Schools, nonprofits prepare for new child abuse reporting requirements
by KAREN SHUEY AND KARA NEWHOUSE
When a special task force spoke with child protection advocates about overhauling child protection laws, they heard calls for a new reporting system.
So lawmakers passed legislation.
The new requirements broadened the list of "mandated reporters" to include child care providers and school personnel at all levels, religious leaders, doctors and health care professionals, social workers, librarians, law enforcement and volunteers who work with children.
The changes to mandatory reporting take effect Jan. 1, 2015.
Mandated reporters are required to complete specialized training on child abuse recognition and reporting. And the law updated how that's done.
The biggest change requires that all reports be made first to either police, the state's ChildLine hotline, or directly to child welfare authorities through an online form rather than through a reporter's supervisor.
Child protection advocates encouraged that update, saying supervisors did not always alert authorities of suspected abuse.
Donna Prokay, director of human resources for Manheim Township School District, said it's a good change. When a mandated reporter contacts the state hotline directly, “It's not secondhand knowledge," she said.
Still, Manheim Township is asking staff to report suspected abuse to supervisors as their second step. That allows the district to provide any necessary support for the child involved, Prokay said.
Cocalico Superintendent Bruce Sensenig also said his district wants staff to alert administrators after reporting abuse, for the sake of communication and coordination.
While schools have been training staff for months, other organizations have been struggling to get the necessary training before the new year, said Jesse Rothacker, children's pastor at Ephrata Community Church.
Crystal Natan, executive director of Lancaster County Children and Youth Social Service Agency, said her staff is working hard to connect people with the resources they need to comply.
There is a free, two-hour online course available for mandated reporters. Successful completion requires a passing score of 70 percent on the test given after the course is done.
Another important revision to the mandated reporting law allows a report to be triggered either by direct observation of child abuse or a credible secondhand report involving an identifiable victim.
And the new legislation increases the penalties for mandated reporters who fail to meet their obligation, including a felony charge for those who witness the most serious child abuse and remain quiet.
Such a charge is “something very unlikely to happen,” Rothaker said, “but it's still a very scary thought for folks who are just trying to volunteer.”
State leaders vow to take on child abuse in upcoming session
Texas remains a leader in child abuse cases
by Enrique Rangel
AUSTIN — The Texas Legislature is back in session in mid-January and, as it happens every two years when they meet for 140 days, the lawmakers will have a long list of pressing issues to tackle.
Although school finance, transportation funding, health care needs, border security and the growing demand for more sources of water top the list, it looks like the lawmakers will also have to deal with other perennial problems.
One of them will likely be child abuse and neglect-related deaths. The likelihood the Legislature will pay more attention than usual to this matter became evident earlier this year.
First, House Speaker Joe Straus and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, the presiding officer of the Senate, added it to the long list of interim charges, issues the lawmakers take an in-depth look at the year before they are back in session.
“The death of even one child due to abuse or neglect is unacceptable,” Straus said after announcing the creation of a committee whose mission was to recommend to the Legislature what must be done to address the problem.
In all, three committees held separate public hearings aimed at figuring out what to do to decrease the annual number youngsters who perish because of abuse and/or neglect.
This is because of the 804 child deaths reported in Texas last year, 156 – or roughly one in five – were due to child abuse or neglect.
Of those 156 fatalities, 59 percent were due to neglect and 41 percent to abuse, Department of Family and Protective Services Commissioner John Specia told the Senate Health & Human Services Committee. Abuse-related deaths are caused mainly by blunt force trauma, stabbing or suffocation while neglect includes drowning, unsafe sleep or medical inattention.
Moreover, while the number of child abuse or neglect related deaths has decreased in recent years – from 280 in 2009 to the 156 last year – Texas has long led the nation in this unenviable category, numerous child advocates reminded the lawmakers.
Rep. John Frullo, who sits on the House Select Committee on Child Abuse, a nine-member panel Straus appointed in the spring, said he and his colleagues listened to scores of witnesses and they will be ready to tackle this problem when they are back in session.
“We want to make sure that we are doing everything we can with the resources that we have to protect our children,” Frullo, R-Lubbock, said. “Alcohol and drugs play a big part on what's going on.
“That is something we are working on,” Frullo said. “It is a big ship, hard to steer but I think we are making good progress in the changes and developing a plan of attack.”
The committee met four times and in the first public hearing chairwoman Dawnna Dukes made it just as clear this is a problem the Legislature is committed to tackle.
“Protecting children from abuse and neglect is one of the government's essential functions,” Dukes, D-Austin, said in her opening remarks.
The number of those fatalities “represents far too many young lives that ended tragically and senselessly,” Dukes added.
Drastic changes needed
The Sunset Advisory Commission, a panel of five House members, five senators and two appointed private citizens, also looked into the issue and, like the House committee, is also expected to issue recommendations to the entire Legislature.
A Sunset staff report released in May made it equally clear that the Legislature must do something major to take on child abuse and neglect in Texas.
This includes drastically changing how the Department of Family Protective Services – the beleaguered agency that oversees Child Protective Services – operates.
“While it may not be catchy or exciting, DFPS simply needs to do a better job of planning, communicating, listening and managing its people so that it can carry out its critical mission more effectively,” the 118-page report states in its summary. “The agency needs to roll up its sleeves and get down to the mundane business of effective management, long lost in a culture of addressing every problem that pops up with a new policy or initiative.”
Though it remains to be seen who will file what bill and whether the Legislature approves any major reforms, Rep. Four Price – vice chairman of the Sunset panel – said the group will recommend merging the Department of Family Protective Services and four other health agencies.
“This is a starting point,” Price, R-Amarillo, said about the proposal.
“We want to consolidate these five agencies into one,” Price explained. “It would give tremendous flexibility to the agency to sort of organize itself in a way that would make it more responsive and more efficient and provide better service and it will eliminate some of the blurred lines of accountability that are there now.”
However, even if the Legislature approves the Sunset Commission's recommendation, it will be more than a year before the merger occurs.
In the meantime, the Department of Family Protective Services must continue with its objective of providing the type of services the public expects, some legislators said.
For starters, Specia, the Department of Family and Protective Services commissioner, promised major changes at CPS.
Over the years, CPS has been characterized by high turnover and low morale due mainly to low pay and heavy workloads.
The workloads do not allow social workers to spend the time needed to build relationships with potential victims or with their families, the lawmakers were told.
“We're going to change the way this agency does business,” Specia told the House Child Protection Committee. “We've got to look at the way we do businesses and not do business as usual.”
West Texas cases no different
Lubbock County Medical Examiner Sridhar Natarajan, who testified in the last committee hearing, said the number of child abuse cases he has seen in West Texas, including rural counties, are no worse than those in other regions of the state.
“They are probably about the same with the types of deaths we see,” Natarajan said in an interview after listening to most of the 31 other witnesses who testified before him.
Nonetheless, he was encouraged by what he heard, Natajaran said.
“My sense in listening to other folks testify up to this point is that they (the committee members) will take the recommendations and they will be able to put together what is reasonable and what Texas can do” to reduce the number of child deaths, he said.
“It may not be exactly what everybody is looking for, but the fact that they are taking this initiative at this level is a huge start, and my sense is that all the questions they are asking are great questions,” Natajaran said.
In wake of shocking child abuse case, Indiana can do better
by Matthew Fraidin
The reports were shocking. A 1 5-year-old Anderson girl allegedly was beaten, starved, locked in a blood-spattered room, and fed feces — by her grandparents, Steve and Joetta Sells, who have been charged with several felonies. Now just 40 pounds, the girl clings to life in an Indianapolis hospital.
As we absorb the horror, we must resolve to do better. Sadly, there's no way to prevent all child tragedies. But we can minimize the risks to Indiana's children. These are steps we must take and things we should never do.
• Revisit confidentiality laws that shield Department of Child Services operations. According to the Star, court records indicate that DCS checked into the family as far back as 2010. DCS, "(Found) no evidence," promptly closed its investigation, and took no action. Under current law, DCS is prohibited from providing even the smallest detail about its involvement in the case.
But DCS records could help us learn whether warning signs were missed and, if so, why. Child welfare investigations are difficult, often requiring caseworkers to piece together disparate information from numerous sources, such as school personnel, family members and the children themselves.
What triggered the investigation? Did DCS interview all relevant witnesses, and obtain relevant school and medical records? Did DCS draw appropriate conclusions from that evidence? Reflecting on performance is the best way to uncover weaknesses and shore up deficits for the future. If DCS information is kept secret, Indiana taxpayers, voters, and concerned residents are deprived of an opportunity to make DCS work better for all Indiana children.
• Assess the DCS child abuse reporting hotline. In 2010 nationwide, state and local agencies received more than 3.3 million reports alleging abuse or neglect of 5.9 million children. But best practices dictate that many reports should be disregarded as insufficient, inaccurate, false or outside the purview of the child welfare agency. As a result, only 61 percent of reports filed nationwide in 2010 were investigated. Indiana authorities investigated nearly 10 percent more referrals than the national average that year but only 23 percent were substantiated. If DCS is investigating too many referrals and screening out too few, the risk increases that needlessly overburdened workers will be forced to find ways to cut corners — and will miss children in dire need of intervention.
• Take fewer children from their families. According to the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, Indiana removed a greater proportion of children from their homes in 2010 than all but seven states. The 2010 DCS investigation may well have suffered because caseworkers were serving too many children already in foster care and couldn't do a thorough enough assessment. Children often are traumatized by being taken from their parents, and research shows that children placed in foster care fare worse than similarly maltreated children left with their families. Workers can't perform at their best when they're unnecessarily investigating anonymous reports or unnecessarily serving children who would be better off at home.
• Don't panic. There's no need to suspect abuse or neglect on the face of every child in the supermarket; a spike in reports to DCS will overload workers and hurt more kids than it will help. In 2010, when DCS briefly looked into this family, nearly 60 of every 1,000 Indiana children were the subject of a referral to DCS, 16 children per 1,000 greater than the national average. By 2012, Indiana's referral rate had climbed to 76 children of every 1,000, the sixth-highest rate in the nation and thirty 30 children per 1,000 higher than the national average.
By 2012 , even though DCS had started screening out calls at a rate that matched the national average, only 19 percent of referrals were substantiated. That meant almost 94,000 unfounded inquiries taking DCS caseworkers' time.
• Don't hang DCS workers out to dry. By and large, caseworkers are dedicated to improving life for Indiana's children, families and communities. You can be sure this tragedy will hit hard at DCS, with accompanying grief and speculative "what-ifs." If DCS missed clues in this girl's case, a public blame-game may make the errant caseworkers and their colleagues gun-shy and trigger-happy, apt to protect their own livelihood by too quickly removing children from their families. This is yet another route to overloading DCS, exacerbating the likelihood that some children in the community will be wrongly removed and others wrongly ignored, and diminishing the agency's ability to serve the children who need assistance. Hold DCS accountable — but avoid character assassination.
We can't turn back the hands of time for the Anderson teenager. But her suffering can spur sober, common-sense reforms. We can learn from this awful turn of events. Indiana's child welfare operations, including the steps in this case, should be transparent, opened to fulsome, informed debate. DCS workers should investigate the right cases and not the wrong ones. And DCS decision-making processes should be assessed to make sure workers leave children at home if they are not endangered -- so it's more likely investigators will find the children who are.
Fraidin is co-director of the General Practice Clinic and a professor of law at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law.
'Hope broker' reflects on 3-decade mission to help abused children
by DAVID LAUDERDALE
CAPA's Open Arms Shelter for Abused and Neglected Children has provided safety for more than 2,200 children since it opened in 1985.
And in all those years, only three times have any of the children of those sheltered children shown up for help.
"I don't think that's a coincidence," said Susan Cato, who retired last week after 29 years as executive director.
The mission of the nonprofit Child Abuse Prevention Association based in Port Royal is to "break the destructive cycle of child abuse and neglect by equipping parents, children and their caregivers with necessary skills, knowledge and values."
Cato came to the job reluctantly. Her husband, Jim, was working day and night as editor of The Beaufort Gazette. Her children were ages 3, 11 and 13. Foreign exchange students were in an out of the house.
She agreed to work part-time until CAPA could find somebody. The office was in her home and the trunk of her car. The shelter had just opened and her first task was to raise $52,000 for the annual budget.
Cato found herself on a mission. It was one that had oddly crossed her path a number of times since her first volunteer job in college. She was in a children's hospital when a baby was brought in that had been left in a Dumpster.
Later, as a young adult volunteering at the police station she was thrust into counseling a couple whose daughter was abducted at an amusement park and assaulted.
It also crossed her path closer to home, in an era when nobody talked about abuse or acknowledged it.
"I was raised in a family that you would never believe had child abuse," Cato said, "but there was lots of child abuse and there was sexual abuse and incest, so for a long time I was really, really angry with God because I thought what kind of God would let that happen to children?"
Last week she reflected on an agency that now works with 6,000 children and adults annually with a budget of $1 million and 23 employees.
"We call ourselves 'Hope Brokers,' " she said.
'DEFINE WHO THEY ARE'
Abuse will never go away, but a lot has changed in 29 years.
Today, more criminal charges are brought, Cato said.
Child abuse and neglect is less hidden. It once was harder to talk about a 13-year-old girl made pregnant by a grown man. CAPA needed to be sensitive, but also get people riled up about things that were going on.
People are now more likely to speak up if they see something wrong.
"They don't look at people and think, 'Kids are your property and you do with them what you will, just don't do it out in the street. We don't want to get into the ugly of it,' " Cato said.
As a result, CAPA is getting into families much earlier than it used to. Instead of getting abused 13-year-olds, it now sees more children 2, 3, 4 and 5 years old. Younger children are more likely to be taken in by a family member.
Also, children are staying in the shelter longer.
Cato said CAPA has a better relationship with the state Department of Social Services today, with collaboration being today's buzzword.
Children in the shelter are wards of the state, not CAPA. The goal is to get them back with their family, but they often are adopted or go into a foster home.
CAPA tries to help the children see that what has happened to them does not have to define who they are.
'LET YOUR LIFE SPEAK'
Every child leaves the Open Arms Shelter with a quilt made by a member of quilt guilds in Beaufort or on Hilton Head Island.
It's something they can call their own. For some, it becomes the only thing they have from their childhood.
Two successful women who were in the shelter as children around Christmastime now return to lavish gifts on the current occupants. One is from Atlanta, the other from the Orient.
In a Beaufort restaurant, a line cook with a wife and six children thanks the shelter for sparing his life, or keeping him out of jail. When he arrived as a child, he was already raising his younger siblings.
"He was just an angry little 10-year-old kid who was tired of watching his mom get horrible, horrible abuse," Cato said.
Parenting classes have helped other women stand up and learn not to bring men into their homes who may harm their children. Men prey on women working two jobs, Cato said.
"You have to give them hope," Cato said. "That's the main thing. My entire married life I have had something in my house, my office, somewhere, that talks about hope. I firmly believe the old saying: Let your life speak.
"I really feel that this has been my way of speaking. If we've helped people along the way, that's wonderful, and I know we have made tremendous differences."
Ex-Yankee Rusty Torres gets three-year prison sentence for sexually abusing child
Torres, who played 89 games for the Yankees between 1971-72, was convicted in July on five counts of first-degree sexual abuse. According to a Newsday report, the victim was an eight-year-old girl attending youth baseball practice on Long Island.
by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) — A former New York Yankees outfielder who worked as a youth baseball coach was sentenced Thursday to three years in prison for sexually abusing an 8-year-old girl during baseball practice.
Rosendo "Rusty" Torres, 66, was convicted in July of five counts of first-degree sexual abuse. He was acquitted of sexually abusing another girl. Torres later tried to have the conviction overturned, claiming some jurors failed to disclose that they or family members had been crime victims or had been sexually victimized.
Nassau County Court Judge Tammy Robbins rejected the argument that jurors acted improperly.
"As a professional athlete, people looked up to this defendant and trusted him to teach America's favorite pastime to their children," District Attorney Kathleen Rice said in a statement. "Instead, he violated that trust and committed horrible acts against a defenseless young girl."
Prosecutors said the girl was abused by Torres while he worked as a coach for the Long Island town of Oyster Bay. The abuse occurred from April 2012 to May 2012 during baseball practice sessions in Plainview, prosecutors said. A town spokesman did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Robbins said Torres never apologized or acknowledged the little girl. Defense attorney Troy Smith said Torres "has maintained his innocence and still maintains his innocence to this day."
The Massapequa resident played 89 games for the Yankees in 1971-72. He also played for four other teams.
He had a .212 lifetime batting average before retiring in 1980.
Why would anyone not want child abuse exposed?
by Sarah Hudson Pierce
Whether Bill Cosby, is guilty or not, I do not know but this case has caused me to question why would anyone not want sexual and physical abuse exposed?
I've turned this question over in my mind every way but loose. The only conclusion that I can draw is that such a one may not want to be exposed for their own misconduct or they lack the ability to care and step into the child's shoes.
Sometimes the abuser offers just enough “carrots” to keep the victim's mouth shut. A paying job might be just enough to keep silent.
Had my sister, Alice, and I, not lived in an orphanage, where abuse was prevalent, I might not be so obsessed. Because I witnessed children being assaulted, I became more vocal. Had I not had been a victim myself, I might shrink into the shadows and keep my mouth shut. Only God could have given me that rare courage to report a house mother who had unmercifully beaten a 10-year-old girl because I was an extremely shy, undersized girl of 14, who took justice into her hands.
I could have kept my mouth shut, but I can only feel good for the little girl who stood up for those more timid than myself.
I was on a mission in the '60s and I decided this would be how I would spend my life, taking up for the children who have no voice.
In the Donna Reed days, church people appeared to be more comfortable hiding from the truth, as helpless children died emotionally in despair or ran away from the home.
The orphanage did their part to hide abuse away from the media. One little girl was placed in a mental hospital, all the while hoping this would keep her mouth shut. It took me 36 years to find her. When I located her in 2001, she told me that she wouldn't talk to the therapists for eight months and only then when they drugged her.
The doctors could tell she was telling the truth so they sent her home to her mother. Still justice wasn't served.
Where will this all end? Will children ever really be heard? Only time will tell, but I see hope on the horizon as more sexually abused victims are being vindicated today.
I wonder how many more cases are been hidden from the court system. Looking back on my teenage years, I know that reporting the abuse helped to protect my hide, because the employees of the home feared the “powers that be” and they knew in their heart that I really wasn't scared of them.
Now it would be harder to report the abuse because the orphanage, which has moved and changed its name, now home schooling the children.
Today, in 2014, a house parent is serving time in prison for repeatedly raping and sodomizing a young girl. She was only able to report the abuse when she visited her parents.
I can't help but question how many young children are suffering at the hands of an institution who is collecting money from good Christian people who are trying to make a difference in a child's life.
We can't stand back and pretend that it doesn't exist.
The Bible still says that “the truth will set you free.” Jesus said “whoever causes one of these little ones, who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”
If we don't protect children who will?
It's not enough to ask “what good does it do to bring it up now after all of these years?”
The answer is simple — “to prevent it from happening again.”
I know that God has always taken care of me. I believe he always will because Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever and he always gets me to the right place at the right time. This knowledge gives me comfort as I go to sleep at night.
Sarah Hudson Pierce is an author who lives near Mooringsport.
Alabama one of the 'worst' states for adult victims of child sex abuse to seek civil remedies
by John Sharp
Children victimized by sexual abuse can get free services until adulthood.
After age 18, the expenses kick for continued treatment.
In addition, research continues to indicate between 60 to 80 percent of children withhold disclosure of sexual abuse during childhood until they reach an adult age.
It can be a costly and traumatic experience, one that Alabama is ranked as one of the "worst" in the U.S. in terms of aiding victims through the civil court system.
"That cost to the public is enormous, because the victims typically have about $1 million over their lifetime in needed therapy," Marci Hamilton, professor at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York and an author on the topic, said.
Hamilton, an expert in the statute of limitation laws throughout the U.S., tracks what each state does in terms of loosening restrictions on when a victim can file civil claims.
The settlements, she says, can help provide financial relief to seek therapy throughout the victim's lifetime.
Alabama law requires child sex abuse victims two years after their 19 th birthday to bring forward a civil suit - the same time frame for victims of battery and other offenses. In other words, after age 22, there is no chance to seek civil remedies.
The strict time frame makes Alabama one of the five "worst" states in the U.S. when it comes to child sex abuse victims filing civil claims, according to Hamilton.
Alabama does not have a statute of limitations for child sex abuse victims seeking criminal charges, one of 37 states to do so.
Mississippi, Georgia, New York and Michigan are also included in the "worst" category, but in some cases, there have been efforts to improve things.
Georgia, for instance, will consider in 2015, a 30-year extension on their statute of limitations for filing civil lawsuits. Right now, Georgia has a similar restriction as Alabama.
Jason Spencer, a Republican Georgia state lawmaker, has called his measure a meaningful extension when considering that child sexual abuse victims often do not identify their perpetrator until they reach middle age .
Hamilton said there has been no proposal in the Alabama legislature to seek change.
New York has introduced proposals allowing victims a one-time, one-year window of opportunity to bring civil suits against people or institutions in older abuse cases .
A similar action was taken in California in 2002, where around 1,000 lawsuits were filed with settlements reaching around $1 billion. Hawaii passed a two-year window in 2012.
Alabama is also one of four states without a so-called "discovery rule," which allows a short time frame for civil suits to be filed once the injury is "discovered" by the victim.
7 Things We Need to Stop Saying to Sexual Assault Victims Immediately
by Maureen Shaw
. This just in: Rape is in no way, shape or form, a "learning experience."
Yet that's exactly how Susan Patton, aka "Princeton Mom," described it on air during a CNN interview on Thursday. Brought on to discuss campus sexual assault, she grossly mischaracterized being raped while drunk as "a learning experience" and "a clumsy hookup melodrama."
Patton is but one recent example of "high-profile" commentary gone wrong. Recently, highly publicized cases, such as the Rolling Stone- University of Virginia debacle, Lena Dunham's revelations and the mounting Bill Cosby allegations, have exposed the vast discrepancies between people's perceptions and the reality of rape.
But for most victims, it doesn't take a media spotlight to beget insensitive, uninformed and downright erroneous remarks about sexual assault. It's something they face every day. Here are some things we should stop saying, immediately, to survivors:
"What were you wearing?"
This question is a classic, if not ubiquitous, victim-blaming approach. Time and again, victims are asked what they were wearing at the time of their assault, implying they were "asking for it."
Newsflash: The cause of rape is 100% rapists, not clothing choices.
In March 2014, Twitter user @Steenfox addressed this issue when she asked followers what they were wearing at the time of their assaults. The responses clearly demonstrate the irrelevance of fashion when it comes to rape.
At its core, rape is about power and control, not sex or attraction; a woman "luring" or "enticing" her rapist with an outfit is absurd. Furthermore, the idea that a woman who is dressed a certain way is somehow responsible for her own assault isn't just inaccurate, it creates a class system of women and girls who are more "rapeable."
"You shouldn't have been drinking."
Like its clothing counterpart above, this is another favorite catchphrase of victim-blamers, particularly in the context of college sexual assaults, where partying is often the pretext for rape.
But women are not raped or assaulted because they're drinking or drunk. Rather, as one expert quoted in USA Today said, "People get raped because there is a perpetrator there — someone who wants to take advantage of them."
In fact, a 2001 research report found that while alcohol consumption and sexual assault often co-occur, "the desire to commit a sexual assault may actually cause alcohol consumption (e.g., when a man drinks alcohol before committing a sexual assault in order to justify his behavior)."
Perhaps it's time to start looking at alcohol as a date rape drug instead of an excuse to justify or shrug off sexual assault.
"But he's your boyfriend. That's not rape, that's sex."
Despite the myth that "real" rape is only committed by strangers, statistics say otherwise. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), 73% of rapists are non-strangers. Specifically, 38% of rapists are the victim's friend or acquaintance, 28% are intimate partners and 7% are family members.
The bottom line: Any unwanted sexual contact is assault, no matter who is perpetrating it.
"You should have reported it."
Despite being ranked by the FBI as the second most violent crime, behind murder, rape is among the most underreported crimes nationally, with 60% of rapes going unreported.
According to RAINN, there are several reasons why victims are reluctant to report their assaults: "The most common reason given by victims (23%) is that the rape is a 'personal matter.' Another 16% of victims say that they fear reprisal, while about 6% don't report because they believe that the police are biased."
Even when a rape is reported, only 3 out of 100 rapists will ever serve a day in prison, a bleak statistic that may also discourage victims from reporting.
At the end of the day, it's vital that we support survivors in their decisions whether or not to report their assaults. Only they can make that call.
"Why didn't you fight back harder?"
Last month, the FBI finally updated its definition of rape, removing the word "forcible" to recognize that not all assault victims are physically overcome by their rapists.
There are several instances in which victims might be raped and either don't or can't fight off attackers. For example, they may be drugged or otherwise mentally incapacitated, in fear for their lives, outnumbered or experiencing tonic immobility, a response to trauma in which a person freezes.
"Are you sure you don't just regret having sex with him?"
If a women has sex with a man, regrets it and cries rape, that constitutes a false allegation — which is extremely rare, despite men's rights activists' claims that this practice is endemic. In fact, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), only 2% to 8% of rape reports are false.
However, as the NSVRC points out , false reports are not necessarily the same as false allegations: "Investigators, prosecutors and others often decide that a sexual assault did not happen based simply on their own views of the victim, the suspect and their credibility."
A man has a greater chance (1 in 33) of becoming a rape victim himself than being falsely accused of raping someone.
"But you're a guy — you can't be raped."
This simply is not true. While the vast majority of rape victims are female, approximately 3% of American men — 2.78 million men — have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetimes.
Despite this, many men are reluctant to acknowledge, let alone report, their attacks. According to research published in Psychology of Men & Masculinity in July 2014, "the majority of men who have experienced something that would qualify as child sexual abuse or adult rape based on research definitions do not label their experiences as sexual abuse or rape."
Perhaps this is driven by a fear of being called gay, weak or "less of a man," but regardless, it is important that we believe and support male survivors.
Maureen Shaw is a Mic Editorial Fellow and the founder of sherights.com. Her writing has appeared on the Huffington Post, Feministing, Jezebel, Fem2.0 and more. Follow Maureen on Twitter at: @MaureenShaw
Stop child abuse deaths
by Jerry Ward
Protecting the most precious gift of all. That's what we at Kosair Charities have worked to do for over 90 years. We strive to help children in need, which is why we formed the Face It movement to end child abuse in our community.
We know this is not an easy issue to solve. We know it will take both changes in practice and policy to prevent and end abuse. We know we need community members working together to make change happen. But, we also know progress is being made.
The recently released report from the Child Fatality and Near Fatality External Review Panel offers an array of solutions, which, if implemented, could take Kentucky several steps forward in preventing child abuse deaths.
This panel of volunteers spent the last two years taking an in-depth look at child death and near death cases due to abuse and neglect and identifying where system improvements can be made. Panel members committed hours of their time to read through case files and analyze the inner workings of the child welfare system — definitely not an easy task to take on but we are thankful that they did.
Kosair Charities and Face It are encouraged to see strong, workable recommendations from the panel in this recent report. For example, the panel calls for better coordination among state government agencies, law enforcement and the courts to improve investigations and reporting of child abuse. It also calls for education and awareness to parents on safe sleep practices and how to prevent pediatric abusive head trauma. These and the additional recommendations could address many of the complex issues surrounding child abuse.
However, far too often, recommendations are made but not acted upon. Recommendations on a piece of paper hold little value unless they become reality.
We cannot afford these recommendations to fall to the wayside.
The panel identified 73 children who died and 43 who nearly died due to abuse and neglect during the last fiscal year, a significantly higher number than the number reported by the Department for Community Based Services, due primarily to the many cases still pending when the department's report was released. The panel identified concerns on how many systems may have failed these children.
Children don't have time to wait.
Those 73 children who died and 43 children who nearly died definitely didn't have time to wait for improvements to be made. The more than 19,000 children who experienced abuse in Kentucky in fiscal year 2014 don't have time to wait either. Changes need to be made now.
We call on the legislature, the governor and state government to act on these recommendations quickly. Our leaders have stepped up on behalf of protecting children the last few years by creating this external panel and passing other measures, such as ensuring professionals who interact with children receive training on child abuse. But, much more work remains to be done. We ask our elected leaders to again make this tragic issue a priority as they have done in recent legislative sessions. One child who suffers from or dies from abuse is one too many.
Community members can also be the face that ends child abuse by visiting faceitabuse.org to learn the signs of child abuse and how to safely intervene. You can be the professional that understands what signs to look for. You can be the neighbor or friend that knows how to support parents in that tough job of raising kids. You can be the manager of an organization working with children that ensures your staff is trained on preventing and reporting child abuse.
Kosair Charities is committed to preventing child abuse through our work with schools, child care providers, nonprofit partners, health care professionals, and many others. Will you join with us and face it in order to end child abuse in our community?
Jerry Ward is chairman of the board of directors of Kosair Charities, Inc.
To learn more
Visit faceitabuse.org to learn the signs of child abuse and how to safely intervene.
State urged to rethink handling of child abuse
by Doug Belden
Minnesota leans too heavily on family engagement and support in response to reports of child abuse and not enough on investigation and child safety, a state task force said Friday.
The task force, which was created after the death of a Minnesota boy who had been subject of repeated maltreatment reports, issued preliminary recommendations to improve the state's child-protection system.
Their proposals include eliminating a preference in state law for "family assessment" and repealing a law that prevents county officials from considering prior "screened-out" reports when deciding what to do about a new allegation.
"Family assessment was originally aimed for kids who are in low or maybe moderate risk. And it's being used more and more for kids that are in high-risk situations and that, I think, is giving a lot of task force members -- including me -- a lot of pause," said Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson, who co-chairs the group.
Gov. Mark Dayton announced the formation of the task force in September.
It was charged with making initial recommendations by the end of December on a variety of issues including the appropriateness of screening decisions, the effectiveness of current laws and policies, accountability measures and resources.
Friday's preliminary recommendations were approved unanimously. Final recommendations are due by the end of March.
Minnesota's child-protection system is supervised by state officials but administered at the county level.
Jesson said some fixes would require legislative action but some could be implemented by the department and by counties.
The task force didn't provide any estimates on how much their recommendations might cost.
State Sen. Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankato, a task force member and chair of the Senate Health, Human Services and Housing committee, said family assessment, which was implemented in Minnesota in the early 2000s, was designed for situations where neglect might be occurring because of family poverty that could be addressed through social services. But it's grown, and counties now are applying it in cases that statute says are inappropriate.
"Negligence due to poverty is something very different than difficulties that are occurring in a family because there is an abusive person either in control of that child or living in that family," she said.
State law says family assessment is the preferred route in cases that don't involve allegations of "substantial child endangerment." It does not include a determination as to whether maltreatment occurred.
According to Kathleen Blatz, a task force member and former state Supreme Court chief justice, a crucial piece missing in the current system is the collection of basic facts after a report is filed about what happened and who did it.
"Most of these cases are going through a process where there is no fact-finding on the allegations. Seventy percent of the cases are screened out -- do not come in to the child-protection system. Seventy percent of the cases that come in are sent to family assessment, and they are told not to do any facts on what happened. This is a fundamental flaw I believe in the child protection system," Blatz said.
The "screened-out" reports, the task force says, shouldn't be excluded when considering a new case.
"I do think that the Legislature and the public in general see the value of looking at patterns of reports as a part of making a determination," Sheran said.
Dayton created the task force in response to reports in the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune about the death of a 4-year-old Pope County boy who had been the subject of 15 maltreatment reports, only one of which was investigated.
Seventeen children in Minnesota's child-protection system died in 2013, according to the Department of Human Services.
Friday's meeting came on the heels of the death of a toddler this week in Brooklyn Park, allegedly at the hands of his father.
Jesson called the death "absolutely tragic. We have too many children that are dying of maltreatment. We need to take strong steps to reduce that however we can. We can't direct the actions of every adult, and so we're not going to be able to promise absolute safety, but we can do more than we're doing today, and I think these (recommendations) are good first steps to doing that."
Playground stabbing death leads to statewide policy change in child abuse cases
by Angie Jackson
KENT COUNTY, MI -- Statewide changes for case workers dealing with family abuse are designed to assure they follow the law and policies following violations in handling the case of 12-year-old Jamarion Lawhorn, the youngest person charged with murder in Kent County.
Jamarion is accused of stabbing 9-year-old Connor Verkerke to death on a Kentwood playground in August. After that alleged unprovoked attack, he told authorities he wanted to die and described physical abuse allegedly at the hands of his mother and stepfather, Anita Lawhorn and Bernard Harrold. The two were charged with child abuse following Jamarion's arrest and the case is pending while they seek to regain custody of their other children
In the criminal case against Jamarion, the court awaits results of a psychiatric evaluation.
The Office of Children's Ombudsman determined that before the playground death, the Kent County Department of Human Services did not fully comply with policies and state law when interacting with Jamarion's family in 2013. A report this week outlined the ombudsman's findings and changes made by DHS.
Workers in 2013 “substantiated” physical abuse of Jamarion, and Anita Lawhorn allegedly told a CPS investigator at the time that she beat the boy with a belt. Police were not notified of the alleged abuse, and CPS staff arranged for Jamarion to move to his father's home in New York state in June 2013. He returned to his mother's home in the spring of this year, unbeknownst to CPS. It was then that Jamarion was allegedly abused to the point of telling a police dispatcher he was "tired of life."
The law requires DHS file a petition when workers determine a preponderance of evidence of child abuse or neglect of a child or a sibling. Those circumstances can include abandonment of a young child, criminal sexual conduct, and severe physical abuse including battering and torture.
Anita Lawhorn voluntarily terminated her parental rights to two other children in 1996 in New York amid allegations of severe physical abuse to the toddlers, including unexplained fractures and possible cigarette burns. By law, the DHS must file a petition if the parent's rights to another child were terminated in Michigan or another state and if there is a current case with evidence of abuse or neglect.
Changes to the state's child welfare computer system will trigger an alert notifying workers and supervisors when a petition is required.
"This should prevent the type of situation that occurred in this case because it will be absolutely clear to the worker," said Bob Wheaton, spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Human Services. "Hopefully that will help us do a better job of protecting children."
Wheaton said employees will be required to indicate in the system that they have filed a petition as required, but the system will not prevent the case from moving forward otherwise. Officials think the alert will suffice when the change is rolled out in 2015.
Supervisors will also be reminded of the policies during a monthly teleconference.
Wheaton said there are least two sets of eyes on every CPS investigation – a worker and a supervisor – and Kent County CPS handles thousands of cases each year. Kent County workers in the fall reviewed laws and policies for medical examinations and communication with law enforcement regarding all children in a household when a sibling has been abused.
Kent County supervisors are now required to complete one case read per quarter per worker and submit a report to management and the county director, according to the ombudsman report. Wheaton declined to detail that procedure, citing confidentiality requirements.
"Like everyone else, people here at DHS were saddened by the tragedy on the playground and we take very seriously protecting vulnerable children. That's a top priority of DHS, so when something like this happens we want to do everything we can to prevent it from happening again," Wheaton said, adding that preventative steps include policy changes, enhanced training and disciplinary action.
There has not been final decision yet on discipline of the Kent County worker who investigated Jamarion's case.
Statewide training for CPS workers that began in 2013 includes a focus on identifying situations in which a child is at risk of being harmed, taking family history and recent incidents into account. Wheaton said the training has been successful.
Bob Jones University president apologizes to sexual assault survivors on campus
by Sarah Pulliam Bailey
WASHINGTON (RNS) An outside watchdog group hired to investigate sex abuse claims at Bob Jones University issued its 300-page report on Thursday (December 11), concluding that the conservative Christian school responded poorly to many students who were survivors of sexual assault or abuse.
Bob Jones, with about 3,000 students at its campus in Greenville, S.C., tapped Lynchburg, Va.-based GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) in November 2012 to investigate claims about sexual assualt. During its two-year investigation, GRACE interviewed 50 individuals who self-identified as victims of sexual abuse.
Some of those students claimed they were victims on campus; others said they were dealing with child sexual abuse but received a poor reception from campus officials as they struggled with their past.
The school's teachings on sin, forgiveness, discipline and justice shaped how Bob Jones University responded to sexual assault, the report argues.
“As a result of the school's poor responses, many of these students were deeply hurt and experienced further trauma,” a press release from GRACE states.
The school has carved out a significant space within fundamentalism after its leadership parted ways with evangelist Billy Graham, an icon of more mainstream American evangelicalism. The school also received national attention when then-presidential candidate George W. Bush visited in 2000, prompting the school to drop its ban on interracial dating, which it had unsuccessfully tried to defend before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1983.
The school decided in 2011 to hire GRACE to investigate claims of mishandling of sexual abuse after national media reports surfaced. Earlier this year, the school fired, and then rehired, GRACE to investigate allegations. A representative for the university said both parties agreed not to discuss concerns during that time.
Bob Jones highlighted findings from the report:
BJU officials were not adequately prepared or trained to counsel victims appropriately.
Staff were seen by some victims as insensitive to their suffering.
Some victims reported that the school's counseling was inadequate, insensitive, and counterproductive.
Some felt staff tended to blame victims for the abuse or sexual assault.
Counseling sometimes overlapped with disciplinary actions.
Several victims reported that their abuse was not reported to legal authorities by campus counselors.
Some individuals reported hearing themes in chapel, classrooms and counseling sessions that would blame a woman's style of dress for triggering an assault, or label victims as “damaged goods.” They reported feeling as though the school saw “all sexual sin as equal.” Like many Christian institutions, the school prohibits sex outside of marriage.
“The lack of distinction between sexual abuse and consensual sexual sin has caused some victims of sexual offenses to feel impure and shamed even though they did not choose the sexual act perpetrated upon them,” the report states. “Several individuals raised the complaint that BJU counselors had encouraged abuse victims to confess and repent of any ‘pleasure' experienced during the sexual abuse.”
The report suggested that BJU counselors may not be referring abuse victims for appropriate medical evaluation, treating symptoms such as post-traumatic flashbacks and nightmares as “spiritual problems.”
The school's teaching on sin also contributed to how students were counseled, the report suggests.
“According to the counseling principles espoused by BJU's counselors, the occurrence of sexual abuse or sexual assault brings ‘a trial' upon a victim, to which the victim may choose to respond righteously or sinfully,” the report states. “A righteous response to a trial is one that is most like Christ. An unrighteous response requires a victim to confess sin and conform his or her ‘mindset and choices to accurately mirror his position and identity in Christ.'”
The report also suggested that counselors' teaching on forgiveness shaped how they told students to respond.
“Victims also reported that these messages often pressured abuse victims to forgive quickly, to avoid bitterness, and/or to confront their abuser,” the report states. “For many, this pressure blamed them for not forgiving their perpetrators, minimized their sorrow, ignored their cries for justice, and intensified their trauma symptoms.”
The report suggested that the school's leaders lacked a sufficient understanding of justice. Abusers will deceive and manipulate people to achieve their end, the report says.
“In the Christian environment, this often means using Christian ideas and theology to manipulate others to avoid responsibility,” the report states. “Leaders in the Christian environment must diligently uphold a fully biblical standard of repentance for the sake of protecting victims and holding perpetrators accountable for their atrocious actions.”
The school's counseling is too closely connected with discipline, a hallmark of the school since its founding, the report states. Students also reported breaches of confidentiality during counseling.
Ahead of the report's official release, the school's president apologized and promised a change in culture.
“On behalf of Bob Jones University, I would like to sincerely and humbly apologize to those who felt they did not receive from us genuine love, compassion, understanding, and support after suffering sexual abuse or assault,” Bob Jones President Steve Pettit said in a statement.
“I promise the victims who felt we failed them that the GRACE report is an extremely high priority that has our immediate and full attention.”
The university has been historically a family-run operation. Bob Jones Sr., Bob Jones Jr., Bob Jones III, and Stephen Jones—Bob Jones III's son—have all served as past presidents. A year ago, Stephen Jones resigned due to health concerns and was replaced by Pettit, the first non-Jones family member to lead the school.
The investigation was led by GRACE's executive director, Boz Tchividjian, a grandson of Billy Graham and a former child abuse prosecutor, setting up a conflicted relationship given the tensions between the famed evangelist and the Jones family. Graham briefly attended Bob Jones, but the evangelist distanced himself from the school's more strident fundamentalism.
The school still sees itself as fundamentalist, though it describes itself in its promotional materials more broadly as nondenominationally Christian.
Tchividjian, who blogs for Religion News Service, also teaches at Liberty University School of Law, writing and speaking on why evangelicals struggle to report sex abuse claims.
“Though much in this report will understandably cause readers to grieve, GRACE is encouraged by the willingness of Bob Jones University to take the unprecedented step to voluntarily request this independent investigation and to make these difficult findings public,” Tchividjian said in a statement.
“Such institutional transparency is too rare and will hopefully set a positive precedent for Christendom and the watching world.”
Campus rape has captured nationwide attention as stories of alleged rape surfaced at the University of Virginia and Columbia University. A number of schools, including Harvard, Princeton, Florida State, and Ohio State, are under federal investigation for their response to sexual assault.
“We are all awakening to the depth and breadth of this societal problem,” Pettit said. “Colleges and universities across the country are reassessing how they handle cases of sexual abuse and assault. We want to be part of that solution. To do that, we must first take the mote out of our own eye and address our own failings. The GRACE report helps in that effort by helping us identify areas of concern.”
Pettit will appoint a committee to review the report findings and recommendations during the next 90 days. He said the school has taken steps to respond to sex abuse. Every faculty and staff must promptly notify law enforcement officials of child sexual abuse. School staff encourage adult victims of sexual assault to report their experience to the police.
School officials will also “make clear that the biblical lesson of forgiveness does not imply that the victim is in any way responsible for the sexual assault or abuse they experienced.”
The school, Pettit said, will provide staff with more training and access to professional counselors with expertise in sexual abuse.
Celibacy rule may have contributed to child sex abuse, says Catholic church
Church's Truth, Justice and Healing Council calls for priests to be given ‘psycho-sexual development' training
by Calla Wahlquist
Celibacy could have contributed to the instances of child sexual abuse in the Catholic church, a report by the church's Truth, Justice and Healing Council in Australia has found.
The report, released on Friday as a response to the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse, said “obligatory celibacy” for Catholic priests “may … have contributed to abuse in some circumstances”, and recommended priests undergo “psycho-sexual development” training.
Council CEO Francis Sullivan told Guardian Australia that priests needed to undergo “education” to develop emotional and sexual awareness, “like what you and I do as adults”.
“Because they are in an environment, in a service, that's very intimate and close with people, they need to be quite clear about the boundaries, and what is and isn't appropriate,” he said.
Sullivan said the group was not suggesting abolishing the vow of celibacy, but rather addressing how priests can “keep the integrity of their vows”.
“It's about learning the risks of blurring the boundaries. Knowing the risks that intimacy can bring,” he said. “We are not talking about lifting the vow of celibacy.”
Sullivan said the issue of celibacy had been raised numerous times in royal commission hearings, and said it was clear the commission would spend more time on it.
“When you have got a major inquiry into the sex abuse culture in the Catholic church, you can't just put your head in the sand. It's very clear that in some cases there have been inadequate professional cross-boundaries in their service of their parishioners,” he said.
The report said the church's response to child sex abuse had been shaped by its culture and “clericalism”, which it defined as an “ordained ministry geared to power over others, not service to others”.
“Church institutions and their leaders, over many decades, seemed to turn a blind eye, either instinctively or deliberately, to the abuse happening within their diocese or religious order, protecting the institution rather than caring for the child,” the report said.
It said the selection process for priests may have contributed to a culture that ignored abuse.
The report also said the council would support a national statutory compensation scheme for victims of child sexual abuse above providing compensation directly to victims.
“The church should no longer investigate itself. It does not have the trust of victims,” Sullivan said.
The council was formed by Australian Catholic church leaders in 2013 in response to the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse.
In its first 12 months it received evidence that abuse had occurred at 703 Catholic institutions, including schools, in Australia. Catholic institutions made up 40% of all institutions subject to complaint.
Almost 30% of the child sexual abuse survivors who gave evidence to the royal commission in its first 12 months were abused by a member of the clergy, of all denominations.
The commission was extended this year and is expected to deliver its final report in 2017.
Celebrity no longer protection for abusers as survivors speak up
by Pam Stavropoulos
This year has seen the conviction of many high profile public figures for child sexual abuse. They include entertainer Rolf Harris and actor Robert Hughes. Testimony regarding Swami Satyananda Saraswati at Mangrove Mountain ashram is currently being heard, and former Bega Cheese CEO Maurice Van Ryn has pleaded guilty to child sex offences. We are beginning to see that celebrity status or positions of power no longer confer immunity from prosecution. Such cases also underline that people regarded as familiar, reassuring and beyond reproach may in fact pose a high risk to children.
Child abuse can be difficult to speak about, for a range of reasons. They include shame, conflicted loyalties, threats from perpetrators, confusion about what "really" took place, and, especially if experienced a long time ago, pressure to forget the past and move on. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse said the average time survivors took to report their abuse was 22 years. An Adults Surviving Child Abuse ( ASCA) study of 4000 callers to its 1300 helpline supports this - the most common age for abuse to occur is between ages six and 10 and the majority of callers seeking help are aged between 40 and 49.
Many children abused when they were young are adults now, who struggle on a daily basis with the psychological and physical legacy of the harm inflicted on them with impunity by adults. Increasingly, survivors who had suffered in silence have come forward to tell of the impact abuse experienced in childhood has had and that it continues to blight their adult life. Many older callers to ASCA reported that they were disclosing their abuse for the first time. Significantly, they indicated that fear of the responses of others had discouraged them from speaking out earlier. They reported carrying a lifetime burden, including the belief that because their traumatic childhood experiences happened so long ago it is too late to heal.
The good news is that research shows it is possible to heal from childhood trauma. While vulnerable to stress, the brain can also change in ways that promote wellbeing. Positive experiences of relationships can literally "rebuild the brain" and realign the neural pathways that trauma disrupts. This highlights the importance of a safe context in which people can disclose what has happened to them, and thus the need for community awareness about the prevalence of childhood trauma, which comes in many forms, and its impacts into adult life if left unresolved.
The best response to the disclosure of childhood trauma is acknowledgement and validation for those who have experienced it. It is crucial that survivors can have confidence that what they choose to tell will be met with openness and support.
This does not mean encouragement to disclose distressing details, which might be better addressed in counselling. Rather, it means a spirit of receptivity to a topic that has long been regarded as difficult.
We know now that violation and betrayal of children occurs not only at the hands of individuals, but on the part of entire institutions into whose care children have been placed. The Royal Commission has revealed the broad spectrum of institutions - the majority of them "mainstream" – that have failed grievously in their duty of care to vast numbers of Australian children. Together with the abuse now substantiated to have been perpetrated by public figures, and even household names, we are in a position now to recognise the scope and prevalence of child sexual abuse and to respond more appropriately to it.
Many survivors who have never spoken out are finding their voice now. For those beginning to address the trauma of their childhoods, and the lifetime burden of holding this secret, recovery is possible and support is available. As a society, we need to continue to acknowledge the prevalence of childhood trauma. As individuals, we need to provide validation to those who disclose experiences of it. This, in turn, will help those who struggle with the impact of childhood trauma to access the support to which they are entitled, and which is long overdue.
Pam Stavropoulos is head of research and clinical practice at Adults Surviving Child Abuse (ASCA).
Help and support is available from the ASCA professional support line on 1300 657 380, 9am- 5pm daily.
Super Bowl champ Darren Sharper indicted for rape
Former Super Bowl champion Darren Sharper was indicted on charges of rape in Louisiana this week. 39-year-old Sharper was charged by grand jury on two counts of aggravated rape stemming from accusations that he sexually assaulted two impaired women at his downtown luxury apartment on September 23, 2013. He also was charged with rape of another woman in August 2013.
He also faces federal charges in a separate indictment, after the US Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of Louisiana charged him and an associate with conspiracy to distribute drugs.
According to a press release from US Attorney Kenneth Polite Jr.'s office, the drugs are Schedule IV controlled substances, which include Alprazolam, Diazepam and Zolpidem.
Both of them were alleged to have used the drugs on women drugs with intent to commit rape and to distribute these substances with intent to commit rape.
Sharper would face life imprisonment at hard labor without benefit of parole, probation or suspension of sentence if convicted of the aggravated rape charge.
The Orleans Parish DA obtained arrest warrants for Sharper and his acquaintance, Erik Nunez, on February 27.
Sharper has already pleaded not guilty to charges in the LA County case. He remains jailed in Los Angeles. His lead attorney, Blair Berk, did not return a call and email from the Daily News for comment.
Sharper was a former NFL veteran who was a member of the 2009 New Orleans Saints squad that won a Super Bowl title.
He was selected All-Pro six times and chosen for the Pro Bowl five times. He played in two Super Bowls, one with the Green Bay Packers as a rookie and was part of a successful championship run while with the New Orleans Saints. The NFL Network fired him after the rape allegations surfaced.
Detectives arrest three family members
by Sergio Av
LAS VEGAS -- A metro lieutenant say a recent arrest of three family members is one of the most disturbing cases of sex crimes Metro has ever encountered in the Las Vegas Valley.
A father, his wife and an ex-wife were all arrested on charges of creating child pornography with their young children or relatives.
This all apparently happened inside the home where they lived, according to police.
Officers were dispatched to investigate allegations of child sexual abuse on Sept. 15 where officers found two victims, a female adult and a male juvenile who were forced to perform sexual acts with their father, mother and step-mother while being video recorded.
The incidents were reported to have occurred during a 12-year period.
Detectives of the LVMPD Sexual Assault Section initiated an investigation into the allegations and identified Christopher Sena, 47, as the suspect in this case.
On September 18, 2014, the LVMPD SWAT Section served a search warrant at a residence in the 6000 block Yellow Stone Drive where Sena was taken into custody. Investigators also recovered several electronic devices believed to have been used to store evidence.
During the course of the investigation detectives also developed 48 year-old Deborah Sena and 43 year-old Terrie Sena as suspects in this case.
Deborah and Terrie Sena were taken into custody on Dec. 11. Christopher, Deborah and Terrie Sena are currently held at the Clark County Detention Center where they face numerous sexual assault related charges.
Currently eight victims have been identified related to this investigation. The victims include immediate and extended family members. Due to the 12-year time span of this case, detectives believe additional potential victims exist.
This incident remains under investigation. Anyone who has any information about this incident or who believes they may have been a victim of Christopher, Deborah or Terrie Sena is urged to contact the LVMPD Sexual Assault Section at 702-828-3421. To remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers by phone at 702-385-5555 or on the internet at www.crimestoppersofnv.com
Police seek LA-area family of 6 with violent history
The Associated Press
MONTEBELLO, Calif. (AP) — Authorities are searching for a couple with a troubled and violent marriage and their four sons, who vanished last week from their home in the Los Angeles suburbs.
Montebello police are asking the public's help in locating Daniel and Erica Perez and their four sons, who are 6, 8, 9 and 11 years old.
The family was last seen on Friday.
A police statement says neither parent is returning phone messages and the father hasn't showed up for work for two days.
Family members tell police the marriage was unstable and there's a history of domestic violence.
Police say the Perezes may be traveling in a black, four-door 2010 Honda Accord with tinted windows. The license plate number is 7FKV020.
Montebello is about 15 miles east of downtown Los Angeles.
Domestic violence does not take a holiday
Fort Morgan nonprofit in 33rd year
by Jenni Grubbs
Although the holidays typically are looked at as a time for family togetherness, there are some people who dread that experience.
"For victims of domestic violence, making plans for the holidays — Thanksgiving through News Years Day — often includes trying to figure out how to keep it from turning brutal," said Jan Schiller, executive director of S.H.A.R.E., Inc., in Fort Morgan.
The nonprofit S.H.E.R.E., Inc. provides resources and services for victims of domestic violence and their families, so Schiller has quite a bit of knowledge about how the holidays can be a less-than-merry time of year.
"Stress can build up during this time of year with increased financial pressure, alcohol consumption, family pressures and more contact with the abuser," she said. "Victims can feel very motivated to stay through the holidays because they don't want to break up families at this time."
This also can mean that people are less likely to seek help in dealing with domestic violence, only putting things off, she said. But just because it's the holidays does not mean domestic violence incidents cannot or will not happen.
"At S.H.A.R.E., Inc., we may experience a decrease in crisis calls on holidays with more calls for help in January and February," Schiller said. "For survivors, it is a good time to review safety plans and start new family traditions."
Not going away
While groups like S.H.A.R.E. that offer advocacy and emergency and support services for domestic violence victims do all they can to raise awareness and help prevent crisis situations, there are still lots of people, especially women, who experience domestic violence each year.
"Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women," Schiller said.
She shared the following statistics in S.H.A.R.E., Inc.'s recent newsletter: "Each year more than 1.3 million women are the victims of violence by an intimate partner. This number includes as many as 324,000 women who are pregnant at the time they are battered or abused. One in three adolescent girls in the United States is a victim of physical, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner."
What's worse, "these numbers probably underestimate the true magnitude of the problem because we know that most incidents are never reported," Schiller said.
But there is help and hope for those who need it, she said.
"Here at S.H.A.R.E., Inc., we strive to change these numbers with the ongoing support of the community," Schiller said.
Now in its 33rd year, S.H.A.R.E., Inc. offers a wide variety of services for victims of domestic violence and their children.
Schiller credits the nonprofit's bilingual staff, volunteers at the crisis call hotline and with weekly support groups, visitation monitors and S.H.A.R.E.'s Board of Directors for making it possible to reach 33 years of "providing essential services to the victims and children who experience violence in their homes in Morgan County."
But she knows there is much work still to be done.
"Sometimes we hear that the reason a victim of domestic abuse didn't call us or an agency didn't make a referral to us was because the victim didn't need emergency shelter," Schiller said.
There are many services that S.H.A.R.E., Inc. offers to victims of domestic violence — probably lots more than most people realize.
"In 2014 alone, we have assisted 79 adult victims with safety plans, protection orders, and parenting plans," Schiller said, listing off the nonprofit's many services and how many people benefited. "There have been a total of 66 women in support groups and 84 children and youth in kids' groups."
When Schiller wrote her piece for the recent newsletter, there were six weeks left in 2014, and "the staff has provided follow-up contact in person or by phone a total of 866 times! Wow!"
Financial assistance from S.H.A.R.E., Inc. also made it possible for 83 families to rent apartments, buy groceries and/or diapers and gas up cars.
"This is in addition to the 550 projected nights of housing we will provide in the emergency shelter, which is a three bedroom house with playroom for children," Schiller said.
S.H.A.R.E., Inc. could use all of the help and support it can get in make life a bit brighter for domestic violence victims.
"Please consider our agency when you are making your United Way pledge or donate directly using the easy donate buttons on this newsletter or on our website," Schiller requested. "During the holiday shopping time, you may also want to help women and children in the shelter by using the Amazon Smile program, or donating items on our wish list."
To find out more about S.H.A.R.E., Inc. or how to donate or volunteer, call 970-867-4444 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the 24-hour Crisis Line, call 970-867-4444 or toll-free 1-800-867-9590.
The coalition is making life more dangerous for victims of domestic violence
With no place to lay their heads and no help to apply for maintenance or keep custody of their children, women are more likely to put up with abuse
by Vera Baird
The last Labour Government delivered for women's safety, driven by the advent of over 100 Labour women MPs, some of whom had worked for organisations such as Refuge or Rape Crisis.
We should be proud that we improved the law on sexual abuse and scrapped defences that acquitted men who killed their partners in anger whilst convicting victims of abuse who struck back in fear.
We introduced 140 Special Domestic Violence Courts (SDVCs), brought housing, police and other agencies together in MARACs which bring an all-round approach to support victims, and developed Independent Domestic violence advisers to champion them through both processes and into a safer future.
There were many other achievements and we were on a fast road, though with a long way to go in particular to tackle culture, when the coalition government came to power.
Now, there is no cohort of Tory women pressing this issue and the Lib Dems have fewer women in the commons than men with knighthoods. Refuges have closed across the country and some areas now have no safe places at all for those who want to flee.
Leading the Labour Women's Safety Commission which publishes its second report today, I heard of a young mother hanging round internet cafes with her baby all night, having been turned away from an already full refuge. I also heard of women sleeping in casualty departments and sometimes going home for want of a place to run to.
More than 40 percent of domestic violence survivors do not meet the totally arbitrary evidence threshold brought in by Chris Grayling and cannot access legal aid. They can only seek justice if they represent themselves and risk cross examination in person by their perpetrator in court.
With no place to lay their heads and no help to apply for maintenance or keep custody of their children, women are more likely to put up with abuse. Domestic violence already kills two women a week, and recent research by Professor Liz Kelly shows it can take years for survivors to recover.
SDVCs which require specialist input from police and CPS are made fragile by spending cuts to both. IDVAs are largely funded by cash-strapped councils and MARACs, at least in Northumbria where I am Police and Crime commissioner, are beginning to be overcrowded to breaking point, perhaps as austerity increases family strife.
Our report asks the next Labour Government to do more than reverse the last five years' decline by putting tackling violence against women and girls at the heart of our modern welfare state.
It proposes a statutory obligation on government and local authorities to develop integrated domestic and sexual violence strategies. It also proposes establishing a Violence Against Women and Girls commissioner to drive their implementation and bring national standards of service to all.
We would reform how services are commissioned, refocussing on the practical need for specialist women-centred services with a track record of success.
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper has already accepted our further recommendation of a new, national refuge fund to provide the safe places that women and children need, and national Rape Support Funding on a three year cycle, to give rape crisis centres real security.
We must give better access to legal aid by, at the very least, widening the categories of evidence required to support an allegation of domestic abuse and banning charges which are currently made, in particular by the medical profession, for providing such evidence.
We can drive change in the criminal justice response, in particular by video evidence and cross examination of adult complainants away from the oppressive atmosphere of the courts, as we should imminently do for victims of child sexual abuse.
We should ban rape myths from trials through judges giving juries clear directions at the start of the case. Good outcomes at court positively influence future decision-making by prosecutors and police.
In my full-time role as Police and Crime commissioner for Northumbria I have a team of volunteer observers watching every rape trial in Newcastle Crown Court so we can look for further improvements
This report is about fixing this issue in all its myriad forms, including forced marriage, trafficking, slavery, harassment, honour crimes, FGM and prostitution, and putting it at the heart of the modern public services that Ed Miliband's premiership will deliver.
Next we should work on a strategy for preventing VAWG in coming generations so that he can also drive a lasting legacy of culture change.
Vera Baird is the Police and Crime commissioner for Northumbria.
GCHQ to help tackle 'dark net' child abuse images
Intelligence experts and organised crime specialists will join forces to tackle child abuse images on the "dark net", David Cameron has said.
The prime minister said a joint GCHQ and National Crime Agency unit would hunt online paedophiles with the same "effort" used to track terrorists.
Speaking at a London summit, he said online child exploitation existed on an "almost industrial scale" worldwide.
He also unveiled a law to stop adults sending children "sexual" messages.
Mr Cameron said the new unit was part of a drive to remove millions of "sickening and depraved" images from the internet.
The term "dark net" refers to parts of the internet that are hidden and can be hard to access without special software, and Downing Street said the new unit would be able to analyse huge volumes of images.
'Abused to order'
Mr Cameron said progress had been made on blocking online abuse images, but added: "The dark net is the next side of the problem, where paedophiles and perverts are sharing images, not using the normal parts of the internet that we all use.
"What we are doing there is setting GCHQ, our world class intelligence agency, together with the National Crime Agency and we are going to go after these people with every bit of effort that we go after terrorists and other international criminals."
Mr Cameron said children were being "abused to order" by some international gangs.
"One gang in the Philippines was arranging the sexual abuse of children, filming it and then live streaming it to paying customers across the world," he said.
He said this gang was stopped - and 29 people arrested - after an investigation which began when a British police officer examined a sex offender's computer. He said 15 children, some as young as six, were rescued from their "living nightmare".
No 'grey areas'
Speaking at the We Protect Children Online summit in London, Mr Cameron said his proposed new law would make it "illegal for an adult to send a sexual communication to a child".
The law, which would apply in England and Wales, is expected to be included in the Serious Crime Bill currently going through Parliament.
Various laws exist in this area, but Mr Cameron said there should be no "grey areas".
It follows a campaign by the NSPCC charity to close what it dubbed the "flaw in the law".
The NSPCC said the new law would make a "big difference" in protecting children.
Mr Cameron said it would also be made illegal to possess material offering guidance on abusing children - what he called "paedophile training manuals".
Representatives from more than 50 countries, 23 leading technology companies and nine non-governmental organisations are attending the summit.
Mr Cameron said they would sign a "landmark agreement" which "amounts to nothing less than a global war against online child abuse".
As part of the agreement, he said a "range of countries" had committed to create "dedicated law enforcement response" to tackle child abuse images.
He said a new "global child protection fund" would be set up, with the UK the first and "most major" donor - paying £50m over the next five years.
Mr Cameron said internet firms had gone "above and beyond" what they had been asked to do in terms of blocking access to child abuse images.
He also said:
Google now blocked access to images and videos of abuse for searches in 40 languages
Microsoft technology meant a picture's "digital fingerprint" could be used to search for and delete the image wherever it appeared online
Google "video hashing" technology meant a similar process could be used to "scour" the web and remove videos
Microsoft, Google and Mozilla were "working together to look at" having "built-in restrictions to block access" to child abuse material - Mr Cameron said this would be a "game changer"
Google said it "aggressively" removes child abuse images, adding: "Over the past 12 months our algorithm changes and deterrent campaign have already led to a five-fold reduction in a number of child sexual abuse image-related queries in search."
Responding to Mr Cameron's comments, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said there were "very serious gaps" in the government's plans because "thousands of cases of abuse are not being followed up by the police".
"We know the National Crime Agency has details of over 20,000 suspected of accessing images of child abuse under Operation Notarise, and yet they have only investigated a tiny proportion of these - and arrested fewer than 1,000," she said.
Countering child abuse through CALM
by Jennifer Best
Preschoolers and staff at Santa Maria Valley YMCA got into the spirit of the season Wednesday morning with a gift-wrapping party. The packages, wrapped adorably by preschool-aged fingers, will be delivered with basic supplies, food, and festive decorations to families in need served by Child Abuse Listening Meditation (CALM).
"We identify families we're working with who are also living in poverty and most likely won't be able to provide presents for their children. Local donors adopt the families and shop for them. YMCA staff adopted some of those families, the kids wrapped, and our office, which is already super crowded, is just full of gifts," said Sandra Fuhring, North County development associate for CALM.
CALM was founded in Santa Barbara in 1970 to reach stressed parents before they hurt their children. In 2010, the program expanded into Santa Maria Valley with an office on Carmen Lane. Today, it remains the only nonprofit agency in Santa Barbara County focused solely on preventing, assessing, and treating child abuse and family violence through comprehensive, cutting-edge programs.
"Our mission is to prevent, assess and treat child abuse. We won't turn anyone away. If there's a need there and we're the best people to help, we'll take them," Fuhring said.
North County CALM programs have grown to include therapeutic programs for children who are at risk of or who have been abused; therapy for children with behavioral programs; parenting classes; and home visitation programs in which paraprofessionals help with discipline and parenting techniques.
There are special programs such as Welcome Every Baby in which CALM paraprofessionals team with Marian Regional Medical Center to identify families in need of services, provide developmental screenings and help new parents as needed to avoid potentially abusive situations.
"It's amazing how much goes on in your own backyard, in your own neighborhood, that you had no idea existed," said Fuhring, who was raised in Santa Maria Valley by parents Marla and Mike Gibson. "I grew up very sheltered. I had no idea. I never experienced abuse, neglect and violence, so it was a shocker to see that it's so prevalent in my own community. It's also incredible how willing people are to meet the needs of those who seek help."
Last year, CALM introduced its own domestic violence prevention and response program for adult and child victims of domestic violence. The nonprofit is now developing its Child Sexual Abuse Treatment (CSAT) program for child victims.
"We continue expanding services as we grow," said Fuhring, also a marriage and family counselor for the program for more than two years.
CALM currently employs about 20 staff members, but Fuhring said that number is expected to double over the next three years while the nonprofit fulfills its strategic plan. In the spring, the nonprofit will move to bigger digs to make room for staff and clients.
"It's been fun to watch CALM grow and be successful and learn how to do things the Santa Maria way. Up here, it's all about building relationships," said Cindy Most, CALM board member and YMCA membership services director.
Referrals generally come from child welfare services, public health nurses and preschools, but the programs are available to all.
"People are welcome to just call us. We can take them, or, if we don't have a program that can help, we can refer them to another agency or program where they can get the help they need," Fuhring said.
CALM is funded largely through private donations, grants and contracts with First 5 Santa Barbara County, and Santa Barbara County Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services.
For more information about all of CALM's services, call 965-2376 or visit www.calm4kids.org.
Child Abuse Listening Meditation (CALM) is seeking sponsors for its spring fundraising event, "Ladies Get Loud," slated from 5 to 7 p.m. April 23 at Santa Maria Country Club. The evening features wine and hors d'oeuvres served by local celebrity waiters.
Waiters' tips, ticket proceeds and other funds raised at the festive event benefit CALM programs.
To donate wine, sponsor tables or volunteer, call 614-9160
Newborn baby's legs broken, parents now charged
by Laura Nichols
OSKALOOSA, Iowa —An Oskaloosa couple is facing charges after police said they physically abused their newborn baby.
Authorities said the baby was only 13 days old when the abuse was discovered, and that it happened inside the couple's home.
The couple, 26-year-old Michael Rowley and 27-year-old Amber Puckett, is behind bars facing felony charges. Court documents show that Rowley caused serious physical injury to the couple's infant child by jerking and twisting the baby's legs.
A doctor noticed the baby's fractured legs and bruises during a regular wellness exam and alerted authorities. The 13-day-old infant had to be airlifted to an Iowa City hospital.
Investigators later found that Puckett was passed out from alcohol use, which is why she left the infant in Rowley's care, even though she knew he was violent and abusive.
“It baffles me. I don't understand what a newborn could do to you in order to lash out in that type of manner,” said Lauren Young.
Young is not shy about speaking out against child abuse. Her son Brayden nearly died a year and a half ago after her live-in boyfriend beat the 2-year-old child unconscious while she was at work.
“Emotionally, it takes a toll on you. You have to go from having this life to everything being torn down,” Young.
Brayden has made remarkable progress with therapy and now his mom is speaking up in person and online to end child abuse.
“This continuously happens and it doesn't have to. If everybody learns than everything would be a lot better,” Young said. “Then other families won't have to suffer what I have had to.”
Rowley is charged with child endangerment causing serious injury. Puckett is charged with child neglect. Both are being held in the Mahaska County Jail on $250,000 bond each.
Baby's organs donated after alleged abuse; Mom's boyfriend arrested
Family of Kami Newton had urged Kenneth Reeves to surrender
by Kelly Brennan
PITTSBURGH —A Mount Washington man who police say is suspected of abusing a 5 1/2 month-old girl -- whose organs have now been donated -- was taken into custody Wednesday on an arrest warrant.
Identified by her aunts, Kami Newton was declared brain dead Monday and has been taken off a ventilator. According to the criminal complaint, doctors said her injuries leading to the brain damage were clear indicators of abuse.
Kenneth Reeves, 29, was arrested in a church in Mount Washington, police said. Reeves will face charges related to where and how he was found, sources said.
Reeves was wanted on charges including attempted homicide. Police did not say if charges would be amended following Kami's death. He was questioned by Pittsburgh detectives for a few hours before being booked in the Allegheny County Jail.
Kami's family said she was crying loudly in an upstairs bedroom Dec. 6 after her mother had previously put her to bed without issue. Reeves was in the home in Beltzhoover, along with Kami's other family members.
When the mother returned to Kami's room to soothe her, Reeves was in the room. She asked him what happened and he allegedly said he didn't know.
Within a few minutes, Kami was unconscious and not breathing. Her mother and uncle started CPR and called 911.
Police said while Kami was taken to UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, they questioned Reeves at the home on Parklow Street. He originally provided a fake last name, according to police, since he was on probation for a 2013 conviction of endangering the welfare of a child.
Police allegedly found two stamp bags of suspected heroin on Reeves. He was questioned and released pending a summons for the drugs.
By Monday, doctors declared Kami brain dead. Police stated in the complaint she had head trauma, swelling on the brain, and bruising on her left temple and on her right arm.
When speaking with police, Kami's mother recalled two other times her daughter was left in Reeves' care for a short time. On those occasions, she said she returned to find Kami crying loudly. At the time, she believed the tears were from the discomfort of teething.
Reeves has a history of child abuse, police said. He pleaded guilty to charges in 2013 that he beat another girlfriend's 3-year-old so badly, doctors said he had extensive bruising and abrasions all over his body. They feared he also had internal injuries.
When police asked the little boy who hit him, he said, “Mommy's best friend,” the name he used for Reeves.
Reeves posted bail and was allowed to leave jail.
“We want to thank the first responders from the city of Pittsburgh, firefighters, the police, the detectives involved,” said Misty Vojtash, speaking on behalf of Kami's family. “We want to thank the staff at the emergency room at Children's Hospital and the nurses and the pediatric intensive care unit. We want to send a special thanks to Wes from CORE for being there for my sister in making a decision to donate the organs and just really seeing her through that.
“And we want to thank everyone for their outpouring of support and prayers. And this isn't nearly a conclusion or closure. This is going to be ongoing and really tough on my sister, but we can't thank everybody enough for everything they've done for us.”
Vojtash said the family will work to raise child abuse awareness in Kami's honor, calling the effort Kamero's Heroes.
Kami's organs were donated and went to five young children.
"My prayers are with those families also. And I hope you get to hold your children for Christmas and that they live full, healthy lives," Vojtash said.
Child sex abuse, missing person cases ‘are linked'
by Chris Marshall
A LEADING Scots police officer has revealed how a new approach could help solve some of the nation's most enduring mysteries.
Detective Superintendent Andy McKay, the national missing persons strategic co-ordinator at Police Scotland, says the so-called “golden hours” methodology applied in homicide cases could bear fruit in linking corpses and body parts with missing persons inquiries.
Crucially, they could prove a vital way of tackling the scourge of child sexual exploitation, which he says goes “hand in hand” with the disappearance of vulnerable young people.
Yesterday, Police Scotland announced a new partnership with the charity Missing People, looking at ways of linking more than 300 bodies and pieces of human remains to people who have disappeared over the past six decades.
DS McKay said the force dealt with more than 37,000 missing people reports last year, adding: “There was an opportunity to look at how we manage missing person inquiries as part of the process which saw Police Scotland formed out of the eight legacy forces.
“A big piece of the work is applying the same investigative processes and techniques we would apply to investigations like homicide.”
He said police were now applying the same “golden hours” principle employed in murder investigations by focusing on the hours immediately following a person's disappearance.
“Really, you are trying to get hot on the heels of people. The golden hours allow you to collect the information you need before the trail goes cold.”
He said vulnerable young people, as well as the elderly and those with mental health problems, had been identified as those most at risk of going missing.
“Child sexual exploitation goes hand in hand with [incidents of] missing young girls from children's homes, unfortunately. Some of the findings of recent reports in England have shown that had more supportive return interviews been done, that would have made a difference in identifying abuse when it had happened.”
Police also hope to use DNA and photographic evidence to link hundreds of unidentified human remains to missing person inquiries dating back as far as the 1950s.
The new tactics emerged as Police Scotland signed an agreement with Missing People, which will improve the response given to missing person investigations and provide those who do go missing and their families with enhanced levels of assistance.
Joe Apps, head of the National Crime Agency's UK Missing Persons Bureau, said: “The more joined-up we can be on this issue the better.
“Here at the Missing Persons Bureau we have a similar agreement in place with Missing People, which means we are able to jointly deliver the very best service to missing children and adults and their families through publicity campaigns and family support.”
More than half of those reported missing last year were traced within 24 hours and a further 40 per cent were located within seven days, police said.
Earlier this year, Police Scotland Chief Constable Sir Stephen House told a meeting of the Scottish Police Authority that his force was keen to identify missing person “hotspots” around the country.
What It's Like to Be a 58-Year-Old Virgin
by Alexa Tsoulis-Reay
Such statistics are notoriously slippery, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , the average American loses their virginity at age 17 (here, virginity is defined in heterosexual terms as penetrative vaginal intercourse). But there are those who hold out, making it to old age without ever having “done the deed” — while it's dangerous to imply that there's a “normal” age for first sex, therapists generally agree that you're a "mature-aged virgin" if you haven't had penetrative sex by age 30. Rumor has it that Nikola Tesla and Isaac Newton were members of this club (Tesla apparently believed such hedonism would distract him from his work), and if he doesn't get married soon, the famously virginal-for-religious-reasons Tim Tebow will also become a member in a few years.
Social and cultural norms attach a lot of stigma to holding on to your virginity, and the importance of penetrative sex in general, meaning that honest discussions about the feelings attached to being a virgin rarely happen. Here, a 58-year-old man from Paradise, California, describes living as a virgin for almost 60 years.
So, when you say you're a virgin, how do you define that? Have you engaged in any sexual acts at all?
Nothing whatsoever, with anybody. I gave a girl a kiss on the lips when I was a kid, but it wasn't a make-out or anything. That was before adolescence; those hormones and desires hadn't kicked in.
The last, and the only, time you kissed a girl was nearly 50 years ago.
What was your childhood like?
My father was very abusive. He was always telling me I was useless and would never amount to anything. Once I was in my grandfather's plane at 12,000 feet and my dad was yelling such terrible things that I tried to open the door and jump out.
Was he like that with your mother, too?
Yes, he subjected her to physical and emotional abuse. She was a homemaker and couldn't drive because she had a lot of neurosis. My dad was a construction supervisor and didn't stop bossing people around when was done with work. He was in the war and, according to my grandmother, he was one of the only survivors on a ship of 250 people that blew up. She says that's when he snapped — he had to be taken home in chains. Apparently he was a nice person before that.
Did you have siblings?
I have a much older brother and there was a baby boy who passed away before I was born. He was crying, as infants do, and my dad made mom take the crib outside in the rain and leave him there until he stopped. My dad refused to take him to the hospital and he was dead by the time the ambulance arrived.
When your father was violent, what did he do to you?
I was such a small, skinny child and he was a strapping Marine; I didn't even come up to his knees. Once he accused me of stealing his bullets from a drawer. I did not steal those bullets, so I denied it, but he insisted I was lying and whipped me with a belt each time I sad no. Eventually I pretended I did it so he would stop and then he kept asking me why. I didn't even know what “why” meant. So he whipped me more and more until I finally became so terrified I managed to jump off the table and run out onto the street, but my dad caught up and upon me like an eagle. He would confine me to my room. I read seven volumes of Encyclopedia Britannica cover to cover, over and over. There really wasn't anything else to do. He'd wake me at 3 a.m. in the morning just to beat me and then walk away with this grin like he was doing something he enjoyed.
Was there any sexual abuse?
Not from my father, but I did have a babysitter who tried to force me to suck his penis when I was about 3 years old. I refused and said I've got to go to the bathroom and slid out the window and hid in a juniper bush.
How did you discover what sex was, or explore what bodies are like?
I found copies of Playboy under my dad's bed. I was drawn to boobs and I liked to see women in bikinis. I saw internet stuff, but a lot that can get pretty weird so that put me off. I found I've never watched a pornographic movie. The closest I've come is Baywatch or that film Earth Girls Are Easy, but I got so bored that I fell asleep halfway through. Actually, now that I think about it, I remember when I was a teenager I saw a man giving a woman oral sex while watching a movie at a drive-through.
Have you ever seen a woman naked, in real life?
When I was in my 20s, I lived by a lake and I saw some skinny dippers, but I didn't talk to them because I didn't think they'd be interested in me. I saw them walking on the road, but they were out of shape. I did see some better-looking ones, but I could only see their breasts. It wasn't as if I went to watch them, I just happened on them.
What fueled your sexual fantasies?
Not those women, but the ones I had seen on the internet. Sometimes I would imagine myself having sex or holding a cute person I knew. But I don't masturbate much these days because it just causes misery and suffering. Also, I think I've got to the point where I no longer have much of a libido. My sex drive is just about gone.
When you were younger, did you fantasize about having sex a lot?
How often did you masturbate?
Every second or third day. Sometimes I would go a week or a week and a half. I never had any problems reaching an orgasm.
What sort of women are you attracted to?
I find the woman from Ghost very good-looking. I used to find that gal that played the bionic woman cute, too.
Is sex on your mind a lot?
Up until about five years ago, yes, and it was absolute torture. When I was younger, I'd lay there hour after hour burning with passion. It was like your hormones dictated your thoughts and they were stronger than I was. I recently said a little prayer and decided to stop thinking about it; also, as I said, my sex drive has diminished as I've gotten older.
What faith are you? Did you grow up religious?
No, I got baptized in my 20s. I moved in with my grandparents, to get away from my dad. They had little cabin by the river. It was beautiful; it reminded me of the Katharine Hepburn film On Golden Pond . There was fishing and gold panning. My grandmother introduced me to religion. Even though I'm religious, that's not really what's stopped me from having sex. When people ask me why I'm a virgin, I tell them I suffer from terminal ugliness. I have an eye that doesn't line up with the other one. I'd probably look better if I wore a pirate patch.
What was your social life like when you were growing up?
I had some friends, but I was beat up a lot because of how I looked. I was a rail-thin nerd; I'd stuff cardboard in my shoes to make myself taller and my left eye is messed up. I was afraid to sleep when my father was around, so I was always exhausted. One time I fell asleep sitting up and smashed my eye on a knob on the bedpost. It severed a nerve that closed my pupil. The pain was so extreme I couldn't face the sun even with my eyes closed because it hurt so much. I had to walk around with my head tilted.
What did you do when you left school?
It was almost impossible for me to get a job when I was younger. I don't have the kind of face that attracts people to want to hire me. I lived with my grandmother up until I was about 30 and I really felt trapped, lonely with no way out. I got a job as a telemarketer but quit when I figured out it was a scam, so I did some construction work before going to college to study computer programming when I was 32.
So you were a 32-year-old college student who was a virgin? What was campus life like?
It was hell. Everyone was enjoying spending time with women and I felt invisible. If I got attracted to a woman, my mind would just go blank and I couldn't think of anything to say. Typical nerd. I felt like a freak. Everybody was getting something and I wasn't. There was a time where I was just getting so inflamed and lonely I would have done it with anyone who offered.
Did you date or have girlfriends?
I've only ever been on one date and I have never been in a relationship.
What was that date like?
We went to La Comida, Mexican restaurant. I used to call it La “Crumeda” because the food was a joke. You only eat there if you are poor. I could tell she was bored with me, so I was too scared to broach the subject of sex. I think she only went on the date with me to be nice. When I was in my 30s, I made friends with a woman who worked at an A&W. I'd watch her as she served customers and she seemed supremely unhappy. She was probably about five foot six, with long blonde hair and a sweet smile, but her sadness was written all over her face. I saw her in that state of abject misery for years. All I know is her husband wasn't faithful to her. He left and she had two kids to look after all alone.
One day she told me she really liked me because I was easy to talk to. I expressed my interest but that just scared her off. I guess I'm glad it didn't happen because I wasn't financially stable and I wouldn't have been able to support her and that would have caused a whole lot of worry. Back then I didn't realize how lacking I am in the skills it takes to make a partner happy. There was another friend I was interested in who I thought liked me but there was another woman I'd met and become friends with who lived Portland. I found a job and moved, but when I arrived she didn't want to see me. I don't necessarily blame her. I might have come on too strong.
She was sitting next to me and I was leaning into her too much. If only I'd been more aware of how she might feel. I don't really blame her; I blame myself. So, out of a misguided sense of loyalty for someone who was just playing me for the fool, I missed out on both women. I wish I'd known the situation up there and reciprocated with the one who actually liked me. I tried calling her when I got back, but I was just too shy to be direct about what I wanted.
Do you think it's harder trying to lose your virginity if you're a man because you have to initiate?
I think so. Women either think I'm going too slow or too fast and I can't seem to find an in between.
What happens when you try to talk to women?
My mind just goes blank. There's nothing I can think to say.
Did you have trouble knowing when a woman is interested?
I had a friend at college who pointed out that this girl liked me. He said you could tell by the way she crossed her legs when she was talking to me. “She wants you,” but I had no idea. There was another time I was at the beach by the river talking to this girl who was wearing a bikini that was a few sizes too big for her, kind of showing me her breasts. I should have realized she was interested in me. I probably would have gone for it if I had really known at the time that she was indicating that she wanted to have sex. But I didn't do anything.
Did you ever think of just asking a friend to have sex with you so you could have the experience?
When I was about 15, I did ask a girl, but she said, "No, my mom won't allow it" and she wasn't going to have sex until she was a responsible adult.
But what about when you were older, did you ever think about seeing a prostitute?
In the past, I thought about it, but I told myself, What's going to happen if I pay for sex and just have it once? It will just be worse because I'll know what it's like and then I'll want more, like having a taste of a fine steak and then learning you will only get to eat hard beans and drink water for the rest of your life.
Do you work at the moment?
No. I have problems with my back and my legs, so I'm just waiting to get a decision on my disability. I'm staying in my friend's trailer. I have about $500 left. I don't have to pay her any rent, though, or utilities.
What do you usually do during the day?
I watch Netflix and play around on the internet. Typically I check out Facebook first thing in the morning. I have a lot of friends, but they're not intimate friends. I made a Tesla Coil like Nikola Tesla; it creates lightning that looks like what comes off the emperor's fingers in Star Wars.
Is it fair to say that you're scared of having sex?
I think so. I worry if I will be able to bring pleasure to my mate? Will I be a complete drag? I'm scared of getting rejected afterwards and also just not knowing what to do. I might not measure up to her expectations. I think there must be some sort of learning curve involved in it before it becomes fun. Any activity requires practice before you are really going to enjoy it.
Do you think you have a fear of relationships as well?
Yes. I've seen firsthand how bad marriage can be. So many people are just focused on their own needs. I consider myself damaged enough, emotionally, to never be able to function in a relationship. I think you need a certain amount of stability to cope with the dynamics. I can't handle harsh criticism and lack the social skills to relate to another person intimately. I have such low self-esteem; I can't take it when someone says something mean to me.
Have you felt lonely your whole life?
Yes, except when I consciously stopped thinking about sex. Before that, I'd often wish that I would simply go to sleep and not wake up. I guess there are still times where I feel that way. I live a fairly drab life in a little trailer in a place called Paradise, California. I have no mate. I have no car. I have financial worries. There's really nobody to talk to. I can get on the phone and share little events about my life, but there's nobody right here with me.
What about kids, is that something that you wanted?
It's good I didn't have kids because I'm scared I'll end up treating them like my dad treated me.
Do you think there's something deep inside you that's stopping you from having sex or pursuing a relationship?
I think it's the fear of knowing people don't find me attractive. I had one woman tell me she thought I was cute, but that was about 10 or 15 years ago when I didn't look like an old man. I have this story I tell people. I saw this guy and he was a train wreck. He had this white balding head, an eye that wandered off to the side, and a crazed look in his eyes. I tried angling away from him because those kinds of people make me nervous. The more I angled away the more he angled towards me … Don't you hate mirrors? I laugh at myself like that.
If you really feel like your physical appearance is standing in the way, have you thought about ways you could change that?
I don't have the money. But really, the biggest problem is that I'm so shy around the opposite sex. Women are attracted to confident guys and I am not confident. I end up friend-zoned. It infuriates me when I see some stunning gal who I would treat like a queen and she's in a relationship with some knuckle-dragging jackass. I always get told, “Oh, you're so sweet.” Well, sweet doesn't cut it.
What's the hardest part about being a 58-year-old-virgin?
Laying alone at night, falling asleep and then getting up in the morning and remembering you're alone. It's like waking up to the same nightmare every single day.
Rise in sexual assaults could signal a change in culture
by Lee Shearer
Sexual assault reports at the University of Georgia have skyrocketed this year, up from an average of 11 a year in the previous five years to about 75 this year.
The reason for the spiking numbers isn't necessarily an indication that sexual assaults are on the rise; it's likely, though, that more incidents are being reported than in the past, instead of being kept quiet, according to police and others who work with sex crimes.
“My belief is that the increase is due to an increase in awareness and support for rape survivors in our society,” said Sally Sheppard, executive director of The Cottage, an organization that provides support and assistance for survivors of child abuse and sexual assault. “I believe that people are more willing to report, especially young people attending colleges and universities. Because of the local and national attention it has received, they may feel more empowered.”
“I can't say we've had more incidents,” said UGA Police Chief Jimmy Williamson, who added, “more people are willing to let us know about it.”
Also, there are now more ways for sexual assaults to be reported to police, who may not ever talk directly to the victim, Williamson said.
Some reports come from UGA units such as the Equal Opportunity Office, or even from outside agencies such as The Cottage. Police undertake a criminal investigation only if the victim is willing, according to Williamson.
The federal government has put pressure on colleges and universities to do a better job of preventing and reporting sexual assaults, and for more than a year the issue has been widely discussed locally and nationally.
The federal Department of Education is investigating nearly 90 colleges and universities for the way they have handled sexual assaults on their campuses. UGA is not on that list, which includes many of the nation's top public and private universities. Only one Southeastern Conference school, Vanderbilt University, and only one Georgia school, Emory University, are on the department's most recent list.
Recent allegations of sexual assault at the University of Virginia reported by Rolling Stone magazine brought the subject of sexual violence on college campuses to the fore once again. The story claimed too many people on the Charlottesville, Virginia, campus put protecting the school's image and their own reputations above seeking justice for sex crimes.
But Rolling Stone cast doubt last week on its story of a young woman who said she was gang-raped at a U.Va. fraternity party, saying it has since learned of “discrepancies” in her account.
But Sheppard said when people talk about sexual assault, victims are more willing to come forth.
“Rape is a crime that has a lot of guilt and self-blame in our society. But if more of our society is talking about it in a non-shameful way, reporting is more likely,” she said.
Though sexual assaults may not be increasing as dramatically as reports are rising, the more recent numbers are closer to reality than the statistics of previous years, said Joan Prittie, executive director of Project Safe, a nonprofit that works to prevent domestic violence and to aid its victims.
“We're hearing about a greater proportion of what happens, and the fact that we're hearing more about it is a good thing.” she said.
In a recent survey of female students at the University of Oregon, one-third said they had been sexually assaulted at some point, and one in 10 said they had been raped, though few ever reported what happened.
Prittie hopes the rise in reports is one more signal of a culture change, along with such things as colleges taking a harder stance on how they define sexual consent, and changes in some states' laws.
There's a downside right now, though.
As sexual reports rise, staff members and volunteers at agencies such as The Cottage are being stretched thin as more people report what's happened to them and ask for help.
In 2013, 84 adults came to The Cottage for help, including 19 UGA students. This year, so far, 135 people have sought help from The Cottage, including 51 UGA students, Sheppard said.
The Cottage helps with assault investigations, but also offers services such individual counseling and group support at no charge, Sheppard said.
The Cottage isn't running out of money this year, but needs to increase its ability to provide help because of the upswing in reporting, she said.
“It is depleting our resources,” she said.
The Cottage is funded primarily through state and federal grants, with other dollars coming from the United Way and from contributions, she said.
Australia's Underage Yoga Sex Cult: The Survivors Speak Out
An Australian Royal Commission aims to find out how sex abuse in the yoga cult founded by Swami Satyananda Saraswati flourished so heinously.
by Lizzie Crocker
Indian guru Swami Satyananda Saraswati is celebrated in the yoga community as the founder of the international yoga movement Bihar Yoga and the purveyor of popular Tantric-based meditation techniques.
But few know that his Mangrove Mountain ashram in New South Wales, Australia, was a cloistered den of systemic sexual and physical abuse in the 1970s and 1980s—and is now at the center of a Royal Commission inquiry.
Most of the alleged abuse occurred at the hands of Satyananda's disciple, Swami Akhandananda Saraswati, a convicted pedophile and sadist who was masquerading as a peace-promoting, celibate leader of the Mangrove Mountain spiritual community.
Akhandananda was sentenced to prison for more than two years in 1989 for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl follower at the ashram, but the conviction was overturned in 1991 due to legislative changes at the time. He died from excessive alcohol consumption in 1997.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Sexual Abuse will hear testimonies through the end of this week from eight women who were children when they were allegedly sexually assaulted by Akhandananda (many testified in the trial that led to his 1989 conviction).
At least four of those women claim they were also physically abused by Akhandananda's consort at the time, a woman known only as Shishy, who has admitted to having sexual relations with a minor at the ashram and covering up Akhandananda's sexual assaults.
The plaintiffs are now seeking compensation from Mangrove Mountain, which remains a vibrant community for Satyananda Yoga devotees.
Spiritual gurus who use their power to facilitate sexual encounters with their students are something of a cliché. Indeed, sex scandals have been plaguing the yoga community long before the practice was Lululemon-ized in mainstream Western culture.
There was Romanian-born Swami Kriyananda, a monk who founded the worldwide Ananda spiritual community in 1964 and, after seven women sued him for sexual harassment in 1994, admitted to having sexual relationships with students.
That same year, Amrit Desai, former leader of the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, paid a $2.5 million settlement to students of who had accused him of sexual abuse.
Siddha yoga founder Swami Muktananda, who was featured in a 1994 exposé in the New Yorker , and Integral Yoga founder Swami Satchindananda were both accused of sexual assault in the mid-'90s. (During a 1991 conference that Satchindananda attended in Virginia, protesters outside the conference center waved placards that read “Stop the Abuse” and “End the Cover Up.”)
Much of this abuse of power is chalked up to the cult culture that was de rigeur in the ‘60s and ‘70s, when many gurus brought their movements to the West. But the abuse continues at the hands of some of the most prominent “Western” gurus today.
Hot yoga pioneer Choudhury Bikra, whose multimillion-dollar Bikram yoga empire has more than 650 studios around the world, is currently embroiled in several sexual assault lawsuits, accused of raping two former devotees during teacher training camps in 2010 and 2011.
But the alleged rampant child sexual abuse by Swami Akhandananda is especially insidious: young women groomed—groped and solicited for massages, then verbally praised or rewarded—by their spiritual leader, who then forced them into penetrative and oral sex.
Alecia Buchanan was 12 when her mother, then a drug and alcohol counselor at Gosford South Wales, became interested in yoga as a form of therapy and took an interest in the Satyananda Ashram in the late ‘70s. Buchanan testified last week that she was 13 when she became one of the children of Mangrove Mountain, living there under the supervision of Shishy and Akhandananda.
Buchanan, who also testified against Akhandananda in 1989, told the Royal Commission she was 16 when he began regularly abusing her (“he would order me into his quarters on a regular basis and direct me to pleasure him exactly how he wanted”) and would frequently ask her “if it felt good and whether I was devoted to him.”
She recalled that, often before or after he molested her, “he threatened me with his hand hovering near my face, mimicking a slap” and told her he would beat her if she told anyone, especially her mother.
Jyoti, another young woman who moved to the ashram when she was 16, told the Royal Commission that Akhandananda regularly sent her to a chemist in Gosford for pregnancy tests and threatened her life if she discussed it with anyone (“You'll be killed if you do”).
One woman who testified under the pseudonym APR claimed she moved to the ashram with her father when she was four, who then left her there under the guardianship of Shishy.
She recalled attending an ashram ritual when she was seven, during which she was “held down” by other “male swamis” while Akhandananda had sex with her. She says she still has a scar from where Akhandananda “cut the skin between my breasts with a knife and then licked the blood” that night.
Equally troubling as these horrific claims are the adults who abandoned their children to live at the ashram and—worse—the adults like Shishy who lived there but did nothing to stop the abuse. Shishy admitted to knowing about Akhandananda's abuse of the girls in front of the Royal Commission on Friday (she claims she was also physically and sexually assaulted by him).
“It was not just the times, or it's not just the ‘70s. The adults need to own the choices they made,” said APR. “They were the ones who put the kids in that situation and they were the ones who stayed and by staying made it impossible for us to leave.”
The hearing finishes at the end of this week and will determine whether further charges will be administered against Mangrove Mountain, which has so far refused to financially compensate the plaintiffs.
Mercy Health, Child Abuse Council call for 'Safe Haven' Law awareness
by Michelle D. Anderson
MUSKEGON, MI — Muskegon County's hospital system and a local advocacy group dedicated to ending child abuse are calling for more awareness about Michigan's Safe Delivery of Newborns Law, also known as the "Safe Haven" law.
Mercy Health Muskegon and the Child Abuse Council of Muskegon County said Monday, Dec. 8 that more citizens need to know about the law to prevent infanticide and child abandonment in the community.
Local officials made a similar call for awareness of the law in November.
The state law, which went into effect January 2001, allows parents to anonymously surrender an unharmed child no more than three days old to local hospitals, fire and police stations or to a paramedic or medical technician on duty without fear of prosecution.
Authorities will then entrust the infant to a private adoption agency.
Mercy Health Muskegon spokeswoman Joan Kessler said the call for awareness is a response to the recent death of baby Jennifer Gene Brewster , who was found in a shallow grave near an apartment complex last month.
"Mercy Health and the Child Abuse Council are dedicated to the safety and well-being of children in our community," Kessler said. "Those who are now reaching childbearing age may not be aware of the Safe Haven law."
Muskegon High School student Jessica Lynn Brewster allegedly told authorities she smothered the child because she feared her mother would find out about her pregnancy. The 17-year-old was charged with open murder in November. A probable-cause hearing for the case has been postponed until Dec. 23.
Kyleen Gee, director of the Child Abuse Council of Muskegon County, said new parents who feel they lack the resources to raise a child should know they have legal options to relieve themselves of parenting responsibilities.
"There are a lot of couples who are waiting and willing to adopt," Gee said.
Laura Burke, the Director of Critical Care, Emergency & Trauma, Mercy Health Muskegon, said the hospital system's emergency room departments make up more than a dozen locations in the region where a parent can surrender a child at any time.
Kessler said parents who surrender a newborn are encouraged to provide as much medical information as possible so emergency service providers can provide the best care possible. Parents who may reconsider their decision to surrender their baby can petition to have the child within 28 days of a safe delivery.
The National Safehaven Alliance based in Virginia indicates all U.S. states have some type of Safe Haven Law. In Nebraska, parents can even abandon teen children.
Nearly 150 infants in Michigan have been surrendered since 2001, according to state statistics. The last time a parent surrendered their child was on Aug. 30 at a Montcalm County hospital , according to state data last updated in October.
For more information about the Safe Delivery of Newborns, call 866-733-7733.
Hope for treating effects of child abuse in kids
by David Templeton
Science is making progress in understanding how abuse — physical, sexual or psychological — affects children and why its effects can persist a lifetime.
Repeated abuse causes chronic stress, which destroys brain cells, resulting in a smaller hippocampus, which is situated in the middle brain and involved with emotional memory. It also affects the amygdala, also involved with the emotions and emotional reactions.
Fifty percent of all people with depression report having been abused as children.
“There has to be something in the brain doing this, and you can imagine that brain changes make you vulnerable to mental disorders,” said University of Pittsburgh psychologist Greg J. Siegle.
Abused children become more reactive and anxious when exposed to traumatic events. “A threat to life gets learned extremely well, and you see a lot of brain changes in response to it,” he said.
Then there's the Tetris effect. After playing the progressively more intense computer game, the person typically dreams about the experience that night. If someone who experienced a traumatic event goes home and plays Tetris, the person will dream of the game, not the traumatic event. The game washes out all the traumatic information before it becomes encoded in the brain.
“But something like child abuse that's repeated with no one there to help is why, to my mind, child abuse is so insidious,” said Siegle, a doctor of psychology. “It's getting into kid's brains with nothing to keep it from being very deeply encoded. They end up with the product of abuse for a very long time.”
Children can overreact to stress or shut down with no reaction to it. Those who become strongly reactive can perspire, resort to angry outbursts or overreact to the slightest challenge. Those who shut down hide inside themselves, finding a happy place in the mind. That can make them less able to have emotional or physical feelings, sometimes resulting in self-injury as a dramatic attempt to feel sensation.
Psychological abuse involves bullying, verbal threats and sharp criticisms about the child's ability and worth, leading to the child believing the criticisms to be true. “No good can come as a result of parents telling them they are worthless or no good,” Siegle said.
But the abuse also can involve emotional neglect, denying the child attention or affection. That blocks the child from receiving emotional or mental enrichment. Studies of children in Romanian orphanages, Siegle said, found that neglected children fail to react to stimuli, even a loud clap behind the head. That means you must use or lose brain function. “The amygdala stops reacting to stimuli,” he said.
A child who witnesses his father repeatedly beating his mother can end up feeling helpless, causing the child to shut down or stop trying. Their brain changes are similar to depression.
But Siegle said successful treatments exist, with new ones being designed to recode the brain to eliminate the effects of abuse.
“I think there is hope on the horizon,” he said. “Chronic abuse affects the brain and new treatments are using our knowledge of how it affects the brain to change the symptoms.”
Bruce S. Rabin, a University of Pittsburgh immunologist who lectures on stress, said child abuse prevention and treatment programs are needed.
“We know abuse is harmful. We need to be spending more time engaging children and adults in programs to reduce damaging abuse and teaching people to cope with damaging stress,” he said. “We need programs to stop it. That's where we should be going.”
He stressed three points about child abuse:
Parents need to understand their behavior will have an effect on the quality of their children's health.
Any type of abuse or inconsistent behavior will change the function of certain hormonal systems in the child, resulting in an increased risk of depression, anxiety problems, heart disease, diabetes and decreased longevity.
Society doesn't address the problem properly.
“We don't have places to refer adults and children where they can learn how to use healthy lifestyle behaviors,” he said. “Not enough physicians discuss it with patients who display symptoms of stress disorders or talk with patients about the health impacts of stress. We also need to increase the number of nurses, social workers, members of the clergy and teachers who understand how stress affects health so they can help adults and children understand its causes and how to cope with its impacts.”
And, finally, he said, “We need to reduce the amount of abuse.”
Former Fessenden School students allege sex abuse
Four teachers accused; incidents from ‘60s, ‘70s cited
by Peter Schworm
Several former students at the Fessenden School, a prestigious private school in Newton, are alleging they were sexually abused by four teachers during the late 1960s and 1970s, in a significant expansion of claims that came to light in 2011.
Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston lawyer who represents victims of child sexual abuse, said Monday he is preparing to file lawsuits on behalf of two former students against several teachers and their supervisors, and accused Fessenden of “stonewalling these victims for years.”
“It's inconceivable the administration of this school could not have known” about the abuse, said Garabedian, who has represented hundreds of victims in the clergy sex abuse scandal. “It's time for them to come forward and be accountable.”
Fessenden officials notified graduates in a 2011 letter that the school had received two claims of abuse, one involving former assistant headmaster Arthur Clarridge, and a second involving a friend of Clarridge's. Clarridge resigned in 1977 after he was charged in connection with a child sex ring.
In 2010, the school reached a settlement with one student in “the low six figures,” Garabedian said.
After receiving the allegations, school officials combed internal records and found that two other graduates had also filed complaints, one of which involved Clarridge, about alleged abuse that occurred in the 1960s and 1970s.
“The school leadership has come to the realization that this intolerable behavior in past decades may have been broader in scope than we once had reason to believe,” Fessenden officials wrote in 2011.
On Monday, the school said it had reached out to graduates three years ago to apologize for “intolerable behavior that occurred in the past” and offer counseling to victims.
“It was and remains our hope that victims would come forward,” the school said in a statement. “Today, we continue to extend our sincere apologies to those whose lives were affected by the actions of a few, and we remain committed to offering confidential counseling and treatment to those who have suffered.”
Garabedian said the lawsuit he is preparing centers on alleged abuse that occurred between 1968 and 1976 and involved male students ages 10 to 14. Another boy who was not a student was allegedly abused by Clarridge at the school, Garabedian said.
Clarridge could not be reached for comment Monday. In 2011, he denied the allegations, telling the Globe he had no inappropriate contact with students.
The planned lawsuits were first reported by the Newton Tab.
Newton police could not immediately say Monday whether any of the abuse allegations at the school had been brought to their attention.
Fessenden, which describes itself as the oldest all-boys, junior boarding school in the country, has about 500 students in pre-K to ninth-grade. Annual tuition ranges from $27,000 in first grade to $38,000 in ninth.
A number of private schools have faced abuse allegations in recent years, often dating back decades. The Landmark School in Beverly last year disclosed that several graduates had lodged sexual molestation complaints, and the Brooks School in North Andover disclosed that a former headmaster had an improper relationship with a student.
Specialists say the spotlight on sexual abuse in the aftermath of the scandal at Penn State University has helped more victims come forward.
John Sweeney, who grew up in Newton, said he was 11 when Clarridge assaulted him in 1969, his first year at Fessenden. Sweeney, 56, said Monday that while he cannot file suit because the statute of limitations on the alleged crimes had expired, he hopes the lawsuits force the school to take account of what happened.
He said Clarridge, who was his dorm master, took interest in him early on, inviting him to ride in his car and watch hockey games in his room.
Sweeney said that Clarridge came to his dorm room one night when his roommate was not there. Sweeney was sick, and Clarridge gave him a nasal inhaler and told him to “breathe in deep.”
Sweeney said he believes he was drugged, and when he woke up Clarridge was assaulting him. Sweeney screamed and Clarridge fell off the bed before rushing away.
Sweeney, who lives on Cape Cod, said he told his mother the next day, but she didn't believe him. He said he then told the headmaster, who told him he had a “vivid imagination.”
Sweeney said the assault has stayed with him all his life. He has battled drugs, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and has been haunted by nightmares. Now, he wants Fessenden to take responsibility for what happened back then.
“I want Fessenden to admit what they did,” he said. “It's affected me my whole life. Not just me, all of us victims.”
Slavery Is Alive And Well In America, Fueled By The Need For Cheap Labor
Though the 13th Amendment outlawed slavery, forced labor persists in the U.S. through federal guest worker programs, a focus solely on sex trafficking, and an economy that puts cost effectiveness ahead of human rights.
by Frederick Reese
The 13th Amendment explicitly prohibits slavery in all forms, except as criminal punishment, yet as many as 60,000 native-born Americans and both lawfully-admitted and undocumented immigrants are forced into bonded labor, sex trafficking, or forced, unpaid servitude.
A broken immigration system and a failure to effectively respond to a call for reforms reflect on some hard truths about immigrant life in America — including the fact that slavery still exists in the United States and is as pervasive as it has ever been. The media and the public, however, generally tend to focus on sex trafficking, creating a situation in which the realities of labor trafficking are overlooked or ignored wholesale.
“Those of us who work with survivors of trafficking for labor are affected by this narrow focus of media and policy,” said Tiffany Williams, coordinator for the Beyond Survival Campaign for the National Domestic Workers Alliance, in a statement to MintPress News.
Williams noted that the focus solely on sex trafficking compromises efforts to effectively deal with other forms of human trafficking.
“If communities are not educated about the connections between worker rights, immigration rights, and human trafficking because they don't see stories involving labor trafficking in the media with these links, then we as a society will not be able to address the root causes of this crime, and will be fighting this battle for eternity,” Williams continued.
In part, forced labor in the U.S. is fueled by the federal government's approach to guest and immigrant workers and the public's inconsistent efforts to force pressure toward making comprehensive changes. This situation reflects the problem with debating economic concerns in morality situations and how financial concerns can mitigate or even negate legislative intentions.
The H-2 program and the federal government's silent go-ahead on exploitation
One form of this forced labor, for example, exists under the federal H-2 program, which provides entry visas for guest workers engaged in temporary farm labor and various non-agricultural industrial work. Analysis by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) found that the protections offered to guest workers by law are typically not honored, with little or no governmental oversight. Private, pro bono attorneys typically will not represent guest workers due to the ambiguity of the workers' legal status, and guest workers are not eligible for federal or state-funded legal services.
This modern interpretation of the Bracero system — a 1942 bilateral agreement with Mexico that provided the U.S. with temporary agricultural workers — has given way to a semi-recognized system of indentured servitude. Following the 2007 State of the Union address, when President George W. Bush called for a clear and organized way for foreign workers to come to the U.S. on a temporary basis, former House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Charles Rangel described the guest-worker program as “the closest thing I've ever seen to slavery.”
Otto Rafael Boton-Gonzalez is an H-2B forestry worker from Guatemala. In interviews with the SPLC — detailed in the center's 2013 report “Close to Slavery: Guestworker Programs in the United States,” Boton-Gonzalez detailed the heavy-handed tactics that were used to force discontented workers to stay on the job:
“When the supervisor would see that a person was ready to leave the job because the pay was so bad, he would take our papers from us. He would rip up our visa and say, ‘You don't want to work? Get out of here then. You don't want to work? Right now I will call immigration to take your papers and deport you.”
With no real mechanism to replace entry documents, the threat of an employer permanently holding or destroying visas or passports would mean that a guest worker would face immediate apprehension and prosecution and the possibility of permanently being banned from re-entering the U.S. if they were to leave their employers. While many of these employers justify these actions by claiming that document confiscation is the only way to ensure that the workers will honor their contracts, many advocates — including the SPLC — argue that this is creating a system in which the worker has no recourse against employer misconduct.
This misconduct — which includes making wage deductions that are beneficial to the employer, underreporting hours worked or overtime, paying workers based on work quantity or performance units instead of per hour, violating the terms of the hiring agreement, and failing to address or remedy injuries — are rarely prosecuted and are considered de facto industry-standard practices because they occur with such frequency. Further, some courts have held that an H-2B job offer is not an enforceable contract that can be defended in a court of law. All of this tends to have the net effect of the worker being paid less than the minimum federal or state hourly wage or the adverse effect wage rate.
Much of the problem with the H-2 program is actually ingrained in the law itself. The H-2 program was established to create temporary relief in situations in which there are no Americans available to do a job. The employer is required to provide the U.S. Department of Labor with documented evidence that bringing in the guest worker will not adversely affect the wages and working standards of Americans doing similar jobs.
Those enrolled in the H-2A program — field workers — are meant to be paid the prevailing local wage for the crop they pick, receive at least three-quarters of the total hours agreed to in their contracts, and receive workers' compensation, travel reimbursement, eligibility for federally-funded legal services and free housing and meals.
Yet most guest workers are enrolled in the H-2B program. While the Labor Department implemented substantial rule changes to the program in 2008, the H-2B program still fails to offer some of the essential protections offered by the H-2A program, such as the “three-quarters guarantee,” travel reimbursement, protections from human trafficking, and access to legal and other basic services. Attempts to reform the H-2B rules were blocked by congressional Republicans — under the pressure of the agricultural lobby — in 2011 and 2012.
While the H-2B visa program is specifically designed for non-agricultural work, intentional or accidental misclassification of the work to be done during employment certification can allow growers to classify migrant laborers as H-2B, which would require less pay and benefits to be offered. As the grower can request multiple visas for unnamed workers, there are few institutional checks to counter labor abuses.
One such incident of unchecked manipulation of the H-2B program came in 2007, when migrant workers filed a federal class action suit against Mississippi-based marine oil-rig company Signal International. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Signal hired approximately 500 skilled metalworkers from India in 2006 to repair offshore oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. To get these jobs, the metalworkers were forced to pay as much as $25,000 each to Signal's recruiters, and they were promised that their work visas would be converted into permanent residency or “green” cards upon completion of the work.
After realizing there was no feasible way that a H-2B visa can be converted into a green card, some of the workers started to protest, prompting Signal management to look for a way to fire the perceived troublemakers. Those charged with firing the metalworkers were told by an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent: “Don't give them any advance notice. Take them all out of the line on the way to work; get their personal belongings; get them in a van, and get their tickets, and get them to the airport, and send them back to India.”
“The Indian workers who came to this country through Signal's recruitment effort were skilled laborers seeking opportunity, but they were forced into modern-day indentured servitude,” said Daniel Werner, a senior supervising attorney for SPLC, reflecting the fact that many of these workers had incurred massive debt or sold their homes to work for Signal. “These cases highlight the urgent need for stronger foreign labor recruiter regulations and better protections for workers – some of which are included in the U.S. Senate's comprehensive immigration reform bill.”
The H-2 program represents but one aspect of modern slavery. While there are no official numbers detailing how many people are engaged in forced labor in the U.S., the International Labor Organization estimated in 2012 that 1.5 million of the world's 20.9 million forced labor slaves are in Europe or North America, including an estimated 14.2 million who are involved in forced non-sexual labor exploitation, including manufacturing, agriculture, construction and domestic work.
The slavery epidemic
The proliferation of forced labor — recognized by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime as the third-most lucrative global criminal activity, after drug trafficking and counterfeiting — reflects an uncomfortable reality. While no country officially condones slavery and most actively oppose it legislatively and on moral grounds, the demand for cheap labor creates a temptation to supercede labor controls.
In countries such as Haiti, Pakistan, India and Mauritania, the share of the population currently enslaved in bonded labor, as child soldiers or forced brides, as forced prostitution, or as property in absolute ownership is shockingly high. In India, for example, more than 1 percent of the nation's nearly 1 billion residents are slaves, according to Australia-based Walk Free Foundation in its 2014 Global Slavery Index. Walk Free estimates that 4 percent of the population of the West African nation of Mauritania is enslaved, with the aid group SOS Slavery estimating an enslavement rate as high as 20 percent of that nation's population — this, despite the passage of strict anti-slavery laws there since 2007.
In theory, the less developed a nation is, and the less a nation invests in human rights protections, the greater the chance slavery exploitation will occur there. In Haiti, for example, the practice of restaveks (sending a child from a poor family to live with and work for a wealthy family) has became an ingrained part of Haitian society, with one in 10 Haitian children thought to participate.
Accordingly, Western Europe and North America have the lowest rates of slavery worldwide. Yet this is far from a set rule. The U.S., for example, has approximately 60,000 slaves, according to Walk Free. In addition to the H-2 program, there has been a rash of involuntary non-sexual labor trafficking for work on farms, in private homes, and in restaurants and hotels. This influx has been encouraged, in part, due to harshened legislation restricting and penalizing illegal immigration.
Additionally, the need for cheap goods has led many American corporations to offer substantial support — either deliberately or inadvertently — to global human trafficking and forced labor. For example, despite the creation of CocoaPro — an alliance of American and European chocolatiers committed to removing child and forced labor from cocoa bean harvesting — and Fair Trade pricing for coffee, forced labor proliferates in both chocolate and coffee harvesting. Many of the involved companies, such as Nestle, continue to buy cocoa and coffee beans from countries that are known to utilize child labor. To date, only Ferrero and Mars have made commitments to end their involvement with child labor in harvesting.
The intersection of slavery and trade
Ultimately, the economic incentive of cheap labor is the factor that keeps slavery a reality today. Some argue that education and outreach are the major ways of addressing this negative effect of the profit motive.
“There is a global awakening to the realities of slavery; that it was never eradicated, but just made illegal,” Terry FitzPatrick, director of communications for Free the Slaves, told MintPress. “While there are highly financed criminal organizations that are bribing officials to permit international human trafficking, there are also good actors working toward annihilating these forms of slavery.”
“This is a situation in which all of the nations of the world have accepted is neither economically necessary nor morally justified; the question of slavery today is a question of how to educate the public on the immorality and illegality of the action and to find and prosecute those perpetrating these actions.”
The public's short-term memory is a key problem with creating long-term strategies toward fighting slavery. During the build-up to the 2014 Super Bowl in the Meadowlands, for example, a great deal of attention was paid toward combating child sex trafficking in the New York City metro area. In recent years, a trend of escalated child prostitution following major sports events has been tracked. Yet after the Super Bowl ended, that focus diminished.
The difficulty of eradicating slavery can be defined in the difference between intent and action. For example, the U.S. has some of the most restrictive legislation against slavery and human trafficking, but economic interests and an inconsistent public focus on the issue have allowed the laws to not be enforced or to be enforced less stringently than intended.
Additionally, addressing trafficking as a standalone crime is difficult in many jurisdictions. In the U.S., for example, many prosecutors opt out of prosecuting human trafficking on anti-slavery or anti-trafficking charges, seeking instead to prosecute on charges more familiar to judges and juries, such as rape, kidnapping, pandering, or promoting prostitution. This decision can also be influenced or conflated by the prosecutor's bias either for or against the victim.
“Interviews with state and local prosecutors revealed that the background characteristics and personal circumstances of human trafficking victims often influenced the prosecution of human trafficking cases at the state level,” reads a joint report by Northeastern University and the Urban Institute to the National Institute of Justice, “Identifying Challenges to Improve the Investigation and Prosecution of State and Local Human Trafficking Cases Executive Summary.”
“In some instances, a victim's background (e.g., whether a victim came from an unstable home without supportive parents or guardians) caused prosecutors to dismiss or overlook human trafficking cases. In instances where prosecutors accepted human trafficking cases for prosecution, a victim's background also affected whether a case was prosecuted or amended to lesser, non-trafficking charges.”
Most experts believe that the way forward toward eradicating modern-day slavery is to take a proactive stance — instead of a reactive one — toward the problem. Creating public awareness and pressure toward forcing policymakers and the law enforcement community to invest more funding and focus on addressing this issue, educating the public to recognize the signs of forced labor, creating public policies that encourage legal immigration and responsible responsible issuance and monitoring of work visas, and punishing companies that knowingly benefit from or encourage the use of exploited labor, are essential for creating a blueprint that would not only reduce the slavery footprint here in the U.S., but globally, as well.
“In the last ten years, sex trafficking has received more attention than ever before, while labor trafficking remains largely undiscussed,” said Cordelia Anderson, founder of Minnesota-based Sensibilities Prevention Services, a sexual violence and interpersonal abuse consultancy. “It took political will to put sex trafficking on the conversation, but even in this, the attention is drawn toward the comfortable: sex trafficking instead of prostitution, child trafficking instead of adult trafficking, international instead of domestic.”
Anderson noted that because human trafficking involves economic and trade elements, consideration of these issues may mean that people or businesses who are opposed to human trafficking in principle make different choices in practice.
“In order to get to a point where we can truly make progress in fighting human trafficking, we need to get to a point where we, as a people, recognize that human rights and human dignity matter more than stuff,” she said.
We must support a relentless culture change regarding abuse
by Stephen Phillips
More than 1.2 million women were victims of domestic abuse last year in the UK and more than 300,000 were victims of sexual assault.
In the same year, 76 women were killed by partners or ex-partners; and although deaths are lower now than they have been for some years, each death is one too many.
We have achieved much over the course of this Parliament to make victims safer, to help survivors rebuild their lives and to equip frontline services with the tools they need to protect women and girls from these terrible crimes, and this must continue.
This Government has provided funding of £40 million over the period 2011 to 2015 to provide a critical bedrock of support to victims, including funding for more rape support centres. Ministers have introduced new laws and law enforcement tools to protect victims and bring perpetrators to justice, including the criminalisation of forced marriage, the introduction of new stalking laws, and the national roll-out of Domestic Violence Protection Orders and the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme. The Government is working to criminalise revenge pornography and strengthen the law on female genital mutilation. Ministers are shortly announcing the launch of a new specialist FGM Unit to continue to drive action to tackle the problem in communities and across all agencies.
There will also be a consultation on mandatory reporting of FGM and providing additional funding for community groups to raise awareness of and prevent it.
The Government will also soon be publishing its response to the consultation on whether to create a new offence of domestic abuse.
Domestic abuse is more complex than physical violence alone. Coercion, manipulation and controlling behaviour can be equally as devastating for victims.
Making sustainable changes
However, legislation and funding alone are not enough, and we must continue to work together to effect wider societal change. Working with schools and addressing issues early on is absolutely vital. The acclaimed 'This is Abuse' campaign, aimed at 13 to 18-year- olds, encourages teens to rethink their views of violence, abuse, controlling behaviour and what consent means in relationships.
Only by preventing violence and abuse in the first place can we hope to make sustainable changes over the long term.
The victims and survivors of violence and abuse must be our priority. Whether child or adult, whether victims of domestic violence, sexual violence, stalking, FGM or forced marriage, I join with my colleagues who are determined to drive through a relentless culture change to support these brave survivors, and equip frontline services with the tools they need to tackle what are simply abhorrent crimes.
British democracy and women's right to live free from violence
by Sarah Green
As the general election approaches in May 2015, women's organisations in the UK have issued the Women's Safety Manifesto. Politicians ignore it at their peril when it comes to the vote.
The last few weeks have seen some very visible feminist campaigning in the UK which has successfully challenged a big football club's intention to restore an unrepentant convicted rapist to glory, a national TV station's relationship with a rape-celebrating comedian, and the visa application of a racist misogynist (with essential support from overseas sisters).
This has led to the predictable complaints that feminists are a “mob” set on censorship, acting recklessly with civil liberties and stupidly failing to take on the ‘real' problems. Not-so-subtle sexist terms appear in some of these critiques: “shrill”, “hysteria” and “childish”, and the irony of terming women's rights activists the “mob” in relation to a case where a sectarian Twitter mob hounded a rape survivor to the extent of criminally naming her, and football fans in the terraces chanted pro-rape slogans, is staggering.
What the visibility, the vibrancy and the spontaneity of this feminist campaigning indicate is the presence of a large and confident ‘flotilla' of feminist activists who are able to challenge attacks on women's rights to safety and to bodily autonomy, and that there is an ample part of public opinion tuned into them and responding.
It's easy to throw mud from the sidelines and declare that feminist campaigning like this is wrong-headed. But this criticism misses the point when it castigates the feminist movement as a whole. This campaigning is a symptom of resurgent women's consciousness and action in the UK which is making best use of new means of getting heard. It is well connected to women's organisations which have been providing essential services , lobbying, and consciousness-raising all along. Activists and women's organisations fully understand the totemic value of the ‘social moments' around cases like those above, but they are not our sole agenda.
Women's organisations are developing a comprehensive programme for the next British Government. From Fawcett and the Women's Budget Group's detailed work on political under-representation and economic inequality, to the Women's Resource Centre ensuring the voices of women's groups of every size are heard and UK Feminista mobilising thousands of younger women. At the End Violence Against Women Coalition we have drawn on decades of frontline experience providing woman-centred specialist services to survivors of abuse by our members including Eaves, Imkaan, Rape Crisis, Southall Black Sisters and Women's Aid, to develop a Women's Safety Manifesto which the political parties will ignore at their peril when it comes to the vote. Our five-part #WomensSafetyPledge calls on all parliamentary candidates for election to support:
A new law on women's support services : the next British Government should end the ‘postcode lotteries' endured by those running and seeking specialist support services for women who have survived abuse. Right now, if you seek support from a Rape Crisis Centre for a recent or historic rape, or if you flee a violent relationship and try to access emergency refuge accommodation, you are not guaranteed to receive either. You might well find that there is no provision where you live or that there is a long waiting list or that you are ‘competing' with other women and families in need to get help. This has to stop. These services are essential and life-saving. No ifs or buts or partials. We need a statutory duty at every level of government to ensure that women and girls who experience sexual, domestic or other violence - including BME women and those with uncertain immigration status - have access to specialist support and advocacy services in their community including refuges, help lines and advice. For too long these services have existed precariously and the so-called austerity cuts have been devastating.
Protection for marginalised women : when policy makers do look at violence against women and girls in the UK their attention is too often focused on an ‘average' British woman as victim, and on a still too narrow understanding of different forms of abuse. When the next government develops the cross-departmental Strategy to End Violence Against Women and Girls they must ensure that the rights of every woman in Britain, whatever her background or immigration status, are protected, as the international treaties underpinning the human rights approach to violence against women and girls clearly set out. The needs of girls are too often not addressed by those who commission services or by the criminal justice system. The austerity cuts have been more than devastating for the specialist BME women's sector, who have seen their decades of service provision which was based on being rooted in BME communities and knowing best what support women in abusive situations needed, absorbed into more generic providers like housing associations and even private contractors.
We urgently need an end to the UK's shameful detention of survivors of gender-based violence who are seeking asylum here. And we need policy makers to register the multiple experiences of abuse women commonly experience before entering prostitution and within it. Members of EVAW believe that the ‘sex buyer law,' alongside comprehensive exiting support for women who want it, is the only answer.
Compulsory sex and relationships education for all young people in school : every expert and frontline worker on abuse of women and girls will tell you that the key long-term measure for preventing abuse in the first place has to be compulsory ‘SRE'. This is how we can ensure that young people are guaranteed the opportunity to talk to trusted adults about consent, choices, pornography, and the confusing and conflicting messages in our culture about sexuality and men's and women's equality. And that they hear about the law on sexual consent, and equality and respect between men and women.
Addressing harmful media images : this is where feminists are commonly accused of wanting to curtail free speech and other liberties. But that is misrepresentation. Many of us simply support a consistent approach to the regulation of harmful images across television, film, music videos, advertising and print media, based on harm-based criteria. Films including scenes of sexual violence for example are very rarely banned outright, but they receive a certificate and are controlled. TV has a watershed. Both of these regimes are consistently found to be popular with the public. Campaigning has brought about a pilot programme giving certificates to online music videos. The push to remove Page 3 from unrestricted everyday reach again reveals the strength of feeling on the portrayal of women in public life. We are living in a time of unprecedented media change and convergence, where new media is providing a means and a platform for women's rights campaigns as well as enabling the creation and distribution of harmful and hateful content. Women's and girls' rights to safety should be a priority in media policy.
Violence against women and girls Plans: these plans are held up as best practice internationally, and are the way to ensure that every level of government takes into account and adequately plans its response to all forms of abuse of women and girls. A new law requiring national and local governments to work with the women's sector to develop violence against women and girls plans, and ensure resources for frontline services, would take us a long way to ensuring this vision was genuinely being worked towards.
The EVAW Coalition is confident that a very broad group of grassroots services and activists are ready to engage fully with this election agenda, and place it firmly under the noses of thousands of parliamentary candidates before 7 May, 2015. While most violence against women organisations do not have the funds to set up campaigning and lobbying departments (unlike household name charities), we are a social movement with an ever growing reach to a groundswell of feminists - old and young.
From where we stand, we are watching closely the discussion and political dance around the ‘women's vote,' which is being keenly researched and profiled by Mumsnet. We know that the Westminster child sex abuse inquiry and ongoing high profile sexual abuse trials will also form a critical backdrop to the UK election campaign. Public discussion of why survivors of abuse usually do not report it, and what their needs are, will be very prominent.
In the run up to a general election with an increasingly unpredictable outcome, as old loyalties are reported to be fracturing, and where violence against women and girls is more clearly than ever seen as a human rights and public policy issue by politicians left and right, women's organisations will demand to be heard at the heart of debate. High profile Twitter campaigns against misogynists may continue to attract the most mainstream attention, but the UK women's movement will ensure that our agenda for womens' rights to live free from violence reaches all those hoping to become part of the next government.
Ex-Brooklyn elementary school teacher explains alleged sex abuse as ‘hugs': court records
Omil Carrasquillo, 36, pleaded not guilty to a 22-count felony indictment that upped to nine the number of his alleged victims. He told the arresting detective Sept. 24 that in exchanging hugs with students, ‘some of (his) touches could be misinterpreted,' a court document shows.
by Oren Yaniv
He's a hugger.
A former teacher at a Brooklyn elementary school who's charged with fondling nine girls as young as 8 told cops he “gives and receives hugs from his students,” court records revealed Monday.
Omil Carrasquillo, 36, pleaded not guilty to a 22-count felony indictment that upped the number of alleged victims, which stood at five when he was arrested in September.
"This is a disturbing case in which a teacher allegedly groped young girls,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson. “This defendant is an alleged predator who surrounded himself with vulnerable victims. What should have been a safe haven instead became a parent's worst nightmare.”
A science teacher at Public School 249 in Kensington, Carrasquillo is accused of inappropriately touching the girls, ages 8 to 11, on numerous occasions between November 2012 and September 2014.
“He will give the girls and boys a hug if they have done something good or they will come and hug him,” a detective wrote in a police report following the Sept. 24 arrest. “Mr. Carrasquillo states that it is possible that when he touches the children it may have been misunderstood how he touches them.”
The former teacher also said he sometimes stood behind the kids when explaining class work and “will put my arms on their backs or on their shoulders.” He added that he broke up a fight that week and “probably touched” a girl in the process of restraining her, the report said.
A judge raised his bail in light of the new allegations to $200,000 from $50,000. The defendant later made bail and was released.
He was slapped with multiple sexual abuse and child endangerment charges, with the top ones each carrying a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.
Defense lawyer Anthony La Pinta promised to “undertake a thorough and careful review of the allegations” and provide “an aggressive and dignified defense.”
In court, he said his client, who lives with his wife and son in Selden, L.I., was honorably discharged in 2000 after four years in the U.S. Army and then volunteered for the National Guard and as a Special Olympics coach.
Carrasquillo, who worked in P.S. 249 since 2006, resigned from his $66,000-a-year job after the September arrest.
An Education Department spokeswoman said at the time that he was “not eligible for future employment.”
The sentiment appears to be mutual.
The ex-teacher told the detective who busted him “that he is never going back to education again,” according to the court document.
Mom of teen suicide victim: Bullying is harassment, assault
12-year-old Folsom boy killed himself Wednesday
by Claire Doan
CARMICHAEL, Calif. (KCRA) — The death of the 12-year-boy in Folsom on Wednesday has become national news, highlighting issues of bullying, sexual identity and suicide.
But since 2008, one Carmichael mother has been trying to bring attention to those very issues.
On Sept. 16, 2008, Lisa Ford-Berry's 17-year-old son Michael died after taking his own life at Mira Loma High School.
But since 2008, one Carmichael mother has been trying to bring attention to those very issues.
On Sept. 16, 2008, Lisa Ford-Berry's 17-year-old son Michael died after taking his own life at Mira Loma High School.
“He was the victim (of) homophobia, bias, harassment, sexual abuse. And I apply all the adult terms. I do not say, ‘Oh he was bullied,' because that softens what it was,” Ford-Berry told KCRA 3.
After Michael's death, she founded Bullies Really Are Violating Everyone (B.R.A.V.E.) Society, which strives to increase awareness of peer abuse.
Ford-Berry believes there needs to be more accountability at schools to help children who are bullied.
“When you are dealing with the education code, there are no ramifications for failure to comply. Teachers who ignore it, they're not fired. Superintendents, principals, administrators … there is nothing that compels them, that forces them, that puts their skin in the game,” she said, adding that it is unfortunately usually the victim who is removed from the school.
Ford-Berry stresses that parents need to be their own advocates.
“You can go to police, because it is assault. It is harassment. It is stalking. But parents don't' know so they get in this horrible cycle of working with the school,” she said.
Ford-Berry also said children need support especially when it comes to gender and sexual identity issues.
“While we're all busy patting ourselves on the back over marriage equality, our children aren't even surviving childhood to even think (about whether) they like boys, they like girls or if there are gender non-conforming,” she said.
Now, six years after Michael's death, Ford-Berry said her biggest regret is not checking Michael's smartphone for signs of suffering.
“It is the cyber aspect where lives are dismantled. That is where the damage is done,” she said.
Liberian rape victim returned to state custody
by Matthew Casey
PHOENIX — A Liberian girl who was raped by four underage boys in the apartment complex where she lived the in July 2009 has been returned to state custody less than six months after she was reunited with her parents.
The girl was 8 years old when the boys, who were Liberian refugees, used gum to lure her inside a shed at a west Phoenix apartment complex, where they took turns sexually assaulting her, according to Phoenix police. She is now 13.
The Arizona Republic does not identify sexual-assault victims.
The decision to return the girl to foster care came after an unspecified incident with her adult brother, and authorities are searching for a long-term guardian, court records show. Details of the incident were not available.
The girl requested that she be returned to state custody, said Jerry Cobb, spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.
Attorneys for the parents declined comment, and the girl's court-appointed legal guardian did not respond to a request for an interview.
Cobb said details about what happened between the girl and her brother might have been revealed during dependency hearings in juvenile court. Records of those proceedings are confidential.
Prosecutors originally charged the oldest of the sexual-assault suspects, who was 14 at the time of the assault, as an adult. He later pleaded guilty in juvenile court, spent time in treatment facilities and served probation. He is now 20.
Juvenile charges against the other three — ages 12, 10 and 9 at the time — were dismissed after the prosecutors determined they were incompetent to stand trial. They are now 18, 15 and 14 years old.
The case made international headlines after the father reportedly told police and caseworkers for CPS that he didn't want the girl in the family's home because the crime shamed the family. He later vehemently denied that he had disowned his daughter. It also opened eyes to the horrors of Liberia's civil war, in which rape was often used as a weapon and victims were sometimes blamed for their fate.
Police arrested the girl's parents in November 2009 on suspicion of child abuse unrelated to the sexual assault. The Republic is not identifying the parents in order to protect the girl's identity.
In July, the prosecutors announced that the case would be dismissed in 2015 as long as the parents complied with conditions set by the Arizona Department of Child Safety, the agency that has replaced CPS.
They have followed the terms of the deferred-prosecution agreement, Cobb said.
The father, now 64, and mother, 52, aren't due in Maricopa County Superior Court until March.
India's new comic 'super hero': Priya, the rape survivor
by Geeta Pandey
A new comic book with a female rape survivor as its "super hero" has been launched to focus attention on the problem of sexual violence in India.
Priya's Shakti, inspired by Hindu mythological tales, tells the story of Priya, a young woman and gang-rape survivor, and Goddess Parvati as they fight against gender crimes in India.
Indian-American filmmaker Ram Devineni, one of its creators, told the BBC the idea for the comic came to him in December 2012 as India erupted in protest against the brutal gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old student on a bus in Delhi.
"I was in Delhi at the time when the protests broke out and I was involved in some of them," he says. "I was talking to a police officer when he said something that I found very surprising. He said 'no good girl walks alone at night.'
"That's where the idea began. I realised that rape and sexual violence in India was a cultural issue, and that it was backed by patriarchy, misogyny and people's perceptions."
In India's male-dominated society, it is not the rapist but the rape victim who is often treated with scepticism and has to face ridicule and social ostracism.
"I spoke to some gang-rape survivors and they said they were discouraged by their families and communities to seek justice, they were also threatened by the rapists and their families. Even the police didn't take them seriously," says Mr Devineni.
The comic reflects that harsh reality too - when Priya tells her parents about the rape, she's blamed for it and banished from home.
Priya is representative of a generic Indian woman and her aspirations. "She is like every boy or girl who wants to live his or her dreams. But those dreams are quashed after her rape," says Mr Devineni.
In the book, with some help from Shiva and Parvati - Hinduism's most powerful divine couple - Priya manages to turn her tragedy into an opportunity.
In the end, she rides back into the town on the back of a tiger and vanquishes her adversaries.
Mr Devineni says he chose mythology to put his point across because Hinduism is India's majority religion - more than 80% of the country's 1.2 billion people are Hindus - and its myths and stories are woven into its cultural life.
He convinced street artists and Bollywood poster painters to create murals in the Mumbai area of Dharavi, Asia's biggest slum.
The paintings have "augmented reality features" which allow people to see special animation and movies pop out of the wall art when they scan it with their smart phones.
People anywhere in the world can download a free digital copy of the comic and printed copies in Hindi and English will be available at the Comic Con Mumbai later in December, Mr Devineni says.
"Our target audiences are children starting from 10-12 years to young adults. It's a very critical age in their lives and it's an attempt to start a conversation with them."
In India, where one rape is reported every 21 minutes, the 2012 Delhi gang rape is seen as a game-changer - the brutality of the six men led to days of protests and forced the government to introduce tougher anti-rape laws, including the death penalty for particularly severe sex crimes.
Commentators say tougher laws can only partly solve the problem. What is really needed is to create awareness and change social attitudes.
Mr Devineni says that is what his project attempts to do.
Urvashi Butalia, head of feminist publisher Zubaan Books, says its success or failure will depend "a lot on the story" and also "on how many people it reaches".
She says anything that creates a conversation helps.
"Many of the changes in the world have come from ideas. And it's an interesting idea - you don't get too many female superheroes," she says.
Jasmeen Patheja is the founder of Blank Noise Project which is running a campaign called "I never asked for it" - it meaning rape or sexual assault.
The project creates public installations and an online gallery of garments survivors were wearing when they were sexually abused as part of a campaign on "rejecting and arresting blame".
The biggest change, she says, will be "when people understand that there is no excuse to justify sexual violence, the garments women wear, what time they go out or the place they go to".
"Graphic novels, comics, story books, films - all have immense potential to help," she says.
Anderson couple charged after teen's neglect was long ignored
by Marisa Kwiatkowski
For years, an Anderson girl suffered horrific abuse and neglect at the hands of those entrusted with her care, according to court records filed Friday.
Documents indicate the girl, now 15, was starved, savagely beaten, forced to eat feces and urine and trapped in a locked room with little more than a mattress, space heater and bucket. Investigators found her room covered in feces with blood on the floor.
Witnesses admitted they saw the girl being repeatedly abused and neglected but didn't tell police until this week, after the 15-year-old was rushed to the hospital in dire health.
The teenager, whom police said has mental and physical disabilities, weighed less than 40 pounds. Dried feces was caked under her fingernails and toenails.
Now, she "is in a fight for her life," according to records from the Anderson Police Department.
The girl's grandfather, Steve Sells, was charged Friday with 12 felonies relating to the case: three counts of neglect of a dependent causing serious bodily injury, three counts of neglect of a dependent, three counts of criminal confinement, two counts of battery against a disabled person and one count of battery resulting in bodily injury, court records show.
Sells' wife, Joetta, faces 11 felonies: four counts of neglect of a dependent, three counts of neglect of a dependent causing serious bodily injury, three counts of criminal confinement and one count of battery resulting in bodily injury. She also faces a misdemeanor count of battery by body waste, court records show.
"I've never seen anything that compares to this," Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings said. "To see these photographs of this young lady, it was very, very troubling."
But even as prosecutors and police pursue charges against the Sellses, questions remain.
John Dickerson, executive director of The Arc of Indiana, said state and local officials need to study the girl's case to determine how such maltreatment could go unnoticed and unmonitored for so long. The Arc of Indiana advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
"This is a tragic situation that should never have happened," he said in a written statement.
There were warning signs about Steve and Joetta's care of the girl as early as 2010, court records show.
A judge granted the couple permanent legal custody of the girl in 2009, when she was 10 years old. The girl's birth mother, Steve Sells' daughter Jennifer, voluntarily gave up custody and agreed to have no contact with the child, Madison Circuit Court records show.
Just over a year later, on Sept. 27, 2010, DCS initiated an investigation into the Sellses' care of the girl, court records show. A DCS spokesman would not provide details, citing confidentiality laws.
On Oct. 1, 2010, the agency filed a Child In Need of Services petition against the Sellses regarding their granddaughter. But DCS asked a judge to dismiss it a month later "due to the investigation being closed and finding no evidence," court records state.
Terry Thompson, superintendent of the Anderson Community School Corp., said in a statement that the Sellses withdrew the girl from school on Oct. 12, 2010, to be home-schooled.
"It is not the school corporation's responsibility to check on withdrawn students," he said.
Amber Wise, who lived with the Sellses for two months in 2011, told police the girl was locked in her room during that time.
She said she saw Joetta Sells feed the girl feces and urine as punishment, court records state. Wise also said she saw Steve Sells strike the girl with a belt, hitting her in the face with the buckle.
Despite saying she witnessed that abuse, she let the Sellses become legal guardians of her toddler daughter in September 2011, Madison Circuit Court records show.
Wise asked the court to terminate that guardianship after she moved out a month later, but the request was denied.
In 2013, Wise praised the Sellses when she asked a judge to modify her visitation agreement.
"The Sells (sic) have been great to my daughter but I would like for my daughter ... and I, Amber, to be reunited," she wrote in a letter to the court dated Feb. 25, 2013.
That request was denied. And a subsequent request to modify the agreement stalled after a letter from the court could not be delivered.
Wise could not be reached Friday by The Star for comment.
Her daughter, now 4 years old, remained in the Sellses' care until Monday, when police said she was removed by DCS.
That child was the first one to tell police the 15-year-old had been locked in her room. The 4-year-old said she saw the teenager stick her fingers out around the door trying to get out, police records state.
The Sellses' 21-year-old daughter, Crystal, told police the violence against the 15-year-old increased in the last two months.
Crystal Sells said she saw her father drag the girl by her hair up and down the stairs "four to five times," court records state. She said she could hear the "thump" of the 15-year-old's body as it hit each step.
A medical professional also may have had concerns about the girl's well-being. In January 2012, a medical professional recommended the girl be admitted into the hospital to get a feeding tube.
The Sellses made an appointment to admit her but never showed up, police records state.
It is not clear whether anyone reported it to DCS as suspected medical neglect.
Cummings, the Madison County prosecutor, said that, to his knowledge, no one reported anything to authorities until Monday, when an unnamed family member called 911.
'When people don't get involved'
Doctors who examined the girl after she was brought to the hospital on Monday night told police the girl suffered from malnutrition, bed sores and neglect. They also noticed an old fracture on her neck, court records state.
The teen wasn't breathing and needed CPR as she was rushed to the hospital. She later was airlifted to Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St. Vincent, where she remains today.
Anderson police Detective Joel Sandefur said the girl's condition is "day-to-day." The teen is so malnourished that she cannot walk, he said.
Cummings said one other individual may face criminal charges for the girl's maltreatment. He said the case illustrates how important it is to report suspected child abuse and neglect, which also is required by Indiana law.
"When people don't get involved, things like this happen," Cummings said.
Report suspected child abuse or neglect by calling the DCS hotline at (800) 800-5556