Brethren in northern Utah has a clean reputation.
Thompson said the allegations were not true when contacted by The Associated Press on Friday. He did not immediately respond to a phone message on Saturday.
Rosemary Williams says her father fondled her when she was 12 years old. She told The Associated Press that she does not plan to file a criminal accusation or a lawsuit against her father because she doesn't think that will do any good. She says she wants to prevent him from abusing others, especially given his recent appointment as president of the AUB, which has up to 7,500 followers across the West.
Williams also hopes to be an advocate for abuse victims in patriarchal societies like the one she was raised in, where families are often fearful to report crimes out of concern they may be prosecuted under polygamy laws. She doesn't believe sex abuse is widespread among the polygamous group, but she wants mothers to be able to come forward and report it and other forms of abuse when they occur.
"The reason people are afraid to say anything is because they are upholding somebody in a position of authority and they're taught to respect them," Williams said. "They are afraid of the repercussions. They are afraid of Utah coming down on them and carrying their kids out of their home."
A search of criminal charges available online show no record of any criminal convictions for Thompson, and the Utah Attorney General's Office is unaware of any formal complaints submitted against Thompson, said spokeswoman Missy Larsen. Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said he couldn't comment on the matter.
David Watson, a spokesman for the AUB, didn't return multiple phone calls from The AP.
Rosemary Williams is Brady Williams' third wife. He and his five wives and their combined 24 children are featured in the TLC reality show, "My Five Wives." They decided to do the show in part to demonstrate that polygamy can be healthy and stable. They live in a rural community outside of Salt Lake City Lake City where most people belong to the group Thompson leads.
They no longer are members of the group. They slowly withdrew during the mid-2000s after re-evaluating their core beliefs. They still practice polygamy, but only because they are happy doing so, not out of the fear of hell or the promise of heaven, Brady Williams says.
She said she recently confronted her father about what happened. He said he didn't remember and that he would pray to God to remember what happened. She reported the abuse recently to another high-ranking church leader, but nothing was done, she said.
Rosemary Williams became choked up and was unable to talk while discussing the reaction she expects from family and friends who are still members of the polygamous group.
"She knows that it will be very strong reprisal," said Brady Williams, explaining why his wife couldn't speak. "Her family will probably disown her along with many of her friends."
There was no immediate response from TLC.
No justice in Denver child abuse case
by Rich Tosches
The children, ages 2, 4, 5 and 6, were hungry. They stunk of putrid, stale cigarette smoke, urine and feces — their own, along with cat and rodent urine and excrement. They could not speak. They made noises. Like animals.
When horrific child-abusing couple Wayne Sperling and Lorinda Bailey were mercifully relieved of their parental rights and hauled out of their stunningly filthy apartment in Denver more than a year ago, Sperling looked like Saddam Hussein when he was pulled from that hole in Iraq by U.S. troops in 2003. Frankly, Sperling's wife did, too. The arrest mug shots were unsettling.
Flash forward through the train wreck of our judicial and human services systems to this month, when Sperling and Bailey appeared in court again.
He had a really nice haircut. A neatly trimmed beard. A spiffy suit. Bailey, too, had a different hairstyle and hair color. She wore makeup. They looked like lawyers. Which shouldn't be a surprise. Their lawyers groomed them and dressed them up for their sentencing appearance.
Tried to make them look human.
Denver prosecutors, apparently not confident they could convict the two, first struck a sweet deal with Bailey. They dropped six original charges against her, including four counts of felony child abuse, and allowed her to plead guilty to two lesser child abuse charges.
Denver District Court Judge Eric Elliff thought that was a terrific idea. He not only accepted the lovely plea deal but also capped it off Nov. 7 by sentencing Bailey — who could have received seven years in prison — to 90 days in jail.
Then, on Nov. 13, it was Sperling's turn to play "Let's Make a Deal" with our tough prosecutors. The original six charges were dropped. In return, he pleaded guilty to one charge of child abuse.
Even though there were four horribly neglected children living with feces and thousands of dead and dying flies, according to police.
Sperling will be sentenced Dec. 30. He, too, could get up to seven years in prison. He will not. Same judge. Ninety days in jail would be a good bet.
Oh, and both Sperling and Bailey have duped the system previously. The Sperling-Bailey baby machines each pleaded guilty to child abuse in 2006 and 2009. Bailey lost three older children in 2009 when her parental rights were terminated.
From the 2013 arrest report in the current cases:
"(The officer) noted a strong odor of a decomposing animal when Sperling opened the door. The officer reported the 'smell became unbearable' as they entered the apartment. The room from which the smell emanated was full of flies ... covering every surface."
A detective said last week that after the four boys were taken away from the parents from hell, they were each given a sandwich and an apple.
"The boys, who communicated through grunts and physical contact," the story said, "patted the sandwiches and rolled the apples on the floor like toys."
And, somehow, we still find a way to sleep at night.
Fort Worth porn suspect admitted molesting more than 100 children, police say
by Naheed Rajwani
A single obscene photo on Instagram helped local and federal authorities zero in on a Fort Worth man they say has admitted molesting more than 100 children and possessing thousands of illegal pornographic images.
Randy Wesson, 28, was arrested Tuesday and handed over to federal authorities Friday. Federal prosecutors have charged Wesson with transporting and shipping child pornography, U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña announced in a news release.
A preliminary hearing has been set for Nov. 25.
Wesson has also been accused of using phony documents to enroll a 17-year-old runaway as a sixth-grader at a Hurst elementary school.
Authorities believe Wesson and Ricardo Lugo posed as father and son in an effort to exploit children at the grade school — a case police Sgt. Craig Teague described as one of the most bizarre and horrific he's dealt with in more than 30 years.
“It has a lot of twists and turns,” he said. “It's the biggest case I've seen in years.”
In June, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children came across a picture on the photo-sharing service Instagram showing a boy and a man in a sex act. Police tracked the Instagram user's IP address to a home in north Fort Worth.
Suspicious posts on other Internet forums led police to Wesson, and authorities soon discovered that Grapevine police had investigated him for suspicious behavior in 2012.
At the time, Wesson was working at the Sea Life Aquarium, and a mother there filed a complaint with police. She said Wesson picked up her 4-year-old son and volunteered to baby-sit him sometime.
No charges were filed, however, because police found no evidence of wrongdoing, Grapevine police Sgt. Robert Eberling said.
That changed last week when Hurst detectives interviewed Wesson's parents — and the “floodgates” opened, Teague said.
Bruce Wesson said his son had told them a woman from El Paso called him and said they had a 12-year-old child together. He told his parents the DNA results proved Lugo was his son and he needed to bring the boy to Hurst, the father said.
But Bruce Wesson told police he suspected his son was lying because he believed he was gay.
On Monday, police executed a search warrant at the home where Wesson and Lugo lived and seized a “large amount” of evidence.
Wesson told them he had about 42,000 images of child porn in his phone, computer and external storage drives.
Some of the photographs of children on Wesson's phone were taken Aug. 25 and 26, the same month Lugo was enrolled at Hurst Hills.
One video shows Lugo spanking a child who also appears in a different photo, police said.
Messages police found on the phone indicate Lugo was “recruiting possible victims from school for himself and Randy,” Lugo's arrest affidavit states.
Wesson also admitted sexually assaulting more than 100 children between the ages of 7 and 14. He identified a dozen of them by name, court records state.
When police raided the Fort Worth home, Wesson told them he and Lugo have had a sexual relationship since early 2014 after they met on Instagram.
Lugo told Wesson he was 12 years old and unhappy in his home in Juarez, Mexico, Wesson told police, so he drove to El Paso and watched the teen walk across the border. They went to Fort Worth and started living together.
In August, Wesson posed as Lugo's father and enrolled him in the sixth grade at Hurst Hills Elementary using a fake Ohio birth certificate, authorities said.
Police arrested Wesson after searching the Fort Worth house on Tuesday. Child Protective Services pulled Lugo out of school the same day, and police arrested him when they learned he was 17, not 12 as he and Wesson had claimed.
The arrests have bewildered the staff and parents at Hurst Hills Elementary.
“It's kind of scary,” Wale Aridegbe, whose son is in second grade, told KXAS-TV (NBC5).
“I'm still trying to wrap my head around it.”
Danny Scott, whose son is at the school, said he worries that the investigation could expand.
“Is this a one-time thing? This one bad person that got into the school?” he told NBC5. “Or is there more to this?”
Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD spokeswoman Judy Ramos said school officials followed normal procedures when Lugo sought enrollment at the school and didn't notice anything suspicious about Wesson or Lugo.
Court records state Lugo is about 6 feet tall and speaks three languages. Randy Wesson is 5-foot-8.
On Friday, Hurst police transferred Wesson's custody to the Department of Homeland Security. The U.S. attorney's office will prosecute the case against him, Teague said.
Lugo remains in Hurst City Jail in lieu of $250,000 bail. He will eventually be transferred to the Tarrant County Jail, Teague said.
“These cases are not fun to work,” Teague said. “But when you stop somebody doing this, you know that at that point, you don't have to worry about Randy Wesson victimizing another child.
“That is the gratification of the job.”
Adrian Peterson Speaks Out About Child Abuse Case After NFL Suspension: "I Won't Ever Use a Switch Again"
by Corinne Heller
Adrian Peterson says he will never use a switch to punish his 4-year-old son again, marking the former Minnesota Vikings' star running back's first major interview about the incident, which got him indicted on charges of child abuse and suspended from the NFL.
The 29-year-old football player and father of six made his comments in an interview with USA Today that was posted on Thursday. Two days earlier, the NFL announced it had suspended Peterson without pay over the matter, which marks of one of two major domestic violence cases involving players from the league that have made headlines this year, while Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a letter to the player, "You have shown no meaningful remorse for your conduct."
"I won't ever use a switch again," he told USA Today . "There's different situations where a child needs to be disciplined as far as timeout, taking their toys away, making them take a nap. There's so many different ways to discipline your kids."
Peterson told the newspaper that he spoke to his son for the first time in five months last week and that he told the boy he loved him.
"He was like, 'I love you, too, Dad. Can I come over to your house?'" the football player said.
"No one knows how I felt when I turned my child around after spanking him and seeing what I had left on his leg," Peterson added. "No one knows that Dad sat there and apologized to him, hugged him and told him that I didn't mean to do this to you and how sorry I was."
In September, Peterson was indicted by a grand jury in Texas on a charge of reckless or negligent injury to a child and later turned himself in to police to be arrested. His lawyer said "the charged conduct involves using a switch to spank his son" and that Peterson had "used the same kind of discipline with his child that he experienced as a child growing up in east Texas" and "never intended to harm his son and deeply regrets the unintentional injury."
On Nov. 4, the football player pleaded no contest to misdemeanor reckless assault, avoiding a potential jail sentence, and was ordered to perform community service and pay a $4,000 fine.
"I love my son. I love my kids, my family," the football player told USA Today . "Like I said after I took the misdemeanor plea, I take full responsibility for my actions. I regret the situation. I love my son more than any one of you could even imagine."
The boy's mother, who has not been identified, has not commented about the case personally. Her attorney told USA Today the woman is "very receptive to Mr. Peterson being in her son's life and has always welcomed his involvement as a parent."
Peterson, a former Most Valuable Player whose annual salary is $11.75 million, has played in one Vikings game this year. After his incident, he was put on the NFL commissioner's exempt list, which had allowed him to collect his paycheck without playing football.
The NFL said in a statement on Tuesday that Peterson was notified "that he has been suspended without pay for at least the remainder of the 2014 NFL season, and will not be considered for reinstatement before April 15, for violating the NFL Personal Conduct Policy in an incident of abusive discipline that he inflicted on his 4-year-old son last May."
The NFL said Goodell wrote in his letter to Peterson that "the timing" of his "potential reinstatement" will be based on the "results of the counseling and treatment program set forth in this decision."
"You have shown no meaningful remorse for your conduct," Goodell said in his letter. "When indicted, you acknowledged what you did but said that you would not 'eliminate whooping my kids' and defended your conduct in numerous published text messages to the child's mother. You also said that you felt 'very confident with my actions because I know my intent.' These comments raise the serious concern that you do not fully appreciate the seriousness of your conduct, or even worse, that you may feel free to engage in similar conduct in the future."
The NFL players' union has appealed the suspension, calling it "unprecedented, arbitrary and unlawful," ESPN reported, adding that the group wants an independent, neutral arbitrator to hear the case.
An neutral arbitrator is currently presiding over an appeal filed by former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice over his own suspension from the NFL for a domestic violence case, which followed the posting of a surveillance video that shows him punching his then-fiancée and now wife, Janay Palmer , in an elevator and knocking her unconscious. He had faced assault charges over the incident, which took place in March. Palmer declined to testify against him and the charges were dropped.
Mom accused of using medical treatment to abuse son
by David Schechter
FORT WORTH – Duke Welch began his slow, dark descent into serious illness when he was five years old.
While at a friend's house five years ago, Duke took a hard fall and went to the hospital. Doctors said Duke would make a full recovery, but he never did.
"Here's a real painful one. That breaks my heart. When I first saw that picture? That broke my heart," said his father Doug Welch, while looking at photos of Duke in a hospital bed.
"Look at his face. Look at his arm. He's all taped up. That's where the IV's were," dad added. "You can tell, he's just in a great deal of pain."
In all, Duke had many dangerous surgeries. Four for a shunt that drained spinal fluid from his brain. Another to insert a feeding tube in his belly. Duke wore leg braces and enrolled in a special-needs school.
Before the nightmare ended, records show, Duke was on 15 medications, including an anti-psychotic drug called Risperdal.
"It just knocked him for a loop. You could see him after he took it in the morning. Just, his eyes would just glaze over," Doug Welch said. "Absolutely drugged. The light would go off."
How does a kid go from a hard fall to perpetual and serious illness?
His mom did it. That's what the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office says.
An arrest warrant for Mary Welch accuses her of deceiving doctors into prescribing debilitating drugs and performing invasive surgeries on her son. She's charged with child endangerment.
Dr. Marc Feldman is an expert in what's called "Medical Child Abuse," where a parent attracts sympathy for themselves by fabricating illnesses for their child.
He reviewed Mary Welch's 50-page arrest warrant for News 8 and was asked if he believes Duke was a healthy child who got unnecessary medical treatment.
"I think I can state that with a reasonable degree of medical certainty -- that is, I'm really sure that's what's happened in this case," Dr. Feldman said.
It may be hard to believe a doctor would perform an unnecessary, invasive procedure. But investigators say doctors routinely rely on a parent's word. Mary Welch was "very convincing."
"This is a mom who lies compulsively. She lies pathologically," Feldman said. "She lies when she doesn't even need to lie."
Records show she routinely lied to doctors and "presented herself as a neonatal nurse."
So, doctors in Dallas, Fort Worth, and even Minneapolis - where she also sought treatment - took her at her word. Investigators says she would brief doctors on Duke's phony symptoms and falsely represented that other doctors had referred Duke for surgery.
Later, the primary surgeon involved in the brain surgeries was upset to learn Duke may have been "needlessly" subjected operations due to "lies told by the suspect."
Mary Welch was arrested in May and Duke has been in his father's care since. Today, he takes no medication. He is out of special-education classes and getting good grades. He loves to play sports.
Doug Welch is now fighting for permanent custody.
"When Duke was under all of these medications, all these things that were going on. He would say to me, 'Dad, I just want to be a regular kid. Dad, I just want to do regular stuff, like a regular kid,'" Mr. Welch said. "And that's what he is now. He's just a regular kid."
Mary Welch declined to comment for this story. Her attorney, Michael Heiskell, said a court-appointed psychologist has given her a clean bill of health.
"I anticipate she will be acquitted of all charges, at the end of the day," Heiskell said.
He also said Duke's doing better today because his treatments were medically necessary.
"This is just a ploy by the father to gain custody of his children," Heiskell said.
Experts say medical child abuse is not rare, and more people need to know about it.
Cook's Children's Hospital and the Tarrant County DA's Office have a joint program where they visit schools, telling faculty how to spot medical child abuse.
Doug Welch said Duke's school was one of the places the program visited.
Records show Duke's teacher was the one who made the complaint that may have saved Duke.
Identifying Child Abuse
by Amy Bentley
SIGNS OF ABUSE IN BABIES AND KIDS
“If a baby isn't cruising, crawling or getting around, a bruise would be worrisome unless there is an explanation,” says CHOC pediatrician and child abuse expert Dr. Wong. Another sign of abuse may be bruises in unusual places, like the abdomen or buttocks, she says. Dr. Wong also cites a new study which found that a history of bruising or oral injury in pre-cruising infants should raise suspicions of abuse. Another clue might be sudden behavior changes. “In older kids, if the child is acting out or suddenly becomes aggressive, something else might be going on,” says Dr. Wong.
Child abuse doesn't just occur in families with certain income levels or ethnic groups - it happens across the spectrum of all people, including intact and single-parent families, wealthy and lower-income families, says Dr. Wong, adding, “You can't profile or make assumptions.” Two major risk factors are adults or parents under stress, including financial stress, and in house hold were there is substance abuse, she says.
YOU SUSPECT ABUSE: WHAT TO DO
Reporting suspected child abuse could save a life. “People sometimes want to think, ‘Its just a little injury, it's not that bad.' But if something is nagging you about it, or something is off, trust your instincts and don't ignore it,” says Dr. Wong. She suggests talking to the caregiver if you feel comfortable, using a cautious approach. “You can say, ‘It seems like you are stressed and having a hard time, can I help you?'” Suspected abuse also can be reported to Orange County Child Protective Services 24/7 by calling 714-940-1000 or 1-800-207-4464.
PREVENTING CHILD ABUSE: TIPS FOR PARENTS
Walk away. If a crying baby gets to you, and the child is fed, changed and fine, walk away from the child and take a break. “Close the door and go into another room so you don't have to listen to the crying for a few minutes,” says Dr. Wong.
When stressed or overwhelmed by childcare, reach out to others for help. Seek and build a support system by reaching out to friends, family, neighbors and other parents.
Use your pediatrician as a resource for help and tips on ways to deal with or discipline your toddler.
Hire a babysitter once a week to give yourself and your partner/spouse some time away from the child.
Dr. Daphne Wong
CHOC Pediatrician and Child Abuse
University of Utah School of Medicine
Pediatrics Child Abuse Pediatrics
Baby's death becomes children's book to prevent child abuse
by Maggie Menderski
JACKSONVILLE — Valerie Eyer's baby brother smiles up at her from her favorite page in her storybook.
She hasn't seen him since his death seven years ago.
Valerie's birth father beat her little brother, Maxwell, to death in 2007 in Alton. That act of child abuse uprooted the then-4-year-old Valerie to Jacksonville, placed her in foster care and later led to adoption by her maternal grandparents.
The young girl's story has a tough beginning, but she believes it's one worth telling.
This year, Valerie, now 11, and her adoptive mother, Gwenn Eyer, turned the tragedy into a children's book — “Why Did We Have to Say Goodbye? Valerie's Story” — to help others through grief and ideally prevent child abuse.
“It's my chance to share my story,” Valerie said. “It's about not hurting children.”
The mother-daughter duo never intended to publish the story, but as the words and the pictures began to come together, both saw a greater purpose to the personal project. The book won't be the type of story wrapped with a bow under a Christmas tree, but it could be used in places such as counselors' offices and foster homes.
“I want a family who's experienced that loss to read the book and have the child understand that he or she is not alone and that there is hope,” Eyer said. “I want a parent who's putting a child at risk to see this book and say, ‘Hey, it's not worth it and this needs to change.' ”
Not an easy decision
Maxwell's death and his parents' incarceration had been public and painful for the whole Eyer family. Seven years later, Gwenn Eyer can still rattle through the list of things and people, including herself, who could have saved the little boy.
“We went through an awful time because we lost our grandson, and we felt like it was something that could have been prevented,” she said. “You coach, you counsel, you report, you do everything you can to keep something like this from happening … but you can't be there every minute.”
Even with the lives they believe the book might be able to change, publishing the story was not an easy decision. Eyer and Valerie sought advice from a counselor and foster parents before agreeing to move forward with the book.
The project started as Valerie's “lifebook,” which is a tool commonly used in foster care to help children bridge past experiences with present circumstances. Eyer, who raised four other adopted children with her husband, Glenn, said that often when children are shuffled from one home to the next, they lose the photographs and mementos many traditional families can easily access. Lifebooks fill in gaps where memories might be lost.
“It's a sad story,” Eyer said. “It's not a fun story to tell, but it's her story, and it's not something that she should be ashamed of.”
The story is told from Valerie's perspective. With Valerie's blessing, Eyer took the child's words from her journals, songs she'd written, witness impact statements and her own memory and put them to verse.
“It's about my dad and when my brother got sick and died,” Valerie said. “It's about my new home and my new life. It's my thoughts on parents and my thoughts about Maxwell. It's my memories from back then.”
Eyer put friend and artist Sharon Coker of Meredosia in charge of the illustrations. Coker frequents the Eyers' inn, Blessings on State Bed and Breakfast in Jacksonville, for her artist retreats. During her stays, she catches up on artwork pushed aside throughout the year, but she also has formed a bond with the family. She has painted a picture of the Eyers' home and even put together a story about Valerie called “The Innkeeper's Daughter.”
Coker had photographs and images to work from, but Valerie's lifebook posed a problem. She could paint and sketch Valerie and Maxwell wearing their favorite animal costumes or riding a tricycle, but she struggled with how to illustrate the abuse.
“The hard part was trying to figure out how to show the hard parts of the story,” she said. “The parts that you wouldn't have a photograph for.”
She opted to tell those scenes the way a child might. The Valerie in the book draws childlike stick-figure pictures of what's going on in the world around her. The child's artwork shows Valerie's father shouting, her brother dying and officials from the Department of Children and Family Services taking her to a new home.
Still, there's more to Valerie than the unfortunate past conveyed in some of the pages. While the book says her life “turned upside down,” it also shows that today she's doing well.
“She's just a very wonderful kid, like all the wonderful kids out there,” Coker said.
Valerie said she enjoys going to school and church and acting as the assistant innkeeper for her parents. She plays the dulcimer and takes horseback riding lessons. A teacher at the Illinois School for the Deaf baked cookies for her book launch earlier this month, and her classmate colored pinwheels for the inside cover of the book.
When the time came to decorate the inn for Christmas, she eagerly put the ornaments on the towering tree in the foyer. Valerie did pause, slightly, when she pulled a gold-framed picture of her brother from the decorations box. She smiled at it, showed it to guests and propped on the coffee table instead of placing it on the tree.
Then she went back to the box, pulled out two glass orbs and held them up to her ears like jewelry.
“Stories can be horrendous, and then you've got somebody like Val who can come through it,” Eyer said. “She's thriving.”
L.A. Unified urged to remain vigilant after settling sex abuse claims
by Stephen Ceasar, Corina Knoll
An attorney representing plaintiffs in the Miramonte Elementary School child abuse scandal thanked the L.A. Unified School District for agreeing to a $139-million settlement Friday but urged school officials to continue to push to safeguard children in the system.
“No more rhetoric,” Brian Claypool said outside the downtown Los Angeles County Courthouse where jury selection in the case began earlier this week. “Today is not the end of the Miramonte child abuse scandal, it is the beginning of change.”
Claypool vowed to ensure that L.A. Unified makes fundamental changes to its policies and approach to sexual abuse after the case of former third-grade teacher Mark Berndt rocked the district.
Growing emotional, Claypool cited as an example one of his clients — a young girl who told her counselor that she didn't want to live anymore. “She envisioned herself walking to the edge of the pier and jumping off in the ocean,” Claypool said. “That's an example of the depth of grief that these families have suffered and we wanted the LAUSD to acknowledge that and take responsibility for that and compensate these families.”
John Manly, another attorney who handled the civil cases, said there was "a volcano of evidence" against the district. He said that L.A. Unified settled the case because there was "a legal gun pointed at their head."
Manly also took to task the Board of Education. saying the seven members never held a public meeting on Miramonte; rather, he said they handled the matter entirely in secret.
"If I was a board member of this district, I would hang my head in shame," Manly said.
The pact will settle about 150 legal claims from Miramonte parents and children who chose to push forward with the civil trial. Dozens of claims were settled last year for about $30 million.
“We hope that this will help the community heal and move forward,” L.A. Unified general counsel Dave Holmquist said earlier about the settlement. "We really want the community to feel healed by this."
The Friday announcement covers 81 former Miramonte students who were subjected to Berndt's lewd acts.
The court will independently review each claim and determine the appropriate amount for each of the 81 families involved.
Manly, who represents 38 children and 25 parents who sought damages, said the settlement showed that the district was taking responsibility for its failures.
It “shows a level of culpability and contrition by the district that is appropriate, and the hope for all of us is that it will lead to reforms so this doesn't happen to another child in Los Angeles.”
L.A. Unified Supt. Ramon Cortines said he believed the district would continue to work with parents and communities to better protect students. The agreement balances the goal of sparing children the trauma of a trial with that of reaching a fair settlement, he said.
“There is nothing more important to us than the safety of the students we serve,” Cortines said. “Our goal from the outset of these appalling revelations has been to spare the Miramonte community the anguish of a protracted trial, while at the same time being mindful of the financial consequences stemming from settlements. Given these circumstances, we believe we struck a balance between those objectives.”
Berndt pleaded no contest to the abuse charges a year ago and was sentenced to 25 years in prison, but the case against L.A. Unified has dragged out.
Dozens of claims were settled last year for about $30 million, but a contingent of parents and students opted to take their grievances to civil court, accusing L.A. Unified of not doing enough to protect students after receiving past complaints about Berndt.
Jury selection in the case began Monday, still L.A. Superior Court Judge John Shepard Wiley continued to push both parties to reach an agreement. The Board of Education met behind closed doors Tuesday evening to discuss settlement terms.
The case triggered a review of employee files going back decades in an effort to rid the district of potential problem employees. L.A. Unified also submitted, or resubmitted, hundreds of reports of alleged misconduct to the state Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
Reports of possible misconduct ballooned. The week before Berndt's arrest there were 19. The following week yielded 77, according to district records.
Then-Supt. John Deasy removed scores of teachers from their classrooms. A zero-tolerance policy for employee misconduct was enforced.
The teachers union charged that the district was overreacting, holding teachers allegedly involved in misconduct in what they called "teacher jails" for far too long without giving them information on their cases and unjustly firing other instructors.
L.A. Unified also temporarily replaced the entire staff at Miramonte in the second half of the school year, and required all employees to take a course on the reporting of abuse.
In January, the district assembled a team of experienced law enforcement investigators to take over probes into sexual abuse. The team has since investigated dozens of new allegations and has operated at a quicker pace than when investigations were left to principals, according to figures provided by the district.
In direct response to the Miramonte case, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill earlier this year aimed at speeding the dismissal of public school teachers for gross misconduct.
the center of the scandal was a teacher who was once invited to students' birthday parties and quinceañeras. Fond of Hawaiian shirts and class field trips, Berndt was known to hand out lollipops and silly nicknames. He joined children for dodgeball games, sent them holiday cards and managed to turn seemingly mundane topics into interesting lessons.
But in the fall of 2010, a drugstore photo technician processed a photo that showed a child blindfolded and gagged with clear tape. Other photos showed a spoon filled with a milky liquid, which was also seen in and around children's mouths. Los Angeles County sheriff's investigators began quietly looking into Berndt.
A detective found a spoon in Berndt's classroom trash can that looked like the one in the photos. It tested positive for traces of semen that matched Berndt's DNA.
Authorities later found that Berndt had been the target of a 1994 police investigation in which a girl accused the teacher of reaching toward her genitals while she was taking a test. Prosecutors had determined there was insufficient evidence to file charges.
Two women who said they had been Berndt's former students in the 1990s came forward after his arrest and said they saw the teacher masturbating behind his desk. They said they informed a school counselor who advised them to stop making up stories. Other former students recalled to the Los Angeles Times that the teacher had a habit of putting his hand inside the waistband of his pants and that he often perched himself on the steps near the playground, his legs splayed wide.
Court documents released last month revealed that a parent had complained about Berndt as far back as 1983. The parent told the principal at the time that Berndt had dropped his pants during a student field trip to a museum. The principal made notes about the incident in a memo, but Berndt remained on staff.
"Thanks again for the support you gave me," Berndt wrote in a note to the principal. "I did learn at least one thing for sure! Not to take students to the museum while wearing baggy shorts!"
A 512-page report based on a two-year inquiry by the sheriff's department was also filled with allegations that Berndt touched children in a sexual manner and urged them to reciprocate. "There is a suggestion in the police report that Berndt watched videos of bondage of women, and that his taping of children was for Berndt some version of sexualized bondage," Judge Shepard Wiley wrote about the report.
In 2008, the district destroyed about 2,000 reports containing abuse allegations because officials determined that state law banned them from possessing the forms because of privacy rules, according to an L.A. Unified spokesman.
Two more women come forward with Bill Cosby accusations
by CBS News
Two more women have come forward with accusations against Bill Cosby.
Renita Chaney Hill, 47, and Kristina Ruehli, now 75, both claim the comedian got them alone and then drugged them decades ago.
Hill told CBS Philadelphia she met Cosby in the 1980s when she was 15 and appeared on his "Picture Pages" educational TV segments. "He would fly me to a number of cities," she said, adding, "He would be busy during the day, then I'd come to his hotel room at night."
She claims that when they were alone, Cosby would insist she have a drink even though she was underage and now believes she was drugged. "One time, I remember just before I passed out, I remember him kissing and touching me and I remember the taste of his cigar on his breath, and I didn't like it," Hill recalled. She said she doesn't know if she was raped because she was unconscious, and decided to cut off contact with Cosby when she was 19.
Bill Cosby timeline: From past allegations to the unfolding frenzy
Ruehli spoke out in an interview with Philadelphia magazine, saying that she met Cosby in 1965 when she was a 22-year-old working as a secretary at a talent agency in Beverly Hills, California. She claims Cosby invited her to a party at his home but that when she arrived no one else was there. He fixed her two bourbons that she says knocked her out.
"At that age, two bourbon-and-7s would not have knocked me out cold, believe me," Ruehli told the magazine. "He must have drugged me. There is just one point at which I was having a drink and feeling normal and the next I was somehow passed out completely."
She said she woke up in a bedroom as Cosby was attempting to force her into performing oral sex, and that when she came to she was able to push him away, ran to a bathroom and drove herself home.
Ruehli told Philadelphia magazine she was one of the women who'd agreed to testify on behalf of Andrea Constand, a Pennsylvania woman who alleged that she was sexually assaulted by Cosby and settled before the case when to trial. Hill, meanwhile, told CBS Philadelphia she decided to come forward now after hearing Cosby's attorney criticize the other women who have accused Cosby of sexual assault in recent weeks.
"No one wants to be associated with something like this," she said. "But the bottom line for me is that no one has the right to violate someone else, no matter who they are. I don't care how big they are or how the community sees them, it's not right."
A number of planned Cosby projects have been canceled or postponed this week in the wake of the allegations, including dates on his stand-up tour. A comedy show date in Melbourne, Florida, is still apparently set for Friday, and at least 34 other shows currently remain on his schedule through May 2015.
How Bill Cosby Allegedly Silenced His Accusers Through A Tabloid Smear Campaign
Andrea Costand's complaint and civil case against Cosby in 2005 and 2006 alleges the comedian had an accuser's sexual assault story killed in exchange for an exclusive interview.
by Marlow Stern
Thus far, 18 women have alleged that Bill Cosby, the former puddin' pop lovin' patriarch on the revered sitcom The Cosby Show , sexually assaulted them between 1967 and 2004. Renewed interest in the case(s) was sparked last month, when stand-up comedian Hannibal Buress accused Cosby of being “a rapist” in a charged rant during his Philadelphia comedy set.
One of the most vocal of the alleged sexual assault victims is Andrea Constand, then 31, who claimed that Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her at his Pennsylvania mansion in 2004. Constand, a Canadian, reported the incident to the Durham, Ontario, police department, but no criminal charges were field against Cosby. The comedian did, however, settle a civil suit filed by Constand out of court that sought compensation for “mental anguish,” “post-traumatic stress disorder,” and the “loss of enjoyment of life's pleasures.”
Constand's complaint, filed February 1, 2006, makes an interesting allegation: That Cosby granted an exclusive interview to The National Enquirer in 2005 in exchange for the publication killing a story they were planning on running of another woman coming out with her story of a sexual assault by Cosby.
According to the 2006 complaint filed by Constand against The National Enquirer and Cosby's attorney, the inimitable Marty Singer, on February 21, 2005, Cosby deigned to grant an exclusive interview to The National Enquirer “knowing it would injure Plaintiff, and to deprive her of her good name, credit and reputation.” In said interview, Cosby allegedly conveyed “either directly or by implication” that Constand “asked Cosby for money” before going to the police, which in Cosby's eyes, represented a “classic shakedown” attempt. Constand claimed that the accusation was patently false, and demanded $150,000 in damages from the tabloid and attorney.
“I'm not saying that what I did was wrong, but I apologize to my loving wife, who has stood by my side for all these years,” Cosby told The Enquirer . “Sometimes you try to help people and it backfires. People can soil you by taking advantage… I am not going to give in to people who try to exploit me because of my celebrity status.”
But Constand's 16-page complaint also details her alleged sexual assault at the hands of Cosby.
Around December 2001, Constand alleges she was employed at Temple University as Director of Operations for the Women's Basketball program. She says she met Cosby, a Temple alumnus and big-time donor to the university, in November 2002.
Cosby allegedly “fostered a friendship” with Constand, and over time, “she considered him to be both her friend, albeit older, and a mentor,” according to the complaint. For over a year, she claims to have been friends with Cosby, discussing Temple women's basketball, having conversations on the phone, and being his guest at dinner parties and events hosted by Cosby.
Then, in January 2004, Constand alleges Cosby invited her to his home in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania, “telling her that he wanted to offer assistance in her pursuit of a different career.” Constand says she agreed to meet Cosby at his home at about 9 p.m., and during that fateful evening, Cosby “drugged the plaintiff and sexually assaulted her.”
Further details of the alleged sexual assault were outlined in a separate civil case, Constand v. Cosby , filed in Pennsylvania on June 2, 2005. That complaint alleged that “defendant deceived plaintiff into ingesting a narcotic or other type of drug which caused plaintiff to become semi-conscious, and thereafter defendant sexually assaulted plaintiff.” She hazily recalls Cosby allegedly touching her breasts and fondling her genitals, and that when she awoke, according to the complaint, she found her clothing scattered all over the floor and felt like she'd been violated.
She also contended that after reporting the allegations to the Durham police, Cosby and his reps “knowingly made false statements to the media” about Constand.
Now, here's where things get tricky. In the 2005 case, Constand claimed to have 13 Jane Doe witnesses that would provide testimony against Cosby, and that those women “should be protected from public disclosure,” since there were “important privacy concerns at issue in disclosing the Jane Doe witnesses' names and addresses to the media. In particular, the anticipated testimony of the Jane Doe witnesses relates details of alleged similar incidents of sexual assaults involving the defendant,” claimed Constand, further arguing that disclosing the Jane Doe witnesses' identities “may place the Jane Doe witnesses at risk of physical and psychological harm” from “overly zealous fans and supporters of the celebrity defendant.” Ultimately, however, the court denied Constand's motion for a protective order to protect the identity of her Jane Doe witnesses.
Constand's 2006 complaint delved further into how Cosby and his lawyer at the time, Marty Singer, allegedly smeared her in the media.
Following Constand's report that she filed with the Ontario police on January 13, 2005, Cosby and Singer allegedly “publicized statements” to Celebrity Justice that claimed “sources connected with Cosby” told the show that before Constand went to the police, her mother demanded money from the comedian. “We're told she asked Cosby to help pay for her daughter's education and to generally help her out financially, and this conversation occurred before the accuser ever contacted police,” claimed the Celebrity Justice segment. That claim was then picked up by Celebrity Justice , The Toronto Sun , Fox News , and other media outlets, who published Constand's name, address, and/or picture in connection with the investigation—thus “making her identity as Cosby's accuser recognizable to the public.”
Then, according to the complaint, on or around January 26, 2005, Cosby was interviewed by Cheltenham Township Police officers where he admitted that neither Constand nor her mother had asked for any money, but had only asked for Cosby to apologize to the two of them, which he did.
After that, Constand claimed Singer allegedly “informed Cosby that another woman, Beth Ferrier,” who was then working as a model, had contacted The National Enquirer and, according to the complaint, “alleged that Cosby sexually assaulted her after she unknowingly ingested a drug given to her by Cosby.” The Enquirer story was written by Robin Mizrahi, who interviewed Ferrier and had arranged for her to take a lie detector test.
On or around February 21, 2005, the 2006 complaint alleges that Cosby met with Enquirer representatives, including editor Barry Levine, in Houston, Texas. Prior to the meeting, Constand claimed that Cosby and Singer had met with The National Enquirer and agreed that “Cosby would provide an exclusive interview to Defendant The National Enquirer , if The National Enquirer would agree to refrain from printing the Beth Ferrier story.” The National Enquirer, Constand claimed in her complaint, then allegedly “provided a copy of the unpublished Beth Ferrier article to Cosby and his representatives,” and “also provided the interview of Cosby to Cosby and his representatives for his review, prior to publication.”
The planned Ferrier story was scraped, but she eventually told her story to the Philadelphia Daily News on June 23, 2005, which reported that, in 1984, after she ended a brief consensual affair with Cosby, he drugged her before a performance in Denver.
“He said, ‘Here's your favorite coffee, something I made, to relax you,'” Ferrier, 46, told the Daily News . Then, she claims that after she drank the coffee, she felt woozy. She woke up and realized she had no recollection of the past several hours.
“I woke up and I was in the back of my car all alone,” Ferrier said. "My clothes were a mess. My bra was undone. My top was untucked. And I'm sitting there going, ‘Oh my God. Where am I?' What's going on? I was so out of it. It was just awful.”
She then claimed that security guards approached her car saying Cosby told them to escort her home. According to the Daily News , Ferrier sold her story to The Enquirer for $7,500, and was interviewed by the publication and even passed a lie detector test.
As for Constand, the prosecutor in her case, Bruce Castor, a former district attorney in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, recently told NBC10 in Philadelphia that he didn't charge Cosby with sexual assault even though he thought Cosby “did it.”
“At the time I remember thinking that he probably did do something inappropriate,” said Castor. “But thinking that and being able to prove it are two different things.”
What happens to the adult sexual assault cases in R.I.?
by Peg Langhammer
Given the headlines in recent months concerning college sexual assault cases, it's clear the time has come to seriously examine the way adult sexual assault cases are handled from start to finish in Rhode Island. We're dealing with a fragmented system that needs our attention.
Most sexual assaults are never reported to law enforcement, and even among reported cases, most will never be successfully prosecuted. This reality has been a long-standing source of frustration for survivors, victim advocates, and members of the criminal justice system. As more victims come forward, attention to the issue of sexual assault has increased and has placed the entire reporting and investigation process under scrutiny.
Day One has worked closely with law enforcement and other agencies around the state to develop an effective, coordinated response to child sexual abuse with our Children's Advocacy Center. Cases are tracked, monitored, and followed up on long after the initial disclosure. We are currently applying the same approach to the burgeoning issue of the child sex trafficking. It's evident we need the same type of coordinated system to address adult sexual assault in our state.
To start the process, Day One is organizing a specialized task force to address adult sexual assault in Rhode Island that includes law enforcement, prosecution, Day One advocates, medical professionals, and higher education representatives. A sexual assault survivor may have contact with many different agencies. This team will be responsible for the oversight of adult sexual assault cases from the initial report to investigation and prosecution to trauma-informed clinical treatment and support for the victim.
Through this task force, we aim to:
-Establish a comprehensive and collaborative multi-disciplinary team approach to dealing with adult sexual assault cases statewide.
-Develop and implement policies and protocols using a best practices approach to investigation and prosecution.
-Improve the response rate to sexual assault victims in urgent need of services.
-Ensure that an efficient system of response is accessible to all victims.
There is currently no consistent, centralized means of tracking of sexual assault data in Rhode Island. Without effective tracking, many of these cases cannot be properly monitored and followed up on. We know that, based on successful models in other states, a positive experience during initial reporting creates an environment where victims feel supported and believed, and decreases re-traumatization.
We owe it to our students and to our community to provide the best possible response to all sexual assaults. Without that, we are sending a message not to bother reporting this crime, a message that has already been sent too often in Rhode Island.
Peg Langhammer is the executive director at Day One, an agency organized to address sexual assault and abuse as a community concern.
J. Gary Mitchell launches new animated sexual abuse prevention film, "The Professor"
PORTLAND, Ore., Nov. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- There are an estimated 39 million adult survivors of child sexual abuse in the US alone. Most will never tell a soul. Like most, filmmaker J. Gary Mitchell did not tell a soul. What he did was wait about 30 years and then started trying to tell the world.
"As a child, I didn't know what to do," said Mitchell. "But as an adult, I knew I had to do something. And that something has been creating educational films to let children know that, if they need to, there IS something they can do about sexual abuse."
Mitchell started the J. Gary Mitchell Film Company (empowerkids.com) around 1970. He has written and produced seven child sexual abuse prevention films and more than 65 other contemporary social issue films over the past 40 years. His films have won numerous awards including an Academy Award Nominee for Best Short Subject Documentary.
Mitchell's film What Tadoo , a sexual abuse prevention film that uses the help of two puppet frogs, What and Tadoo, to teach Thaddeus how to protect himself from strangers - has been extremely popular since its release in 1985. But since puppets no longer seem to entice kids and many current users have requested an update, he is creating a new fully animated sexual abuse prevention film for K-2 called The Professor . Mitchell is partnering with Dr. Eliana Gil who specializes in working with abused children and their families to bring his message into the 21st century.
"I have the great honor of lending my voice to one of Gary's new animated characters called The Professor , or La Profesora !" said Dr. Eliana Gil. "I will speak in both my first and second languages (English and Spanish) and will fulfill a life-long dream of becoming one with a cartoon character."
To help aid in the creation of this film, Mitchell has recently launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to raise the $50,000 necessary to bring this important film to fruition. The campaign runs until December 17, 2014. Supporters receive numerous perks for their donation including a significant discount off the new film as well as Producer titles in the credits.
"I know that what I am doing here is simply producing a tool," said Mitchell. "The professionals working with our youth are the ones who are doing the heavy lifting. I just want to lighten the load."
As with all of Mitchell's films on Sexual Abuse Prevention, The Professor , has been designed to introduce difficult concepts while allowing the counselor (presenter) plenty of room to expand. All films include a study guide and many films are available in English and Spanish.
Learn more or donate now at: igg.me/at/empowerkids
Whistleblower lawsuit claims child abuse investigations are tainted
by Melissa Fletcher Stoeltje
A former employee of the state Office of Inspector General has filed a whistleblower lawsuit, charging he was fired for complaining about the agency's flawed investigations of how other state agencies handle child deaths in Texas.
The OIG's office is required to examine allegations of fraud, abuse and policy violations at state agencies, including Child Protective Services. It began looking into CPS cases in 2012, after a rash of children died at the hands of their caregivers.
It's the same agency that recently concluded high-up managers at CPS weren't at fault in the 2009 death of 8-year-old Sarah Brasse of Schertz — even though they failed to send anyone to check on the girl 48 hours before she died of untreated appendicitis.
That was despite calls to CPS from three professionals concerned that Sarah was in danger, the Express-News found in its investigation of CPS. The girl's family had been investigated multiple times over two years by CPS and was under the agency's watch when she died.
The lawsuit filed by Joe Carrizal Jr., who was fired in July, claims the OIG routinely performed inadequate investigations into CPS' handling of child death cases in order to protect the agency rather than root out problems.
The suit, filed in Travis County district court against the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which oversees the OIG, said the lack of thorough investigations leaves “hundreds, if not thousands, of Texas children vulnerable to continued acts of abuse and neglect.”
Carrizal, who previously worked as a CPS special investigator, said OIG investigators' hands were tied by a host of restrictions, such as not being able to interview witnesses, law enforcement, CPS personnel, the deceased child's family members and others. It states they were “required” to do haphazard investigations to “cover up” CPS failings.
The suit delineates Carrizal's history of making various complaints and recommendations to his OIG managers about problems he saw at the agency and the resulting alleged workplace retaliation he experienced — bad enough to cause him to file a a civil rights complaint. Carrizal was ultimately fired for insubordination, which he denies committing.
Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman with the HHSC, said the lawsuit is “without merit.”
“The notion that we didn't want to uncover wrongdoing at CPS is completely absurd,” she said. “After all, it was the HHSC management that asked for (the child death reviews), to get to the bottom of problems at CPS.”
The OIG has so far reviewed some 200 child fatality cases where CPS was involved. Goodman said that early on there were problems with OIG inspectors not knowing how to focus their investigations.
“Some were doing too cursory of reviews, some wanted to completely re-open CPS investigations, and that's not our goal,” she said, adding that those issues have been resolved.
Carrizal said investigators were given simple checklists to do their reviews and were ordered only to review documents provided by CPS.
“That was a huge concern for me,” he said. “CPS was the suspect of the investigation, and yet we were relying on the information provided by the suspect.”
Carrizal said he provided evidence to his bosses showing potential criminal wrongdoing on the part of CPS, yet there was never any follow through.
He's is asking for compensation between $200,000 to $1 million.
The lawsuit comes on the heels of strong criticism of the OIG by the Sunset Advisory Commission, an independent body that conducts evaluations of state agencies. In its October report, the commission painted OIG as hobbled by poor management, inadequate communication, lack of transparency and other problems.
The OIG previously came under fire in 2013, when it found CPS didn't err in the case of Orien Hamilton, an 11-month old who died of abuse in Cedar Park. After a story in the Austin American-Statesman questioned that finding, the OIG reopened the case. It later concluded a CPS caseworker had violated state policies.
Carrizal's lawsuit does not mention the Sarah Brasse case as an example of what he says is OIG malfeasance.
In its two-page report on her case, the OIG found that four CPS workers failed to follow state policy, such as making timely home visits. But it didn't recommend any disciplinary action and absolved managers who made the critical decision not to check on Sarah as she lay dying alone in her soiled bed.
Also, allegations that these managers might have illegally altered state documents were not substantiated, according to the OIG.
Outraged by the lack of teeth in the report, state Sen. Carlos Uresti, who has taken a special interest in Sarah's case, vowed to introduce a bill in the upcoming legislative session that targets problems at CPS that may have played a role in her death.
Uresti said in an emailed statement Thursday that he hopes the lawsuit will be used “as a catalyst to further review investigation protocols at the (OIG). While I hesitate to comment on a pending legal matter, based on my experience with the OIG's investigation into the death of Sarah Brasse, I believe there is a lot of room for improvement on the thoroughness of their investigations.”
The state has 20 days to respond to Carrizal's lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday.
The HHSC's Goodman said the OIG tends to attract hard-nosed types who “sometimes don't take management very well.” She suggested Carrizal “is the sort of employee who sees conspiracies where they simply don't exist.”
Carrizal's lawyer, Dominic Audino of Austin, said Carrizal is “one of those guys who doesn't shy away when he sees something improper. And in this case, extremely improper things were being done, with people choosing their political careers over the lives of children.”
In learning of the lawsuit, Jo-Anne Guerrero, Sarah's mother, who has fought relentlessly to get justice for her daughter, was elated.
“I knew stuff wasn't going on (at the OIG) was a farce. I am so grateful for this lawsuit.”
New Pope has opportunity to end Church coverup of child abuse
by Robert Weiner and Florian Prommer
Pope Francis has just announced he will be coming to the U.S. next year for a conference on families. The new Pope is widely popular, but he and the Church must take stronger actions than ones to date on the victims and perpetrators of clerical child abuse. The Bishops' two-week conference on family issues in the Vatican October 5-19, at which the Pope called for “candor”, discussed gay communion, divorce, and abortion – but not responsibility for priests' child abuse.
According to a statement by Pope Francis reported by Reuters, “about two percent” of Catholic priests are “pedophiles.” He called the findings “very grave.” Yet they still preach all over the world, and the number could be an undercount.
In Springfield 59 individuals were determined to be abused before 2008, causing the resignation of Bishop Thomas Dupre, leader of the Diocese of Springfield, in 2004 even before the depth of the scandal came out largely by outstanding investigative reporting by The Springfield Republican. Unfortunately, the scandal and coverup continue in the U.S. and world.
Annual surveys commissioned by the United States Conference of Bishops state that between 1950 and 2013, 17,259 children were sexually abused. 6427 priests were accused but only 3,973 names have been made public. These numbers only cover the United States.
In July, the Pope met with abused victims to express “regret and concern” as have Popes Paul and Benedict. He conceded that priests and bishops “violated their priestly vocation” and committed “sins of omission”. The apology still leaves Vatican inaction to punish abusers.
According to his 2013 book, “On Heaven and Earth”, Pope Francis argued as archbishop of Buenos Aires to “take away the priest's faculties” and “not permit him to exercise his priestly ministry again” when a priest gets convicted.
The church has declared “bankruptcy” in dioceses including San Diego, Wilmington, Milwaukee, and Stockton that were about to be sued. That's how they decrease, postpone or avoid payments.
Bankrupt? The Catholic Church´s assets are twelve billion dollars. The Pope and the parishes with splendorous cathedrals, churches and grounds are not paupers.
Dioceses hide their inaction despite a few forced payments. In response to reporting of pedophiles, the church often just pays them off. As Archbishop of Milwaukee, Cardinal Timothy Dolan authorized $20,000-payments to “a handful” of accused priests to leave their priesthood. In 2008, Springfield paid $4.5 million to the known 59 victims but believe it or not the Church Diocese is paid back these millions by insurance policies -- not quite penance.
Others are kicked upstairs. Boston's Cardinal Bernard Francis Law, sought by prosecutors to face a grand jury for covering up abuses, was about to be subpoenaed but moved to the Vatican where he got promoted. The law for his alleged pre-2002 coverups was then changed in May, 2002 by the Massachusetts legislature to specifically include mandatory reporting by clergy. Pope Francis called moving guilty clergy “stupid because the priest carries his baggage with him.”
How a priest gets from “I am a servant of God” to “I want to touch altar boys,” or protecting priests who do, is incomprehensible. Mary Alexander, President of The National Crime Victim Bar Association, calls clerical child abuse “a huge violation of trust and innocence. While nothing can ever fully restore this, seeking justice is important to bringing some closure.”
In a January 31, 1997 letter by Pope John Paul II's diplomat in Ireland, Luciano Storero, the Vatican expressed “reservations of both a moral and a canonical nature” about a mandatory abuser-reporting policy. The cover-it-up letter stated that “I am directed to inform the bishops of the invalidity” of “mandatory reporting” because “the results could be highly embarrassing and detrimental.” The letter marked “Strictly confidential” was disclosed by Irish Radio RTE and AP.
Earlier this year, on January 16, 2014, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, Vatican UN ambassador in Geneva, said that the Vatican is not responsible for a policy on referring cases to authorities: ‘‘Priests fall under the jurisdiction of their own country.”
In December 2013, Pope Francis set up a commission, headed by Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley, which O'Malley said would “advise the Holy Father about the protection of children and pastoral care of victims of abuse.” He said it would review the Church's “cooperation with the civil authorities”, screening of candidates for the priesthood, and supervision of abusive priests. O'Malley said he was “not sure” if his commission or the Vatican would take on bishop accountability. Terrence McKiernan, president of the watchdog Bishop Accountability, said no one can be sure because the pope is “absolutely allergic to this topic.”
The Vatican can prove the naysayers wrong. The church needs to act and proceed “with zero tolerance” as the Pope advocated. The Vatican should defrock priests, or instruct parishes to do so, at least temporarily during criminal investigations and turn them over when abuse is discovered. It´s time for the new Pope to write a new letter instructing referral of all charges worldwide to law enforcement. The Church must stop kicking abusing clerics “upstairs”, even to the Vatican itself. It should pay every documented abused victim. If the Church honestly believes it is a “shelter for its believers” and not a hell for its abused, it must recognize that actions speak louder than words. With the new Pope´s wide acclaim, he, Cardinal O'Malley, and new Springfield Bishop Mitchell Rozanski have an opportunity for meaningful action.
Robert Weiner , UMass M.A. and former Amherst resident, was White House spokesman, spokesman for the Government House Operations Committee, and senior staff for Congressmen John Conyers, Charles Rangel, Ed Koch, Claude Pepper, and Sen. Ted Kennedy. Florian Prommer is senior policy analyst for Robert Weiner Associates and Solutions for Change.
McMahon Ryan Center says education, action will drive down child sexual abuse cases
by Ellen Abbott
The number of children from Onondaga County who go through the McMahon Ryan Child Advocacy Center in Syracuse is holding steady. Officials say getting the word out about these children who are sexually abused is key to getting that number down.
About 700 kids used the services of McMahon Ryan last year, and most of them knew their abusers, says Executive Director Linda Cleary.
"Almost 45 percent of the children we've seen were abused by a parent," Cleary said. "And then another almost 40 percent were abused by someone they know or love.”
Cleary says says the number of abused kids amounts to ten school buses lined up and filled with children. She hopes that visual gives people a better picture about just how many kids suffer at the hands of abusers every year.
“And that's really important statistics for a community to know," Cleary explained. "We are good at teaching children about stranger danger, but that's not necessarily who's doing the physical or sexual abuse of our children.”
Cleary says the numbers don't go down because often people don't want to talk about child sexual abuse, even though it's happening across all communities and economic spectrums. She believes the way to get these numbers down is for neighbors, friends and family members to take action.
"When something doesn't sit right with them, don't ignore it," Cleary said. "Do something about it. We'd rather have phone calls made and have something investigated and find out there isn't anything there than to miss a chance to protect a child.”
Rape Victim shares Ghastly Details with Rolling Stone Magazine
by Kimberly McArthur
A rape victim and student of the University of Virginia shared details about the gruesome incident that happened with her. She said she was raped by a group of men at a Phi Kappa Psi fraternity party in September 2012.
Jackie, the raped victim, told Rolling Stone magazine how she was raped during the party. She even reported the rape allegations to the University of Virginia dean almost a year ago, but nothing was done about it.
The magazine reported that Jackie's friends even questioned her decision to go to the school to report the rape. Jackie told Rolling Stone that one of her roommate forced her not to disclose the news as it might hamper UVA's image.
But she said that by the end of her freshman year, she somehow managed to talk to Dean Nicole Eramo, head of UVA's Sexual Misconduct Board. Eramo suggested Jackie that she could either file a criminal complaint with the police or keep the matter within the school boundaries.
Jackie said that she did not file a report, and administration took no actions to warn the campus of the alleged gang-rape at the time.
The Cavalier Daily, the university's independent student newspaper, reported lawyer Mark Filip, who was selected by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring to lead the review of the school's sexual misconduct policy.
After the article was published on Thursday, University President Teresa Sullivan asked the Charlottesville Police Department to investigate the case.
It was found that University students and faculty responded to the article. Taking activism, the Middle Eastern and Islamic Student Association hosted a rally titled "Stand Up Against Rape Culture" in the Amphitheatre Thursday afternoon. Almost 1,000 members of the University community participated in it.
Thar Tariq, a member of MEISA, addressing the rally said, "We need to demand more from ourselves as students as well. We need to promote an environment where sexual assault and rape is not permitted under any circumstance. We need to set the precedent".
Ebola, Africa and the Fight to Protect Childhood
by Lauren Book
It knows no socio-economic boundaries. Blind to race, gender and religion, it's infected thousands and infiltrated public consciousness like nothing in recent memory.
An ever-present topic in the news, trending on Twitter, conversation among friends revealing deep-seated, highly illogical fears.
I'm talking, of course, about Ebola.
As I began preparing for a trip to the continent of Africa, I explained to friends, family and acquaintances that I would be traveling to South Africa - the bottom tip of the continent, that the Ebola virus is in the north western horn, thousands of miles away, and that - while Ebola is indeed a very real and very serious threat and, if not closely watched, could become a global catastrophe - I had a better chance of being attacked by a wild water buffalo than contracting the deadly virus.
I was going to deal with another evil, just as insidious, as indiscriminating as the dreaded and deadly Ebola virus, but still cloaked in darkness: the sexual abuse and exploitation of children.
Every three minutes a child in South Africa is raped. (A figure I learned while conducting victim sensitivity training with the Cape Town police force.) As is the case worldwide, most of the time, this rape occurs at the hands of someone the child knows, loves and trusts.
Let's contrast these figures with the number of new Ebola infections occurring every day in South Africa: Zero.
Yet where is the focus? Where is the widespread fear and outrage that mobilizes public attention and galvanizes government action?
Child sexual abuse is an issue shrouded in secrecy, an intimate and sinister crime that silences victims -- an estimated 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys -- with feelings of shame, guilt and isolation, and emboldens predators -- who will offend against an average of 117 children in their lives -- with each new offense.
While the stats are staggering, the solution is clear: 95 percent of child sexual abuse is preventable though education and awareness.
So what's preventing us from getting there? Perhaps it's embarrassment. The sexual abuse and exploitation of children is, admittedly, uncomfortable and difficult to talk about.
But during the 11-hour flight from London to South Africa, I saw enough protective facemasks to be reminded that people will risk embarrassment and discomfort when they feel their safety -- or the safety of those they love -- may be threatened.
I will admit, the paranoia experienced by my fellow passengers gripped me for a moment, and I as I squirted hand sanitizer onto my palms, I wondered... If not embarrassment, perhaps, then, it's denial and the idea that "it won't happen to me" keeping otherwise responsible and intelligent adults away from this particular threat to public safety, health and wellness. Because it is just that: survivors of child sexual abuse are at a greater risk for maladaptive behavior throughout their lives.
From Florida to New York to Barbados to the Netherlands to Canada and beyond, we see that the single greatest risk factor for being a victim of child sexual abuse is simply being a child. In South Africa, I heard stories from children like Joyce -- the daughter of an ambassador who was molested at the hands of her family's houseboy, often in the room right next to her parents' -- and also Disha -- who lives in a township outside of Cape Town and is forced to sleep in a bed with five of her siblings or with her grandparents; either arrangement means a night of sleeplessness, shame and violation for the innocent little girl.
Or even more disturbing: I met a mother whose six-year-old daughter slipped out from beside her in bed one night to use the bathroom outside, tiptoeing barefoot out of their encampment, not wanting to wake her sleeping family. The little girl never made it more than a few steps: she was snatched, brutally raped and then doused with gasoline and lit on fire. The girl's family discovered her ragged, well-loved teddy bear a stone's throw from their front door, leading them to her body, which had been dumped unceremoniously in a nearby field. Though she was almost naked and very badly burned, tattered pieces of the girl's charred pajamas still remained and helped her mother identify the body.
When I shared this story with teachers and police during training sessions, the faces staring back at me did not register shock or horror; I was met with responses like "Yes, just awful what happens here, isn't it?"
YES. It is truly, profoundly awful. It should not matter whether you are born in a township in Cape Flats or a flat in Manhattan. Each and every child has a right to safety.
So I ask again: Where is the outrage? The disbelief? Where is the call to protect those most innocent among us?
Child predators know no boundaries, and we shouldn't either in the quest to protect our children.
As a survivor and someone who has dedicated my life to making things different for other children, I can talk circles around this issue. Do you prefer facts and figures, or do emotional appeals change your mind and open your heart? I have pages and pages of numbers, and sleepless nights filled with stories from little girls, and boys, like Joyce, Disha and the little girl who never saw her seventh birthday. Some of the stories that haunt me, that drive me, are my own memories. And I will not rest until we do better for our children. And the fact remains...
Number of children being raped in South Africa: one every three minutes.
That's 20 every hour, 480 each day.
That's 5,280 children's lives forever changed, shattered by sexual violence, during the 11 days I spent in South Africa.
And how many new cases of Ebola? Zero.
So let's look at the facts, listen to the stories and start to have the difficult conversations. Let's begin to support children who come forward and prevent the monsters who hurt them from victimizing others, because they will if allowed to thrive in darkness, continuing their vicious cycle. Let's create an international registry to track sexual predators and inform international officials. Let's teach children that their bodies are their own and they have a right to decide what is safe and what is unsafe.
Let's protect childhood. Together.
Visit www.laurenskids.org to join me in the fight.
Stats and sources referenced above: http://bit.ly/1sDZunc
Registered Sex Offender from Lima Sentenced to 35 Years
by Sean Rowe
WASHINGTON – A registered sex offender with prior convictions for the possession of child pornography and attempted sexual conduct with minors was sentenced to 35 years in prison today for traveling across state lines to engage in sex with a minor and various child pornography-related offenses.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department's Criminal Division and Acting U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler of the Southern District of Indiana made the announcement. U.S. District Judge Jane E. Magnus-Stinson of the Southern District of Indiana imposed the sentence.
John Alan Lewis, 65, of Lima, Ohio, was convicted in August 2014 following a three-day trial for traveling across state lines to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor, attempted production of child pornography, and transportation and possession of child pornography.
According to evidence presented at trial, Lewis met an individual online that he believed to be a 14 year-old girl. The individual was actually an adult male registered sex offender from New York who was posing as a 14 year-old girl. From November 2011 until May 2012, Lewis exchanged numerous images of a minor under the age of 12 engaging in sexually explicit conduct via email with that individual, still believing that he was communicating with a 14 year-old girl.
Following the August 2012 arrest of the New York sex offender who was posing as the 14 year-old girl, law enforcement assumed the New York sex offender's online profile and continued to communicate with Lewis. In the weeks leading up to his arrest, Lewis engaged in a series of online chats with the purported 14 year-old girl, during which he discussed his plan to travel from Ohio to Indiana to take her to a motel to engage in sexual acts. On Sept. 19, 2012, Lewis rented a car in Lima, Ohio, and drove to Plainfield, Indiana, to meet with the girl. He was arrested when he arrived at the agreed upon meeting location.
At the time of his arrest, Lewis had three electronic devices, each of which contained images depicting a minor, between the ages of 10 and 12, fully nude and engaging in sexually explicit conduct.
This case was investigated by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, the Indiana State Police Cyber Crime Unit, the FBI's Violent Crimes Against Children Section and the Indiana Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which is made up of federal and state law enforcement agencies. The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Amy E. Larson of the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) and Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven D. DeBrota of the Southern District of Indiana.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children assisted the investigation by providing information to the Indianapolis Police Department, which led to the identification of a minor child victim in Indiana.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse, launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys' offices and CEOS, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit http://www.projectsafechildhood.gov. For more information about Internet safety education, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc and click on the tab "resources."
Child abuse, adversity associated with poor health and employment outcomes later in life
People who currently fall into low-income and educational brackets are up to five times as likely to have faced abuse and adversity during childhood as people who fall into higher socioeconomic groups, according to a University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health analysis of Allegheny County residents.
The findings, which will be presented Tuesday at the American Public Health Association's (APHA) annual meeting in New Orleans, support the merit of "whole family" programs that seek to break the cycle of adversity and negative health, economic and social outcomes that persist over generations.
Eliminating childhood abuse and adversity significantly improves health – reducing heart disease by more than 26 percent and serious mental illness by more than 41 percent, the research team determined in a separate study presented Monday.
"Early childhood is a sensitive period of human development when abuse or parental problems can create lasting negative consequences later in life," said lead investigator Todd M. Bear, Ph.D., director of the Office of Health Survey Research in Pitt Public Health's Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences. "Our findings provide strong evidence that it is worthwhile for communities to invest in robust intervention programs that provide treatment, educational and employment opportunities, and positive role models to the whole family."
The analyses used data from the 2009-2010 Allegheny County Health Survey, which interviewed 5,442 randomly selected residents of the county containing Pittsburgh.
Dr. Bear and his colleagues focused on six adverse childhood events reported by adult residents as having happened in their household when they were children: physical, sexual and emotional abuse, parental mental illness, parental substance abuse and domestic violence.
The research team, which included experts in epidemiology and psychiatry, found that:
Blacks had 2.5 times higher prevalence of childhood sexual abuse and greater rates of physical abuse when compared with whites.
People with a low socioeconomic status had 1.7 to 4.2 times higher prevalence for each of the six adverse childhood events compared with people of higher socioeconomic status.
People who reported they were unable to work also reported a prevalence of sexual abuse five times higher than those reporting employment.
The results are consistent with those of similar surveys conducted in other communities nationwide.
"We've found nothing to indicate that our findings are unique to Allegheny County," said Dr. Bear. "These strong links between childhood adversity and poor socioeconomic status later in life, coupled with our findings that eliminating childhood abuse significantly prevents serious health consequences in adulthood, should be useful information for communities nationwide that are determining appropriate interventions to help their most vulnerable populations."
Neglect most common form of child maltreatment in state
by CAITLYN BELCHER
More than 3,400 cases of child abuse or neglect were substantiated in Nevada in 2013, according to Amanda Haboush-Deloye, director of programs at Prevent Child Abuse Nevada.
Of those cases, more than 2,600 occurred in Clark County, with 70 percent classified as neglect.
“Keep in mind we do have about 70 percent of the state's population living in Clark County, so it's not saying we're worse than other counties,” Haboush-Deloye said. “Oftentimes, abuse or neglect occurs because the family is under certain stressors. If the community provided more support, those stressors could be alleviated, and these cases could be avoided.”
The state defines child abuse or neglect as: “… physical and mental injury of a non-accidental nature; sexual abuse or sexual exploitation; or negligent treatment or maltreatment … of a child caused or allowed by a person responsible for the welfare of the child.”
Mental or emotional injury might include blaming, belittling, rejecting or calling a child names. Neglect can mean leaving a child at home alone, not forcing him to attend school or not providing enough food.
“Abuse doesn't always come from the parents,” Haboush-Deloye said. “It can come from another family member, babysitter, child care provider or anyone who is in close contact, so we look at all immediate relationships in the child's life.”
Signs of abuse can range from unexplained injuries to being overly compliant or demanding, from demonstrating bizarre sexual knowledge to lacking needed medical or dental care.
“Abuse can lead to permanent physical damage and (post-traumatic stress disorder). It can also cause children to have a hard time making connections and trusting other people,” Haboush-Deloye said. “However, everyone has different coping mechanisms, and not everyone is going to act the same.”
The Clark County Department of Family Services collects and responds to reports from members of the community at large and those mandated by law to report suspected abuse, such as police officers, teachers and doctors, according to spokeswoman Kristi Jourdan.
“The information collected during a report is an important initial assessment of the family,” Jourdan said. “We gather as much information as we can from the caller to determine if it requires a response.”
If the report warrants an investigation, the case is turned over to a Child Protective Services unit that conducts a safety assessment and interviews the individual in the home.
“From there, it can go several different ways,” Jourdan said. “The investigator can determine it's an unsafe situation, but the child can remain in the home because there's a parent or caregiver that can ensure their safety. Worst case scenario, the child is removed from the home, but we do that as a last resort because it's very traumatic for the child.”
Although law enforcement does not get involved in every case, Child Protective Services can request officers to be present or assist during investigations, according to Metropolitan Police Department officer Larry Hadfield.
“Child Protective Services might ask us to further investigate a case if they feel a crime was committed,” Hadfield said. “CPS takes in all cases, and if the case doesn't meet their law enforcement call, then we don't get involved.”
Those who suspect child abuse can report it to Child Protection Services at tinyurl.com/clarkcountycps or 702-399-0081.
“The community is our eyes and ears in terms of protecting children and reporting abuse or neglect,” Jourdan said. “The information you have by reporting any abuse has the ability to save a life.”
For more information, visit tinyurl.com/ccdfamilyservices or preventchildabusenevada.org.
New Orleans to reopen hundreds of mishandled child abuse and rape cases
The cases were mishandled by five police detectives over a three-year period and uncovered by an audit in the latest scandal to hit the city's police force
by The Associated Press
The mayor of New Orleans says hundreds of rape and child abuse cases that went largely ignored by five police detectives over a three-year period will be reopened and thoroughly investigated.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu said Tuesday that a special team of police officers would reopen hundreds of mishandled cases uncovered by a city inspector general's audit that was released last week. The report charged five detectives failed to do substantial investigation of more than 1,000 sex crimes and child abuse cases.
“I can't express how angry and frustrated I am about the findings in this report,” Landrieu said. He called the accusations against the detectives “a disgrace”.
The inspector general's report found that the detectives classified 65 percent of the cases they received as “miscellaneous”, for which no report at all was written. The inspectors said those cases could not be examined due to the “total void of information”.
The report identified 271 other cases where the detectives did some initial investigative work but failed to file a follow-up report. Police said the new task force would focus first on reopening those cases.
The five detectives whose investigations are under scrutiny have been placed on desk duty. Police superintendent Michael Harrison said they face disciplinary action and possible criminal charges.
The US Department of Justice previously investigated the scandal-plagued police force and in 2012 the city agreed to a host of changes in its policies. The federal probe found the police force was rife with corruption and had numerous instances of excessive use of deadly force, discrimination and problems with its sex crimes unit. A federal monitor is overseeing compliance.
Landrieu said that when he became mayor in 2010 the sex crimes division was “failing” and that “more than 800 rape kits sat on the shelf collecting dust”. Rape kits form the forensic basis of investigations into alleged sexual assaults.
The mayor took credit for overhauling the sex crimes unit, clearing the backlog in rape kit analysis and bringing about an atmosphere where more women reported sex crimes and police generally investigated more sex crime cases.
But the mayor acknowledged that serious problems remained.
“Notwithstanding all of that progress,” Landrieu said, “we now know that we did not pull this problem out by the root.”
The mayor added that when he became the mayor the police department was in disarray and facing bankruptcy. Since taking the city's helm, he said new layers of scrutiny – including the inspector general's office and new police monitors – are ensuring problems in the department are brought to light.
The hundreds of rape and child abuse cases now under scrutiny took place between January 2011 and December 2013, a period that covers Landrieu's tenure.
Landrieu was re-elected to another four years in a landslide in February. Throughout his tenure as mayor Landrieu has struggled to bring crime rates down in a city that remains one of the nation's most violent.
It's Not Just Cosby: Hollywood's Long List of Male Scumbags
by Aawin Suebsaeng
“I wonder how he sleeps at night.”
That's what Barbara Bowman said about legendary comedian Bill Cosby during an interview on HuffPost Live last Friday. Bowman had just written an op-ed for The Washington Post detailing alleged sexual assaults by Cosby in the mid-1980s.
“[There was the time] in Atlantic City, which was the final incident, where he came straight out and attacked me in his suite and tried to rape me and tried to tear off my clothes and he was trying to tear off his belt buckle and his pants,” the 47-year-old actress recounted. “I was screaming and yelling and scratching and wrestling to get away from him, and at one point he just got angry and viciously mad and threw me out.”
Bowman is one of over a dozen women who has accused Cosby of sexual assault over the years. Cosby is frequently listed among the greatest comedians of all time. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from George W. Bush. And there is, of course, Cliff Huxtable and that string of delightful Jell-O commercials.
These accusations against the 77-year-old comic are not—for the most part—actually news, per se. They've been around for a long time, having been aired in several prominent news and entertainment outlets. “Basically nobody wanted to live in a world where Bill Cosby was a sexual predator,” Tom Scocca wrote at Gawker back in February. “It was too much to handle.”
The reason this has reentered the news cycle is because comedian Hannibal Buress called Cosby a rapist on-stage in October. That set off the renewed scrutiny and claims of assault.
Regardless of why this has emerged as big news yet again, it is extremely important that it has. The rich and powerful shouldn't be allowed to duck a tide of rape allegations, and that includes beloved, family-friendly household names. But Bill Cosby is far from the only famous man who has been accused of sexual assault, rape, or violence against women. And it's astounding how many of them have been gift-wrapped a free pass from an adoring public.
Mike Tyson is a convicted rapist, and he now stars as a loveable cartoon TV detective. Roman Polanski raped a 13-year-old and has since won an Oscar to a standing ovation. Sean Connery is the celebrated embodiment of rugged cool, who has openly championed beating women in order to keep 'em in line. Bill Murray has been accused by his ex-wife of repeated, brutal physical abuse. Rick James was arrested for torturing and sexually abusing a woman for three days straight, only to have his image rehabilitated by Dave Chappelle years later. John Lennon is one of the most worshipped artists who has ever drawn breath, and he has copped to battering the shit out of women.
Also, who could forget Michael Jackson, R. Kelly, CeeLo Green, Julian Assange, Terry Richardson, Tupac Shakur, Gary Glitter, Charlie Sheen, Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Nicolas Cage, and Chris Brown.
And then there's Woody Allen —the other world-famous funnyman who recently came under fire for alleged horrific abuse.
It's a sad reality that these men live in a world and thrive in a popular culture where too many of its patrons maintain a depressingly high threshold for indefensibility. One tragedy of the Cosby affair is that it took so damn long for these easily Google-able allegations to resurface in any meaningful way. Many were just eager to forget, absolve, or overlook serious accusations, simply because doing so would be hugely convenient.
Terrible crimes don't automatically negate an artist or celebrity's contribution to society—but rape, sex crimes, and brutalizing women are not hobbies that audiences should tolerate. It's the sort of behavior that is now unacceptable in virtually all other forms of business. Surely, Hollywood should not be exempt from such a standard.
Pennsylvania Officials In Porn Email Scandal Named By Attorney General
by Daniel Kelley
PHILADELPHIA, Sept 25 (Reuters) - Pennsylvania's attorney general on Thursday identified top state officials who received pornographic emails on government computers, reversing course after a long-running fight with reporters who sought the release of the information.
All of the officials named by Attorney General Kathleen Kane served under Governor Tom Corbett when he was attorney general and his successor, Linda Kelly.
The list includes two current officials in the Republican governor's administration: Frank Noonan, the commander of the Pennsylvania State Police, and E. Christopher Abruzzo, the state's top environmental official.
Citing an internal review, Kane's office had said it would not release the emails, which were passed between officials in the Attorney General's Office between 2008 and 2012. But it apparently reconsidered.
"Attorney General Kane believes it is in the public's best interest to have a good understanding of how its public servants conduct their business," Kane's communications director, Renee Martin, said in a statement.
The officials sent and received emails containing images of sex acts that were labeled with euphemistic titles such as "Chin Strap," "Cigar," and "Golf Ball Washer."
They also included satirical inspirational posters with titles such as "Devotion" and "Willingness" depicting females performing sex acts on their male bosses, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Kane stopped short of releasing the images themselves. Instead, the office allowed reporters who had made requests under the state's laws on open records to view them.
The emails remain a telling example of how the probe into former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky is still roiling state politics.
Kane, the first Democrat to hold the office, won election on the promise that she would investigate whether there was political interference in the Sandusky investigation.
The emails were recovered during that review, which found inexplicable delays in bringing a case, but no evidence of political interference.
Sandusky, convicted in 2012 of molesting 10 boys over a 15-year period, is serving a prison sentence of 30 to 60 years.
Corbett, who is up for reelection in November, came in 20 percentage points behind his Democratic challenger, businessman Tom Wolf, in the latest Franklin & Marshall College poll.
Some, but not all, of those identified by Kane had roles in the Sandusky case.
All told, 30 current employees of the Attorney General's Office received the emails. The office stopped short of identifying all state employees who received the emails, citing union rules and human resources laws.
Kane says porn e-mails contained images of children
by Angela Couloumbis and Craig R. McCoy
HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane made a new accusation Tuesday in the pornographic e-mail scandal, saying the sexually explicit messages exchanged by state officials and employees sometimes contained images involving children.
In an interview with CNN, Kane said she was being prevented from investigating the e-mail scandal because of court orders, which she declined to describe.
When asked to describe the pornographic images, Kane said, "When I saw them they literally took my breath away. And they are deplorable: hard-core, graphic, sometimes violent e-mails that had a string of videos and pictures depicting sometimes children, old women, some of them involved violent sexual acts against women."
It was the first time since the scandal exploded this fall that Kane had suggested any of the images might have included children. She did not elaborate and was not asked to in the interview.
Her newly hired spokesman, lawyer Lanny Davis, said he knew of two photos retrieved in Kane's internal investigation that he called "borderline" child pornography. "I wouldn't say over the line, but I would say very close," Davis said.
One depicts a boy and girl, in underwear, with the boy looking into the girl's underpants. The other shows a pair of younger clothed children, about 2 or 3, kissing, he said. Sources familiar with the e-mails obtained say the photos come from a set called "Men in Training."
The set includes a photo of a baby in a high chair with a beer in front of him or her. Another shows a baby in diapers standing on a chair to look at a computer image of a bikini-clad woman. The set has two photos of infants kissing.
A spokesman for the Corbett administration, which also reviewed some of the explicit e-mails, said Tuesday it was unaware of any that had photos of children. "This is new information to us," said Jay Pagni, Corbett's spokesman.
Hidden face of child sex abuse: Teens smuggled into army bases by soldiers and paramilitaries degrading the young in bar lock-ins
Sexual exploitation report lifts the lid on a disturbing world
by Deborah McAleese and Victoria O'Hara
Paramilitaries have been involved in the sexual exploitation of children across Northern Ireland, a major inquiry has found.
"Powerful and persuasive" evidence was received by the Marshall inquiry that paramilitaries with access to "alcohol, drugs, guns and violence" have been sexually abusing children and young people, but many victims and parents are too afraid to report it to police.
Up to 145 children in Northern Ireland have been identified by the inquiry as being at current risk of sexual exploitation. However the inquiry, which was led by Professor Kathleen Marshall, a former commissioner for children and young people in Scotland, warned that the number could be much higher.
Child sexual exploitation can range from the planned or systematic exploitation of young people, to worrying relationships between people under 16 and older adults.
While the inquiry report did not find the type of organised exploitation seen in Rotherham and Rochdale, it did find that many children and young people were at risk, particularly from paramilitaries.
Witnesses told the inquiry team that sexual exploitation had been occurring in bars and clubs "dominated by members of paramilitary groups" where there were lock-ins after hours.
The inquiry heard that "young girls would get a 'tap on the shoulder' to stay behind and may then get shared around".
Victims feared threats to their families if they did not give in to the abuse and parents may resist reporting the crimes to police out of fear, the inquiry found.
Some witnesses who spoke to the inquiry accused the PSNI of being reluctant to get involved. The PSNI rejected that allegation and told the inquiry that "nobody is above the law".
The probe also found recent cases where young girls had been sexually exploited by soldiers at two Northern Ireland army barracks.
Two incidents at the unnamed barracks, during which girls were smuggled in and "sexual activity had taken place", were confirmed by the Ministry of Defence.
Investigations were launched by the PSNI, MoD, and Health and Social Care Trusts and resulted in disciplinary procedures in relation to some army personnel and increased security at the barracks.
The inquiry report warned that child sexual exploitation "must be regarded as a significant and growing threat to the welfare of children and young people".
One of the main scenarios where children can find themselves vulnerable is the "party house", where parties are sometimes attended or organised by adults "who coalesce around vulnerable children".
Drugs and alcohol may be provided free but young people are later expected to pay for them with sex.
The majority of victims were living in residential care, but children living in their own family homes were also on the PSNI's radar, the inquiry found.
It made a number of recommendations involving social services, the PSNI and the Department of Health.
Often young people do not see themselves as victims in these cases and may come from difficult backgrounds where they do not have a close adult figure to look after them, Prof Marshall said.
In one case the inquiry learned of a girl advertising for a lift on social media in exchange for a sex act.
Children as young as nine or 10 have viewed pornography - and some have tried to act it out.
Mairia Cahill, who claims she was raped by an IRA man, expressed her disgust at the treatment of victims detailed in the report.
"These are the hidden victims of the conflict," she said. "They have not, until now, had proper recognition. Their experiences were left invalidated and at the bottom of the pile when it came to assessing the full picture or getting to the truth."
PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said the force had appointed a Detective Chief Superintendent and five Detective Chief Inspectors to ensure better oversight co-ordination and investigation of all forms of child abuse and domestic violence.
He said: "We recognise the critical need for joined-up working, timely sharing of information and collective action to protect victims of abuse and address this issue. The welfare of the victims is absolutely paramount and the police response to the issue of child sexual exploitation will always be victim-centred, dealing with them sensitively and appropriately."
Concerns and recommendations... eight key issues identified by the inquiry team
Scale of abuse
Between 100 and 145 children are currently identified as at “significant risk” of sexual exploitation in Northern Ireland. However, it's admitted that this is probably just the “tip of the iceberg” and the actual number seriously at risk is likely to be much higher. Child sexual exploitation “must be regarded as a significant and growing threat to the welfare of children and young people”, the inquiry report warns.
In reports of paramilitary involvement in the exploitation of young people, the inquiry was told about bars dominated by members of paramilitary groups, where there were lock-ins after hours and sexual exploitation took place. “The individuals were described as people to whom you cannot say no. They regard themselves as beyond the law and, to the affected communities, it appears that they are.”
In two separate incidents, at two unnamed army barracks, girls were recently smuggled in for sex. Investigations launched by the Ministry of Defence, PSNI and health trusts resulted in disciplinary procedures in relation to some Army personnel and tightened security at the barracks to prevent further unauthorised entry. The MoD told the inquiry they take allegations of this nature “extremely seriously and work closely with the PSNI to ensure the allegations are dealt with thoroughly and as promptly as possible.”
The inquiry team encountered “dismissive attitudes amongst some individual police officers who had possibly received no training on the subject” of child sexual exploitation, “although others took it very seriously.” Interviews with individual police officers indicated “a patchy approach to the collection and analysis of information and intelligence.” Resource issues with forensic examinations meant there was a “significant backlog of exhibits requiring forensic examination in relation to indecent images of children, with some taking over a year from submission.”
There has been a “long-standing concern about the low rates of reporting, prosecution and conviction in relation to sexual offences,” the report found. The current conviction rate is approximately 10%. One barrier, it suggested, might be “a lack of trust in the justice system to treat a victim fairly”. One parent told the inquiry that their daughter, who was a victim of child sexual exploitation, dropped allegations of rape because she was made to feel like a criminal. The case proceeded on the grounds of grooming, but the court case was cancelled five times.
One foster carer described an incident which aroused her suspicions when her foster child was dropped off one night by a group of men in a car. The carer went out to the car and asked the men questions about what had been going on. She believed that it was possibly due to this intervention that the men did not come back for the child. But some carers dealing with serious cases of child sexual exploitation believed they had not received adequate training or guidance, and experienced varying levels of support.
Training to stop abuse
General awareness raising is important, the inquiry team said. Ambulance drivers, taxi drivers, hoteliers and those running fast food outlets and leisure facilities all need to be alert to the signs that a child is being exploited. Hairdressers have also been mentioned as people who have received relevant information. They must have clear pathways for reporting concerns and appropriate feedback to give them the confidence to carry on reporting. At one appointment to discuss a pregnancy, a female health worker said she became suspicious after a male partner did all of the talking. She was unable to talk to the woman alone and now believes there may have been sexual exploitation.
Most pupils said child sexual exploitation was not explicitly discussed at school, although human trafficking and sexting were. A parent reported: “The male teacher appears embarrassed by some topics and the girls don't respect him. My daughter tells me she ‘knows it all already' (she doesn't) so doesn't listen. I think dedicated teachers would be better able to get the necessary messages across.”
Adrian Peterson suspended without pay for at least the remainder of this NFL season after he was spared jail in child abuse case
by Lydia Warren
Minnesota Vikings' star running back Adrian Peterson has been suspended without pay for at least the remainder of 2014 season after he was spared jail for hitting his son, the NFL said today.
Peterson, 29, has 'shown no meaningful remorse' for his conduct, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement released on Tuesday.
He will not be considered for reinstatement before April 15 for violating the NFL Personal Conduct Policy in an 'incident of abusive discipline that he inflicted on his four-year-old son'.
The league said in its statement that Peterson is allowed to appeal its decision in writing within three days and if he does, he will continue to be paid pending a decision.
The NFL Players Association swiftly announced on Tuesday that it does plan to appeal the decision and will demand a neutral party to hear the appeal.
The announcement comes two weeks after Peterson pleaded no contest to misdemeanor reckless assault - down from a felony charge of child abuse - for disciplining his son with a wooden switch.
The child, who has not been named, was left with cuts, marks and bruising to his thighs, back and one of his testicles, according to court records, and backlash from the public was strong.
In his letter to Peterson, Goodell said he had reached his decision because the victim was just four and significantly smaller than the professional athlete.
'While an adult may have a number of options when confronted with abuse – to flee, to fight back, or to seek help from law enforcement – none of those options is realistically available to a four-year old child,' Goodell wrote.
He added that the wooden switch was essentially a weapon he had used against the boy.
Goodell also expressed his concern that the player had shown no awareness of the harm he had caused, and had repeatedly stood up for his actions.
'We are prepared to put in place a program that can help you to succeed, but no program can succeed without your genuine and continuing engagement,' he said.
'You must commit yourself to your counseling and rehabilitative effort, properly care for your children, and have no further violations of law or league policy.'
After the court's decision on November 4, Peterson received two years of probation, plus a $4,000 fine and requirement to complete parenting classes and 80 hours of community service.
'I'm just glad this is over,' Peterson said after the plea deal was announced in Texas. 'I can put this behind me, and me and my family can move forward.'
Peterson's attorney, Rusty Hardin, added: 'Adrian wants to get on with his life and have his relationship with his son and get back to playing football,' said after the plea agreement was reached.
Earlier this month, the NFL informed Peterson that he would remain on paid leave from the Vikings until they concluded their review of his case under their personal conduct policy.
His weekly in-season salary came to more than $690,000.
Tuesday's decision came after Goodell was criticized for his initial leniency after Baltimore's Ray Rice knocked out his now-wife in an elevator, in a harrowing incident that was caught on camera.
Weeks after handing Rice a two-game suspension, Goodell announced in August he was toughening the league's policy on domestic violence that now calls for a six-game suspension without pay for a first domestic violence offense.
The league boss was under intense scrutiny for how he handled punishment for Peterson.
But it hadn't been clear how the league would deal with Peterson because he had maintained he intended no harm in seeking to discipline his son the way he was as a child growing up in Texas.
His plea was not an admission of guilt, and the felony was reduced to a misdemeanor.
After the accusations initially emerged, a major Vikings sponsor suspended its partnership, while other corporations expressed concerns to the team and the league, and Peterson was dropped as an endorser of several brands.
The Vikings have been quiet since Peterson's plea agreement, stating only that they will speak about his situation 'at the appropriate time'.
Andy Bhatti helping the homeless at hockey tournament
by Monique Tamminga
Langley resident Andy Bhatti is lacing up his skates and joining Canucks favourites like Kirk McLean and Greg Adams in Hockey Helps the Homeless Tournament in Vancouver to help raise money for homeless shelters for youth and adults on Nov. 28.
Bhatti, an advocate for survivors of child sexual abuse has raised around $40,000 for his cause over the past couple years doing poker tournaments and cycling 700 km in B.C. last summer.
But helping the homeless is important to him too, because he lived on the streets of Aldergrove and the Downtown Eastside as a teenager and knows all too well the difference shelters can make.
“No one grows up wanting to be homeless,” said Bhatti.
Many of the male homeless population in Vancouver are made up of survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Bhatti lived in and out of addiction to heroin for 12 years, hiding his pain of being abused.
“When I was a kid I dreamed of being a hockey player,” said Bhatti.
“The people that worked at the shelter were so nice and caring and didn't judge me,” said Bhatti. “Three years later I changed my life. I'm now eight years clean off drugs but I will never forget the people in the homeless shelter for calling the ambulance that day and help ing to save my life.”
Bhatti will be joined on the ice with Canuck favourites Kirk McLean, Dave Babych, Jyrki Lumme, Geoff Courtnall and Alex Auld, among many others, when they play at UBC.
Last year's tournament raised more than $346,000 in gross revenue.
Among those shelters supported are the Covenant House for youth and Rain City Housing.
A full-blown heroin addict by the age of 14, Bhatti was self medicating his pain after being sexually abused by his Big Brother, starting at the age of nine until 13.
His abuser, who volunteered as a Big Brother through Langley Big Brothers and Sisters at the time, was convicted of sexually abusing two boys in Kamloops.
Bhatti is creating his own charity for victims of childhood sexual abuse Called Survivors Supporting Survivors.
“Our goal is to carry the message to any survivor that there is hope and we can recover from any form of abuse, addiction or sexual abuse.”
To sponsor him for the hockey tournament online, go to hockeyhelpshomeless.com and go to Andy Bhatti sponsor page. If you would like to write a cheque to Hockey Helps the Homeless, he can be reached at 778-829-4357. He has already raised $700 for the cause.
Our View: Don't ignore ills of child pornography
Child pornography is one of the most heinous of all crimes, and technology has only made it more prevalent and easier to spread.
As one expert told Andrew Carr for his series of stories in Sunday's Sentinel, ever-increasing Internet speeds allow the dissemination of these materials more quickly than ever.
The rising number of arrests in Pennsylvania by the Child Predator Unit of the Attorney General's Office can be viewed two ways. Either more predators are being caught, or the crimes are growing in nature.
We fear the answer is the latter.
In 2013, the unit made 114 arrests, and the unit is on track to break 150 arrests this year. Before the unit was formed, the AG's office made only about 20 arrests a year.
More focus on the crime means more arrests.
But the news isn't necessarily good. Ryan Parthemore, detective with the district attorney's office's computer forensic unit, told The Sentinel that “we are only getting a small percentage of these individuals.”
Much as it is with victims of various crimes, there is no one type of person who is likely to be a child predator. They are from across the board, including those in high-ranking positions in the military, teachers and others with access to children.
It's a crime that devastates a lifetime.
“Every time these videos are viewed or distributed or made ... that child or children in those videos are victimized over and over and over again,” said Gordon Goodrow, supervisory special agent with the Child Predator Unit.
According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, adult victims of child sexual abuse often feel low self-esteem or self-hatred; depression; and guilt, shame and blame.
There can be a continuing lack of trust, because survivors were betrayed by the very people they are dependent upon.
As parents, be aware with whom your children are interacting, especially on electronic devices.
While the crime is despicable, we can't close our eyes to the fact that it happens. The opposite is true.
We must remain vigilant and protect the young people in our society.
First in a series
Littlest victims: Kate Belus didn't run from the beatings
Prevalence of child abuse in Lubbock County has consistently been about twice the state's average
by Sarah Rafique
Kate Belus didn't run from the beatings that lasted until the wooden dowels broke.
She didn't run for food so she could finally eat for the day.
She didn't run toward help.
She was simply running — for hours — in circles outside her two-story home in Round Rock because she was scared of what would happen if she didn't.
“We had a figure-8 track in the backyard between two big trees and we had a triangular track in the front yard between three trees,” said Belus, 31, who now lives in Lubbock after graduating from Texas Tech. “We literally would run around them for hours on end; that's hard after you just took a beating to your feet.”
Belus, who was homeschooled and spent all day with her parents, didn't complain about the punishments, which sometimes led to broken toes hidden beneath her shoes and invisible to strangers.
She never talked back.
“I tried to do it as fast as I could, as right as I could the first time,” Belus said. “Whatever it was they asked, I tried to do it.”
Lubbock rates double state average
The prevalence of child abuse in Lubbock County has consistently been about twice the state's average for at least 10 years, according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
The state agency completed 2,426 child abuse and neglect investigations in Lubbock County last year. Those investigations resulted in 1,354 confirmed victims of child abuse or neglect — between three and four new victims daily.
“I've heard people in the community say the reason ours is high is because we have a high rate of reporting. We don't have a high rate of reporting. ... Texas doesn't have a good process of reporting,” said Carla Olson, executive director of the Parenting Cottage in Lubbock. “When you try to report it online, that's not the quickest system and when you try to call in, if you're not very, very, very patient, you'll hang up and forget about it.”
Last year, three Lubbock County children never got the benefit of an investigation; they died of child abuse and neglect before it was ever reported.
Factors that could contribute to the high rate of child abuse in Lubbock County include a teen pregnancy rate that exceeds the state average, children growing up in poverty, and lack of funding for prevention programs, Olson said.
“By far, one of the biggest driving forces is poverty. We have one in four children living in poverty, and poverty is an extremely high-risk factor for child abuse and neglect,” Olson said. “The poverty in and of itself creates that; (parents) can't provide for the child, which turns them into a CPS case.”
Signs of physical abuse include a child who may have frequent injuries and bruises or cuts and burns in unusual places, Olson said.
Children who flinch could be suffering from internal injuries, while a child who lacks reaction to pain, such as hitting or kicking, could have become immune to abuse.
“They'll go totally the other way and be passive or withdrawn emotionally (and) hide under a chair or under a table,” Olson said. “They're looking for a safe place.”
Emotional abuse, such as belittling, lack of affection and being locked in a closet, are harder to detect unless a person witnesses it, Olson said. Neglect is also difficult to detect, but some signs include malnutrition, stealing food or an unkempt child who hasn't bathed in a few days.
And, since certain parts of a child's body aren't seen in the normal course of a day, Olson said sexual abuse may be the most difficult to detect. But, there are some warning signs.
“If you see a young child that comes up to you and they're holding their private areas and they're saying it hurts, then that's obviously something that you'd want to look at,” Olson said. “Or if you see a child that displays sexual behavior that's way beyond what a 2-year-old or a 3-year-old should be doing, those are signs.”
Enduring physical, mental abuse
Belus' adopted brother slept on a mattress in their parents' closet.
He usually got the brunt of the physical abuse, followed by their adopted sister.
“They called them spankings but they weren't. Those dowel rods that you get from the hardware store, they would cut those in half and that's what they'd hit us with, until they would break,” Belus said. “They told (my adopted brother) that he had a demon inside of him. They had to get it out and they would literally try to beat it out of him.”
She said her parents also refused to believe her adopted sister had epilepsy and in addition to trying to “beat the demon” out of her, they didn't give her medicine to treat the disorder.
Now, she will never leave state care.
She suffered from too much brain damage caused by the lack of medical care. The broken bones from the physical abuse make it hard to function.
When she wasn't subjected to physical abuse and neglect, Belus said emotional abuse also left her broken with no self-esteem.
“(They said) that I was never going to be anybody. I would never get married. I'd never go to college. I'd never have a career. I'd never have kids,” Belus said. “That my entire job in life was to take care of my biological mom and siblings and that's it. That's all I was supposed to do. That's my goal, is to prove them wrong.”
Belus doesn't remember much of her childhood before her parents, Christine and Richard Dodson, adopted two of her four siblings.
“I personally think that it was (so) bad and I just don't want to know,” she said.
What has been scarred in her memory, though, is the abuse the five children suffered together.
By the time she was 9 years old, Belus said she played a motherly role, getting up at 6 a.m. to do her school work and chores before waking her siblings up and helping them with theirs.
“If they did something wrong, I got in trouble because I was the oldest and I was supposed to be keeping tabs on them,” Belus said. “It was my responsibility to do basically everything but pay the bills. I kept the house clean. I fed them when we were allowed to eat. ... It just wasn't a normal family by any means. It's taken me a long time to kind of see what a real family is supposed to be like.”
Belus and her half-siblings always got at least one meal a day. There were days, however, that her adopted siblings weren't allowed to eat at all.
When they did, it was dry cereal for breakfast and bologna or peanut butter sandwiches for lunch or dinner.
Meals were always timed and seldom did they get three meals a day.
As the malnourished children scarfed down their food, Belus said her parents — and even their dog — feasted on lavish meals.
“I remember always wondering why the dog got treated better than I did,” she said. “He got fed every day and he got love, he got hugs.”
There were moments when the abuse ceased in the two-story, suburban home.
Child Protective Services knocked on the door of their four-bedroom, 2½-bath stone house to conduct sporadic investigations of the adopted children, who often suffered broken bones.
Each time, things were different.
“All of a sudden we would have food in the fridge,” Belus said. “We'd start doing things as a family. We'd go to Fredericksburg, or we'd go to Sea World or we would do things that we didn't do normally. ... The times I remember going out were in correlation with someone visiting, like a relative visiting, which didn't happen very often, or CPS was investigating.”
The investigators asked Belus and her siblings questions.
It wasn't often that the homeschooled children had an outlet to speak up about their abuse.
When they did, they were terrified.
“I told everybody that everything was fine and that there's nothing to worry about,” Belus said. “That they're good parents.”
The investigators believed them and drove away.
Littlest victims: Kate Belus still feels pain of neglect decades after abuse by parents
Belus says transition difficult for victims
by Sarah Rafique
Christine Dodson shook her daughter awake.
She told the 11-year-old she had to watch the other kids.
Her youngest brother was not breathing.
“I came downstairs (and) in the foyer on the ground, my step-dad was doing CPR on him and didn't wait for an ambulance,” said Kate Belus, 31, who now lives in Lubbock. “They packed up and went straight to the hospital.”
A combination of trying to “beat the demon” out of him and lack of nourishment led to gangrene and, after several attempts of resuscitation, Belus' adopted brother fell into a coma. While at Brackenridge Children's Hospital in Austin, doctors conducted skin grafts to help his skin repair. They waited for the 5-year-old boy to wake.
It took several months.
Belus' mom and step-dad, Richard Dodson, were tried in 1996 for the abuse they caused him. They were never charged for the abuse Belus said she and her other siblings endured.
The Dodsons are serving 45-year sentences each.
Investigating child abuse
CPS investigations were common during the nearly 12 years Belus spent in the Dodson's suburban home in Round Rock.
At one point, Belus' adopted sister was removed from her parents' care for six weeks after breaking her arms and legs multiple times.
“They put her back and they said the investigation was fine,” Belus said.
A year later, CPS investigators would learn things were not fine.
As the investigation progressed, her parents continued their routine of hiding the abuse.
A few months into it, though, Belus said her life was turned even more upside-down than what it already was.
“My brother was in the home when they came and arrested my biological mom and my step-dad and me and my sister were out with friends of the family,” she said.
“When we came back, it was scary. It was so scary because I come back and they were driving up and down my street and there are cop cars and other cars and just people all over.”
Homeschooled and sheltered from the outside world, Belus didn't know what was going on. She didn't know it was even a possibility for police to arrest her parents.
“My two adopted siblings had already been removed from the home and my adopted brother was in Brackenridge hospital and had been for a few months,” Belus said. “It was just us three (other kids) that were left in the home. We were there for about two months before they removed us.”
Child Protective Services can only start investigating allegations of physical, mental, sexual and other types of child abuse if a report has been filed with the state, said Crystal Cash, an investigator with CPS in Lubbock County.
During surprise visits, Cash said, investigators determine if the child's basic needs are being met as far as food, clothing and shelter. She also looks at family history, if there's any drug paraphernalia in the home and if the children have unusual physical trauma or are making outcries.
“We make unannounced visits, so usually the family doesn't know that we're even coming when we make our first initial contact,” Cash said. “That's always the ideal situation that we can make contact without them knowing that we're coming. Unfortunately it doesn't happen like that all the time, so we rely on what the child is saying.”
During CPS visits to Belus' home, though, she was too scared to speak.
Child victims' testimony
While CPS has different goals than a prosecutor in a child abuse case, Lubbock County prosecutor Barron Slack said the two can work in tandem to make sure children are out of harm's way.
“CPS has different standards and different goals. They're all about getting the kid,” Slack said. “We're about prosecuting the offender.”
In order to prosecute a case, Slack said there needs to be probable cause, which often includes enough evidence to go to court.
Once in court, Slack said, the law applies just as it would in any other case. The defendant can exercise a right to a jury trial or take a plea deal.
“(If) he won't take a guilty plea, we're going to go to trial and I have to call the victim,” Slack said. “The victim has to testify and be cross-examined. There's really no way to avoid it, even on little kids.”
The Dodsons were offered a deal to not be tried on child abuse charges for their other children if they pleaded guilty to abusing Belus' adopted brother. They took the deal.
But, not before Belus had to testify.
The prosecution didn't ask her any questions. The defense asked three.
“Do you love your mom and dad?”
“Yes,” she said.
“Do you think your mom and dad are good parents?”
“Do you want to go back home and live with your mom and dad?”
Looking back, Belus said she's angry about her simple one-word responses.
“I was so scared. I was scared that if I said anything different and they got off — I didn't' know what else to say,” Belus said. “At the time, I think I loved them, you know. I didn't really know a whole lot differently. At the time I think I thought to a degree they were good parents. But as far as did I want to go back? No. I didn't want to go back.”
Life after abuse
As the trial continued Belus slowly learned what it meant to be a child after moving in with her aunt, including watching her first Disney movie and playing with toys.
“I had maybe been there a few weeks and she asked me if I wanted a Popsicle and I said, ‘Yes,'” Belus recalled. “Then she asked me one of the strangest questions I had ever heard up until that point. She asked me what color I wanted. I didn't know. I didn't know I had a choice. I was never given a simple choice like that.”
Belus only stayed with her aunt for four months before entering foster care, but while there she experienced her first Thanksgiving and Christmas filled with lighthearted fun and laughter instead of sitting down in a controlled manner and opening gifts that she would never play with.
“Seeing their day-to-day made me feel weird because I didn't really understand it. I liked it, but I didn't understand it,” Belus said. “It was different. It was a good different.”
Belus moved at least five times her sixth-grade year. But, when she arrived at her last foster parent's place, she finally felt like a person again.
“They did a lot — especially in those first few years that I was in foster care — about my self-esteem and showing that I was worth something, that I had a purpose,” Belus said. “They stayed up with me nights when I couldn't do anything but cry all night long. They were there when I needed them and they are very much appreciated for that.”
Reliving the pain
Belus spent her first year with her foster parents convincing them she was OK. Her half-siblings did the same.
“I was terrified,” Belus said. “I was scared (Christine and Richard Dodson) were going to get us back.”
But after going to trial and losing all rights to their five children, Belus finally broke her silence.
She encouraged her half-siblings to do the same.
“I feel like that's kind of how it happened,” Belus said. “They weren't saying anything until I said something and as soon as I broke, as soon as I told them I had told. I said, ‘It's OK' and they started.”
Belus said the conversation was heartbreaking.
“It was hard going back a year and remembering all those things that had happened and had taken place,” she said said. “I felt betrayed, not by them obviously but by my birth mom and step-dad. With my brother and sister, it was just sorrow, just a heavy, heavy heart. Just wanting to comfort them and being able to actually be there to comfort them.
“My sister just kept saying that she just wants to go home, that she just wants us to be a family again, and I kept telling her that that wasn't going to happen, that's not the right choice, we are home now.”
Even though she was at her new home, Belus didn't want to be adopted when she entered foster care exactly two weeks before her 12th birthday.
“I was going through so much that I couldn't even think of myself calling somebody else mom and dad,” Belus said. “Then I met (my foster parents) and I lived with them and I bonded with them and I started calling them mom and dad. They started calling me daughter.”
Eventually, her foster parents asked her if she'd ever want to be adopted.
She said yes, but only by them. So, her foster parents entertained the idea of adopting her, but eventually changed their minds.
“It's one thing to be born into a family and it's one thing to say that you've been chosen to be accepted into this family, and to be told that you're accepted into this family by choice, and then have that not come about,” Belus said. “That's hard. That's a conscious decision.”
Even though Belus escaped the physical and mental abuse, she felt abandoned all over again.
“I'm still trying to get over it because it feels like two sets of parents pretty much walked out, and that hurts,” Belus said. “It makes me feel like I'm not worth a whole lot if two sets of parents don't want me. It was very hurtful.”
Waiting for closure
As Belus adjusted to life after abuse, the Dodsons wrote her letters from jail. Belus' aunt held onto the letters until she turned 18 and, for a long time, she didn't want to know what was in them.
A few years later when her abusive parents tracked her down from prison, letters started arriving at her foster parents' home. They were begging her foster parents to make her visit them in prison.
She didn't visit them, but she relented and read the letters. And with each one, her anger grew.
They proclaimed their innocence.
They said they loved her, that they'll always be a family. Her mom told Belus she's only on this planet because of her, so she owes her a visit.
Belus didn't want to hear any of that. What she wanted was an apology for trauma she endured at their hands.
“I wanted them to show some remorse, and it's just not there,” Belus said.
She's written them back twice, telling them to leave her alone, but they still manage to track her down.
“They continually every single month write (me) a letter claiming that they're innocent and that I've been brainwashed by the state,” Belus said. “It just makes me mad. They make it seem like being 11 almost 12 years old, that I really didn't know anything and that I was stupid. That what I saw didn't really happen and what I felt didn't really happen.”
Taking a stand: Community involvement needed to alleviate child abuse
'Screaming from the rooftops:' child abuse a problem requiring community action, experts and victims say
by Sarah Rafique
Nearly 12 years of beatings, malnutrition and mistreatment didn't end until Kate Belus' adopted brother was lying in a coma in the hospital and Child Protective Services stepped in.
Now, Belus wonders if it could have been prevented if her neighbors had just spoken up.
“There wasn't ever an outlet (for me) to see that what was happening was wrong,” said Belus, 31, who now lives in Lubbock after graduating from Texas Tech. “I didn't understand why nobody had said anything earlier.
“Once the trial happened a whole bunch of people stepped up and said, ‘Yeah, we thought something was wrong but we didn't really say anything.' So that's hard. They could have stopped it earlier.”
Eventually, Belus' parents, Christine and Richard Dodson, were sentenced to 45 years in prison for injury to a child.
Statewide, parents were the abusers in 78 percent of the confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect last year, according to the Department of Family and Protective Services.
Carla Olson, executive director of the Parenting Cottage, said it is important to listen to potentially abused children and for parents and guardians to not be afraid to talk to children about abuse.
With between three and four new victims daily, she said it's important for residents to take action and call investigators if they suspect abuse.
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services completed 2,426 child abuse and neglect investigations in Lubbock County last year. Those investigations resulted in 1,354 confirmed victims of child abuse or neglect.
“If there were four children per day, 120 children a month being injured by a faulty football helmet or a bicycle or tricycle that the wheels fell off of, you don't think that somebody would be screaming from the rooftops,” Olson said. “The only difference between that and this is (it would be) more visible and it (would) affect kids that may have parents that would do something about it. These kids don't have a voice because the highest perpetrator in most of the cases … (is) the parent, so who is going to speak up for that child?”
Whenever Rheanna Archer was touched, she confided in a journal. By the time the sexual abuse stopped, the journal had six years' worth of entries.
A child unaware of the sexual abuse she was going through, Archer didn't know what else to do.
And it wasn't until Archer's mother discovered the journal that the abuse stopped.
“I was 12 when my mom finally found out … (and I thought) well part of it must be my fault because at some point my parents did finally talk to me about what's appropriate and what's inappropriate and I still didn't tell them,” said Archer, 27, of Lubbock. “I was mad at her at first for snooping but at the same time it was kind of a relief that somebody finally knew so it would finally stop.”
Archer encourages parents to not be afraid to talk to their children about sex and sexual abuse in an age appropriate manner. And, she said, it's also important for caretakers to make sure children feel safe talking to them about abuse.
“I feel like it needs to be discussed as early as possible because generally the abuse has already started happening before a parent talks to their children about sexual abuse,” Archer said. “I feel that was the same with my parents. I feel like I knew it was wrong, but at the same time I didn't know what to do about it.”
And, whenever a child is brave enough to ask for help, Olson said it's important to believe the child, because if they are rejected, they likely won't ask for help again. It's also important to be objective, she said.
“(Don't express) an opinion about the parent, like, ‘Oh, I can't believe your dad did that,' Just keep the focus on the child,” Olson said. “A lot of times that child … will say I'm going to tell you this but only if you don't tell. You can't make that promise to the child, but you can say to them, ‘I know this is really hard for you to come forward and tell me this but thank you for trusting me. What I can tell you is we're going to get you some help on this.'”
Belus was scared to speak up.
“I completely understand where it's scary and I completely understand about going back into that home," she said. "It scared me for a really long time. It is hard to talk about but it is something that people need to know.”
She isn't alone. That's why people who think a child may be suffering from mental, physical or sexual abuse should call the CPS hotline or law enforcement if the child may be in immediate danger, Olson said.
“It is better safe than sorry,” she said. “If you feel that something is happening to a child, I mean, these are kids and our job is to protect them, not only as CPS, but as a society as a whole. I think that we should be looking out for what's best for them because sometimes they don't always feel like it's safe for them to talk. They don't know what the retribution is going to be for saying, ‘Yeah this happens.'”
In Lubbock County, it happens at twice the rate of the rest of the state with 18.9 cases of abuse per 1,000 residents.
Lubbock County prosecutor Barron Slack said that's why it's even more important for the community to get involved in reporting abuse.
“The kid doesn't have anywhere to turn when their guardian or parents or caregivers are neglectful or are the perpetrator,” Slack said. “It's really important for people in the community to be kind of on the lookout for those things. … It's not something that's so hush-hush in society and I see a lot of evidence and a lot of things being dealt with sooner, now we have a lot of conscientious teachers, who they're not shy about calling the police or CPS if they need to.”
When reporting abuse, Olson said it's important to have as much information as possible.
That includes the child's name, age and address or place of employment for the child's caregiver as well as a detailed description of the abuse that was observed.
“They're going to make the decision. You don't have to so if you're not sure, call them,” Olson said. “Give them as much information that you can give them and they'll make a determination whether it needs an investigation or whether it needs to go past the investigation stages.”
CPS investigators and caseworkers only see things through windows of time.
Although CPS tries to detect abuse and remove children from dangerous situations, Paul Zimmerman, a Department of Family and Protective Services spokesman, said preventing child abuse is a responsibility shared among everyone in a community.
“We don't have a crystal ball that sees everything at every moment,” Zimmerman said. “You see snapshots, like ‘OK, everything looks good, they're saying everything's all right.'”
Although CPS workers plan to conduct sporadic investigations, sometimes the family they're visiting is able to prepare and hide the abuse.
In addition to visiting the home and speaking with the child and parents, Lubbock County Child Protective Services investigator Crystal Cash said she also asks for references from parents, including teachers, doctors, neighbors, friends and anyone else who has contact with the child or may have been to the home.
When talking with those sources, Cash said, it's important for people to speak up if they're concerned.
Often times, Zimmerman said, he sees cases where neighbors, relatives or others close to an abused child could have helped in situations where children and their abusers hid the truth from CPS.
“We've had cases in the past where (the CPS worker) has a gut feeling something wasn't right, but we have to have reason to believe. It has to be observable or verbal evidence and if a child is not speaking up and there are no visible signs of anything going on, you have to rule it out,” Zimmerman said. “It has to be based on evidence and on facts and that's tough.”
It's been nearly 20 years since Belus escaped a life of abuse, without the help of neighbors or family friends.
She still has flashbacks of being locked inside a closet. She has nightmares of coming home and seeing her abusive parents standing outside waiting for her.
She's sometimes afraid to become a parent because she knows her mom's blood runs through her.
But, she has her own mind and surrounds herself with positive people.
She's determined to prove her parents wrong.
“I want everything that I was told day in and day out that I would never have. ... I want to be a productive member of society. I want to break the cycle. I feel almost like it happened in a different lifetime in a way because it's two separate lives; everything is night and day,” Belus said. “Not just my story, but the story of child abuse does definitely need to be told ... There are too many kids that go through something or end up passing away and it's not fair. They deserve a chance.”
To report child abuse by phone, call the Texas Abuse Hotline at 1 (800) 252-5400. The toll-free hotline is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Reports can also be filed online. For more information, go to www.dfps.state.tx.us/Contact_Us/report_abuse.asp
The online and telephone hotlines should only be used in a situation where a child does not face immediate risk of abuse or neglect that could result in death or serious harm.
Call the Lubbock Police Department's non-emergency line at 775-2865 or 911 if you think a child is in immediate danger.
Organised child sex abuse 'widespread in England', MPs say
Organised child sex abuse is widespread in England, a report by MPs on the Rotherham exploitation scandal says.
A review of child protection systems across the country has been called for by the Commons' Communities and Local Government Committee.
Its report also said Rotherham Council and Ofsted had "failed" the victims targeted in the town.
It suggested the council's protection policies were "divorced from reality", enabling the abuse to continue.
MPs said all councils across England now needed to review child protection policies.
Their report said: "On the evidence we took, the alarming conclusion is that Rotherham was not an outlier and that there is a widespread problem of organised child sexual exploitation in England."
The MPs inquiry was prompted by a report by Prof Alexis Jay, which revealed up to 1,400 children were estimated to have been victims of abuse in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013.
Ofsted, which carried out a series of inspections during the period, said it had introduced a "more rigorous inspection framework".
In the immediate wake of the report, published on 26 August, the council's then leader Roger Stone stood down.
South Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright, who was in charge of children's services in Rotherham from 2005 to 2010, resisted calls to quit until he too resigned on 16 September.
Joyce Thacker, head of children's services when the report was published, then stood down on 19 September.
The MPs' report investigates the lessons for local government that have been recommended in the wake of Prof Jay's investigation.
Labour MP Clive Betts, chairman of the committee, said Ofsted would be called before the MPs to answer "serious questions" about its inspections.
"Repeated Ofsted inspections in Rotherham failed to lift the lid on the council's shameful inability to tackle child sexual exploitation," said Mr Betts.
The MPs also criticised the town's councillors for their lack of effective scrutiny and challenging of council officers.
The report said the authority had many child protection policies but they were "divorced from reality".
The parliamentary committee called for an investigation into missing files at the council and said council officials "should be held accountable for their actions."
"Arrangements should be put in place to bring to account not just council officers still in post but those who have moved on from an authority before serious questions about their performance emerge, " said Mr Betts.
In a statement, Ofsted said it welcomed "the opportunity to give evidence to the committee".
"In common with a number of organisations, we accept that past inspections may not have given child sexual exploitation the forensic focus it needed and deserved," it said.
Rotherham Council leader Paul Lakin has welcomed the report and said an internal inquiry into the missing files had begun but the council planned to bring in an external audit team to complete the task.
He said: "Our ways of doing business are now more open and transparent and accountable than before.
"We are putting in place a new, high quality management and leadership team with the ability and capacity to secure real improvement.
"We have opened up our full council and cabinet meetings with webcasting, and backbench councillors are bringing forward plans to increase public participation in meetings.
"We will be looking again to ensure that our scrutiny function - which also now has new political leadership - is as effective as possible."
Mother accused of abusing baby boy while at Children's Hospital
by Nick Bohr
MILWAUKEE —A mother is accused of a startling case of child abuse at a place one might least expect it -- the safety of a hospital room at Children's Hospital
Sheriff's deputies were called to the hospital Friday for a 14-month-old boy with bleeding ears and a ruptured eardrum that couldn't be explained. Hospital staff suspected it was abuse.
When a detective looked at video footage of the boy with his mom in the hospital room, it all made sense.
The staff at Children's Hospital are trained to recognize signs of abuse, and sadly, they've seen their share, but this case of abuse is believed to have happened at the hospital.
Deputies arrived Friday after 26-year-old Jenna Schumacher took her son there for an injury to his ear, and while in a hospital room, investigators believe she further injured the same ear.
According to the Milwaukee Countys Sheriff's Office, she could be seen on video forcing a cotton swab into her child's ear and later forcing her finger into it, causing him pain.
After she was arrested, the Sheriff's Office said Schumacher confessed to intentionally hurting the toddler to get back at his father for breaking up with her and refusing to help with his care.
WISN 12 News went to Schumacher's home in North Fond du Lac, but no one answered the door. She was arrested Friday and remains in custody, accused of felony physical abuse of a child.
Schumacher hasn't been formally charged yet, but the case is expected to go the District Attorney's Office Tuesday.
Man made videos of child sex abuse
by Mike Gertzman
PRESCOTT VALLEY, Ariz. -- A 69-year-old Prescott Valley man is accused of molesting a female child for years and recording videos of the alleged sexual encounters, according to an email from Sgt. Scott Stebbins with the Prescott Valley Police Dept.
Clarence Auburn Jones, 69, was arrested Nov. 4 on charges of sexual exploitation of a minor and molestation of a child. The abuse took place from 2005 to 2012, according to police.
Investigators said the abuse started when the victim was 10 years old and continued for seven years until she moved out of state.
In 2012, a friend of the victim reported her concerns that the girl had been molested by Jones, but an investigation at that time by Child Protective Services and police could not substantiate the allegation.
Investigators were hindered by the fact that the victim had moved to another state and had told authorities in that state she was not a victim of the alleged crime.
The case was reopened recently after police received additional information that Jones was in possession of child pornography.
Detectives obtained a search warrant and found Jones had an extensive collection of child pornography downloaded from the Internet as well as sexually graphic videos he had made of himself with the child victim.
Detectives contacted the victim again, who is now 19 years old.
She was cooperative and stated she was emotionally relieved that the investigation was moving forward.
Illinois fugitive wanted for child sex assault arrested in Honolulu
by Web Staff
An Illinois fugitive who fled to Hawaii was arrested Monday morning for child sex assault.
James McKee, 64, of Spring Valley, Ill. was found in Honolulu by members of the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force.
McKee has an arrest warrant for predatory criminal sexual assault of a child and three counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. He is accused of intentionally sexual assaulting and abusing approximately six different children over a three-year period.
An arrest warrant for McKee was issued by an Illinois court on June 11, but McKee had already fled the state.
This month, Chicago U.S. Marshals tracked McKee to Honolulu and contacted Hawaii U.S. Marshals.
After conducting surveillance and following up on leads, at approximately 9:30 a.m. Monday, McKee was taken into custody outside of the Nuuanu YMCA, where he was staying.
“With a crime of this magnitude and severity, we definitely don't want to stop until we get him,” said deputy U.S. marshal Matt Brophy. “Who knows if they're grooming someone here or if they have possible targets or possible victims here.”
McKee was booked and is being held by Honolulu police pending a court appearance and extradition hearing back to Illinois.
HPD cop accused of sexual assault of 15-year-old girl
HOUSTON - A Houston police officer is accused of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl, while on duty.
Ruben Anthony Carrera, 27, is charged with sexual assault of a child. According to court documents, Carrera often visited the Chick Fil A fast food restaurant where the girl worked and the two entered into a romantic relationship.
The alleged assault came to light when a co-worker of the teen came forward to police. The witness says he often saw Carrera hugging and kissing the girl at the restaurant.
The girl reportedly told authorities that Carrera has been to her house several times and on one occasion in October they were involved in sexual activity in her bedroom while Carrera was in uniform. She said they were interrupted when he received a call over his police radio.
When questioned, Carrera admitted to knowing the girl was 15 years old, and that they had a dating relationship.
"Based on the nature of this relationship, with this complainant, the DA's office believes that there may be other victims out there," explained Tiffany Johnson with the district attorney's office. "We would like for those victims to contact the Houston Police Department if any young females have had any type of inappropriate contact with this police officer."
Tammy Hetmanick works with the Children's Assessment Center. She says abuse cases involving authority figures are confusing for children.
"They have a higher credibility so children do trust in them, are taught to trust in these individuals," Hetmanick said. "When a child is betrayed by one of those individuals, it's very concerning for us."
Hetmanick emphasizes the importance of talking with children about sexual abuse, and letting them know that even people who they trust can sometimes betray that trust.
Carrera was several read warnings in court and ordered not to have contact with either the victim or her mother. He's charged with sexual assault of a child, a second degree felony. If convicted, he could get between 2 and 20 years in prison.
Sharp rise in child sexual abuse cases
PUNE: Child sexual abuse cases in the city have shot up by an alarming 35% and places once meant for unbridled fun, are now increasingly unsafe. School vans and autorickshaws, a common choice of transport to and from school of many children, now figure among the places where child sexual abuse cases are often reported from. The sexual assault case of a six-year-old by the school van's driver last Friday is a case in point.
The latest statistics of the Pune police have revealed that the city witnessed 172 cases of child sexual abuse between January and October this year, showing a steep rise of 35% when compared to the 126 cases recorded in the same period last year.
In most cases, the children were in the 8-14 age group, but rather unsettlingly children as young as three were subjected to sexual assault by people known to them, including relatives and tutors among others.
"The steep rise can also be attributed to the fact that more and more people are now aware of laws, like Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, and are forthcoming to report such crimes," said Sanjay Nikam, senior police officer and in-charge of juvenile aid preventive unit and social security cell, Pune. He further said: "Children have often faced abuse in bus, autorickshaw or in the known surroundings when they are alone. And, it is not only girls who are subjected to all this, cases of young boys being sexually assaulted are also surfacing, though the number is comparatively small."
years old have also faced sexual abuse. What is more disturbing is that in most cases, the child has been sexually assaulted by a person, known to the child, a relative or a tutor.
Though most cases of abuse registered this year took place at home, Nikam said, there have been instances of abuse in school. "And most of these kids belonged to the lower middle class or poor households," he said.
Nikam also said that not only girls but boys have also been subject to sexual abuse although the number is small.
Anuradha Sahasrabudhe, executive director of Dnyan Devi Childline - a Union government supported 24-hour helpline for children in distress - said in the case of toddlers, it is often a close family member who is the perpetrator. "They often lure the child on the pretext of a 'game' or chocolate. It is essential for parents to teach the children to be careful, while staying vigilant themselves. Only teaching the child about good touch and bad touch is not enough, parents should also open channel of communication while keeping an eye on them and looking for any signs of sudden behavioural changes," she said.
"There is no age appropriateness to teaching a child to be careful in social situations. Gender values and respecting the girl child should be taught to older children. While for teenagers, it is essential that they be taught about boundaries in friendship and love and that they are educated about responsible sex life," she added.
"The issue of child safety and security is getting more complex with every passing day. In our society, we don't give our children independence. When small, parents decide almost everything for them and sometimes, sadly, when they complain, they are not taken seriously. What we need to do is empower them and assure that they are heard to instill confidence in them," said Ashok Pingale, programme director, Gyan Prakash Foundation, which also works for children.