Prince Andrew sex claims 'emphatically denied' by palace
from the BBC
Buckingham Palace has "emphatically denied" Prince Andrew had sexual contact with a woman who claims she was forced to have sex with him under age.
The Duke of York was named in US court papers relating to the handling of a case against financier Jeffrey Epstein.
In the palace's second statement on the claims, it said those made about the duke were "without any foundation".
The Mail on Sunday has named the woman as Virginia Roberts. The BBC has not been able to verify her identity.
Palace officials made a second statement after further details about the allegations were published in Sunday newspapers.
An initial statement had said "any suggestion of impropriety with under-age minors" by the duke was "categorically untrue".
BBC royal correspondent Peter Hunt said the latest denial was "quite remarkable".
The situation "has the potential to seriously damage Prince Andrew and the institution he represents," our correspondent added.
The woman behind the allegations says she was forced to sleep with the prince when she was under age, and on three occasions - in London, New York and on a private Caribbean island owned by Epstein - between 1999 and 2002.
A US lawyer, meanwhile, says he is planning legal action against the woman.
Alan Dershowitz, who was also named in the court documents, told the BBC he wanted her claims to be made under oath.
Mr Dershowitz, a former Harvard law professor, said: "My goal is to bring charges against the client and require her to speak in court. If she believes she has been hurt by me and Prince Andrew, she should be suing us for damages.
"I welcome that lawsuit. I welcome any opportunity that would put her under oath and require her to state under oath these false allegations."
Mr Dershowitz also said he thought Prince Andrew should take "whatever legal action is available" to clear his name.
He added: "You cannot allow these false allegations simply to remain out there, and you cannot allow people who make false allegations to have the freedom to continue to make them."
He previously told BBC Radio 4's Today program that the allegations against Prince Andrew must be presumed to be false, and that he had only met the prince at public occasions.
The woman has issued a statement through her lawyers, saying she was "looking forward to vindicating my rights as an innocent victim and pursuing all available recourse", adding that she was "not going to be bullied back into silence".
The court document alleges that Epstein sexually trafficked the woman making her available for sex to "politically connected and financially powerful people".
Prince Andrew and Mr Dershowitz are two of three well-known men named in the court document who it alleges had sexual relations with the woman.
The prince, who is fifth in line to the throne, has previously been criticized for his former friendship with Epstein, who was sentenced to 18 months in prison for soliciting a minor for prostitution.
The prince and Epstein were photographed meeting in December 2010, after the tycoon had served his prison sentence, and the prince has also visited Epstein at his Florida home over the years.
The prince later had to apologize for his friendship and stepped down as the UK special representative for trade and investment.
US citizen Virginia Roberts waived her anonymity in an interview with the Mail on Sunday in 2011, claiming she had been sexually exploited by Epstein as a teenager.
She also claimed to have met Prince Andrew on several occasions, but the paper said there was no suggestion of any sexual contact between Virginia Roberts and the prince.
BBC story that broke on Saturday
The Prince's profile
What to do if you suspect child abuse or neglect
Related: New Hampshire law requires any person who suspects that a child under age 18 has been abused or neglected to report that suspicion immediately to the state Division of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF).
If a child tells you that he or she has been hurt or you are concerned that a child might be the victim of any type of abuse or neglect, you must call the DCYF Central Intake Unit at (800) 894-5533 between 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Call your local police department with urgent child abuse or neglect reports between 4:30 p.m. and 8 a.m. or on weekends and holidays.
Proof of abuse and neglect is not required to make a report.
Reports of abuse and neglect concerns are confidential and can be anonymous. If you have asked that your name not be disclosed, DCYF will make every effort to remove your name from all DCYF records of the report and investigation. However, if the case ever goes to court, a judge might request identifying information.
Warning signs of child abuse
The following may be an indication that a child needs assistance. If you believe a child is experiencing one or more of these indications, please call the state Division of Children, Youth and Families Intake line at (800) 894-5533.
Signs of physical abuse
Bruises, welts, burns that cannot be sufficiently explained; injuries on places where children don't usually get hurt (the back, neck, back of legs, face);
repeated injuries; withdrawn, fearful or extreme behavior.
Signs of sexual abuse
Difficulty walking or sitting;
pain or itching in the genital area; torn, stained or bloody underclothing; frequent complaints of stomachaches or headaches; chronic depression; withdrawal; feeling threatened by physical contact; inappropriate sex play or premature understanding of sex; running away from home.
Signs of emotional injury
Inability to play as most children do; sleep problems; antisocial behavior; behavioral extremes; lags in emotional and intellectual growth; self destructive feelings or behavior.
Signs of neglect
Chronically dirty; chronic school absences; dress inadequate for weather; left alone at home or without supervision; left in the care of siblings too young or unable to baby-sit; often fatigued - even falling asleep in school; hunger; self destructive feelings or behavior.
Protect families by keeping them together
Child welfare programs gradually turn away from knee-jerk dismantling of 'broken' homes
by Michelle Chen
Who decides when a parent no longer deserves her children? Robin Larimore struggled for years to prove herself a worthy mother when the government thought otherwise. She had voluntarily placed her children in foster care while she extricated herself from an abusive relationship, then faced daunting social barriers while navigating the legal process for reunification in New York City's child welfare system. “I started parenting and domestic violence classes. I also met my children's foster mother, and we developed a good relationship,” she recalled in the parent-advocacy journal Rise. But in court, her efforts didn't seem to matter. “The caseworker said all the bad things that I'd done in six years and none of the good,” she wrote. The system issued a harsh, final judgment: Her kids were eventually adopted.
Larimore went through the system more than a decade ago, but her narrative underscores an institutional legacy of protecting families by severing them. Hundreds of thousands of kids in crisis situations have been removed from families in “their own best interest,” courtesy of our nation's child welfare system, a sprawling infrastructure of social service agencies and family courts. These children, disproportionately children of color, are deemed to be from dysfunctional, abusive or negligent households. They're placed in temporary foster care with the aim of transferring them to safer, presumably richer and kinder households. Such intervention can sometimes be critical to protect a child from abuse. Often, though, children's “best interest” comes at a steep price: What some call tough love is a bruising process — for child and family alike — that can lead to permanent separation.
But the politics of child welfare have gradually shifted, and a focus on prevention appears to have nudged priorities in the social service infrastructure in a promising direction. According to statistics released in September by the research center Child Trends, child welfare spending nationwide has recently dipped. The combined expenditures of child welfare agencies from federal, state and local sources fell 8 percent from fiscal 2010 to 2012 — the first such decline since the survey began in the mid-1990s. There may be many factors driving down spending — and in a period of widespread social service cuts, it may be an odd figure to celebrate. But if sustained, this downturn in spending may have an upside: a growing movement toward a healthier balance between the rights of families and the protection of the state.
The new statistics may reflect an unexpectedly positive change in priorities. Since the 1990s, child welfare agencies nationwide have beg un to turn away from child removal (PDF), seeing it as a last resort rather than an efficient social-engineering fix. After decades of forcing parents like Larimore to relinquish their children, cities like New York began investing more in family-centric rehabilitation programs, such as counseling, or working out arrangements to temporarily house a child with a relative to maintain family bonds. In many cases, family-centered approaches cost less than regular foster care (PDF).
Thus the spending decline likely represents, in part, a decrease in the use of foster care. The number of children in the U.S. placed in foster homes has fallen nearly 30 percent, from 567,000 in 1999 to 402,000 in 2012. This is generally a welcome trend. Though many foster homes are caring environments, long-term studies show that after being separated from their original communities, children are prone to suffer other harms — the disruption of constantly switching homes and schools, a sense of abandonment, high risk of mental health problems (PDF) and a lack of access to social services.
Of course, the shift away from foster care placement alone is not driving the spending reduction. According to researchers at Child Trends, “reduced caseloads cannot be the only contributing factor.” In some states, budgets and spending fell while the number of kids in care went up from 2010 to 2012, suggesting that in certain cases, resources for child protection are thinning out. That might mark a negative trend if services are suffering as a consequence or if funding shortfalls leave fewer dollars for alternative forms of care.
But this data point is just a snapshot of a multidimensional social dilemma. Because reducing the need for foster care demands proactive, holistic solutions, social service providers must continue to tackle the long-term question of how to prevent crisis in the first place. That means addressing the systemic problems that drive families into poverty, expose them to violence and cut them off from social services until there's no choice but to separate a household.
Keeping families and communities intact is an issue of racial justice as well. Advocates for Native American communities have been fighting excessive child removal for decades. Attorney General Eric Holder recently announced that the Justice Department identified a pattern in some states of “unnecessary and illegal removal of Indian children from their families and their tribal communities,” potentially violating special protections for Native families under the Indian Child Welfare Act.
The damage these communities suffer is the fallout of a system that is driven ostensibly by good intentions but is funded and structured in a way that promotes prejudice against and punishment of disadvantaged families. A poor black single mom who just got out of rehab might appear to be a risky parent to a caseworker who doesn't understand her circumstances. But could it be riskier to force her kid to shuffle through strangers' homes for years? In poor communities of color, the cold scrutiny of child welfare agencies can make parents feel criminalized and ashamed, potentially creating barriers to the therapy and welfare supports that could prevent separation.
Not every child can be “saved” by the strong arm of the state, nor should every parent struggling with homelessness, domestic violence or drug addiction lose her kids. Child maltreatment typically reflects deeper social ills, such as a paucity of supportive services and institutions (PDF), from mental health care to affordable housing. Studies show, too, that family homelessness and foster care are linked: Many homeless families are forced to separate, and kids who grow up in care are prone to homelessness later. Foster care both reflects and breeds a lifetime of instability and, on balance, may end up doing more harm than good.
A different fix
The empowerment of families starts with a system that cares rather than coerces. Allowing a mom to maintain contact with her child while recovering from the trauma of domestic violence, for example — instead of immediately dismissing her as dysfunctional — can stabilize the household and give the parent a crucial emotional anchor as she heals.
Dismantling a “broken” home isn't the only way to fix it. Instead, try giving families the compassion, trust and resources that every household deserves. A strong social welfare system should strive to protect children and families from having to pay the price of society's failures.
Mentor a child, change a life
The year that just ended brought continued progress in education — with a growing awareness of the role that emotional and mental wellness play in children's academic progress. Also 2014 demonstrated that early detection and intervention of challenges to that emotional wellness can help prevent tragedies like the shootings that occurred at Florida State University and other communities across the country.
A new study of more than 62,000 youth in Florida's Department of Juvenile Justice reveals that an astonishing 97 percent have suffered at least one childhood adversity (abuse, neglect, an incarcerated or mentally ill family member, etc.), and more than 50 percent have suffered four or more adversities.
Although we might not be able to eliminate all of these adversities, we know that we can help teach and inspire children to turn certain challenges into opportunities through the involvement of mentors.
During more than 50 years in Miami, Big Brothers Big Sisters has trained volunteer mentors to help us identify the triggers and challenges that can hinder emotional wellness and, ultimately, academic and educational progress. As a result, we've seen the life-changing impact that a Big Brother or Big Sister can have in empowering children to make more mindful choices today toward a purposeful tomorrow.
We see students with failing grades evolve into high school valedictorians, gang membership transition into university scholarships and hopelessness transform into inspiration.
Our volunteers participate in a broad range of innovative and evolving programs. From one-on-one mentoring to the School to Work corporate mentoring program that places kids directly in the corporate sector to “Bigs in Blue” that involve police officers, our volunteer mentors are awakening new possibilities and making Miami a better place for children to grow into amazing adults.
January is National Mentoring Month. Across America, people are being asked to step up and get involved in changing our nation, one child at a time. We're looking for volunteers to help us change Miami, one child, one afternoon at a time.
Resolve to make this a year in which we all get involved in building the power of potential in our youth and community. To learn more, visit www.wementor.org or call (305) 644-0066.
Lydia I. Muniz, president and CEO, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Miami
Preventing Un-Adoption Tragedies
by Mirah Riben
In September 2013 Reuters shocked the world by exposing the dangerous practice of re-homing adopted children. The five-part series called "The Child Exchange" described adoptive parents giving the adopted children that they were unable to handle to total strangers found online. Many of the children were from Russia and were described as presenting a danger to their adoptive families and, in some cases, were given to unsavory people and pedophiles.
Dan Rather's recent two-hour AXS-TV report, "Unwanted Children: the Shameful Side of International Adoption" featured children adopted from India and Ethiopia who were abandoned by adopters, some after just three months, some after seven years. Some had been adopted by a couple who had been lauded for adopting 28 children, many from Ethiopia. They reportedly abused some and abandoned eight.
Rather also interviewed single mother and best-selling author Joyce Maynard. She sees herself now as having been foster mother to the two Ethiopian girls she adopted and promised to love and care for forever.
There are multiple reasons for disrupted international adoptions, primarily from Russia and Ethiopia. First, many adopt internationally because they feel unprepared to deal with the special needs of children coming from foster care.
Orphanages provide bios of children that are often incomplete, inaccurate, and downplay problems. The descriptions are accompanied by photos and the prospective adopters begin to feel love for the child and talk about bringing "their child" home. Adoption agencies say that adopters hear what they want to hear. Adopters say that because of misrepresentations they get "more than they signed up for" and are prepared to deal with.
False expectations certainly seem to have been a major part of the problem for Torry Ann Hansen who sent her 7-year-old Russian adopted son on an airplane alone back to Russia. After having the child in her home just 9 months, the single mother said:
"I was lied to and misled by the Russian Orphanage workers and director regarding his mental stability and other issues. ...
"After giving my best to this child, I am sorry to say that for the safety of my family, friends, and myself, I no longer wish to parent this child."
The reality is that children adopted from institutional care have special needs as a result of being denied a one-on-one caretaker. The older the child, the more difficulty he or she will have forming attachments. They are described as displaying jealousy, odd eating habits, including food hoarding, and some have reportedly hurt animals, started fires and been sexually inappropriate.
Shame or Sympathy?
Following the Reuters and Dan Rather exposés, Lisa Belkin, author and former NY Times correspondent, reported on re-homing from a different perspective. Belkin focused on one mother who adopted two children from Russia. "Giving Away Anatoly" describes years of difficulties she experienced with them and how she placed one and then the other outside the home.
Belkin also wrote about Cyndi Peck who runs the Second Chance Adoption program of Wasatch International Adoptions of Utah. Peck, who sees many disrupted adoptions and unwanted adopted children, some of whom are sent to the Ranch for Kids in Minnesota, says re-homing has been "the dirty little secret of the adoption world for far too long." Her mission is:
"To make the process open, nonjudgmental and safe, rather than confused, shameful and marginally regulated, as it has been for decades....To shame the parents and push it underground when it happens is no help to these families, or these children....all the parents who give up these children are not monsters."
Dan Rather called re-homing deplorable. Peck advocates making re-homing acceptable and regulating it. She has created a niche business called Second Chance Adoptions, a service which screens those willing to take children from failed adoptions for a fee of $2000. "These adoptions are much less expensive than an international adoption, and for [some] families ... the costs are returned to you in IRS tax credits."
Screening second adopters, as Peck does, might well provide a greater safety net than either do-it-yourself re-placements or leaving children who are unwanted with adopters who become so overwhelmed they resort to drastic methods of control and abusive punishments, as has happened to many children adopted from Ethiopia and Russia. Incomprehensible abuses of IA children have included beating, caging, burning, starving, and being left outside in the cold. Nineteen cases of such abuse of Russian adopted children led to their deaths and often resulted in the conviction of their adopters for manslaughter.
Other unwanted IA children have been sent to boarding schools, mental health facilities, or to prison based on their adoptive parents' reports. Some wind up in homeless shelters or living on the streets. One Long Island, NY couple who put their two Russian adopted children in mental facilities has petitioned the court to vacate the adoption. To avert any possibility of the children being placed with others if the petition to vacate fails, Judge Edward W. McCarty III wrote:
"Such re-homing or any other descriptive phrase to classify this trade is unmistakably human trafficking in children, even absent any financial element."
All of this, despite Belkin reporting that experts say children with fetal alcohol syndrome and attachment disorder can be helped, but it takes financial and emotional reserves that not all parents have.
Blogs, forums and comments on articles about re-homing reflect adopters who agree with Peck that adopters who give up on the children they committed to care for be understood, not demonized. Others consider re-homing a form of abuse and consider people who reject the children they longed for despicable. Critics point out the trauma inflicted on the rejected children as well as the other children in these families.
Great consideration needs to be given as to whether reducing the stigma of giving up on adopted children would not inadvertently result in encouraging more terminations, turning adoption into a trial and give-back program as if children come with warranties. In addition to the harm done to the rejected children, the accumulated and publicized terminations, abandonments, abuse, and deaths have put restrictions on Ethiopian adoptions, closed adoptions from Russia, and irrevocably harmed American relations with Russia.
For all these reasons, the most important consideration is not how to respond after-the-fact to those who terminate adoptions but to prevent these tragedies. Peck and others recognize that one of the reasons second placements are successful is that the prospective adopters are fully aware of, and understand the ramifications of, accurate background information. Thus one way to greatly reduce terminated adoptions would be to stop permitting adoptions from orphanages with a track record of providing dishonest and incomplete background information for the children they are offering for adoption. Removing children from their homeland and culture based on false pretenses does not help them or their families and fewer IAs might result in more placements for domestic foster children who cannot be reunified with their original families.
The other factor that seems to increase the success of second placements is placing these special needs children in families in which they are the youngest child. Ethical adoptions arranged in the best interest of children, and not for the fees generated or to meet a demand, would incorporate these limitations on IA.
If adoption agencies were regulated and controlled social service agencies, not businesses with bottom lines -- with or without non-profit tax status -- these procedures that improve outcomes in second placements would be implemented in first placements reducing a great deal of failure, heartache for the families, and rejection for the children.
Struggle continues: DCF not improved since Jeremiah's death, critics say
by Paula J. Owen
WORCESTER — It has been more than a year since the state's Department of Children and Families discovered 4-year-old Jeremiah Oliver was missing while under the agency's care, though he was last seen by family members months before that.
Around four months later, his small body was found stuffed inside a suitcase tossed off of Interstate 190 in Sterling. Following a public outcry about the case, DCF implemented numerous policy changes in 2014 and hired more social workers, but those who work for the embattled agency say the issue that led up to the boy's disappearance is now worse than ever.
Khrystian E. King, a DCF social worker for almost 20 years working in Worcester, said he has never seen caseloads as high as they are for as long a sustained period of time as he has since the Oliver case.
In January 2014, there was an explosion of cases, he said, and a year later, though DCF has hired more people, social workers "are not having the opportunity to practice child welfare in a way that ensures efficacy," he said.
"Caseloads in Worcester and the Central Massachusetts area are at unprecedented levels," Mr. King said. "I can't contribute it to a specific factor, but new policy changes with an emphasis on making sure that kids and families are safe include exhausting all measures towards that end."
Mr. King said several times over the past year he was assigned more than 25 cases, many with multiple children — one case with nine kids — and some social workers have more than 30 cases, including social workers recently hired who are still in their probationary period and are supposed to be learning.
The Child Welfare League of America, called in by Gov. Deval L. Patrick's administration earlier last year to review operations at DCF, has repeatedly recommended caseloads be reduced to 15 or fewer to ensure child safety, and also recommended upgrading technology for social workers and improving training.
At the North Central office in Leominster, which was in charge of protecting the Oliver children, 30 caseworkers each had more than 20 cases, according to social workers in that office, when Jeremiah disappeared. His mother faces child-abuse charges.
Former Commissioner Olga I. Roche and her predecessor, Angelo McClain, signed a memorandum of understanding in 2014 promising caseloads would be reduced to 15 or fewer based on the CWL's recommendations.
Exacerbating the ongoing caseload crisis, Mr. King said, is a directive implemented after the Oliver case for social workers to see every child assigned to them at least once a month — an impossible task for a social worker with a high caseload, he said.
"It is impossible with these types of caseloads. We've become bean counters; often just counting heads," he said. "We still have the intensity of forensic evaluations and engaging with children and families, but there is also this other kind of phenomenon going on where we just see the kid. It is not what policy requires, but (the former) commissioner stood and promised we'd see every kid every month.
"Sometimes to ensure a child is safe, you have to see them additional times, but that doesn't occur because we're going to see the kid at low-risk instead of seeing a kid at high-risk multiple times. We're forced to weigh each evenly. It takes time to develop relationships with social work. It is more than 'eyes-on.' If you have 80 kids on caseloads on a monthly basis, you can't establish relationships that way and you have less of an impact."
He said when DCF provides data on the ratio of cases per social worker, it includes social workers who are not actually working such as those on maternity and medical leaves, and also those social workers who are performing other functions such as court liaisons and outreach workers who do not have any cases.
Social workers are feeling the pressure, Mr. King said. Attrition is a problem and morale is at its lowest, he said.
"They've taken away social workers' clinical discretion that should be based on varying protective factors," Mr. King said. "Workers have left and some of those who stay are going on anxiety medications because they want to do a good job, but can't and it is having an emotional impact on them. It affects their work and how they engage with people. There is a concern that the tremendous weight to manage these high caseloads is detrimental personally, physically and emotionally to our workers."
However, Cayenne Isaksen, DCF spokeswoman, said the ratio of the average-weighted caseload for social workers decreased from 20.2 in June 2014 to 17.8 in November 2014.
That figure is expected to continue to go down as additional staff is hired. DCF has 300 more social workers than it did a year ago, she said.
Interim Commissioner Erin Deveney was not available for an interview.
In a statement via email, Ms. Deveney says, "The Department of Children and Families has worked diligently to build a strong system for protecting children and families across the commonwealth. We are proud of the enhancements we have made strengthening our policies, hiring more than 550 new employees, and distributing nearly 2,400 iPads to keep children safe and families strong. We have accomplished a great deal working with our child welfare partners, and the department is committed to continuing this progress over the coming years."
Social workers allege Ms. Deveney did not request additional funding in the fall to hire more staff as is required under their contract when caseloads are high.
Though asked twice, Ms. Isaksen did not address specifically why the money was not requested, but said in a statement, "Gov. Patrick secured $2.8 million in supplemental funding for DCF's FY14 budget. The Patrick Administration, in partnership with the Legislature, provided an additional $14.2 million for FY15, bringing the current budget to $827 million. Most recently, an additional $2 million carryover from FY14 was approved for the FY15 budget and Gov. Patrick ensured that the Department would not be impacted by 9C cuts, which impacted other agencies."
Jason A. Stephany, spokesman for Service Employees International Union Local 509, which represents caseworkers at DCF, said although progress has been made, DCF is "nowhere near out of the woods, yet."
It takes time for new hires to have a serious impact on caseloads, he said.
More than 700 social workers are still carrying crisis-level caseloads across the state, he said, and social work technician positions cut in 2009 have not been restored, he said.
The technicians provide assistance to social workers by taking children to the doctors and to other appointments.
"Serious allegations of abuse and neglect — that has to take precedence," Mr. Stephany said. "We shouldn't have situations where social workers have to decide to deal with an immediate emergency or if a child gets to a doctor's appointment. It shouldn't be a choice where day-to-day needs fall through the cracks because of emergencies."
He said the union has talked to DCF administrators about restoring the positions, but no action has been taken.
Peter J. MacKinnon, union chapter president, a supervisor in DCF's Lowell office and veteran social worker who has worked at the agency for nearly two decades, said it is impossible for social workers to do their jobs with caseloads in the mid-20s, yet it is pretty common in DCF offices in urban areas.
Offices in Worcester and New Bedford have the highest screen-in rates for cases DCF opens that require additional investigating, he said. "Normal" screen-in rates are 55 to 60 percent, he said. The Worcester West office has the highest rate in the state at 82 percent, Mr. MacKinnon said.
One of former commisioner Roche's directives aimed at improving child safety included the automatic investigation (or screening-in) of any report alleging abuse or neglect of a child 5 or younger in which the parent(s) present any, or a combination, of risk factors: young parents; or parents of any age who have a history of substance abuse, domestic violence, mental-health issues or unresolved childhood trauma.
Mr. MacKinnon said, "In some places it has gotten better, but in some places it absolutely is worse since the Jeremiah Oliver case."
There is a push for managers to make more logical decisions, he said, and "put our necks out there and not screen-in because we shouldn't."
"Morale is the lowest I've seen it," he added. "It is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. With more calls, more cases screened-in and low morale, we're still losing a lot of people. It has created a dangerous situation. Caseloads are too high and we're losing more experienced staff. With all those factors we're not able to get out there and talk to kids and make sure they are safe. We're investigating cases that don't rise to the need of state intervention and cases that do are falling through the cracks. We're doing triage and hoping we don't miss anything and hoping we make the right decisions when that is happening."
Gail Garinger, head of the Office of the Child Advocate, said it will take everyone to ensure the safety of children in Massachusetts.
The OCA's annual report released in December says that allegations of child abuse outside of children's homes rose by 16 percent in 2013 in Massachusetts over the year before in settings including foster homes, day cares and schools.
Also, the report says that in 2013, the OCA received 98 reports of children receiving state services who died or were seriously injured, up from 88 reports in 2012.
"All of us are really trying to avoid kids getting into the system," Ms. Garinger said. "The whole continuum from planned pregnancy to early intervention — it really takes everybody keeping eyes on children's safety and well-being and keeping it a priority. It really takes everybody involved and really looking out for kids to identify issues early on to prevent them from going into the system."
As far as high caseloads go, she said the state has had a hard time just trying to stabilize DCF while it deals with attrition since Jeremiah's body was found.
There is a significant problem with caseloads, she said, as the department attempts to reallocate workers to better distribute caseloads.
More people are reporting abuse, and there are more court cases filed, Ms. Garinger said, adding, "The more attention the issue gets and caseloads are still a problem for many."
According to court data for Worcester County, DCF filed 519 care and protection petitions in Worcester, Milford, Dudley, Leominster and Fitchburg courts in 2013. In 2014, that rose by 117 to 636.
A "C and P case" is a court proceeding in which a juvenile court judge decides whether a child has been or is at risk of serious abuse or neglect by a caretaker, and decides whether the guardian is unfit to care for the child and who will have custody of the child.
The majority of C and P petitions are filed by DCF.
The court is also dealing with an unprecedented number of hearings when an allegation of abuse and neglect is made, according to court data.
First Justice Carol A. Erskine of the Worcester County Juvenile Court said it is not unusual to see a spike in cases after a highly public incident about a child in DCF like the Jeremiah Oliver case.
"We've seen a steady increase in cases in the last fiscal year and already an increase in this fiscal year looking from July to December," Ms. Erskine said. "From the court's perspective, we don't look beyond the filing of the petition and only look at facts. We hold a temporary custody hearing within three days for every case.
"There is no question Worcester County is the busiest juvenile court in the state," she added. "But, we are able to ensure parents and children who have a right to a hearing within three days will get those hearings. Those '72-hour hearings' take precedence."
Going into the new year, child advocates say they are cautiously optimistic that as the new administration comes in with Gov.-elect Charlie Baker at the helm, investments to ensure children's safety will continue.
"Historically, child protection workers have always stood up and spoken out for reforms and investments they believe are needed to keep kids safe," Mr. Stephany said. "Political decisions can place kids at further risk. Now that the election is over, frontline workers are focused on working with the incoming administration to make sure reforms and investments are made. Baker has expressed a commitment to DCF in recent weeks and the blueprint is clear for reform and investments laid out by numerous independent investigations of DCF."
Tim Buckley, spokesman for Mr. Baker, said, "Governor-elect Charlie Baker values the advice and recommendations of the Office of the Child Advocate and the important role numerous organizations play in keeping our children safe, especially those in the state's care.
The Governor-elect's Health and Human Services Secretary-designate Marylou Sudders has worked closely with the Office of the Child Advocate and the administration will work tirelessly to take on the challenges at hand in order to protect Massachusetts' most vulnerable."
Preventing your child from becoming a bully
by Dr. David Schopick
Bullying is an issue in our society like never before, with many pages devoted to the ongoing problem in schools, the added issue of cyberbullying, and the devastating affect it is having on a generation of children. Most parents worry about their child becoming a victim, but for every victim there is a perpetrator, so the other question to ask is how do I prevent my child from becoming a bully?
There is no simple “one size fits all' answer, but there are steps that can be taken to help ensure that your child does not adopt bullying as a behavior. Many of the keys to thwarting this behavior rest with the parents and others who will help raise the child. It is essential that parents step in if inappropriate actions are demonstrated, not only to instruct that this is not acceptable, but to also show the child what is appropriate. Good behavior should then be rewarded with praise and encouragement.
Children start forming behavior patterns in terms of how they interact with others as young as two years old. They also start dealing with feelings of aggression about this time — which is normal — and it is at this point that they start needing help in channeling those feelings. Who has not seen children tussling over a toy or one child snatching a desired object from another? Most of us have, and most children will act this way at some point in time. The key is to make sure it does not become a habit. If a child thinks that taking items by force gets them what they want with no consequence, then this is the road they will choose. As the child gets bigger and stronger behavior that started as simple toy snatching can become more aggressive and troublesome.
In redirecting the behavior, it is important not to yell and scream and also snatch the toy away but rather speak firmly and calmly to the child, indicating that this behavior is wrong and restoring the toy to the child who had it first. The offending child needs to then be shown how to ask to play with the toy. Such redirecting will likely need to be repeated a number of times before it fully takes hold and parents will need to pay attention during playtime. During this period, any time the child is observed asking or indulging in a sharing of toys, he or she should be praised so they understand what is good behavior, not just what is bad.
Hitting may also be common among young children. In the beginning, they do not understand the consequences and are just releasing aggression and watching to see what the response is. Again, it is important to “nip this in the bud,” by firmly indicating that hitting is not acceptable. It may also be useful to try to ascertain what the child thought would be accomplished by hitting. Was it an issue of sharing? Did the other child hit first? Or was the child just out of sorts and taking out anger or frustration? Isolated incidents of hitting are typical, and while they need to be addressed, need not be cause for undue concern. But, if a pattern starts to develop, with a child using hitting as a way to get what he or she wants, then parents must be diligent about correcting this behavior and possibly getting expert advice on determining the source of the aggression and how to modify the behavior.
Teaching by example
Children learn from their parents so it is critical that children see parents exhibiting good behavior when it comes to handling their anger or making requests. If children see parents acting in a bullying fashion, with one ridiculing or intimidating the other, or with hitting involved, then they will copy this pattern. The same holds true in terms of their parents' interaction with others. If children see parents acting politely, fairly, and calmly even when someone else is angry, they will learn that there are better ways to deal with situations than through threats or yelling.
What if your child Is already a bully?
The professional consensus is that those who bully have significant emotional problems themselves. They may be acting out what they experience or see at home or in their community. These are often children with poor self-esteem, low self-worth, and chronic insecurities. Their lack of empathy or compassion for those they hurt often reflects underlying antisocial attitudes.
Families need to look inward to see how conditions and behaviors in the home may be influencing their child's actions and self-perception. Professional help may be needed to help address the family dynamic and help the child improve their behavior. (If there is abuse or neglect within the home, social services may need to be involved.)
Bullies also need to have limits set by those in authority, so it will be essential to work closely with the child's school or with other adults who may oversee activities the child is involved in.
Bullies need not be bullies for life. With proper counseling and encouragement, children can alter their behavior and enter a happy, fulfilling role in society.
Assaulting a partner is more than a mere domestic 'dispute'
Domestic violence is a serious crime, and should not be met with a shrug of the shoulders
by Emer O'Kelly
It was some time in the mid-1990s when I saw a play in Dublin called A Couple of Blaguards (sic) written by brothers Malachy and Frank McCourt. Malachy played himself.
It dated from the 1980s, and purported to be a rollicking comedy of winking, roguish, drunken memoir, and had been described as "a comedy with no tragic or unfortunate overtones".
But in the course of the play, McCourt described - with apparent hilarious intent - the occasion when in a drunken rage, he broke down the door of his ex-wife's flat and assaulted her. High comedy, what? But that was New York, and he served six months in jail for the crime.
With our profound national respect for the institution of marriage, it follows, of course, that we too take domestic violence seriously. So how is it that the recent enquiries into official Garda response to complaints showed up an alarming trend among some members of the force to share what can be called 'the McCourt response?'
The report by the Garda Inspectorate into the way in which victims of serious crime have been ignored over the years, recorded hair-raising incidents of indifference to women seeking help against violent men.
In June 2012, a woman contacted gardai and said her husband had beaten her, and she wanted him arrested. The man had left the house by the time gardai arrived. Ten days later, the woman obtained a barring order. But the incident was not recorded until a year later (after a request from the Garda Inspectorate). It was then recorded on Pulse as a "domestic dispute" and the garda who had failed to record it was "reminded of his responsibilities".
In another incident, a woman went to gardai in a distressed condition, after being kicked and bitten. Despite her visible injuries, gardai were "too busy" to deal with her, and she was told to call back later. She was also advised to deal with the matter herself. A year later she had not been contacted, and the incident was never recorded.
They are only two incidents, recorded as "domestic disputes" when finally listed. The Garda Inspectorate list is a long one, and the contents are available to anybody interested enough to go into the distressing and often lurid details of what has been uncovered.
In other words, official Ireland has woken up. But has it?
The sad stream of cases in the District Family Court, as reported in the Irish Times, would seem to deny it. Last Monday, a woman who was 30 weeks pregnant obtained an interim barring order; evidence was given that in the early hours of Christmas Eve her husband came home from work and woke her up. He told her he was the boss, was "going to finish it", pushed her into the living room, ordered her to strip, and raped her.
Their small son witnessed the attack, but was told by his father to go back to bed. The woman left the house with her child, both in their nightclothes.
At the same court session, another pregnant woman told the judge that her husband objected to the phone conversation she was having with a friend, because "it was disturbing him."
He knocked her down, and pushed her face into the floor, leaving her with a bleeding nose and lip. She called a friend to take her away. But her partner called a religious pastor to talk to her, who told her, "forgive each other and live together". She was, she said, too scared to live with the man.
The following day, another woman obtained a barring order. Her husband had found out she was having an affair and beat her up, but she did not apply for a barring order initially, although she sat outside the District Court "for hours". A month later, he beat her again, and she did obtain what is called a "safety order". This required her partner not to use violence or threaten violence against her.
The week before Christmas, in the course of another row, he got into his car and reversed out of the drive. She wanted him to stop, and banged on the side of the bonnet. He then drove the car into her, the woman claimed. At the full hearing her partner claimed her injuries on previous occasions resulted from him defending himself.
The judge, after seeing photographs of her injuries from the two previous rows, did not accept the man's claim that while he may have "brushed against her" with the car, it was unintentional. A year-long barring order was granted.
The question that springs to my mind in at least some of these instances is simple: are they "domestic disputes" or should they be classified as attempted murder? And should those against whom the orders are granted face such charges, whether their victims are willing to have them charged or not?
Yes, women can be very, very foolish when it comes to dealing with violent men. But it must be accepted that there was a time when they loved them. Sometimes, they still love them, and cannot bring themselves to believe that the men pose a continuing threat. We hear so often of the men who sob on their partners' breasts and swear the violence was "only because they loved them" and it will never happen again. Except that it almost always does.
Women need to be protected in such situations, from themselves as well as from the men who hurt them. There is a basic fact: if a man hits a woman (I am not talking about a slap on the face in the middle of a row, which women as well as men are capable of - not that such behaviour is acceptable in any circumstances) so hard as to mark her, then he is more than capable of killing her if provoked further. And only a foolish woman hangs around until it happens.
But she needs the support of the justice and social authorities. To start with, we don't have enough refuges. And it's been proved that far from designating serious deliberate violence against women as attempted murder, (or at least assault causing grievous bodily harm), there has been what could be called a culture of shoulder-shrugging among gardai.
Maybe it's because of the "Constitutional status" of the family. After all, that was used for generations to throw innocent children to the wolves of an uncaring society. That, at least, is no longer respectably institutionalised. But we are still refusing to accept that domestic violence is criminal violence, not a "dispute." And we need the law to designate it that way.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: WHAT THE IRISH LAW SAYS
Ireland has never implemented mandatory arrest policies that operate in other countries in which police must arrest and charge a suspect if they believe a crime of domestic violence — including assault or threats — has been committed, regardless of the wishes of the victim, writes Allison Bray
Mandatory arrest orders operate in many jurisdictions including 22 states in the USA and all ten provinces in Canada.
But while mandatory arrest was advocated by many women's groups during the 1980s and early 1990s, many campaigners now believe they can be a double-edged sword in which abuse victims were found to be more reluctant to report domestic violence out of fear of escalating violence or retribution, fear of the courts and/or having children taken into custody. Concerns have also been raised about victims also being arrested as well as perpetrators.
However, since 1997, An Garda Siochana has implemented a pro-arrest policy in which gardai can use their discretion to arrest and charge a perpetrator if they have probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed and “the injured party's attitude will not be the determining factor in respect of the exercise of such powers.”
Under the Garda Domestic Violence Intervention policy, arising from the Domestic Violence Act 1996, gardai are required to investigate all reports of domestic violence, including those received from a third party and charge accordingly.
Victims include not only partners in heterosexual relationships, but also those in gay, bisexual or transgender relationships, as well as children and the elderly.
Domestic violence includes physical assault as well as sexual, mental and emotional abuse by a partner or family member and financial abuse or coercion in cases of elder abuse or abuse of the disabled.
Gardai are legally entitled to enter a private dwelling without a warrant as long as they can prove that there was evidence of an attack taking place and that by doing so they were acting “in the defence of life and limb of a person in peril”.
Under the policy, gardai are instructed to separate the assailant and victim when responding to a complaint, to de-escalate the situation and prevent “the possibility of non-verbal intimidation being used.”
Having ascertained the circumstances of the incident and any injuries as well as the emotional states of the victim and assailant, gardai will then seize and retain any physical evidence and preserve any potential crime scene and notify emergency responders if needed.
Gardai will also ascertain whether there is any existing court order in place against the perpetrator, such as a barring order, and have the power to arrest the perpetrator on the spot for breach of such orders. If gardai believe that any children present are at risk of physical, emotional or sexual abuse, or neglect, they are also required to immediately notify the HSE which may seek an order to take the children into care on a temporary or permanent basis.
Gardai are also required to inform the victim of legal redress available to them through the courts and the procedures involved in applying for safety, protection and barring orders.
They are also required to provide victims with information outlining services available to them, such as literature on Women's Aid, the local Rape Crisis Centre, and women's or men's domestic violence support groups.
Due to the ongoing and cyclical nature of domestic violence, gardai must also contact the victim within a month of the incident to provide them with any information on developments in the case.
Once the perpetrator has been arrested, the victim is entitled to give evidence at a bail hearing if he or she has reason to fear harassment or retaliation.
Gardai are required to make a submission objecting to the granting of bail if they believe that intimidation or violence will be used against the victim.
If bail is granted by the court, the victim is entitled to be informed of the perpetrator's bail conditions and is encouraged to report any breach of those conditions to gardai.
Once the perpetrator has been arrested, the victim can apply to the courts for various restraining orders which can be imposed against the perpetrator, including interim barring orders, barring orders, protection and safety orders.
Barring orders are issued by the courts ordering that the alleged perpetrator leave the domestic premises of a victim and/or children and stay away from the premises.
An interim barring order is normally issued as a temporary order which is only in effect until an application for a barring order is made.
A protection order is a temporary order issued by the court while an applicant is in the process of applying for a safety or barring order.
A safety order is also made by the courts, prohibiting a person from using violence or threats of violence against the subject of the order.
Any breach of the above orders are criminal offences.
Trafficking in North Dakota is on the rise, and often the victims can't escape
by Amy Dalrymple and Katherine Lymn
Clayton Louis Lakey scrolls, and girls beckon.
Rather, their sellers do.
Like carnival barkers in an Internet sideshow, they tout their product: young women who will provide companionship. For a price.
"I have girls that are waiting for you to do with as you please," one online ad promises.
Lakey, 34, scrolls through the lurid postings, scores of them offering a break from the tedium and loneliness of his solitary job packing dirt in the Bakken oilfields.
Another ad grabs his attention. "Hot young girls!" it says. "They are experienced and ready to go if you are."
Lakey is ready. With a few clicks, he says he wants a girl. A young girl.
From a distant site, supply negotiates with demand.
"I have a little girl."
"How old is she? Do you have a place to host?"
"13 and yes I have a place to host."
"Can I hook up with her tomorrow when I get off work?"
"Sure, got cash?"
Lakey says he doesn't want to use a condom.
And they talk in text shorthand, buyer and seller, about younger girls.
"What age is ur youngest you have?"
"I have younger, but they're not as experienced as my 13 yo. I got a 10 yo in training but I don't think she's quite ready."
Lakey asks to see a photo, and he discusses paying $5,000 for the 10-year-old girl.
For "it," he says. For owning "it."
He asks how the seller recruits girls to work for him. How do you keep "the product" from running?
He agrees to pay $250 for sex with the 13-year-old.
But when he arrives at the designated tryst stop, he learns the girl doesn't exist, her pimp is a cop, and Lakey is on his way to prison, his twisted yearnings captured in police chat logs and court affidavits.
Over the past six months, Forum News Service has investigated an emerging issue in the Bakken oilfield region of western North Dakota: sex trafficking, including the trafficking of children.
We reviewed hundreds of documents and conducted more than 100 interviews with law enforcement officers, victim service providers, victims rescued from the sex trade and experts who have examined the issue regionally, nationally and internationally.
Our reporting took us from the Dakotas to Washington, D.C., from predators in courtrooms and prostitutes in police cars to top law enforcement agents, high elected officials and victim advocates who once were caught up in "the life" themselves. Our weeklong series begins today.
What we found:
Sex trafficking can be an incredibly lucrative business, but far more for the traffickers than for the women and girls they exploit. Traffickers near and far have shown themselves eager to supply a booming demand in the "market" that is the Bakken.
Sex traffickers operating in North Dakota frequently are engaged in drug trafficking as well, and the extent of that trade is growing, along with the severity of the drugs involved.
Backpage.com, which has replaced Craigslist as the primary Internet prostitution marketplace, daily displays staggering numbers and varieties of sex-for-money ads, especially in pages aimed at growing male-heavy populations in Williston and Minot. But there is disagreement over whether authorities should seek to end the practice, fearing the ads could migrate to sites less easy for police to monitor -- or use to set up stings.
While many people may see prostitution as a life of choice, advocates and others close to the issue increasingly resist that characterization: Most of the women engaged in prostitution actually are victims, they say, and need to be treated as such. And while North Dakota lawmakers will consider a proposal this year to decriminalize prostitution in the case of minors, advocates insist more change is needed in societal attitudes and authorities' approaches to the problem.
Due to the nature of trafficking, women and girls caught up in the sex trade often go undetected and unaided until they have arrest records, mangled credit histories and other bruises that make it difficult to escape what they call "the life."
North Dakota service providers, including staff at domestic violence shelters, report seeing a growing number of women and girls they believe to be victims of trafficking, but the state has no dedicated shelters for trafficking victims and the facilities that offer such services are 500 or more miles from the Oil Patch.
Law enforcement agencies and victim service providers in western North Dakota, even if inclined to help, are maxed out, struggling to keep up with all the demands of a booming population and the crime that has followed. With the recent drop in oil prices projected to cut into state oil tax revenue, advocates for shelters, more investigators, more mental health and other social service providers may be competing for funds from a diminished pot.
The business of trafficking
As local, state and federal authorities look to ramp up pressure on sex trafficking in the region, the initial arrest and conviction numbers may not seem terribly shocking.
In the past year, federal and state courts in North Dakota have charged seven people with offenses related to sex trafficking or felony facilitating or promoting prostitution. The cases involve allegations in Bismarck, Minot, Williston and Dickinson, including the case of one man who pleaded guilty to enticing women to travel to the "fracking areas" to work as prostitutes and two accused of operating brothels in Oil Patch cities.
More than a dozen men were convicted in the state in 2014 in federal and state courts for seeking to buy sex with underage girls. The sting that resulted in charges against Lakey snared so many prospective johns it had to be shut down early.
Paula Bosh, who has worked as a victim specialist with the FBI in Minot for 11 years, never encountered a human trafficking case until recently. She now estimates she has worked with 12 adult victims of sex trafficking in northwest North Dakota in the past 1½ years.
"They seem to be coming from all over," said Bosh, a lifelong North Dakota resident.
She attributes the increase to a combination of increased activity in the state and a change in attitude about sex trafficking nationally that may contribute to more reporting.
"I think with greater awareness comes greater reporting," Bosh said. "We've just got to be ready for what to do when the reports come in."
The influx of young, unaccompanied men working high-paying oil jobs fuels the market for trafficking in the Bakken, said Siddharth Kara, a Harvard researcher who has traveled the world interviewing victims and traffickers.
The male-female ratio in western North Dakota - two busy Dickinson bars that scan IDs put it at 3-1 last year - exacerbates that demand.
With communities still catching up to the challenges of rapid growth, a general lack of awareness and strained law enforcement resources, the risk of getting caught is diminished.
Another factor complicating the issue: Drug crimes increased 19.5 percent from 2012 to 2013 in North Dakota, and many of the same people trafficking drugs are involved in sex trafficking, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said.
"Everybody used to specialize, and now they're diversifying," Stenehjem said. "They're all tied together."
But the money is certainly there in the sex business, too.
"Traffickers and pimps are already three steps ahead thinking there's an opportunity to make some money," Kara told Forum News Service in a recent interview. Those engaged in human trafficking consider it to be a high-profit, low-risk business, he said.
In his book, "Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery," Kara estimated that North American profits from trafficked sex slaves were $581 million in 2007.
Polaris, a national anti-trafficking organization, does the math: A trafficker who has a "stable" of three women with a quota of $500 a night each, seven days a week, could "earn" more than $500,000 tax-free in a year.
The same staggering numbers also quantify the "trauma experience" suffered by a woman under an ambitious pimp's control. A quota of five customers a night means 1,825 forced sexual encounters a year.
Globally, 4.5 million people are victims of forced sexual exploitation, according to an estimate by the International Labor Organization.
North Dakota under scrutiny
Adults who are coerced or forced into engaging in prostitution through the use of violence, threats, lies or other tactics are considered victims of sex trafficking under federal law. Anyone under age 18 who is involved in commercial sex is considered a victim regardless of whether force, fraud or coercion are involved.
In 2013, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimated that one in seven endangered runaways reported to them was likely a sex trafficking victim.
The issue has attracted more attention in North Dakota lately because of the rapid population growth, especially in young, unattached men with lots of money and limited social opportunities. But it is hardly new.
Kara, considered an authority on human trafficking, said sex slavery has been more present in rural America than many people realize, and anecdotal evidence from western North Dakota prior to the oil boom seems to bear that out.
Heidi Carlson, who was recruited into prostitution as a Minnesota college student, said she traveled a circuit in the 1980s that included the Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Nebraska.
"I've always known North Dakota as a spot that's got a lot of trafficking," said Carlson, who has since worked to help trafficking victims in the Twin Cities. "There were no man camps when I was in North Dakota. It was all the community guys."
But the oil boom has put a brighter spotlight on North Dakota and the issue of human trafficking, drawing several rounds of national media attention and a recent visit to Williston by a senior human trafficking adviser for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Polaris sent a staff member from Washington, D.C., to North Dakota last year to provide training sessions. Polaris CEO Bradley Myles said people who track online ads for commercial sex noticed a spike in the Bakken region, and anecdotal reports from victim advocates and nonprofit groups also raised red flags.
People are wondering, Myles said. "Is this a new hotspot for human trafficking, both sex trafficking and labor trafficking, of U.S. citizens and immigrants?"
That concern brought Windie Lazenko to North Dakota.
The victim advocate and sex trafficking survivor traveled to Williston from Florida in the fall of 2013 to survey the area, planning to report back to national groups.
But she stayed in the region and is assisting sexually exploited women and girls more than a year later through her organization, 4her North Dakota.
"I was so overwhelmed and broken over the amount of human trafficking that's going on here," Lazenko said. "There were no resources. There was not one person in the entire state of North Dakota that was working in human trafficking, serving victims or even doing training or education."
It is mouse-click easy now for women and johns to connect. Sites like Backpage.com host the ads, and meetings can be arranged without a woman ever having to be seen soliciting sex.
Backpage.com has as many as 70 commercial sex ads in a typical night for Williston and sometimes 100 or more for Minot.
Minneapolis police Sgt. Grant Snyder, who trains law enforcement officers on human trafficking, was concerned about the potential for trafficking in the Bakken and monitored Backpage ads west of Bismarck for four months. He found that 70 percent of the ads had been posted in a different state the previous week.
"That's shocking," Snyder said. "Nobody else has that issue. Even (Las) Vegas, where there's a high population of transient victims that come and go, they don't have those kind of numbers."
Traffickers often move from city to city to stay off the radar, Michael Osborn, chief of the FBI's Violent Crimes Against Children unit, told Forum News Service in a recent interview.
"Their belief and part of their methodology is if I can hop city to city, I have less opportunity of being identified as a repeat offender in one city," Osborn said.
Some perceive the women on Backpage.com as opportunists moving to the Bakken eagerly to earn big money and that they are engaging in a "victimless crime." Attitudes are shifting, however, as reflected in a recent comment by Tim Purdon, U.S. attorney for North Dakota.
"My belief is that a lot more people involved in prostitution are being forced into it through some form of force, fraud or coercion," Purdon said.
Drugs, alcohol, depression
Clayton Louis Lakey was the first conviction from more than a dozen men arrested in "Operation Vigilant Guardian," a federal sting targeting men in Dickinson and Williston who were seeking to purchase sex with minors.
One still has a plea agreement pending, and one is set to go to trial next year.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Delorme told the judge during Lakey's sentencing that the catch-a-predator operations work, and they can prevent children from being abused in the Bakken.
"The money that's flooding in, the people that are flooding in, there's a problem out there," Delorme said.
But Heather McCord Mitchell, a federal public defender who represented Lakey and met with several of the defendants from the sting, told the judge that the problems arise from more than the money flowing into the Bakken. A majority of the men were having difficult times with nowhere to turn, she said during Lakey's sentencing hearing.
"It's a lot of men who are away from their families, isolated, lonely, many grappling with severe depression," she said. There is considerable alcohol and drug use in the area, and a lack of services, particularly a lack of mental health services, adds to the feeling of isolation, she said.
McCord Mitchell doesn't necessarily think Lakey or the other men are predators and noted that many had lived mostly law-abiding lives.
"People do incredibly stupid things when they're suffering from depression and they're isolated and they have no support systems," she said.
Bill Schmidt, another federal public defender who represented some of the defendants from the sting, argued for a lesser sentence in another case, pointing out that none of the cases involved underage victims. "I think there are far bigger fish to fry in western North Dakota than undercover sting operations," he said.
But U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland responded that he wishes law enforcement agencies had resources to do more stings to "curtail the chaos the oil boom has created."
"These are troublesome crimes," Hovland said during a court hearing. "We have a problem in this state, and we have to do something about it."
Underage and undetected
It's unclear how many underage girls are being forced into prostitution in North Dakota, but national statistics show that the average age of entry into prostitution is 12 to 14.
Police in Moorhead, Minn., rescued a 13-year-old sex trafficking victim in June after responding to a suspicious ad on Backpage.com. The girl was a runaway from the Twin Cities.
Grand Forks police have encountered two underage sex trafficking victims in the past two years, said Lt. Jim Remer. One case involved a 17-year-old girl, and the trafficker was recently sentenced in a federal case in Minnesota.
Claudine O'Leary, who works with teens who have been trafficked in Milwaukee, said she's identified at least 10 underage victims who were trafficked in North Dakota in the past three years.
And while the trafficking cases prosecuted so far in North Dakota have not involved underage victims, the strong response to stings that advertise underage girls using keywords on Craigslist and Backpage indicate underage victims likely are in the state, Attorney General Stenehjem said.
"If these people are out making the calls and responding to these advertisements thinking there are young girls, it must be because there are some available," Stenehjem said. "Because otherwise the word would get around, there's no point to call, all these ads advertising these young girls are cops, are stings. That's not what's happening."
'I don't know how I could have even did it'
Lakey, the oilfield worker caught up in the November 2013 Dickinson sting, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in May to a charge of coercion and enticement. He was sentenced to five years in prison, followed by 10 years of supervised release. He also must register as a sex offender.
He did not respond to a letter requesting an interview sent to him in prison.
He was legally separated from his wife, he told a federal judge, and had been working in North Dakota for three years, trying to make enough money to get a better place and seek custody of his 5-year-old daughter.
"I was just going through a hard time and lonely," Lakey told the judge.
He said he was earning $5,000 a month doing "solids control" on drilling rigs, drying and storing dirt brought up by drilling. He worked 12-hour days for two weeks, then had two weeks off.
"Well, I was working a real – a one-person job and really didn't have anybody to talk to or anything like that," he said in court. "And I just got bored and doing – looking back at this now, it just -- I don't know how I could have even did it."
But he did. He arranged to pay to have unprotected sex with a 13-year-old girl. And he asked an undercover agent for his "secrets" on how he, too, could recruit a girl.
Rob Fontenot, an investigator with the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, was involved with the sting.
"What was scary ... was that he would refer to the child as 'it'. As in, 'It's' an object, not a human being. How do you keep 'it' from running away?" Fontenot said.
"As a parent and a cop and a human being … it's shocking to think those people are really out there."
Letter to the Editor
Victim calls for Syracuse Catholic bishop to release all information on priest sex abuse
To the Editor:
I am an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse inflicted by Thomas Neary, a former priest of the Diocese of Syracuse. The Diocese of Syracuse Review Board found my accusation of sexual abuse against Thomas Neary credible.
The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People mandates the diocese engage in open and transparent communications with the public about the sexual abuse of minors. The Diocese of Syracuse Child and Youth Protection Policy states the diocese "will communicate openly" with the media, faith community and the public regarding child sexual abuse and related issues.
Therefore, as the highest authority of the Diocese of Syracuse, and in accordance with the charter and the policy, I call on Bishop Robert Cunningham to authorize the release the names and all documents of all priests, dead or alive, where the Review Board has found a credible accusation of abuse.
The release of the names of these priests and related documents does not impact the privacy of any survivor and will facilitate in the making of reparations to survivors as mandated by the charter.
Failure to release this information is designed solely to protect the financial and other interests of the Diocese of Syracuse. The failure to release such information is not in the best interests of survivors and comes at their expense.
What doesn't kill you doesn't necessarily make you stronger
by Virgie Townsend -- senior editor at the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials
When I was 15, I attended a writing workshop with a girl who had been sexually abused by a family member, trauma that she explored in her poetry. She said she was offended when people told her: “I'm really sorry that happened to you.” She felt like they were saying they wanted to change her, so she'd reply: “Don't be. It made me who I am today.”
I also grew up with violence, terrified of a parent who was verbally and physically abusive, and drove drunk with me and my siblings in the backseat. Sometimes this parent would threaten to choke me with a dog collar or would fire off shotgun rounds overhead for the fun of seeing the rest of the family cower. I am glad my classmate found a way to cope with her past, but I can't be grateful for mine.
I would have been better off without that dog collar, without those years of fear. After such episodes, I was so exhausted that I couldn't concentrate on my homework. I repeatedly failed state math exams. My immune system was weak. As a child, I had frequent, unexplained fevers, which baffled my pediatrician and led him to test me for cancer.
It was difficult for me to make friends because of the pressure I felt to keep my home life a secret. Between the abuse and my innate shyness, I mostly avoided other kids, which was easy because I was home-schooled until ninth grade. I tried to stay quiet around my peers; I didn't want to draw attention. And I constantly second-guessed how I acted around them, afraid that I might disgust or anger others, too.
It's human nature to believe that our difficulties carry extra meaning, that they are not in vain. Although suffering is undesirable, it's supposed to help us grow. We want our pain to make sense, to somehow be edifying. In the words of Friedrich Nietzsche and Kelly Clarkson: What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
This sentiment goes back to our country's founding, with Pilgrims arriving on these shores only to struggle against disease, hunger, rough weather and difficult terrain. In school we're taught that they were tenacious, learned to live off the land and became our forebearers. We hear less about the Native Americans and colonists who died to make that victory possible. History is written by those who survive to tell it.
This road from suffering to strength appears in our tales of redemption, from the mistreated Cinderella to the sickly young Teddy Roosevelt and Helen Keller to current celebrities such as Drew Barrymore and Oprah. “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet,” Keller wrote in her 1936-1937 journal. “Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”
It's true that we benefit from life's normal and healthy challenges: We may learn how to resolve disagreements with loved ones or be inspired by teachers who push us to do our best. However, I cringe when I hear the same idea applied to deeper suffering: the emotional or physical experience of being harmed or threatened.
Researchers have found that, far from being empowering, traumatic incidents often have long-term negative consequences. Adverse childhood experiences — which health professionals define as poverty, abuse, neglect and other traumas — can result in toxic stress, which wreaks havoc on the body. In work published in 2012, Harvard researchers found that people who had been mistreated as children had, on average, a 6 percent loss in volume in their hippocampi, a part of the brain involved with learning and memory. Toxic stress also damages the prefrontal cortex, which is linked to social behavior and decision-making, and the cardiovascular and immune systems.
The result is that childhood traumas increase risks for cancer, heart disease, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, sexually transmitted diseases, poor school performance, substance abuse, fetal death and teen pregnancy, among other problems. According to the 2011-2012 National Survey of Children's Health, more than 22 percent of U.S. children have dealt with two or more adverse experiences. In 2014, the Center for Youth Wellness released a report finding that more than 61 percent of California adults had at least one adverse childhood experience — and that those with four or more were five times as likely to suffer from depression, three times as likely to binge drink or engage in risky sexual behavior, and almost two times as likely to get cancer. And a 2009 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reported that people who had six or more adverse childhood experiences died, on average, 20 years sooner than those who had none.
These findings cut against the belief that good things must come from bad. Not only do terrible things happen to people, but those terrible things trigger biological responses that often set people up for more problems.
I'm fortunate to have survived my childhood, and that my parent sought help and eventually apologized. Additionally, I was fortunate that my parents could afford to send me to therapy, SAT tutoring, and a private school where a thoughtful teacher offered me guidance and encouragement.
Some of my friends were not so privileged and, therefore, not so lucky. One grew up poor and suffered repeated sexual abuse. She developed an eating disorder, which resulted in the beginning stages of heart failure when she was in her early 20s.
By perpetuating the belief that pain is edifying, we place the onus on survivors to heal themselves — and we deemphasize the value of prevention and support services. Suffering is not what fortifies the soul or clears our vision. What makes people stronger is working with others to overcome trauma. Giving and receiving help gives suffering meaning, not the suffering alone.
Psychologists have found that crafting stories of redemption and triumph out of negative experiences can help people become happier, healthier and more interested in helping others. We tell ourselves that we have overcome adversity, and in the telling, we begin to believe it. In the believing, we begin to make it true.
But this is not a process that happens naturally: Researchers say children build these skills through conversations with parents and other trusted adults, such as teachers and mental health professionals. Our communities need better strategies to prevent the effects of violence and counter poverty. Increasing access to affordable child care, quality parenting programs, and mental health and substance-abuse services would be a good place to start. As individuals, we can push for those changes.
I sometimes wonder what it would have been like if my siblings and I had grown up feeling loved and safe. I'll never know, but I'm deeply grateful to the people who helped me begin to heal. So I tell myself the following story: I was once a kid who both loved and feared a parent. I could have been killed, but I wasn't. Instead, enough people helped me that I grew up to have a happy life. Maybe one day I'll have to fight a serious disease that stems in part from my childhood terror; perhaps it's brewing inside me now. Until then, maybe I can do something that helps someone else. Maybe that will give that dog collar a new meaning.
Walworth County advocates for child abuse victims do it for the kids
by Andrea Anderson
ELKHORN, Wis. — Twenty-six years ago, Paula Hocking realized helping child victims of sensitive crimes was what she was meant to do.
On her first field visit as a member of the Walworth County Child Abuse and Neglect Team, she went to a home to investigate allegations of physical abuse. She found out the children were being sexually abused as well.
"That was really my first aha moment. If I really want to be a social worker and work with kids, I need to help kids," she said. "I never looked back."
Hocking, a forensic interviewer and manager of the Walworth County Child Advocacy Center and member of Walworth County Alliance for Children, has completed more than 5,000 forensic interviews, The Janesville Gazette (http://bit.ly/1xucwYQ) reported.
"I do it because I believe in kids," Hocking said. "When you work with kids, there is nothing better than to connect with a child and have that child be able to tell you the most difficult things and know you're going to be able to help them."
Day in and day out, Hocking sensitively gathers information from victims of physical or sexual abuse as the children recount horrors in their lives.
Listening to children explain their abuse is taxing. The supportive community, the kids, lots of laughter with co-workers and a team of professionals Hocking works with daily is what keeps her going, she said.
"Burnout would be really quick if we didn't have the people we have doing this," she said. "Everyone who comes through the door here, I think, has that same feeling. They believe in the child, and they're going to do the best job they can to try and figure it out."
When children are interviewed, they go to the Tree House in Elkhorn across from the sheriff's office. The inviting, warm building designed to look like a home offers services to children and families affected by sexual and physical abuse.
At the Tree House, children are introduced to the people involved in the case. Depending upon the case, the team usually includes law enforcement, a prosecutor from the district attorney's office, a child advocate, a social worker and Hocking.
Hocking's interviews with children are video recorded while team members sit in a separate room and watch.
Hocking doesn't rush children.
"Kids will disclose when they're ready to disclose," she said. "When kids are ready to disclose, we know as professionals they might not be ready to disclose everything. In fact, it's more likely they're not telling us everything that happened and they're testing the waters with us."
Hocking follows protocols developed by Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, which runs the advocacy program at the Tree House. She asks open-ended questions and simpler, unrelated questions to gauge memory recall and openness and to put the kids at ease.
The protocols result in a strong interview that helps prosecution, she said.
Valerian Powell, assistant district attorney, attends forensic interviews. About 80 percent of his caseload is crimes against children, and it's a caseload he wanted.
Before Powell joined the district attorney's office this year, he was a private attorney who sometimes questioned the importance of his work. Now, he arrives to work each morning knowing he's doing the right thing, he said.
Prosecuting sensitive crimes is not easy, Powell said, and the interview quality is vital.
"We do win or lose often based on the quality of the interview," he said. "If it's a young child, that may be the only testimony at a trial. Sometimes when a child is confronted with an abuser in court, they close up. We need a really good interview to prove a case and win a case."
Not forming an emotional attachment can be difficult, and you have to keep a professional distance, Powell said.
To keep going, he focuses on the facts of each case, strives for justice and leans on Hocking and other team members.
"(When) you read a criminal complaint, you have an emotional reaction to it," Powell said. "You don't really get desensitized to children who are abused. It's always awful to see it. That's part of what keeps me going."
Working with a team and having hobbies and distractions outside of work is what people involved in this line of work need, said Mark Lyday, director of Children's Hospital of Wisconsin's Child Advocacy and Protection Services. He was formerly a forensic interviewer.
"The people who are successful at this are the people, year after year, who get what they need from the job and co-workers, and go home and watch their kid play high school basketball and not think about it," Lyday said. "If you can't put this down and walk away from it, you're not going to be doing it very long."
Discipline is what keeps Hocking on task and able to continue her job.
She doesn't watch any crime TV, and living outside Walworth County gives her a degree of detachment, she said.
When a child arrives for an interview, she shows respect and sympathy while keeping her distance and focusing on the job she needs to do well to help the child.
"You're with that child, and you want that child to believe in you, and you want to do your best work for that child," Hocking said. "The truth is there's going to be another case that walks through that door, and you have to build and move on and let the others around you continue to do the work."
The others are the team of professionals who come together for each child's case.
Having a team is standard, but it's the community support that sets Walworth County apart, Lyday said.
The Tree House was built, in large part, with donations and volunteered time. It was a dream for 25 years, Hocking said.
Now, it's home to some of the most difficult work in the county.
"You forget how many people out there have been victimized," Hocking said. "And the people that come and say 'Thank you for building this because that happened to me' ... I think that is something that is heartwarming."
Father lied about knowledge of child's sex abuse, police say
by Whitney Evans
PERRY, Box Elder County — Investigators say the father of a child whose nude photo was allegedly taken and sold by the child's mother lied to them about his knowledge of the abuse.
Brian Dean Raehal, 55, was charged on Dec. 23 with obstructing justice, a second-degree felony, and failure to report abuse, a class B misdemeanor.
Detectives believe Starla Rae McCabe, 45, of Perry, photographed and sold nude photos of her grade school-aged child. She was charged in December with 10 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, a second-degree felony.
In March, a relative discovered nude photographs of the child on the child's Nintendo DSI, according to a search warrant affidavit. Three days later, the child was interviewed by the Division of Child and Family Services and told a caseworker that McCabe had taken "loads" of pictures of the child "without any clothes on," the affidavit states.
The child told investigators that the "mother would then show the pictures to men," according to the affidavit. The child also said the mother "printed the pictures and sold them to people for $100," another court document states.
The Nintendo was turned over to the Garland City Police Department, which turned it over to the Box Elder County Sheriff's Office in November. Nineteen pornographic pictures were found on the Nintendo, police said.
McCabe, who has a history of drug abuse, was interviewed by detectives on Nov. 26. She told investigators she took pictures of her child's genitals to show the child "what it looks like," then declined to answer other questions about the photos, a detective wrote.
Raehal, the father of the child, "lied to a detective about his knowledge regarding the detective's investigation into an aggravated child sex abuse case," charging documents state, and "also failed to report the allegation of the sexual abuse to authorities, when the victim disclosed it."
A preliminary hearing for Raehal on the two charges is scheduled for Monday. A preliminary hearing for McCabe on the exploitation charges is scheduled for Jan. 12.
Two fetuses found on side of southern California street
n"Two fetuses were found on Friday wrapped in a blanket that had been ditched on the side of a residential southern California street, authorities said.
The San Diego County Sheriff's Office said in a statement that the fetuses, both of them at least 20-weeks-old and fully formed, were discovered on Friday afternoon in the city of Fallbrook.
"Each fetus had its own umbilical cord, which were both still attached to one placenta," the statement said.
The Los Angeles Times newspaper said the fetuses were first discovered by a resident who initially believed they were dolls.
The local medical examiner's office will conduct an autopsy to determine the exact cause of death, the statement said.
Further details were not immediately available.
Famed attorney Alan Dershowitz fights accusations of sexual assault
by Ashe Schow
Unlike other celebrities and politicians who have allowed sexual assault accusations to ruin their careers, attorney Alan Dershowitz is fighting back early — and hard.
Dershowitz, a Harvard Law professor and outspoken critic of how colleges have been handling sexual assault, was accused of having sex with an underage girl by a former witness against billionaire investor Jeffrey Epstein.
Dershowitz categorically denied the allegation, calling it “totally, unequivocally and completely false.”
The woman, identified in court papers as Jane Doe #3, made the allegations last Tuesday against Dershowitz and several prominent Europeans — including Britain's Prince Andrew.
Jane Doe #3's complaint accuses Dershowitz and others of taking part in Epstein's transgressions. Her lawsuit accuses federal prosecutors in Florida of violating the law by not consulting with Epstein's victims before arranging a deal requiring the investor to be sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Jane Doe #3 mentioned several occasions in which she allegedly had sexual relations with Dershowitz. Dershowitz says he has documentation to prove he couldn't have been in the same place as Jane Doe #3 at the times she claims, except once. And in that one instance, he was there with his family.
"I'm planning to file disbarment charges against the two lawyers who signed this petition without even checking the manifests of airplanes or travel itineraries, et cetera," Dershowitz told Politico. "I'm also challenging the young woman and the lawyers to level those charges against me outside of the courtroom, so that I can sue them for defamation. ... Finally, I'm challenging the woman to file criminal charges against me because the filing of false criminal charges is a crime."
Healing from Trauma support group
Webster County Victim Assistance Program is starting a support group for adults victimized by domestic violence, sexual violence, elderly abuse, adult survivors of child abuse, stranger violence and teen violence. The group is called Healing from Trauma. It is a free community support group, open to those 18 years and older of all genders and meeting twice a month.
This group will be a mix of connecting with other survivors, learning healthy coping skills and processing unresolved trauma. First sessions are from 1-2 p.m. Jan. 16 and Jan. 30. Attendees must register before attending.
Contact WCVAP at 859-7129, or email Info@wcvap.org for more details, including location.
John Mann MP says scale of historical child abuse claims 'too many for state'
The number of victims claiming historical child abuse could reach the tens of thousands and is too many for the state to cope with, an MP says.
John Mann, who has given a dossier of allegations of historical abuse to Scotland Yard, told the Today programme victims wanted a national institute.
The Labour MP for Bassetlaw said the government needed victims' confidence.
It comes after Baroness Butler-Sloss cautioned against giving victims too much influence over who led the probe.
The retired judge, who stepped down as head of a planned public inquiry into historical child abuse, said there could be "real problems" if victims were to decide who is its eventual chair.
John Mann said the state could not deal with the numbers of people coming forward
She also told BBC Radio 4's Today she has "enormous sympathy" for the victims.
The inquiry, sparked by claims of paedophiles operating in Westminster in the 1980s, is set to investigate whether "public bodies and other non-state institutions have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse in England and Wales".
The panel has started work but has no-one to lead it after its first two nominations resigned. Mrs May, who is still considering the format of the inquiry, has told the current panel it might be disbanded.
Dozens of survivors have called for the government to scrap the current inquiry and replace it with a more powerful body.
Mr Mann said: "It's not just about who chairs an inquiry, it's about what the remit of an inquiry should be, who else should be sat on that inquiry, who should be advising it."
He said there was far too much emphasis "on an individual".
"As an example, one of the things that survivors' groups are calling for in the discussions I've had with them is for government to set up a national institute to take forward this work on what you do with all these people coming forward.
"Probably, it's going to be many tens of thousands of people across the country.
"The state can't deal with the numbers of people coming forward.
"The police and social services cannot cope with the volume that's there, even now. And we're hardly at the beginning of people coming forward."
Baroness Butler-Sloss said she was 'not unsuitable' for the job of chairwoman
"It's people in authority, for example in the police, for example at the top of local authorities, who failed to act over the years and have failed to act when some of these people came forward in the past.
"I'm getting vast numbers of people, including my constituents, coming forward making allegations. Many of those people came forward in the past and weren't listened to or weren't believed.
"And that's a key part of the problem. What do you do with people making allegations against people, and nothing was done in the past, when the people they're making allegations against in some cases are dead.
Lady Butler-Sloss stood down earlier this year amid claims she faced a conflict of interest because her late brother, Sir Michael Havers, was attorney general at the time of some of the alleged abuse.
Speaking to the Today programme, of which she was guest editor on Wednesday, Lady Butler-Sloss said "there has to be a victim voice on the panel" but the survivors should not be able to chair it themselves or choose who fills the position.
She said: "You need someone who knows how to run things and if you get someone from an obscure background, with no background of establishment, they'll find it very difficult and may not be able actually to produce the goods."
Of disclosure in cases of child sexual abuse
by Nitya Menon
It is important to create an atmosphere of trust to enable a child to talk about the sexual abuse she or he has undergone, said Peter W. Choate, assistant professor of Child Studies and Social Work at Mount Royal University in Canada.
“A reality we have to realise is that children who have been subject to sexual violence of any kind, almost always, do not disclose the assault during their childhood,” he went on to explain. The need to create an environment of trust where disclosure is encouraged is critical, he noted. “More often than not, a child who confesses to have been abused is telling the truth. His or her courage in coming out must be acknowledged.”
Mr. Choate also pointed out that while the child is of primary concern, the rest of the family also required as much attention. “Very often, the offender is a person known to the family. Not only has the child been subject to a betrayal of a relationship, but also the family.” He spoke to The Hindu recently, when he was in Chennai to conduct a workshop on Forensic and Therapeutic Interviewing. The event, which was organised by Tulir -Centre for the Prevention and Healing of Child sexual abuse, was attended by councillors, educationists, and teachers and engaged specifically with how to deal with child sexual abuse disclosures.
For this, an investment in formulating support systems and infrastructure like child protection organisations, and therapy centres needs to be made at a policy level, he said.
Apart from systemic changes, he also spoke of how the process of healing is one which is complex, and without a quick fix. “You don't want the child to be defined by the trauma. Over time, the hope is that this will be only a part of what the child defines himself or herself as.”
For any child who makes an attempt at disclosure, the only prerequisite is to be heard and acknowledged, he explained.
Holding the offender accountable is paramount, yet it is the question of whether the child feels safe again that must remain the focus he cautioned. “The first step really is beginning a conversation on child sexual abuse among all stakeholders. The only thing that must not happen, is for someone to ignore the story.”
‘Child-sex abuse victims in Rotherham still not getting enough support'
VICTIMS OF child sexual exploitation are still not getting the help they need to cope with their trauma because of a lack of resources to provide counselling and therapy, according to the former senior social worker whose report exposed the true scale of the Rotherham abuse scandal.
Professor Alexis Jay says many of the children abused as teenagers in the South Yorkshire district between 1997 and 2013 have been known to self-harm or suffer mental health problems after being discarded by their attackers.
But she says therapeutic services needed to help victims with their mental scars are not widely enough available and those that are offered are too difficult to access.
Charity Victim Support has called for abuse victims to be given help straight away, but says some are being wrongly told that having therapy could affect the testimony they give to police.
And a children's mental health charity says a lack of funding has left local services in crisis and means “only the children with the most severe illness receive care”.
NHS officials in the district say they have recently given extra training to GP practices to spot the signs of child sex abuse and have increased capacity for “talking therapy services” for victims.
Professor Jay's report, published in August, gave 1,400 as a conservative estimate of the number of victims in Rotherham over 16 years.
She told The Yorkshire Post that some of the victims' ordeals started when they are as young as 11, and that they are likely to be discarded by the age of 15 or 16.
She added: “Many are filled with guilt and self-loathing and some self-harm or even attempt suicide. Others may be addicted to drink or drugs, as a result of how they were groomed into exploitation and abuse.
“There are simply not enough resources across the country to give these young victims the type of support and therapeutic help which many if them will need. A further issue is that some will need this kind of support for long periods, either continuously or from time to time. This is not just a problem in Rotherham but across the country.
“Whilst there are some very good projects led by both the council and the NHS the services are not customised and haven't made themselves accessible enough to the young victims.
“We heard of occasions where parents paid for private consultations for their daughters as it was a six month waiting list or a year.”
Professor Jay's report concluded in August that children as young as 11 were raped by multiple perpetrators, abducted, trafficked to other cities in England, beaten and intimidated. It said there had been “blatant” collective failures by council and police leaders.
During her research, she spoke to Rotherham's Director of Public Health, who said awareness of sexual exploitation in the health service only came at the end of the 2000s but that there had been marked improvements recently.
Her report added: “Both the Director of Public Health and two NHS Rotherham staff thought that local agencies should provide more consistent and longer term counselling and other supports to victims of sexual exploitation.”
One victim, 29, known as ‘Jessica', who was raped and abused for two years, this year launched an online petition to try to increase pressure on the Government to release funding to help child sexual exploitation victims.
Since only recently started receiving therapy through the Rotherham Women's Counselling Service, but says dozens of local abuse victims are still waiting to be seen.
She said: “It is early days but the woman I speak to is really good and I feel really comfortable talking to her. I was on a few waiting lists. One I spoke to said they had appointments available and would send a letter through in the post but I never received it.”
Sarah Brennan of charity YoungMinds, said mental health services for children and young people have been “chronically underfunded” for decades.
She said: “Whilst the Government has prioritised children and young people's mental health, spending in local areas, where lives are directly affected, does not reflect this - so now we are seeing services in crisis.
“Every day we hear from parents...desperate for help for their child. They either cannot access services or they are stuck for months on a waiting list. Clinicians tell us that their services are at breaking point.”
Christine Empson, South Yorkshire manager of the charity Victim Support, said: “Anyone who is a victim of abuse in childhood should, as a matter of routine, be offered appropriate therapy as soon as they come forward. Yet we still hear some victims are told this could affect their testimony, which is not true. Abuse victims have the right to get help straight away, not least as it could be as long as two years before the court case is over and because some cases never go to trial.”
A spokeswoman for the British Psychological Society, which represents the UK's psychologists, said: “Difficulties in accessing psychological therapies don't just impact on victims of child sexual exploitation, and psychological therapies are not the only element of support that would be needed by victims.”
A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said it funded Female Rape Support Centres with more than £4m a year and had just announced that a further £2.15m will be given to all 84 existing centres.
Sue Cassin, Chief Nurse of NHS Rotherham clinical commissioning group, said: “Early in 2014, [we] recognised a need to enhance health support services for victims and have invested in improving access throughout the year.
“In addition, since the Alexis Jay report was published our focus has been on increasing awareness of CSE, identifying potential victims of abuse and ensuring the appropriate support services they need are available when they need them.
“People's first contact with health in Rotherham is normally their local GP, therefore we have made it a priority to train over 650 GP practice staff in recognising signs of sexual exploitation.
“We have also increased the capacity of our talking therapy services for children and adults, concentrating on supporting new and existing CSE victims.”
More children under the radar of social services in Newcastle now than in the past 10 years, new figures show
by Ruth Lognonne
The number of children under the radar of social services in Newcastle is the highest it has been for 10 years, figures reveal.
The city has historically had higher than average rates of children in care and child protection cases compared to other North East authorities.
But the number of children becoming the subject of a Child Protection Plan leapt by 23% in 2014 compared to 2013.
This is the highest it has been for a decade, according to the Newcastle Safeguarding Children Board's annual report.
In March 2014, 557 children were looked after by Newcastle. This was an increase from the previous year of nine from 548.
The report states: “There are notable changes in the risk factors and demographics of the children subject to Child Protection Plans with a 62% increase in the category of neglect and a 46% increase in emotional abuse.
“Data provided as part of a North East regional benchmarking exercise shows that Newcastle has not been alone in experiencing an increase in Child Protection Plan numbers.
“During 2013/14 there was an average 16% increase compared to 2012/13 - these figures should be noted in the context of increasing referral rates of 13% both locally and regionally.”
In previous years, the numbers in Newcastle had reduced to a level more in line with the city's North East neighbours, but the report shows the rate of children on protection plans is now significantly higher than anywhere else in the region.
A spokesman for Newcastle City Council said: “The Newcastle Safeguarding Children Board has recognised the rise in Child Protection Plans in the city, which needs to be seen in the context of a significant rise across the region.
“In response to this, we have carried out some specific analysis looking at children under the age of one, to try and better understand the reasons for this.”
The increase in Child Protection Plan numbers is not the only worrying rise in Newcastle.
During 2013/14 there was a 10% increase in the rate of referrals to children's social care and an 11% increase in the rate of children becoming the subject of a protection plan for physical, emotional and sexual abuse or neglect.
There has been a slight increase of 5% in the number of children taken into care in Newcastle, which is in line with the country's average, although lower than the North East average of 9%.
The Newcastle Safeguarding Children Board admits in the report that the onset of Operation Sanctuary in January has challenged the board to re-think its strategies.
The investigation into the widespread sexual abuse of vulnerable girls and women in Newcastle and surrounding areas has so far led to 120 arrests and 21 people being charged.
Refugee children need intervention for trauma
With its early outreach and support, Project SHIFA in Lewiston's public schools is a model.
The Editorial Board
Richard Lobor's parents came to Portland from Sudan because they wanted a better life for their children. But after 11 years in the U.S. – five of which he spent in the Maine State Prison for armed robbery – Lobor was shot and killed Nov. 21. At the time of his death, he was just 23.
As a child in a war-torn country, Lobor was exposed early to a level of violence that can derail a young person's development for years to come. Indeed, hundreds of thousands of other refugee children in the U.S. likely have had similar experiences. And there will be a negative impact on all of us – children, families and communities – until we as a society commit to recognizing and mitigating the impact of trauma on its young refugee victims.
The fallout from early trauma is evident in the all-too-short life story of Richard Lobor, who came here at 12 with his family from a nation plagued by factional strife. There were clashes between Sudanese rebels and government forces; people were executed if their allegiances were in doubt.
Research has shown that refugee children come here with a lot of the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder: anxiety, depression, flashbacks and an inability to concentrate. Early traumatic experiences have also been linked to school failure, drug abuse, antisocial behavior and a tendency to isolate oneself.
Lobor excelled as a student and an athlete during his early years in Maine but was a troubled teenager. And the graver consequences of childhood trauma victimization are evident from Lobor's criminal record – his history of juvenile offenses along with the armed robbery charge on which he was tried as an adult. Youths who witness violence are more likely than others to behave aggressively, studies show. In fact, at least 75 percent of the children in the juvenile justice system have been exposed to trauma.
Intervention can and must take place before traumatized refugee children act out – though cultural and language barriers can make this difficult. Lewiston's public schools have adopted one promising approach: Project SHIFA, which emphasizes family and refugee community involvement in the treatment of refugee children.
Under this model, refugee community agencies reach out to parents before any problems emerge, holding social events – like a Ramadan tea – where families can hear about the importance of children's emotional health to their success in school.
School-based youth groups allow refugee children a place to talk about what's on their minds; because all English Language Learners are invited, no one refugee child is singled out as having “special needs.” A parent advisory council meets regularly to review the program and assess whether it's helping their kids.
Refugee children have survived a lot in their young lives. The traumas in their past will cloud their future unless the community helps these newcomers to Maine get the services they need to build a happy, productive life here.
Funds lag for sex trafficking victims
by David Crary
As awareness of America's sex-trafficking industry increases, state after state has enacted new laws to combat it. But while a few have backed those get-tough laws with significant funding to support trafficking victims, many have not.
In Michigan, for example, a cluster of legislators beamed with pride as Gov. Rick Snyder recently signed a package of 21 anti-trafficking bills. For a state ranked by advocacy groups as woefully behind in addressing the problem, the package was touted as a huge step forward, making Michigan, in Snyder's words, “one of the leading states in fighting this tragic crime.”
Yet the bills contained virtually no new funding, even though a high-powered state commission had reported a serious lack of support services and specialized housing for victims.
“For all the hoopla, it's blatantly not true that we're now at the forefront,” said professor Bridgette Carr, a member of the commission and director of the Human Trafficking Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School. “For many of these victims, there's often no place to go.”
For a long time, sex trafficking was considered a foreign problem — something relegated to Eastern Europe or Asia. But in recent years, advocacy groups have called attention to people who were similarly victimized in this country, and legislators in every state have embraced the issue, taking the politically easy step of toughening laws.
But national advocacy groups such as the Polaris Project and Shared Hope International say relatively few states — Minnesota and Florida are notable exceptions — have appropriated substantial funding to support victims with shelter, mental-health services and life-skills training.
Without such services, advocates say, many victims are less useful as witnesses against their traffickers and more vulnerable to being forced or lured back to the sordid underworld that exploited them.
“We are seeing some states stepping up, but the majority don't have anything specific in their budgets,” said Britanny Vanderhoof, policy counsel for the Polaris Project.
Arizona was among the latest states to board the bandwagon, enacting a bill in April that toughens sentences for traffickers of children and stipulates that being a trafficking victim is a defense in prostitution cases.
As in Michigan, however, Arizona's bill did not include funding for victim services.
“We have come a long way, but we have a long way to go,” said Cindy McCain, wife of Sen. John McCain and co-chair of the Arizona Human Trafficking Council.
Brian Steele, who oversees programs for trafficking victims as head of the nonprofit Phoenix Dream Center, predicts it will be two or three more years before significant state funding materializes.
The package of anti-trafficking measures in Michigan, signed into law in October, was drafted in response to a comprehensive, often hard-hitting 2013 report by the Michigan Commission on Human Trafficking. Among its members were Attorney General Bill Schuette, 10 legislators and several top law enforcement officials.
The bills strengthened penalties for traffickers and established the presumption that minors entangled in sex-trafficking cases should be considered victims, not criminals.
However, none of the bills made new state allocations for housing and specialized programming for victims, despite the commission's conclusion that those were “particularly lacking” in Michigan due to inadequate funding.
Schuette, who praised the bills as a shift to a “victim-centered approach,” suggested it might be unrealistic to expect comprehensive state spending for victim support.
“It cannot simply be a state government fix,” said Schuette, who hopes some of the need can be met through philanthropic grants and public/private partnerships.
“We know we have more to do,” said state Sen. Judy Emmons, a lead sponsor of the legislation. “We need to find safe housing. We aren't there yet.”
The Michigan commission's report noted that some states have appropriated significant funds for victim services. It cited a $2.8 million allocation in Minnesota, which is widely considered the national leader in the field.
Minnesota got moving earlier than most states, passing a “safe harbor” law in 2011 making clear that sexually exploited youths would no longer be treated as criminals. Key parts of the law did not take effect until last August, providing time to get funding and programs in place to support victims who would no longer go into the juvenile justice system.
“We took our plan to the legislature and said, ‘We've thought it out. Now you have to give us money,' and they did,” said Lauren Ryan, a Health Department official who now oversees the program. “It was amazing that Minnesota took that leap of faith.”
At Brittany's Place, a shelter in St. Paul that has served dozens of trafficking victims since opening Aug. 1, there's enthusiasm for the initiative even though it's yet to receive any state funds.
“Those young women wouldn't be coming to our shelter if the law hadn't changed, and made it necessary to treat them like the victims they are,” said Richard Gardell, president of 180 Degrees, which operates Brittany's Place.
Jeff Bauer of the nonprofit Family Partnership, which serves vulnerable children and families in the Twin Cities, considers Minnesota a model for the rest of the country.
“In other states, legislators are all for prosecuting,” he said. “But when it comes to paying for the supports these kids need, often that moral outrage has not translated into the investment that's required.”
Florida is another that state that has stepped up with significant funding for victim services — $3 million in the 2014-15 budget.
Yet Florida and Minnesota, with their seven-figure allocations, are exceptions; many states have invested little or nothing from their general funds for victim services. Several states have created funds to be financed with fines and forfeitures from traffickers.
Human trafficking fastest growing crime
by Beth Smith
HENDERSON, Ky. - The U.S. State Department says it's the fastest growing illegal activity in the world.
It's tied with illegal arms dealing, led only by drug trafficking, and generates roughly $1 billion annually.
And when Evansville resident Jathar “Bolder” Williams was arrested by Henderson police in March after allegedly prostituting two teenage girls at hotels along the U.S. 41 strip, it was a reminder that human trafficking can touch any community.
Both Henderson County and federal grand juries have indicted Williams in May on human trafficking charges.
A federal trial has been scheduled for March 23.
“Human trafficking is causing someone to do labor under force, fraud or coercion that financially benefits another person,” said Mike Brown, an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the Owensboro field office. Brown is also a regional expert on human trafficking.
“Human trafficking doesn't preclude the victim from making money,” Brown said. “If the victim is actually earning $50, but only receives $20, that's trafficking. You have to look into what a person was promised” versus what they are actually receiving.
Victims of human trafficking are found in restaurants, nail salons, on farms and in domestic situations such as cooks, housekeepers and nannies.
Trafficking victims are very prevalent in the sex industry. In fact, more victims have been identified within the sex trade than in labor trafficking.
There's also a difference between a person being trafficked and an undocumented immigrant.
“A trafficked person believes they are coming here legally and with a future,” Brown said. “They've been lied to. An undocumented immigrant knows they're here illegally, and it's up to them to find a salary.”
At the heart of human trafficking, he said, is a lie — the victim is promised something that isn't delivered.
It's important to note, Brown said, that not every waiter or waitress, nail tech, farmhand and nanny are victims of human trafficking. He said not all victims of human trafficking are from foreign countries, and not all of them are adults or even teenagers.
The Kentucky Rescue and Restore, a coalition of agencies serving victims of human trafficking, said the youngest identified victim of human trafficking in Kentucky was 2 months old.
The infant was used in sex trafficking, according to Marissa Castellanos, human trafficking program manager for Catholic Charities of Louisville.
“What we're seeing is that younger children are being trafficked by caretakers,” she said. “It seems like there's often a connection to drugs. (Caretakers) will rent their child out for a few hours in exchange for drugs ... or they're renting out their child to pay a drug debt. The child is rented out, no questions asked.
“Mostly children (are the victims) of sex trafficking,” Castellanos said.
In Kentucky, child victims of human trafficking have been identified in cases of sexual bondage, domestic servitude, hotel housekeeping, prostitution, dowry marriage, debt bondage and being sold into sexual slavery, according to Kentucky Rescue and Restore Victims of Human Trafficking Coalition.
“There's a small percentage of labor cases” involving children, usually, foreign nationals, Castellanos said. When children are involved in labor trafficking, she said, “We don't see those (cases) because the child is kept in a home and not allowed to go to school.”
“Some children are used as drug mules,” Castellanos said. “It's labor trafficking because they are forced to do it. There's a small percentage of American children who are forced to be involved in traveling sales crews.”
Some door-to-door sales crews, who peddle newspapers, magazine subscriptions and DVDs for instance, are “legitimate,” she said. “But some crew bosses target runaways and homeless teens or children.”
In 2013, there were at least 59 identified cases of human trafficking in Kentucky, according to Castellanos. Fifty of those identified victims were children, and 52 of the identified victims were U.S. citizens. Fifty-three of the 59 victims were used in sex trafficking.
The average age of a trafficking victim in Kentucky is 21.
Castellanos said the statistics she compiled have some limitations.
According to the information she provided, “This data is not collected by any one organization/agency where there was a mandated report to ensure all human trafficking cases are documented and tracked. Instead, this data was maintained by Kentucky Rescue and Restore based on the cases served directly by them, media reports and Administrative Office of the Courts reports of human trafficking charges/indictments. Therefore, this data may not capture all identified human trafficking cases in Kentucky for the (2013) time period.
“Many human trafficking cases are never (discovered),” she said. “There are likely many more human trafficking victims that have not yet been identified.”
Teach children sexual abuse protection
by Patrice Dunagin
Child abuse is a widespread problem in the United States. More than 3 million children are abused each year, according to the National Committee for Prevention of Child Abuse. Eight percent of those 3 million children are sexually abused — 240,000 children. Protecting children from physical, verbal, emotional and sexual abuse is everyone's responsibility.
Sexual abuse is any sexual activity between an adult and a child of any age. The typical offender is a male, but women also sexually abuse children. Sex involving an adult and a child of any age is never OK.
Sexual abuse is traumatic for the child. Generally, the adult takes advantage of the child's innocence, trust or affection. Often, the abuser threatens or bribes the child to keep silent. Most children do not tell anyone about the abuse because of the threats and fear. Keeping the secret of abuse causes even more emotional stress for the child.
The abused child will feel a lot of guilt, often thinking it is his or her fault. It becomes difficult for abused children to trust people. Anger, guilt and fear become common feelings for abused children.
Childhood sexual abuse can cause lifelong psychological and physical damage. The emotional affects of sexual abuse may not be evident until the child reaches adolescence or even adulthood. Adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse may find the abuse affects their ability to trust people and form close relationships. Adults also report feeling intense anger, low self-esteem and co-dependent and addictive personality traits.
Approximately 90 percent of the offenders are known to the child. An estimated 77 percent of reported abusers are parents, 16 percent are other relatives and 6 percent are non-related.
Children must be taught basic rules of safety to help protect them from sexual abuse. Appropriate personal safety rules are:
- If anyone tries to touch a child in any way that makes him or her feel uncomfortable, bad or afraid, the child should say “no.”
- Children should tell someone they trust (parent, teacher, family friend, school counselor) about the touch or abuse immediately.
- Children need to be taught the difference between good and bad touch.
- Encourage good communication with your child. This is the best way to protect children from sexual abuse.
- Children should never go anywhere or get in a car with anyone unless you have given them direct permission.
- Children should never take candy, gifts, toys or money from strangers.
- Children should avoid playing alone or walking to and from school alone. When home alone, children should not open the door or tell telephone callers they are home alone.
If a child tells you he or she has been touched or abused in a sexual way, believe him or her. Children rarely lie about sexual abuse. Children need to know you believe them and will find them help to cope with what has happened. Tell the child he or she did nothing wrong. Reassure the child he or she did the right thing by telling you about the abuse. To report the abuse call the 24 hour Abuse Hotline at 1-800-252-5400 or your local law enforcement agency.
Seek professional help for the child. The child should see a professional trained to work with sexual abuse victims. If the abuse occurred many years earlier, it is not too late to seek professional help to cope with the emotional feelings.
Parents need to be very aware of where their children are and who they are with. It's wise to keep your children close and to have only a few, well-trusted friends or family who occasionally watch your children. If your child does not want to be alone with a family member, friend or new acquaintance, find out why. It could be the first sign of abuse that has already occurred.
For more information, contact Patrice Dunagin, Smith County FCS agent for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, at 903-590-2980.
Domestic violence victims in NY prisons may get some relief
67 percent of women in prison for killing someone close to them were abused by that person; new bill could offer mercy
by Victoria Law
NEW YORK — Valerie Seeley has been behind bars since 2003. But her troubles started much earlier, in 1995, when she first met Oliver Williams and his 10-year-old daughter while visiting a friend in Brooklyn. “I thought it was a really cool thing that he had his child with him all the time,” she says in a conference room at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, New York state's maximum-security prison for women.
Attracted to Williams, who seemed like a responsible, caring father, she began dating him and soon moved in with the pair. But Williams quickly changed — drinking heavily, passing out in the street, using drugs, accusing her of sleeping with other men, “all kinds of crazy things,” Seeley recalls. And then the violence began. The first time he hit her, she told him, “Don't ever put your hands on me again.” But he did — again and again.
Seeley's adult daughter, Iacha Moore, who only met her mother's boyfriend after Seeley and Williams had moved in together, tried to help, but couldn't. Moore remembers receiving calls from her mother when Williams was in a rage. “You'd hear him in the background calling her all sorts of names and she'd be crying,” Moore says. But her mother never admitted what was happening. “I was in denial for a long time,” explains Seeley. “I felt ashamed. My self-esteem was so low. I was afraid that people would blame me.”
In 1996, a year after they started living together, Williams tried to choke her. Seeley finally called the police, who arrested him and took him to jail. Williams' daughter, who had been in the apartment the entire time, began crying when her father was handcuffed. The police told Seeley that the girl would be placed in foster care if no relative picked her up. “I didn't want that,” Seeley says. “So I stayed to make sure she would be OK.” Thinking back, she says, “I should have left.” If she had, she might not be in prison today.
Two years later, Seeley was arrested for the murder of Oliver Williams, which she says was done in self-defense after he tried to choke her. Sentenced to 19 years to life, she has spent the last 11 of them at Bedford.
Survivors of abuse and trauma are incredibly common in prisons across the country. The U.S. Department of Justice found that more than half of women in jails and prisons were abused prior to incarceration. According to the New York state Department of Correctional and Community Services, 67 percent of women sent to prison for killing someone close to them had been abused by that person. A full 90 percent of prisoners at Bedford Hills have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetimes.
“That we continue to punish survivors in this way, with as much as we've learned about domestic violence over the years, truly shocks the conscience,” says Tamar Kraft-Stolar, director of the Women in Prison Project of the Correctional Association of New York, an advocacy organization that monitors New York state prisons. “Every time we visit a prison, we meet women who have been locked up for decades because they protected themselves. It's a devastating example of the overuse of incarceration and it needs to end.”
The Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act was introduced in 2011 to address these concerns and is now in the state legislature's codes committee, which votes on any bill that would increase or decrease penalties. If the codes committee approves the bill, it is sent to the entire legislature for a vote. Sponsored by Assembly member Jeffrion Aubry and Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson, the act would allow incarcerated abuse survivors to apply for resentencing if their crimes were directly related to abuse. Not only would survivors like Seeley, who harmed or killed their abusers, be eligible, but so would survivors who were coerced into crimes, such as robbery or burglary, by abusive partners. During the past decade, California has passed a series of similar laws, while a narrower bill is making its way through the New Jersey Legislature.
Using DOJ statistics, advocates estimate that the act could affect approximately 185 women and 175 men currently in New York state prisons. For cases in the future, the act, if passed, will enable judges to consider the role of abuse during sentencing. Instead of requiring mandatory sentences, judges would be allowed to sentence survivors to shorter prison terms or an alternative to incarceration like the one offered by STEPS to End Family Violence, which provides counseling, advocacy and support programs for abuse survivors. Based on the DOJ numbers, advocates also estimate that approximately 365 women and 115 men facing abuse-related criminal charges could be affected each year.
'I thought, I'm gonna die'
After his arrest in 1996, Oliver Williams spent seven days behind bars. A judge ordered him to attend a 28-week domestic-violence program, which he often skipped, says Seeley. Other times, he attended while drunk. Seeley recalls a few mornings when police arrived at their apartment after he had missed a session. Each time, they brought Williams to court, where the judge immediately let him go.
Meanwhile, the abuse continued. When Seeley called the police to the house, they talked with Williams, then left, she says. Seeley tried domestic-violence hotlines, to no avail.
In an attempt to gain some distance, Seeley began sleeping on the couch. By then, Williams' abuse had escalated from physical violence to threats to kill her. Some nights, she woke to find him standing over her with a pillow, seemingly ready to smother her. Other nights, he would threaten to strangle her with an extension cord. She was often too afraid to go to sleep. She also stopped eating; her weight dropped from 115 to 86 pounds.
By December 1997, the violence had become more frequent. On New Year's Eve, Seeley says, she arrived home to find Williams in bed with another woman. Williams and Seeley argued; the argument ended with him hitting her. Seeley, who had been prescribed medications for anxiety and depression, took her pills and fell asleep. The next morning, Williams woke her to tell her she had a phone call. That was when she realized that her underwear was gone. “I told Oliver that I didn't appreciate him having sex with me after he had sex with that girl on New Year's Eve.”
That day, Seeley decided she had had enough. “I told him I was tired, I wasn't doing this no more,” she says. Her words unleashed a torrent of violence: Williams tried to strangle her with a phone cord, threw her against the bathroom door and began choking her. “I thought, ‘I'm gonna die,' ” she remembers. Terrified, she grabbed the first object she could — a knife — and stabbed him. Williams let her go and held his hands to his chest, saying, “You stabbed me,” Seeley recalls. When she realized what had happened, she tried to stop the bleeding, applying pressure to his wound. She called 911 but was so distraught that she had to ask Williams' daughter, who had been watching television in another room, to give the police dispatcher their address. When the cops arrived, she begged, “Please help him. Don't let him die. It was an accident.” But Williams did die, at the hospital, and Seeley was taken to the 88th Precinct, where she was questioned, arrested and charged with second-degree murder.
'Like looking in the mirror'
“People always talk about the end. They never talk about the beginning,” Sharon Richardson says. Sitting in the conference room of STEPS to End Family Violence, where she works with other survivors released from prison, Richardson points out, “Had I not gotten involved with this man, had I not bailed him out, I would not have been in that situation.” The man Richardson is referring to is Jeffrey Bridges, the abusive boyfriend she was convicted of conspiring to kill.
In 1990, Richardson was working as a correctional officer at Rikers Island, New York City's island jail complex, where she met Bridges, a drug dealer being held on a weapons charge. “He was very charming, very handsome, a great talker, very convincing,” she recalls. Richardson, who was ending what she described as a bad marriage, bailed him out and brought him to live with her and her two children in Brooklyn.
That wasn't the only change to Richardson's life. Bridges frequently beat her. He also beat her 2-year-old son and molested her 8-year-old daughter. But “I didn't realize I was being subjected to domestic violence,” she says. “It's very common for survivors in abusive relationships not to recognize that they're being abused,” says Kraft-Stolar, noting that denial and victim blaming are frequent abuse tactics. “Forcing survivors into denial or self-blame is part and parcel of the abuse.”
Soon after moving in, Bridges met Dwayne Mitchell, a 17-year-old from South Carolina, and took him under his wing. Because Mitchell had nowhere to live, Bridges invited him to stay in the apartment too. But the two fought frequently, and four months into Bridges' relationship with Richardson, Mitchell and three other men killed Bridges. Richardson says she thought the men only intended to beat him. “But he ended up getting killed in my apartment.”
Richardson was arrested for second-degree murder and conspiracy to murder. Following a one-week trial, in which Mitchell testified against her in exchange for a reduced sentence, Richardson was sentenced to 20 years to life. At Bedford Hills, she attended a monthly support group for abuse survivors run by STEPS, where she met Valerie Seeley. It helped her come to terms with what had happened and showed that her experience was far from uncommon. “Their stories sounded like mine,” she says. “It was like looking in the mirror.”
'I was abused by the system'
Valerie Seeley waited five years for her case to go to trial, the first two of which she spent in jail before a judge released her on the condition that she participate in STEPS' domestic-violence programs. The organization also worked with Seeley's attorney to prepare a defense, using evidence of her abuse.
In 2003, Seeley's case went to trial and she was convicted of second-degree murder. “I went through this abuse for so many years,” Seeley says. “I still feel like I was being abused — by the system.
“Domestic violence is one of the most fundamental pathways to women's incarceration,” says Kraft-Stolar, who is also a member of the statewide Coalition for Women Prisoners, which advocates policy change regarding women's incarceration. Recognizing this, the Women in Prison Project and coalition members, including currently and formerly incarcerated survivors as well as advocates working to end domestic violence, partnered with Jeffrion Aubry and Ruth Hassell-Thompson to draft a bill. The result was the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act.
Applying for a resentencing hearing requires an initial two-step process, explains Jaya Vasandani, associate director of the Women in Prison Project. If prisoners meet certain criteria and can prove that abuse by a loved one was a “significant contributing factor” to their crime, they can apply for resentencing. The final decision, however, rests with the judge.
The only significant opposition to the act has come from the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York, which charges that it fails to consider the rights of people who were harmed who did not abuse the defendant (such as a victim of a robbery that the defendant was coerced into committing by an abusive partner) and expresses concerns about the cost of resentencing.
As a result of the midterm elections, however, the political terrain has changed. “Passing this legislation with the Republican control of the Senate is going to be an uphill battle,” says Vasandani. “Many people don't yet fully understand how domestic violence drives survivors into the criminal-justice system and just how frequently that system doles out inhumane punishment in these instances.” However, she remains confident about the bill's passage, citing the 126 women's organizations and criminal-justice and domestic-violence groups that support it. “Public opinion and public support are on our side.”
To deepen understanding about the issue and the bill, advocates have been holding public-education events and speaking with lawmakers. And its most passionate campaigners are women who have been in Seeley's position, such as Sharon Richardson and Maria Ventura.
'When I said no, he beat me'
When Maria Ventura met Lawrence Ham, she was 15 and living on the streets; he was 28. He took her in and introduced her to drugs. When the money ran out, he told Ventura she needed to prostitute herself. “When I said no, he beat me up,” she recalls. The beatings soon became a daily occurrence. Ventura tried calling the police, but says the only time Ham was arrested was when he had a crack pipe or other drug paraphernalia on him. Otherwise, officers told him to walk around the corner and cool off.
When she told Ham that she was pregnant, he threw her down a flight of stairs. She tried to flee several times, but each time he would find her and physically drag her back. The last time, he strangled her in a parking lot. She grabbed for the closest object — a rock— and hit him in the head. When his grip loosened, she ran. Two days later, she was arrested for murder.
Because she would turn 16 in a few weeks, she was charged as an adult. Told that she was risking a sentence of 25-to-life if she took her case to trial, she pled guilty. She was sentenced to 15 to 25 years and sent to Bedford Hills. A Marine had witnessed and filmed Ham's attack, but the following day she was deployed to Iraq. It was only on her return four years later that she turned over her footage to the district attorney's office; 10 days after that, Ventura was released on parole.
For years, Ventura stayed silent about her experience. In 2014, she began an internship at the Women in Prison Project. As she helped contact legislators about the domestic violence bill, she decided to share her experience. In April 2014, she cried as she told her story publicly for the first time at a press conference to garner support for the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act. But she plans to keep telling it and keep pushing for the bill's passage. “I've left women in Bedford Hills who are doing life for killing their abusers. These women should be home,” she says. “I think my story can help open people's eyes and hearts so that they say, ‘We want to help too.'”
Twenty years after she entered prison for murder and conspiracy, Sharon Richardson was released on parole in 2010. She returns to Bedford Hills once a month to facilitate STEPS's domestic-violence support group, whose meetings Seeley still attends. Richardson has also joined the Coalition for Women Prisoners and has been advocating for the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act. “It feels good to be able to work on this bill,” she says. “Now that I'm out, I'm fighting for the people I left behind.” She pauses, perhaps thinking of the women at the prison's monthly support group, then adds, “I want to see the looks on people's faces when they hear there's something that can shorten their sentences and bring them home early.”
'C'mon grandma, time to go'
The Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act is not without precedent. Between 1991 and 2005, California enacted three laws that together allow expert testimony about abuse when a person is charged with crimes relating to his or her abuse and thatenable incarcerated survivors to file petitions challenging their convictions if expert testimony was not allowed during their trial. In 2012, California passed two laws related to domestic violence — one that allows survivors to file a writ of habeas corpus if their trial had only limited expert testimony; the other requires the parole board to accept evidence of abuse during hearings. Both laws took effect on January 1, 2013. Since then, six women have been released while at least 10 others have been able to submit writs of habeas corpus, challenging the lack of or limited expert testimony about battering at their trials. Others in prison are still searching for attorneys to help file the paperwork necessary to utilize these laws.
In January 2014, New Jersey state Sen. Loretta Weinberg introduced S995, a bill that would allow survivors convicted of crimes against their abusers to participate in a supervised community-reintegration program . The Law and Public Safety Committee unanimously approved the Assembly version of the bill (A1677) in September. The Judiciary Committee will consider it in early 2015. The Senate unanimously passed the bill on October 23, 2014.
Valerie Seeley will turn 60 in June. Since she entered prison in 2003, her older brother and her son have both died. Her daughter Iacha Moore does not own a car. Each visit from her home in Jamaica, Queens, to Bedford Hills requires her to take a city bus, two subway trains, a Metro-North train and then a $5 taxi. A single mother of two, Moore can only afford infrequent trips. The last time she and her children visited was the day before Mother's Day 2014, when they took a photo together. It is the only picture Moore can find of Seeley. “My mother was the one who kept pictures,” she explains.
Visits, Moore says, are painful, particularly when they end. “My daughter, when she was younger, would say, ‘Come on, Grandma. It's time to go,' ” she recalls. “That would set my mother off and then set everyone off.” Her daughter, age 13, now understands that her grandmother cannot leave with them, but even without the tears, saying goodbye is difficult. Moore hopes that the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act will allow her mother to come home sooner. “It would be good to have my mother home. She's been in there long enough.”
Sexual assault against women gains awareness
by Chris Traber
If sexual violence caused immediate death, we would clearly see the genocide of women across the world.”
Women's Support Network of York Region executive director Michelle Smith offered the words and pauses, not for effect, but for processing.
The statement is as powerful and poignant as it is unsettling.
From a public awareness perspective, 2014 was a watershed year for the non-profit agency serving our nine municipalities operating with an anti-oppressive, feminist philosophy as the region's sole rape crisis centre. Its prime focus is providing free support to survivors of sexual violence, including childhood sexual abuse, sexual harassment, human trafficking, sexual assault and date rape.
Since the media frenzy focusing on Jian Ghomeshi, the former CBC broadcaster and his alleged violent behaviour with females, Smith's Newmarket-based office has fielded a major influx of calls.
Adding to the collective consciousness is the Bill Cosby scandal, a campaign by women who allege the American comedian used drugs as part of his sexual abuse.
“Ghomeshi and Cosby have created media attention we've never seen in our sector,” Smith said with her trademark aplomb. “It's opened doors. We can definitely gauge a significant increase in individuals seeking our support.”
In its 2013-14 fiscal year ending in March, the network's crisis line handled 3,651 calls.
The media's intense light on misogyny affords Smith and her small staff the opportunity to reach out to more people than before. The woman who has distinguished herself after more than 20 years within the realms of children's mental health, supporting indigenous tribes in the Northwest Territories and almost a decade as the network's lead, is also buoyed by Ontario's new pro-women initiative.
In early December, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced a multi-layer program to raise awareness, enhance prevention and support victims of sexual violence and harassment.
“It's about individual respect for victims,” said Smith, the former Native Child and Family Services director. “For so many years, sexual violence addressed women and never looked at the accountability of the perpetrator. Sexual violence is not merely a women's issue, it's everybody's issue.”
The past year has not been without highlights for the network. Her agency's public education worker has addressed a record number of individuals in schools and community groups. The network's modest budget received a welcome infusion from the federal Department of Justice for an anti-human trafficking program and, of course, media scrutiny has kick started important dialogue.
“We need to keep that conversation going,” Smith said.
The New Year brings challenges and opportunity, she said.
The agency, whose slogan is “It's better to build strong children than to repair broken adults,” wants to continue to provide innovative services from a client-centred approach and be recognized for the decades of work it has been doing, she said. The network would welcome funding enhancements, Smith said, adding, “We know how to make a dollar stretch far.”
“We understand the fear that many continue to live in and our only wish is for them to come forward and to know it's not their fault and they are not alone,” she said.
Colorado launches statewide child abuse hotline 1-844-CO-4-KIDS
LAMAR, Colo. - Colorado is launching a statewide hotline to facilitate reporting of suspected cases of child abuse and neglect.
The hotline at 1-844-CO-4-KIDS will operate in Lamar with 12 staff members and is launching Thursday. State officials say the Lamar center will be a hub for Colorado's first child-abuse hotline of its kind. It's part of Gov. John Hickenlooper's Child Welfare Plan.
The Lamar center will direct callers to the appropriate county to handle their report. The hotline will also assist the deaf and callers who don't speak English or Spanish.
Callers to the hotline will be assisted 24 hours a day every day of the year.
Copyright 2014 Scripps Media, Inc. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Pennsylvania enacts modernized child abuse laws after Sandusky scandal
by Megha Satyanarayana
If a shaken baby is taken to a Pennsylvania hospital and doctors and police can't figure out who shook the child, it might not get reported as child abuse.
If a teacher, child care provider or nurse is told of sexual abuse, they tell a superior, who is supposed to report the crime to police.
And corporal punishment isn't considered abuse, unless it meets a high standard of causing pain.
On Wednesday, this changes.
Sorely needed updates will be made to 40-year old statutes, mainly the Child Protective Services Law, that at the time were vanguard, but now are woefully inadequate, said Dr. Rachel Berger, a pediatrician at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC who served on the task force that evaluated the state's child abuse laws.
"The system didn't help children," said Berger. "It was Sandusky that made it happen."
The biggest changes will be to the definition of abuse and who reports it directly. Before Wednesday, for actions to be considered child abuse, a child had to be in severe pain, with serious impairment. The changes to the law lower that threshold to what is called substantial pain, said Jonathan Budd, associate executive director of KidsVoice, a child advocacy law firm in Pittsburgh. And a list of actions like kicking a child or locking them in a closet, he said, are now considered abuse.
"The intention is to provide children in our Commonwealth with better attention," he said.
Another major change mandates that adults who come in contact with children in a professional setting, whether medical, educational, religious or through social or civic services report suspected child abuse directly to the state, rather than to a supervisor or designated reporter.
Under the new laws, it won't matter if doctors or police can't determine right away who abused a child, it will be recorded as abuse. Doctors, teachers and people who work with children will have to directly report to the state's child welfare hotline, Child Line, any admission or suspicion of abuse.
Records will be electronic, instead of through pen, paper and telephone.
And gone will be this disconnect Berger describes: "The threshold for abuse was so high that police could charge someone as a criminal and CPS still couldn't call what happened child abuse. "
By lowering that threshold, more cases will be reported and more people will be reporting suspected child abuse, said Scott Hollander, executive director of KidsVoice. Pennsylvania has long had low levels of substantiated child abuse cases.
"That sum has to equate to better outcomes for children," Hollander said.
New training will be required for child welfare advocates. The Pennsylvania Child Resource Center, through the University of Pittsburgh has created a website to facilitate training. Penn State Hershey's Center for the Protection of Children will offer training as well.
"This isn't designed to fix every part of the system," said Hollander, but "at a high level, what you have is more cases being reported, more people reporting and more awareness brought to the issue."
Cleanse web of all child abuse images, urges NSPCC chief
‘'Charity boss admits ‘gargantuan task' but warns anything less than zero-tolerance could produce huge future problem
by The Press Association
The head of the NSPCC has called for the removal of all child abuse images from the internet.
The charity's chief executive Peter Wanless admitted it would be a “gargantuan task” but claimed “every one of us should feel at least a little guilty” while the problem persists.
Last month, David Cameron told a child abuse summit that a joint specialist unit run by the National Crime Agency and listening post GCHQ will target the most prolific offenders who are using increasingly sophisticated techniques to hide their identities and encrypt and share images online.
Writing in the Daily Mirror, Wanless described the campaign against sexual abuse of children as “one of the biggest challenges facing society”.
He stated that around four in five child abuse images feature a boy or girl under the age of 11 – including babies – and half of them show children being tortured or raped by an adult.
He wrote: “Any society that allows such an evil scenario to play out uninterrupted must surely be demeaned and every one of us should feel at least a little guilty while it persists.
“Most importantly, we must never forget that these are not just pictures. They are crime scenes and children have been abused to create them. There is also evidence that some – not all – of those found with images will have committed other sex offences against children.
“So, while the summit's glow of satisfaction has dimmed, we have to turn to the real and ongoing job in hand: cleansing the web of all child abuse images.
“That may sound like pie in the sky, that the web is too intricate and full of dark corners – countless billions of pages where criminals can hide all kinds of material. But we need a zero-tolerance stance.
“Do we want to blindly slide into a situation where, a few years down the line, there are endless pictures in existence and so many offenders viewing them that it becomes an almost acceptable part of the downside of life, like burglary or fraud? Is that the kind of tainted legacy we want to pass on? It may take time to achieve but we have to commit now.”
Wanless called on industry, the police, child protection agencies and the government to work together to remove abusive images.
He added: “I do not expect this gargantuan task to be achieved overnight. But there is already promising progress from the Internet Watch Foundation , which monitors websites displaying child abuse images.
“Now it has the funding to work pro-actively, instead of waiting for reports to come in, it has identified nearly 28,000 offending web pages – more than twice last year's total.
“Cleaning up the web sounds daunting and has never been attempted before on such a grand scale. But we must make it work.
“In five years' time I do not want to be looking out on a landscape that is still scarred by this problem which damages so many vulnerable lives.”
Sexual violence soars in UK hospitals
Records show 50% rise in reports of sexual attacks, with more than 1,600 in past three years
by Martin Williams
A hidden outbreak of sexual abuse in British hospitals has been disclosed in new figures revealing that more than 1,600 attacks were reported to police in the last three years.
Records obtained by the Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act show a 50% rise in reports of sexual violence in hospitals since 2011. It includes a total of at least 157 rape allegations.
Statistics on sexual abuse reports in hospitals were released by 38 out of 45 UK police forces. They document 1,615 attacks that are known about including cases on NHS wards, private clinics and other health centres. But prosecutors have said that up to 90% of sexual abuse goes unreported, suggesting the true figure could be much higher.
Last year the Metropolitan police received reports of 17 rapes and 124 other sex abuse crimes inside London hospitals.
Most police forces were unable to provide a firm breakdown of the types of hospitals where rapes and sexual abuse had been reported. However, the Met, which accounted for 20% of all reports, said the issue was a particular problem in mental health units, with a significant proportion of alleged victims identified as vulnerable due to mental health problems.
Luciana Berger, the shadow minister for public health, said the figures revealed a serious problem for the NHS and called for an urgent review of hospital security.
Individual cases of abuse in hospitals have been well documented but this is the first time the scale of the problem has been reported. The figures account for all reports of abuse, although a small number are understood to relate to historic attacks that occurred before 2011.
One victim described being groomed by her mental health support officer for five months. When she bumped into him years later it triggered a suicide attempt before she eventually reported him. However, the man resigned before the investigation concluded and authorities were unable to take action against him.
“I was in a vulnerable position at the time; certainly not in a position to consent to what he was doing,” she told the Guardian. “What have I gained by coming forward? Nothing. I'm just a person who has made allegations that haven't been proven.”
In another case, a mental health patient described psychiatric hospitals as a “playground for predators”, after she was raped up to 60 times by a member of staff. The woman had been taken to Little Brook hospital in Kent after a breakdown and was warned she would be sectioned if she tried to leave. She described her ordeal to the BBC earlier this year. “At times I was on a very heavy amount of Valium, not to where I was unconscious, but the sedative combined with my already defeated self, I was like putty. He would pull the covers back, do what he had to do and leave, all very quickly. I didn't move.”
When asked whether anyone else at the hospital knew about her abuse, the woman said: “I strongly suspect it can't have been completely missed. I can't believe how it could have been so frequent and not picked up on.”
She was eventually paid £100,000 compensation, but her attacker avoided jail after receiving a suspended sentence. A third case saw the care assistant Naraindrakoomar Sahodree jailed in 2010 for repeatedly raping a multiple sclerosis sufferer in her bed at a central London hospital. He had managed to get the job despite already being struck off the nurses' register. In court, his victim said that Sahodree made sure she could not call for help by removing her warning buzzer.
Berger said: “A zero-tolerance approach to sexual abuse must be pursued in the NHS. All victims should feel safe to come forward and every incident properly dealt with by the police, courts and health service, to ensure every perpetrator is brought to justice.”
Berger said it was particularly worrying that people in mental health units appeared to be at high risk. “These are often some of the most vulnerable patients and their safety must be guaranteed,” she said. “Ministers must order an immediate review of security, with a focus on mental health units.”
Nat Miles, senior policy and campaigns officer at Mind, said: “It's completely unacceptable that sexual abuse is so prevalent within mental health units. Many people told us they are often seen as vulnerable and therefore an easy target by perpetrators, and are more easily discredited and less likely to be taken seriously if they report a crime.” She added: “Too often, crimes on wards are dealt with internally and not reported to police. It's vital that frontline staff are adequately trained, so crimes are taken seriously, and dealt with quickly and appropriately.”
An NHS England spokesperson said: “It is of course essential that both NHS and independent hospitals do everything to ensure that patients are safe and feel safe in their premises, and where concerns arise the police must be able to bring to bear the full force of the law.”
Case study: ‘All i want is an apology'
Sue, a mental health patient, describes the abuse she suffered in an NHS support centre.
“He started very subtly, at the time I felt like a genuine relationship. He would walk close to me and say my perfume smelled nice. Then we started holding hands and meeting up out of his working hours. Sometimes I would go and see him when he was working on a Sunday morning and we would go down to the basement together.
“I had just been diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety and he was my support worker. I was in a vulnerable position at the time; certainly not in a position to consent to what he was doing. It went on over about five months until he abruptly ended it with me one day.
“There was sexual touching, there was hands up the clothes. Ever since, I've felt that I don't want another man to touch me again: that's what he's left me with.
“I knew that what he was doing was inappropriate, but I didn't realise the effect he was having on me until after we broke up. He was part of the crisis team, so if I felt that I needed support after office hours I knew that if I dialled the number there would be every likelihood that he would be the one answering the phone. I had great difficulty trusting any member of the mental health team at all.
“I didn't dare say anything to anybody. I know it's not my fault, but I still think it's my fault. To this day I still partly blame myself.
“Earlier this year, I bumped into him in a supermarket. He ignored me. I wasn't in a good place mentally at the time. Just seeing him triggered extreme distress and anger. I tried to get help, but I couldn't explain the situation to them. I attempted suicide by the end of the day.
“When I eventually reported it, it took 22 weeks for the health authorities to investigate. At the end, there was an independent hearing where he could have his say, but he resigned just beforehand. So what have I gained by coming forward? Nothing. I'm just a person who has made allegations that haven't been proven.
“The police wanted to interview me, but I was in pieces at that point and I couldn't face a police interview as well as everything else. I think they were hoping that another victim would come forward, because it was just my word against his.
“Even when I sent off a statement, I thought: ‘Am I was going to be believed? I'm just a nutty woman and he's a professional.', and I have no solid proof that these things happened. When you have a mental disorder you get disbelieved in many shapes and forms, so why should they believe you with this? It's embarrassing, you feel ashamed, you feel guilty. I was just mortified to have to speak to them about it. They don't make it easy for people; the whole thing requires a lot of strength.
“The whole experience has worsened my mental health; I've gone downhill massively. It's like they've come along with a giant spoon, stirred up all the memories and left me to deal with it. I've made repeated suicide attempts and I've become more and more desperate. At the moment it feels like the lowest point ever in my life.
“Until I started talking about it, I didn't realise how deeply and badly those five months had affected me. To date, I still haven't had a formal, written comeback about my complaint – not even an apology. That's all I want; that would make the biggest difference to me.”
Dad Wanted to Discipline His Daughter and Also Avoid Any Chance of Child Abuse Charges — So Here's What He Did
by Jason Howerton
A father in Okeechobee, Florida, felt that his 12-year-old daughter needed to be disciplined after she apparently got into an intense argument with her sister on Monday.
However, given the number of parents who have been accused of child abuse for dishing out corporal punishment, the dad came up with an unusual plan.
He called the Okeechobee County Sheriff's Office to come supervise his daughter's “paddling” — and a deputy actually showed up at the man's house and oversaw the discipline. When the officer determined no crime was committed, he left.
The strange-sounding situation apparently happens more often that you might think, according to WPBF-TV.
Undersheriff Noel Stephen reportedly confirmed to the news station that he has supervised 12 other spankings.
“It's definitely not something we advertise to do, and even though law enforcement has been willing to help out in this situation, watching a parent discipline their child is something that's done only when a deputy has no other calls to handle,” he said.
How survivors of sexual assault tell their children
The Washington Post
They were sitting in a car outside a Home Goods store in Savannah, Georgia, and the conversation was not going the way Jenny Lynn Anderson planned. And she had planned. Anderson is pragmatic that way. That's how her mother — the lawyer, judge, trailblazer — raised her, and Anderson intended to bring up her daughters in the same mold: independent, self-assured, strong.
Once that foundation was set, Anderson decided, she would tell them. When I was in my 20s, I was sexually assaulted. Calm, no-nonsense. An outline. Details if they asked. That she eventually would tell them was never a question in her mind. She could not protect them as they made their way through the world, but she could educate them. She could give them the tools she didn't have. She could teach them something about another form of strength: resilience.
Sixteen might be a good age, Anderson thought. But when the youngest, Allison, turned 16, Anderson decided no, this one is not ready. I'll wait. But there Anderson was one day, sitting in the car outside the store, fighting a panic attack brought on by the sight of a lone man standing in the parking lot. There she was, telling Allison, "Wait, don't unlock the door." To watch her puzzled daughter follow her gaze, turn to look at the man, a black man, and say, "Mama, you are such a racist."
No, Anderson said, stunned, suddenly crying, which was definitely not part of the plan. That's not why I am afraid of that man.
"Allison, I need to tell you something."
- - -
In the leapfrog from headline to headline on sexual assault, from slogan to slogan — yes means yes, not alone, it's on us — public awareness waxes and wanes. What endures are the inner battles among parents who have been sexually assaulted and who do not engage in the public discussion as an abstraction, but as a prompt. Should I tell my kids what happened to me? How and to what end?
These are the most private of conversations, the unseen backdrop of the public dialogue on sexual assault. A mother — or a father — telling a child: All this you are reading about it, all this you are hearing, it happened to me. Someone hurt me when I was young. Took from me what was not theirs to take. You need to know this about me. You need to know this about life.
"This happened to me, and it wasn't my fault, and there are ways to prevent it from happening to you," Cynthia Brown, 53, of Marietta, Georgia, told her daughter. Her daughter was 17, nearly the same age at which Brown was raped in 1980. Brown's attacker was convicted. "I grew up 'Father Knows Best,' 'Brady Bunch,' life is a bowl of cherries — and it's not."
Dawn Helmrich, 42, of Milwaukee, was abducted and sexually assaulted at gunpoint by three teenagers when she was 21. The eldest of the three, a 17-year-old, pleaded guilty to rape, kidnapping and armed robbery. The younger two juveniles were sentenced to juvenile facilities.
"When I first had kids, I questioned why I would even want to tell them? I thought, 'Are you doing this for you or for them?' " she said.
"I think, in the beginning, I thought of it almost like an absolution. I wanted to absolve myself of the guilt I felt. I thought, 'If I tell them, and they think I'm stupid or I did something wrong, at least they will get it off their chest, and I will move on.'
"But as I got older and a little wiser, I changed my perspective. I thought, 'How empowering it can be for them to know the kind of resiliency that is within them. Here I am. Their mom. I got married. I own a home. I got a Master's degree. I teach at a college, and I have a full-time career. I did all these things. Despite what happened. It became more about finding them the message that is basically, 'You know what? A lot of stuff happens in life . . . and sometimes you have to scoop yourself off the ground.'"
These are the moments of quiet revelation far from the headlines. The conversations that parents choose to have with their children are as different as the individuals recounting them, as different as the experiences with sexual assault. But parents who tell their children often say they do so from the understanding that all parents come to: They will not always be there to protect their children from those who would do them harm, and so their children must learn to protect themselves. And so, they seek to educate them, to prepare them to be vigilant in the most honest way they know how.
They teach them to listen to themselves. "You get a weird feeling, you trust it," Laurie Stevens, from San Fernando Valley, Calif., who was drugged and raped by an acquaintance when she was a college student, told her daughter, a high school senior. "That intuition is your umbilical cord to God, and you honor it."
They teach their children to listen to others.
"One of the things that is hardest for survivors is not to hate themselves, to not blame themselves," said Patricia Miller of Portales, New Mexico. A survivor of childhood sexual abuse, she is a moderator for the 78,000 member Pandora's Aquarium, an international online forum and chat room for survivors of sexual assault and abuse. "I wanted to prepare my children to have compassion and empathy. I would tell them, 'Look around whatever room you are in and know that one in every five women will be sexually assaulted and one in six men. People you know will be hurt, and they will need to have folks around who will listen to them with open hearts."
They teach them that in talking about the hurt, they rob it of its power.
- - -
They come to the conversations in different ways. Miller told her children over time, giving them just the information she thought they could understand and handle as they grew older. Did you ever think you were going to die and go to heaven, asks her son after his appendix burst. Yes, she said, and tells him a little of a father around whom she felt she could never be safe.
They circle around it for years with advice on never drinking from an open bottle, on being alert, on being active bystanders. For 30 years, Stevens carried around fragmented memories of an assault by a student in one of her classes. She wasn't drunk, just one moment she was present doing homework and the next she was far away and watching him disrobe her. Oh, him, another former classmate would say many years later, he got in trouble for drugging and raping women. Stevens started researching date-rape drugs for a series of psychological suspense novels she was writing. It all came together.
Did you ever get him arrested? Did you report him? Her daughter asked when Stevens told her the details earlier this month. No, it was not rape as I understood rape then. It wasn't violent, Stevens answered, and thinks: I hunkered down. I was ashamed.
What is his name, her son, now in college, demanded, shaken and angry. Where is he? She will not tell him.
Decades later, they have triggers. Loud noises. Don't ever come up behind mom unannounced. I don't care if it's a squirt gun, no guns, no gun-like toys, in the house.
At a crowded Milwaukee street fair, Dawn Helmrich suffers a panic attack and her 10-year-old daughter takes her hand and leads her from the crowd, comforting her, and then asking, 'Mom, when are you going to tell me what happened to you?"
She told her children the whole story this year when they were 11 and 13, younger than she might have planned. But by then, she had become involved in victim advocacy and had organized Milwaukee's participation in Denim Day USA, a sexual violence prevention and education campaign. When her advocacy was recognized with a community award, she and her husband decided their children should know why.
"They asked a lot of questions, and when I finished, they both got up and said, 'Mom, you have so much courage, and you are so brave, and we are so proud of you,'" Helmrich said.
Both have since become young advocates in their own right.
- - -
In the car, outside the Home Goods store in Savannah, with a teenage daughter she thought still too sensitive to hear her story, Anderson regains her composure. A matter-of-fact tone enters her voice. She says: "When I was 27 years old, I was on business trip, staying in a downtown Atlanta hotel. I was walking out of my door, room 939, to go to the elevator. A man captured me in the hallway. He pulled a knife out and despite my fighting him and my screaming, he was more powerful, and he pushed me back into the room, and he robbed me first, and then he sexually assaulted me."
She says she tricked him into thinking her marketing director was coming to the room, and when he cracked open the door, "my eyes locked on a housekeeper in the hallway, and I started screaming." The man fled, and Anderson called hotel security. But her perpetrator escaped.
Like her older sister, Morgan, Allison listened to the story, wide-eyed and somber. "I didn't think she was ready, but she was," Anderson said. "And once I told them, I was totally an open book with them and with their friends. I brought it up. I wanted them to understand there was no shame in what happened to me. It was not my fault."
In the three years since, Anderson has gone on to speak publicly to more than 100 groups about her experience. In 2011, she published "Room 939, 15 minutes of horror, 20 years of healing," on how she reclaimed her life after her assault.
That day in the car with Allison, Anderson said, "the greatest thing that I wanted to leave with her was that there was courage, courage like my mother had, and courage would win the day. In the end, good will win over evil. They have to believe good prevails, and I believe it does. But you have to have courage."
That man in the parking lot scared me, Anderson told Allison, but we are going to get out of this car, and we are going to go into that store, and we are going to complete what we came here to do.
Which is exactly what mother and daughter did.
Police Plan to Resume Search for Missing Toddler
by Katelyn Murphy
EAST COLUMBUS (Mike McCarthy/ Rob Wells/Csaba Sukosd) - Columbus police plan to resume the search Wedneday morning for a missing toddler who is now presumed dead.
The boy's mother, Dainesha Stevens, 24, is in jail and charged with endangering a child and tampering with evidence, both third-degree felonies.
She's scheduled to be arraigned at 9 a.m. today.
Police said they changed the objective of the rescue to a recovery mission citing the information they were provided from interviews with Stevens and her friend.
Dive teams spent Tuesday searching Big Walnut Creek near the Chelsea Townhomes for the toddler, after his mother claimed she abandoned him on an East Columbus doorstep last Friday.
Investigators said the boy's mother had originally called 911 last week to report her six year old daughter was missing.
Police said they found the girl safe, but not her brother.
A friend of Stevens was question by detectives, but has not been charged in connection with the case.
Parents Who Left 22-Day-Old Baby to Starved to Death in Car Charged with First-Degree Murder
by Jessica Smith
The parents of a 22-day-old infant who was starved to death in a car seat in central Florida last week have been charged with first-degree murder.
Ruby Stephens, 23, and her husband 48-year-old Roy Stephens have been charged on the death of baby Betsey Kee Stephens.
Police said Betsey was found “unresponsive and cold” strapped into a car seat while her parents were eating in a restaurant chain in Florida famous for its ‘endless buffet'.
Reports said the parents called emergency services but autopsy showed she died of malnutrition and had been dead three hours before the parents took notice and called for help.
A medical examiner determined Betsey's death as a homicide resulting from “starvation due to neglect.”
An autopsy found the infant weighed four pounds and one ounce at death, having lost about 2.5 pounds since her birth. The ME noted that the normal weight for her age was about eight pounds.
The report added that Betsey was dehydrated and appeared not to have been fed for six to seven hours prior to her death.
Ruby Stephens initially told police she had been breast-feeding the baby every few hours. But after police told her about the autopsy's findings, she acknowledged Betsey had not been fed for much of their day-long road trip, with highway traffic making it difficult to exit to feed her.
Ruby said Roy Stephens was not the biological father of Betsy and had not paid much attention to her from birth.
The arrest document noted that the infidelity and subsequent pregnancy created a strain on the couple's marriage.
The pair were at dinner with family in a branch of the Golden Corral restaurant after road trip to Florida from Indiana.
Police said the couple from Tennyson, Indiana, were traveling with their 1-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter. Both appeared healthy and have been taken into protective custody.
How Harvard Law School violated US sexual assault law
by Adam Hunger
The US Department of Education ‘s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has concluded its four-year investigation into Harvard Law School, and found that the school violated Title IX, a part of the Education Amendments of 1972 that prohibits schools receiving federal funds from discriminating on the basis of gender—including how they address students' sexual assault complaints.
Investigators found a number of violations, including a lack of training and timeliness, and procedural flaws.
Until recently, the law school allowed a student to dispute a disciplinary decision in a separate supplementary hearing, with witnesses. The complainant had no rights in these proceedings, but the school was able to reverse its findings and earlier decision to expel, or discipline the student, according to the Department of Education investigation (pdf), released Dec. 30.
The department also found that the administrative board making some of these decisions may not have been adequately trained for its role—their training consisted of receiving a copy of the relevant laws, and the Department of Education's previous sexual harassment guidance.
The department reviewed the two sexual assault cases filed with the law school since 2005. In one, they found that a student accused of sexual assault had benefited from a one-sided post-hearing. From the report:
“[T]he complainant was excluded from participation in any review of the outcome beyond the [Administrative] Board's decision. Specifically, the respondent-student benefited from a supplemental hearing with representation by counsel and was allowed to provide testimony; the supplemental hearing and faculty review resulted in the reversal of the decision to dismiss the student. As a result, the Law School failed to provide an equal opportunity for both parties to participate in the posthearing review of the Ad Board's recommended sanctions for the accused student, and, as such, the complainant was not provided an adequate, reliable and impartial investigation of that sexual assault complaint.”
New rules, some of which the law school has already adopted, require that both parties have equal rights to present witnesses and relevant evidence during proceedings. According to procedures that have been in place at the law school since September (pdf), “In reviewing the Board's disciplinary decision, the Committee must accept the findings and conclusions contained in the Final Report,” unless that finding was “clearly erroneous” or the decision was an “abuse of discretion.” The law school adopted a more updated policy in December, but this is currently under review by the OCR, and not publicly available.
Since the investigation was launched, in 2010, the OCR has released updated guidelines— once in 2011 (pdf) and again in 2014 (pdf). In the past year, the federal government has also made a big push toward improving campus responses to sexual assault, with about 90 colleges currently under investigation.
There is a separate, pending investigation into Harvard College, which has not been resolved.
Before the current school year, colleges within Harvard University dealt with disciplinary action separately, according to the DOE findings. In July, administrators released a university-wide sexual harassment policy, which adopted many of the Title IX guidelines, but it was met with backlash from some faculty, especially because the university downgraded the requirements for sanctions from “clear and convincing evidence” to “preponderance of evidence,” which lowered the standards for disciplining a student.
As part of the resolution agreement (pdf) with the Department of Education, Harvard Law School must review any sexual harassment complaints received in the last two academic years for misconduct, provide necessary training and climate assessments, and revise its Title IX guidance to make student rights and the school's responsibilities clearer.
“We will continue to build upon the work we have done in recent months,” Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow wrote in a statement to the school's community. “There will be surveys and discussion.”
Man gets 5 years for keeping 4 sons in filthy home
DENVER, CO -- A father whose four young sons could communicate only in grunts when authorities rescued them from a filthy Denver apartment was sentenced to five years in prison Tuesday by a judge who said he hoped it would send a message to parents that they can't treat their children like pets.
Judge J. Eric Elliff said Wayne Sperling, 67, made outrageous excuses for neglecting the boys to the point where they could not recognize food and did not learn his lesson after an earlier child-abuse conviction cost him custody of three other children.
"The message is, you've got to treat your children with dignity and respect," Elliff said. "They're not pets. They are not possessions. They are human beings that need to be carefully nurtured. That didn't happen here."
Prosecutors said Sperling, his wife and the boys lived in an apartment where nearly every surface was covered in cat feces and flies. The children, ages 2 to 6, were malnourished when they were found on October 2013.
Sperling's wife, Lorinda Bailey, was sentenced to 90 days in jail and five years of probation last month, and Sperling's attorney argued he should receive a similar sentence. Prosecutors sought the maximum of seven years in prison.
"They just weren't equipped to be parents," defense attorney Betsy Atkinson said.
But Elliff said the case was more tragic because it wasn't a first for the family. The couple lost custody of three other children amid similar allegations in October 2006. The children mostly grunted and pointed to communicate, and officers found a home full of trash and rotten food. Bailey and Sperling pleaded guilty in June 2007 to misdemeanor child abuse.
"There have been so many failures on so many different levels," Elliff said. "Now we have seven children who are going to be scarred by these early childhood conditions."
In the most recent case, an emergency room doctor suspected abuse when the youngest was taken to the hospital for a cut on his forehead. The doctor noticed he was unwashed, reeked of cigarette smoke and had bruises consistent with pinching. That led authorities to the apartment, where they found decomposing animals and about an inch of solidified cat feces and urine beneath one of the boy's beds.
Sperling, mumbling, told the judge to do "whatever you feel is right" when given a chance to speak before he was sentenced.
Prosecutors said it was one of their most horrific cases they had ever seen, but Colorado's child abuse laws kept them from pursuing harsher penalties because the children didn't suffer serious physical injuries.
After the boys were rescued and given bagged lunches to eat, they acted as if they hadn't seen food before, patting the sandwiches and playing with the apples, Deputy District Attorney Anita Drasan said. An adult mimed eating an apple to encourage them to eat; they licked the fruit instead, Drasan said.
The boys are improving while living in foster care, but still struggle as a result of the squalor. They have breathing problems and are sensitive to light, requiring them to wear special glasses, Drasan said.
"They didn't smile, they didn't laugh, and they lived in constant fear and were unable to express themselves," Drasan said. And, reading a statement from their foster mother, she added, "these are fighters and survivors. They will grow to do great things. But they have a long battle before them."
Child grooming occurs 'in every town', charity says
by Tom Bateman
Young people are currently being groomed in "every town" in Britain, according to a charity.
Parents Against Child Sexual Exploitation (Pace) says "thousands" of children are affected and police forces lack skills to deal with such abuse.
A report into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham found at least 1,400 children were abused over two decades.
The National Child Protection Working Group says police are dealing with an "unprecedented" number of abuse cases.
Child sexual exploitation can take place when a young person is manipulated by an adult into sex following a process of "grooming", involving being given gifts and being distanced from their parents.
Children may then be sexually assaulted by networks of adults over a number of years and can be shamed or intimidated out of reporting the crime.
Long lasting effects
Pace specialises in helping parents whose children have been sexually exploited.
Its director Fleur Strong told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that "a significant number" of families were currently trying to cope with a child being sexually exploited.
She said: "I can show you families from Torquay to Exeter to Norfolk, there are families in Edinburgh, Belfast, all of them who will be suffering from this type of crime that lasts for many families for years and years.
"I would say that without doubt there are thousands of families being affected today. This type of child abuse is in every town."
In September, West Yorkshire Police began a fresh investigation into the case of a girl who was groomed from the age of 13 and was trafficked to towns in the region.
Her mother, who for legal reasons can only be identified as "Sarah", said the process began in 2007 and her "world fell apart" because of her daughter's ordeal.
"We used to beg her not to go out, because she was begging and pleading and then actually took a knife to herself and said she would harm herself if she couldn't get out of the house," Sarah explained.
"These men had such a hold over her, that was it, they had her."
Sarah said she repeatedly called the police but no proper action was taken and on occasions her daughter and the family were themselves "blamed".
"Some officers would say [to her daughter]: 'What do you keep going back for, you must like what you are doing.'
"I was absolutely appalled, absolutely disgusted."
Sarah's daughter fell pregnant to one of the perpetrators. None of the men who groomed her has so far been caught.
Sarah now says she has "drawn a line" under the previous response from the police and is now satisfied her daughter's case is being fully investigated.
West Yorkshire Police admitted it had been "slow" in the past to recognise the signs of child sexual exploitation, but said that was now one of the highest priorities for the force.
It is currently investigating 84 cases of alleged grooming of children.
Assistant Chief Constable Russ Foster said: "Fundamentally we have changed the way that we've dealt with victims.
"Survivors will be listened to, they will be taken seriously and we will support them and ensure that we maximise every opportunity to bring these perpetrators to justice."
After the scale of exploitation in Rotherham was revealed, the UK's senior police officers are now more aware of the challenges involved in investigating grooming, according to Pace.
But the charity says that front-line officers still need better training to understand how to recognise the signs of child sexual exploitation.
The organisation also criticised the legal cut-off age for Child Abduction Warning Notices, which can be used by parents in England and Wales to try to prevent a named adult having contact with their child.
Once a child living at home turns 16, the warning notices no longer have effect.
Pace highlighted the case of a 16-year-old girl in Exeter, who was allegedly groomed by men who gave her so-called legal highs.
The charity says the girl's mother "is having a very difficult time" as a Child Abduction Warning Notice can no longer be used.
Detective Superintendent Paul Sanford, spokesman for the National Child Protection Working Group, said the number of abuse cases being investigated was stretching police resources.
He added that this "presents a real challenge to the police service, both in terms of finance and the number of trained and experienced personnel we need to investigate all of these cases".
"The Children's Commissioner estimated that some 16,000 children are at high risk of being exploited for sex across our towns and cities. This is unacceptable, and we are committed to doing all we can to root it out and prevent any more of the young and vulnerable becoming victims."
Love Heals: Thankful for community that heals survivors of trafficking, prostitution, abuse and addiction
by Rev. Becca Stevens
Jennifer Clinger, a graduate of Magdalene, a two-year residential program in Nashville for survivors of abuse, trafficking, prostitution and addiction and a full-time employee of its social enterprise, Thistle Farms, just handed me a check for $500. The donor was her brother.
Jennifer was home for Thanksgiving and celebrating more than four years clean when her brother, in gratitude for her remarkable recovery and in prayer for the hundreds of women on the waiting list to enter the community, gave her the gift.
It is remarkable that given their hard upbringing and the ensuing diaspora of the family that they are still close and connected.
A few years ago, Jennifer spoke her truth about what happened to her as a child, what forgiveness she has needed and has given as an adult.
She has shown through hard work and faithfulness that she is a healer. She is helping heal old generational wounds, not just within her family, but in communities around the country that are trying to understand this model. She leads tours for hundreds of visitors at Thistle Farms, explaining the long journey toward wholeness.
This is the season where we hear over and over it is better to give than to receive, but where some of us may harbor a secret longing to receive something special. The $500 gift blurs that line as it reminds us that truly the spirit of Christmas lies when we stop thinking of ourselves as givers or receivers, but simply as grateful lovers of all God's gifts, sharing them with each other.
Sometimes it is better to give than to receive. Other times it is better to receive than give. But isn't it best to celebrate the true gift of remembering we are both givers and receivers of something that was never ours to begin with?
Love is not a commodity one person offers another. It is a gift that washes over all of us and sates our cups so it can pour out onto the world. It is beautiful that Jennifer received the gifts given to her when she came into the community. And it is beautiful that she is now a giver to the not-for-profit.
Yet, what is stunning to me is that through it all there is an underlying current that speaks to how love heals us all.
Love heals the lonely and broken who come for sanctuary. Love heals families of women who come through Magdalene and Thistle Farms. It heals cynical priests who long to believe that the Gospel can ring through the institution and politics of church. It heals donors who need the gift of connection and accountability with their communities.
Love heals you and it heals me.
The gift for me this Christmas season is to quit thinking of any of us as givers or receivers, but simply devoted lovers, so grateful to know love.
The Rev. Becca Stevens is an Episcopal priest serving as Chaplain at St Augustine's at Vanderbilt University, and founder of Magdalene, a two-year residential community of women who have survived prostitution, trafficking and addiction. She is the author of the new book "The Way of Tea and Justice."
'Get into your neighbors' business': Lt. Kim Lund advocates for victims and the vulnerable
by Kendall Anderson
In 1984, when Kim Lund became the first licensed female police officer in Virginia, Minn., domestic abuse calls in the state often ended without an arrest.
"Thirty years ago, we seldom made arrests on domestic violence unless someone was dead or close to it," she recalls. "You asked people to go their separate ways and try to smooth things over. Many times you gave one of the parties a ride to a family or friend's house."
The protection of domestic violence victims, as well as vulnerable adults, in Minnesota and nationwide has changed dramatically since the beginning of Lund's career. Arresting an aggressor, pressing charges and getting involved in a victim's business is no longer optional, due to changes in state law.
A focus on victims
Now a Minneapolis lieutenant, Lund, 52, has been an active player in those changes as a staunch protector and advocate for all victims: the abused, the elderly and the young. In 27 years with the city's police force, she has run the department's domestic violence, child abuse and vulnerable adult units and taken the lead on multiple fronts to help those victimized by others.
"I think I am most effectively utilized when assigned to duties with victims and kids," she says.
Lund has managed the department's school resource officer program, as well as its juvenile diversion program, which provides first-time juvenile offenders with a positive alternative to the court system - and the hope that they won't reoffend.
"I have loved working in the area of juvenile justice, mostly because there are so many ways it can be improved," she says. "And I think it is an area that we can truly make a difference in someone's life for the better."
Lund is the state's law enforcement representative on the Minnesota Crime Victims Reparations Board, which reviews crime victims' cases from across the state to see if they are eligible for reimbursement for out-of-pocket costs. The board reduces the economic impact of violent crime on victims and their families by giving them financial assistance. It also advocates for those victims by holding criminal offenders accountable for the costs of crime through more aggressive collection of restitution and civil awards.
More to do
Though much progress has been made in protecting victims over the past three decades, not all of the recent developments have been positive.
"Unfortunately, we have seen an increased level of violence and younger perpetrators," Lund says. "Kids are being more violent towards parents and caregivers."
And while abusers are still predominantly male, there are more reports of female abusers than 30 years ago, Lund says. Abuse and neglect of the elderly is a continuing problem, despite a 1995 state law that mandates reporting abuse and neglect of vulnerable adults.
After the 35W bridge collapse in August 2007, Lund was tapped to oversee victim-related issues. She had done a lot of work with victims before, but this was different.
"It was months of long days away from my family, taking care of others and their families, putting together the puzzle of what the bridge looked like moments prior to the collapse," she recalls. "Sorting cars to people and property, monitoring injuries, waiting with families at the Family Center - we are not good at that." Vehicles and victims were assigned letters and numbers, depending on where they were on the bridge when it collapsed. "To meet and put faces on these things was difficult.
"It made those involved real," she says. "I kept thinking about how it could have been my parents at that Family Center, waiting for word. ... I wanted to treat the people involved in the collapse as I would have hoped my parents would have been treated."
Lund still gets together with victims and families from the bridge collapse. On her desk is a cross that a survivor made from pieces of the bridge.
Lund says civilians can play a key role in preventing abuse and protecting those who are vulnerable.
"Get into your neighbors' business!" she says. "Don't be the person that gets interviewed on TV and makes statements like 'I thought something wasn't right.' Be the one to make the call" and report suspected abuse. "Don't assume that someone else will do it."
Empowering girls and young women is also essential, she says. "We need to start raising our girls to become confident strong women, not victims. And if they do become victims, we need to support them."
Alongside her work and time with her husband and children, Lund manages to find time to volunteer for groups such as the Domestic Abuse Project, an advocacy and frontline service for victims of domestic violence. She encourages others to join her.
"Find (a victim-focused organization) that fits your schedule and volunteer," she says. "It makes you feel good."
FFI: First Call help line, staffed by trained therapists and volunteers, 612-874-7063 www.Domesticabuseproject.com
Educators in Kentucky required to report child abuse but many un-trained on how to spot the problem
Public News Service
FRANKFORT, Ky. - Educators in Kentucky are required to report child abuse, but unlike other professionals who regularly interact with kids, state law does not ensure that teachers are trained on how to spot the problem. State lawmakers, who return to Frankfort next week, will be asked to change that.
Terry Brooks, executive director, Kentucky Youth Advocates, says educators already are "sensitive" to child abuse and "want to do the right things."
"We really see this effort as a way to support educators so they have more skill, more knowledge, more capacity to fulfill that legal obligation," says Brooks.
State law already requires child-care workers and medical professionals receive training. However, according to pediatrician Dr. Melissa Currie, teachers make up the largest percentage of people who report suspected child abuse.
"We have been hearing from them for some time that they wish they had more information," Currie says. "Oftentimes, bad things happen to children – and teachers, in retrospect, understand that they saw early warning signs and didn't recognize those. None of us who work with kids want to live with that."
Dr. Currie heads the Kosair Charities Division of Pediatric Forensic Medicine at the University of Louisville. She says Kentucky has a "long, long way to go" because the state is still losing 40 to 50 children a year to child maltreatment. Currie says the number one finding overlooked by professionals is bruising on infants.
"Bruising in babies who are not yet pulling up and taking steps is not normal," Currie says. "While it may not be abuse in all circumstances, it can be a sign of something very serious and it needs to be evaluated immediately."
State lawmakers mandated child-abuse training for doctors last year and Currie says the response has been "overwhelmingly positive."
According to Brooks, Kentucky Youth Advocates hopes a bill will pass in the 2015 session to provide training to teachers. He says there are ways to implement the training without being burdensome or costly.
Tor's most visited hidden sites host child abuse images
by Mark Ward
Most traffic to sites hidden on the Tor network go to those dealing in images of child sexual abuse a study suggests.
The six-month study sought to catalogue hidden services on the so-called "dark net" and work out which were the most popular.
It found lots of sites peddling illegal drugs but the most popular were those involved with abuse.
However, the researcher behind the study said it was hard to conclude that people were behind all the visits.
Tor, or The Onion Router, is an anonymising system that lets people use the web without revealing who they are or which country they are in. The anonymity offered by the network has encouraged many people to set up hidden .onion sites that offer content, services and goods that it is illegal to sell openly.
Carried out by Dr Gareth Owen from the University of Portsmouth, the study set up servers to join the Tor network and catalogued hidden services found on it. The system was also able to visit the sites to download HTML content so they could be categorised and to track how many visits each one received.
Traffic to hidden services on Tor represents about 1.5% of all the data passing across the network on any given day.
Over the six months of the study, Dr Owen and his colleagues saw about 80,000 hidden sites on Tor.
"Most of the hidden services we only saw once. They do not tend to exist for a very long time," he said during a speech at the 31st Chaos Communications Congress in Hanover, where he presented his findings.
The top 40 hidden services were involved with controlling botnets - networks of home computers compromised by malicious programs. Many of these botnets have been shut down which has left their client computers fruitlessly polling Tor seeking the now dormant command systems.
The study found that the biggest number of hidden services were dedicated to selling illegal drugs. Also in the top five were underground markets, fraud sites, mail services and those dealing in the virtual currency Bitcoin.
Although the number of sites dealing in images of abuse on Tor is small, traffic to them dwarfs that going to other sites, said Dr Owen.
About 75% of the traffic observed in the study ended up at abuse sites, said Dr Owen.
"When we found this out we were stunned," he said. "This is not what we expected at all."
Despite the findings, Dr Owen cautioned against drawing too many conclusions since he did not know which visits were done by people and which by machines.
"It's not as quite as straightforward as it looks," he said. "It might look like there are lots of people visiting these sites but it is difficult to conclude that from this information."
"What proportion are people and which are something else? We simply don't know." he said, adding that "crawlers" run by law enforcement and other agencies that police abuse sites could be responsible for the steady stream of traffic.
Roger Dingledine, one of the original developers of Tor, also said the methodology of the study - which only scanned long-lived sites to see what content they offered - made it hard to draw conclusions about what people did on the network.
"Without knowing how many sites disappeared before he got around to looking at them, it's impossible to know what percentage of fetches went to abuse sites," he said.
"There are important uses for hidden services, such as when human rights activists use them to access Facebook or to blog anonymously," he added.
"These uses for hidden services are new and have great potential."
Westminster child abuse network: Could 2015 be the year we begin to see justice?
by Richard Sudan
Ten years ago, if you talked about an elite network of child abusers, operating among the highest levels of government, media, police, and even the royal family, you likely would have been called a 'nut job' or a 'conspiracy theorist'.
Fast forward to the present day however, and allegations of pedophilia and abuse of the most horrific kind, including even reports of murder seem to be surfacing continually, almost daily at times, so much so that the issue has been forced squarely back on the table. Questions and allegations which have lingered for decades, are now being taken seriously, and most importantly so by Scotland Yard.
While no one has been officially charged as part of the wider investigations, police are now looking into numerous allegations of historic child abuse, which allegedly involve powerful and influential individuals, and which date back many decades.
While acknowledged predators like the late Jimmy Savile and Cyril Smith MP, never faced justice in their lifetime, there seems a real possibility that enough new evidence is coming to light which might mean some of those involved, and whom may still be alive, could at last end up in court facing trial.
In fact, so much new evidence is apparently being brought to the attention of the authorities, and so many witnesses, sources and officials are calling for justice, that it seems like the dam is about to break, the lid firmly off Pandora's Box.
And as more and more witnesses and victims come forward, and the reality is gradually absorbed into the wider public consciousness, there seems a real chance that those who have abused their positions of trust in such a monstrous way will pay the price.
It may be likely, according at least to a dossier handed by John Mann MP to Scotland Yard, that in the past, key potential whistle-blowers on the Westminster pedophile network were murdered, in order to prevent them unearthing what is potentially one of the biggest crimes and scandals in British political history.
If some of those who have committed these unthinkable crimes, against some of the most vulnerable in society, end up jailed with lengthy sentences, this would at least be some step towards restoring justice in the eyes of an ever disillusioned public.If we can challenge the culture of impunity that currently exists, and ensure these people are punished, we have a chance of stamping out the culture that allowed such predators to operate in the first place.
Bearing in mind that among those allegedly named as part of the on-going investigation is a judge, public scrutiny and pressure will most certainly be needed, to fully hold the system to account, that is, of course if any charges are indeed brought about.
For this to happen, assuming we see some of these Masonic pedophiles face trial, we need to ensure that this issue is absolutely and unequivocally not a taboo.Everyone needs to understand the magnitude and seriousness of these cases, because it's more than likely that this ring is still in operation according to reports.
Many people are already skeptical as whether or not the justice system itself would be capable of working against those who work directly within it.
And if no one has been jailed or been punished, it stands to reason, that there would have been no motive for networks of serial abusers to cease their activity and simply stop.
An informed public opinion, with a determined will, must exist in order for there to be any chance of justice.It is only the public after all, the real jury, which can hold the entire system to account, should that system fail to bring justice.
We can only ask for a fair judge and jury if and when charges are eventually brought to any of those implicated in these investigations.But one does sense that when the dam does eventually break, it will actually resemble an avalanche.
The 'political' culture needed for these crimes to have continued for so long, is so insipid, so vulgar and self-serving, that it stands to reason that this powerful clique will do almost anything to protect itself and to avoid the long arm of the law. Such is the nature of power.
And the evidence coming to light suggests that when necessary, they have done just that.
It's a bitter pill for many to swallow. Consider, that in the 'mother of all parliaments', where over the last decade or more, we have seen countless cases made to go and bomb other countries in the name of democracy, that all the while the most sickening depravity was being indulged in by high ranking ministers and MPs.
Indeed, according to the files complied by John Mann MP, former and serving ministers and MPs are identified as having been among the abusers. And one senses this is simply the beginning, the tip of the iceberg.It's hard to imagine such people suddenly rolling over without a fight.
In the 1980s, Geoffrey Dickens MP handed over vital information to the then home secretary Leon Brittan concerning child abuse parties attended by key trusted public figures.Progress was never made as a result of the dossier being handed to Brittan, but by some strange twist of fate, the dossier became 'lost'.
Let's hope the new information given by Tom Mann MP just a few days back doesn't suffer such a convenient fate.
Rumors that parliamentarians are being used, compromised and blackmailed by different competing interests due to their activities at VIP child abuse parties, and the threat of those activities being made public are rife. It certainly would explain why despite clear knowledge among those who needed to know that this abuse was indeed taking place that nothing was ever done about it.
If whistle-blowers have been killed for knowing the truth, then it seems like fear is the main pillar which has prevented this house of cards from toppling for so long.
Theresa May, Nick Clegg, and other senior political figures have all called for Scotland Yard to be given more power with these investigations, with the view to ensuring that now retired Special Branch officers and detectives, who it is believed have vital information regarding many of these cases from the past, will not be prevented from coming forward and providing evidence, by the Official Secrets Act.
It seems that while there has been resistance for many years from within the establishment that the walls of secrecy surrounding this network of child abusers are eroding.Public outrage is being accompanied with the political will to examine cases dating back many decades, and also cases in recent history.
Could 2015, which will mark the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta be the year in which all that is in the dark finally comes to light?We can only hope this will be the case.
The horrors which would have taken place at Elm Guest House in Barnes, South West London do not bear thinking about.
The sheer number of people coming forward now, speaking out about their ordeals, is having a domino effect, and evidence for a case must surely be mounting.Police are expressing confidence that they believe many of the victim's accounts.There are consistencies in their testimonies and statements
Cyril Smith, Jimmy Savile and other seemingly untouchable members of the elite establishment never faced justice.But perhaps they are the last to evade jail terms.Seeing some of these criminals firmly behind bars would certainly be a step toward rooting out the kind of corruption and abuse of power which has tainted our political system for so long.Maybe 2015 is the year in which we finally see this begin to happen.
Shame on Florida for squelching reviews in child-abuse death cases
If we don't know about it, it doesn't exist. That's been the state of Florida's philosophy on just about everything that should be in the public eye -- from abuses at assisted-living facilities to Gov. Scott's private emails dealing with public business.
So it comes as absolutely no shock that state officials have quietly, diligently -- and, despite protests to the contrary -- deliberately turned out the lights that illuminate what has gone wrong when a child dies in the care of the Department of Children & Families.
Child-death reviews, required by federal law and once detailed and meticulous, have become vague reports full of uncritical boilerplate language, revealing little, if anything, of what went wrong.
The most dogged death investigators determined to get to the bottom of each case have been purged, silenced. So have the most vocal advocates for DCF integrity who sat on the state's Child Abuse Death Review Committee. In fact, the committee itself is just a shadow of its former self and, according to a recent story by Herald investigative writer Carol Marbin Miller, mention of its existence has been eliminated from the state Department of Health's website.
None of this is any coincidence. This is business as usual in a state in which secrecy and know-nothingness are the guiding principles of too many elected officials and bureaucrats. In this latest instance of sweeping bad news under the rug, it leaves children living with abusive and neglectful adults in danger -- again.
During this year's legislative session those same lawmakers, bureaucrats -- even Gov. Scott -- declared it a new day in how Florida cares for endangered children. What moved them off the dime, literally and figuratively, was the Miami Herald's painstaking -- and painful -- series that detailed the deaths of almost 500 children and young teens who over the years not only died at the hands of cruel and neglectful guardians, but who also were known to DCF caseworkers as being at risk.
Transparency too revealing
Even the most recalcitrant lawmakers who would have been content to cut DCF's budget, again, could not ignore the stories of horror meted out on their watch. State Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, stepped up as chair of the Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee and, with the heft of like-minded colleagues, got major reforms approved.
Finally, the Legislature put on the books that children's safety and well-being are to be placed above the rights of parents accused of abuse and neglect. Lawmakers demanded more transparency from agency administrators and a website to track child deaths.
But before the year was out, state officials apparently decided that transparency was making them look bad. Indeed, it has.
Of course, they look worse now that they have drawn the blackout curtains in a flagrant attempt to leave the public, including the media, in the dark -- and children at the mercy of extremely bad parenting.
The stealthy disappearance of oversight and death reviews means that there will be no lessons learned, no remedial action taken, because valuable information is not being collected. It means bureaucrats at fault will not be held accountable. It means children will continue to die.
This is a disgrace and everyone, from Gov. Scott to agency directors to lawmakers who boo-hooed about all of the innocents lost, should declare it so, then make it right.
Otherwise those were nothing but crocodile tears shed in embarrassment, not authentic concern.
NC medical examiners must look closer at deaths of children
When a baby dies, a profound sadness envelops those who loved the child, a deep anguish that follows them all their lives. And when the cause of death is unexplained, the hurt is deepened by the question, “Why?”
Inside an underfunded and uneven system, North Carolina's medical examiners are supposed to investigate such deaths. Obviously, criminality is a prime concern, but so is the question of accidental death or neglect or illness.
But as The Charlotte Observer reports, that duty too often goes undone. It is time the state, through lawmakers, patterned North Carolina's medical examiner system after other states that make the important task of investigating deaths more of a priority.
The Observer recently did a series on North Carolina's medical examiner system, and its findings were disturbing. Many deaths were not adequately investigated, leaving more questions than answers and calling into question literally thousands of death rulings. Sometimes, examiners didn't even see a body or visit a death scene. They didn't follow steps accepted in their tasks as standard elsewhere.
But now, with a story on how few deaths of babies are investigated by the state's medical examiners, the Observer (like The News & Observer part of McClatchy Newspapers) has revealed a great degree of haphazard performance even in those sensitive cases.
Examiners of baby deaths, the newspaper found, often didn't go to the scene or view the body, evenwhen there were questionable circumstances about the deaths.
That's unacceptable. An examiner decides whether a death is accidental, a homicide or the result of a sudden illness. Because the ruling can determine whether charges are filed, stronger investigations are needed.
Police officers usually investigate violent and nonviolent crimes involving adults. They are less familiar with assessing what might have caused the death of a child or an infant. That gap in expertise increases the need to have an examiner at the death scene. An examiner, for example, might order an autopsy that could reveal something about a child's death that an officer might not have suspected.
The deaths of children demand examination because they are the most vulnerable among us. They can be abused and neglected within a home without anyone knowing.
And what about caregivers? As the story noted, investigations might show abuse on the part of a caregiver who may also be taking care of other children. Discovering that such a person neglected a child might protect other children. And it would bring a family, a grieving family, at least some measure of justice.
The state has 350 medical examiners, but the “system” such as it is isn't much of a system at all.
At the least, examiners should always go to the scene of a death, and they always should view the body. They should err on the side of caution in ordering autopsies. They should be empowered by state law to do what's needed to identify the cause of a death.
North Carolina's lawmakers should appropriate whatever money is needed to establish a system that works thoroughly for the sake of the deceased adult or child and survivors.
The state is a long way from that now. Perhaps this report, showing the shocking inadequacy in the investigations of the deaths of children, will call attention to the woeful shortcomings in the system. And in so doing, parents and grandparents will not be left all their lives with the question of “Why?” And other children, perhaps subject to abuse and neglect no one suspects, will survive.
This challenge must be met – and met with a sense of urgency.
Judge: Rehoming Kids Is Trafficking
A judge in New York has banned a couple looking to undo their adoption from trying to ‘rehome' their two Russian-born children—and other courts could soon follow suit.
by Tina Traster
Inga Wisner's heart weighs heavily with guilt and anguish over a recent decision to re-home a boy and a girl she and her husband, Michael, adopted from Africa in 2011.
The New Jersey woman, who also has three biological children, says she made the right decision because her adopted children have now found a more suitable home where they are doing better, and her family is safer.
The adopted children, then 18 months and 2.5 years old, came to the family abused and neglected, Wisner says. From the beginning both youngsters suffered from post-orphanage syndromes: violent rages, lying, and an inability to attach to their new family. Wisner says her adopted son was constantly engraged. Her adopted daughter tried to suffocate a younger biological sibling.
Unlike some adoptive parents who turn to an underground market called private rehoming—where children are given away to others without any consultation or oversight by state child welfare agencies, counselors, courts or lawyers—the Wisners pushed their adoption agency to help them find a more suitable family for their children after psychiatric therapies were unsuccessful. The children found a new family after a home study was done and the adoption was completed in court.
Wisner continues to feel angry toward the agency because she believes she was misled.
“Agencies need to give full disclosure about children's health and medical issues,” she said. “We had told the agency we would only accept children with minor health issues. They assured us the children were healthy. They told us the children were siblings but they weren't. There were too many lies.”
In a similar scenario, a Long Island couple—trying to vacate or “undo” the adoption of two Russian children who, they say, suffer from serious mental disorders and are now living in state mental-health facilities—is suing Spence Chapin and Cradle of Hope for fraud. The couple alleges they had been told by their adoption agencies that the children, who were six and eight years old when they came to their home in 2008, were “healthy and socially well-adjusted.” They also allege their children are not in fact siblings, despite having been told they were.
The court papers are sealed, but the couple has made it clear they want to be relieved of their parental responsibilities. However, they have never asked the court about re-homing their children, and their lawyer, Thomas O. Rice, in fact, has assured the judge that rehoming is not their intent. Despite this assurance, the judge in this case has taken the unusual step of issuing a pre-emptive ruling that would prevent the parents going to the black market and rehoming their children.
Judge Edward W. McCarty III has issued a ruling that says if he denies the parents' request to vacate the adoption and the parents are not relieved of their parental rights, they are prohibited from re-homing the children without court supervision.
In this oblique ruling, he is signaling to the parents that they will not be able to rid themselves of their children if they are unsuccessful in court via private rehoming. They would have to get court approval to re-home their children.
Re-homing in New York, and in most states, is legal through a Power of Attorney from the adoptive parents who want to give away children to new guardians. New guardians do have not parental status.
So why has this judge issued this ruling? Because this case has turned the judge's attention to the dark side of international adoption, and more specifically to re-homing, which he equates with child trafficking.
“Sometimes a judge learns about something that is so upsetting he feels he has to do something, so I wrote a decision,” said McCarty. “Now it's a public record. Any lawyer can review it. Maybe it's time to change section 374, which permits rehoming in the state.”
Even if the parents appeal the ruling, McCarty says he'd be happy to see the case go to a higher court so the issue will continue to make noise.
There are instances in which private rehoming works out fine and is the best solution for the struggling family and the children. Adoptive parents often choose to rehome under the radar because going back to court to relinquish parental rights can be a protracted legal process. Many parents have been defeated in their efforts to get help from child welfare departments. Many say the adopted children are so manipulative that parents are seen as predators by counselors or social workers.
Adoptive parents, who may or may not have received proper training in the first place, or adequate warnings about their child's mental health, also complain they have not received support from their adoption agencies. Almost always, a parent who goes to an Internet site to advertise their child for rehoming is desperate and often emotionally and financially depleted.
That said, the Reuters series on re-homing in 2013, profiled the worst-case scenarios of rehoming, bringing the practice to the world's attention. The news outlet analyzed more than 5,000 posts about rehoming over a five-year period from a Yahoo online message board, which has since been taken down. Everything from the wording parents used to dump their children to the way they were handed off to strangers in parking lots exposed the darkest recesses of human behavior. In some cases children were rehomed with known sexual predators. Most often the children transferred to new homes were between six and 14 years old, but some were as young as 10 months. At least 70 percent of the children were adopted from overseas, including Russia, China, Ethiopia and Ukraine. Failure to bond to their parents was the prominent reason children were being given away.
Last summer, outgoing junior senator Kay Hagan (NC), Chair of the Subcommittee on Children and Families, held a hearing on the need to address child trafficking and private re-homing. “In our own neighborhoods, children are bought and sold online and shuffled around to homes and families that their adoptive parents have never met and who, in some cases, have a history of abuse and neglect. We cannot allow these children to slip through our system unnoticed.”
Lawmakers recognize that internationally adopted children, especially those who are not re-adopted in their home state, fly under the radar. Hagan said it was important for school personnel, health care providers and social workers to recognize the signs of and symptoms of trafficking and rehoming.
In April, Wisconsin became the first state to make it illegal for anyone not licensed by the state to advertise a child older than age one for adoption or any other custody transfer, both in print and online. Parents who want to transfer custody of a child to someone other than a relative must seek permission from a judge. Violators face up to nine months in jail or as much as $10,000 in fines.
Republican state Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R), who sponsored the Wisconsin bill, “with no oversight, children could literally be traded from home to home.”
Now Wisconsin is considering making it mandatory for parents who adopt overseas to have their children “re-adopted” in the state. “This puts children into the system,” Kleefisch said. “It will protect them from flying under the radar.”
Similar legislation to what Wisconsin passed has been introduced in Ohio, where a girl adopted from Haiti was passed among four homes in two years. The last family who took her in quickly sent her away after she helped bring to light allegations of sexual abuse of other children in the home. The father, Jean Paul Kruse, was later charged with rape and sexual abuse. The mother, Emily Kruse, was charged with obstructing justice and intimidating a witness.
Last summer, Louisiana also banned non-legal adoption, with offenders facing a penalty of $5,000 and up to five years in prison. Colorado and Florida are considering similar laws.
4 Keys To Forgiving Repeat Offenders And Getting The Love You Deserve In 2015
Recently there has been a lot written about the power of forgiveness. However, little has been written on forgiving offenses that often change the course of one's life. So what do you do when the person continues the offense or refuses to apologize for past wrongs that they have done? Their past or current actions may include: children who were sexually or emotional abused, adult children who are taken advantage of by their aging parents or having a partner who struggles with an addiction. Being a victim of such offense can leave you feeling unloved and unable to trust others again.
Much of what I talk about also comes from my personal experiences. I don't know if this is a blessing or a curse but I truly understand the pain that comes from being a survivor of abuse by a step parent. I remember years ago seeing an episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show, where she stated that she had decided that it was time for her to step into her truth.
She told her father that she would no longer be coming to Thanksgiving dinner where her abuser, a relative, would also be seated at the table. Her father was probably torn and didn't understand. But Oprah had to take a stance for herself. Yes she had forgiven her abuser, but she decided she would no longer dine with a person that had caused her emotional pain. She started her healing process by standing up for her beliefs. That episode taught me a powerful lesson about claiming my on strength.
To truly be free and to forgive, we must step into our own truth. We must call a spade a spade. This is new for some of our parents and grandparents who came from a generation of secrets where no one dare spoke the truth. Today, I am liberating you to make a choice that protects your heart and nourishes your spirit.
Follow these steps to move toward forgiveness and love today:
1. Keep your distance. My grandmother, Mama Tucker, use to say, “Some folks, you have to treat them with a long handled spoon.” In plain language, have boundaries around repeat offenders. Do not allow them to linger in your inner circle or hang out in your backyard.
2. Maintain a spiritual practice so you can stay at peace mentally and emotionally. Each day you must take time to pray, meditate and reflect so that you can be the best you that God has called you to be. Having a spiritual practice will ground you in love and forgiveness.
3. Remember that forgiveness is for you. It so important to forgive yourself. So many times we place blame on ourselves for the actions of others.
4. Choose to live a life free from dysfunction. We live in an era where reality television and talk shows have shown us that dysfunction is okay. We are even led to believe that everyone is dysfunctional so accept it.
I am here to liberate you beloved. Disrespect, s*xual abuse, emotional abuse and domestic violence are not normal and should not be accepted under any circumstances. You have a right to live a life of freedom and peace. Let 2015 be the year that you free yourself to have the love you deserve.
Center Launches Online Training Option for Mandated Reporters of Child Abuse
by Gant Team
HERSHEY – The Penn State Hershey Center for the Protection of Children has created an online training module – iLook Out for Child Abuse – to help early child care professionals meet new state laws regarding training and reporting of suspected child abuse. The regulations under Act 31 of 2014 take effect on Dec. 31.
“This free resource is currently the only approved online learning module specifically designed for Pennsylvania's early child care professionals,” said Dr. Benjamin Levi, director of the Center for the Protection of Children.
“iLook Out for Child Abuse provides evidence-based training to help them learn about these new requirements, especially as they pertain to reporting incidents of suspected child abuse.”
Levi notes this is particularly important for Pennsylvania, where the reporting rate of 9.8 cases of abuse per 1,000 children is significantly lower than the national average of 45.8 reports per 1,000.
iLook Out for Child Abuse 's interactive video format provides the legally required three hours of training, and is designed to help early child care providers better understand and fulfill their new legal responsibilities.
This includes learning how to report; what it means to have “reasonable cause to suspect;” warning signs of child abuse; as well as the legal consequences of failing to report. Upon successful completion of the course, participants will be provided with a certificate proving that they are in compliance with the new regulations.
If an early child care provider suspects a child is being abused, he or she must immediately call ChildLine (1-800-932-0313), followed within 48 hours by a written report; or report online via the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services' new web-based portal. Failure to report suspected child abuse may result in fines of up to $15,000 and either misdemeanor or felony charges.
“ iLook Out for Child Abuse has been shown in a research study to increase knowledge and change attitudes about reporting abuse in Pennsylvania,” Levi added. “It's our hope to eventually make this online training program available to early child care professionals across the country.”
For more information about the iLook Out for Child Abuse program, visit here.
Nonprofit Fights Illiteracy By Getting Books To Kids Who Need Them
by Lynn Neary
When it comes to learning to read, educators agree: the younger, the better. Children can be exposed to books even before they can talk, but for that a family has to have books, which isn't always the case.
There are neighborhoods in this country with plenty of books; and then there are neighborhoods where books are harder to find. Almost 15 years ago, Susan Neuman, now a professor at New York University, focused on that discrepancy, in a study that looked at just how many books were available in Philadelphia's low-income neighborhoods. The results were startling.
"We found a total of 33 books for children in a community of 10,000 children. ... Thirty-three books in all of the neighborhood," she says. By comparison, there were 300 books per child in the city's affluent communities. Neuman recently updated her study. She hasn't yet released those findings but says not much has changed.
And according to Neuman, despite advances in technology, access to print books is still important because reading out loud creates an emotional link between parent and child.
"There's that immediate connection and that eye-to-eye joint attention," she says. "The parent is not looking at her cellphone or his cellphone; she is focusing on the child and the book. The second reason is the vocabulary that is contained in those books. Even very rudimentary, you know, beginning books, like board books, have vocabulary that tends to be outside the parent's normal, day-to-day interaction. So that child is learning words that he or she is likely not to see in any other place."
Getting Affordable Books To 'Anybody Serving Children'
Kyle Zimmer sits on a tiny chair surrounded by 4-year-olds at the National Children's Center in Washington, D.C. Zimmer is the president and CEO of First Book, an organization that has forged an innovative partnership with publishers to get books into the hands of kids who need them. Andrea Brunk, a physical therapist at the center, points to an array of picture books sitting on a couple of tables in the classroom.
"First Book brought a huge variety of books for our kids," Brunk says. "They're all age-appropriate; they're diverse characters. And all the kids are going to come up after they're read to and they get to take two books home apiece."
First Book began by setting up a book bank and distributing, at virtually no cost, unsold books that were returned to publishers and would otherwise be destroyed. It went on to create a children's book marketplace where it buys books from publishers in bulk at deeply reduced prices and sells them to a variety of nonprofit organizations. Zimmer says the books get sold to "virtually anybody serving children in need, from zero to 18 years of age. It can be a homeless shelter; it can be a formal classroom; it can be [an] abuse refuge; it can be really anyplace where kids are gathered."
According to Zimmer, publishers like the program because it has opened a previously untapped market. Traditionally, children's book publishers catered to a very few.
"On average, a premium picture book is about $18 at retail," she says. "And you imagine who the customer base is that can afford an $18 picture book for their family. What you're talking about is probably the upper 5 to maybe 10 percent of the socio-economic ladder."
And First Book's nonprofit partners like the program because they can buy so many books so cheaply — at about $2.85 apiece. According to Brunk, in the past the National Children's Center was grateful for any books that came its way; now First Book lets the center choose exactly what it needs.
She says, "We actually encourage people to actually just give us the donations, if they're OK with that, and let us do the picking because we can get them at such a reduced rate that their money goes further."
Empowering Parents To Make A Difference With Their Kids
Back in the classroom, the children are focused on their new books. Some sit quietly turning pages and looking at the pictures; some trade books with their friends; others gather around their teacher, listening to a story. Teacher Rose Campbell says that for the kids, the best thing about getting the books is that they can take them home.
"At home parents can actually read to them and they can also read to their parents," she says. "So if we're reading a book here with them they can go home and say to the parents, 'Hey, we read this in class today.' So they're really excited about that."
The National Children's Center has also set up a program for parents to encourage them to read to their children. Brunk says parents who attend a session will leave with a bundle of books.
"The parents kind of know now: OK, this is theirs and they didn't have to do anything to get this — they didn't have to go the store and spend $16 to buy a book or something like that. But it's a high-quality book and the child gets to keep it. They don't have to worry about taking back to the library, that type of thing. And now they have the tools to work with their child. And I think that's really — we've really tried to empower them and say, 'Hey, you have everything you need and you can do this and you can make this difference with your child long term.' "
One parent who has taken advantage of both the books and the program the center offers is Alisa Jackson Gray. She had four children of her own and is now raising her grandson along with a great-niece and great-nephew. Gray says she has always read to her kids, but a lot of families in her community are dealing with so many problems that it's hard to make reading a priority.
"Sometimes they don't even know where the next meal is going to come from," she says. But it helps to get free books from the center. "I was very happy and pleased to get my pack of books. And every night, my children and myself, we sit there and we read. ... I was very delighted to see my 1-year-old get the book and flip through the pages like she really can read. And she's pointing to the words and she's so impressed: 'Book?' [she says.] 'Yes, book!' "
Since 1992, First Book has gotten more than 100 million new books into the hands of kids from low-income homes. Zimmer says that providing books to those families and giving parents the support they need to read to their children can go a long way toward breaking the cycle of illiteracy.
Don't tread on Georgia's children
by Jason Spencer
Child sexual abuse is a secret crime that murders a child's soul, and child sexual predators will always live among us.
Many times, the child who is victimized never reports the crime for fear of not being believed by adults. Other times, child victims are so young that they are unaware of what acts are being done to them and lack the verbal capacity to describe the act, leading many victims to act out harshly or engage in other destructive behaviors as they age.
Typically, it is not until adulthood that the survivor has the ability to confront their perpetrators.
In Georgia, by the time survivors of child sexual abuse are ready to seek justice, they are locked out of the courtrooms because of our law's short civil statute of limitations (SOLs).
In a recent 50 state survey of civil statute of limitations for child sexual abuse, Georgia was ranked one of the worst states in the country. SOLs are simply arbitrary deadlines set by the state legislature for going to court.
Short civil SOLs can serve a good purpose and force litigants to go to court quickly before evidence is stale or becomes lost, as might be the case in a property dispute. However, short SOLs can be unfair barriers to justice. For example, murder in Georgia has no SOL because of the crime's heinous nature.
In Georgia, the current law allows child predators to hide behind its short civil SOL. Child predators know that Georgia's current law only allows a victim five years from the age of 18 years to make a claim against the perpetrator in court. Negligence claims against responsible third parties for allowing the abuse to occur still fall under outdated personal injury statutes, with an SOL of only two years from 18 for the victim to file. This dichotomy hurts survivors as they cannot reasonably be expected to be aware that there are multiple applicable statutes for the same crimes.
All of the research shows that child sexual abuse victims will not openly identify their perpetrator until they have reached adulthood, usually in their 40s and 50s. For that reason, the state of Georgia removed the SOLs on criminal prosecutions of child sexual abuse in 2012. The General Assembly must now put the civil law on the same parity with the criminal law. Child sexual abuse should be treated like an SOL for murder, not like a property dispute.
In the upcoming 2015 Legislative Session, I will be introducing the Georgia “Hidden Predator Act,” or House Bill 17. This bill will provide a 30-year extension to the civil SOL for child sexual abuse claims, essentially giving a survivor up to age 53 years to file a claim in civil court going forward. This will allow the halls of justice to open to current victims and allow them the time they need to seek justice. The SOL extension will also bring the names of perpetrators into the public; they will no longer be hidden.
In addition, there will be a retroactive component to the bill called a “window.” It will include a two-year “window” that will enable sexual abuse survivors whose civil claims were blocked by an extremely short SOL in the past.
Providing a retroactive “window” empowers victims who have been shut out by the current law to identify perpetrators. This approach is the only legal option to permit survivors whose claims have expired.
The civil “window” allows society to expose as many perpetrators' names to the public as possible. Serial child sexual predators will molest up to 400 victims (or more in extreme cases) in their lifetimes. This reform makes it clear that society's priority is the victim and not the perpetrator or the institutions that harbor them.
Finally, the “Hidden Predator Act” will amend current law to allow victims (or their legal guardians) to access police and other investigation records where the victim is the subject of a reported child sexual abuse investigation.
Current law bars the victim or guardian from accessing these records. With the proposed reform, many child sexual abuse survivors who have been locked out of the courts due to expired claims will be able to access these records to use as evidence in civil court against perpetrators.
Georgia's children and families need and deserve the Hidden Predator Act. This reform is a stern warning to child sexual predators: Don't tread on Georgia's children.
State Rep. Jason Spencer is a Republican from Woodbine and represents House District 180, which includes Camden, Charlton and Ware counties.
Shelton Kennedy Appointed to the Order of Canada
His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, announced today that Sheldon Kennedy has been named a Member of the Order of Canada for “his courageous leadership in raising awareness of childhood sexual abuse and his continued efforts to prevent abuse in schools, sports and communities.”
Mr. Kennedy is among 95 new appointments to the Order of Canada. The Order, one of country's highest civilian honours, was established in 1967, during Canada's centennial year, to recognize outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation.
Mr. Kennedy has become an inspiration and advocate to millions of child abuse survivors around the world following his own announcement that he endured abuse for a period of five years under the care of his Major Junior Hockey League coach. Using his recognition as a platform for change, Mr. Kennedy has become a committed, outspoken child advocate with a mission to shed light on the hard issues, while uniting the public in an effort to influence positive change around child protection.
“Receiving the Order of Canada is a great honour and it is humbling to be recognized by my country,” says Sheldon Kennedy. “For me this recognition isn't just about the work that's been done, but about the work that still needs to be done. We still have a tough road ahead of us and this is an opportunity to bring solution focused conversations to the national level.”
Today, Mr. Kennedy dedicates much of his time to the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre (SKCAC), where he is Lead Director. The SKCAC is leading the way in child abuse intervention, treatment, investigation, training and research. The Centre uses an innovative, collaborative, child-first approach that provides hope and healing to the children who come through their doors.
“On behalf of the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre Board of Directors, we are very proud of Sheldon for his leadership and courageous tenacity,” said Debra Mauro, Board Co-Chair. “Sheldon volunteers his time and works tirelessly to ensure these critical issues are being addressed at the local, provincial, national and international levels. We are so blessed to have him not only on our Board, but as the namesake of the Centre.”
Mr. Kennedy is also the co-founder of Respect Group, which delivers education in the areas of bullying, abuse, harassment, and discrimination for youth serving and sport organizations, schools, and the workplace. Respect Group has certified over 500,000 adults and has armed them with the prevention education needed to deal with difficult issues. Through this work, Mr. Kennedy has been able to carry his message outside Canada's borders to the International Olympic Committee and the U.S. Senate.
Sheldon Kennedy will receive his insignia at a ceremony to be held at a later date.
Child abuse reports on rise
State advocate says data show need for services
by Jenifer B. McKim
Allegations of child abuse outside of children's homes rose by 16 percent in Massachusetts in 2013, according to a new state report, providing fresh incentive for Governor-elect Charlie Baker and his administration to keep the focus on vulnerable children after a tumultuous year for child welfare officials.
The 40-page report from the state Office of the Child Advocate found there were 538 supported allegations of abuse and neglect of children in settings such as foster homes, day care, and schools in 2013, compared with 465 allegations in 2012.
Gail Garinger, head of the Office of the Child Advocate, said her annual report underscored the need for a larger web of state officials and advocates to be involved in protecting children beyond the embattled Department of Children and Families.
“We are obviously concerned that kids [who] are already vulnerable are subjected to further abuse or neglect,'' Garinger said in an interview. “Not one of us can do it all.”
The Department of Children and Families has been under intense scrutiny since the high-profile disappearance and death of 4-year-old Jeremiah Oliver, whose body was discovered in April 2014 along a central Massachusetts highway months after his disappearance. His mother faces charges of child abuse.
The subsequent controversy led to the resignation of the DCF commissioner, Olga Roche. Governor Deval Patrick increased the agency's budget this year by $14.2 million to $827 million in order to hire more social workers and supervisors and instill other improvements.
Erin Deveney, interim DCF commissioner, said last week in a written statement that the agency already has hired 548 new social workers, supervisors, and managers since January, and she looks forward to “continuing this progress over the coming years.”
The agency has 269 more social workers on staff than it did earlier this year, state officials said.
Billy Pitman, a spokesman for Baker's transition office, said in a written statement Tuesday that the governor-elect “values the advice and recommendations of the Office of the Child Advocate and the important role the office plays in keeping our children safe.”
Pitman said Marylou Sudders, Baker's Health and Human Services secretary-designate, has worked closely with the office and “will continue to recruit strong leaders to take on the challenges at hand in order to protect Massachusetts' most vulnerable.”
Garinger joins a growing number of public officials and child advocates putting pressure on Baker to focus on children's issues when he takes office in January.
Earlier this month, an appeals court judge upheld a lower court ruling dismissing a lawsuit against the Department of Children and Families, but highlighted the need for the state to make improvements in the way officials protect vulnerable children.
“The plaintiffs have articulated convincing moral arguments that Massachusetts should do better,” Chief Judge Sandra Lynch wrote in the ruling.
“Improvements in the system must come through the normal state political processes. The problems are now for the Governor and legislature of Massachusetts to resolve.”
Garinger's report, released earlier this month, is a stark reminder of the dangers faced by at-risk children.
Among its findings, the Office of the Child Advocate said it received 98 “critical incident reports” last year involving children getting state services who died or were seriously injured, compared with 88 reports in 2012.
Last year's deaths included two infants who were killed by caretakers, three children who drowned in swimming pools or ponds, and a 2-year-old who strangled in the straps of her car seat, the report said. A 15-year-old girl died by hanging herself, according to the report.
Ten babies also died in what appeared to be Sudden Unexpected Infant Death, a category including suffocation and unexplained causes, the report said. Of the five confirmed by medical examiner's office, each died in what is considered “unsafe sleep” situations, which puts children more at risk of sudden death, including sharing a bed with an adult or sleeping on their bellies, the report said.
The New England Center for Investigative Reporting earlier this year found that children in homes supervised by state social workers die unexpectedly at a rate at least twice that of infants statewide.
To prevent future deaths, the Office of the Child Advocate released a series of recommendations including better education of parents about safe sleep practices and funding of a state-mandated child fatality review program that looks for ways to make children safer.
Eli Newberger, a child abuse expert and pediatrician, said he was frustrated that the advocate's report did not take an even stronger stance on the “appalling budgetary limitations” that hamper the state's ability to analyze child deaths.
He said the advocate's office, which reports directly to the governor, should be allowed to be more independent, a change that would need to be done through legislation.
“In my opinion, this office should be . . . free to express conflictual opinions, and go to bat for children much more aggressively,'' Newberger said.
“Other states, and many other countries where children's rights are in the forefront, have done this.”
Laurie Myers, a child advocate who sits on a transition team committee meant to help the Baker administration set priorities for the new year, said she plans to keep beating the drum for doing more to help vulnerable children.
“We can't just throw money at the issue,'' she said. “There needs to be systematic changes.”
A man of healing, a saga of suffering
Allegations of child sex abuse are complicated by a legal maze in Indian country
(Video on site)
He was a world-famous medicine man, a traditional healer and spiritual leader. Followers would travel long distances to this tiny hamlet on the Great Plains to be in his presence and pray in the darkness with him in a sacred sweat lodge.
But Charles Chipps Sr., a medicine man on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation, had a dark secret, federal prosecutors say.
For years, they allege, Chipps sexually abused and raped girls, including some of his own daughters and granddaughters; many of the alleged victims were younger than 12 and several were as young as 5. A girl from Colorado whose aunt brought her to meet Chipps for spiritual guidance committed suicide after revealing the abuse she allegedly suffered.
The sexual abuse of children has long been regarded as a rampant if largely unspoken problem on Native American reservations, in part a legacy of a boarding school system that was designed to assimilate students and subjected them to widespread sexual, emotional and physical abuse, according to Native leaders and prosecutors. But Chipps's case, as described in court testimony, is among the most shocking — entailing allegations that a respected elder sexually abused at least six girls.
It is also an illustration of the ways in which the federal, state and tribal legal maze that governs Indian country can complicate the pursuit of justice and, in Chipps's case, allowed him to go free for three years after he was first jailed.
Child sexual abuse on the reservations is at the root of the many problems that follow for Indian children — depression, alcohol and drug abuse, juvenile detention and suicide, according to Indian country experts. The challenge of getting victims to speak out — common in child sexual assault cases anywhere — is exacerbated by the close-knit nature of the remote communities where they live.
The U.S. attorney for South Dakota, Brendan V. Johnson, said that sexual violence is one of the most common criminal offenses on the nine reservations where he shares criminal jurisdiction with the tribes, but it is extremely difficult to bring charges.
“Victims are placed under tremendous pressure by family members and friends to recant their stories,” said Johnson, who declined to discuss details of the Chipps case. “The complaint will come in, the victims will be forensically interviewed and will provide us with specific facts about what happened and then, months later, will recant their stories.”
The allegations against Chipps have torn his family apart, with some relatives and friends supporting him and others shunning him. Now 67, the medicine man has pleaded not guilty. His lawyer says he is too sick and mentally incompetent to stand trial.
In a brief interview, he declined to discuss his client's case further.
The little blue house
The village of Wanblee, population approximately 725, is located on the northeastern edge of the Pine Ridge reservation, where 87?percent of the tribe is unemployed. It has a tiny post office, a small convenience market, a school and a health clinic, but little else.
In a place of desperation, Chipps was a source of healing. He inherited his spiritual position in the tribe and became a renowned medicine man on Pine Ridge and beyond, even releasing a CD of ceremonial songs. He made his home about eight miles out of town in a family compound in the shadow of the Eagle Nest Butte.
It was in a little blue house and a log cabin in that compound that Chipps abused girls and young women who came to him for spiritual guidance, according to the indictment against him and other court documents. He also allegedly sexually assaulted them on his nearby sacred ceremonial grounds, forcing them to disrobe and engage in sexual acts in the darkness of the sweat lodge.
From 2002 to 2007, according to court documents, the South Dakota Department of Social Services and the tribe's social services agency received nearly a dozen reports in which minors told people close to them that they had been sexually assaulted by Chipps. In most cases, the young accusers failed to repeat the claims before investigators.
In June 2009, a rookie Oglala Sioux tribal police officer from Wanblee, Samuel Pretty Bear Sr., responded to a call at the compound from Chipps's son. The son said he had long feared his father, Pretty Bear recalled, but had information he wanted to share.
“He explained to me what was going on out there, and it wasn't right,” Pretty Bear said in an interview. “He has kids of his own, and he was afraid for their safety.”
Pretty Bear removed four of Chipps's grandchildren from the compound. A few days later, three more children were removed. Some were placed into foster care, and others went to live with other family members.
“Don't tell them nothing about us,” Chipps warned one girl, according to court testimony from a state counselor who talked to the girl.
About a month later, Chipps was arrested on tribal child sex abuse charges and placed in a Pine Ridge jail. Then, nothing happened.
“We did our report,” said Pretty Bear. “We did what was asked of us as police officers and never heard anything about it after that.”
Although tribes have their own governments and court systems, the responsibility for prosecuting felony crime, such as sexual assault and rape, generally falls to the Justice Department. In this case, the U.S. attorney's office for South Dakota opened an investigation but did not have enough evidence to bring federal charges.
Tribal authorities tried to obtain the limited evidence that federal investigators had, but federal officials would not share it.
In 2010, after a year with no charges by the U.S. attorney's office — and no access to any evidence the FBI had collected — tribal law required that Chipps be let go.
He was free for another three years.
Crazy Horse School
Beth Carnes, a non-Native counselor at Crazy Horse School in Wanblee, had a gentle manner and a way of talking and listening respectfully to children.
One day, about a year after Chipps was released from jail, she began talking with a 13-year-old girl who had been acting out. Something was deeply wrong.
“I said, wouldn't it feel better if you just told Ms. Beth everything that's inside and you got it out?” Carnes later testified in court. “And she said yes. And we went in my office, and she told me the whole thing.”
The girl told Carnes that the medicine man had been sexually abusing her since she was 5. She also said Chipps had recently insisted on seeing her, which she said was a violation of an order from a tribal agency that he not have any contact with any of the alleged victims.
As a school counselor, Carnes was legally obligated to report what she had been told. She did.
At about the same time, Heather Dawn Thompson, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe of South Dakota, joined the U.S. attorney's office in Rapid City. Thompson said she soon became an expert in sexual abuse cases because there were so many of them.
“There are a variety of historical reasons that people point to for this cycle in Indian country, one of which has to do with the federal policy of removing children from their homes and sending them to boarding schools during the late 1800s and much of the 1900s,” Thompson said.
Many studies tie sexual abuse to the intergenerational trauma that began in the secular and church-run boarding schools that Indian children were required to attend. Court documents and lawsuit settlements reveal how the boarding schools, especially in places like South Dakota, were centers of widespread sexual, emotional and physical abuse.
Many of the children who attended the schools are the parents and grandparents of today's Native American children. “There were individuals who were willing to move out in the middle of nowhere in order to work at boarding schools with these children and there were some who had a pre-disposition for child sex abuse and many of the children were sexually abused,” Thompson said. “Unfortunately, that has become a cycle that was passed down from generation to generation. You compound that with the poverty, socioeconomic and isolation issues in Indian country and unfortunately that cycle has not yet been broken.”
Armed with new information from Carnes, Thompson and a South Dakota FBI agent, Rick Lauck, moved aggressively on the Chipps case.
Soon, more young people claiming they had been victimized came forward.
On July 16, 2013, a federal grand jury indicted Chipps on 15 counts of rape, sexual abuse and intimidation of six minor victims. Besides the children in the indictment, older victims from South Dakota and other states came forward and alleged they were sexually abused by Chipps when they were younger, according to a filing by the U.S. attorney's office.
In a federal courtroom in Rapid City last year, Chipps was brought before a judge to determine whether he could be released pending trial.
An older relative testified on his behalf and said he could live with her if he was released. Glenyce Bean, a psychotherapist who had come to his Sundance ceremonial grounds and sweat lodge for years, also testified in his support, saying that she had taken care of him in recent years.
“I know him as a ceremonial leader,” Bean said. “People [look] up to him and he helps people. .?.?. He's uncle or grandpa to almost everyone. I know him to be helpful. He has provided just lots of healing for many, many people, myself included, over many, many years.”
Tribal officer Pretty Bear testified, as did Carnes, the school counselor. Then, Hollie Strand, a forensic interviewer from the Child Advocacy Center of the Black Hills in Rapid City, took the stand.
She recalled being told by children who spent time with Chipps that he bought them food and gifts — a way, she said, that sexual predators often intimidate their victims and make them feel more reliant on them.
She then described in graphic detail the sexual acts that the children said Chipps forced them to do. He would make one kiss him and another perform oral sex at the same time. Then he would snap his fingers and force them to trade places. One time he made two girls watch while he had sex with another one. Sometimes, he hit them hard with a stick. He warned them that if they told anyone, “he would whip them,” Strand testified.
Thompson, in an interview, would not discuss the case. In a court filing, however, she alleged Chipps raped one girl while two of the other girls were in his bed during a trip. She also alleged that, in another instance, one girl opened a bedroom door and found Chipps leaning over a partially unclothed girl with another girl nearby crying.
Several of the alleged victims would later tell officials that his wife knew about the abuse before she died, according to a detention order, though some said she was too scared to come forward.
The judge ruled that Chipps be held pending trial. Chipps has since been moved to a federal prison in Missouri. If found guilty, he faces the possibility of life in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
On a recent chilly December afternoon, Lena Chipps, 62, walked through the windswept grasses on the rural grounds outside of Wanblee where her brother-in-law, Charles, for more than 20 years ran one of the most sacred Oglala Lakota Sioux ceremonies.
She says she did not know about the allegations against Chipps until he was first arrested five years ago.
“When I first found out about Charles, I wanted to get a gun and go shoot him,” she said. “For what he did to all these kids.”
Lena Chipps said she has been shamed by the allegations involving her family — allegations that she believes tarnish the reputation of the tiny Oglala Lakota community and Native American culture more broadly.
“We're not like that,” she said with disgust.
Johnson took over the case from Thompson, who left the office, and in a rare move for a U.S. attorney decided to personally prosecute the Chipps case.
Chipps's attorney, Terry L. Pechota, says that his client is in bad health — diabetes, high blood pressure and congestive heart failure — and is not mentally competent to stand trial.
“I have found defendant completely unable to recall things in the past,” Pechota, who has known Chipps for 30 years, wrote in a court filing. “He would not be able to take the stand because he has no recollection of events.”
The children in Wanblee remember everything, Lena Chipps said.
Among them is her granddaughter, who has struggled in life as a result of the trauma she suffered, Lena Chipps said. Another of her teenage relatives twice tried to kill herself. There are few mental health resources in Pine Ridge — or any reservation — to help children like them.
“Some of these kids don't care now what happens to them,” she said.
Lena Chipps walked unsteadily with her cane past several of the dome-shaped lodges on the ceremonial grounds. In the winter sunlight, the site looked abandoned, but she said the sweat lodge ceremonies are still being performed.
Inside the lodges are stones that are heated in a fire and placed in a central pit. Water is poured on the stones. Prayers and traditional songs — which Charles Chipps used to sing — are offered in the Lakota language.
On the grounds that day were white antlers, which are used to move the hot stones into the lodge.
Lying on the ground, mostly covered by dirt, was a tiny turquoise and purple braided bracelet, tiny enough to fit around the wrist of a child.
How to help:
There are many organizations throughout Indian country working to break the cycle of sexual and physical abuse. Below are a few organizations that are working specifically to strengthen families and protect children.
• Center for Native American Youth
1 Dupont Circle NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20036
ON PINE RIDGE INDIAN RESERVATION
• Pine Ridge Emergency Youth Shelter
Pauletta Red Willow
OST Emergency Youth Shelter
P. O. Box 5055
Pine Ridge, SD 57770
• The Bear Program
C/O Tiny Decory
Pine Ridge, SD 57770
• Friends of Pine Ridge Reservation
• Tasunke Wakan Okolakiciye
• Oglala Lakota Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)
C/O Arlana Bettelyoun
Oglala Lakota CASA
Pine Ridge, SD 57770
• OST Child Protection Services
Ministry of Defence pays out £2m to settle cadets' sexual abuse claims
Out-of-court settlements in cadet forces include sex abuse rituals by teenage boys and cadet who gave birth as result of rape
by Ben Quinn
The Ministry of Defence has paid out more than £2m in out-of-court settlements over the past three years as a result of claims of sexual abuse against young people within the ranks of the cadet forces.
The allegations included sex abuse rituals performed by teenage boys on younger cadets in their charge, as well as the case of a cadet who was raped and gave birth to her abuser's child.
Eight payouts, totalling £544,213, were made this year, according to records released in response to a freedom of information request from the Guardian seeking figures for payments for alleged sexual abuse within the Army Cadets, Combined Cadet Force, and Air Cadet Organisation.
The data, which was recorded in a way that did not distinguish between the various cadet groups, shows that £1,475,844 was paid out in five payments in 2012. Payouts in 2013 totalled £64,782 and there were no payouts in 2011.
While some of the settlements reached in the last few years were made to adults for abuse perpetrated when they were children, some are understood to relate to much more recent abuse claims.
Rebecca Sheriff, a senior solicitor at Bolt Burdon Kemp, who has acted for several clients in claims arising from abuse suffered in the Army Cadets at the hands of military staff, said: “It is common practice for sex offenders to seek out positions of authority in organisations such as the Army Cadets, and vulnerable children need to be safeguarded from this risk. It is terrible that often these children have joined the cadets with a view to a career in the armed services, which they are unable to pursue as a result of abuse by people that they should have been able to trust.”
The mother of a boy abused by two older teenage cadets said she had yet to receive an apology from the cadet authorities although they agreed to an out-of-court settlement of just over £23,000.
The abuse of the boy happened at a cadets' weekend in East Anglia and allegedly involved the two older boys going into a dormitory over the course of a number of nights and lying naked on top of the younger cadets, putting their penises in the boys' mouths. One youngster was allegedly made to drink coffee laced with urine. She reported the abuse to police, who, she says, interviewed the alleged perpetrators nine months later. They were not charged but were given a warning.
The mother said: “If something like that goes on and is not right then somebody needs to take responsibility, and the cadets had to pay what they paid to compensate for all the hurt … But the two lads have got away with it, they just received warnings, and it was put on file. [The police] said it was bullying and intimidation of a sexual nature – because it wasn't anything like a rape.”
She added: “I believe that they had been doing it for a while. It makes me sick and saddened inside. It really, really, does. I was told that the cadets had their own internal investigation but I'm not aware of what happened.”
In the period between the incident being reported to police and action being taken to detain the boys, her son, she says, was chased by one of the abusers near his home and subjected to intimidation on Facebook.
“My son had wanted to go into the army to learn a trade and a career. He loved it beforehand, so that was a massive disappointment to him as well. But immediately afterwards he was left with so much guilt. That was what hurt him the most. He was afraid of his own shadow and began to get really, really, angry and became withdrawn and afraid. The effect that it had on my boy, it was so sad for me to see.”
Another out-of-court settlement involved a claimant who was sexually abused by an adult cadet instructor while she was a member of the group. The abuse started when she was 14 and progressed to rape, which led to her becoming pregnant and giving birth to the abuser's child. After the abuse, she suffered from chronic post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic dysthymia (a form of depression) and a number of complex psychological problems. The MoD admitted liability at an early stage and settled the claim for £210,000.
The settlements made in 2012 include a successful claim for £900,000 by four people who were abused when they were young members of the Army Cadets in Harborne, Birmingham.
Severe sexual abuse was perpetrated by two of the cadet force instructors behind the closed doors of an army hut, rifle range, and at camp. Lawyers for the victims said that abuse was openly acknowledged within what they called “a permissive atmosphere” and appeared accepted as normal.
One of the instructors, Peter Cooper, was convicted of buggery and indecent assault in September 2007 in relation to one of the claimants. At the time of his arrest he was a serving police officer with the West Midlands constabulary. The other instructor is now dead.
An MoD spokesperson said: “We take any allegation of abuse extremely seriously. All adult volunteers undergo enhanced criminal record checks and are made fully aware of their responsibility to protect children from harm. Any suspicion of bullying, harassment or abuse will be dealt with immediately and any allegation of a criminal nature is handed to the police. This is reinforced throughout all safeguarding training.”
Another freedom of information request by the Guardian revealed that 12 allegations – of which 10 were referred to the police – were logged in 2014 by the child protection officer employed by the Army Cadets (which has 46,000 teenage cadets and 8,500 adult volunteers in the UK). The child protection officer has logged more than 36 allegations of sexual abuse since 2011.