National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

child abuse trauma prevention, intervention & recovery


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

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

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

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

United Kingdom

There is hope in how child abuse has been exposed

by Nick Cohen

There are two dangerous ways of looking at the attempts of Britain to come to terms with its buried history of child sex abuse: the conspiratorial and the despairing. They are not as far apart as they seem.

I can see why the victims of child abuse – of “child rape” as it is better called – are on edge. In their place I'd be losing my bearings too. Theresa May says that her inquiry into child abuse cases from 1970 on was “a once in a lifetime opportunity” to examine the scandals in Westminster, the BBC, children's homes, churches and the NHS. If it is the last best chance to confront the past, Ms May has a funny way of taking it.

Astute readers may already be asking: why only examine abuse cases from after 1970? It might be worth knowing that 1970 was the year the Home Office transferred control of its children's homes to the Department of Health. Whatever the inquiry finds, it cannot embarrass May's department. No wonder admiring colleagues see her as a future leader of the Conservative party.

To the disillusioned mind, her choice of investigators to sit on the independent panel inquiry into child sex abuse is as suspicious. May appointed Elizabeth Butler-Sloss to chair it. She was a distinguished lord justice of appeal. Unfortunately, she was also the sister of Michael Havers, a Conservative attorney general in the 1980s, when victims allege the legal system was burying scandals.

Her successor, Fiona Woolf, is an equally distinguished lawyer. Unfortunately again, the British establishment is a small world, and Ms Woolf was a friend and neighbour of Leon Brittan, home secretary when the Home Office received and lost a dossier on allegedly high-profile abusers raping children.

With both women gone, the proposed inquiry now has no one to chair it. As my colleague Daniel Boffey reports, victims remain wary about two of the remaining panel members who will advise, when and if May can find a chair who will last more than five minutes.

Barbara Hearn has a conflict of interest. She is a former deputy chief executive of the National Children's Bureau, a charity that became notorious in the 1990s, after the police raided the home of its consultant, Peter Righton, and found letters between him and teachers, artists, aristocrats and clerics that discussed the abuse of hundreds of boys.

Another member, Graham Wilmer, admits having a man who was later convicted for possessing child pornography as a lodger. No one who lets out a room is accountable for their tenant's crimes. And the admission would matter less if Mr Wilmer had not sent vaguely menacing emails to one of the victims presenting evidence to the Home Office.

The whole business appears hopeless. Accusations of child rape ensnare so many individuals and besmirch the reputations of so many institutions, it is hard to find a competent investigator whose integrity the paranoid – or perhaps not-so paranoid – cannot question. Added to that, you might continue, a few accusations they will hear will be fantasies, false allegations of satanic child abuse in the 1990s, pumped up by evangelical Christians eager to believe that the devil was stalking the streets, setting back the cause of child protection by a generation. In any event, the dismal fact that abuse has gone unexamined and unpunished for so long becomes, paradoxically, a reason for ignoring it.

Every time an old Radio 1 disc jockey is on trial for harassing women you can rely on pundits to invite us to despair. No one can know the truth, they say. It was all long, long ago. This is too hard. Forget it. They forget that social advances are always hard. The past's ways of doing business always seems reliable for no better reason than that they have been followed for so long. Change brings causalities – for all anyone knows, Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, Fiona Woolf, Barbara Hearn and Graham Wilmer would have conducted an exemplary inquiry.

But look at the benefits. Abuse scandals have overwhelmingly hit hierarchical institutions, which elevate and protect the priest, celebrity, teacher, Socialist Worker party leader or Westminster politician. These are men who demanded and expected obedience.

The feminist campaigner Julie Bindel, who has done more to help rape victims than any writer I know, sees no difference between men who rape children and men who rape adults, and I agree. Give them the power to exploit their victims and ensure their silence and, like Jimmy Savile, they will rape both.

The failure to understand power explained the unnecessary handwringing about whether it was racist to say that the men exploiting girls in Rotherham were from Pakistani backgrounds. As Home Office investigators testified, public officials warned them off by accusing them of being racially insensitive and sending them on diversity awareness courses as a punishment.

In other places, white men with power, including power over their families, were abusing. But our warped version of multiculturalism ensured that at that place and in that time Pakistani men had the advantage. Now maybe they won't. As you survey the wave of scandals, you might think that there are many other reasons to oppose, say, organised religion. But you should acknowledge that it was inquiries into child abuse that humbled the Catholic church, not atheist critiques. There and elsewhere, they have levelled pyramids of power, made repeat offending less likely and opened closed organisations.

However severely he is tempted, only the most stupid manager, bishop or chief constable will cover up sexual abuse today. I am not saying that such stupidity among the powerful will not continue – like the poor it is always with us – but the example of the BBC and the Catholic episcopacy will haunt the rest. The editor of Newsnight , who banned the revelation of Savile's crimes, or the bishops, who moved priests to new parishes, thought they were protecting their institutions. They could not have done them more damage.

In cases of rape, it is glib to say that “the cover-up is worse than the crime”. But, once revealed, cover-ups attest to the truth of criminal accusations and make a reckoning inevitable Finally, and I am sorry if this is cheesy, you only have to listen to the men and women attacked by Jimmy Savile or Cyril Smith to know the exposés are worthwhile.

Their assailants may be dead, but at least the victims will never hear them praised again. They have received a kind of justice. As more get it, we will move slowly, messily and, I accept, often hysterically towards a better future.



LAPD Sexual Assault Detective Committed Suicide Over Child Molestation Allegations: Report

by Michael Larkin

A Los Angeles Police Department sexual assault detective is said to have committed suicide after being confronted with allegations he molested two relatives.

Dennis Derr, 52, was found in his car in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart in Palmdale on Thanksgiving morning, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The man was a 17-year LAPD veteran, and had been a detective since 2006. He was assigned to the Van Nuys division of the LAPD, and had worked on a team that handled sexual assault cases, the Times said.

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Special Victims Bureau sergeant Brian Hudson confirmed to the newspaper two adults had made sexual abuse allegations against Derr, and that the abuse had allegedly occurred when they were teenagers.

One of the relatives alleged that he had been abused repeatedly, while the other could recall one instance of abuse a few years ago, his son Philip Derr told The Times.

His wife had left the family home upon learning of the allegations, and the next morning, Nov. 27, he sent an email to family members denying "sexual failures" and alluded to a plan to kill himself, Philip Derr said. His body was discovered later that day.




Need for Child Advocacy Center is ‘profound'

Wichitans cannot see for themselves much of the neglect, abuse or sexual exploitation of children and teens that happens here, nor even imagine the worst of it.

But trust Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett when he says the need for the Child Advocacy Center of Sedgwick County is “profound,” which means so is the need for the public and private funding that finally will enable the 6-year-old center to renovate and move into its own child- and family-focused facility sometime next year or early 2016.

Doing so promises to streamline and strengthen investigations, reduce stress on victims, and further emotional and physical healing.

“We're talking about children who are the victims of some of the worst kind of crime that can occur,” Bennett told The Eagle editorial board Friday, noting the need for someplace where families across the socioeconomic spectrum can come in for “wraparound” services and follow-up.

As it is, the multidisciplinary team effort to investigate, prosecute and otherwise handle about 2,000 such cases every year is based in the basement of the Finney State Office Building – a cramped, less-than-private setting in which child victims now risk crossing paths with their abusers.

Once the center relocates to the former Lincoln Elementary School, about 55 professionals from eight agencies will be on site. That will include Wichita Police Department and Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office investigators assigned to the Exploited and Missing Child Unit, social workers from the Kansas Department for Children and Families, and health personnel from the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita, Via Christi Health and Wesley Medical Center.

According to Bennett, the center also will house the Sedgwick County-administered Kansas Internet Crimes Against Children task force, which works with law enforcement across the country as it investigates the worsening problems of child pornography and online solicitation of youths.

The coming days are key for the long-running effort, which has raised $4 million toward the $6.5 million goal.

The Sedgwick County Commission, which has supported the center's operations, is expected to vote Wednesday on whether to contribute $1 million for the renovation. The money would be transferred from a $7.4 million operating reserve. Even after the expenditure, the county expects to collect $600,000 more in the general fund than it plans to spend by the end of 2014. As County Manager William Buchanan has said, the county budgets for such unanticipated expenses, and fulfilling the center's request will not affect the county's bottom line.

The center also needs to raise about $124,000 more by Dec. 15 in private donations to fulfill a $500,000 challenge grant. (Call 316-660-9494 or go to to help.)

“We know the support is there,” Bennett said.

Individual and business donors should prove him right, as county commissioners further endorse the Child Advocacy Center's urgent mission by fulfilling its $1 million wish.



High court upholds conviction of Nebraskan whose abuse brought on son's dwarfism, experts say

by Joe Duggan

LINCOLN — The Nebraska Supreme Court has upheld the conviction of a Scottsbluff man whose abuse of his young son caused the boy to stop growing.

Carlos Herrera argued the trial judge should have disallowed expert testimony that his son suffered from a condition called psychosocial dwarfism, which is brought on by extreme abuse and neglect. He suggested that the diagnosis was “junk science” and that the experts failed to properly follow the diagnostic steps to conclude the boy was not merely suffering from food allergies and developmental delays.

In an opinion released Friday, the Supreme Court said Scotts Bluff County District Judge Leo Debrovolny properly allowed the testimony.

A jury convicted Herrera and the boy's mother, Jennifer Herrera, in 2013 of felony child abuse. When case workers removed the nearly 6-year-old boy from the home, he weighed less than 25 pounds and stood under 3 feet.

The jury heard testimony from the boy's 8-year-old sister that her parents routinely beat her brother, withheld his food and made him sleep in a basement dog kennel while the rest of the family slept in second-story bedrooms.

Two experts also testified that the boy suffered from a rare disorder in which children under extreme emotional stress stop producing growth hormone.

The experts testified psychosocial dwarfism is diagnosed when no other medical explanation for stunted growth can be found and the child improves after being removed from the abusive environment.

After spending eight months in foster care, the boy grew 5 inches and added more than 16 pounds under no medical treatment. His guardian has reported the boy continues to thrive in foster care.

The Supreme Court said when it comes to expert testimony, the trial court must act as a gatekeeper to “ensure the evidentiary relevance and reliability of an expert's opinion.” The experts testified that psychosocial dwarfism has been considered a scientifically valid diagnosis for several decades.

Herrera also alleged an investigator used suggestive questions when interviewing his daughter, which caused her to change her original story that no abuse had occurred. He said the trial court erred by not allowing the jury to watch a recording of the interview.

But the Supreme Court said the lower court did allow Herrera to introduce portions of the interview he found problematic. In addition, Herrera was allowed to call his own expert, who was critical of the interview techniques.

Herrera was sentenced to four to five years in prison while he wife was given one to two years.

They also lost custody of all four of their children. In May, the Nebraska Court of Appeals refused to restore parental rights.



Testimony: Starved 15-month-old weighed 7 pounds at death

by Joshua Sharpe

LAWRENCEVILLE — Tears streamed down Najlaa Mcintosh's face in court Friday as a detective described the final condition of her baby sister, a 15-month-old who Mctintosh and her father are accused of starving badly enough that she weighed just 7 pounds.

Calvin Mcintosh, father of Najlaa and the child, Tyanne Alcenti Sweeting, remained mostly calm and expressionless during the preliminary hearing in Gwinnett County magistrate court, diligently taking notes as the detective testified.

The father broke this posture only a few times when Detective James Sweeney told the court that Calvin Mcintosh's daughter Najlaa, 23, hadn't been a consenting participant to sexual acts they had performed together for the past six years. The father shook his head repeatedly during the graphic testimony and stared ahead, listening intently to the allegation and neglecting his notepad.

Earlier in the hearing, Calvin Mcintosh, 44, an accused member of the Nuwaubian Nation of Moors cult, had remained calm when the detective explained the condition of his 15-month-old child on the night of Nov. 11.

According to the testimony, the man took the child from the Peachtree Corners hotel where his family lived to a hospital, telling staff that she wasn't breathing.

“The nurse described the baby as looking like a skeleton. There was no fat on the baby at all,” said Sweeney, Gwinnett police's lead detective on the case. The nurse added that the father “had no expression when they told him they were not able to save the child.”

After hearing the evidence, Gwinnett County Chief Magistrate Kristina Hammer Blum found probable cause for the state to continue with its case against Calvin and Najlaa Mcintosh in superior court.

The two face charges of murder and child abuse for the 15-month-old, and more charges of child abuse related to three other allegedly malnourished children found at Extended Stay America on Jimmy Carter Boulevard. Two of the children — all three of which have survived — are reportedly the product of incest between Calvin and Najlaa Mcintosh.

A charge of “cruelty to a person 65 or older” was dropped for both the father and daughter.

It appeared that the judge's decision to strike the charge had to do with whether the statute was relevant to the crime to which it corresponded: Calvin and Najlaa Mcintosh's alleged starving of the deceased infant's mother, Iasia Sweeting, who weighed 59 pounds when police found her. Sweeting is 21 years old, not 65 or older. It wasn't clear if relevant charges related to Sweeting could be brought.

Outside the courtroom, Sweeting's mother expressed disgust with the evidence and what she felt were mostly cold reactions of the defendants.

“It was almost as if it was a movie,” the woman, Elvis Morgan, told reporters. “I don't see any emotion or remorse.”

Morgan said her daughter had recently been improving, though she had recently had trouble speaking. Sweeting is expected to survive.

Meanwhile, Morgan said the funeral for her grandchild was set for 1 p.m. Saturday at Crossroads Bible Church located at 3466 Covington Highway in Decatur.

Despite the circumstances, Sweeting's family come to find spirituality in the troubles. They believe the child's death, while tragic, had a positive outcome: Sweeting will live.



Bouncing back after being molested at six

Mother of two shrugs off troubles in turning around her life


DOREEN Newton has been sexually molested, raped and abused countless times, begining when she turned six years old.

As a result, she fell into a state of depression and self-destruction, turning to smoking, drinking, gunslinging, prostitution, and lesbianism in a desperate attempt to numb her pain. But all that ended three years ago when her life turned around miraculously.

"Growing up in Brown's Town, St Ann in a small, forgotten district called Caledonia, my mother had 13 children; two of whom died. I am not close to any of my family," the mother of two said. "My father died from we were small, and so my mother gave away some of us because she said we were too much so she could not manage.

"People encouraged her to give away some of her children. She gave away four of us — all of us girls. It was eight of us as girls," added Newton, now aged 40.

It marked the start of her woes.

"The lady she gave me to had this brother who used to come there. And every time that man come there he would molest me. I was six. By the time I was 10 I started smoking weed. Even when I was going to primary school I was smoking. In order to get over certain things I would just smoke," she told the Jamaica Observer last week.

"She had a niece there, but she used to treat her like royalty. Whenever she got things from foreign she would give her the new ones and give me the old ones. But I just said I was a stranger and visitor so it didn't really matter. I just take what I got."

Newton said that she didn't get a chance to do much in school because by the time she got there she was too tired from having to work on the farm and feeding pigs.

"The people dem just had me as slave. It was just work, work, work. When you get little time to eat something it was a blessing," she said. "Not even bathroom she didn't want me to use, and I had to go downstairs; and there used to be some guys who used to smoke in the washroom and that is where I had to wash my clothes and bathe."

When she could take it no longer, Newton dashed off to Runaway Bay.

"You had a lady who used to teach by the school and she used to say she live down Runaway Bay, and because that teacher used to be nice I just say I would like to live with somebody like that. The lady had her family, but because I was so little I didn't know nothing 'bout that. So I just say she would take me in. I just went there and ask question and people show me her house, and the lady said 'no' she don't want any children at her house," Newton went on.

As she walked the street wondering what to do, the 10-year-old met a vendor, whom she lied by telling her that her mother had died. After hearing of this and taking her to the police station the woman decided to keep the child.

"You ever hear about jump out of frying pan jump into fire?" Newton asked. "That was even worse, because I went right into her son now, and him start the molestation to. So it was like you don't know which way to turn."

She said that, as a result, she developed a 'war-like spirit' in which she would always be fighting, involved in stabbing incidents and was angry all the time.

"I used to just live, not knowing where I was going or what I was about ... nothing; no education, no nothing," she said. "Nobody never business about me."

She lived there for about three years, enduring physical abuse by day and sexual abuse at nights.

"Him used to go on with all sorts of things and say if I told anybody, what and what he would do. But you just thinking that you are a child and if they throw you out you have nowhere to go, so you just stay and keep quiet."

All this time she had no contact with her mother and 10 siblings.

"So when people see you run away, they say you a worthless pickney cause you run way to go live with people in a big house. But they don't understand that when you run away is certain things you run out of," Newton said.

By the time she became a young teen, Newton started babysitting for someone in the community. However, despite being paid, she had to give all her earnings to the woman she was staying with because she had broken a mirror in an abandoned room for which she was being charged.

"Every single dollar the lady take it say is payment for her glass. One day the girl I was babysitting for ask how come she don't see me buying anything for myself and I told her the lady took it, and she said I should not be paying for one glass so long, so she ask if I wanted to come live with her," Newton recalled. "I was so happy when she said come, because I said it was better than nothing. It never too nice, but it was better because it was just me and the little baby there in the days," she explained. "Her mother used to go and come. Her mother used to take drugs, and when the daughter not there, she used to carry man to the house."

Newton was again taken in by another woman, but again, she claimed, she was treated like a dog. She was by then 18.

"Her children dem used to beat me for no reason at all," she said. "She had two big daughters and their children lived there too. They beat me 'in a season' and 'out of season'. You all ah walk and pickney ah kick you," she said.

But she said that there were some Jehovah's Witnesses living next door who realised how she was being treated and offered her food when no one else was around. One day one of the Witnesses asked Newton if she wanted to live with them and, despite the fear that she may be treated just as badly, she accepted.

"That is why I can tell you that it doesn't matter which church you go, some people just different. I went over there and the people dem treat me good. This was the first I know of good treatment. They started teaching me to read, they did Bible study, and every little thing they tried to push me in. They made me feel like a part of the family. They insisted that I visit my mother, and even pack a bag with grocery and give me to give her."

This was her first visit to her mother since she was six.

Newton said that she was excited when her mother gave her the telephone numbers of her sisters living in downtown Kingston, as she had always wanted to know what it would be like to have family around.

"I told myself that life must be better now because I was going among family," she said. "It was the worst mistake of my life!" Even today I tell myself that if I had stayed with those Jehovah Witness people I would be better off. But they say you cannot fly up in God's face, because he knows the plans he has for my life. I can testify to what people say when they say stranger treat you better than family."

Not knowing Kingston, her mother had arranged for an elderly man, whom she said was Newton's cousin, to take her to meet her two sisters in Kingston. When they got to Kingston the man insisted that he would not take her to meet them unless she had sex with him. They did. But instead of completing the journey, he left her stranded and went his way.

With the help of a woman she eventually found her sisters.

But after a short time living with them, Newton said that her sisters insisted that she fend for herself by 'looking man' as she was an adult.

"Poor dem didn't know that I never even start living the life of a pickney yet, much less big woman," she said. "That time I was 22, but I never feel like a big woman. I did not know how childhood stay, because I was forced to grow up."

New in town and knowing no one else to turn to for help, she did what her sisters suggested. She soon got pregnant and was left to care for the child on her own since it wasn't a love relationship but one based upon sex for survival.

"Everything just go downhill from there 'cause I start keep all kind of bad man company now. Mi start knock head with bad company and now mi start to carry all gun; man a run through yard throw gun give mi; mi a hide gun fi people, oh God," she said. "Is my sister first make mi know gun 'cause mi never know nothing 'bout gun. So it just seem like mi just get in this gun business, and because mi used to smoke and dem things deh, mi just jump in it. So now mi start handle gun and start go dance and gone all 'bout now and start explore. I start to bore (pierce) up myself and start do everything now. I did not even memba that I have pickney 'cause I was saying I didn't even done grow, so mi never know nothing 'bout pickney."

Newton would leave her baby with her sister while she went to dance and tried to have a good time, while also working her day job at the Kingston Free zone.

"Oh God, mi used to do whole heap a robbery, mi go on robbery wid man -- but that guy is now dead, his name was Alton. Mi and him used to involve, but that was his type a thing," she explained. "So during the day now I would keep his gun and him gone 'bout him business 'cause him do all a little day work building board houses and then him come back night-time for it."

Newton said that she even went with him on one of his robbery exploits.

"Mi never have any fear, it come like a nuh nothing. When mi downtown and see dem shoot man on the road I would just step over him and gone," she said. "Mi see blood a run and it come like nothing, it come like it's just a normal living to me. I am not afraid of dead body, I go in dead house and just walk 'round like it was nothing, it just come like nothing to me, nothing at all... guess is the way I grow up."

And with all that, Newton confessed that she also lived the life of a prostitute, giving sexual favours to married men in particular, in exchange for money.

She confessed, too, of having done an abortion and also living with a woman in a lesbian relationship for years.

"I used to live with a gentleman and him used to link up this girl who worked at Fort Augusta. But I never know that the girl was a lesbian. I never know that is me she want. So she mash up mi relationship with my babyfather after she tell lie that him molest her daughter."

Not knowing the woman's intentions at the time, and believing that her child's father was guilty of what he was accused of, especially having gone through similar experiences, Newton left the man and moved in with the woman.

"I never know is not true until a few years ago when the daughter same one tell me that is when she was big woman she lose her virginity," Newton said, explaining that the man ended up doing time in prison for the alleged crime.

Today, Newton has changed her entire lifestyle and is focused on giving her two daughters the life she never had.

"I have never celebrated a Christmas or a birthday. At one point, I didn't even know how old I was. I have never given my children a Christmas, but this year that is something I want to do."

As a single mother working in a supermarket in Spanish Town, though, she said that she might not be able to.

"My wish would be to give my children a Christmas," she said.

Though her life has been a tough one, Newton said that her emotional and spiritual change came three years ago when she gave her life to the Lord.

"I grew up rough," Newton said. "But somebody invited me to church in Gordon Pen, Spanish Town, and I just decided one Sunday night that I would go. When I went into the church my head was red like fire and I was stink of rum -- drunk like bat -- because I just tell myself I didn't have anything living for."

While standing at the altar, and told by the pastor to repeat the name of Jesus, the scent of the rum that came from her mouth could drunk the congregation, she reckoned.

"I don't know what happen that night, but my life was never the same," Newton, who now sings on her church choir, said. "And from I made that commitment, I don't turn back. I got messed up once in the early part when I just start, and my pastor gave it to me. Is only the belt did leave for him to go for. Him make sure tell me say, 'Sister Newton, I see something in you that I don't see in nobody'. My life just start from there and I started getting some 'vision' and just start worship God, because Him say leave everything to him...cast your cares upon him. Once your body clean he will work with your body. And I am telling you that I am holding on you to him. I am holding on, and one day, one day."

Newton is now bent on moving on with her life and getting past all that she has been through. She feels that she is now ready to be married and be part of a committed relationship while also doing her best to protect her children from the life that she has lived.

However, Newton said that things are not easy financially as her earnings from the supermarket job not enough to meet their daily needs and those of her children. She wants to be able to give her children some of the things she never had, one of which is a Christmas they can remember ... something that is foreign to her.


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The Neglected Brain

With the help of neuro-imaging, Romanian orphans and the "Still Face Experiment" researchers are shedding light and hope on neglect, the most common - by far - form of child maltreatment.

by Stacey Solie

Editor's Note: Neglect is by far the most common form of child maltreatment. Whether physical or emotional, benign or malicious, it alters the developing brain's architecture and circuitry in profound and persistent ways that often lead to physical and behavioral problems throughout life. This is the first of a four-part series that explores the crippling, and yet reversible effects of childhood neglect on the brain and life of Danielle Goodwin.

Danielle Goodwin, 36, was born in Great Falls, Montana to a pair of drug-addicted parents. She never met her biological father. Her mother married another man shortly after Danielle was born and had three more children before he died of a drug overdose. She then married one of Danielle's father's friends, and had another child. When they split up, Danielle's mother married another one of his friends, had another baby. All in all, Danielle can count six stepfathers.

When Danielle was seven, her mother went into rehab and Danielle and her siblings went into foster care — three different placements, including one home where the foster mom would lock them out of the house all day. Danielle's mother eventually returned from rehab and regained custody. “Anytime my mom was home and sober we would follow her anywhere she went and just cherish those moments," recalls Danielle. Those moments were extremely rare. More often her mother would disappear for days, leaving the kids with whichever adult happened to be around at the time. Danielle's childhood was a study in abuse and neglect.

Danielle's story illustrates the dangerous and long lasting effects of neglect on the brain, the body and the spirit. How brain patterns set early in life lead to behaviors that can haunt a person into adolescence and beyond. Without intervention, the impacts of early childhood neglect are debilitating and contagious, spreading from parent to child for generations. But advances in brain science and in our understanding of trauma have begun to shed new light on the causes and effects of neglect and these insights offer hope to kids and adults who, like Danielle, were denied a safe, supportive upbringing. The latest science tells us that while the consequences of neglect are serious, they need not be permanent.

The invisible bruise

Neglect in families has long been the purview of sociologists and therapists. But neuroscientists are now on the trail. Their studies of brain development are beginning to explain why neglected kids and teens often develop mental health problems, struggle in school and are far more likely to become victims of violence and sexual abuse. Studies show how chronic neglect creates a brain that is laser-focused on survival, and the ways in which such a danger-obsessed brain works differently than one which has been exposed to positive human attention, comfort and support. The research also shows that, with the right inputs, dysfunctional brain patterns can be overcome.

Experts lump abuse and neglect together under the umbrella of "child maltreatment." While they often occur together, abuse and neglect are fundamentally different experiencesand they produce different consequences.

If "child abuse" is the term that collectively describes all the bad attention rained down on some unlucky children, "neglect" is the term for all the love, care, kindness and protection that so many more children never get. Neglect, a failure to act, can take many forms: physical, emotional, medical, educational. It is the most common type of child maltreatment by far, accounting for about four of the five calls to child protective service agencies nationally — more than calls about sexual, physical and emotional abuse combined.

Because neglect doesn't leave a visible bruise, it can be harder to see, and harder to prove, and so is likely to be under-reported compared to abuse. Even so, in 2013 Child Protective Service workers in Washington state confirmed neglect in 4,194 of the 5,580 homes where some type of maltreatment was reported, according to the Partners for Our Children Data Portal. So, 75 percent of reported cases of child maltreatment in Washington State last year involved neglect. And that may be an underestimate.

National statistics indicate that every year, roughly 1 in 100 children experience some kind of maltreatment. But a recent study in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics finds that the prevalence of mistreatment is actually much higher. Using statistics from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System Child File for the years 2004-2011, the study's authors found that one in every 8 kids in the U.S. will be maltreated by age 18. The large discrepancy between the two figures arises from the fact that repeat cases of maltreatment were not being counted. “We might have skewed public perceptions of what maltreatment is,” says study co-author Hedy Lee, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Washington. “These estimates show how prevalent the issue is and that we need to address this as a public health priority.”

Your brain on neglect

The key to understanding how neglect can have such long lasting impacts lies in understanding a bit about how the brain develops. Brain cells, called neurons, are elegant structures designed to receive and send electrical signals around the brain. Neurons consist of a cell body, a halo of dendrites and one long axon. The neuron cell body houses the nucleus and other machinery that runs the cell. Dendrites are short, profusely-branched extensions of the cell body that receive electrical inputs from surrounding cells. The axon is a long slender thread, like the tap root of a dandelion, that transmits electrical impulses to other cells. The axon is wrapped with a material called myelin which, like insulation around an electrical wire, helps to speed transmission.

Neurons don't actually touch each other. When an electrical signal reaches the end of an axon, it must cross a microscopic gap, called a synapse, in order to stimulate the adjacent neuron. The signal makes this leap by triggering the release of molecules called neurotransmitters, which sail cross the synapse to propagate the signal in the adjacent and enable communication between cells.

At birth, most brain cells have already formed, but the brain continues to grow at a rate of one percent per day for the first three months of life. Some of this growth reflects the proliferation of dendrites and the rapid creation of synapses. In the infant brain, synapses proliferate at unfathomable speeds, with millions of connections forming second by second. In his 2011 bestseller, Incognito: The Secret Lives of The Brain , author and neuroscientist David Eagleman says that one cubic centimeter of brain tissue can contain more synapses than there are stars in the Milky Way.

The synaptic growth spurt is followed by another vital developmental process in which some synaptic connections strengthen and become inter-connected circuits, while others drop away. This synaptic building and "pruning" process is highly dependent on exposure to certain external interactions and experiences.

To an infant, a parent's steady gaze is akin to sunlight falling on the leaves of a sapling. Babies mirror facial expressions in a "serve-and-return" fashion. Sensory cues like eye contact, cooing and smiling go back and forth between parent and child, like ping-pong balls across a net. If a parent fails to respond, the game stalls and development is disrupted, postponing the build out of neural circuits that makes it possible to crawl, walk and speak. A related theory of how neglect affects the developing brain is that sensory deprivation accelerates a natural pruning process designed to clear away connections that aren't being used.

The Romanian orphan studies

Much of what we know about the impact of neglect on the brain comes from Romania, from one long-term and ongoing study called the Bucharest Intervention Project.

During his 24-year reign, the brutal Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu banned birth control and abortion and cut social programs. He seemed to be encouraging struggling parents to have children then give them over to the state. When he was finally ousted from power in the 1989, and international reporters gained access to the country's orphanages, they found more than 100,000 children living in concentration camp-like conditions. Babies were lined up next to each other, fed, changed and bathed like objects on an assembly line. At the time, brain science was still in its infancy, but reports were emerging that even the Romanian orphans who were getting plenty of food were not growing or thriving.

Concern for these children compelled a group of U.S. scientists, including Charles Nelson, at the Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Nathan Fox from the University of Maryland and Charles Zeanah at the Tulane University Medical School, to work with the Romanian government to study the impact of the deprivation. Using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), the researchers tracked the brain development in children who grew up in orphanages. The researchers also trained — and helped to pay — foster families to take some of the children into their homes. Then they studied and compared the brain development of the two groups, both to each other and to a third group of children who were never institutionalized.

One of the study's early findings was that institutionalized children have smaller brains. In addition, the branching of cell dendrites is simpler in neglected children, and the two fluid-filled ventricles in the center of their brains are markedly larger.

The brain is composed of grey matter and white matter. Generally speaking, grey matter refers to the various cell bodies in the brain. White matter refers to fibers, such as axons, that connect those cells — the brain's transmission lines, if you will. The Bucharest study showed that kids who were placed in foster homes before the age of 2 were able to regain some brain matter, particularly white matter. (Scientists think that children don't process information as quickly as adults because the white matter in their brains has not fully formed.)

The study also showed that while white matter volume increased when children were placed in enriched, caring environments, gray matter volume stayed the same. This finding suggests the existence of a "sensitive period" in development of the overall architecture of the brain, a period after which certain kinds of neural developments are no longer possible.

Later studies have confirmed and refined these early results, showing, for instance, that the cerebellum, one of the first areas of the brain to undergo rapid growth, is markedly smaller in neglected children. The cerebellum, located at the base of the brain, is the seat of motor skills. Current research shows that it also plays a role in regulating emotion, affection and behavior.

Scientists think the smaller cerebellums seen in neglected brains could be the result of the accelerated pruning process, says Dr. Katie McLaughlin, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Washington and a member of the Bucharest Intervention team. "We have this architecture in place,” she explains. “If we're not using it, we lose it, essentially. This accelerated pruning is likely to happen because the brain is not getting the expected environmental inputs that these circuits need to develop normally."

Besides altering the basic architecture of the brain, neglect also affects the body's stress response system, formally known as the Hypothalmic-Pituitary-Adrenal axis, or HPA. When activated, the HPA triggers the release of cortisol, a stress hormone. Cortisol plays an important role in daily life, helping our bodies release stored energy — in the form of glucose — into the bloodstream. It also helps regulate our diurnal rhythm. Cortisol levels are normally highest in the morning, and taper off to their lowest levels before bedtime.

Cortisol is also released in response to danger, igniting the "fight, flight or freeze," responses that helped early humans evade predators. While releasing the stored glucose that's necessary for escape, cortisol also shuts down other systems — like digestion or immune systems — that aren't essential for immediate survival.

The "Still Face Experiment"

Stress for a baby is being tired, hungry, alone, in need of a diaper change, etc. In most cases, a mother, father or some other caretaker will tend to the baby's needs and its stress levels will return to normal. When an infant's cries for food or attention go unmet, however, its natural stress response continues to rev. When a baby's needs go chronically unmet, the stress overdrive can lead to serious health consequences. Cortisol may be critical for survival in the wild, but chronically high levels of the hormone can retard bone formation, depress the immune system and increase the risk of diabetes. It also keeps the brain in a hyper-alert state that, over time, can lead to conditions such as Attention deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Dr. Edward Tronick is a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, and an internationally-recognized researcher who studies infants, children and parenting. He has looked at the effects of post-partum depression on the emotional development of babies and children. His current work focuses on the health effects of infant stress.

“Babies,” explains Dr. Tronick in this “Still Face Experiment” video, “. . . are extremely responsive to the emotions and the reactivity and the social interaction that they get from the world around them.” The “Still Face Experiment” explores what happens when those emotions and reactions and interactions stop.

The video begins with a loving mother staring into her baby girl's eyes, smiling and following the contented baby's cues as she points and laughs. “They're working to coordinate their emotions and their intentions,” explains Tronick in the video. Then researchers have the mother stop smiling at her baby, stop reacting and instead present a flat, unresponsive expression. The baby immediately picks up on the change and after trying — and failing — to engage her mother, she begins to squirm and squeal and cry.

“[Babies] feel the stress,” says Tronick in the video. The situation is “a little bit like the good, the bad and the ugly: The good is that normal stuff that we all do with our kids. The bad is when something bad happens, but the infant can overcome it. After all, when you stop the ‘still face' the mother and the baby start to play again. The ugly is when you don't give the child any chance to get back to the good … and they're stuck in that really ugly situation.”

The “Still Face” video illustrates what happens when a mother fails to comfort her child — for two minutes. For children like Danielle Goodwin, the failure to respond, the “ugly” to use Edward Tronick's word, plays out across all the years of childhood, through adolescence and into early adulthood.

As a baby, Danielle was starved for eye contact and cooing and cuddling. One of her mother's many boyfriends would tell her, "You've got to give your mom space," she recalls. To underscore his point he bought a Mazda Miata, a two-seater. As the oldest of her drug-addicted mother's six children, Danielle was often the only one sober enough to care for her siblings. By age 10, she had adult responsibilities. After fifth grade, Danielle stopped attending school. No one seemed to notice or care.

Abusive men cycled in and out of the family's home; that is, when they had one. Danielle's family was often homeless, bouncing from Montana to Washington, Canada, Idaho and back again. By the time she was 13, Danielle was being sexually exploited on a regular basis and shooting heroin with her mother. It didn't seem strange, she says. It was what she knew. "We were more like friends, or so I thought," says Danielle about her mother. "It was a very unhealthy relationship."

By age 14, Danielle was pregnant, raped by one of her mother's boyfriends. Her mother too had been sexually abused from the time she was a young girl. When Danielle delivered her baby at the University of Washington hospital, tests showed drugs in the newborn's system. That finding flagged Danielle for intervention, and landed both her and her baby in a foster home. Like her first foster care experience, this one did nothing to help Danielle cope with her situation as an unwed, teenage, drug-using mother. There was no counseling or parenting classes, and no help with her substance abuse problem. "They knew the circumstances that landed me in the system," she says. "I was placed in a home without any services."

Danielle would eventually run away to the streets and turn tricks to survive. She would grow addicted to heroin and cocaine, and come under the sway of a violent pimp. By age 28, she had given birth to five children, and lost all of them to the state. She was repeating the familiar family pattern.


(2 of 3)

From neglected kid to reckless teen

Critical life skills like wariness of strangers, impulse control and the ability to distinguish right from wrong can all become casualties of a neglectful childhood.

by Stacey Solie

Editor's Note: Whether physical or emotional, benign or malicious, neglect alters the developing brain's architecture and circuitry in profound ways that often lead to physical and behavioral problems throughout life. In Part 2 of our series on The Neglected Brain we explore how childhood neglect effects areas of the brain that govern emotions and impulse control .

If Danielle Goodwin had taken the Adverse Childhood Experiences Test as a teenager, she would have scored a perfect 10.

The ACES test was developed in 1998 by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and Kaiser Permanente in San Diego who were trying to find out whether childhood stress led to health problems later in life. The test consists of 10 “yes or no” questions designed to screen for exposure to violence, sexual abuse and neglect: “Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often … act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt? Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way? Did you often or very often feel that you didn't have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes, and had no one to protect you? Or your parents were too drunk or high to take care of you?”

Each “yes” response counts for one point. The higher the score, the greater the likelihood that the test taker will experience heart disease, obesity, depression, substance abuse or some other downstream health and behavioral problem.

The ACES test is a blunt instrument. It doesn't add any additional points for neglect if, say, the neglect involved not being protected from sexual abuse committed by your mother's boyfriends, which resulted in your pregnancy at age 14, which is what happened to Danielle Goodwin. Perhaps some trauma can't be quantified.

Neurology of neglect

Like too many children, Danielle was a victim of abuse and neglect. Both are considered forms of “child maltreatment.” Both are clearly negative experiences and both affect development, but only abuse qualifies as trauma. “Traumatic events involve significant threats to one's physical integrity (in an acute way), like being assaulted, sexually abused or exposed to other forms of violence,” explains Dr. Kate McLaughlin, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Washington and a member of the landmark Bucharest Intervention Project, which studied the impact of neglect on children in Romanian orphanages. “We have solid evidence that neglect and trauma impact brain development in fundamentally different ways. They are not the same type of experience.”

Though this series touches on the impacts of many forms of childhood maltreatment, neglect is the focus. Its impacts, though less publicized, are just as detrimental.

Experienced early on, neglect can create changes in the brain that contribute to a cascade of unrelenting problems for teenagers and young adults. It impairs the brain's natural wiring process, retarding communication among the brain's many cells, and it switches the brain into a kind of permanent high-stress mode.

Neglect also changes several key regions of the brain. The most important is the prefrontal cortex. Located just behind the forehead, the prefrontal cortex is the site of so-called executive function, adult-level management skills such as planning for the future, impulse control and the ability to concentrate and distinguish right from wrong. Emerging research suggests that the "critical period" for development of the prefrontal cortex may extend into a person's 20s, and even beyond. While most teens and 20-somethings look like adults on the outside, their brains are still maturing.

The prefrontal cortex tends to be smaller in neglected children, and it is less well connected, from a communications standpoint, to other brain regions. These differences are associated with a higher incidence of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, which affects about 1 in 5 neglected kids, compared to 1 in 20 children in the general population.

Unlike abuses such as rape, neglect is not classified as a trauma. But kids like Danielle who are neglected are far more likely to experience trauma, because they don't have adults in their lives who can protect them.

Some differences between the consequences of neglect and abuse were noted decades ago in behavioral studies, including one landmark study published in the American Journal of Public Health back in 1996. The study followed nearly 1,200 people. More than half the subjects had been neglected, abused or both; 520 had not experienced either abuse or neglect. The study's lead author, Dr. Cathy Spatz Widom, now a professor of psychology at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, showed that girls who had been either neglected or sexually abused had a much higher chance of becoming prostitutes as adults. Girls who had been only physically abused were less likely to enter the sex trade. More recently, neuroscientists have begun to uncover the specific changes in the brain that are likely playing a role in these behaviors.

The amygdala and stranger danger

For instance, many neglected kids and teens are starved for attention, a craving that creates exceptional vulnerability in a young person whose impulse control (think prefrontal cortex) is not fully developed. Any attention, even bad attention, is better than no attention at all. Neglected children show an alarming lack of caution around strangers, approaching and engaging them more readily than children raised by consistently attentive parents. Scientists believe that this reckless tendency, which can put neglected children and teens at high risk for sexual assault, has something to do with a portion of the midbrain, called the amygdala.

This small, almond-shaped bundle of neurons straddles the left and right hemispheres deep inside the brain's temporal lobe. Its name comes from the Greek word for almond. The amygdala helps process emotional experiences, memory and trauma and is also believed to play a role in emotional bonding.

Using neuro-imaging technology, researchers studied the responsivity of the amygdala in neglected vs. non-neglected children. In one study , scientists at the University of California in Los Angeles tested 67 kids ranging in age from 4 to 17. Half of their child subjects had spent time in international orphanages and were later adopted. The other children — the control group — were raised in attentive homes. Parents of all the study subjects answered questionnaires about their child's tendency to engage with unfamiliar people.

Researchers showed their young subjects photographs of faces, including the faces of strangers and of their own biological or adoptive mothers, while measuring the response of the amygdala. Children raised in healthy, nurturing environments showed a heightened response when looking at pictures of their mothers, whereas neglected kids had the same level of amygdala activity regardless.

The researchers also found that the age at which the child was adopted played a role. The older the child, the less likely he or she was able to differentiate between the photo of an adoptive mother and a stranger. "The stranger anxiety or wariness that young children typically show is a sign that they understand their parents are very special people who are their source of security," explained Dr. Nim Tottenham, associate professor of psychology at UCLA and the study's senior author. "That early emotional attachment serves as a bedrock for many of the developmental processes that follow."

In an earlier, 2000 study in the journal Developmental Psychology , researchers compared the responses of neglected and abused youth when they were shown photographs of various facial expressions. Both groups saw faces that exhibited a range of emotions, including angry, sad, fearful and neutral. Abused kids were more likely to see anger in neutral expressions; neglected kids were not as good at perceiving the difference between anger and other emotions, or at correctly identifying emotion of any kind.


(3 of 3)

Fixing a neglected brain

Scientists used to believe that the adult brain was rigid. But recent evidence shows it remains capable of generating new cells and circuitry — of adapting.

by Stacey Solie

Editor's Note: Whether physical or emotional, benign or malicious, neglect alters the developing brain's architecture and circuitry in profound ways that often lead to physical and behavioral problems throughout life. In Part 3 of our series on The Neglected Brain we look at the surprising capacity of the adult brain to overcome childhood neglect.

Adolescence is a time when the human brain becomes increasingly sophisticated, a time when we are learning to control impulses, plan ahead, behave responsibly. "Self-regulation in early adolescence is stronger than it had been in childhood, but is still somewhat tenuous and easily disrupted,” writes Dr. Laurence Steinberg in his new book Age of Opportunity: Lessons from the New Science of Adolescence . Steinberg, a professor of psychology at Temple University, is a leading expert on the adolescent stage of human development. "During the second half of adolescence, self-control gradually becomes governed by a well-coordinated network of brain regions, which is helpful when we face a demanding task or distracting background conditions and we need additional brainpower."

Danielle Goodwin grew up with distracting — and often dangerous — background conditions. In fact, the combination of neglect and abuse that she experienced as a child predisposed her to a deeply troubled adolescence and young adulthood. Her method of coping with the chaos, of soothing herself, was to escape into drugs, which triggered the release of dopamine, the neurotransmitter whose dominion over the brain's reward and pleasure centers gave Danielle the kind of pleasure that her human relationships rarely delivered.

Danielle was never parented. She grew up with a drug addicted mother. She never knew her biological father, but men — her mother's shady boyfriends — paraded through her childhood. "We were often hungry," she recalls. "My mom would be gone for days and she'd leave us in strange places." Danielle and her five siblings were so needy they'd cling to their mother whenever she was around, even gathering on the bathroom floor while she took a bath. "Anytime my mom was home and sober," says Danielle, "we would follow her anywhere she went, and just cherish those moments."

When Danielle was 11, her mother met a biker from Calgary and moved with him to Canada, taking the children with her. Her mother liked to go out drinking, and in Calgary she started bringing a dolled-up, underage Danielle along. The biker didn't like having his girlfriend's kids around, and when the relationship inevitably soured, the family headed back to Montana.

Upon their return, Danielle's mother reconnected with an ex- who had just been released from prison. He'd been serving time for statutory rape. The boyfriend would leer at Danielle and touch her butt. "He's weird," she remembers telling her mom.

Danielle was just 14 when her mother was sent off to rehab for 30 days. While her mother was gone, the boyfriend continued to come around and drink with Danielle. One night he raped her. She got pregnant — and also blamed. She ended up running away, first to Spokane and then to Seattle, where she was taken in by an older woman.

To earn her keep, the woman encouraged Danielle to have sex with adult men in exchange for drugs and money. When Danielle's mother arrived in Seattle, she crashed there too, eventually getting them both kicked out. Danielle wound up in a dirty hotel in Pioneer Square, high on crack and nine months pregnant.

She was on a "date" when she felt the first pangs of labor. Young and inexperienced, she didn't know what was happening. Her mother called 911, and paramedics took Danielle to the UW hospital, where she gave birth to a baby girl. While she was recuperating from the delivery — and her newborn was detoxing from the crack — a social worker asked her, "Are you ready to change your life?"

State law requires social workers, educators, police officers, healthcare workers and other professionals step in whenever they suspect that a child has been the victim of abuse or neglect. But once they intervene, then what?

Dr. Eric Trupin, director of the University of Washington's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, helped establish the university's Evidence-Based Practices Institute. The institute was created by state law (House Bill 1088) in 2007. Part of its mandate was to compile a database of interventions that work — and don't work — when it comes to helping kids and families recover from neglect and abuse.

"What's so clear in the research is that there are biological, neurological or brain chemistry consequences to the way in which a child is managed or treated," says Trupin. "The nice thing is that [the consequences are] not immutable. We have a body of evidence that shows you can bring about change." That change, says Trupin, depends on schooling professionals about which interventions are effective, then making sure those interventions are available to children and their families. "We really need to increase access [for kids and families],” he says, “and train the professional workforce in these skills."

A poster child for parental neglect

When Danielle Goodwin was a frightened young mother wrestling with drug addictions some 20 years ago not much was known about how to successfully help a teenager in her situation. The response was to put her in a foster home. Unfortunately, like her first foster care placement, this home was also unstable. The couple who took her in was struggling with marital problems. When the husband moved out, his wife started stepping out at night, leaving Danielle at home to take care of her own baby daughter and her four foster siblings. Some nights her foster mother would come home drunk with strange men in tow, a scenario that stirred up scary childhood memories for Danielle. “I was triggered by that," she says.

One night, abandoned at home with five screaming kids and no diapers, Danielle called Child Protective Services. After a social worker stopped by and questioned her foster mother, their relationship deteriorated, and Danielle checked out emotionally. She wasn't bonding with her foster mother, or her baby, or with anyone. "The streets were calling me," she says. "I ended up numbing my feelings with drugs and running from life."

The next decade in Danielle's life was a trail of heartache and dysfunction. In 2006, she realized she was pregnant when her water broke. It was her fifth pregnancy. She gave her first baby (the one she'd had at age 15 ) up. She had her second child at age 21, but the father was so violent that CPS intervened, placing her baby in a foster home. Danielle lost any chance of regaining custody of those two children. Her abusive partner was eventually imprisoned on drug charges. She had her third and fourth babies, both boys, in 2003 and 2005. Their father was also arrested on drug charges.

The father of Danielle's fifth child was in prison and about to be deported to his native Mexico when she went into labor. She gave birth to a baby girl in February 2007. She remained in the hospital for two days after the delivery, which gave her a rare moment of quiet and sobriety, time to rest and reflect on her life with a clear mind.

During those two days, her parental instincts welled up and she began to worry about her two toddlers back home in Lake City. Danielle had left the boys with a babysitter, but like everyone else in her life, the sitter was an addict and dealers and users were constantly coming and going from the house. "I was physically, mentally, emotionally devastated," Danielle says. "I didn't have any family that could take them. I'm like, I'm calling CPS."

Goodwin's call to CPS was one of more than 28,000 suspected child neglect cases that were opened and investigated in Washington State that year, according to Partners for our Children. In response to her call, a caseworker visited the home and placed the boys and their new baby sister with Danielle's sister. But her sister wasn't stable either and when she became homeless a month later, CPS had to find another placement for them.

Danielle was a textbook risk for parental neglect. Poor, homeless, addicted to drugs, a victim of domestic violence, she personified many of the problems that experts say lead to child neglect. And things were about to get worse.

Danielle's pimp refused to let her visit her three children in foster care. He wanted her to work, and he threatened to kill her if she didn't. Because she had failed to visit her kids, she was on the verge of losing them permanently.

One day, angry about money he thought Danielle owed him, her pimp showed up, gun in hand, at a motel in Edmonds where she had been staying. He put the barrel to her ex-roommate's temple and demanded to know Danielle's whereabouts. Fortunately, the ex-roommate had no idea where Danielle was. Since her pimp couldn't get money, he stole a Cadillac instead, leading police on a wild chase that ended in a convenience store parking lot where he smashed the stolen Caddy into their cruisers. Officers shot him twice before arresting him and sending him to prison.

It was so rare for anyone to be nice to Danielle that she can remember every act of kindness. The woman who picked her up after she'd been gang raped, gave her a ride and bought her a sandwich. The man who saw her standing on the railroad tracks wearing only lingerie, who gave her a coat and $10. The drugstore clerk, who told her, "I'm going to pray for you."

Interventions in Danielle's life had been few and far between and mostly ineffective. She had fallen through the cracks of the social service system, and because she had fallen, her kids were at high risk of falling too. Danielle doesn't blame her mother for her troubles. Her mother was a victim too, sexually abused by a relative when she was only eight years old. Her great grandmother, of Chippewa-Cree descent, had been ripped from her home as a young child and placed in a boarding school, where she was sexually abused. Abuse and neglect were like family heirlooms.

"I want my kids back."

James Encinas first saw Danielle Goodwin in 2007, at a halfway house on Capitol Hill. He was looking out his second-floor window. Danielle was standing on the sidewalk below, yelling up to a friend to let her inside and ducking out of sight whenever a police car rolled by. There were several warrants out for her arrest on prostitution charges.

James had had his own troubles with the law, but he'd been clean and sober for two years and had a stable job. He was making his way in the world.

Hearing her pleas, he offered to put her up for a night or two. Danielle was pretty sure she knew what that meant. Turned out she was wrong. "He made me a bed on the couch and he slept on the floor," she recalls. "Then he let me go in the morning. I thought that was really weird. My experiences with men before that had been much different.”

James was different. He was the first person who ever listened to what Danielle had to say, the first to point out her strengths and the first person to offer genuine help. He knew the hard work she would have to do to get her life together, because he had started down that path himself, and he believed she could do it.

"You know you're a survivor, right?" he told her.

"He was the first person to say that," says Danielle. "Everyone else told me I was stupid."

He also asked her what she wanted out of life.

"I want my kids back," she told him.

James seemed to know and do, intuitively, what experts in many fields, from social work to neuroscience, all agree is key to helping people transform their lives. He cared and he showed Danielle ways to handle situations. "I was trying to find my way through life,” says Danielle. “Trying to find solid ground to stand on, without any examples. James started modeling for me how to advocate for myself."

Danielle was 29 when she met James Encinas. Perhaps the brain development delayed in so many neglected kids had finally occurred, allowing her to begin making the more sophisticated, adult decisions that Dr. Laurence Steinberg refers to in his book about adolescence. The idea of imagining a future and planning for it was beginning to take hold in Danielle, whose decision-making process had, until then, been nothing but a series of reactions.

Most studies of the neglected brain paint a grim picture, with neglected children having to make a go of life with a smaller brain volume, altered brain architecture and impaired circuitry that set the stage for physical and mental health problems later on. "That can sound a little depressing," allows Dr. Kate McLaughlin, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Washington, who studies trauma, neglect and the brain. "You lose those synaptic connections, but that doesn't mean the system can't recover."

In fact, the brain is much more adaptive than scientists had previously thought. Plasticity refers to the brain's ability to change and adapt, to create new connections and pathways in response to changes in a person's behavior or environment. Scientists used to believe that plasticity was only possible in the child brain, with adult brains becoming more rigid. More recent evidence shows that the adult brain is also capable of generating new cells and new circuitry — of adapting.

Exactly how we stimulate this rejuvenation, says McLaughlin, “is one of the key questions facing cognitive neuroscientists: How we can reinstate plasticity in systems that have not gotten the kinds of inputs that were expected."


Five Ways To Teach Your Kid To Be Mentally Tough

by Claire Dorotik-Nana, LMFT

The hope is that they become resourceful adults. The hope is that they learn to take life's ups and downs and continue on. The hope is that they will recover from setbacks and mistakes, and persevere — even becoming stronger as they go. For most parents, the hope when raising children is that they will grow to be mentally tough adults. And in order to grow mentally tough adults, we have to raise mentally tough kids — as it turns out the process begins very early on. So how do we teach our kids to be mentally tough? Here are five ways:

Teach Don't Tell. “Sit Down.” “Do Your Homework.” “Clean Your Room.” While these orders may be necessary, they don't teach your kid anything other than compliance. And often, if said too much, they can cause your kid to tune you out. If you want to teach, the first thing you need is an engaged learner. So how do you get your kid engaged? You stop directing, and start asking. “Do you know why you have to sit down?” “Do you know why you have homework?” “Do you know why you have chores?” Asking your kid these questions — and many more — as oppose to simply issuing orders, causes her to think, become engaged, and learn why she has to do the things you are asking. And understanding the purpose of things not only leads to better engagement and cooperation, it leads to better frustration tolerance — which is a huge part of being mentally tough.

Raise Your Standards. Kids are a reflection of you. Everything you do, what you say, how you respond to others, becomes your kid's reality. And yet, probably every parent has lost it at some point. But when you lose emotional control in front of your child, when you become defensive, fail to admit your mistakes, blame others, or act unkindly, your kids pick up on this too. And what you expect of yourself, is what you expect of your kids . So if you want your kids to grow to be mentally tough, show them what mental toughness is. Be a model of it. Show them how to take setbacks and use them to become better. Show them how to go after a goal, and don't stop until you get there. Show them how you hold yourself up to the standards you set. And then when you set the standards for them — or better yet, encourage them to set them for themselves — they will know how to reach them. Having high standards, and reaching them, is a huge part of being mentally tough.

Let Them See Reality. Reality is not a cell phone at 9 years old. Reality is not a big house with a swimming pool. Reality is not the next new video game. Reality, for the majority of the world, is much more basic than that. Food on the table, a roof over the head, clothes on the back. As much as our kids are shielded from it, the majority of the world's population lives well below our standard of living. Yet this may not be the best thing when it comes to teaching mental toughness. A kid who grows up with a certain standard of living, will expect to continue this standards of living as an adult. Yet unfortunately, this is just not possible for most college grads, who face an uncertain job market, and massive student debt. And this is a huge blow for most kids who grew up thinking that everyone has a nice house, nice car, and new clothes. So instead of shielding your kid from this harsh reality, show them what reality is. Let them see that life exists outside of their world and that people do just fine without cell phones, nice clothes, fancy cars, and big houses. Let them see that mental toughness is about knowing that your strength exists on the inside — in yourself — and is not defined by the things you have.

Practice Gratitude. According to researchers Richard Tedeshi and Lawrence Calhoun, two researchers who study post-traumatic growth, focus group reports of people who have gone through incredibly traumatic experiences and come out stronger, all relate one commonality: a feeling of gratitude. Gratitude for the life they have. What gratitude does is help survivors find a sense of appreciation when everything seems to fall apart — and it ultimately helps them continue on. And in order to teach your kids gratitude, show them what gratitude is — being grateful for what you have, as oppose to always wanting more. Show them how to find the positive in every situation — and there is one. Because mental toughness is about continuing on — even against the odds.

Teach Adaptability. Learning to adapt, according to Tim Harford, author of Adapt: Why Success Always Starts With Failure, is what separates not just successful individuals, but business and corporations, from the unsuccessful ones. The case that Harford makes is that adaptation is an evolutionary principle that has real world implications. Being able to take risks while not selling the farm, making mistakes, and then adjusting the approach based on mistakes, are the three components that define adaptability and as Harford notes, those who do not take risks do not evolve, because the landscape is always changing and what works for today may not work tomorrow. So if we want to be successful, we have to adapt. But learning to adapt is also a part of being mentally tough, because the truth is, things do not always go your way. So how do you teach your kids to adapt? Encourage them to try new things, even if it means taking a risk, and them let them know that mistakes happen, they are part of the learning process, and when they do, ask them what they learned, and what they can do different next time. Lastly, if you want to teach your kids to adapt, show them how you adapt when things don't go your way.

Teaching toughness to kids is not an overnight process, but it is one that builds upon itself. Because once kids learn what it is, and that it's something you — the parent — value, they naturally want to do it more. Yet while toughness for most kids is pretty instinctive, it is also highly linked to the environment in which they are raised.



New Study Shows Heightened Child Abuse Threat

by Daniel Heimpel

A reckoning is coming in child protection.

On December 2, the new and increasingly influential Children's Data Network partnered with the California Child Welfare Indicators Project to release a slew of studies showing that one in seven of all California babies born in 2006 and 2007 had been reported for abuse or neglect by age five.

This is nearly three times annual rates of child abuse reports in California.

The new research, which was funded by First 5 LA, linked birth records for the more than one million babies born in California in 2006 and 2007 to Child Protective Services records through their fifth birthdays.

The findings build on a small but growing body of data linkage research that is clearly showing that the child maltreatment threat is more prevalent than we as a culture ever knew before. This begs an important question: to what degree are public systems oriented to meet that threat?

"Much of what we know--or think we know--about risk factors for child abuse and neglect is based on point-in-time (cross-sectional) and retrospective studies of children reported for maltreatment," the Children's Data Network website reads. "These estimates give the impression that only a small share of children are maltreated or placed in foster care, whereas cumulative estimates demonstrate the true severity of the risks and the resulting public health burden."

Beyond the prevalence of reported abuse, the rate at which children were confirmed victims of abuse or neglect in the study was higher than most counts. By age five, 5.1 percent of California babies born in 2006 and 2007 had substantiated reports of abuse and neglect. That is 55,881 babies, toddlers and preschoolers.

This is five times the rate one would glean from federal data provided by the Department of Health and Human Services, which has consistently reported that about one in 100 children will be confirmed victims of abuse or neglect in a given year.

The Data Network's latest findings come on the heels of a blockbuster study released in June. Yale University researcher Christopher Wildeman and colleagues -- including Emily Putnam-Hornstein, the director of the Data Network -- published results after sifting through 5.6 million child abuse records housed in the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System.

By age 18, the researchers found, one in eight American children will have the experience of a social worker entering their home and determining that they were abused or neglected.

This all points to a pressing question in the world of child protection.

Cumulative rates of reported and substantiated child abuse and neglect are as much as eight times the annual rates reported by venerable, trustworthy state and national data systems.

This makes it hard to credibly assume that our current child protection system is built to meet the challenge it faces. So how would one go about building a child protection system that could? How would one orient all the public systems that touch children to better address child maltreatment?

These are questions The Chronicle of Social Change will explore in more depth. But for now, thanks to the Children's Data Network, we have an ever-clarifying picture of the scope of child maltreatment.

Fully understanding the problem is an important step towards finding the solution.

Daniel Heimpel is the founder of Fostering Media Connections and the publisher of The Chronicle of Social Change.



Child abuse cases are on the rise in Mesa County

by Stacia Strong

MESA COUNTY,Colo. -- On Wednesday a woman was cited for one count of child neglect without injury after allegedly leaving her children home alone, and one was found wandering the streets.

Misti Gallegos' 5 year old daughter was found wandering down 29 Road with a black eye.

She reportedly left her 1 and 5 year old home alone, while neighbor Mary Elizabeth Archuleta said she was at the apartment next door.

The children have been removed from the home by the Department of Human Services.

Archuleta said she has been looking out for Gallegos' kids like they were her own for some time.

“They're like grand kids to me, and I hope she can get them back, because she needs those babies," said Archuleta.

But it's another child abuse case this year, adding to an increasing list of cases in Mesa County.

The number of child abuse cases has been on the rise since 2007. Last year there were 493 cases, and in the first quarter of 2014 there were 107 child abuse or neglect cases according to the Mesa County Department of Human Services.

Many details surrounding the Gallegos case are still unknown.


Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect

by Dr. Charles Lewis, Jr.

What if we knew how to prevent children and youth from engaging in risky and self-destructive behaviors? What if we can use scientific research to identify those factors that work and then could replicate success? In 2009, the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine issued a report: Preventing Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Disorders among Young People: Progress and Possibilities that change the thinking of researchers and policymakers about behavioral health. It launched a new era of prevention research and we are beginning to see the dividends today. Policymakers are now looking for ways to prevent as well as treat social problems.

A well-attended congressional briefing was convened yesterday in the Rayburn House Office Building entitled: Practical Lessons on Moving Successfully from Prevention Science to Policy: What Works in Getting “What Works” into Policy. It was a rare event on the Hill where neither party blamed the other for the country's problems or the inability to solve our problems. It was an opportunity for researchers who have been successful in preventing child abuse and neglect to discuss how their findings might influence policy on the federal level.

Two Democrats, Congressmen John Conyers (MI-13) and Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-3), and Republican Congressman Todd Young (IN-9) joined forces to promote an idea whose time may have come—how prevention science can be used to reduce incidences of social ills and save taxpayers billions of dollars. By reducing the amount of children and youth who participate in risky behaviors, we can limit the number who gets involved with crime, substance abuse, premature pregnancy, and we might even help many avoid the onset of certain mental health disorders that would result in billions spent on incarceration, welfare, and behavioral health services.

In June 2014, Rep. Young introduced H.R. 4885: The Social Bond Impact Act that would amend Title XX (Block Grants to States for Social Service and Elder Justice) to create a new Part C for social impact bonds. Should the bill become law, it would require the Secretary of Treasury to seek proposals from states or local governments for social impact bond projects that produce measurable, clearly defined outcomes resulting in social benefit, such as employment for the unemployed, reduction in incidences of child abuse and neglect, improved high school graduation rates, and reduction in teen and unplanned pregnancies.

Applicants would be required to conduct a feasibility study, funded under the Act. The law would allow the federal government to partner with a private entity that would provide financing to a certified nonprofit to scale up an effective program. Should the program achieve expected successful outcomes, the government would then pay back the private entity, including a modest additional fee.

In an unusual display of bipartisanship, the bill has 28 co-sponsors evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. It has been assigned to both the House Financial Services Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee. While the idea of social impact bonds has had limited practice in the United States, it has been used more extensively in the United Kingdom with somewhat mixed results. Goldman Sachs touts itself as a pioneer in the creation of social impact bonds in the U.S.

Several experts shared the successes with prevention research. Dr. Neil Wollman, co-director of the National Prevention Science Coalition and Dr. Diana Fishbein of the University of Maryland's School of Medicine organized the briefing. The presenters included Catherine Nolan, a social work graduate of the Catholic University, who directs of the Office of Child Abuse and Neglect for the Children's Bureau described successes of the Children Bureau in scaling up evidence-based home visiting to reduce child abuse and neglect. The Children's Bureau operates a national resource center for their federally-funded child abuse programs. Dr. Allison J. Metz, co-director of the National Implementation Research Network at the University of North Carolina stressed the importance of fidelity in replication, particularly when scaling up successful programs. She also emphasized the need to build the capacity of governments to use evidence-based programs and creating hospitable funding, policy and regulatory environments. Dr. Dennis Embry, president of the PAXIS Institute, expounded on entrepreneurial approaches to large-scale implementations of evidence-based practice, including the success of his world-renown Good Behavior Game.

It will be interesting to see how this idea evolves in the social work profession as a number of scholars have pointed out that the profession is uniquely suited to embrace a prevention approach to practice, research and policy because of its longstanding commitment to an ecological perspective in addressing the wellbeing of individuals and families. Social work faculty at the University of Chicago's School of Social Administration, for one, are moving forward with prevention practice and research. It may be just a green shoot now, but it is encouraging to see that Congress can be a place to advance meaningful ideas about how we can make our world a better place.



Childhood trauma has lasting effects

by Sen. Julie Lassa

One of my ongoing concerns as a legislator has been the health of children and families. Most recently, as a member of the Legislative Council Steering Committee for Supporting Healthy Early Brain Development, I've been working on policies that address the impact of adverse childhood experiences on the long-term health of both our children and our communities. The effects are wide-ranging and touch the lives of every Wisconsin citizen.

An adverse childhood experience can be any traumatic event in a child's life. These might include physical, emotional or sexual abuse; someone in the household with substance abuse issues; a household member who is struggling with mental health issues; violence between adults in the home; or the absence of one or both parents. These traumatic events can occur in the lives of children from all backgrounds, and they are much more frequent than many people believe. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, in the six counties of the 24th Senate District, the rate of adverse childhood experiences ranges from 15 percent to more than 20 percent.

It's bad enough that so many children suffer abuse and neglect. What makes this public health crisis even worse, however, is that the effects of childhood trauma can stay with people well into adulthood. There is a well-documented link between adverse childhood experiences and a range of physical and mental problems including depression; anxiety; alcohol and drug abuse; tobacco use; diabetes; asthma; and cardiovascular disease. These problems can make it harder to be successful at school and work and can increase the demands on social services and the health care system. And because these behaviors can create trauma for other members of the household, childhood trauma is often cyclical, with parents "passing it on" to their own children.

All of us suffer the social consequences — and bear the costs — of the prevalence of childhood trauma. As a matter of public policy, trying to address these social problems without taking into account how childhood trauma contributes to them is like trying to cure a disease by treating only the symptoms. Many of the experts testifying before the steering committee have been calling for trauma-informed policy to educate the general public and raise awareness on the part of persons employed in the education, child welfare, mental health, substance abuse and corrections systems of the impact of childhood trauma on the people they serve.

Trauma-informed care would include partnering with health care providers to include greater screening and intervention for the impact of adverse childhood experiences. Most importantly, Wisconsin can invest in proven prevention programs to prevent the maltreatment of children before it takes place.

I am optimistic that the Steering Committee for Supporting Healthy Early Brain Development will develop policy proposals that can help Wisconsin make real progress toward reducing the incidents of childhood trauma and its impact on individuals and communities. I also applaud Wisconsin First Lady Tonette Walker for making trauma-informed care one of her policy priorities. No effort could be more crucial to making life better for children today, as well as helping them become healthier, more productive adults and improving the quality of life for all of us in the future.

You can learn more about Adverse Childhood Experiences, also known as ACES, at the Wisconsin Children's Trust Fund website, There is also a wealth of research available from Harvard University's Center on the Developing Child at

Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, represents the 24th Senate District.



Childhood trauma can cause trauma for life

by David Templeton

One 58-year-old woman from Indiana, Pa., still struggles daily from memories of her father routinely forcing her, her mother and siblings at gunpoint against a wall while he shot a ring of bullets around them.

Robin, 43, of the North Hills, still lives with her mother, who she says has verbally abused her since childhood. Robin said she has repeatedly been told she's worthless and a big disappointment. Now she's undergoing weekly therapy, while seeing an abuse counselor, along with taking medications to help her function.

Still another 28-year-old woman of Washington, Pa., who asked that her name not be published, says she's so emotionally terrorized by her mother that she's adopted a survival strategy: “They say that time heals all wounds, but I've found distance to be more helpful.”

It has long been clear: Childhood abuse of any kind — physical, sexual or psychological — has profound impacts on children, adversely affecting mental and physical health throughout life. The chronic levels of stress hormones kill off brain cells and shrink the hippocampus, the brain's emotional center.

Now a growing arm of research is pointing at the impacts of psychological and emotional abuse — the constant pronouncements that the child is worthless, stupid or doomed to failure, with chronic neglect causing its own dire impacts.

A study published last month in the American Psychological Association journal, Psychological Trauma, Theory, Research, Practice and Policy, analyzed 5,616 youths in the National Child Traumatic Stress Network Core Data Set with lifetime histories of one or more of the three types of abuse — psychological maltreatment (emotional abuse or emotional neglect), physical abuse and sexual abuse.

Most (62 percent) had a history of psychological maltreatment and 24 percent of all cases were exclusively that type of abuse, which included “inflicted bullying, terrorizing, coercive control, severe insults, debasement, threats or overwhelming demands” from a caregiver. Neglect includes a child being shunned or isolated.

Psychological abuse during childhood becomes encoded in the brain. The memories become tyrannical, heightening the risk of high rates of depression, anxiety disorders, low self-esteem or post-traumatic stress. Suicides among these victims occur at the same rate, and sometimes at a higher rate, than among children who were physically or sexually abused, the study says.

The psychological effects also can lead to chronic health problems including heart disease and diabetes. Impacts also can include problems dealing with others, isolation or desensitization or difficulty in dealing with authority. Some resort to self-injury.

Tamika, 35, of Bellevue, stepped forward to tell her story about persistent childhood abuse she experienced that has forged a difficult adulthood.

She said her mother, who now lives in California, called her ugly and worthless, once impulsively cutting off her bun of hair to give her an uneven chop, only to deride her for being bald. She also would cut off her ponytails for no reason. The African-American child was verbally abused on a daily basis, with her mother chiding her dark complexion, she said.

There was also some physical abuse, she said. Based on lifelong self-analysis, Tamika says she believes she was mistreated because she resembled her father, who disappeared from the family in Mississippi when she was a young child.

“The problem with my mother is that she had such evil intent toward my father, and I looked like him. So she tortured me because she wanted to torture him,” said Tamika, who spent years in foster homes and now is a single mother of two. “There were negative comments — that I would amount to nothing, that I would always be on the street, that no one wanted me.

”To this day you still feel that no one will ever want you,” she said.

Robin of the North Hills said her mother was controlling and never once said, “I love you.”

“She would speak for me and to me, and I wasn't allowed to speak,” she said. “She put me in the closet for hours for bad grades. She was badgering, calling me stupid, dummy and that I would never amount to nothing. I was always nervous around her and never wanted to tell her anything. If I brought home a friend, she would make the friend go home. She tried to be the center of attention. I will never hear something nice from her.”

In time, she retreated into her own mind. She got involved with the wrong friends, which persists to this day. She married and has a young daughter, who is her sole source of joy, she said. But her husband committed suicide after she announced she was gay. She moved from job to job, quick to quit whenever reprimanded. “I didn't give notice. I just say, bye-bye.”

In time, Robin would be diagnosed with bipolar disorder and found herself taking 10 prescribed medications, including antidepressants and mood stabilizers. She even underwent electric shock treatment. “I could write a horror book,” she said.

Finally in recent years, she began dealing with the issue. She found a doctor who replaced the medications with one that stabilizes her mood and emotions, along with help from her therapist and abuse counselor.

“I've only started dealing with it recently,” Robin said of her mother's behavior. And yet she can't forgive, let alone forget. “Your mother is supposed to be your best friend. Not me.”

Among the three types of abuse, psychological maltreatment was most strongly associated with depression, general anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, attachment problems and substance abuse, the study states. Psychological abuse that occurs along with other types of abuse caused significantly more severe and far-ranging negative outcomes than when a child was involved in physical or sexual abuse.

Maltreatment can be so impactful that the study equates it with the impacts on children who simultaneously had been sexually and physically abused. It leads to behavioral issues at school, with attachment problems and self-injurious behavior.

Substantiating psychological abuse is difficult for caseworkers because there are no physical wounds, said study leader Joseph Spinazzola, vice president of the Justice Resource Institute and executive director of its trauma center in Brookline, Mass.

“We were surprised at how frequently psychological abuse was associated with the worst impacts of any maltreatment types,” he said. “Psychological abuse is like a hidden stain and these people are stained with the sense of who they are.”

They don't like themselves, he said. They expect to fail. They have problems finding healthy relationships. They internalize messages that they are inferior and unworthy of love and success. “It leads people to hate themselves,” Dr. Spinazzola said.

And, yet, the person often ends up spending a lifetime trying to establish a connection with the abusive mother or caregiver, even if they can't make it happen. People innately seek to connect with their parent, with studies showing young monkeys preferring to stay with their mothers and starve rather than be separated with access to food.

“Those who never had security as children never let that go,” Dr. Spinazzola said. “And when people chronically are stuck there, the yearning for a connection doesn't go away. Their target is the perpetrator [of abuse]. The person is longing for love and care. It's ironic and sad.”

Those abused in childhood struggle to come to terms with their past, while fighting urges to blame themselves.

The 28-year-old Washington, Pa., woman said she decided to flee her mother, who was controlling to the point of being emotionally smothering. “I will never be able to talk to her on the phone again, her voice is so triggering,“ she said, noting she's been in therapy for three years with medications for depression. But she said she's considering sending her mother in California an email to reconnect with her and check on her health.

”I know that I will not have a chance to see her again before she dies. I love her so deeply, but the hurt is deeper,” she said.

The Indiana woman, whose father terrorized the family with guns, said she witnessed her father beating her mother and also was severely beaten by him. One time she grabbed a shotgun out of his hands. Another time, she wrestled with him as he wielded a loaded .41 Magnum revolver. Her mother grabbed the gun and fired it at him as he fled the house.

She said she suffers post-traumatic stress and generalized anxiety disorders, with little help. But she married a man who's now helping her deal with her past. “I am finally, after years of struggle, seeking help for emotional damage as a child,” she said. “I am now working via art, to try to heal. I have reached out to someone who can perhaps guide me to therapy so I can fully heal.” But she also added, “I still loved him.”

Tamika, who works in social services, says her only sources of joy are helping others in her job and raising her son, 8, and daughter, 1. Her therapist, she said, told her she has borderline personality disorder, which she links to childhood detachment from her mother and the lack of nurturing. She also cites problems with relationships, which she flees the moment she senses trouble.

One time when a teacher called her mother, her mother claimed she had no daughter. Such memories feed her self-doubt.

“Things haunt you,” Tamika said. “I just want people to know that the psychological torture will stay with you.”

Psychological abuse can be deadly

On average, four or five children die daily from maltreatment, with those numbers likely underestimating the death toll, according to Childhelp, a nonprofit organization focused on the treatment and prevention of child abuse. Its statistics show:

• Each year brings 3 million reports of child abuse involving about 6 million children.

• It is estimated that as many as 60 percent of child fatalities due to maltreatment are not recorded as abuse on death certifications, with 70 percent of children who die from abuse being under the age of 4.

• Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and levels of education.

• In at least one study, about 80 percent of 21-year-olds who were abused as children met criteria for at least one psychological disorder.



Advice for discussing traumatic events with children

by Monique Polak

Don't be afraid to share your own emotions. “Parents' tears show their children that crying is a natural reaction to emotional pain and loss. Children can then be more comfortable sharing their own feelings,” said Rosemary Reilly, an associate professor in Applied Human Sciences at Concordia University who has a special interest in helping adults support children in the wake of traumatic events.

Be honest and encourage questions. It is important for parents to create an atmosphere of reassurance and openness. “This gives the message that there is no right or wrong way to feel,” Reilly said.

Encourage different types of emotional expression. Reilly suggests that children who may have trouble verbalizing their feelings can be encouraged to express themselves through writing or art.

Watch for warning signs. Children who appear emotionally numb, depressed or have persistent sleeping and eating disturbances might need professional support. In older children, watch for drug or alcohol abuse, fighting and risky sexual behaviour.

Read up. Reilly suggests the following books for parents who want to learn more about helping their children cope with trauma and grieving:

Bereaved Children and Teens: A support guide for parents and professionals. By Earl Grollman. Beacon Press, 1996

35 Ways to Help a Grieving Child. Dougy Center for Grieving Children, 1999

Children's Grief: A Guide for Parents. By Pam Heaney. Longacre, 2004

Helping Teens Work through Grief. By Mary Kelly Perschy. Accelerated Development, 2004

Healing a Teen's Grieving Heart: 100 Practical Ideas for Families, Friends and Caregivers. By Alan D. Wolfelt. Companion Press, 2001



Four ideas for helping children in Tennessee

The first five years of life are critical to a child's development and Tennessee needs to devote more resources to supporting healthy early childhoods, according to a new report.

The Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth renewed its push for policy changes with its latest "KIDS COUNT: State of the Child in Tennessee" report, presented Thursday at the downtown Nashville Public Library. The report focuses on the importance of making sure children start school with the cognitive, social and emotional skills needed to learn.

The commission will continue to appeal to state officials, lawmakers and community groups to follow the recommendations, said Linda O'Neal, the commission's executive director.

Here's are the four ideas for improving the climate for children in Tennessee, according to the group:

1. Expand Medicaid

A Medicaid expansion would give more Tennessee parents and children access to health care, said Mary Nell Bryan, president of Children's Hospital Alliance of Tennessee.

"Children with health care coverage are more successful in school. They miss fewer days," Bryan said. "Children also benefit when their mother has access to health care before they're born. Healthy moms are much likelier to give birth to healthy babies."

In 2012, Tennessee mothers received adequate prenatal care in 59.1 percent of births reported, according to the report. Nashville and neighboring counties varied greatly in the share of children who received adequate care, from Williamson County at 73.5 percent to Robertson County at 48.9 percent.

2. Expand preschool offerings

Expanding voluntary preschool programs would reach more students sooner, helping them build foundational social and academic skills. The programs could reduce the significant achievement gap between students from low- and high-income homes, as well as for English learners and native speakers, said Lisa Wiltshire, director of early learning innovation for Metro Nashville schools.

"Once our kids get behind, it severely limits the chances that they have in life. It costs taxpayers millions of dollars, and we have the lost potential of many human beings," Wiltshire said.

3. Expand in-home visits for new parents

The report recommends expanding home visitation services for new parents because research shows that such programs reduced child abuse, neglect and infant mortality.

Also Thursday, Tennessee child advocacy groups were among more than 700 organizations nationwide that signed a letter to federal lawmakers urging them to preserve funding for home visiting programs. The Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program is funded only through March.

4. Reduce toxic stress

The report's final recommendation is to develop strategies that can reduce or prevent adverse childhood experiences, such as prolonged abuse, neglect, severe maternal depression and poverty.



Mother of child abused by foster parent speaks out

by Adam Wright

FORT MYERS, Fla.- For the first time, WINK News is hearing from a woman who says her 11-year old daughter was beaten with a belt by her foster mother.

Kelly Paulsen hasn't seen her daughter in over a year and is worried for her safety.

“I just want to squeeze her and tell her I'm so sorry, and that I think about her every day, every second of every day,” said Paulsen.

The Department of Children and Families removed Paulsen's daughter from her home 3 years ago. The child was placed in the care of Dunbar Christian Preschool Director Teresa Robinson.

Police say Robinson beat her foster daughter with a belt back in November, causing serious injuries. A police report states a medical professional said the child's injuries were too numerous to count. Robinson now faces child abuse charges and the victim has been removed from her care.

While DCF investigates, Robinson was told not have contact with the kids at the preschool she owns. WINK News found Robinson outside the preschool Friday, after bonding out of jail.

DCF said she is allowed to be on the property but only if no children are present. Robinson declined to speak with WINK News.

Meanwhile, Paulsen says her daughter was taken from her based on accusations that were never proven. She says she has been fighting to regain custody of her daughter with no luck.

“I just hope that she's with someone that will take good care of her and not hurt her, because she's just a great little girl,” said Paulsen.

DCF tells WINK News they have had prior contact with Robinson but did not specify how many times they have contacted her or why. She has had a total of nine foster children in care since 2008.


New York

Services for victims of domestic violence are for the few, not the many

Despite the strides made to confront it, domestic violence remains a prolific ill in our society. Statistics cited by Soda (Survivors of Domestic Abuse) tell us that one in four women and one in six men are affected by domestic violence, with two women killed each week by a current or former partner. And while there have been many worthy government initiatives to tackle the problem, it sill causes devastation to the lives of countless individuals, families and communities. There is a danger that services only associate domestic violence with a particular demographic, often linked to their own eligibility criteria, meaning that many victims do not have their needs met. A joined-up approach from different institutions is required, to increase exposure and help those that suffer not to feel stigmatised and hence reluctant to come forward.

As a survivor of domestic violence, my biggest bugbear is that services are for the few rather than the many in spite of the prevalence of this problem. To some extent austerity legitimises this position; only the individuals deemed to be at greatest risk will be allocated specialist services such as an independent domestic violence adviser. The original thinking behind Maracs (multi-agency risk assessment conferences) was identifying the top 10% of those at risk of serious harm or domestic homicide. This does not make any sense to me. The rationing of resources won't reduce the incidence of domestic violence but is likely to do the opposite against a backdrop of growing unmet need. Women's Aid reported last year having to turn away 155 women and 100 children in need of refuge accommodation.

This brings into sharp focus the dilemmas that those suffering can face. On one hand, we encourage people to come forward and leave their abusive partners and even chide them for not doing so sooner; but on the other, we are making it harder for people to leave as some are being left without support. For people who are already feeling less than worthy, with their dignity taken from them, what message does this convey about their value – they don't count?

As has been pointed out in an excellent piece of research, service users are involved very little in the Marac process. They are not invited to attend the conferences; that role is left to the domestic violence adviser. This lack of involvement means any process is done to the survivor, rather than with them. This reinforces the powerlessness a victim has already experienced.

We have to change the culture of services, and make them much more community-based, where the voices of survivors are at the centre. We need assertive approaches to domestic violence that span the life course, such as teaching about positive relationships and non-violence as part of the school curriculum, as they do in Canada and New Zealand. We also need advertising campaigns that clearly demonstrate it is not a problem that stops when we reach a certain age but can affect people of all generations.

We still have a long way to go, but let us begin by at least getting the issue into the open, so that adults and children can talk about it and those affected are made aware of how they can get help. This includes help for the perpetrators of violence, although specialist services are decreasing with the progression of cuts. This is a vicious circle that needs to be broken, but only if we are prepared to take the steps.



LAPD chief is open to investigating Bill Cosby sexual assault allegations

by Kate Mather, Richard Winton

In the weeks since allegations that Bill Cosby sexually assaulted women decades ago began generating national debate, it's been assumed that the accusations were too old to merit attention from law enforcement.

But on Thursday, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said his detectives would investigate any complaints filed with the LAPD against the comedian, even those exceeding the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution.

So far, Beck said, no complaints against Cosby have been filed with the LAPD.

But his statement opens another potential avenue of investigation into the accusations that Cosby drugged and assaulted women in the 1970s and 1980s. It also represents an increasing effort by law enforcement agencies to give older sexual assault cases new looks, in part to establish a pattern of behavior if a suspect is later accused of a new crime.

"We don't turn people away because things are out of statute. You come to us, especially with a sexual allegation, we will work with you," Beck said. "We address these things seriously, and it's not just because it's Mr. Cosby."

Under California law, the legal deadline for prosecuting a rape allegation involving an adult victim is 10 years. Serious assaults involving minors can be prosecuted if the incident occurred in 1988 or later.

But LAPD officials said there were many reasons to investigate sexual assault allegations that fall beyond those legal deadlines. Old accusations may lead investigators to more recent incidents with other victims. They may also lead detectives to perpetrators — such as teachers or day care workers — who might still have access to potential victims.

"Unfortunately, sexual offenses tend to be serial offenses," said Cmdr. Andrew Smith, an LAPD spokesman. "You find victim after victim after victim."

Prosecutors can use out-of-statute allegations to bolster their cases in court, said Carol Burke, the Los Angeles County head deputy district attorney in charge of the sex crimes division. California law allows any victims to testify as witnesses, she said, even if their own cases never resulted in charges.

Multiple witnesses allow prosecutors to show that a defendant had a propensity to commit such crimes, Burke said.

LAPD Capt. Fabian Lizarraga, whose Juvenile Division investigates sex crimes involving minors, said Beck's comments represented the department's open-door policy when it comes to sexual assault allegations. He said investigating all claims shows the department's commitment to victims.

"All victims deserve to be heard," he said. "It doesn't matter if it's out of statute or not."

Lizarraga noted the recent investigations involving "7th Heaven" actor Stephen Collins as an example of how one sexual assault report can lead to another. New York police began investigating the actor in 2012 after receiving information that he may have abused a 14-year-old girl years ago.

The LAPD opened its own investigation of Collins that same year, after a woman contacted police to say Collins molested her in New York decades earlier, and she thought he may have molested a relative in California. The LAPD said investigators repeatedly reached out to the relative, but that she never responded and the allegation was never substantiated.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department began its own investigation into Collins earlier this year, after news of the other investigations broke and another woman contacted local authorities. She told investigators Collins exposed himself to her at a West Hollywood apartment in 1983, when she was 13, sheriff's officials said.

The accusations against Cosby emerged about a decade ago, after a woman said in court that Cosby sexually assaulted her and then settled her lawsuit with the comedian. The allegations gained new momentum in October, when a comedian mocked Cosby's fatherly image given the sexual assault allegations. In the weeks since, multiple women have publicly accused the comedian of assaulting them decades ago.

This week, Judy Huth filed a lawsuit against Cosby in Los Angeles, accusing him of assaulting her at the Playboy Mansion in 1974, when she was 15.

Huth said that the comedian made her drink beer while playing billiards, then led her to the Playboy Mansion where the assault occurred. Her lawsuit states she only recently realized her "psychological injuries and illnesses were caused by the sexual abuse."

Cosby's attorney, Martin D. Singer, has not returned calls seeking comment. But in a court filing Thursday, he described Huth's accusations as "patently false." Singer said Huth tried to extort the comedian, demanding he pay $100,000, then $250,000, so she would "keep quiet."

Singer argued that the lawsuit should be dismissed because it had passed the statute of limitations, and Huth hadn't filed paperwork from a mental health practitioner saying there was a "reasonable basis to believe" Huth had been abused as a child.

The attorney said Huth "unsuccessfully tried to sell her story to the tabloids nearly a decade ago" and dismissed her allegation that she played a drinking game with the comedian, describing Cosby as a "lifelong non-drinker."

"The problem with [Huth's] allegations (in addition to the fact that they are patently false) is that they are 40 years old; and therefore, are inherently unreliable," Singer wrote in his response.

Huth's attorney did not return requests for comment.



Child abuse royal commission: victim recounts being raped during ritual at Satyananda Yoga Ashram

by Claire Aird

A young girl was raped by the head of a global yoga movement, Satyananda Sawaswati, on his visit to a New South Wales ashram, an inquiry has heard.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse hearing into the Satyananda Yoga Ashram at Mangrove Mountain on the state's central coast was also told a group of swamis abused the girl in a ritual setting.

The girl, known as APR in the hearing, moved to the ashram with her mother, father and sister in the late 1970s.

The abuse started when she was three years old.

"The ashram was the kind of place that if you scream, no-one comes," she said.

At the ashram, family relationships were broken down and parents separated from their children, who were routinely beaten, sexually abused and deprived of adequate medical treatment and food.

Attendees were referred to as "Innamtes" by the head of the movement, handed their assets to the ashram, shaved their heads, and wore orange robes.

"I feel the entire ashram was groomed into a place of powerlessness," APR said.

"My mother, who was a beautiful, strong and creative woman, was somehow brought to the point where she couldn't trust her ability to make decisions."

APR recalls that when she was no more than six years old she was taken into a dark room lit with candles.

There were five or six male swamis in the room, some of whom she recognised from the ashram.

During the ritual, she was held down and raped by Ahkandananda, the India director and spiritual leader of the ashram.

"While he was doing that, Ahkandananda cut the skin between my breasts with a knife and then licked the blood. He threw it into the fire," she said.

APR said she was then assaulted by several of the men and still has a scar down her chest.

Satyananda still worshipped as a guru

Founder Satyananda Sawaswati was the head of the organisation until 1988 and is still worshipped as a guru.

APR said that on one of his visits to the central coast ashram he raped her during an initiation ceremony.

"For years I have pushed away the thought that he had raped me, as my entire childhood I was raised to believe he was like God, pure love," she said.

The allegation follows earlier testimony given by another former child resident of the Satyananda Yoga Ashram, Bhakti Manning, that Satyananda abused her in India.

APR said she was also abused at night by older boys at the ashram when she was five or six years old.

She said the boys would zip her sleeping bags to theirs and perform sexual acts with her, and that this happened to other girls as well.

"I could see other girls in the room were also being put in the bags like I was," she said.

Pornography and drugs given to children

APR said pornographic magazines were put in the children's section of the ashram's library and that adults would give children a hallucinogenic drug called mungen brought from India.

"The adults used to egg us on to take bigger and bigger hits of it until we passed out on the floor, and no-one ever stopped this," she said.

APR detailed the horrific effects of the ashram on her life.

She suffers from chronic insomnia, flashbacks, and regressions to her childhood when she does not know who she is.

She said the effects of her upbringing really hit home when she had her own daughter.

"I would hold this tiny girl in my arms and try to understand how anyone could take advantage of someone so small," she said.

Parents 'need to own the choice they made'

The royal commission is expected to hear from a number of former adult residents and parents over the next week.

"I want to see the ashram actually protect children and not just be a guru fan club where people leave their brains at the door," APR said.

She told the inquiry she wanted the ashram shut down and said the adults that were there at the time were partly to blame for the abuse.

"The adults need to own the choice they made - they were the ones that put the kids in that situation," she said.

"They were the ones who stayed, and by staying, made it impossible for us to leave."


United Kingdom

Paedophiles who look at child porn but don't abuse victims should be treated by the NHS not punished in court, says Britain's top child protection officer

by Keiligh Baker

Britain's most senior child protection police chief has said people who view child sex images online but are not likely abuse should be treated by health services rather than brought before a court.

Simon Bailey, chief constable of Norfolk Police and the Association of Chief Police Officers' lead officer on child protection and abuse investigations, said research suggests at least 50 per cent of people viewing child abuse images could be classified as 'non-contact abusers'.

Mr Bailey said his approach was based on 'realism' but admitted it could be considered 'a very unpalatable response from a senior police officer'.

He said: 'What academic research would say is between 16 per cent and 50 per cent of those people who have viewed indecent images of children are then likely to be 'contact abusers''.

He added that clearly this group poses a threat.

But he also said those not considered a threat did not 'need to come into the criminal justice system in terms of being put before a court'.

He said: 'We have to think about an alternative solution. We need to engage with service providers from mental health and the health service to work with us to say these people need help.

'It is based upon the fact there will be a significant number of those people who will simply not go on to contact abuse.'

Mr Bailey made the comments during an interview with Randeep Ramesh for the Guardian.

The paper also reported police in the UK are believed to have a database of 50,000 people who regularly view child sex images.

Mr Bailey's comments come just days after doctor Myles Bradbury was jailed for 22 years for abusing 18 sick boys in his care, including possessing 16,000 indecent images.

His case is among those which has attracted criticism after Canadian police passed details of suspected paedophiles to UK forces as part of Operation Spade.

But in many of the cases, there were long delays in officers acting on the tip-offs.

Figures obtained by the Press Association last month showed more than 200 suspects are still being investigated after the information was first passed to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre in July 2012.

Children's charities said that anyone who views child porn should be considered a risk to children, and just by watching it they are furthering the trade in physical abuse.

Peter Saunders, the chief executive of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC), said: 'I often wish I had more money - I work for a charity - not big salaries.

'So I pay someone else to rob a bank - and give me the money. Have I done wrong? I think so.

'People who pay others to rape and torture children are as guilty as the abusers.

'We have no issue with people who come forward saying they fear they will hurt a child getting support to prevent that happening - absolutely. That's important too.'

Jon Brown, NSPCC lead for tackling sexual abuse, said: 'Anyone who views child abuse images should be considered a threat to children and must be evaluated and assessed on that basis.

'It may be that not everyone who views these images will go on to abuse a child but they must understand their urges are unacceptable.

'By viewing them they are part of a terrible trade which thrives on children - even babies - being sexually assaulted.

'Therapy and support for victims of abuse must take priority but there should also be help for those who want to change their behaviour and stop viewing such appalling material.

'This is a public health issue and anyone who recognises they have a problem should be supported in getting treatment to contain and reduce their risk to children.'

Mr Bailey's comments also come just weeks after a self-confessed paedophile outed himself on TV in a controversial Channel Four documentary last month, admitting he was attracted to young girls but denying he had ever committed an offence.

He said he was seeking help in Europe, where countries such as Germany have dedicated treatment centres, while experts called for the UK to adopt a similar approach.

The programme looked at so-called 'virtuous paedophiles' and suggests radical changes are needed to child protection that include treatment and therapy for those who come forward despite never having committed any sex offences

The broadcaster was criticised by victim support campaigners for giving airtime to the 39-year-old man, named Eddie, and encouraging him to discuss his urges.

Peter Saunders, chief executive of The National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC) said: 'This documentary shines the light in the wrong areas.

'Instead of feeling sorry for poor misunderstood paedophiles, we should be looking at the awful experiences of those who have been abused.'

However, other charities, including the NSPCC praised the programme for shining a light on the need to treat paedophiles before they abuse children or view under-age pornography.

In The Paedophile Next Door, a series of experts argue that men like Eddie – who claims he has never offended and who has no criminal record – should not be treated like 'evil monsters'.



Child protection failed to investigate sex abuse reports


County child protection agencies failed to investigate 203 reports of suspected child sex abuse in Minnesota last year, the state Department of Human Services said Thursday.

Those reports were instead referred to a program called “family assessment” that's designed to encourage families to work with the county, and not hold the abuser responsible. State law requires social workers to investigate allegations of child sex abuse to determine if maltreatment occurred.

DHS revealed the problem Wednesday to members of Gov. Mark Dayton's child protection task force, which is examining the use of family assessment in the state. The Star Tribune reported in October how family assessment, intended for less serious cases, is now used in thousands of cases where children are at high risk for more abuse.

Jamie Sorenson, DHS' director of child safety and ?permanency, said in an e-mail to task force members that a “sampling” of some of sex abuse reports showed they were funneled to family assessment.

“This practice must change,” Sorenson wrote. “This is where the department's guidance needs to be reformed and reissued to local agencies.”

On Thursday, Sorenson told the task force at its meeting that he learned about the problem when he reviewed the data last month. Four agencies — Sherburne, ?Stearns, Wright and the multicounty Southwest Health and Human Services — were responsible for the majority of the cases, Sorenson said in an interview.

Sorenson said DHS will now review those cases to determine what happened to those children. DHS will also send out a bulletin to counties this month to “reiterate that family assessment is not an option” for sex abuse cases, he said.

The administrator for ?Stearns County Human Services, Mark Sizer, said he was surprised to learn that his child protection department used family assessment to respond to child sex abuse cases. “That should never happen,” he said.

Administrators for the other county agencies could not be reached for comment.

‘Should be corrected'

Since 2002, the department has revealed in its annual child welfare reports that some sex abuse allegations were being routed to family assessment. But the reports came with the disclaimer that the cases were either wrongly reported as family assessments, or they were unfounded. Those disclaimers appeared each year, even as the number of sex abuse cases handled with family assessments rose from 8 in 2002 to 384 last year, accounting for about one in six reports.

Sorenson said Thursday that DHS will review only the 2013 cases. He said the agency does not have the resources to review earlier cases.

The agency will also start receiving monthly reports on current cases referred to family assessments, Sorenson said.

In an interview this summer, Erin Sullivan Sutton, assistant DHS commissioner for child and family services, said the department lacked the staff to review whether child sex abuses were wrongly referred for family assessments. Last week DHS announced that Sullivan Sutton will be reassigned to a new position focused on housing. James Koppel, a state health official and longtime child welfare advocate, will take over as DHS' head of child protection on Dec. 17.

Assessment ‘pressure'

Family assessments were put in place by the state Legislature in the early 2000s as an alternative response to less serious reports of child abuse. The program is designed to keep families together by offering parents voluntary services instead of punishing them for maltreatment.

Family assessment has since grown to become the predominant method of responding to abuse reports. Last year, about a third of the more than 14,000 families who went through the program were offered services.

As family assessment has grown, child protection agencies have moved away from investigating abuse. Counties investigated only 7 percent of abuse reports made in Minnesota last year. They “screened out” 71 percent of them, meaning they didn't provide child-protection services. The rest went to family assessment, which over the last two years has had a higher rate of children who were re-reported for abuse than the traditional model of investigating maltreatment.

During an interview in October, DHS Commissioner Lucinda Jesson said the use of family assessment has grown in the state due to “experience and training” and that DHS has not pushed the use of family assessment.

“I am not aware of any conversation we've ever had like that,” she said. “And I would be very concerned if somebody on my staff did that.”

But officials from 21 counties told Dayton's task force members last month that DHS was pressuring them to assign cases to family assessment.

“Counties have been uncomfortable with the pressure from the department,” said Judith Brumfield, director of Scott County Health and Human Services and a member of the task force.

The task force has until the end of this month to recommend system improvements to the governor.



Santa Ana man suspected in molestation of at least 11 boys


SANTA ANA – A man arrested Wednesday on multiple counts of child molestation may have at least 11 victims, according to Santa Ana police, who described the criminal case as “extraordinary.”

Edwin Echeverria, 22, of Santa Ana was taken into custody in the 3500 block of South Harbor in Costa Mesa as he was leaving work.

Echeverria is being held in the Orange County Jail in lieu of $1 million bail. Information about the number of child molestation counts he is facing was not immediately available and may be announced in Orange County Superior Court on Friday, when he makes his first appearance.

Police have identified eight boys, ranging in age from 10 to 14, as having been sexually abused, Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said. Police think at least three additional boys may have been victimized, he said.

Detectives are working to identify the three additional boys so they can be interviewed, and they are seeking information about other potential victims.

Bertagna described the potential number of victims as “extraordinary.”

“Detectives are not aware of any other Santa Ana cases involving a single suspect targeting such a large number of victims within recent memory,” he said.

Detectives think Echeverria began abusing the boys in the summer of 2012, Bertagna said. The boys lived in his Echeverria's neighborhood, he said.

He initially befriended the boys by selling them chips, soda and other items from his Warwick Square apartment, in the 700 block of South Lyon Street in Santa Ana, police said.

Over time, Echeverria is suspected of taking advantage of the rapport and trust he had established with the boys in order to persuade them to engage in sexual acts with him, Bertagna said.

It is suspected the molestations occurred when the boys were as young as 10, Bertagna said. The first incident is thought to have occurred in August 2012, and the most recent known incident occurred about two weeks ago, he said.

Police were alerted after the parents of one of the boys discovered their son might be involved in an inappropriate relationship with an unknown individual, Bertagna said. Police interviewed the boy, and a subsequent investigation led to the identification of Echeverria and additional boys who said they had been abused.

Santa Ana police are asking parents of children who may have had contact with Echeverria to discuss those interactions. If there is any sign of inappropriate contact with Echeverria, parents should call the Santa Ana Police Department's Family Crimes detectives at 714-245-8542 or Orange County Crime Stoppers at 1-855-TIP-OCCS.



Workshop to focus on child sexual abuse prevention

The Lebanon Special School District Family Resource Center will hold a workshop Monday on child sexual abuse prevention.

Staff Reports

The Lebanon Special School District Family Resource Center will hold a workshop Monday on child sexual abuse prevention.

“It's not a topic that we want to think about or discuss, but it is real,” said Beth Petty, director of the Lebanon Special School District Family Resource Center. “The first time I attended the training, I knew that child sexual abuse was real. I knew that I needed to report suspected abuse. I knew I would want to protect any child in this situation, but what really impacted me were the faces and stories of adult survivors of child sexual abuse.

“When I saw the heart-wrenching video of former Miss America, Marilyn Van Derbur, it was a visual reminder that child sexual abuse can happen to anyone in any economic or ethnic group. I knew that, but hearing her say that she was leading two lives, one on the camera where everything in her world appeared picture perfect, and one of shame and secrecy where it seemed that there was no one to help her in her own home, really made me stop and wonder how many children in Wilson County are living through abuse, and how many of our adults never told their secret and are living with shame and guilt. Miss America is as good as it gets – lots of little girls dream about being Miss America and wearing a crown. How could this happen to her?” Her father sexually abused Van Derbur from the time she was 5 until she turned 18.

“She said, ‘One thing I knew as a child is that there was no hope for me of it stopping.' Of her mother, Marilyn said, ‘I knew she would never, ever come to help me. I believe she made a choice, and she didn't choose me.'”

At 40, Van Derbur went into counseling to deal with what had happened to her.

Deb Daugherty, executive director of the 15th Judicial Child Advocacy Center, which serves children in Wilson, Trousdale, Smith, Macon and Jackson counties who have been physically and or/sexually abused, will facilitate the workshop. Its mission is to reduce the trauma of child abuse and facilitate the healing process. The child is interviewed about the abuse at the center by a trained forensic interviewer supported by a team of professionals. After the interview, counseling is advised so the healing process may begin in the child.

The CAC also provides child abuse prevention education to the community.

“We want to help them in that mission,” Petty said. “Typically, we target parents for our workshops, and that is still the case. However, we know that this one is a topic that all teachers, childcare workers, youth ministers and anyone working with children needs to attend. Education is the first place to start with a topic as sensitive as this one.

“Parents, one of your child's friends may come to you with a secret. Ministers, a survivor like Marilyn VanDerbur may come to you years later to finally talk about her guilt and shame. This workshop will help you prepare for how to respond.”

In addition to Daugherty, Castle Heights Elementary School librarian Cynthia Sharp will talk about End Slavery Tennessee, an anti-human trafficking organization. Sharp said there are 20,000 people trafficked across the U.S. border annually, and that 12-14 was the average age of entry into sex trafficking.

Last year in Tennessee, 85 counties reported at least one case of human trafficking, and four counties were involved with 100 or more cases. Sharp said lures into sex trafficking can come online or via cellphone, and parents should be aware of their child's social media habits.

Five ways Sharp said anyone could be smarter than their smartphone is by being a parent and a resource, using password protections, updating operating systems, approving apps before download and understanding location services.

The workshop will be Monday from 6-8:30 p.m. in the Castle Heights Elementary School library. Seating for the workshop is limited to 60, so RSVPs are mandatory. Free childcare is available, and light refreshments will be served.

To RSVP, contact Petty at 615-453-2693 or


Number of Sexual Assault Cases in Military Services on Rise: Report

by Sharon Peterson

US Defense Department officials said that the number of sexual assault cases has increased by almost 8% over the past years. It also said that this marker can further fuel a debate in Congress over whether the military is effectively prosecuting sex crimes.

It has been known that usually the sexual assault victims do not come forward or fight for themselves. But a recent Pentagon study revealed that they have found a gradual progress in this area.

According to the officials, the report estimated that almost 24% of all victims filed reports during the fiscal year that ended on September 30. They said that the figure is almost 11% higher as compared to previous two years statistics.

The Pentagon has been under high pressure to show whether it has made any progress in preventing and prosecuting sex offences, amid threats by lawmakers.

Advocates from both sides of the debate are still waiting for the results of the Pentagon's annual report on sexual assault, which according to the Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will be released on Thursday.

According to the defense officials, more than 5,400 service members filed sexual-assault reports in the previous year, which was up from about 5,000 a year before.

This data was even higher than the one released in 2013, when the Pentagon reported almost 50% increase in the filing of sexual-assault cases. The data released by Pentagon even shocked many lawmakers and advocacy groups.

According to some of the military leaders, the increase in reports does not mean that the crime has increased but it rather indicates that the victims are now more willing to trust the system and therefore, they file reports.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., a member of the Armed Services Committee, said, "Reporting of assaults being up and incidents of assault being down are exactly the combination we're looking for".


Gloria Allred Suggests Bill Cosby Waive Statute Of Limitations As Two More Women Step Forward

by Emma Gray

In a Wednesday Dec. 3 press conference , feminist attorney Gloria Allred addressed Bill Cosby with three of his accusers by her side. Allred threw down the gauntlet, asking Cosby to either waive the statute of limitations on allegations that more than 20 women have brought against him , or set up a $100 million account for his accusers and let a panel of retired judges review the claims.

The three women who joined Allred were Beth Ferrier, who was first publicly identified in 2005 as Jane Doe #5 in Andrea Constand's suit against Cosby, and Helen Hayes and Chelan (who is currently being identified by her first name only), who previously had not made their allegations about Cosby public.

The LA Times reported that Hayes is claiming that Cosby groped her breasts in 1973 while they were at a restaurant. Chelan, who was crying and visibly shaken during much of the press conference, said that Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her at the Las Vegas Hilton in 1986 when she was just 17, the same location where Florida nurse Therese Serignese claims she was raped by Cosby 10 years prior. According to the LA Times, Chelan told press that Cosby gave her a blue pill to "help with a cold." After she took it:

The woman said she found that she couldn't move or say anything and that he began sexually assaulting her before she blacked out. She said she awoke hours later to hear Cosby clapping his hands and saying, "Daddy says wake up." He gave her $1,500 to buy something nice for her and her grandmother, she told reporters at the news conference.

Allred said that her two proposed solutions were a way for Cosby's accusers and, should his name be cleared, Cosby himself, to get justice. She also said that she had "lost count" of the number of women who had contacted her with claims against the 77-year-old comedian.

When asked what advice she would give Cosby if she were his attorney, Allred was very clear: "Under no circumstances would I ever give advice to Bill Cosby... nor would he ever be my client, even if he wanted to be," she said.

Cosby has stayed fairly tight-lipped about the allegations, telling a Florida Today reporter on Nov. 22, "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."

His attorney, Martin D. Singer, gave a statement to The Huffington Post on Nov. 21, calling the recent slew of allegations "unsubstantiated, fantastical stories about things they say occurred 30, 40, or even 50 years ago have escalated far past the point of absurdity." His statement also targeted news outlets, calling the coverage of these claims "an unprecedented example of the media's breakneck rush to run stories without any corroboration or adherence to traditional journalistic standards."

HuffPost reached out to the Cosby camp about these new allegations and Allred's suggested next steps, but had yet to hear back at time of publication.

"We challenge Mr. Cosby to end this nightmare," Allred said as she wrapped up the press conference. "The ball is in his court."


Target removes ‘misogynistic' Grand Theft Auto V from shelves — ‘the only decent thing to do'

by Wendy Tuohy

A DECISION by Target to pull the hideous video game Grand Theft Auto V off its shelves was the only decent thing to do, and the retailer should be rewarded with patronage by parents.

Gamers continue to raise hell online over it, but a “game” that actively rewards players for acts of violence and sexual violence against women is indefensible, especially here and especially now.

Defenders of the assaults, shootings, killings, drug deals, violent thefts etc — and the sexism — in previous editions of the “open world, action-adventure” game claim the “stylised” violence should be viewed as ironic, but this holds no water.

The acts are depicted in such graphic detail there is no other interpretation but to take them literally.

I've seen the game in action, there's nothing jokey about it unless you really think heavy violence is entertaining.

Target made an excellent decision in responding quickly to a petition started by three Australian survivors of violence.

“It's a game that encourages players to murder women for entertainment,” Nicole, Claire and Kat, who didn't give their last names, said in the petition which has attracted huge support online.

“The incentive is to commit sexual violence against women, then abuse or kill them to proceed or get ‘health' points — and now Target are stocking it and promoting it for your Xmas stocking.”

It's not a matter of unreasonable censorship or over-sensitivity: kids play this stuff despite the R-rating and many parents are appalled when they finally get around to checking out exactly what goes down.

The graphics are high quality and the action is frequently toxic to the point of nightmarish — the added element of sexual violence only makes this already awful offering even more indecent.

As the petition's organisers said: “This misogynistic GTA V literally makes a game of bashing, killing and horrific violence against women.”

Though I struggle to see how anything that goes down in GTA is “fun”, mature gamers have every right to play it, and obviously they are able to discern between purported cartoon violence and the real thing, unlike the boys as young as 12 and 13 who think this game is cool.

Adult gamers are losing nothing by Target banning GTA V — it is very widely available and has been for some time.

But children will be spared the type of revolting images that would be very likely to not only disturb and distress them, but really pollute their minds.




Children enslaved by sex trafficking deserve help

Washington, and particularly its attorneys general, has worked hard to suppress the sex trade. A new report says the state's efforts are incomplete.

The Legislature created the Washington Statewide Coordinating Committee on the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in 2013 to determine how well the state does shielding children as young as 12 from abuse, or providing the services they need if they fall into or are coerced into the sex trade.

Identifying victims has become more complicated as enforcement efforts on the street have pushed traffickers onto the Internet. Insidious websites like mask their true purpose by promoting so-called “escort services.” Efforts by Washington to suppress them have run afoul of First Amendment protections.

Children, many smuggled into the country for sexual purposes, are less able than adults to free themselves because they do not have the life or language skills to break away. Some social agencies are not properly trained to provide services to those who do try to run, or whom law enforcement agencies intercept.

The committee estimates several hundred children are sexually exploited in Washington, but the lack of harder numbers for victims is one of the problems members would like addressed.

In Spokane, the crisis hotline manned at Lutheran Community Services may take several calls during the peak summer and fall months, none at other times. But as coordinator Mabel Elson notes, few young victims self-identify because the communities and people they encounter outside the trade are not familiar.

Elson heads the Inland Northwest Task Force, one of five in Washington implementing protocols that guide schools, law enforcement and other social agencies working with victims, who need support when the only living they have known was sex and their pimp. Training in a skill that will enable victims to break that dependence is one of the two most urgent local needs. The other is housing.

Lutheran Services already fulfills two of the task force's other recommendations: It is the single point of contact for victims and other agencies working with them. Recently, the agency emblazoned Spokane Transit Authority buses with appeals in three languages – English, Spanish and Russian – to raise awareness of the issue.

On Jan. 11, there will be a candlelight vigil for remembering the victims and survivors of human trafficking, which includes those exploited for their labor as domestics, etc.

The recommendations released this week are preliminary. A final report is due next year. By then, the Legislature should have moved beyond the task of funding K-12 education and will be able to turn its attention to some of the social problems that have been set aside.

Helping children enslaved for sex should be a priority when they do.



Montgomery schools work group examining child abuse policies, processes

One member calls group ‘a complete farce'

by Lindsay A. Powers

A Montgomery County Public Schools work group is aiming to improve the district's regulations and processes around child abuse, including staff training, parent and student awareness, and communication when incidents occur.

The group's goal is “to take a holistic view of this and come back with a more built-out and robust program” around the issue of child abuse, said Andrew Zuckerman, the school system's chief of staff who is leading the group.

One work group member, however — whose past and current work includes education, prevention and treatment related to child abuse — said she thinks the group is not moving quickly enough or adequately addressing certain issues.

Other group members hail from the school system, county police, the Montgomery County State's Attorney's Office and the county Department of Health and Human Services' Child Welfare Services program, which includes Child Protective Services.

The group started this past spring, and soon will meet a few short-term goals, according to Zuckerman. One is to increase parent awareness by adding the topic of child abuse in the school system's Parent Academy this winter.

In another part of its mission, the group will help the school system develop a new “training module” for staff, said Dana Tofig, a school system spokesman. That training will cover identification of possible child abuse incidents inside and outside school and staff members' obligations on reporting suspected incidents.

Under state law, school staff must call state or county Child Protective Services if they suspect child abuse, according to Tofig. The school system also expects its staff to call police.

The hope is that many school staff will take the training by the end of the school year, Tofig said, and remaining staff will take it “in the coming months.”

Zuckerman said the work group is looking at immediate and longer-term changes to training.

An information packet recently given to principals includes several documents with inconsistent directions about who staff should contact when child abuse is suspected or alleged.

A couple of documents indicate that staff should contact Child Protective Services and, if sex abuse is suspected, county police. Another document says to contact both Child Protective Services and police “when allegations of inappropriate conduct occur.” A couple of documents indicate only Child Protective Services as a necessary contact, and two others says Child Welfare Services or county police should be contacted.

Asked about the packet, Zuckerman said the materials given to principals and teachers over the years need to be examined and “streamlined into a single process.” He said school system staff understand to contact both Child Protective Services and police.

In addition to its short-term targets, the group is expected to release its recommendations in the spring of 2015.

Zuckerman said the group is examining how to improve communication within schools and when staff communicate with their communities.

Two principals have recently apologized for not telling their respective school communities earlier about incidents involving people accused of inappropriately touching students. One incident happened at Roberto Clemente Middle School in Germantown and another at Baker Middle School in Damascus.

Zuckerman said group members also are looking at a possible employee code of conduct and talking about the database the system started last school year to track reported allegations of inappropriate staff behavior with students.

Sheila Dennis, a group member, is an assessment administrator in the county's Child Welfare Services program. The school system is doing “a good thing,” she said, by looking at the “total picture” and trying to be “more sensitive” to students' and parents' needs.

She said the group is trying to clarify the school system's policy to help staff better understand when to call the authorities about observed or suspected child abuse and that they don't need permission to do so.

Dennis said school staff are “very aware of the fact that they need to make that call.” The county health department receives calls “all the time” from school staff making a report.

Group member Jennifer Alvaro — who teaches child abuse prevention programs — called the work group “a complete farce” and said she sees multiple problems in the system's approach to child abuse.

One mistake the group has made, she said, is not discussing past or recent specific incidents, including those at Clemente and Baker middle schools.

“If you're going to revamp the entire school system approach to preventing the sexual abuse of its students, how can you do that without looking at specific incidents?” she said.

Alvaro said the district is unnecessarily delaying certain actions that could help address the issue. The school system needs to immediately post more clearly visible information on child abuse on its website and develop an employee code of conduct for a consistent definition of inappropriate behavior, she said.

The packet recently given to principals indicates that the system is providing contradictory directions, Alvaro said. She said she doesn't understand why some staff don't know when to report an incident, which some in the work group raised.

The school district has shown it is “unwilling or uncapable” of making necessary changes, she said, and needs to hire an outside agency to investigate and set up policies and procedures for the district regarding child abuse.

“Their absolute refusal to be transparent about policies and procedures, their refusal to post an employee code of conduct, their refusal to be open with parents about the magnitude and extent of the problem is keeping children in danger,” she said.



USC study challenges traditional data: points to higher rates of child abuse

by Andrea Gardner

New research from the University of Southern California's Children's Data Network shows that approximately one in 20 children in California are victims of substantiated abuse or neglect before they reach their fifth birthday.

The study separately found that about 1 in 7 California children are reported to county Child Protective Services agencies over suspected abuse before they reach age 5. County social workers must determine if suspected abuse is substantiated.

Researchers from USC's School of Social Work studied records from children born in 2006 and 2007, linking the birth records with statewide Child Protection records over a five-year period. It found a dramatically higher rate of substantiated abuse than traditional child abuse data, which is compiled annually and includes all children under age 18.

Data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, for example, has consistently shown that about 1 in 100 children in the US are victims of substantiated abuse. State data generally mirrors the national percentage. This new research shows much higher occurrences of substantiated abuse - 1 in 20 - because it is a cumulative five-year period and is focused on young children who are known to be the most vulnerable to child abuse.

In the report, authors explained their methodology, writing "Annual rates understate the number of children who are involved with the child protection system throughout their early years. When children are followed from birth through age 5 – we see that the cumulative rate of children who are born in our state and are later involved with the child protection system is roughly triple annual rates of children reported, substantiated and placed in foster care."

Daniel Heimpel, a child advocate and executive director of the non-profit group Fostering Media Connections said this study should serve as a wake-up call to county officials.

"By looking at a child's life span for five years, you are able to see with greater detail and clarity whether or not they came into contact with the child protection system," he said.

The study, authored by Dr. Emily Putnam-Hornstein, also examined demographic and familial factors associated with higher rates of child abuse. It found higher rates of abuse in families with no paternity established at birth, a mother under age 30, and/or in families on public medical assistance.

Heimpel said this research can be used to help county social workers know where to direct voluntary services, to ensure that families most at-risk get the help they need before an abuse incident ever occurs.

"Being able to understand what the adverse risk factors for subsequent for child maltreatment are, is incredibly important if you are trying to offer voluntary services to families who have a heightened risk profile," he said. "The opportunity is to better know which families are at heightened risk, and with that information you can start to make decisions about where to direct scarce resources."



New Study Shows Heightened Child Abuse Threat

by Daniel Heimpel

A reckoning is coming in child protection.

On December 2, the new and increasingly influential Children's Data Network partnered with the California Child Welfare Indicators Project to release a slew of studies showing that one in seven of all California babies born in 2006 and 2007 had been reported for abuse or neglect by age five.

This is nearly three times annual rates of child abuse reports in California.

The new research, which was funded by First 5 LA, linked birth records for the more than one million babies born in California in 2006 and 2007 to Child Protective Services records through their fifth birthdays.

The findings build on a small but growing body of data linkage research that is clearly showing that the child maltreatment threat is more prevalent than we as a culture ever knew before. This begs an important question: to what degree are public systems oriented to meet that threat?

“Much of what we know—or think we know—about risk factors for child abuse and neglect is based on point-in-time (cross-sectional) and retrospective studies of children reported for maltreatment,” the Children's Data Network website reads. “These estimates give the impression that only a small share of children are maltreated or placed in foster care, whereas cumulative estimates demonstrate the true severity of the risks and the resulting public health burden.”

Beyond the prevalence of reported abuse, the rate at which children were confirmed victims of abuse or neglect in the study was higher than most counts. By age five, 5.1 percent of California babies born in 2006 and 2007 had substantiated reports of abuse and neglect. That is 55,881 babies, toddlers and preschoolers.

This is five times the rate one would glean from federal data provided by the Department of Health and Human Services, which has consistently reported that about one in 100 children will be confirmed victims of abuse or neglect in a given year.

The Data Network's latest findings come on the heels of a blockbuster study released in June. Yale University researcher Christopher Wildeman and colleagues — including Emily Putnam-Hornstein, the director of the Data Network — published results after sifting through 5.6 million child abuse records housed in the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System.

By age 18, the researchers found, one in eight American children will have the experience of a social worker entering their home and determining that they were abused or neglected.

This all points to a pressing question in the world of child protection.

Cumulative rates of reported and substantiated child abuse and neglect are as much as eight times the annual rates reported by venerable, trustworthy state and national data systems.

This makes it hard to credibly assume that our current child protection system is built to meet the challenge it faces. So how would one go about building a child protection system that could? How would one orient all the public systems that touch children to better address child maltreatment?

These are questions we at The Chronicle of Social Change will explore in more depth. But for now, thanks to the Children's Data Network, we have an ever-clarifying picture of the scope of child maltreatment.

Fully understanding the problem is an important step towards finding the solution.

Daniel Heimpel is the founder of Fostering Media Connections and the publisher of The Chronicle of Social Change.



Kentucky review panel calls for changes after reviewing dozens of child-abuse deaths

by Bill Estep

Education on safe sleeping practices, programs aimed at stopping abusive head injuries and better access to mental-health assessments could help prevent child-abuse deaths in Kentucky, according to a state review panel.

The panel also called for drug tests for caregivers in certain child-death cases.

The recommendations were included in a report this week from the Child Fatality and Near Fatality External Review Panel.

It was the first set of recommendations from the panel, created to review cases in which children died or nearly died because of abuse or neglect, and to suggest ways to improve how social workers, hospitals, police and others handle such cases.

The panel considered more than 40 recommendations, but settled on about a dozen that members considered critical because they deal with a pressing issue, or because there was good data to support them, according to the report.

"These were the ones we felt would have the most impact," said Roger Crittenden, a retired circuit judge from Franklin County who chairs the panel.

The panel has much more work to do, however, the report noted.

The Department of Community Based Services — the state's child-protection agency — substantiated reports of abuse or neglect in more than 12,000 reports involving 19,407 children in the most recent full fiscal year.

The report from the review panel said the state provided 116 cases involving deaths or near deaths for members to review, all but one from the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2013.

Of those, 73 involved deaths and 43 were near-fatalities. Some problems showed up in a number of cases, and that's where the review panel focused its recommendations.

For instance, sharing a bed or other unsafe sleeping arrangements played a role in 41 percent of the deaths of children who were less than a year old, according to the report.

That's why the panel recommended that all hospitals with maternity wards educate parents on safe sleeping arrangements, including not sleeping with their infants, and that primary-care doctors, child-care providers and others continue to stress the information as children grow.

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services also should lead a statewide campaign to educate parents on safe sleeping practices, the review panel recommended.

Head trauma showed up as another key concern. More than half of the cases presented to the panel where physical abuse was alleged involved head injuries, most often inflicted by the child's father or the mother's boyfriend, according to the report.

Kentucky children suffering from abuse or neglect are more likely to suffer from such trauma than any other cause, the report said.

The review panel recommended increased education for parents and other caregivers aimed at preventing physical abuse, covering issues such as the danger of shaking an infant or child and ways to cope with a crying infant.

The review panel said it also supports education for people who work with children, as well as communities at large, on the duty to report suspected child abuse and on recognizing warning signs.

Substance abuse also was a recurring theme in abuse and neglect cases, according to the report. However, drugs and alcohol probably played a role in far more cases than the number confirmed by investigations, the panel said.

That's because authorities did not conduct drug tests in at least 95 of the 116 cases the panel received, according to its report.

Other information from the cabinet indicates that substance abuse is a contributing factor in 55 percent of all maltreatment cases, the report said, while the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare says substance abuse affects up to two-thirds of families in the child-welfare system.

As a result, the review panel recommended that caregivers be drug-tested when authorities investigate the unexpected death of a child.

Crittenden said members of the panel realized the recommendation on drug-testing would be controversial, but felt it would help in investigations.

The report stressed that any policy on drug-testing should recognize the need to be sensitive to grieving parents, and that the ultimate goal should be to get treatment for a caregiver if needed.

State lawmakers would have to approve a requirement for drug-testing in child-death cases, Crittenden said.

Other recommendations from the panel included:

1. Improved access to mental-health assessments for caregivers, with the goal of identifying and dealing with mental-health and substance-abuse problems before they result in abuse.

2. Better coordination among child protection workers, police and others investigating child deaths and near deaths. In addition, the panel said police should consider including certain information, such as visitation restrictions, in law-enforcement databases. In its review, there were cases in which police placed children with parents that the state had barred from having visitation rights, the report said.

3. Birthing hospitals should connect parents of high-risk infants to resources they'll need after leaving the maternity ward, such as food assistance for infants.

4. The cabinet should develop guidelines for hospitals on handling infants born addicted to drugs, including guidelines on helping parents cope.

Some of the recommendations would need little money, but many would require additional spending — a potential roadblock at a time when state government already is stretched thin and many agencies have seen cutbacks. "I think it's a situation where we can't afford not to make some changes in the system," Crittenden said.

The panel said it supports the idea of opening court hearings on neglect and abuse cases as a way to increase public oversight of the system set up to protect vulnerable children.

Such hearings are now closed. Some people argue that private hearings are essential to protecting the best interests of children, but the review panel "believes closed-door hearings can mask systemic defects," according to its report.

Finally, the panel urged a study of the workload for child-protection employees, focusing on frontline workers who deal directly with children at risk. Crittenden said some have complained that the state does not have enough trained workers.

The review panel's report said it did not document a direct link between the workload of social workers and child deaths, but that the workload does affect the quality of services.

Jill Midkiff, a spokeswoman for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said social workers handle an average of 18 to 20 ongoing cases at a time.

Midkiff said in a statement that the cabinet respects the work of the review panel and values its suggestions, but had not yet had a chance as of Tuesday to digest the recommendations.

"In the coming weeks, the cabinet will thoroughly review the recommendations directly related to public health, behavioral health and DCBS and evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of the panel's recommendations," Midkiff said.

Gov. Steve Beshear created the review panel in 2012 in the wake of reports by the Herald-Leader and other newspapers that found problems in how the cabinet had handled some cases involving deaths and injuries, including not conducting required internal reviews. The cabinet said in its most recent annual report that it does all required reviews.



State to launch new Colorado-wide child abuse hotline

by Jakob Rodgers

A Colorado-wide hotline for reporting child abuse or neglect is on track to open Jan. 1, state officials said Tuesday.

The hotline - the first of its kind to launch across Colorado - aims to offer Coloradans a single, easy-to-remember number to call amid the state's current patchwork of phone lines, which can vary from county to county, said Julie Krow, director of the Colorado Office of Children, Youth and Families.

The program comes among a wave of reforms aimed at improving the state's child welfare system, which has drawn scrutiny in recent years for not adequately safeguarding children.

At the Colorado Counties Inc. Foundation conference in Colorado Springs on Tuesday, Jack Hilbert, the hotline system manager, assured attendees that the program will be ready Jan. 1, despite a greatly truncated schedule to establish it.

"This is about keeping our children, our most vulnerable members of society, safe," he said.

On average, four of every five people in Colorado who report child abuse are required to do so by law - a list of people including doctors, firefighters and teachers.

But Colorado officials want more people, such as family members or neighbors, to start picking up the phone, too.

Once live, state officials say the hotline could boost child abuse and neglect reports by 20 percent across the state.

Despite a shortage of caseworkers across the state, Krow said the system is ready to handle the increased call volume, citing state funding given to counties to hire additional call takers and caseworkers.

The El Paso County Department of Human Services received a one-time infusion of $169,989 for startup costs, such as for training, said Jennifer Brown, a county spokeswoman.

The state also approved $181,848 annually for the county to hire staff to address the increased volume, Brown said.

Krow said the hotline's number will not be announced until Jan. 1, as a means to keep people from dialing it and trying to report suspected cases of abuse before call-takers are ready. Even then, Krow said officials plan to do only minimal marketing before April - typically designated as Child Abuse Prevention Month - to ensure the hotline can handle the call volume.

"We wanted to make sure it's working perfectly before we start to promote it really heavily," Krow said.



Kenya: Protect Your Child From Sexual Abuse

by Nduta Waweru

One of the myths of sexual violence against children is the "it can never happen in my house or my child." Unfortunately, any child is at risk of sexual abuse, and having this in mind not only protects but also prepares your child to get help quickly and effectively in a worst case scenario.

First things first, having knowledge about what child sexual abuse is is very important. Sexual abuse against children can take a variety of forms including fondling, touching, kissing of their genitals in presence of a third party; penetration with a penis, fingers or objects; exposing sexual materials or genitals to a child; and non-forced sex with an under-age child.

It is also important to teach the children about their body. By doing this, the children will be in a position to know what is happening if someone touches them in an abusive way. It would also get rid of the embarrassment that may limit them from talking about the abuse.

The children also need to be taught to not keep secrets especially if someone touches them inappropriately. As parents and/or guardians, creating an atmosphere where a child can come forward to speak about his/her life should be paramount. This will make it easier for the child to approach you in case anything happens. This is important as most people taking advantage of the child will either ask them to keep the abuse a secret or even threaten them.

As a way to protect your child, watch out for adults around him or her. Most people think that child abusers are strangers, but statistics have indicated that abusers are people who are closer to the child. They could be the nicest people that have the child's trust. In such instances it is important that you watch out for adults that invade the privacy of the children; insist on physical affection even when the child is quite uncomfortable; wants to spend time alone with a child; buys children gifts for no apparent reason; and if he/she has had such allegations against them. Take it as a red flag if the child is afraid of them or does not want to be left alone with this person.

You should also teach the child about stranger danger- risk from people who are unknown to the child. Make sure that the child knows the parent's name- nothing as sad as a child getting lost and when they are asked who their parents are, they only answer 'mummy and daddy.' It is also important for the child to know the exact location of their home and have a phone number that they can call in case of anything. Teach them to dial the phones and emergency services.

Violence against children has gotten an additional facet, thanks to the internet. Abusers have taken to the internet to not only solicit but also expose children to sexual explicit material. You can start by blocking inappropriate content online, and limit the amount of time the children can spend on the internet. Inform your children to avoid giving out details about themselves online, and the kind of dangers that this can bring about.

Being keen on behavioural changes in the child would highlight incidents of sexual abuse. Things such as being excessively clingy to you when you try to leave, having difficulty sleeping, resorting to immature behaviours like thumb sucking, desperation to please and excessive forgetfulness could be a sign that something is not right.

Changes in eating habits, like eating too much or too little, general health issues like headaches and cramps as well as persistent urinary tract infections and genital discomfort are other signs to look out for. The most important thing is that if you suspect your child has been violated in any way- no matter how vague your suspicion is- get help. Call 1195 for more information.



New lawsuit brings Cosby abuse claims into court


LOS ANGELES — A lawsuit by a woman who claims Bill Cosby molested her when she was 15 years old has moved allegations of sexual misconduct against the comedian from the court of public opinion into the courthouse.

Judy Huth's lawsuit filed Tuesday in Los Angeles accuses Cosby of forcing her to perform a sex act on him in a bedroom of the Playboy Mansion around 1974. She is the latest woman to accuse the comedian of sex abuse, and is the first one since 2005 to file a lawsuit.

Cosby has been beset for weeks by allegations by more than a dozen women that he drugged and sexually assaulted them in incidents spanning several decades. The comedian has not been criminally charged and many of the claims are so old, they are barred by statutes of limitations.

Huth's lawsuit, however, contends that she became aware of the serious effect the abuse had on her within the past three years. California law allows victims of sex abuse when they were minors to bring a claim after adulthood if they discover later in life that they suffered psychological injuries as a result of the abuse.

Cosby has not been criminally charged, but Netflix and NBC have scuttled projects featuring the comedian and several shows on his comedy tour have also been canceled.

His attorney Martin Singer did not return an email message seeking comment Tuesday night.

Huth's sexual battery and infliction of emotional distress lawsuit states that she and a 16-year-old friend first met Cosby at a Los Angeles-area film shoot and the comedian gave the girls drinks a week later at a tennis club.

The lawsuit states that Cosby took them to the Playboy Mansion after several drinks, and told the teenagers to lie and say they were 19 years old if asked. Her lawsuit states Cosby forced her to perform a sex act on him with her hand.

"This traumatic incident, at such a tender age, has caused psychological damage and mental anguish for (Huth) that has caused significant problems throughout her life," the lawsuit states.

Huth's lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court is the first time a woman has gone public claiming Cosby abused her when she was underage. A second woman told Pittsburgh television station KDKA last month that Cosby drugged her to the point of unconsciousness in the 1980s when she was 15.

The suit does not specify how much Huth is seeking from Cosby.

Singer has denied previous accusations or said the women raising the claims in interviews had been discredited.

Singer's statement does not apply to a lawsuit brought in 2005 by Andrea Constand, who claimed Cosby drugged and molested her at his suburban Philadelphia mansion in 2004. Constand, who worked for the women's basketball team at Temple University, and Cosby settled the case before trial.

Cosby resigned from the university's board of trustees on Monday. He had been the school's public face, appearing in advertisements, fundraising campaigns and delivering commencement speeches.



Bethlehem Area teachers face fingerprinting under child abuse policy

by Daryl Nerl

Teachers in the Bethlehem Area School District will be fingerprinted every three years as part of a new policy requiring them to submit to periodic criminal background checks.

District officials say the policy under consideration by the school board is meant to bring the district into compliance with new Pennsylvania guidelines aimed at keeping child abusers out of schools statewide.

Changes to the state's Child Protective Services Law and Educator Discipline Act are at the heart of the overhauled policy, which the board discussed at a committee meeting Monday and plans to adopt on third reading at its next meeting Dec. 15.

New statewide policies go into effect at the end of the year. They require teachers and other school employees to obtain clearances through the Department of Public Welfare to ensure they are not "named in the statewide database as the alleged perpetrator in a pending child abuse investigation or as the perpetrator of a founded report."

School employees must submit a new application every three years for a "child abuse history clearance" through the state Department of Human Services, as well as obtain a state police criminal history report and an FBI criminal history. The new set of fingerprints is part of the FBI background check.

An online registry where school employees may submit a clearance application is slated to go online Dec. 31. A link from the Department of Human Services website says the site is under construction.

The policy requires that school volunteers must go through similar scrutiny.

New state laws reflected in the district's policy also change the way suspected child abuse is reported to authorities.

District employees who suspect a child is being abused will be required to report their suspicion to the Department of Public Welfare via an electronic report filed through the Internet or the state's Childline 800 phone number.

Then the employees must take their concerns to the school principal or another person who has been designated with taking care of child abuse complaints at the school.

Under the existing policy, employees are required to take their concerns to the building principal first, according to Dean Donaher, the district's director of student services.

According to the newly proposed policy, if a school employee is accused of abuse, the building principal is required to report to the district superintendent, who in turn will authorize district legal counsel to begin an investigation.



Child abuse panel calls for parent drug testing

by Mike Wynn

FRANKFORT, Ky. Amid an epidemic of drug use in Kentucky, a state panel on child abuse is calling for parents to undergo drug tests if a child dies unexpectedly in their care.

The Child Fatality and Near Fatality External Review Panel released its annual report Monday with nine key recommendations to improve protective services for the roughly 19,000 children who fall victim to abuse and neglect each year in Kentucky.

Panel members reviewed 116 cases, involving 73 child fatalities and 43 near-deaths. Of those, 77 cases had a history with the state Department of Community Based Services.

Chiefly, the report recommends developing a standardized protocol for drug screening parents — and other caregivers — as part of an investigation into an unexpected child death.

It also calls on the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services to develop a statewide public-awareness campaign to promote safe sleeping practices and educate new parents on the dangers of bed sharing.

Additionally, the report recommends programs to educate parents about abusive head trauma, link high-risk families with community services, coordinate investigations, make court proceedings more transparent and study the workload for social workers.

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services said in a statement Monday that officials will review the report over the coming weeks and evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of any proposals.

"While the cabinet values the panel's suggestions and welcomes its feedback, we have not yet had an opportunity to digest the panel's recommendations," it said.

But Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville, the chairman of the House Health and Welfare Committee, warned that the cabinet has failed to follow up on problems before.

"Unless we put pressure on the cabinet and keep their feet to the fire, they may or may not do anything," he said.

According to the report, 29 percent of deaths or near-deaths resulted from physical abuse while 15 percent were related to medical neglect.

Around 10 percent — eight fatalities and seven near-deaths — involved a caregiver who was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time. But tests were not administered in 95 percent of the cases the panel examined this year.

Panel members concluded that substance use is likely a much stronger factor in child injuries. Cabinet data indicate that it plays a role in 55 percent of all incidents, the report said.

Panel members considered recommending drug tests last year but stopped short amid concerns that it would further upset grieving parents.

But Roger Crittenden, a retired Franklin Circuit judge who chairs the panel, said making drug tests a standard procedure could help law enforcement and child-welfare investigators.

"That's a hard recommendation — hard meaning that one will have a lot of conflict," he said. "We think that we made it general enough that it could be adopted."

Burch said he supports the proposal, calling it a "good idea."

Meanwhile, bed sharing and unsafe sleeping conditions were counted as factors in nine fatalities and one near-fatality, and five of the deadly cases involved an impaired parent sleeping with an infant.

A state official testified this year that co-sleeping with parents, sleeping in areas outside a crib, use of soft bedding, and placing infants on their stomach or side were all considered risks.

Still, surveys from 2009 and 2010 revealed about 12.7 percent of new mothers report always co-sleeping with a child while 26 percent do it often or sometimes.

"We felt like that's an area in which by virtue of education and a lot more emphasis by the social workers, we might be able to accomplish something," Crittenden said.

All but one of the cases reviewed for the report occurred in fiscal year 2013 — a year when the cabinet substantiated that 22 fatalities and 46 near-fatalities resulted from abuse or neglect, according to an internal report.

Cabinet spokeswoman Jill Midkiff said part of the difference is due to investigations that were still pending during the cabinet's reporting period.

Gov. Steve Beshear created the Child Fatality and Near Fatality Review Panel in 2012 following several high-profile deaths of children from abuse and neglect. The General Assembly later codified it in state law.

The group is made up of child welfare, medical, law enforcement and social work experts who look for systematic problems in Kentucky's child-protective services.

Monday's report marks the first time the panel has made recommendations since its creation.


North Carolina

"Kilah's Law" Introduces Stiffer Penalties for Child Abuse Convicts

by WLOS news

ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- A law that more than doubles the maximum prison sentence for some convicted child abusers went into effect in North Carolina, Monday.

The penalty component of Kilah's Law kicked in on Dec. 1. This legislation will change the way those who are convicted of harming children are punished.

The law's namesake, Kilah Davenport, is a 3-year-old Union County girl whose case captured attention and led to sweeping reform across the country.

Kilah was thrown into a wall by her stepfather in 2012, Joshua Houser. Her head penetrated the Sheetrock, causing severe head trauma that led to her death almost two years later, just shy of her 5th birthday.

Houser was first convicted of child abuse, and is now charged with murder.

Kilah's Law was sponsored by North Carolina US Senator Richard Burr. The legislation increases the max sentence from 15 to 33 years.

Child advocates like Willow Arnold, the founder of Shaken Baby Syndrome in North Carolina, say stiffer penalties may not be a strong deterrent, but are still effective for victims.

"It will help their voices be heard, it will show that North Carolina is taking seriously these crimes, and that North Carolina sees that there is a stronger need for justice," Arnold said.

Arnold, of Henderson County, was inspired by the case of a little boy who was severely shaken and injured by his mother's boyfriend.


South Dakota

'Jolene's Law' task force offers initial recommendations

by Bob Mercer

PIERRE — The Legislature will be asked next month to patch a hole in South Dakota's law that requires people in positions of public responsibility to report abuse or neglect of children under age 18.

The change calls for the person who witnessed the disclosure or evidence to be available to answer questions when the initial report is provided to law enforcement or the state Department of Social Services.

The recommendation came Monday from the Jolene's Law task force created by the Legislature earlier this year.

The panel also proposed a second piece of legislation that would extend the task force's work one additional year until Jan. 1, 2016, and add a 16th member who would be a county state's attorney with experience prosecuting child sexual abuse cases.

It also would refer to sexual abuse of children as a public health issue.

The legislation culminated the task force's work in 2014. The panel's chair, Sen. Deb Soholt, R-Sioux Falls, said the two bills likely would start in the Senate shortly after the Legislature convenes Jan. 13 and later proceed to the House of Representatives.

“It's probably something that will move quickly in the session,” she said.

Current state law requires a long list of people in the health care, education, law enforcement, courts, social services and counseling fields to report information in instances when they suspect abuse or neglect of a child under age 18.

They must report the instances to a superior who in turn must contact law enforcement or Social Services.

The proposed change would require the initial reporter to be available when that occurs.

Soholt raised the question of whether the additional requirement would delay reporting.

“The whole statute (law) is kind of messy and open to interpretation,” she said. “We were just thinking it would be a step forward.”

The 12 task force members present at the meeting Monday voted unanimously for both proposals to introduced as legislation.



Jehovah's Witnesses under fire from former congregants who say child sex abuse was hushed

by Aimee Green

Two people who say that as children they were sexually abused by a leader in a Hillsboro Jehovah's Witnesses congregation filed a $10.5 million lawsuit Monday – among the first in Oregon to accuse the religious organization of hiding decades of sexual abuse.

Attorneys for Velicia Alston, 39, and an unnamed man said the Jehovah's Witnesses leadership continues to cover up sexual abuse against children by leaders. They say it is more than a decade behind other organizations, such as the Catholic Church, that have been forced to address their problems through many years of civil litigation.

“There is a crisis of silence in the Jehovah's Witness organization," said Irwin Zalkin, one of several attorneys representing Alston and the man. Zalkin described the religious organization as "more concerned about protecting its reputation than it is about protecting its children."

For example, Zalkin said the seven men who make up the Jehovah's Witnesses' Governing Body have a policy requiring a confession from the perpetrator or two eyewitnesses to the abuse before leaders will take any action.

“Even if they do disfellowship a perpetrator, they don't tell the congregation why,” Zalkin said during a news conference Monday in Portland. “No one but the elders can ever know that there is a child predator lurking in that congregation.”

Zalkin said Jehovah's Witnesses leaders don't call police. Rather, Zalkin said, they take the position that although Oregon law defines clergy as mandatory reporters of child abuse, they don't need to report the abuse because it was a privileged religious communication.

“At some point, it becomes too expensive to keep doing this,” Zalkin said. “That's what civil litigation is about.”

An attorney for the Jehovah's Witnesses, Mario Moreno, said he hadn't yet seen a copy of Monday's lawsuit and couldn't offer comment.

Zalkin, an attorney from San Diego, said this is the first case of its kind that he knows of in Oregon. His firm has 14 active cases against the Jehovah's Witnesses organization in other states that include California, Connecticut and New Mexico. Several others also are pending in the U.S.

Portland attorneys Kristian Roggendorf and Paul Mones also are representing the two plaintiffs who filed Monday's lawsuit in Multnomah County Circuit Court.

The suit alleges that Daniel Castellanos, who held the equivalent position of a baptized ordained minister in the North Hillsboro Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses, molested Alston in 1986 or 1987 when she was 11 or 12 years old. The suit claims Castellanos also molested a boy, described only as John Roe in the suit, when the boy was 8 to 10 years old.

Alston said she chose to use her name and speak to reporters Monday because she wants to give victims a voice. She said filing civil litigation in hopes of changing the Jehovah's Witnesses' policies did not amount to committing an act against God, even though her attorneys say the Jehovah's Witnesses might shun her for doing so.

"I know that there are other victims," said Alston, who now lives in San Diego. "I know that you're scared because you're worried about being punished by God. But God would never do something like this. So it's OK to say something. Because if you don't say something it's going to keep happening."

The suit alleges Alston was kissed and fondled under her clothes multiple times by Castellanos, a piano teacher, while he was supposed to be giving her piano lessons at his house. She eventually told her mother, who went to the Hillsboro congregation's elders. Alston said the elders told her and her mother to tell no one – including police.

Zalkin said Castellanos was ousted from the congregation for three to five years but eventually let back in.

Castellanos was married and had children at the time of the abuse, Alston said. She and her attorneys don't know how old he is or where he lives, but they believe it's outside of Oregon. They said they don't think he has any criminal history.

Oregon's statute of limitations doesn't allow Castellanos to be criminally prosecuted because too many years have passed. But state law does allow alleged victims of child sexual abuse to file lawsuits up until age 40 or within five years of when they realize the damaging effect the abuse has had on their lives.

Castellanos couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

Several weeks ago, a California judge awarded $13.5 million to a man who said he was molested as a child by a San Diego Jehovah's Witnesses leader.

Jehovah's Witnesses count about 8 million people within more than 113,000 congregations.



ChildSafe gets grant to fight child-on-child sex abuse

by Melissa Fletcher Stoeltje

Whenever a child is sexually abused by a sibling, step-sibling or other child in the home or family, the focus traditionally has been on the offender — how can that young perpetrator be treated so he or she will never victimize another child again?

In comparison, advocates say, little attention is bestowed on the young victims who, because of the nature of abuse, are at risk for developing a whole host of problems, including becoming abusers themselves.

A recent $12,500 grant from the Texas Bar Association to ChildSafe, a nonprofit that assesses and treats child physical and sexual abuse, stands to change that scenario.

The grant will fund a program that will begin in January and provide 15 to 20 weeks of talk therapy to young victims, helping them heal from the trauma.

“We want to get them to a point where they can manage their triggers and any symptoms they may have,” said Randy Mcgibeny, director of programs at ChildSafe. “It's about setting appropriate boundaries in the home and getting the family members to communicate. We talk about what happened inside the home and that it was wrong.”

As victims receive help, their young perpetrators undergo a licensed treatment program for sex offenders through the Bexar County Juvenile Probation Department, addressing their issues and preparing them for possible reunification with the family, Mcgibeny said.

The program culminates with the whole family taking part in the agency's outdoor adventure therapy program.

“We have these families that are going to be reunified and we wanted it to be safe, and for the victim to have a chance for their concerns and fears to be addressed,” Mcgibeny said. “And we want to reduce the chance of abuse happening again.”

Child-on-child sex abuse is more prevalent than most people think, he said. Out of 700 forensic interviews at ChildSafe in the last calendar year, 46 involved children who were sexually abused by either a sibling or step-sibling. In the last three months, out of 271 such interviews, 52 involved child-on-child sex abuse.

“It could have been a cousin, a sibling or another peer,” Mcgibeny said.

Most child-on-child offenders are male, he said. Often the abuse involves an older sibling molesting a younger one, who may look up to and trust the perpetrator.

Nationwide, more than a third of sex offenses against children are committed by other children, a U.S. Justice Department survey found. Around half of juvenile sex offenders are between 15 and 17, but more than a third are between 12 and 14. Often, the abuse involves nonviolent molestation, such as fondling, as opposed to rape, but any form of abuse is traumatic for the victim, Mcgibeny said.

In San Antonio, about 50 families currently are in the juvenile justice system and would benefit from this new program, which is free and voluntary, Mcgibeny said. Because of financial limitations, only 10 families can be served in the beginning.

“We're hoping the grant will be the seed money that lets us to get some good, solid data, so we can go out and attract more funding,” he said.

The new program “is just a logical fit for us, since we focus on the victim,” said Kim Abernethy, CEO of ChildSafe. “We know that when kids get exposed to that kind of abuse in their home, it makes it seem acceptable.”

For more information about ChildSafe, visit or call 210-675-9000.



Officers to be taught to recognize human trafficking

by Maya Lau

When authorities discovered a transgender woman was being tortured as a slave in Natchitoches Parish in May, they didn't initially grasp it would turn out to be, as the sheriff described it, the most "severe and disturbing" human trafficking case the parish had ever seen.

"To be honest with you, it almost got by us at first because the first guys on the scene didn't really recognize what it was," said Natchitoches Sheriff Victor Jones, Jr.

That's one illustration of how human trafficking — the commoditization of human life which can range from slavery to sexual exploitation — is often misunderstood, limiting the chance of detection by police.

A plan introduced to Louisiana law enforcement last month to teach officers to identify the signs of human trafficking aims to change that.

Drawing from the $250,000 in the state budget allocated for training as part of four anti-human trafficking laws introduced in June, the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Criminal Justice (LCLE) is developing the state's first-ever uniform curriculum for new and existing officers to study the crime.

It means patrol officers — who are often the first to respond to a scene — will join their investigator colleagues in learning to recognize clues about how a victim's injuries, inability to speak, or lack of location awareness might signal that what could appear to be a misdemeanor case of prostitution might actually be an example of felony trafficking.

"I don't think most folks know enough about it to know how big a problem it might be," said Bob Wertz, LCLE criminal justice policy planner. He's helping to oversee the new human trafficking education that will be administered by the Peace Officer Standards and Training Council, or POST. Some members of agencies, such as the state police special victims unit, already undergo human trafficking instruction but not as part of standardized POST teaching.

Part of the training will be to give officers the definition of human trafficking, sometimes envisioned as elaborate schemes to kidnap individuals and smuggle them into another country as sex slaves.

Changing that perspective and other false impressions is a key goal to a catch-up game Louisiana law enforcement and even social service providers have begun. A few other municipalities in the United States, like Anaheim, California, have already started to focus their arrests almost exclusively on pimps and johns.

The women and men found engaged in commercial sex work are treated as victims and potential sources of information.

"Everyone isn't a criminal and locking everyone up isn't a solution for everything," said Lori Stee, public policy director for Breaking Free, an organization dedicated to helping women who've escaped forced prostitution and slavery.

She said the attitude shift in the United States has been slow and is only now beginning with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies discovering that combating the problem means going after the ones who collect the money and the ones who spend the money.

"A majority of women experience it as paid rape, and they're not making the money," Stee said.

As defined by law, human trafficking is forcing or coercing a person — sometimes, but not always, involving transportation across borders — to perform services such as sex work, housekeeping, agricultural labor and construction. It often includes psychological manipulation, isolation and threats.

The Natchitoches case — in which a woman was allegedly chained outdoors and fed once a day — was shocking, but people are rarely discovered in such condition on American soil. According to the Modern Slavery Research Project at Loyola University, there are no precise statistics on the amount and scope of human trafficking cases in Louisiana. As the organization highlighted in a report this year, human trafficking sometimes occurs within families, such as the case of a Bossier Parish couple charged last year with forcing two of their underage female relatives to have sex with men.

"The extent of the problem is very difficult to gauge," said Caddo Sheriff Steve Prator.

Still, he cautioned against thinking human trafficking, which he says has become a buzzword, is exploding locally.

"We don't have a plague of human trafficking," he said.

But the new awareness about the crime is demanding officers ask more questions of those they might be arresting for offenses such as prostitution.

"There might be something else" to learn from victims, Prator said. "Just be sure and ask that question and look for some of the signs, the injuries maybe, the attitudes, the willingness to talk, the fear that they have."

Twitter: @mayalau

What is human trafficking?

It's forcing or coercing someone to provide services against his or her will. It can — but does not always — involve transporting an individual across borders for this purpose. Human trafficking can take the form of a parent making a child act as a prostitute, or defrauding someone to perform agricultural or household labor in a situation from which the person is virtually unable to escape.

Source: Louisiana Revised Statute 14:46.2


"The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for:

•Sexual services in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud or coercion.

•Sexual services "in which the person induced to perform the sex act has not attained 18 years of age" regardless of the use of force, fraud or coercion.

•Labor or services through the use of force, fraud or coercion, for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery."


North Carolina

Local website is helping fight human trafficking

Raleigh, N.C. — A new crowdsourcing website that launched two months ago is working to help fight and prevent human trafficking – a $150-billion-a-year industry that has victimized an estimated 29.8 million people in the United States.

Raleigh businessman Joseph Schmidt was so moved by the issue that he left corporate America and founded Audacity Company, a think tank that brings attention to underfunded and underpublicized domestic and global matters.

Audacity launched in October to raise money for nonprofits that work to prevent human trafficking around the globe and support victims of the trade.

The website's goal is to positively affect the lives of 10 million people over the next 10 years.

"There are millions of people in the U.S. whose hearts have been cracked by the story of human trafficking, but they don't quite know what to do yet," Schmidt said.

ENDcrowd focuses on funding individual projects from nonprofits that have tangible results.

For example, a recent campaign sought to raise $10,000 to purchase a van to get young children safely to and from school in an area of Cambodia where an estimated 70 percent of the children are exploited through commercial sex.

Another campaign involved raising $3,000 to provide supplies so that women rescued from human trafficking in India can make and sell jewelry to earn livable wages.

A third drive is aiming to raise $2,300 to develop an electronic toolkit to educate students across the United States on key safety measures that can prevent trafficking.

Donors to these three campaigns – and 12 others that are currently featured on – get to see photos and video of how their money is being put to use.

"The concept of crowdfunding is that it is the power of the many coming together," Schmidt said. "The really cool thing about it is that when you back one of these projects, we then take you on the journey of the campaign happening."

North Carolina ranks among the top 10 states in the nation for the crime, partially because of prostitution along the Interstate 85 and Interstate 95 corridors. Other factors for the ranking include the prevalence of prostitution around military bases and sporting and entertainment venues.

It was a nonprofit that helped Anna Malika, 29, overcome being a victim of human trafficking several years ago.

More than a decade ago, Malika was kicked out of her home in Greensboro. Having no self-worth and feeling no sense of belonging, she said, she eventually went to live with a 40-year-old man whom she had met through her job and thought was her boyfriend.

Their "relationship," she said, started with him offering to give her guitar lessons.

"He started telling me things like, 'I want to spend more time with you. You're so valuable. You're amazing. You're just incredible,'" she said.

The man, she said, had also talked the then-teen into being a "model" in an "art project" of his.

It wasn't until he died of cancer that she discovered the truth of the situation – thousands of photos of her in sexual situations – something she had no memory of being involved in.

Malika discovered the man had been drugging her.

"I had no idea," she said. "I had no idea at all."

Malika got help and now speaks in support of stronger laws against human trafficking.

"I am doing great now," she said. "My life is amazing, but I'm still on that healing process."

Two years ago, she spoke in support of North Carolina's Safe Harbor Act, which provides immunity for prostituted minors and victims of trafficking.

"I think what ENDcrowd is doing is phenomenal," Malika said. "A lot of people want to talk about it, but they need that financial backing to be able to grow."


Sex Talk Realness: What It's Really Like to Be a Sex Worker

by Rachel Hills

Sex work is a hotly contested issue — among political leaders, feminists, and sex workers themselves. Even the term "sex work" is controversial: many sex workers have embraced the label for its lack of stigma and its positioning of sex work as a job with rights and risks like any other, while others think it glosses over gendered power imbalances, preferring to call themselves "prostitutes" or "survivors" instead. spoke to three anonymous women, all current or former sex workers, about their very different experiences.

How old are you?

Woman A: Thirty.
Woman B: Thirty-three.
Woman C: Forty-nine.

What kind of sex work do/did you do?

Woman A: I currently perform in porn, and I used to do all sorts of other sex work — professional domination, camming, escorting, phone sex, hands-on sex education, erotic modeling, and live sex shows.
Woman B: I was a hooker.
Woman C: First and foremost, sex work is an inaccurate description. The terms "sex work" and "sex worker" sanitize the harms in prostitution and all forms of exploitation. Sex is not work; it is exploitation and denial of human rights based on vulnerabilities and power imbalances between the oppressor and the oppressed. For me, stripping and survival sex were gateways to prostitution resulting from vulnerabilities including economic inequality, substance abuse, and the need for survival.

How did you start doing sex work?

Woman A: When I moved to California and answered an ad for a professional dominatrix. I hated the place that hired me though, as it wasn't run very professionally, and I was concerned about the safety of the workers and the clients. The manager of the space also seemed to resent kinky people, and as a kinky person myself, I didn't feel my expertise was welcome or desired.
Woman B: ?I started mostly by accident, really. I was short on rent and panhandling, and it was late and cold, and one guy just looked at me in a predatory way. ?So I said, "You know, I could make this worth your while." And that was the first time — he was some creepy government worker.
Woman C: Organized crime brought me to a strip club for the first time, when I was in my early 20s.

And why?

Woman A: After working three jobs at a mall that was inaccessible by public transit and an hour and a half walk away, working for an hour to make the same amount seemed obvious. Sex work was a way to see firsthand how diverse human sexuality was while also being paid for it. Later, when I began escorting specifically, it was because I felt ethically better about it than I did working in marketing for a large corporation that employed sweatshop labor. I particularly worked with people who had disabilities and women who had dealt with sexual trauma, helping them rediscover their bodies and sexual feelings. It felt really important, and I could see the impact I had as clients left working with me to pursue relationships.
Woman B: ?At first it was accidental, but I stuck with it because it wasn't (usually) a bad gig, and I was struggling to find other work. This was during the dot-com bust, and there were a lot of people looking for work.
Woman C: Childhood issues from mental health and alcoholism in my family groomed me for prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation. Substance abuse, homelessness, date rape, teen dating violence, gang rape, and police brutality were some experiences in my youth that groomed me for sexual exploitation. In my life, one form of violence led to another.

How long have you been doing it/did you do it?

Woman A: I've been doing some form of sex work for 11 years.
Woman B: I did it for about a year.
Woman C: In my 20 years of drug and alcohol addiction, prostitution took many forms.

Who are your clients? What do you think brings them to you?

Woman A: My clients are, for the most part, a mixture of curious couples, shy women, and men who have social anxiety or a physical disability. I think it's because my profile is very approachable, but it's also not the standard "I'm the woman of your fantasies" type of marketing. I present a good sense of humor and affirming language, as well as an awareness of social justice politics, and I think the sort of clients I get are attracted to that.
Woman B: ? My clients were mostly government employees. I lived in a shitty neighborhood that was walking distance from the state capitol building, and it wasn't hard to pick people up if you got there as they were leaving work. I don't imagine that anything other than proximity brought them to me though — no one ever sought me out or anything, at least not to my knowledge.
Woman C: A variety of sex buyers purchased me for sex, including politicians and workers in large corporations in the tech industry. The demographics of sex buyers are broad, but they all operate on their inherent need to be in control, exert power, act out violence and other acts on a prostituted person.

And how do you feel about your clients?

Woman A: Well, how do you feel about your coworkers or your boss? Sometimes they're lovely, sometimes they're wearing on your last nerve. For the most part, I feel genuine affection for my clients; they're really lovely people and respect me as well as my time and boundaries.
Woman B: Some of them were nice enough guys. Sometimes they'd buy me supper first, almost like it wasa date, which was sweet. Those guys tended to be kind and respectful, and I'd happily go back to sex work in a heartbeat if I could only see those guys. Some of them were real creepers though. One dude fucked me in what I later realized was his daughter's bed, for example. I mean, I'd rather it was me than his daughter, but ew .
Woman C: The buyers of sex are not clients — they are rapists. I felt repulsed and disgusted by them. Not one sex buyer was anything other than disgusting, degrading, dehumanizing, and harmful to my body, mind, and soul.

What do/did you enjoy about your job?

Woman A: The time flexibility. I could manage my schedule and fit clients in around my other whims and responsibilities. For example, when I was escorting, I could focus my time off work on my activism and my education, which was very important to me.
Woman B: ?I enjoyed the relative autonomy, and that it wasn't, generally speaking, terribly difficult, especially for the pay. I liked some of the clients, and it was sort of validating for me — I'd grown up believing that I was ugly and broken, and as a young teenager I had an eating disorder. I think that part of me liked feeling like I was showing up the people who'd told me (or let me believe) that I wasn't good enough.
Woman C: Not one thing. The life of prostitution is a horrific form of violence against (largely) women. It was nowhere near enjoyable.

What do/did you dislike about it?

Woman A: The constant fear of law enforcement. The knowledge that people joke about murdering sex workers like it's no big deal, like that isn't a real risk, and that if you say anything about it you're suddenly the humorless feminist. I hate how people assume you must've been abused as a child, or are mentally disturbed, or that if either of those things are true, that it's the reason you went into sex work. Other jobs don't have that kind of interrogation.
Woman B: ?I disliked the creepy clients. I disliked knowing that if something went wrong, I was on my own — it's not a job where you can rely on the cops for help, and I was in an area where I didn't know many people. No one ever knew I'd gone out for the night; no one would've known if I didn't come home. That was pretty stressful.
Woman C: Sexual exploitation is abuse, violence, and compensated rape. The exchange of currency doesn't change the fact that it is rape, because you don't want to be there and wouldn't be there except for your economic need.

Did your job ever put you in a dangerous situation?

Woman A: Yes, but mostly because of law enforcement. Knowing I couldn't call the police for help if I was attacked made my job incredibly dangerous. Stigma also makes being a sex worker unsafe in day-to-day life. I had a roommate who discovered I was a sex worker, and when he made advances to me that I refused, he threatened to report me. And when Porn Wikileaks happened, I was doxxed, meaning my personal information (legal name, my parents' home address and phone number, the names of my ex-lovers) was released online with the intention of harassing and stalking me.
Woman B: ?It did. The worst of it was one night when two guys set me up — I was raped and mugged, and took a pretty bad beating. There were other times that weren't as bad — guys who didn't pay me, or guys who got really rough during sex — but that was the time where I really thought, Shit, these guys might kill me.
Woman C: Each prostitution event had the potential for danger, violence, and death — that's the bottom line. Many turned into violence; it was as common as daily and weekly.

What do you do to stay healthy?

Woman A: I get tested every three months and try to stay up to date on sexual health issues locally, so I have an awareness about what's going around and who's at risk. I also insist on getting non-standard tests as much as I can, as a "standard panel" doesn't often cover syphilis or herpes.
Woman B: I tried to make people use condoms, and I was on the pil?l, but that was about it. In retrospect, I'm ashamed that I didn't do more — get regular health check-ups and screening for STIs — but I was really young, only barely 18, had no health insurance, and I really had no idea what I was doing.
Woman C: My life was not about health but survival. In exiting prostitution, I had to learn to practice self-care and how to be healthy. Health is nonexistent in sexual exploitation. The repeated beatings, being thrown out of cars, and a host of other acts of violence result in poor health and in some cases hospitalization. The mental health and PTSD from having to disassociate to get through the act of compensated rape coupled with the violence perpetrated by sex buyers create long-term consequences.

How much money do/did you make doing sex work?

Woman A: I adjusted my lifestyle so that I could work one or two days a month and pay rent as well as groceries, so while I didn't make bank the way others can, I preferred to work less and have more time to pursue my other interests like my education, the history of medicine, and traveling. I'm a bit of a gutter punk at heart so don't need a lot to feel satisfied.
Woman B: ?It varied a lot for me, depending on how often I went out, what the weather was like, all sorts of things. Sometimes it was nothing, other times I'd make a thousand bucks in a week, which is more than I've ever made doing anything else.
Woman C: It varied.

Do/did you have other jobs at the same time? If so, did your coworkers know, or were you worried they'd find out you do sex work?

Woman A: In general I haven't had to worry about my sex work history, though I have written a long piece about my experience trying to move away from the sex industry into tech and finding those doors closed to me. While many people will tell you to get a "proper" job, once someone knows you've done sex work, there's a very good possibility you'll be fired and often publicly shamed by the media.
Woman B: ?I was contracted with a temp agency at the time, but they had no idea, and there wasn't any reason to think that they'd find out.
Woman C: Yes, I worked in journalism industry for a short period of time simultaneously. However, it quickly became impossible to uphold two different lifestyles and the money didn't compare.

Do your family and friends know you've been a sex worker? If so, how did they react when they found out?

Woman A: My parents and I had a long discussion about it, and the lines of communication are open for questions. Their trust in me means a lot. As for my friends, yeah, they know. Many of them are sex workers or have been in the past. It hasn't been a massive deal. Occasionally a potential lover is either fascinated or disgusted, but that's the most intense reaction I get.
Woman B: ?Some of my friends know. Most of them have been pretty indifferent, which is probably about the best possible reaction. A few of them have been shocked and horrified, and they're not my friends anymore. My family has no idea — they're really religious, and I don't think that our relationship could stand that kind of strain.
Woman C: Yes, and most understand the vulnerabilities that got me in and kept me in the sex trade.

If you've stopped doing sex work now, why?

Woman A: I left escorting because I was terrified of the police in this country. I've known people who were assaulted, raped, and threatened by the police when they tried to report crimes against them. I have the privilege to do other work within the adult industry that doesn't put me at that kind of violent risk, so I've moved toward that instead.
Woman B: ?I stopped for a couple reasons. I'd been trying to pull away from it after the experience I mentioned above, and then I had to relocate, and it seemed like I might as well try to make a clean break.
Woman C: The violence, abuse, and trauma over the years was so damaging to the body, mind, and spirit that I could no longer take it. I've been out now for over 17 years.

What are the biggest misconceptions people have about sex workers and sex work?

Woman A: That sex workers are all doing it to fund a drug addiction, that we're nymphomaniacs or that we hate sex, that we're doing sex work because we either don't have any other option or haven't been made aware of other options, that we're uneducated, and that sex workers can't have healthy relationships while still being active sex workers. All of those may be true for some people and is completely untrue for others … like if you substituted "retail" for "sex work."
Woman B: ? One of the big ones — and one that really bugs me — is the idea that no one would choose to do sex work, or that all sex workers are being exploited (which often comes with the implication that maybe they're not smart enough to realize it). It strikes me as a very reactive and paternalistic thing — sort of, "if you're not doing what I think you should do, it's because you're not smart enough to realize that I'm right." But many women choose sex work — especially when it's legalized, it pays relatively well, allows flexibility, and allows some control over what you're doing. Sex workers aren't stupid. They might not be making the choices that you would make, but they might be making the best choices for themselves, or at least the best choice that they feel they can realistically make.
Woman C: That there is a choice. Individuals don't willingly enter exploitation; it comes from a myriad of vulnerabilities that varies individually. For example, in a nine country study, 89 percent of exploited women wanted to exit but had no other means for survival.

How do you feel about sex work now?

Woman A: I think that as long as women are paid less than men, and as long as sex is treated like a magical thing that women have and men need, sex work will exist. I still enjoy the sex work I do, and I loved the sex work I did. I just wish I didn't end up so exhausted fighting society's judgment of me all the time, in so many areas of my life. Sex work is work, and it needs to be treated as such, with workers' rights put center focus.
Woman B: ?I feel really strongly that sex work should be legalized and destigmatized. Almost all my negative experiences with sex work weren't because I was doing sex work, per se — they were because sex work was illegal in my jurisdiction. When one person has no recourse in a transaction, the transaction is always weighted against that person. Criminalizing sex work doesn't make it go away, it just drives it underground and makes it less safe for everyone involved.
Woman C: Prostitution is a violation of human rights. Humans should not be bought and sold like commodities. It sometimes takes exploited individuals many years to come to terms with the realities of their exploitation. If I would have told myself the truth, my psyche would have split into a million pieces.



Trying to stop child abuse and neglect at the start

by Melissa Fletcher Stoeltje

Aaron Medina Jr., a thriving 6-month old, sits on his mother's lap, smiling and rocking gently.

Amberlyn Trejo, 18, looks down at her beautiful boy, patting his chubby knee. She wasn't always the confident mother she is today, she said. After Aaron was born, she experienced a mild form of postpartum depression. And she worried about how things would go after bringing him home.

“I didn't know how babies work, what you're supposed to do,” she said.

Fortunately, Trejo had learned of Teen Hopes, a free program through the Children's Shelter that pairs mothers age 19 and younger with trained parent educators, who visit them in their homes and guide them through that first, sometimes rocky year of parenting.

Launched in March, the program serves teens, primarily low-income single mothers, who are at least 29 weeks pregnant or have given birth within 24 months.

Since bringing her baby home, Trejo has formed a close bond with her educator, Michelle Alvarado, who helped her through her depression and armed her with an array of mothering skills.

“She taught me all kinds of things, like how to go sh-sh-sh in his ear to calm him down,” Trejo said, as Alvarado sat next to her on the couch during a recent home visit.

Trejo, who lives at her aunt's house with her grandmother, said she's related her new parenting skills to the baby's father, Aaron Medina Sr., a car mechanic who also lives in the home.

“Yes, he's been very open to (Teen Hopes),” she said.

Alvarado said the parent educators screen clients at intake to assess their needs and any complicating factors, such as a history of exposure to domestic violence.

“The more we can lessen the risk, the better parents they'll be,” she said.

They track the baby's progress at weekly or biweekly home visits to make sure the children are bonding with their mothers and hitting developmental milestones.

And they teach mothers about child development and how to cope when the going gets rough.

“A lot of teen parents don't have that consistent adult in their lives they can count on,” said Yvette Sanchez, vice president of family strengthening at the shelter. “Our parent educators become like life coaches, answering basic questions: How much do I feed my baby? Is it OK to put cereal in his bottle? What do I do when I've tried everything and he just doesn't stop crying?”

Clients have access to one-on-one counseling sessions with a psychologist, as well as a monthly support group with other mothers. They can use crisis respite care, placing their babies at partnering day care programs for short stints. And they get help accessing local resources for food assistance, baby clothing and supplies, rent assistance, help with paying bills and other things.

“It's hard to focus on parenting if you're worried about where the next meal is coming from of if your water is going to be cut off,” Sanchez said.

Clients ages 14 to 19 are also referred to family planning resources to help them forestall having another baby. Repeat births are a major problem in Bexar County, making up nearly a quarter of all teen births in 2012, statistics show.

Like the rest of the nation, teen births in the county declined from 2010 to 2012, from 3,298 to 2,755, according to the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District. Even so, the local birth rate was 46 percent higher than the national average.

Teen Hopes so far has served 103 clients, who heard of the program through word-of-mouth or outreach efforts to area schools and hospitals. The program can be extended another year, if clients desire it, Sanchez said.

A main goal is to prevent child abuse and neglect, she said. Another part is to help the young women move forward in their lives and realize dreams beyond motherhood. To that end, they're guided toward continuing their education or job training efforts.

Trejo said she plans to become an ultrasound technician one day.

“My own mother was a teen mom,” she said. “She tells me she wishes she had a program like Teen Hopes.”

For more information, visit:



Thoughtful Parenting: Have you ever suspected child abuse?

by Stephanie Martin

Many of us are unsure whether a child is being abused. Abuse is not always apparent. Often, we do not know what to do if we suspect abuse and fear the results if we report to the authorities.

This article is intended to provide possible warning signs of child abuse and explain what to do if you suspect abuse.

The earlier abused children get help, the greater chance they have to heal and break the cycle of abuse.

Below are warning signs, provided by

Warning signs of emotional abuse in children

• Excessively withdrawn, fearful or anxious about doing something wrong.

• Shows extremes in behavior (extremely compliant or demanding, extremely passive or aggressive).

• Doesn't seem to be attached to the parent or caregiver.

• Acts either inappropriately adult (taking care of other children) or inappropriately infantile (rocking, thumb-sucking, throwing tantrums).

Warning signs of physical abuse in children

• Frequent injuries or unexplained bruises, welts or cuts.

• Is always watchful and “on alert,” as if waiting for something bad to happen.

• Injuries appear to have a pattern such as marks from a hand or belt.

• Shies away from touch, flinches at sudden movements or seems afraid to go home.

• Wears inappropriate clothing to cover up injuries, such as long-sleeved shirts on hot days.

Warning signs of neglect in children

• Clothes are ill-fitting, filthy or inappropriate for the weather.

• Hygiene is consistently bad (unbathed, matted and unwashed hair, noticeable body odor).

• Untreated illnesses and physical injuries.

• Is frequently unsupervised or left alone or allowed to play in unsafe situations and environments.

• Is frequently late or missing from school.

Warning signs of sexual abuse in children

• Trouble walking or sitting.

• Displays knowledge or interest in sexual acts inappropriate to his or her age, or even seductive behavior.

• Makes strong efforts to avoid a specific person, without an obvious reason.

• Doesn't want to change clothes in front of others or participate in physical activities.

• An STD or pregnancy, especially younger than age 14.

• Runs away from home.

Suspected abuse is enough of a reason to contact the authorities. The safety of our children is the responsibility of all neighbors, friends and family.

In today's world, often people are hesitant to become involved, however, it is our responsibility as a society to ensure the safety of all children.

When reporting child abuse, remain calm, be as specific as possible and, if there are future incidences, continue to call and report them.

If you think a child is in immediate danger, don't hesitate. Call 911 to ensure the immediate safety of a child and get medical attention if needed. For non-emergencies, call the Department of Human Services at 970-879-5533, or after business hours call your local law enforcement agency at 970-879-1090.

Working together protects vulnerable children and saves lives. Don't hesitate. Report suspected child abuse.

Northwest Rocky Mountain CASA recruits, educates and empowers community volunteers to advocate in court for the best interests of abused and neglected children. More information can be found by calling 970-819-6233 or visiting:



Children sexually abused at NSW yoga retreat, witness to tell royal commission

by Claire Aird

Children were groomed and physically and sexually abused at a yoga retreat on the New South Wales Central Coast, a witness at a child sex abuse inquiry has said.

Bhakti Manning will give evidence at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse over the response of the Satyananda Yoga Ashram to allegations of child sexual abuse by the Ashram's former spiritual leader in the 1970s and 1980s.

Ms Manning was just 14 years old when she first attended the retreat located in bushland at Mangrove Mountain in 1974 with a group of other children, some as young as five, who were separated from their parents there.

"We were children who were groomed to be used by those who had power," she said.

"There were methods of making us feel we were special.

"Not only was there sexual abuse, we worked for nothing - our whole lives were controlled."

According to Ms Manning, spiritual teachings were used as a form of control.

"Surrender and obedience to the guru was the highest quality," she said.

"Reincarnation - we're connected by lives before and we'll be connected. There's no escape.

"Pleasing the guru - you can never be perfect, so you're always failing.

"Family - you give up your family and this is your family. If you speak up you are disloyal, you are a traitor."

Ms Manning claimed she was abused by two Indian swamis in Australia, including the Ashram's director, Swami Akhandananda Saraswati.

"It takes everything from you," she said.

"You're being built up and encouraged and told how wonderful you are and how much faith they have in you, and under that you're being undermined and abused and used."

Akhandananda charged with sex offences

Akhandananda was charged in 1987 with more than 35 sex offences against four teenage girls.

Before he went to trial in 1980, there were changes to NSW laws and the charges were reduced to the much lesser offences of acts of indecency.

Akhandananda was jailed in 1989 but his conviction was overturned when his lawyers argued the indecency charges were only laid to avoid the statue of limitation.

He died six years later.

The Ashram would become the Australian headquarters of a global yoga movement started by an Indian guru, Swami Satyananda Saraswati, in the 1950s.

Ms Manning said Saraswati was "charismatic, intelligent and powerful".

"In Australia, I was abused by two Indian swamis, then in India by the founder - Swami Satyandanda," she said.

"In India, the founder manipulated the lives of girls and women where he saw fit."

Saraswati died in 2009.

Ashram apologises on Facebook

The ashram on the central coast has changed its name to Mangrove Yoga Ashram but still follows the Satyananda movement.

Earlier this year, it issued an apology to abuse victims on Facebook.

"In response to these comments and on behalf of Mangrove Yoga Ashram, we would like to acknowledge the events of the past and offer an apology to the children and adults whose lives were affected by the abuse and misconduct of those in charge of the ashram in the late '70s and early '80s," the apology read.

"It was a period of devotion, trust and inspiration, which for many ended in disillusionment and great pain.

"No doubt the failure of the ashram to publicly acknowledge these events has added to the pain and prevented many from finding a path to healing."

Bhakti Manning said the apology was unsatisfactory.

"The ashram today only wants to know and hear about the abuse by Swami Akhandananda," Ms Manning said.

"Swami Satyananda is worshipped as though he's a saint."

The inquiry will also investigate the systems, policies and procedures in place at the Ashram between 1974 and 1989, and currently, in relation to raising and responding to allegations of or concerns about child sexual abuse.

Up to nine alleged victims will testify over the two week hearing which begins in Sydney on Tuesday.


New Jersey


Learn how to protect children against sex abuse

by Roslyn Dashiell

It seems we're encountering a familiar scene more and more often: shocking accounts of child assault within our communities, even within the very educational institutions we trust to provide our children with a supportive, nurturing environment.

Sayreville schools canceled its football season last month October 6, amid a hazing scandal involving aggravated sexual assault charges. Two weeks later, suburban Philadelphia's Central Bucks West canceled its football program following hazing reports. And about 100 miles north, a school in Eldred, N.Y., is the latest to prematurely end its football season as a hazing scandal with sexual-assault implications unfolds there.

While the context may change, the prevalence of child assault in our communities endures. This raises a litany of questions: What have we learned? What's different now? How are we better equipped to keep our children safe?

One of the first stages of preventing child abuse is building a committed coalition of community members willing to address the issue. Three years ago, the New Jersey Partnership to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse launched the Enough Abuse campaign as a community-based effort to educate lay people on how to prevent child sexual abuse, recognize when abuse is happening and respond appropriately to children who have the courage to disclose that they've been sexually abused.

The nonprofit PEI Kids, which runs a counseling program for child victims of sexual abuse, has served as the lead agency of Enough Abuse's Greater Mercer Coalition to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse since 2011. Working with volunteers and community partners, PEI Kids has educated more than 1,000 people who live and work in Mercer County about preventing, identifying and responding appropriately to suspected child sexual abuse — empowering adults with education, strategies, tools and information to be local change agents.

The strategy is based on a few hard-learned lessons.

Lesson one: Child sexual abuse is a highly charged topic that people don't want to talk about. However, given its pervasiveness and devastating impact, we must, quite frankly, get over ourselves, as the kids say. Enough Abuse workshops put the topic front and center, and professionally trained presenters encourage participants to shed their uneasiness and get down to the business of learning how to prevent child sexual abuse in their communities. Having participated in these workshops, I have witnessed this effect firsthand.

Lesson two: When it comes to child assault, teaching our children about “stranger danger” is not enough. The insidious reality of child sexual abuse is that the perpetrator is most often a family member, close family friend or, as today's headlines indicate, a peer. Only 10 percent of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by a stranger, someone unknown to the victim or the family. While educating our children is critical, we can't leave matters of such importance to potential victims to fend for themselves.

This leads to the third lesson: It takes a village. Whether you're an educator, pediatrician, child-care provider or a resident living in a town with children (by the way, that's all of us), every one of us is responsible for being a good citizen and learning how to protect our most valued resource. Our children are truly the future of our communities, our country and our planet, and we want them to be whole and well-adjusted when they're making decisions about our lives.

I am often asked to measure the results of PEI Kids' prevention programs. In the case of child sexual abuse, I respond the same each time: This is a cost better avoided than measured. We can measure the cost of investigation, litigation, counseling and treatment for cases of child sexual abuse, but how do we measure the human tragedy, the post-traumatic stress, the guilt and shame of non-offending family members, the lifelong effects on the child victim and the impact on the community? Child victims of sexual abuse suffer short- and long-term effects, sleep and eating disorders, anxiety, depression, anger, substance abuse, sexual dysfunction, poor self-esteem and self-destructive behavior. Children don't just “get over it.” Without a strong, coordinated community response, their lives will never be the same.

As a community, we have to be well-informed stewards of our children's welfare and cultivate a climate of safety. The positive news is that we don't have to feel like helpless bystanders reading about another small-town tragedy and hoping it doesn't visit our town anytime soon.

Anyone can get involved with a local chapter of the Coalition to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse and start making a difference. For information on the Mercer County Coalition to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse, visit PEI Kids' website (, or call (609) 695-3739. If your county doesn't have a coalition, how about getting one started? PEI Kids can help.

To report child abuse in New Jersey, call New Jersey's Child Abuse/Neglect Hotline at 1-877-NJ ABUSE (652-2873).

Roslyn Dashiell is executive director of PEI Kids, based in Lawrence.


United Kingdom

Mother tells how her 13-year-old son was groomed online and sexually abused without her ever suspecting anything was wrong

by Katy Winter

Your child being abused is every parents worst nightmare, but for one couple, it was happening right under their nose in their own home.

Ben was just 13 when he became the victim of online grooming and ultimately sexual abuse by four adult men.

His parents, increasingly concerned about his reclusive behaviour, only discovered what was happening when they overheard a late night phone call between Ben and his abusers.

What followed is a harrowing tale of not only unwinding the psychological control the groomers had over their son, but a struggle to get support and to see the abusers convicted.

Speaking through actors to protect their identity, they have decided to share their story with charity the Marie Collins Foundation (MCF), the only children's charity in the UK devoted to helping children and their families who have suffered online sexual abuse and exploitation.

'We became aware that there was a problem with our son he was very unhappy towards the end of 2010,' Ben's mother explains.

'He'd come out as being gay on Facebook in the summer of 2010 and the months following that he was very very unhappy, very unsettled.

We put it down to the fact that he was struggling with his sexuality. We knew that something had changed dramatically in our son and the school wasn't picking up on it.

'We his parents didn't see it, the doctor didn't see it.

'He'd completely stopped talking to us, there was no communication going on at all but i was listening and watching all the time.'

Powerless to do anything, they were forced to simply stand by as the son they knew disappeared before their eyes.

It was not until January 2011 that the true horror of what was happening to Ben was exposed.

'We were in bed one night and I could hear him talking in his room.

'I got up and could clearly hear him saying "I will get the train", and I could hear a man's voice on his phone.

'And i knew then, i knew immediately that he was being groomed.'

Shocked, and unsure of what to do, they decided to call the police, who initially said they were unable to help, forcing them to involve the school, who in turn called in Social Services.

Ben's mother recalls: 'They told our son that I had heard the conversation. It was dreadful, he wouldn't speak to us

'Social Services said they'd need his phone. Two local policemen arrived and wrestled our son to the ground and took his phone.

'It was the most harrowing thing i have ever seen, he ended up in a corner sobbing.

'All he wanted was to have his phone back because one of the groomers had taken over his mind so much he couldn't bare to be out of contact with him.

'Earlier in that day i also found pictures of him on his laptop that he had taken of himself, naked images.

'A safeguarding officer spoke to our son privately and came out and told us our son had been involved sexually with four men.

'Our world completely collapsed.'

'We knew the name and whereabouts of one of the men who had abused him, but he wasn't arrested until seven months later,' they explain.

'All through that year people we knew, and the police knew, to be paedophiles were left to roam. There were months between knowledge of these people and arrests, and then even longer before any charges were filed.'

Ben is still in contact with social services as the family attempt to rebuild their lives. Although some of the men responsible for his abuse have been sent to jail, trials continue for others.

Ben's mother explains: 'It is a question of time, consistency and appreciating the deep psychological damage that gets done.'

Tink Palmer, chief executive of the Marie Collins Foundation, who have supported the family, explains that, sadly, Ben's story is not unique.

'Currently, both within the UK and internationally, the response to the needs of the child victims and their families is ad hoc and, in the main, does not take into account the particular differential impacts that such abuse has on those who are targeted. our vision is to improve services for victims and their families.

'Very few studies have been carried out regarding the number of children who are abused through grooming online, the nature of such grooming and its impact on the victims. In addition, our understanding of children's risky behaviours online and the impact on their emotional development needs expanding.

'Because of its perceived characteristics (anonymity, speed) the internet and mobile technologies will be welcomed conduits for abuse by those wishing to sexually harm children.

'The charity have announced a groundbreaking partnership with BT to pilot a new programme that will eventually train all front-line workers to help children harmed in this way.'

** Names in this story have been changed to protect identities**


New York

Anti-abuse groups bring message to Ralph Wilson Stadium

Football fans who ventured to a table set up outside Ralph Wilson Stadium before Sunday's game were urged to inform themselves about child abuse and to sign a petition encouraging Erie County leaders to do more to help eradicate abuse and domestic violence.

Melanie Blow, an incest survivor who lives in Rochester and is a driving force behind the “Stop Abuse Campaign,” wants Erie County leaders to adopt, among other things, the Quincy Solution. She made the case Sunday along with members of Eian's Echo, a group named for the Buffalo boy killed by his mother's live-in boyfriend last year. Blow described the Quincy solution as “a group of best practices that prevent domestic violence and the child abuse that is associated with domestic violence.” Between 40 to 60 percent of child abuse happens in homes with domestic violence, Blow said.

Named for the Massachusetts city that has seen success with it, the Quincy Solution involves use of an especially vigilant court system and employs modern technology when possible. For example, dangerous abusers can be denied bail or forced to wear a GPS device that alerts police and victims if offenders go near the victim. Cameras can be installed in a victim's home to dissuade abusers from returning.

The Stop Abuse Campaign also wants Erie County to expand use of home-visiting programs, such as Healthy Families New York, which direct support workers into the homes of eligible families. Erie County also is urged to make available to any interested parent a high-quality course in recognizing and preventing sexual abuse.

“Most parents don't have any idea how to [protect] their children from sexual abuse,” Blow said. “If people understand the dynamics of it, if people understand what to look for in an adult — signs that the child is being ‘groomed' for sexual abuse — they are able to protect those kids.

“But they are not able to if they don't understand what is going on, what to look for,'' she said. “If they think registries work very well, if they think Megan's Law works very well, they don't think they need to worry about it.”

But she said that because no more than 10 percent of sex offenders are convicted, sex offender registries apply to only that 10 percent.

Sunday's informational effort outside Ralph Wilson Stadium also involved “Eain's Echo,” another group that works to eradicate child abuse through awareness and stronger laws. Eain's Echo was begun by Carolyn Spring-Baker, paternal great-grandmother to Eain Brooks, the 5-year-old killed in Buffalo by his mother's live-in boyfriend despite repeated calls of concern to the county's Child Protective Services unit. The boyfriend, Matthew Kuzdzal, was sentenced last month to 50 years to life in prison.

Meanwhile, the National Football League has begun a campaign to stress its concerns about domestic violence and sexual abuse after highly publicized incidents involving NFL players, including Ray Rice, a former Baltimore Ravens running back. Rice on Friday won an appeal of his indefinite suspension from the league, allowing his return to an NFL team.

Said Blow: “The NFL just told Ray Rice and told anyone else who does abuse their partner, ‘You get to do this, and you experience no consequences.'”